Part One

“No. Absolutely not!”

“My darling, all I ask is that you consider it.”

Stavros Cassadine raised a haughty brow. “Mother, I already have a bride. Have you forgotten so quickly?”

“Laura Spencer is no longer your wife.” If her darling son had one glaring weakness, it was his obsession with that insipid Spencer creature. “She is with Luke now,” Helena added.

“An error in judgment on her part,” Stavros said. “One I intend to correct.”

“And I will gladly assist you, my darling.” Helena stroked her son's cheek. “But that is for the future. For now you must concentrate your efforts on strengthening your position among the family once more.” She grimaced delicately. “Your weakling brother has managed to corrupt the family's thoughts where you are concerned. Stefan has been busy during the time you slept.”

Stavros frowned. “I do not care what the family thinks, Mother. I am Prince Stavros, the true Cassadine heir. In short time the family will bow to my wishes once more.”

Helena felt a thrill wash over her at her eldest son's declaration. How she had missed his strong spirit and noble ways! “Of course they will, my darling. This alliance I propose will merely hasten the process.”

“You truly believe this to be a necessary course of action?”

The Cassadine matriarch carefully hid her triumph. Stavros' hesitant query signaled his willingness to accept the course of action she had put before him. He did not know it, but the proposed marriage was just the first step in a far greater design. When Helena was through, Stavros would have regained all that was stolen from him. And so much more.

“I live for you, my darling Stavros.” Her cool hand reached up to cup Stavros' cheek. “Are you not the most important thing in my life?” Helena asked. “Did I not move heaven and earth to give you life again? “ She ran her thumb across his lower lip. “Trust Mother.”

His eyes shut, the handsome dark-haired man leaned into his mother's caress. “Very well, Mother,” he sighed, opening his eyes once more. “Show me this bride whom I must wed.”