“I saw your commercial,” she said after once again blowing her nose. “It’s good.”

“Thank you.”

“I know it’s not kosher to share secrets with the enemy, but I was wondering who did it for you and how much it cost.”

“Is that why you called me?”

“Yes, but I wasn’t sure you’d want to provide that information.”

“Sure I will. But I’m going to fix that hot toddy while I do.” He fixed the tealike potion, then spent the next half hour talking about the media in general and producing commercials in particular, finishing up by giving her the name of his producer contact. “He’s pretty cool,” Niko finished, “and will probably work with you on pricing. Just tell him your budget and he’ll come up with something within those boundaries.”

“Thank you, Niko. This is very kind.” She held up the near-empty mug. “And this is very good. It’s spicy-hot, but my nose is clearing. I’m actually feeling a little better overall. Sleepy, though.”

“My great-grandfather, Papa Dee, says that sleep is a healer.” He stood. “So perhaps I should go and leave you to it.”

Her eyes drooping, Monique prepared to rise.

“No, don’t get up. I can let myself out. Lie there and get your rest.” He walked over and positioned the afghan around her, taking the extra pillow that had been thrown on a nearby chair and propping it under her head. “There. All warm and cozy?”

“Yes,” she said, sinking deeper into her plush couch and pulling up the afghan. Her eyes fluttered closed. “I think I’ll just sleep…for…a little while.”

Niko stared down at her for several long seconds. “You do that,” he finally whispered, bending to place a kiss on her brow. And then again, on her lips. And another.

She opened her eyes. “Thank you, Niko. You’re a good man.”

He left shortly after, making sure the door locked behind him. She drifted off into dreamland, believing that she could stand being tucked in by that man for, oh, say, the rest of her life.

Chapter 18

“Niko, it’s Monique.”

“Hey, Mo.”

“It’s funny hearing you call me that.”

“That’s what’s on your campaign posters. Who’d ever vote for a mayor named Mo?”

“Probably the ones who preferred that to Nicodemus.”

“Ouch! I was named after a great man.”

“Perhaps, but you started it.”

A week had passed since Niko had played doctor and brought healing potions, his presence included, into her house. They’d exchanged a few phone calls and texts, their camaraderie growing with each exchange.

“I just called to thank you for the information you gave me. I have a meeting with the producer later today. He’s really creative and has already given me some great ideas. You were also right in that he is flexible and able to work within my budget. So, again, thanks so much.”

“You’re welcome. How are you feeling?”

“Much better.”

“Good. You sound better.”

“Yes, I had a very good doctor.”

His voice dropped an octave. “Is that right.”

“Yes.” Her voice became sexy, flirty. “He’s really good.”

“Good. You can thank him tonight.”

Monique swallowed, gripped her phone tighter as she asked, “How?”

“By buying me a hamburger.”

“What?” Niko laughed. This was obviously not the answer she’d expected. “Are you serious?”

“Mo, I don’t play when it comes to food. Do you have any appointments tonight?”

Monique checked her calendar. “Aside from the video-production meeting, no, I don’t.”

“Then what about seven-thirty, at the Cove Café?”

“You’re determined to get gossip started, aren’t you?”

“Why are you worried about wagging tongues?”

“Because perception is reality and I don’t need any type of scandal smearing my name. You’re in the lead and feel there’s no need to worry. But I’m coming for you, Niko. I promise you that.”

“What time is your appointment with the producer?”

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