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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“Aww, I see I’ve been replaced by a sweet, young thing.”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.