Chapter 1


"What are you doing out on Spook Island?"

The voice came, seemingly, out of the darkness. The two bodyguards sprang into action. The taller man shielded their assignment with his body while the smaller, more muscular man moved forward, brandishing a gun that seemed to have appeared from thin air. Luke Spencer strolled out of the dark alley into the light of the warehouse beacon. Tall and slim, with a disappearing hairline, he seemed to radiate nonchalance. He ignored the two bodyguards and addressed the young man in their charge. "And why do you have these two goons?"

At a gesture from the young man, the two guards reluctantly allowed Luke's approach. "Spoon Island is my home. And Anton and Arman are for my protection."

"Your home is with your family."

"That's what I have with Papa and Nikolas and Alexis."

Luke took a step forward and was stopped by the barrel of a gun thrust into his chest. It was as close as the two men would allow, in spite of the boy's gesture. "Listen to me good, boy. You aren't his son."

Drawing himself up, the young man countered, "Yes, I am Stefan's son." And though his body language screamed the outrage he was feeling, his face was emotionless.

"Don't delude yourself. Count Dracula doesn't love you. You are just another Cassadine possession, bought with someone else's blood."

"First of all, you don't know anything about my relationship with my father. And second, I already know why he first took me in. He told me everything a few years ago . . . Close your mouth, Mr. Spencer, before you choke."

"Cassadine is playing mind games with you."

"And you aren't?" The weariness in the young man's voice took Luke by surprise. "You tell me to walk away from Stefan, that I am only some possession to him. How noble of you. Especially since you only see me as a weapon for your battle with Stefan," he said, staring at Luke with contempt. "Well, I am sorry to disappoint you, but I won't be used by you to hurt the man I consider my father." And he turned and walked away.

"Deny it all you want, boy," Luke insisted, "but you have a real family waiting for you."

Without breaking stride or looking back, the young man replied with finality, "I don't care. They mean nothing to me."

"Did you think that you would turn Andresj' against me?" Stefan asked out of the shadows.

Without looking around, Luke struck a match and lit his ever-present cigar. "One day the boy is gonna see the truth. You know, once you give them the truth, there is no going back."

"Oh, I totally agree. You should hear some of the truths I told him about you - murderer, thief, rapist . . . He was understandably disgusted. But I imagine you already know what it is to have a young man turn his back on you after having discovered the truth." Emerging from the shadows, Stefan watched Luke carefully to see if his last barb had struck home.

To the casual observer, the exchange would have not seemed anything special. Both men were still, and seemingly detached from emotion. Yet, one stared with an interest bordering on fixation, while the other fought to maintain the mask of indifference he wore. Memories of Lucky raced through Luke's mind just as Stefan had intended them - memories of his life, memories of his death. The pain was like a blow to Luke's ribs, leaving him barely able to breathe.

"You are just too clever for me, Stiffen," Luke uttered through teeth clenched on his cigar. "But we will see who has the last laugh when the boy wakes up from that spell you have him under."

"Spencer, I have full confidence in my son." Armed with the knowledge of his enemy's wound, Stefan allowed a small smile to form at the corners of his mouth. "All the surprise visits in the world will not shake the bond Andresj' and I have formed." And with that, he stepped into the shadows and departed.

Sixteen-year-old Andresj' Cassadine stood in the doorway of the study. The younger son of Stefan Cassadine, he was - in many ways - like his older brother Nikolas. Dark hair and eyes accentuated a face many considered so handsome as to be beautiful, while his patrician features reinforced the seeming arrogance that exuded from men bearing the Cassadine name.

"Father, may I speak to you?"

Stefan ceased writing and turned expectantly toward the young man. "Of course, my son," and waved him into the room. "Trouble with your studies?"

Andresj' walked hesitantly to the chair opposite Stefan's desk and sat. "No. Luke Spencer approached me today."

"Where were your guards?"

"Do not fault Arman and Anton, Father." The young man leaned forward, hastily defending the two bodyguards from his father's disapproval. "They were prepared to repel Mr. Spencer. I allowed him to approach me."

"What were your reasons?" Stefan's voice was curiously mild.

Andresj' had prepared himself for his father's anger at his disregard for safety. When none seemed forthcoming, he relaxed and explained his actions. "I remembered what you told me about Mr. Spencer; that he would continue to approach me and try to drive a wedge between us." He paused and waited for a comment that did not come. " I thought that if I allowed him to speak his peace, he might realize that I would never turn against you." "And did he realize it?"

"No," Andresj' sat back in the chair. "I don't think he even listened to what I was trying to say."

"Luke Spencer tunes out those things he does not wish to hear."

Guilty for having disregarded Stefan's instructions about Luke Spencer, Andresj' offered an apology. "You were right about him, Papa."

Stroking his goatee, Stefan silently considered the young man seated before him. "I trust that you will now accept my instructions to you where Luke Spencer is concerned?"

"Yes, Papa," he hesitated. "Are you angry with me? I didn't mean to make -"

"No, Andresj'," Stefan interrupted, "I am not angry with you. But from now on you mustn't dismiss your bodyguards or interfere in the doing of their jobs. They were handpicked by me to protect you."

"I promise, Papa. And I am sorry to worry you so." Andresj' rose to depart, reassured that his relationship with his father was secure.

"It is a father's job," Stefan half-jokingly replied as his younger son left the room.

Andresj' came back into the study at Stefan's words. "It is funny you should say that, Papa. Mr. Spencer kept talking about my 'true father'. And I knew what he meant. But every time he said the words, my heart and my mind pictured you." With a wry smile, he said "Goodnight, Father."

"Goodnight, my son."

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