“As if that weren’t bad enough I can’t stop thinking about that night right before the judge granted Dad custody of Abby.” Still seething, as much because of the memory of that night as because of Gary and Jeff, she thought to herself furious, ‘If he didn’t want children, if he didn’t want me, he had other options. But he chose to walk out on Mom. He makes these big, wonderful speeches about how important she is to him, how important we all are to him and he had the gall to do that to her? He doesn’t know the meaning of the word love! He never did! If he had, he never would’ve walked out on her, telling her he didn’t want a baby. He should’ve thought of that before! He should’ve thought of it long, long before she ended up pregnant with me! Damn him! Damn him for putting her through that! If he didn’t want anything to do with me, he should’ve walked away before it happened! But, no, that didn’t even enter his mind. He never thought that far ahead, it wasn’t about the future for him, it was about the moment and getting what he wanted-damn the consequences-for anyone, especially my mother!’
With her heart pounding against her ribs, she stalked to the window and watched wind and rain pound the ground and slash across leaves and flowers thinking how well it matched her mood. Then, shaking from head to toe and trying to catch her breath, she thought to herself, somewhat ashamed, ‘What’s wrong with me? What the hell’s wrong with me? My father could be dying and here I am letting all this get in the way? My mom needs him, that’s all that should matter. So why can’t I get a grip? Why can’t I calm down enough to just focus on that? Why can’t I get a grip on this anger that keeps bubbling up in me and how much longer can I keep it under control? Where is this resentment coming from? I have no right to feel resentful where my father is concerned, he’s on his deathbed for crying out loud! How much longer can I keep this to myself, how much longer can I keep it from hurting someone else, someone I love?’
Trying to swallow the fear and fury that had lodged in her throat, making it all but impossible to breathe, Victoria walked over to the couch, her hands clenched into tight fists and sat down glaring off into space and trying valiantly though fruitlessly to rid herself of the bitter rage and endless questions that plagued her and had a strangle hold on her and her life.
Throwing her cell phone back in her bag and her bag on the table beside her, Nikki rose to pace Victor’s hospital room, fury rolling off her in waves.
Catching her eye, Victor motioned for her to come and sit by him.
Hearing a muffled page from out in the hall, Victor scowled.
“You want to know what the doctors have found out, what happened, am I right.” Nikki asked knowingly.
Tilting his head toward her, he rolled his eyes and thought to himself, ‘No, I want to know what the weather’s like in Arizona. Of course I want to know what the hell’s going on! What have the doctors found out? They must know something by now!’
“You always were impatient!”
At that, his scowl only deepened as he thought to himself, barely keeping his temper in check, ‘Why would that change now? What does she expect, me acting like a choir boy? It ain’t gonna happen!’
“Victor, you have to be patient. The doctors don’t know much yet, but when they do, you’ll be the first to know. For now all they know is that you had a haemorrhagic stroke, you have to be patient and give them time to do the work they need to so they know that the answers they get are the right ones!”Nikki tried her both reassure and reason with him.
‘Sure, while I’m at it, why don’t I fix healthcare and end the war in the Middle East!’ he thought to himself on a huff breath infuriated.
“I know; I know this is the hardest thing you’ve ever been through, but you can’t give up! You have to keep fighting, for all of us. We need you.”
Reminded once again of his children and just how heartbroken Victoria was when she left, Victor couldn’t help the sombre, heartbroken expression that now shrouded his face, the fury and helplessness that shone, despite his best efforts, in his eyes. ‘Why can’t I remember who she is, why is it so damn hard? If I could just remember who the hell she is, maybe I could fix this somehow, at least I could try! I have to remember, whatever it takes, I have to get my memory back! I can’t stay like this the rest of my life, a vegetable, a noose around my family’s neck; around Nikki’s neck!’
Knowing just where his mind was taking him and what that particular train of thought would do to him, Nikki tried once again to reassure him. “This isn’t over, not by a long shot! You’re going to beat this and we’ll all help you, all of us!”
