The Adventures of Nika Noble: Twelve

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“The plaintiff will serve two years probation and 180 community service hours. Court is adjourned.” Nika stood up for the exiting of the judge and began walking towards her own exit, completely oblivious to Kyle’s evil glares and James trying to catch up with her. It was the first time she’d seen or heard from James since that negatively eventful night.
“Nika, Nika, wait a minute.” James caught up with Nika in the sunlight of the parking lot.
“Yes?” Nika said indifferently. It caught James off guard.
“Um…” He didn’t know what he was going to say when he finally caught up with her. “I’m really sorry. I don’t handle stress or drama well…and I don’t really have an excuse for my actions. I’m just, I’m sorry.” He looked like a sad puppy, but it still didn’t move Nika. She had waited three weeks to hear from him. She even endured a horribly uncomfortable interview with Stephen and no one to talk to about it. Now she knew that James was just unable to handle stress. If he would have told her from the get-go that that was the case, she would have better understood.
“James, I thought we had something. I apologized for the nonsense from that night. You told me not to blame myself for it, but you got me feeling like it’s my fault anyway.” He just stood there with his hands in his suit pants pockets, squinting off in the distance. Nika shook her head. She was surprised, but felt she shouldn’t be. He was no different from any of the other guys she’d dated in the past.
“Well, the situation is over now. I won’t provide any stress or drama for your life after today.” She got in her car and drove out of the parking lot, leaving James in her rearview. The vehicle was still hot from sitting out in the sun and not having enough time to cool off. The stifling heat blocked Nika’s thoughts. She couldn’t bring herself to care about having just basically ended things with James. She’d done two interviews for the McDowell series and Bullock assured her those weren’t the end of it. Nika shrugged it off. She’d gotten through one awkward interview with Stephen, what would a couple more do? They barely made eye contact with each other. He had just learned that he’d become CEO of his own company and he couldn’t even be excited about it because of Nika. She really just wanted to crawl in a hole and never come out. She wondered what she would have to do to be an at-home news correspondent. She giggled at herself and at the fact that she was a sad woman who would be single forever.

“How did court go?” Terry asked when Nika arrived back at work.
“It was court. Kyle got 2 years of probation since it was his first recorded offense, though I’m sure it wasn’t his first time. I’m glad he pressed charges, and that Erika took a picture of my mouth for evidence. Otherwise the verdict probably would have been in his favor.” She leaned up against Terry’s cubicle and matted her frizzy hair back. She was tired. Times were trying for her and all she wanted was a break.
“It’s a good thing James was there.” Terry looked at Nika out of the corner of his eye, trying to check for an emotional response. She didn’t give him one.
“I wish he wasn’t. I was ready to kick Kyle’s ass.”
Terry laughed. “I’m sure. It could have gotten bad though.”
“I guess.” Nika brushed off Terry’s comment.
“Nika what’s wrong? You’ve been acting so distant lately.”
“Nothing, just realizing that I fall too easily. I’m always the one getting crushed in the end. So, I just don’t care anymore.”
“But this isn’t you. This isn’t who you are. You’re too bubbly and sweet to turn into this.”
Nika got ready to walk away. “You think I want to be like this? I’m tired of getting hurt. This is my only option.” She slumped off to her own cubicle. Terry didn’t want to lose his friend but what option did she have now. She’d be thirty before long and it looked like she would still be single by then. Maybe she should just focus on her career. She always said that and as soon as she did, some guy would walk into her life and unravel her plans. Therefore, this time, she wouldn’t plan. She’d let things happen as they may, but no man would get in the way.

It hadn’t even been five minutes after she sat down before loud, fast-paced footsteps were heard coming in Nika’s direction. She prayed on everything that they weren’t for her.
“Nika Renee Noble, what the hell is this?” Terry handed her a piece of paper.
“That’s not my middle name Terry.” She said, looking over the paper. Oh shit, Nika thought. It was Stephen’s most recent interview.
“I know what you’re thinking.”
“Do you?” He snatched the paper back. “I hate this man. After all he put you through and now come to find out he’s not even who he said he was? AND you’ve known about it and you didn’t tell me?” Terry was fuming. She hated that he had to find out like that, but she didn’t, no, she couldn’t be the one to tell him. She gave him the guiltiest look she could muster. Terry sighed.
“I’m mad, yes, but I didn’t want you to get hurt again. That was a rough year, when Samuel, I mean Stephen, left. On the both of us.”
“I know. But I would have basically lost my job if I didn’t interview him. I’m sorry for not telling you.”
Terry put his hand on Nika’s head. “I guess I can try and understand why you didn’t. I probably would have snuck in on your interview and beat his ass.”
“One of the main reasons I didn’t tell you.” Nika chuckled.
“Damn right. I gotta get back to work, but how about I come over tonight with a couple gallons of ice cream.”
“Yes please.” Nika waved him off. A girl’s night-in was something she desperately needed since Erika was crazy busy finishing her album.

Nika had her head in Terry’s lap, licking her spoon clean. She’d just devoured a half gallon of cookies and cream ice cream while watching a show about wedding dress shopping and evil bridesmaids.
“These girls on these shows make it look so easy. Especially the 18, 19, 20-year-olds. How are these little kids even finding men and getting married? How do they have it all together like this?” Nika shoved her spoon in Terry’s ice cream and then shoveled a spoonful into her mouth.
“They wish they had it all together. Don’t forget that fifty percent of these marriages end in divorce.”
“Ugh. It still sucks to watch. They at least found somebody long enough to want to marry them and actually walk down the aisle. I’m doomed to never walk down anything but those Sidewalks of Shame after my many one night stands.”
Terry patted Nika’s head like a father would a daughter.
“You’ll be okay. We’ll do it together. I’m in the same boat.”
Nika looked up at Terry and said, “You’ll find someone before I do and that’s a fact. But if you don’t, and I don’t by the time we’re 40, let’s make a baby and raise it together. Deal?”
“That sounds good to me!” Nika laughed. She knew she was kidding but part of her wondered if that would be the case. She wondered if she’d grow old and be one of those cat ladies. The urge to use the bathroom crept over her bladder.
“Yo, Terry, gotta go.” She hopped up off of the couch and hurried to the bathroom.

She walked nonchalantly out of the bathroom, talking to Terry while looking down and drying off her hands with a paper towel.
“I need to do something about those hemrrhoids.” She joked. “Just…kidding.” Terry was standing with the front door open. James was in the doorway. They were both looking straight at Nika. Silence covered the apartment as Nika and James stared at each other.
“Welp,” Terry broke the awkward peace, “I think I’ll be going now. Nika, don’t eat my ice cream in the freezer.” He nodded at James as he left.
“What are you doing here?” Nika crossed her arms and walked up to him. He looked different, hard…rough. He didn’t reply, he just looked at her. It was the second time he’d just shown up at her door. This time, though, she didn’t know how to feel about it.
“Are you going to answer me?” She asked again. He still stood there. She was beginning to get a little freaked out. Before she could ask a third time, James grabbed her body and brought it to him. His breathing was quick and raspy and he was so warm. His bare arms felt soft around her own bare arms and midsection. She wanted to ask him what he was doing, but he kissed her like her lips were food and he hadn’t eaten in years. He sucked her tongue and savored the taste of her mouth. Nika was confused, but her body wrapped up in his arms and her lips on his made up for it.

James walked Nika inside and closed the door with their lips still locked. Nika’s heart was pounding; her senses were peaked. She’d forgotten everything she’d thought about earlier, how James was just like every guy she’d been with before, how she wasn’t going to let men ruin her plans, how she would be single forever. All she wanted to do was become intertwined with him, mentally and physically.

They nibbled each other’s lips and caressed each other’s heads softly. Nika’s hands were around James’ head, when she pushed it away. She walked away from him and towards her room. He followed her, hungrily.

Nika undressed to her bare body, while watching James do the same in the light from the street. His body was amazingly toned and cut, but not big like a body builder. She wanted to touch it. She reached out her arm and ran her finger down his pectoral. She got closer and kissed on it. It was a little hairy, but soft at the same time. She pushed him on to the bed and straddled his body. James pulled her head down to him and kissed her softly. His skin smelled of light musk and sweat. Their bodies both became covered in a layer of sweat as Nika began grinding into James’ pelvis; she wanted so badly for him to be inside of her. It was like he was reading her mind because he flipped her off of him and laid her on her back. He positioned himself on his knees in between her legs and grabbed her hips to bring her closer. They didn’t have to say a word to know how much they both wanted this to happen. Before he entered her, he rubbed her warm flesh. She moaned, wanting more. She grabbed his wrist and caressed it as he worked on her. He fingered her, working his way in and out of her. She was so wet he couldn’t let her keep it all to herself. He took his hard cock and entered her. She shuddered at his warmness entering her wetness. He rocked his hips, allowing himself to time between strokes. He wanted her to cum before he did. He went in as deep as he could, making Nika moan loudly.
“I’m not hurting you am I?” James whispered, reaching up and wiping sweat from Nika’s forehead. She shook her head and whispered him a soft “no”. He laid on top of her and put his head in her neck. He spread inconsistent kisses on the right side of it, tasting the salt of her sweat on his lips.
“Deeper, James, go deeper.” She whispered and squirmed trying to catch up with his movements. He went as deep as he could. Nika moaned loudly again. James felt it coming. He thrusted quickly, feeling glorious pulsations around him; she was cumming. Before she could fall apart, James did the same. He exploded, with the help of Nika’s body.

Panting, he rose to get a towel to clean their wet bodies.

“What are you doing here?” Nika whispered hoarsely as James got in bed next to her. She put her head on his shoulder and allowed him to turn and embrace her naked self.

“I’m here to get you back and right my wrongs.” He whispered before tenderly kissing her lips. She melted in his arms, appreciating his hard body against hers and his flaccid penis against her leg. “And also to try and make this thing official before I mess up again.” The fact that James wanted to make them official made Nika’s whole body quiver.
“You cold?” He asked.
“No. I’m just fine.” She snuggled up to him and fell asleep. Though he hadn’t received an answer, he felt that everything was alright and drifted off to sleep behind her, both of them blissfully unaware of what was lurking around outside of the apartment building.

