Chapter 20

It has been years since a kiss has left him without the ability to think, but that's just what's happening to Sonny. He's had plenty of women over the years in Puerto Rico, beautiful but forgettable women. Women who were acrobats in bed, who were willing to do anything to satiate his sexual appetite. But the merest of kisses from this woman-child surpasses them all. Artless, innocent.... yet inherently sexual and seductive.

He feels her lithe body move under him as she wraps her arms around his neck and draws him more deeply into the kiss. If only she hesitated, he might have a chance to get his bearings, to pull back, to remember that this is a horrible idea, that she is Jason's sister and young enough to be his daughter. But she's not giving off those signals. Instead she seems content to slowly drive him insane by exploring his mouth with her tongue.

Of their own accord, his hands find their way under her short full skirt, to feel the soft skin of her thighs and the supple curves of her bottom. She is exquisite. Touching her was heaven and he wanted more. His mouth trails down her graceful throat to her pulse point.

"God, Sonny!" Emily gasps, feeling dizzy from the effects of the alcohol and the magic Sonny is weaving around her body. She is well beyond thinking of the consequences. All that matters is she wants this.

The sound of Emily's voice brings Sonny back to reality with crash. Emily, this is Emily. She's just a sweet kid. Jason's little sister. You're supposed to be protecting her, not seducing her. His breath coming in short jagged pants, he pulls away reluctantly and starts swearing profusely in Spanish.

The haze in Emily's brain begins to dissipate and she sits up with a start, making a haphazard attempt at straightening her clothes. "Did we almost do ..... what I think we did?"

Sonny closes his eyes and clamps down firmly on the desire he feels. He still wants her damn it. But it's wrong. Totally wrong. "Yeah, but we didn't. That's what matters."

Letting out a short scream of frustration, Emily puts her head between her knees. "I can't believe this! ARGH! WHY WHY Does this stuff happen to me?"

Sonny plops down on the couch, reaches out a hand to rub her back, then realizing his mistake snaps his hand back. Not knowing what else to do, he says, "I'm sorry Honey."

Emily laughs hysterically. "Oh, you have NO idea!" Realizing she's scaring Sonny, she pulls herself together and pats him on the knee. "Really, thanks for having the sense to put a stop to what would have ruined a perfectly good friendship. Sleeping together would have been a BAD idea, Sonny. And I didn't have the self control to stop it myself."

Trying to banish the fantasy of her nude in his bed, Sonny gives her a wan smile. "Anytime, Sweetheart. Anytime."

.............................

There really isn't any other choice, Emily concludes while getting dressed the next morning. She couldn't keep doing this, or she'd end up doing something stupid that she couldn't take back. Besides, he wanted her, right? It would be simple enough. She would tell him what she wanted, and then he could say yes or no.

Simple? Ha. Nothing is ever simple for her. Why couldn't she just meet a guy, fall in love, have him fall in love too, and live happily ever after? That's all she wanted, really, but it's obviously too much to ask.

You're being ridiculous, she chides herself. Your life has never been a fairy tale, why would it change now? You wouldn't know how to handle it if it did.

Sighing heavily, Emily rummages through her jewelry box looking for earrings to match her outfit. So instead of a fairy tale romance, she has this lust thing going for two guys. Nikolas and Sonny. Both were totally wrong for her. Nikolas, she could fall in love with him too easily, in fact she's loved him most of her adult life. Loving him has become synonymous with breathing. But how does Liz figure into this? Her head hurt just trying to figure out all the complications.

Sonny. He is dangerous on so many levels. She's surprised he kissed her last night, and even more surprised that she kissed back. She melts a little just remembering how it felt to be in his arms, even for just a few minutes. It must have been the alcohol, but now that it's happened, there's no going back to the way they were.

She doesn't know if she could fall in love with Sonny, but she doesn't want to find out and ruin a good friendship in the process. Besides, he's in the mob and that's not the life for her and Michael. Michael has lost enough family, he couldn't survive losing any more to that life. And frankly, neither could she.

You're not making any sense, she scolds herself. This won't work. It'll get hopelessly complicated because everything in your life has gotten hopelessly complicated since you came back to Port Charles.

And it's about time you admitted you like it that way.

Emily closes her eyes and strengthens her resolve. First things first. She needs more information.

.......................

Kelly's

"Emily!" Liz calls out from one of the table as she spies Emily going towards the lunch counter.. "What luck! Catching you here means I don't have to track you down at your penthouse."

