Had he been in a better frame of mind, he might
well have thought the Swiss Alps picturesque, but what was left of his good humor had
evaporated when he'd discovered that he'd drained his last bottle of Jack Daniel's, and
that there was nothing left to drink in the goatherd's cabin but goat's milk and vodka. Or
water, he thought in disgust. None of which were particularly palatable or useful when you
were trying to forget the last few months of your life. Well, the vodka, maybe, but that
he wouldn't drink, on principle alone. One had standards, after all.
Lucas Lorenzo Spencer ran his fingers through his shaggy, unkempt hair, and then tugged at
his equally disreputable looking beard and sighed. This wasn't how the rest of his life
was supposed to be lived out. When one had trounced the Cassadines, one was supposed to
pop the cork off a bottle of bubbly and celebrate, not brood atop an alp in a stinking
goat herd's cabin, probably smelling like a goat himself. Oh, he'd survived the latest
encounter with Helena and her crew, but to end the adventure discovering that your wife
had spent your entire married life lying to you, that your son wasn't your biological son,
that the boy you'd denounced as the devil's spawn was your biological son, and that you
couldn't even kill your enemy because he was some sort of extended family now...well
that was just the sort of thing to totally ruin your whole day. Add to that the fact that
ever since Tiffany Hill had broken the Return of the Romanov's saga on her television
program, his family had been besieged by media to the point where Princess Di could now
perform cartwheels unnoticed through the streets of London. Luke groaned. He just wasn't
cut out for this fishbowl lifestyle.
Still, there was a delicious sort of irony, a poetic justice even, that The Cassadine had
been raised by The Spencer. Boy, that would go quite a ways in shaking up the family tree.
It could give the Nature vs. Nurture crowd stuff to debate for years to come.
So why wasn't he there, hamming it up with the best of them, having the time of his life??
Boredom. Sheer, unadulterated boredom. Protocol, etiquette, and all the crap that went
with being the uppercrust, royalty road bored him to death. There was always somebody
hanging around running and fetching for you, always getting underfoot when you wanted
privacy, looking down on you if you happened to drop cigar ash on the damned carpet, and
he knew in his heart of heart that each and every one of those grovelers saw him as poor
white trash that got lucky. Oh, yeah, he was the Royal Consort, but that was just a pain
in the a** as far as he was concerned. He chewed irritatedly on his last stogie and cursed
fluently. For the first time in quite a while, he felt totally alone, and wasn't enjoying
it one bit. Solitude was for monks and he didn't qualify.
So, what should he do? He could always trot himself back to the Cassadine compound in
Mother Russia where his family was getting in touch with its roots. At least they could
refill his liquor supply. That was a possibility, but then he'd have to see Stefan smiling
that obsequious smile. Damn, but Luke had liked him much better as an enemy! Now, there
Stefan was, acting like a man who had just about everything his heart could desire. And
pretty much everything that Luke wanted.
Luke ground his teeth and took another deep breath, wishing that it was a deep swallow of
something strong and alcoholic. He wanted to forget all that had galled him in the last
few months, forget how his wife had not had sufficient faith in him that she'd left their
son in the arms of the enemy, that she'd lied to Luke, and, maybe the bitterest pill of
them all...that he'd lost Lucky as his son. Not the boy's love, that never, but lost
the satisfaction of knowing that he was Lucky's father. Couple that with the almost alien
look in Nikolas' eyes and Luke's heart was more burdened than it had ever been before.
So what could he do? He had no wish to return to his family until he'd sorted his feelings
out, and from the looks of things, that might take a while. This whole thing ate at him,
and he knew that he should be grateful that everyone had survived the situation, that
Laura had made up with stealth what she'd lacked in strength. Was this an ego thing? He
asked himself, angrily. Was he just being a big baby who was sulking because things hadn't
worked out like he'd wanted them to? No matter how he looked at things, he didn't like
what he saw, and frankly, didn't care just a whole lot for the man thinking his thoughts.
Laura deserved better.
Uttering another string of particularly vituperative curses, Luke turned to head back into
the cabin when he heard an answering curse. Turning quickly, he saw a youth come tumbling
out of a clump of bushes nearby, running, limping, and swearing steadily, his face white
with determination and pain.
"Damn!" the young man began, looking at Luke, his eyes filled with fear, then
back over his shoulder. "Look, Mister...damn! By chance do you speak English?"
His words ended with a near sob.
Before Luke could answer, the boy dove towards the cabin, narrowly averting being seen by
a couple of men who were obviously chasing him. Sensing trouble, Luke sauntered towards
the men, leaving the youth time to hide, or to do whatever he needed to do. Donning a
simple-minded smile, Luke approached the men who were dressed, inappropriately for the
terrain, in dark suits.
"We're looking for a boy of about fifteen," one man began.
"Ja," Luke answered, nodding his head.
"Have you seen him?"
"Which way did he go?"
"Do you speak English?"