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The Adventures of Nika Noble: Eleven

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“Gorgeous man, where have you been all my life?” The woman said in a Louisiana twang. Nika looked on, speechless at the beautiful woman hanging off of James’ neck. James pushed her off of him and stepped back. The woman looked at Nika and smiled sweetly.
“Aww, I see I’ve been replaced by a sweet, young thing.” She cocked her head and smiled at James.
“Elayne, what are you doing here?”
“What? I can’t come visit my ex-husband every once in a while for a quickie?” She looked at Nika’s horrified face and laughed.
“I’m kidding! I’m here to talk about why my alimony check has stopped. Maybe you know why. Has James been spending it on you?” She asked Nika.
“That’s enough. Leave her out of this. You want to know where your check is? It’s in my bank account. I heard you remarried, therefore I don’t have to pay anymore.”
“You have no proof of that.”
“Are you seriously telling me that you’d deny your new husband just so you can get a damn check every month?” James was furious. Obviously he and his ex-wife left on pretty bad terms. Nika told James that she was leaving.
“No, you don’t have to leave. I have nothing more to say to you Elayne. You have a problem with it, tell your lawyer to call my lawyer and we can take this to court.” She looked haughtily at James, and then at Nika, and then turned on the balls of her expensive looking black heels and walked out. Not even two seconds later, two police officers walked into the office. James shook his head.
“James Black?” The middle-aged officer asked. James nodded, aware of what was happening.
“You’re under arrest for assault…” The other officer put him in cuffs as the middle-aged one read him his Miranda rights. Nika was flabbergasted. She was beside herself with all of the horrible things that were happening that night. She watched as the policemen took James away and quickly followed behind them. She saw Erika singing on stage, looking at James in confusion. It was all her fault. If it wasn’t for her, none of it would have happened.

After being processed and given a court date, James was let go. Nika drove him back to the club and felt horrible the whole ride. She shut off the engine. After being silent the entire way, she said to him: “James I’m so sorry.”
He turned to her and looked her straight in the eye. “This was not your fault. This is the last time I want to hear you blame yourself for that guy. We never really know who a person is, no matter how long you’ve known them. If they weren’t a psycho when you met them, they could very well turn into one, as you could see by my ex.”
Nika chuckled. “Yeah, about that. She is a very interesting individual.”
“That’s only half of it. Not even half. But that’s just an example of not beating yourself up when you know you’re a good person and you got handed an ass hat.”
Nika turned to James and smiled, then reached over and hugged him. She could smell the strong perfume of Elayna’s presence still lingering on his shirt. She brushed it off. Obviously the woman wasn’t a threat, but her actions rubbed Nika the wrong way.
“I’ll call you tomorrow, okay?” James said as he slipped out of the passenger seat. Nika nodded. “Okay. I’ll be waiting.” He closed the door and walked off. His whole demeanor was different after everything that had happened. A feeling crept over her that she didn’t like. She hoped that things would go back to normal tomorrow.

******

The rain fell in pitter patters to the ground.
The heat and humidity was stifling and all anybody wanted to do, including Nika, was sit in front of a full blast air conditioner. The building A/C was broken so Nika sat next to an open window with her hand hanging out, catching raindrops. Work was as uneventful as ever, and it seemed as if it was going to stay that way. She was contemplating putting her resume out there, though she knew the market was bleak. Not only was work uneventful, but she hadn’t heard from
James since the crazy night a week ago. She remembered waiting for his call after he said would, and waiting, and waiting, and never receiving one. Nika thought about calling him, but something told her to let it be. She also didn’t want to seem obsessive. The feeling of him slipping through her fingers brought about some depressing thoughts. She tried to remember one of the most important lessons she learned, something about letting people go who made it clear that they didn’t want to be in her life. James just happened to be everything she wanted in a man, besides Stephen, but Stephen had been out of the running for years. Maybe she should just be single and stop chasing that “life”. After all, most of the women her age were all about their career, their hobbies, and their single nightlife. She should try and get back to that. If only it weren’t so hard for her to just let go of people.

“Nika, Mr. Bullock would like to see you in his office.” Bullock’s petite assistant said to her. What now? She got up from the comfort of the rain and went groggily to the boss man’s office.

“Yes, Mr. Bullock?” Nika knocked on Bullock’s door.
“I’ve got some great news. It’s starting. I need you to go this address and talk to Edward McDowell. He’s Stephen’s father and will give you the exclusive.” Bullock handed her a sticky note with an address for a very prominent part of town. Nika suddenly became very nervous. All she could think about was running into Stephen, which she was not ready for.

The rain had stopped by the time Nika arrived at the gated senior McDowell residence. It was a breath-taking to see the water droplets on the dense green shrubbery that surrounded the modern-Victorian chateau. There were hints of orange and light pink peaking through the bushes in the form of geraniums and orchids and oleanders. Nika couldn’t help herself; she had to stop and take a whiff before she walked into the roofed entry to the house.

“Good afternoon, ma’am, please come in.” The Hispanic housekeeper said. “Follow me and I’ll take you to Mr. McDowell.” The woman walked her through the long hallway, which was lined with pictures of Stephen and an older man and woman, whom Nika presumed were his parents. She walked past expensive pieces of art and sculpture and a large cat-like animal before she reached a room filled to the brim with books. Two leather chairs were sitting in the middle of the room, and in one of them there sat a good looking blond man, reading a newspaper.
“Mr. McDowell, Miss Noble is here for you.”
He put down his newspaper and looked a Nika through rimless spectacles.
“Thank you Marlita.” She nodded and walked away.
“Miss Noble, have a seat.” He motioned at the seat in opposite him. Nika was surprised that he had an American accent; she thought it would be foreign since he was Dutch. “So, let’s get straight to the point. I’m giving your paper the exclusive, before anyone else can get to me. I’m retiring and turning over the CEO position to my son Stephen.” Nika began writing Mr. McDowell’s words down.
“When and why did you decide to do this?”
He crossed his legs and adjusted himself in his seat. “It’s time for me to step down. I’m 57 years old. Though I guess I could continue for 5 or 6 years, I’m tired. Plus, I just bought out another major cane company and I think it’s time that Stephen take the reins and be the new face of the company. I’ve been thinking about doing this for a while now. I’ve only now just gotten the chance to make it happen.”
Nika finished writing it all down and looked up and smiled.
“Wow, you resemble my wife a little. She should be home soon, you’ll see.” He shook his head in disbelief. Nika kind of sank inside. No wonder Stephen was attracted to her, she reminded him of his mother!
“I don’t know what to say…thank you?” They chuckled together.
“Alright. So have you had a chance to tell your son?”
“No, not yet. He’s vacationing with his fiancée. They return tomorrow. Lovely young woman.” He nodded to himself. Part of Nika was relieved, but part of her also got a little jealous.
“Okay. They must be so in love.” Nika inquired. She didn’t know why, but she couldn’t help herself. It wasn’t like his father knew who she was anyway.
“Something like that. Though lately I’ve noticed that he’s been a little distant; a little off of his normal course in life. I’m hoping that this news will bring him out of this rut a little bit.”
Nika nervously adjusted herself and cleared her throat. She knew it was about the baby. After all that he’d told her during his interview almost a month ago, what else could it be?
“So tell me more about your company.”
“Well it’s a sugar cane business called Jolie Diamond. It was originally based here south of the city until we got some land in Colombia. Once we did that, we expanded to include other exports, though we’re still well know for sugar cane.” Before Nika could ask about the other exports, a loud voice boomed behind her, “Oh you’ve begun the interview without me?” The woman made a dramatic entrance. Her Arab accent complimented her pretty face. She looked like she was in her 50’s but she definitely aged well. She could see how her husband and son could think they looked alike. The skin complexions were similar as well as the shapes of the eyes, but that was all Nika could notice.
“Sahar, dear, this interview isn’t about you.” He didn’t seem too pleased with his wife’s arrival.
“Oh, I’m sure that I can add a little something. Where were you?” She asked Nika. She sat on the arm of Edward’s chair. Nika was flustered.
“I’m sorry, I forgot what I was about to ask.” She looked down at her notes. “Um, well, do you have any hand in the company?”
“Just keeping this man alive.” She hugged Edward’s shoulders. There gestures and facial expressions did not give off the impression of a loving couple, which turned into uncomfort for Nika.
“Well, Mr. McDowell, Mrs. McDowell, is there anything else you would like our readers to know?” Nika just wanted to be done with the interview so she could leave.
“That’s it, for now. We will have you back for follow-ups.”
Nika nodded in understanding. Edward and Nika stood up at the same time. He shook her hand. She noted his strong, firm grip.
“I will see you soon. I’m sure my boss will let me know when.”
She thanked him for his time, and Marlita came to walk her out.

As she made it through the house, a short Colombian man dressed impeccably walked past her. He made her feel nothing but cold, and his smile was not welcoming at all. She shook off the feeling that the evil man gave her as she got in her car and drove off. What more could she possibly need to know save for Stephen’s conversion to CEO? Something wasn’t right with that situation, and Nika was sure that she’d find out soon what that was.

The Adventures of Nika Noble: Ten

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Nika’s life was on cruise control. It had been a few weeks since she and James shared their first kiss. Luckily, Nika hadn’t had to interview Stephen during that time as nothing “interesting”, as Bullock put it, had happened. Nika was beginning to doubt that anything was ever going to happen at all. She was starting to think that maybe Bullock was going senile, though he was only in his early 50s. He clearly saw something that no one else was seeing. Either way, Nika wasn’t seeing that editor position until whatever this big happening was, happened. Bullock even got a a temp to fill in for the international news position since Brandon left a few days earlier. That promotion was looking pretty bleak. Nika wondered if Bullock even remembered that he offered it to her. One thing was for certain, though, and that was the cloud nine she’d been floating on. James was doing everything so right that Nika was beginning to think that maybe something wasn’t right. She kept her cool though. She didn’t want to be the one to ruin it just because she was a little skeptical.

