~ One Moment in Time~


Nikolas Cassadine stood by the window and stared blindly out over the waters of Spoon Lake. His plate was already overflowing with the enormous demands of the Cassadine empire. Now he was forced to add family intrigue to the pile.

Alexis had shared with him the details of Sam's assertion that she had been burgled. His newly-found cousin believed that someone in the immediate family was responsible for the act. Nikolas knew that he could eliminate himself as the thief. He had welcomed his cousin freely into the Cassadine fold. And though her welcome to Sam was not so unreserved, Alexis had never denied her daughter her place in the family. Alexis had no reason to steal anything from her.

It bothered Nikolas that someone had chosen to search through Sam's belongings for the proof of paternity she possessed, especially since he couldn't deny the probability that the culprit was indeed a member of the extended family . There were countless factions inside the family, and each had a private agenda that Nikolas would not be aware of until a move was made against him. The last thing the young Prince needed was to have to dive into the murky waters of Cassadine family machinations. History had proven that what lay beneath the surface of the water was deadlier than anything that could occur above.

The other option (which Nikolas preferred) was that Sam's belongings had been rifled through by one of the many marks she had conned over the years. According to the dossier compiled on her by Cassadine Security, the scope of Sam's grifting was extensive. There could be any number of angry victims hoping to encounter her once more. If this was the case, Nikolas could turn the matter over fully to his security people and not concern himself with anything but its resolution.

"I'm sorry," Alexis offered, startling him. Nikolas was so deep in thought that he had forgotten his aunt was in the library. "I know I am adding to the list of things you already have to worry about."

"No," Nikolas reassured her, even though his thoughts had taken that direction. "You were right to bring this to me. And don't worry. Mr. Capinger will track down the person responsible for ransacking Sam's room."

Richard Capinger strode into the airy, spacious library as though summoned by the mention of his name. He gave a curt nod to first Nikolas, then Alexis. "You sent for me?"

Nikolas nodded. "My cousin Samantha came by today. She says that someone went through her personal belongings and removed some documents she was safeguarding. I would like you to recover Sam's possessions and catch the person responsible."

Capinger placed his briefcase on the table near where Nikolas stood. His movements were brisk and efficient. "I am the person responsible," Capinger admitted calmly. He withdrew a single shiny sheet from inside the case and offered it to Nikolas. "This is what Miss McCall had hidden in the tank of her toilet."

Nikolas studied the document he held. "This is a page from a school annual." He flipped the sheet over as though he might find more answers on the other side.

"Yes," the investigator nodded. "And it is what convinced Miss McCall that she was on the right track in finding her birth mother."

"This is what Samantha considered her proof of paternity?" Nikolas handed the page to his aunt. "I don't understand."

"I didn't take a picture that year." Alexis fingered the simple placeholder graphic that announced that she had been unavailable when school photographs were taken. "I hadn't begun to show but somehow the headmistress figured it out and told my father I was pregnant. Mikkos showed up unannounced the next day and took me out of school and straight to one of the family's more remote Greek villas. He was determined that no one outside of the immediate family know I was pregnant.

He was so angry...

I stayed at the villa alone until it was time to give birth. Oh, there was a cook and a couple of other servants there, but none of them really talked to me. They were afraid of Mikkos and didn't want to anger him." Alexis' somber expression was suddenly replaced by a soft smile. "Your father visited me twice," she told Nikolas. "I was so glad to see Stefan, to see a friendly face. Even though we were only cousins - or so we thought at the time - he was the person I knew I could really share my feelings about the baby. I could tell him about my fears for its future.

And I did.

And he listened. Really listened."

Nikolas had never heard any of the details surrounding Alexis' secret pregnancy and birth. He held himself still, not wanting to break the sharing mood that his aunt was in. "After the first visit," Alexis continued, "Helena found out and told Mikkos that Stefan had been to see me. Stefan managed to send word that he would visit again as soon as it was safe." Alexis shook her head. "I didn't need to be told that he must have paid a heavy price for defying our father. So I begged him not to come again. But he didn't listen. A week or two before I gave birth, he slipped into my room in the dead of night and awoke me with a hand covering my mouth. He had made the trip accompanied only by his personal guard, Piotr, and couldn't stay very long. We talked for a few moments." Alexis gazed up at Nikolas. Her eyes were soft and moist. "Stefan apologized for the brevity of his visit, but he wanted me to know I wasn't alone."

"Was anyone allowed to be with you for the birth?"

"No. There was only Mikkos, the doula, and me. It took most of the day, but I finally heard my baby's cry. It was the most beautiful sound I ever heard." Alexis stood abruptly. She stared out over the waters of Spoon Lake, lost in memories. "Then..."

"And then?" Nikolas prompted.

Alexis turned to face her nephew. Her expressionless face was far more revealing than she realized. "Then there was silence. My baby was gone."