With the Band by evergreenwriter83
Story Notes:
Winner: Best Male Lead - 2010 Felix Awards

Runner Up: Best Romance - 2010 Felix Awards

Runner Up: Best Female Lead - 2010 Felix Awards

Runner Up: Best Team/Couple - 2010 Felix Awards

1. Chapter 1 by evergreenwriter83

2. Chapter 2 by evergreenwriter83

3. Chapter 3 by evergreenwriter83

4. Chapter 4 by evergreenwriter83

5. Chapter 5 by evergreenwriter83

6. Chapter 6 by evergreenwriter83

7. Chapter 7 by evergreenwriter83

8. Chapter 8 by evergreenwriter83

9. Chapter 9 by evergreenwriter83

10. Chapter 10 by evergreenwriter83

11. Chapter 11 by evergreenwriter83

12. Chapter 12 by evergreenwriter83

13. Chapter 13 by evergreenwriter83

14. Chapter 14 by evergreenwriter83

15. Chapter 15 by evergreenwriter83

16. Chapter 16 by evergreenwriter83

17. Chapter 17 by evergreenwriter83

18. Chapter 18 by evergreenwriter83

19. Chapter 19 by evergreenwriter83

20. Chapter 20 by evergreenwriter83

21. Chapter 21 by evergreenwriter83

22. Chapter 22 by evergreenwriter83

23. Chapter 23 by evergreenwriter83

24. Chapter 24 by evergreenwriter83

25. Chapter 25 by evergreenwriter83

26. Chapter 26 by evergreenwriter83

27. Chapter 27 by evergreenwriter83

28. Chapter 28 by evergreenwriter83

29. Chapter 29 by evergreenwriter83

30. Chapter 30 by evergreenwriter83

31. Chapter 31 by evergreenwriter83

32. Chapter 32 by evergreenwriter83

33. Chapter 33 by evergreenwriter83

34. Chapter 34 by evergreenwriter83

35. Chapter 35 by evergreenwriter83

36. Chapter 36 by evergreenwriter83

37. Chapter 37 by evergreenwriter83

38. Chapter 38 by evergreenwriter83

39. Chapter 39 by evergreenwriter83

40. Chapter 40 by evergreenwriter83

41. Chapter 41 by evergreenwriter83

42. Chapter 42 by evergreenwriter83

43. Chapter 43 by evergreenwriter83

44. Chapter 44 by evergreenwriter83

45. Chapter 45 by evergreenwriter83

46. Chapter 46 by evergreenwriter83

47. Chapter 47 by evergreenwriter83

48. Chapter 48 by evergreenwriter83

49. Chapter 49 by evergreenwriter83

50. Chapter 50 by evergreenwriter83

51. Chapter 51 by evergreenwriter83

52. Chapter 52 by evergreenwriter83

53. Chapter 53 by evergreenwriter83

54. Chapter 54 by evergreenwriter83

55. Chapter 55 by evergreenwriter83

56. Chapter 56 by evergreenwriter83

57. Chapter 57 by evergreenwriter83

58. Chapter 58 by evergreenwriter83

59. Chapter 59 by evergreenwriter83

60. Chapter 60 by evergreenwriter83

61. Chapter 61 by evergreenwriter83

62. Chapter 62 by evergreenwriter83

63. Chapter 63 by evergreenwriter83

64. Chapter 64 by evergreenwriter83

65. Chapter 65 by evergreenwriter83

66. Chapter 66 by evergreenwriter83

67. Chapter 67 by evergreenwriter83

68. Chapter 68 by evergreenwriter83

69. Chapter 69 by evergreenwriter83

70. Chapter 70 by evergreenwriter83

Chapter 1 by evergreenwriter83
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May 1

The way I see it, life is like a rollercoaster. In the beginning it seems like a good idea. Then you have to wait in line for two hours in the hot sun, just inching along. When it’s finally your turn, you realize that some of the people coming out of the ride look like they left their heart and spine behind. This is the point where you realize riding a speeding rollercoaster might not be such a good idea after all. Yet, by that time you’ve gone too far. At that point you just close your eyes and pray for the best while you’re tossed and turned as your car lurches up and down before grinding to a stop. At this point you either toss your cookies and move on or head back in line for another turn.

My name is Olivia Ryans and with the way my life is going I’m not sure how many rollercoasters are in my future. Truth is, I’m scared of heights and prefer my feet to stay on the ground. Unfortunately, at this moment I’m on a plane headed to Florida, trying to ignore the smell of baby puke and pinching myself every few seconds to make sure that I haven’t entered the Matrix. Confused yet? Perhaps I should back up a couple months. Then maybe you can enjoy the ride with me a little better.

Mid-March

I remember the day like it was yesterday. I was sitting in front of the television convincing myself that an hour of Wii Fit was much more entertaining than watching VH1 all day, when I saw it. No, not It, the Stephen King clown, but it as in the advertisement that would change my life.

“Are YOU a boy band fanatic from the 90’s?” the announcer’s voice called out loudly as a bubbly pop song started, providing thumping background ambience.

Uh-huh, I thought to myself, prepared to see a Now That’s What I Call Music Boyband Edition advertisement.

“Do you have an interest in blogging, photography, and video arts?”

Uh-huh. At this point I leaned a little closer to the television, turning the volume up slightly. I’m usually never a sucker for commercials, but being out of work for two months had me excited at even the hint of productivity.

“Live Entertainment is looking for someone with visual arts experience for a well-paid summer internship travelling with one of the hottest boy bands of the 90’s on their resurgent summer tour. For more details go to www.liveentertainmentinternshipsummer.com – Apply nowwwwww!”

Now usually I would have shrugged it off and sat back to enjoy another episode of Tool Academy or Flavor of Love, but I was sick of sitting at home feeling like a wart on the underside of society. Plus, the sound of my husband snoring from the other room was grating on my nerves. On a beautiful sunshiny day the last thing I wanted to hear for hours on end were the sounds of grunts and snores as I went through the phonebook inquiring about jobs. My husband works nights, and even though I was extremely thankful one of us was employed, the days were extremely lonely. So, turning on my laptop I headed to the website, wondering if they could possibly have made a longer URL and wondering how much junk e-mail I would get if I had to submit my e-mail address.

Surprisingly, the website was pop-up free and simply asked anyone interested to submit a resume, letter of intent, and examples of any visual arts work. I figured I didn’t stand a chance; someone with a master’s in visual arts would surely get the position (if it was even legit), but I could at least mark it down as a job inquiry on my weekly unemployment. I spent the next few hours sorting through photographs and videos that I had taken at my previous job. I had been employed at the Wakamata Public Library since I was sixteen. However, after ten years and the economic downfall, more than half of the staff was let go. Unfortunately, I was one of the victims. I had loved my job; I worked in the Children’s Department and it was a perfect outlet for my creativity. I painted decorations, created promotional videos, blogged about books…life was good. And now…life was not so good.

I chose four or five of my favorite photographs, two of my best videos, and a link to my personal blog. Coupled with my resume and a gushing letter that explained my vast geekiness of late 90’s boy bands, I e-mailed my resume off and promptly forgot about it. I have to admit that my unemployment was causing a lot of problems in my life. For example, my husband, Hunter, was growing more and more frustrated. I will admit that I have always enjoyed being a little lazy, but this was more than that; this was depression. I let my wavy brown hair grow unkempt, knowing full well we couldn’t afford my monthly cuts and blonde highlights. I lived in my pajamas, hid my blue eyes behind my thick black glasses instead of wearing my contacts, and lost my appetite. Of course, looking back, losing my appetite wasn’t a bad thing; I actually hit my goal weight that I had been trying to get at for the past four years. As the weeks crawled by I continued my depressing routine of VH1, phone calls and resumes, and the occasional Wii Fit workout.



Mid-April

As the calendar crawled into April, I hadn’t received any callbacks for jobs and was pretty sure that we would be eating Ramen noodles for the rest of our lives when I received the e-mail. I was lying on the couch, VH1 Top Twenty Countdown playing in the background, when I saw the e-mail from Live Entertainment. Preparing myself for a rejection letter, my heart stopped. I read the e-mail; then reread it. In summary, I had been short-listed and they wanted to pay to send me to Florida to produce another example piece. I don’t remember putting the laptop down, but the next thing I knew Hunter was yelling as I jumped maniacally on the bed.

“What the hell are you doing?!” he yelled, trying to sit up and avoid getting kneed.

“I’m going to Florida!” I yelled right back.

Now, I probably should explain that my husband can be very grumpy when he has to wake up before he wants to. I was mid-air when he clamped his big bear claws on my arms and locked me into a sitting position. His green eyes sparkled with annoyance and his red hair was pointing in about five different directions. As menacing as that sounds, his Scooby Doo boxers and his baby face allowed me to remain happily oblivious to his anger.

“What are you talking about?” he grumbled.

I should also mention that I had honestly completely forgotten to mention to him that I applied for the internship; I didn’t think there was a chance in hell that they would have read my e-mail let alone shortlisted me. In the span of five minutes I gave Hunter the rundown, finishing off with a big smile.

“So, I’ve got to call them and then I’m going to Florida.”

“No, you’re not.” he replied. My mouth open to retort, he flopped on his side and pulled the covers back over his head.

“What do you mean, I’m not?” I retorted indignantly as I stared at the blue comforter.

“I mean,” he said, his voice muffled under the fabric. “You are not going to Florida. You need to find a real job. You said internship. Internship means temporary. Which means only for the summer. And that’s even if you get it. You’re going to be wasting your time when you can find a real job.”

“How can you call it wasting my time?” I could feel my face flushing. “I could be bringing in good money and have steady work, even if it is for a short time. Plus, I can still be sending our resumes even if I get this, which I probably won’t. But I WANT to try.”

“Well,” Hunter said with a hint of venom in his voice. He pushed back the covers. His jaw was set…I knew the look all too well. “I can sum it up like this…I forbid you to go. I don’t want my wife gallivanting around Florida alone.”

“I won’t be gallivanting! I will fly down, they will take me to what I need to do, and I will come back.”

“We’re done talking. You can’t go. That’s it.”

With that he flung the covers back over his head. Fuming, I stomped out, slamming the door behind me. With dramatic flair, I flopped onto the couch and blew a piece of hair out of my eyes. So that was it?

Half an hour later I was sitting in my mom’s car using her cell phone to call Live Entertainment.
Chapter 2 by evergreenwriter83
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Chapter Two

May 1

So there you have it. I’m on a plane to Florida to see if I stand a chance. Going back to the rollercoaster analogy, I can officially say that sneaking out of the house last night and driving to the airport was pretty much a completely vertical drop where my stomach was concerned. When Hunter and I married I had promised to love and obey; I had done really well on the love part, but the obeying part was another story. Of course, I didn’t do it alone. My mom, an absolute feminist and my hero, was crucial in getting me to make the phone call and getting me on the plane.

“It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. You have way too much potential to let something like this pass. Don’t worry about Hunter, I’ll sweet talk things over for ya.” With a huge smile she winked and clung to me tightly. Looking at us, no one would peg her as my mother. She was sixty, but didn’t look a day over forty-five. Her blonde hair was at a complete contrast to my own dark brown locks and she was able to maintain her slender frame and eat all she wanted. I would hate her, except I loved her too much.

So, with a deep breath and a wave, I boarded the plane. Besides the aforementioned smell of baby puke that wafted from a few rows back and my heart beating out of my chest, the flight was fairly uneventful. In fact, the pilot announced just moments ago that the plane was making its descent into Orlando International Airport. I survived my first coaster, now for the many to follow.

After the plane landed, I walked down the tarmac with the rest of my fellow passengers. I looked through the sea of people, finally spotting a short guy holding a Live Entertainment sign.

“Olivia?” the man inquired as I walked towards him. I nodded my ascent.

We claimed my baggage and then walked out into the bright Florida sunshine. The man opened the door to a shiny black limousine and waved me inside.

I have never been in a limo before. As my butt sunk into the rich leather, I had a very Cinderella-like moment. I looked down, but instead of glass slippers I was still wearing my Crocs. Another look around. No fairy godmother. No rats. All was still real. I pressed my face against the tinted glass and enjoyed the landscape as the limo pulled away from the airport to our destination. Twenty minutes later we pulled up to a swank hotel. Once more, the door was opened for me.

“They’re waiting for you inside.” the man said simply before scurrying back into the limo.

Taking a deep breath, I hitched up the strap on my duffel bag and headed inside. I knew the “they” were Tony Sanders and Anderson Little, the two men in charge of the summer internship program. When I first walked up to them, I could scarcely believe they were high executives. Dressed in jeans and casual tees, they both held out a courteous hand.

“So nice to meet you Olivia,” said Tony or Anderson (I didn’t know which was which). Whoever he was had jet black hair and an absolutely perfect tan. “I’m Anderson Little.”

“And I’m Tony,” the other said with a laugh. Tony was the complete opposite. Pasty white and balding, he seemed to be more of the executive type.

“Good to meet you both,” I said, coughing slightly as my voice came out an octave higher than normal.

“Here’s your room key,” Anderson said in return. “Get settled and meet us in the hotel conference room in thirty minutes for specific assignment details.”

“Okay. Thirty minutes.” I repeated. Taking the key I headed towards the elevator and ascended to the fifth floor. Things were moving so fast, but I had learned a long time ago to go with the flow.

When I entered my hotel room, my jaw dropped. For someone who was only in the running for a possible internship, no money was spared. The hotel room seemed bigger than my entire house. A huge flat screen television and a plush seating area was the first thing I saw. In a room off to the left was the largest bed I had ever seen. Attached to the bedroom was a bathroom to die for. A huge Jacuzzi tub, double sinks, and large makeup mirror had me drooling. It was a far cry from my couch where I had spent the last few months moping.

Heading into the bathroom, I changed into a pair of dressy jeans, blouse, and jacket. With a quick splash of cold water and reapplied makeup I felt ready to go. I had my camera and recording equipment with me as well as my laptop. Gathering everything up I headed back down to the conference room for my assignment.

Tony and Anderson sat at a small conference table. With a smile I set my equipment aside and sat down, trying to hide my sweaty palms.

“Just to let you know. Five hundred people applied for this internship. However, you are one in a field of three candidates. Most everyone else was crap.” Tony said. He had one of those smiles where you almost needed sunglasses while looking directly at him.

Anderson slid a folder across the table towards me. “Your assignment.”

Flipping open the cover, I sucked in a breath.

“We want twelve photographs, a three minute video , and a blog entry of the band. You’ll be doing this in about twenty minutes in the hotel’s concert hall. Questions?”

Questions ? Was he kidding me? I was staring at a picture of my favorite band, The Backstreet Boys. These were the five guys that adorned my walls my junior and senior years of school. I’m not ashamed to admit that I still bought their new albums. I had gone to every single one of their U.S. concerts. I was a fan!

And I had twenty minutes to get my act together.

“Olivia, any questions?” Anderson repeated.

“Questions? No, no…I think I’ve got it.” I said with a smile.

“Well, let us show you the concert hall and you can prepare your equipment before the boys arrive.”

The concert hall was directly adjoining the hotel. It was a small, intimate venue. I set to work unloading my equipment. I silently cursed my outdated equipment, but I knew that I had to work with what I had. As I sat checking my battery, I heard voices from the stage.

“Olivia, I’d like you to meet A.J., Brian, Nick, and
Howie.”

Dusting off my jeans, I stood quickly, camera in hand. The four members of the Backstreet Boys stood onstage, all smiling warmly.

“Pleased to meet you,” I said, my voice cracking slightly.

“Here’s what’s going to happen.” Tony explained. “The boys are going to do a twenty minute warm-up set. During that time you can get most of your photographs and your video. After the performance you’ll have ten minutes to do an interview and from that you can get something for the blog. Got it?”

“Got it.” I said, crouching back down, camera posed.

I could go into detail about every shot I took or video I captured, but in all honesty I just began to shoot and pray. I felt like a football player tossing a Hail Mary pass and praying for a touchdown. Only after the music stopped did I come out of my zone.

“Alright, time for questions. Throw ‘em at us,” Brian said, sliding into a sitting position at the edge of the stage. The other boys quickly followed suit.

Somehow I knew that this portion was the make-or-break part of my task. Smiling, I took a seat in the front row and studied the boys in turn. I decided to throw out a question and wait for a taker.

“What are you looking forward to when heading back out on the road?”

“The fans.” “New music.” “Pranks.”

“Okay Brian, Nick,” I said. “You said it together. What pranks do you have in mind?”

“Well if you get the job you’ll see for yourself,” Nick said quickly. I smiled, taking in his blue eyes and his blonde hair. “What about you Brian?”

“Uh-uh, not telling,” he said with a laugh.

“Okay, well what’s going on with the beard growth?” I asked instead. As my favorite, I preferred a clean shaven Brian. His curly dirty blonde hair made him look adorable; the hint of the beard made him seem more worldly.

“I’m going for the more mature look.”

“Ah, a mature prankster. Got ya. Let’s see…are wives and mini-mes coming on tour?” I asked. Brian and Howie were happily married. Brian’s son Baylee was seven and absolutely adorable. Howie’s son James was a few weeks shy of a year and looked so much like his dad.

“Absolutely,” Howie said. “This will be the first U.S. tour that I’ll spend with my wife and boy. I can’t wait.”

“And let’s see. A.J., the fans want to know. When’s your wedding?”

“Ah, can’t say,” he said with a grin. I could only assume his eyes matched his smile, they were hidden behind large studded sunglasses.

I laughed. “That’s fair.” My brain was scrambling to find a question that I could blog about that would set me apart from the crowd.

“Last, but not least. Which one of you would win a wrestling match in a large baby pool of vegetable oil?”

I had hit pay dirt. The look on all of their faces was priceless.

“I’m going to say AJ,” Howie finally said. “Because out of all of us he’s the one that’s probably already done it.”

“I second AJ. One time I ate something that must have been soaked in vegetable oil for days and I got bad sick. Plus it would be hell on the hair. AJ’s almost bald so my money’s on him.” Nick said. He began laughing even as AJ punched him in the arm.

“I—“ Brian began to say.

“Time’s up!”

I sat back, pen in hand. Tony and Anderson walked out on stage.

“Thanks, guys,” I said with a smile.

“How’d she do?” Tony said, addressing the guys.

“She did great man. She was like a shadow. I didn’t even see her doing her thing,” Nick said, winking at me. “Plus she gave a mad interview. She gets my vote. Can we vote?”

“You guys will judge once we have all three candidates.”

“Pleasure to meet you,” I said, standing up. I shook each man’s hand in turn.

“Bye Livvy,” Nick said. “Can’t wait to see your work.”

I watched them disappear off stage. Part one was over. And Nick called me Livvy!
Chapter 3 by evergreenwriter83
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Chapter Three

After the Boys left, Tony and Anderson told me to head back up to my room. I would have the rest of the day and all the next to prepare my presentation before heading back home.

I would like to say that I enjoyed the sights and sounds of Orlando, but unfortunately I spent every waking hour working at the laptop. Even so, the last few hours of my presentation were finished out on the porch, enjoying the sun and the view of a gorgeous beach and crystalline water. The next morning I handed my presentation to Anderson and Tony and three hours later was flying back home.

In the hubbub that ensued, I had almost forgotten that I had flown to Florida without telling my husband. As I arrived back home, I looked around for my mom and almost swallowed my tongue when I saw Hunter standing just paces away, arms crossed over his chest.

“Hi!” I said, pasting on a nonchalant smile as I walked up to him.

“Get in the car,” he said, stomping off towards the exit.

I quickly found my luggage and hurried off after him. After buckling in, I turned to look at him. His jaw was set, but I could tell that I could break him.

“Are you mad?” I asked sweetly.

“What do you think?”

“I think you are. But if I get the internship it pays a lot of money.”

“How much?”

“Ten thousand.”

“DOLLARS?”

That seemed to do the trick. After almost running off the road, he quickly looked at me, the road, and back at me.

“Yes, dollars. And if I get it I promise I will keep applying for a job once summer’s over.”

“Well…” he said, trailing off. “I suppose…when do you hear if you’ve got it or not?”

I smiled. I had him right where I wanted him.

“They said next week.”

With the ice thawed, Hunter returned to his normal self. We talked, ate dinner, and settled in to watch television. Ah, the life of an old married couple.

Hunter and I married four years ago. Aside from the Backstreet Boys, Hunter was my high school crush. Unfortunately, it took him five years after graduation for him to ask me out. As soon as he did, we never looked back.

Life was great until I lost my job. I prayed that things might return to normal once I was a productive member of the family again. Our biggest wish in life was to find stability and to work on a family. Before losing my job, we struggled for two years to make that a possibility. With the prospect of exploring more scientific options to grow our family and the expense associated with it, our dream had dimmed. The stress from that and everything else had made us grow distant in the past few months. As I curled up next to him on the couch, I crossed my finger for the phone call.

May 11

As a week came and went, I made up my mind that the phone would never ring again. Several times a day I picked up the phone just to make sure there was a dial tone. Each time I was disappointed to find that the phone was indeed functional. In fact, if the time and temperature operator was a real person she would have blacklisted me already for as many times as I called per day.

Finally, one night as I was fixing dinner the phone rang. Wiping spaghetti sauce off my fingers (I’m a messy cook), I scooped up the phone.

“Hello?”

“Olivia? This is Anderson.”

“Anderson? Anderson! Oh, yes, hello!” I said, wincing at my overenthusiastic tone.

“We have some news for you.”

“O-ookay.”

“This was an extremely tough choice for us. Everyone’s work was very well done. In the end we had the Boys come in and give their honest opinion. They helped us make our choice.”

”Oh. Well thank you anyhow.” Somehow in the course of his speech I had already heard him in my head saying that I wasn’t chosen.

“Thank you anyhow? No, you don’t understand. I’m calling to tell you that you were chosen for the internship.”

“I appreciate your t---what?”

“We need you down here in four days. Will that be a problem?”

“A problem? No, no…me? I was picked?”

“Yes. The Boys said that you were very easy to talk to. They liked that they didn’t feel grilled about personal issues; you have a good conversational tone that translates well and it’s what the fans are interested in. Now, can you fly down on Friday?”

“Friday. Friday?” I looked at the calendar. Four days. “Yes, yes I can.” I saw Hunter mouthing to me. Making a frantic waving motion, I grabbed a pen and paper.

“Yes. Just give me some specifics. I’ll be ready.” I jotted down the flight number.

“Congratulations Olivia. See you Friday.”

I hung up the phone slowly.

“So?” Hunter said, dunking a noodle into his mouth.

“I got it!”

“Yes! – Wait. What are you doing down there?”

“Oh…”

I should probably mention at this point that my husband absolutely hates my fixation with the Backstreet Boys. I already knew he wouldn’t take this information well. I could almost see the word “forbid” dance in the air.

“I’m taking pictures and promotional materials for a group who’s touring this summer.”

“Which group?”

“The Backstreet Boys.”

“What?!”

“It’s a dream come true. Opportunity of a lifetime. Ten thousand dollars.”

“No, no, no. I don’t need you to be some groupie gallivanting around with four guys on a bus. That’s disgusting.”

“I’m not gallivanting. I’m doing a job. I’ll get to see the country. You can visit me. They’re coming around here. It will be fine. Ten thousand dollars.”

Luckily for me, the word forbid didn’t enter into the equation. The phrase “ten thousand dollars” was hard to argue with when more bills arrived in the mail daily.

“You trust me don’t you?” I finally said with a smile.

“Of course. It’s other people I don’t trust.”

“Don’t worry. Everything will be fine.”

So, four days and one long goodbye kiss later, I took my second flight to Orlando for what I was sure would be an amazing summer.

Little did I know how amazing it would be – amazingly good and amazingly bad.
Chapter 4 by evergreenwriter83
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Chapter Four

I was becoming a seasoned pro as I stepped off the plane. The same short man greeted me and after another limo ride we pulled up to the hotel I stayed at before. Once again, Tony and Anderson greeted me in the lobby.

“Olivia, so good to see you again!” Tony said with a smile. Anderson greeted me with a hug. I could smell the tanning oil emanating from his skin.

“This is the last time you’ll be seeing us for awhile, but we wanted to let you know that we are so happy to have you on board.” Anderson handed me another folder. “This is the itinerary for the entire summer. The Boys are starting off with two concerts in Florida. The first is in Orlando here next week. Then you’ll hit the road. You’ll be responsible for the Boys Twitter page, Facebook, MySpace, and the Fan Club portion of the website. While everything is important, the Fan Club is especially important because fans pay good money for insider material.”

“Will do.” I said with a smile. I had been a fan club member years ago and knew how important those updates could be.

“If you have any questions please call,” Tony added. “My cell phone number is in there. Go get settled and enjoy Orlando for the next few days. Your first job will be sound check and from there...well you’ll know what to do.

With a feeling that I was being tossed into shark infested waters without a safety net, I headed up to my hotel room. A large gift basket adorned the bed and to my astonishment held a new video cam, digital camera, and laptop. I spent the rest of the day playing with the equipment aside from a couple quick phone calls to my mom and Hunter to assure them that I was alive and well.

I’d like to say that I spent my free time lounging on the beach with an ice cold strawberry margarita, but I’d be lying. Truth is, I spent one amazing day enjoying ocean life at the aquarium and the rest of the time I spent fiddling with my new toys. Before I knew it the day of the first sound check had arrived. I spent thirty minutes trying to make my rats nest of hair do what I want (like that ever happens), and another thirty minutes deciding on what to wear. Finally giving myself a mental check, I chose a boring jeans/t-shirt combination in case I had to army crawl along the floor for a good photo or two.

A car was scheduled to pick me up at 11:00. I had my bags packed; roadie life would begin that evening. I had always wondered how life would be like on a tour bus; now I was going to experience it firsthand.

I was a little disappointed not to see the little dude and a limo. Instead a fairly impressive imitation of The Rock stepped out of a black car and motioned for me to hop in the passenger side. He took my bags as if they were stuffed full of feathers, tossed them in the trunk, and we were on our way.

“So,” I said with a smile. “Are you a professional driver?”

He grunted and I almost missed his answer in the mix. “Security.”

“Why do I need security?”

Shrug.

“Are you security for the tour?”

He shook his head no.

I could tell by this point that conversation wasn’t his strong point. Luckily, the ride didn’t take long. My driver pulled up to the Hard Rock Live, took my bags, and walked off.

“Where are my bags going?” I called out after him.

“Bus.” came the grunt.

I followed him. I’m sure I was like a pesky fly to him, but I wanted to make sure I knew where my luggage was and where the busses were. We went through a security gate and rounded the corner. Five long black buses were grouped together; farther away sat equipment semis. “Rock” headed over to the closest bus, opened the door, and slung my bags inside. Nodding at me, he lumbered off.

“Thank you?” I called out. He had already disappeared.

I climbed on the bus and bent down to retrieve my bags.

“Hi. I’m Andrea. And you are?”

Slightly startled to hear another voice, I almost dropped my bags again. Grabbing a hold of the strap, I smiled shyly and straightened up to put a face with the voice. A gorgeous dark haired woman in a sexy outfit was leaning against the wall of the bus, smiling at me.

“Uh, oh, I’m Olivia,” I said, extending my hand. She shook it, then brushed past me.

“Are you the techie? You’re going to be sleeping here with us, the dancers. If you want, get your pass on and you can follow me. I’m always late.”

Digging through the folder I found a Crew Pass. Tossing my luggage on a long couch, I slung the strap of my equipment bag over my shoulder and headed off after Andrea.

“Heard you’re the intern,” Andrea said. “I think that’s the wrong word for it.”

“Why?”

“Well,” she said, stopping to reapply her lip gloss. With a smack she turned to me.

“You really have no on the road supervisor. You’re like the one. Y’know?”

I had no idea what the one was supposed to mean.

“Well, I guess that’s weird, but in a way it’s an internship because it’s not a job that’s going to last forever.”

“Yeah, that’s true,” she said with a sigh. “Oh well, c’mon.”

I followed her through a side door that led us right backstage.

“Have you meet the guys?” Andrea asked.

“I did. They all seem nice.” I said. She smiled.

“Yeah. Too bad most of them are taken. I’d take AJ in a second.”

“Well, Nick’s single.” I said reciprocating her smile.

“Hun,” she said with a laugh, putting her arm around my shoulder. “I don’t do blondes.” With that she bounced off towards a dressing room. I headed in the direction of the stage.

I walked across the stage floor, hopping over crew members fiddling with last minute touches to the sound system. I headed in the direction of the audience seats, watching as one of the guys taped the set list to the stage. He smiled and waved. I returned the gesture.

“Haven’t seen you around,” he said.

“I’m Olivia. I’m the techie,” I said, using Andrea’s word. The guy laughed.

“I’m Paul. I think I heard Nick say something about you. Watch your back. They always prank the newbie.”

“I’ll keep that in mind,” I said with a laugh. Paul winked and headed offstage.

I was changing the settings on the video cam when a shadow fell across me from above. Lifting my head I met a smiling pair of blue eyes. Nick.

“Hey Livvy, welcome back,” he said. He hopped over the seats and landed in the seat next to mine.

“Well, I think I have you guys to thank for that,” I said, attaching a lens to the camera.

“You had us at vegetable oil,” Nick said with a laugh. “With all the crazy stuff we do we need someone that can capture it and laugh along. You seem to fit that mold.”

“Being unemployed hasn’t given me a lot of opportunity to laugh and relax, but I’m more than ready to keep up with you guys.” I said, reaching into my bag.

“We also heard that you’re a huge fan,” Nick added, leaning down to catch my eye again. I blushed.

“You could say that,” I said. Nick bounced up and hoisted himself onstage.

“Prove it.”

“What do you mean prove it?” I cried. Nick tapped on two microphones; they responded with a live crackling.

“The other guys aren’t ready yet. We have twenty minutes before soundcheck. Karoke time.”

“Go right ahead. I’m going to set up this…”

“Nope. Up here now.”

Reluctantly I set the camera down and climbing the steps.

“You really don’t want to do this. I can’t sing. I break glasses. I kill cats.” I said.

He responded by placing a microphone in my hand.

“Then this will be even more fun,” he said with a laugh. I pouted; he grinned. Nick hopped off stage and headed towards the sound mix booth.

“What am I singing?” I called out into the dark auditorium.

“If you’re a fan, you’ll know!” he answered from the booth.

My palms sweaty, I waited for the music. I didn’t even attempt to ready my voice. What you heard is what you got.

The music started and I groaned right into the microphone.

“You’re kidding,”

“Just sing!”

PDA started blaring through the entire auditorium. Glaring menacingly into the darkness,
I began to sing…every single part, word for word. After a few seconds of God, what am I doing? I began to enjoy myself, not caring how I sounded, just determined to prove that I knew the song by heart. As the song ended, I stuck my tongue out.

“Happy?”

“Nope, you needed to turn around and shake the booty. I’m testing on dance moves too. I think we need one more song.”

I rolled my eyes. “Nick I—“

The music started again. I knew immediately it wasn’t a Backstreet song…this one was 100% Nick. Beautiful Lie, his duet with Jennifer Paige started playing loudly. As I sung through the first verse, I saw Nick sneak up the steps. He grabbed the second mic and joined me. When we got to the chorus I turned to him. He looked impressed, I smirked. Together we headed into the chorus.

If this isn’t love what did I feel inside?
If this ain’t love how could you look in my eyes?
‘Cause my heart is breaking I’m falling this time
This can’t be love, now I know
You’re a beautiful lie.


After the song ended, I promptly handed the mic back to Nick. “Did I pass?”

“For now.”

“You know, the crew warned me that you guys are going to prank me,” I said innocently.

“Us? We’re angels,” Nick said with a laugh.

“Hey, what did we miss?” Brian said headed onstage.
Howie and AJ trailed after.

“Karaoke time.”

“Damn,” AJ said, grabbing a mic. “I wanted to hear Nick sing Paparazzi.”

“Oh, don’t get him started on that. Let’s get down to business guys,” Howie said.

I slide off the stage, heading back to my seat. Sitting down to get my camera, I heard a horrible noise erupt from my backside. At the same time I could hear the telltale laugh from the stage. Looking up I saw Nick grinning; Brian was trying to cover up his laughter unsuccessfully.

“A whoopee cushion? Really?” I said, reaching behind me and holding up the offender. “The best you could do?” I asked sweetly.

“An oldie but a goodie,” Nick responded.

“You know what they say about paybacks,” I said.

“They’re a bitch.”
Chapter 5 by evergreenwriter83
Photobucket


Chapter Five

The sound check was extremely entertaining. Some lucky members of the fan club were invited in for the check and their enthusiasm seemed to have a great effect on the guys. After 45 minutes of great music, the guys took the time to greet each fan and sign autographs. I was able to capture some fan interviews (most obsessing over Nick) and logged on to Twitter for a status update before heading backstage.

I was locking up my camcorder in one of the lockers when the guys came backstage.

“Hey Livvy,” Brian said, taking up Nick’s nickname for me. “Want to come with us for dinner?”

“Sure,” I said with a grin.

“Meet us outside by the busses in about 45 minutes,” AJ said.

“Aye, Aye, Cap’n,” I said with mock salute before heading back to “my” bus.

Climbing aboard, all was quiet; the backup dancers were having a dinner of crisp lettuce before changing into their outfits for tonight.

I changed into a more concert-worthy outfit, hoping that I wouldn’t slop any food on myself in the meantime. A pair of low slung black jeans, a matching tank top and a pair of hoops completed the ensemble. Lamenting that I needed to get my hair done on one of the stops, I swept my hair up and headed out to meet the guys.

Howie was the first one waiting outside. In his arms was his baby boy, James. By his side was his wife, Leigh. I had never seen her in person; she was absolutely beautiful. They made a striking pair. Howie tossed James in the air, both of their faces lighting up in delight.

“Hey Howie,” I said. “You must be Leigh,” I added, holding out my hand. “Pleased to meet you.”

“It’s good to meet you too. You must be Olivia?” she said, tilting her head. The green-eyed monster had me wishing my hair looked half as good as hers.

“Yep, that’s me. I’m the guys’ shadow this summer,” I said.

“Say hi James,” Howie said. He lifted James’ pudgy arm. James did the rest of the work.

“He’s absolutely adorable, Howie,” I said, giving James a baby high five. His grin was contagious.

“Adorable? You must be talking about me,” AJ said, walking up. His fiancée, Rochelle, held onto his arm. She had a laid back air about her that made me like her instantly. I also loved how in love AJ looked when he stole a glance at her.

“Not quite. James beats you on adorable factor. Actually, he beats you on hair quantity too,” Howie said, grinning. AJ gave him the finger, then turned to me. “Rochelle, meet Olivia. Olivia this is my fiancée, Rochelle.”

“Pleased to meet you,” I said.

Moments later I was introduced to Brian’s wife Leighanne and their son Baylee. Baylee was as cute as a button, a spitting image of Brian. He seemed to have inherited his dad’s humor as well, chattering nonstop until Nick finally arrived. Nick looked extremely preoccupied.

“Everything okay?” Brian asked, eyeing him.

“Yeah, fine. Let’s go, I’m starving.”

We all piled into a large black van. Nick and Howie argued for a few minutes about where to eat, but finally George, the driver, was given our destination and we were off. In the car, everyone chattered amongst themselves. Leigh was the first to turn to me, a kind smile playing on her lips.

“Are you married Olivia?” Leigh asked .

“Yes, I am. I’ve been married four years.”

“Any children?” Leighanne chimed in.

“No,” I said quietly, my smile wavering just slightly. I laughed to cover the awkwardness. “I have enough trouble taking care of my husband.”

The girls laughed; the boys rolled their eyes…except for Nick. He was studying me, and he looked, dare I say, a little disappointed. I saw his eyes stray to my wedding band and then back to my face. He then turned back to his cellphone.

After another ten minutes of idle chit chat we arrived at the restaurant. We were seated at a round table in the VIP section. Nick had lost the battle; the restaurant was Howie’s pick. Opening up the menu I saw tons of entrees, most of which I had never heard before. The few I understood turned my stomach: octopus salad and shark. Glancing around nervously, I saw that Nick and Brian were already looking at Howie.

“Dude, what is with you and weird food?” Nick asked. “You’re going to burn a hole in your stomach with
all this crazy shit.”

“Be adventurous Nick,” Howie said with a laugh. “Even though every country in the world seems to have a McDonald’s it’s nice to eat something different every now and then.”

“What’s Baylee getting Bri?” Nick said, ignoring Howie’s little lecture. I laughed.

“Chicken fingers!” Baylee called out. Brian studied the menu then made a face.

“Dude they don’t have chicken fingers.”

“Macaroni and cheese!” Baylee said loudly.

After about ten minutes, Brian, Leighanne, Baylee, Nick, and I ended up at the McDonald’s across the street.

“It’s not that we don’t like different foods,” Leighanne explained as she walked with me to the table. “Baylee’s not that picky, but with Howie talking about McDonald’s and then Bay seeing the Golden Arches through that restaurant window it was all over.”

“Well, I’ve got to admit, I like his taste,” I said. We laughed as we slid into the booth.

Forty-five minutes later Leighanne and I sat watching Brian and Nick trying to coax Baylee out of the ball pit in the Playland. Brian was holding his shoes; Nick was leaning halfway into the pit. I practically snorted my Diet Coke out of my nose as I saw another kid pop out of the balls and hurl a red plastic ball at Nick’s head. It hit him square in the forehead.

“Brian’s feeding Nick to the lions,” Leighanne said, sipping her sweet tea. “The last time Brian had to get Baylee out of the ball pit he was attacked by about five kids. Then he was attacked by their mothers once they realized who he was.”

“Doesn’t it ever get scary?” I asked. Her face got a little more serious.

“It does, but with every negative aspect comes the positives. The guys have some of the best fans in the world. Plus Baylee has opportunities that other children could never even dream of…uh-oh.”

I followed her gaze; my eyes widened in surprise. Obviously Nick had been pounded with one ball too many. Grabbing my digital camera I turned it on to video just in time to see Nick belly flop into the balls. Kids flew out from all sides, yelling and running to their mothers. In one fell swoop Nick locked his arms around Baylee’s waist and struggling to get footing, passed him out to Brian.

I paused the camera, starting it again when the guys came outside.

“Great teamwork!” I said.

Nick looked at Brian. Brian was grinning ear to ear, so was Baylee.

“It’s not funny. That’s the last time I’m playing wingman at McDonald’s, Littrell.”

“You just need to work on your technique, Carter,” Brian said. Then he looked straight into the camera. “Did you catch the dive? Nick loves him some balls.”

I burst out laughing, shutting off the camera.

Ten minutes later the brave souls from the octopus restaurant met up with us and we headed back to the van. Nick was still half-scowling. Brian filled AJ and Howie in on the events, Baylee added commentary where necessary. We pulled up to Hard Rock Live all in fairly good spirits, all except Nick who had been glued to his cell phone, texting away.

The van stopped and we piled out and headed back into the venue. The rest of the evening was pretty much a blur. The concert was amazing. Whatever was bothering Nick took a backseat at the guys took the stage. I ran into Paul and told him about the whoopee cushion incident; he told me I got off too easy (and to watch my back). I watched Andrea dance across the stage, envious of her legs that seemed to never end. I only hoped that the other dancers would be half as friendly to the “techie” as she was.

I had expected some clubbing to go on after the concert. Instead, everyone went to their bus, checking that all luggage was accounted for and things were ready to go. All this happened under the bright lights beside the venue in conjunction with dozens of flashlights making eerie shadows on the blacktop. Andrea showed me my bunk and I stowed my bags away safely. After a quick shower, I slipped on my PJ’s. As each of the girls came onto the bus, said a quick hello, and tucked herself into her bunk, I sat up on the couch, pouring over the day’s photographs and videos and compiling late into the night. The busses took off around two o’clock in the morning. After another hour on the computer and several glances out the window to watch the open highway stretching out for miles, I stowed everything away and finally crawled into my own bunk.

The first day had been fun and exhausting; even so, I struggled to turn off my brain. I couldn’t help thinking about every photograph I took and every video I shot. But admittedly the thing weighing on my mind the most was the fact that something was bothering Nick.
Chapter 6 by evergreenwriter83
Chapter Six

I awoke the next morning with my little bus window slightly open. The air had a certain sweetness to it and the smell of grass tickled my senses. Rolling over onto my back I stared out the window. The sun shone brightly. All was quiet. I was either the first to awake or I had overslept. Considering I was the last asleep, my money was on the latter.

Pulling back the curtain, I swung my bare feet down onto the cold ground. Not a sound. I took a cold shower (everyone else had used the lukewarm water; it never seemed to get hot) and dressed for the day. I was sitting on the couch, making sure I had all my equipment when I heard a knock on the bus door.

“Come in!” I called. The door creaked open and Leighanne poked her head in.

“I thought you might want to spend a girl’s morning with me in my hometown,” she said, smiling. “I don’t know about you but a little hair and nail therapy sounds good to me.”

“You’re an angel,” I said with a laugh. “But,” I glanced at my watch. It was 11 o’clock – ugh. “The sound check begins in an hour.”

“I hope I don’t sound like a horrible wife,” Leighanne said. “but trust me you can miss one soundcheck. I have a feeling the guys will want to party after the concert tonight and you can make up for it then.”

“Well---“ she had me at hello…I mean at hair and nails. “You’ve made me an offer I can’t refuse!”

It was obviously an offer that Leigh and Rochelle couldn’t refuse either. Leighanne had her own car for the day; the Littrell household was right in Atlanta so she wasn’t kidding when she said we were in her hometown. Baylee was spending the day at a friend’s house and Leigh had James tucked safely by her.
As Leighanne drove she pointed out some of Atlanta’s finest landmarks.

“And this, ladies, is Atlanta’s greatest landmark,” she said parking and pointing to a small building in the center of downtown.

It was a cozy hair salon. We all bustled out of the car and into the shop. Leighanne made the introductions and we were all ushered to chairs. After a consultation, the hairdressers got to work and the conversation picked up.
“I found out what was bothering Nick,” Leigh said, one eye on her hair, the other on James.

“What? Besides carpal tunnel, that is. He was outside his bus texting the whole time Brian and I were double checking our bags,” Leighanne said, pointing out a stubborn strand of blonde hair. The hairdresser nodded and continued.

“Lauren.”

A chorus of “Oh’s” answered.

“That sums it up,” Rochelle said. Her hairdresser was slathering her hair with an interesting shade of dye.

“Lauren?” I asked, curiosity getting the best of me.

“His girlfriend,” Leighanne said. “Well, ex-girlfriend. But she’s not leaving him alone.”

“She doesn’t realize he’s not ready to commit,” Leigh added. “He’s still working on finding himself.”

I had completely forgotten about Lauren. I had read on Perez Hilton a little about their relationship and about it being on the rocks. In fact, Perez Hilton and VH1 were the equivalent of crack cocaine for me – I was withdrawing from VH1, but I could check Perez on my laptop daily. Of course, it was even better getting the scoop personally.

“I don’t think she was right for him,” Rochelle added. “I only met her a few times but she seemed way too reserved.”

“Says the girl that’s getting her hair dyed what color?” I said teasingly.

“Pink. Just highlights. It’ll look really cute with this one shirt I have that AJ loves,” she said sending a wink my way from the mirror.

We all shared a laugh and settled in for a few hours of pampering. Afterwards, we stopped for salads at a beautiful outdoor bistro before heading back to the Entertainment Center. I felt completely refreshed. My nails didn’t look like they had been nibbled on by piranhas and I felt sexier with perfectly placed blonde highlights and a fresh cut. I had never paid so much in my life, but it was well worth it.

“Well, look who finally showed up,” AJ called out loudly as we made our way backstage. The boys sat in folding chairs, paper plates loaded down with food – nothing that remotely looked as healthy as our salads. Howie licked his fingers and whistled.

“Looking good, ladies,” he said. Setting down his plate, he took James’ carrier and kissed Leigh lovingly. “Muy bonita.” he purred.

“Your PDA-A-A-A-,” I sang. AJ laughed.

“Well?” Rochelle said, tapping her boot impatiently.

“Lookin good,” AJ nodded, picking up a barbequed wing.

“That’s it?” she said haughtily. AJ swallowed quickly, puckering up his sauced lips.

“Not until you wipe, McLean.”

As I stood watching the love fest around me, I didn’t notice Nick sneak up behind me.

“I like the hair,” he whispered in my ear. I turned, but he was already walking off, his face buried to his phone screen.

Stealing away from the couples, I took a moment to call home. Finding a quiet hallway, I sat down, resting against the cool wall. The phone rang once, twice…finally on the third ring Hunter picked up.

“Hello?”

“Hey babe,” I said, smiling slightly. “What’s up?”

“Hello?”

“Hunter?”

“Yeah?”

“It’s Olivia. I was just calling to say I missed you.
How are things going?”

I heard a large yawn and the sound of the alarm clock being picked up. He was checking the time.

“Are you sleeping?” I asked. I checked my watch. It was three o’clock.

“Just, just waking up,” he mumbled.

“Well I just wanted to tell you things are going fine and
that I miss you.”

“I miss you too.”

I waited for him to say something else, but I feared he was already nodding back off to sleep.

“I love you.” I said.

“Hmm? Love you too,” he mumbled even more softly.

I hung up the phone and knocked my head very gently back against the wall. I reasoned that he must have had a late shift the night before. Even still, I was hoping for more.

“I’m guessing that went as well as my phone call.”

I looked up to see Nick towering above me. He smiled a little sardonically, holding up his cellphone. “Women.
Can’t live with ‘em. Can’t live without them.”

“Men. Can’t live with ‘em. Can’t live without them.” I retorted. We both smiled. Nick stuck his hand out. Hesitating just a second, I placed my hand in his large warm one and he pulled me gently to my feet.

“Let’s get to work,” he said, heading off down the hall. I quickly followed. He stopped in front of the Boys dressing room.

“Want to come in?” he said teasingly. “You might get a good video out of it.”

“In the dressing room?” I said with a squeak.

Laughing, Nick opened the door and pulled me inside. My
heart did a nice little rhythmic thump-da-thump-thump as I flew through the door.

AJ, Brian, and Howie looked up surprised. Each one was in a various stage of dress. Luckily (or some might say unfortunately) each was decent. Brian snapped his suspenders, grinning.

“Nick, you’re late,” Brian said, tossing him his jacket.

“Livvy wanted to record,” Nick said in way of explanation.

I rolled my eyes, but I couldn’t resist the opportunity. I reached into my bag and pulled out the camcorder. Howie saw it first, and snatched it up. Holding it at arms length he stared into the lens.

“Welcome to the dressing room. For anyone interested in a real behind the scenes look, search no farther. Ladies, I give you Nick Carter getting dressed.”

As if on cue, Howie swung the camera in Nick’s direction. I stifled a gasp at how quickly he had undressed when I wasn’t looking. Standing in his skivvies, Nick smiled cockily, putting his hands on his hips. I had seen pictures, but the sight of his abs gave me a hot flash. Resisting the urge to fan myself, I stood stock still, wondering how this was going to play out.

“Nick, describe what you’re doing,” Howie said in a mock serious voice.

“Well, ladies, you see, I’m getting dressed. These are pants,” Nick explained, holding the pants right up to the lens. At this point Brian grabbed the camera from Howie. Flashing a quick cheeky grin into the lens, he turned the recorder back on Nick.

“Now, Nick. The world wants to know. Do you put your pants on one leg at a time?”

“Why, it’s funny you mention that Bri,” Nick said. “I actually just jump right in.”

It all seemed to happen so fast, but the best way to describe what happened is that it was a scene out of the movie Jackass. Nick held his pants and jumped. At the same time AJ sidled up and tripped Nick’s legs out from under him. With what looked like a painful crash, Nick landed face down on the floor, his pants bunched under him and his red and white striped covered ass flying up in the air like a ship’s mast.

Reviewing the tape I heard a gasp that could only be mine. The only thing I remember is running and kneeling down beside him.

“Shit. Are you okay?” I screamed, touching Nick’s shoulder. He was shaking violently.

I heard him gargle and a thousand horrible images floated through my head. He swallowed his tongue. He would never be able to sing again. He—

He was laughing uncontrollably.

“Ladies and gentlemen,” I heard Brian say. “That does it for this edition of In the Dressing Room. Until tomorrow…put your pants on one leg at a time. We’re out!”

Brian kneeled down and handed me my camera. Meanwhile, Nick had managed to get into a sitting position. He was laughing so hard that the tears were streaming down his face. Grinning, Howie handed him a Kleenex.

“Dude, that was awesome,” Nick finally said, gasping for air. “I didn’t see it coming.”

“You guys are insane,” I said. I didn’t think my legs would support me if I tried standing. All four of them just grinned at me.

“You haven’t seen insane yet. Wait until after the concert,” AJ said, putting the finishing touches on his outfit.

“AJ’s right,” Nick said, standing up. I reached up, handing him his pants. “We’re going to rock Atlanta tonight, baby!”

I was scared. Very scared.
Chapter 7 by evergreenwriter83
Chapter Seven

I felt extremely guilty that night, leaving the day’s work in the bus while I headed out to enjoy Atlanta’s nightlife. But everyone, and I mean everyone, was going someplace. Andrea had invited me to go clubbing with her and the other dancers, but I politely declined.

“Have a better offer?” she guessed, smiling.

“No! I mean, it’s just someone beat you to it,” I explained.

“You mean someone tall, blonde, and handsome in a “blonde” sort of way?” she inquired, a knowing smirk playing across her mouth. I laughed.

“Nope. Someone dark and handsome in a Latino sort of way.”

“Howie?”

“Yup. James is running a little fever so Howie and Leigh are going to take a quick trip to the drugstore. Howie asked me to chaperone.”

“Good luck with that,” Andrea said, laughing. “I heard about your dressing room experience earlier today. You have your work cut out for you.”

“Ain’t that the truth,” I said with a laugh as I finished getting dressed. Before she left, Andrea handed me a huge pair of hoops to go with my little black dress…and a condom.

“What’s this for?” I said, flipping the package over in my hand.

“Safety first, girl.” she said.

“I’m married,” I explained, pushing it back towards her. “I’m not getting into any trouble tonight.”

She pushed the package back into my hand.

“Remember the boy scout motto. Just in case.”

With that she bounced through the bus. I watched through the window as she took off after the other girls clustered in the parking lot. I stared at the foil wrapped package in my hand. The only thing I could think about was whether the Boy Scout motto really was just in case. Somehow I doubted it. Tucking the package under Andrea’s pillow, I grabbed my purse and headed out into the steamy Atlanta night.

Now, I think I need to take a moment to explain that I’ve never been clubbing before. I had heard the stories; I had seen VH1’s Sober House. I knew clubs meant booze and drugs. I knew clubs meant trouble.

What I didn’t know was that I’d never be let back into one in the Atlanta area.

I met the “group,” sans Howie and Leigh, in the parking lot. Leighanne was playfully keeping the car keys out of Brian’s reach.

“Let me drive Leigh,” he said, making a grab for them.

“Nope, I’m DD,” she said with a grin, stepping back and holding the keys even higher.

Nick swooped in with a height advantage, grabbed the keys and tossed them to Brian.

“Somehow I think I’m going to be the one being DD,” Nick explained. Brian smiled. “Good point.” He shook the keys in Leigh’s face and sang flirtatiously, “I’m gonna get-get-get you drunk.” Leighanne rolled her eyes, but gave him a sultry look.

Chatting amongst ourselves, we headed to the car. Somehow, we all managed to fit, even though I ended up half sitting on Nick’s lap.

“This is nice and cozy, eh, folks?” AJ said, his arm draped across Rochelle’s bare shoulders.

“If you say so,” I said laughing.

“Why are you complaining? You don’t have a bony butt pressing into your leg,” Nick teased.

“Hey, peanut gallery! Quiet in the back,” Brian said in his best “dad” voice. “Don’t make me turn this car around.”

“Yes da-ad,” Nick sang in high soprano. Brian made a face in the rearview mirror. “If you were my son I would have left you in the ball pit a long time ago.”

After awhile I tuned out the light-hearted bickering. Atlanta was a huge city and I stared in awe at the mix of big city life mixed with southern charm. Twenty minutes later we pulled up to the Opera Night Club. We hopped out of the car; Brian handed the valet his car keys. From the outside I could hear the music as clearly as if I was already inside.

“Right this way, folks,” Brian said, ushering us around the corner from where the long line of people waiting to get in was sweeping down the street. After a quick chat with a huge bulk of a man at the side door, we entered the VIP area.

I wish I could give a rundown of everyone’s actions that night, but truth is, I let Howie down on the babysitting task. AJ and Rochelle disappeared onto the dance floor. Brian and Leighanne made their way to the bar. Nick led me to a plush booth.

“Want something to drink?” he asked as I scooted and bounced along the seat.

“Why don’t you get me what you’re having?” I said with a smile.

Nick disappeared and I looked around. The room was dark and a little dizzying as several disco balls threw prisms of light helter skelter. A club mix track blared out of invisible speakers. I glanced around, wondering if I’d see Lindsey Lohan or any other celebrity star or starlet causing scandal, but all in all it must have been a slow night in Atlanta.

After about ten minutes, I had started to give up hope on ever seeing a living Backstreet Boy again when Nick sidled back over to the booth. Handing me my drink, he slid in next to me. As he did an identical slide and bounce across the seat, I turned slightly, sneaking a sniff of the cup.

“Diet Coke,” he said. I smiled, hoping he couldn’t see me blush.

“I knew that,” I said, wiping my palm on my bare leg. “I was just checking the fizz content.”

Nick’s eyes crinkled; he gave me a knowing smile. Taking a big sip, he looked around the club.

“Am I going to talk you out on the dance floor tonight?” he asked without turning his head in my direction.

“I can’t dance,” I said sweetly, taking a sip of the drink.

“You can’t dance or you don’t dance? There’s a big difference.”

“I can’t…and I don’t.”

At that moment a beautiful blonde came up to the table. She looked like a cross between Britney Spears and Heidi Pratt.

"Are you Nick Carter?” she said in a voice that would have made Minnie Mouse run screaming out of the building.

Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Nick lean back. He caught my eye and smiled.

“Why, yes, I am.” Nick said, extending his hand. “You are?”

“Rebekah. Oh, I’m like such a fan. Wanna dance?”

I could see the wheels turning in his head. I narrowed my eyes.

“Why, I was just telling my friend here,” he motioned in my direction. “I was just telling her that I’d love to dance. But see, she can’t and she don’t, so…”

“I’ll dance,” I hissed through clenched teeth. Nick turned in mock surprise.

“What was that? You’ll dance?” Nick smiled up at the blonde. “I guess I’m going to have to take a rain check.”

“I’m here all night,” she said sweetly, bouncing off. I was marveling at how she remained upright considering how top heavy she was, when I felt Nick’s warm breath tickle my ear.

“I’ll take that dance,” he said, his voice silky smooth.

Taking another big gulp of Cola (and hoping that a bathroom break would save me from utter embarrassment), I let him take my hand and lead me down a winding staircase to the dance floor. The floor was packed with bodies. The amount of silicon in the room was daunting. I prayed the music would change to something slow; I could easily fake my way through a slow dance with my seventh grade dance moves. Unfortunately, the music continued to thump loudly.

Looking towards the exit, I began to shuffle my feet, feeling a little bit like Godzilla in heels.

“You can do better than that!” Nick said loudly. “Look at me!”

That was my downfall; I shouldn’t have listened to him. Looking up into his face I saw his smiling eyes. He stepped closer, his hands sliding along my waist. My mouth went dry; I really needed that Diet Coke. His body moved automatically to the music and somehow he must have passed on his rhythm gene through his warm palms. I felt myself relax.

“See? Not hard.” Nick yelled over the music. I laughed. He stepped even closer.

“CUTTING IN!”

I stepped back, caught off guard. Before I knew what was happening, Brian had taken Nick’s place.

“HAVING FUN?” he yelled.

“YES!” I yelled back.

“GOOD!”

Brian finished out the song and then disappeared into the crowd. I looked around for Nick, but he was nowhere to be seen. Weaving through the mass of bodies, I made my way back up to the booth.

Nick was slouched way down in the seat, his fingers flying over his cellphone. He didn’t look up until I was sitting right next to him.

“You disappeared on me,” I said.

“Sorry,” he said, sliding his phone in his pocket. “I was getting a little bit jealous watching you bump and grind with Brian.”

“I was not bumping and grinding with Brian,” I said, flipping my hair indignantly over my shoulder. Nick grinned.

“So tell me,” he said, his face turning slightly wolfish as he slid closer to me. “since you’re a Backstreet fan…who’s your favorite?”

“What?” I laughed. “That’s so high school.”

“So? Whose picture did you have plastered on your bedroom wall?”

“Justin Timberlake,” I said sarcastically.

“Was it me?”

“I’m not telling,” I said, laughing as he came leg to leg with me in the booth.

“I have ways to make you talk,” he said. Before I could slide away his fingers began to tickle my side. With a laugh and shriek that would have made hyenas jealous, I tried wiggling away from him to no avail.

“Stop!” I gasped, twisting this way and that. His fingers were unrelenting. I reached behind me, running my hand along the wall. I was hoping to find something to grab onto for leverage to pull myself away when my fingers wrapped around what I thought was a coat hook above the booth. I gave a mighty tug and slid back away from his grasp.

And that was when the water started pouring down.
What I had thought was a coat hook was a fire lever. The music stopped and the quiet was punctured by the shrill wail of the fire alarm; the white disco lights were interspersed with the flashing red of warning. I gasped as the cold water rained down in unrelenting torrents. Nick hoisted me to my feet and we headed towards the exit; others ran by shielding their heads with arms or jackets.

