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.