“Nika! I’ve missed your face!” Erika exclaimed as she hugged her best friend. She was jingling with all of the bangles she was wearing. Erika resembled a new age hippie. It was Friday and her night at Stainless.
You missed me? You had Mick, I was the one all alone in the apartment.” Nika jokingly retorted. Erika had decided to stay with her fiancé instead of return home like she said she would. Nika had a bittersweet taste from the whole situation; her friend was slowly leaving her and doing grown-up things like getting engaged. Eventually she would be gone for good on her year-long tour around the world to promote her album. Then after that she and Mick would be moving in together permanently. It just wouldn’t be the same without Erika and her oddball ways.
“I know. We were having too much fun together. It feels different now, like, I don’t ever want to be away from him.” Erika sighed, and put her chin in her hands. She was supposed to go on in an hour, but her motivation was shot because Mick was working late at his law firm. She was taking to the I-can’t-live-without-you thing pretty well. Nika smiled at her friend. “You’re going to be okay. Don’t forget why you’re here. This was your first love.” Erika nodded and smiled back. She looked like she got a little gumption, but still had a long way to go before she became the confident woman she usually was on stage.

Erika’s smile quickly wore off. She was looking at something she didn’t like towards the entrance of the club. Nika turned to see someone who immediately made her stomach flip upside down. Kyle. He was standing in the front looking around with his douchey crew. For some reason he had on shades, and started looking over the rim directly at Nika. Of course he was. He knew that this was one of the main places she would be on a Friday night.

Since his arm-grabbing incident, he had been nothing short of an ass toward Nika. Purposefully bumping into her at work, making her spill drinks and drop folders; he had become the nuisance that made her never want to date for fear of the man-boy becoming exactly what Kyle had become. He hadn’t cornered her again, but she knew that it was always possible, and what scared her was that she didn’t know when or where it would happen.
He started heading towards Nika and Erika’s table. As he passed them, he forcefully bumped into Nika’s chair, then looked back her, sneering.
“Grow up asshole.” Erika called out. Kyle turned and flipped her “the bird”. She got up out of her chair, but Nika sat her back down.
“He’s not worth it.”
“Who’s not worth it?” A familiar voice asked behind Nika. James walked around and kissed Nika on her cheek, giving her a chill. Erika looked at Nika.
“Nobody.” Nika said quietly.
“Hey, if somebody is giving you ladies any trouble, I’ll personally kick them out.” He stood behind Nika’s chair, stroking her hair. At that point she didn’t even care. Her head massage was feeling pretty good.
“No, no. It’s all good.” She hummed. Erika rolled her eyes at Kyle and then went backstage. James sat down in Erika’s place and took Nika’s hand. She felt so uncomfortable with Kyle there, it was hard for her to focus on James’ attention.
“What’s wrong?” He asked, scooting closer. Something was clearly going on; though the club was filling up with happy people, the tension in the air was thick. Before Nika could reply, Kyle walked up. Nika hid her face in her hand and shook her head. James puffed up and looked at Nika.
“So this is the chump you dropped me for?” Kyle was clearly drunk. He smelled strongly of alcohol, like a wino.
“Excuse me? Nika who is this guy?” James stood up and hovered a little over Kyle. Though James was taller, Kyle was more broad and muscular and looked like he was ready to brawl. Nika got up and stood between them.
“Kyle, what is your problem? You know what? I don’t even care. Just leave.”
“You ain’t gonna try and embarrass me in front of all these people, bitch. You keep slipping up, and I told you it wasn’t over.” Kyle bucked at her.
“Yo, man, she didn’t ask you for commentary, she said leave. If you think that’s too hard, then I’ll make you leave.” James said from behind Nika.
“Nika tell yo dude to shut up. This conversation is between me and you.” He pointed his finger in Nika’s forehead. She pushed him. “Don’t put your hands on me.”
“Bitch you done lost your mind.” Kyle pulled back and slapped Nika so loud, people started looking on. James pushed Nika out of the way and grabbed Kyle’s shirt and began punching him in the face. Kyle’s friends finally came over and tried prying him from James’ grip while the club’s security tried grabbing James.
“You better be glad I didn’t kill you, you bitch nigga!” James shouted at Kyle as the security guys held him back. Kyle touched his bloody face. James messed him up in the few punches he threw. There was a cut underneath his eye that was bleeding nonstop, and his lip was busted. Security pushed him and his friends out of the front door.

“Nika, you okay?” Erika rushed towards her from the stage. She was bleeding a little from inside of her lip. Nika nodded, shaken up about what Kyle could have done to her.
“I’ll take care of her.” James told Erika. He led Nika to his office upstairs, which could be seen behind reflection glass from the club. He turned on a desk lamp and sat Nika down on a twin sized bed. In her daze, she watched him leave the room and come back with a wet washcloth and dab away the blood on her mouth. She took the cloth from his hand and felt his fingertips gently brush her skin.
“That was the guy who…gave you the bruise?”
Nika nodded, feeling shame creep up over her soul. James sat down in his luxurious office chair. He looked shaken as well. He wrapped his bruised knuckles with another wet washcloth he had.
“So, were you with this guy while we’ve been together.”
Nika shook her head vigorously. She realized that he thought that she was messing with Kyle. She tried to say something, but it stung her mouth to talk. She shook it off and talked anyway.
“Kyle, the ass, is my ex.” She paused, trying to get through the pain. “He’s the one Terry told you about. We broke up awhile ago, but…you know the situation with that. After you and I began talking, I told him it was over. That’s when he grabbed my arm. He hasn’t been a factor since before that day.” Nika explained. She hated that James had to find everything out like this. He was still and quiet, his face dark and mind deep in thought.

Nika got up and walked over to him. All she wanted was him and she needed him to understand that. She took his hand and got down on her knees in front of him. “James, I promise that you have been the only one since I met you. That’s the only position and you’re filling it. If I could go back in time and never have dated that guy, trust me, I would have avoided him like the plague.” She looked up at him and brought his head down to her face; he didn’t fight it. She found his lips with hers and pressed them against each other. She left them there, for that was all she could muster with the pain. Plus the pleasurable shivers she was was experiencing made it hard to do much anyway. She wanted James all over her body; she wanted him to envelop her. She decided to envelop him instead. She stood up and straddled him, and then brought his face up to look at her. He looked so sad, like a man finding out that his daughter wasn’t so innocent anymore.
“You don’t have to say anything.” She put her arms around him and caressed his entire back with the tips of her fingers.
“Thank you for defending me, by the way.” Nika whispered in his ear, and then kissed it, slowly and softly. She continued whispering sweet nothings in his ear until she felt him getting hard beneath her. That turned her on so fast, but she didn’t want things to happen in such a messed up situation like this. She bit her lip to try and use the pain to calm her desires, then rose from James’ lap.

“I’m sorry.” He said to Nika quietly.
“No, it’s not you. Just, not like this. I don’t want it to always have the stigma of tonight’s drama.”
James nodded in understanding. As he stood up to shake himself off, there was a knock at the office door. He opened it, but before he could say anything, a tall, thin, beautiful chestnut-complexioned woman threw her arms around his neck and kissed him.

The Adventures of Nika Noble: Nine

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She knew it was too good to be true. Everything was too, perfect too soon. He wasn’t necessarily wrong, he was only caring, but still, it wasn’t his place. She could take care of herself. Nika paced her room, trying to figure out what was going on with her life. It seemed as if for every good thing that happened, three bad things countered it.

Erika wasn’t home to give Nika her well-loved comfort talks. She decided to stay at Mick’s for the week, celebrating their engagement. Nika never felt so alone, but she was happy for her friend. She thought about calling her mother, but knew the woman would make up some excuse to get off of the phone with her in the first minute. She quit pacing and plopped face-down on her soft pillow-top bed. There was nothing left to do but sleep.

Ringing filled Nika’s head. It had been going on for the longest time, and at one point, she thought it was apart of her dream. She popped up and reached for her cell phone. She had fifteen missed calls, all from Bullock.
“Shit.” She mumbled. Something must have been wrong with her article. She was afraid to call him back, afraid that he was going to tell her that not only did her article suck, but she was also fired. She sucked it up and returned his phone call.
“Dan Bullock here.” The deep voice answered.
“Mr. Bullock, it’s Nika Noble.” Nika’s heart was pounding.
“Miss Noble! I’ve been trying to get in touch with you for the past two hours. Richard told me you weren’t feeling well.”
“I’m sorry, I’ve been sleeping the illness off.” Nika lied.
“I see. Well, I have your article on the screen in front of me.” He paused like he was reading over it.
“Yes.” Nika said, making sure he was still there.
“To be honest with you, it’s the best damn article I’ve read in a long time.”
Nika, unaware of how big and goofily she was smiling, could only manage a feeble “thank you”.
“You’re welcome.” Bullock said a-matter-of-fact-ly. “This leads to my next subject. I want to promote you to editor. You’ll be over international news. Brandon is leaving in about a month or so, going to be a stay-at-home dad, can you believe that? Anyway, so I’m moving you on up.”
“Oh my gosh, are you serious?”
“As a heart attack. First, though, as follow-up to your McDowell article, I want you on this whole situation, from start to finish. I need you to prove to me that you can handle a lot of stress and time constraints and last minute interviews etc. Like I told you before, a lot of stuff is going to be happening soon and I need you on top of it.”
It was as if Nika was thawed just to be frozen again. Basically she was supposed to be on Stephen’s case 24/7. How was she supposed to be professional around him after what she just told him? She couldn’t possibly take this assignment. She would likely lose her mind.
“Mr. Bullock, is there any chance I could take a little to think about it?”
“What’s there to think about?” he retorted. “This is one of those once in a lifetime opportunities. If you need to think about it, I’m just going to take it off the table.”
“No, no, Mr. Bullock. I’ll do it.” Nika said before her mind could catch up with her mouth. “It’s just such a big thing, I needed to wrap my head around it first.”
“No need for all that. Just get better so you can be in tomorrow morning. Copy?”
“Copy. Thank you, for this opportunity.” Nika said before they hung up with each other.

