Chapter 96

"It's time to ROCK in another morning! So rise and shine, and get your butts in gear. Another day has dawned!"

Tommy reached over and lowered the volume of his alarm clock. He should have turned it off hours ago, he thought as he rose from his bed. It wasn't like he'd been asleep. Quite the contrary. He'd been awake most of the night.

Everything seemed to consume him at once and made sleep virtually impossible. He'd thought about his mother and he wondered if she was happy. He didn't know for certain and his ignorance bothered him. She wasn't the type of person to wear her emotions on her sleeve. Oh, he knew that she loved him. He could never doubt that. Her eyes shone with her love for him. If he doubted anything, her love for him would never to come into question. But still, he knew that he wasn't enough. His mother needed a deserved more than just him. Whether she would admit it or not—and he knew that she wouldn't—she needed and deserved a love of her own. But who, when and how? Those questions kept coming up over and over again, and eventually, he gave up on the answers. He would find them later. He then moved on to the next question.

Lizabeth and Lucky? All was quiet when he came home last night, but he couldn't forget the look on her face as she sat in the backseat of Gina's Escort. Her usually animated brown eyes were dull with despair. He and Gina discussed her odd reaction to the video and they wondered if Liz thought that the kiss more meant than just a moment in a scene. They both hoped she didn't think that. She had to realize that she didn't have to worry about Lucky's loyalty to her. She had it. He would never betray her, and especially not with Dawn.

And, speaking of Dawn, she and Nikolas had seemed just as distracted as Lucky and Liz. Were they experiencing problems, too, or…? Tommy shook his head as if to release himself from the questions in his mind. He loved his family and friends, but there were times when their behavior confused the hell out of him. He sometimes became irritated with them when he thought they were taking things for granted. Didn't they realize how fortunate they were to be free to love each other and be happy without fear of some maniacal force interfering with it? Well, if they didn't realize it, he certainly did. And he was determined to be as happy as humanly possible.

With that thought firmly in mind, he quickly finished putting on his sweats and running shoes. Simone had told him that she planned to sleep in that Sunday morning so he quietly tiptoed past her door and out of the apartment. Normally, he would have ran down the stairs to the ground, but considering his mother was upstairs asleep, he satisfied his need for rapid movement to a light jog and a child-like jump from the bottom step to the ground.

"Hey!" Lizzie smiled at her cousin as he looked at her in surprise.

"I didn't even see you!" he laughed. "What are you doing up so early?"

"I decided to take you up on your offer to run with you…if it still stands?" she asked.

"Of course! But you gotta stretch first. I'm not carrying you back if you cramp up," he warned her.

"I won't cramp up!" she told him, crossing her fingers behind her back. She hadn't done any type of exercise since she cut her P.E. class freshman year. She had been neglectful in taking care of her body and her mind. After her talk with her aunt, she decided that in order to get her life back on track and for it to resemble something she could understand, she would have to start taking of herself. Her entire being…from head to heart to toe.

"Ready?" Tommy asked after Lizabeth stopped imitating his stretching movements to stare at him.


He raised an eyebrow in response to her sudden enthusiasm. She would conk out on him before they reached the end of the block. He shook his head and with a playful roll of his eyes he said, "Come on. Let's go."

"No," she shook her head, as she began to glare at him. "What was that for? I saw that look on your face. You don't think I can do it, do you?"

"Well…um…" He hedged as long as he could without laughing and with an infectious grin, he said, "Nope! I sure don't, Lizabeth, but we'll go slowly. And, I'll be with ya every step of the way."

She glared at him a few seconds more before she smiled. Linking her arm through his, she said, "I know, Tommy. I know."


"Sly! That was incredible! You'll be fantastic!" Dawn beamed at him from over the piano as they finished rehearsing the song he had so graciously agreed to perform in her place. He smiled and Dawn could have sworn that his cheeks were red from embarrassment. She smiled even more.

