Chapter 12

Warm breezes blew from the waves of Spoon Lake onto the shores of Spoon Island. Dawn's footsteps beat a path into the sand as she slowed from jogging to a brisk walk. Clear, cool water sprayed her bare ankles and arms. She paused at the water's edge and stared sightlessly toward Port Charles.

Life at Wyndemere wasn't as relaxed as when she first came to live there. The last couple of weeks had been fraught with tension. Nikolas' hungry gaze followed her everywhere. He made her feel trapped. And then, there was Stefan... Their lovemaking blew her mind. His expert skill and loving manner took her places she never dreamed. Her body tingled. Her mind soared. She shivered just thinking about how he awakened her that morning.

"Cold?"

She jumped. Her eyelids blinked. She turned quickly to face Nikolas. "You're following me."

A smile came to his full lips. "No, but if you would like me to…"

"I wouldn't," she snapped.

"As you wish." He bowed. When he stood upright again, he allowed his gaze to drift over her from toe to head. Color heightened his olive-tone cheeks. "You're beautiful in the morning."

"Th-thank you," she stammered. The sincerity in his brown eyes unnerved her. She refused to question why her defensive mechanism kicked into high gear whenever he was around. "I'd better get back."

She headed away from the water's edge. To her chagrin, Nikolas fell into step beside her.

"You wouldn't mind if I walk with you."

"Doesn't look as though I have a choice."

His voice deepened a notch. "You are never without choices."

She didn't respond.

"The subject of choices crosses my mind frequently. Opportunity happens at a moment's notice. A smart man realizes that and seizes the moment. I regret that I am not as intelligent as I have always believed myself to be."

"Nikolas, don't."

"Then you understand me," he stated quietly, almost seductively. "We danced as one, Dawn. Without a single word passing between us, we shared a connection. I was foolish to let you walk away without pursuing that connection."

"It's too late," she told him. "I love your father. He's the man I want."

She took off in a run. Relief swept through her when he didn't follow. Just as she reached the wooden steps that led to Wyndemere, he called out.

"But he's not the right one for you."

She bolted away from him. Nikolas watched her and made no further effort to reach her. Instead, he allowed himself the pleasure of admiring her from afar. Her perspiration soaked t-shirt molded to her curves of her breasts and the planes of her flat stomach. The single white stripe on the sides of her skin-tight running pants emphasized her strong thighs and legs.

Strong thighs.

Nikolas inhaled a sharp breath. Those strong thighs could no doubt squeeze a man into complete submission. He should have been that man. Lying beneath her, loving her, and sharing with her the rewards of helping the less fortunate.

Hmm… CSF advertised the need for volunteers. The Foundation was indeed a worthy cause. If he had any doubts, the benefit squelched them. He spoke at length with the award recipient. The Charles Street Foundation performed miracle in her life. With CSF's help, she was able to realize a lifelong dream to operate her own restaurant. As her restaurant grew, she returned the favor and offered her help and assistance to CSF.

During the course of the conversation, the woman also spoke about the people at CSF and somehow Dawn became the primary focus. He learned from an eyewitness what he already knew—that Dawn Jensen was a remarkable woman.

He lingered outside until he was certain that Dawn had left. His plan to reclaim her didn't call for overkill. Just knowing that he unnerved her was enough. For now.

The scent of fresh baked scones filled his senses upon his return to Wyndemere. He headed for the kitchen. Mrs. Landsbury happily fixed him a tray loaded with scones, butter and an assortment of jams.

"Would you like coffee?" she asked.

"No thank you. This will suffice." He took the tray upstairs to his quarters.

He was wiping his mouth with a napkin when a knock sounded on his door.

"Come in."

Stefan entered. "Good morning, Nikolas. I trust you slept well."

"I did, Father, as I am sure you did as well."

Stefan closed the door and crossed to the window. He clasped his hands behind his back and stood still as a statue. Nikolas placed the tray on the nightstand and rose from his bed. He had wondered if he and his father would have words over Dawn. Perhaps, the wait was over.

"Your interest in Dawn is understandable," Stefan began. "She's a vibrant, beautiful, intelligent woman."

"Yes, she is," Nikolas agreed. "I was misguided all those years ago when I did not pursue her."

"Yes, you were." Stefan turned from the window. His gaze locked onto Nikolas. "Accept defeat now, Nikolas. I would hate to see you hurt. She doesn't want you."

"That isn't for you to say."

"From my understanding, she has said it. However, you refuse to listen." Stefan crossed the room to stand inches from his son. "Heed her words. Respect her decision."

Nikolas' eyes narrowed as he assessed his father. "You're worried about her feelings for me."

"No—"

"If I were you, I would be," Nikolas stated.

Stefan gently cupped Nikolas' cheek. "You are wrong. Dawn is in love with me. I return her affection. Whatever emotion she feels for you cannot compare to what she and I share."

Perhaps not, Nikolas thought, but the theory begged to be tested.

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