"So, how about going out to dinner with me?" Rich greeted Nikki, when he met her in front of the church that morning.
"Can't." She tamped down another flare of anger. The service was about to start, and she had been standing out here with Aurora, waiting for him, for nearly half an hour.
At least the little girl was too busy chattering at her plush bunny to notice her father's arrival and the tension flaring in the air. She kept putting the toy as big as her head in and out of the Easter basket Doria had put together for her at the last minute. It wouldn't have been nice for Aurora to have nothing to do, no basket to fill, when Brandy and the boys scrambled around, hunting for their Easter baskets and then ran around outside in the dawn chill, hunting for all the plastic eggs Nikki and Dr. Holwood had hidden just moments before.
"You are always busy. What's wrong with you?" Rich snapped, stomping one foot so hard his battered loafer nearly came off.
"What's wrong with you? It's Easter. I'm spending it with my family. Don't you have plans with your mother?"
"Oh. Yeah." His face twisted as he visibly fought anger and embarrassment. "Hey, Rory, ready to go?" He bent and scooped up the little girl, putting her astride his hip with enough force to knock the basket out of her hands. "For Pete's sake, can't you shut up just once?" he blurted, when the little girl let out a wail and tried to leap from his arms to retrieve her treasures. "I should have left you with your grandmother last night."
"Wasn't your mother out of town?" Nikki said quietly.
"No. Where'd you get--" Rich let Aurora slide down to the ground again. "Oh, yeah. Look, things changed at the last minute. And Rory was so excited about staying with you, so I figured, what would it hurt?"
"Nothing." She swallowed down the shiver of uneasiness that crept up from deep inside. "But considering our past, I think focusing on honesty would be good for both of us."
"Oh, come on, Nikki..." He raked both hands through his hair and turned around once, as if searching for inspiration or help from the parking lot. He nearly tripped over Aurora, on her hands and knees, picking up her scattered treats. "Why do you have to keep picking on me?"
"I'm not. Look," she said, holding up a hand to stop him. Judging from his expression, he was ready to argue long and loudly. "I have to get inside. The service is starting. My folks are probably holding a seat for me, but since it's Easter, seats are at a premium. Bye, Aurora." She hurried to pull the door open and enter the building and get away from Rich and his daughter as quickly as she could. If Aurora even noticed she was gone, Nikki had no idea.