A half hour later I stood outside, wrapped in Nick’s jacket, feeling like a very stupid, very drowned rat. I had given a statement to the fire chief and the police and was given a lecture on the danger of creating a false alarm. This was coupled with the club owner’s declaration that I wasn’t allowed near Opera again; not that I would have shown my face in there again anyway.

Of course, Nick took as much of the blame as I did, apologizing profusely to everyone (and I daresay slipping some money for damages). As the policemen walked away, he came up, smiling sheepishly.

“You okay?” he asked, tugging his jacket tighter around my shoulders. I nodded.

“Good job Carter,” AJ said. He sat on the curb, Rochelle leaning against him. He ground a cigarette out onto the street with the heel of his boot.

“It was my fault,” I said. “I was the one that pulled the lever.”

“Nope, that had Nick written all over it,” Brian said, weaving his way towards us through the crowd. Leighanne smiled kindly at me.

“You know,” she said. “AJ promised a crazy night and you and Nick brought it. No harm, no foul.”

“Leigh’s right. But,” Brian checked his watch. “I think we better call it a night.”

Brian and Leighanne dropped the four of us off at the busses, and then headed out to get Baylee. Nick and I stopped outside his bus; he rested her arm above my head as I leaned against the black exterior.

“I guess we should say goodnight,” he said softly, searching my face. My heart began to pound faster at the implication.

“Yes, I suppose we should,” I said softly.

“I had a lot of fun,” he added.

“Fire alarm and all?” I said teasingly.

“Fire alarm and all.”

His face lowered towards mine; my stomach felt like a rollercoaster picking up speed before making a plunge. Panicking, I ducked out from under his arm. Swinging his jacket off my shoulders, I placed it in his free hand and began walking backwards.

“Sweet dreams!” I called, heading quickly to my bus. Nick opened his mouth, but I didn’t stick around to hear what he said.

I knew full well who would be haunting my dreams that night.
Chapter 8 by evergreenwriter83
Chapter Eight - Mississippi

I passed the night fitfully, finally admitting defeat around four in the morning. Sleep would not come; my mind was clouded with thoughts of a certain blonde gentleman. As the bus swayed to and fro, I slid out of my bunk and padded out to the couch to work on the footage from the day before. I couldn’t help but laugh as I reviewed the dressing room footage. I posted it, eager to see the fan comments.

Around five o’clock the busses stopped to refuel. Quietly, I slipped out into the early dawn stretching my arms heavenward.

“Hungry?”

The smell of donuts assailed my senses. I let out a moan of pure ecstasy.

“I’ll take that as a yes. C’mon, I’ve got orange juice and coffee too.”

Following the smell of warm yeasty dough and chocolate, I followed Nick up onto his bus.

“Don’t think this will make up for last night,” I said. He lifted the lid of the white cardboard box; I swooped in for the kill.

“About last night—“ Nick began. I held up a hand, my cheeks full of doughnut.

“Fuhgetaboutit.” I said between chews. I swallowed hard and took a swig of orange juice. “It was just a long crazy day,” I added smiling.

“Well, I promise no craziness today. It’s a free day. We should pull up to the IP Spa and Casino in a couple of hours.”

“Spa? That sounds amazing,” I said. The sweet pulp from the juice danced along my tongue. “I have to admit that I haven’t been able to get used to the bunks. I could use some spa treatment”

“Ugh, I don’t miss the bunks,” Nick said. He paused thoughtfully. “C’mon.”

“What? Where?” I said, setting down the remainder of my doughnut. As I followed him, I looked back at it longingly.

“Try this out for size,” Nick said, opening a door at the back of the bus.

A large bed took up most of the room. The curtains were pulled; the room was cool. It looked like heaven.

“Oh,” I said softly, touching the bedspread.

“Lay down,” Nick said. I gave him a look. He snorted.

“Dirty mind,” he chastised. “Lay down. Get some sleep. I’ll wake you up when we get there.”

Before I could argue, he walked out, closing the door behind him. Rubbing my eyes, I crawled onto the bed. The mattress wrapped me in a soft cocoon. I sighed contentedly, pulling a pillow close to my body. Burying my face into the cloth I inhaled deeply.

Everything smelled like Nick. Fortunately, I didn’t have time to ponder the significance of that realization too deeply; I fell asleep almost instantly.

---------------------------------

“Livvy? Livvy, wake up.”

I groaned, smashing my face into the pillow.

“C’mon,” Nick said, shaking my shoulder. I didn’t budge.

“Are you always this hard to wake up?”

With a sigh, I opened an eye and looked up at him.

“This is heaven.”

Nick laughed. “Trust me, it’s not heaven until I’m in there with you.”

I rolled my eyes and slid reluctantly off the bed. I noticed the bus had stopped.

“We’re here?” I asked.

“Yup. I took your bags up to your room already. You have a non-smoking, non-snoring room, so watch it.”

“Ha-ha,” I said, trying to smooth down my hair as I followed him outside.

The IP Spa and Casino loomed ahead; it seemed to stretch up towards the clouds.

“Pretty cool, huh?”

I nodded. He handed me a room key.

“You’re sharing with Andrea,” Nick explained. “Why don’t you go get freshened up? I’ll meet you outside your room in about an hour.”

“Oh?” I said, flipping the key around in my hand. “What’s going on in an hour?”

“You’ll see,” Nick said mysteriously. With a suave kiss of my hand he bid me adieu, then headed in the direction of the casino.

I took the elevator up to the fifteenth floor. I quietly entered the room, looking around to see if Andrea was there. She wasn’t. Grabbing a fresh change of clothes I headed towards the bathroom.

The tub was calling my name. Usually I’m a shower girl, but every now and then I enjoyed sitting in a bubble bath until my fingers turn pruny. Today was one of those days. I set all of the jets on the whirlpool and, as the tub filled, read all of the labels on the complimentary bottles. Dumping in a strawberry scented bubble bath, I watched the bubbles froth and foam. Undressing, I eased into the water. I threaded my hand through the bubbles and closed my eyes in bliss.

I took so long that the water ran cold. Resisting leaving my bubbly world, I filled the tub up once more, setting the jets on the whirlpool tub even higher, hoping the circulating water would stay warmer longer. I leaned my head back, listening to nothing but pure silence.

Procrastinating as long as possible, I finally came to the conclusion that my hour was pretty much shot. Nick would be waiting for me. With one last splash, I started to sit up to turn off the jets when my head was yanked back. I yelped in surprise; my hand flew to the back of my head in horror. My hair was stuck in one of the jets. I did the only thing I could think of: I panicked. Unable to sit up I couldn’t turn off the jets. I was stuck.

“HELP!” I screamed, yanking at the offending strands of hair. Tears sprung to my eyes from the pain. I slapped at the side of the tub angrily, stopping as my fingers touched the edge of my cell phone. Sliding my body as far as I possibly could without scalping myself, I grabbed the phone, spitting out a strawberry scented bubble along the way.

I flipped the phone open; then stopped. Who was I going to call?

I tried Andrea first. Her phone went immediately to voicemail. As I lay cussing, flipping through my contacts for Leighanne’s number, I heard the sound of pounding on the hotel room door.

“Shit,” I said. I found Leighanne’s number; the phone rang several times and then kicked to voicemail. The pounding on the door increased.

Feeling as if I was going to regurgitate my doughnut, and feeling once more like a very stupid, very drowned rat, I punched in Nick’s cell number. Spitting out offending bubbles, I held the phone to my ear, trying to keep from dropping it.

“Liv?” Nick said, picking up almost instantly. “I’m pounding on your door. Where are you?”

“Um.” Spit. “I need a little help.”

“What happened?”

“Uh.” Spit. “It’s hard to explain.” Spit. “Can you get in my room?”

“I’ll have to go to the desk. Where are you?”

My phone slipped through my sudsy fingers, into the water. With a string of expletives, I kicked my foot out angrily. I never wanted to smell strawberries ever again. I sat in the rapidly cooling water, the jets grinding away. I couldn’t help but wonder if I was going to die a shriveled prune in a whirlpool grave. Just as I was getting ready to recite my last will and testament, I heard the door to the hotel room open.

“Liv?”

“In here!” I called.

“Where?”

“The bathroom!”

Now I have to admit I didn’t think the logistics of my situation through very well. As I heard Nick fiddling with the lock, I came to the realization that I was, well, a little naked. Puffing out my cheeks, I began to blow the suds around, hoping that I could strategically move them to my lady bits before he managed to get the door open.

I was still huffing and puffing when Nick’s head poked in.

“What’s going on?”

“Close your eyes.”

“What?”

“Close your eyes!”

“Okay, okay. They’re closed. What’s going on?”

“My hair’s stuck.”

“Your hair’s stuck?”

“In the jet. I can’t get out.”

I couldn’t see his face, but his laughter reverberated off the walls.

"You’ve got to be shitting me,” he said.

“Are your eyes still closed?” I answered.

“Honestly? No.”

“Well, close them!”

“How am I going to help you if my eyes are closed?” Nick said. He burst into laughter again.

“It’s not funny!” I said. I felt a large tear roll down my cheek.

“Oh crap. Don’t cry. I’ll get you out. Let’s see.”

Nick walked past the tub, a stupid smile plastered on his face. I watched him open a cupboard. He took out a pair of scissors.

“What are those for?”

“I’m going to have to cut you out.”

“I just got my hair done!”

“So?”

"Just try without the scissors,” I begged. "Make them your last resort."

Nick sighed, kneeling down next to me. He turned off the jet and went to work. Sliding his fingers into my wet hair, he worked quietly and methodically. I closed my eyes, hoping it would work, dreading the telltale “snip” of scissors.

“Got it,” Nick finally said. “And no scissors.”

I touched the back of my head, relieved to feel every strand free.

“You’re my hero!”

“At your service,” Nick said, grinning down at me.

I grinned back…until I realized the suds were almost gone. Blushing, I pointed past his shoulder.

“Could you hand me a towel?”

Still grinning, he picked up the towel. I grabbed it from him.

“Turn around.”

Whistling, he turned towards the mirror.

“Turn around another way!”

He turned towards the toilet. Quickly, I stood, wrapping the towel around my body.

“Okay,” I said. “You can turn around.”

Nick turned. I saw his eyes quickly trail down along the towel, then back to my face. His eyes twinkled mischievously.

“Need anything else?”

“No, uh, that’s it. I’ll be out in a minute.” I grabbed his arm, leading him towards the bathroom door. Before I could close the door completely, he put out an arm and leaned in.

What?

“I just want to say,” Nick paused. “I just want to say that we made the right choice picking you.”

“And why’s that?” I said, pulling the top of my towel a little tighter.

“Because it’s only the third stop and I already know that I’m never going to be able to get you out of my mind.”
With that he pulled back, closing the door. I stood there, mouth agape. Only a door and a towel stood between me and Nick Carter.

A door, a towel, and, oh…

A wedding band.
Chapter 9 by evergreenwriter83
Chapter Nine

With my ego damaged more than my roots, I got dressed. As I brushed my hair, I couldn’t help but wonder if Nick might give up and leave if I just decided to stay in the bathroom for, oh, the rest of my life.

“You okay?” he called.

“Yes!” I called back.

“You can’t stay in there the rest of your life,” he said teasingly.

Tossing down my hairbrush, I squared my shoulders. I opened the door and headed out into the bedroom.

Nick lay on my bed, arms behind his head, his ankles crossed. He sat up as I crossed the room.

“Alright,” I said, throwing my arms out. “I’m here. I’m in one piece. What did you have in mind for the day?”

“Well,” Nick said, stifling a laugh. “I was going to see if you wanted to join me on a riverboat dinner cruise that strolls up the Mississippi, but I think you might have had enough water for the day.”

“Affirmative,” I said. In the back of my mind I could already see the candlelit table and hear the soft lapping of the river water as soft romantic music played. The scene had trouble written all over it.

“Well, I guess it’s on to plan B,” Nick said, hopping off the bed.

“Which is?”

“You’ll see.”

Twenty minutes later we stood at a cell phone kiosk in the hotel.

“How’d you know my cell phone took a dive?” I asked, picking up a phone.

“Well, the last thing I heard was a watery plop,” Nick said, picking up an IPhone. “After I, uh, saw your predicament, I put two and two together.” He held out the IPhone to me. “You need one of these.”

I smiled, taking it from him. I gently placed it back on its display base. I picked up a basic flip phone.

“I think this is more my speed.”

“It doesn’t even have a keyboard. How are you going to QWERTY?”

I laughed. “I don’t need to QWERTY.”

Nick picked up the IPhone again. “Everyone needs to QWERTY. At least once daily.” He handed it over to the clerk.

“What are you doing?”

“I’m breaking your QWERTY cherry. You’re getting an IPhone.”

“I’m not accepting a phone from you.”

“You’re not,” Nick explained as the clerk started the activation. “You’re accepting a phone from Howie. He pays the bills.”

“Well then, I think I better talk to Howie,” I said, stepping away from the booth. Nick’s hand wrapped gently around my arm; he turned me back towards him. His eyes were soft and warm.

“Please?” He whispered. “Just take it?”

I sighed softly. I wanted to argue, but it was like yelling at a puppy dog. “I owe you.”

“No, you don’t.” Nick took the phone from the clerk, handing it to me with a wink. “You have no idea what good therapy you are for me.”

We walked away from the counter. Nick looked around the lobby, finally hoisting himself up on a ledge that was hidden from the hustle and bustle of the rest of the area. I slid up next to him.

“What do you mean?”

“You’re refreshing. You don’t throw yourself at me. You know how to take a joke. And you have the best smile in the world.”

I blushed.

“Plus you keep me entertained. Here give me the phone, I’ll show you the basics.”

Nick spent several minutes going over the finer aspects of the IPhone. I nodded, trying to absorb everything I possibly could. It was like a mini computer. I could handle it. At least I thought I could.

“Call me.”

“What?”

“It’s your test. Call my number.”

I took the phone. After a little bit of fumbling, I heard his phone ring. He slid it out of his pocket and held it to his ear.

“Got it?” he asked, speaking into the mouthpiece. I lowered my phone.

“I think so,” I said.

“No, you got to talk into the phone,” Nick said.

“What? That’s stupid you’re—“

Nick shook his head, pointing to the phone in my hand. Sighing, I put it to my ear.

“I got it.”

Nick smiled. “Excellent. Any other questions?”

“Just one thing…” I said, lowering the phone to stare at the screen again.

“What’s my phone number?”

-------------------------------

An hour later I sat in the gym, watching Nick and Howie, dripping in sweat, battle it out to see who could last the longest on the treadmill. Every five minutes they would set the incline steeper and increase the speed.

“This is stupid,” Howie gasped as Nick reached over and upped the controls on Howie’s machine. Nick returned to his own treadmill and did the same.

“Endurance!” Nick said. The gel holding his hair airborne was long gone. The blonde strands stuck to his forehead. The white t-shirt was transparent with perspiration, his abs clearly defined. Howie was in a similar state, but perhaps a little worse off in a soaked black tank top that I just knew was keeping all of the heat close to his body.

Not wanting to miss anything good, I set my camera on the tripod. I needed to give out my new phone number that Nick so kindly wrote down for me on a scrap of napkin. I called my mom first. After giving her my new number and explaining as vaguely as possible what happened to my old one, she filled me in on the little things that were happening back home.

“And what about you? Are you having fun, sweetheart?” she finally asked.

“I am,” I admitted. “You were right. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity.”

“How are the Backstreet Boys?” she teased. “Do you like them as well in person as you did with them hanging on your bedroom wall?”

I laughed. “Yes. They exceed expectations.”

Mom gave a knowing click of her tongue. “Well, baby girl, enjoy yourself and call me soon.”

“I will,” I promised. “I’ve got to call Hunter with my new number. Love you.”

“Love you too, sweet pea.”

I successfully finished my first phone call. Searching through the contacts (which had taken me forever to plug in), I punched speed dial for home. I glanced at my watch; it was a little after four. He would be awake.

The phone rang twice; then I heard the line pick up.

“Hello?”

“Hunter? It’s Liv. I just wanted to call with my new
number.”

“New number? Why’d you get a new number?”

“I dropped my phone and it broke,” I said. “I had to get
a new phone.”

I waited for a response; several uncomfortable seconds of silence filled my ear.

“Was that before or after you were romping around in a dressing room with four guys?”

My eyes widened and I stifled a gasp. “What are you talking about?” Nick turned his head in my direction.
He caught my eye and frowned; he motioned to the treadmill as if asking if he should stop. I shook my head no. After hesitatingly momentarily, he resumed his run, glancing my way every now and then.

“Jess posted the video on Facebook,” Hunter said, referring to my best friend. “You didn’t tell me your job required shooting pictures of men playing around in their underwear,” he added sarcastically.

I laughed nervously. “Oh that,” I said. “I was just getting behind the scenes footage.”

“Well I think you need to stick to taking pictures of them prancing around the stage and singing their stupid has-been songs.”

“They don’t prance,” I said, my voice rising an octave. Nick turned to look at me again, I gave a little wave and turned slightly. Hunter was just getting started.

“Listen,” Hunter said angrily. “If you want to fuck around, whatever. Just don’t think

I’m going to sit here with blinders on and be made a fool of. I’m just really disappointed. I didn’t think I
married a slut.”

I sucked in a breath. Blinking back tears, I said softly. “I haven’t done anything wrong. I’m just doing my job.”

I could hear Hunter breathing heavily on the other end of the line, gearing up for another round of verbal assault.

“I love you,” I added quietly.

The breathing stopped. I heard a click and the sound of a dial tone.

“Mother---“ I growled, punching what I thought was the End button angrily. I let out a scream as Lady Gaga started blaring from the phone instead. Every head in the gym turned to glare in my direction. At the same time I saw Howie fly off the treadmill.

“AHH!”

I stood up, the phone practically shaking from the extreme noise of the music. Nick quickly pressed a button, bringing his treadmill to a stop. He looked from me to Howie; he seemed to be deciding which of us needed more help.

Tossing my phone to him, I ran to Howie. He was soaked, his chest heaved as he tried to push more air through his lungs. I looked down at him; he waved his white towel in surrender.

“I’m done,” he gasped, sitting up and dabbing his face. “I liked it better when Nick was fat.”

“Hey!” Nick said. With a punch of a button my phone settled back into pure silence. “I was never fat.”

“Fine. Pleasantly plump,” Howie rescinded. Pulling himself off the floor, he smiled at me sheepishly. “You got that on camera didn’t you?”

I laughed, but my mind was still replaying the conversation with Hunter. I looked back to see the red light lit up. “Yes, I did. Every bit.”

“Not your finest moment Dorough,” Nick said handing the phone back to me. “You smelled what the Carter was cooking,” he added flexing.

“Oh shut up,” Howie said. He headed in the direction of the showers. Nick looked at me.

“You okay?” he asked, nodding at the phone.

“Hmm? Yes, I’m fine,” I said. Nick arched his eyebrow.

“Really. I am.” I said, plastering on a horrible imitation of a smile.

“Oookay,” Nick said slowly. He took a step towards the showers, then paused. “I’m going to go take a shower.”

"Alrighty. I’ll meet up with you guys for dinner.”

“Sounds good. It should be normal food tonight. Brian made sure there was a kid’s menu.” He took another step towards the shower, then turned. “I’ll call you if I get trapped in the shower.”

That brought about a genuine laugh.. “Okay. But, you better hope I can remember how to answer a phone call.”

He made a praying motion with his hands, then headed off towards the showers. I packed up the camera and rolled my shoulders. Every muscle in my body seemed strung like a taunt rubber band.

I crawled into bed that night utterly exhausted. Dinner was uneventful; everyone seemed relaxed after a day of play. As we sat finishing dessert, everyone made plans for a night at the casino, but I bowed out. Claiming exhaustion, I headed up to my room, trying to ignore the questioning look in Nick’s eyes. I set my new phone on the nightstand and buried under the covers. Resting my head on the cool silk pillow, I stole a look at it sitting there stoically, innocently. It was amazing how one little thing could stir up so much emotion. On one hand, I thought of how sweet Nick was buying it for me; on the other hand, I could still hear Hunter’s angry words in my head.

Wondering when life got so complicated, I snuggled into the lush Egyptian cotton sheets. Praying for a brighter tomorrow, I nodded off to sleep.
Chapter 10 by evergreenwriter83
Chapter Ten – Massachusetts Bound

If someone couldn’t tell that I was an inexperienced roadie before, the night after the concert at the IP Spa and Casino proved it. I was packing my bags when Andrea walked in.

“What are you doing?”

“Packing?”

“Why? Do it in the morning,” she said, falling back on her bed with a happy sigh.

“The concert in Mass. is in two days,” I said, sitting on the edge of my bed. “The last time I checked,
Massachusetts and Mississippi aren’t next to each other.”

Andrea laughed, rolling over on her stomach. “I know that. We’re flying,” she explained. “The busses have already taken off.”

“Ohhh,” I felt the stupid sign lighting up above my head. “That makes sense.”

Andrea giggled. “Want to hear something amazing?”

I lay back on my bed. “I could use a little amazing. What’s up?”

“You know Paul? The cute guy who always wears the tight jeans that mold his ass?”

I laughed. “I know who Paul is, but I can’t say I spent much time staring at his backside.”

“Well, after the show he came over and asked if I’d sit next to him tomorrow on the plane,” she said, arching her eyebrows.

“Oooh,” I said, smiling at her excitement. “When’s the wedding?”

Andrea’s pillow came flying at my head. Laughing, I caught it before it smacked me in the face.

“You don’t understand,” she said, sighing dramatically. “I mean he’s gorgeous; he actually looks a little like AJ. Not so many tattoos, but he’s still a
good substitute.”

“You and AJ,” I said, shaking my head. “You’re obsessed,” I chided good-naturedly.

“Well,” Andrea paused, propping her chin on her hand. “Aren’t you a little obsessed? I bet your husband looks like Nick.”

I snorted. “Oh that’s a good one. No, he definitely doesn’t look like Nick.”

I leaned over, pulling my wallet out of my purse. Flipping through the pictures, I stopped at one taken the year before at Christmastime. I held it up for her to see.

“That’s Hunter,” I said.

“Really?” she said, leaning over to get a better look. “Huh. More Brian than Nick,” she concluded. I flipped the wallet over, staring at the picture.

“Brian? Really?” I squinted at the picture. I didn’t see it.

“Yeah, like the nose. And the haircut. A little. You got to use your imagination.”

I had always thought my imagination was pretty good; Andrea’s put mine to shame.

“I guess so,” I said, even though I didn’t see it. Tucking the wallet back in my purse, I dimmed my bedside light.

“Well, I guess I’m going to enjoy this bed one more night.”

Andrea laughed and stood up.

“Where are you going?” I asked.

“I’m going to Paul’s room,” she said slyly.

“You’re kidding!”

“Well,” she said, picking up a tube of gloss and liberally applying it across her full lips. “Sharing airplane space is pretty personal. I shouldn’t do that until I get acquainted, right?’

I shrugged in defeat, rolling my eyes as she bounced out of the room. I couldn’t ever remember a time when I had been that carefree.


----------------------------------

The next morning, I sat staring out the window of the plane as Nick hovered above me, stowing our bags in the compartment above. Finally he slid next to me, smiling.

“You know, I haven’t really seen you since the gym,” he reminded me. “I feel like I was replaced by a mattress.”

I grinned sheepishly. “I’m caught up on sleep. I promise.”

I pulled out my laptop and camera, setting them on the pull down tray in front of me. Before I could stop him, Nick picked up the camera, flipping it on and turning it towards himself.

“Good morning ladies and gentlemen. I’m Nick Carter and I will be your pilot for today. We are currently on our way to Massachusetts for our fourth stop on our U.S. tour. Now for weather conditions. What’s shaking Howie?” Nick said, leaning across the aisle to get a close up of Howie.

“We’ve got turbulence. James just pooped,” Howie said. “Hold your breath. I can’t change him till we’re elevated.”

“Ew. Oo-kay, moving on,” Nick said, pulling back quickly. He turned the camera on me.

“Here we have our intern Livvy,” he said. I looked up surprised, holding my hand up to the lens.

“Nooo,” I mouthed. Nick laughed, pulling my hand away.

“Isn’t that cute? She’s shy. Livvy, why don’t you explain to the folks at home what you’re doing.”

I forced myself to smile, telling myself I’d delete the footage as soon as I got the camera back in my hot little hands. “I’m going to upload the concert photos from last night onto the fanclub site as soon as we’re allowed to turn on electrical equipment,” I explained, hoping he’d take the hint. Nick grinned in understanding, but instead of turning it off he flipped the camera back onto himself.

“Well, folks, if you don’t see me again you’ll know I’m in FAA custody,” Nick explained. “Bri, you going to bail me out of jail?” He swung around in his seat, pointing the camera back at Brian.

“Hmm, I don’t know. What do you think Baylee?” Brian said, looking down at Baylee. Baylee looked up from his coloring book.

“Okay,” he said. “Wanna color?”

Brian laughed. Leaning towards the camera, he smiled. “I’m cutting Nick off, but we’ll be talkin’ to ya’all real soon,” he said with a thick layer of southern twang. He reached up and hit the off button.

“You’re no fun,” Nick pouted. I grabbed the camera.

Before Brian could respond, the pilot came on over the intercom, giving the standard emergency instructions. I leaned back, my ears popping like crazy as we rose into the air. As soon as we leveled out and were given the all clear, I turned on my laptop. Nick leaned over my shoulder.

“Did you enjoy the concert last night?” he asked. I nodded, flipping through the pictures.

“Of course. You guys were fabulous. Like always.”

Nick smiled, watching quietly as I worked. The process was therapeutic. After awhile, I paused to stretch. Out of the corner of my eye I saw fluffy white clouds flying along with the plane. I squirmed a little thinking of how high we were above land, then dove right back into my work as a distraction.

“Do you have a favorite song off the album?” Nick asked after awhile. He cracked open a bag of complimentary nuts and tossed one into his mouth.

“Which album?”

“The new one.”

“Yup,” I said without a pause, switching over to work on the video.

“Which one?”

“Masquerade.”

I heard Brian groan behind me. Nick laughed.

“Why do you like it?”

“Well,” I said, pausing a frame. “Every time I hear it I see this vision in my head.”

“A vision?”

“Yeah. It’s silly, but I kind of see it played out like an updated version of the Everybody video. You have the girls in the corsets and flowing skirts and you guys in the puffy shirts. Only the girls have on masquerade masks. When Brian holds out the long note I can see you guys picking up the girls and twirling them in the air, their skirts adding artistic color and movement.” I waved my hand in front of my eyes, seeing it played out behind my eyes. “I also picture this elevated stage like you had for the European tour. When you sing I gotta know, the girl behind the mask, I can see the girls running up the stairs onto the upper platform. Once they’re up there they fling off their masks and jump down into each of your waiting arms. It’s so Romeo and Juliet.”

I took a deep breath. No one said anything. I felt my face turn red.

“Ugh, sorry,” I said. “I just get carried away.”

“Sorry? That sounds cool. It would give me something else to do instead of just standing there holding a note forever,” Brian said.

“It would be a cool thing to do before the encore,” AJ said. “And it would make a cool music video,” AJ added.

“Ugh, you don’t need to humor me AJ,” I said. I looked at Nick for support, frowning at the smile that played upon his lips.

“I think we should do it.”

“Puh-lease,” I said, shaking my head.

“What? I think it sounds cool. It would be neat to tie it back to Everybody.”

I turned back to the laptop, still shaking my head. The guys began to talk logistics, pausing only long enough for Howie to scoop James up for a second diaper change. By the time we landed in Massachusetts, they had several sheets of notes and a rough sketch.

As we walked through the terminal, Nick fell in step with me.

“I’m not talking anymore,” I said, shaking my head.

“Why?”

“Because. It’s dangerous.”

AJ caught up with us, waving the plans in the air.

“Good thing we like danger.”
Chapter 11 by evergreenwriter83
Chapter Eleven

After a busy afternoon of phone calls, Howie gathered everyone together to discuss the growing possibility of doing a video for Masquerade. We all met at the Bank of America Pavilion, watching the crew do preliminary setup and enjoying a comfortable breezy evening. With plates loaded down with pizza, Howie began to discuss logistics.

“I’ve got a New York warehouse booked for the day after tomorrow,” Howie began. I choked on a pepperoni.

“Day after tomorrow?” I said, wiping my mouth with the back of my hand. “How’s that even possible?”

“It’s possible,” Howie assured. “We have three days in New York. One day is a press junket, one day is the concert, and the other day was a free day. Was a free day,” he emphasized.

“Okay,” I said, pausing. “How is the set going to get done, you guys learn the choreography, and get fitted for costumes between now and then?”

Howie grinned.

“With a little help from our friends.”

-------------------------------------

The next morning I headed from the bus to the Pavilion. I had slept fairly well and the hint of a busy day got me motivated.

I entered the Pavilion and made my way to the stage. I saw a group of people sitting in a circle of chairs, heads bent together in deep discussion. I made my way towards them quietly, then stopped short.

Our group had multiplied overnight. The crowd gathered was like a Who’s Who of Backstreet history.

“Oh my God,” I said out loud before I had a chance to stop myself.

Nick sat straddling his chair. He looked up, eyes sparkling.

“Good morning,” he said, motioning to the empty chair to his left. “You’re just in time, take a seat.”

My eyes wide like a kid in a candy shop, I sank down and looked around again. Howie started the introductions.

“Olivia, this is Fatima. Fatima, this is our tour photographer and videographer, Olivia. She’s the one that had the idea.”

I blushed profusely. Fatima had been an integral part of the Boys’ choreography back in the day when the boys were just making it big in the states.

“Great to meet you. The guys were just going over the concept. This sounds really cool,” she said, bouncing in her seat with repressed energy.

I was speechless; all I could do was nod. Brian piped in from my left.

“And this is Kevin Richardson.”

I looked around Leighanne and saw Kevin, his wife Kristin sitting next to him. On introduction, he stood, coming
over and giving me a hug.

“Great to meet you. I don’t think I’ve heard these guys sound so excited in a long time. Plus, I’ve never seen Howie do something so spontaneous.”

“Hey!” Howie said. He turned and winked at Leigh. “How do you think we got James?”

We all laughed. “I still think this is insane,” I said. “I’ve never heard of something like this coming together so fast.”

“But,” Nick interrupted. “it is possible. We have the building and we’re pulling in favors and taking advantage of some free labor.”

Everyone agreed I sighed in defeat. The guys made a few more introductions, then went over the notes from the day before.

“I did the choreography on Everybody,” Fatima began when the general plan was reviewed. “ I’ve listened to Masquerade on my flight in this morning. I can totally see this happening,” she said.

She passed around a few more sheets of notes.

“I worked with Howie over the phone last night and between the two of us I think we have a rough sketch of the production,” Fatima added. “Look it over.”

I glanced down at the neatly typed sheets in my hand and began to read, my vision unfolding on the paper in black and white.

Production Notes

Opening shots - Individual scenes (non musical)

Brian wakes up in bed next to Leighanne in “the castle” and looks around confused. Baylee walks in; he looks like a miniature wolfman. Brian sees him, screams, and then looks at his own hairy hands and touches his hairy face. He runs out of the room. Leigh follows. Baylee jumps on the bed and howls.

Howie walks down a hall, twirling his cane and wearing the Dracula costume. He opens a doorway off the hall; vampiress Leigh is in the tomb of Dracula, surrounded by coffins and holding James, who is wearing a miniature version of Howie’s outfit. With a fanged smile, Howie takes Leigh’s hand and pulls her down the hallway.
AJ sits regally at the head of the mice filled table, once again costumed as the Phantom of the Opera. Rochelle sits next to him; she leans over and feeds him a grape. Grinning she gets up, disappearing
flirtatiously. AJ follows.

Nick rests in his tomb. Hearing a noise, he opens it and looks around, seeing only the backside of a female mummy taking off out of the pyramid. He takes off after her, bandages trailing behind him.

Cut to circular room – song starts

Everyone still in costume: wolfman, vampire, phantom, and mummy, dancing. Girls dance behind them in corsets and flowing skirts in different colors (red, purple, gold, blue). Backup dancers / “extras” dance behind the girls (including Kev and Kristin).

It’s a masquerade / a love parade – At this point the boys turn, grabbing their partner and waltzing with them, similar to steps in original Everybody video.

Stay with me tonight – Long note is cue; the girls are lifted in the air at this mark. When Brian pauses for breath and then continues to sing ight, the girls should be lowered and dipped seductively.

At the start of the next verse, girls once again dance behind the boys, still costumed. The waltz and chorus steps are repeated. Alternating close-up on each guy.

I gotta know the girl behind the mask – The girls run up the stairs, looking behind them as the guys step towards them. Once the girls reach the upper platform, the boys should be positioned directly underneath, beckoning to them.

Show your face to me we could be everything – The girls slide off their masks, once more and jump into their guy’s arms. This should be presented as a slow motion sequence, with a close up of each girl falling.

Costume change ¬ - The guys should be in the peasantry outfits worn in the Everybody video upon catching the girls. After the catch, the video should return to normal tempo and the same waltzing, lifting, dipping is repeated.

End shot - Close-up of each couple kissing.

Fin

I sat back, exhaling a breath that I didn’t even know I was holding.

“So?” Nick said, hugging the back of his chair.

“This sounds better than I imagined it,” I admitted.

With that the group continued to etch out plans until sound check. As I readied the camera, Brian walked by, tussling my hair.

“Better get a case of Red Bull,” he said.

“Why?”

“It’s going to be a crazy couple of days.”

“It’s already been a crazy couple of days,” I reminded him.

“Well,” Brian paused, then broke out into song.

“You ain’t seen nothing yet!”
Chapter 12 by evergreenwriter83
Chapter Twelve

Even though everyone was preoccupied with thoughts of the video shoot, the Boys had one of their best sound checks yet. With only a small skirmish with a frantic fan desperate to get a lock of Nick’s hair, it was practically uneventful. In fact, Brian even sang Masquerade without looking like he was sitting in the dentist’s chair. The enthusiasm was palpable.

I sat fanning myself with some scribbled notes as the guys walked out of the dressing room, AJ leading the pack.

“It’s going to be a hot evening for those jackets,” I said.

“The more clothes we have on, the better chance we have of making it out alive,” AJ quipped.

“Ain’t that the truth,” Nick said from behind him. My eyes widened.

“What the hell is on your head?”

In direct contrast to the t-shirt, dress coat, and black pants he wore, Nick sported a red and white striped fishing hat.

“Protecting the locks, protecting the locks,” he answered, tugging it farther down on the forehead.

“You look like a dumbass,” Brian added.

“It’s better than being bald,” Nick replied. “No offense, AJ.”

AJ rolled his eyes.

I turned on the camera. Doing a horrible imitation of Joan Rivers, I zoomed in close on Nick.

“Nick Cah-ter, tell the fans are home what you’re wearing.”

With hand on hip, Nick smiled, lisping rather effeminately.

“Oh, where do I begin? The t-shirt is Ed Hardy and the pants and jacket are Dolce & Gabbana.”

“And the hat. Tell us about the hat.”

“The piece de resistance!” he said with flair, giving it another tug. “Walmart. Three-fiddy. Clearance.”

“You paid three dollars and fifty cents too much man,” Howie said. “You can’t wear that thing on stage.”

At that moment we heard the sound of the announcer’s voice rumbling through the anxious crowd. “Give it up for…THE BACKSTREET BOYS!”

The crowd went wild. Quickly Nick sent the hat flying in my direction. It seemed to stay airborne for a minute, before falling to the ground. I kicked it under a
chair.

“I’ll burn it later,” I teased. With a laugh he ran onto the stage.

The concert was amazing. Towards the middle of the show, Kevin bounded onstage to join the guys in Shape of My Heart and Drowning. The crowd went nuts. I got a warm fuzzy feeling; I couldn’t help but remember the thrill of seeing the Boys’ Millennium tour. I had always laughed when I saw girls bawling their eyes out on TV, but that was the night at sixteen years old when I finally understood what it was all about.

When Kevin came backstage after the songs, he was absolutely beaming. Kristin gave him a huge hug; after so many years it was easy to see they were still madly in love with each other. My heart gave a sad little pang at the thought that Hunter and I hadn’t looked at each other that way in a long time.

“Just like old times?” I asked, smiling as he wiped the sweat off his face with a towel.

“I still get the rush,” he admitted. “But then I think of all the things I’d be missing going back out on the road. As amazing as the experience is, seeing my little boy say kneeling by his bed saying his prayers is enough to keep me home.”

I smiled at the sentimentality. “I can’t blame you,” I said softly. “But you do a hell of a job out there.”

“I guess so. Not bad for an old man,” he laughed.

“I know twenty year olds that can’t move it and belt it like you,” I countered. Kristin smiled.

“I tell him that all the time.”

I left them backstage, heading back into the crowd. I had a secret goal in mind to create a montage at the end of the tour with the best concert moments for the fan club. I loved how every city showed their love in unique ways, whether by clothing, signs, or crazy acts like trying to rip Nick’s hair out of his scalp.

After the show, the guys sat around catching up with Kevin. I sat back, enjoying the camaraderie and listened to stories of the road.

“Remember,” Kevin said laughing. “When we were in Europe? Nick was about fourteen and we ended up in the red light district?”

“Oh, not this again,” Nick groaned, putting his face in his hands. Brian barked with laughter.

“Dude, it was priceless,” Howie added. “Why don’t the fire stations have doors for the trucks?” Howie said in a horrible imitation of Nick.

“It was an honest mistake. I thought the red lights indicated a fire house.” Nick shook his head. “That was before you guys corrupted me. I was still innocent.”

“Remember when we sang Tell Me That I’m Dreaming in Germany?” AJ said, his eyes sparkling. “After the performance we were supposed to say Danke Shein. And Nick,” AJ paused. The Boys laughed, already knowing the punch line. “I was standing by Nick and all I heard was…DONKEY KONG!”

“I was like twelve,” Nick argued. “C’mon, give me a break. Remember the first time a girl threw her bra onstage?”

It was Brian’s turn to groan. Leighanne smiled; I could tell she had heard the story more than once.

“He held it up,” Nick said, miming the action. “And his eyes grew absolutely huge; it must have been like a triple D or something. Well, he looked at us as if asking what he should do. We just kept on dancing. So Brian tries to put it in his back pocket and continues dancing. Well he’s moving and the thin is bouncing up and down and all I can do is stare at Brian’s ass throughout the whole song; I’m cracking up. Finally we make it through the song, I think it was Get Down, and then the crew brings out bar stools so we can sing As Long as You Love Me. So Brian starts to sit down, forgetting that this silky bra’s cupping his ass cheek so it basically turns him into a human slip and slide. He didn’t know what hit him. One minute he was sitting down, next minute he was on the floor.”

“And instead of just taking the bra out of his pocket and tossing it to one of the crew,” Kevin added. “He holds it up and says—“

“These things are dangerous,” Brian concluded, shaking his head. Leighanne had already started laughing. Brian nudged her playfully with his elbow. “Leave me alone. I conquered my fear, didn’t I?” he said teasingly, pulling her shirt away from her chest and looking down. She swatted at his hand, but grinned.

“This is fun,” Kevin said, stretching his arms above his head.

“It is,” AJ said. He glanced at his watch. “Shit. It’s midnight. If we’re going to make New York and Regis, we better get going.”

With a scrape of chairs and a chorus of goodnights, we disbanded.
Chapter 13 by evergreenwriter83
Chapter Thirteen - New York

Twitter - Backstreet Boys @backstreetboys
Turn your TV on ladies and gents. The Boys invade Regis and Kelly Live in an hour!

I closed my laptop and looked around. I had never been in a greenroom before. I should have known it wouldn’t be green. The room was painted a bright yellow. A bright floral spray sat in the middle of a round table along with muffins, fruit, and juice.

“So what do you think?” AJ said.

“It’s not green.”

“They never are,” Brian said. He studied the set of cards he held in his hand, then looked at Baylee. “Go Fish.”

Nick, who had been in a good mood for the past few days, had fallen back into his funk. He stood in a corner of the room away from the hustle and bustle, texting like mad. He looked angry.

“Everything good in here?” a show hand asked, popping only his head through the door.

“All good. Thank you,” Howie said.
Five minutes later the show hand popped his head back in.

“There’s someone out here to see Nick Carter.”

“Who?” Nick said, turning towards the door frowning. The show hand disappeared momentarily; a few seconds later the floating head resurfaced.

“She says she’s a photographer. Lauren Kitt?”

“Son of a—“

Leighanne put her finger to her lips. Nick’s nostrils flared; he practically stormed out of the room.

“I knew this was going to happen,” AJ muttered. “No way were we going to get out of New York without her tracking him down.”

The room got relatively quiet except for the occasional “Go Fish.” From the hallway voices began to rise louder and louder. Minutes passed; suddenly the door flew open and Nick walked in. Lauren walked in right behind him.

“Nick, let’s talk about this,” she begged, pulling at his arm. He freed it from her grip, turning around.
“Lauren, what more is there to talk about? We’re done. We’ve been done for awhile. Please let me go.”

“Why are you doing this?” she hissed in a whisper.

“Lauren, please,” Nick pleaded, his voice turning gentler. “Please just go. Please stop texting me. I don’t know how many ways I can tell you that I don’t have the same feelings you do. We just won’t work. I’m not going to string you along, I’m not that guy. I’m sorry.”
At that moment security walked into the room.

“Is there a problem here?”

Lauren looked at Nick pleadingly.

“Goodbye, Lauren,” he said quietly.

Stifling a loud sob she spun around, brushing past security and out the door.

The floating head reappeared.

“Thirty minutes.”

I watched Nick walk into the bathroom. The silence in the room was awkward. Hesitating only a moment I got up, walking right into the bathroom. Nick had his hands on the sides of the sink, his head bowed, his eyes closed. I shut the door softly behind me.

“You okay?” I said, coming up next to him.

“I’m fine,” Nick said. He ran a hand down his face.

Raising his head he looked at me through the reflection of the mirror. “I just hate this sometimes.”

“Hate what?” I asked gently.

“Being famous. I’m so tired of putting my faith and trust into someone and getting hurt. I’m so sick of people latching onto me and pretending to like me just to get something out of it.”

Tears sprung to Nick’s eyes. Oh no. Don’t do it. Don’t cry. I silently begged. I reached out and placed my hand on top of his.

“I can’t say I understand. I don’t,” I admitted. “But I do know that there are people in this world that care about you very, very much. The people that use you are missing out on getting to know a truly genuine soul,” I added.

Nick flipped his hand over, lacing his fingers through mine.

“Thank you,” he whispered.

The sadness in his eyes disappeared; in its place was longing. I sucked in a breath; my eyes went to his mouth. Lowering his head to mine he leaned in. I could feel the warmth of his breath on my cheek. My palms started sweating. It was really going to happen…

“Hey, Nick. We’re on man,” Howie said, his head poking through the door. He looked from Nick to me. “Ohh, sorry,” he said, coughing in embarrassment. He looked back apologetically. “We’re on,” he repeated.

“Knock ‘em dead,” I said, stepping back with a smile. Nick returned the smile. Squeezing my hand, he headed out of the bathroom, closing the door behind him.

As soon as the door closed, I crumpled up, leaning on the sink for support. Looking at my reflection in the mirror I could see the red hot flush radiating from my cheeks. Turning on the faucet, I splashed cold water on my face. After several deep breaths and another check of the mirror to make sure I looked normal, I headed back into the green room.

“You okay?” Rochelle asked.

“Hmm? Yeah, I’m fine,” I said waving the question off.

I sat down on the couch beside Leigh. The TV showed the Boys walking out amongst a loud chorus of screaming girls.

“He looks good doesn’t he?” Leigh said dreamily.

I studied Nick. He looked so relaxed; no doubt a result of seventeen years in the business.


“Yes, he does.” I said with a smile.

I mean Howie,” Leigh said teasingly. I felt the flush creep back into my cheeks.

“Yeah, I know,” I said. “That’s what I meant. Caliente.”

“Sur-rrre.” Leigh said with a chuckle. But, she let is drop.

As the show went to commercial, my phone rang. Wondering who in their right mind would dare to bother me during Regis and Kelly, I glanced at the screen in annoyance.

It was Hunter. Excusing myself, I stood up, returning to the solitude of the bathroom.

“Hello?” I said, closing the door for privacy. I sat down on the toilet lid.

“Hey, it’s me.”

“Who else would it be?” I said teasingly.

“I got your email about coming to see you in Illinois,” he said, ignoring my question.

“Yes?”

“I’ll come.”

“Really?”

“Yes,” he said with a sigh. He sounded like I was forcing him to go get a root canal.

“Are you sure?" I said.

"I'm sure."

"Well, I’ll have your ticket at the will call window. You’ll get the VIP treatment,” I added. I could almost see him roll his eyes.

“Cool," he paused. "Well that’s all I wanted, so…”

“So I’ll see you next week?”

“Yup.”

“Love you,” I said.

“Love you too,” he said. I waited for a click, but it didn’t come.

“Liv?”

“Yeah?”

“I miss you.”

My heart flooded with warmth.

“I miss you too.”

With that he disconnected. Staring at the dark screen, I sighed. My gut clenched with guilt; here was my husband planning to come see me and I almost, almost kissed another man.

I vowed that I wouldn’t give it another chance to happen.
Chapter 14 by evergreenwriter83
Chapter Fourteen

After Regis and Kelly, everyone piled back into the large black van that had brought us to the studio. Howie leaned over and give the driver an address.

“Where are we going?” I asked.

“We need to meet with the people overseeing our outfits for the video,” Howie explained.

“I can’t wait to see Baylee,” Leighanne said, smiling down at her blonde cherub.

“Grrr,” Baylee growled, holding up his “claws.”

The van inched along slowly in the New York traffic. I watched as people darted in front of cars left and right. I was horrified, but both drivers and pedestrians worked together in a language of hand gestures and honks; they took it all in stride.

Only in New York, I thought.

We hit a traffic snag. Even with the air conditioning blaring, the temperature in the van was rising as we crept along. To make matters worse, AJ began a rousing edition of 99 Bottles of Pop on the wall, which Baylee energetically joined. I was just contemplating jumping out of the car, traffic be damned, when Howie spoke up.

“The place is only two blocks away. Let’s just walk,” he said, flinging the door open and jumping out. Like me, I think he had heard about one bottle of pop too many.

After the short walk, we headed into a rather plain cinderblock building. The inside was anything but plain. The place was wall to wall costumes. I couldn’t even tell what color the walls were; clothes hung almost to the ceiling.

A woman with the most amazing shade of violet hair met us at the door.

“We’ve been waiting for you guys,” she said. “Guys, you’re going to go with Denise. Girls, you’re coming with me. I’m Bianca.”

I rummaged through my bag, pulling out my camera. Turning it on, I began to follow the guys.

“What are you doing?” Nick said, stopping outside of the room where the Boys’ costumes hung on a large rack.

“I want to get some film of you guys getting fitted in the costumes,” I explained, waving the camera back and forth across his face.

“You’ve got to go with the girls,” Nick said, turning me around. I looked over my shoulder at him.

“Why?”

“You’ve got to get fitted.”

I switched off the camera, frowning.

What are you talking about?”

“You’ve got to get fitted for your costumes for the video.”

“Whoa,” I held up my hand. “Back up.,” I laughed. “I thought I heard you just say I was wearing a costume.”

“Two costumes. The mummy costume and the gold dress.”

I backed away from him, shaking my head from side to side.

“Oh, no, no, no. That’s not going to happen.”

“What do you mean?” Nick said, closing the gap I had created between us. He gave me large puppy eyes. “Won’t you be my mummy?”

“NO!” I said.

“I told you this was going to happen,” I heard Brian say to the other guys.

“Please?” Nick said. “I already kinda sorta told everyone you’d do it,” he said.

I shook my finger at him.

“Don’t think you’re going to guilt trip me, Carter.”

“C’mon. It’ll be fun. “

“No.” I began to walk off. All of a sudden I felt his arms wrap around my left leg. I looked down to see him on his knees, clinging to me like a two year old.

“Pleeeasseee?”

“Nick, I don’t dance.”

"Look dude, he’s groveling,” AJ said from the doorway. Howie and Brian peered out around him, snickering. Nick glared in their direction, standing up. He tugged me out of view of the room.

“Livvy, it’ll be fun. It was your idea. I want you to fully experience your idea coming to life,” he said gently.

“But, Nick,” I argued. “I don’t dance.”

“Fatima will teach you. You think Leigh knows how to dance? Before she married Howie she sold real estate for a living. C’mon.”

I turned to look in the direction of the girl’s dressing room. I could see Leigh twirling in a corseted red dress. She looked so excited.

“I can’t believe this,” I muttered. I started to walk towards the room.

“Does that mean you’ll do it?” Nick called after me.

“I didn’t say yes, yet!”

“But you will,” Nick said.

Ignoring him, I entered the room. Leigh was still twirling; Rochelle looked stunning in an almost identical representation of the red off the shoulder Phantom dress.

“That’s beautiful,” I said. Rochelle grinned.

“Olivia?” Bianca asked, walking up to me with a bag slung over her arm.

“Yes,” I said reluctantly.

“Here’s your costume,” she said. “Let’s see how it fits.”

Fifteen minutes later I stood in absolute horror. The mummy outfit clung to me like a second skin.

“Oh, it fits perfect,” Bianca gushed, circling around me.

“Perfect? Perfect?” I looked at her like she was out of her mind. “This thing is too tight!”

“It’s supposed to be tight,” Bianca explained. “You’re a mummy. You’re wrapped.”

“You look great,” Leighanne said.

“Easy for you to say! You’re costume is pajamas.” I pointed to Leigh and Rochelle. “And you guys get to wear dresses. How is this fair?”

“Well,” Rochelle said, grabbing the production notes. “It says here that Nick sees your backside as you’re walking away. That’s not that bad. It’s not like you’re going full frontal.”

I rolled my eyes. “Do you see this backside?” I pointed. “You could land a plane on it.”

“Are you kidding me?” Leigh piped up. “You look great. Your ass looks great.”

“How much did Nick pay you?” I said. Leighanne laughed. “You know if you quit worrying, you might just have fun. A smart Kentucky boy told me that a long time ago.”

I knew in the deep recesses of my mind that she was right. I took off the mummy costume, switching it for the gold corset dress. The girls whistled.

“Wait until Nick gets a load of that.” Rochelle said, walking around me.

I stared into the full length mirror and slowly turned. I was in love.

With a dress.

“Well, this kind of makes up for the mummy,” I admitted.

“How are we doing ladies?” Howie said, poking his head in. I recognized the long black vintage shirt that opened to reveal his smooth chest. It was like rewinding time back thirteen years. He wolf whistled. “Love those dresses.” He looked at Leigh. “Can we keep that?” he said suggestively.

“We’ll see,” she answered back with a mischievous smile. Placing her hand gently on his face, she softly pushed him out of the room. “Now scoot.”

At that point, Bianca went around, putting a few pins and tucks in each of our dresses. Finally, she stepped back, clapping her hands.

“You guys made it easy. We’re all done; get dressed. I’ll have them at the location for you the day after tomorrow.”

I bagged up the two costumes, still eyeing the mummy suit with derision. For the next two days it looked like the only food in my future would be lettuce; hold the dressing, please.

We walked out of the dressing room to see the guys already assembled.

“All set?” AJ asked. We nodded.

“How’d your fitting go?” Rochelle asked, wrapping her arms around his waist.

“Oh fine,” AJ replied breezily.

“He’s having them add more material to his shirt,” Brian said, grinning. “His six pack has turned into a two
pack.” AJ scowled.

“How’s my mummy?” Nick said, turning his attention, and his grin, on me.

“Shut up,” I said with a laugh. Nick slipped my equipment bag off my shoulder and carried it to the van.

“Why thank you,” I said. “You are such a suck-up.”

“I try.”

“Alright, now we’re off to Ellen,” Howie said, glancing at his watch.

“56 bottles of pop on the wallll,” AJ began to sing.

“No!” Howie said. “No more. We better work on our harmonies on the way there, we’re cutting it close.”

“I love the Ellen show,” I gushed. “Does she have a green room?” I said as I buckled in.

“Yup,” Brian said, his blue eyes sparkling.

“I heard it’s orange.”
Chapter 15 by evergreenwriter83
Chapter Fifteen

We arrived for Ellen just in time for the boys to head to hair and makeup. With all the makeup they had to put on in any given day, it made me feel like I was putting womankind to shame. I sat in an empty chair and watched a hairdresser fiddle with Nick’s hair.

“Let’s do an interview,” I said, pulling out the camera. “Since I didn’t get one earlier.” I added, hoping he would catch the implication. He did.

Nick grinned. “Hey, what you did was more important.”

I rolled my eyes and flipped the camera on. “Here we are at the Ellen show. The guys are getting their hair done,” I explained panning from Nick to Howie to Brian. AJ sat on a couch, sorting through M&M’s.

“AJ doesn’t need his hair did,” Nick explained. “He’s only got peach fuzz.”

“What are you doing AJ?” I said, zooming in on him.

“I’m sorting out the yellow M&M’s,” AJ explained. He held one up to his blonde hair. “My favorite color.”

“And do yellow M&M’s taste better than the other colors?” I teased. Howie laughed in the background.

“Absolutely,” he said, tossing one up into the air and catching it. I panned the camera to Howie.

“So, Howie, tell the fans what else is going on while we’re in New York,” I said.

“Let’s see, tomorrow we’re performing at the Hammerstein Ballroom and then the day after tomorrow we’ve got something really exciting planned. We’re shooting a video for Masquerade.”

“You heard it here first, folks,” I said. I turned to Brian. He grinned cheekily and made a “come here” motion towards the camera. I zoomed in; he leaned closer to the camera.

“I’ll give you a hint about the video,” he said in a whisper. Then, tossing his head back, he let out an ear-shattering howl.

Thank you Brian,” I said rubbing my ear. “I think you broke my camera lens.”

“Well if that didn’t, that will,” Nick said. He gestured back towards AJ. I turned the camera back in AJ’s direction only to see half of his ass hanging out of his pants as he crawled underneath the couch.

“Crack kills!” Nick yelled. AJ wiggled out from under the couch holding a yellow M&M. It took him a second to register what happened, but it clicked when he saw my face and the camera pointed at him. Smiling innocently, he stood up and mooned me.

“Oh, sweet Jesus,” I yelped.

Brian, done with hair, jumped in front of him, arms held wide.

“CENSORED!”

“And, I think that’s a wrap,” I said, shaking my head. I flipped off the camera.

“Did you get what you needed?” AJ asked laughing.

“I can’t use that!” I said.

“Why not?” AJ said. “Didn’t you ever see the video where we were hitting each other with the tree branch? Nick karate chopped Brian with it and half his ass fell out of his pants.”

Nick laughed. “That was fun. Brian had that welt for like three days.” Brian rubbed his arm and winced in remembrance.

A stagehand (who I could have sworn was a clone of the one from Regis and Kelly) walked in. “You guys are on in ten minutes.” he said, hugging a clipboard to his chest. The place erupted in pandemonium.

Nick still wasn’t done with his hair, it took another four minutes. Then, five minutes before the Boys needed to head down on the elevator, Brian decided to give James a few good-hearted tosses in the air. James returned the favor by tossing the entire contents of his lunch down Brian’s shirt.

“You guys go on ahead,” I said to Nick, Howie, and AJ. “I’ll stay and help Leigh and Leighanne, then I’ll head down with Bri.”

I really wanted to meet Ellen.

The guys nodded and headed down on the elevator. Leigh hurried off with James. Working as quickly as possible, Leighanne dabbed any remnant of baby puke off of Brian’s arms. I grabbed a clean shirt, handing it over to him. Quickly he tugged it on. Then, Leighanne took out a bottle of cologne, spritzing liberally.

“Ugh, that’s enough,” Brian said, waving his hand over his nose. I had to agree. He smelled like a prostitute. I glanced at my watch. We had two minutes.

“Ready?” I asked, tapping my watch face.

“Ready.”

After giving Leighanne and Baylee a quick kiss, Brian followed me to the elevator. We stepped on and I punched the down button. The elevator seemed to descend at a crawl.

“This reminds me of the Wonka-vator,” Brian remarked. “It’s not glass, but it’s so small.”

“I know,” I said, even thought I didn’t want to think about it. I’m not claustrophobic, but I wouldn’t be sad when the ride was over. “I don’t think anyone’s going to be piling their entourage in here anytime soon.” I added, watching the floors descend. It seemed like the elevator was slowing down until, with a sickening lurch, the elevator stopped altogether. The doors didn’t open.

“Uh-oh,” I said. I looked up at the floor numbers. We were stuck between floors.

“What? Oh you’ve got to be kidding me.” Brian said. He punched at the buttons, but nothing happened. Glancing at his watch, he reached over and picked up the emergency telephone.

“Yes, this is Brian Littrell. I’m supposed to be on the Ellen set in, oh, a minute and I’m stuck in the elevator.” he paused. “No seriously, it’s stuck.”

“Right. Okay.” He hung up.

“Well?”

“They said they’re sending someone immediately,” Brian said. He sat down on the floor of the elevator. I did the same. We looked at each other.

We sat in silence as the minutes crept by by. All I could hear was the ticking of our watches. Brian leaned his head against the wall. I sat yoga style, willing the elevator doors to open. But they didn’t.

And we waited.

---------------------------------

After an hour, I was rethinking my claustrophobic statement. Even though it was just Brian and me, the walls seemed to be closing in. I dabbed at my neck; it was damp with sweat.

“You okay?” Brian said. He had given up worrying about making the interview; now we just kept hoping to hear the elevator come back to life.

“I’m fine,” I said. “It’s just warm in here.” Brian’s cheeks were flushed.