Emily gives her old friend a hug and a pasted on smile, reminding herself that if she had anyone to be angry at, it was Nikolas. Liz was just an innocent bystander to the whole fiasco. "It's good to see you, Liz. Sorry I ran off last night.."

Liz waves her hand dismissively, giving Emily one of her warmest smiles. "Oh, you have nothing to apologize for. Nikolas is such a scamp for not telling me about you two when we met on the docks the other day! I know this is kind of sudden, but do you want to join me for lunch?"

Emily feels some of the knot in her stomach loosen as she joins Liz at her table. Why had she lost touch with this sweet friend? "Sure, that would be great. But I don't have much time. I'm just here to grab a quick bite before my interview at the hospital."

A waitress comes by and they order sandwiches. Liz leans forward, putting her hand over Emily's. "Gosh, I'm so glad you're back, I've missed our friendship so much. I'm so sorry it had to be Jason's death that brought you back to Port Charles, though. About a hundred times I thought of calling you, but I didn't want to impose on your grief." Realizing she's on shaky ground, Liz backs up. "I'm sorry.... I'm sure it's still so fresh. If you don't want to talk about it, it's okay."

Emily shakes her head. "No, it's alright to talk about it, especially with someone who understands. I can't tell you how much comfort I got from your beautiful note, thank you. I meant to get back to you, but I just haven't had the time or the energy...."

Liz gives her hand a squeeze. "How about we stop apologizing, and just start from here?"

Emily sags with relief. "I'd really like that."

"First off, let me just set the record straight. I was just teasing last night when I interrupted you two. Nikolas and I are only friends."

Emily blushes deep to her roots. "God, can't we just forget last night? I am so embarrassed. I haven't seen you in like three years and you catch me necking in the parking lot like a teenager."

"Emily!" Liz laughs incredulously. "Why would you be embarrassed?! Nikolas is so gorgeous and you had a major crush on him when you were in high school. Stands to reason you'd still be attracted to him after all this time." She winks. "Besides, I think necking in the parking lot is sweet, romantic even."

Emily groans. "Next thing you're going to say is that Nikolas and I make a cute couple. Ugh. We aren't even a couple, though if you ask Nik, he thinks he owns me." Grateful when the waitress arrives with their food, she takes the opportunity to steer the conversation away from her. "So tell me about you. Lucky mentioned last night that you have an exhibition coming up. Congratulations! Tell me all about it...."

.......................

Stefan and Nikolas walk the halls of General Hospital as Stefan brings Nikolas up to date on business. "The new chief of staff is working out quite nicely. At first, there was considerable hostility towards him, for the obvious reason that he was an outsider and he was hired by a "Cassadine". But with time, he has proven himself more than capable of handling the job. Even Alan and Monica have warmed up to him."

Nikolas nods absently, half bored with the conversation until the mention of the Quartermaines, at which point he snaps to attention. "They must have been vocal in their objections. The Quartermaines have always considered this their hospital. Monica and Edward are forces to be reckoned with, even with the handicap of Alan's drug addiction scandal ."

"Monica would have made an adequate chief of staff if her priorities were with the welfare of the hospital and not with her ineffectual husband and her miscreant son." As they enter the public area around the nursing station, Stefan lowers his voice and guides Nikolas to a quiet corner to continue their conversation. "Their arrogance knows no bounds, Nikolas. And the blustering fool, Edward Quartermaine, continually attempts to instigate trouble. Yet, despite his efforts, I have been able to neutralize his effect on the board."

Nikolas nods. "And now that you are stepping down from your position at the hospital, The Quartermaines will perceive a power vacuum and try to take advantage of it."

Stefan smiles conspiratorially. "That is the most likely response. You are an unknown, since your reputation in business has been made overseas. Edward will consider taking advantage of your youth, and underestimate you. He will not be prepared for the cutthroat businessman you have become."

The doors to the elevators open at that moment, catching their attention. But neither are prepared for who walks off the elevator. The familiar flash of long blond hair causes a jolt of recognition in both of them. For an instant they both share a look of surprise at the sight of Laura Spencer in the flesh.

 

Chapter 21


The sight of Laura slowly turning in his direction, seeing her tremulous smile of recognition, evokes a multitude of strong feelings in Nikolas: age old longing for love and acceptance from her, the desire to be important to her, to be put first; anger at the years and years of secrets and rejection; bitter irony that the one time she chose to tell the truth resulted in years of self-imposed banishment from the lives of everyone he held dear and the desecration of the most important relationship of his life; sad resignation that his relationship with her will be nothing but strained and distant; and a small spurt of joy at seeing the beautiful face of the woman who he will always love in spite of her constant failings.