"Aw, cut it out," he grinned sheepishly as he sauntered toward her. As he reached the piano, he leaned against it and his blue eyes were serious as he said, "You really think so?"

"Absolutely," she nodded, keeping her eyes on him as she lowered the lid over the keyboard. "You'll be great."

"I'm kinda nervous." The words were spoken before he gave himself a chance to consider his admission. Normally, he kept his deepest, darkest emotions close to his chest, but as he spoke the words, he realized that he trusted her. Her reassuring pat on his arm reaffirmed that trust.

"I know. I'm always nervous, but I learned a trick that helps. Wanna know what it is?" she offered.

"Of course! Out with it, woman!" He laughed softly as she shook her fist at him. He gestured that she should make room for him on the stool, and when she did, he sat down beside her.

"You and Jordan and that 'woman' stuff. And, you've got Tommy saying it, too! One thing's for sure is you'd better not start Nikolas on that kick," she warned him.

"Yeah, yeah, yeah." His eyes twinkling with mischief, Sly waved her words away with his hand. "Now, tell me your trick! I don't want to look stupid in front of everyone."

"You won't look any more stupid than you normally do," she replied, chuckling softly as she retaliated for his waving her words away.

"That was cold, even for you," he said, but his laughter conveyed that he wasn't upset by her words. He liked that she gave as good as she got, but- "Dawn!"

"Okay, already!" She shifted slightly to face him and in a conspiratorial tone, she said, "Just pretend like your singing to the most special person in the world, the one who means the most to you, and you'll be just fine. Trust me. It works."

"Is that it?!" He rolled his eyes in exasperation. "So basically, what you're telling me is that you haven't been singing to our audience all of this time, you've been up there fantasizing about your hubby?! Aw, that's gross, Dawn!"

"Oh, shut up, you!" She punched him in his arm and he jumped up from the stool. She rose from the stool and punched him again, both laughing the entire time. "Don't knock it if it works!"

The very light game of roughhousing was paired with a lot of laughter. Dawn and Sly were so engaged in teasing each other that both were unaware when the door opened behind them. Their visitor stood still in the doorway, silently watching them as they played. Feeling more envious than he knew he had a right to, Lucky said, "If what works?"

Sly and Dawn both noted the heaviness in Lucky's voice. Sly recognized it for what it was and scolded his cousin with a glare. Dawn, on the other hand, misinterpreted what she heard and immediately thought that he and Nikolas had exchanged words. The laughter died and she moved away from Sly. Sighing heavily, she sat down on the piano stool.

"What's up?" Sly asked, his blue eyes still sparkling with annoyance at his cousin's behavior.

Lucky bristled at Sly's tone and was tempted to respond with sarcasm. Dawn's sudden silence made him change his mind. Glancing from one to the other, he said, "Sly's up next for hair and wardrobe."

Dawn smiled at Sly and gave him the thumbs up. He returned the gestures and as he walked past Lucky, he squeezed his shoulder and asked, "Aren't you coming with me?"

"No." Lucky stepped away from Sly's strong grasp and spun around in the center of the room. His arms were outstretched as he modeled his outfit for the morning program. Dressed in one of Carrie's Creations, he was ready. "As you can see, I'm done. Lisa's in the Green Room, waiting for you, man. You'd better get going."

Hesitant about leaving them alone, Sly lingered in the doorway. "What about Dawn? Come on, D, I'm sure that Lisa wants you to, but the Luckster is too enthralled with his threads to remember."

Dawn moved to stand and leave with Sly, but Lucky placed a hand on her arm. "I'd like to talk to you for a minute if you don't mind. Besides, she's not ready for you. She's ready for *you*," he said looking at Sly.

"See you later, Sylvester, and remember what I said," Dawn smiled at Sly and waved him away. The look he gave her told her that she'd pay for calling him by his given name. After Sly left, leaving the door open behind him, she turned to Lucky. "What's up? Please, don't tell me that you and Nikolas had a fight."