As both the uncertainty plaguing him and the tears he tried so valiantly to hide, to keep at bay shone in his eyes, Victor turned away, his fists clenched by his sides.
“Darling, I wish I could take the pain away, I wish I could. If I could, I’d do it in a heartbeat.” Nikki whispered running her fingers through his hair, her eyes never leaving his.
‘Damn it! This isn’t what I want! I don’t want her blaming herself! She has no reason to blame herself! This isn’t her fault!’
“Whoa!” Nikki exclaimed as she felt a strong swift kick come on from out of the blue.
Alarmed, Victor studied her intently, his eyes never leaving her face as he waited for her to tell him what was going on.
“Apparently our daughter is not happy with the topic of conversation and she’s not shy about letting me know!”Nikki told him with a bittersweet smile.
Slack jawed; Victor stared at her unable to believe what he’d just heard.
“You heard me right, I’m pregnant.” Nikki said with a smile as she thought to herself, ‘This is just like when we first found out, only I don’t have to worry about him passing out.’ Sensing an opportunity to tease Victor and lighten the mood, and if she were really lucky get his mind off his current situation, Nikki said, “Let me guess, you just thought I was getting fat.”
Caught completely off guard, Victor scowled at her for a moment before shaking his head and laughing until his sides hurt. ‘She doesn’t really think I’ll answer that, does she? Even if I could, there’s no way I would! That’s a trick question, there’s no good way for me to answer! Whatever I tell her I end up in the doghouse!’
“Fine, don’t answer me; I’ll get the truth out of you sooner or later.” Nikki teased enjoying the light-hearted moment among all the chaos.
Restless, Victor shifted in bed desperately trying to sit up. ‘Damn it, with all the rest I’ve had, I should be able to sit up by now, or at least move more than my upper body! How am I supposed to take care of a child, help Nikki take care of one when I can’t even sit up in a damn bed?’
“Victor, listen to me. I understand that you’re frustrated and worried that you’ll be stuck like this forever; you’re frustrated and worried that you won’t be able to help me take care of our children. But you won’t! You won’t be like this forever! You won’t, I swear you won’t!” Nikki told him before kissing him passionately, lingeringly. “Now, I want you to close your eyes and rest.”
‘Close my eyes and rest? I’ve had more rest than anybody needs, I don’t need any more rest! What I need is to get to the bottom of this so I can start fixing whatever happened and get on with my life!’
“Victor, please.” Nikki begged, hoping she’d get through to him.
Grumbling, Victor did his best to get comfortable. ‘I can’t wait to be back home in my own bed, this bed is horrible! How does anybody expect me to get any rest in here?’
After several minutes of frustration Victor finally found a comfortable position and slowly drifted off to sleep.
As she sat there at his bedside watching him sleep, Nikki felt the thick fog of exhaustion begin to wrap around her and slowly made her way over to the couch. Carefully, she took off her heels and lay down, soon she was fast asleep.
The next day, as warm sunlight shone through the windows of Victor’s hospital room, Nikki slowly awoke and stretched, surprised that she’d slept through the night.
Taking in Victor’s battered and all but defeated appearance, she quietly walked over to Victor’s bedside table and reached into her purse for her cell phone and, hoping to reach him, dialled Nick’s number.
“Nicholas, honey, it’s me. I need you and your sister to come to Memorial.”
“Why, what happened? Mom, what’s wrong? What happened to Dad?”
“Nothing, nothing’s wrong. Nothing happened to your father. Sweetheart, he’s okay. He’s alright,” Nikki murmured trying to soothe and comfort her son. “I just think it would do you and your sister good, and it would do your father a lot of good, to see you and your sister.”
“Mom, come on, he doesn’t recognize us. Or at least he doesn’t recognize Vicki, which means he won’t recognize me. What would be the point? Besides, I’ve got other things to take care of.”
“Things to take care of? What things?” Nikki asked suspicious. Then thinking better of it, she replied with a shake of her head, “They can wait, Nicholas! Your father is more important! You and your sister get here; if you’re not here in an hour I’m coming to look for you. If that happens, it won’t be pretty.”
