Chapter 27

Dara snuggled closer to the heat which seemed to surround her as a strong arm grasped her possessively about the waist and held her close. "Mmmm..."she sighed, reveling in the muscled body pressed against her. The hard chest rose and fell in a calming, steady rhythm.

She moaned lightly as a warm hand lightly caressed her naked back. The sensation was exquisite. Dara shifted restlessly as she felt the throb of a firm male erection pressed against her stomach. Blinking sleepily, she opened her eyes.

"Good morning," Mac Scorpio greeted her with a quiet smile.

Nikolas entered the dining room to find Sabrina staring blindly into space. His hair was still damp from his shower, and his skin smelled pleasantly of the earthy soap produced exclusively for the Cassadine family. The deep red pullover he wore added a pleasant splash of color to the room.

"How long have your father and Andresj' been gone?" Sabrina asked him.

"Since dawn this morning." Nikolas removed a plate from the sideboard and began to fill it with fresh fruit. "Father said that the sooner the process began here, the sooner he would be able to begin proceedings in our homeland."

With a gentle smile, he placed the fruit before Sabrina. "You are worried about my little brother. But you should still eat."

Sabrina shook her head at the considerate young man before her. Stefan had done such a wonderful job rearing Nikolas after Laura's desertion. He was thoughtful and kind, and so loving. She knew that Stefan's eldest son sometimes thought himself reserved in comparison to his outgoing younger brother. And perhaps he was. But Sabrina knew without a doubt that Nikolas' capacity for love was as great or greater than Andresj's. For Nikolas loved his little brother without reservation.

If anyone had the right to resent the little 'stray' that Stefan had brought into their lives, it was Nikolas. From birth he was accustomed to the absolute adoration of not only his immediate family, but the Cassadine clan as a whole. That he was able, in the face of such worship, to share Stefan's love and time spoke volumes about the enormous character which resided in Nikolas' handsome form.

"How are you doing?" Sabrina asked. "I'm worried about you, too."

Nikolas chuckled. "First Father, then Alexis, now you. I will tell you what I told them. You do not need to worry. I am fine."

"Are you really?"

His handsome face grew serious. "I have not had time to figure out all the ramifications of this latest revelation. But I do know that I could not be happier for a suspicion to be proven true."

Laura sat in her car and removed the cellular phone from her purse. She dialed a series of numbers and waited to be connected.

"Hello," Stefan's longtime housekeeper answered the phone. "Cassadine residence."

"Hello, Mrs. Landsbury." Laura did not bother to identify herself. Mrs. Landsbury was a walking encyclopedia of every person who had ever made contact with Stefan Cassadine and his family. Her loyalty to Stefan and his sons was absolute, much to Helena's chagrin. "I would like to speak to Stefan, please."

"I'm sorry, Mrs. Spencer, but Master Stefan is not at home."

"Could you tell me where he is?" Laura continued. "I need to speak to him as soon as possible."

The housekeeper's voice was neutral. "I really couldn't say where Master Stefan has gone. Nor do I know when he is scheduled to return to Wyndemere," she added. "Shall I take a message for you?"

Laura recognized the futility of questioning the old housekeeper. If Mrs. Landsbury did know Stefan's location, she would not reveal it unless so instructed by him.

"No, thank you," Laura replied politely and hung up the phone. If Stefan was not at Wyndemere, then the next logical place to search for him was General Hospital. And if he wasn't there, well . . . It didn't matter. She would find him. Stefan owed her some answers.

Laura was determined not to stop until he gave them to her.

From the doorway of her luxuriously appointed bath, Dara tightened the silk robe about her. She watched Mac Scorpio stand before the bathroom mirror and run his fingers through his hair. Dara gave a small laugh and walked over to him. "You're only making it worse," she smiled, and reached up to finger-comb his brown locks into place.

"Yeah, well, messy hair is a small price to pay for such a magical night." Mac grasped her gently about the waist. His lips brushed against hers before capturing her mouth in a passionate kiss.

Dara threaded her fingers in his hair and pressed her petite frame against him. She could feel his still-aroused body as he thrust gently against her.

"I don't want to leave you to go to some city council meeting," Mac groaned. "Call the mayor and tell him I died," his strangled voice quipped.

"You'd better go." Reluctantly the beautiful young Assistant District Attorney pulled away from him. "While I'm still willing to let you."

"I'll be back the moment the meeting adjourns."

Dara's gaze held his. "You'd better."

Andresj' Mikhail Stefanovich Cassadine. He wrote the name yet again. 'Dre had penned his signature so often in the last few hours that it no longer looked natural to him. "Papa," he quietly asked his father as the solicitor placed another stack of parchment before him, "are there very many more papers to sign?" Andresj' knew it was childish, but at that moment he wanted nothing more than to interrupt the proceedings and hear his father's reassurances that his love for 'Dre was the same.

He had been signing documents in the judge's chambers for several hours now. Each document required that the Cassadine family solicitor explain in excruciating detail exactly what was contained therein. Andresj' was not allowed to sign until he proved his understanding of the contents and acknowledged his acceptance of the legal obligations they entailed.

"These are crucial documents, my son." Stefan turned his attention back to the solicitor. He knew that he could relax somewhat. Alexis was as alert to the solicitor's words as he. Still, Stefan would not be lax in this phase of the proceedings. They had initiated the process of correcting Andresj' adoption information. Now the true legal work began.

"As my true son," Stefan explained distractedly, "you are heir to a great inheritance. I have already provided for you handsomely, of course. But your parentage entitles you to far more of the Cassadine estate than before." Stefan's attention was so focused on the proceedings before him that he did not see the flinch that seized Andresj's body upon hearing his words.

