A/N: While I realize that I have other updates that should be focused on at this point, this idea was in my head, and I couldn't shake it or ignore it. There was a vague idea rumbling around in there (the empty vat that is my mind), but, then it finally took permanent hold, but I needed a quirky character to play one of the roles. Marissa is not quirky and neither is Elizabeth. However, Nadine Crowell is. Although Nohnny is not a legitimate couple, there are many of us out there who hope they someday become one. With that in mind, I'd thought I'd try my hand at penning them a one shot. Enjoy!

Charlynn

'Lie'-ability

Nadine Crowell loved the simple things in life; she just did so in a unique way. Take for an example her love of tea. While most people consumed caffeine to stay awake, she always drank a nice, big cup of tea before going to bed. Light on the lemon and heavy on the honey, the warmth of the bitter brew seemed to calm her, relax her after a long night at the hospital. Then there were her sleeping habits as well.

Like every functioning member of society, she, too, relished a good night's sleep, except her night was more an afternoon. She'd get home from work in the morning, fixed herself breakfast, and then settled down in her favorite comfy chair for quiet, Nadine time. Sometimes she'd read; other times, she'd knit, and, just when the sun reached its pinnacle in the sky, she would head off to bed, welcoming the bright rays of the life-giving star to shine upon her face while she slept.

She adored her bed as much as the next pediatrics nurse did, but she slept in hers backwards, with her head at the footboard and her feet brushing the stained wood of her headboard. Like many of the women she knew, she had a secret obsession with her clothes, but she absolutely refused to put one foot in her jeans at a time. She had an addiction to magazines, but she liked to read them from the back cover to the front, and, instead of wearing her perfume on her neck or on her wrists, she spritzed it on her shoulders and behind her knees, because, to her, those were the true spots for a woman to be kissed in order to make her toes curl.

So, it came as no surprise to her that, unlike most of her neighbors, she welcomed door-to- door salesmen. Although she rarely bought what they were peddling, it was always nice to meet someone new, to share a story with a stranger and get two in return. With that thought in mind, she would always invite the cold callers in, offering them a cup of tea in exchange for conversation, and, while it might not have been the smartest thing a single girl could do, Nadine firmly believed what her Aunt Rayleen had told her as a child to be true, that a ship in the harbor is safe, but that's not what it was built for.

She was sitting at her desk that morning paying bills when there was a knock on her front door. Eager to see who it was and curious as to whom her company might be, Nadine rushed down the hall of her brownstone flat and yanked open the door without even considering the idea of looking through the peep hole. After all, she had always considered the privacy invention to be unnecessary, because, no matter what, even if she wanted to be by herself, even if she didn't particularly like the person on the other side of the threshold, she was still the type of person to answer the door anyway.

"Hello," she greeted her guest, smiling towards them kindly.

The man before her appeared to be around her own age, and, to the nurse, he exuded a sense of urgency. Though the reaction wasn't automatically off putting, it wasn't welcoming either. But, despite the stranger's apparent all work and no play attitude, he had gentle, brown eyes, and, if she was a sucker for anything, it was a cute man with a gaze that could 

melt her already schmaltzy heart. It was also the reason why she loved puppies, too.

"Good Morning, Miss…," the man's attention strayed down to a piece of paper he was holding in his hand before he continued, "Miss Crowell." Looking back up at her, he tipped his head in acknowledgment, but, still, he didn't smile.

"It is," she agreed, leaving her statement open ended as she waited for him to supply his own name.

"Johnny," he replied. "Johnny Z."

"Well, in that case, I insist that you call me Nadine." Holding the door open wider for him to enter, she asked, "would you like to come in?"

By the look of surprise on his face, a look she found herself laughing at, she could tell that he hadn't been expecting her offer of entrance to her home and that he also didn't approve of the gesture. "Do you always invite strangers into your house?"

"You're not a stranger," the nurse argued affably. "We're on a first name basis with each other," she reminded him, "and, for me, that means we're at least on our way to becoming friends. Besides," she waved off his concerns, a merry twinkle in her soft, blue eyes, "I want to see what you're selling. I have this weakness for door-to-door salesmen."