“Mom, it’s important, I need to-”
“Nicholas Newman, I can’t believe I’m hearing this! This is your father, not some stranger who’s just come in off the street!”
“Fine, we’ll be there in an hour.” Nicholas replied frustrated before slamming his cell phone shut. “Great, now I’ve got this to take care of! I don’t have time for this; I need to figure out what Gary and Jeff are up to!”
With a tired sigh, Nicholas dialled his sister’s number. “Hi, Vick, it’s me. Yeah, Dad’s okay but Mom wants us to come visit him; she thinks it’ll lift his spirits. Yeah, I’m alright, just a little worn out. Okay, I’ll meet you there. Yeah, bye.”
Running his fingers through his hair, Nick swore pungently and thought to himself, ‘I hate lying to her, but what choice do I have really? She’s got enough going on without worrying about those two are cooking up-and she’s already worrying about it as it is!’
An hour later, Victoria, Nicholas and Nikki all stood in Victor’s hospital room. Each felt a strong sense of unease at the sight in front of them; the sight of a pale, increasingly frail looking man they could scarcely believe was their husband and father.
“Thank you both for coming.”
“Mom, you’d tell us if there were something wrong, right, you’d tell us if there’d been a change, right?”Victoria asked worriedly, fearfully.
“Yes, angel, there’s been no change, your father is doing alright, he’s holding his own.”Nikki whispered tiredly, trying to offer comfort she knew her daughter desperately needed.
“Victor, Victor darling,” Nikki whispered as she slowly walked up to him and sat down.
Slowly, groggily, Victor awoke and looked up at her, clearly trying with everything in him to focus on her and what she had to say.
“Darling, Victoria and Nicholas are here to see you.”
Turning to his children, Victor gave a weary smile as he struggled to focus on them.
“Hey Dad.” Victoria spoke first, her voice trembling.
“How are you feeling?” Nicholas asked, his voice matching his sister’s.
Still unable to say anything, Victor offered a feeble smile and thought to himself ‘I wish I could do something for them. They seem so lost, so heartbroken and afraid. Why can’t I do anything but lie in this damn bed!’
“Dad, I know that you’re tired, I know that you’re tired and scared. But you have to hold on. You have to hold on and fight, you have to fight to stay with us.” Victoria told him tearfully.
“Vicki’s right. This family needs you. Besides,” Nicholas tried to smile despite the despair that was slowly enveloping him with each passing day, “Mom needs you and you’ve got two children on the way. They need you.”
Slack jawed, Victor turned towards Nikki and thought to himself, ‘Two? Twins? We’re having twins? My God…I…I never dreamed of this! Nikki should be planning for their arrival we should be planning for their arrival. Instead she’s stuck here fussing over me!’
“So you see, Dad, you have to fight, I know it’s hard and part of you probably feels like giving up, but you have to fight, for all of us, but especially Mom and the twins. They need you.” Victoria told him, trying to force a note of determination, of confidence into her voice, though it was getting harder to ignore the chilling terror that closed in around her more and more with each passing moment; terror that she’d lose the one man she’d come to count on more than any other.
As tears welled up in his eyes, Victor’s heart broke a little more.
“Promise us something. Promise us that you’ll fight to stay with us. We need you.”Victoria whispered before kissing him on the cheek and whispering “I love you Daddy,” in his ear.
With his solemn eyes never leaving hers, Victor nodded.
With tears rushing down her cheeks, Vitoria ran out of the room and into the waiting room.
“I’d better go catch up with her and make sure she’s okay. Hang in there Dad.” Nick whispered before leaning down to hug him and leaving.
Knowing just where his mind was taking him, Nikki whispered, “This isn’t your fault. You can’t blame yourself.”
‘The hell I can’t. My family is in turmoil and I can’t do a damn thing about it!’ Victor thought to himself as he let tears he’d stubbornly held inside fall.
