AJ accepted the extra controls from Jason-Everett and joined his nephew on the floor in front of the television. An adrenaline pumping video game played on the large screen set and AJ jumped right in, enjoying the game and the time with the young boy.
Jason-Everett's character took a wild ride on a kayak and AJ tried hard to get his character to catch up. "You're good at this."
"Ben plays with me sometimes," Jason-Everett said. "Sometimes, Mommy plays, too."
"Oh, yeah?" AJ smiled, picturing Keesha playing a video game. "Is she any good?"
"She's great," the boy enthused, "but I think she lets me win sometimes. She says she doesn't, but you know how mothers are."
"Yeah," AJ agreed.
The boy gave the control a hard push before saying, "Uncle AJ? Is it true? Are you really taking us to New York today?"
"I was thinking about it. Do you have another place you'd rather go?"
Jason-Everett shrugged. "I dunno. Are Ben and Marisa coming, too?"
"If they want to. Are they here?"
The boy shook his head. "Nah. They left already, but I can call them. Want me to?"
AJ chuckled. "Yeah. Thanks."
Jason-Everett forgot the game and tore out of the den. AJ decided to keep going with his character. Maybe he'd get the hang of it if he played long enough.
"What in the world is going on here?"
AJ turned. Keesha stood in the doorway. A curious frown marred her forehead and her hands were planted firmly on her hips. She looked adorable and AJ's heart ached from wanting her. "I'm playing that adventure game."
"All by yourself?" She entered the room and joined him on the floor. She picked up the controls that her youngest had been using and started pushing buttons. AJ winced when she moved to another level without blinking an eye.
"Three sons," she explained. "Wasn't the youngest one in here with you?"
"He's calling Ben and Marisa for me to invite them to join us today. Do you mind?"
"Of course not, but where are we going? I'm not really in the mood for a trip into the city."
"What are you in the mood for?"
Her eyes cut to his and an eyebrow arched inquiringly.
He grinned. "I promise you. That wasn't a trick question."
She elbowed him and he laughed. "Sometimes, I wonder," she said. "If you're determined to have an outing, let's go to the docks and watch the boats come in."
AJ rolled his eyes and groaned.
"What?" she asked. "That's fun."
"Or we could go to the estate and ride horses."
"And have to deal with Reginald and his twenty questions? I don't think so. What do you have against the docks?"
He reached out and brushed her cheek with the back of his hand. "Nothing. Your wish is my command."
She pulled back from his touch and focused on the game.
The silence became deafening and AJ was afraid that her answer to his proposal wouldn’t be the one he wanted to hear.
"Hi, Aunty." Dominik greeted Lesley Lu with a wave as he entered Da Joint. She grabbed him around the waist and hugged him. He returned her embrace, but only half-heartedly.
"What's wrong with you?" she asked, pulling away from him. "You look like crap."
He grunted and slid onto a stool at the bar. "I feel like it."
"I take it you haven't talked to my big brother, yet." She moved behind the bar and started mixing a chocolate shake. "The sooner you do it, the better."
He grabbed a handful of peanuts from a bowl on the bar. "It's not that easy. You know how he is."
She topped the shake with whipped cream and a cherry. She pushed it toward him and rested her hands on the bar. "Nikolas isn't an ogre-"
"Now, you sound like Mama."
"Well, your mom is right."
He twisted his mouth. "She sees Papa through rose-colored glasses."
"It's call love, hon, and I happen to know that your mother has no misconceptions about my brother. Did you at least talk to her about it?"
Dominik's mouth dropped open and his eyes widened. "Have you lost it, Aunty? Telling Mama is the same as telling Papa! Of course, she doesn't know."
"She should," Lesley Lu said. "It's only a matter of time before they both find out that you're playing the piano and singing here. I'm sure they'd appreciate hearing it from you than reading about it in the paper."
"Of course, I wouldn't, but reporters are in and out of here like you wouldn't believe. Do you really think no one would recognize you."
"I'm not using my name."
"Dom, it doesn't matter. You're Russian royalty. Come on. Talk to them. If you want, I can be there for moral support."
"Do you promise?"
She closed her hand over his and patted it. "You can always count on me. You know that."
"Great! Everybody is having a kid, but I can't anymore," Sly complained. "That's just great."
"Oh, hush!" Dawn socked his arm and went back to hugging Jordan. "I'm happy for you. You and Lorenzo. It's about time that the baby maker over there had some competition."
"What competition?" Sly asked. "I'm out. Snip, snip. No more kids for me."
"Well, it's not like you haven't done more than your fair share," Lorenzo reminded him. "Six kids. Come on. It's our turn now."
"Dawn could join us," Jordan said, releasing Dawn and grabbing his drumsticks. He plopped onto the sofa beside Lorenzo and started tapping the coffee table. "Whaddaya say, Baby Girl?"
She shook her head. "I don't think so. I'm pooped. Besides, three suits us just fine."
The intercom on the desk buzzed and Dawn pushed it. "Yes?"
"Mr. Stanley is here," Dawn's personal assistant, Lena said. "Should I show him in?"
"Yes," Dawn replied. "Thanks."
While they waited for the movie producer's arrival, Lorenzo shook his head and said, "I can't believe this. A movie about everything. Are we sure we wanna do this?"
"We have complete control," Jordan said. "Why not? Our fans would love it."
"It should be fun," Sly added.
"But there's so much baggage," Lorenzo said. "The stuff that's happened to us is unbelievable and most of it, we shouldn't even admit to."
"Why didn't you say something before?" Dawn asked.
He shrugged. "I don't know. I just thought about it. I don't want our dirty laundry out there. We have families to think of."