In disgust, the first man, a red haired giant of well over six feet tall, turned to the
other man, only slightly less tall and heavily muscled. "This guy doesn't speak
"Try something else."
Turning back to Luke, he said in German, "We're looking for a dark haired boy. He's
run away from school and his parents sent us to find him. He's been
sick--self-destructive. Maybe suicidal."
"Ja," Luke again responded, nodding his head. "Ja."
"Damn," the second man swore. "This idiot is worthless, and we've got only
a few hours until the kid's parents arrive. I swear that he came this way. Maybe he's in
the cabin and this old goat is helping him?"
"It's possible. Okay, we do this guy and check things out. From the looks of things,
nobody would miss him, anyhow. Besides, he's seen us and when the kid's body is found
floating in the river, he might connect us to him."
"Yeah, Julian wouldn't like that."
Reaching into his pocket, the man pulled out a gun, only to find himself face to face with
the pistol that Luke had been carrying. "Trust me, buddy. Somebody would miss
me," Luke grinned. "Now, turn yourselves around and run back the way you came,
or I'll take both of you out. Now, run along, boys."
It happened like he'd expected, so Luke was prepared when the second man drew his gun, and
seconds later, both men lay on the ground, dead. "Damn," Luke grumbled. He
hadn't intended to kill them, just make their lives miserable and render them incapable of
harming him and the boy. Heck, the shots fired shouldn't have.........what was that
stuff on their mouths?? Suddenly, a chill ran down his back, and he realized that whatever
the men had wanted with the boy, it had to be something big.
Turning around, he called out, "It's safe now, kid. You can come out." Silence.
Luke walked back to where he'd seen the boy, and called again. "Kid, you're safe.
Now, come out and tell me what the hell's going on."
But, the only thing he could see was the back of the boy disappearing over the hill in the
distance, and quite honestly, Luke couldn't blame him. Explaining these dead guys to the
Swiss authorities was going to be a real bitch.
Lucy Coe Collins awakened from a sound sleep,
feeling strangely uneasy. Feeling alone in the bed she shared with her new husband, Dr.
Kevin Collins, she whispered, "Kev? Doc?"
Rising from the bed, Lucy crept over to the door, feeling her way along in the darkness of
their hotel suite. Combining a honeymoon with her latest Jax Cosmetics photo shoot had
seemed like such a good idea when she and Kevin had discovered a conflict with her
business and personal schedules, and now that Brenda Jacks was taking a much stronger
interest in the business, Lucy had thought that she could leave most of the shoot in her
hands, while she and Kevin honeymooned across Europe. Everything had gone smoothly until
today, she realized as she entered the living room of the suite. Today was when she and
Kevin had decided to go by the boarding school where he'd spent his middle and high school
years, and today she'd felt him withdrawing from her, going back into the dark place she'd
thought a thing of his unpleasant past.
Breathing a sigh of relief, she saw him in the living room, standing in front of the easel
that he dragged with them on their trips, painting furiously. Silently, she walked towards
him, her sense of unease growing with each step. "Kevin? Doc?"
But, Kevin kept painting, kept applying brush strokes to the canvas, totally unaware of
her presence. It was eerie, as if she wasn't even there, and she crept forward, anxious to
know what he was painting, what had troubled him so. As she looked around him, she saw,
carefully reproduced, an ancient castle that had been refurbished as the private school
Kevin had attended. The colors were dark, menacing, with what appeared to be wisps of evil
emanating from the upper windows, and from what she guessed was the basement. Or, dungeon.
It was a frightening picture, made even more so by the fact that she knew that her
sensitive husband had spent some of his life there, and that it had affected him to the
extent that he was painting it in his sleep.
Lucy watched as with a few deft strokes of his brush, Kevin brought to life what could
only be described as a manifestation of evil, masquerading as a rose. A shiver shook Lucy
when she realized where she'd seen that rose before--and not all that long ago. She'd seen
it just as Kevin had shouted "No!" and sent Felicia's computer crashing to the
ground several months ago in the Outback, during the dark days when Felicia had been
stalked. Lucy shook her head in horror as she backed away, wondering what to do.
"Kevin?" she whispered. "Kevin?"
But, Kevin didn't answer. He kept painting.
Ned Ashton sat in the bar at the Port Charles
Hotel, nursing the same drink that he'd ordered over an hour ago. The ice cubes had long
since melted, and he knew that he wasn't going to drink any more of it, but it gave him an
excuse to be in the lounge and not upstairs in his bed. He shook his head as he realized
that he was hiding from himself, from whatever demons had invaded his dreams in the last
few weeks. As long as he stayed awake, he didn't have to face them again. Still, that
bothered him. A Quartermaine man didn't run from his bed, and didn't wake up drenched in
sweat as some elusive nightmare laughed just out of reach of his memory.
"If I could just remember," he muttered, staring at the drink.
"Most people drink to forget," came a familiar voice.