These feelings rush through him in the space of a few seconds. By the time she reaches him, Nikolas is the picture of cool reserve, looking at his mother standing before him like she is no more interesting than a speck of dirt under his fingernail. "Laura," He greets her politely.

"Nikolas!" Laura exclaims nervously, looking him up and down and taking in the changes since she last saw him. Her feelings of joy and pride are written plainly on her face. "This is a surprise, I didn't think I'd run into you so soon. You look wonderful... so handsome! More so every time I see you. How are you?"

Nikolas steals a glance at Stefan who is seething silently beside him. Perhaps the years away have made him more in tune with the emotional undercurrents in Stefan, because the only outward sign that Stefan is unhappy is the angry glint in his eyes and the tightness of his lips. Yet Nikolas can practically feel Stefan's rage at the mere sight of Laura, as if it was an entity on it's own.

Nikolas notes all this while maintaining an outward appearance that he's not the least bit disturbed by any of it. In fact, his tone is almost bored. "I wasn't aware you were in town. It was my understanding that you and your family were still living in North Carolina."

Laura's face falls slightly at his cold response to her, but manages to respond cheerfully. "We were, but we got tired of being so far away from family. We decided to return and we just moved back to Port Charles a couple of days ago." She turns to Stefan and smiles bravely. "Stefan, I heard of your recent marriage, congratulations. I hope you will be happy."

"Laura." The smile Stefan manages is as cold as the Siberia. "As always, your timing is impeccable. Nikolas has only been in Port Charles a week." Nikolas arches a brow at Stefan, who takes it as a signal to withdraw. "I am sure you have much to talk about. Nikolas, if you want to be present for the interview this afternoon, meet me in my office." Nikolas nods.

Laura and Nikolas watch in silence as Stefan walks down the hall to his office. After the doors close behind him, Laura turns to Nikolas and puts a hand on his arm. "It really is wonderful to see you! I hope you're planning on staying in town?"

Nikolas withdraws his arm and stands just out of reach. If possible, his voice is even cooler than before. "How is LesleyLu?"

Laura smiles warmly. "Lulu's wonderful, of course. She's probably grown a foot since the last time you saw her. She misses you terribly and has been asking about you since the moment we hit Port Charles."

Nikolas nods and glances at his watch. "Tell her I'll visit her soon. I must be going. I have teleconference appointment scheduled in a few minutes."

As Nikolas turns to leave, Laura takes a step towards him. "Nikolas--"

Impatiently glancing at his watch again, he stops. "What? I do have a meeting."

"Maybe we can sit down soon and talk things out," She suggests hopefully. "I hate leaving things unresolved between us. Too many years have passed...."

Nikolas closes his eyes at her pleading tone. The sound of it always made his stomach churn with guilt. Why did he always feel callous just for protecting himself? "There isn't anything unresolved between us, Laura. I think you covered everything five years ago. And if by some chance there is another secret you feel you must unburden, go find someone else to tell. I'm not interested."

............................

An hour later, and Nikolas is still feeling the effects of his run in with his mother. Trying to clear his head, he strolls with uncharacteristic slowness to Stefan's office. He wishes he didn't have to see Laura at all, but more than that, he wishes her presence couldn't touch him. That she meant no more to him than a stranger on the street.

Grabbing the door knob to Stefan's office, Nikolas pauses to steel himself for the inevitable questions. A surge of anger erupts without warning. He shouldn't have to answer to either of them. They were the ones who lied and kept secrets that ruined their relationships with him. He wouldn't allow himself to be drawn into the middle again. Their battles were theirs, not his.

Erecting the mask he's perfected over the years to cover any internal turmoil, Nikolas opens the door and walks in. "Hi, is she here yet?" He asks, his voice casual, as if nothing important transpired before.

Stefan looks up from behind the desk where he's been studying a file. He rises and removes his glasses. "I believe she is waiting in the lobby. But before we get started, I think we need to discuss your mother's arrival in Port Charles."

"No, we won't," Nikolas says brusquely. "Whatever happens between Laura and me is my business, just as is what happens between you and me. I'm not going to discuss her or her family with you. Got that?"

Stefan's head snaps back as if he's been slapped. Nikolas' harshness cuts him to the quick. "Very well, if that is what you wish."

"It is," Nikolas repeats firmly. "Now let's get this interview over with. I have some Cassadine business to attend to."

Bristling, Stefan reaches for his phone. "Amy, please send her in."

