For the second time that day, Nicole stood outside Chez Rouge. She pulled out her compact to check her makeup. The overall reflection gave her reason to smile; she looked too damn good. Nick wasn’t going to know what hit him.
After setting the date with him earlier that day, Nicole had gone home and pulled up Google to see if she could find his university profile. She wound up finding a whole lot more as Chelsea had a MySpace page. It seemed the girl was up front in what was happening in her personal life and Nicole got quite a bit of their history together, all the way up to the breakup and including how Chelsea was now suddenly in love with this Daniel Jonas.
What surprised Nicole most, other than relying on the Internet ramblings of an immature sorority girl, was that Nick Fallon appeared just as he seemed: a nice, upstanding person who always tried to do the right thing. It was rare to find a guy like that, but what actually troubled Nicole was it was rare for her to find a reason to enjoy herself. Boy scouts usually became boring real quick, as she recalled her time with Roman, and she really hoped she could appear interested when he inevitably began talking about his work. All this ran through her mind as she placed her hand on the door and entered the restaurant.
Nick stood pacing around the table annoyed. Nicole was twenty minutes late. He had remained seated for fifteen of those minutes. Nick had always promised himself he wouldn’t wait for a date for longer than that, after all, his time was just as important as theirs and he wasn’t going to appear like a guy with nothing to do. Unfortunately, he really didn’t have anything to do on a Saturday night, so where was he going to go? Still, this was getting ridiculous and just when he was about to tell the waiter to forget it, he glanced up and witnessed Nicole walking towards him.
Seeing her approaching form, Nick momentarily forgot about his anger. Nicole Walker was wearing an evening dress that fit her so well it left little to Nick’s imagination. The way she carried herself also managed to flatter her even more, and Nick’s mind went completely blank. He felt a smile sort of play across his face as he realized this woman was coming to sit with him. Unfortunately, her sunshiny greeting was missing any kind of apologetic tone for her tardiness, and the irritation returned.
“Glad you could make it,” he said, as he helped seat her.
“Thank you,” Nicole said curiously. He had a minor whine to his voice; what was wrong with him? “Are you okay?”
Nick took his seat and glared at her, “It’s just… I thought we said seven.”
“Well, isn’t it?”
Nick’s mouth dropped, “Um, no, it’s almost half past.”
“Well, that’s early for me,” Nicole said while opening her menu. She wasn’t sure what his problem was, but he needed to lighten up.
They each stared at the menu in silence, both pondering more what they should say rather then the items itself. The waiter appeared and asked if they wanted anything to drink.
Nick nodded; he was going to need it, he realized, to get through the evening. He ordered a whiskey sour. Nicole glanced at him and asked, “Wouldn’t you like to get a bottle of wine?”
“No, I really don’t think we’ll need that much.”
Nicole bit her lip, wondering how she could get through the evening limited to just glasses of wine. Glancing at the waiter, she asked for a glass of Dom Pérignon.
Nick had been sipping his water and nearly choked at that as the waiter walked away. “Expensive stuff.”
Trying to be flirty, Nicole smiled, “I’m an expensive girl.”
“So it seems,” Nick said. Glaring at her for a few minutes, he realized Nicole might be used to a different kind of dinner. She had been married to Victor after all, in fact living at the Kiriakis mansion until recently. “Nicole, you know, I’m not sure you realize, I’m just a college professor.”
“What do you mean?”
“I mean I’m an associate professor in his first year at Salem University which is a public school. It’s not like I’m rolling in the dough.”
Nicole stared at him for a long time. Was this a test? She decided it probably was, he was a Horton after all. “Of course, that’s not why I went out with you.”
“Good,” Nick stated but not entirely convinced. His gut was screaming at him to get up and leave now. Not that he would ever do it, but he never felt so tempted to in his life.
They sat in silence and awkwardly looked around the restaurant. Nicole kept trying to start up a conversation but Nick just nodded, still not trusting her enough to relax. Their drinks came and both wasted no time before drinking. The waiter asked if they were ready and both nodded their heads. Nick motioned for Nicole to go first. She complied, by ordering the most expensive meal off the menu.
Nick was willing to let the wine go but this was too far. He told the waiter to ignore the beautiful woman and serve them both the house special for that evening. As their waiter left, Nick was rewarded by a glare from Nicole. “What was that?”
“I could ask you the same. You have a lot of nerve ordering a $125 entree right after I told…”
“I have nerve? You just humiliated me in front of our server.”
Nick kept his eyes level at Nicole, “No, I think you did that all on your own.”
Their eyes remained locked at each other. Nicole glanced around not sure what to think…was he really serious? He had no money? She got her answer when Nick again reminded her that he was a simple professor. “I heard you the first time.”
Nick let his eyes drop, wondering if maybe he had misunderstood. He knew she was finally divorced from Victor and maybe had received a very generous settlement. She had asked him out. Maybe she was expecting to pay? Dread filled Nick’s heart that he just really embarrassed her. “I’m sorry, I know, I didn’t mean to… honestly if you were planning on paying, I just don’t feel comfortable ordering such a high priced meal…”
“Excuse me?” Nicole’s words were ice.
