Chapter 50

"You know that when she gets like that it means she cares, right?" Lucky asked, as he and Tommy left the Hardy home. They had escorted Lizzie home and were on their way back to Jason's penthouse.

"I sensed that. My mom gets like that, too. She starts in and doesn't stop until I beg for mercy," Tommy replied softly. He smiled a bittersweet smile as he remembered his mother. The heavy weight he felt began to lift as each moment passed, bringing him closer to the time when he and Simone would be reunited.

Lucky smiled at Tommy's words and glanced at him. This was the first time Lucky and Tommy were alone, and Lucky was at a loss for words. Their life experiences were so different and he didn't want to say the wrong thing.

Lucky thought about his life. He had spent most of his it on the run. He and his family had been free from restraints and lived their lives accordingly. He couldn't imagine having his entire life controlled by anyone. Luke had raised him to be his own man and answer to no one. Lucky had grown up believing that being a man was defined by having control over his life and never relinquishing that control. The time he had spent with Tommy had shown him that being a man also meant not losing sight of oneself when the control was taken away. Being a man wasn’t always based on control. Being a man came from within. Manhood was the ability to be strong in the face of the crap that life threw at you.

Lucky had never doubted his manhood, and he still didn't. He knew he was strong. His time with Elizabeth taught him that he didn't always have to be in control. There were times he willingly relinquished it to her because she needed it and because sometimes it was the only thing he could give her after everything she had been through. But as he thought about Tommy's circumstances, he doubted if he would have come out as strong as Tommy had.

"I couldn't have lived like that, man," Lucky said.

"You think I wanted to?" Tommy asked, bristling at Lucky's word as they brought him out of his reverie.

"Look, I didn't mean anything by that… Forget I said anything," Lucky replied. He realized that Tommy misunderstood him, but he doubted if any words could make it right. He really had no right to bring it up in the first place, he decided.

Tommy was quiet for a moment as Lucky's words sunk in. His years away from 'normal' society had affected him. He had a complex about the outside world, as he often thought of it. Simone tried to remind that regardless of the physical boundaries, deep down inside, everyone was the same. Everyone had insecurities that they tried to hide from everyone else. She said that when Tommy found himself on the outside again, he would find a mixture of people. Of course, some of them would look down their noses at him, but there would be others who would be sympathetic. She would give him a quick hug and tell him to give people a three-second chance before he jumped to conclusions and made assumptions. Tommy sighed and said, "Sorry about that."

"Look man, don’t apologize. I shouldn't have brought it up," Lucky replied, his eyes on the sidewalk.

"Nah, I was wrong. While I was gone, I believed that everyone would look at me the same way the guards had…with disgust and hatred."

"There will be some like that, but not all. Besides, those guards were sick."

"Yeah," Tommy replied quietly. "There were times when I didn’t think I could live there another day."

"How did you do it?" Lucky asked quietly, stopping under the street light to look Tommy in the eye.

"I had to. My mother needed me. If I killed myself and left her, I'd have been worse than the guards."

Lizzie couldn't sit still. Her mind was on Lucky and Tommy. She hoped that nothing would go wrong tonight. Tommy had tried to hide his feelings, but she could see how excited he was. She knew that if he wasn’t able to get his mother back tonight he would be beyond disappointed. His entire life revolved around returning her to safety. If they didn't succeed, she didn't want to think about what that would mean for him.

Lizzie forced herself to relax. She sat on the sofa and flipped through the teen magazine that had arrived in the mail for her that day. None of the articles held her interest and she flung it back onto the coffee table. The sound of an approaching car caused her to jump from the sofa. She glanced at the clock. Audrey wasn't due home for another two hours. She jumped when she heard the doorbell ring.

Lizzie's first thought was to ignore the ringer and maybe the person would go away. Curiosity got the better of her as she went to the door and peeped through the curtains. She recognized the uninvited visitor and opened the door.

