The Bed You Make
Chapter 50
~ Take a Breath~

There wasn't a lot of talking done throughout the night. Well, not a lot of conversation, anyway…unless gasps for breath and supplication to a higher power counted.

Now, just before daybreak, Dara lay spent and sweaty with Stefan still buried deep inside her. He had orgasmed moments ago, but as she’d discovered from their initial round, he preferred to remain buried inside her until long after the involuntary thrusts of his hips ceased.

It was a shockingly intimate act, Dara admitted. Yes, she had always believed that sex between two consenting adults should be intimate. But somehow, lying there beneath Stefan, the heat and weight of his body enveloping her, the vivid green of his gaze fixed on her, the thrill of his absolute possession of her… Dara realized she could very easily grow used to that.

She was afraid she already had. And that would be a mistake. A huge mistake of enormous proportions.

“Do not allow your doubts to remove you from this moment.” Stefan's quiet rebuke snapped Dara out of her thoughts. It was frightening sometimes how easily he could see through her. Like now. He silently held her gaze. His eyes, though, gently urged her to share her thoughts.

When it became obvious that Dara would - or could - not share, he surprised her yet again. “It is no small thing to allow one’s self to be vulnerable,” Stefan observed. He withdrew from Dara and rolled onto his back. She felt immensely the loss of his weight atop her.

A small voice reminded her that by agreement Stefan was hers to claim in every way. Dara curled into his side and placed her head on his chest. For just a second she felt Stefan's body grow still. Then he relaxed and pulled her closer to him.

"To be a Cassadine,” he continued, “is to emerge from the womb engaged in a battle for survival. The first lesson we learn is to suspect the motives of every single person we meet.” He paused a beat. “I did not want that for Nikolas. And so I nurtured in him that gentle spirit so like his mother's.

“I often wonder if I did him a grave disservice. For my own selfish need, I reveled in my son’s innocence. I took joy in observing his childish wonder as he experienced the world.” Stefan was quiet for several minutes. "Such indulgence has left him too forgiving - of his mother, of my mother… Of me. Despite the numerous times we have all failed Nikolas, he has never ceased to hope that good might ultimately come from hurt.”

"You say that like it's a bad thing. It takes a strong character to be so forgiving.”

"Perhaps,” Stefan allowed. “Nonetheless, it does not alter my desire to protect -where I can- his heart."

"I think you underestimate Nikolas,” Dara murmured. "Maybe he keeps giving you so many chances because he sees what you can really be…Like I do.”

Dara raised her head to look at Stefan. He'd been so silent after her last remark that she could almost hear his brain at work. “What?”

Stefan stared at Dara a long minute. “It seems,” he said softly, “that I must now protect your heart as well.”


bACK | continued