"Just a sec," he said. He went to the door and closed it behind him. He didn't want to risk their conversation being overheard by the wrong person. Once the door was secure, he went back to her. In the past, he would have sat down next to her, but in light of recent events, he felt weird about it. He knew that his earlier behavior was uncalled for and later, he fully intended to ask himself the questions Sly had asked him the night before, but now… Now, he and Dawn needed to talk…about them.

"Lucky? What is it?" she asked.

"I…um…well…" Why was it so hard, he wondered. As his hair and face had been fussed over, he had gone over what he wanted to say and he knew it cold. But now, being face to face with her, he found that his resolve had softened.

"Come here." She slid over and patted the space next to her. "Come on!" she said again when he just looked at her and wouldn't budge.

Lucky swallowed hard and did as he was told. He was careful to not touch her or look too closely at her. The things he had taken for granted about her…like her beauty, the softness of her voice and the light perfume scent she favored…suddenly began to overwhelm him, and he didn't want to face that. He loved Elizabeth, dammit! But even so, how, or better still, why did Dawn suddenly become so appealing to him?

Lucky's strange behavior caused Dawn to stare at him in confusion. He could be funny, bossy, caring and as moody as hell, but he was none of those things that morning. He was distant, but he wasn't. He felt closer to her than he ever had before. Subconsciously, she felt herself being drawn to that closeness, but on a conscious level, it frightened her. She moved an inch or two away from him. "Did you and Nikky fight?" she asked again to break the heavy silence.

"No, I didn't see him. Is he here?" he asked, looking at the floor.

"Yeah, he came with me this morning. Maybe he found an empty office and is taking a nap." She looked at him and wondered which spot on the floor had captured his attention so. She looked down at the floor and then looked back at him. "Lucky, talk to me. If it's not Nikky, what's going on?"

He sighed. Raising his eyes to hers, he was surprised to see a tiny hint of irritation there. It made him smile and oddly enough, gave him the encouragement to speak. "I wanted to talk to you about…the kiss."

"The kiss?!" She abruptly stood. Wrapping her arm around her waist, she said, "That's what you wanted to talk about? Lucky, there's nothing to talk about."

"Dawn," he rose and stood a foot away from her, "it's just us. You can't pretend like it didn't feel…"

"'Feel?' What are you talking about? I'm not pretending like anything," she denied.

"You've been pretending like you didn't feel anything when we kissed. Hell, I've been pretending, too, but after Nikolas and Elizabeth's reactions, can you honestly say that you didn't feel anything? They all saw it, Dawn! Everybody."

"Saw what?!" she asked, raising her voice. "There was nothing to see! I love Nikolas. You know it, I know it, he knows! Hell, everybody knows it! Whatever you *think* there was in that kiss…well, I don't know, Lucky. I don't know what you felt or anything about that. All I know is that it was just a kiss! That's it! Nothing more, just a kiss for a stupid video. And, whatever it is you think I felt…well, you'd better just think again." She turned away from him and went to the door.

"Well, if it was just 'a kiss', why didn't you tell Nikolas about it, and why didn't I tell Elizabeth?" he asked softly, stopping her before she walked away. "Since you can't talk about it with me, you'd better at least ask yourself that question…and answer with the truth."

She didn't reply, nor did she turn around. She opened the door and walked out. He watched her leave and with a heavy sigh, released the air he had been holding. Then he wondered if he should have said anything at all. Shaking his head, he realized that the 'pretending' had only just begun.


"Thanks for everything, Tiffany." Robin smiled at her longtime friend as the older woman released her from a warm embrace.

"I should thank you. I can't tell you how many times I've watched DJLS's video. Sean, too. We both love it, and we're so very proud of you. You're doing a wonderful job, Robin-" "Ms. Hill, Hal's on the phone. He has a question for you."

Tiffany nodded in response to her assistant's interruption. "I'll be right there." She turned back to Robin. "Duty calls. Try to stick around after the taping. It feels like forever since we last chatted."