“Yes, it is.” He looked at me apologetically. “I’m sorry you’re stuck with me.”

I smiled. “Hey, I don’t mind being stuck with you.”

“I can think of someone else that probably would have been more than glad to take my place,” he suggested. I felt the heat rise even more.

“You must think I’m a horrible person,” I said. Brian raised his eyebrows.

“Why?”

“I’m married,” I reminded him. “Not that I’ve done anything wrong, but Nick’s kind of hard to…” I trailed off.

“Resist?” Brian said helpfully. I nodded.

“Are you happy?”

“What do you mean?”

“Does your husband make you happy?”

"I…I…well…it’s complicated,” I said.

“Life’s complicated,” Brian said. “Let me tell you a story. Thirteen years ago I fell in love,” his voice grew tender. “At first sight. She was engaged, but something happened between us; it just felt right and we didn’t question it. We leapt blindly and we were rewarded with happiness.” Brian grinned. “And even now I wake up every morning and it’s love at first sight all over again.”

I felt tears spring to my eyes. My heart melted.

“Everyone deserves that,” Brian continued. “And sometimes love finds you when you’re not looking for it. I’m not going to say that marriage isn’t sacred, but marriage is also a partnership. If one person constantly puts their needs first, the only connection is a shared name and rings.”

“So you’re saying…” I trailed off.

“I’m not saying anything,” Brian grinned. “I’m just channeling my inner Dr. Phil. But I will say that I’ve never seen Nick like this. Ever.”

As I sat pondering that, the elevator roared to life. The sound greeted our ears like sweet music. Cheering, we jumped up and hugged each other tightly. Pulling away slowly, I smiled at him.

“Thank you Bri,” I said. “This was almost worth it.”

“Almost worth it?”

“Yeah. You still kinda smell like a room spray.” I said, wrinkling my nose and fanning the air.

The first thing anyone saw when the elevator doors slid open was Brian smelling his armpits. I ran as fast as I could, right into Nick’s open arms. He hugged me tightly, wrinkling his nose.

“You smell like a prostitute,” he complained.

I didn’t care. We were free. The guys had winged the interview and performance and, most importantly, I still got to meet Ellen.
Chapter 16 by evergreenwriter83
Chapter Sixteen


“I hate to do this to you guys,” Howie apologized. “But if we’re going to be ready, we’ve got to practice tonight.”

My eyes felt like concrete. We had just eaten dinner and I was full on baked chicken and rice. I had convinced myself that after the trauma of the elevator incident that I had surely burned off enough calories to enjoy more than just lettuce. But now Howie was telling us that we had to meet Fatima at the video location to start going over choreography and I was reminded of how tight the mummy costume was. I groaned.

We walked from the restaurant back to our hotel. We were staying at a hotel halfway between the video shoot location and the Hammerstein Ballroom. I ran up to my room and packed a tank top and a pair of sweats. Nick was waiting outside my room as I opened the door.

“Red Bull?” he said, holding out an ice cold can. “It gives you wings,” he smiled.

“I don’t need wings,” I said, taking a sip. “I just need coordination.”

“You’ll be fine.”

A half hour later we walked into a large warehouse. I looked around astonished. People were everywhere. The set was coming alive before our eyes.

“You’re late,” Kevin said.

“Just like old times,” AJ said, hugging him and Kristin.

“I should make you guys do laps,” Fatima said. “But considering we’re probably going to be here ‘til about one or two in the morning as is, let’s just get to work.”

Now, I must admit that while I don’t and can’t dance, I have always had this silly dream of one day doing Dancing with the Stars. I mean, if Kate Gosselin can do it, why couldn’t I? After an hour of turning right when we were supposed to turn left and clapping when we were supposed to be bowing, I knew why I couldn’t. I was inept. Sweat dripped off my nose. I felt like I was being repeatedly punched in the stomach. The Wii Fit couldn’t help me now. I was doomed.

Everyone else seemed to be catching on. After I screwed up for the hundredth time, Fatima called for a break. Everyone wandered off except for Nick and Fatima. She walked up, touching my shoulder.

“You’re over thinking it,” she said. “You can do it. I see it up here,” she tapped her head. “I just need you to send it down there.” she pointed to my feet.

“I can’t.” I said, shaking my head.

“You can,” Nick said. He walked behind me. I felt his hands grip my waist.

“Start the music, ‘Tima.” Nick said. She walked over to the CD player, starting the track again.

“What are you doing?” I said, craning my head to look at him.

“You’ll see,” he said cryptically.

The music started and I took a deep breath. His touch was unnerving. Just like when we danced at the club, his touch seemed to jumble my thoughts so much that I couldn’t over think. After a few hesitant steps, I actually kept up. I felt Nick lean over me as I leaned down, step back when I stepped back. We were completely in sync.

“Good! Good!” Fatima called out, clapping her hands to the beat. “And one, and two.” She counted off until we ran through the entire part. “Try it again,” she said. She stopped the song and restarted it from the beginning. I felt Nick’s hands drop from my waist; he stepped in front of me, taking his correct place. His magic had done the trick; I completed the steps again, keeping perfect time with him. Fatima stopped the CD player grinning.

“Congratulations, kids. Twenty five seconds down. Two and a half minutes left to go.”

I groaned.

-----------------------------------------------

If I thought the line work was hard, what was to come was even worse. Fatima had Kevin and Kristin come out to demonstrate the waltz sequence. They looked like Ken and Barbie waltzing along the floor. At “so stay with me tonight,” Kevin lifted Kristin up in the air like she was a feather. On the track, Brian took a breath and continued holding “ight.” At that point, Kevin slid Kristin down his body sensuously. She bent backwards like she was made of rubber, her arms sweeping behind her, almost touching the floor. Fatima clapped.

“Perfect! Alright ladies and gents,” she said. “Let’s give it a try, shall we?”

“Nick, I can’t do this,” I said as he took my hands. He shook his head.

“You need to be more like The Little Engine that Could,” Nick said. “No more can’t. Just keep saying I think I can, I think I can. You’ll be fine.” He grinned. “Plus you can’t abandon me now. This is my second favorite part.”

“What’s your favorite?” I asked.

I didn’t get a chance to find out. Fatima started the music and we were off.

It was stupid, but as an (ex) children’s librarian, I couldn’t help but think of The Little Engine that Could by Watty Piper. I could see every picture as if I was sitting there reading it for storytime. After the third restart, I realized with surprise that I actually had the waltzing down.

“Now we’ll add the lift,” Fatima said, starting the music again.

We started the waltz again. Nick looked down at me, his eyes twinkling. I was sure he could see how nervous I was. Before I knew it, I heard “so stay with me tonight.” Nick’s hands tightened on my waist and lifted me like I weight nothing. All of a sudden I was staring down directly into his eyes, my feet in mid-air, smiling. I focused directly on Nick as we spun in a circle. I vaguely heard Brian’s voice fade on the track and then come back. On cue Nick lowered me. I slid along every muscular inch of him; my mouth turned as dry as cotton. Somewhere in the recess of my brain I remembered the dip. I swung my arms out in what I thought was an imitation of Kristin. Nick held onto my waist. I promptly put all my weight in it.

The next thing I knew I was on the floor; Nick on top of me.

Three hours later I dragged my tired body into my room. For once Andrea’s endless energy had been depleted; she gave a heavy sigh as we lumbered to our beds.

“I have never been more tired in my life,” she whined.

“I glanced towards the clock.” It was three in the morning.

“Well, it’s going to get worse. We’ve got to be back there by ten,” I said. I fell on the bed still dressed. I knew I should take a shower, but I was too tired to care about my funk.

We hadn’t even gotten past the waltz, lift and dip. We still had a lot of song left to cover. I knew I was going to be sore in the morning and it was only going to get worse. Because of my bright ideas, I’d be jumping off a platform in about, oh, eight hours.

----------------------------------------

By noon the next day I felt like Rocky. In two hours I had climbed the damn stairs so many times that I wanted to scream. Finally, Fatima was satisfied.

“Now for the jump!” she said.

I stood on the platform, staring down, down, down. I was on the coaster, buckled in, and there was no way I could turn back. If I was sweating before, it was nothing compared to now.

“You’ll be attached to wires,” Fatima explained. “That way if your guy misses the mark, you’ll end up floating to the floor.”

I touched the wires, thinking that there was no way in hell they were going to bare enough of my weight to float me safely to the floor. I swallowed hard.

“You okay up there?” Nick called. I gave him a weak thumbs up.

“Alright, count of three.”

We put on our masks and waited for the music to start.

On cue, show your face to me, we flung them off. I watched the other three girls make the jump, landing in the guys’ arms. My feet wouldn’t move. I heard a groan from the general direction of Fatima.

“I’m sorry!” I called out. I blew a loose strand of hair away from my eyes.

“Let’s try that again,” Fatima said. The girls made their way back up the stairs.

“Hey,” Rochelle said grabbing my arm. “It’s fun. It’s like sky-diving,” she said grinning. I felt myself go pale.

“Oh, shit. That’s not helpful is it?” she said, biting her lower lip. “Okay. It’s like jumping off a diving board. Just pretend you’re going to land in water. It’s safe.”

“You can drown in water,” I reminded her.

"The only thing you’ll be drowning in is Nick’s drool,” she said, pointing below. Nick gave a wave. I sighed, feeling like a baby.

“Okay. Let’s go.” I said, mustering up a teeny tiny ounce of courage.

“Ready?” Fatima called. We nodded.

The music started again. On cue I tossed my mask. I didn’t hesitate; if I did I wouldn’t have gotten a toe over the platform. I jumped, remembering to keep my eyes open. Amazingly I felt the wires tighten, slowing the fall. My body was in a pure state of calm as I felt Nick’s hands wrap around my waist and set me gently on the ground.

“Great, great!” Fatima called. “Let’s get the wires off and do the final waltz.”

Nick unclipped the wires, grinning.

“What?” I said.

“What do you mean what?”

“Why are you grinning?”

“No reason,” he said, grinning wider.

We stayed in place as Fatima started the music. We picked up right after the jump and catch. Confident in the waltz, lift, and dip, my feet almost floated across the floor.

I felt a surge of pride as the song approached the end. I smiled at Nick. Nick gave me the same wide grin from earlier. “Here comes my favorite part,” he said as the last long note floated through the air.

“What?” I said. I studied his face but he didn’t respond; I saw his beautiful ocean eyes grow darker, the sparkle taking on new meaning.

Lowering his head, his lips pressed hungrily to mine. At that moment everything around me ceased to exist; I slid my arms around his neck, clinging on for dear life.

If this was what it felt like to drown, I would gladly take the plunge a million times.
Chapter 17 by evergreenwriter83
Chapter Seventeen

As with all good things, the kiss had to come to an end. As we pulled gently away, my hearing returned. I heard the clapping and wolf whistles; I felt my face grow red. Blushing wasn’t something I often did, but it seemed like it was becoming a common occurrence around these guys.

“Should we do it again?” Nick said, smiling at Fatima. “I think I missed a step.”

“Bullshit,” Fatima said, laughing. “No I think we’ll call it quits. Once Joseph get’s here tomorrow you’ll be doing each step about ten thousand times.”

I blinked in surprise. My lips were still tingling.

“Joseph?” I said.

“Kahn,” Howie said.

“He directed Everybody,” I said. It was such a “duh” statement; I wondered if I had lost a few brain cells from the extended lack of oxygen.

“Yes, he did,” Howie said with a laugh. “I emailed him the concept and he got a little sentimental.”

“He also said our last few videos have been crap,” AJ said with a smile.

“I blame Jive for that,” Leighanne said. “You can’t do anything without money.”

“Well, we had to front the money for Everybody and it worked well for us.” Howie reminded them. “Maybe lightning will strike twice.”

Everyone crossed their fingers.

We better hit the showers,” AJ said, looking at his watch. “We’ve got sound check soon.”

“Alright Howard,” Brian said.

“What? Howie can’t always be the mother.” AJ said.

“I’m not the mother!” Howie complained.

The guys walked away discussing the patriarchy of the “Backstreet Boys” family; Nick stayed behind.

“So,” he said softly, running his thumb along my face.

“So,” I repeated just as quietly. His lips met mine again. I slid my hands to his face, kissing back hungrily. I heard a moan escape from the back of his throat before he pulled away.

“I hope the water’s cold,” he said with a grin as he squeezed my hand. He began to walk backwards towards the guy’s shower area. He blew a kiss in my direction, then turned and disappeared around the corner.

“Good Lord,” I said once he was out of sight. Fanning myself I headed to the girl’s showers, hoping for some cool water to extinguish some of the fire erupting in my extremities.

But the fire was just getting started.

----------------------------------------------

We arrived at sound check with an hour to spare.

“Karoke?” Brian said, grabbing a microphone.

“I was thinking a nap,” Howie said.

“A nap sounds good,” AJ said, grinning at Rochelle. “Want to go tuck me in?”

“Anytime,” she responded.

“Aww, c’mon,” Brian said. He tapped a mic; it sparked to life.

“I’m game,” Nick said.

“Sweet.” Brian ran off to the sound mix with his IPod, then jumped back on the stage, giving the thumbs up.

“Alright ya’all,” he said in a slow drawl. “Let’s get this party started.”

“Oh no,” Nick said. “He’s got the twang. That can only mean one thing…”

Just then a loud country intro started blaring through the ballroom. Brian tipped an imaginary cowboy hat in Leighanne’s direction. I recognized the song.

“Oh!” I said laughing. “It’s Rascal Flatts. Me and My Gang.

Nick looked at me. “Oh no, you like country music too? Geesh, I didn’t know I kissed a hillbilly,” he teased.
“Shut up Nick! I saw you’re following Rascal Flatts on Twitter!” Brian called. He began singing as if his life depended on it. I turned the camera on quickly, pointing it towards the stage.

Way on down to Southern Alabama with the gee-tars jammin’ that’s where we’re headed / Straight up to Butte, Montana singing ‘Lord I was born a ramblin’ man’ / California to Oregon / Even New York City got one or two hillbillies ready to hit the road / It’s a brother and a sister kind of thing / raise up your hands if you want to hang with / Me and My Gang…

At the chorus, Nick jumped on stage. Grabbing their belts they both began a horrible ho-down. Leighanne lifted Baylee on the stage to join them.

By the end of the song I was laughing so hard I was crying.

“I’m never going to be able to hear that song again without thinking of you three Stooges,” I complained as they took a bow.

“Good, I like being in your mind,” Nick said. He tossed Brian’s mic in my direction.

“What’s this?” I said, catching it.

“Up here,” he said, pointing at the spot next to him. Brian took the camera from me.

“It’s in good hands,” he said. I gave him a look.

“What? Don’t trust me?” Brian teased.

“It’s Nick I don’t trust,” I responded as I climbed up the stage.

Beautiful Lie?” I asked.

“For my country girl? Nope.” he said. He motioned towards the sound mix booth.

The first few bars of Lady Antebellum’s I Run to You drifted around the room.

“You know this?” I said, looking at him.

“I do. I’ve had to borrow Brian’s IPod a time or two,” he said. “It’s catchy.”

“He’s a closet hillbilly,” Brian added. Nick made a gesture, then began singing.

I run from hate / I run from prejudice I run from
pessimists / But I run too late
” Nick sang. Good gravy, I could listen to him sing all day. He pointed to me. I rolled my eyes, but sang.

I run my life / Or is it running me? Run from my past / I run too fast, or too slow it seems” Taking a deep breath, I hoped I could stay remotely in harmony with Nick on the chorus.

When lies become the truth / That’s when I run to you / This world keeps spinning faster / to a new disaster / so I run to you / I run to you baby / When it all starts coming undone / Baby you’re the only one I run to / I run to you.

“Encore, encore!” Brian shouted when we finished.

“Why doesn’t Leighanne sing?” I said. I tried to give her the mic; she backed away shaking her head.

“Leighanne doesn’t sing,” Brian explained.

“Neither do I!” I laughed.

“Yeah, but you’re easier to guilt,” Nick said. He took both mics, putting them back on their stands.

Fifteen minutes later AJ and Howie came back on stage. I could tell AJ didn’t take a nap; I suspected he went to bed but he certainly didn’t sleep.

For the rest of the evening it was back to business. I had just taken a gorgeous close-up of Howie giving a rose to a little girl when my phone vibrated in my pocket. Sighing, I stepped backstage, the sound becoming more and more muffled as I walked down the hall.

“Hello?” I said. I switched to playback on the camera to take a look at what I had already shot.

“Liv? Oh my gawd, it’s Jess!”

My ever bubbly best friend brought a smile to my face.

“Hey Jess. What’s up?”

“I should ask you that,” she said teasingly.

“What do you mean?”

“What’s going on with you and Nick?”

I almost choked. How could she possibly know?

“What do you mean?” I repeated.

“I just checked Twitter,” Jess explained. “Nick just tweeted a picture of you. I’m so jealous!”

“What? Hold on.”

I quickly put her on hold; bringing up Twitter. I groaned.

He had tweeted, best day ever. I clicked on the twitpic. Someone had taken a picture of the waltz lift. Reluctantly I reconnected back to Jess.

“Did you see?” she said. “Is that the Masquerade video? Are you in it? Wait until Hunter sees!”

“Whoa,” I said a little harsher than I intended. “We have to talk about that. You got me in big trouble by posting that fanclub video on Facebook. Hunter went through the roof.”

“He did? I’m soo sorry,” Jess said. . “I won’t say anything,” she added. “Of course anyone can see Nick’s twitter,” she warned. “But I have to know, what’s the picture all about?”

“I’m going to be Nick’s partner for the video. They’re using most of their backup dancers from the tour and Kevin and his wife Kristin are here for a surprise cameo as part of the backup ensemble,” I explained.

“You are so lucky. Ugh, that picture look s like Nick’s about ready to kiss you.” I didn’t tell her how right she was. “Hey, I got your message about a free ticket to the Illinois concert. I know this is short notice, but I’d love to see you. And them.”

I laughed. “It will be waiting at will call.” I said.

“I love you forever!”

“Yeah, right. Listen, I’ve got to go. We’re in the middle of a concert but I’ll see you in a few days, okay?”

“Yup, have fun!”

I disconnected and went back out in the crowd for the rest of the concert. After two encores, we returned to the hotel. It had been another long day.

“We’ve got to be in costuming and makeup at 4 o’clock in the morning,” Howie said. “We need to meet here in the hotel lobby no later than 3:30.”

Everyone groaned.

“Have a wonderful sleep. I will see you guys in,” Howie checked his watch. “Four hours.”

Nick walked me to my room.

“Good night,” I said, swiping the keycard to unlock the door.

“I’ll see you in a few hours,” Nick said.

“I’m going to need a lot of makeup tomorrow to cover these bags under my eyes,” I warned. He laughed quietly.

“You’re beautiful no matter what,” he said. My heart stopped. I couldn’t remember when Hunter had ever told me I was beautiful.

“Nick, I don’t know how this is going to work,” I said. “I don’t want to hurt anyone.” His smile wavered slightly.

“Hey,” he said lightly. “Let’s not worry about that right now.” He stepped closer. “Right now, all I care about is you and me, alone outside your room, saying goodnight.”

I let out a soft little “ohh,” before his lips touched mine. He pressed me tightly against his body. His lips radiated a sense of urgency. Heart pounding, I explored his mouth with my tongue. His hand snaked up the back of my shirt. My fingers ran into his hair, down his neck, and back up again.

“Come back to my room,” he said, nibbling my bottom lip. My eyes closed, my nails dug gently into his scalp. Every nerve ending in my body was on fire.

“I can’t,” I whispered. “I want to, but I just…I just can’t go that far. Not right now.”

Nick rubbed a hand over his face, then looked back at me.

“I understand,” he whispered. “But I had to try,” he added. We shared another kiss.

“Good night, Nick,” I said slipping into my room.

“Good night,” he said.

The last thing I saw before closing the door was his blue bedroom eyes; a reminder of what I turned down.
Chapter 18 by evergreenwriter83
Chapter Eighteen

It had been a long time since I was awake at four in the morning. As the type of person who enjoys my sleep, functioning on a combined total of about six hours sleep in the last two days was grating on me. Needless to say, I was not in a good mood. Seeing myself in the skin tight mummy outfit only made it worse. I sat in a makeup chair feeling like I was wearing Saran wrap.

“Your makeup’s going to take awhile,” the girl said apologetically, noting the scowl on my face. “And you can’t drink afterward. Need some water?”

I nodded, taking a clear plastic cup. I downed it, thinking I needed something a lot stronger than water to get me through the day.

When we had walked in that morning, the sets were ready and waiting for us. I walked with Nick through the Egyptian set, shivering a little bit at the realistic cobwebs. The main floor was ready and waiting; the hypnotic purple and white swirl lay proudly on the floor. It seemed to be screaming, “hey, remember me? Let’s go!

I stared straight ahead as the makeup artist started to cake me with layer after layer of makeup. The hair stylist was working simultaneously, precisely placing the mummy wrapping around my head. My hair was pulled back in a ponytail.

I remember watching the Behind the Scenes video for Everybody and thinking that the transformation of the guys was the coolest thing ever. The entire makeup sequence took about five minutes. In real life, the makeup took hours. My ass was asleep and I was sure that I was sweating off the makeup as fast as they put it on. Finally, they stepped away.

“You’re ready to go,” they said proudly. The makeup artist held up a mirror.

I gasped. I looked completely different.

Not in a hot way, just more like a dead for thousands of years way.

I slid out of my seat and looked around.

There’s my mummy.”

I turned around to see Nick. I had to smile. He actually made a better mummy now than twelve years ago. His baby face was gone and so was his gawky teen body; his chiseled face and the tightness of the outfit made me want to kneel before him.

“Hey, you look good.”

“So do you,” he said, his eyes fixed straight on my chest.

“It doesn’t leave much to the imagination,” I said awkwardly.

“You don’t know my imagination,” Nick said, laughing. He took my hand. “C’mon.”

I followed him to the individual sets.

“I don’t think they’re ready for us yet. Joseph’s shooting Howie’s scene,” he said.

We stood to the side and watched. Howie looked amazing in the Dracula costume. The hair dresser had given him extensions; he looked perfect. He saw us watching and gave a wave.

“I’ve walked down the hall 310 times,” Howie said. He looked slightly frustrated.

“And we’re going to do it one more time,” Joseph said. “Action!”

We watched Howie strut down the hall, twirling his cane. He turned and gave Joseph a look, Joseph gave him the thumbs up.

“That’s a wrap!”

“Did you already shoot Leigh and James?” I asked. Howie nodded, smiling. He opened up the door to the “tomb.” Leigh walked out holding James. He was the pudgiest sweetest little vampire I had ever seen.

“Oh my god,” I said. “He’s adorable.”

“He started crying when he saw me,” Howie explained. “After about, oh, 200 takes, he finally came to terms that he was stuck with me coming into the room every few seconds.”

Leigh laughed. James clung to her, his little hang grabbing onto the top of her dress.

“You look great, Leigh,” I said.

“You do too,” she said. “Doesn’t she Nick?”

Nick didn’t respond right away. I looked at him. His eyes were directly on my ass. I twirled around, destroying his view.

“What?” he looked up. Sorry?” he said. “Did someone say something?”

“Nick, I think we’ll take you now,” Joseph said. “We’ve got Howie’s and AJ’s scene done. Brian and Baylee are still in makeup.”

I felt a pang of sympathy. I couldn’t believe Baylee had to sit still that long; I could barely do it. And he was only seven years old.

We followed Joseph to the tomb.

“Welcome to my crib, MTV,” Nick said, throwing his arms wide. “Let’s see what we have in the fridge.” He opened his coffin. “Hmm, looks like I need to go shopping, only cobwebs in here.”

“You haven’t changed a bit, Nick,” Joseph said. He spent a few minutes putting us into position and walking us through the shot with the cameras off. When he was satisfied, he settled down behind the camera

“Alright, one, two, three.”

I heard the audio track let out a creak and saw Nick’s face come out of the tomb. Joseph pulled the camera away and I knew I was in frame. I quickly walked out.

“Cut!” he said. He looked at me. “Walk out slower; I want to see you ooze sexuality, be enticing.”

“Are you kidding me? I have sheets of toilet paper sticking to my ass and I’m supposed to look sexy?”

Joseph smiled at Nick. “I like her.”

Nick smiled back. “Me too.”

I sighed in frustrated and we set up for another take.

Howie wasn’t exaggerating the number of takes. I counted up to one hundred ninety-five. By this point I was tired enough to walk slowly, even though I’m not too sure about the sensual part. I had also begun to ad lib. It got boring doing the same thing every time. On the next take, I heard the creak and turned and smiled, making a “c’mere” motion with my bandaged finger. I slowly slid out of frame. Nick did a “score!” expression to the camera before following.

“Cut! That was great,” Joseph said. “I think we’re done here.”

“Yes,” I said, fist pumping the air. Nick came up and picked me up from behind, swinging me around. “You were great.”

“Put me down!” I said laughing. Obeying he set me down, but not before I felt his fingertips brush the underside of my breast. I sucked in a breath. His lips brushed my neck.

“I can’t wait to see costume number two,” he said, his breath tickling the sensitive skin.

By the time I turned to look at him, he was already gone.

------------------------------------------

For as long as the makeup took to put on, it was scrubbed away in minutes. I got into the beautiful gold corset dress and settled in for hair and makeup. Maybe it was because I had dreaded the mummy costume so much, but this time around the wait didn’t seem as excruciating. It was close to one o’clock in the afternoon and my morning grumpiness was fading away.

“I love your hair,” the hairdresser commented. She had my thick, wavy brown hair in both of her hands, examining it.

“Thank you,” I said. “It weighs a ton.”

“Well,” she paused. “I think we’re going to accentuate the waves and push just the sides away from your face. When you’re jumping I think it would be so pretty to have your hair fanning out in slow motion,” she explained.

“You’re the expert,” I said, trying not to move my lips. The makeup artist was liberally applying a clear gloss.

Forty-five minutes later I was up and out of the chair. By this time all of the girls were getting finishing touches.

“Baylee looked adorable,” Leighanne said as we sat sharing our experiences. “And he let the hairdresser trim his hair. Once she did that he looked so much like Brian it took my breath away.”

“I can’t wait to see it,” I said.

“Are you ready girls?” Joseph said, poking his head in. We nodded.

We headed out to the main set. The guys were waiting, talking with the backup dancers. Brian turned first; when he saw us he let out a howl.

“You girls look great,” he said. Leighanne ran her hands along his pimp coat. Her blue dress looked lovely in contrast to the plush white coat.

“I could definitely sink my teeth into you,” Howie said, pulling Leigh close. Her red dress next to his black cape was a perfect fit.

AJ didn’t say anything. Instead, he scooped Rochelle up, giving her a long, slow kiss.

I turned to look at Nick.

“You look amazing,” he said. “I…wow.”

I tugged on one of his bandages. “Thank you, mummy,” I said.

Our admiration fest was cut short as Joseph walked on set. Fatima trailed behind him.

“Alright, let’s see how fast we can get through this so we can get the guys out of these costumes. If we make good time we can break for dinner, the guys can get into hair, makeup, and costume, and we’ll be finished by midnight.”

The hint of food at the end of the rainbow upped the ante. For two hours we danced, waltzed, lifted, and dipped over and over again. I had wondered how Nick was going to be able to dance in the mummy costume, but he danced like he wore it every day.

Finally Joseph was satisfied. The boys went to get changed and then joined us for dinner. I had almost forgotten how good the Boys’ looked in the peasantry outfits. Nick wore black pants, a white blousy shirt and a gold vest that perfectly matched my dress. He emerged from the dressing room with a rose.

“A rose for a rose,” Nick said, tucking it behind my ear.

“You shouldn’t have,” I said, touching the velvety petals. He kissed me, handing me a dinner plate at the same time.

“I like dessert first,” he teased. I smiled.

We ate ravenously. After a quick trip back to hair and makeup, we donned our masks and tackled the stairs.

I was grateful that we had practiced the jump the day before; after making sure that the wires were once again securely attached, I felt confident taking the plunge. Take after take piled up and hour after hour rolled by. It seemed forever before our harnesses were off and we were once again waltzing. I was beginning to think that we’d never be done; we’d spend the rest of our days twirling and whirling round and round until our feet cracked and fell off when Joseph finally stood up.

“Okay,” Joseph said. “Backup dancers you’re free. Thank you.”

Kevin and Kristin stopped to give everyone hugs.

“We’ve got to take off,” Kevin said apologetically.

“We’ve never been away from Mason this long,” Kristin explained.

Everyone wished them a safe trip and they were off. Joseph turned to our small group of eight.

“Okay, last but not least, I need a close up of the kiss. I got the wide angle kiss shot; now we need to get the saliva flowing.”

Nick rubbed his hands together.

Joseph started with Brian, making his way down the line. Nick and I were last.

“Wanna practice?” Nick said.

“Oh, you need practice?” I said sweetly. “I don’t.” He made a face.

The one thing I noticed while watching the others was that it was a lot harder to make a kiss look natural when you had to do it on cue. I watched as Joseph took take after take of Brian and Leighanne and AJ and Rochelle. As he was working with Howie and Leigh, Nick’s idea of practice began to sound better and better. I turned to him, placing my hands on his gold vest.

“Did I tell you how much I like that corset?” Nick said, his taller vantage point giving him a perfect view straight down into my cleavage.

“How much?” I whispered. Before he could respond, I brought my mouth to his.

I lost track of the progress with Howie and Leigh. My fingers trailed from his vest to the fluttering opening of the white blousy shirt. It was damp from perspiration. Nick pulled me closer and I shivered in delight as his tongue probed my mouth. Hot torrents of desire flowed through my body.

I don’t think we would have stopped if it wasn’t for Howie pulling Nick’s shoulder back slightly. Nick broke the kiss, turning to look at him.

“Hey, he got it on the first take,” Howie said, snickering.

“Huh? Oh good,” Nick said. He turned right back to me, his lips practically magnetized to my own. In minutes we were the only ones left on the set, a handsome prince and his lady in waiting.

That night my lips were never lonely. As the busses made their way from New York to New Jersey, Nick and I made our way from the couch on his bus to his bed, our lips barely separating. Nick never pushed for anything more; our talk the night before must have been on his mind. I was grateful for his thoughtfulness, but the truth was I knew I’d wake in the morning still wanting more.
Chapter 19 by evergreenwriter83
Chapter Nineteen - New Jersey

The sun was high in the sky before my eyes fluttered open. For a moment I forgot where I was; all I knew was the bed felt wonderful. I stretched, turning my head to rest my cheek on the pillow.

Nick was awake, just watching me. Thoughts of the night before rushed back to me; I felt a lump of guilt rest in my stomach even as my lips yearned for more. I had never been so confused in my life.

“Good mo—“ he turned and checked the clock. “almost afternoon,” he laughed.

“We slept that long?” I said, rubbing my eyes.

“You did,” Nick said. I blushed.

“But, you sleep like an angel,” he said. “And you look like one too.”

“How long have you been up?” I said.

“Oh, an hour or so.”

I looked at him closer. He was already showered and dressed. I began to scowl, but stopped. My lips felt swollen; I touched them gently. Nick kissed my fingers.

“Does it look like my lips have been Botoxed?” I asked. Nick laughed.

“It’s not that bad,” he said. “But I have to admit we did a pretty good job on them.”

I swung my feet over the side of the bed and stood up. Nick pointed to a door beside the bed.

“Bathroom’s back there,” he said. “I’ll wait for you.”

I padded back into his bathroom. Splashing water on my face, I sighed and looked in the mirror. I screamed.

The hair spray residue that I wasn’t able to wash out the night before had dried again. Between the horror of my hair and my swollen lips I felt like Medusa. And yet Nick thought I looked like an angel.

He was delusional.

“You okay?” he said. “Did you get something stuck?”

“I’m fine!” I called out. “Very funny!”

I took a long shower; the water was actually hot on Nick’s bus. Wrapping myself in a huge fluffy white towel (that smelled amazingly like Nick), I set to work on massaging detangler through my hair. After another ten minutes I was looking almost human. The door opened and Nick peeked in.

“That’s a great look on you,” he said, stepping in. He had my bags in his hands. “Andrea took your bags last night; I just went over and got them.”

He set them on the floor and stepped up behind me. I felt his fingers fall into my hair, playing with the wet strands. My eyes fluttered closed. His lips fell to my bare shoulder, nipping the skin. My toes curled. I held onto the front of my towel. Nick’s hand fell over mine, prying my fingers gently away.

“Nick,” I whispered. My chest rose and fell heavily.

“I want you so much,” he whispered back. My head fell back against him as the towel slid down slightly. His fingertips played across the tops of my breasts. I felt my nipples harden. He turned me around to face him, his hands dropping to my waist. He hoisted me up on the sink, trailing kisses from my forehead, to my lips, my neck, and downward. I wrapped my legs around his waist; as he pressed even closer, I felt him harden. My hands trailed down his chest towards his member, but he stepped back, shaking his head as if to clear his thoughts.

“You’re killing me, Livvy,” he groaned. My body was coiled like a spring, waiting for more. Tears sprang to my eyes.

“Nick,” I begged, my whole body electrified.

“You don’t know how bad I want this right now,” he said his voice husky. “But, I’m not going to make you that type of woman.” I understood the implication. Nick turned from me, facing the shower. His shoulders rose and fell heavily.

“He’s coming to the concert tomorrow,” I said. “I’ve done a lot of thinking; I know what I have to do. This trip has opened my eyes. I haven’t been happy in such a long time.” I felt a tear roll down my cheek. “Hunter didn’t even call me beautiful on my wedding day. Nick, I’m not going to chain you down, but you help me feel alive. I’m a married woman, but I’m only twenty-six years old. I…I know now that I made a mistake. I don’t want to waste the rest of my life sitting on a couch and wondering what could have been.”

Nick turned back to look at me. Seeing my trail of tears, he came to me, brushing them gently away from my cheek.

“I’ll let you get dressed,” he said softly, kissing the remainder of the tear tracks on my face. He closed the door behind him. I closed my eyes, holding my hands to my bare chest. I prayed that I’d have the strength to get through the next few days.

For the rest of the day, Nick and I were nothing but professional. It should have been easier that way, but it was pure torture. To escape, I went to lunch with Andrea and then did a quick interview with the guys before sound check.

“You okay?” Leighanne asked as the guys changed for the concert.

“I’m fine,” I said softly. She gave me a hug.

“You’ll be okay,” she said. “When Brian and I met, I was engaged. The hardest thing I did was tell Joe that I couldn’t marry him, that I was in love with someone else. But I did it because I knew that I’d spend my whole life regretting not taking the chance.”

“Thanks Leigh,” I said. “I actually said the same thing this morning. It’s just,” I trailed off. “I’ve lived in this safety net my whole life and this…this is just the unknown.”

“Coming in so fresh, this whole tour’s been an unknown,” Leighanne reminded me. “But you’ve handled all of this crazy stuff so well. I remember the first time Brian took me on the road. I was a homesick mess. Brian almost quit the group because I was so miserable. And you? You haven’t even blinked an eye this whole time; you’re stronger than you think.”

I gave her a hug.

“When are you going to do it?” she asked.

“Hunter’s coming to the concert tomorrow. The guys are doing Oprah the day after the concert so I’ll have time after the show to talk to him.”

“I wish I could be there for you,” she said sadly.

“Where are you going?”

“Baylee’s karate camp starts in a few days. You guys are flying to Illinois and I’m flying back to Atlanta with Baylee.”

“I’m going to miss you,” I said sadly.

“If you need to talk, call me.”

I nodded. On cue, the boys walked out of the dressing room.

“Dude, one of the stage hands said the cast of Jersey Shore’s here,” AJ said. “I love Snooki.”

“Hey!” Rochelle said, peeking over a magazine.

“Not that way,” AJ corrected, peering out into the crowd.

“This is a college,” Nick said. “I don’t think those guys would be let anywhere near here.”

I looked out at the audience. I saw a lot of beautiful co-eds mixed in with the standard crowd, but no Snooki. I watched as the Dean of Students introduced the Boys.

They ran past me one by one. Nick ran out last. He stopped for a moment, sliding a piece of paper in my hand. Then he bounded on stage.

I leaned against the wall, shielded by the stage curtain. I unfolded the paper, recognizing Nick’s handwriting. It was comprised of a short quote and a few words, but put together it spoke volumes.

Love doesn’t make the world go round. Love is what makes the ride worthwhile. -- Franklin P. Jones

Livvy,
I want to take that ride with you. -- Nick
Chapter 20 by evergreenwriter83
Chaper Twenty – Illinois

I was a nervous wreck by the time we landed in Chicago the next morning. Unlike the first flight, there was no goofing off for the camera. We boarded the plane at two a.m., everyone groggy and, if I may say, a little grumpy. Unable to sleep, I worked on the footage from the previous day as everyone around me nodded off to sleep. Nick struggled to stay awake. He didn’t talk but he seemed to want to provide a presence while I worked. Even so, around three o’clock in the morning, his head fell heavily on my shoulder and I was alone with my thoughts.

We arrived in Chicago around five thirty in the morning. Everyone was moving on automatic; bags were pulled off and everyone lumbered to the van that would take us to the House of Blues Hotel in Chicago.

If it wasn’t for what waited for me later in the day, I would have been excited about the hotel. My mom and I had seen Nick perform at the House of Blues seven years ago and we stayed in the hotel. It was the coolest room I had ever stayed in. Who would have known that seven years later I’d be working for my idols? Everyone shuffled into the lobby a little before seven. Everyone was anxious to check in and grab a few more hours of sleep. I saw Andrea sitting on her suitcase, nodding off, as the clerk tried to activate everyone’s key cards as quickly as possible. I grabbed the one for our room, and nudging Andrea I motioned towards the elevator.

We rode in silence; she seemed to be half in a coma. It was only halfway through the tour and lack of sleep was starting to catch up with everyone. We walked into our room, an amazing mix match of polka dots and stripes and luxurious gold lame pillows. The whole room smelled like chocolate; it was heavenly distracting.

“Ugh,” Andrea said. I looked at her to see her fall face first into bed. We could have been in a rat infested motel for all she cared. The bed seemed to swallow her up for a moment before she reappeared, clutching a pillow to her.

“Good night,” she said contentedly. “I don’t care if I ever wake up.”

I walked into the bathroom, leaving Andrea to fall asleep in peace. I really wanted a bath, but not chancing my luck, I took a quick shower. I spent a long time choosing my outfit for the day and playing with my hair. After about two hours, I realized that no matter how nice my hair looked, the day wasn’t going to be good. I felt like I had a scarlet letter on my chest.

I left the room with my laptop and found a quiet corner in the hotel café. I sat picking at a bowl of fresh fruit, trying to drown myself in work. Around eleven, I leaned back in my chair and stretched. My eyes were killing me.

“There you are.”

I looked up and saw Nick. He had on a huge pair of sunglasses, a hooded sweatshirt that cover his hair, and baggy sweatpants that looked like they could fit two of him. He looked like a bank thief.

“Going incognito?” I asked. He nodded, sitting down. He unwrapped a BLT sandwich and took a big bite.

“Have you been here all morning?” he said, gesturing to the table.

“Couldn’t sleep,” I said. “I got dressed and got to work.”

“I like that dress.”

I smoothed a wrinkle out of the red and white sundress. “Thanks,” I said. I bit my lip. It was the first time I had ever had trouble talking to him. He reached over and took my hand.

“Hey,” he said softly. I looked up. “I’m staying out of it today, but I’m here if you need me.”

I nodded. He sat finishing off the rest of his sandwich as I powered off the laptop.

"What time’s sound check?” I asked.

"Three.”

We stood in tandem, heading back into the lobby.

“What’s with the clothes?” I said, gesturing to his overly sloppy attire.

“AJ already got spotted by a fan this morning,” Nick explained. “He’s sporting a shiner.”

I stopped, looking at him. “Are you kidding me?”

Nick smiled. “Nope. His eye is a lovely shade of purple. Midwest girls are crazy.”

I rolled my eyes and gave him a push. “Hey I’m from Wisconsin. That’s an insult.”

“Well, then,” Nick laughed. “Can I say I’m crazy for a Midwest girl?”

“That’s better,” I said.

During our few seconds of banter, the lobby had begun to fill with people checking out for the day. For some reason, my eyes spanned the room, watching as businessmen checked their watches impatiently and couples looked sadly around at the love nest they were leaving.

My mind was so preoccupied that at first I just smiled as I saw a couple kissing, their luggage at their feet, trying to prolong their checkout. I moved past them to a group of girls wearing Backstreet shirts, obviously enjoying the day before the concert and on sharp lookout for a Boy or two. Then with a gasp, I looked back at the couple.

“Nick,” I hissed.

“What?”

I grabbed the sleeve of his sweatshirt and dragged him over to a tall potted plant. I crouched down. He remained standing, looking around.

"What?”

“Get down!”

He crouched next to me, peeking out between the leaves.

“What?” he repeated for the third time.

I peered out between the foliage, my jaw agape. I studied the couple, still embracing tightly; they were in a hell of a sloppy liplock.

“I don’t believe it,” I murmured. Nick followed my gaze.

“They look like two fish,” Nick said. “That’s disgusting. We have much better form. That guy has no technique.”

“That guy,” I said, my heart racing as I zoomed in and took a picture with my IPhone. “is Hunter. My husband.”
Nick looked at me. “Are you sure?”

I laughed scornfully. “I could spot him in my sleep. The red hair is a dead giveaway. And besides,” I paused. “the girl he’s kissing is my best, no, ex-best friend, Jess.”

We watched as they finally broke apart. Hunter turned to grab their luggage and there was no mistaking it was him. My hands clenched into fists.

“Motherfucker. I’m going over there,” Nick said, standing up. I yanked him back down.

“You’re staying out of it, remember?” I said.

“But…”

“I’m going to handle this.”

We stayed crouched down behind the planter as Hunter checked them out at the desk. Jess leaned against the counter, playing with her hair. With a smile only those who are intimate could share, they headed out of the hotel, holding hands.

“I don’t believe it,” I said. I turned and sat down, my back supported by the planter. Nick did the same. “I mean I guess I can,” I said, thinking about all of the “long” hours of work. “But, not with her. I guess I deserve this”

“How do you deserve this?” he asked. “The guy’s a cheater.”

“Aren’t I?” I said. The swelling of my lips had gone down, but the memory still lingered vividly.

“They just left the hotel with luggage. That means they spent the night together.” Nick explained. “And somehow I don’t think they just kissed. Unlike us.”

I laughed. I felt like an absolute idiot.

“Isn’t cheating, cheating?” I said.

“When I get my hands on him,” Nick said, ignoring the question. I shook my head.

“You’ve got to let me handle this,” I said. I felt a weight lifted off my chest. “At least now, this isn’t going to be so hard. Not now that I know…” I trailed off.

Nick stood and gently pulled me to my feet. I took out my phone again.

“Who are you calling?” he asked. I held up a finger and punched in the speed dial for Hunter. The phone rang, on the second ring it connected.

“Hello?”

“Hey babe,” I said. The word tasted like sandpaper in my mouth. “Are you on the road yet?”

“I’m actually just leaving home. I’m filling up for gas as we speak.”

My eyes narrowed; my jaw clenched. Taking a deep
breath, I tried to keep my voice light.

“Oh, I forgot to tell you, Jess is coming today. She called me for a ticket a few days ago. Is she riding up with you?” I asked sweetly.

“What?” I heard a muffled noise in the background, then silence. “I haven’t spoken to her, so she must be driving herself.” he said. “I can‘t wait to see you.”

I almost snorted, but refrained. “I can’t wait to see you, either.” I said. Nick looked at me skeptically, but the truth was I couldn’t wait to see him. I wanted, no needed, to know how long this had been going on. I just hoped that after I learned the whole truth I could get through it without anyone getting arrested or hospitalized

I guess Midwest girls are a little crazy.
Chapter 21 by evergreenwriter83
Chapter Twenty One

I rode to the sound check in silence. Nick refused to let me work. Instead I sat backstage waiting, checking my watch, and wondering when they would show up. The VIP passes I had waiting at will call would get them into sound check and backstage to see me and meet the guys. I cracked my knuckles, a nervous habit that I had all but abandoned but which at the moment kept me from falling completely apart.

I looked out periodically into the crowd of girls singing along with every song for a glimpse of them. It wasn’t until the last song that they walked in.

They came separately, but only minutes apart. Hunter was wearing a yellow Spongebob Squarepants shirt that I absolutely hated. He always reminded me of a McDonald’s, the bright yellow fabric clashing horrendously with his bright red hair. I held my breath when I saw Jess moving through the crowd. She bumped into him and acted surprised. I wasn’t buying it. They stood for a few minutes talking before heading towards the crowd and the stage. I could see the VIP passes around their necks.

The boys finished the set and headed off the stage to a large area that was perfect for meet and greets. Hunter stopped a security guard and said something. The guy shrugged. Hunter began moving his hands and giving what I can only assume was a description of me. The guard pointed in my direction and let them pass.

I was sweating from the roots of my hair down to my ankles. I didn’t even know ankles could sweat. I stood up, pasting on a friendly smile. Jess got to me first. She wrapped me in a huge hug.

“Oh my god, you look great!” she said. She stood back and looked around.

“Where are there?”

“Oh, they’re doing meet and greets. But, you can meet them afterwards when the crowd dies down,” I said. I looked over at Hunter. He had his hands in his pockets,
rocking back on his heel.

“Hey,” he said. After a pause, he walked up and gave me a perfunctory hug and a kiss. I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry; what I had always thought was a nice enough kiss paled in comparison to the fire Nick sparked in me when we kissed. There had never been a fire with Hunter.

“So, why aren’t you doing anything?” Hunter said, pulling back.

I snorted. “What do you mean?”

“Shouldn’t you be shooting photographs or something?

They don’t pay you to sit around, I’m sure.” I clenched my jaw.

“They knew you guys were coming and told me to take this one off,” I explained. “How’s work for you?” I added. “Are you still working long hours?”

“Oh, things have slowed down,” he said. I was sure it had now that I wasn’t home.

“I was thinking that after the concert we could go have a late dinner or a nightcap,” I said. “Just the two of
us.”

“Really?” he looked slightly uncomfortable. “Don’t you guys have to take off after the concert?”

“No,” I said. “The guys are doing Oprah tomorrow. We’re actually staying in Chicago tonight and then heading to Detroit tomorrow night.”

“Oh.”

“Are you staying overnight Jess?” I asked, turning to her. She looked slightly uncomfortable.

“I haven’t really decided.”

I wanted to whip out my phone and give them a piece of my mind, but I refrained. I didn’t want to do anything until after the concert.

I glanced over to the meet and greet area. The guys were finishing up with the last few fans.

“You want to meet the guys?” I asked. Jess’s eyes lit up, Hunter just shrugged. I led them across the stage, pointing out the set list and mentioning some interesting facts before stepping down into the meet and greet area.

“Hey guys,” I said. When they saw Hunter behind me they all seemed to take a defensive stance, even AJ, whose eye was almost completely swelled shut. He was trying to hide it behind the largest pair of sunglasses I have ever seen. They were larger than the ones Nick had worn that morning.

“Hey Liv,” Brian said, breaking the tension.

“This is my best friend Jess,” I said. The words left a sour taste in my mouth. “And this is my husband Hunter.”

Jess jumped forward, CD in hand. After gushing over each of the guys in turn and getting their autograph, Hunter stepped forward, reluctantly putting out his hand. Howie shook it first.

“Howie.” he said by way of greeting. I raised an eyebrow. Howie, ever so polite, never greeted anyone with just his name.

“AJ.”

“Brian.”

Hunter reached Nick, holding out his hand. I saw a thousand things flash through Nick’s eyes. He glanced my way; I shook my head no. Nick reached forward, taking Hunter’s hand. He didn’t introduce himself.

“You’re a lucky man,” Nick said. I saw both men tighten their grip in a power of wills.

“Oh? Why do you say that?” Hunter’s face turned slightly red as Nick’s fingers crushed his tighter.

“You’ve got a good woman,” Nick said darkly.

I laughed nervously and stepped up behind Hunter. Nick reluctantly dropped his hand. Hunter stared at him angrily.

“I hope you enjoy the concert,” Nick said sweetly.

“It’s not really my kind of music,” Hunter said coldly. “I like popular music.”

My eyes widened. Nick looked about ready to kill.

“I’ve got to get my equipment set up,” I explained. “Those are your seats.” I said pointing to two seats front row center. “The concert will start in about an hour. Why don’t you go get a drink?”

Lord knows I could use one, I thought.

Hunter walked off with his chest inflated like he was some kind of club bouncer. Jess followed him. I released a breath I didn’t know I was holding.

“I wanted to break his hand,” Nick said, watching them walk off. The other guys disappeared. “Couldn’t I have at least broken his hand?”

I shook my head. “I’m going to handle it Nick. I think you said enough.”

“What did I say?” he said innocently. I gave him a look.

“Alright, alright.” He held up his hands. “I’ll be on my best behavior.”

I watched him walk off and sighed. My gut feeling told me that Nick was just getting started.

----------------------------

The sun was setting as the Boys took the stage. I saw Jess talking a mile a minute; Hunter was drinking a beer, looking highly annoyed.

The guys started with Everybody, then PDA, Quit Playing Games, and As You Long as You Love Me. I was crouched down by the stage, my camera resting by my side. I listened for the intro to This is Us, but it never came.

“How’s it going Ravinia?” Nick called out loudly. A thousand screams flew back at him.

“Typically our next song is This is Us,” Nick said. “But tonight I want to shake it up.” The crowd roared again. Nick turned to the other guys; they nodded.

I raised an eyebrow.

“We’ve recorded a lot of songs over the years; some have made our albums and some haven’t,” Nick explained. “The guys and I want to do one of our unreleased tracks for you guys tonight.”

The lights on the stage threw shadows as the last of the sun’s rays disappeared in the horizon.

“We want to dedicate this song to all the ladies out there who have ever been mistreated by a man,” Nick explained. “Every woman deserves better than a Happily Never After.”

My mouth dropped open. This is what Nick called his best behavior?

Brian stepped forward. He seemed to glance my way.

I don’t think I want this anymore / as she drops her ring to the floor / She says to herself ‘you’ve left before, yeah’ / but this time you will stay gone, that’s for sure, yeah

Nick stepped up beside him. I followed his line of sight and groaned. He was staring right at Hunter, I just knew it.

And he shouted something out / She dragged her suitcase down the path / to the driveway / She had never gone that far / Normally this would be the time that she would let him talk her out of leaving / But this time, without crying as she got into her car she said…

Howie and AJ stepped forward and their harmonies blended seamlessly. It was too perfect not to be rehearsed. They must have snuck away and practiced during the day while I was preoccupied.

No happily never after / That just ain’t for me because finally / I know, I deserve better, after all / I’ll never let another teardrop fall

I sat in shocked silence as AJ sang his verse and together they repeated the chorus. I glanced down the front row; Hunter was still there, but I couldn’t see his face. I turned back to the stage.

Howie was kneeling right in front of me. He was singing out to the crowd, but his placement was just too convenient.

I’m done I’m done / said I’m so done / I’m free, I’m free / so free to feel the way I feel, yeah / She inhales a breath she never breathed before / don’t want no drama no more

I looked back down the front row again. This time I saw a large figure getting up and walking down the aisle. Slinging the camera over my shoulder, I got up and followed as the last notes of Happily Never After hung in the air.

I sensed our confrontation was going to happen sooner than I had expected.
Chapter 22 by evergreenwriter83
Chapter Twenty Two

“Hunter!” I called out. He was headed towards the East gate. I ran and caught up with him, touching his arm.

“Where are you going?” I said.

“I can’t listen to that shitty music anymore,” he said.

“Hunter, we need to talk.”

“There’s nothing to talk about.”

I pulled out my phone.

“You have an IPhone?” he said, watching as I tapped some app buttons. “How the hell did you afford that?”

“How’d you afford a night’s stay at the House of Blues?” I retorted. I watched his face darken.

“I don’t know what you mean,” he said quietly. I held up the picture on my phone.

“Oh, really now. Then how do you explain this?”

Hunter blanched. “Have you been having me followed?”

I laughed. “No, I wouldn’t waste my time or money. We’re staying there tonight; I was walking through the lobby earlier today when I saw…” I waved the phone in the air. I waited for an apology, at least some embarrassment. I didn’t get it.

“Well, what do you expect?” he finally said, all pretenses gone. “Olivia, I have needs.”

I snorted.

“Needs? I could barely get you to “need” me once a month.” I said, making quotations with my fingers to emphasize the word ‘need’. “Don’t blame me,” I continued. “For four years I’ve done nothing but try to be everything for you. You said I was too fat; I went on a diet. You said I was a horrible cook; I took cooking classes for a year. You said college was too expensive; I dropped out. Nothing I ever did was right.” Unwanted tears filled my eyes. “What about me, Hunter? What about my hopes and dreams and needs?”

“You got what you wanted, didn’t you?” he said, smiling sardonically. “You went off with your darling Backstreet Boys. Don’t stand here and tell me there isn’t something going on with Carter. I’m not stupid.”

I lifted my chin slightly. I refused to be brought down.

“You’re right. I won’t lie. I’ve never been happier in my life.” I said. “But I’ll tell you right now that I’ve not crossed the line you have. I had more respect for you than that.” I slipped off my engagement and wedding rings and held them out. “But you never respected me. So, for the first time in my life I’m taking charge. I’m nobody’s doormat. I can’t spend the rest of my life with you.”

He took the rings, turning them over in his hand thoughtfully. Jess came up slowly, hesitating a couple yards away.

“Is everything okay?” she said, her voice shaking nervously.

I turned to look at her.

“I just want to know one thing,” I said taking a few steps in her direction. “How long has this been going on, Jess?

She looked scared. “I don’t know what you mean,” she said, licking her lips.

I held out my phone. “How long has my best friend been sleeping with my husband?” I said quietly.

Jess’s face crumpled. “I’m so sorry, Liv. I didn’t mean—“

“I don’t care,” I said quietly, trying to keep calm. “How long?”

“A year,” she admitted, glancing at Hunter. He looked away. His hand tightened around the rings.

I smiled in disbelief, turning back to Hunter. “A year? A year?” I said, my voice rising an octave. “God, you must have been really proud of yourself.”

From the stage, the guys were just beginning their solo songs. My hands clenched into fists.

“What do you want me to say?” Hunter said loudly over the sound of Drive by Love.

“What does Jess have that I didn’t have?” I asked. “What makes her special enough to spend three hundred dollars on a hotel room when we had to stay at a Motel 8 on our honeymoon?”

Hunter’s smile grew cruel. “You really want to know?” he said, almost teasingly.

“Hunter—“ Jess said. He waved her off.

“Jess is giving me the thing you couldn’t.”

Even though the evening was balmy, my body turned ice cold. I looked at Jess for confirmation.

“I’m pregnant,” Jess said quietly. She couldn’t make eye contact.

The world seemed to stop. I could hear the blood pounding in my ears. I opened my mouth to speak, but nothing came out.

“Hunter Ryans?”

Through my tormented haze I heard a deep voice with a horrible British accent. My eyes widened to see a guy standing behind Hunter, wearing a dark black running outfit complete with hood and sunglasses. Hunter turned around agitated. Before he could let out a verbal assault, I saw the guy’s fist make direct contact with Hunter’s face. I heard a sickening crunch and watched Hunter drop to the ground.

The guy looked in my direction before disappearing into the crowd. It didn’t take a rocket scientist for me to figure out who it was.

Pandemonium ensued. Bystanders gathered. Jess ran to Hunter, screaming for help. I backed away slowly, my mind numb. I could see blood spurting from Hunter’s nose and he moaned, rolling from side to side. Taking a deep breath, I turned and broke into a run. I jogged on the outskirts of the crowd, flashed my VIP pass quickly and headed backstage.

I ended up locking myself in a bathroom. The tears fell heavily once I closed the door. Sinking to the ground I hit speed dial on my phone. As the phone rang I rocked back and forth, gasping between sobs.

“Hello?” The warm voice felt like a blanket wrapping around me.

“Mommy?” I cried.

And I completely broke down.

---------------------------------------------

After talking to my mom, I felt slightly better. Even so I decided I just wanted to die in the bathroom. I curled up on the floor, the tears still flowing freely. A long time passed; the floor was no longer vibrating. The concert was over. A few minutes passed.

‘Livvy?”

It was Nick.

“I know you’re in there,” he said. “I’ve checked everyplace else.”

He tried the door. It was locked.

“Will you let me in?”

I don’t know why, but I started sobbing again. I held my knees close to my chest, rocking back and forth.

“Liv, please let me in,” he begged.

“No,” I cried out. I heard a loud sigh from the other side of the door.

“Well, I’m not going anywhere. I’ll be here if you need me,” Nick said. I heard a body sliding down along the other side of the door. I could almost picture him sitting there, his back against the door.

Eventually my sobs faded away, only to be replaced by the worst stomach pain imaginable. Luckily I chose a bathroom; I began to heave the contents of my fruit breakfast into the porcelain bowl. If I hated crying, I hated throwing up even more. Now I knew I was never coming out.

“Livvy?” Nick pounded on the door again. I groaned.

“Go away,” I moaned. I heaved again.

“That’s it,” he said. “Either you let me in or I’m breaking down this door.”

I believed him. I grabbed some toilet paper, wiping my mouth. I unlocked the door.

He pushed the door open slowly, looking down at me. His eyes softened.

“Oh Liv.”

--------------------------------

An hour later I sat in Nick’s hotel room. I watched as he lowered his hand into a bucket of ice cubes. He flinched and turned his head.

