"Blackmailing Laura? Are you kidding?"

Dara caught the look of total surprise on Luke's face and felt a real surge of pleasure that she'd been able to throw him off balance. Nothing quite like shock to reveal a man. "No, according to this letter to Kathryn, he'd been blackmailing Laura for several months. Unfortunately, there is no indication of his blackmail material. I was hoping that you could shed a little light on the matter."

"If I'd known that he was blackmailing Laura, I'd have killed him myself." Luke was blunt. "But, I didn't know."

"Interesting," Stefan mused. "It would seem that Laura kept you in the dark about a variety of things. What else did she neglect to tell you?"

Garcia and Taggert watched the ongoing exchange between the men, listening carefully for any clue to whatever it was that they weren't saying. It was clear to both men that there was something going on, something extra-legal that was, perhaps, the key to the murder of Kathryn Bell.

"Yeah," Taggert grinned. "Seems that there's a lot that you and your old lady aren't sharing these days. "Or maybe I should say that you're sharing with others."

Silence reigned in the room for a minute or so, while Dara perused the papers in her hand. "Stefan," she began, "did you know that Kathryn was pregnant?"

For one long moment, Stefan looked like a man damned for all time. Finally, he spoke, his voice soft and strained. "A child? There was a child?"

"I'm sorry," she said, realizing that he hadn't known, that the news yet another blow to a man still stunned by what had gone before. "The pregnancy was only a few weeks along."

"She had not told me," he whispered, the pain on his face unmasked as his enemy looked on. "We had not discussed the future."

"I'm sorry, Stefan," Luke found himself saying. For once, he found no pleasure in the pain of the man he hated.

"I want to see Laura," Luke said, suddenly. "What's bail?"

"I'm going to ask the judge to deny bail," Garcia told him. "Given Laura's frequent disappearances, her faked death, and connections abroad, I think that the judge will agree with me."

"She wouldn't have killed Kat or arranged the hit," Luke told them. "This is a set-up. Can't you see that?"

"What I see is a woman who has killed before," Garcia retorted, "who thought that she could make use of her protector's hired help to dispose of the competition. Her son is currently the heir to the Cassadine name and all that it entails, not an inconsiderable amount. It's not out of the question that she might have wanted to preserve that for her son, and, perhaps for herself, given what we've learned about that particular relationship, as well as yours and hers. Seems that the woman was hanging out for the main chance."

Luke steeled himself to show no emotion, but it was becoming increasingly clear that there was little chance of keeping the less savory details of the past a secret. Instead, he shook his head. "Go ahead and waste the taxpayer's money. This time, I'm going to send you the bill for our attorney."

"And it will not be inconsiderable," Justus remarked as he strolled into the room. "I came as quickly as I received your message, Luke." He turned to Taggert, Garcia, and Dara, "This is beginning to look like harassment. You couldn't get a conviction on the other case, so you're going to try to pin something else on her."

"This time, we've got some hard evidence," Garcia smiled. "And two more bodies. You'd better hope that your client has a stainless steel halo, because we're going to clip her wings."

Luke looked at Laura as she entered the room where Justus and he awaited her. It was odd, Luke reflected, but he'd never felt quite this way before, as if he were meeting a stranger who wore his wife's face, and spoke with her voice.

"Luke, I knew that you'd come."

"Did you?" he asked, unable to help himself. "Laura, what is all this about?"

"I have no idea. You know that I wouldn't do such a thing. Garcia knows that I wouldn't."

"Au contraire, my dear," Luke countered. "Garcia knows no such thing. He thinks that you whacked Damian and that you got away with murder. He doesn't plan on letting you walk this time." Luke gave a questioning look at Justus. "Maybe your boss might lend a hand. I can't imagine that he'd like to have his attorney tied up in a murder investigation."

Laura looked at Justus, wondering at Luke's snide comments. "I know Justus will do his best," she beamed. "Like before."

"Yeah," Luke nodded. "Like before."