“I know, it’s old fashioned but I can’t let you treat me to such an expensive meal if that’s what you intended…”
Nicole couldn’t believe this boy thought she would pay. In his family’s restaurant. “I assure you, I wasn’t going to pay.”
Nick sighed, this wasn’t going to work. He never should have accepted this date in the first place. He was so glad Aunt Maggie was off tonight, he specifically kept the news he had a date with Nicole Walker to himself all day since he knew her reputation around town as a gold-digger. Obviously it was correct.
“Nicole, why did you ask me out?”
“Because…because…” Nicole sighed. She thought back to what she overheard that afternoon. “Weren’t you the head of some grant too? Something that had a big future?”
“Ah,” Nick realized out loud. “Yes, I am, but all the money for it goes to the project itself. I work pro bono.”
“I work for free.”
Nicole dropped her drink, spilling some on her dress. Damn she had wasted this dress on him. “You work for free… are you insane?”
At that Nick waved for their waiter, “We’re going to just go now.”
The waiter, a romantic at heart, misunderstood their need to leave. “Ah, yes sir, I understand. Sometimes the desires of the heart overwhelm the needs of the stomach…”
The glare from both of them immediately told him he was wrong.
Clearing his throat, he asked, “Your meal sir? They started on it…”
Nicole shook her head, she couldn’t wait to leave. She stood up, “Just let them know we don’t need it anymore. You can bring the Professor here the bill.”
The waiter glanced at Nick for that, who shrugged. Nick watched as the man left, knowing the bill wasn’t coming. He never had to pay a bill at his Aunt’s restaurant. He stood up, “It’s okay, we’re done. Here, let me help you out of your seat.”
Nicole got up and looked around. She couldn’t believe it. “Nick! I might have done some lousy things in my life but you’re just going to run out without paying the bill? I didn’t think any Horton was capable…”
“I don’t have to pay the bill. I eat here for free.” With that, he turned and walked away, leaving Nicole standing in her place, mouth gaping.
Outside, Nick got his keys out but as he started walking to the parking lot, he was grabbed by his date from hell. “You eat for FREE?” she said incredulous.
Nicole’s mind was racing too fast to form full sentences, “Then why did we… what was all the drama of… how come I couldn’t order what I wanted?”
“Because Nicole, I don’t like to take advantage of Aunt Maggie’s generosity.”
“You don’t like to take advantage of Aunt Maggie’s…. oh my God. Chelsea didn’t mention anything about this!”
“Chelsea? You spoke to Chelsea?” Nick felt his cheeks warm.
“No, Professor,” Nicole said, her blood boiling mad, “I read about you on her MySpace page. During your happy times and lately not so happy times. Though she sounds like she is getting some pretty happy times with her Doctor buddy…”
“Oh, that’s just fine,” Nick said walking off. “Be sure to drive careful on your way home.”
“I will!” Nicole yelled, “And for your information, Professor, I took a cab.”
Nick stopped to let her know she wouldn’t find one in the restaurant parking lot. She’d have to go back inside to call one.
“Don’t you worry; I have no problem stopping traffic.” She turned and walked off.
Making it back to the front door, Nicole had to take a moment to calm down, not sure she was ready to show her face back inside. She stood for a moment with her arms around herself, trying to think of what to do. She really hated to spend the money on a cab; maybe she could call somebody to pick her up. If Ava was around, she could hopefully reach her. Reaching into her purse, Nicole heard a noise directly across from where she was standing.
A mangy dog was sitting in the middle of the street licking himself. Nicole’s mouth fell open as she realized any passing car could hit him. In fact, the headlights of a car were approaching and without thinking Nicole ran out to grab the dog. She couldn’t stand the idea he would get hurt.
Luckily the car seemed to have slowed down as it approached so it wasn’t a matter of life and death. Still, Nicole’s thoughts were too unorganized because of the night to really consider how to approach a dog unknown to her. Had she really thought about it, she wouldn’t have tried to grab him so hard. Scared, the dog bit her, and then ran off. Nicole jerked her hand back, saw the blood, and closed her eyes, “Figures.”
“Are you okay?”
Nicole turned to the voice and saw it was Nick. This time though, he was inside his car. He must have been the vehicle approaching. Not really wanting to deal with him again, she turned around, “I’m fine. Thanks for asking.”
She heard the car door open and his steps approaching. “Did he bite you?”
“Bull,” Nick said, as he caught up to her and placed his hand on her shoulder. She turned and he saw the bite. It wasn’t too bad but the blood meant she needed to have it checked. He hadn’t seen that dog before; she probably was going to have to get a shot. “Nicole, I think you’re going to need to go to the hospital.”
“What? Don’t be ridiculous, it’s just a little bite…”
“You’re bleeding and that dog looked like a stray. It’s better to be safe than sorry.”
Nicole hated to admit it but he was right. But she really hated to admit it. Glaring at him, “This is what I get for asking a guy out who looks like Gilligan but is as much fun as the Professor.”
Trying to pretend her comment didn’t bother him, he offered, “Get in the car, Nicole, I’ll take you there.”
“Great, this date just gets better and better.”
Nick shook his head. Sometimes he wondered what he ever did to deserve this life.