“So how’d you hurt your hand again?” I asked. My throat was scratchy; my eyes were raw. I had never cried so much in one day.

“I came through the crowd for my solo and fell getting back on stage. I think I broke my hand,” he said convincingly.

“Was that before or after you broke Hunter’s nose?” I said, leaning back. I was surrounded by a ring of Kleenex.

Nick scowled.

“How do you know that was me?”

"C’mon, Nick. That was the worst British accent I’ve ever heard.” Nick sighed.

“What was I supposed to do? I saw you run off after him.”

“I said I could handle it,” I reminded him crossly.

“How could I stand there when I saw how much he was hurting you? He might not have laid a hand on you, but I know from experience that words can cut deeper than actual physical violence,” Nick said patiently. I looked away.

“How much did you hear?” I said quietly.

“Enough.”

I let out a shaky breath.

Nick slid closer to me, ice bucket and all. He leaned over, his lips gently grazing my forehead. I leaned against him, closing my eyes. Even though we were sitting on the floor, it was the softest floor I had ever sat on.

“You could get arrested if he recognized you,” I said quietly.

“Well,” Nick said thoughtfully. “At least this time it will be for a good cause.”

I sighed. The day’s events had sucked the last of my energy from my body. We both sat in silence, except for the sound of his hand moving the ice cubes around in the bucket.

I remember falling asleep against him. What I don’t remember is him picking me up, broken hand and all, and putting me in bed. I woke the next morning to see him sleeping uncomfortably on the couch.

He did it for me.
Chapter 23 by evergreenwriter83
Chapter Twenty Three

After getting showered and dressed, I walked back into the room to see Nick still asleep. I shook his shoulder gently. His hand was still in the bucket; the ice cubes had been reduced to water. I made a face; his hand didn’t look good.

“Nick?” I whispered. He mumbled in his sleep. I shook him harder.

“Nick?”

His free hand came around, pulling me down. I would have thought he was just being ornery except his chest still rose and fell in sleep.

“NICK!”

His body jerked and I slid onto the floor with an “oomph.” I watched as his eyes fluttered open.

“Huh?”

“I think you might need to go to the doctor,” I said. He looked confused for a moment, but as he brought the hand up to run through his hair, he stopped and stared.

“Ohhh.”

It looked like a rubber glove that someone inflated. The tips of his fingers were black and blue.

“I guess you’re right.”

I helped him get into a shirt. As we were walking to the elevator, Brian stopped us. It was a late morning for everyone; Brian was still wearing his Kentucky Wildcat pajamas.

“Everything okay?” he said. Nick held up his hand.

“Damn, if your hand looks like that I’d hate to see that guys face,” Brian remarked.

Brian raised his hand for a high-five. Nick returned it with his good hand.

“You,” I pointed at Brian. He smiled sheepishly. “You’re supposed to be a good influence.”

Brian shook his head. “Nick and I combined are never a good influence.” he said. He stood, hands on hips as we walked into the elevator.

“If they have to put a cast on that you better think up a good story for Oprah!” Brian called as the doors shut.

We rode down in silence. Nick wouldn’t admit it, but he was in pain. I hailed a taxi and we headed to the hospital.

“Are you okay?” he asked me as the taxi wove through traffic. Chicago was insane, but not nearly as bad as New York.

“I’m fine,” I said quietly. I rubbed the bare spot on my finger. “I called my mom yesterday.”

“What did she say?”

I smiled. “She said that she would have liked to help you punch him out,” I admitted.

“You told her I punched him?” Nick said. He groaned.

“Of course I did,” I said. “She told me that Hunter better watch out when he gets back into town. I think she wants to put a few other body parts out of commission.”

Nick grinned, then grew serious.

“I hate that you’re wasting the morning taking me to the hospital,” he complained. “I’m sure you have other things you need to do.”

I shrugged. “Like what?”

Truth was, I didn’t have anything to do. The best impulse decision I ever made was calling my mom when everything fell apart. Having worked for a lawyer for over ten years, she had the best connections in our small town. My mother could turn into an angry mama bear in a second and she’d do anything, anything to protect her cub.

At that moment the taxi pulled up to the emergency room. I hopped out and ran inside. I explained the situation. Moments later we were ushered in a back door to avoid any craziness in the emergency room. We already had AJ with a black eye and Nick with a busted hand; I wanted to keep the rest of him in one piece.

An hour later I sat watching the doctor set Nick’s hand in a cast. An X-ray showed that he had broken the metacarpal bone in his middle finger and his middle phalanx in his index finger. He also had a hairline fracture in his wrist.

“You did a number on this hand, Mr. Carter,” the doctor commented.

“Yeah, I’ll take the stairs one at a time from now on,” Nick said innocently. I gave him a look; he grinned.

Thirty minutes later we were back in a taxi, heading back to the hotel. The doctor had given Nick a shot of pain medication. With the way he was smiling, I could tell he felt absolutely no pain.

“You know,” he said, leaning towards me like he was going to tell me the biggest secret in the world. “my hand doesn’t hurt anymore.”

I stifled a laugh. “That’s because the doctor gave you a pain killer.”

“Ohhh.” He sat back for a second, then leaned towards me again.

“You know what else?”

I couldn’t help it; I laughed. “What, Nick?”

“You’re beautiful.”

“Nick, I haven’t done my hair and I don’t have a lick of makeup on,” I said. He threw his good arm around me, tugging me closer.

“I don’t care,” he said sweetly. He held up his cast dreamily, looking at it as if he just realized it was there. “Hey, my hand looks like the Hamburger Helper glove.”

The taxi pulled up to the hotel at just the right moment. I helped Nick out and back up to his room. I got him settled on the couch and then went and knocked on Brian’s door. He opened the door still in his pajamas.

“I need you to help get Nick dressed,” I explained. “I would, but he’s loopy on pain killers, so…”

Brian grinned. “Oh this is going to be fun.”

I looked at my watch.

“Don’t have too much fun. You guys have to leave for Oprah in an hour.”

Brian padded off barefooted to Nick’s room. I headed in the direction of the room I was supposed to be sharing with Andrea. I slid my keycard and walked in. She was talking on her cell phone, but disconnected almost immediately after seeing me.

“Liv? O-M-G. Where have you been?”

Still stinging from Jess’s betrayal, I hesitated to open up too fully.

“Well, Nick broke his hand getting on stage last night. We just got back from the doctor.”

“Yeah I heard that. Did you hear some guy got his nose annihilated at the concert?”

I feigned surprise. “Really?”

“Yeah. I guess some guy dressed like a bank robber came up and just punched him. It was right before Nick’s solo.”

“Geesh. Crazy.” I said.

“Hey, did you get to spend some time with your hubby yesterday?” Andrea asked. “I saw you introducing him to the guys yesterday.”

I wanted so badly to say ex-husband or cheating bastard. Instead, I just nodded.

“A little.”

“Good. Oh! Before I forget, a guy dropped this off for you this morning.”

Andrea walked to a small dining table in the corner of the room and picked up an envelope. She handed it to me.

“I promised I’d give it to you.”

I tore open the envelope and pulled out two sheets of paper. One was a hospital bill. The other was a note in Hunter’s handwriting.

“Give this bill to Carter. And, if you tell ANYONE about this, you’ll be bailing your pretty boy out of jail. I know it was him.”

I folded the sheets calmly, tucking them back in the envelope.

“So?” Andrea said. “What is it?”

“A bruised ego,” I said. She looked confused. I shook my head. “It’s nothing,” I said, standing. I looked at my watch.

“I’ve got to go. The guys are doing Oprah this afternoon.”

“Have fun,” Andrea called as I headed out of the room.

----------------------------------------

“Maybe you should have cancelled,” I told Howie as we waited in the green room. I knew Oprah was the real deal; her green room was actually green.

“No,” Howie said cautiously, eyeing Nick. “I think he’ll be fine.”

I looked at Nick, then back at Howie doubtfully. Nick held a glass of Diet Coke, blowing bubbles into the liquid with his straw.

“What kind of pain medicine did that doctor give him, again?” AJ asked.

“I think it was Percocet or Vicodin,” I said.

“He did cocaine for years,” Howie said. “How the hell can he get this loopy off a shot?”

“He’s been clean for a year and a half,” AJ explained. “The first time you get a drug back into your system,” he closed his eyes. “It does some crazy shit.”

Nick looked up from his straw, smiling.

“Hi.”

“We did Ellen without Bri,” Howie said. “Maybe Nick should sit this one out.”

“I was stuck in an elevator,” Brian argued. “He’s sitting right here. That’s going to be a little harder to explain.”

A very businesslike lady walked in, clipboard in hand.

“Guys, you’re on in ten minutes.”

We all looked at each other and back to Nick.

“Nick,” AJ said, kneeling down in front of him. “When we get out there just let us do the talking, okay?”

Nick nodded, putting a finger to his lips.

“Shhhhhhhhhh,” he said loudly. I groaned.

This wasn’t going to go well.
Chapter 24 by evergreenwriter83
Chapter Twenty Four

I was wrong about things not going well. At the last moment, Nick said he needed to lie down. Once he fell onto the couch and his head hit the pillow, he was down for the count.

“We’ll just say he wasn’t feeling well,” Brian said. “If they show a shot from the green room everyone’s going to see that cast and him snoring away. This will work,” he said.

“I can stay behind and babysit,” I suggested.

“No, look,” Howie said, pointing at Nick. “He’s completely knocked out. Come with us. Get a shot of us with Oprah for the website.”

I reluctantly left sleeping beauty in the green room and followed the guys, Leigh, baby James, and Rochelle to the studio, camera in hand.

Oprah met us behind the set. I was star struck and smiled in delight as she signed a picture for my mom. Brian explained why Nick wasn’t going to be able to come out. She laughed.

“Alright, then. I’ll see you three in a minute,” she said walking out to greet the audience. A cheer rose up.

Moments later the guys were introduced and headed out to the iconic couch. The interview was standard; questions about the tour, funny stories, etc. Brian gave an amazingly amusing description of Nick breaking his hand. I watched every girl’s face when he mentioned that Nick was collapsed on the couch in the green room, his hand in a cast. They all looked like they wanted to throw on a nurse’s cap and give him some one-on-one attention. I laughed. Somehow the reality was far less glamorous than what all those girls were imagining. I had been right where they were just months ago. I knew what was going through their minds.

After a commercial break, Oprah switched the topic to their personal lives. Howie, always the businessman, mentioned the family effort on the Masquerade video. Brian showed some personal family pictures and talked in depth about Baylee’s love of karate. AJ brought Rochelle out and they discussed their wedding without giving away even a hint about the date. Finally, Howie led Leigh and baby James out. The audience erupted in “awww’s.” Just like a future star should, James began waving, a grin identical to Howie’s lighting up his small face.

“And can you guys dish on what’s going on with Nick’s personal life?” Oprah said. “I have a feeling a few girls in the audience would like to know.”

Squeals ensued.

“Nick, is and always will be Nick,” Brian said. “He loves a gorgeous woman.”

Brian’s statement sounded completely generalized, but I heard a slight stress on the word a, as in one rather than a as in any gorgeous woman. I smiled.

They stopped for another commercial. The guys headed over to the area set up for their performance and did a quick pitch exercise. I thought they were going to perform Bigger; but recognized Masquerade in seconds. Considering how many times I had heard it in the past week, I would have been ashamed if I didn’t recognize it.

Coming back from break, Oprah introduced the song and I became absorbed. I was so oblivious that halfway through I didn’t see Nick walk right past me towards the stage. The crowd started screaming and my mouth fell open. I saw Howie’s eyes widen, but to his credit he kept right on key. Nick gave an enthusiastic wave to the audience. I slapped my face into my open palm.

“What’s up Oprah?!” Nick screamed into Brian’s microphone. Brian tried to pull it away, but Nick grabbed it right from his hand.

“I need ya babyyyyyyyyy”

Brian grabbed the microphone back and took over Nick’s part. Nick continued to entertain the crowd by waltzing with AJ.

I thanked God when the song was over. Nick took a deep bow and held up his hand.

“Who wants to sign my cast?”

The girls went wild. Howie dragged Nick backstage.

“Let’s give it up for the Backstreet Boys!” Oprah said in an attempt to provide a distraction. She began applauding and the audience joined in.

So much for things going well.

--------------------------------

“Oprah signed my cast,” Nick announced on the ride back to the hotel. He was chowing down on a Big Mac meal. I was hoping the food would help to dilute whatever was still coursing through his veins.

“That’s really cool,” I said.

“I can’t believe you guys just left me sleeping,” Nick complained, folding a fry and eating it in one bite.

“Nick, you’re high,” Howie said.

“Nu-uh.”

“The doctor gave you pain meds for your hand,” I reminded him.

“Oh yeah,” Nick picked a pickle off his sandwich and held it out to me. “Pickle?”

I shook my head.

“At least he’s not mean on the stuff,” Brian said, trying to be helpful. “He’s kind of cute. Like a puppy.”

Brian reached over and petted the top of Nick’s head. I saw Nick’s eyes shoot upward in confusion.

We pulled up to the hotel. Nick hopped out of the van still carrying his fast food bag. I handed Brian his drink.

“Can you help him into his bus?” I said. “I’ll go round up his luggage and my luggage and then I’ll take over.”

Brian looked at Nick warily, but nodded.

I headed inside the hotel with Howie, Leigh, AJ, and Rochelle. The dancers had already checked out and were waiting for us to hit the road. I quickly got my bag. Throwing a few loose articles of Nick’s clothing back into his duffel, I dragged everything downstairs.

By the time I got the bags loaded into the baggage compartment of Nick’s bus and then dragged both of our duffel bags aboard I was exhausted. I set the bags down with a grunt.

“That was fast,” Brian said. Nick and Brian were sitting on the floor, playing Mario Kart.

“I tried,” I said. “You’re free to go,” I said. Brian did a hard turn with his wheel.

“Nick wanted to play Mario Kart,” he explained. I looked over at Nick. He was concentrating on the game so hard that his tongue was sticking out of his mouth.

“Is that a good idea?” I said. “With as loopy as he is I don’t want the game to give him a seizure.

Brian’s Donkey Kong flew across the finish line far ahead of Nick’s Princess Peach. He tossed down his wheel.

“That’s alright. I won anyhow.”

“I want a rematch,” Nick said, scowling.

“Maybe later,” Brian said. “I gotta get my stuff.”

Giving me a gentle squeeze on the shoulder, Brian bounced out of the bus.

“Have fun babysitting!” he called over his shoulder. I stuck out my tongue and closed the bus doors.

“Wanna play?” Nick said. I shook my head.

“Wanna do something else?” he said, raising his eyebrows suggestively. I shook my head.

“I’m going to work on some stuff for the website,” I said, placing my equipment case on the table. “Why don’t you go take a nap?”

“I’m not tired,” Nick complained. “I slept through Oprah, remember?”

Not all of it, I thought.

“Then come watch me work,” I suggested, patting the couch cushion next to me.

Turning off the Wii, he came and sat beside me. For a little while he watched me work.

“Hey Livvy?” he finally said.

“What Nick?” I said quietly.

“You’d make a real good mom.”

I turned to look at him. He smiled at me; Brian was right, he looked like a puppy. Tears sprang to my eyes.

“Why do you say that?”

“Because you’re taking real good care of me.”

With that he laid down, resting his head in my lap. With a sad sigh, I ran the fingers of my left hand through his hair while I continued to work using my right. After awhile I looked down to check on him.

He was fast asleep.
Chapter 25 by evergreenwriter83
Chapter Twenty Five – Michigan

Afraid to wake Nick, I fell asleep on the couch, his head still on my lap. The bus’s gentle rocking motion combined with Nick’s soft breathing was like a lullaby to me. The night passed quickly; if it wasn’t for the ringing of my phone, I could have slept at least another few hours.

I groped at the table for my phone. My left contact had worked loose overnight and had dried between my eyelids, sealing them shut. I squinted at the phone but couldn’t make out the number. I connected, hoping it was someone I wanted to talk to. If not, waking me up was going to be a big mistake.

“Hello?” I said. I looked down, but Nick was gone. I held the phone away from my ear. I could hear the shower running from the back of the bus.

“Olivia?”

The voice on the phone sounded familiar, but I couldn’t place it.

“Yes?”

“It’s Gretchen from the library. I hope you don’t mind, but your mother gave me your new number.”

The light bulb came on. Gretchen was the assistant director of the Wakamata Public Library, my former employer. I sat up and tried to get my eye open with my free hand.

“Hi Gretchen,” I said, wincing as I felt the hardened lens crack under my fingers. “No problem. What can I do for you?”

“Well,” she said with a little laugh. “I have some good news.”

“Oh?” I said. I yanked shards of plastic lens off my eyelid. My eye fluttered open. Everything was blurry.

“We’re a little short staffed, so we were hoping that you might be able to come back to help us with the Summer Reading Program in July.”

“You’re a little short staffed because you fired half of the people that worked there,” I reminded her. I didn’t care if she took offense; it wasn’t like she could fire me again.

“We didn’t want it to come to that,” Gretchen explained sweetly. It was the same tone she used the day she fired me. “But our budget hit rock bottom. We had no choice. We couldn’t pay everyone.”

“I was three days short of the cutoff as far as seniority,” I said bitterly. “I worked there 9 years and 362 days. Anyone 10 years and over was safe,” I reminded her.

“Which is why you’re the first person I’m calling,” she said, as if that made it all better.

“I’ll tell you what,” I said, putting my feet up on the table by my laptop. “I’ll come back July 6 and work through the month if you hire me back full time in September.”

There was silence for a few moments. I smiled. It felt good to be the one in control for once.

“I think we can budget you back,” she finally said.

“Wonderful,” I said sweetly. “I’ll be seeing you soon.”

I hung up grinning.

“What’s so funny?”

I looked over at Nick. Even with only one good eye I could see that he was fresh from a shower, bare-chested and clad in jeans. A towel hung around his neck, a plastic baggy covered his cast. Nothing was funny about the way he looked. He looked edible.

“I just got my job back at the library,” I said proudly. “How are you feeling?”

“Confused,” he said hesitating. “I don’t remember much from yesterday. I woke up this morning with this cast on my hand signed by Oprah.”

I burst out laughing. After I caught a breath, I filled him in on most of the events of the day before. He looked horrified.

“I didn’t.” he said. “On Oprah? The guys are going to kill me.”

I smiled. “No, they’re not. They were horrified, but they knew you were high on pain meds. They’re not going to kill you.”

He sat down next to me smelling like Old Spice. I inhaled greedily.

“I’m glad you got your job back,” he said. “But, you’re going to be able to come on the Canadian dates, right?”

“Yup. I’m yours the whole month of August.”

“And after that?”

I heard the implication. I met his gaze.

“Nick,” I said softly. “There’s something between us that I can’t describe, and I want to explore it. But I want to do it slowly. I have a divorce to get through before I can really commit to anything.”

He touched my face with his warm palm. He leaned over and kissed me gently.

“I have all the time in the world,” he whispered next to my lips. I shivered. My phone rang again. I wrinkled my nose.

Nick stood up as I answered the phone, motioning that he was going to finish getting dressed. I nodded. I put the received up to my ear.

“Hello?”

“Hi sweetheart.” It was my mom.

“Mom,” I said, happy to hear her voice. “You’ll never guess who just called me.”

I filled her in on the phone call from the library.

“That’s wonderful,” she said. “They shouldn’t have let you go in the first place.”

I agreed. “So what’s up?”

“I’m calling to let you know I’ve got you a lawyer.”

I took down the information. I paused, biting my lip.

“Have you seen Hunter?” I asked.

“Yes,” she said quietly.

I raised an eyebrow. She never spoke in one word sentence.

“Mom? What happened?”

“He dropped off your dog,” she said, her voice cracking.

“My dog?” I said. “Dog as in singular?”

I had two Boston Terriers: Brewster and Atari. Brewster was thirteen; Atari was just a puppy. I loved those dogs like they were my children.

“He said Brewster passed away while he was gone.” She began to cry.

I sat there holding the phone, not knowing what to say. The tears began to fall quickly down my face.

“You have Atari?” I said, my voice cracking with emotion.

“He’s safe. He’s running around with my pups. Sweetie, I didn’t want to tell you…” she trailed off.

“I…I needed to know,” I said. “I’ve got to go, but I’ll talk to you soon, okay?”

“Okay. I love you.”

“Love you mom.”

I hung up and buried my face in my hands. The thought of Brewster dying and me not being there was unbearable. My stomach twisted in a knot. I felt guilty, but most of all I prayed he died of natural causes and not as a result of…a result of what had happened with Hunter in Chicago.

Nick came back into the room a few moments later to find me blubbering like a baby.

“What happened?” he said, kneeling down next to me.
Through a chorus of wails, I managed to tell him what happened. He rubbed my leg, his eyes soft and sad.

“We can go rent a car after the concert tonight and go get Atari,” Nick said softly as my sobs died down. I shook my head.

“He gets carsick,” I sniffled. “Plus I don’t think it’s a good idea to have you anywhere near you know who right now.” I glanced at his hand. It was half blurry. I remembered that I had just smashed my dried contact to smithereens and began to cry again.

"It's going to be okay," Nick consoled, rubbing my back.

“No, it's not!” I wailed.

“My dog’s dead and I can’t see!”
Chapter 26 by evergreenwriter83
Chapter Twenty Six

My eyes were so bloodshot I couldn’t even attempt to put in new contacts. I spent the day wearing my thin-rimmed black glasses and moping. When my phone rang again shortly before sound check, I answered crossly.

“Hello?”

“Olivia?”

“Yes?” I said bitterly. “Who’s this?”

“This is Anderson Little. I was just calling to check in with you and go over a few things.”

I sucked in a little breath.

“Oh Anderson,” I said, my voice becoming overly saccharine to cover my previous faux pas. “Sorry, I didn’t recognize your voice. Good to hear from you.”

“How are things going?”

I almost laughed. The tour, good, I thought. My life? Well…

“The tour’s going great. Lots of great videos and photos. We’re keeping awfully busy
out here.”

“I’ve heard,” he said. “I’m just calling to let you know I’m looking at a completed cut of the Masquerade video right now.”

I sucked in a breath. “Really? How is it?”

Anderson laughed. “I must say, you have definitely exceeded expectations. We chose you for multimedia and you jumped in completely. The video’s choreography is great, the costumes are great; it’s great.”

“Well, the guys invested a lot in it,” I said, perhaps a little bitterly. It didn’t seem right for them to have to pay out of their own pockets.

“As great as it is, it’s a gamble,” Anderson explained. “Songs haven’t been doing well; but we still have faith in our boys. And, thanks to your great work, fan club membership is way, way up.”

“Well, thank you,” I said. “But, I’d say the Boys have a lot to do with that.”

“True, true. Hey, before I go there is one other thing I’d like you to do.”

“What?”

“We’ve noticed some feedback from fans expressing their interest in getting to know a little about the girl behind the camera. They’ve heard your voice and seen you a couple times. I thought maybe you could talk a little bit about what kind of fan you are, your interests, yada, yada. A five minute clip.”

I stifled a groan. I liked being behind camera, not on.

“I think I can do that.”

“Great! Oh, and I thought it would be cool if the guys could write up some questions and ask them to you. It will be like a role reversal.”

I could think of a million problems with that idea, especially concerning one cute, tall blonde.

“No problem,” I said a little reluctantly.

“Great! Well, Tony and I will be at the last stop in California before the break. We’ll see you then.”

“Okay, can’t wait,” I said. I disconnected the call and leaned back.

As if my day could get much worse, I learned right back into a puddle of mud.

----------------------------------------

After changing clothes, I did a quick update to the website, updated the Boys Twitter, and headed to sound check. By this time I had a method down to capturing video and pictures and allowed myself some time to actually enjoy the music. After the meet and greet, the guys gathered backstage, their minds on pizza. I had no appetite; thoughts of my little Brewster were weighing heavily on my mind.

“I have a favor to ask,” I said in an attempt to distract myself. I stared down at my fingers. A few bits of mud were still caked under my fingernails.

“You name it,” Brian said, tipping back in his folding chair.

“I got a call from Anderson Little today,” I explained. “And he asked me to do a little something for the fan club.”

“Like what?” AJ asked. “I can dropkick Nick again.” The corners of my mouth twitched ever so slightly; I couldn’t muster a smile.

“No. The fans,” I rolled my eyes. “They want to know more about me. So, Anderson thought it might be “fun” if you guys ask me some questions.”

Four identical grins gave me my answer; it was a resounding yes.

“When do we start?” Brian asked, rubbing his hands together.

Not today,” I said. “Go ahead and think of some questions tonight and then I’ll stand in front of the firing squad tomorrow.”

At that moment the pizza arrived. Howie and Brian hopped up quickly. Nick slid his chair closer to me.

“How are you doing?” he asked quietly. I shrugged.

“I wish I could do something,” Nick said.

“That’s really sweet of you,” I said. “But, there’s nothing you can do.”

Nick reached over and scraped a mud splatter off the corner of my glasses.

“You look really cute in those,” he said. “If I walked into a library and saw you, I’d want to go to story time every day.”

It was the corniest line I had ever heard. I ducked my head, my mouth betraying me. I cracked a small smile. Nick leaned even closer.

“I don’t have a library card, but I’d check you out any day.”

I turned my head so he couldn’t see my face. My smile widened, my shoulders shook slightly. He leaned closer still, whispering in my ear.

“You must be a great librarian, because baby you increase my circulation.”

I couldn’t help it. I let out a loud laugh. I turned and looked at him, shaking my head.

Having accomplished his goal, Nick grinned and kissed my forehead.

He got up and returned with a piece of pizza for both of us. Feeling slightly better, I nibbled on it.

“So,” Nick said slyly, making sure everyone else was out of earshot. “I just want to let you know you’re going to want to keep your camera going when AJ does Teenage Wildlife tonight.”

“He’s not doing Drive by Love?”

Nick shook his head. “Nope, he’s promoting his single.”

“And why do I need to keep the camera on?”

Nick smiled. “You’ll see.”

I didn’t trust that smile.

-----------------------------------

The concert was running smoothly. Even though a light rain fell, the crowd was impressive. The guys didn’t break out into any unplanned songs and the show was going according to plan. Halfway through, it was time for the solo songs. I watched as the guys ran off stage. Moments later AJ ran back on. He sported a different pair of sunglasses and a leather jacket. It was a simple, but effective change.

“So,” AJ said, walking the stage. I heard his name screamed from all directions. “I have this little solo album coming out this fall.” The crowd screamed.

“This is my new single, Teenage Wildlife. Hope you enjoy.”

He launched into the song. I turned on my camera, keeping it on him at all times. I couldn’t help but wonder what Nick had up his sleeve.

I found out soon enough. As AJ launched into the chorus, a gigantic tiger, panda bear, and owl danced out on stage. I gasped.

For those who hadn’t seen AJ’s music video, they probably wouldn’t understand. I had seen it a couple times so I got the connection. In the video, AJ walks into a club where all of these teenagers are dancing dressed as animals. He has a dance-off with a tiger and his posse over a girl chipmunk (at least I think it’s a chipmunk). He wins the dance-off, but the tiger jumps on his back and, well, it’s just weird. The first time I saw the video all I could say was what the fuck? The second time I tried to apply a little psychology. When that didn’t work, I just laughed my ass off. Now I was watching it unfold live.

At first AJ didn’t notice, but when he did it was priceless. He tried to maintain composure, but he couldn’t help but start to laugh.

I could only assume that Nick, Howie, and Brian were in the costumes. I saw the tiger go off stage; the panda bear and owl danced around AJ, continuing to destract him and throw him off. I was so intent on catching that action that I didn’t see the tiger emerge until he was back in frame. He was carrying a pie loaded down with whipped cream. With a roar, he hit AJ smack in the face.

The next thing I knew AJ was on the tiger’s back. Whipped cream dripped off his face and onto the tiger costume. The song ended with just beats; AJ was so focused on smacking the shit out of the tiger that he was incapable of singing. I watched as the owl and panda bear pried AJ off of the tiger. All four headed backstage.

I ran as fast as I could, my camera still on. I made it backstage just as the owl tugged the tiger’s head off. Nick was laughing hysterically. AJ was wiping his face with a towel.

“What the fuck, man?” AJ said.

The owl yanked off his head; it was Brian. Panda bear Howie was last. Leigh helped him out of the costume quickly. Howie walked onstage, cool and collected for his solo.

“That was priceless,” Nick said. “We got you bad, dawg.” Rochelle unzipped Brian and he hopped out, the owl collapsing in a feathered puddle on the floor. Rochelle was smiling; I could tell she had been in on it.

AJ scooped a handful of whipped cream out of his hair. With just a moment’s pause he flung it at Nick. Nick ducked, hitting Brian square in the face.

“Hey!” Brian cried out, wiping the goo off his face.

AJ snickered and then turned to Nick.

“Payback, Carter,” he said, giving him the middle finger. “When you least expect it,” he added as he walked off to the bathroom.

I walked over to Nick, unzipping the tiger costume. He stepped out completely unfazed. He pressed his face close to the camera.

“Best part of the job,” he explained. He gaze a tiger-like growl and licked my camera lens. I shut off the camera.

“So?” Nick said. I had managed to keep a straight face, but I couldn’t last any longer. I grinned.

“That was absolutely priceless.”

Nick gave me a one handed hug, kissing me on my temple.

“I’d throw a thousand pies to see that grin,” he said. He headed to the bathroom to clean up.

As I watched him walk away, I couldn’t help but think that I would have given a thousand anythings if only I had met Nick first. Life for me was just like that pie…

Messy.
Chapter 27 by evergreenwriter83
Chapter Twenty Seven - Missouri

The ride from Michigan to Missouri took 10 hours. We traveled nonstop; we had no day of rest between concerts. I rode on the dancer’s bus through the night, not daring to spend yet another night on Nick’s bus. The dancers were all very nice, but they loved gossip.

By the time the busses arrived at our destination, it was eleven o’clock. Sound check was at three. The venue promoter stood off to the side, a wide smile on his face as the guys descended from their busses.

“Welcome to the Midland,” he said. I looked at the venue and smiled. It was a beautiful old fashioned building. The lighted marquee stated in large letters “Backstreet Boys – Live Tonight.”

“Got to love our name in lights,” Nick said, leaning his arm across my shoulder. I smiled up at him.

“Back to the contacts?” Nick said. I nodded; he looked disappointed. “That’s too bad; I like the naughty schoolteacher look.”

“Shut up,” I laughed.

We headed inside. After a tour of the auditorium, we shuffled backstage; Nick looked around.

“So where shall we do it?”

My eyes widened. “What?”

“Where do you want to do it? Back here? The stage? The bathroom?”

My mind was in the gutter. I had a momentary image of Nick and me getting down on the stage. I smiled.

“Livvy?”

I looked at him and shook my head to clear my thoughts. “What are we doing?” I said.

“Your interview,” Nick said. “I worked all night on questions.” He took a folded sheet of paper out of his back pocket, waving it in the air.

I wrinkled my nose. I had almost forgotten.

“I got my questions too,” Brian said. He walked up, tapping his forehead. “They’re all up here.”

I sighed. Howie was playing “this little piggy” with James’ toes.

“Howie, did you write down some questions?”

Leigh laughed. “You’re talking to Mr. Organized. He has them neatly typed out and ready to go.”

Howie made an adorable sad puppy face. “I thought you liked my organization.”

Leigh cupped his face in her hands, planting a soft kiss on his lips.

“Si, senor.”

I glanced over at AJ. Rochelle had a bridal magazine and was pointing out things on several dog-eared pages. AJ looked overwhelmed.

“Hey AJ,” I called out. He looked up in gratitude. “Yeah?”

“Did you write out some questions to ask me?”

“Nope,” he admitted. “But I can wing it.”

“Well,” I said, biting my lip. I looked at Nick. He was folding his notes into a paper airplane. “I guess we can go out to the stage.”

“Perfect. It will kill time before we eat,” Brian said, rubbing his hands together. He led the way, the other guys followed. I trailed reluctantly behind.

We set up folding chairs on the stage. I was reminded of the Shape of My Heart video. Nick straddled the back of his chair, holding his notes out in front of him.

“Can I go first?” Nick said.

“No,” I said. “I’m saving you until last.”

“The best for last,” Nick amended.

“I’ll go first,” AJ said.

Brian took the camera from my hand. I raised an eyebrow.

“I was just going to set it on a tripod,” I told him. He shook his head.

“Naw that’s boring. This will make it more personal.”

I watched him fiddle with the settings.

“Are you zooming in on me?”

Brian grinned.

I tried to ignore the fact that the camera was trained right on me. Instead I turned to AJ.

“Ready when you are,” I said.

AJ tilted his head thoughtfully.

“What’s your worst habit?” he said.

I was in the process of cracking my knuckles. I stopped, blushing. “I guess it would be cracking my knuckles.”

“When’s your birthday?”

So far so good. Generic questions were easy. “July 2.”

“How long have you been a Backstreet Boys fan?”

I smiled. “Since 1998. Then I got a little crazy obsessive during Millennium.”

“What’s your favorite Backstreet Boys song?”

I had to think about that one. There were so many. I chewed my lip thoughtfully.

“I’m going to say my favorite song is I Still,” I said. “It’s one of my favorite music videos and I adore everything about the song.”

AJ looked over at Brian. “That’s all I got.”

“And CUT!” Brian yelled. His voice echoed through the empty hall. I saw him pause the camera.

“I’ll take Howie next,” I said, looking over at Brian. “Since we have such a good cameraman.”

Brian gave me a thumbs up.

“Okay,” Howie said. He took out a crisp white sheet of printer paper. I smiled.

“Is you could go anywhere in the world, where would you like to go?”

“Australia,” I said automatically.

“She wants to go down undah,” Nick said in a bad Australian accent. I rolled my eyes.

“What’s your favorite color?”

“Blue,” I said.

“What’s been your favorite moment on the tour so far?”

Images of Nick kissing me while I sat on the bathroom sink flashed through my head. I resisted the urge to fan myself.

“I’d have to say getting to know you guys,” I admitted. “You four are way more than just a band. You’re a family.”

Howie looked down at his paper, smiling softly.

“You’re gonna make Howie cry,” Nick said teasingly.

“Shut up,” Howie said.

“Like I said, a family. And Nick’s the annoying youngest brother.”

Nick wrinkled his nose at me; I stuck out my tongue.

“Alright, last question,” Howie said. “Who was your favorite Backstreet Boy when you were a teen?”

I avoided Nick’s gaze. He had asked me that question once before and I had ignored him. I shuffled uncomfortably in my seat.

“Brian,” I admitted quietly.

“Ha! I knew it!” Brian shouted. I watched him pause the camera. He pointed at Nick.

“In your face!”

I groaned. “Can we move on? Brian, it’s your turn.”

Brian handed the camera to Howie, still gloating. Howie, a much calmer cameraman, crouched down, training the camera back on me.

“Question one.” Brian said, trying to act serious (and failing miserably). “What is your favorite ice cream topping?”

I looked at him like he was crazy. “Seriously? You think the fans want to know what my favorite ice cream topping is?”

“You said we could ask you questions. That’s mine,” Brian said, smiling mischievously.

I knew I wasn’t going to win the battle. I chanced a quick glance at Nick; I could see he was still stewing over my crush revelation. In an effort to divert his attention, I leaned forward with a smile, playing along with Brian.

“My favorite topping is whipped cream,” I said sweetly. I saw Nick’s focus return.

“That’s kind of a topping for your topping,” Brian complained.

“Fine. Hot fudge,” I amended.

“Okay, that’s better. Question two. When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?”

“A teacher,” I said immediately. I could picture my little schoolroom set up in the corner of my bedroom.

“Alright teach, question three. Do you have any tattoos?”

“Nope,” I said. “I’m afraid of needles.”

“So no snakes or skulls for you,” Brian teased. “Last but not least, what is your favorite movie of all time?”

“Happy Gilmore,” I laughed.

I looked over at Howie; he paused the camera. By the time I looked back, Nick had already pushed Brian out of the interview chair.

“Ready?” Nick said, tapping his fingers on his paper.

“As ready as I’m going to be,” I said.

“Question one,” Nick said. He didn’t even glance at his paper. “Why Brian?”

Somehow I knew that was going to be his first question.

“How is that important?” I said. “That was ages ago.”

“It’s important. He was pasted all over your wall. Why him?”

If it was embarrassing admitting Brian was my favorite in the first place, it was more awkward having to explain why, especially since Brian seemed extremely interested in the answer. I looked at a spot high above Nick’s head.

“Well, you know,” I said motioning with my hand.

“No, I don’t,” Nick said sweetly.

“Well, I mean, he was cute, sweet, funny, and a country boy.”

“I was cute?” Brian said.

“You’re interview is over,” I said pointing at him. He held out his hands innocently.

“You’re still cute,” I said. Nick scowled.

“Second question?” I asked hopefully.

“Question two,” Nick said reluctantly. I had a feeling the Brian conversation wasn’t over by a long shot.

“What’s your favorite color of rose?”

“Yellow.”

“What type of underwear are you wearing right now?”

“We’re keeping this PG,” I reminded him. Nick smirked.

“I will take that as no underwear,” he said.

“Whatever floats your boat,” I countered, crossing my arms.

“Question four. Would you ever go out with someone famous?”

I looked at him, smiling.

“Yes, I would,” I said softly. He returned my smile.

“And which Backstreet Boy do you find incredibly sexy now?”

“You,” I said, laughing.

“I’d like you to say that a little more seriously,” Nick said.

I looked straight into the camera, deadpanning. “Nick Carter is the sexiest guy on the face of the earth. People should wear sunscreen around him because he is just that hot.”

“That’s better,” Nick said.

I looked over at Howie, motioning for him to press stop. I let out a relieved sigh. Howie handed me the camera, and smiled.

“That was fun,” he said.

“I much prefer having you guys in the hot seat,” I said, standing up.

As we walked backstage for an early dinner, Brian pranced around Nick.

“I’m Livvy’s favorite, I’m Livvy’s favorite.”

I rolled my eyes. It was going to be a long day.
Chapter 28 by evergreenwriter83
Chapter Twenty Eight

“Nicky, don’t pout,” I said for the umpteenth time. “It’s really not that big of deal.”

“Ha,” Nick said, stabbing at a piece of watermelon. “That’s easy for you to say.”

I sighed.

“That was ten years ago,” I reminded him, placing a hand on his arm. “And it’s not like I ever knew you guys. It was just all physical.”

“Still,” Nick said. He held out a piece of cantaloupe. I plucked it off his fork and took a bite. “You thought he was sexy?”

“Let it go, Nick,” I said.

“Yeah, like Brian’s going to make that easy,” Nick said.

Brian had taken a plain white Hanes t-shirt and written “Livvy Loves Brian” in magic marker.

“You better not wear that to soundcheck,” I warned him. Brian smiled.

“Why not?”

I shook my head. Nick dumped our plates; I went to work transferring the interview files from the morning and readying the camera. The guys disappeared to get changed.

I was so engrossed in my work that I didn’t hear Nick sneak up. He sat down next to me. “Boo.”

I looked over. He wore an Ernie t-shirt, jeans, and baseball cap. I smiled.

“Cute shirt. But, you look like you should be wearing Oscar the Grouch instead,” I teased, tweaking his nose.

I saw Brian walk out. He was wearing his Bert hoodie. Nick followed my gaze.

“I bet you like Bert better,” Nick said, scowling.

“Nick!”

He pouted.

“Nick this is silly,” I complained. “What’s it going to take to make you stop thinking about this?” I asked.

Welllll…

I watched him take out his sheet of interview questions again. I raised an eyebrow.

“I had a few more questions that I wanted to ask,” he said sweetly. I made a face.

“It would make me feel better.”

“Fine,” I said holding up my hands in defeat. “But I’m not going back on camera,” I reminded him.

“Oh no, these are going to have to be off camera,” Nick warned. He stood up. “I’ll ask you them after sound check. My bus. Be there or be square.”

Uh-oh, I thought as he walked out onstage.

-----------------------------------------

I sat on the couch in Nick’s bus, waiting while he dealt with some rouge fans who had pounced on him before he could open the door. I cracked my knuckles nervously. Finally, the door creaked open.

“Ready or not, Livvy, here I come,” Nick sang. He walked over and stood in front of me, hands on hips.

“Let’s get it over with,” I said. “But I don’t want to hear any more whining about the Brian thing.”

He sat down next to me. “Deal.”

The sheet of paper reemerged; by this point it was folded and creased beyond recognition. My heart began to beat faster.

“Question one,” Nick said. His face was serious; he was all business. “What’s your favorite place to be kissed?”

My mouth went dry; my toes curled. I couldn’t help but think that anytime Nick kissed me anywhere was my favorite place. Hell, even when he kissed the top of my head he made me lose all track of time or thought.

“My neck,” I finally said.

I felt Nick lean closer. His lips grazed my neck gently.

“Like this?” he whispered.

“Mm,” I mumbled, my eyes fluttering closed.

He nibbled gently on the sensitive skin, then sucked gently. “Or like this?”

I dug my nails into the couch. “Mm-hmm.”

“Good. Question two,” he whispered softly, his lips not straying far from my neck. “When we make love, where do you want to do it?” His fingers trailed down my side. I shivered at the use of when rather than if.

“Everywhere,” I said, my breathing coming quicker. I heard him moan, his body slid closer to my own.

“About that underwear,” he said huskily. I turned slightly, my leg draping over his own. I took the paper from his hand and looked at it. Every question was sexual. I folded it up, throwing it on the table. My arms snaked around his neck. The angelic part of my mind reminded me nicely that I wanted to take it slow; the demonic part of my mind was focused on Nick’s masculine scent and the thought of him naked and all mine.

“You’ll just have to find out for yourself,” I replied coyly.

I met Nick’s lips hungrily. His good hand snaked under my shirt, his palm splaying out on my bare back before traveling around to my stomach and breasts. I broke our kiss momentarily as I brought his t-shirt over his head, tossing Ernie into regions unknown. I took a moment to savor his bare chest, tracing my fingers along every well defined plane.

I felt him unclasp my bra. With a smile at his one-handed technique, I tugged off my shirt, letting it fall to the ground. The bra soon followed.

“Oh Livvy,” Nick said, his eyes sparkling. I leaned back into the plush leather as he hovered over me. Our lips met again in a swell of passion. My hips arched as his hands slid down my waist and then under the heavy fabric of my jeans.

“A thong girl,” he said in approval, his lips still next to mine.

“Right now, I’d prefer us wearing nothing,” I said back, nibbling his bottom lip.

In a whirl of clothing and a delicious sense of anticipation, I devoured Nick in all his glory with hungry eyes. He began a trail of kisses down from my lips that brought about a slow agony of anticipation. My hands worked through his hair as he licked and nibbled his way down. I didn’t know how much longer I could wait.

“Nick,” I said in a heady breath. He looked up at me.

“I need you now.”

“Every good thing is worth the wait,” he explained. His face was flushed, his shoulders glistening with perspiration. I slid down into the couch a little more, simultaneously stroking his member with my fingertips. I felt his chest constrict, his breathing increasing even faster.

“Maybe you’re right,” he moaned, his head falling back. I continued his pleasure, watching him tense up even more. Finally, with a force of an animal, he grabbed my hands, gently pinning them about my head and kissing me hungrily. My heart beat in anticipation; any moment Nick and I would become one.

My legs wrapped around his waist, our lips locked in a way that I never wanted to breath independently again. I could feel him; the moment of truth was almost here…

A loud knock sounded on the bus.

“Nick?” Brian called out loudly. “Man, the concert’s starting in five minutes. Are you in there?”

Just like that, the magic was broken. Nick’s head fell on my chest.

“Nick?” Brian called out again.

“I’ll BE OUT!” Nick yelled out in frustration.

Brian didn’t call out again; he must have headed back inside. Nick looked at me, his eyes speaking volumes. I smiled.

“Saved by thousands of screaming fans,” I said sadly. Nick sat up; I followed.

“They’re not going to save you forever, Liv,” Nick said, standing up.

“Where are you going?” I asked.

“I’ve got to get ready,” Nick said.

“Maybe we can’t do what we want to do in five minutes,” I said sweetly. “But I think I can take care of your problem.” I pointed to Nick’s erection, pulling him back down on the couch.

I needed to let my sexual tension out; somehow pleasing Nick seemed to be the right choice.

I knew that I had tossed going slow out the window; but as Nick gave me a long kiss before running out on stage, I couldn’t help but hope that an uninterrupted night would come sooner rather than later.
Chapter 29 by evergreenwriter83
Chapter Twenty Nine - Colorado

Any hope that Nick and I would be able to recreate our moment after the show was lost. A mad dash ensued to get everybody on board the busses as quickly as possible; our trip to Colorado would take fifteen hours and, once again, the sound check and concert would have to happen almost as soon as we arrived.

“Whose bright idea was it to schedule concerts in Missouri and Colorado back to back?” Nick grumbled.

“It’s not impossible,” Howie said, defending himself. “It just means that we don’t have time to be lazy. Plus everyone wanted more time in Vegas. We have to make up for that somewhere.”

Nick looked over at me. I arched in eyebrow.

“Well, you know what they say,” Nick said teasingly. “What happens in Vegas…”

I wrapped my arms around his waist, kissing his cheek.

“Hey Liv,” Andrea called from the dancer’s bus. “C’mere, I’ve got to show you something.

I backed away from Nick.

“Hurry,” he said. “I think the busses are going to take off in a few minutes.”

I nodded, my thoughts straying to him and me in his big, soft bed. The air around me seemed to grow warmer. With a dreamy sigh, I climbed aboard the bus.

“What’s up Andrea?”

Andrea proceeded to lay out three pictures on the table.

“What do you think?”

“They’re pretty. I said.

“Yes, but which one would make a good tattoo?”

At the sound of doors and compartments being closed, I chose quickly.

“Really?” Andrea said, wrinkling her nose. “I don’t know; it might be too purple.”

She launched into an analysis of each picture in turn. My hopes of enjoying a night in solitude with Nick flew out the window as the busses started up. I sank down on the couch by Andrea, sighing. After an hour of consultation, she made her tattoo decision.

“There’s a great tattoo parlor in Vegas,” Andrea explained. “I can’t wait!”

“Where are they playing in Vegas?” I asked. I didn’t recall it on my itinerary.

“Nowhere. We have two and a half days of pure relaxation,” she said happily. I smiled. No commitments meant that Nick and I might finally be able to steal away. And if we could, then…hopefully we’d be able to pick up what we started on the bus. With that thought I got ready for bed.

As I scooped my hair up into a ponytail, my phone rang. It was Nick.

“Hello?” I said, smiling.

“This sucks,” he complained.

“Good things are worth the wait,” I said. I didn’t believe it, but it sounded good.

“That would be fine, but, I’ve had a taste,” Nick said, his voice thick. “And I want more.”

Goosebumps danced along my arms.

“Can I tell you that we should take it slow?” I smiled.

“Seriously?” He sounded like someone who had gotten tube socks for Christmas instead of a video game.

“No.” I laughed.

“Good,” Nick said. “Because the ride’s started and you can’t jump off in the middle.”

After a few more minutes of playful banter, Nick got quiet.

“I really just wanted to call to say goodnight,” he admitted.

“Good night, Nicky,” I said, smiling.

“Good night, Livvy.”

------------------------------

We were thirty minutes away from the venue when we hit traffic. The busses were already behind schedule and being stuck in a standstill made it even worse. I checked my watch constantly. The walls of the bus seemed to be closing in. After only a mediocre night’s sleep, I wanted to get out on solid ground.

I stared at the window with a sigh. Even with the air conditioner on full blast, the temperature in the bus was rising quickly. I exchanged my t-shirt for a spaghetti strap tank top. As I was contemplating dunking my head into a bucket of ice, my phone vibrated.

It was a text message from Nick.

“Wanna Skype?”

I rolled my eyes, but turned on my laptop. After a quick exchange of text messages and information, Nick’s face came smiling at me through the magic of technology. I honestly didn’t think he could look any hotter; I was wrong. He wore a pair of reading glasses that made him look sophisticated and dangerous at the same time. Put the man in glasses and he could fry an egg on the sidewalk.

“Hi,” he said waving.

“Hi yourself,” I said with a smile. “Now you look like a sexy teacher.”

“Will you be my student?” he said suggestively. I folded my arms across my chest, shaking my head.

“I like that top,” he added, leaning closer to his screen. I swatted at my screen.

“It’s hot in here,” I explained. “I don’t have anything else to wear.”

“Well, you’d be cooler if you weren’t wearing a top at all,” Nick explained.

I looked around. Andrea was curled on up her bunk, a mist fan spraying her face.

“Keep it clean, Nick. The other girls aren’t far away.”

“Damn.”

“I think we’re going to be late for sound check,” I said, changing the subject. Nick glanced at his watch.

“Yeah,” he agreed. “I can’t wait to get off the bus. Of course, it would have been worthwhile if you were here with me.”

“Well, I think fate has something against us,” I remarked.

“It’ll happen,” Nick said. I watched as he leaned back on the couch. “Not today, not tonight, but it’ll happen.”

I laughed. “Did your crystal ball tell you that?” I said teasingly.

“Nope,” he pushed up his glasses. “I had some time to think last night as I lay in bed thinking about you. When it happens it’s going to be special. So you’re just going to have to wait and let me surprise you.”

“I dunno,” I said, feigning annoyance. “If you keep me hanging too long I might have to switch my opinion on my favorite Backstreet Boy again.” I started laughing. Nick wrinkled his nose.

“That’s not funny,” he complained. “I had a dream last night about you and Brian. And let me tell you, the last thing I want to dream about is Brian’s pale ass.”

I continued to laugh. “You have a pale ass.”

“Yes, but it’s luscious.”

Just then the bus started moving at a normal speed. “With that, I’m cutting you off,” I told him.

“No Skype stripping?” Nick pouted.

“Bye Nick,” I said, blowing a kiss. He caught it as I broke our connection.

Twenty minutes later we finally pulled up to the venue. Andrea and I jostled to be the first ones out of the bus. My hair was sticking to my face and the air was oppressive.

“Ugh, I feel nasty,” Andrea complained.

“Me too,” I said. “When I think of Colorado, I think of snow. It must be 105 degrees out here.”

The crew was unloading equipment at a crazy pace. The 1stBank Center, which just opened in March, was an indoor venue. I thanked the air conditioning gods as we walked in and were blasted with cold air.

Nick went to get us some water. As I looked around, enjoying the differences and similarities of yet another stop, AJ pulled me aside.

“I need your help,” he whispered.

“With what?” I whispered back.

AJ smiled. “My revenge on Nick.”

I smiled mischievously. “I’m listening. What do you want me to do?”

“Just be my decoy.”
Chapter 30 by evergreenwriter83
Chapter Thirty

“I don’t know about this AJ,” I said uncertainly.

“What could go wrong?”

I stared at myself in the mirror. AJ had given me clothes to put on. I was standing in a super-short leather mini skirt and what he called a shirt. It was as small as a handkerchief. I was afraid that with one sneeze the world would see all my assets.

“Who wears this kind of thing?” I said, tugging on the hem of the skirt.

“Those are Rochelle’s,” AJ said. It figured. Leave it to AJ to give a normal curvy girl model’s clothes to wear.

“AJ…”

“Listen, you won’t be on stage long,” AJ explained. “Just long enough to wheel this big box out on stage.” He pointed to a big silver box with a red bow on top.

The plan was that during PDA, AJ would sneak backstage and into the box. I would wheel it out, acting like I was surprising Nick. (sexy outfit and all). When Nick came over to open the box, AJ would spring out. After that, I didn’t know what was going to happen. AJ said I would get information on a need to know basis and that was all I needed to know.

“You promise you’re not going to do anything to break his other hand?” I asked.

“Scouts honor,” AJ said with a smile.

“Were you ever a Boy Scout?” I asked, arching an eyebrow.

“Not exactly,” he admitted. I gave him a look. He feigned an innocent expression.

“You scare me, McLean,” I said. I looked at myself in the mirror once more. “I’m going to get changed.”

“But, we’re still on, right?” AJ said. I nodded.

AJ left and I quickly changed back into my tank top and jeans. I walked out of the bathroom and stashed my camera where I could reach it quickly. I wanted to at least capture part of the prank on film. I was so intent on my little hidey-hole that I didn’t hear Nick sneak up on me.

“What’s going on?” Nick asked. I jumped.

“Nothing!” I said, perhaps a little too quickly. He tilted his head. I gave him the biggest smile I could muster.

“So, Andrea told me we have no concert in Vegas,” I said, changing the subject. Nick shook his head.

“Nope. Every time we go on our U.S. tour we always take a few days to party it up in Vegas.” Nick tugged at my ponytail. “I’m especially looking forward to it this year.”

“Then I am too,” I said.

“There’s my Livvy!”

Without warning, I was picked up from behind. I let out a shriek. When my feet touched the ground I whirled around.

Brian stood there flexing; he had on the Livvy Loves Brian t-shirt again.

“Let it go Bri,” I said laughing. “Or I’m going to tell your wife.”

He just smirked. Nick punched his shoulder before heading onstage. With a wink, Brian took off the shirt right in front of me. He wore a tank top underneath.

“I’m going to frame this for Nick,” Brian explained, holding it up. “That way he can have this shirt forever.”

I rolled my eyes and walked out with Brian for the last sound check before a welcomed break.

--------------------------

That evening the temperature had, if anything, gotten even warmer. I shot some photos as they opened with Everybody. Nick found me kneeling down on the left hand side of the stage. He walked over and stood right in front of me, his good hand sliding down his stomach as he sang “Am I sexual?” I nodded, my eyes mentally undressing him. He gave a pelvic thrust, then ran off to the other end of the stage.

When We’ve Got it Goin’ On began, I slipped backstage. Quickly I changed into the skirt and top. I was just finishing shifting everything to cover my lady bits when AJ slipped backstage. PDA was just beginning.

“Ready?” he said. I nodded.

“As ready as I’m going to be.”

He climbed into the box; I affixed the lid. Taking a deep breath, I wheeled the box out towards the stage. I tried to ignore the fact that thousands of eyes were on my every move. I also tried not to think about my ass practically hanging out of the skirt.

Even though it was hot outside, the venue was nice and cool. I actually shivered slightly, noting a rush of air dance up my legs. Saying a quick prayer that the wardrobe malfunction Gods were taking the night off, I wheeled the box past Brian and to the middle of the stage.

Nick had his back to me; even when he turned it took him a moment to register my presence. His eyes widened, but he kept singing. Remembering AJ’s tips on “being sexy,” I smiled, putting my hand on my hip. I felt my bare skin; my mid-drift was exposed. I pretty much felt naked. AJ owed me big time. I crooked my finger, making a “c’mere” motion and pointed to the box.

He finished his part, pointed to himself and mouthed “for me?”

I nodded. He moved with the beat in my direction, his eyes raking over my entire body. I felt my stomach clench in anticipation.

When Nick reached me, he touched the box with his hand. I gave him a wink. His hand slipped under the lid; in a second he flipped it aside. While he was preoccupied, I hurried as fast as I could backstage to grab my camera. I turned around quickly, pressing the on button.

It all seemed to happen in slow motion; Nick leaned over, looking into the box. At the same moment AJ stood up. His arms were loaded down with water balloons.

“Oh shit,” Nick said, backing up quickly. His exclamation was piped through his microphone; the whole audience heard it loud and clear.

AJ was like a machine. He began pelting Nick with balloons as fast as he could. The first one bounced off him; Nick laughed. The second one hit its target perfectly; Nick’s coat was completely soaked. Nick tugged it off, ducking behind Howie. His smile slid off his face as he went into combat mode.

Meanwhile, Howie was trying desperately to finish the song. He sidestepped the direct trajectory of the next water balloon, leaving Nick exposed. It hit him square in the face. Nick growled in frustration; he shook his head like a dog, running towards Brian. As he sprinted across the stage, AJ hit him in the backside. Nick stumbled, running into Brian. They fell down like bowling pins.

By the time the song was completely over, the stage was covered in water. Nick was soaked; the girls in the audience were about ready to faint at the sight of his clothes clinging to him in all the right places.

While the crew went to work quickly cleaning the floor, Nick ran off stage. He spotted me right away. I had the camera still rolling; my shoulders shaking as I tried to control my laughter.

“You betrayed me,” he said. I could tell he wasn’t mad. He shook his head in my direction, pelting me with water. I jumped back.

“I couldn’t resist,” I said smiling. Nick quickly stripped down to his boxers, throwing on another set of clothes that someone, most likely AJ, had laid out in anticipation of the attack.

“I’ll forgive you on one condition,” he said, looking my way as he zipped up his jeans.

“And what is that?”

“You keep that smoking hot outfit.”

He ran his hand along my bare midriff as he ran back out to the cheers and screams of the crowd. With the lingering feeling of his fingertips on my stomach, I went to change. Before I headed back out with my camera, I smiled, tucking the clothes in my duffel.

Somehow I had the feeling they might come in handy for a future rendezvous.

---------------------------

That night I cuddled next to Nick on his couch. A big bowl of popcorn rested on Nick’s leg as Happy Gilmore played on DVD.

“So,” Nick said, tossing a kernel of popcorn and catching it midair.

“So?”

“I was talking to my brother Aaron today before the concert,” Nick said. “and he’s meeting us down in Vegas.”

I looked up at him. “Really?”

“Yup,” Nick grinned. “He’s bringing his girlfriend. I haven’t seen him in months, and besides, I want him to meet you.”

My stomach did a flip flop.

“And why’s that?” I asked, biting my lip.

“Because,” he said, tugging playfully at my hair. “I’m kinda hoping that you’ll be around awhile, and I want my family to get to know you.”