Nika sat on her bed in disbelief. She had no idea how she was going to swing this whole situation. And what was this thing that was supposed to happen that Bullock kept talking about? She didn’t even have the energy to think anymore about it. She just wanted to lay and figure out how she was going to get through this assignment so she could get her coveted editor position. She really hoped that it was worth it.

There was nothing on TV. Nika flipped through the channels as she laid on the living room couch with one of her legs hanging off of the arm. She’d decided earlier to take a professional approach to her Stephen problem. She would meet with him and they would only talk about issues at hand, nothing from the past. She wouldn’t let him get to her.

Dusk was zooming in, but that didn’t stop her door bell from buzzing. She couldn’t fathom who would be there to see her at almost nine in the evening. It must have been Erika, she was notorious for forgetting her keys. She got up to buzz her in. She stood by the door to give her crap about leaving her keys.
“You leave your keys again? …” Nika opened the door to James, who was standing there with a very apologetic look on. Nika rubbed her arm and welcomed him in. She would be lying to herself if she said she wasn’t relieved that he didn’t hate her for leaving the way she did.
“Nika, I just wanted to come by, in person, to apologize. As much as I like you, I shouldn’t have come at you like that. It wasn’t my place. I really hope you can forgive me, and maybe, you know let me make it up to you one day soon.” Nika succeeded at keeping a straight face at his sweetness, mainly because she just wasn’t in the mood to be happy. She stood in front of him next to the door, not knowing what to say. She didn’t want to ruin what they had, but he was right, it wasn’t his place to get so concerned about the bruise. Oh, who was she kidding? She loved that he was concerned, she just hated the way he went about asking her about it.
“It’s okay, I guess. It was just really touchy for me. I’m so used to dealing with things on my own, you know, fending for myself.”
“I can understand that.”
Nika smiled shyly. “And yes, I would love it if you made it up to me sometime, even though you don’t have to.” James opened her front door and turned to Nika. “I have to.” He smiled and winked at her. She hung onto the door and watched him head towards the exit.
“James.” she called out to him. He looked back at her. “I don’t know if maybe you want to watch a movie with me. It’s only 9.” He looked like he was teetering on the edge of “no”. Until he turned on his heel and pimp limped back to Nika’s apartment. She moved to let him in.
“Have a seat. You want anything to drink? Eat?” She went to the kitchen to get herself a glass of water.
“Nah, I’m good.” He replied. He sat down and looked around at Nika’s quaint apartment. He noticed the picture frames on the wall filled with her and Erika’s fun times from the past to pictures of their family and friends. He loved how everything in the apartment was brightly colored, but not in a girly way, more artsy and unique.
“You have a very homey place here.” James said to Nika as she sat down, leaving an empty cushion space between them.
“Why thank you. Erika and I have lived here for a minute. We love it, but I’ve always wanted to live by the ocean. As you can see, I have Jealous of James thing number two. First the car and now the place. You’re killing me slowly.”
James laughed. He was loving how silly and down-to-earth this woman was. Nika chose a recently released-to-DVD action movie for them to watch. Though James probably couldn’t tell, she was a ball of nervousness. She didn’t want things to get kinky yet. She knew that it would ruin everything if they did. She was wondering why she even invited him to stay and watch the movie in the first place. Her mind was not in working order.

He’s so handsome. Nika thought to herself. She had barely paid any attention to the movie up to that point. She was too busy admiring James through her peripherals. She wanted to pull him into her and rub his head and kiss his forehead. He was sitting there laughing at the funny parts and pulling back, sticking his fist in his mouth at the stunts.

When the movie finally ended, Nika didn’t know whether she was disappointed or relieved that James didn’t make a move on her. Before she could try figuring out why, James stood up and walked, once again to the door.
“Thanks for the movie, Nika.” He opened the door. She walked over to him and kissed his lips, just a quick peck. She pulled back to check his reaction. He grabbed her head and kissed her back. He pushed her into the wall of the hallway, his lips passionately making love to her lips. They were so in sync with each other. Nika’s body felt so limp; all she wanted to do was lay him down on her bed and let their bodies become one. James pulled away from her, gently kissing her, each peck softer than the last, until all he could do was set his forehead on hers and look into her eyes.
“Good night, Nika.” He kissed the tip of her nose and walked away. He left her standing in the hallway, surprisingly not horny. Something had just happened, in her heart, and whatever it was pushed everything menial from her mind. All she could see was being happy with James. She rolled lazily off of the wall and walked slowly back into her apartment, hoping that her thoughts of that gorgeous, chocolate-skinned man with the light brown eyes and soft lips would carry her into a delicious sleep.

The Adventures of Nika Noble: Eight

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The sound of Nika’s alarm clock jolted her awake, the worst way to wake up in the morning. She groggily rose from her disheveled bed and walked zombie-like to the bathroom. Before reaching it she noticed a big lump on the couch, bigger than a one person lump. She went and hovered over it and made a silent ‘awwww’ sound at Erika and Mick squished together in the spoon position. She also noticed that there was an extra sparkle to Erika’s left ring finger. Nika smiled and continued her journey to get ready for work.

The morning was beautiful. The birds were singing, the sun was shining, people weren’t rude on the road; Nika was in her own little rose-colored world that James had helped put her in. She wasn’t complaining though.

Nika found Terry chatting in the break room.
“It’s only 8:30, how are you already on break?” She asked him.
“Woman hush. This is what happens when you’re at work at 5 AM making things happen.” He said after leaving his other conversation.
“Oh whatever. Anyway, so, James.” She tried not to smile.
“Yes?”
“He is effing amazing! Our date was amazing! Everything is just amazing!” Nika gushed at Terry. “Thank you so much for putting this together.”
“Wow, just one date and you’re crazy.”
“Oh come off it. He texts me just to say good morning. I’m thinking he feels the same.”
“Well good for you. I’m really happy for you. Just don’t let this,” Terry looked behind her, “ruin it please.” Nika turned to see what Terry was talking about, and saw Kyle making his way into the break room.
“Terry don’t leave me, please. I’ll give you five dollars.” She whispered.
“No money can buy me. Be smart.” Terry winked at her before leaving the break room, then nodded at Kyle as they walked past each other. Nika looked for something to do to make her look too preoccupied to talk to him. She failed.
“Hey, what’s up? I haven’t heard from you in a minute.” Kyle said, standing in front of her with his arms crossed.
“I’ve been living.” Nika replied, shortly. She’d been in such a good mood since shaking off her rough wake-up, she really didn’t want it ruined before the morning was over.
“Well, I’ve been missing you. We should hook up tonight.” He attempted to put his hand on Nika’s arm, but she moved out of its way.
“No thanks Kyle. Don’t you have a girlfriend? Speaking of which, I think we should end it. It’s been a…run.” Kyle stepped up to Nika, and he didn’t look happy.
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
“It means that this,” Nika motioned to herself and Kyle, “is over.” Kyle gave Nika a sly smile, then roughly grabbed her arm, pressing his fingers deep into her flesh. She tried twisting out of his grasp, but he just dug deeper into her arm.
“You must think you’re funny. Don’t think this is over, because it’s not.” He flung her arm as he walked away. Nika rubbed her sore arm, so frustrated and angry that she wanted to cry. She wasn’t the type to make a scene, and was pissed that she let Kyle get away with putting his hands on her. Needless to say, Nika was fuming. And she fumed all the way back to her cubicle where she was met by Rick.
“Uh, Noble, hey. You got that finished product?”
Before Nika could get more irritated, her stomach dropped. She’d completely forgotten about the article. Stephen’s publicist was supposed to have sent her the articles the day before.
“Shoot Rick, I’ll get it to you in a few.” Rick adjusted himself on his feet.
“Uh, it’s not done?”
“No, it’s done, I’m just waiting on Stephen, I mean, Mr. McDowell’s publicist to give me the okay.”
“Well, uh, you have an hour and a half. I need it on my desk no later than that.”
“Got it.” Nika watched as Rick walked away. She quickly dialed Johnson’s number.

“This Johnson.”
“Hey Johnson, this is Nika Noble.”
“Oh hey Miss Noble.” He said before Nika could to the chase.
“Hi. Just wondering if you were done going over Stephen’s article.” She said.
“Oh, yeah! I’m sorry. It’s been pretty hectic around here. I had no changes for you so you can just go with what you have.”
“Great. Thanks so much.” Nika replied, ready to hang up.
“While I have you on the line, I wanted to let you know that I didn’t give Stephen your letters.”
“What?” Nika was confused.
“Yeah, I read them and I didn’t think they were really appropriate for where his head is right now. I hope you understand.”
“Wait, no! I don’t understand. How could you just read them? They weren’t put there for you to decide whether or not Stephen should read them. Plus, you’re just his publicist, not his life coach!”
“Look, Miss Noble, I did what I felt was right for him right now. I really have to be going. If you need anything, please don’t hesitate to call. Have a great day!”
The line was terminated. Nika lingered with the phone still to glued to her head, trying to understand what exactly had just transpired. She set her phone down on her desk. This couldn’t really be happening. She wanted to slump on the floor, bang her head against the desk and cry. Cry about Kyle, cry about her angel baby, cry about things she hadn’t thought about in years.

Nika emailed her story to Rick, along with a message that said she wasn’t feeling well and that she was going home. Right when she got up to leave, Terry tried blocking her way. As soon as he saw her face, he got out of her way and let her through. She looked to him like she had the world on her shoulders. She felt like she did, too.

Nika’s car was hot, but she didn’t care. She got in and cried. She didn’t even turn the car on for A/C. She let the tears flow, mixing in with the sweat as they did. She made ugly cry faces, called out to heaven, hit her steering wheel, and sobbed so hard that she had a hard time catching her breath. She was sure that if anyone saw her, they probably thought she was crazy, but she was oblivious to them. She wiped away the moisture from her face with a random napkin she found on her passenger seat. Contemplation became the fill of her mind as she figured out what she was going to do about Stephen. Johnson had no right to keep those letters from Stephen and Nika was absolutely pissed about it. Nika’s phone vibrated and showed the following on her screen:

New Message from James

She opened the message.