As the young man followed her into the kitchen, Nadine had to smirk to herself. She told all the cold callers that, if for no other reason than to put them at ease and to make them think that they were sure to make a sale. That way they spent less time trying to sell her something and more time talking.

"Can I offer you anything to drink?" Nodding towards her desk where her waiting and cooling cup of tea was sitting, she explained, "I was just having some tea myself, and there's more water in the pot if you want me to make you some as well."

"No, thank you," Johnny declined her offer politely. "I'm not much of a tea drinker."

"Most people aren't. I think we're a dying breed, but my family has been drinking tea instead of coffee for generations. It's what I was raised on, so it's pretty much become a comfort drink for me at this point."

"Ah," he teased, laughing at the idea. "I think most people find their comfort in alcohol."

Nadine shrugged her slender shoulders, motioning for the salesman to take a seat at her kitchen table before she joined him. "To each their own poison, right?"

"I'm personally a bourbon man myself."

"That's pretty old fashioned of you."


"Well, when I was growing up, it's what my father drank, and, if nothing else, I was raised to be everything my father was, to become his heir in both business and mind."

"Sounds quite boring," she immediately remarked, only blushing after she realized that she had just insulted him. "I'm sorry," the pediatric nurse apologized. "My brain has this really bad habit of short circuiting, but, unfortunately, my mouth doesn't suffer from the same condition."

"It's no problem," Johnny assured her, chuckling softly. "And you're right. It's no fun living in your parents' shadows."

"My Mom died during childbirth when she was having me, so I never got to meet her, obviously," she shared, becoming lost in the past. "And my Daddy ran away from his responsibilities before I even made it home from the hospital, so my Aunt ended up raising me and my sister, but, as a kid, growing up, I always idolized my Mom, telling anyone who would listen to me that I wanted to grow up to be just like her. My Aunt Rayleen, though, she didn't approve of such a notion, so, when I was thirteen, she took me aside and told me something I never forgot. She said that you have to do your own growing, Nadine, no matter how tall your Momma was."

"Your Aunt Rayleen sounds like a wise woman."

The nurse shrugged, standing up to refill her tea mug. "She was good to me and my sister, taught us about the world and life in general, but how do you measure wisdom? Wouldn't that be a fool's ambition?"

He tipped his head in acceptance before standing up and wandering around her cluttered kitchen. "You know," he mused thoughtfully, "I don't have all my supplies with me now, but I sell these kits, and they come with a CD that gives you advice on how to organize your life."

"Oh, that's okay," Nadine begged off. "After all, a clean desk is only a sign of a cluttered desk drawer. My clutter works for me." Offering him a sympathetic smile, she told him, "I will take a look at what you brought with you today though."

"Oh, yeah, sure," the cold caller agreed, opening up his brief case and arranging flyers before her. "I'm selling magazines. Any magazine you could think of, I can get it for you and at a cheaper cost than their regular subscription fee."

"I love to read," she confessed, leafing through the brightly designed and shiny pages of the advertisements, "and, as my Aunt used to tell Jolene and I, that was my older sister's name, when we would complain about doing our schoolwork, a book is like a garden carried around in the pocket."

"So, you'll buy some magazines, then?"


"No," the nurse denied him, standing up and handing the salesman back his brochures. Laughing, she ragged, "I'm not buying any magazines, because they don't fit in your pocket."

"So then why tell me about how much you love to read, about how valuable books are?"

"I told you that, because, if you happen to be selling books next time, then I might buy something," Nadine shared, showing him to the door. "It was nice to meet you, Johnny Z."

He winked at her. "You, too, Nadine C., although you pretty much tricked me into thinking you were an easy sale."

As a parting piece of advice, she responded, "a girl's best asset is her 'lie'-ability."

"I'll keep that in mind, and, just in case, I come back sometime, I like tomato juice."

And so did she.

