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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.