Dawn nodded. "Yeah, but like Jordan said, we have control over what'll be in the film."
Lorenzo shook his head. "I don't want to lie."
"Let's see what he gives us," Jordan said, "before we decide. Deal?"
They agreed and seconds later, Stanley Charles entered the room. The man was a few years younger than the band, in his early thirties. He had shoulder-length brown hair and a warm smile. Looking at him, Dawn was reminded once again of a former duet buddy, JC Chasez. She smiled at him and extended her hand.
"Hello." He gave her hand an extra squeeze and sat in the chair adjacent to hers. "How was your anniversary party?"
"Wonderful," she said, beaming. "It was great. Thanks for asking."
He smiled and then looked at the other members. He greeted them all with smiles and a handshake. "How's it going?"
"Peachy," Sly said. "What do you have for us?"
Stan chuckled. "You don't waste time, do you?" He pulled his briefcase onto his lap and removed four folders. He handed a folder to each of them and said, "There's the first draft of the script and photos and resumes of the leads."
Dawn leafed through the script before turning to the photos. The actors they'd chosen for Lorenzo, Jordan and Sly were good choices based on looks alone, but the actress chosen for her made her pause. The girl's skin was several shades lighter than Dawn's and despite the braids the girl wore in the photo, there was no mistaking the young woman's ethnicity. And the name listed on the bottom of the photo confirmed it. Dawn placed the photo on top of the closed folder and set them on the table.
He looked at her and smiled. "She's a great actress, and she can sing, too. Of course, she's not as good as you-"
"Stan." Dawn raised her hand to silence him. "Why did you choose this girl? Miss Risa Martinez isn't African-American, and wearing braids doesn't change that."
"But she's an excellent actress and the best we could find."
"I find that hard to believe," Dawn replied. "I find it very hard to believe that there are absolutely no African-American actresses out there who can play me. What is this?"
"So, you don't want her in the role based on her race? Isn't that discrimination?"
"Man, she's Latina!" Jordan said. "And what would you know about discrimination? Casting this girl would be discrimination."
"Yeah," Sly joined in. "You found actors who resembled us. What's the deal, man?"
"Dawn's a beautiful black woman," Lorenzo added quietly. "Assuming we'd fly with this Latin actress is an insult to Dawn personally, black women, and this band."
The color drained from Stan's face. "It wasn't meant as an insult."
"Well, it is," Dawn said.
Sly handed his folder to Stan. "Thanks, but no thanks."
"Yeah," Jordan and Lorenzo said, giving their folders to Stan. Lorenzo added Dawn's to the pile. "We're gonna pass on this one."
"Come on," Stan said with a short laugh. "We can find another actress. Have an open casting call. Let's not drop it now. We're just beginning."
Lorenzo, Jordan, and Sly looked at Dawn. They'd do whatever she wanted. Moments like this reminded her just how much she loved those three men. She said, "You have one more chance. We'll read the script and give you our notes. Meanwhile, you'll find a suitable actress to portray me. We'll meet again in two weeks."
Stan nodded and hightailed it from the office. Dawn released a harsh breath. Sly and Jordan grumbled about Stanley Charles, and Lorenzo moved closer to Dawn. "You okay?" he asked. "Personally, I wanted to kick his ass, but I wasn't sure if I'd know when to stop."
She nodded. "So did I." She swallowed hard and pointed at the actress' photo. "I'm sure she's a great actress. When they do the Jennifer Lopez story, they should call her. But you know, Lorenzo, it really pisses me off that he'd think we would okay that! Do you remember when Ciarda was little and was so upset about being darker than Alanna and Gina? It took Tommy and Gina months to figure out what was wrong. Because of idiots like that . . ."
Hands massaged her shoulders. She leaned back to see Jordan standing over her. "We know, Baby Girl. You know we don't have to give him a second chance. Have Lena call him and tell him we said he could go to hell."
"Lena wouldn't have to call him," Sly said. "I can do it."
"I'm down for it," Lorenzo added.
Dawn shook her head. "I told him we'd give him another chance. We'll see how it goes. You know it's funny. I'm married to a Russian Prince. I'm a princess and I still have to deal with this racist crap. You'd think by now people would have a clue." She shook her head and smiled, looking at each of them. "Thank you. I don't say this enough, but I love you guys."
"We know," Sly said. "What's not to love?"
Robin smiled as Nikolas slid into the chair across from her. Café Matisse buzzed with the late lunch crowd, but she hardly noticed. Nikolas was still as handsome as she remembered and his smile was breathtaking. She smiled when he took her hand and squeezed it.
"Nikolas." She took a deep breath. "I was afraid you'd change your mind."
He shook his head and placed the napkin across his lap. "I told you I'd come. Here I am. How are you?"
"Having been cured makes my days a lot better than they used to be."
"When I heard the news, I thought of you," he said. "I'm happy you're better."
"I'm better than that," she told him. "I'm well and that feels wonderful. How about you? Twenty years of marriage and you're still smiling."
"My family is why I smile. I'm more in love with Dawn than I was in the beginning. We're very happy."
Robin inhaled a sharp breath and gave the waiter a tight smile as he asked for their orders. When he left, she glanced at Nikolas and saw that he was watching her.
"What?" she asked.
"What did you do after you vanished from Port Charles?" he asked. "Get married? Have kids? What happened?"
She shook her head. "I went back to school. I'm a Pediatrician, and no, there was no Prince Charming to sweep me off my feet."
"Someday, he'll come."
The waiter returned with their drinks and garden salads. As he arranged the dishes in front of them, Robin stared at Nikolas and thought that all the good princes were taken.