Justus quizzed Laura about her dealings with the Cassadines, learning quickly that she'd never met Reece, and indeed, had no idea who he was. "I've never seen him, spoken with him, and wouldn't have known him if we'd met on the street."

"Then you have no idea why Reece would have named you as the person who gave the orders to kill Kat?"

"Of course not. This whole thing mystifies me." She turned tear-filled eyes to Luke and asked, "Lulu? Who is taking care of her?"

"Lucy picked her up from the babysitter's." He smiled as he saw the anger in Laura's eyes. "Don't worry. Lucy's good with children-even when they're not her own. Sort of like me."

"You're never going to understand, are you? I had no choice, Luke. I did what I had to do."

Justus watched this curiously. "Do you mind if I ask what you're talking about? Especially as it pertains to this case?"

"We're having a slight problem, Justus," Luke told him. "And, given our past history, the goodwill with which you regard our family, I'm not sure that you'd even care."

"Luke!" Laura chided.

"Be quiet, Laura," Luke told her. "But, you're right. Justus needs to know what's going on. So do I. I'm particularly curious about why Damian was blackmailing you."

Laura grew very quiet, her eyes wary. "Blackmail?"

"Yes, darlin'. You know, where you pay somebody big bucks so that they don't tell somebody else your secrets. Somebody like me."

"I had to, Luke. Damian knew things about me, about us..."

"And you couldn't come to me? Or, did he know that Lucky wasn't my son? How Damian must have loved knowing that."

"What?!?!?" Justus asked. "I'm not getting something here."

"Luke," Laura implored. "Please."

"Please what? Not tell the truth? That's why we're here, right now. If you'd told me the truth...."

"I couldn't tell you the truth," Laura yelled at him, her anger overcoming her fears. "You wouldn't have stayed! I gave up everything for you. I left my son in Greece so that I could be with you. How could I tell you that the baby I was going to have was really Stefan's? You'd have left me in a second. You think that I didn't realize that?"

"Was that the blackmail secret?" Justus asked, trying to maintain his carefully cultivated counselor's composure.

Laura nodded. "He contacted me and told me that he knew and that if I didn't pay him, he'd tell Luke. What could I do? Either pay him, or lose Luke and Lucky. I'd already lost one son, I wasn't about to lose another."

"You left one son behind," Luke corrected. "You made a choice. You could have told me and...."

"And what? What was I to do? Tell me, Luke Spencer. Tell me what I should have done? Regardless of who the father is, that baby was mine. Mine!! Maybe I didn't do everything right, by the book, or by your $%^&* rules, but I did what I thought was best to give my children a good life." She gave him a disgusted look. "You know what? I really don't give a rip, either. All you want is to insure that your precious genes are passed on, your name, and mine gets tossed aside. I knew that Stefan would take care of Nikolas, that he'd give Nikolas everything that the boy could want or need, that he'd bring him up to be a good man, because that's what Stefan is. A good man. He was different than the other Cassadines. He had a sort of shining purity and I knew that he could be trusted."

"So why didn't you stay with him? Why did you come back to me?"

"Because I love you, Luke. And, when all is said and done, you love me."

It was dark by the time he'd sneaked aboard the yacht that was anchored in the Port Charles Harbor. Fortunately, he was familiar with the layout, having sneaked aboard in the past. One thing he'd have to say about Helena-the woman ran a tight ship. Long about now, all her crew members were tight, thanks to a little careful addition to the water supply. Helena, however, never drank water, unless it was some damned melted glacier stuff that was imported for her on a regular basis. Probably almost as old as she was, he mused. Come to think of it, that might well be the secret of her youthful appearance. Either that, or she drank blood. Whatever it was, she looked good for a woman of her advanced age.

Stealthily, he let himself into her cabin where she sat in the darkness.

"Welcome aboard, my darling."

"Damnit, Helena. Do you ever sleep?"

She gave a low chuckle. "Now, you should know the answer to that. Only when I'm thoroughly satisfied."

"Hell, I've never been awake long enough to see that."

"Hope springs eternal," Helena teased. "So, my wanton warrior....how goes our little plan?"