D

The second time Johnny Z. stopped at her house, it was a week later, and Nadine didn't even give him a chance to knock before she had the door swung open to greet him. "So, Willy Loman, you've come to show me your wares again, huh? Come in," she invited him, turning around to practically skip back into the kitchen without waiting for him to accept her offer and leaving the door wide open for him to shut. "I was just about to make myself some breakfast – some Kraft macaroni and cheese, if you want some."

"I can't believe you eat that stuff."

"I take that as a no, then," she mused, giggling softly at his disgusted tone. "By the way, there's tomato juice in the fridge, and cups are in the third upper cabinet to your left if you want to get us out a couple."

Although Johnny shook his head in amusement at her antics, he didn't turn her down either. By the time she finished dishing out a heaping bowl of instant pasta, he had two cups of juice waiting for them at the table and his product of the day – cleaning supplies, out and ready for her perusal.

"So, last time you were here I told you I had a sister," the nurse began, speaking while chewing her food despite the fact that her aunt would frown upon her such bad manners. But she couldn't help it. While, on one hand she was too hungry to wait and eat, she also desperately needed to have a conversation with an adult that was not about proper chart filing or what's the better treatment – drug therapy or surgery? "It's time to return the favor," she demanded of her new acquaintance. "Any siblings?"

"One," he admitted, making her squeal with displeasure when he reached out and stole a 

noodle from the edge of her bowl. "I have a half sister."

"Older or younger," she urged him to tell her more. "Do you two get along? What's her name? Is she married? Does she have any kids?"

"Why," Johnny challenged, smirking at her. "If not, do you want me to set the two of you up?"

"Hey, I was just being…"

"Nosey," he teased her, laughing softly at her petulant expression. "But it's okay," he confessed. "Actually, it's kind of nice to have someone to talk to who's interested in more than just what I can do for them."

Frowning, Nadine mumbled, "stupid bloodsuckers," making the traveling salesman laugh heartily. "Okay, in all seriousness," she offered him with a wag of her spoon. "If you tell me, I'll tell you."

"Fair enough," he agreed. "My older sister's name is Claudia."

"Oh," she interrupted him eagerly just before he was about to admit more. "Did you know that the name Claudia means lame?"

"Are you serious?"

"Yeah," Nadine smiled enthusiastically. "I spent a six month rotation on the labor and delivery floor once, so I ended up helping too many mothers pick their kid's name. My baby name book and I became really good friends that year. I know way too much about the origin of first names."

"Well, that's something I'll definitely have to share with my sister. She'll hate it."

"Which is always good for a younger sibling."

"Exactly," Johnny agreed. "Anyway, we get along, but we're not that close. She's quite a bit older than I am. Plus, she spent most of my childhood living in Italy."

Dropping her spoon, the nurse remarked miserably. "I'm so jealous right now."

"Don't be," he told her firmly, "because, trust me, it didn't do her any good. But, no," he continued, "she's not married, and she doesn't have any kids… at least, none that I know of."

"Oh, dig," she giggled, amused by his not so favorable depiction of his sister. "Alright, so, as you know, my sister was older than me."



"Was?"

"She's dead," Nadine answered easily but still with regret and sadness. "Do you remember reading in the papers last year about the nurse who was trying to sabotage General Hospital?"

"Yeah, why?" With apparent realization dawning, Johnny asked, "was your sister one of her victims?"

"Actually, no," she confided in him. "My sister was the one taking all the victims."

Silence stretched between them.

"So," the nurse prompted, pushing aside her almost empty bowl of macaroni and cheese. "Let's see what you brought for me to buy today."

"All natural and safe cleaning products," Johnny replied, his tone suddenly sedate and lacking all humor, their camaraderie vanishing into thin air with the revelation that her sister was a murderer. "While they'll make your house sanitary and spotless, they won't harm a fly."

"Well, as the old lady who swallowed a fly taught us, those little buggers can be quite vital to the whole evolutionary food chain, but I'm afraid I can't buy any of your products today."

"Why not," the salesman inquired curiously.