I looked at him surprised. Nick Carter, the man who shied away from commitment, was actually implying what sounded like a long term relationship.

“And what do you know about me, Mr. Carter?” I asked demurely.

“Well,” he stretched out his legs in front of him. “I know you have a good sense of humor, that you’re smart, you like the same types of food and movies I do, and you’re one hell of a kisser.”

“Not bad,” I said with a laugh.

“What I don’t know,” he said. “is much about your family.”

“What do you want to know?”

“Everything.”

I sat up a little, taking a handful of popcorn. I tossed one in the air like Nick, it bounced off my nose. I tried again with the same result. On the third try, I placed it directly in my mouth.

“Well,” I said, after chewing thoughtfully. “I’m an only child, my parents have been married thirty years, and I have never lived in any other city than the one I was born in.”

“When I visit your parent’s house I’m not going to see Brian posters in your old room, right?” he said seriously. I laughed.

“No, it’s a computer room now,” I said. “All you’ll see is dozens of pictures of me and a ton of pictures of my mom’s dogs.” I paused. “You want to visit my parent’s house?”

Nick looked at me like the question was a no-brainer.

“Well, that would be kind of nice,” Nick said. “I’m hoping to develop this relationship. Of course, if you just want to love me and leave me…”

“No!” I said, shaking my head. “It’s just that it all seems so surreal. I’m having a hard time picturing you standing in my parent’s living room,” I explained.

“Well, I’ll admit I’ve only met the parents of two of my former girlfriends,” Nick said. “And that was under duress. But, I’ve never quite felt like this before. There’s just something about you.”

“I’m nothing special,” I said quietly. He touched my face.

“I beg to differ.” He kissed me softly, wrapping me in his arms. I moved the popcorn bowl to avoid disaster. With my head on his chest, we continued watching the movie in comfortable silence. Afterwards, in a sort of silent communication, we shuffled off to bed. My body melted into the mattress. Nick leaned over, kissing my closed eyes.

“Good night,” he whispered. I opened my eyes slightly.

“Night, Nick,” I said. I fell silent for a couple of seconds, then looked at him. “Hey Nick?”

“Yes?” he yawned, his head sunk deep into his feather pillow.

“When you said it will happen, did you mean…”

“Vegas?” he finished. I nodded. He chuckled, tucking the sheet up to my chin.

“I’m not telling.” He reached over, turning off the light. In the darkness I listened to the sound of his breathing. I kicked my leg in frustration.

“All I’ll say,” he finally said, his voice breaking through the darkness. I could almost see him grinning. “Is get plenty of rest tonight.”
Chapter 31 by evergreenwriter83
Chapter Thirty One - Nevada

I had always pictured Las Vegas in the evening, the whole city alive with lights and music and noise. After enjoying an early lunch of Cheerios with Nick (in which he tried to get several round O’s down my shirt by using his spoon as a catapult), we felt the bus come to a halt. Nick leaned over and looked out the window.

“Viva Las Vegas!”

I looked out. Vegas in the daytime just seemed, I don’t know, like any city. Except this one had a pyramid. That was kind of cool.

“We’re staying at the Bellagio,” Nick said, gesturing out the bus window. I stared out and up in awe.

“It’s beautiful,” I said, admiring the beautiful architecture and fountains.

“It’s got everything,” Nick said. “Restaurants, gambling, golfing, Cirque De Soleil,” he explained. He picked up my duffel bag.

“And very nice rooms,” he added, taking my hand. I smiled.

We stepped off the bus. A concierge was already standing outside of the door, a luggage rack waiting. Nick carried our duffel bags in, leaving the rest of the luggage for the rack.

“Isn’t it beautiful?” Rochelle said, jogging up to me. She was also admiring everything.

“You’re going to love it,” AJ said, pressing her close to his side. “Penthouse, baby.”

I looked at Nick. “Did you get a penthouse suite?” I asked.

Nick’s eyes sparkled. “We got a penthouse suite,” he amended, pointing to himself and me. I grinned.

Once inside, the guys headed up to a private VIP counter. Each received a key that allowed access to a special elevator that only went up to the penthouse suites. The Bellagio didn’t mess around; no keycards here.

“Shall we?” Nick asked, dangling the key in front of me. I nodded.

We rode up with Brian. I felt bad for him; without Leighanne and Baylee I couldn’t help but think he must be lonely. Even so, he smiled, bouncing on his heels.

“We playing golf, Nick?”

“Tomorrow,” Nick said. “I have my own plans tonight.” I felt Nick’s gaze on me.

Brian smirked. “Bom chicka wah wah,” he sang. I blushed.

Nick smacked him in the arm with a duffel bag.

“Ow! Okay, change of subject. When’s Aaron getting here?” Brian asked, rubbing his arm.

“He’ll be here tonight. I thought we could all go out to dinner and hit the club for a little bit and then…I think I’ll turn in early.”

“Somehow I don’t think you’ll be sleeping,” Brian teased. I heard another soft “Bom chicka wah wah” and felt the tips of my ears turn red.

“How’s Baylee’s karate classes going?” I said in a desperate attempt to change the subject.

“Good. He’s going to kick his dad’s butt when he gets a little bigger,” Brian admitted. “I think I need to enroll in some taekwondo or something.”

The elevator stopped at the 31st floor. Brian got off.

“See you tonight for dinner,” he said. “Where we eatin’?”

“Prime Steakhouse,” Nick called before the doors closed again. The elevator stopped again at the 32nd floor.

“This is our stop,” Nick said, stepping off, our bags slung over his shoulder. I followed. He unlocked the door with the same key he used in the elevator. His hand on the knob, he paused, looking at me apologetically.

“I’d like to carry you in, but…” he held up his cast.

“That’s okay,” I said with a laugh. I ducked underneath his arm into the penthouse.

If I was in awe of the outside of the Bellagio, I was even more enchanted with the inside. The penthouse was huge. We were standing in the entertainment lounge. I walked past a wall-mounted flat screen TV and plush leather couches into the bedroom. The focal point of the room was a magnificent king size bed. I ran my hands over the sheets. Silk.

The smell of fresh flowers enchanted my senses; all varieties of flowers in crystal vases were strewn through the entire suite.

“Check out the bathroom,” Nick said, taking my hand. I stumbled slightly, laughing. I gladly followed him, giving a little “Oh!” as I took it all in. I could have lived in that bathroom. It was split into a his and hers bath complete with a steam shower for two and …a whirlpool tub.

“Want to take a bath?” Nick said teasingly. He made a motion to indicate scissors; I elbowed him gently in the stomach.

“This is heaven,” I said, twirling around in a slow circle. Nick grabbed me mid-turn, kissing me with a hunger that surprised me.

“I packed that outfit I wore on stage last night,” I said huskily. Nick grinned, pulling me even closer.

“When we get back up here tonight I want you to wear it,” he said, his hands sliding over my rear. “Just so I can take it off. With my teeth.”

I gasped slightly; the expression of my face seemed to amuse him. With a little growl he began to nip at my neck. My head fell back; I laughed.

“This is going to be the best day ever,” I said with a sigh of contentment. “I can’t tell you how much I need this right now.”

“We’re just getting started,” Nick said. He checked his watch. “Which reminds me, I think a little shopping is in order for tonight. Let’s go.”

-------------------------------

“It’s perfect,” Nick said an hour later, reclining in a plush velvet chair.

I stood in front of the mirror, staring at my reflection. I wore a beautiful dark blue dress with a plunging neckline. I picked up the price tag; my eyes widened.

“Ha! It’s more than my house payment back home,” I said, dropping the tag. “I’m almost afraid to move in it now.”

“How’s everything going over here?” a saleswoman asked, smiling primly. Nick looked up at her; I swear in a previous life he was a snake charmer. I saw her properness melt away and she tossed her hair flirtatiously. Nick seemed oblivious. His head turned back to me.

“Doesn’t she look fantastic?” he said, gesturing at my reflection in the mirror. I shook my head.

“Beautiful,” the saleswoman assured him; I could almost smell the desperation for a sale. I began to shuffle off to the dressing room.

“We’ll take it,” I heard Nick say. I twirled around.

“What? No we won’t,” I corrected.

“Yes we will,” Nick said sweetly. “You can wear it to dinner tonight.”

“So I can spill ketchup on a 900 dollar dress?” I guffawed.

“You won’t spill ketchup,” Nick said laughing.

“I got my hair stuck in a bathtub,” I said, my hands flying through the air. It was my second worst habit; talking with my hands when I got flustered.

Nick looked at the saleslady; he was having way too much fun seeing me squirm. “Like I said, we’ll take it.”

Twenty minutes later I walked out of the boutique, the dress hanging over my shoulder in a garment bag.

“You’re ridiculous,” I complained.

“No, I’m not,” Nick countered. He took the bag gently from me.

“Well, can I at least get you something to wear tonight?” I said. He shook his head.

“C’mon,” I complained. “I can’t buy you a suit, but at least let me get you something.”

I walked into the men’s boutique. Nick followed behind me reluctantly.

“You don’t have to do that,” Nick complained. I stuck out my tongue.

“Very mature,” Nick said.

“You’re the one that was trying to throw Cheerios down my shirt this morning!” I reminded him in a loud whisper. The sales clerk gave us both a look.

I wandered around the displays. I couldn’t believe that people spent so much money for one little article of clothing. I was just about ready to give up when I found a dark blue tie that matched my dress perfectly.

“You can wear this to dinner tonight,” I said happily, holding it up. Nick took it from me and studied it.

He started to shake his head, but I snatched it from him and walked up to the counter. It was a done deal.

“You know, Nick,” I said sweetly as we headed back up to the room to change for dinner. “This tie has multiple purposes.”

He looked at me. I could almost see his dirty thoughts flashing through his mind. “Oh really?”

I took the tie out, touching the silk. I smiled up at him

“Does this have anything to do with tonight?” he asked. I watched him run his tongue over his lips.

“Mm-hmm,” I said.

“Are you thinking what I’m thinking?” Nick asked hopefully.

“If you’re thinking about a little restraint and whipped cream, then yes,” I said. The elevator doors opened, I strutted past him, waving the tie in the air. I listened for his footsteps beside mine, but it was silent. I turned around and broke out laughing.

He was kneeled down in the elevator, his eyes heavenward.

“Thank you God,” he said, his hands folded. “I am a lucky, lucky man.”

And I was a lucky woman, I thought to myself. Any girl that had a chance to tie Nick Carter up and make him into her very own ice cream sundae was one lucky girl.

It was fitting we were in Las Vegas because I knew that in a few hours I would be the biggest winner in Vegas. My jackpot was Nick.
Chapter 32 by evergreenwriter83
Chapter Thirty Two

“I should go check on him,” Leigh said, checking her watch. Howie placed his hand on her arm.

“No, he’s fine,” he said gently.

The Prime Steakhouse was an adult only restaurant. With a recommendation from the hotel staff, Howie hired a nanny to watch James for the night. Leigh was a nervous wreck.

I, on the other hand, felt like a princess sitting at the table. My legs were smooth, my hair was cooperating, and I couldn’t help but feel like a million bucks in the dress.

And then there was Nick. As I got ready in the bathroom, primping every strand of hair, Nick had gotten dressed in the bedroom. When he stepped into the bathroom I about had a heart attack. He had changed into a cream colored suit, the dark blue tie bringing out the color in his eyes. It was a startling contrast from his sweats, t-shirts, and blue jeans. Even during their performances, the guys only wore “half-suits,” dressing them down to make them casual. But this, this was the real thing.

I kept glancing over at him as we ate dinner. The filet mignon melted in my mouth like butter. Finally, Nick caught my gaze before I could turn away. I just wasn’t fast enough.

“Ketchup?” he asked, smiling. His eyes focused on my cleavage.

“No, I don’t need ketchup,” I said, laughing.

“Aren’t they cute?” AJ teased.

“Bom chicka wah wah,” Brian sang out.

Nick looked around for what I could only assume was something to throw. I placed my hand on his arm.

“Not tonight,” I said softly. He looked at me sheepishly. “Don’t want to get kicked out?”

“No,” I said with a smile. Nick returned the smile, then checked his watch. We had sat at the table waiting for Aaron for 45 minutes before we finally ordered. Now we were halfway through dinner.

“This is ridiculous,” Nick complained. “Aaron should be here by now.”

“Did someone say my name?”

I looked up to see Aaron hovering to Nick’s right. A girl who I assumed was his girlfriend, stood behind him. Nick leapt out of his seat, crushing his brother in a bear hug.

“About time!” he complained.

“Sorry about that,” Aaron said, returning the embrace. He didn’t really look sorry. “Maile and I were doing some last minute things.”

Nick introduced me to both Aaron and Maile. I shook their hands. I had loved Aaron Carter; he had been such a cute little kid. Now, he seemed so skinny and gaunt. Aside from that, he looked so young. Maile looked even younger. Aaron held out a chair for her, then sat in the seat unoccupied to Nick’s right. He pointed to each guy in turn, making introductions for Maile’s sake.

“And this,” he said proudly. “Is my bride-to-be.”

Congratulations came from the entire table, except for Nick. I saw a change in his face. Adopting his big brother stance, he studied his brother thoughtfully.

“What were you guys doing at the last minute?” he asked casually, sawing a huge chunk off his steak. Aaron swooped in and stole a fry.

“Well,” Aaron said, sharing a secret smile with Maile. “We didn’t just come to Vegas to see you,” he explained. “We’re getting married. Tonight.”

Nick choked hard. My eyes widened. I handed him a glass of water and began patting his back. After a few minutes of hacking and several sips of water, Nick sat back. He didn’t look happy. Obviously his suspicions were confirmed. Bride-to-be didn’t just mean fiancée; it meant ready to sprint down the aisle.

“Can we talk?” Nick said, pushing back his chair. It was more of a command rather than a question. Aaron stood up reluctantly. I watched Nick grab his sleeve, pulling him into a secluded corner. Trying not to seem too nosey, I stole quick glances in their direction. They seemed to be arguing. Nick’s hands were flying a mile a minute; I guess when he got angry he talked with his hands too. Aaron was glaring at him, puffing out his chest and making similar hand motions.

After five minutes, they sat back at the table. I could see the muscles tense in Nick’s jaw. He took another stab at his steak, chewing viciously.

"So, Olivia,” Aaron said, smoothing a napkin across his lap. He glanced at the menu. “How do you like living with these guys?”

“They’re great,” I said, smiling. “You have a wonderful brother.”

I saw a similar tension set in his jaw. “Yeah.”

“So Maile, how old are you?” I said kindly. She was sitting there in silence; she looked extremely nervous.

“Nineteen,” she said quietly. I saw a large engagement ring on her finger.

“How did Aaron propose?”

At this, she brightened. “He took me to see Alice in Wonderland. He proposed during the movie.”

Nick snorted, Aaron glared in his direction. Nick raised his glass of water to his mouth; I saw him roll his eyes.

“How cute,” I said. "That was a really great movie, too." She smiled at me gratefully.

The rest of the dinner fell into semi-awkwardness. Leigh kept looking at her watch; Howie kept assuring her everything was fine. A lot of groping was going on at AJ’s end of the table. Brian sat text messaging on his phone.

“Alright,” Nick finally said, wiping his mouth. Aaron had just gotten his food; he was eating as if he had not another care in the world.

“Shall we go clubbing? I’m switching this suit coat for a leather jacket and I’m ready to go,” he said.

“We’re going to bow out,” Howie said apologetically, standing. “I think we’re going to check on James and maybe just stay in. But, we’re doing golf tomorrow, right Nick?”

“Yup,” Nick said. Leigh stood, looking relieved. I couldn’t blame her; if James was mine, I wouldn’t want to leave him out of sight either.

“We’re game,” AJ said, indicating himself and Rochelle.

“Me too,” Brian said, tucking his phone in his pants pocket.

Nick looked at Aaron. Aaron slowly looked up at him.

“I’ll meet you there,” he said quietly.

We headed out of the restaurant. Everyone made a quick stop back to their room to “dress down” a little before heading out. Considering how low my dress was, I figured I couldn’t really get “down” any more. I sat on the bed as Nick shrugged into his leather jacket.

“Is everything okay?” I asked. He sighed.

“I’m not going to let it ruin our night,” he said. I raised an eyebrow.

“That’s not what I asked,” I said gently. He glanced at his reflection in the mirror, then he turned back to me.

“Are you going to Aaron’s wedding tonight?” I asked. I assumed that was the reason for the tension; I was right.

“I’ve talked him out of it,” Nick said. He sat beside me. “That damn kid hasn’t got his head on straight. I don’t know what he’s thinking. He proposed to her just months ago. They haven’t even known each other that long. Plus, I don’t know how he can get married and not want the whole family here,” Nick explained. “Even with a family as crazy and dysfunctional as ours, it doesn’t seem right.”

“I agree,” I said. Nick’s shoulders relaxed. He placed a hand on my knee, caressing gently with his thumb. I leaned forward and kissed him gently. The action seemed to melt some of his bitterness away.

“Let’s go,” he said taking my hand. “The sooner we go, the sooner we’ll get back here.”

We both looked at the bed. I felt a delicious warmth spread through my body.

We meet AJ, Rochelle, and Brian in the VIP lobby and walked down the strip to a nightclub not far from the Bellagio. The sun had set; Vegas was looking exactly as I had pictured it. The dark sky didn’t seem so dark with trillions of flashing lights coming from all directions.

“Aaron said they’d be here as soon as they finished dinner and changed,” Nick said as we walked into the club. The drum of bass poured from every nook and cranny. “Wanna dance?”

“Sure,” I said. He looked surprised. I giggled flirtatiously, tugging him out on the dance floor. I had already decided that tonight I wasn’t going to hesitate. I was going for broke.

After his initial surprise, he took the lead, directing me out to the floor amongst the grinding bodies. I felt totally at ease as we fell into the song; perhaps the long hours on the Masquerade set had broken through my can’t and won’t barrier.

Time seemed a blur. I caught a glimpse of AJ and Rochelle on the dance floor. Brian was in the lounge, happily chatting away. Aaron and Maile were nowhere to be found.

“C’mon,” Nick finally said, pulling me in the direction of the VIP lounge. I was grateful; my feet were beginning to hurt in my strappy sandals. We wove through the crowd and slid into the booth Brian occupied.

“Hey guys, what’s up?” Brian said. Nick seemed to recognize the guy Brian had been chatting with. Nick gave me a quick introduction. I smiled and nodded my head in acknowledgement.

“Have you seen Aaron?” Nick asked Brian. Brian shook his head.

“Naw, I figured he would be hanging around you,” Brian explained.

The minutes passed. I could tell Nick was slipping deeper into protective older brother mode.

“I’m going to go look around again,” Nick said. “You want me to bring you back anything?”

“I’ll take a Diet Coke,” I said. He gave my hand a squeeze as he stood up.

“Bring me back one too,” Brian called. Nick gave him the thumbs up.

“He’s really worried about Aaron,” I said, propping my chin on my hand.

“Well, Aaron doesn’t have such a good track record lately,” Brian said. “It kind of reminds me of Nick a few years back. He jumped from relationship to relationship, he became unreliable, and then there was the drugs and alcohol. I think Nick sees it repeating in Aaron and it’s killing him.”

I sighed sadly. It was hard for me to picture Nick that way. Sure, I knew about his past. I had seen the pictures of him with Paris Hilton; I had even seen video from TMZ of him walking out of night clubs trashed. Even so, I couldn’t wrap my head around it.

“Don’t worry,” Brian said, misinterpreting my facial expression for one of worry. “The day Nick got diagnosed with cardiomyopathy, he became the Nick that I grew up with. He’s loving life too much now to fall back. You just sweeten the deal.”

I looked at Brian and smiled. “You really think so?”

Brian nodded. “I know so. You are always on his mind. Kind of annoying really.”

I smacked Brian’s arm.

“Ouch! Between you and Carter I’m gonna have a bruise.”

Just then I saw Nick hurrying back to the table, juggling two drinks in his good hand. I stood up, taking the cups from him. I handed one to Brian.

“Livvy, I’m going to have to go,” Nick explained in a rush.

“Go where?” I asked.

“Aaron. I bumped into him and he reminded me that Maile can’t come in here; she’s only nineteen. Aaron said they were just going to go back to their hotel and watch movies, but I don’t believe it. He was wearing way too nice of shirt.”

“Do you want me to come with you?” I said. Nick shook his head.

“I’d rather you get to know my family when we’re not tearing each other’s heads off,” he explained. “I have a feeling this might get ugly. But, I won’t be long.” He pulled me towards him, kissing me hard.

“I’ll meet you back in the room,” he assured me, handing me the key. “I’ll get another key from the concierge desk. I expect you waiting up for me.”

“Absolutely,” I said. “I couldn’t sleep if I tried. But, don’t be long,” I added, tugging on his tie. He got the innuendo.

“I won’t,” he said, already walking backwards. “By the time you finish your drink and head back to the hotel I should be on my way. I want to get the sundae started.”

His eyes sparkled; I watched him jog off and sank back down next to Brian.

“Here’s to life around the Carter’s,” Brian said raising his glass in a mock toast. I shook my head but mimicked the action, clinking my glass to his.

“I’ll tell you one thing,” Brian added. “It’s never boring.”

I took a big sip of my drink. Half of my mind was on Nick’s dedication to his brother and the other half of my mind was already up in the bedroom.

As I took another sip, I prayed that time would hurry up.

Little did I know that I would wake up the next morning in the hospital with no recollection of time or of the events after Nick’s goodbye kiss. Cruel fate had worked its hand one more time.
Chapter 33 by evergreenwriter83
Chapter Thirty Three

The Events of the Night After Leaving the Club As Told By Nick

I felt like a total jackass leaving Livvy at the club. This wasn’t how the night was supposed to go; we should have been leaving the club together. Then after a night of wild, tied up, passionate monkey sex, I could have woken up with her in my arms and do it all over again.

Instead, I was chasing my idiot brother around Las Vegas to make sure he didn’t screw up his whole life. Some might say that I was butting in where my nose didn’t belong; to those people I say a big “fuck you.”

I had sat quietly by too long. Aaron had been going downhill for years. Unfortunately, for most of that time I was falling right down with him. Now that I finally had my act together, it was time to help Aaron do the same. I didn’t want him to experience the same fear I did. I recalled the days where my chest tightened up so much I could barely breathe; to cope I did more and more cocaine until the pain went away. Aaron had all the classic signs. I knew his drug of choice wasn’t crack; I feared that the track marks I saw on his arms signaled much, much worse.

As I stood outside the club, I was faced with a big problem. Las Vegas was the wedding chapel capital of the world. If Aaron had lied to me (which I would almost bet my life on it), he and Maile could be saying their “I-Do’s” in front of an overweight Elvis impersonator anywhere in the area at that very moment.

Even though I knew it was fruitless, I tried calling him. My attempt resulted in an instant connection to his voicemail. I slammed my phone shut; I was furious.

“Oh my gawd, are you Nick Carter?”

I turned to see a Pam Anderson look alike gawking at me. Her friend looked like Lucy Liu.

“Er,” I said. The last thing I needed was to be slowed down by a couple of girls that I wouldn’t give the time of day.

“You are, aren’t you? Julie, how cool is this? First we see Aaron Carter and now Nick!”

Now they had my attention. Pasting on my best smile, I walked closer to them.

“My brother’s here?” I said. “I haven’t seen him in forever. Do you know where he went?”

“Maybe,” the girl (who I assumed was Julie) said. She tilted her head, batting her fake eyelashes.

“I’d be really grateful,” I said. I tried to mask my annoyance by laying on an extra layer of charm. I sounded so sweet I was giving myself cavities.

“Well, if you promise to come back and dance with us, I think we might know where he went.”

Even though it was a promise I wouldn’t keep, I nodded. “Absolutely. How could I turn down two beautiful ladies?” I asked. I made a point to blatantly check them out. They both smelled strongly of a Britney Spears perfume; it was overwhelming. My mind immediately went to Livvy; she always smelled like warm snickerdoodle cookies. I was falling bad.

“Well, he and this girl went down there,” Julie said, snapping me out of my reverie. “It looked like they went into the wedding chapel, but it was probably the bar next to it, Cantina.”

“Oh this is awesome. He’s going to be so surprised,” I said. It wasn’t a lie; he would be surprised. Just not in a good way.

“Save a dance for me!” I called over my shoulder as I headed quickly down the strip.

I found Catina; it was right next door to Aladdin Wedding Chapel. Hoping that the girls’ tip was reliable, I walked into the chapel.

The place reminded me more of a funeral parlor than a wedding chapel; it was wall to wall flowers. A little old lady who looked about one hundred was dwarfed by the massive desk.

“Did you need some help, deary?” she croaked.

“Have you seen two young kids? One’s a blonde guy. He looks like me except he’s thinner in the face. The girl is shorter than him, shoulder length dark blonde hair.”

“Oh, yes. They came in here,” she said, nodding.

“Are they still here?”

I hoped I wasn’t too late.

“Oh no,” she said, shaking her head. “They thought we did Disney themed weddings. They were misled by our name.”

“Do you know where they went?” I said. Only my brother would think a place called Aladdin Wedding Chapel would be run by Mickey Mouse.

“I suggested Bon Mel Ami Wedding Chapel,” she said. “They said something about wanting a place with fewer flowers.”

I asked for directions to Bon Mel Ami. Leaving her to ponder the idea of too many flowers, I headed farther down the strip. When I found Aaron, I was going to kill him.

The Bon Mel Ami Wedding Chapel was busier than Aladdin Wedding Chapel. They had flowers, but they were tastefully done. I looked around at couples milling around. I worked my way up to the counter. A gentlemen in a nicely tailored suit was taking down names. After taking a booking he would give a couple a beeper that vibrated when it was their turn. It reminded me of waiting for a table at a restaurant.

How romantic, I thought to myself.

“May I help you?” the gentlemen said, interrupting my thought.

“Yeah,” I said. I went into the description of Aaron. The guy broke into a smile.

“Oh yes, number 65. Let me buzz them.”

At that moment I was grateful for the amount of people in the room. Aaron didn’t see me until I was within choking range. I pounced on him, grabbing him by the back of his dress shirt.

“Hey! What the---“ he sputtered. I dragged him outside before he could utter a complete sentence. Maile followed, but hung back, staying just inside the building.

“What the fuck are you doing, you little shithead?” I yelled. I gave him another good shake before letting him go. He stumbled back, anger etched across his face.

“I’m getting married,” Aaron said.

“That’s not a good idea,” I said, my voice laced with venom.

“Why, because you told me not to? I’m not a little kid Nick and you’re not my father.”

I looked closer at my little brother. His eyes were unfocused and he seemed to be sweating.

“Aaron, what are you on?” I said quietly.

“What? Nothing. I just want to get married and since someone wouldn’t stand up for us, you’re officially not invited.”

He began to walk back to the door. I grabbed his arm and swung him around. I missed the days when he was much shorter than me; we were almost eye to eye.

“Aaron, you need help,” I said. “Please, don’t do this. You’re high or upped on something and you’re not thinking rationally. Mom and Angel would be heartbroken that they weren’t here. And what about Leslie and Bobbie Jean?”

Aaron just laughed. He wiped his face on his sleeve; his nose was running.

“Why are you even here, man?” he asked.

“I just explained why!” I said impatiently. Without thinking I hit my good hand against my cast. Pain ricocheted through my fingers; I cursed.

“Dude, the roofies didn’t work? I thought those would at least keep you out of my hair until tomorrow,” Aaron said. He wiped his face again. He was beginning to breath heavier; his chest noticeably rose and fell.

“What the fuck are you talking about Aaron?” I said. “What roofies?”

“The ones I put in yours and your girlfriend’s drinks,” Aaron said. “I figured you’d be much more pleasant after a night of drug induced fucking.”

My blood ran cold.

“You,” I said slowly. “You laced those drinks with date rape drug?” My voice cracked; bile backed up in my throat. I thought I was going to be sick.

Aaron laughed. “What’s the big deal? You needed something to loosen you up. You’ve got a stick up your ass. C’mon man, admit it. You were a lot cooler when you were doing smack.”

“One of those drinks wasn’t for me,” I said. My heart was beating so hard it felt like it was going to fly out of my chest.

It was for Brian.

At the moment I didn’t care what Aaron did; he could get married, he could shoot up. I took off down the strip, feeling as if I had sunk into a nightmare that I couldn’t wake up from.

My first stop was the club. After pushing and shoving my way through I confirmed that they weren’t there. I spotted AJ and grabbed his arm.

“Have you seen Livvy?” I said. I gasped for air; my side hurt.

“Yeah,” AJ said. “She said she wasn’t feeling so hot so Brian took her back to the hotel.”

“How was Brian?” I asked.

AJ arched an eyebrow. “Fine. Why?”

I didn’t waste time to explain. Yelling a quick ‘thanks,’ I sprinted towards the Bellagio. After a quick stop at the VIP concierge desk I had another key to the penthouse. The elevator seemed to climb with deliberate slowness.

The second the doors opened to the 32nd floor, I was out, my hand on the knob. I almost forgot to breathe; I had a gut feeling, and it wasn’t good. The door knob turned without the need of my key; it was a bad sign.

I pushed open the door. The entertainment lounge was completely dark. I walked in, turning on a small lamp.

Clothes were strewn everywhere. I recognized some of the articles; the implication made my head spin. As I walked closer to the bedroom I listened for any sound; all around me was nothing but silence. The door stood slightly ajar.

I pushed the door open farther. My toe kicked a very white, very masculine sneaker.

The owner of the sneaker was naked and unconscious in bed, laying next to a very naked, also unconscious Liv.

It was Brian.

I walked over to the bed slowly; trying to convince myself I would wake up any moment. Brian was breathing normally, but was definitely not conscious. With my testosterone flaring and my rationality out the window, I couldn’t help it; I hit him hard. Feeling no better I looked at Liv.

Her coloring didn’t look good; she had a gray palor. Placing my fingers on her neck I checked her pulse. It was extremely slow.

Throwing a sheet over both of them so as not to be plagued with the declaration of the deed that was done, I dialed 911. After being assured that I’d have assistance in moments I stumbled into the bathroom to throw up.

Fate seemed to have purposely kept Livvy and I apart several times before; but this…

This was incomprehensible.

At the moment I had never hated anyone more than my brother.
Chapter 34 by evergreenwriter83
Chapter Thirty Four

The Aftermath – As Told By Olivia

When I opened my eyes, I was completely disoriented. The lush walls of the hotel were nowhere to be seen; a white sterile wall was directly in my line of vision. I moaned; I felt like I had been held underwater for a long length of time and was just now able to come slowly to the surface.

“She’s waking up,” I heard a voice say softly to my right. At the moment I felt too weak to turn my head.

Even with my contacts in, things were slightly blurry. The white wall disappeared; it was replaced with Nick’s face, leaning over me.

“Liv?” I felt his hand cover mine. “Liv, can you hear me?”

“Where am I?” I croaked. My throat felt like it had been cut by razor blades.

“You’re in the hospital,” he said quietly. I blinked in confusion.

“What happened?”

An awkward silence hung in the room. From my right, I heard a chair being pushed backwards. I saw Brian walk out. I looked back at Nick.

He looked horrible. His leather jacket was draped on a chair in the corner of the room. He was still wearing the clothes from the night before; the blue silk tie was almost completely undone; his shirt sleeves were rolled to his elbows. His eyes were red; it looked like he had been crying.

“What happened?” I asked again. I brought my hand to my throat. I followed an IV from my hand to a large pump. I looked at him again; I was completely confused and completely scared.

He sank down into the chair vacated by Brian. Taking my hand, he looked down. Every little motion seemed to wipe the energy from him. I had never seen him like this.

“It’s my fault,” he said, his voice breaking. I felt a teardrop hit my fingers. “I should have never left you.”

“Nick, you’re scaring me. What happened? Why does my throat feel like knives? The last thing I remember is your kiss and…” I thought back. I had a vague fuzzy recollection of Brian and I clinking glasses but after that there was nothing.

With a shaky sigh, Nick began to tell me about the night before. I was fine until he reached the part where Aaron had put the roofies in the drinks.

“Nick?” I said, my voice rising an octave. He held up his hand and continued, his voice filled with emotion and pain.

As he described his walk through the suite and his discovery of me and Brian, the tears continued to fall from his face. I was shocked into mortification.

“You were barely breathing,” he continued, lowering his head to my bed sheet. His shoulders shook as sobs overtook him. I put my hand on his head; I couldn’t speak. The thought of sleeping with someone and not consciously remembering any of my actions terrified me. I couldn’t even begin to imagine what had gone through Nick’s mind when he walked through that bedroom door. I didn’t even care about the part where I was barely breathing; I would gladly give every last breath to rewind time. I should have been waking up this morning sticky from whipped cream and resting in Nick’s embrace. Instead…

As Nick raised his head, wiping his eyes, I pulled my hand back. I had thought that I knew what true guilt was when I got involved with Nick before dissolving ties with Hunter. That feeling was nothing like I felt now; this was true guilt mixed in with a million other emotions I couldn’t even begin to describe.

“I’m sorry,” Nick said quietly. “The thought that you could have died…” he trailed off.

“How can you be sorry?” I said. It was my turn to cry. “I slept with Brian!”

At that moment Brian slid back into the room. He stood in the doorway, glancing over at me. He looked like a tortured man. I squinted. The side of his face was completely bruised.

“What happened?”

I saw a silent exchange happen between Brian and Nick.

“Nick had to shake me pretty hard to get me conscious,” Brian explained. Nick shook his head.

“No, I hit the fuck out of him,” Nick said. “I lost my temper.”

They shared another look.

“I’m not going to lie to her,” Nick said. “She deserves the truth.”

I didn’t think I deserved anything. I felt weird even looking at Brian, but I needed to. Something else was bothering me.

“Does Leighanne…?” I croaked out. Brian nodded.

“I called and talked to her,” he said. “She caught a flight out; she actually just called. Her flight has landed; she’ll be here soon.” He rubbed his neck, he seemed to find a crack in the wall extremely interesting. “How’s your throat?”

My fingers touched my throat again. I looked at Nick in confusion.

“They had to tube you and pump your stomach. The IV’s for dehydration,” he explained, nodding towards the tubing in my hand.

“Why did Aaron do it?” I asked. Nick smiled; it was the most hateful smile I’ve ever seen.

“He wanted to get me out of the way so he could run off and do whatever he wanted. He was thinking only of himself.”

Brian’s phone rang; he walked back out again.

“Needless to say,” Nick said quietly, brushing a piece of hair away from my eyes. “last night didn’t go according to plan.”

It was the understatement of the century.

“Nick, maybe fate’s trying to tell us something,” I whispered. He looked at me and started shaking his head no.

“No, it’s just a string of bad luck,” he said. “It’s all of this craziness of being on the road. Afterwards when there’s not so much interference…”

“Nick, how can I finish this tour? Every time Brian looks at me he’s going to be filled with guilt; I’m freaking out just knowing Leighanne’s going to be here soon. And,” I continued, my voice practically fading away. “Every time you look at me you’re going to see me with Brian.”

My tears fell fast. I turned my face away from him.

“Olivia, it’s not your fault. It’s not Brian’s fault. This was just a horrible mistake,” Nick cajoled. I didn’t respond. There was a knock on the door.

“Come in,” Nick said. Leighanne walked in.

“Hey guys,” she said quietly. She paused a few paces away from my bed.

“Can you give us a few minutes, Nick?”

Nick nodded. He leaned down and kissed my forehead. I watched him walk out of the room, closing the door behind him.

Leighanne took the empty seat by my bed. I didn’t want to look at her. She had been such a good confidant to me; I wasn’t worthy of her trust or kindness.

“How are you doing?” she said. I felt her hand on my arm. Taking a deep breath I turned to look at her. I burst out into tears yet again. Her arms went around me, hugging me.

“It’s okay Liv,” she said.

“How can you say that?” I said. “I slept with…”

She cut me off. I felt her arms drop away. Seconds later she handed me a large wad of Kleenex.

“You’ve got to listen to me,” she said. “But first you need to look at me.”

Slowly I turned back to her. She seemed so put together, her eyes were calm and concerned.

“I’ve had a whole flight to calm down,” she explained, reading my mind. “One of the first things Brian did after they found out you were okay was call me and tell me what happened.”

I winced. I couldn’t even imagine how hard that phone call must have been.

“I’ve been where you are. When I was eighteen I was drugged at a party,” she said. “I woke up naked in a bed with no recollection of what happened. When Brian explained what happened, every emotion I felt that day just came back to me. I was scared and confused, I felt like a whore. What I didn’t realize for several months afterwards was that it wasn’t my fault; I was a victim.”

I didn’t say anything; she had summed up every emotion I was currently feeling.

“What is the last thing you remember?” she said, her voice still soft and kind.

“I remember Nick kissed me,” I said. “And I remember Brian and I clinking our glasses. After that I…” I shook my head. “I don’t know, I don’t remember anything.”

“As far as I’m concerned we’re going to chalk this up to a horrible, horrible mistake,” Leighanne said. “The only ones that are going to know are you, me, Brian and Nick.”

I looked at her in surprise. “How can you just let it go?”

She smiled; I couldn’t help but wonder where her wisdom came from. “It’s not that I don’t care; but if you had been on the other end of the phone when Brian was telling me what happened…you would have heard a man that was torturing himself. For eleven years he has been the most faithful man I’ve ever met. Nothing’s going to change my love for him.”

“I just feel so bad,” I said. I told myself I wasn’t going to cry again; even so I dabbed at a runaway tear.

“Don’t,” Leighanne said firmly. “I still consider you my friend and I want you to promise me you’re not going to tuck tail and run home. You deserve to finish off this tour. You would break Nick’s heart if you didn’t.”

“Nick,” I moaned.

“Yeah, about Nick,” Leighanne added. “In the time I’ve known him, and that’s been quite awhile, he has always been kind of self-centered. When I talked to him on the phone earlier I could hear in his voice how concerned he was for you. Don’t push him away because of this; let it make you closer.”

“How can you be so calm?” I asked instead; I just couldn’t make any promises at the moment.

“Oh,” Leighanne said. Her smile grew colder. “I’m channeling my rage for the person that actually deserves it.”

“What do you mean?”

“When I see Aaron,” she said slowly. “I’m going to kill him.”

“You’re going to have to stand in line.”

I looked over to see Nick and Brian hovering in the doorway.

All three of them looked like they meant business.
Chapter 35 by evergreenwriter83
Chapter Thirty Five

“Nick, please go do something. I don’t want you wasting your whole Vegas time in the hospital,” I complained.

“No, I don’t want to be anywhere else,” Nick said. He dug into his milkshake, holding the spoon out to me. With a sigh I took a bite; the cold vanilla ice cream felt like heaven on my throat. I closed my eyes.

Leighanne and Brian had left about an hour ago. Before they headed off to the hotel, Brian had asked for a moment to talk to me alone.

“You’re kind of like a sister to me,” he began, his hands in his jeans pockets. He gave a weak grin. “This would make a great Jerry Springer episode.”

I sighed. Brian’s smile faded off his face.

“I know, not funny,” he said. “But, I don’t want things to be weird between you and me.”

“I still feel horrible when I think about Leighanne and Baylee and…” I trailed off. He shook his head.

“If you haven’t noticed I have an amazing wife,” Brian reminded me. “This would be different if we had made a conscious adult decision to do this. I don’t know about you, but I’ve never had roofies in my system.”

I shook my head.

“Forgiveness is a part of who Leighanne and I are as Christians,” Brian said. “Having no recollection of any of last night’s events helps with that forgiving process.”

He walked over and held out his hand. I put my hand in his; he gave me a reassuring squeeze.

“I just want to make sure you’re not going to run off and hide,” Brian added. “You are going to finish this tour with us, right?”

I nodded. “Yes, I’ve already promised Nick,” I said. I had no other choice; he wouldn’t let the subject dropped until he got the answer he wanted.

After talking for a few more minutes, Brian left. I had the room all to myself for about fifteen minutes before Nick reappeared; milkshake in hand.

“Want another bite?” Nick asked, interrupting my thoughts. I nodded. Another spoonful greeted my tongue.

“When do I get out of here?” I croaked.

“Doctor is releasing you tomorrow morning,” Nick said. “He would have released you tonight, but I want to make sure you’re absolutely fine.”

I wrinkled my nose.

“Have you heard from Aaron?”

His eyes darkened, a deep frown etched his face. “No, he’s MIA,” he said coldly.

“Nick, I don’t think he meant for this to happen,” I added. Brian’s comment about forgiveness was playing in my mind; with Leighanne, Brian, and Nick all set to kill Aaron I decided to be the odd man out.

“That’s not important,” Nick argued. “The fact is he did something dumb that could have killed you and my best friend.”

“But it didn’t,” I reminded him. He took a big bite of ice cream without responding.

“What about AJ and Howie?” I asked, deciding a change of subject was in order.

“They think you’re in here for dehydration,” Nick explained. “That’s all they need to know.”

I nodded, sinking down into my thoughts. Nick was quiet by my side, but after a little while I saw him throw away the empty milkshake container. He returned and took my hand.

“I guess it could have been worse,” he finally said. I looked at him.

Nick made a face like he was eating something extremely sour.

“Out of everyone, I guess I’m at least thankful it was Brian and not someone in the club. I freak out every time I think of what could have happened if Brian didn’t take you back to the hotel. Anyone could have gotten to you and---“

His logic made sense, but it still didn’t make me feel that much better.

The hours ticked by; we watched TV. The nurse came in with some gross hospital food; Nick entertained me by making a mashed potato sculpture. When the announcement that visiting hours were over, I looked over at him.

“Thank you, Nick,” I said. I patted his hand. “I’ll see you tomorrow morning.”

He looked confused.

“Where am I going?” he asked. I frowned.

“Visiting hours are over,” I explained.

“That’s for visitors,” he said, waving his hand in the air. “I’m not going anywhere.”

After another hour, he nudged me. “Scoot over.”

I slid closer to the guardrail on the bed and the IV. Nick lay down next to me.

“They could get you a cot,” I said. He shook his head.

“I just had the worst night of my life last night,” he said. “More than anything else in this world I just want to fall asleep next to you and know that you’re safe.”

Who in their right mind could argue with that? Inhaling the scent of his shampoo, I laid my head on his shoulder.

Even thought it was cramped quarters, I didn’t mind. Nick did make me feel safe. I fell asleep quickly, my hand over his heart.

-----------------------------------

“If I never see Las Vegas again, that will be absolutely fine with me,” I said as the bus pulled away in the late afternoon. I was on Nick’s bed surrounded by dozens of pillows. Nick lay across the end of the bed. Both of us were having yet another milkshake.

God bless comfort food.

“Tell me again why you surrounded me with bumper pads,” I said, taking a gratifying suck of shake.

“Precaution,” Nick said. I rolled my eyes.

“Can you at least get me my laptop? I have to do some updates.”

Reluctantly, Nick rolled off the bed. He returned a few moments later with my laptop. Handing it over, he resumed his spot.

I began to work quickly, updating the Boys’ Facebook and Twitter about the concert in Utah the next day. Then, I got to work putting together the video of the guys interviewing me for the fans. I omitted all mention of Brian as my favorite Backstreet Boy. I did keep the question where Nick asked me who I thought the sexiest Backstreet Boy was.

I was so intent on my work that I didn’t notice that Nick had slithered up by my side. He watched me work.

“When is your first day back to work at the library?” Nick asked. I jumped, surprised to see him looking over my shoulder.

“July 6,” I said. “Why?”

“Well,” Nick said. “Tomorrow’s June 25 and we have our concert in Utah. Then we have two concerts in San Francisco on the 26 and 27.”

“And my flight home leaves on the 28th,” I said.

“Yeah,” he said slowly. “About that.”

I looked at him.

“I kinda changed it to July 5,” he said sweetly. I raised an eyebrow.

“July 5?” I said. “That’s the day before I start work!”

“Yes, but I have an apartment in LA. You can’t leave California without letting me show you one of my homes.”

I cracked a smile. “That’s going to take 7 days?” I asked.

“Well then there’s your birthday,” he added mischievously. I wrinkled my nose.

“I don’t want you to do anything for my birthday,” I said sternly. His eyes widened innocently.

“Who me? No, that’s not it. I just thought it would be nice to see you on your birthday,” he said. “And then of course there’s 4th of July. You have to be with me on the 4th of July. My apartment overlooks the beach and I want to lay out on the sand and watch the fireworks with you.”

Now that was a nice image. My fingers paused from their typing and I looked over at him. He batted his eyes.

“Seriously?” I asked. He nodded.

“Seriously,” he said. “More than anything in this world I just want one week where we’re not cohabitating with three other guys, their wives and children, and the whole tour crew.”

“Well, I guess I can call my mom and let her know there’s been a delay,” I said. Nick shook his head.

“Already done.”

I looked at him in surprise. “You talked to my mom?”

His smile widened. “Yup.”

“How did that go?”

“Well,” he paused. “I called her yesterday and told her you were in the hospital for dehydration.” Nick looked at me apologetically. “I just wanted to let her know in case somehow someone found out you were in the hospital.”

I nodded. “It’s okay.” I knew she would have freaked out if she knew the real truth.

“So, while we were talking I told her you were staying a little longer.”

“What did she say?”

“Well, I got a lecture about making sure you stayed hydrated,” Nick smiled. “I think the milkshakes are a good start.”

I laughed.

“Then, she asked me what my intentions were.”

I raised an eyebrow. “And you said?”

“I told her,” he paused. “That as far as I was concerned, if anyone messes with you they’re going to have to get through me first. And,” he took a breath. “I told her I was falling head over heels in love with you.”

“You didn’t.” I said.

“I sure did,” Nick said seriously. “And I meant every word.”

And without a doubt I knew he did.
Chapter 36 by evergreenwriter83
Chapter Thirty Six – Utah

I’ve got to be honest with you; I guess I never really thought of Utah as an important state. Maybe it’s because it’s so far from my hometown. Maybe it’s because it’s surrounded by states I’ve heard a lot more about. Either way, I was surprised to find out just how beautiful it was. I stood on the stage of the outdoor pavilion, staring around at the beautiful landscape. The venue was surrounded by golf course.

“How you feeling Liv?” Howie said, walking by me. James clung to his shoulders, babbling in his own little language.

“Much better,” I said with a smile. “Why aren’t you golfing?” I asked. He frowned.

“I was,” he said. “But the other guys were kicking my ass so I cut it short.”

I took out a pair of binoculars, training them out on the course. As I zoomed in on the golf cart, I could see Nick, AJ, and Brian making their way to another hole. Leighanne and Baylee were in a golf cart behind them. Leighanne’s sister had flown in with Baylee that morning.

“I’m almost glad I was on the bottom,” Howie added coming up next to me. “Nick’s a sore loser. He actually teased me for quitting early; I reminded him that he’s done that the last three times we’ve played. Then he goes on Twitter and complains to the world how much he sucks.”

I smiled at him. He winked at me. “I’m just warning you about what you’re getting yourself into,” he said before walking off. James bounced along with him, happily saying “bah, bah, bah.”

I went back to the binoculars. Nick was wearing golf shorts and a polo shirt. He pointed out some landmark with his finger, smirking at AJ. I saw him do the “golf stance” and with a fierce swing, took his shot.

I wasn’t close enough to hear the laughter; but I saw AJ double up, his shoulders shaking. I zoomed in as far as my binoculars would take me. Nick had completely missed the golf ball. He kicked angrily at the divot he made in the ground. I laughed out loud.

Finally remembering that I wasn’t getting paid to watch a golf game, I grabbed my camera and headed out to find out what scoop I could get. As I entered the parking lot, I saw a group of girls wearing Backstreet Boys shirts. Walking up to them, I smiled.

“Ready for the concert?” I asked. They turned around, nodding eagerly.

“I was wondering if I could do a quick interview for the fan club website,” I said, holding up my camera.

“Sure,” the girl closest to me said. She looked at me. “Hey, you’re the media chick,” she said. “OMG, I just saw the interview with you on the fanclub page,” she added.

I smiled. “Yeah, I—“

Another girl cut me off. “Nick’s mine, you know.”

I raised an eyebrow. “Excuse me?”

“I’ve heard the rumors that you’re Nick’s new girlfriend,” she said. “Nick’s mine.”

I laughed. “No, we’re just good friends,” I said. I saw three pairs of eyes narrow. They took a step forward.

“How good of friends?”

“I’m friends with all of the guys,” I said, taking a step backwards. “And I just wanted to ask you some questions from one fan to another,” I said, motioning between myself and the girls. They shared a smile between them.

“If you're such good friends,” one of the girls said. “Let us on Nick’s bus.”

I laughed. I had done some incredibly stupid things before; but no way was I going to let these lunatics on one of the guy’s busses.

“I can’t do that,” I said. They started to close in on me like hyenas.

“Have you been on the bus?”

“Have you spent the night on the bus?”

I opened my mouth to speak. I ducked just in time to miss as one of the girls reached out to claw me. I thought of AJ’s black eye. If these types of girls did that to someone they were infatuated with, what were they going to do with someone they hated?

“COMING THROUGH!”

The girls scattered like flies. I jumped aside just as Nick flew through on a golf cart. Baylee was sitting on his lap, steering like a maniac. Nick clung to him as he slammed on the brake. Nick’s arm draped over the steering wheel and he gave one of his million dollar smiles.

“Everything okay here, ladies?” he asked. Baylee peeked out around Nick’s arm smiling.

“I drove,” he announced, pointing to the wheel.

The girls were too shocked to see Nick Carter sitting only feet away to say anything. Nick motioned to me with his head. Without a word, I climbed on the back of the golf cart.

“Enjoy the concert ladies!” Nick called, taking off towards the green. When we were out of earshot, I let out a sigh of relief.

“What were you trying to do? Feed yourself to the lions?” Nick asked.

“I wanted to get some fan interviews!” I said indignantly.

“I love our fans. We have the best fans in the world,” Nick explained. “But some fans, especially ones that arrive five hours early for a concert are the ones to watch out for.”

I let out a little “oh.” We bounced along the grassy fields until we were back to where the guys had left off. They were on the 17th hole.

“We’re almost done,” Nick said. He placed Baylee on the ground, then hopped out. “Stay and watch me kick some ass.”

“I don’t know how he’s going to kick ass,” AJ said, smiling my way. “He’s in last place, well, besides Howie. But, Howie quit, so by a technicality he’s in third place.”

I laughed. Leighanne came and sat next to me; we watched the guys tee off. Nick missed the ball for the second time. Ignoring AJ’s laughter, Nick looked my way.

“If I may say so,” he said. “It’s not easy golfing with one hand in a cast.”

I nodded sympathetically. On the second stroke he made contact. The ball sailed over the green.

“How are you doing?” Leighanne asked as we watched Brian step up for his turn. I looked at her and smiled.

“I’m doing okay. Thanks to you,” I said. She leaned into me, nudging me gently.

“This old lady knows a thing or two,” she teased.

“You’re not old,” I admonished. She laughed.

Brian turned around and looked at us. “She gets prettier every year. I’ll be ninety with no teeth and no hair and she’ll still be a blonde bombshell.”

Leighanne blew him a kiss.

I thanked God that I hadn’t ruined such a perfect relationship.

------------------------------

I mostly steered clear of the fans during sound check and the concert. I took some photos and videos; but not my usually plethora of goods. I wanted to save the best for last during our two days in San Francisco. Tony and Anderson had told me they would be there; I wanted to make my best impression.

After the concert was over, the stage was quickly disassembled and the busses once again roared to life.

“Don’t you ever get tired of the bus?” I asked Nick as he closed the hatch on the bus’s luggage compartment. He leaned against the black exterior, his face thoughtful.

“This has been normal for me since I was twelve years old,” he said. “I love it when I’m home, but after a few months the itch returns.”

Taking my hand, we climbed onto the bus. I didn’t care who saw me with Nick; all pretenses were gone.

Earlier, Andrea had come up to me and asked me how I was feeling. After I assured her I was fine, she looked around to make sure no one was within earshot.

“What’s going on with you and Nick?” she asked. “Is he a better bus mate than I am?” she teased. I smiled.

“I don’t know what to tell you about me and Nick,” I said. “Six weeks ago I never expected I’d be standing here contemplating more than just an acquaintance with him. But now…”

She held up her hand. “Nuf said. Life’s confusing. Just jump on and go for it.”

Andrea had never been mean or spiteful to me. The times we had roomed together she was nothing but sweet and funny. Her simple words meant the world to me. As I followed Nick up the steps, my heart panged sadly. I hadn’t been touring on a bus since I was twelve, but I knew that I would miss it. By the time the Canadian leg rolled around in August I knew without a doubt I’d be ready to come back.

As the bus made its way to San Francisco, I sat by Nick on the carpeted floor of the living quarters, playing game after game of Mario Kart on the Wii. I poured my aggression and frustration from the last several weeks out on the poor Koopa Troopas and Toadstools that dared pass me. Nick seemed to do the same; I could almost see Aaron’s face on every single one of those turtles that were blasted off the road by Nick’s surprise bombs and banana peels.

Even so, it felt good, really good.
Chapter 37 by evergreenwriter83
>b>Chapter Thirty Seven - California

When I was fifteen, I had a pen pal that lived in San Francisco. For my sixteenth birthday, my parents flew me out to meet her as a birthday present. I loved every minute of it, from the streetcars to the Golden Gate Bridge. The moment the busses rolled into the city, I had my face against the window, the pictures from my memory coming out to provide comparison between what the city had looked like then to what it looked like now. It was almost exactly the same.

The busses ran low on gas only two miles from the concert venue. They pulled over to refuel.

“Want anything?” Nick asked. I shook my head.

“Naw I’m fine,” I said.

“Okay, I’ll be right back.”

He hopped down; I went back to the laptop. For the whole tour I had been taking the best videos and photographs from each stop and compiling them into one great big video. It would be my piece de resistance, a gift to the U.S. fans for coming out and supporting the boys. I had gone old school and set the whole thing to their song, Everyone. I worked in silence for several minutes.

If you’re going, to San Francisco. Be sure to wear, some flowers in your hair,” Nick sang as he climbed back on the bus. I laughed, my eyes still not leaving the screen; the video was coming together perfectly before my eyes.

Nick sat down beside me and repeated the verse.

“What’s up with you and that so—“ I started to say, looking over at him. My mouth dropped open. He grinned.

His arms were filled with two dozen yellow roses.

“Are you serious?” I said as he handed them to me. He laughed.

“You said they were your favorite,” he explained.

They looked and smelled amazing. I brought them to my face, inhaling deeply.

“Thank you,” I said.

“I got the ones that were de-thorned,” he added. He plucked one out from the bunch, snapping the long stem. He placed it in my hair. I had a flashback to him doing the same thing with a red rose on the Masquerade set. That seemed like so long ago.

“There. Now we can go to San Francisco.”

The bus took off again. I leaned over and kissed him softly. It was the first time I had kissed him since…since the incident. I thought it might have changed things; but the magic still resided right there on his lips. As I broke away, his eyes seemed to shine with relief.

“What was that for?” he asked innocently.

“The roses,” I answered with a laugh.

“Well technically I bought you two dozen. That’s twenty four roses. So, that means I probably should get about, oh, twenty three more kisses.”

“Start me a tab,” I said as I stood up to find a vase.

“Don’t think I won’t!”

After another ten minutes, the busses pulled up behind the Villa Florence, the hotel where we would be staying.

“What’s the venue like?” I asked as I grabbed my equipment bag. Nick broke into a grin.

“The Warfield,” he said with enthusiasm. “We’re playing two nights. It seats about 2,000 people. It’s a really intimate venue.”

We had just enough time to check into the room and get ready for sound check. As I walked out of the bathroom, pulling my still wet hair into a ponytail, I heard Nick talking on the phone.

“No, it’s a surprise; a big surprise. How soon? Perfect. I’ll call again in the next day or so.”

He looked up, saw me, and hung up the phone.

“My turn?” he asked, hopping off the bed. I grabbed his arm on the way to the bathroom.

“What’s a surprise?” I asked suspiciously. He looked at me with a horrible feign of confusion.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” he said. Gently he pried my hand off his arm and walked to the bathroom.

With a sigh I fell back on the bed, my legs dangling off the edge so that my feet were still on the floor. I was still in the same position when Nick came back in the room, showered and smelling amazing. He straddled my legs, looking down at me.

“What’s a surprise?” I asked again.

“Well, the dictionary defines a surprise as something unexpected or wonderful,” Nick said sweetly. I laughed and jerked my leg playfully; he jumped back.

“If you hit me in the goods you’re going to ruin my chances of having beautiful babies with you,” he teased. He held a hand out to help me up off the bed. I took his hand and sat up slowly.

“Nick,” I said, my mouth feeling suddenly dry. “I think I need to tell you something.”

He raised an eyebrow. “What?”

“I…I can’t have children,” I said.

“Why not?” Nick said. He looked at me as if looking for some type of external sign.

“The doctors don’t know,” I said, my hands beginning to do the talking for me. I waved them a mile a minute. “Hunter and I tried for three years. I went through every test known to mankind. I just don’t do what a normal woman needs to do to have a baby. I’m like a chicken that can’t lay eggs on a regular basis.”

It was the stupidest analogy I could think of. I watched Nick’s face; he looked thoughtful. After a minute he smiled.

“Well, when we get to that road we’ll cross it,” he said lightly. I noticed he used the word when instead of if. I stood up beside him. He kissed me softly.

“I’ll take another off your tab,” he said. I smiled, feeling my body relax.

-----------------------------

When we arrived at the Warfield, I knew why Nick was so enthusiastic. It was an amazing venue. It reminded me of The Midland in Missouri, where Nick and I had almost made love. I let out a little sigh.

