Chapter 73

"Mommie, I'm here!"

At the sound of Dawn's call, Carrie held out her hand and said, "Okay, pay up."

"Aw, Mrs. J," Lucky sighed, digging into his wallet to pull out a crisp twenty. He handed it to her and asked, "That was a sucker's bet, wasn't it? You suckered me. I never figured you for a hustler."

Carrie grinned at Lucky's teasing complaints. She held up her new twenty to the light as she called out, "Honey, we're in the den!"

Lucky shook his head and moved to the counter. He pulled the jar of cookies to him and pulled out a few as he lamented over the bet he lost. He'd heard the limo pull up and he went to the window. He saw the make-out fest on Carrie's stoop and he'd been so sure that Dawn would hop right back in the limo and drive away with her can't-seem-to-get-enough hubby. With that thought placed firmly in his mind, he'd bet Carrie that Dawn wouldn't stay. Carrie had taken the bet and they both waited. He almost choked on his hot chocolate when Nikolas went back to the limo and it pulled off.

"I guess this is real," Carrie said, dryly as she shoved the bill into the front pocket of her jeans.

"I'm hurt," Lucky said with a pout, grabbing his heart.

"Why?" Dawn asked as she entered the room. Taking one of his cookies, she said, "Hey, bro."

"Hey, sis," he replied with a chuckle as he watched her munch on the cookie. Her morning sickness was definitely a thing of the past. When she reached for his hand again, he blocked her with his elbow and said, "Watch it."

"Selfish," she mumbled as she looked at her brother-in-law whom she now affectionately called brother because of his having moved in with her mother.

"Greedy," he countered. His blue eyes twinkled with mirth as he added, "Speaking of greediness, I thought Nikolas was gonna devour you right out there on the stoop for the all the world to see. What cooled him off? Did Boris hose him down and haul him off?"

"Shut up," Dawn replied as she moved to the counter and grabbed her own cookies.

Carrie took their moment of silence as an opportunity to get her two cents in. "No hello for me?"

Dawn dropped her snacks on the counter and rushed to her mother. She hugged her and said, "I'm sorry, Mama. How are you?"

"Upset," Carrie said after they ended their embrace. She glanced at her clock for emphasis and said, "Weren't you supposed to be here over an hour ago?"

"Yeah, I'm sorry. Something came up and-"

"I'll bet something did," Lucky snickered.

"Why are you still here?" Dawn asked. "Mama, I thought you said Lucky wouldn't be here for this."

"He's not. He's leaving right now. Aren't you?" Carrie said with a pointed look at her housemate.

"I'm going. I'm going," he said. "I can't believe you're kicking me out, though. What are you two up to, anyway? Why can't I stay?"

"If you could stay, you would know what we were up to, wouldn't ya? See ya later," Carrie said, waving him away.

"Yeah, yeah. See ya later," he mumbled as he left the room.

Dawn listened for the click of the front door as it closed. As soon as she heard it, she breathed a sigh of relief. "I'm really sorry about being so late, Mama."

"I know, but this is going to cut into our time. Are you sure you wouldn't rather do this for another time? We're cutting close as it is."

"We can make it. Is Mrs. Hardy still coming over to help?" Dawn asked, sitting in the chair Carrie had set up in the middle of the room.

"She's on her way."

"Well, we might as well get started as we wait for her," Dawn suggested.



Robin smiled at the waiter as he placed her glass of water on the table. She told him that her companion would arrive shortly and that they would place their order then. He took his leave with a dramatic bow and assured her of his return.

She glanced around the small cafe. The patrons were few, giving the restaurant an imitate feel. She was pleased with the feeling and anticipated Nikolas' arrival. The time they shared together wasn't nearly as often as she would have liked and she was happy to treat him to lunch on his eighteenth birthday. A few minutes earlier, he had called her from his limo to warn her that he would be later than expected, but she didn't mind. She'd used the extra minutes to catch up on her work as the L&B Executive-in-Charge of DJLS' promotion, music videos and upcoming CD.

She moved the centerpiece and the other items which were in her way to make room for her leather portfolio. As she opened the leather case, she was pleased to see exactly what she wanted on top. Holding the manila envelope in one hand, she closed the portfolio with the other and placed it on the floor beside her feet. Once she was settled, she opened the envelope and pulled out its contents.