"My Aunt Rayleen always taught me to support bacteria."

Rolling his eyes, Johnny asked, "do I even want to know why?"

Without paying him any heed, Nadine continued, "because it's the only culture some people have."

Her new acquaintance let out a loud, belly laugh. "That's disgusting."

"But true," the nurse contended, standing up to deposit her dirty bowl into the sink. As she accompanied the cold caller to the door, she wondered out loud, "why didn't you bring books like I told you to? I'd buy some books."

"If I satisfied you right away," he told her with a wicked grin, "then I'd have no excuse to keep coming back to see you. Have a good day, Nadine C.."

She was so taken aback by his flirtatious statement, that she never had a chance to return his well wishes. Belatedly and to a closed door, she whispered, "you, too, Johnny Z."

D



One week later, at the same time on the same exact day of the week, Johnny Z. dropped by her brownstone flat again, but, on their third visit with each other, Nadine met him outside. It was such a beautiful day out, she just wanted to bask in it a little while longer, and waiting for her friend to show up was the perfect excuse. Still clad in her scrubs, she had taken off her utilitarian white tennis shoes, pulled off her socks, and sat reclined back on her elbows with her bare feet stretched out to soak up as much sun as they could. After an extra long shift, the fresh breeze felt wonderful on her bare toes.

As she watched the door-to-door salesman approach her, she waved her toes at him, laughing merrily at the gesture. It was the perfect amount of whimsy to start the day off with. "'Ello Gov'nor," she chirped in a fake British accent. But then her eyes fell to his right hand and she frowned. Pointing, she pointedly, unhappily asked, "what is that?"

"Don't worry about my wares now," Johnny chided, playfully kicking her leg in hopes of getting her to move. "I brought breakfast."

"Oh, yay," the nurse cheered, rapidly moving to her feet. Letting the both of them into her first floor apartment, she walked backwards towards the kitchen while her guest followed. "So, what did you bring me?"

With a straight face, he replied, "scrambled eggs." As soon as the words left his mouth, her own smile fell away from her full, pink lips, and the instant disappointment made him laugh. "I'm just teasing. That didn't seem to be your meal of choice."

"Actually, I hate scrambled eggs."

His screwed up face conveyed his confusion. "You hate scrambled eggs? I didn't even know that was possible."

"Yeah, because, once you scramble them, they can't be unscrambled, so, basically," Nadine explained in only a way she could, "they're not eggs anymore."

"That has to be the most insane thing I've ever heard."

"Oh, I bet I could come up with something worse," she reassured him before sticking out her tongue.

"Please don't," Johnny beseeched her. Before she had a chance to reply, he handed over the bag of breakfast he had been holding in his left hand. "Here."

Curiously, the pediatric nurse slowly opened the paper bag, peeking just one eye into the darkened interior of it, but, when she saw what it contained, she immediately let out a squeal of delight, pulling forth the food, and taking a bite. "Umm," she moaned in appreciation, licking her lips. "Chocolate donuts with chocolate icing and rainbow sprinkles, my favorite."



Rhetorically, he posed the question, "how did I know?"

"Would you like some?" He shook his head profusely in rejection when she held out a piece of the sweet pastry. "Alright, well, let's go into the living room. I've been on my feet for twelve hours, so I need to relax."

"Wait," the cold caller yelled out, stilling her movements. "Can't we just sit out here in the kitchen?"

"Sure, we could," Nadine retorted, "but my couch is much more comfortable, I promise."

"I don't think we're the point in our association yet where I would feel comfortable in your living room."

Eyeing him closely, the medical professional teased, "you're a strange man, Johnny Z., but, if you insist," and, with that, she plopped down onto a kitchen chair. He followed suit. "So, I've picked our topics of conversation for the past two weeks. I think this week it should be your turn."

"Okay," he accepted, leaning back to ponder for a few moments. "Alright, how about this – do you play any musical instruments?"

"Does the flute-o-phone count?"

"What," the salesman barked out in a fit of laughter. "Those things are awful sounding!"