Hello beautiful woman.

It read. Nika didn’t know what she did to deserve this guy.

Hey

Even James’ sweet words couldn’t make her feel better.

Something is wrong

Nika didn’t reply. She didn’t want to complain to him.

Am I right?

She caved.

My day has barely started and it’s already not the best. I’m going home :-/

He asked!

If you need company or an ear you can come visit me. I have a knack at making people feel better.

She smiled at her phone. This man was really trying to get and stay on her good side.

I would actually like that a lot, but I’ve got an errand to run first. I’ll let you know when I’m done.

She decided at the last minute to get in touch with Stephen and tell him about the baby and get it over with.

Okay, hit me up when you’re ready.

As soon as she was done talking to James, Nika sent Stephen a message asking him to meet her at an uptown coffee shop if he wasn’t busy. He replied back that he wasn’t and that he’d meet her there in half an hour.

“Nika, hi. What’s going on?” Stephen weaved between the many small tables in the shop to get to Nika and sat down in front of her. Her stomach had been in knots since she decided to meet with him. She had no idea how he would react and hated even having to bring it up, but she really felt that it would provide her some closure.
“I needed to tell you something. I was going to let you know via letter, but now that you’re here I’m thinking that telling you in person is ultimately better.”
“What do you need to tell me?” He looked concerned and confused. Nika inhaled deeply and exhaled even deeper.
“This is so hard for me to say. Part of me is having second thoughts, but…when you me left two years ago, I realized that I hadn’t had my…um…ugh!” Nika regathered herself. “Four days after you left, I found out I was pregnant. Of course there was no way to let you know, but I wrote you letters anyway.”
“Wait,” Stephen interrupted, “we have…a child?” Nika shook her head as she looked down, trying so hard to hold back the tears that she didn’t think Stephen deserved.
“I lost it, almost 2 months after I found out. It was probably the hardest thing I ever had to go through, what with you leaving and then losing the baby, the one thing I had to connect me to you.” Stephen slumped in his seat. He looked devastated, like someone had actually just died. Though she felt bad for thinking it, seeing him look that way did make her feel a little better.
“Nika, I don’t know what to say. ‘I’m sorry’ doesn’t cut it this time. What can I do? What can I say? Please, tell me.” He grabbed both of Nika’s hands and brought them close to him. She retracted them back to her body.
“There’s nothing you can do or say, Stephen. What’s done is done. Just…let’s make this the last time we see or speak to each other. Okay?” Nika stood up and took a last look at Stephen’s distraught face. He nodded at her. She turned and left the coffee shop. She left a love that she thought was “it”. She left her past, and walked to her car to drive away and meet her future.

******

“No offense, but you look like you’re having a bad day.” James said and smiled at Nika after he let her in to his expansive loft overlooking the ocean.
“It’s better now that I see you.” She stuck her tongue out at him. She put Stephen out of her mind as best she could do that she could enjoy James’ company.
“I just need to relax. Things have been ridiculous in my life, at work, and somehow now they’re mixing with each other.” Stephen led Nika to a bar stool in his breakfast nook. He asked if she wanted a drink.
“I’m not helping to create this ridiculousness, am I?” He asked as he passed her a bottle of water. She shook her head.
“No, no. If anything you’re helping make it better.”
She took a swig of water, eyeing Stephen. He leaned back against the black granite counter and crossed his arms as he stated at Nika inquisitively.
“Nika, I haven’t met anybody like you before.”
“I know. I’m one of a kind. You can’t put me in the same category as those other girls.” Nika took another drink of water. Stephen chuckled. His face quickly turned from happy to serious and then he stood upright.
“Nika, what happened to your arm?” He walked over to her and gently took her lower arm in his hand. Nika blushed and tried to take her arm back.
“It’s nothing. I got it.”
“This is not ‘nothing’. These are bruises made by fingers…large fingers. Nika, who did this to you?”
Nika shook her head. “James it’s nothing. Don’t worry about it.”
“Now that I’ve seen it I can’t, not, worry about it. Someone put their hands on you and now I’m apart of this.”
“No, you’re not apart of this. Look, I’m just going to go. Thanks for the water.” Nika go up and walked towards the door. James rubbed his forehead, unclear of what to do. He let Nika leave without hassling her. Something was going on that neither of them really knew how to deal with, but Stephen knew that he didn’t want to mess whatever it was he had going with Nika.

The Adventures of Nika Noble: Seven

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James was downstairs, parked outside of Nika and Erika’s old timey, brick apartment. Nika was nervous. She hadn’t been on a real date since before Kyle and was worried that she was about to make a huge fool out of herself.

He stood next to a shiny black Acura, much newer than Nika’s. She felt a tinge of jealousy, as that was the car she’d been drooling over for the longest time.
“Sexy car sir.” She ran a finger over the waxed surface, testing him to see if he was a car freak.
“Well I can’t have you riding around in a hearse. That’s for my hood rats.”
He passed. Nika laughed, admiring his taste in movies.
“‘Love Jones’…you never see too many men who’ve seen that movie, save for the sex scene.”
“Don’t tell anybody, but that’s one of my favorite movies.”
Nika smiled at him. He was racking up points in her book like a pro. She hoped Terry hadn’t schooled him on her ways.
“I thought you might like to have this.” James handed her a single white rose. She thought she would die. He was too much.
“Oh my goodness. You really shouldn’t have. Thank you.” She shook her head and gazed at the man who was really putting the woo down on her.
“If you’re ready, we can get this party on the road.” He said, opening the car door for her. She thanked him and melted into the warm black leather, then watched as he entered the driver’s side.

The Nile Gypsy was one of the nicest restaurants aboard a riverboat that Nika had ever seen. She’d never been on it, but had admired it from afar on many occasions. She’d even gotten rave reviews on the quality and choice of food that they provided. James must have gotten word from Terry. He was doing absolutely too much in favor of things Nika liked.

“Mr. Bernard, it is so nice to have you this evening.” The owner greeted James.
“It’s nice to be here. Again.”
The two men laughed. The owner, an older gentleman, looked over at Nika.
“Wow, look at what you brought us. This is the real Catch of the Day.”
Nika sweetly smiled at him.
“Mr. D’Amato, this is Miss Nika Noble, my very lovely company for the evening.”
Mr. D’Amato bowed and welcomed her aboard the Nile Gypsy then seated them at his best table.
“Please, have a look at the wine menu. Anything you want is on the house tonight.” Then he whispered to Nika, “This guy comes here so much I think he’s paid for the entire wine cellar.” Nika giggled and smiled at James, who looked embarrassed. He playfully shooed Mr. D’Amato away.
“I’m sorry. He’s always pestering me about bringing a woman here, and when I finally do, he doesn’t know how to act!” James made a crazy hand gesture, causing Nika to giggle uncontrollably. She had no idea why she was so giggly, but she was already having a good time and James didn’t seem to mind, so neither did she.

“So where did you grow up?” Nika asked James.
“Let’s see here. Germany, Alaska, Idaho, ew, here, Texas, back to Germany, England, then I moved down here permanently.”
“Wow. Military brat, am I correct?” Nika sipped on the delicious moscato that James urged her to try.
“You are correct ma’am. From the moment I stepped foot in this city I knew I would spend the rest of my life here.”
“Isn’t it such a beautiful place to live? Take away the smell from the paper mill and it would be perfect.”
“What! I love that smell, you crazy woman!” James exclaimed sarcastically. Nika jovially touched his arm.
“Any siblings?”
“Yes. An older sister and a younger sister. That was interesting growing up.”
“Tell me about it.”
James nonchalantly placed his fingertips close the Nika’s on the off white tablecloth.
“I was the rope in a constant battle of Tug of War. My sisters did not get along when we were younger and they used me to get back at the other. Then my older sister, Melanie, went off to college and my younger sister, Celeste, cried and cried. It was a sight. They love each other now, well, most of the time. Celeste even followed her California and now they’re roommates, at each others throat’s every other week. They still call me to referee sometimes.”
“That sounds like such a fun childhood.”
“Yes, it was interesting. But before you ask me anymore questions, journalist lady, tell me about you.”
Nika groaned, “My life is so uneventful and boring. My childhood sucked. You don’t want to know about it.”
“Believe me, I want to so badly.”
She smiled slyly at him.
“Okay. Well, I’m an only child, but my cousins lived with us for a little while because my uncle was a drug dealer and my aunt was a junkie. Then they moved in permanently with my grandparents. I missed having their bad asses around after they left. I grew up in Atlanta and went to college there as well, then I moved down here to work as an assistant to the editor at Vital Signs. I loved her so much. She didn’t make me do stupid assistant crap, she actually taught me and let me have a hand in things. She got a job in D.C. and left me to rot, so to speak, with the editor I’m under now.”
“Dang you talk a lot!” James joked after Nika was finished.
“Sorry! This is why I ask the questions.” James laughed and said he was just messing with her. They spent the rest of the evening joking around and laughing at each other’s randomness, eating fine Italian food, and sipping good wine. Nika didn’t know what to do with herself. She hadn’t been this happy with a man in such a long time, and on a first date even.

“Do you have any special talents?” Nika asked as they strolled along the river underneath the streetlights.
“What do you mean?”
“Like, can you dance like MJ or sing or walk on your hands or anything like that?”
“Hmmmm…I think what you’re referring to is this:” James stuffed his hands in his pockets and started tapping his foot on the ground back and forth. Nika got excited, thinking she was in for a tap dance treat. Instead of busting out moves like Savion Glover, he busted out in a very unrhythmic routine that ended in him almost twisting his ankle and falling into Nika. She helped him regain his balance. They locked eyes for amount, each contemplating stealing a kiss from the other, but neither going through with it. Instead, Nika asked James if he was ready to see her special talent. He nodded and smiled a little.
“Alright.” Nika got down like she was getting ready to run a race. “Count to three, then tell me to go.” She said to James.
“Okay.” He said, visibly confused as to what was about to happen, as Nika was in heels. “One, two, three…go!” James counted. Nika popped up really fast, but stayed in place.
“See? I’m the fastest woman in the world! I bet you didn’t see me run all the way down there and back!” She pointed down the street.
“Wow, Nika, you are just too much woman!” She laughed and staggered over to where James was standing.
“That’s why I’m single, nobody knows how to handle all of this.” She framed her body with her hands.
“Well, we’ll see about that. One day, maybe I’ll take you up on that challenge.” James winked at Nika. She smiled at him devishly before they continued their walk.