“We will get through this. You have to believe that! You just have to trust me. I’m not going giving up on you. I’m not giving up on you so don’t you go giving up on me!”
“One day soon we’ll look back on this with our children and know we got through it together. You’ll see, one day soon we’ll have the life we’ve always wanted, a life full of laughter and love; a life we can be proud of, surrounded by everyone who cares about us. We’ll make all our dreams come true. You’ll see.”
Victor studied her sceptically and slowly, weakly reached up to cup her cheek in his hand.
With a tremulous smile, one that she hoped with everything in her hid her uncertainty and the fear tearing at her soul, Nikki kissed him softly, sweetly, her lips lingering on his before she whispered, “I love you! I love you so much, my darling.”
With a tearful smile, Victor fell back to sleep, exhausted by the emotional exchange.
As Jeff paced his apartment, his madness growing stronger and more grotesque and uncontrolled with each passing moment, he thought to himself, ‘I need to make a few phone calls. I can’t afford any screw ups.’
“Is everything ready?” Jeff asked cryptically. “You have the piece?”
“And it can’t be traced back to me?” Jeff asked, completely unwilling to take any chances.
“Yeah, it can’t be traced back to anyone. What are you so worried about? Everything’s under control. You sure you want to go through with this? Going after Victor Newman’s daughter could come back to haunt you, big time!”
“Just do what I tell you, let me worry about that little tease. She’ll get what’s coming to her and dear old daddy won’t be able to do a damn thing about it.” Jeff told him before hanging up.
“Yes, she’ll pay dearly for what she’s done to me! She’ll regret turning me down! Nobody, nobody turns me down and gets away with it! This isn’t finished! Not until I say so!
Victoria Newman will be begging for a second chance before I’m done with her! All she needs is a little encouragement. She’ll get that and more!” The predatory gleam in his eyes matched the twisted smirk spreading across his lips as his mind conjured up all kinds of twisted revenge scenarios for him to turn into reality.
Gary paced his apartment as he waited for his delivery. “Where is he? He should’ve been here an hour ago! He’s late!” Furious, he snatched up a bottle of tequila from his bar and poured himself a glass and downing it in one gulp.
He relished the burn of it as he thought about his plans for Victoria. The knock on his door brought him back to reality.
“What took you so long?” he snapped as he let the man in.
“I’m busy, alright? I’ve got other customers to take care of. Besides, I haven’t seen or heard from you in years. You’ve been clean a long, long time. So what do you want with these?” the man asked as he handed a plastic bag filled with small bottles of pills.
“That’s for me to know and you to spend your time speculating about, if you choose to. Otherwise, don’t ask any questions and forget we ever saw each other, forget you even know me, got it?” Gary told him as he gave him a small pile of hundred dollar bills.
“Fine with me. Just one more thing, what you do with those is your business. Just don’t let me hear about you using them on any women.” The man told him as he walked to the door.
“That’s right. What I do with these is my business. So back off and go back to whatever it is you’ve been doing.” Gary told him, his voice holding a sinister edge that would’ve scared most people, but for some reason had no effect on this man.
“I will as long as you don’t mess up.”
“You’re not in a position to be making threats, Mark.” Gary warned, beginning to lose patience.
“It’s not a threat. It’s a warning, a little friendly advice.”
“Whatever; just beat it.” Gary told him, slamming the door in his face.
“If these are as effective as I think they are; Victoria won’t know what hit her. She won’t know until it’s too late.” A sick, twisted smile spread across his face as demented glee shone in his eyes.
“Only one way to find out.” He said to himself as he left the apartment.
“Damn it! Why can’t I sleep! It’s after midnight and I’m still wide awake!” Victoria snapped as she threw the covers off of her, got out of bed and began to pace around her bedroom, frustration and fury pumping off of her.