"I know," Nadine grinned mischievously. "Why else do you think I've kept mine all these years since fourth grade?" Getting up to pour herself a glass of milk, she offered one to Johnny and he accepted. When she returned to the table, she distributed the cups before sitting back down and explaining. "Jolene hated the flute-o-phone. She failed music when she was in fourth grade, because she refused to even attempt playing her own, so, by the time I got mine, I knew she hated it, so I would practice every night, sometimes for hours. Don't get me wrong, I loved my sister, and we were close when we were growing up together, but siblings have a weird love-hate relationship."

"You're telling me."

"Anyway, eventually, I took pity upon Jolene and quit playing my flute-o-phone, but I kept it, and, let me tell you, it's come in handy over the years. When I was in college, there was this really loud girl who lived in the dorm room next to mine. Let's just say she had a lot of late night visitors, if you know what I mean." She paused momentarily for her friend to laugh, but, once he was ready to listen again, she proceeded. "Whenever she got a little too enthusiastic, I'd break out my flute-o-phone and play until her, as Blanche would say, gentleman caller got fed up and went back to his own room."

"Blanche?"


"Oh, no," the nurse exclaimed, leveling him with a wide eyed, incredulous stare. "You don't know the Golden Girls? This does not bode well for our burgeoning relationship."

"Then I'll be sure to stop and pick up a copy of their first season on DVD this afternoon," Johnny assured her.

"Good man," she mockingly complemented him.

"So, does the flute-o-phone still come in handy?"

"Definitely," Nadine shared. "Take for instance my upstairs neighbor – he has this really annoying hound dog, and, when the mood strikes him, he'll howl and howl and howl. It doesn't matter what time of day or night it is, he'll howl, so, to shut the dog up, I play my flute-o-phone."

"And it works?"

Grinning at him, she responded, "like a charm every time." Pausing for a moment, she watched him silently as if weighing whether or not she wanted to say something. As always, her curiosity won out, and she asked, "was that just the first question that came to you – to ask me whether or not I played an instrument, or are you a big music fan or something?"

"Or something," Johnny answered. "I play the piano."

"That's pretty cool."

"Really," he regarded her carefully, "because most people only seem to mock the talent, especially when a guy has it."

"Well," Nadine shrugged, standing up to dust off the crumbs from her lap, "those people are dumb."

The salesman laughed, joining her by vacating his chair. "That's one way to put it, I guess. So," he hedged, rubbing the side of his face and nodding towards the vacuum he had set off to the side when they first walked in together. "About what I'm selling today…"

"I think I'll pass," the medical professional stated, her tone firm and resolute. "While a new broom sweeps clean, the old brush knows all the corners."

Walking towards the front door together, he asked her, "is that another thing you learned from your Aunt Rayleen?"

"Of course."

By the time she opened the front door for him, storm clouds were brewing on the horizon. 

"Damn it," Johnny swore. "It's going to rain."

She shrugged, dismissing his concerns. "I don't really care, because it takes both sunshine and rain to make a rainbow, and that," she teased, waving him goodbye as the cold caller made his way down the front stoop, "is a piece of my own wisdom."

D

"Still no books," Nadine greeted the door-to-door salesman a week later. Letting him into her apartment, she sneezed, reaching almost blindly into her bathrobe pocket to pull out a fresh Kleenex.

"See how well that rain turned out for you last week. Where's your rainbow now?"

"Don't mock," she admonished her new friend, leading him to the kitchen where they always seemed to congregate together. While she would take the chair that faced back in towards the room, he seemed to prefer the one that looked out the window. "And, for your information, my rainbow came in the shape of a week off of work with sick pay. How do you like those apples?"

"I don't know," Johnny taunted her. "Perhaps you should have had a few so that you wouldn't get sick."

The nurse merely rolled her eyes in response. "So, how's business treating you?"

Before he could reply, she sneezed again. "That's it," he announced, standing up and striding across the room towards her stove. "I'm going to make you some chicken noodle soup. I'm sure you have some instant stuff in a can that I can make do with."