“I had an amazing time tonight James. Thank you.” Nika told James on her doorstoop.
“I did too. Why are we turning into Nina and Darius?” He laughed.
“Because we watch that movie too much. No more ‘Love Jones’!” Nika guffawed.
“No more.” James cocked his head and stared at Nika longingly. She smiled back at him.
“If you want, we can go have some coffee upstairs. I make a mean amaretto.”
James shook his head, smiling.
“No, thank you. This is too perfect. I don’t
want anything to ruin it, especially not ‘coffee’. I had a really great time tonight. Let’s leave it at that.”
Nika nodded in understanding. “I agree. Well, have a good night.” She extended her hand to James. He took it and shook it, then Nika pulled him into her and she kissed him on the cheek. She turned to walk inside, but not before she turned back around to give him one last smile.

Terry was definitely getting a gift basket.

The Adventures of Nika Noble: Six

April 7, 2010
Dear Samuel,
You left me four days ago. You told me that you would be gone for a while and that when you came home, it wouldn’t be back here with me. Four days ago, you tore my heart out of my chest and stomped on it. Then you spat on it. Then you lit it on fire. Then you put it back in my chest.

I know this letter will probably never make it to you, and I know that I’ll probably never see you again. I’m writing you because three days after you left, I found out that I was pregnant. Yes. I’m pregnant with your child. And yes, I’m keeping it. You’ll probably never get to know him or her, to see them grow up. I just wanted you to know.

Nika

—————————————————————————————-

May 30, 2010
Dear Samuel,
I lost the baby.

Nika

Nika read and reread those two letters over so many times she could recite them from memory. Though she’d written them two years ago, the pain she felt came back fresh. It had taken her months to get over the loss of the baby that she’d fallen in love with. Months. The man she’d fallen in love with though, she found that she still hadn’t gotten over him.

Nika sat on the floor of the empty Zumba studio, stretching, waiting for everyone else to arrive. She’d just met with Stephen’s publicist to give him the finished story to look over and the two letters to give to Stephen. Erika had convinced Nika to tell him about the baby while she was up writing the article, saying that once she let go of that, and finished the article, maybe she would get over it all. In hopes that Erika was right, she took the advice and was done. She didn’t think that Johnson, Stephen’s publicist would have anything to correct, so the story would go straight to Rick, then to Bullock; Nika wound have to deal with it no more.

“So, what’s this bone you have to pick with me?” Terry asked after the class, wiping sweat off his brow with a white towel.
“James. I ran into him last night.”
“Word?”
“Word. He told me that you told him about Kyle. Why would you do that?” Nika whined. “He’s so sexy. Now he must think I’m some kind of sad hoe!”
Terry laughed. “James is cool people. Look, this guy makes bank. He’s divorced because his first wife was a gold digger and he was too blind to see. The only women that run after him are the exact same way.”
They left the studio and walked to the next door smoothie shack.
“He saw you about a month ago when you came to chill with me at 2525. He asked me about you when you left, I told him I’d get you two hooked up. You never got in touch with him, he wanted to know why. So I told him.”
Nika sipped on her strawberry and banana smoothie. The cold made her feel nice after that long workout.
“My point is, now he must think I’m a sad hoe!”
Terry laughed again.
“What, you guys didn’t talk much last night?”
“Not really,” Nika smiled, “but he did ask me to go out with him sometime.”
Terry shook his head.
“You have issues.”
“I was just afraid he was like one of those high rollers that was only into floozies and whorebags.”
“I wouldn’t hook you up with somebody like that. Damn Nika! I can’t believe you think I’d do you like that.”
“Terry, my mind is all messed up these days.”
“Well you need to fix it. Don’t you have an article due?”
Nika looked away, then look back at him. “I already finished it. Done and done.” She gave him a half smile. She didn’t tell Terry about Stephen. When Stephen left, Terry was the one who was there for her. When she lost the baby, Terry was the one who took her to the doctor for the procedure and cared for her when she went through the depression. He even thought Stephen was the only reason why she miscarried in the first place; he believed that him leaving Nika like that caused her too much stress that the baby just couldn’t handle. It was safe to say that Terry hated Stephen, and Nika didn’t want him to know that Stephen was back or that she’d written the article on him. He’d find out eventually, once the story was out, but for now, she just wanted him to be in the dark.
“I’m telling you, one of these days Bullock is going to hand you a stack of business cards that says ‘Nika Noble, Editor’.” Terry said.
“Yeah right. Rick kisses Bullock’s ass. That’ll never happen while Rick is still there. Anyway, what about you? When are you gonna just be gay?” Sometimes Nika didn’t have a filter.
“Oh my god Nika! Who am I playing, I might as well just be done with the bisexual thing. I haven’t been with a chick in like, what, five years?”
Nika shrugged then nodded. He dated women but when it came time for the sex, he’d dip out so fast it would make the girl wonder what was wrong with her.
“Soon, my Nika, soon.”
Nika looked at him and laughed. If only Erika had been there, their Saturday Zumba group would have been complete. Nika enjoyed those sunny afternoons together, goofing off with her best friends, not worrying about guys or work; it always made her weekend.
******
“Before you say anything, please come here.” Erika said as soon as Nika walked in the front door. Erika was squatting on the couch like she’d seen a rat on the floor or something. Nika hurried over to her and followed her gaze to the table. Sitting open on the table was a red, velvet box. It contained a marquis-cut solitaire diamond ring so sparkly that it caused Nika to look away.
“Um, what the hell is that?” Nika asked, sitting down next to Erika.
“We had brunch this morning, a nice little brunch at this fancy little cafe downtown. I wore my striped dress with the heart looking neckline. He told me to dress nice. Anyway, we get there and we’re having such a good time. Then he pulls that,” she pointed to the ring, “out of his pocket and asks me to marry him. ” Out of nowhere, Erika started bawling.
“Sweetheart, it’s okay.” Nika put her arms around her friend. Erika shook her head.
“No, it’s not okay. My album is just about finished, my tour starts next summer, everything is finally coming together and he wants to pull this? I love him so much but now is not the time!” Erika sobbed. Nika wished she could be more help, but she was clueless. Mick was a lawyer, not even her lawyer, so there was no way he could go on tour with her and make money at the same time. And Nika knew for a fact Erika wasn’t about to give up her dream of being a world renown musician to become domesticated. Nika just sat there and hugged Erika.
“I just don’t want him to think I don’t love him. I don’t want him to leave me. I don’t know what to do.”
“We’ll figure it out.” Nika said softly, caressing her friend’s hair. Erika sniffled and let out a dry chuckle.
“He probably thinks I’m crazy now.”
“What did you do?” Nika demanded.
“Well, I kind of panicked and took the ring and ran out. He hasn’t called or texted yet. I’m sure I freaked him out or something.” Nika nodded.
“That would do the trick. Here,” Nika handed Erika a tissue, “talk to Mick, okay? Explain everything to him. I’m know he knows how important your music is to you. He wouldn’t try to ruin your career. Just…talk to him, okay?”
Erika smiled. Nika got up to walk to her room.
“Oh, how’d it go with the publicist? You alright?” Erika caught Nika before she shut her door.
“Yeah, everything is good. You just worry about Mr. Mick.”
Erika gave her an ‘ok’ sign.

Nika shut her door. She couldn’t believe Mick had proposed to Erika. She hoped that Erika would make the right decision or that the two would work it all out. While Nika pondered her friend’s situation, her phone vibrated. She picked it up and saw a message from James.

James: Hello there beautiful

Nika smiled. This guy, she thought.

Nika: Hey you

Nika replied.

James: I don’t want to come off as forward, but I really want to see you soon

Nika: How soon?

There was a slight wait before James replied back.

James: Tonight. I want to take you out, get you fat then get you drunk

Nika laughed out loud.

Nika: LOL what!?!? O_o


James: I kid, I kid but really, would you do me the honor of being my date tonight?

Nika was lying on her stomach, feet twirling in the air behind her, giggling like she was in high school again.

Nika: Yes, I would love to be your date tonight


James: Great. I’ll call you later for more details


Nika: Talk to you soon

Nika turned off her phone and smiled. Stephen, the miscarriage, everything negative was so far from her mind, she couldn’t remember being upset at all. She had a good feeling about their night.

The Adventures of Nika Noble: Five

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Stephen looked over at Nika’s distraught expression.
“What’s wrong?” He asked, genuinely concerned. She didn’t want to tell him the truth; she didn’t want to tell him that she was about to ask him why he up and left, the real reason, and that the stupid food had gotten in the way of it. She didn’t want him to know that she wasn’t over him.
“Oh, um, I just didn’t realize I’d ordered this.” She said at the plate of roasted duck and grilled asparagus.
“We can get you something else.”
“No!” Nika said as Stephen began to save over their waiter. “This is fine, really. I promise.” Stephen settled back into his seat, signaling to the waiter that all was fine.
“We can keep the interview going. I’m a great speaker with my mouth full.” He broke off a piece of bread and put it in his mouth. “Shee? Ohm an eshpert.” Nika laughed.
“I don’t think that this behavior is very becoming of a man of your stature,” Nika sarcastically observed as she turned off the recorder, “but we can go ahead and eat.”
Stephen swallowed his bread. “Enjoy your meal.” The two ate in silence. It wasn’t as awkward as they thought it would be. They stole glances at each other when the other wasn’t looking, trying to spot changes that had occurred since Stephen had left. Nika lingered on his face for a little too long, as Stephen caught her staring and gave her a small, goofy smile. It was like nothing had changed, but it had; everything was different.

