“Poor kid,” Lucky replied quietly. After listening to Lizzie’s words, he was speechless. Judging by what Tommy had been through, his reaction to Lucky had been more than understandable.
“Now, that’s an understatement,” Lizzie said. “I feel horrible. Those things I said about him…”
As Lucky reached across the counter and took Lizzie’s hand, he said, “You didn’t know, Elizabeth.”
Lizzie smiled at him. She was happy that they were able to talk before Kelly’s opened for business. She needed to come to terms about what Tommy told her, and Lucky was the best sounding board she had ever known.
“You’re right. I didn’t know, but now that I do, I intend to do whatever it takes to help him,” she said, squeezing his hand before she pulled away to continue wiping down the counter.
“What does that mean? What has he asked you to do?” Lucky asked with concern. He liked the fiercely determined aspect of her personality, but he didn’t want her to do anything foolish.
“He hasn’t asked me to do anything. I want to do something. Something amazing happened between us last night, Lucky. He trusted me. No one in my family has ever trusted me before. I want to prove to him how much that meant to me,” she answered as she placed the coffee on to brew.
“Wait a minute, Elizabeth. You don’t have to prove anything to him,” Lucky began.
“I know that. I want to. I’m not even sure if I can explain this, but listening to him last night helped me in ways that I never thought possible. We connected, Lucky. I mean really connected,” she said, looking intently at her best friend.
“That’s great, but even if you did connect, he has no business asking you to help him.”
“He hasn’t asked me to do anything. I want to help him. Don’t you see? I need to help him. After talking with him last night, I thought about what happened to me and I realized that catching the man who did this to me is not an option. Too much time has passed. Maybe the police will have some luck. Who knows? The one thing I do know is we can get Tommy’s mom back. Tommy believes it and I believe him,” Lizzie said with conviction.
“I don’t know about this, Elizabeth. It all sounds kind of risky to me. What do the two of you plan to do?”
“Well, I was kinda hoping that it wouldn’t be just the two of us,” she said.
Lucky sighed. He knew she was going there with this. And he knew she already knew what his answer would be.
“It won’t be. Count me in,” he answered. He barely had time to prepare himself before Lizzie squealed and flung herself around the counter and into his arms.
Keesha was silent as she was passed to two other guards. One of the guards was short, but stocky. He had skin the color of cocoa. His eyes were void of any emotion and didn’t acknowledge her presence. The other guard was the opposite. He was tall, maybe six foot three. He was lean and wiry. His skin was pale and his eyes were such a light shade of blue, that he almost looked as though he didn’t have any eyes at all. Keesha named them Shorty and Blue.
Blue took the lead and indicated that Keesha should follow him down another passageway. The trio walked in silence until they reached the opening of what appeared to be a cave to Keesha.
Shorty went to another guard who gave him a tool belt which included picks and a flashlight. He beckoned that Keesha should come to him, which she did. He handed her the tool belt and in as few words as possible, instructed her to put the belt around her waist.
“Gina!” Blue bellowed as he walked towards Keesha and Shorty.
Keesha watched as Gina came towards them with a half full wagon. Keesha wasn’t sure what was in the wagon, but it looked like rocks. Heavy rocks. She looked at Gina who made a point of avoiding eye contact.
“Not a good day, huh?” Blue asked Gina as he roughly caressed her cheek. He laughed when she didn’t flinch at his touch.
Shorty ignored the interchange and said, “You’re responsible for the newcomer. Make sure she pulls her load. If she doesn’t…”
He didn’t finish and the threat echoed in the air among the four of them.
Nikolas replayed Dawn’s words in his mind as he gently held her as she slept. She had told him that her night was filled with nightmares and thoughts of Wayne which prevented her from getting any rest. When he suggested she should try to sleep, she was hesitant at first, but after a little coaxing, she settled herself within the comfort of his arms and promptly fell asleep. So far, her slumber had not been interrupted by nightmares and Nikolas was relieved to see her finally relax.
He looked at the natural beauty of the catacombs and wished for it to ease him. To provide him with the peace of mind it always had, but Nikolas’ wish was not to be. He was filled with anger at what had happened and almost happened to the young woman he so tenderly held. He wanted to do something to alleviate the pain he saw in her eyes. He also wanted to make sure that Wayne and Angel paid for their actions. Especially Wayne.
She stirred and when he heard her breathing change, he knew she was awake. When she didn’t move or say anything, he decided to follow her lead and remain quiet and still, too.
Dawn listened to the steady beat of Nikolas’ heart against her ear. Her head moved in unison to his every breath. As she lay against him, she realized that she had never felt as safe as she did when she was with him. Despite the park incident, being with Nikolas gave her a sense of security she never realized she was lacking. The revelation scared her a little and she removed herself from the shelter of his arms.
Nikolas smiled at her, and as he pushed a stray braid away from her face, he asked, “Did you sleep well?”
“Yes,” she nodded. “Fun date I turn out to be, huh?”
“Hmm…you’re not so bad. The snoring was an interesting twist, though,” he said with a teasing smile.
“I do not snore,” she replied earnestly.
“If you say so,” he answered with a shrug. His eyes danced at her taken aback reaction.
“I’m not falling for that. I know I don’t snore. You probably fell asleep and it was your snoring you were listening to. Not mine.”
“Perhaps,” he said with a smile. “How do you feel about lunch?”
“I’m starving. How did you guess?” she asked with a smile.
“Okay, lunch it is,” he said, rising to stand. He held his hands to her and carefully pulled her into standing position. He knew the bruises had to be painful and he had no intentions of adding to her pain.
Dawn released Nikolas’ hands and wrapped her arms around his waist. She raised her eyes to look intently into his and said, “Thank you, Nickie.”
“You don’t have to thank me. You don’t ever have to thank me,” he whispered, as he gently returned her embrace by encircling her within his strong, muscular arms.
She smiled as she stood on tiptoe. Her lips brushed against his and he tenderly returned her kiss. His heart stood still as she parted her lips under his. He hadn’t wanted to rush her, but her actions gave him permission to deepen the kiss. He parted his lips and gave into his overwhelming need to taste her sweetness.
As their lips parted, they were quiet as they waited for their hearts to slow down. The tightly reined passion they held for each other never ceased to amaze either of them and they silently reminded themselves of the need to slow down.
After a few silent moments had passed, Nikolas asked, “Where would you like to go for lunch?”
“Dara’s?” she tentatively asked.
Nikolas stiffened at the mention of her sister and said, “Oh. Okay. I can take you there. Maybe afterwards, we could spend some more time together.”
“What are you talking about? Afterwards?” she asked, quizzically. “Of course, you’re coming, too. I want my mother to meet you.”
“Are you sure?” he asked. He was a little surprised to discover that he was nervous about meeting her mother. What if she had concerns about their relationship? Dealing with his uncle was bad enough without adding her mother to it, he thought.
“I’m sure,” she replied with a smile. “But first, do you think we could find Tommy? I want to thank him. He left so quickly that he was gone before I realized it.”
“Sure,” he said. He bent his head to kiss her one last time before they were on their way.