“I wonder if Mom’s got anything in the medicine cabinet to help me sleep. What am I saying, of course she doesn’t! She won’t even take something for headaches! I need something though! I can’t take much more of this! Between Jeff and Gary and now everything that’s going on with Dad, I’m lucky if I can sleep in snatches during the night, and I’m really lucky if I can sleep for more than twenty minutes at a time!”
“Maybe Olivia can give me something. It shouldn’t be that hard, really, I’ll just explain the situation and get her to write me a prescription.”
Shaking her head, as if to rid herself of the idea she knew would only get her into more trouble, on so many levels, Victoria told herself firmly, chastising herself for even considering it, “No! I can’t do that! I can’t do that, it would never work, and even if by some miracle it did, Mom and Dad would eventually find out. I can’t take that chance! I have to find another way to deal with this! But how? Whatever I do, I have to do it fast; I don’t know how much more I can take, how much longer I can take this.”
At Memorial, as Victor slept soundly, Nikki’s mind took her back in time. She saw herself and Victor in many different situations, many different places over the years, but one thing remained the same even after all these years, one thing remains the same; their love for each other. She smiled sweetly as she saw them horseback riding, having picnics at the ranch and spending lazy mornings in bed with the warm sunlight streaming through the bedroom windows as the warm summer wind teased her senses and played with the curtains. Although the same sweet smile stayed on her lips, it was touched by passion, the same passion that glinted in her eyes as she sat by Victor’s bedside. It was then that Victor unexpectedly awoke. Lost in thought, Nikki didn’t realize he was awake until she felt him take her hand. “Oh! You’re up, finally.” She told him, trying her best to sound normal and not preoccupied, trying with everything in her to give away nothing of what she was thinking. “How are you? I think you’re feeling better.”
Smiling, Victor nodded and gave a small shrug of his shoulders.
“Good. You’ve been through enough; it’s about time you start feeling better.”
Seeing she was still preoccupied, but not unpleasantly so, Victor studied her intently, intensely for a few moments before figuring out what was going on.
Knowing he’d figured out precisely what was going on, Nikki looked away and tried to hide her smile.
Chuckling half to himself, Victor took her chin in his hand and turned her around to face him.
Reading his mind, and the puzzled, mischievous expression on his face, Nikki told him firmly, “Forget it, mister; we’re not going down that road, not now. We both have enough to deal with without getting into more trouble.”
‘Who says it would be trouble?’ Victor thought to himself with an unapologetic smirk. ‘Besides, this could be fun, very fun.’
“Not a chance, Victor; not a single chance, so don’t even think about it!”
‘Kill joy!’ Victor thought to himself petulantly. ‘You never had a problem with me having fun before; you never had a problem with us having fun before. In fact, most of the time, you’re the one instigating it!’
“Don’t push it Victor, we need to be careful. I’m not taking chances with your health” she told him, her tone brooking no argument although she couldn’t hide the smirk that spread across her lips, even if she’d wanted to.
‘At least I got a smile out of her. I can’t remember the last time she really smiled.’ Victor thought to himself with a smile of his own.
“Some things never change” she told him with a chuckle and a shake of her head before saying, “And yet, there are times when everything does.” At his puzzled expression she continued, almost wistfully “Who would’ve thought, all those years ago, when you were still posing as a butler and interior designer and trying to find out if you could trust me, showering me with gifts, that we’d be married now, that we’d have the incredible life we do?”
‘Looking back now, I wasted so much time doing that. Why? I wasted so much time, time I could’ve spent building a life, an incredible life with you.’ Victor thought to himself regretfully, almost bitterly.
“Mr. Victor.” Nikki murmured without bothering to cover her burst of laughter. “You couldn’t come up with a better name?” she asked shaking her head.
Scowling, Victor thought to himself ‘What do you want, I’m a business man remember?’
“Then there were all the romantic candlelit dinners we’ve had over the years. I felt like a queen from the beginning.” She smiled softly as the memories washed over her. “I felt like I was living in a dream, a fairytale. In a way, I guess it was, it is, it’s a fairytale come true.”