'As my true son...' The words, now uttered in Luke Spencer's mocking voice, echoed in Andresj's ears. He knew it was merely a careless phrase that his father used. But it cut through him like a knife.

Stefan had not been at General Hospital. No one knew where he was. Just that he had left a message that he would be away from the Hospital indefinitely.

Laura sighed in frustration. Someone had to know where he was. Against her better judgment she was now on the launch to Spoon Island. Perhaps Alexis would be more forthcoming than the people she had spoken to so far.

Not that she really expected Alexis to assist her in her search. Laura suspected that Stefan's half-sister did not care for her. In their conversations Alexis was always unfailingly polite. But the clever attorney's words seemed tinged with an emotion that Laura was suspected was disapproval. She was no doubt unforgiving of Laura's decision to entrust Nikolas to his father's care those many years ago.

Alexis' silent disapproval she could handle, Laura thought as she spied someone waiting on the docks of Spoon Island. Sabrina was another matter.

Stefan's beautiful young cousin was outspoken in her criticism of Laura. Sabrina tended to vocalize whatever was on her mind, with no thought for protocol or decorum. She was a study in contradictions. The illegitimate daughter of Victor Cassadine, she refused to bear the Cassadine name. Yet, she was among the family's staunchest supporters. More accurately, Sabrina was Stefan Cassadine's staunchest supporter, Laura thought. She suspected that the young woman was in love with Stefan.

There would definitely be no assistance from Sabrina. Laura steeled herself for the inevitable war of words that would commence when the launch completed its docking. Without Stefan present as an intermediary, she would certainly attack Laura with all guns blasting.

'I wonder where the other shoe is?' Dara moved around the room and gathered up the trail of clothes that had been left from last night. She and Mac had been a little...hurried in undressing and now in the light of day, she was forced to hunt for items that she vaguely remembered removing last night.

Dara smiled at the memory. Mac had escorted her home after her impromptu show last night. They both knew that they stood on the precipice of something powerful. Even now, if she concentrated, Dara could feel the flutter of excitement which had built during the ride to her home, could feel Mac's strong hand upon her hip as he stood waiting for permission to enter her home and her bed. And after a moment of unspoken acknowledgment, the Assistant District Attorney and the Police Commissioner proceeded to explore the desire they felt for one another.

A flush of heat warmed Dara's face. Explore, indeed.

The launch docked smoothly. Sabrina stared unblinkingly at Laura Spencer as she set her shoulders and approached her.

"Good morning."

"Laura," Sabrina acknowledged, her voice clipped. She stared at the other woman, determined to make her state her purpose for visiting Wyndemere.

"I am trying to locate Stefan," Laura stated. There was no point in beating around the bush with Sabrina. She could see that the young woman was geared for confrontation. "Do you know where he is?"


Laura sighed in exasperation. "Well, could you tell me? I need to speak to him."

Sabrina shrugged. "If he wanted you to know, he would have told you himself." She tilted her head to the side and considered the woman her beloved cousin had once given his heart to. "Why are you here, Laura?"

"That's between Stefan and me." She threw Sabrina's words back at her. "If he wants you to know, I'm sure he'll tell you."

"I don't need Stefan to tell me, Laura. You are so predictable! Someone, I'll guess it was Luke or your big-mouthed sister, told you about the paternity tests Stefan had done. Now you're running to him to demand answers about something that once again doesn't concern you." A broad grin appeared on Sabrina's face as the other woman shifted uncomfortably. "I knew it!"

"I won't discuss my business with you."

"Tell me, Lasha," Sabrina's voice dripped with scorn, "how does it feel to know that Stefan wasn't as blinded by you as you thought? That while you were using my dear cousin as your pawn all those many years ago, he was doing the same to you? That you weren't the only woman he lay with? Gave his love to? Had a child by?" She laughed at the expression on Laura's face. "What? Did you expect a life of celibacy from Stefan simply because you were unavailable?"

Laura turned and moved back toward the launch without reply. "You are a selfish, self-absorbed woman. And you don't deserve my help." Sabrina's words followed her as she walked. "But since you are already on Spoon Island, why don't you pretend you have a son named Nikolas, and go up to the house and act like you care how he is doing."

The family solicitor droned on and on about the latest document before him. Andresj' struggled to maintain the appearance of interest. Words such as 'fiduciary' and 'liability' floated in and out of his conscious mind. If his father even suspected that he was not paying attention, Andresj' had no doubt that he would interrupt the lawyer's monotone delivery and have him explain the document all over. Which was the last thing he wanted to have happen. What I wouldn't give for a good old fashioned bomb threat right now, 'Dre thought perversely.

The office door opened. All conversation came to a halt as the secretary stepped just inside the door and whispered to the wizened old solicitor. She presented a small, folded sheet of paper to him and left the room.

Andresj' blinked in surprise as the family solicitor handed him the note. Frowning, he unfolded it and read the simple sentence inside. "It is a small price to pay."

A smile spread across 'Dre's handsome face. The note was a reminder from his older brother. Many days back in Greece, Nikolas would be closeted in Papa's study signing documents and memorizing the Cassadine family's vast financial holdings. Tongue-in-cheek, 'Dre would respond to Nikolas' private complaints by quoting their father's favorite rebuke. Now it seemed the tables were turned.

Andresj's attention was caught by the sound of Stefan clearing his throat. He looked up to see the three adults watching him closely. 'Dre shook his head, wiped the smile from his face, and slipped the small note into his breast pocket. He picked up the document at hand, signifying his readiness to continue.

As the lawyer began his monologue anew, 'Dre reflected on his older brother's thoughtfulness and the bond they shared. A bond, he realized, that could never be broken.

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*General Hospital and its characters are not mine. I make no profit from this. The characters Andresj' Cassadine, and Diane Jennings are my creation.*