Nikolas makes himself comfortable behind the desk, while Stefan stands nearby. A moment later, Emily walks in. "Hi Stefan, thanks for agreeing to see me so soon after your return..." The words die in her throat and her smile fades as Nikolas catches her eye. "Hi Nikolas, I didn't know you'd be attending."

Stefan takes Emily's outstretched hand and shakes it. "It seemed appropriate for Nikolas to attend this meeting since he will be taking over as the CEO of GH in the near future," He says by way of explanation. "Unfortunately The chief of staff can't attend because he is in surgery at the moment.." He leads her to a chair. "Have a seat, make yourself comfortable."

Biting back the urge to tell Stefan that she'd be more comfortable if Nikolas weren't there, Emily pastes on another smile and perches herself on the edge of her seat. "Have you had a chance to look at my resume?" She asks, making a point to avoid Nikolas' burning gaze. "I really appreciate you thinking of me for this position at the Wellness Center. As you can see, I did a six month internship at a similar center while in Paris. Not only did I get to run support groups, they 'volunteered' me for most of the administrative duties as well."

Stefan would have to be dense not to notice the tension between Nikolas and Emily. Nikolas brooding behind the desk, his eyes never wavering as he stares at Emily, while Emily is looking anywhere but at Nikolas. It was time to do something or Emily would end up bolting out of the room before they could hire her. "Excellent. How about we take a tour of the Wellness Center and we can continue our discussion as we go?"

Emily sags with relief as she takes Stefan's outstretched arm and turns her back to Nikolas. "I'd love that."

.......................

After the interview, Emily is busily filling out the paperwork to become officially hired by the hospital, when Nikolas parks himself in the chair next to her. Even though the hairs on the back of her neck stand on end, she doesn't pause.

"Emily, we need to talk," Nikolas says softly.

Emily doesn't look up from her paperwork. "Not right now."

Nikolas puts his hand over her free one. "Emily."

Feeling the hysteria rising in her chest, Emily closes her eyes and clenches the pen in her hand. "I just can't do this now, okay? I'm sorry if that isn't what you want to hear, but I really don't want to make a scene in the middle of the hospital, and if you keep pushing this, that's just what I'll do. Please, just back off."

Nikolas withdraws his hand, wounded. "All right. I won't disturb you further. Have a good afternoon."

Emily buries her head in her lap, biting her lip so she won't scream. Having a raving fit in the hospital on the day of her hire would NOT set a good precedent. "Breathe... just breathe," She whispers under her breath.

....................

Within the comfortable confines of his limo, Nikolas leans his head back on the leather headrest and closes his eyes. Finally safe from prying eyes, an incredible sadness envelopes him with surprising force.

It shouldn't surprise him. He always felt the loneliness keenly when his mother was weighing heavily on his mind. Seeing Laura Spencer today was more than he bargained for. Like his father said, her timing was impeccable.

Nikolas shakes off the melancholy. Dwelling on it is unproductive not to mention unwise. If he isn't careful, he'll end up on Laura's doorstep asking for answers she never has. Nik is finished wishing for what he can't have.

In an effort to distract himself, Nikolas pulls out the file on the General Hospital Board of Directors. Work always focuses him. This is his forte. He takes each board member one by one, finding their weaknesses and developing strategies for taking advantage of them.

Again thoughts of his family intrude again, and the reminder that there is no one to talk it over with. He isn't particularly good at letting his guard down, but it would be nice to have the option of having someone to share his worries with who would understand about his family. Someone like Emily.

He physically winces as he remember his last conversation with her. He's ruined that friendship too. He's mishandled her from the moment he ran into her in the park. Why is it that he doesn't miss a beat when it comes to business, but his personal life is such a shambles? What a cliche.

He wants his friend Emily back, above everything else. He NEEDS his friend back. Someone who cares just because they like him, not for his millions, and not for the power he wields. But Emily isn't just his friend, she is so much more.... since that day in the park, she has been more. And the contact he's had with her over the last few days has proved that.

Nikolas draws in a shaky breath. Emily's behavior today alarms him. She was actually desperate to avoid talking to him. He knows he'd made a mess of things the night before, and he had expected to encounter anger, to have to apologize for his high handed behavior and grovel until she forgave him again. But instead she's refusing to even talk to him.

As the limo takes the turn leading them to the launch, Nikolas' thoughts turn to the more immediate issue. Returning to Wyndemere after running into Laura today is going to be complicated. The scab off the old wound has been ripped off, and the mere thought of being in the same room with Stefan for any amount of time leaves a tight knot in Nikolas' stomach.

Quite frankly, he isn't sure he can trust himself to keep up the pretense.