Part Four

“I do not believe,” Andresj' Cassadine commented wryly, “that any of the three women standing here would willingly agree to such a ceremony.” The comment, dropped into the silence surrounding the family group, cut straight to the heart of everyone's thoughts.

“That is an understatement,” his father agreed, slanting a glance his fiancée's way. “Nor would I wish such a ceremony upon any woman I cared for. It perpetrates a standard of male domination I would not care to continue.”

“I am glad to hear it,” Faith Ward replied, arching an elegant brow. “For if you did want a ceremony like that one, at the very least you would find yourself standing before the alter alone.” She gave him a pointed look. “That is ... if you were capable of standing upright at all.”

Sabrina and Alexis nodded their agreement, while Nikolas and Andresj' winced sympathetically. “I don't believe,” Sabrina mused thoughtfully, “that Alexandra agreed to this willingly either. It is true that we don't know her very well yet, but from what little I've seen she doesn't strike me as stupid.”

Nikolas spoke up for the first time since the wedding ceremony began. “Are you saying that any woman willing to marry my fa-, Stavros, must be insane?”

Sabrina gave her nephew a look of ill-disguised impatience. Nikolas' sullen, resentful attitude had worn on the good graces of everyone who had traveled from Port Charles via the private Cassadine jet. “ I said ,” Sabrina explained, barely containing her ire, “that I don't believe Alexandra agreed to this particular ceremony willingly. But if you really want to know how I feel about that particular subject, then I will gladly-”

Alexis, Faith and Andresj' all jumped into the conversation in an effort to forestall whatever biting comment lay just on the tip of Sabrina's tongue. They too had grown weary of Nikolas' constant complaining; still the setting was not right for such a discussion.

Nikolas stalked angrily away from the group. His movements stiff, the heir to the Cassadine throne moved to stand beside his father and new stepmother. Stefan sighed as he watched the young man he loved as a son alienate himself even further from the family who loved him.

Just why Nikolas had chosen to attend his father's wedding with them was a mystery. He had repeatedly avowed his determination to sever all ties with anything Cassadine. Under different circumstances Stefan would have been concerned that Nikolas might fall under Stavros' influence. But now, with all the distance Nikolas had placed between them, Stefan realized that it would be preferable to have the young man back within the family folds. No matter the reason.