Tony and Anderson were waiting for us as we walked in. After a round of handshakes with the guys and their families, they turned to me.

“And then we have Olivia,” Anderson said.

“How’s she doing boys?” Tony said.

“She’s fabulous,” Nick piped up right away.

“Highly professional,” Howie added. I thought he was stretching it a little bit.

“She fits right in,” AJ said.

“A good fit to the family,” Brian added.

Anderson grinned. “Well, you’ve made quite an impression.”

I smiled and shrugged.

“Can we meet with you in one of the backrooms Olivia? We’d like to review your work and have a little meeting.”

I followed them to a secluded little room. I spent a couple moments setting up my equipment.

“I’ve tried to post to their Facebook and Twitter at least once for every tour stop,” I explained. “I’ve utilized the TwitPic feature quite often. I’ve also posted some great videos to bsbofficial on YouTube and of course the concert photographs for the FanClub.”

Anderson nodded. “The feedback has been very positive.”

“In fact,” Tony said with a smile. “We’d like to extend this internship opportunity past the Canadian leg in August.”

My eyes widened. “Really?”

Anderson nodded. “The Boys are setting sail in December on a cruise with the fans. We’d like for you to be the special correspondent for the trip.”

I felt a thrill of excitement fly through my body. I remembered getting the announcement and thinking how cool it would be to be able to go; then the tour had sold out in about two seconds. Not that I could have afforded it; I had been unemployed at the moment and living with my lying, cheating husband.

“Seriously?” I said. Tony laughed.

“Seriously. And we think you deserve a little raise. Your work has exceeded our expectations.”

Anderson slid a piece of paper over my way. I saw another ten thousand dollars written on it.

“That’s for eight days,” Tony explained. “A day of presale footage, the six day cruise, and a day of aftermath.”

“So what do you say?”

All I could think of was Nick. On a boat. In the middle of the ocean. With me.

“I think,” I said quietly. “That I wouldn’t miss this opportunity for the world.”
Chapter 38 by evergreenwriter83
Chapter Thirty Eight

I walked out of the meeting with Tony and Anderson feeling really good about myself. While they went to talk to the guys; I met up with Andrea.

“How’d the meeting with the bosses go?” she whispered, looking around.

“Well, if I were getting a grade, I’d say I passed,” I said. I told her about being invited onto the cruise. Her eyes widened.

“No way! That’s awesome!”

She gave me a big hug. “I’m going to miss you.”

I pulled back, confused. “Where are you going?”

“Oh,” she said. “I’m not going on the Canadian leg; I’ve got another gig.”

“Well, in that case, I’m going to miss you,” I said. I truly meant it.

“Hey, you’re a techie. I’ll keep tabs on you on Facebook.” She winked. “I need all the dirt on Nick you can spill. Plus you can remind me how hot AJ is on a weekly basis by sending me pictures.”

I laughed and shook my head. She headed off towards the stage, then looked back at me over her shoulder.

“I’ve got to say a BIG goodbye to Paul,” she explained. I smiled; I hoped that her and her favorite crew guy would stay in contact after the tour.

While everyone was off doing other things; I took a moment for myself. It was like the good old days. I surfed onto Perez Hilton and got lost in all of the celebrity gossip.

I hit page six when I noticed the word “Carter.” Reading it more carefully, I realized I was reading about Aaron and Maile’s Las Vegas Wedding. Reportedly, the couple was honeymooning in Mexico. I sighed; Nick wouldn’t be happy.

“Such a big sigh for such a small lady.”

I looked up to see Nick hovering over me. I turned the laptop in his direction. He read the post, his eyes narrowing.

“You’re not going to run off to Mexico and kill him, right?” I asked. Nick smiled.

“No, I’m a little busy right now,” he said nonchalantly. “But don’t think that sparks won’t fly when I do meet up with my lil’ bro.”

I didn’t respond; instead I turned off my laptop.

“So how did your meeting go?” Nick asked. He sat down on the floor, leaning his back up against my legs. His head fell back onto my lap.

“Pretty good,” I said. I couldn’t suppress a wide smile. “They offered me another job.”

“And that would be?” Nick asked.

“Well this totally amazing group is going on a cruise in December,” I began, playing with his hair. Nick broke into a grin. “And Anderson and Tony thought I’d be up for the challenge of documenting the adventure.”

“I have to agree,” Nick said. “But, even if they didn’t offer you that I would have been bringing you along anyhow.”

I smiled. Leaning down, I gave him a kiss.

“Should I take that one off your tab?” he asked.

“Naw, that’s a freebie.” I said.

“You might change your mind when I tell you what Tony and Anderson met with us about,” Nick said with a laugh.

“What?” I said, frowning.

“Well, they love the Masquerade video,” Nick said. “They want us to premiere it here at the Warfield tonight and tomorrow.”

“That’s terrific!” I said with a smile.

“Yes, but,” Nick paused. “They thought while the video was playing that we could be performing it onstage.”

“By performing, you mean…?”

“I mean you girls in your dresses, waltzing around with us.”

“Oh no way,” I said, shaking my head. “On a closed set is one thing, but live in front of an audience? You saw those girls yesterday; they were ready to kill me!”

The corners of Nick’s mouth lifted up; he was trying his hardest not to smile.

“It’s not funny Nickolas!”

He held up his hands. “I’m just telling you what the bosses said,” he said innocently.

I sighed. Then I thought of something that really bothered me.

“How are we going to jump?” I asked. “We won’t have time to put on guide wires.”

Nick paused uncomfortably. “Well,” he rubbed his neck. “They’re going to put a lower platform that attaches to the stairs so you don’t have so far to jump.”

“I can easily break something with my feet on the ground! You expect me to jump with no safety net?”

“I will catch you,” Nick said.

“You have one hand!” I pointed to his cast. He looked surprised.

“Oh yeah.” He puckered his lips. “I better go talk to the guys.”

He walked off; I smiled. I knew my logic had won.

--------------------------------------

“I can’t believe this,” I complained two hours later.

My initial triumph had quickly been doused. After a mutual decision that the guys didn’t want us jumping off a platform without support and that Nick couldn’t possibly do the lifts with his hand, they had devised an alternative choreography.

“You’ll be fine,” Nick said. “It’s so much easier than the steps for the video.”

We were still waltzing, but instead of lifting we were doing timed dips. Nick and I were the last “dippers.”

We had an hour to practice before sound check.

“You trust me, don’t you?” Nick said, his bulky cast resting on my side.

“Yes,” I admitted. He grinned.

“Famous last words.”

Before I could complain, the music started. We went through the routine four times. Each time we ended with the kiss.

“I’m paying off my tab quickly,” I teased. He laughed.

“I’ll just have to give you more roses,” he countered.

With only minutes to spare before sound check, we pretty much had the routine down. Leigh, Leighanne, Rochelle, and I darted backstage as the VIP holders came in. I changed quickly and grabbed my camera.

Time to get back to my day job.

------------------------------

That night, I stood nervously backstage. Anderson and Tony were in the front row; their eyes seemed to be dissecting everything.

“So how many tomatoes are going to get thrown our way?” Rochelle said, sidling up to me. I looked at her horrified. She laughed.

“Just kidding,” she said.

“How we doin’ tonight San Francisco?” Nick called out loudly. I heard the place erupt in shrieks.

“We have something new for you guys tonight,” Howie added.

“You guys are the first people to see our new video for Masquerade.” AJ explained.

“And to celebrate, we’d like to call out our four lovely co-stars from the video,” Brian said. “First off, my beautiful wife, Leighanne.”

Leighanne smiled, bouncing out on stage.

“My lovely fiancée, Rochelle,” AJ said. Rochelle clicked her tongue ring, running out to him.

“Mi esposa, Leigh,” Howie said. The audience screamed even louder; he could have said “I like fish sticks” in Spanish and the girls would still go crazy.

“And, last, but not least,” Nick said. “my amazing girlfriend Olivia.”

I paused mid-step. He had said I was his girlfriend to an audience of 2,000 people. Nick made a ‘c’mere’ motion my way. Taking a deep breath I walked the length of the stage to him.

There were a few boo’s, but not nearly as many as I was prepared for. I stopped in front of him. He placed his hand on my waist. He pulled his microphone away from his face.

“Ready?” he whispered. I took a breath and nodded.

I’m happy to report that no one fell, no natural disaster occurred, and at the end of the song when Nick and I kissed, the audience didn’t come stampeding on the stage to kill me. I walked off the stage feeling much better than I had earlier in the day.

Besides a successful performance, more importantly I was officially a girlfriend. I had a feeling I’d be seeing my own face on Perez Hilton really soon.

I just hoped I’d be ready for it.
Chapter 39 by evergreenwriter83
Chapter Thirty Nine – June 27 / June 28

“Ain’t no party like a Backstreet Party, cause a Backstreet Party don’t stop,” Howie sang backstage. It was the night of the last performance.

After the concert the night before, everyone had stayed up late. We all piled into AJ’s hotel room to watch the Masquerade video and enjoyed dissecting every bit. By the time Nick and I got back into the room, there was just enough time to grab about six hours of sleep before waking up bright and early.

The Boys had spent the morning making appearances on radio stations to promote Masquerade. I had tagged along, snapping photos with the various radio DJs.

Now I sat with Nick in a corner, stealing a few minutes of peace and quiet. Nick was dressed for the first song; he wore tennis shoes, jeans, a black and white striped shirt, and a black jacket decorated with gold lame on the shoulders and on the lapel. I played with his jean chains. His fingers ran through my hair.

“So we have a huge after party tonight. Then we’ll spend one last night at the Villa Florence. And then tomorrow I’ve hired a car to take us to LA.” he explained.

I smiled. “Sounds good to me.”

The concert that night was unforgettable. Sweet Howie, who had stood by and watched the guys pull pranks on each other all tour got the last laugh. He had tweaked the guy’s mouth pieces so that the guys (sans Howie) sounded like chipmunks for the entire performance of All of Your Life. Nick thought it was the best prank in the world. He ran up to Brian. Leaning back to back, they belted out the words. At the end of the song, Brian and Nick launched right into the Chipmunk Song.

“Want a plane that loops the loop,” Brian sang.

“Me, I want a hula hoop!” Nick blared out.

The fans ate it up, but Howie wasn’t done. Luckily, he didn’t prank us girls; our second performance of Masquerade went very well. However, during the encore of Straight Through my Heart, Howie had people dressed as vampires popping out from underneath the stairs and dropping from the ceiling. By the end, the guys were more worried about looking out for falling fangs than remembering their dance steps.

The crowd thought it was hysterical. After one last bow, the Boys ran offstage. Nick grabbed me up with his good arm, swinging me around. I laughed, wrapping my arms around his neck. By the time my feet hit the ground, we were locked in a kiss.

The after party was huge. All of the dancers and the crew came to party it up; alcohol flowed freely. Nick and I wove through the crowd, stopping to talk to this person or that. Finally we made our way to a table in a corner. Nick sat down, pulling me gently onto my lap.

“No more busses,” Nick said with a sigh. His lips caressed my neck. My eyes fluttered closed.

“Nope,” I leaned farther back into him.

“No more interruptions,” he added, his lips kissing my shoulder.

“Nope,” I said, my hand resting on his knee. He bounced me gently on his lap. I laughed.

The party didn’t wrap up until about 3 a.m. After the last crew members left, it was only AJ, Brian, Howie, Nick and us girls.

“It went fast,” AJ said.

“Our wedding will be here before you know,” Rochelle said. AJ grinned.

“October 31st, folks,” AJ announced. “Put it on your calendar.”

Nick laughed. “You’re getting married on Halloween?”

“What’s wrong with that?” AJ said. Nick just shrugged.

“Well, I guess I’ll see you guys in a few weeks,” Howie said. “Leigh and I are headed back to Orlando tomorrow morning.”

“Leighanne and I are headed back to Atlanta,” Brian said. “Baylee’s got softball in July.”

“I’m staying in LA,” AJ said.

“Me too,” Nick said. He looked over at AJ. “Wanna play golf next week?”

AJ grinned. “Yup, it does my ego good to win.”

Nick made a face.

After a round of hugs, we headed back to the hotel. I walked in, falling heavily on the bed. Nick was soon to follow. He leaned over, kissing me softly.

“Car will be here in five hours,” he yawned, smashing his face into the pillow. I groaned.

We fell asleep in our clothes.

-----------------------------------------

The next morning we headed to LA, loaded down with bagels and iced coffee.

“I can’t wait to get back home,” Nick said, licking cream cheese off his fingers. I smiled.

“Who takes care of it when you’re gone?” I asked.

“I have a housekeeper,” Nick explained. “It isn’t my main place; I have a house in Orlando.”

I snuggled up against him. The entire back of the car smelled like iced caramel frappes.

I had unknowingly fallen asleep. As we arrived in Los Angeles, Nick nudged me awake.

“Look,” he said pointing out the window.

Through sleepy eyes, I saw the Hollywood sign. I sat up a little straighter.

“That is so cool,” I said.

Nick’s apartment was actually south of LA, in Long Beach. I smelled the sand and surf before I saw it. As we rounded a corner, a beautiful condo community came into view. Crystalline blue water danced along creamy sand.

“You live here?” I asked. Nick laughed.

“Yeah, it’s pretty nice isn’t it?”

The driver helped us unload our bags in front of Nick’s condo.

“I thought you said you had an apartment,” I said.

“Apartment, condo…same difference.”

I shook my head. Nick unlocked the door. A beautiful white marble floor led off down a hallway on one side and branched off to a sweeping staircase in the other direction.

From somewhere above my head I heard a strange sound.

“Wait here,” Nick said. He tossed down his bags, taking the stairs two at a time.

I set down my bags. A few family photographs were placed on a hall table. I smiled at a couple of Nick on a boat. He looked like he would be happy to live on water forever.

As I was studying the pictures, I heard footsteps on the stairs. I turned to see Nick coming back down, a little bundle cradled in his arm.

A black and white head popped up and barked.

It was a Boston Terrier puppy wearing a gigantic birthday bow.

“Surprise!” Nick said. He was grinning ear to ear.

I gasped. Slowly I walked over, putting my hand on the pup’s silky head.

“Do you like her?” Nick said hopefully. I looked at him; I was in awe.

“Nick,” I said. “You shouldn’t have.”

“I love dogs,” Nick smiled. “I have two at home in Orlando. Iggy and Lila. Atari and this little gal need to hook up with my crew.”

He placed the pup in my arms. The puppy’s wet nose nudged my hand. I was in love.

“So what’s a good name for her?” Nick said. I looked at her tiny paws. She was the smallest Boston Terrier I had ever seen.

“Bitsy,” I said with a smile. Nick arched an eyebrow.

“Bitsy?”

“Yeah, like the itsy bitsy spider.”

He laughed. Reaching over he scratched her behind the ears.

“Hello, Bitsy.”

I set the pup on the marble floor. She teetered and tottered, then took off in a zig-zag puppy run.

“Happy Early Birthday, Livvy,” Nick said. He wrapped his arms around my waist. I sighed happily, leaning back against him.

We were finally alone.
Chapter 40 by evergreenwriter83
Chapter Forty – June 28

After getting the grand tour and I do mean grand, Nick brought me back to his bedroom. A beautiful set of glass doors led to a balcony that overlooked the ocean. I stood there, my hands curled around the white wind worn railing. I closed my eyes. I could almost taste the ocean; the sound of seagulls was everywhere. I wanted to put on a sailor’s hat and take off.

“So,” Nick said. His arms snaked around my waist. “What do you think?”

“What do I think?” I laughed. “It’s beautiful. I’d never want to leave if I lived here.”

He rested his head on top of mine. Together we looked out at the ocean.

“It’s nicer when you have someone to share it with.”

We stayed like that for several moments. The stretch of beach was private for only those in the condo community, the beach wasn’t crowded and not a piece of litter was in sight.

“I thought I would make us dinner, we can eat here on the balcony, and then we can go out to the beach and watch the sunset,” Nick said quietly. “Sound like a plan?”

I nodded.

“I’m just going to get changed,” I said. The approaching evening seemed to be sending the temperature higher, rather than lower.

As Nick headed down to the kitchen, I changed into shorts and a flowing blouse. I piled my hair on top of my head; the cool air tickling the back of my neck felt good. After a quick confirmation that everything was covered and zipped, I went down to the kitchen. As I walked into the bright sunny space, I sat on a bar stool at the high counter. Nick was throwing open cupboards.

It didn’t take him long to realize that being on the road for months had left his grocery supply slightly low. When he had looked in the last nook and cranny, the results were a can of chicken noodle soup, a box of rice, and some frozen French bread.

“Huh,” Nick said. “I guess the grocery store fairy didn’t stop by my house.”

I laughed. Taking the French bread in my hands I gave him a slight tap on the side of the head with the frozen block.

“So I think that means we have to go grocery shopping.”

Nick wrinkled his nose. “Not tonight,” he said. “There’s always plan B.”

He opened another kitchen drawer and pulled out a huge folder that said “Take Out.” Twenty minutes later a delivery boy was dropping off the most amazing grilled chicken salads I had ever smelled in my life.

“See, take out can be healthy,” Nick explained, putting the large white bag on the bar. I filled two wine glasses with water; we took the entire meal up to the balcony. Bitsy, who had spent her day tackling the staircase, was clonked out on the bottom step making the most wonderful puppy snores.

“That’s why I like squishy face dogs,” Nick said. “They’re great snorers. And farters.”

I laughed. It was the perfect introduction to a lovely meal.

Nick spread out a blanket on the balcony and we set out the food.

“To alone time,” Nick said, raising his glass. I copied his movement.

“To alone time,” I said. I smiled at him over the brim. He grinned.

“So tell me about home. What do you do at the library?” Nick asked, taking a big bite of leafy greens. I chewed thoughtfully.

“Pretty much anything that needs to be done,” I admitted. “I decorate, I order books, I do story times.”

Nick popped a cherry tomato in his mouth. “Isn’t that hard?” he asked.

“What do you mean?”

“I mean,” he paused. “You work around children and yet…”

I shook my head. “Just because I can’t have children doesn’t mean I don’t love them,” I said. “And it’s kind of nice; I can get them all excited and full on sugar and then send them home to their parents.”

Nick laughed. “I do that to Baylee all the time. Brian and Leighanne hate me.”

We shared a laugh and then finished dinner in comfortable silence. Nick grabbed our containers; I folded up the blanket. With mutual understanding, we headed downstairs and out to the beach.

I fanned the blanket out, letting it sink slowly onto the sand. Nick took my hand, pulling me down on the blanket with him. As I sat on his lap, the sky began its nightly show.

One would think that when you see one sunset, you’ve seen them all. That couldn’t be farther from the truth. Streaks of pinks, reds, purples, and gold lit up the sky as the sun set on the horizon.

As I watched memorized, Nick’s hand was doing his own imitation of a sunset. The hand that had started in my hair travelled to my shoulder and down my spine, soliciting a shiver from me. As his fingers found the bottom of my shirt, I felt his fingertips brush bare skin.

“It’s a beautiful sunset,” I said softly.

“Yes you are,” he answered back. I laughed. “No I mean—“

I made the mistake of turning my head and looking at him. The sunset was reflecting in his beautiful blue eyes; when he kissed me everything from the sound of the seagulls to the last rays of light flew out of my mind.

His kiss was sweet and tender, yet there was also a subtle feeling of determination. He rested his casted hand on my back, his other hand leaving the hem of my shirt and sliding up and down my legs. I felt a rush of heat; flames of desire licked through my extremities.

Without conscious thought, I scooted off his lap and lay back on the blanket. Nick hovered over me, resuming our kiss. His hand returned to the hem of my shirt, slipping underneath and caressing my breasts. My hands slid down his back. Pulling back for just a moment, I released his lips just long enough to pull his shirt over his head.

“Let’s take this inside,” Nick said. We stood up; with blanket and shirt in hand, we headed back through the French doors. I dropped the pile on the kitchen counter. The moment I did so, I was scooped up by a strong arm. One second I had been looking at the kitchen, the next I was looking at Nick’s backside; he was carrying me barbarian style.

“Nick,” I said, laughing. He grunted.

With my head bouncing like a bobble head, he carried me into his bedroom. With a gentle roll I landed on the bed. His hands pinned me down by my ankles. He was grinning like a lion tamer; I was his prey.

I wiggled off my shoes as his hands began to slide up from my ankles. I was hypnotized by his every movement. I lifted my hips as my shorts disappeared with his sure hand. My heart began to pound as one by one pieces of my clothing disappeared until I was naked. Everywhere that bare skin met the warm night air was soon covered by Nick’s touches and caresses.

“Livvy,” he murmured.

Using his moment of distraction to my favor, I quickly rolled over, pinning him down. My hands worked at his jeans; the realization that this time we were actually going to be able to make love made my head spin. I worked slowly; his eyes watched my every move. Finally, with a smile I tossed his boxers over my head.

“So far so good,” he said huskily. His hand pressed gently into my hip bone.

We paused for a moment. It seemed amazing that we didn’t have someone knocking on the door or some other drama going on. But all was quiet; it was just Nick and me.
I let him roll me back into the soft mattress. My back
arched to him in need. With the slowing breath of one in the depths of desire, he pinned me down. With one shared look, one silent exchange, I wrapped my legs around him and succumbed to him heart and soul.

At that moment every single nerve ending and sensory function was alive. I could hear the gentle lap of waves, I saw the moonlight reflected in a thousand different angles on his bare chest, I smelled the sweet masculine scent of wanton need, and my skin tingled as flesh met flesh time and time again.

Later, as I lay in Nick’s arms, I couldn’t help but let one single tear fall from my eye. The teardrop hung to my eyelash before making its descent, dripping gently onto Nick’s wrist.

“Are you okay?” he whispered. His face was buried in my hair.

I didn’t know how to put into words just how okay I was. I had never experienced anything quite like our love before. I could feel Nick’s heart thudding against my back.

“I didn’t know it could be like this,” I finally whispered. His warm breath fell on my shoulder like a silky caress. His legs entwined with mine.

“I love you, Livvy,” he said in return, pulling me even closer. I turned and looked at him in surprise. He was deadly serious.

“I love you too, Nick,” I whispered.

One long, slow kiss later we lay there, breathing in rhythm. I don’t know who fell asleep first, Nick or I. All I knew was that we were together.

Our string of bad luck was broken; fate had not triumphed again.

This time it was love that was victor.
Chapter 41 by evergreenwriter83
Chapter Forty One – June 29 / June 30

I would be lying to you if I said that we spent the next day touring LA. I would be telling the truth if I said that we spent the greater part of the day right where we started the night before.

As we curled up to sleep, Nick’s hand once again snaked up my bare side.

“Any more and I’m never going to be able to walk again,” I said with a giant yawn. Bitsy lay by the balcony doors, her white patches of fur almost looking phosphorescent in the moonlight. Nick laughed, nibbling my neck.

“So is that a no?” he teased. I gave him a look.

“I guess we’re going to have to go outside tomorrow,” he said with a yawn.

“You need groceries,” I reminded him. He groaned.

“I hate grocery shopping.”

“Do the fans chase you down with carts?” I teased.

“I try to go either really early in the morning or really late at night,” Nick explained.

“Yeah, like we’re going to wake up early,” I laughed. “This should be fun.” I turned around, kissing him softly.

“Night, Nick.”

“Night, babe.”

---------------------------------------

By the time we got to the grocery store the next morning, it was already 10 a.m. Nick was wearing his “bank thief” outfit again. It was ninety degrees outside.

“That’s not conspicuous,” I said with a laugh. He scowled from underneath his hoodie.

I grabbed a shopping cart and started at one side of the store, ready to sweep through the aisles. Nick glanced left and right as we walked along. I stopped for a good look at the fresh fruit.

“Like my melons?” I asked, holding up two cantaloupes.

That produced the desired effect. Nick grinned. “I love ‘em.”

I walked ahead of the cart; after awhile Nick treated it like a skateboard, sailing past me several times. He tossed the hood away from his face.

“It’s warm in here,” he said as if just realizing it.

“Then we better go to frozen food.”

We were discussing what type of ice cream to get when I heard a squeal. Nick braced himself.

I turned to see a mom walk by with a little toddler having a fit.

“Coast is clear,” I said. “Cranky two year old.”

“Let’s get out of here,” Nick said, grabbing a pint of chocolate chip cookie dough and rocky road.

We were able to get through the line without anyone stopping Nick. Maybe it was because he hadn’t yet shaved or maybe it was the sloppy clothes, but he managed to evade detection.

As we loaded the groceries in the back of his Toyota Prius, I spotted a pet store.

“Nick, I want to run in there,” I said. “I want to get a bed for Bitsy.”

He looked around at the parking lot; it was filling up fast.

“You can stay in the car with the air on so things don’t melt; I’ll be right back.”

I headed into the store, focused on buying a cute fluffy pink bed. As I headed towards the back of the store, my phone rang.

“Hello?”

“Hi, sweetie.” It was my mom. I broke into a huge smile.

“Hi, mom!”

“How are you doing?”

“I’m great. How’s everything there?”

“Good. How’s Nick?”

“He got me a puppy, mom,” I said. I picked out a soft velvety pink bed. It was perfect.

“He didn’t.”

“He did!”

I told her all about Bitsy. As I made my way back to the front of the store, the little bed filled up with puppy treats, toys, a collar, and a leash.

“And is Nick behaving himself?” Mom finally said when I paused for breath.

A thousand images flashed through my mind. In every single image Nick was naked. I fanned myself with some puppy training pads.

“Of course, mom,” I finally said. I handed my stuff to the cashier.

“When will you be home?”

“July 5 around noon,” I said.

“You’re going to have to meet with the lawyer,” mom reminded me. I sighed.

“I’m sure I’ll be able to fit that in, even if I had to do that on my lunch hour later in the week,” I said.

“That will be 74.50,” the cashier said. I handed her my debit card.

“Okay, sweetie,”

“Ma’am, the card was declined.”

I looked at the cashier like she was crazy.

“Can you try it again? Mom, I’ve got to go,” I explained.

“Okay, love you.”

“Love you.”

I pocketed my cell phone as the cashier tried my card again. She shook her head.

“I’m sorry.”

Digging through my wallet I pulled out my credit card. The cashier and I did an exchange of cards. She swiped my credit card; again she shook her head.

“I’m sorry ma’am,”

I counted out my cash; I was able to cover it. With my hands full of bags and my mind half in a panic I headed back to the car.

“I thought you were just going to get a bed!” Nick said, hopping out of the car to help me.

“She needs this stuff,” I explained. I was still frowning.

“What’s wrong?”

“I don’t know, yet,” I said. He opened the car door for me then ran around to the driver’s side. On the way back to the condo, I dialed my bank for information.
What I found out made my heart drop into my stomach.
My bank account was at zero; my credit card had been closed.

I had a feeling I knew who the culprit was.

---------------------------------------

As Bitsy lay at my feet, gnawing happily on a nylon bone, I was on the phone with my lawyer.

“I know Hunter wiped my account,” I said. “He’s the only one that had access.”

“Did you have joint checking?”

“No, but I put his name on my personal account as a secondary before I left for my job,” I closed my eyes. “He said if anything happened he needed access to keep the bills paid.”

I cracked my knuckles. I felt like an idiot. Nick walked by, raising an eyebrow in question. I shook my head.

“Well, I’m going to have to do some checking. When can we meet in person?”

“I’ll be back by noon on July 5. I can meet with you late afternoon.”

“Alright, I’ll see you at 3:00 on July 5.”

I hung up and let out a frustrated scream. Bitsy paused, a string of drool coming out of her little mouth.

“What did he say?”

“He said he’d look into it. I can’t believe I forgot I put Hunter’s name on my personal account.” I buried my face in my hands.

“Have you gotten paid yet for the internship?” Nick asked. I nodded.

“He walked away with over thirteen thousand dollars,” I said bitterly. Nick winced.

“And the credit card?”

“It’s maxed out. I have to print out all the charges and mark ones I need to put a fraud alert on.”

“Have you looked at any of the charges yet?”

I peeked at him through my fingers. “Yeah, it looks like him and Jess went on a nice little shopping spree.”

Nick frowned. “Was his name on the card?”

“No, he must have had Jess pretend to be Mrs. Ryans. You know how places are, they never ask for ID.”

Nick knelt down beside me, scratching Bitsy’s ears.

“Do you think this is retaliation for breaking his nose?” Nick asked. I smirked.

“No, I have a feeling he’s punishing me.”

“For what?”

“For finding someone so much better than him.”

Nick smiled softly.

“He should of thought this out a little better,” Nick said.

“Well, he’s done a pretty good job so far,” I said bitterly.

“No,” Nick paused. “He made a huge mistake.”

“No one’s going to mess with you while I’m around.”

He took my hands from my face and kissed me softly.

He meant business.
Chapter 42 by evergreenwriter83
Chapter Forty Two – July 1

I woke up early in the morning to the sound of a very distressed puppy. Nick grumbled as I moved his hand from my thigh. I stood up and padded down the hallway towards the noise.

As I neared the staircase, the noise grew louder. My eyes were bleary. I had spent a great deal of the previous afternoon going over my credit card statement. Hunter had a field day with my credit card; from restaurants to shopping he had spent with a vengeance. The whole mess way going to take weeks to sort out and I had a bad feeling I’d have to get face to face with Hunter before everything was all over.

I looked down the stairs, thinking perhaps Bitsy had given up dangling and jumping from step to step and was whining to get picked up. The stairs were empty. The noise was close; I looked around in confusion. My eyes widened when I spotted her.

“Oh!” I exclaimed. The little pup had gotten her head stuck between two narrow bars on the stair landing.

I leaned down, my fingers trying to squeeze between the bars and wiggle her neck. This only increased the whining to a heart-wrenching screech.

“What’s going on?” Nick said with a yawn. His hair was pointing in every direction; his boxers were half hanging off his rump.

“Bitsy got her head stuck!” I said. I touched the front of her face, pushing gently. She snorted and drooled, but her head didn’t move an inch.

“Oh my god,” Nick said. “What do we do?”

I looked at him panicked. “I don’t know!”

Nick’s brow furrowed. Then he snapped his fingers.

“We bought butter!” he said, running down the steps. I heard the refrigerator open and bottles being shifted around. Moments later Nick was running back up the stairs.

I took the butter. “Oh, she’s not going to like this,” I said. Dipping my fingers into the tub I liberally grabbed a hunk of butter. Slowly I massaged it around her neck. She began to turn her head this way and that, her back legs kicking out in annoyance. As I reached in to grab yet another handful, I saw her butt give a great wiggle and her head slide out.

“Yes!” I cried in triumph. Bitsy took off like a caged animal set free, but Nick was just a little bit quicker. With a war cry, he held the wiggling buttery piglet over his head. I held up greasy fingers; we looked at each other.

“Bathtub,” we said in unison.

I took Bitsy from him; Nick ran the water in the tub. He slid a baggy over his cast.

“Are you ready for us to leave yet?” I teased.

“Well, it’s not often I wake up at 8 a.m. when I have nothing to do,” Nick said. He laughed. “But truth is, I’m going to be miserable when you leave.”

I smiled.

A few minutes later he reached out. “We’re ready.”

I handed Bitsy over and ran to get the puppy shampoo I had bought the day before, thankful for the good timing. Getting butter out of a dog without shampoo would have been a nightmare. I came back and poured it liberally, Nick rubbed it in. Bitsy closed her eyes. She was a lucky dog; not every pup received a sensual Carter massage.

Once she was washed and rinsed, I grabbed a fluffy towel. She buried into it, snorting in glee as I rubbed her dry. It was one of the good things about Boston Terriers; their short fur allowed them to dry in no time at all. I set her down and she ran off to explore; I was positive she wouldn’t be attempting to look through the staircase bars anytime soon.

I was watching her run back and forth by the door. I assumed Nick was emptying the tub; I was wrong.

“Oh, Livvy,” he said sweetly. I turned around.

“Wha---“

A huge pile of bubbles flew in my face. I shrieked.

“Nick!”

He took my moment of distraction to scoop me up. I heard the shower turn on.

“It’s your turn, miss butter fingers.”

He set me down, sliding the door closed behind him. In seconds my PJs were soaked completely through.

“You,” I said, wiping watery suds from my eyes, “are crazy.”

“Am I?” he asked sweetly as he slipped off his boxers. He reached towards me.

“I don’t know about this, Nick,” I said. “We’ll be slippery.”

“Uh-huh. Your point?”

“I don’t want you to fall and break your other hand!”

He slid my pajama top over my head.

“I’m not worried.”

As the warm water rushed over his shoulders, I succumbed to temptation. Nick poured body wash in his hands and with slow circular movements started at my shoulders, working his way down. My head fell back, the spray cascading down through my hair. He continued his downward descent, sinking to his knees. Expert fingertips sent my legs aquiver.

“Nick,” I moaned as I braced my hand against the tile wall. Under the gentle spray, the body wash was washed away only to be replaced by kisses and a dutiful tongue.

My body was like a coil. As Nick continued his thorough cleansing, I felt myself growing tighter and tighter until I couldn’t contain myself. Nick took the cue and standing back up, his mouth met mine with urgency. Leaning against the wall for support, I wrapped my legs around his waist. I had never made love in the shower; Nick certainly changed that. It was the best shower I had ever taken.

As he wrapped me in a big fluffy white towel, he held onto the openings, his eyes traveling down my body. I was already red from the water, but I felt myself growing warmer.

“I don’t know how I can do this,” Nick said with a sigh, tucking the towel to my body.

“Do what?”

He looked at me; his eyes spoke volumes.

“I don’t know how I’m going to be able to say goodbye to you in three days.”

“I know the feeling,” I said. I ran another towel over his shoulders, watching the beads of water soak up into the soft cotton.

After more than a month of seeing Nick every single day, the thought that I would have to wake up and not be able to talk to him or touch him killed me.

I prayed that time would slow down.

-----------------------------------

That evening we took Bitsy on her very first trip to the beach. At first she pounced and jumped, barking gleefully as the waves rushed on shore and the seagulls swooped down from overhead. After awhile the newness of these objects wore off. Deciding sand would be much more fun to eat than to walk on, she took a large bite.

“Ew,” I said. Nick laughed.

The look on her little face was priceless. Her tongue flew in and out of her mouth rapidly; she worked hard to get the granules off of her tongue. Eventually she realized that by licking her legs, the sand would move from her tongue to her appendages. As the last of the sand escaped her mouth, she flopped down exhausted.

“So much for that bath this morning,” Nick said.

We sat down on either side of Bitsy. I slid off my flip-flops, squishing the sand between my toes.

“Liv,” Nick said. “I didn’t want to ask, but I won’t feel good if I don’t. Do you have enough money for when you get back home?”

I blanched. I had hoped he wouldn’t ask me that question.

“I’ll be fine,” I answered. “I’m going to stay with my mom, so I won’t have rent. More than likely, my car will be going bye-bye, but I can borrow my mom’s. Plus, I’ll have two paychecks before I meet up with you guys in Washington.”

“I could give---“

I cut him off. “Nick, seriously, I’ll be fine.”

“Well maybe you could use one of my lawyers---“
I shook my head. “Mom’s got good legal connections; I’ll be okay.” He sighed.

“If you need help, will you ask?”

I looked at him. I couldn’t lie to him.

“No.”

He grinned. “You’re stubborn.”

I returned the smile. “Yes, I am.”

We were quiet for a few seconds; Bitsy began to snore.

“Hey Liv?” Nick asked quietly.

“Yeah?”

“You talk about your mom a lot; I was wondering, what happened to your dad?”

I picked up a handful of sand. I watched as it sifted through my fingers. My eyes grew misty.

“He had a heart attack about a year and a half ago,” I said in a voice barely above a whisper. “It happened all of a sudden; one minute we were at a cookout, and the next minute…” I trailed off. My voice cracked. “He was gone.”

Nick’s hand touched my arm.

“I’m so sorry.”

I nodded, blinking back tears.

“I was a daddy’s girl…well I was a mommy and daddy’s girl. But God,” I closed my eyes to stem the flood of tears. “I miss him so much.”

Being careful not to squish Bitsy, Nick scooted closer to me, wrapping a comforting arm around my shoulders. He kissed my temple.

After my tears subsided, I looked up at Nick. He was watching me quietly.

“He used to get so annoyed when I put your music on replay; one day I think I listened to Drowning about nine hundred times,” I laughed. “Still, I think he would have liked you.”

Nick smiled. “Anyone that played a part in bringing you to Earth has a dear place in my heart.” He kissed me softly. I kissed back then raised my eyes heavenward.

The stars lit up the night sky; the brightest one reminded me of the twinkle in my dad’s eye.

I knew I was right where I needed to be.
Chapter 43 by evergreenwriter83
Chapter Forty Three – July 2

Happy Birthday, to you. Happy Birthday, to you. Happy Birthday, dear O-liv-ia. Happy Birthday, to you!”

I was truly corrupting a Backstreet Boy. It was yet another morning when Nick was up early. I rubbed my eyes; I hadn’t heard him get out of bed.

“Ta-da!” he said proudly. He was balancing a tray awkwardly.

“Did you make me breakfast?” I asked, sitting up. He nodded.

“Yes, I did.” He placed the tray on my lap. “I went with a yellow theme.”

I saw scrambled eggs, pineapple juice, and toast with lots of yellow butter. In the corner of the tray a yellow rose sat in a clear vase.

“It smells amazing,” I said. “Where’s yours?”

Nick smiled sheepishly. “I ate it.”

I laughed, taking a bite of toast.

“How does it feel to be twenty-seven?”

I paused thoughtfully.

“Very good,” I said. “Last year I never would have thought I would wake up on my twenty-seventh birthday in Nick Carter’s bed.”

His eyes sparkled as he sat beside me. I continued to munch on my color coordinated breakfast. After I finished, I set the tray gently on the nightstand.

“Ready for your birthday spanking?” Nick asked sweetly.

My eyes widened. “You wouldn’t.”

He dived under the sheet I was still wrapped in. I squealed as he flipped me over and began to playful smack my backside.

“Fifteen, sixteen,” he counted.

I gasped for breath; my fingers dug into the pillow.

“Twenty-one, twenty-two.”

“NICK!”

“Twenty-five, twenty-six, twenty-seven.”

His hand was replaced by lips on my lower back. I flipped back around.

“You don’t play fair,” I complained.

“You didn’t complain about that last night,” he retorted. I didn’t have a comeback.

He sat back up, yanking the sheet from me.

“Get up and get dressed.”

“Why?” I said, stretching out languorously.

“Because,” Nick said smiling. “I’m taking my birthday girl to LA.”

“Seriously?” I said. He laughed.

“Yes! Get dressed!”

Scrambling up, I headed to the bathroom. Bitsy, a piece of egg stuck to her ear, bounced after me.

-------------------------------

“I cannot believe I’m standing on the Walk of Fame,” I said later that afternoon. I was standing on Lucille Ball’s star.

“I would kill to be that star right now,” Nick said, looking down at my bare legs. Due to the warm temperatures, I had opted for a spaghetti strap sundress. It flowed gently around my knees. I smacked his shoulder.

“This is Lucille Ball!” I hissed, pointing down.

“You’re the one standing on her!” Nick countered.

He took my hand and we walked along. I stopped often, pointing out this name and that.

At one point I looked over to see Nick looking at me strangely.

“What?” I asked haughtily.

“It’s just,” he tilted his head. “You’re like a breath of fresh air. You actually make me excited to be here. I’ve taken a lot of things for granted lately.”

I beamed. “That’s what happens when you hang with an L.A. virgin.”

Nick laughed.

After we finished with the Walk of Fame, Nick took me to Rodeo Drive.

“Rodeo Drive, baby,” I said, thinking of the movie Pretty Woman.

We walked through Armani, Gucci, Dolce & Gabbana, and Ralph Lauren. I couldn’t help but stay on the lookout for stars, even though the most important celebrity was the one standing right next to me. Every so often Nick would pick out a shirt or purse, giving me a questioning look. Knowing the way his mind worked, I shook my head. Along with the Rodeo Drive location came swank prices.

As we headed farther down, we ended up in Two Rodeo, which is essentially the outdoor mall portion that tourists flock to see. Nick stopped outside Tiffany’s. The doorway was trimmed in black; the name was etched in gold above.

“Come in with me,” he said.

“Nick, this is Tiffany’s,” I explained as if he didn’t already know it.

“Yes?”

I didn’t know what else to say. Instead I let him lead me inside. The inside was absolutely opulent; I would have felt way underdressed but the sight of a few tourists in awful floral shirts kept me from being too self conscious.

I stayed close to Nick’s side; he slowly perused the cases. There were so many diamonds that I thought I’d be blinded by the combination of light and prisms.

“May I help you?” a saleswoman asked, walking up to Nick. Nick straightened and turned in her direction.

“Yes,” he said. I looked at him in surprise. “I’m Nick Carter, I called earlier…”

“Oh, yes. Mr. Carter. Follow me.”

I gave Nick a questioning look. With a little shrug he took my hand, following the lady to a far corner of the room.

“Sit,” Nick said, pointing to a plush chair. I lowered myself down slowly, my eyes still on him.

“What’s going on?” I asked.

Nick didn’t respond. The saleswoman came back, handing him an already prepared blue bag.

“Thank you,” he said.

“Anytime, Mr. Carter,” she said addressing him. She turned to look at me. “You’re a very lucky lady,” she said before approaching her next customer.

My eyes widened. “Nick?”

“Don’t panic, I just got you a little something,” Nick explained as he knelt beside me, handing me the bag.

“Why? You got me Bitsy!” I said, perhaps a little too loudly. I saw a couple of heads turn my way. Lowering my voice, I practically hissed. “Nick this is Tiffany’s. Nothing’s little in here!”

“Just open it,” Nick said, pushing at the bag.

With a nervous sigh, I reached in, pulling out the signature blue box with white satin ribbon. Slowly, I untied the ribbon, letting it drop across my lap. Nick was still kneeling in front of me, his hand on my knee. I looked at him again.

“I’m horrible at surprises,” Nick said. “Just open it.”

Making every motion minute, I lifted the lid. Nestled in light blue satin was a gorgeous double heart tag pendant. The larger heart had the words Love You repeated over and over again. The smaller heart was inscribed with Let Me Count the Ways.

“Do you like it?” Nick asked. I looked at him again.

“Nick, this is beautiful,” I said. I lifted the chain, letting the pendants shine in the light. He took it from me gently.

“Lift your hair,” he said. Pulling my hair away from my neck, I let him fasten it around my neck.

“You really shouldn’t have,” I said, my voice thick with emotion.

He leaned over me, giving me an upside down kiss.

“I feel better knowing you’ll have my love wrapped around your neck when you have to leave,” he said, his lips brushing mine as he talked. I touched his face, pulling him in for another kiss.

After a few more minutes of PDA, we walked back out into the sunshine. I touched the pendants gently as we walked, my mind reeling. For the rest of the day, Nick continued the role of tour guide, showing me Sunset Strip and Beverly Hills. We dined at a little out of the way Italian restaurant. It was like a scene out of Lady and the Tramp. We shared a big plate of spaghetti and meatballs. The noodles were the longest I had ever seen; more than once our forks twirled the same strand. By the end of the dinner I was loaded up on spaghetti sauce and red wine; my head and heart felt light.

“You got me tipsy,” I complained as he walked me back out to the car.

“That’s okay,” Nick said. “I’m sober.”

The edges of my vision were slightly fuzzy, but in a good way. As Nick slid into the driver’s seat, I rested a hand on his leg.

“You’re going to take advantage of me,” I murmured, sliding my hand up to his thigh. He sucked in a breath.

“I think that might be the other way around,” Nick said as I caressed him. I giggled; it was something I never did. The wine was working fast.

“How fast can you drive home?”

Nick kicked the car into gear. My hands continued to play.

“I want you,” I said huskily. His foot hit the accelerator.

Luckily for him, he didn’t meet any cops along the way; he made it back to his condo in record time. After getting warmed up in the car, we tripped inside, laughing. I ran to the kitchen; a can of whipped cream was stashed at the very back. I held it up to him, grinning.

“Time for my birthday dessert.”
Chapter 44 by evergreenwriter83
Chapter Forty Four – July 3 / July 4

I woke up the next morning with the taste of maraschino cherries in my mouth and my entire body feeling like a devoured ice cream sundae. It had been an amazing night.

The bad part was that I had only 48 hours left with Nick. I glanced at the clock; it was only 8:30. Taking care to not disturb Nick, I crawled out of bed. After walking Bitsy around outside (she was slowly getting the idea of potty training), we came back in. A dish of dog food and a bowl of fresh water later, she was down for a mid-morning nap. It didn’t seem like a bad idea. I crawled back into bed.

The next time I looked at the clock it was a quarter ‘til noon. I looked over; Nick was still asleep. I nudged him gently.

“Nick, it’s almost noon!”

“Good,” he mumbled.

“Half the day’s gone!”

“We’ll just stay up later,” he rationalized; his eyes refused to open.

I cuddled up to him. I ran my fingers over his bristly stubble. He opened an eye, glancing my way. I lifted my fingers in a wave.

“Something tells me I’m not going to get away with being lazy all day,” he said, stretching. I shook my head.

He let out a great yawn and looked out at the sunshine spilling in between the draped doors. “Looks like a good day for boating.”

I smiled, thinking of the pictures downstairs on the hall stand. “Sounds great to me,” I responded.

We took our time showering and getting ready. By the time we were ready to go, it was almost three o’clock. Nick drove down to a nearby marina.

“I keep one of my boats here,” he explained.

I was picturing in my mind the old fashioned ship from the video I Got You. Truth is, I had rarely traded my land legs for a pair of water wings. I had been on two boats in my entire life, and one of them was the type toddlers sit in and go around a metal lagoon in the middle of a county fair.

When we walked up to Nick’s boat docked at the harbor, I noticed it wasn’t near as large as the one in the video. It was a sailboat. Nick watched my reaction.

“My speed boats are in Florida,” he explained. “This wind’s perfect for a day of old fashioned sailing.”

He climbed on board. I was still looking at the bobbing vessel. He held out his hand.

“Get your daisy dukes up here,” he said. Grabbing his hand I let him pull me aboard.

He had rolled up the cuffs of his jeans and topped it off with a white t-shirt. I had opted for shorts and one of his t-shirts, tied at my waist. The laundry I had to do when I got home was astronomical.

We walked along the boat; he gave me a lesson on the higher points of the nautical world.

“We’re on the deck,” Nick explained, stomping his foot on the floor. “The big sail is the main sail and it can be turned with the boom. The mast supports both sails. The smaller one is the jib.”

“Jib,” I repeated nodding. “Got it.”

After a preliminary check to make sure all parts were in working order, Nick walked over to the wheel. I lay out on the floor of the sparkling deck.

The afternoon was absolutely amazing. I had feared that I might get seasick; I didn’t feel the least bit queasy. The wind whipped through my hair and the boat sliced through the water with ease. After awhile, Nick had us on a straight course with no obstacles in sight. He came and stretched out by me.

“What do you think?”

I looked at him. He had propped his sunglasses on top of his head. His eyes were amazing.

“How is it that sometimes your eyes are so blue and other times they’re green?” I asked.

He laughed. “Is that what you’re so busy thinking about?”

I smiled. “Besides completely enjoying this day, yes, that’s where my mind’s at.”

He flipped over onto me. I rested my leg gently against his side. He nibbled my bottom lip.

“We could crash,” I teased.

“I don’t know anyone else I’d rather be shipwrecked with,” he said. His hand slid along my bare stomach.

“I like this shirt,” he said, giving the knot a tug.

“It’s yours,” I said, laughing.

“It looks so much better on you.”

I allowed myself to get swept up in a make out session in the middle of the ocean. It took another’s boat horn to pull us out of our reverie.

“I better turn around and head to shore,” Nick said. It was growing dark.

We didn’t get back home until about nine o’clock that evening. Bitsy was a ball of pent up energy. She streaked through the house, barking happily.

“Tomorrow’s the big fireworks show on the beach,” I said. Nick nodded.

“Usually I love to be here for it,” Nick said.

“Usually?”

“I just know that once the show’s over I have only a few hours left with you.”

I nodded in understanding. We went to bed with Bitsy still tearing around and around various rooms, rolling, tumbling, and playing in her own happy world. I wanted to cherish every moment we had left.

----------------------------

I awoke to the sound of loud cracks and pops coming from the beach. Groaning, I rolled over, snuggling up to Nick’s back.

“Ignore it,” he mumbled. I buried my face into his shoulder.

Another loud display started up a half hour later. This time, Bitsy emerged from wherever she had collapsed from exhaustion the night before. She ran right into the glass doors leading out to the balcony. I turned around at the sound of the dud; she sat there looking extremely confused. I laughed.

“I can’t ignore it any longer,” I said. I slid out of bed.

“I’m going to take Bitsy for a walk,” I said to the massive lump in the bed.

Nick grunted in response.

Sliding on a robe over my pajamas, I clipped Bitsy’s pink leash to her pink collar and we took off down the beach. I was on the lookout for anyone playing with bottle rockets; I wanted to keep Bitsy as far away from the commotion as possible. When we turned the corner, I saw people up ahead.

“That’s our cue to head back home Itsy Bitsy,” I said. She dug her back legs into the sand, but she wasn’t able to gain any traction. Reluctantly she let me turn her around and we headed back to the condo.

Nick still wasn’t up by the time we headed back to the bedroom. I took a shower; when I came out, he was still hibernating.

“Are you going to spend my last day here sleeping?” I said.

“I was hoping I could sleep until, oh, August,” Nick mumbled. “Then you’d be back already.”

“No,” I said, tugging the sheet off his head. “That would just mean you missed your flight to Washington.”

He rolled over on his back, staring up at me. I smiled.

“Up and at ‘em, Carter.”

While he took a shower, I made an early lunch. As I finished spreading mustard on the French bread we had finally gotten around to thawing, Nick walked into the kitchen. He had on a white tank top, blue jeans, and red sneakers.

“Hey, Mr. Patriotic,” I said, handing him a sandwich. He smiled and took a large bite.

“AJ called as I was stepping out of the shower. He and Rochelle will be here in about an hour. AJ said he’s bringing a game and they want to stay for fireworks,” Nick said.

“Should I be worried about this game?” I asked. Nick grinned.

“Most likely, yes.”

-------------------------

Naughty Charades?” I said, staring down at the box.

“Yeah, we bought it at the porn store,” AJ said, proudly. I looked at him like he was crazy. Nick was grinning; once again I was highly amusing him.

“There’s three categories,” Rochelle explained. “Sexy Things, Sexy Activities, and Wild Card. You find out which category you have to do by rolling the dice. Sexy Things are sex objects, Sexy Activities are verbs, and Wild Card can be anything!”

“I vote that Livvy starts us off,” Nick said, suppressing a laugh. I glared at him.

“Hey we’re a team!” Nick said, holding up his hands.

Rochelle held out the dice. “Go ahead!”

Biting my tongue, I took the dice and gave them a good shake. I tossed it down; the dice landed on Sexy Activities. Rochelle handed me the box of cards. Taking the first one in the deck I looked at my verb; booty call.

I turned to look at Nick. His eyes were sparkling; the blues and greens mixing together. He was loving every minute.

I bit my lip. AJ started the timer. With a frustrated sigh, I mimed talking on a telephone.

“Sex line?” Nick guessed. I shook my head.

“Phone sex?”

I shook my head. I heard the timer ticking away. Reluctantly I turned around, placing a hand on my butt.

“Five seconds!” AJ called.

“Butt phone…butt phone,” Nick murmured. Her hands were folded in concentration. With just a second to spare, he clapped his hand.

“Booty call!”

I looked at him in surprise. “That’s it!”

“Woohoo!”

I sat down next to him, glad my turn was over.

By the time the game was over, I was laughing hysterically. Watching AJ mime out a penis pump and Nick demonstrating the finer aspects of spooning was almost too much to handle. At the sound of the first fireworks lighting up the sky we declared a tie and headed out for the show.

Rochelle and I leaned back against AJ and Nick respectively as reds, blues, greens, golds, and every other color of the rainbow lit up the sky above the ocean. The beach had never been so crowded; couples young and old and children ran to and fro. I felt Nick kiss the top of my head.

“What time does your flight leave?” he whispered.

“Four a.m.,” I responded. He groaned.

“Stay.”

My palms ran over his knees. “I can’t,” I said. It hurt me to say it.

Nick pulled me a little closer; we watched the last of the fireworks hang in the night for several moments. At last, there was nothing but blackness.

A tear slipped down my cheek.
Chapter 45 by evergreenwriter83
Chapter Forty Five – July 5

The goodbye at the airport was agonizing. We clung to each other until the last boarding call was announced. I had vowed not to cry, but as I pulled away I couldn’t help it.

“I’ll see you soon,” I blubbered. Nick brushed his fingers down my cheeks.

“I love you,” he whispered. “Have a safe trip.”

With one final embrace, one last kiss, I boarded the plane. Bitsy was tucked away in her cage; my heart panged knowing how scared she probably was.

I spent the flight the best way I knew how; I reviewed footage from the tour, photos taken over the last few days, and allowed Nick’s voice to invade my eardrums through the songs on my IPod. By the time the plane touched down in Wisconsin, I felt only slightly better.

My mom was front and center as I walked off the plane. She ran over, her slender frame crushing me from a tight embrace.

“Oh, pumpkin! Look at you!”

She held me at arms length, looking at me from head to toes.

“You look great!” Her fingers touched my necklace.

“Nick gave it to me for my birthday,” I explained.

“Oh, he is a keeper,” she said happily.

We grabbed my bags and Bitsy and headed to the car. My mom’s face was glued to the cage.

“Oh she’s beautiful. She looks just like the Boston we had when you were first born,” she said. “Look at that white little forehead.”

Bitsy whined; I knew she couldn’t wait to escape from the cage. The moment I was in the car I let her out. She ran around the backseat like a wild beast.

“Oh, she’s going to be fun,” my mom said. I smiled. “How’s Atari?”

“Atari’s fine. He’s never going to know what hit him once he meets Wild Thing back there,” she teased.

“It’s going to be fun watching her walk in the grass; she’s so used to sand.”

The mention of sand led into a long conversation about Nick’s condo, the beach, and LA. My mom looked over at me, smiling.

“What an adventure.”

“You can say that again.”

When we arrived home, the first thing I did was put Bitsy in the backyard. As her paws touched the bright green Midwestern grass, she leaned down, inhaling deeply. She took a large bite. It must have tasted better than the sand did; she sat chewing thoughtfully, then reached for more.

“No, you little cow!” I said, scooping her up. She licked my face. I wrinkled my nose, but laughed. My phone rang as I put her back down on the ground.

“Hello?”

“Are you home, Livvy?”

I smiled. “I just got home, Nick,” I said.

“Did you have a safe flight?”

“I did,” I said, sitting down on the back stoop. “What are you up to?”

“Well, I’m sitting in front of the TV watching a fishing show,” Nick said. “It’s way too quiet here.”

“That’s because you don’t have a crazy dog running around.”

“True, but it’s also because you’re not here.”

I closed my eyes and sighed gently.

“What time do you meet with the lawyer?” Nick asked, changing the subject.

My eyes widened; I looked at my watch. It was 2:45.

“Oh shit, Nick I’ve got to go!” I hung up and with Bitsy at my heels, I flew into the house, yelling for car keys.

----------------------------------------

“I am so sorry I’m late,” I said as I walked into Daniel Share’s office. The whole place was wall to wall shiny oak.

“It’s okay,” he said. “Have a seat.”

I sat into a plush leather seat across from his desk. We began by discussing the specifics; reason for divorce, assets to fight for, documents to gather. Finally, he flipped towards the back of the folder.

“I’ve looked into the emptying of the bank account and the credit card charges. Did you file a fraud alert with your company?”

I nodded.

“Good. I actually worked with one of the stores to get video of one of the transactions you highlighted as fraudulent. You’re assumption was right; Mr. Ryans had another woman sign the receipt with your name.”

My hand folded into a fist. “I thought so.”

“Now, the bank account is going to be harder to fix. Since Hunter’s name is on the account, I think the most we’ll be able to get back is half.”

I frowned. “That’s not fair. I just completed a job that paid me $10,000 and I earned that. All of that money came solely from me.”

Mr. Share looked at me sympathetically. “Divorces are never easy and unfortunately sometimes it’s easier to cut your losses and move on.”

I puffed out my cheeks in frustration.

“When can I get the half back?”

“I’ve put in a deposition. We have a court date in two weeks.”

“How am I supposed to pay my bills for two weeks? He completely wiped me out!”

I got another apologetic look. “I will work my hardest to speed things up, but honestly I can’t make any promises.”

After a few more minutes of cursory information, I left feeling no more assured than when I went in. I drove home feeling extremely depressed. A light muggy rain splattered against the windshield.

“How’d it go?” Mom asked as I walked through the door. She was picking spurs out of Bitsy’s back.

Atari came running up to me. Scooping him up, I covered him with kisses. Sitting down on the couch, I filled mom in on the meeting. She frowned.

“Well, as far as I’m concerned you will have food, shelter, and clothing. You can borrow my car. You’ll be fine.”

I nodded, but deep down I hated it. I didn’t want to be dependant. I was a twenty-seven year old living back home. It didn’t feel good.

“Are you excited about going back to work?”

I smiled. “Actually, I am. I miss the kids. I miss the stories. I miss the other employees.”

I helped my mom fix dinner; as I cut cucumbers for the salad, my mom continued to ask me questions about Nick.

“So when will I get to meet him?” she asked. I paused.

“I don’t know,” I answered honestly. “Maybe after we finish the Canadian leg he can come here and visit.”

Mom smiled. “I’d like that. From what I remember he’s hot stuff.”

