The sun glistened brightly off the Aegean. The weather was clear and crisp, a perfect day to enjoy the blue sea and white sand. Alexis shook her head as her husband once again twisted around in the sand to adjust the huge beach umbrella more to his satisfaction. “Marcus,” she lovingly chided him, “would you stop fussing, please? We're fine.”
“I'm not taking any chances,” he replied.
Movement from down the beach caught Alexis' eye. When she felt Marcus stiffen, she knew that he had seen it as well. Further down the beach a couple wandered along the water's edge. They maintained a discreet distance apart, but even from where Alexis and Marcus sat, the electricity between the couple was evident.
“Why are they so far away from us?” Marcus complained to his grinning wife. She knew how the sight of the couple drove her husband crazy.
“They want a little privacy,” Alexis teased. She rubbed a warm hand up and down Marcus' muscled thigh. “You can understand that, can't you?”
“I love you,” Marcus declared, “but if your brother hurts her, he will have to answer to me.” His scowl drew his eyebrows together until they nearly touched.
Alexis clasped his face between her hands and drew him to her for a kiss. “You are so protective of the women in your life,” she observed. “Stop worrying. She'll be fine. Based on what I've seen, I know that Stefan will take excellent care of her. Now… can we please enjoy this vacation? It's the first one you've had since joining the WSB. I still can't believe Robert Scorpio found a way to do without you for a few weeks.”
“You're right,” Marcus apologized.
At that moment, Alexis' daughter Kristina came running up to them. The little girl was five years old and still moved like a human tornado. “Slow down, sweetie.”
Kristina launched herself into Marcus' lap. Alexis winced, but Marcus did not even flinch. “Daddy, daddy! Come and see what I found near the water!”
Marcus allowed Kristina to pull him to his feet. “Alright, impatient,” he laughed, “let's go see.” Halfway down the beach, Marcus effortlessly swept his stepdaughter up and hoisted her onto his muscled shoulders without breaking stride.
Kristina's laughter reminded Alexis of all the reasons why she loved her husband. They had been married a little over two years and Alexis had never regretted a moment of it. She caressed her extended stomach and thought about the blessing to come in another month.
“I can't believe Alexis managed to get Marcus' attention off us.”
Stefan Cassadine nodded. “He is a bit overzealous in his protection of you,” he agreed.
“Hmmm…Do I need protection from you?”
Stefan was intrigued with the mocha beauty's unexpected flirting. She was nothing like he'd assumed. Beneath her serious exterior was a flirtatious, engaging woman.
“Forgive my intrusion, Master Stefan.” A shadow fell across the blanket on which Stefan and Dara sat. Stefan bit back an angry reaction to the interruption.
“Excuse me a moment,” Stefan murmured. He led his employee several feet away from Dara's location. “You have something to report?” It was not really a question.
“Yes. We have finally located Madame,” the servant said. He was named Valerik, and his only responsibility was to keep track of Helena Cassadine's presence.
It was not unusual for the Cassadine matriarch to vanish for a week or two at a time. She possessed a vast network of resources. It was impossible to tail her every moment. But this time Helena had disappeared from the radar for nearly a month, and with the bacchanalia celebrating Nikolas' ascension scheduled in three weeks, it was vital that her location be determined. “Madame Cassadine has taken residence in a remote castle in the Swiss mountains. It is a fortress and easily approachable from only one direction.”
Stefan's brow rose. “Find a way to get someone into my mother's hiding place.”
“Constantine was able to make his way up a back portion of the mountain,” Valerik explains. “He was unable to go any further when he encountered an unscalable cliff face.”
“I do not care what it takes. Get it done.” Stefan turned his attention back to Dara.
Stefan impatiently turned back to Valerik. “Yes?” he demanded.
“It was nearing night and difficult to see even with binoculars,” Valerik recounted, “but Constantine says that Madame Helena was accompanied by a companion as she stood in the doorway of her mountain fortress. He swears that it was Michael Corinthos, Jr.”
Thanks for taking the ride.