"You can't start a fire
You can't start a fire without a spark
This gun's for hire
even if we're just dancing in the dark."

- Dancing in the Dark, Bruce Springsteen

"You're ready."

Dark eyes met green across the rough wooden table. "You are to be sure?"

It pained her to admit the truth, but she had to say goodbye to the handsome Russian. They'd shared some fun times, some fantastic rolls in the hay, special memories she would keep with her forever.

"Yes, sugar. You can play with the best of them."

"Is good timing."

"Why's that?"

"There is tournament."

Her delicate eyebrows raised and she asked, "Where are you going, Nic?"

"The New Orleans."

Lita smiled at her own fond memories of the city and looked at young man. Yes, he would do all right. As she had instructed him, people would mistake his broken English for ignorance and he could take advantage of them - exploiting their assumed knowledge. They had worked on his act of newcomer to the country meticulously.

Always perceptive, he realized she was familiar with the location and asked, "You know this place?"

Try as she might, her tells - save one - were known to him. "Sweetheart, don't you worry, you'll do just fine."

His hands seemed anxious and she watched as he cut and mixed the cards over and over. Finally, he asked, "Do you want to ask why I go?"



It was always the same. She couldn't blame him. While things had finally calmed down at the Elysion, other folks were settling into different relationships. Lita hadn't pegged Nikolai for a rancher for the rest of his life.

But he would make a great father…

Surprising her, he put the worn cards down and took her smaller hand in his and said, "But more there is."

In spite of herself, in spite of him leaving and never passing through Serenity Lake again, in spite of her breaking over his adorable turns of phrase and wonderfully giving nature when they made love, she smiled. "What's that, sugar?"

"These monies are important."


"I will come back to Serenity Lake. I use monies to start business…" He paused, then looked at her and said, "To make families."

Unsure what he meant, she guarded herself, laughed and said, "Big plans, my bold Russian."

He cocked his head and said, "You are not understanding."

"What's that, honey?" She peeked at him through lowered lashes.

"I make monies for you, and families with you. You are my future."

"Is that so?"

He dropped her hand and announced, "I do not have much now - but if you give me chances, I will make you everything."

"I have no doubt." With that, she stood up from the table and led him to the small bed, barely wide enough to fit both of them.

In the morning, with pale dawn filtering through the cheery gingham muslin, as she rebraided her hair, she turned to see him watching and asked, "Yes, sugar?"

"You will be waiting for me?"

"What are you asking?"

His eyes darkened and he said, "You will not be making braids for other mens while I am gone?"

"No, honey," she promised, "I won't."