What is Mine
~ Three ~

Ariana Cassadine hazarded a quick glance at the back seat where the little boy lay securely confined in his car seat. She adjusted the temperature in the car just a bit to compensate for the cooler air outside.

“I don't know which one makes me love you more,” she teased, glancing over at her husband. “The fact that you allowed me to drive us all back to the hotel, or the fact that you actually seem to be at ease while I am doing it.”

“Why would I not?” Stefan seemed genuinely puzzled. “You are an excellent driver. Signore Giovanardi himself certified you.”

“Did I mention that he invited me to come to Italy and drive one of his prized racecars?”


“Oh, yes,” Ariana restrained a smile. “In fact, he said that I was built for speed.”

Stefan's left eyebrow rose dangerously. He'd had a moment's hesitation when Fabrizio Giovanardi's name was recommended to him as the person to polish his wife's already considerable driving skills. Signore Giovanardi was probably as well known a playboy as he was a racecar driver. Still, the best was what Stefan sought for the job at hand.

“You neglected to mention that particular comment,” Stefan observed evenly.

“I didn't think it was important. Do you know what else he said?” Though her eyes were on the road, Ariana could feel her husband's intense gaze focused upon her. “That it was obvious to anyone with eyes that I am thoroughly and sickeningly in love with my husband. Who, Fabrizio added, is a very lucky man.”

“Perhaps I shall be forced to revise my estimation of Signore Giovanardi.”

They rode in companionable silence. Evenly spaced trees lined both sides of the road on which they traveled. The trip to the restaurant had been one filled with the glorious colors of fall foliage.

As usual, traffic was extremely sparse along the quiet little country road. The road and the restaurant in which they'd dined were two well-kept secrets of New York's society crowd. A wealthy college boyfriend had brought Ariana there. She continued to dine there long after they had gone their separate ways.

Ste-fan? ” Ariana's hoarse whisper broke the silence.

Mildly alarmed, Stefan glanced over at his wife. Her breathing was shallow and her body trembled. “Some-thing's wrong,” she whispered, before coughing up bright red blood. In seeming slow motion her eyes rolled back into her head and she began to fall forward against the steering wheel.

“Ariana!” Stefan lunged for his wife, only to be brought up short by the restraining hand of the car's seat belt. Straining, he reached for the wheel.