I burst out laughing. She didn’t know how right she was.

That night as I got ready for bed, my phone rang. It was Nick. I sat down on the pullout bed in the computer room, a smile dancing across my face.

“Hello, Nickolas,” I said.

“You don’t know how good it is to hear your voice.”

I laughed. “What’s up?”

“I just wanted to see how your day went.”

I remembered our conversation on the beach. I didn’t want him to know how depressing the visit to the lawyer was.

“It didn’t go too bad,” I said. “I’m actually just getting ready for bed.”

“What are you wearing?”

I laughed. Atari jumped up beside me, circling several times before plopping down. Bitsy, unable to jump, barked angrily. After a couple hours with Atari, Bitsy was in love. I scooped down at picked her up. Atari grunted in annoyance as she nipped at his ear.

“I’m wearing footie pajamas,” I teased. I scratched a mosquito bite on my bare leg. Truth was, I was lounging in a t-shirt and underwear.

“You’re lying,” Nick complained. “You’re in Wisconsin not in Antarctica; I know it’s warm there. I watch the Weather Channel, you know.”

I rolled my eyes as I stretched out along the bed. I turned off the light; the soft glow of the phone threw shadows against the wall.

“Good luck at work tomorrow,” Nick said sweetly.

“Thanks babe,” I said, stifling a yawn.

“Can we Skype tomorrow?” he asked hopefully.

“You miss me that bad?” I teased. He got quiet.

“I miss you like hell,” he said seriously.

“I’ll Skype around 5:00 your time,” I said. My eyes fluttered closed.

“Alright. I love you, Livvy.”

“Love you.”

I set my phone on the nightstand. Bringing my pillow close to my chest, I inhaled deeply. A sharp pang of sadness hit me. The smell of Nick was nowhere to be found.

Sleep did not come easily; after two hours of tossing and turning and the dogs fighting for the best spot, my tired brain finally admitted defeat. Morning would bring yet another change in direction for me; it was back to the real world.
Chapter 46 by evergreenwriter83
Chapter Forty Six – July 6

I could barely eat breakfast the next morning; it was like the first day of school nerves all over again. I nibbled at a piece of toast, my eyes checking the clock continuously. I was literally exhausted; the two hour time difference was catching up with me.

Finally, I kissed my mom and the dogs goodbye and drove the short ten minutes to the Wakamata Library. The library was small, but modern. A renovation only eight years ago made it seem much newer than it really was. The city of Wakamata has proudly been served by the library for well over 100 years.

After locking my car, I headed to the elegant front doors. I walked in slowly, looking around at my old familiar home away from home.

“Oh my goodness! Olivia!”

I looked over at the Circulation Desk. Sally, a lady who had been with the library for over twenty years was still there. It was a welcome sight. I smiled brightly as she ran over and gave me a hug.

“They said you were coming back. I just didn’t know it was today!”

We talked briefly. Finally I excused myself to clock in and head downstairs to the Children’s Room.

I had loved the Children’s Room from the moment I had first stepped into it. My mom had taken me to story times when I was little; it was kind of sentimental that I was now the one leading the story time. The entire area was decorated with an undersea theme; fish danced along the walls and a sailboat sat in the center of the room with benches for the children to sit and read.

The Children’s Services supervisor, Lily, sat behind the desk checking in a whole stack of new books to put out. When she saw me, her face lit up. She jumped up and came around to give me a hug. The library had always been a pretty “huggy” place.

“I taught you well,” she said. Lily was of retirement age, but her dedication to the job prevented her from even saying the word “retirement.” I had a great deal of respect for her; she gave me my first job and she had fought tooth and nail to keep me from getting fired. I grinned.

“You always told me to drive a hard bargain,” I said. “No way was I going to come back without them meeting my terms.”

I walked with her behind the desk. She picked up my nametag from the island. “I never threw it away.”

I slipped it over my head. For the next hour I
sat with her catching up on everything I had missed.

“A couple people have just gotten fed up with the situation and left,” Lily explained. “Of course, they don’t replace the jumpers. I think every single one of us here has had to work a different department in the last two months. It’s the first time I’ve seen a desk with a sign directing people to another desk because there wasn’t enough staff to work each area.”

I looked around. For a summer, the decorations in the room were threadbare at best.

“Thank goodness the summer reading theme this year is water,” Lily said, reading my mind. “We didn’t have time to decorate so we relied on our everyday decor.”

Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a mother walk down with two adorable twins. The little boy and girl had identical smiles and flaxen hair. Their eyes lit up when they saw me.

“Mrs. W-yans!”

Two sets of feet ran through the library. I didn’t have the heart to remind them not to run. I walked around the desk just in time to have their little arms hug my legs. When they let go, I kneeled down to their level.

“Well look at you two,” I said. “You’ve gotten so tall since the last time I saw you.”

Little Ashton and Ruby had been in my story time before I was fired. Their mother walked up, smiling brightly.

“We heard you were hired back,” she said. “The kids couldn’t wait to come by and say hi.”

Ashton held up a plastic train. He was obsessed. “Can you show me train booooks?” he asked, stretching out the word “books” as he always did.

“Let’s see if I remember where they are,” I said. He grabbed my hand and I walked back through the stacks right to the train section.

I had almost forgotten how rewarding a happy child holding a book could be.

--------------------------

After a day of reuniting with co-workers and trying to quickly create programming that would begin the next week, I was exhausted. At seven o’clock I booted up my computer. I had a Skype promise to keep.

In five minutes I was staring at Nick’s face.

“You look exhausted,” he said right away.

“Well, hello to you too,” I said with a laugh.

“How was your first day?”

“Exhausting,” I admitted. “But, it was kind of fun being back. I’ve made a lot of friends over the years.”

“Who couldn’t love you?” Nick said.

“Shut up,” I laughed.

“I’m serious.”

I smiled; instinctively I touched the necklace around my neck. He sighed.

“I want to kiss you so bad.”

I puckered up, touching my lips gently to the screen.

“Not the same,” he complained. I shrugged.

“So does anyone know how you’ve spent the last month?” he asked, changing the subject.

“I told my supervisor and a few other people,” I admitted. “Of course, I think the thing that exhausted me the most today was answering questions about Hunter. They’ve seen him around town with Jess.”

Nick frowned. “The idiot thinks he’s pretty ballsy, doesn’t he?”

I nodded. “Of course, he also has been telling people that I had been cheating on him for over six months. He’s trying to play the sympathy card.”

“Is it working?”

I shook my head. “Not with the people I work with. They’ve always had my back.”

“If I was there---“ Nick began. I shook my head.

“I’ve already seen the results. Which reminds me, when do you get that cast off?”

Nick held up his hand. “Two weeks. The fractures have healed faster than they thought.”

“Good. Let’s try not to break it again,” I warned. He smiled.

“I don’t plan on it. I want to have two working hands when I get to hold you again.”

I felt a pleasurable warmth flow through my body.

“Mmm, and what do you plan on doing with two hands?” I teased.

He laughed huskily and began to describe a few of his, er, specialties. I was getting turned on just listening to him.

Then my mom walked in.

I slammed the lid of my laptop down fast.

“Mom!”

She had a load of laundry in her arms. “What?”

I fumbled. I was thankful the sound muted on the laptop as soon as the lid was closed. “I, er, I’m talking to Nick.”

Her eyes lit up. “Where?”

I pointed to the computer.

“Let me talk to him,” she said eagerly. I tried not to look horrified. “Er, let me warn him. Leave,” I said, motioning towards the door. Rolling her eyes, she walked out, closing the door. She left it opened a crack.

I lifted the lid.

“What happened?” Nick said. “I was just going to tell you how I was going to drip---“

“My mom wants to talk to you,” I said. I knew I must have looked flustered. Nick smiled.

“Did she walk in?” I nodded.

“Ooh, I feel so high school,” he said. I rolled my eyes. He laughed.

“Let me talk to her.”

Clearing my throat I called her in. She sat down beside me.

“Oh, how cool! Hi, Nick.” She waved at the screen. He waved back.

They spent a few minutes talking to each other; it was the weirdest experience of my life. For years she had complained about the posters of Nick and the Boys taped all over my walls and peeling off the paint when they fell down. Now, here she was, carrying on a pleasant chat. Life was so weird.

“Well, I’ll let you two continue your talk,” she finally said. “I hope to see you soon.”

“Likewise,” Nick said.

With a kiss to my temple, mom rose. This time she closed the door behind her completely. I turned back to the screen.

“That wasn’t so bad,” Nick said laughing.

“We averted disaster when I slammed the lid shut,” I said.

“Oh yes, where was I?”

“Nick!”

“Okay, okay, I’ll be good.”

I smiled. “Aren’t you going to eat dinner?”

He held up a bowl of beans. I raised an eyebrow.

“I’ve been slipping on my diet,” he explained. “I think it must have been all the milkshakes and whipped cream.”

I blushed. “So what’s that?”

“I’m on a macrobiotic diet. It calls for eating a lot of grains, vegetables, and beans. I’ve been farting all day.”

I laughed loudly. “I think this is the first time I’m actually glad I’m not there.”

“Hey! You don’t seem to complain about this rock hard bod. I’ve got to keep it in tip-top shape.”

I mentally undressed him; he had a point. I glanced at the clock, time had flown.

“I’ve got to go Nick,” I said. “I’ll leave you to your beans.”

He took a big bite. “Luff you,” he said through a mouthful.

I laughed again. “Love you too.”

Before I turned off my computer for the night, I went over to my Twitter. I broke into a huge smile.

@nickcarter I love you, Livvy!
Chapter 47 by evergreenwriter83
Chapter Forty Seven – July 26

It’s surprising how fast three weeks can go when you’re insanely busy. Between meetings with the lawyer (who had managed to get $5,000 back for me), work, and missing Nick desperately, I was exhausted by eight o’clock every night.

By the end of July, it was almost like torture waking up. To make matters worse, two weeks ago I had seen no problem scheduling a program for kids at 10:30 in the morning. Now that the day had arrived, I doubted my sanity. Almost fifty kids ran around waiting for the program to begin. I sat in the story time room taking deep breaths; I felt like I was going to be sick.

“You almost ready Liv?” Lily said, poking her head in through the doors. I could see that she was holding a little preschooler back by blocking the door with her foot.

I nodded; the sooner I started, the sooner I could go hide at my desk for an hour or so. Once afternoon rolled around, I was much better. But the mornings…

Fifty boys and girls between the ages of three and seven came walking in hand in hand with their parents. The room filled up quickly; pretty soon it was standing room only.

I had on a pirate costume; it was buried treasure day.

“Ahoy maties!” I said in my best “pirate.” “Are we ready to get us some treasurrrre?”

“Aye, aye Captain!” a few little voices piped up.

I launched into a really sugary speech about how books are the best treasure. I sat down on a padded stool; the little bodies scooted close. Taking a deep breath, I felt a little acid back up in my throat. Swallowing the feeling, I launched into a story. After I was finished, I looked up. I had a scavenger hunt planned and I hoped I would be able to get enough volunteers. It would be great if I could stay in the room. I didn’t think I could run through the whole library.

“Argh, me thinks I need a few adult volunteers to take these crew members on a scavenger hunt,” I called out loudly.

Ashton and Ruby’s mom was quick to volunteer. With the amount of kids I had, I needed at least eight volunteers. A few more moms volunteered; then I roped in a few dads. I was one person short.

“Argh, I think I’ll take a crew Cap’n.”

My eyes widened. Nick worked his way up to me from the back of the crowd.

A thousand things ran through my head. I longed to toss my scavenger maps and run into his arms. Instead, I stood up and handed him a map.

“You’ve got these ruffians,” I said softly, pointing out a group.

“We’ll do you proud, Cap’n,” he said, saluting.

Five minutes later all of the groups were
dispersed through the library to collect puzzle pieces and gold doubloons. The group that came back and put together the simple eight-piece puzzle first would be the “winners.” Of course, since I was dealing with preschoolers, every team would win something.

I lifted my eye patch, wiping away some sweat. My imagination had run away with me; often times in the past few weeks I had looked around the library and tried to conjure up an image of Nick standing here. Either I had been hallucinating (and sent a group of preschoolers to roam unattended), or he was actually here. I was hoping for the latter.

Nick’s group was the first one back into the room. He was like a man on a mission; the idea of competition had him pumped up. As the kids played with the pieces, he looked over and smiled at me.

“I daresay I got a good crew, Cap’n,” he said happily. I smiled.

“I’m surprised to see you here, sailor.”

“Argh, me ship landed just paces ago. I couldn’t take being stranded alone. The solitary life’s no life for me.”

“You look good,” I said. He studied me.

“If you don’t mind me saying, you’re looking a little rough around the edges. ‘Sposin’ you look a little sea sick.”

I shook my head. “No I’m---“ The acid taste came back to my mouth. This time I knew I couldn’t swallow it back down. Covering my mouth, I ran as quickly as possible to the bathroom.

If there was one thing I hated most in the world, it was throwing up. Even worse, I hated throwing up and not feeling better by doing it. Today was one of those days. As I gargled some water and wiped my sweaty face, my stomach still felt like it was tossing to and fro.

With a big sigh, I put back on my pirate hat. As I walked back to the story time room, I realized I had been in there longer than expected. I was fully prepared for a mutiny.

I slid into the room quietly, hoping that the kids might still be putting together their scavenger hunt puzzle. I quickly realized that they had completed the hunt, yet instead of seeing little monkeys ready to climb the walls, I was surprised to see the kids sitting peacefully on carpet squares.

“One day a little blue fish followed after him. ‘Rainbow Fish,’ he called, ‘wait for me! Please give me one of your shiny scales.’” Nick read out loud to the captivated readers. It must have been the sight of a male storyteller; I had never seen so many children quiet all at once. I leaned against the wall in the back of the room. His reading had a rhythmic quality; I closed my eyes. I felt like I could go to sleep standing up if it wasn’t for my gently cramping stomach.

I wouldn’t have been aware that the story was over if it hadn’t been for the loud applause. I joined in, walking to the front of the room.

“Thank you, sailor,” I said. “Wasn’t sailor Nick a good guest reader?”

The little ones all cheered out. A few of the moms who recognized him cheered even louder.

After a rousing good time of pirate bowling, lake fishing (with empty wrapping paper tubes, rope, paperclips and magnetic fish) and a coin toss, the children colored their own pirate hat. And, because everyone was a winner, I handed out gold medallion necklaces. Everyone left happy; as soon as the last child left the room, I ran into Nick’s arms.

“It’s so good to see you,” I murmured into his shoulder. He hugged me tightly.

“It’s good to see you, too,” he said. He pulled away, holding me gently by the arms. He studied my face. “What’s wrong with you? When I came in and you were reading your story, you looked green. Then you ran out of here mid-sentence and you’re pasty white.”

“Nerves,” I explained, waving my hand in the air. “The stress of worrying over whether my program is going to be successful or not always gets at me. I’ll be fine,” I said. I walked over to the craft tables with a bucket and began to scoop crayons off the table. Nick grabbed another bucket and did the same with glue sticks.

“Well, it’s almost lunch time, right?” he asked, glancing at the clock as I picked up the Pringles can bowling pins. I nodded.

“Can I take you out to lunch?” He asked. I smiled.

“You just flew over 1500 miles to see me,” I said. “How can I say no?”

We finished cleaning the room. After a brief introduction between Lily and Nick, I punched out for lunch.

“Where to?” Nick said.

“We only have one choice,” I said with a laugh. As we walked the couple blocks to the nearby café, Nick took my hand in his. We entered the café, our hands swinging gently back and forth. I snagged a small corner table. Nick pulled out my chair for me; as I sat, he kissed me softly. The place was busy as always, but for me we could have been the only two people left in the world.

“It is so weird to see you here,” I said as Nick picked up his menu. He paused, looking at me surprised.

“Why?”

“When I think of Nick Carter I don’t think of him in Wakamata, Wisconsin.”

“Where do you think of me?” Nick teased. I blushed.

“The beach, the shower, the bedroom,” I replied quietly. His eyes darkened ever so slightly.

“Well I have two out of the three at my hotel,” he said. I smiled.

We took a few minutes to look over the menu and then placed our orders. As the waitress walked away, I took a sip of water.

“How did you find the library?” I asked.

“Well, I do have a GPS,” Nick said. “But, your mom was a bigger help.”

I choked on the water. Nick sprang up, but I held out a hand.

“You were at my mom’s house?” I asked.

“Of course,” he said. “I was hoping you would have had the day off, but your mom tells me you’re practically working six days a week.”

I tried to imagine Nick standing on the front porch and mom opening the door. It was kind of hard to picture.

“How long did you stay at mom’s?”

He laughed. “She wouldn’t let me leave without eating a cinnamon roll she baked and then she brought out a photo album.”

I groaned.

“So, I got to her house around nine, but that’s why I didn’t get to the library until after the program had already started,” he explained. “By the way,” he took a sip of water. “You were an adorable little tomboy when you were little.”

“Oh, shut up,” I said. Nick laughed. “I loved the bucket on your head and the sword.”

“Those were my early pirate days,” I said in mock indignation.

Before Nick could tease me further, the waitress set down two piping hot plates of food. I had opted for a BLT sandwich; Nick had ordered a Philly Cheese Steak.

“What happened to your macrobiotic diet?” I jested. He made a face. “I couldn’t live with myself; my stomach was a nuclear bomb.”

I laughed as I picked up my sandwich. As I brought it to my mouth, the smell of bacon made my stomach do another great flip flop.

“Oh,” I said, putting it back down on my plate quickly. Nick looked up, his fork halfway to his mouth.

“What?”

“It doesn’t smell right,” I said, pushing the plate his way. He picked up the sandwich, and sniffed it. Then he took a bite.

“Mm, it’s delicious,” he said. “It smells fine; it tastes fine,” he assured me, pushing the plate back over.

I picked the sandwich up again. Like before, the moment I got ready to take a bite the smell overwhelmed me.

“I’m going to be sick,” I said in a whisper. Clamping my hand over my mouth I headed back towards the bathroom.

As I began to heave, I couldn’t help but think that this was just how I wanted to spend time with Nick after he travelled so far to see me.

Not.
Chapter 48 by evergreenwriter83
Chapter Forty Eight

“Nick this is ridiculous,” I complained. I sat in the passenger seat of his rental car, my arms folded across my chest.

“No, what’s ridiculous is the idea that you were going to finish out the day after puking your guts out twice,” Nick said.

“Fine, I’ll agree with that. I should go home,” I said. “But I don’t know why I have to go to the doctor.”

Nick sighed. “You just told me you’ve been feeling crappy for the past week. If this was the first day, I’d say fine. But, after a week I think you need to get looked at.”

“Well, you didn’t have to tell them I was dying over the phone.”

Nick had followed me right into the woman’s bathroom at the café. Luckily, it was a one person bathroom. As I heaved my guts out, Nick held my hair. While I was distracted, he had pulled my phone out of my pocket and found the number for my doctor. He had then proceeded to tell the receptionist I was dying and needed to be seen right away. Needless to say, they squeezed me in.

“Turn left. At the end of the road you have reached your destination,” a GPS voice that sounded eerily like Homer Simpson announced. Nick assured me the GPS would give us the fastest route; what he didn’t know is that if he would have asked me, I would have had us there at least five minutes quicker.

“I’m feeling better already,” I said as Nick opened my car door. He shook his head.

“Yeah, like I’m going to believe that,” he said. “C’mon.”

I got out of the car reluctantly. Taking my hand, Nick walked towards the building.

“I hate doctors,” I added, hoping to get some sympathy.

“Everybody does,” Nick answered back. “They’re a necessary evil.”

We walked in; the place smelled like a hospital. The bright walls and nice fish tank didn’t fool me for a minute.

“May I help you?” the receptionist said from behind a half wall of plastic.

I sighed. “Olivia Ryans. I have an appointment with Dr. Danielson.”

She looked at me. “Oh, you’re the one that’s dying?”

I glared up at Nick. He smiled sheepishly.

“I might have been a little dramatic,” he explained. The receptionist rolled her eyes.

“Have a seat. The nurse will call you when a room opens up.”

We headed over to the waiting room. I was still giving Nick the eye as I sat down in a hard plastic chair. He sat beside me.

“Want to read Time?” he asked sweetly, holding up the magazine. I cracked my knuckles.

“I‘ll take that as a no.”

The door that led to the exam room hall opened. I looked up expecting to see a nurse.

But it was much worse.

I spotted Hunter before he spotted me, but there was no becoming invisible. Nick and I were the only ones in the waiting room besides a ninety year old lady. Jess was right behind him, still talking to a nurse. I winced as she laughed; it was the highest pitched tone you could ever imagine.

“No, I feel amazing,” she said after braying like a donkey for a second time. “I haven’t had a bad day yet.”

Hunter walked a few more paces, and like I feared, spotted me. He stopped in his tracks. The nurse closed the door and Jess bumped into him.

“What?” Jess said. She peered around him, her mouth formed a perfect O.

Since my return, I had managed to go to all of my favorite places around town and not bump into him. It would figure that the place I didn’t want to be would be where I would see him.

Nick had found a section on speed boats in one of the automotive magazines; he didn’t see them. I prayed they would just walk by quietly.

“Wow it took longer than I thought,” Hunter said loudly. “I figured you would have been in for crabs and STDs much sooner.”

I blanched. Nick looked up; realization dawned on his face. He threw the magazine down on the table and stood up.

Hunter wrapped an arm around Jess’s expanding waistline. Since the last time I had seen them, her pregnancy seemed to have hit fast forward.

“What you going to do, Carter? Break your hand again?”

I touched Nick’s arm. “Don’t,” I whispered.

“Stop harassing my girlfriend,” Nick hissed. I saw his hands ball into fists. I didn’t want to see his hand back in a cast.

Hunter snorted. “Flavor of the week, Carter? I’m sure you can do better than my leftovers. Oh wait, probably not.”

Nick lunged. I grabbed onto his shirt. At that exact moment, the nurse opened the door.

“Olivia Ryans?”

I stood up, keeping a death grip on Nick’s shirt. As we walked by Hunter and Jess, Nick rammed into Hunter’s shoulder. Hunter stumbled slightly, but turned and watched us walk through the door.

“I hope you didn’t dislocate my shoulder!” Hunter called as the door started to swing shut. “I’ll have to send you another bill!”

Nick turned around, ready to pounce. I pushed him down the hallway. The nurse led us into an exam room.

“The doctor will be with you shortly,” she said, shutting the door.

Nick paced around like a caged panther. “I’m going to end up smashing his face in the ground,” Nick said. I sighed.

“He’s gone; just forget about it. Hopefully I’ll be rid of him soon,” I said. Nick stopped and looked at me.

“What did he mean about another bill?”

I made a face. I had paid Hunter’s hospital bill myself; I didn’t think Nick would have taken Hunter’s threatening note very well.

“Oh that,” I said. “It was nothing. He sent the bill for his broken nose and a note and I paid it. I really don’t want you to have to get involved.”

“I got involved in this way before that,” Nick said. “He hurt you and he will get his,”

“Nick,” I sighed. He sat down on the doctor’s swivel chair. He duplicated my sigh.

“I’m sorry, you don’t need this right now,” he admitted.

We waited in silence for several long minutes. The few times that I had seen my doctor, I had quickly come to realize that he was notoriously behind.

I watched as Nick hit his knee with the reflex tool. I laughed.

“Reflexes like a cat,” he said. He tapped my knee, it jerked outwards.

“Very good.”

He stood up and began to look at the other tools around the room. My doctor was a general physician and gynecologist. Nick held up a uniquely shaped wand.

“Damn, he’s got a dildo in here,” Nick said.

“It’s not a dildo,” I said laughing.

“What is it? A microphone?” Nick put it closer to his face.

“I wouldn’t do that,” I said sweetly.

“Why?”

“That’s for ultrasounds.”

Nick raised an eyebrow. “What type of ultrasounds?”

I smirked. “Internal female exams.”

Nick’s eyes widened. He quickly put it down.

Before Nick could get into any more trouble, the doctor walked in.

Saved by the stethoscope, I thought.
Chapter 49 by evergreenwriter83
Chapter Forty Nine

“Sorry I’m late,” Dr. Danielson said, walking straight to his swivel stool and sitting down. “We’re backed up on patients.”

“That’s okay,” I said quietly.

“Now let’s see here.” The doctor flipped open my chart. “It says you’re here because you’re dying?”

I looked back over at Nick. He grinned.

“I exaggerated a little bit,” Nick admitted.

“Well what does seem to be the problem?”

I tried to play it off as no big deal. I explained my queasiness and slight bouts of dizziness.

“We went to lunch and she got sick before she even took a bite of her BLT,” Nick added in. “She said it smelled horrible, but it tasted fine to me.”

Dr. Danielson sat, taking notes. He nodded.

“Let’s see, have you eaten anything different lately, either at home or at a restaurant, besides that BLT?”

I shook my head. “The BLT never made it to my mouth. But, to answer your question, no, I’m a creature of habit.”

“No cuts or open wounds?”

I shook my head.

“When was the date of your last period?”

I screwed up my face in thought. “I don’t remember.”

He looked up. “You don’t remember?”

I looked at him in frustration. “I only have a period like twice a year. It’s kind of hard to remember.”

He flipped back a few pages in his chart and began to read quietly.

“It says here you and your husband are trying to conceive; we reached the diagnosis of unexplained infertility,” Dr. Danielson announced, looking up. “Does that sound about right?”

I nodded. “That sounds current as of about a year ago. My husband and I are currently divorcing.”

“Oh I see.” The doctor looked over at Nick.

“I’m her boyfriend,” he said. I looked over at him. He was standing right by my side, his arms crossed like my own personal bodyguard.

“Any recent sexual activity?” the doctor asked, returning his attention to me.

“It’s been about three weeks or so,” I answered.

"Just because we've been in different states," Nick explained. Obviously, he wanted to clarify so as not to bruise his male ego.

“And you’ve been feeling sick for about a week?” the doctor asked. I nodded. He got up from his swivel stool, clipboard in hand.

“I’ll have a nurse bring you a urine test,” he said. He headed towards the door.

“Wait!” I called. He turned.

“Yes?”

“Why do I have to take a urine test?”

“We’ll just rule out pregnancy,” the doctor explained.

I shook my head. “We just went over this. I can’t get pregnant.”

The doctor smiled. “You were diagnosed with unexplained infertility. Do you know how many women with that diagnosis come back a year, even ten years later and turn up pregnant? Sometimes nature has a way of working its own kinks out.”

The doctor closed the door behind him. I looked over at Nick.

He was staring at me, his eyes wide. The nurse walked in and handed me a cup.

“Two doors down on the left.”

-------------------------

I submitted my sample to the nurse and returned to the room to wait. Nick jumped up when I walked through the door, scooping me up in his arms. He kissed me softly. I thought he was being rather brave; considering my vomit record for the day.

“What?” I asked, as he set me down on the exam table. He smiled.

“While you were gone I actually realized what the doctor was saying,” Nick said. “And, if his suspicions are right, then that means,” he paused, his smile turning into a grin. “We’re going to have a baby.”

It was my turned to look surprised. I hadn’t expected the news to elicit such a response. We had been completely careless; but still…

Twenty minutes later, Dr. Danielson came back into the room. He smiled at both of us as he headed back to his stool. He flipped open my chart again.

“Well, folks, it looks like we’ve got a baby.”

My mouth fell open. I was shocked, thrilled, and…and there was another emotion that I couldn’t peg.

“I’m going to get a blood sample and then I’d like to do an ultrasound as a precaution,” Dr. Danielson said. “And I want to get a better idea of a due date.”

I turned my head as he drew a vial of blood. Nick squeezed my hand in support. After handing the vial off to a nurse, the doctor picked up the same instrument Nick was playing with earlier.

“Is that safe?” Nick asked. The doctor looked at him like he was crazy. Nick blushed and knelt beside me, taking my hand. He bounced gently on his heels.

Barely a minute later, I lay on the table, staring at a tiny blip on the ultrasound screen.

“Well, you’re definitely about six weeks along give or take,” Dr. Danielson said. “Lining looks good; he or she seems to be safe and snug.”

He rolled over to the counter, making notes on his chart. After another minute he gave me the all clear to sit up.

“Well, we’re going to put your due date as March 18,” he said. “Give or take a few days,” he winked.

“Is she, er they, okay to travel?” Nick asked. “We’ll be flying to Washington in a week.”

The doctor nodded.

“Yeah, that should be fine. Just nothing crazy; no rock climbing or deep sea diving.”

After shaking hands with me and Nick, the doctor left the room. I changed back into my street clothes. Nick was staring at a printout of the blip, a beaming smile on his face. When he looked over at me the smile diminished; I was frowning.

“This is good news, Liv,” Nick said softly. I pulled out my phone, taking a look at the calendar.

“Liv, what’s wrong?”

I sat back down on the exam table, my brow furrowed.

“Liv, talk to me.”

I looked over at him. “Nick, something’s been bothering me,” I said. I tapped the phone’s screen.

“What?”

“The doctor said I’m due March 18. That would mean I conceived somewhere between June 22 and June 29.”

“Yeah?”

“We didn’t have sex until the 28th,” I licked my lips. “We were in Vegas the 22nd,” I reminded him softly.

He didn’t seem to get the implication at first; when he did he looked at me in horror.

“So, what you’re saying is,” he trailed off.

“I’m just saying there’s a possibility that this,” I motioned to my stomach. “could have happened in Vegas.”

“With Brian.”
Chapter 50 by evergreenwriter83
Chapter Fifty

What should have been an extremely amazing moment in my life was overshadowed by the possibility that I was having the wrong Backstreet Boy’s baby.

“Do you remember anything about that night in Vegas?” Nick asked as we drove back to his hotel. I shook my head.

“Absolutely nothing.”

Nick looked thoughtful. “Well, maybe you guys didn’t do anything. Maybe Brian passed out first.”

“That’s a lot of maybe’s Nick,” I said quietly. He sighed.

Nick had booked a room at the Holiday Inn. We were quiet as we took the elevator up to his room. Once we got inside, I turned to look at him. Tears sprang to my eyes; he looked like a half deflated balloon.

“I’m sorry, Nick,” I cried. He wrapped his arms tightly around me.

“How is this your fault?” he asked. I blubbered against his chest. He kissed the top of my head, holding me as if he was never going to let go.

“Leighanne handled the Vegas incident so well,” I continued, sniffling loudly. “But now…”

Nick’s fingers dipped under my chin; he lifted my face to his.

“They don’t have to know,” he said quietly.

My eyes widened in surprise. “What are you talking about?” I said. “Of course they do.”

Nick led me over to the bed, we sat on the edge. I had never seen him so serious.

“As far as I’m concerned I’m in love with you and no matter what you’re having my child,” Nick said.

I sighed. “Nick, I love you too. But, we need to at least let Brian know there’s a possibility---“

Nick cut me off. “After the baby’s born we can do a DNA test. If it turns out—“ he choked up but quickly shook it off. “If it turns out the baby is Brian’s then we’ll tell him. I just don’t want to go through the next seven months with him and I both wanting to take care of you. That’s my job.”

I knew his logic came from a deep well of denial. It was logic I didn’t agree with.

“I have a feeling he might do the math,” I said. Nick looked at me; I could almost see the devil on his shoulder whispering in his ear.

“We’ll just tell them that you’re only five weeks instead of six weeks,” Nick explained. “We’ll erase all possibility.”

“Nick I can’t do this,” I said in frustration. “If the baby does turn out to be Brian’s, how do I explain that? I can’t just call him from the hospital room and say ‘Oh Brian, congratulations you’re a daddy, again.’”

I jumped as Nick punched the mattress in frustration. He stood up; I could feel the anger radiating off of him.

“This isn’t supposed to happen this way!” he yelled out. He took the ultrasound out of his pocket, clutching it tightly in his hand. I watched him storm into the bathroom, slamming the door behind him.

I fell back on the bed, crying even harder than before. Nick had been in town for less than eight hours and we had already managed to start coming apart.

After fifteen minutes Nick still hadn’t come out. I called out to him; he refused to answer. After another five minutes, I wiped my tearstained face and got up, heading quietly out of the room. I just wanted to crawl in a hole and hide.

I took the first bus back home. I smelled like puke, I felt like a leaking goldfish bowl from the ultrasound, and my “morning sickness” had turned into “all day sickness.”

And then there was the fact that Nick was locked in a hotel bathroom fuming because I refused to go along with his plan.

I walked the block from the bus stop to my mom’s house. I tried to slip in quietly, but my mom was watching TV and turned at the sound of the door opening.

“Is that you honey?” she asked, turning around. “Where’s Nick?”

“Oh,” I paused. “He had some phone calls to make. I’m going to go take a shower.”

Without waiting for her to respond, I slipped into the bathroom. I stood under the warm spray until my fingers and toes turned into prunes. My fast falling tears mixed with the water pouring down on me.

Finally unable to stay in the shower any longer, I wrapped myself in a robe and padded to my bedroom.

My mom knocked on the door minutes later.

“Are you sure everything’s okay sweetheart?” she asked, poking her head in.

“I’m fine mom, I’m just…really tired,” I said. In truth, I really was. My entire body ached.

“Okay, honey. Well, goodnight.”

“Goodnight mom.”

She turned off the light, shutting the door behind her.

It was only seven-thirty in the evening. I rested my face on the cool satiny pillow. Bitsy, having mastered the art of jumping on the bed, hopped up and licked my face before curling up next to me. Atari was already lying at my feet.

I was just drifting off to sleep when I heard a tap at my window. I assumed it was just a bird, but a minute later I heard the sound again.

I got up slowly and pushed back the curtain. Nick stood at the window, his head resting on the frame, his hand on the glass.

With a little grunt, I pushed open the window. A rush of mid-summer air flew into the room. He looked at me with soulful eyes.

“Hey,” he said softly.

“Hey,” I whispered.

“I’m sorry.”

“It’s fine Nick,” I said. He held onto the frame and began to slide inside the room. I stepped back to admit him entry.

“No, it’s not fine.” Nick ran his hand down his face. “I don’t know what I was thinking.”

I couldn’t help it; he seemed so downtrodden. I wrapped my arms around his neck and kissed him gently. He hesitated but only a second; I felt his arms wrap around my waist and his soft lips pressed against mine. As I pulled away for breath, his forehead leaned down to nuzzle mine.

“We’ll tell Brian,” he whispered.

I nodded. “It’s the right thing to do,” I said.

“But, can we not do it until we start the tour?” Nick asked.

I couldn’t deny him that request; I nodded again.

“Somehow I don’t think this is something that can be done in a phone call,” I added.

As we stood there in an embrace, I suddenly realized how weird it was to have Nick in my old room. Even though it was now pretty much a computer office, I could almost see the ghostly images of the posters that had adorned the walls for years and years; the faded rectangle on the wall behind Nick’s shoulder where the “pants down” photo had hung so it was the last thing I saw at night. Now I was standing here with the real thing.

And I was pregnant.

I exhaled deeply. It was sinking in slowly.

“You okay?” Nick asked, his lips brushing mine. I nodded.

“It’s just been an overwhelming day,” I explained. I sank down on my bed. Nick lay beside me. Bitsy’s behind wiggled excitedly, she jumped on him, covering him with kisses. Nick laughed softly, finally picking the little pup up and holding her at arm’s length. Her entire body still wiggled in glee.

“I missed you guys,” Nick said. He set Bitsy down, letting her pounce on him. He leaned over and kissed me softly once more.

We talked quietly; I talked about work, Nick talked about golfing with AJ and being a hermit. After awhile I heard my mom shuffling down the hall. I heard the click of lights; she was heading to bed.

My eyes fluttered closed. As much as I wanted to stay awake, I couldn’t fight it anymore. I felt Nick take my hand, his fingers sliding gently through my own. My body relaxed; our first disagreement had lasted only two hours. It was two hours too long.

I just didn’t want it to happen again.
Chapter 51 by evergreenwriter83
Chapter Fifty One

I woke up the next morning to the sounds and smells of breakfast being cooked. As I sat up, I paused for a moment, judging my queasy factor. I actually felt pretty good.

Thoughts of last night came flooding back into my brain. I looked to my right.

No Nick.

I glanced over at my window.

It was open.

I slid out of bed. Tying a robe securely around my waist, I padded down the hallway to the kitchen.

Like every morning, my mom was in the kitchen. Unlike every morning, this particular day she wasn’t alone. Nick and my mom worked in quiet camaraderie, the smell of scrambled eggs drifted through the air.

“Good morning?” I said in confusion. I rubbed my eyes; Nick was still there.

My mom turned, smiling softly.

“Good morning, sweetie,” she said. Nick sent a smile my way; I raised an eyebrow.

“Nick was up and at it early this morning; he was knocking at the door soon after I got up,” my mom explained.

“What uncanny timing,” I said, smiling. I had a feeling, especially considering he was wearing the clothes from the night before, that he had fallen asleep with me. Upon waking up, he must have jumped back out the window and walked around like he was just coming for a morning visit.

Very sneaky, Carter.

“Hungry?” Nick asked. He was cutting up cantaloupe into a bowl.

“A little bit,” I said. I pinched myself just to make sure I wasn’t dreaming. I winced.

Definitely not a dream.

I sank down into a chair as mom and Nick brought bowls and plates to the table. I inhaled deeply; so far my stomach felt pretty good. I scooped some scrambled eggs onto my breakfast plate.

Nick sank down beside me, folding a napkin across his lap. My mom took the seat on my other side.

We spent several quiet moments passing plates and readying silverware. As I was ready to take a bite, Nick smiled over at my mom.

“Actually, I came here this morning for a particular reason,” he said sweetly.

“Besides more cinnamon rolls?” my mom teased. Nick laughed.

“Yes, actually I might even say that this reason is better than cinnamon rolls.”

I lowered my fork in surprise; I didn’t like his tone.

Nick smiled at me; I didn’t have such a good feeling in my stomach. I couldn’t tell what he was up to exactly, but I had a sneaking suspicion.

“Yesterday was a very interesting day,” he continued, tossing a big bite of cinnamon roll into his mouth.

“Oh really?” my mom said, nibbling on some eggs.

I felt my toes grow numb. Nick looked at me and winked.

“Liv and I found out something very surprising.” He took a bite of bacon.

I went pale. I knew I had to tell my mom; but I wasn’t expecting to do it so soon. Especially with my baby daddy drama.

But Nick had other ideas.

“You did?” my mom said, looking at me. “What’s up, Liv?”

I opened my mouth to speak; instead I shoveled in a bite of cinnamon roll. With puffy cheeks, I shrugged innocently. Nick looked at me surprised.

“Don’t you want to tell her?” Nick asked. I gave him a look. It seemed like I had been giving him a lot of looks lately.

I swallowed hard, washing the roll down with some orange juice. My stomach did a weird happy gurgle, then it did a serious lurch.

“I, er, oh,” I said, fraying the edge of my napkin.

“You’re fidgeting. That means you’re keeping something from me,” my mom said, watching my movements.

“No, it’s not that it’s…” I trailed off. The cinnamon roll was coming back up on a tidal wave of orange juice. I jumped out of my seat, taking off down the hall.

As I heaved my guts out over the toilet bowl I heard my mom exclaim loudly.

“Oh my god, she’s pregnant, isn’t she?!”

---------------------------------

By the time I made it back to the kitchen, my mom had Nick in a big bear hug. He grinned sheepishly at me. I folded my arms across my chest and cleared my throat.

The moment my mom saw me she rushed over, grabbing me in a tight grasp. Her smile lit up her face. I hadn’t seen her so happy since…since before my dad died.

“Why didn’t you tell me?” she said, standing back and looking at me as if trying to find an external clue to my “condition.”

“I , er we, just found out yesterday,” I said softly.

“It all makes sense,” she continued. “Picking at your breakfasts, being so tired…those are all the first symptoms. Oh my baby’s having a baby!”

She hugged me tightly again. I looked at Nick over my mom’s shoulder. He stood awkwardly beside the table, looking guilty. Averting my eyes, he swooped down, taking another bite of scrambled eggs.

“I bet he or she will be blonde,” my mom gushed, sitting back down. She didn’t touch her food; she seemed too flustered. “I’m blonde, Nick’s blonde. Oh this is perfect.”

Brian’s blonde too, I thought to myself. I sank down quietly.

“Can you eat anything?” Nick asked. I looked at the food.

“I’m almost afraid too,” I admitted. I glanced at the clock.

“Actually, I don’t think I’m going to have time to,” I continued, standing back up. “I have to get ready for work.”

“You can’t go to work today!” my mom said. I looked at her like she was crazy.

“I’m scheduled to the end of the week,” I reminded her. “Then I have a few days off before I fly to Washington.”

“But, you’re not feeling well,” my mom argued. I shook my head.

“I’ll be fine. I’ll eat some crackers on my way,” I told her. She frowned. I stood up and headed back to the bathroom. Halfway there, I paused and turned around. Nick was practically licking his plate.

“Nick, would you like to drive me to work?” I asked sweetly. He nodded; his mouth was full of food.

I walked the remainder of the way down the hall, fuming. I needed to talk to Mr. Carter. Alone.

------------------------------

“What was that?” I said as I buckled myself into his car a half hour later. He looked over at me surprised.

“What do you mean?” he said.

“I wasn’t ready to tell my mom!” I said, perhaps a little harsher than I intended.

He looked at me apologetically. “I’m sorry, I just…”

“Just what? How am I supposed to explain what’s going on when I still don’t understand it?” I huffed, puffing my cheeks out.

“Like I said last night; no matter what I’m going to be here for you and the baby. So technically I didn’t lie to her. We are having a baby. We just may or may not have a sperm donor. I plan on being here through all of the highs and lows. I’m thinking this morning is a low.”

I narrowed my eyes.

“You didn’t even ask me!” I said, throwing up my arms. “I was sideswiped. We should have talked about this.”

Nick didn’t have a good response. I pouted all the way to work.

As he pulled up to the front of the building, he turned in his seat, his arm resting over the wheel.

“Livvy, I’m sorry. It’s just that I really like your mom and I got carried away. I’m horrible at keeping a secret,” Nick explained. I sighed softly.

“Nick, it’s fine. I’m just, I don’t know, I’m just cranky this morning. I’m hungry but I’m nauseous and then I also have this whole soap opera drama playing through my mind. If I was one hundred percent positive that it was yours, I probably would have told her last night.”

Nick’s hand touched my face. I turned to look at him; he seemed much calmer than he had been last night. I felt the exact opposite. Before I could think about it too much longer, he leaned over, kissing me softly.

“Don’t worry, we’ll figure this out,” he assured me. I couldn’t help but produce a little smile.

I unbuckled my seat belt and climbed out of the car. Before I closed the door, I turned around and looked in at him.

“Thank you,” I said. He grinned.

“I love you, Livvy,” Nick said. I blew him a kiss.

“Love you too, Nick.”

As I made my way into the building and down the stairs, my mind was still on my mom, Nick, and the whole crazy mess. It would take me a couple hours at least to get into library mode. As I punched in, I shoved a cracker in my mouth. I decided that my main goal was to get through the morning without one more person having to find out my little secret.

Simple, right?
Chapter 52 by evergreenwriter83
Chapter Fifty Two

Lily took a break about an hour before my shift was over. When she came back, she scooted her chair close to mine.

“Anything new?” she asked. I was in the middle of processing some new books; I paused and shook my head.

“It’s been pretty quiet.”

“Yes, but is there anything new in general? You look like you’re feeling better than yesterday,” she continued. I nodded.

“Yeah, must have been something I ate,” I said.

Lily gave me a knowing smile.

“Is that all?”

I looked at her surprised. “Yes, why?”

She leaned even closer. "I was coming back from the break room and I saw a certain blonde beau camped out in the stacks in the nonfiction area upstairs.”

I arched an eyebrow. “Oh?”

“He was in the 616’s,” Lily said. Only a librarian could insinuate in Dewey language.

The 616’s were the pregnancy and health section.

“Oh?” I said. I played with the corners of the book I was holding.

“You’re fidgeting. C’mon, give,” she said.

I sighed. She knew my nervous ticks as well as my mom.

“I don’t want this to get out,” I told her. “But since you’re my supervisor…”

I gave her basically as much information as I gave my mom, which at this point was pretty much just my due date. I let her conclude that Nick was the source.

“As your supervisor, your secret is safe with me,” she said. “I’ll let you tell everyone else in your own time.”

I sighed in relief. “Thank you.”

She headed back to her office; I continued to work at the desk. I don’t know whether I had just woken up on the wrong side of the bed or if this was what everyone talked about when they mentioned pregnancy hormones, but the longer I sat, the angrier I got at Nick.

Nick came down to escort me out to the car just a few minutes before the end of my shift. He walked up with one of those amazing devil-may-care smiles. In return I gave him yet another look. He stopped in his tracks.

“What did I do now?”

I shook my head and pointed to the boat. “Sit in the boat. I’ll talk to you in five minutes.”

Like a child going to the time out corner, Nick slumped down in the boat and watched me under low lidded eyes.

I finished up some statistics and shoved the project I was working on out of the way. Disappearing through the employee hallways, I punched out and then swung back through the department to grab my purse and meet up with Nick.

He stood as I approached the boat; he took my hand and gave my fingers a loving squeeze. I didn’t say anything until we were in the car.

“What were you doing?” I asked him as he started the car. He looked confused.

“What?”

I clicked my seatbelt into place with more force than usual.

“You were in the 616s!”

“The what?”

I took a deep breath. “My supervisor saw you in the 616’s up in the nonfiction area,” I explained. “The pregnancy section?” I added. Recognition lit up his face.

“Oh! I was just getting some information,” he said. He looked at me apologetically. “As a librarian you should be proud. I used books, not the internet to make sure I was getting good sources,” he reasoned.

Oh, he was good. At that moment, I felt like the Librarian Grinch. My heart grew three sizes. I couldn’t help but laugh.

“Okay, I’ve got to give you credit,” I said. “But, my boss put two and two together and I had to tell her about…” I placed a hand gently on my stomach.

Nick made a face. “I didn’t even think about that. I just thought I’d kill some time before picking you up and do a little reading. I was even incognito; I was wearing my reading glasses.”

I smiled. “They doesn’t change you from Clark Kent to Superman just by putting on or taking off glasses,” I said gently.

“Well, I am sorry,” Nick said. “Can I make it up to you by buying you dinner?”

I shook my head. “I’m not hungry.”

“You have to eat more than crackers. You’re eating for two.”

I sighed. “Maybe in an hour or so.”

Nick assented. “Okay; then how about this? We’ll stop by the gym and I’ll work up an appetite and then I’ll take you out to dinner.”

I smiled. Maybe the sight of a hot and sweaty Nick would turn my mood around. “Deal.”

----------------------------

Instead of using the gym at the Holiday Inn, Nick stopped at the 24-Hour Fitness location near my house.

“I prefer 24-Hour if there’s one available,” he explained. “Every location is set up the same. Plus the Holiday Inn only has a treadmill and a recumbent bike.”

I nodded. “Yeah, there’s not much hotel traffic here. You should have seen my face the first time I stayed in Florida for the internship job,” I laughed. “I felt like a princess.”

“You are a princess,” Nick said. He kissed me softly and then pointed to one of the leather couches. “Sit back, relax. I’m going to go change and I’ll be right out. You can be my motivational coach.”

I laughed as he disappeared into the back of the room. Things were looking up.

After about five minutes, I began to think things were looking down again. Then ten minutes later, Nick still wasn’t out. I stood up intending to go in the back and take a peek, when all hell broke loose.

At first I didn’t realize what was happening. One moment I heard some loud arguing; the next moment two men basically rolled out of the changing room in a tangle of fists and kicks. As the taller of the two got an advantage, he pinned the other, heavier guy down and I saw a fist fly through the air. A flash of red hair retaliated and managed to get a knee to the taller’s stomach.

I groaned.

It was Nick and Hunter.

A couple other guys stopped working on their machines stopped and rushed over. One looked like Hulk Hogan, the other Bret Michaels. It must have been long blonde haired rocker night. Even with them intervening, Nick didn’t give up without a fight; at one point he seemed to take them all out. His face was angrier than I had ever seen it.

Finally, with the help of the two guys and the employee on duty, Nick and Hunter were separated. Both lunged at the other, but were restrained tightly by the arms.

“What the hell is going on?” I said, finally deeming it safe to approach. Nick looked over at me; I think he half forgot I was there. His lip was swelling; a thin trickle of blood ran down his chin. I could hear sirens in the distance.

“Your boy toy doesn’t seem to like me,” Hunter said. He spit on the ground; a tooth flew out. “Maybe he’s going to like the guys in jail better.”

“Shut the fuck up,” Nick growled. He made another attempt at a lunge; the guys holding his arms struggled to keep him back.

At that moment the police walked in. One of the guy’s restraining Nick went over to restrain Hunter as the employee was led away to make a statement. Tears sprang to my eyes.

This was ranking right up there on my “worst days of my life” list.

I watched helplessly as the officers returned and cuffed both men. Nick was still in macho mode; his jaw was set, his eyes were on the ground. Hunter was a little more carefree. He addressed one of the officers by name and he was slowly trying to play up his role as victim.

Nick tossed me his car keys. He was hauled out first; Hunter followed. Before Hunter got to the door, he turned and smiled at me.

“You sure know how to pick them, Livvy. Oh, and I hear congratulations are in order. What a slut,” he snickered. The officer pushed him out the door.

I sank down on the couch, burying my head in my hands.

It was going to be a long night.
Chapter 53 by evergreenwriter83
Chapter Fifty Three

I drove to the police station in Nick’s car. My nerves were too frayed even to cry; my knuckles were white on the steering wheel. I had only been at the police station once before and that was for a field trip in fourth grade.

This was no field trip.

I walked in and looked around. I didn’t see Nick anywhere. As I walked up to the desk, I spotted a familiar face.

Larry, who worked two days a week as library security and the rest of the time in the garage at the station, walked out from the garage area and headed to the front door. I ran up and touched his arm. He looked at me in surprise.

“Liv, what are you doing here?” he asked. I looked around; it was crowded. I lowered my voice.

“I need your help. There was an incident at 24-Hour Fitness.” I explained the fight.

“So you want me to find out what’s going on?” Larry concluded. I nodded. He grinned.

“Which one are you trying to keep from getting booked?”

“The blonde one,” I said.

“I’ll see what I can do,” Larry said. He headed into parts unknown. I sank down on a hard bench.

Larry came back about a half hour later. He handed me a candy bar.

“It’s going to be awhile,” he explained. “Hunter is throwing a hissy fit and your blondie is still about ready to kill him. They’re handcuffed to separate benches across the room from each other.” Larry shook his head. “If they’re still spewing testosterone when they go in front of the judge I think he’ll throw them in the clink together and throw away the key.”

I scowled. “Larry, you’ve got to help me. Nick can’t be booked. That would be really, really bad.”

Larry looked at me sympathetically. “I’ll see if I can find out any more. But right now you should go home. Like I said, it’s going to be awhile.”

He walked off again and I stood up. I hated leaving, but I also felt extremely dirty and skuzzy sitting on the bench.

As luck would have it, before I hit the door, I saw a guy wearing a 24-Hour Fitness shirt walk in. His nametag read Manager. Without thinking of what I was going to say, I walked up to him.

“Excuse me,” I said as sweetly as possible. “Are you here about the incident at your store?”

The manager did not look happy. “Yes, I’ve come to give a statement and turn in the tapes.”

My heart began to pound. “Are you going to press charges?”

His face said it all. Of course he was. He began to walk away, I touched his arm.

“Wait! Please! Could we talk outside?”

Reluctantly, he followed me out into the night. I looked as doe-eyed as possible.

“I feel like this is all my fault,” I explained. “I’m going through a divorce and my husband is out for blood. He’s not the brawn of this situation but I have a feeling his mouth started it all.”

The guy sighed. “I can’t have my business labeled as a rough house. They disturbed my patrons. The whole front of the store is glass. Anyone walking by would have seen what was going on.”

I nodded sympathetically. “I completely understand,” I sighed. “Was any equipment damaged?”

“Well, no,” the manager said. I cracked my knuckles; my mind was racing for a good solution.

“Well,” I looked around and leaned closer, as if confiding a huge secret to him. “I’ve got to tell you; the blonde guy is Nick Carter.”

The manager looked confused. Obviously he wasn’t up on his influential boy bands of the 90’s.

“He’s a pretty popular musician,” I explained. The manager arched an eyebrow.

“I was thinking that if you wouldn’t press charges that maybe he could make this incident up to you in a different way,” I explained. The manager folded his arms, but his face looked interested. I was reeling him in like a fish.

“What do you have in mind?”

“Well, he was just telling me before the incident that he loves 24-Hour fitness because no matter where he goes he knows what he gets with you guys,” I said. The manager smiled; I was applying the butter and he was eating it up.
“He’s gotten into amazing shape since he started using the company,” I continued. “Maybe he could do some type of promotional advertising to make up for the trouble he caused?”

The manager looked thoughtful.

“No one has to see the tape right?” I added. “If you don’t press charges and no one else sees the tape, then really it’s more of a win situation for you then a lose situation. You won’t have to go to court and go through all of this red tape. Plus, you’ll catch the attention of female clientele. Maybe he can even sign autographs at your store.”

I was spewing out ideas faster than I could really flesh them out. Even so, the manager was buying it hook, line, and sinker.

“Well,” he tapped the video against his hand. “I guess we don’t have to press charges.”

I spoke with the manager a few more minutes and then followed him back in the building. He talked to the lady at the front desk then disappeared back into the building.

An hour later he reemerged. He walked over to me.

“So how can I contact Mr. Carter?” he said. I smiled, scribbling down his cell phone number.

“I’ll be in touch,” the manager said. I thanked him profusely and gave a little wave as he left.

Five minutes later Larry reemerged, shaking his head.

“You scare me sometimes,” he said. “What did you do?”

I feigned innocence. “What are you talking about?”

“The guy didn’t press charges,” Larry explained.

“Oh, he must have decided it was too much trouble,” I said sweetly. “After all, they didn’t break any equipment or anything.”

Larry narrowed his eyes. He didn’t believe me for a second.

“Okay crafty,” he said. “You fixed the biggest problem, but you’ve got one more.”

I raised an eyebrow. “What?”

“Hunter’s dead set on pressing charges.”

I laughed incredulously. “He’s just as guilty as Nick,” I said.

“It doesn’t matter. If he presses charges that manager is still going to have to show that tape.”

I frowned. I looked around; the room was no longer busy.

“Larry,” I whispered. “You have to get me in there. I need to talk to Hunter.”

Larry sighed. “I was afraid you were going to say that.”

I batted my eyes. “Please?”

------------------------------------

I sat at the table in a small interrogation room. The lights casted yellowed shadows on the dingy surface. My hands were clasped together on the hard surface of the table. I hoped Larry would be able to pull this off.

Just as the thought crossed my mind, the door opened. An officer walked Hunter in and sat him down. He was still handcuffed.

“I’ll be right outside,” the officer said. I nodded. “Thank you so, much.”

The officer grinned. “Larry owes me big time.”

The door closed; I looked over at Hunter. His red hair was disheveled; a permanent scowl was etched on his face.

“Whatever you’re going to say, it doesn’t matter. I’m not going to rest until Carter’s head is on a plate.”

I leaned back with a sigh. “Why are you so bitter, Hunter? I mean, really. Shouldn’t it be me who’s bitter? You’re the one that cheated on me for an entire year for our marriage. You’re the one that got my best friend pregnant. Why does Nick bother you so much?”

Hunter laughed scornfully. “Why does he bother me so much? Gee, Liv, what a dumb question. When you look back, the truth is that the Backstreet Boys hindered our marriage long before Jess came into the picture.”

I looked at him like he was crazy. “What are you talking about?”

“Oh come on,” he rolled his eyes. “On our wedding day you had to have a stupid Backstreet song in the playlist, you took off to concerts even though I didn’t want you to go, your entire IPod is like a shrine. How can a man compete?”

I laughed; it was the most ridiculous reasoning I had ever heard. “What about your whole external hard drive full of porn?” I said. “I think that’s much worse than me enjoying some music.”

“That’s your fault too,” Hunter said. “If I was happy I wouldn’t have needed it.”

I opened my mouth to argue, but then I realized that the reason I needed to talk to him was to make him less defensive. Taking a deep breath, I softened my facial features.

“Hunter,” I said gently. “I talked the gym out of pressing charges. The least you owe me is to do the same for Nick. I mean, it was both of you guys out there on the floor.”

“He provoked it,” Hunter said.

I looked down at the table. The blood was rushing to my head. It was like reasoning with a five year old.

“Okay, let’s just lay it all out on the table. What can I do to keep you from pressing charges?”

Hunter smirked; I saw his eyes lit up. If it benefited him, he was ready to bargain.

“Drop the fraud charges with your credit card company,” Hunter said immediately.

I chewed the inside of my lip. I’d be eighty before I would be able to pay off all of the debt he accumulated.

“Fine,” I said.

“Let me keep the house and the assets,” he said.

I had already planned on doing so in order to speed up the divorce. But what he didn’t know wouldn’t hurt him. I sighed like it was killing me.

“Fine,” I said.

“And, lastly, dump Carter.”

He sat back in the chair, the clink of his handcuffs hitting the wooden seat. My eyes widened.

What?”

“Dump Carter. He’s bad news.”

“I can’t do that,” I said, shaking my head. “I’ll give you two out of three.” Tears sprang to my eyes. “Please, Hunter. If our relationship ever meant anything to you, just take what I can give, but I can’t let Nick go.”

Hunter frowned; his eyes strayed to the wall behind my head.

“You really pregnant?” he asked.

I frowned. “How did that come up in conversation?” I asked.