Robin's face glowed with delight as she realized that the photo session turned out better than she hand expected. Oh, so much better, she thought with glee.

"My, you sure are happy today."

"Nikolas! Hi," Robin said, startled as he seemed to have just appeared in thin air. She placed the contact sheets on the table and she stood to wrap her arms around Nikolas in a warm embrace. The hug was a brief one as Nikolas released her almost as soon as she closed her arms around him. Robin ignore the brevity of their embrace and she beamed at him as he helped her into her chair. Glancing over her blue cashmere covered shoulder, she said, "Happy birthday. How does it feel to finally be legal?"

"The same as before, I guess," he said with a shrug. "Thank you for this lunch, but you really shouldn't have."

"It's the least I could do," she said with a dismissive wave of her hand. "This is your birthday and I wanted to share part of it with you."

"You could if you attend our party tonight."

"It's a celebration for your marriage, as well as, a birthday party for you. I doubt if Dawn would want me there," Robin said, her eyes level with Nikolas'.

Nikolas frowned and said, "Of course, she would. I hope you change your mind and surprised us with your attendance. We both want you there. Really, we do."

"I'm not so sure about that," Robin said, shaking her head, "but who knows? Maybe I will decide to surprise you and show up."

"I hope you do," he said.

The waiter appeared, placed a glass of water for Nikolas on the table and handed them their menus. This time, his departure was less dramatic and he simply walked away.

Nikolas looked over the menu for a moment and within seconds knew exactly what he wanted. He placed his menu on the edge of the table and directed his attention to Robin. He smiled as he said, "What were you so happy about earlier?"

Robin peered at him over her menu and said, "Who me?"

"Yes, you," he laughed softly. "You had the biggest grin on your face. May I be so bold as to ask why?"

"Well, if you must know, my happiness stems from your wife and your bro...Lucky," she said, giving the menu one last glance before she closed the menu and set it aside.

"Dawn and Lucky?" Nikolas asked after taking a sip of water. "Why?"

"They're simply amazing and extremely photogenic. Their photos are an executive's dream."

"Oh, yeah?"

"Oh, yeah," Robin said with a nod. "Would you like to see?"

Nikolas' jaw was set as he said, "Sure."

Robin grinned from ear to ear at him as she handed him the contact sheets and the small eyepiece which he might find useful. She held her tongue as she watched Nikolas look at the tiny photographs without benefit of a visual aid. A frown wrinkled his brow as he moved from image to image and sheet to sheet. Robin had to bite her lower lip to prevent her grin from growing any broader. With concern in her eyes, she rested her forearms on the table and leaned towards him as she asked, "Don't you think they're wonderful? The photographs, I mean."

"Yeah," he said, distantly, "they're amazing. I'm not surprised, though. Dawn is very photogenic. I didn't think it would be possible, but the photographer was able to capture so much of her personality in the photos. He did a sensational job."

"What do you think of the others?" Robin asked, handing the sheets back to him as he tried to return them to her.

"Jordan, Sly,...and Lucky look great, too. Naturally, they don't look as wonderful as Dawn does to me, but that's to be expected," he said with a small laugh and a shrug.

"What about the others?" Robin persisted. "Did you only look at the individual photos or did you see the group shots, too?"

"Oh, there were group shots, too?" Nikolas asked, hating himself for lying, but unable to stop himself. He shuffled through the contact sheets again until Robin told him to stop. Grudgingly, but trying to hide it, he looked at the images his mind had already memorized. There, beaming back at him, were images of his wife in various poses with her bandmates. He didn't mind the photos of her with Jordan and the others of her with Sly. He even liked a few of her with Lucky, except for one. In one photo, Dawn and Lucky appeared too close in his opinion. With their arms wrapped around each other and their eyes locked, they appeared to be attracted to each other. Maybe that wasn't what the photographer was aiming for, but that's what Nikolas saw and he didn't like all.

Robin watched the sea of emotions as they drifted in and out of his eyes. She smiled faintly as one emotion remained and grew stronger. Jealousy. She would have him, she told herself. Maybe not anytime soon, but with what she had planned for the following night, she might have him sooner than later.

Chapter 74

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