“How many nights did we spend blocking out the world, blocking out all the naysayers and the negativity that surrounded us? How many nights did we spend wrapped in each other’s arms, wrapped so tightly nothing could ever separate us? How many nights did we spend letting each other know exactly what we thought, how we felt without a single word. We never really needed words, did we? When it came right down to it, all we ever needed was each other. We’d spend all night, right up until the wee hours of the morning wrapped up in each other, blissfully wrapped in each other. Time flew by, hours felt like minutes. But, no matter how much time we spent together, it was never enough. It’s never been enough. We’ve never been able to get enough of each other. It’s kind of amazing, when you think about it.”
‘Amazing maybe. But it’s not surprising.’ Victor thought to himself half agreeing.
“You’re still the only one, the only man who’s ever been able to make me feel that way. The only one who can leave me breathless, speechless with just one kiss, just one touch. The passion between us, the passion that’s been there from that first night, the first kiss, first touch, it’s only grown over the years.” Leaning towards him, her voice dropping to the barest whisper, she told him, “Most people would say it’s an addiction, a sickness. But that doesn’t matter. They don’t know, they’ll never know. What we have comes once in a lifetime, if you’re lucky.” Blowing out a slow breath between her lips, Nikki reminded herself she needed to be careful and keep in mind exactly what was at stake. With a gentle hand on his cheek, she whispered, her voice hoarse and full of passion as her eyes never left his, almost burning into his, “I still can’t get enough of you.” Unlike the kisses she’d given him before, this one held no demure, no restraint, on the contrary, this one was all scorching passion. All too quickly, it ended and she pulled back leaving him scowling.
With a half-smile she continued, “Some of my favourite memories aren’t the ones of the most elaborate surprises or the most exotic trips. The ones that stand out, the ones that really make me smile are the simple ones, the ones nobody but us knows about. Like all the mornings we spent in bed, the rest of the house completely silent and ate strawberries and whipped cream for breakfast or a midnight snack.”
‘She wants me to behave and she pulls this? How much willpower does she think I’ve got?’ Victor thought to himself with a chuckle and a shake of his head. ‘Tease.’ He called her silently.
“You were so confused at first. When all your strawberries started disappearing from the fridge after I first moved in.” Nikki recalled giggling. “It didn’t take too long for you to figure out what was going on though. Once you did, you always made sure there was a bowl waiting for me. You can be very sweet when you want to be.”
“I remember the first time you took me horseback riding and how amazing it felt. It was like flying, so completely exhilarating and freeing. It still is. Let’s make a deal. As soon as you’re well and back to normal, we’ll go horseback riding.”
Victor’s eyes lit up as he smiled in agreement.
“Then there was our first Christmas together when you gave me that beautiful white fur coat and told me I looked like a Christmas angel when I tried it on.” A soft smile bloomed on her lips once again as she thought back to that night. “That was when you first started to let me in, it was the first time you told me about how you grew up and what it did to you to be in that orphanage. I know how hard that was for you and I’m glad you took the chance. I can’t imagine what it must’ve been like for you, how scared and nervous you must’ve been. But, I want to thank you for doing it. It made me see you in a different light, helped me understand.”
At the unimpressed expression on Victor’s face, the furrowed brow and intense eyes, Nikki decided it was best to change the subject. “Then of course came our first New Years Eve together. It was amazing, the dress you got me, the dinner we had, everything. And when you gave me that diamond bracelet, my God, nobody had ever given me anything so beautiful before, I could hardly believe it.”
Victor smiled softly as the memory came back to him easily, as if it were yesterday. ‘Your jaw dropped. I still remember how surprised you were, you were delighted.’
“My poor piano teacher. How I tested Maestro Fauch’s patience.” Nikki said laughing. “There were so many times I wasn’t concentrating and he knew it. I remember one day when he was over giving me a lesson. It was when I’d hired Paul and Andy to find your mother. I kept messing up and he got so frustrated with me. I kept trying to convince him to give me another chance and trying not to mess up but all I could concentrate on was the phone and waiting for one of them to call.”