Note: A big thank you to all my Xcole buddies who helped to inspire this fic. I am stealing so many of your great ideas I can hardly take credit for writing this on my own. Hope you all enjoy!

Chapter 1

Xander Cook sat on the foot of his bed in his Salem Inn hotel room, gripping a near-empty glass of scotch tightly in one hand as the other squeezed his cell phone with equal force; a reaction brought on by the image the phone's screen displayed: Nicole Walker.

Nicole Walker. He remembered how divinely her name had rolled off his tongue, and how he had found himself saying her name aloud frequently while his brain endlessly pondered innumerable future encounters. He initially hadn't been looking forward to this bit of business with Serena in Salem, but meeting Nicole changed everything. Originally he'd planned to head back to Europe after Serena came through with the diamonds, but suddenly he was looking for excuses to stay. It was only luck that Uncle Victor just happened to require his assistance in town, otherwise he would have had to think up another good reason to stick around. Not that Nicole herself wasn't a good reason, but since the discovery of her relationship to Daniel, and assorted other members of the family, she was off-limits to him.

Daniel Jonas. The man wasn't even a blood relative yet his Uncle Victor put him on a bloody damn pedestal along with the likes of Brady and Philip who at least earned their place by birthright, even if he personally felt they were undeserving. Meanwhile, who was the one turning the huge profits for dear uncle? As successful as Titan was, it certainly wasn't either of his cousins, or Victor freakin' Kiriakis himself...it was him. Xander. Xander Cook, as it was, since Uncle Victor had insisted taking on a pseudonym was necessary to avoid tarnishing the sacred Kiriakis name in the event that he might majorly screw up again. Of course, not everyone could be like Daniel. Yes, Doctor Daniel had it all. He was a successful, highly regarded surgeon who'd saved hundreds of lives. His eyes rolled in his head as he imagined the look of pride on his uncle Victor's face as he expressed the many virtues of Daniel to a disinterested, fantasy version of himself who then proceeded to tell his uncle exactly what he thought about the good doctor. Of course a fantasy was all it was destined to be. He could never let on his feelings to his uncle. It had taken him years of being on his best behavior to earn a spot back in the family fold, and he wasn't about to let it all go to hell now. After all, Uncle Victor was eighty years old. Time was ticking for him to work his way up the ladder. He couldn't let Daniel Jonas get under his skin. But he sure had found a way to get under Daniel's.

He was actually just on the fringe of what was going to be a most enjoyable endeavor: he was going to steal Daniel's girl right from under his nose and he would be completely powerless to stop it. Everywhere Daniel would go he would see a happy, smiling Nicole. Daniel wouldn't be able to go to the park, the grocery store, anywhere, without seeing the two of them together, he'd make sure of it.

But that was before he found out Nicole was onto them. He leaned down to place his glass on the floor for fear that he would break it and be forced to patch up a bloody hand. The last thing Nicole needed was something else to alarm her. If only that damn Serena had alerted him about Nicole's curiosity over the elephant statues sooner, he could have done a much better job at damage control. Serena was right; Nicole knew a whole lot more than he ever could have imagined, proven by her behavior outside of Daniel's apartment today. She had been so anxious to get away from him that she declined to wait for an elevator and chose to take the stairs for her escape. It was becoming more and more clear that he did not have to luxury of time to sit back and carefully consider what to do about her. He was going to have to make a move, now.

With a few swipes of his thumb across the screen of his phone, he accessed his recent calls and redialed his last contact. "Yes,' the sultry-sounding woman's voice on the other end answered.

"Yeah, that thing I told you to take care of today? Forget about it. I'm going to handle this one myself."

He didn't wait for a response, partly as a time-saver but mostly because it wasn't needed. He was in charge of this situation so the opinions or approval of others was unnecessary. Besides, Nicole wasn't the first person he would kidnap on his own...but she would certainly be the most beautiful and entertaining one. He found himself grinning as he imagined the fun yet to come as he dialed her number to confirm the details of their date.

"Xander, hi, uh..I'm glad you called."

"Are you? You don't sound glad." She definitely didn't. Nervous, apprehensive, maybe...but not glad.

"You know, you're right, you got me. I'm not glad because I'm afraid I have to cancel our date tonight. Again."

"What is it this time, Nicole? WOrk? Daniel? You're donating an organ?"

"Ha! See, that's a perfect example there why I am truly disappointed! You're such a funny guy and I know we would have so much fun together!"

The insincerity he could now easily identify in her voice infuriated him. Of course it had always been there before, but he had been too bewitched by her to acknowledge it for what it was. She was playing him again. He knew very well exactly what she would be doing tonight if he didn't put a stop to it, and if he didn't put a stop to it, she would put a stop to him faster than you could say 'goodbye Xander Cook.'

"We would have so much fun together, it's true, but I'm afraid if I don't see you tonight that will never happen. I've been summoned back home indefinitely to take care of some very important company business. I have to leave for Switzerland first thing in the morning."

"Oh, I, uh...I'm sorry to hear that," she replied with genuine shock which caused him to break into a smile once again. She was taking the bait. If he disappeared into thin air, then all of her troubles trying to figure out what he was up to was for naught. If she was smart, which there wasn't a doubt in his mind she was, she would attempt to keep him around until she got the dirt that she needed on him to turn him in. There was no way in the world she wouldn't meet him tonight. He would bet his life on it.

"You know, I was blowing you off because of work, but obviously these are special circumstances. I would love to see you tonight."

"Terrific! But I truly hope I won't be causing problems for you at work. I will be coming back to Salem, I'm just not sure when that will be."

"I don't know. You might find a little Swiss Miss over there and change your mind. I can't let that happen."

"I doubt anyone could change my mind how I feel about you, Nicole." No one, and nothing could. Not even her insistence to expose him. He was still absolutely bonkers over her.

"Oh, Xander. You keep that up and you might find me packed in your suitcase. Look, I gotta tie up a few loose ends here before I can disappear. We still on for eight then?"

"Sounds good to me. I can't wait to see you tonight, Nicole."

"Me too. Bye."

He began to chuckle as he tossed the phone down on the bed beside him. "Tying up a few loose ends, huh Nicole? Looks like I'm going to be typing up a few loose ends of my own tonight. Namely, you."