A busboy came and took away their empty plates and glasses.
“Creme brûlée.” The waiter sat the hot ramekins in front of Nika and Stephen.
“I live for this mass of sweet delicious heavenly goodness.” Stephen mumbled. As soon as he picked up his spoon, Nika blurted out, “Why did you leave me like you did, and why did you lie about it?”
Stephen exhaled as he laid his spoon back down on the table.
“Nika, it was really complicated, it still is really complicated. But moreso back then. It was hard to explain to you because I knew you wouldn’t understand.”
Now he was telling her how able she was at comprehending situations?
“Well explain it now.” She said softly, the candlelight sparkling in her watery eyes. Stephen took a deep breath and began.
“Of course, as you now know, I didn’t go overseas as a defense contractor for four years, but I did go overseas. Geez, so much was going on. My mom and dad were about to get divorced, while at the same time trying to tie me into an arranged marriage with the daughter of the man running a company my father wanted to buddy up to. They also finally wanted to get some publicity, and what better way than saying that their son was marrying the daughter of so-and-so? At the same time my grandmother had gotten really sick and my aunt was too busy taking care of her own family to devote to my grandmother full-time.”
Nika watched Stephen’s pain-stricken face as he recanted a past that he obviously wasn’t ready to relive. Regardless, Nika was part of that past and she deserved to know everything.
“I decided to go to Algeria to take care of her. My mother ordered me not to go, trying to use them not getting divorced as a bait, when I told her they were better off divorced she somehow got my dad to agree to push me out of the company if I went. I really wanted to carry on the legacy so I made them a deal: if they let me be with my grandmother, to take care of her, I’d come back and marry the girl.” He paused and looked down at his fingers.
“I told you I was going away so that, hopefully, you would forget about me. I really hoped you would. I wasn’t planning to come back down here to Savannah for this long. Scarlett, my fiancée, didn’t want to move away from her parents so soon and I really wanted to get to know her before she became my wife. I’d been up in New York since I came back from nursing my grandmother back to health. Then my publicist told me your online newspaper wanted to do a story on me. Then he told me who would be doing the interview, that gave me even more of a reason to stay. I promise I almost died when I heard your name.” he reached over and took Nika’s hand from across the table. “The last thing I wanted to do was hurt you. I can assure you that from the first night I told you I loved you, I haven’t stopped.” Stephen watched as tears rolled down Nika’s blushed cheeks. She quickly wiped them away with the back of her free hand. Her heart swelled in her chest as she began to understand what happened those couple years ago. It hadn’t been a complete lie, but he had left, he had lied, and now, to top it all off, he was engaged.

“I feel like Tristan and Isolde.” He said, and let go of Nika’s hand.
“I don’t know who they are. A couple of your rich friends?” Nika tried not to sound too bitter, but she couldn’t help it. Stephen chuckled. “Not even close. It’s an opera about two lovers…kind of reminds me of us…but not really.” He said at Nika’s confused expression.
Nika gave a half-smile. “Sounds like an opera I’d want to go see, said no one ever.” They laughed together, both of their laughter streaked with pain. She was disappointed; she wanted so badly to hate him and be through with him. Had he just let it be and not allowed her to interview him, she would have never been the wiser. She could have continued on in life thinking he had left and never expected to see him again. When she would hear or see the name “Stephen McDowell”, she wouldn’t have known who he was.

She inhaled deeply, then gave Stephen a big oh-well-life-must-go-on smile.
“So you’re engaged, huh?”
“Yeah.” Stephen answered between sips of water.
“What’s that like?” Nika asked, even though it pained her to say the word “engaged” to him and it have nothing to do with the two of them. She really only wanted to know if it sucked or not, so maybe she’d feel a little better.
Stephen thought about it for a second. “It’s…interesting.”
“What does that mean?”
“She doesn’t like me that much.”
Nika stifled a laugh.
“Why not? If you don’t mind me asking.”
“Well, and all of this is off the record, but…” he got really close to Nika and whispered, “I don’t let her tie me up and spank me and put stuff up my anal cavity.” Nika couldn’t help herself; she burst into laughter.
“Ew! Are you serious?” She asked after getting ahold of herself. Stephen nodded.
“She’s crazy. She grew up in Colombia because that’s where her dad is from and I guess that’s the type of thing the girls are into down there. Anyway, she hates me and we barely even know each other. She refuses to move in with me. I think the lack of butt stuffing is the real reason why she postponed moving to New York.”
“Wow, and you don’t love her either?” Nika was pulling for a hard one, hoping and praying he’d tell her he didn’t.
“Well, not yet. I at least want to try since we’re going to be married.”
Nika should have known that was the case. That was just the type of man Stephen was. She lost the last little bit of hope she had that maybe, Stephen would take back his word to his parents and be with her. Stephen looked at Nika’s tear-stained face, admiring the beautiful sadness about it.
“You ready to get out of here?”
Nika quietly nodded as Stephen laid down two crisp hundred dollar bills.

The night air was slightly humid, creating a halo around the moon. It was a breezy night, not so much to sway the branches of the surrounding weeping willows, but enough to make it feel like the perfect night to lay under the stars.
“I guess this is goodbye.” Nika started. “I’ll get with your publicist about the story. It should run in a few days.” Before she could say anything else, Stephen bent down and kissed her, his lips suctioning hers like he’d never tasted anything so sweet. She breathed in his air through her nostrils. They admired the softness of the other’s flesh. Stephen lifted his hands and cradled Nika’s face in them. He looked into her eyes, taking tiny pecks of her lips to last him until the end of time. He kissed her forehead and looked in her eyes one last time before he hurriedly walked off along the sidewalk into the dark, leaving Nika to stand there, bewildered. She touched her tender lips and turned toward the direction Stephen had disappeared in. Had that just happened? She slowly walked to her car, got in, and drove off. She left her heart there in front of that restaurant, lit by a single streetlight.
******
It was bustling at Stainless, the club that Erika sang at. She appeared to be on break, as she was sitting with her boyfriend Mick laughing at something. A few other people at the table began laughing just as Nika walked up.
“Nika!” Erika shouted excitedly as she jumped up and hugged her. She clearly had a few drinks in her already, but she was far from drunk; she became bubbly and bouncy after a single glass of wine.
“Hey you, how’s your gigging been so far? Looks like a good turnout.” Nika said, looking around at the pretty packed place.
“It’s been good. It’s 2 Dollar Top Shelf Shot Night.” She explained. “But you’re the one with the beans. How was your meeting?” Erika raised an eyebrow at Nika, making her glittery forehead sparkle.
“That, my friend is a long story,” Nika motioned at her kind-of-messed-up makeup, “that we will have to get into later.”
“I like long stories.” Said one of the men at the table. Nika looked over to see who’d spoken and had to catch her breath. He was delicious looking; his skin was medium brown and he was sporting a short, tapered fade. He had big, light brown eyes and a gorgeous smile framed by the most poignant lips. Nika rolled her eyes at him. “It’s a private story.” Though the stranger made her a little warm and tingly down there, Nika hated when people got into her conversations. He shrugged and looked away.
“Oh my gosh! I am so rude!” Erika said, jumping out of her seat again. “Nika, let me introduce you to everyone. This is Starla, Thomas, of course Mick, and that is James.” She pointed and everyone waved back except for James, who looked butt-hurt about what Nika said earlier. James. His name sounded so familiar. “Everybody, this is Nika. Okay? You guys chat it up while I go sing.” Erika skipped off and left everyone to their prospective conversations.
“Nika, your dress is gorgeous.” Starla, a short, red-headed young woman with lots of freckles said.
“Oh, thank you! I got it as a gift from this boutique on State Street, Cherry Bells. You ever heard of them?”
“I love their clothes. I knew I’d seen that dress before. Why’d they gift it to you, if you don’t mind me asking.”
“Oh no, you’re fine. I know how expensive this dress really is too.” Nika winked at her. “I wrote an article about them that got them a lot of attention.”
“Well that was nice. So you’re a writer?” This girl was a talker!
“Yes, I’m an associate editor at Vital Signs.” Before the girl could reply, James interrupted Starla, ultimately rescuing Nika.
“So you must know Terry Southall then.”
Nika was about to roll her eyes at the man again until she finally realized why “James” sounded so familiar.
“Oh no,” Nika groaned under her breath, “you’re Terry’s James aren’t you?” She blushed with embarrassment then froze up. She had no idea what to say to him. She leaned in towards Starla. “Can you tell Erika I’ll see her when she gets home?” Starla nodded. There was no way Nika could sit at that table with James without a cloud of awkward hanging overhead. It was almost a month since Nika originally agreed to get in touch with James. Terry had to have to have mentioned her. She got up and quickly walked out.

As soon as she reached the parking lot, she heard “Nika, wait”. She turned to see James hurrying after her.
“Hold up.” He got to Nika who was already at her car. “You left this.” He handed Nika her wallet.
“Oh, thanks. I might need this huh.” She looked down, ashamed of herself. “Okay, I’m really sorry for not calling or attempting to get up with you. I’ve been so busy with work and all that.”
“It’s okay. Terry filled me in. You know how he talks when he gets some liquor in his system.” James laughed.
“Wow. I must seem pretty pathetic to you then.”
“No, not really. We all go through things and handle things differently. You’re no exception.” He motioned towards her kindly.
Nika chuckled. “So how close are you with Terry, exactly?”
“Not as close as you’re getting at, but I’ve known him a while. He frequents my club.”
Nika gasped. “You own Club 2525?” She asked, surprised. He looked too young to be a businessman like that.
“Yes I do.”
“Well, Erika and Mick don’t go to 2525 so how do you know them?”
“This one’s mine too. I own a couple more on the strip just in case you wanna ask me how I know anybody else.” James snickered.
“Wow, okay, I got you. Well, anyway, I better get going. I’m sorry again.” Nika put her hand on the door handle.
“Wait…” James put his hand on her hand to stop her from getting into her car.
“I’d really like to get up with you one of these days, if you’re not too ‘busy’.” He smiled, the slight gap in his teeth made him look young.
“I don’t know. I don’t want you to feel sorry for me, even though I know I’m a sad, sad person.”
“Look, I don’t even care about your ex. As far as I know, he can rot. Just say yes.”
Nika looked up at his eyes. They looked tired, like he’d seen a lot of struggle in his life. She wouldn’t mind getting to know that struggle. And, it would get her mind off of Stephen.
“Yes. I’ll go out with you.”
“Yesss!” He pumped the air with his fist like a little kid that had just gotten his way with his mom.
“Call me sometime. I know you got my number.”
“Of course I do. It’s already programmed in my phone.” He waved his phone at her as he walked back to the the club.