"What other kind would there be?"

"Homemade," the cold caller answered, "but I don't have time to make the noodles."

Leaning her chin onto her open palms, her elbows resting on the kitchen table top, Nadine mused, "I can't believe that you can cook. My Aunt Rayleen offered to teach me and my sister, but we were always too busy. How did you learn?"

"Taught myself, though it was a pretty pointless thing to do. My father's always had a full time cook, and, even though he's now in a mental facility, the cook remains. If it was only me, I'd pay her off and offer her early retirement, but my sister insists that she stay."

"Wow, so you're family's like… wealthy," Nadine grasped. She knew it was uncouth to talk to someone about their finances, but the man before her seemed to be such a conundrum. Why would a man who could afford a private chef work part-time as a traveling salesman? When he nodded in response to her inquiry, she pressed, "so why do this, why peddle things from door-to-door?"



"To be honest," Johnny replied, turning back around to meet her gaze. "I'm lonely. This allows me to meet new people all the time, to make new friends."

Deciding to lighten the mood, she asked, "so, what do you say? Is the cold calling industry flush enough that I should quit my gig as a nurse at the hospital and join you in your door-to-door endeavors?"

"Yeah, I wouldn't recommend it."

"That's because you're selling the wrong stuff," Nadine informed the brunette. "My Aunt Rayleen always said that necessity never made a good bargain. If you start selling things that people need and not just want, you'd probably make more money."

"But I'm not in it for the money."

"True," the medical professional acknowledged with a tip of her head. When he placed the bowl of warm soup before her with a spoon and a glass of orange juice, joining her, once again, at the table, she asked, "so, what did you bring me today?"

Johnny pulled out a little satchel from his briefcase and lined up several small vials of herbs. "Ginkgo Biloba."

"Um, no thank you."

"What? Why not?"

"Because even the palest ink is better than the best memory," Nadine informed him. "Besides, I'll never be able to forget anything, because I write everything down. Go," she ordered him, shooing him away. "Look my desk, and tell me what you see."

"I see a bunch of envelopes with your tiny chicken scratch all over them." Facing her, the salesman asked, "why the hell do you write on your envelopes?"

"Why not," the nurse countered. "I mean, think about it. Envelopes, at this point, are pretty superfluous. In fact, some people don't even use them. They just fold up their letters or their notes, tape them shut, and then stick the addresses and stamp on the back of the paper itself. Then, think about me," she continued, becoming so animated when she talked that her words sped up in pace. "I have no family, I'm not married, and I have no children. To most of the world, I'm superfluous, too, but I don't want to be cast aside and forgotten, considered unnecessary like an envelope. That's why I became a nurse, and that's why I write on all my envelopes. Not only am I saving trees, but I'm also giving something that was once unessential in my world another use."

"You do realize that envelopes don't have feelings, right," Johnny teased her. "I take it we're a fan of pathetic fallacy?"



Instead of agreeing with him, she cheekily returned, "how do you know that envelopes don't have feelings? Are you an envelope? No. Have you ever been one? I highly doubt it. So, really, who are you to say whether or not an envelope has or does not have something? And besides," Nadine added, "I'm sick. You shouldn't taunt me when I'm sick."

Surprising her, he strode across the room, leaned down over her still sitting form, and cupped her face in the palm of his right hand. "But you make it so easy sometimes, kid."

Johnny laughed at her doe caught in the headlights expression before picking up his things and preparing to leave. She remained completely still until she heard his laughter fade away and her front door shut as he left her life for another week, but, just as he was about to get into his car, she ran towards the entrance of her apartment and peered out the door, watching him pull away, realizing that she was wishing for it to be next week already.

D

It had been six weeks since he started visiting Nadine Crowell, and, still, there was no sign of his target. He hadn't randomly happened upon the nurse's apartment; instead, he had picked it on purpose for its prime location across from the back alley of Sonny Corinthos' coffee house. They had gotten wind of there being a traitor in their organization, and he feared that the traitor was meeting with his enemies in an attempt to sell him out for cash. Though rats were a common occurrence in the mafia world, it was something he, personally, had little experience with.

