I am sorry that it has taken me so long to update this. I have been under a great deal of stress, and creativity is the first thing that goes, unfortunately. But, I had a bad night last night, and used the angst as fuel. LOL

So... it's the morning after. :)

Mmm. God, what time is it? Nico stretched in the bright sunlight that lit the master bedroom, curling his toes against the soft sheets with a sleepy yawn. As he rolled over and opened his eyes, he saw Dani across the room, slipping back into her clothes. "Well, good morning," he said huskily, sliding his arms underneath the pillow and giving her a naughty grin.

She smiled back at him and crossed the room to take a seat on the bed beside him. "Mmm. Good morning to you," she whispered, leaning over to kiss his lips. His fingers tangled in her hair, but she gently pulled away. "I should go. I came with Margo, and I hate to leave her alone for much more of the day."

"Oh." He sat up slowly and gave her a smile. "I was hoping I could make you breakfast."

She grinned at this, and kissed him quickly on the cheek. "Oh, that sounds so good... but..." she cocked her head. "I feel so guilty leaving her all alone, you know?"

His face fell. He had envisioned a lazy day, with breakfast in bed, a little snuggling... talking about this new thing they'd begun. It was too soon to tell her how he felt, but at least they could have talked. He reached for her hand and brought it to his lips. "Yes. I know. But..." He chose his words carefully. "I was hoping that we could talk, Dani."

Her lovely face showed surprise. "You... want to talk?"

"Yes. I do." His eyes never left hers as he kissed her fingers one by one.

The beautiful smile that broke out on her face thrilled him to the core. "Well... of course we can talk." She leaned in close and nuzzled his cheek.

He captured her lips softly and cupped her face in his hand. "Good. There are... things we should discuss."

"Mmm hmm," she agreed, covering his hand with her own. "Like how good we are in bed together, first of all."

"Oh, yes," he whispered, feeling himself stiffen slightly at the thought. "And how we both enjoy cooking." He nipped at her soft lips and played with a curl.

"Uh huh." Her tongue slipped out to briefly tease his lips. "How much we hate football."

"Mmm. Absolutely."

She sighed and rested her forehead against his. "How much I care for you."

Drawing back slowly, he looked deeply into her chocolate eyes, the pad of his thumb gently caressing her cheek. "And how dear you are to me, Danielle." With his soft admission, her eyes teared up just a little, and he kissed her again softly. "Ssh. No tears."

"God, Nico..." She ignored him, her eyes welling up, tears spilling over. "I've been so stupid. I can't believe..."

He placed a finger over her lips. "Ssh. It's alright. You're here. And that's all that matters to me." Taking her face in both hands, he covered her mouth with his, kissing her with all the passion he felt within him. She murmured softly into his mouth as his tongue slipped between her lips, her hands coming to rest on his bare shoulders. Finally, when they parted, she smoothed his hair back with her fingers, her eyes searching his face.

"I'll call Margo. Odds are she won't care at all, you know? She'd rather me be happy."

He smiled. "Are you?"

"Happy?" She squeezed his hand. "No, Nico." She kissed him quickly with a smile and rose. "I'm ecstatic." With a wink, she turned to head into the kitchen.

He took a deep breath, his heart pounding. She's happy. With me. And with a grin that felt as though it would split his face, he fell back onto the pillows.

"I can't help the fact that I fell for Matt." The two of them lay curled up together in the padded lounger on the deck, basking in the warm afternoon sun.

Nico stroked her arm softly. "Of course not. You saw... a young man who was good looking, and attentive, and nice."

"Nice? You think Matt is nice?"

"Donnally and I may not be…" Nico punctuated the air with his fingers, making quotation marks. "'BFFs'…" Dani stifled a giggle. "But he is very agreeable, and the players hold him in high regard. There's no reason why you shouldn't have fallen for him." He paused. "I was just... disappointed that you felt you could work with him, and date him, and not me."

"Oh, Nico." Dani hugged him. "I don't have the same working relationship with Matt as I have with you, you know?"

His brows knitted. "Come again?"

"You and me. We have a direct working relationship, so much more different. Matt and I... we just see each other at the complex. We don't really work together." She kissed his lips. "That's what I meant, Nico."

He pondered her line of thought for a moment, and realized it actually made sense. Yes, they did work very closely together. Much more so than she and Donnally, for sure. He smiled into her eyes. "Danielle, you are absolutely right."

She kissed him again. "OK. I don't wanna talk about Matt anymore."

"Alright. We can talk about whatever you like."

She was quiet for a moment, then a silly smile crept over her face. "What is Nico short for?"

Shit, he thought with a resounding sigh. Taking a soft lock of her hair, he wound it around his fingers. "Dominic."

"Ooo. I like that," she grinned. "What's your middle name?"

He made an irritated noise.

"Oh, come on, Nico. What is it? Mine's Vittoria..."

His eyes narrowed, but there was a smile on his face. "If you tell anyone, and I mean anyone..."

"Yeah, yeah. I know. You'll have to kill me." She nuzzled his nose with her own.

"No." He placed his fingers on her side. "I'll tickle you until you can't breathe."

Her eyes widened and she laughed. "Okay, okay! Your secret's safe with me."

He smirked at her and resumed twirling her hair around his fingers. "Eliakim.* It was my grandfather's name."

She reached out to touch his face. "It's beautiful, Nico. Does it mean anything?"

"Yes. It means 'resurrection by God'. My great-grandparents were very religious," he added with a smile.

"Hmm," she said thoughtfully. "Dominic Eliakim Careles."

Rolling his eyes, he kissed her. "Hush, woman."

*Eliakim is pronounced el-ee-ah-kyme. Forgot to add that to one of the previous chapters.