What was Nika getting herself into…

It’s Coming

Jezebel apologizes, her fellow lovers, for her inability to post over the past few days. She’s been out of commission due to unforeseen circumstances, but she promises that there will be TWO…yes you read that correctly: TWO new entries before noon tomorrow. She appreciates your patience in these very trying times. And yes, this is Jezebel typing. Jezebel oftentimes likes to refer to herself in third person. Tout a l’heure d’es amis!

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The Adventures of Nika Noble: Four

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The previous days events stayed with Nika as she headed to work. Her stomach was in knots. After all, she had planned her meeting with Stephen for later that Friday evening.

As soon as she walked through the front door, Rick popped up.
“Uh, Bullock wants to see you in his office, now.” He was visibly nervous and kind of sweaty, but then again he was always sweaty.
“Uh, okay.” Nika didn’t mean to mock his verbal pause, but having to see Bullock now only added to her nervousness. Rick watched her walk off to the office people only went to to get yelled at.

“Miss Noble have a seat.” Mr. Bullock motioned to a chair after Nika closed his office door. She sat down, fearful of what was to come. The room smelled a little like sour milk and old bananas, and it was lit only by the light from outside.
“Miss Noble,” he began, crossing his chunky arms over each other on the surface of his desk, “what is this I hear about you wanting to get off of the McDowell story?”
Relief stopped Nika’s heart from jumping out of her chest. She’d forgotten that she hadn’t told Rick that she was still going to do the story, after her brief textual conversation with Stephen. Rick had her thinking that she was in trouble for something she wasn’t even aware she did.
“Oooh no, Mr. Bullock, I’m still going to do the story. Sorry about that mix up, it was a miscommunication.”
“Okay, good. I didn’t want to have to fire you!” He jokingly exclaimed in his deep, southern drawl, then started laughing a raspy laugh, coughing up phlegm as he did. Nika adjusted herself in the chair and let out a weak laugh, uneasy about having possibly been fired. Somehow, she felt like Bullock hadn’t been joking.
“I need that inside story. Got some big stuff potentially happening soon and ‘Mister Elusive’ is going to be all over the news. Vital Signs is going to be the one with all the information, first!” Bullock huffed. He struggled to get his weight out of his seat, then wobbled to the door and opened it for Nika.
“Get that story girl! I want to have it online in no more than two to three days. If that means no weekend for you…no weekend for you!” Nika got up and walked out, uttering a meek “yes sir” as she did.

Terry was waiting for her at a nearby cubicle. Nika shook her head at him to signal that now wasn’t the time for chit-chat. He nodded back in understanding.

When Nika arrived home, she was welcomed by an empty apartment. Erika was at her weekend gig, most likely getting ready for her Friday night performances. She was an eclectic singer and musician, her music a fusion between R&B, electric, and weird space sounds. She was white and Japanese, so that made the situation even weirder. Her fans didn’t care, though; she was a genius to them.

Her meeting with Stephen was in two hours and she wanted to use that whole time to make herself irresistible to him. There was still a piece of her that wanted Stephen back; to have that feeling of him wanting her again, even if it wasn’t real. She had no idea what to expect from that meeting but before the night was over she was going to a) get her story and b) make him want to eat her panties.

Stephen wanted to meet at a low-key place, as his identity was still pretty unknown. Pieces had been written about him, but Bullock was right about him being elusive. No newspaper, online or hard copy, magazine, daily show, or radio show had ever been able to get an interview with him in person.

He chose a small, classy restaurant right outside of the downtown area, hidden in a quaint brick building that looked pretty bad on the outside. It was dimly lit when Nika walked in, but she could tell the place was nice. Never judge a book by the cover. The tables were spaced a considerable distance apart and most of them were private booths. Stephen was already seated close to the back. She could see him scanning her body; she knew she was stunning. She decided to wear a thigh-length, tightly-fitting champagne colored dress, sleeveless, with a pluging neckline. Her bright red lipstick made her teeth look even whiter than they already were and it also looked amazing against the deep olive undertone of her skin. She let her medium length, wavy, brown hair down for the night. Her thick, dark eyelashes and the black eyeliner made the golden specks in her brown eyes pop. Her legs topped it all off, with her peep toe pumps showing off her well-toned calves.

Stephen stood up and pulled her chair out as the maitre’d walked her to the table. He kept staring at her, even after they sat down. Nika, noticing all of it, acted in a nonchalant manner. She bent over to pull a small notebook and pen from her purse.
“Wow, Nika, you look…wow.” He was stunned, to say the least. He always thought she was beautiful, but that night beautiful couldn’t even describe her.
“‘Wow’ what?” She asked innocently.
Stephen sank a little into his seat and smiled, his prominent chin dimple making it hard for the butterflies to stop fluttering in Nika’s stomach.
“You look beautiful. Even when I saw you at the hotel the other day and you looked like you had run there.”
Nika blushed and chuckled.
“Thanks. You look good too.” She said, even though what she really wanted to tell him that he looked debonair in his tailored black suit and that his light green eyes and light blond hair against his Grecian-looking skin with those soft pink lips made her want to kiss him deeply. It brought her mind back to that night on the beach, the smell of sea on his skin, the feel of the barely-there stubble on his face, the sound of the waves making war with the shore, and his strong arms around her body. She shook the thoughts from her mind. She was on a mission and she had to stay strong, though Stephen was making it very hard for her.

“So,” Nika got professional, “Tell me about yourself. What do you want the public to know about you?” She was anxious to hear this, as she couldn’t remember ever knowing anything about his personal life when they were together.
, not even his last name; he seemed to hide things so well.
“Okay. My father is Dutch and my mother is Algerian. A lot of people think I’m Greek, kind of how you did.” He flashed a smile at Nika, who glared up at him from her notebook.
He continued. “I was born in Algeria. When the company my father worked for got a branch here in the states, we came with it.”
“How old we’re you? When you came here?” Nika asked without looking up.
“I want to say five, maybe six. I know it was over twenty years ago. My dad moved here from the UK, trying to get a branch open. After a few months with no deal in sight, he relocated to the Algerian branch. That’s when he met my mother. He always told me the story of how they met; he thought she was beautiful, and she saw a man coming up in the world, so they got married.”
“Excuse me, and good evening Mr. McDowell, ma’am. Something to drink for you? Champagne? Wine?” A waiter interrupted.
“I’ll just have water.” Stephen said.
“And for you ma’am?” The waiter asked Nika, who was still jotting down notes.
“Um, I’ll take your sweetest red wine.” She looked over at Stephen, who smiled, remembering that Nika loved sweet, not bitter, red wine.
“I’ll have those right out for you.” The waiter left them to sit in silence. Stephen tried hard not to be mesmerized by Nika, but he was having a hard time with that feat.
“If you don’t mind, I’m going to record you, because you talk an awful lot.” She joked as she took out her small recorder.
“That’s fine.” He laughed.
“You can continue.” Nika said after she got everything set up. She looked at his face, glad she was recording him, so that she could use his expressions to make sure he was telling the truth.
“Alright, so, my mother’s family shunned her for marrying a non-Muslim man, so I had no family but my parents growing up. My dad was an orphan, so there you go. A branch finally opened up in the states, and my father became the head of it. We originally lived in New York. We were pretty well off then; I went to prep school, played tennis, golfed, did most things little rich boys did.

“Then the company closed down and my father got laid off. We moved down here and we struggled for a while. By that time I was in high school, at a private school, and when we moved down here, I had to go to public school. That was a rough transition for me. Luckily I skipped a grade and I graduated a little before my 17th birthday and moved to Algeria, crossing my fingers that my mother’s family would accept me.”
The waiter once again interrupted Stephen’s interview, this time with drinks and a request for their orders. She picked something random off of the menu and Stephen followed suit. She practically shushed the young waiter away before telling Stephen to continue.
“Where’d I leave off? Oh yeah. So I moved to Algeria and my grandmother and aunt welcomed me with open arms. My grandfather had died the year before I got there. I also found out that they hadn’t shunned my mom. They actually welcomed my father, but my mother was spoiled and selfish and had a disagreement with my grandparents about something, never found out what it was. So she made that story up to never have to see them again.
“I ended up going to college there, got my bachelors from the American-Algerian University and went traveling around the world after graduation with nothing but a duffle bag.”
“Okay. You’re all money now, how did that happen?”
“Not long after I left, my father and a colleague from the company they worked for before they got laid off went into business together. They bought sugar cane plantation property. They had no idea that sugar cane would grow to be so popular so fast. The company grew and they acquired more land and eventually opened some plantations in South America. Now it’s a multimillion dollar business with stock and all that. I came into money when my dad opened an account for me and put a pretty huge chunk of change in it.”
“For no reason?” Nika asked.
“Of course not,” Stephen laughed, “there was a stipulation. I had to learn the business and then work under him. One day the whole operation would be mine.”
“Understood.” Nika pulled out a list of questions she’d prepared for him. Most of the questions she wanted the answers to weren’t necessarily for the interview. She asked him when he started working for his dad, to which he replied, “Six years ago.”
“How do you hide your wealth and influence so well? Don’t people know who your dad is?”
“For one, live modestly. I may have a lot of money in the bank, but I don’t flaunt it. It’s never been important to me; family has. I never had a whole family until I was 17. That’s a big deal for me.”
Nika’s heart melted.
“About my status and my dad’s…I don’t like being in the public eye. I don’t go to events where a lot of people are. My dad was like that too,v until recently. Long story.”
As soon as Stephen finished his last sentence, their dinner had arrived, interrupting the last few questions Nika was yearning, badly to know.