Before he accused anyone of jumping sides, though, before he put out a hit on one of his own men, Johnny was determined to be sure. He wouldn't allow an innocent man's life to taken simply because he had a whim or a hunch. He needed proof, indisputable proof. That's why he started posing as a door-to-door salesman, that's why he had first met Nadine, and that's why he was still coming to see her despite feeling like a first rate ass.

She certainly did not deserve being used, but he tried to excuse his actions by saying that he was genuinely fond of the blonde, that he did honestly enjoy her company, and that he would still want to see her even if she didn't live across the alley from the coffee house. But, when the truth came out, and he would tell the nurse the truth, he feared that she would want nothing more to do with him, and she would be perfectly entitled to feel that way, especially when so much of their relationship, thus far, had been based upon a lie.

Hell, he still refused to tell her his last name, and, whenever she tried to entice him into sitting in her living room, he declined the offer, giving her some bullshit excuse about how he didn't feel comfortable being so informal around her, how they weren't ready for that step in their friendship. The truth was that he could see the back entrance to Corinthos' office from her kitchen window, so he could sit there, talk to his friend, and try to convince her to buy some nonsense ware while, at the same time, watching for someone to either enter or leave through the alley. If there was a traitor, he knew that they were meeting with his enemies once a week on the same day that he went to see Nadine, and he was simply waiting for them to choose the coffee shop as their meeting place. Once they did, once he saw who the rat was, then the game would be over.


Striding up to the nurse's front door, he knocked softly, knowing that she would already be waiting for him and that the gesture was rather inane at that point. And, just as she did every week, the blonde had the door pulled open before his fist was even lowered to his side.

"Hey there, you," Nadine greeted him with a wide, generous smile, the affection she felt towards him completely on display in her comforting blue eyes.

"Good morning."

"So, I've decided something since the last time I saw you," she confessed, popping out her hip and leaning against the jamb of the door.

"Well, why don't you invite me in and tell me all about it," Johnny suggested.

"Nope, sorry, I can't do that," she denied him. "I'm not letting you into this house until you agree to take me out to dinner this weekend, and, not as friends, but as a couple… on a date. No man, no salesman, would show up at my front door week after week when I refuse to buy anything from him, so I know that you're not here to turn a quick profit, Johnny Z. So that means, I hope, that you like me."

"I do," he found himself confessing, although, before she made him realize it, he had not been aware of his own feelings. "Now, let's go inside and discuss our plans, okay?"

"Sheesh," Nadine remarked, eyeing him warily. "What's the rush?"

"I'm cold."

"You are such a wimp," the nurse teased him, but, at the same time, she held the door open further so he could follow her inside. "It's at least sixty degrees out there. How can you be cold?"

"Poor blood circulation," the brunette replied without actually thinking about his response.

"Well, suck it up," she commanded him. "Don't you know that the hole is more honorable than the patch?"

He was just about to ask her what a ripped pair of jeans had to do with his body's temperature, but, before he could, out of the corner of his eye he saw someone across the street lift up an automatic weapon and aim for Nadine's kitchen window. Tackling the young woman and rolling the two of them under the table, he attempted to protect her body as best as he could with his own.

"For what's about to happen, I'm sorry," Johnny whispered in her ear, inhaling her scent, an enchanting combination of baby powder, lilac, and the same soap he remembered his 

mother using when she was still alive, despite knowing it was not the time for such romantic notions. "All I can say in my defense is that 'lie'-ability is a man's best asset, too."

"I should have known," Nadine grumbled beneath him. "After all, the prettier the snake, the deadlier the venom."

The words, no doubt one of her Aunt Rayleen's many proverbs, were no sooner out of her mouth before the loud cacophony of flying bullets pierced the silence that surrounded them in the kitchen. All Johnny could think about in that moment was that he hoped they weren't the last words he ever heard from the woman shaking in fear beneath him.