"Hi, Lizzie. I hate to bother you, but is your cousin home?" AJ asked from the doorway. He sensed her apprehension and didn't want to intrude on her.

"Tommy? Of course, he's not here," she answered with a puzzled look on her face.

AJ noticed her puzzlement and wondered what caused it. "Why do you say that? Is there something I should know?"

"Well, yeah…" she replied.

"Does this have anything to do with his mother and Keesha? Is he making a move on them tonight?" AJ asked.

"Not just him," she answered. She couldn't believe that AJ really didn't know anything.

"What do you mean? Who else is involved?" AJ asked. He knew the answer before he asked, but he needed her to confirm it. He had thought Justus was lying to him, but now he had to know for sure.

"Lucky, Jason, and Justus. Jason and some of his men are going after them tonight. Didn't you know that?" she asked.

"No, I didn't know," he replied, barely able to contain his anger. He took a breath and continued. "Do you know anything about what they've planned? Where they're meeting? What time?"

"Sure, I know everything."

"Could you tell me?"

"Come in. I'll tell you everything."

Dawn released a big sigh as the launch moved across the water. Nikolas smiled at her and moved to stand behind her, wrapping his arms around her waist. She crossed her arms over his, allowing her fingers to lightly caress his forearms.

"What was that for?" he asked, his breath tickling her ear.

"I feel like Cinderella at the stroke of midnight," she said quietly, relishing the feel of his arms around her.

"Why do you say that?" he asked, surprised at her response.

"Because it's almost midnight and I feel like everything is about to change," she replied.

"But it's not changing back," he said. He removed her arms and turned her so that they were facing each other. "Everything has changed for the better."

She smiled at him and nodded. Her mouth refused to say what he wanted to hear. He laughed as she continued to nod and eventually shared his mirth.

"Come on. Say it," he coaxed.

The shaking of her head caused her braids to swing back and forth. Nikolas cupped her head in his hands and caused her to nod her head which made them both laugh even more.

"I've already said it once today. I'm not saying it again," she said, with a smile.

"Three little words. Actually, two words if you use the contraction," he replied, his brown eyes dancing with humor.


"If you say it, you'll get a wonderful surprise," he whispered against her ear.

"I've already had a wonderful surprise. Several times tonight. You mean I'd get another?" she whispered, standing on tiptoe to breathe the words against his ear.

Nikolas groaned. "You little vixen."

At his words, she rested her head against his chest and started shaking with laughter. "Vixen?" she asked, between fits of laughter. "Nickie, you sure do have a way with words."

The launch docked. Nikolas stepped off the launch and reached for Dawn's hand. He helped her onto the dock. Nikolas was quiet as they walked a few feet and then Nikolas asked, "What's wrong with 'vixen'?"

"Nothing," she said, all traces of laughter dying at his question. "I was teasing you. I wasn't really laughing at you…okay maybe I was, but I didn’t mean it. I'm sorry."

Nikolas nodded at her apology, but didn't say anything which made Dawn feel even worse. As they reached the steps, she stopped and turned to him. "I really am sorry," she said.

Nikolas nodded again, but this time his eyes gave him away. Dawn saw the humor there and shook her finger at him. "Shame on you!"

Nikolas doubled over in laughter. Dawn smiled at him and giggled as he pulled her into his arms and laughed against her.

"Admit it. I gave it to you good," he said with a smile.

"Oh, yeah, you did," she said with a seductive smile.

"I wasn't talking about that, but I guess it counts, too," he said, his voice husky with wanting her again.

"And what are you talking about?" she asked laughing as she pushed him away from her.

"Funny. Very funny. I see I'm in love with a comedienne. I can live with that," he said, pulling her into his arms to kiss her.

After a few breathless moments, Nikolas raised his head and said, "I'm still waiting."

"All right, already! You're right. You are right. Are you happy now? But I'm telling you, it's the last time," she said, pulling his hand as they went up the steps.

"We'll see," he laughed.

Chapter 51

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