"I'll be sure to do that," Robin said, smiling at Tiffany as she walked away.

Nikolas watched the interchange with mixed emotions. Seeing Robin with Tiffany, the honesty and the purity of the exchange, all reminded him of the Robin he befriended almost a year ago. The attraction he once felt for her didn't seem so out of place as he watched her, and he could almost question the animosity he was beginning to feel for her now. Almost, but not quite. She turned to him and with a calculated smile, she came towards him.

"Robin," he said, as she reached him. His face was void a smile and his voice was void emotion.

"Good morning, Nikolas. I'm surprised to see you here so early. I wish I could stay and chat, but I-" "Robin, stop it. I don't wish to chat with you. What I have to say is won't take long and I'm only saying it once."

Her eyes narrowed and she brushed a stray hair aside. "You sound serious."

"I am," he told her. "When it comes to my family, I'm very serious and I won't allow you or anyone else to use them or hurt them."

"I don't understand what you’re talking abou-"

"Feigning stupidity doesn't suit you, Robin," he interrupted her again. "You understand perfectly and you know exactly what I mean. You will play games with my marriage and attempt to manipulate me no more! I will not stand for it, do you understand?!"

Robin stared at Nikolas in stunned silence. He had never spoken to her with such harshness before. Did he understand that her interference was because she cared about him? Because she didn't want to lose him due to his inability to see that he was being used? Dawn didn't love him, Robin reasoned, not the way she could and already did. She could give him more than Dawn could ever fathom, if only he'd give her another chance. That's all she needed. Just one more chance.

"Robin!" Nikolas whispered furiously when she didn't respond to him. "I meant every word I said. If you attempt to hurt or embarrass Dawn again and use my own brother against us, too… No more, Robin. Believe me when I say this, you don't want to cross me. Not on this."

He stormed away from Robin and her blank stares and her silence. He doubted if he even got through to her, but one thing he knew for sure was that he did indeed mean every word he said. He respected Dawn's devotion to her career, but Robin Scorpio wasn't the only record producer in the world and L&B Records sure as hell wasn't the only record company that would want her and the others. They would make it and he would love to see them make it without L&B behind them.

"Hey! Where's the fire, man?" Jordan asked, stopping Nikolas in his tracks as he moved to go past him.

"Oh, hi, Jordan," Nikolas said. "I didn't see you there."

"I noticed. I just saw you with Robin. Is everything okay?" Jordan asked with concern.

"It will be. Have you seen Dawn?" Nikolas asked.

"Yeah, man, I saw her," Jordan smiled as Nikolas brightened as he said his wife's name. "She's in the dressing room at the end of the hall."

"Is she alone?"

"Yeah, but I'm sure she won't be for long," Jordan grinned.

"Yeah, whatever," Nikolas said, smiling.

Nikolas left Jordan behind him as he went in search of his wife. He found the dressing room without any problems and knocked once before he entered. "Dawn?"

He saw her, sitting in front of the vanity mirror. Soft curls bounced around her face and onto her shoulders. Her make-up was minimal with just a hint of plum lipstick on her full lips. Her bathrobe hid her costume from him, but he knew she looked sensational. Her eyes had been downcast as he entered the room, but as he clicked the door closed behind him, their eyes met in the mirror.

Dawn felt an electric current flow through her as Nikolas' eyes held hers. Regardless of what Lucky had said about their kiss, her heart and soul belonged to Nikolas. Only Nikolas. She held out her hand to him as he came to her. He took it and she said, "I love you."

"I know," he smiled. He leaned forward and lightly brushed her lips with his own. As he raised his head, he lightly fingered a few of her dark, brown curls. His voice was soft as he said, "I love you, too."

"I know," she smiled back at him. Again, she thought, whatever she might have felt when she and Lucky had kissed, did not in any form or fashion, compare to what she felt whenever Nikolas simply looked at her. Nikolas was her heart. She and he belonged together. Period.

Chapter 97

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