Looking up, Ned saw Alexis Davis standing next to his chair.
"I thought you were in Russia."
"I was," she said, taking a seat beside him. "I just got back this evening.
Frankly, I couldn't stand much more of that family togetherness stuff. Imagine, being
trapped in close if opulent quarters with a family, not unlike your own, with hordes of
reporters from around the world hounding you at every opportunity, waiting for the chance
to swoop down and get some scoop on the Romanov's."
"Can't say that I'd particularly enjoy that."
"I didn't, so I left the family to fend for itself and came back here. Besides,
Miranda and Mac certainly don't need me hanging around on their honeymoon."
"Odd, but I can't see you with a daughter old enough to be married."
Alexis smiled. "Nor can I, but we Cassadines were always, shall we say, precocious
about certain things."
"Someday, you'll tell me about those things?"
"That's doubtful, though I expect that you'd understand better than anybody the
darker side of a misspent youth."
"That I would," Ned agreed as she lifted his drink to her lips. She sipped, then
shook her head.
"Letting the ice cubes melt in your drink is a criminal offense."
"Guilty as charged."
"And this was the finest scotch."
"Then what are you doing, down here alone, torturing it?"
"Waiting for you to come along so I could invite you up to my room?"
It was a chance thing, a spur of the moment invitation, and one that Ned couldn't quite
regret the moment it had left his mouth. For some time, they'd danced around each other, a
heated awareness in the air whenever they were near. And, they knew that the invitation
was inevitable, just as they knew that sooner or later, she'd accept. It was there in his
eyes, and she read the promise of intense sensuality, and something more, a challenge that
she couldn't ignore.
"Just like that?"
"Just like that," Ned smiled back, standing up. He pushed away from the bar, and
extended his hand. "Come with me?"
Alexis smiled, and accepted his hand. "An excellent idea."
Sometime later, Alexis awakened, her sleep disturbed by Ned who lay thrashing around in
the bed, muttering things that she could barely understand.
"Oh, God, please no! Not again!! Don't make me do that!" Then, he cried out,
coming to sit up, fully jarred to wakefulness, his face awash in tears.
"Ned?" Alexis began, her heart torn with the fear, the pain that she'd heard in
"Alexis?" Ned murmured, realizing that he was awake, that the nightmare had come
back yet again. "I'm sorry."
"Yeah," he admitted. "I've been having the same one over and over for a
couple of weeks now." He chuckled, sheepishly. "I've never been prone to
nightmares--never had them as a boy."
"So what triggered them? What are they about?" she asked, pulling him into her
arms as they lay back down.
Ned sighed, nuzzling her neck, inhaling her special fragrance. "I can't remember
anything but being afraid, feeling out of control."
"I can understand where that would bother you," Alexis answered, as Ned moved to
make more interesting memories for them. "I don't enjoy that feeling, either."
"I can make you enjoy it," Ned whispered, huskily.
"Go for it," she smiled into the darkness, wondering what it was about this one
man that could draw her away from her family, and into the swirling depths of passion.
Perhaps it was that he knew her far better than had any other man, not fearing her
strength, or her family ties. Whatever it was, she surrendered willingly in his arms,
giving, taking, and, yes, enjoying.
What do you mean, he's not here?" Peter
Castles demanded of the clerk in the front office of the exclusive school in Switzerland.
"Where is my nephew?"
"I'm sorry, Mr. Castles, but your nephew, Jeremy Castles, is on a field trip, and
isn't expected to return for a week."
"An entire week?"
"He just left," the clerk explained, patiently. "Rose Academy is very proud
of all the educational facilities that we offer, and extended field trips are taken often,
to museums, to castles, to universities--all over Europe."
"Fine. Just tell me where I can meet him. I promised his mother that I'd check in on
him while we're here."
"I'm sorry, Mr. Castles. I can't do that. Unless you're the boy's legal guardian, I
can't release that information to you. Surely you can understand that."
"No, I don't understand," Peter said, his voice taking on an ominous tone.
"I'd like to speak with the head master, or whatever you call the guy in charge
"Peter," Suzi began, putting her hand on his arm. "Darling, let's leave
this poor clerk alone. It's obvious that he feels badly about our missing Jeremy, but
we'll get to see him soon. Meanwhile, we can see the sights."
Hearing an undertone of steel in his beloved wife's voice, Peter nodded. "Never mind
about the headmaster. We'll return at a more convenient time."
Moments later, when they were walking back across the parking lot to their rented car,
Suzi said, "Sorry to undercut you, Peter, but I have the feeling that there is
something odd going on here, and the less interested we look, the more likely we are to
find out what it is."
"I agree. How is it that when we talked with Jeremy last night, he didn't let us know
that he was leaving on a field trip today? Something is going on here, and we're going to
find out what it is." He opened the car door, and then, closed it, saying, "Damn
it, I left the brochure for that tour in the office." Turning back, they headed for
the office, opening the door, just as their car exploded in flames.