“Carter was bragging,” Hunter said. Somehow I doubted that.

I sighed. “Yes, I am.”

“Is it Carter’s?” he asked. I looked at him in surprise.

“Of course, who else could it be?” I said.

Brian’s, I thought.

He shrugged and sighed like he was carrying a huge burden.

“I won’t press charges. I just want to go home,” Hunter finally said. My shoulders slumped in relief.

“Thank you, Hunter,” I said. I rose. Seconds later the officer was back in leading Hunter down the hall.

Larry poked his head in.

“Everything work out?” he asked. I nodded.

“Well, Nick should be released soon,” Larry added. He paused when he saw the look on my face.

“I don’t like that look. What’s up?”

“Do you have an empty cell?” I asked sweetly.

“What? Yeah we have a few but…” he trailed off. “What are you thinking?”

“I’m thinking,” I paused. “I’m thinking that I need to have a talk with Mr. Carter. But I think it would be more effective if he was behind bars.”

Larry smiled. “Man, I feel sorry for him. Let me go see what I can do.”

He disappeared. I took a deep breath.

I needed to get something off my chest badly. And I needed to cage the animal first before I did it.
Chapter 54 by evergreenwriter83
Chapter Fifty Four

Nick looked at me, his hands wrapped around the cell bars. He did not look happy.

“They let Hunter go,” Nick complained. “Why the hell am I still here?”

I folded my arms across my chest. “Because I need to talk to you.”

He looked at me surprised. “What?”

“Nick, do you realize how much bullshit I had to think up in order to make sure you weren’t booked?” I said, my foot tapping on the ground.

“No,” he said. “But, this wasn’t my fault. Hunter---“

I held up my hand. “Nick, stop. This thing with Hunter is going too far. I appreciate that you’re trying to protect me, but at the same time you’re not just Joe Blow off the street. One more mug shot and the guys are going to kill you. You don’t want to lose everything you’ve worked for because my stupid ex can’t keep his trap shut.”

Nick ran a hand through his hair; it was getting long again. “He just started spewing off about you and how used up you were and—“

I leaned closer to the cell. The look on my face must have been deadly; he stopped mid sentence.

“How did he find out I was pregnant?” I asked quietly. Nick looked at me guiltily.

“He just kept going on about Jess and how you couldn’t deliver and I---“

“So you had to brag? DAMN you males and your egos!” I yelled out. I was feeling spiteful. I slapped my palm on the bars, my voice lowering so much it was barely inaudible. “For all we know your ego didn’t do the job anyhow.”

Nick looked like I had stabbed him. “Liv—“

I cut him off again. “Nick, I spent four years in a relationship where Hunter controlled everything. He didn’t ask my thoughts or opinions about anything. Whatever he wanted to do he did it. I’ll be damned if I’m going to get into another relationship where the male thinks that he can just do whatever he wants and I’m going to sit back quietly. I’m not a doormat.”

“I know you’re not a doorma—“

“No, Nick. Just today you told my mom I was pregnant, you were looking pregnancy books up at the library where I work, and then you go and tell my ex. Did I have a say in any of that? No.”

I turned my back on him. My chest rose and fell in barely suppressed rage. His arm stretched through the bars for me; I felt his fingers touch my back.

“Liv, I’m sorry. I don’t know what I was thinking. Well, I guess I wasn’t thinking.”

I turned back to him. His forehead was pressed rested hard on the bars. He looked like a shelter puppy desperate for a home.

“You’ve just got to promise that we’re going to work together,” I said. He nodded.

“I promise.”

“And you’ve got to promise to try to control that temper,” I said.

He sighed. “I promise.”

I walked over and kissed him softly. He looked at me sadly. “Can I come out now?”

I smiled softly. “Yeah, we’ll let you out.”

I motioned to Larry who was stationed just down the hall. He walked up and unlocked the cell doors.

Nick walked out. He wrapped me in a hug.

“Alright, get out of here, before I change my mind,” Larry said.

We walked out of the station; Nick’s arm wrapped around my waist.

“So, how in the world did you manage to get me out without anyone pressing charges?” he said. He sounded impressed.

I smiled.

“Well….”

----------------------------

Nick managed to behave for the next three days. While he worked with 24-Hour Fitness to create some promotional materials and prepare for an autograph signing at the store, I completed my last three days at the library until September. I had managed to hold down actual food and Nick and I had managed to keep the police station incident from my mom. A six-pack of beer to Larry as a bribe played a big part in that plan.

As I punched out on my last day, I looked around. It seemed weird that in just a few days I’d be back on the road with the guys. Like Nick had told me a long ago, the itch to get back on the road was palpable.

Of course, even before we headed to Washington, Nick and I had decided that a trip to Atlanta was necessary. Deep down, I just couldn’t see springing the news on Brian and Leighanne the first day on the road. By the time we told Leighanne and Brian, I would be yet another week along. It just couldn’t wait.

As I was headed out to my mom’s car, my cell phone rang. I answered as I pressed the trunk release button to put my book bags in the trunk.

“Hello?”

“Olivia? This is Daniel Share.”

“Oh, hello Mr. Share,” I said. I unlocked my door and got in.

“I just received a letter from Hunter’s attorney,” Mr. Share said. “I guess I’m a little confused.”

I arched an eyebrow. “Confused? Is it about the credit card fraud? I decided I just didn’t want to slow the divorce down. I’m going to let bygones be bygones.”

“No, it’s not that,” he said. “I just received news that you’re expecting?”

By the time this was all over, the whole town was going to know. I might as well have just gone on the local news and broadcasted it.

“Yes, I am. But, why would Hunter’s attorney tell you that?” I asked.

“Well, Hunter told the attorney there’s a possibility that the baby is his.”

My mouth fell open. I stared at my phone incredulously.

“Olivia?”

I made a sound halfway between a laugh and a snort. “There’s absolutely no way he’s the father.”

Mr. Share sighed. “Unfortunately, Wisconsin law states that if the wife is pregnant at the time of filing or becomes pregnant after filing, the divorce case will be suspended until the child is born or the pregnancy otherwise ends. Without proof otherwise, we’re going to have to put the case on hold.”

“You have got to be kidding me. Why is he doing this?” I said, more to myself than to the man on the other end of the line.

“To be honest with you, it’s a little suspicious that you dropped the case on the credit card fraud,” Mr. Share continued. “Are you sure that your relationship is completely dissolved?”

I suppressed a whole string of expletives. Instead I just hung up on him.

I remembered my speech to Nick about controlling his temper. At the moment, my words were coming back to bite me in the butt.

If I had a gun, I would shoot Hunter.

On the way to the gym, I decided I wouldn’t tell Nick about this latest development until we were on the plane. That way, Nick would be out of the state of Wisconsin and out of choking range of Hunter. If he landed in jail a second time, no fast talking from me would get him out.

It was a Friday night; the gym was absolutely packed. Eighty percent of the people making up the line that stretched down the street were female. As I got out of my car and walked towards the building, I saw the front glass windows covered with posters of a shirtless Nick. If that didn’t sell memberships, I didn’t know what else would.

As I walked up to the door, a couple women began to complain.

“The line is way back there. Wait your turn.”

“Yeah, we’ve been here for two hours,” the lady said.

I looked back at the line again. Two more hours on my feet was not happening. I ducked into the sub shop next door and bought myself a grilled chicken sub for dinner. I took my time eating. My doctor had prescribed me some nausea medication that had lessened the severity of my morning/all-day sickness. For two days straight, I had been able to keep down three balanced meals a day. After tossing my trash, I got in line again to buy a sub for Nick. I loaded it up with veggies and skipped the mayo; he wouldn’t be happy, but after promoting health all day, he’d have to live without the mayo. Clutching the bag, I walked back over to the gym.

The line was still long, but I was armed with food. I walked back up to the door. Another set of women glared at me haughtily.

“You have to wait in line,” they said, pointing behind their shoulders. I smiled.

“I don’t think Nick wants to eat a sub that had to wait in line two hours,” I said sweetly.

They looked at each other. “And why do you think Nick’s going to eat your sub?” the smaller of the two asked.

Because he’s eaten a lot more than my sub, I thought to myself.

“I’m his girlfriend,” I said. I glanced at the staff member at the door. He was the same one that was working the day of the fist fight.

“Yeah right,” the woman said. She tried to bump me out of the way. The guy looked at me, I saw something click. He pushed the lady back, letting me through.

I smiled over my shoulder as the two women stared daggers at me.

Two more employees were busy at a table to the left taking new registrants. Nick was seated on a weight lift bench. He wore a black tank top that made his muscular arms stand out even more as he signed autographs and took pictures.

As he finished up an autograph, he looked up and met my eye. He broke into a wide smile.

“Hey you,” he said. He reached forward to grab another picture to sign.

“Hey,” I said.

“I smell food,” he said. He stopped to pose and smile as a fan came to his side for a picture. When she walked away, his eyes went directly to the plastic bag.

“Sub for you,” I said. “I figured you worked up an appetite sitting there in that tank top.”

His eyes sparkled. “You like it?”

I nodded.

He continued to sign autographs and take pictures for another hour. Finally the line dwindled down until it was completely gone.

The manager walked up, a big smile on his face. I concluded that he must have just finished counting up new memberships. He shook Nick’s hand heartily.

“I’m so glad we were able to work this out,” the manager said, as if the entire thing had been his idea. Nick just nodded, smiling as they shook hands.

“Well, I’m glad to do it and I am truly sorry for any trouble that was caused,” Nick added.

“You’re welcome back here anytime, Mr. Carter,” the manager said.

After packing up his bag, Nick looked my way. I held out his sub.

“Did you eat?” he asked. I nodded. “I ate a whole sub,” I said. “And chips. And a chocolate chip cookie.”

Nick laughed. “Do I have all that in here?” he shook the bag.

“Nope you have a healthy sandwich.”

To his credit, he didn’t make a face until we got to the car. “No mayo?”

I laughed. “No mayo. Just in case you had to discuss your sub to a crowd of fans I thought gobs of mayo would ruin the effect.”

I dug through my purse. When my hand reemerged I held out several packets of mayo.

“But I got your back, dawg,” I said. He laughed.

“Thanks dawg.”

He turned on the radio and we sat in the car with the windows down. A soft breeze was blowing; the smell of chicken danced in the air as he devoured the sub. My mind floated back to Mr. Share’s phone call. I felt like a bird that had just been caged.

Again.
Chapter 55 by evergreenwriter83
Chapter Fifty Five – July 31

After a tearful goodbye with my mom, Nick and I caught the 11 o’clock flight to Atlanta. I waited until we reached level altitude before discussing my phone conversation from the day before.

“So,” I said as Nick opened a bag of peanuts. He looked over at me.

“What’s up?” he said. He tossed his head bag and threw a nut in the air. It hit his nose, but landed in his mouth.

“I got a phone call from Daniel Share yesterday,” I said. “My lawyer.”

“Good news?”

I made a face. “Not really,” I said. Nick set down the bag of nuts. “I don’t like that ‘not really,’” he said.

“Remember your promise,” I warned. “no temper.”

He sighed. I could tell he was already regretting that promise, but when you’re behind bars I think you’d probably agree to anything.

“Hunter’s lawyer sent Mr. Share a letter that explained that Hunter was made aware of my pregnancy,” I said. Nick’s eyes narrowed. Before he could interrupt, I rushed on. “He’s claiming there’s a chance the baby is his. Mr. Share explained to me that Wisconsin law requires a divorce case to be suspended until the child is born. So I’m stuck with him for the next seven months.”

If Nick wasn’t buckled into his seat, he probably would have flown out of it. “WHAT?! There’s no way!” he shouted.

“Nick, shh!” I hissed. Practically every head in the plane was turned in our direction.

“Is he insane?” Nick said in a loud whisper. “What the fuck is he trying to pull?”

I sighed. “I don’t know, Nick.”

“Why didn’t you tell me last night?” he said, his voice dipping even lower.

“Because you were still within choking range,” I responded. Nick slammed back in his seat. The person behind him gave a grunt of annoyance.

“This is classic,” he continued with a wry laugh. “That guy will pull anything to make our lives miserable. Not that we didn’t have anything or anyone else to worry about. Oh, no, life’s just peachy.”

Nick ran a hand down his face. Slowly he looked back at me.

“You’re way too calm,” Nick said.

“I hung up on my lawyer yesterday,” I said in defense. “I’ve never hung up on anyone before.”

Nick opened his mouth to say something, then stopped. He seemed to be mentally reorganizing his thoughts.

“Would you consider getting a different lawyer?” Nick said, his voice level.

I sighed. “Nick, it’s Wisconsin law. Hunter and I officially live in Wisconsin. Even a hot shot lawyer won’t be able to get around this.”

“Will you at least let me ask around?” Nick asked. I paused. If there was a loop hole…

“You can call,” I consented.

We fell into silence. After awhile I let my head fall onto his shoulder.

“We should never have left my condo,” Nick whispered. I smiled.

“Yeah, I know.”

------------------------------------

We arrived in Atlanta at 2:30 and checked into a nice hotel by the airport. Nick and I had planned to meet Brian and Leighanne for dinner at five.

“I’m going to go take a bath,” I told Nick. He looked surprised.

“You’re going to chance it?” he said with a smile. I made a face.

“Well, I can’t drink so I need to relax another way; soaking in a tub is all I’ve got,” I said. Nick looked like he knew exactly what I meant.

I filled the tub up and lit one of the complementary candles. I lowered myself into the water. I didn’t bother to turn on the whirlpool jets. I wasn’t feeling that lucky.

I sighed as I sank down to my chin. The water felt amazing. My eyes fluttered closed. When the water ran cold, I filled it up again.

I didn’t even hear Nick come in. One minute I was in my own little world; the next moment I felt the softness of a wash cloth slid against my legs. My eyes fluttered open.

Nick leaned down, kissing me softly. I wrapped my wet arms around his neck, kissing back as the washcloth slid over my stomach. He had changed out of his clothes into a fluffy white robe.

“Can I join you?” he whispered. I nodded. He let the robe slide off of his broad shoulders, the view underneath was extremely pleasant.

I sat up and scooted over to the far end of the tub as he stepped in, sinking down into the water. He reached for me.

I slid into his arms, my legs entwining with his. His hands slid down my back, and farther still. He gently tugged me even closer.

The flickering light from the candle cast long shadows over our bodies. The contrast between the cooler air and the warm water seemed to ignite my desire. Nick seemed to echo the sentiment. He stroked my breast, his mouth devouring my bottom lip. My breasts were already slightly swollen and extremely sensitive; every touch and nibble sent the strongest sensations through my body that I had ever felt. I moaned in need.

Maybe it was Nick’s way of reaffirming our relationship and his dedication to me, but the way he made love to me brought actual tears to my eyes. As I lay across his chest, he brushed a tear away with his finger.

“Did I hurt you?” he asked.

I shook my head. “No, not at all.”

He squeezed me gently. “I’ve never made love with a pregnant woman.”

I lifted my eyes to his. He was smiling down at me, his face lighted in love.

“You’re opinion?”

“Amazing.”

--------------------------------

My mind was still back at Nick and the bathtub as we walked into the restaurant. I clung to Nick’s hand, willing myself to stay calm. He looked over at me.

“It’s okay,” Nick said, giving my hand a reassuring squeeze. I nodded.

Brian and Leighanne were already there. They both stood as we walked up to the table. After hugs all around, Nick pulled out a chair for me. I sat down, picking up a white linen napkin and spreading it across my lap. Nick sat to my right.

We started off with general conversation; what we’ve done the last three weeks, what to expect in Canada. When the food was served and the conversation had hit a comfortable lull, I knew it was time to speak up.

“I have something I need to tell you,” I said, wiping my mouth on the napkin. I felt Nick’s hand cover my knee.

“Oh?” Brian said. He looked at me and then over at Nick.

I wet my lips. After looking down at the table for a moment, I stared across at the striking couple. I didn’t want to tell them. I looked over at Nick for support.

“Liv’s pregnant,” Nick said simply. So much for tact.

Brian’s eyes widened in surprise; Leighanne looked worried.

“Really?” she said. “That’s, wow...”

Brian didn’t say anything. I tried to read his mind; I couldn’t.

“When are you due?” Leighanne continued.

“March 18, give or take,” I said quietly.

Brian turned slightly pale. He pulled out his phone. I knew it wouldn’t take him long; his favorite subject in school after all was math. Take it from a fan who knows.

“Please tell me it’s Nick’s,” Brian finally said in barely a whisper. I winced. Nick leaned over and took a sip of Brian’s wine; I couldn’t fault him. If I could, I would have chugged the whole damn thing.

“We can’t say that for sure,” Nick finally said, setting the glass back over by Brian’s plate.

Leighanne blanched. Grabbing her purse she looked around at us. I could tell she was trying to control her emotions.

Yet as always, she said politely, “Excuse me.”

I watched her walk in the direction of the bathroom.

Brian’s face had gone completely white. He looked like he was counting one more time.

“But you two did…?” he motioned. Nick and I nodded.

“Dozens of times,” Nick said, almost proudly.

“So the chances…”

“Are still about even. It only takes once,” I said. I rubbed my temples; a headache was threatening to erupt.
Brian shook his head. He looked like he was going to be sick. He pushed back his chair and looked at the two of us.

“I need to go check on Leighanne,” he said quietly. We watched him walk off.

“That went well,” Nick said uncomfortably.

“Oh yeah,” I said. Nick reached for Brian’s wine glass again; I smacked his hand.

About ten minutes later, I saw Leighanne and Brian make their way back to the table. They sat down and simultaneously looked at me. I wanted to crawl under the table.

“Can you guys come back to the house?” Leighanne asked. “I think we need to talk about this some more. In private.”

I had never seen Leighanne so cold. Tears threatened to spring into my eyes. Nick placed a hand on my back, rubbing gently.

“We’ll follow you guys,” Nick said.

We got up, no one saying a word. As we followed them through downtown Atlanta and into the suburbs, I thought of all of the things I wanted to say, but nothing I could think of would make this all better.

Somehow I didn’t think Christian forgiveness went so far as forgiving producing a baby with another woman’s husband.
Chapter 56 by evergreenwriter83
Chapter Fifty Six

We gathered outside on the back patio. The house was a beautiful historical home. It reminded me of a plantation home from days gone by. In better times, I could imagine the four of us outside with glasses of sweet tea, us girls in long hooped dresses and the boys in stuffy suits. Instead we sat around in jeans and t-shirts, the air between the four of us uncomfortable to say the least.

“So how far along are you?” Leighanne asked again. Brian held onto her hand tightly.

“Tomorrow I’ll be starting week eight,” I explained. “Leigh, you’ve got to believe me that I didn’t expect for this to happen. My doctor told me that my chances of having children were slim to none.”

“Do you guys have a plan?” Brian asked.

“Well,” Nick said. “I think the only thing we can do is get a DNA test after the baby’s born.”

Brian sighed. Leighanne looked like she was about ready to cry. Brian looked right at me. “I know this isn’t our fault, but this is…” he shook his head.

“If the baby turns out to be Brian’s what….” Leighanne trailed off. She couldn’t even vocalize the possibility.

“I plan on helping Liv raise the baby,” Nick said. “I mean, if I couldn’t have kids I’m sure Brian would hook me up. Right?”

Brian gave him a look. I felt bad for Nick; if those looks were like the ones I had given him lately I’m surprised he hadn’t melted from the glare.

“It’s just,” Brian sighed. “If it is mine; what do we tell Baylee? I just have this horrible nightmare that if we tell Baylee he’s going to be really screwed up. And if we don’t tell Baylee then the way our luck’s running you’ll have a girl and he’ll try to marry his sister.”

It sounded like a bad plot of a V.C. Andrews horror novel. I swallowed hard.

“There’s not much we can do right now,” I said. “But I didn’t want to not tell you guys.”

“This is between the four of us, right?” Leighanne said worriedly. I nodded.

“No one else knows. Anyone that does know I’m pregnant just thinks the baby’s Nick’s. The only other person that will know is my new OB/GYN because they want to do a complete “family” workup.”

Leighanne sighed. “Is there anything you need us to do right now?”

I nodded. “Nick and I are meeting with the OB/GYN in Tampa Bay on Monday,” I explained. “I’m going to need some of Brian’s history; blood type, medical issues in the family, stuff like that.”

Leighanne rose. “We put that together when I was pregnant with Baylee. I’ll go make you a copy.”

She walked inside. Nick took my hand in his. Brian looked at us; he looked so different not grinning and joking around.

“What did you do when you found out?” Brian asked, addressing Nick.

Nick took a deep breath. “I about danced around the room until Liv pointed out the dates.”

Brian raised an eyebrow in surprise. “Really?”

“Yes, really,” Nick said a little defensively.

“You think you’re ready to be a dad?”

“I do,” Nick said without an ounce of doubt in his voice.

“It’s going to turn your world upside down,” Brian said. Nick smiled.

“Life’s only fun when it keeps on turning,” Nick answered back.

“That’s not what you said two years ago when your girlfriend gave you that scare,” Brian said.

Nick sighed. I looked over at him.

“My girlfriend at the time told me she thought she was pregnant,” Nick explained. “I didn’t take it so well.”

“You were unconscious on top of a bar with a shot of tequila on your head,” Brian said.

“Well, I had a little bit of a drug and alcohol problem,” Nick said. “I’m sober now and,” Nick’s voice got softer. “I’m actually in love.”

“I’ve always said things happen for a reason,” Brian said. I saw his jaw harden. “But there’s no good reason for this to be happening.”

All I could do was nod. The sliding glass doors slid open and Leighanne walked out. She handed me a file.

“This is all the info,” she explained. I looked up at her.

“Leigh,” I said softly. “I can’t imagine how angry you are. I don’t want to go on tour and make you miserable. I’m going to back out of the Canadian tour.”

“What? No you’re not,” Nick said. I looked at him and shook my head. I didn’t feel right making Leighanne see me every single day.

“Liv, what are you talking about?” she said. I looked up at her; she seemed surprised.

“I’m angry, yes,” she said. “But my anger isn’t really directed at you. It’s directed at Aaron and…life in general. You need to come with us,” she said. I raised an eyebrow doubtfully. “Really,” she added.

“Leigh, I ---“

“This isn’t going to go away just because you’re not on tour,” she said. “We’ll get through this.”

We stayed for only a few minutes longer. I stayed fairly quiet on our trip back to the hotel.

“I just want to confirm,” Nick said. “You are coming with us, right?”

I sighed. “Yes, I guess so.”

As we got ready for bed, I opened the file folder Leighanne had handed me. I read about Brian’s heart surgery and other general health information. Nick was working quietly on his own family history.

I wondered if Monday would bring us more answers; for all of our sakes, I surely hoped so.

-------------------------------

Monday, August 2

Nick and I spent Sunday at the hotel, ordering room service and ignoring the rest of the world. Around nine a.m. Monday morning, we boarded the plane for a short one hour flight to Tampa Bay. We walked off the plane into a beautiful eighty degree day.

“I had a friend drop of my car,” Nick explained. He led me towards a small SUV.

Under better circumstances and less stress, I knew I could easily fall in love with Tampa. Our drive was only thirty minutes, but the scenery was amazing. Water was everywhere; boats skimmed over the water.

“Like it?” Nick asked, driving along. I nodded.

“It’s beautiful.”

He pulled up to a gorgeous white ocean side house. Bright flowers lined the walk. A balcony wrapped around the whole second story.

I didn’t have much time to enjoy the inside, but the pictures and touches of home reminded me of his condo in LA. I dropped my bags off into his room.

“Have you heard from your mom yet?” Nick asked.

I nodded. Mom was going to put Bitsy on a flight to Washington that would arrive at about the same time we would.

“She should be waiting for us when we land,” I said as I glanced at my watch. “We better head out for my appointment.”

My doctor’s appointment was at noon. By the time we checked in and I filled out new patient paperwork, the doctor was waiting for us. It was a stark contrast to the lateness of Dr. Danielson.

“Good afternoon, I’m Dr. Tresher,” the doctor said with a smile. She had a natural tan that only those who lived beachside could obtain. She reminded me a little bit of Jessie Spano from Saved by the Bell. She was tall and her hair was tightly coiled and out of control. I liked her immediately.

She shook my hand and Nick’s and then sat down leisurely as if she had all the time in the world.

“So how did you find me?” she asked.

Nick smiled. “You came highly recommended.”

She winked at him. “Excellent. Now, Nick told me that we have a, er, unusual problem,” she said, directing her attention to me.

I looked at her. “No one else can know,” I said.

“Ah, that’s the beauty of doctor / patient confidentiality,” she responded. “Whatever we do or talk about stays in this room.”

I felt my shoulders relax.

“Now, did you bring everyone’s family history sheets?” she asked. I handed her my own file and Brian’s. Nick handed her his.

She studied them for several minutes.

“How are you feeling?”

“Well, my previous doctor prescribed some nausea medication,” I said.

“Is it helping?”

I closed my eyes. I had devoured a chocolate donut before we left Atlanta and had begged Nick to swing by McDonald’s on the way here. “Yes, immensely.”

“Well, just by looking at these briefly it looks like we have a few concerns no matter who the father ends up being,” Dr. Tresher explained. I looked at Nick.

“Concerns?” he said.

“Well both you and Brian seem to have some heart issues. We’ll monitor that on an ultrasound, but it’s nothing to panic about right now. What I am worried about are these blood types.”

I looked at her surprised. “Blood types?”

She nodded. “It says here you’re an O-.”

“Yes, I am.”

“Well,” she leaned back. “There’s something called the RH factor that we have to monitor in pregnancy. Now if we knew for certain that Nick was the father, we’d have no problem. Nick’s blood type is A-. Two negatives are absolutely fine. But Brian’s is B+.”

“I guess I don’t understand,” I admitted.

“You’re a negative and Brian’s a positive. Even though mom and baby’s blood systems are separate, there are times when the blood from the baby can enter into the mother's system. This can cause the mother to create antibodies against the Rh factor, thus treating an Rh positive baby like an intruder in her body.”

I felt myself grow pale.

“What can we do to find out if we need to worry about this?” Nick said. At the mention of the word “intruder,”
I saw the same fear fly through his eyes that I felt.

“There’s a process called chorionic villus sampling. We can test the RH factor. In fact,” she smiled. “the sample we take can also be tested for DNA.”

“Is it dangerous?” I asked. It didn’t sound pleasant.

“It’s like an amniocentesis, so yes there are some risks. A small percentage of procedures end in miscarriage.”

I took a deep breath; I glanced over at Nick. He looked conflicted.

“What if we don’t get this done?” Nick asked.

“We can give shots throughout the pregnancy. Of course, there are small side effects of giving the meds to a baby with no risk factor.”

“When do you do this testing?”

She glanced at the chart. “We can do it anywhere from ten to thirteen weeks in. You’re in week eight now, so within the next two to five weeks.”

“Our last concert is August 21,” Nick said.

“If you want to go ahead with it, we can schedule for August 23. If you change your mind you can call me anytime between now and then and we can go with plan B.”

I nodded. “That sounds fine.” The idea of my body rejecting the baby had me scared to death.

“How long will it take to find out the results?” I asked.

“It usually takes less than week.”

“And you said you can test DNA?” Nick said.

Dr. Tresher smiled. “Yes. We wouldn’t do the procedure just to do a DNA test, but since we have this issue I don’t see why we can’t. That way you can continue with the pregnancy knowing for sure. It’ll take some stress of the momma.”

At the idea of having a definitive answer, we made the appointment. As we drove back to Nick’s, I couldn’t help but think that the fact Brian and I were so incompatible was a sign; I crossed my fingers and sent a prayer heavenward.

Please, please little one. Please be Nick’s.
Chapter 57 by evergreenwriter83
Chapter Fifty Seven

I didn’t get to fully enjoy Nick’s beachside home, but I got a really nice taste. After we returned from the doctor’s office, he introduced me to his pups and I toured the house. His master bedroom was even more opulent then the one in LA. Two large walk-in closets that smelled just like him lined one side of the room; the other side of the room had a door that led into a private bath.

“And check this out,” he said. He walked down the hall and threw open a door.

At the moment it was just a large empty room. The walls were painted white; a wide window beheld the beautiful blues of the ocean.

“I thought this might make a nice nursery,” Nick said. He walked into the middle of the room, opening up his arms.

I walked into the room. The soft grey carpet tickled the bottoms of my feet. I could almost picture a white crib and soft pastel curtains framing the window.

Then I heard Dr. Tresher’s voice: “thus treating an Rh positive baby like an intruder in her body.” I shivered.

“What do you think?” Nick asked again. I looked over at him. I’m not gonna cry, I’m not gonna cry…

I burst into tears.

--------------------------------------

After I calmed down and we momentarily shelved the thought of planning the baby’s room, we curled up and watched a movie. We had another early morning planned, and yet another flight.

“Do you have your equipment?” Nick asked as we double checked our carry-on bags. We were waiting for the all clear to board. I unzipped my large black duffel. My cameras were safely cushioned.

“Check,” I said.

An announcement came over the intercom. We were ready to roll. Nick scooped up all three of our carry-ons. After handing our tickets to an attendant, we boarded the plane.

“Oh, do you have your passport?” Nick said. I dug through my purse. For a moment I panicked; then my fingers curled around the small little book.

“Yes,” I said.

“I wouldn’t want to have to smuggle you over the border,” Nick teased.

I smiled. As we buckled up, I took a breath. I hadn’t told Nick, but my stomach was having another rebellious day. I prayed it would hold out until we were at least in the sky.

“You okay?” Nick said as we buckled in. I nodded.

I didn’t make it to altitude. Before we got clearance, I was puking my guts out in the emergency barf bags. Needless to say I didn’t make friends with anybody around us.

“It’s okay,” Nick said, keeping my hair out of my face. I shuddered.

“Oh, yeah,” I said. “Everyone’s just trapped on a plane with a pregnant puking woman for eight hours.” I lurched forward again, my head falling into the bag.

“We have now reached cruising altitude,” the pilot said. He launched into a Barry White croon of the weather conditions and a wish for a comfortable trip. The seat belt light went off. I yanked off my belt and half ran to the bathroom with my barf bag in hand.

Of all the bathrooms I had already puked in, the airplane bathroom was the worst. I washed my face five or six times before I felt clean enough to walk back to my seat. My face was flushed from scrubbing so hard.

“Feel better?” Nick asked as I sank down. I nodded. Weakly I reached into my duffel bag and pulled out my camcorder.

“What are you doing?” Nick asked.

“We’ve started the tour. I want to get your thoughts,” I said.

“You just threw up an entire Egg McMuffin and something purple,” Nick said. “How can you even think about working?”

I smiled. “Distract me.”

I turned on the camera, directing it at him. He rolled his eyes, but as soon as he saw the red light, he smiled charmingly.

“So Nick, are you excited about getting back on tour?” I asked.

“I sure am,” he said. “Shout out to all my peeps.” He made an attempt at his own gang sign.

“Word,” I responded with a laugh. “Tell the fans what’s going on.”

“We’re starting in Washington and then we’re going to head across the border and chill out with some Mounties in good ol’ Canada,” Nick said.

“Do you know what Mounties are?” I asked.

“Dude, I’ve watched Rocky and Bullwinkle. I’ll be like Dudley Do-right. You can be Nell Fenwick.”

I laughed again; it felt good to have the camera back in my hand. “Who’s Snidley Whiplash?”

“Well, if Kev was on tour, I’d say him because he’s always trying to whip me into shape.” Nick made a motion as if cracking a whip. “Now whip it. Into shape. Whip it good,” he sang out. Then he got serious. “But since Kev’s not going on tour, I’m going to say Howie. He’s got the black hair going on. Ooh maybe when he’s sleeping I’ll draw one of those curly mustaches. Don’t post this until I do.”

“Your secret’s safe with me,” I said.

He pressed his eye up to my lens. A stewardess was coming around with drinks.

“Okay homies, I think it’s time to cut it. Nick needs himself some V8 juice. Word.”

I turned off my camera, Nick grinned.

“Was that a good distraction?”

“Very,” I said. The stewardess asked us for drink requests. I asked for a 7-Up; Nick asked for his V8. As I poured my drink over some ice, I looked over at Nick. His eye was up to the can.

I paused in my pouring. “What are you doing?” I asked. Nick seemed in awe.

“It’s like half frozen,” he said, turning the can slowly. “It’s like a V8 slushy.”

The thought of a V8 slushy did me in. Handing him my drink and cup, I raced back to the bathroom.

So much for that distraction.

-------------------------------------

Six long hours later, we finally landed in Washington. Nick slung all of our carry-on bags over his shoulder. While he went to make sure our luggage arrived safely, I checked on Bitsy. My heart leapt when the attendant brought her cage out. Luckily, she hadn’t been waiting long, but her tranquilizer was wearing off; she whined when she saw me.

I felt two little tugs on my jean leg.

“Is that a puppy? Can I see?”

I turned around, cage in hand. Baylee was looking up at me, his eyes full of curiosity.

I kneeled down, resting the cage on my knee. Baylee stuck his hand through the bars, a giggle escaping as Bitsy licked at his tongue.

“She’s cute! Mom says our puppies haven’t come yet.”

I smiled. “I’m sure they’ll be here soon.”

“Are you going to marry uncle Nick?”

The question was so random; my eyes widened in surprise. “What makes you ask that Baylee?”

Baylee grinned. “Nick said---“

“Baylee!”

Both of us looked up to see Leighanne jogging up.

“Don’t run off like that,” she said. Baylee stuck his bottom lip out.

“I was with O-liv-ia!”

Leighanne looked over at me. She smiled softly. I took it as a small sign of progress; I returned the gesture.

“Is that the puppy Nick bought you?” she asked. She stuck her fingers through the bars; Bitsy continued her kisses.

“Yeah, Baylee was just saying your pups haven’t come yet,” I explained. I stood up hoisting the cage into a more comfortable holding position.

“They’ll be here,” she said. “We just have to be patient,” she reminded Baylee. He smiled, leaning back on her leg.

“Nick was just filling us in on what you found out,” she continued. “I guess we’ll know in a month?” I knew she was talking about the CVS test.

I nodded. She looked relieved.

“As soon as we know, we’ll call you guys,” I said. She exhaled deeply.

“Well, until then shall we just try to have a good trip?”

I smiled. “Sounds like a plan.”

“Mom! There they are!”

I headed back to Nick as Leighanne and Baylee grabbed their two little cages.

“We ready?” Nick said. He slid his fingers in the cage. Bitsy nuzzled him with her nose.

I thought about what Baylee said; I couldn’t help but wonder what Nick told him.

“Liv, you okay?”

I shook my head to clear my thoughts. “Hm?”

“You ready? I’ve got all of our bags on the bus. It should be about three hours before we get to Wenatachee. When we get there, the guys are treating the gals to dinner.”

I laughed. “McDonald’s?”

“Only if Howie insists on picking.”

As we headed to the bus, I grinned for the first time in awhile; I felt like we had come full circle.

The memory of Nick jumping into the ball pit at McDonald’s on my very first concert day was permanently etched in my mind. It was almost scary to think of him holding a brand new little person in seven months time.

Seven months.
Chapter 58 by evergreenwriter83
Chapter Fifty Eight

“So here we are in Wenatchee, Washington and our big happy family here is trying to decide where to eat,” Nick explained, as I held the camera. We were all crowded into a black van which had been circling the city for over an hour; the Boys couldn’t come to a consensus on where to eat. We were all getting tired and cranky. I zoomed in on Howie.

“What’s your pick, Howie?” I asked. He slid his sunglasses down his nose, his brown eyes meeting the camera lens dead on.

“Tequila’s Mexican Restaurant,” Howie said.

“I’m not taking Baylee to a place that starts with Tequila,” Brian said. I zoomed in on him.

“What about you Bri?”

“My vote’s on Red Robin. I want one of those onion ring towers.”

I turned. “AJ?”

He glanced out the window. “Smitty’s Pancake & Steak,” he said. “We’ve passed it about three fu—“ he paused as the moms in the room glared at him. “We’ve passed it three times.”

I turned back to Nick.

“And you?”

He smiled. “Well, Tequila’s is out because the last time I had tequila with Howie was a big mistake.”

I saw Howie grin out of the corner of my eye.

“Smitty’s Pancake & Steak makes me think of an overweight Elvis with like this huge stack of pancakes and syrup and then a T-bone steak, which is kinda disgusting. No offense, dawg,” Nick apologized. AJ looked around for young eyes; seeing an all clear, he gave him the finger.

“Okay then, what’s your pick Nick? Side with someone, I’m starving,” I said.

Nick looked at Brian; Brian looked at Nick.

“Red Robin, yummmmm,” they sang in unison.

------------------------------------

“That is the tallest stack of onion rings I’ve ever seen,” Nick said in awe as the waitress put down two humongous orders. He looked like a kid on Christmas; he grabbed the first one off the top.

“So how’s that diet going Nick?” AJ asked. Nick’s eyes narrowed as he looked over at him.

“Mine’s going good,” Nick leaned back, placing a hand on his flat stomach. “You, on the other hand, look like you haven’t hit the gym in a few weeks brothah.”

“We’ve been busy,” AJ said. “We,” he indicated himself and Rochelle. “Have a wedding to plan.”

“He’s a bridezilla,” Rochelle explained.

“Excuse me for wanting this to be awesome,” AJ said.

“He’s had some good ideas,” Rochelle admitted. “Since we’re getting married on Halloween, we’re going to make our rehearsal dinner the day before into a huge costume party.”

“What are your wedding colors?” Leigh asked.

“Black,” AJ said.

Everyone waited for him to continue; he didn’t.

“Just black?” Nick asked.

“I’m wearing white,” Rochelle said. AJ snickered; in return he got a jab in the stomach.

Rochelle discussed their ideas a little more as everyone dug into the onion rings, everyone except me that is. If I wasn’t throwing up, I was belching and I couldn’t think of anything worse to belch than onions. Nick would thank me later.

“Baylee, it’s not a bracelet,” Leighanne said, tugging an onion ring off his wrist.

“But, Nick’s doing it!” Baylee complained.

I looked over at Nick. He dipped his wrist in the zesty sauce and began to eat the ring off his wrist. He looked up when he realized everyone was looking at him.

“What?”

He was saved by the waitress bringing our main entrees. I had ordered a crispy chicken salad. It smelled amazing; I really was starving. I dug in with gusto. In fact, I was the first one done.

“Nick’s rubbing off on you, Liv,” AJ teased. I blushed. What was worse is that I was still hungry. I wished I had grabbed an onion ring while I had a chance, onion breath be damned.

Nick slid his basket my way. “Eat some fries.”

I grabbed a couple; the first tasted rather bland. I picked up the hot sauce that Howie had been hoarding and sprinkled some drops over the remaining potato wedges. . The extra spice did the trick. I closed my eyes and smiled.

“I know that look!” Leigh said. I opened my eyes in surprise; she was smiling at me. Simultaneously, Leighanne frowned.

Howie nodded. “Your smile moment was fries dipped in chocolate sauce,” he added.

“They tasted like your mom’s churros,” Leigh said. “Well, they did at the time at least. Now that sounds so disgusting.”

“Putting hot sauce on fries isn’t weird,” I explained. “I do it all the time.”

I had never had hot sauce before in my life. What was worse was the thought of chocolate fries sounded even better than hot sauce fries. I wasn’t even supposed to be having cravings this early; what a dead giveaway.

“Oh, c’mon,” Leigh said. She looked at me. “Are you or aren’t you?”

“For your sake, I hope you’re not,” Howie said. “Especially considering Nick was just wearing onion rings bracelets.”

I looked over at Nick.

“Oh, just spill the beans you two,” Brian piped up. He looked over at Howie and Leigh.

“We had them down to the house for dinner a few days ago. Nick couldn’t wait to spill the beans. I can’t believe he hasn’t blabbed already,” Brian explained.

Nick took Brian’s opening to jump in. “Well, first of all, there’s nothing wrong with onion ring bracelets. And secondly, yes another Carter is headed into this world.”

“No fucking way. There goes the neighborhood,” AJ announced. He smiled. “Congratulations.”

A round of congratulations echoed around the table.

“So when are you due?” Rochelle asked.

“Late March,” I said.

“Oh good, then you should still be easy to fit into a dress.”

“What?” I said.

“Well, I want to ask you three girls to be in my wedding party,” Rochelle smiled. “AJ wants a best man and six groomsmen so I’m working on getting my seven girls together.”

“Seriously?” Leigh said.

“Yeah,” Rochelle said. “I’m sick of seeing you girls in pastels and bright colors. A little black nail polish, black shoes, and a black dress and you girls will look hot.”

“And I want Baylee to be our ring bearer,” AJ said.

“And James came be in a little wagon with one of my tiny flower girls,” Rochelle said.

By the end of the meal everyone had been assigned a roll in the McLean wedding and my baby issue was forgotten. As we all walked back to the van, AJ and Rochelle began to argue about the smallest of details. I couldn’t help but agree with Rochelle; AJ did seem to be quite the diva. Even so, it was shaping up to be the wedding of the century.

If they didn’t kill each other before the tour was over, that is.

-------------------------------

“We wouldn’t have been able to keep it a secret,” Nick said as we lay curled up in his bed.

“I know,” I sighed. “I would have felt worse about it if Brian hadn’t spoken up first.”

Nick lifted my shirt; he leaned down and kissed my stomach. “You need to eat more. You don’t even have a bump.”

I snorted. “Give me another month or two.”

Nick sighed, resting his head under my chest. I tousled his hair.

“This baby’s got to be mine,” Nick reasoned. “Look at all the chaos he or she has caused already.”

I traced the letters of his KAOS tattoo down his back.

I laughed. “You certainly have a point.”

I only wished the test could be that simple.
Chapter 59 by evergreenwriter83
Chapter Fifty Nine – Washington

The next afternoon everyone was completely back to business. The guys had just finished their 4-song sound check. After sliding up onto barstools; the VIP coordinator gave the all clear for the fans to throw out some questions for the Q&A.

Almost every one of our previous stops had a Q&A; for the most part, repetitive questions were asked at each one - ‘What is your favorite song?’; ‘When’s the next album coming out?’ and so on. Even though the questions did start out innocently enough, the Washingtonians had done their homework; I don't think the guys knew what hit them.

"Nick, what's your favorite BSB song?" a girl piped up.

"Right now? Masquerade," Nick said.

"Is that because your girlfriend's in it?" another girl spoke up.

Nick looked to his left; then his right.

"Dude, you don't have a cheat sheet,' AJ said with a laugh.

Nick laughed. "That's probably one of the reasons, yes." He looked over in my direction.

I smiled.

"Howie what was James' first word?"

"Dada," Howie said proudly.

"It's just because it's easier to say than mama," Brian added. Howie gave him a look.

"What? I've read Dr. Spock!"

"When's your wedding, AJ?"

AJ grinned. "Ah, that's still classified information."

"Do you have a date set?"

"Yes, I can tell you that much."

"Nick are you still playing World of Warcraft?"

Nick nodded. "Haven't played it in a few weeks; but totally. I'm still looking for some more mohawk grenades. I pity the fool that gets attacked with my mohawk grenades."

"Brian, are you and Leighanne planning on giving Baylee a little brother or sister anytime soon?"

I saw a flash of panic cross Brian’s face and I can say for certain that I know where his mind went at the moment. He seemed to shake it off in seconds and with perfect comedic timing, slid off his barstool dramatically much to the amusement of the entire audience. He slapped his way back up to the seat, then grabbed his mic again.

"Why don't I get an easy question? My favorite song's Siberia," Brian squeaked. The audience booed.

"You've got to answer," Howie said.

"Well when are you going to have another baby?"

"James just turned one!"

Brian threw up his hands. With a defeated smile, he leaned forward. He seemed to be choosing his words carefully. "Let's see...hmmm. Well, Leighanne and I've talked about this before, so we have thought about it, but there's something amazingly wonderful when you realize that you don't have to buy diapers anymore and the risk of being puked on with sour milk is gone." The audience laughed.

"Plus," Brian added. "the other bad thing about having more than one child is that I don't think I'd be able to give enough quality time to two kids. I mean we're gone on the road a lot, right guys?" Nick, AJ, and Howie nodded. "Which reminds me of a little story I’m gonna share with you guys," Brian added. He launched into his story; he definitely had a captive audience.

"We were gone for about four or five months last year overseas and on the first day back I took Baylee with me to a baseball game. Well Leighanne had been taking him everywhere and he was used to go into the women's restroom. So we go into the men's and he thought the urinals were a ring toss game. Then he had me hold him up to the mirror so he could primp his hair. That's when I knew he was spending way too much time with mama."

The audience laughed as Brian mimed twisting a lock of hair around his fingers.

"We signed him up for karate classes that same week," Brian added with flourish.

Brian's story seemed to do the trick; attention was sufficiently diverted to other boys.

"AJ, who do you think will have the next Backstreet baby?" a girl asked.

"Well, I could be cocky and say me and Rochelle," AJ said. "But if I was a betting man, which I am, I'm going to put my money on Howie and Leigh."

Howie opened his mouth to argue, but AJ cut him off.

"Don't argue with me, Dorough. First of all you've told all of us you want a big family and secondly you're a hot blooded Latino. Am I right ladies?"

A cheer went up. I caught Nick's eye; he winked.

The Boys had our backs. Even so, if the questions were fast and personal before, the last question trumped them all.

"Hey Nick, are you getting married any time soon?" a fan yelled out after the cheer for Howie had died down. Nick looked caught off guard.

"Man you guys are ruthless," Nick said with a nervous laugh. "Is it hot in here?" He tugged at the collar of his shirt.

"I'm interested in this question too," AJ said, leaning on his mic stand.

"Me three," Brian said, leaning past Howie to give Nick a punch on the shoulder. Nick looked at me; he seemed kind of panicked.

"Soon is such a vague term," Nick said. He rolled his mic between his palms.

"Like in the next couple years?" the same fan clarified.

"Oh, okay...you're giving me a timeframe. Hmm..." he looked up at the sky for a moment before looking out at the crowd again. "Never say never," he answered simply with a cheeky grin.

At that second, I think he broke every single heart in that crowd. The looks on the girl’s faces were priceless.

The event coordinator took the moment of silence to come out to organize the autograph signing; I stole backstage to get a drink.

I wasn't even divorced yet and already the idea of remarrying had come up for the second time in three days. As I grabbed a water from a large bucket of ice backstage, I couldn't help but wonder if I even wanted to get married again.

I used to think marriage lasted forever; after getting burned once I thought maybe it would be a jinx to try it again.

And that was even if Nick was serious.

--------------------

After the autograph session was over, the guys hung around backstage. Brian had helped Baylee draw a hopscotch pattern off to the side. AJ was hopping along, his glasses bouncing as he went. Just as he attempted to hop over his rock, he lost his balance. Baylee jumped up and down.

"I win!"

Nick and I laughed and clapped; we made good spectators.

"That was some firing squad wasn't it?" I asked Nick as Leighanne joined Baylee for another game.

Nick laughed.

"You're telling me. Those girls were out for dirt. I much prefer the 'what is your favorite color?'
questions. I owe AJ big time for not ratting us out with the baby question."

I smiled. "Yeah, he executed that perfectly."

I didn't bring up the last question; neither did Nick.

"Have you ever been to Canada?" Nick asked. I shook my head.

"Nope; my first time."

"I think you'll like it. They kind of remind me of our English fans. Kind of reserved."

I laughed. "Unlike us crazy Americans."

"Hey, we've had some insane crowds. South America...Japan..."

"Yes, but something tells me you eat up the insanity."

Nick laughed. "Yeah."

I stood up to get a fresh bottle of water. I don't know whether Nick didn't see the huge basin of ice before or if it just hadn't occurred to him until that very moment, but he let out a whoop of excitement.

"What?" I asked turning around. Nick was grinning ear to ear.

"Hey AJ, remember my Nick's Corner episode?" Nick asked. AJ looked confused for a moment until he followed Nick's line of vision to the basin of ice. His eyes widened.

"Nick, no."

"I didn't say anything."

“You didn't need to. NO!"

"C'mon it will be Nick's Corner 2.0 – Boys on Ice: The Rematch," Nick said, holding his hands out in front of him like he was already envisioning it. As he did so, Howie walked by. Nick grabbed his arm.

"Howie, see how long you can hold your head in the ice," Nick said. Howie sighed.

"Are you serious? This again? I'm not doing it."

"Why not?"

"It's stupid!"

"What's stupid?" Brian asked.

Nick pointed to the bucket of ice; Brian winced.

"Man, I remember that. My forehead was red all night."

Nick sighed dramatically. "You guys used to be fun. Where's your adventure? Where's your spirit? Where's your honor?"

Brian and AJ looked at each other. Howie tried to sneak away; AJ held onto his jacket sleeve.

"Who won last time?" AJ asked.

Brian smiled. “That would be me.”

That's all Nick needed to hear; he held out his hand, I placed the camera in his palm. Within seconds the red light roared to life.

"Welcome everyone to Nick's Corner 2.0. It's been a long, long time, my friends. I'm pleased to bring you the great Ice Off 2010."

He paused and looked over at me. "Maybe you can splice in some footage from the first Ice Off," Nick said. I smiled. "I'll see what I can do."

He unpaused the camera.

"Here are our challengers."

He turned the camera towards himself, smiling brightly. "Hi." Then he turned it to Brian.

Brian waved halfheartedly. "My forehead's already hurtin' just thinkin' about it."

Nick turned to AJ. AJ was already looking at the bucket warily.

"I think your problem last time was all of your piercings got cold faster than your bald head, Jizzle," Nick said.

AJ mouthed 'fuck you' to the camera. Nick laughed.

"And last but not least we have Hizzle who will be entering our contest for the very first time."

"I'm not doing it, Nick."

Nick lowered the camera. "Dude, don't make me hold your head down in that ice. Do this for your son. Don’t be a wuss. It’s not like you’re going to ruin your sweater vest."

Howie rolled his eyes. "I don't think I want my son seeing footage of me acting like a jackass," he explained.

"Everyone will throw in fifty bucks and whoever wins gets the money," Nick said, upping the ante.

"I'm not throwing in fifty bucks," AJ said. Nick sighed.

"Fine I'll throw in your fifty," he glanced at Howie. "And Howie's fifty."

Brian held out a fifty dollar bill. "I'm in."

Nick plucked the bill from his hand. "See at least someone's a good sport."

“That’s just because I know the odds are in my favor,” Brian said.

I glanced at my watch. "Guys, if you're going to do this you have about fifteen minutes before you have to get dressed."

"Who's going first?" Nick said. He panned to each guy; they all looked at him.

"Fine, chickens." He handed the camera to me and walked up to the bucket. I saw him take several deep breaths; without warning he plunged his head into the bucket. His arms flailed momentarily at his sides, then he tensed up. I could hear him breathing through clenched teeth.

"Five, six...seven....eight," AJ counted. As the numbers increased he got slower and slower. "eleven...twelve...thirteen....."

"ARGH!" Nick's head flew out of the bucket. He shook it like a dog; water flew everywhere. His hands clamped over his forehead.

AJ burst out laughing. "Man, it's still funny."

"Then you go next," Nick said, his teeth chattering. He began bending his body up and down to warm himself up.

AJ walked over, I saw his fists clench tightly. Brian kneeled down by the bucket to be the official counter. Nick, having recovered slightly, took the camera from me and zoomed in.

"My heart's pounding, man," AJ said. He looked over at Nick. "I’m giving you the same warning as last time. Don't you dare hold my head under."

Nick held up one hand. "Swear, dude."

AJ stared down at the water. Like Nick he was going through his own ritual of preparation. I saw him squeeze his eyes closed; the next moment his head was sailing downward fast.

When his face smashed into the ice I heard a long curse. His hands curled around the sides of the bucket. He seemed to be trying to hold himself in.

"Four...five..." Brian counted. By the time Brian hit 'seven,' AJ's head flew upwards.

"Oh my god!" he cried, twirling around. His warm breath actually produced fog.

As this was going on, I saw Howie inching away slowly. Just before he was ready to turn and bolt, Brian stuck out his leg.

"D, you're next," Brian said.

"Just think, two hundred dollars if you last," Nick said. He took out the bills and waved them in the air.
“It’s not worth it,” Howie said.

At that moment Leigh walked over with James. Nick walked over and began to make faces at James. James burst out laughing.

“See, even your son’s excited to see this.”

A chant of ‘Go Howie, Go Howie,” erupted from Nick, Brian, and AJ. Even Leigh chimed in. Seeing no means of escape, Howie walked over to the bucket.

“On your mark,” Nick said.

“Get set,” Brian said.

“GO!” AJ screamed.

Howie dunked his head. Nick began to count. By the time he made it up to fifteen, Howie still hadn’t reemerged.

“Did he die?” Brian said, leaning over to get a better view.

AJ reached over, tickling Howie’s neck. Howie jumped up. AJ flew back surprised.

“What the fudge man?!” Howie said, covering his neck with his hand. “I was in my zone! How long was I down?”

“Seventeen seconds,” AJ said in awe.

“Brian, you’re up,” Nick said.

“I can’t compete with seventeen seconds!”

“C’mon man,” Nick complained.

With a groan Brian leaned over the ice bucket. He stamped his feet and dived in.

“Nine…ten….eleven…twelve…”

Brian fell to the floor holding his head. Howie plucked the money from Nick’s hand.

“Nice doing business with you gentlemen!” he said happily as he headed towards the changing room.

Nick’s Corner 2.0 Episode 1 was officially complete.
Chapter 60 by evergreenwriter83
Chapter Sixty – British Columbia

After the concert in Washington in which all four boys were extremely alert, we boarded the busses and headed on our way to Canada. Our first stop was British Columbia.

I guess I had expected a vast wilderness, but in all actuality, Vancouver was a big bustling city. I was sitting backwards on the couch, my chin resting on the back as I looked out at the landscape of a Canadian morning. Nick came up behind me and leaned over me, his head resting on mine.

“Whatcha think?”

“It’s a city.”

Nick laughed; the sound reverberated on the top of my head. “Yeah, they have those here.”

He slid up on the couch, tugging me back from the window. My palms fell onto his shoulders as we went falling down in a heap. He began to nibble my neck; my eyes fluttered closed. His hand slid under my shirt.

Every time we had ever tried to do anything on the couch we were always interrupted. This time was no exception. Even though the bus was moving; Nick’s phone ended our pajama striptease.

“This couch has bad joojoo,” Nick said as he grabbed his phone from the windowsill. “Hello?” he answered a little huffily.

I headed to the bathroom. I was in the middle of a fairly warm shower when Nick walked in. The blast of cold air sent goosebumps up my arms.

“Hey!” I complained. He slid the door open. He was grinning ear to ear.

“You’re a genius,” he said with gusto. I raised an eyebrow.

“No, I’m naked,” I said. “And I’m freezing. Close the door.”

“No, that was Howie,” Nick said. “Masquerade hit the VH1 Top Twenty Countdown this week. We’re number eighteen and rising.”

I turned the water off quickly. “Really?” I said. “Really?”

Nick laughed. “Really!”

I jumped at him, wrapping my arms around my neck. I kissed him happily. “That’s terrific!”

He kissed me back. I was dripping water, but he didn’t seem to care. He scooped me up.

“Let’s see if the bed has better joojoo,” he said huskily.

I’m glad to report, it did.

-------------------------------------

“So do you have any more amazing ideas?” Howie said as we finished up lunch at a restaurant near the concert venue. He squeezed me. “I could kiss you right now.”

I laughed. I had already kissed two Backstreet Boys, I didn’t think I wanted to go for a hat trick.

“What do you mean amazing ideas?” I said.
Howie grinned. “C’mon Masquerade is the first video we’ve had in a countdown in forever. Plus, between the U.S. tour and the exposure, our album sales are up. Way up.”

I grinned. I couldn’t have asked for better news, but I still didn’t think I was the contributing force.

“That’s all you guys,” I said. “You’ve worked really hard.”

AJ shook his head. “No that video and working it back to Everybody was classic. At the Washington meet and greet I had fans coming up and saying they hadn’t thought about us in years. That’s something.”

“So, like I said, do you have another vision?” Howie asked.

I bit my lip. I did have another idea, but…

“That’s a classic sign. She does have something else brewing,” Nick said brushing past me. I narrowed my eyes. With a leap, I jumped on him from behind. His arms went quickly around my legs as my arms wrapped around his neck.

“Hey, be careful!” he complained. I rested my head on the top of his.

“You weren’t worried about careful earlier,” I whispered in his ear.

“My feet are tired,” I complained out loud for the sake of the others. My idea of snowy Canadian was completely ruined; my flip flops were basically melting on the pavement.

Nick laughed and continued to walk back to the venue, gripping me tightly. I looked over at Howie.

“I do have an idea,” I admitted. “But it involves the cruise. And an unreleased song.”

“We’re all ears,” Howie said.

Ten minutes later we were cooling off at the General Motors Place. Nick was holding a water fan up to Baylee’s face. His eyes were squished tight, his mouth open.

“Okay, spill,” AJ said.

“It involves Figured You Out,” I explained. “I love that song; it’s got a great beat. I hate that you guys didn’t put in on as a main track.”

“That was one of our favorites too,” Brian said. He scooped Baylee up and tipped him upside down; Baylee burst into giggles as water gushed out of his mouth. I smiled.

“I’m thinking that we could film some of the scenes a couple days before the cruise. I can see getting four really pretty girls and each of you acting out the scene.”

Howie had a notebook and pen ready. He started to scribble down notes. “Go on.”

“Let me see if I remember correctly,” I closed my eyes. “Brian begins with You had me waiting even on a second date/ I picked you up took you to your favorite place / I saw you flirting but I looked the other way. I’m thinking an interior restaurant scene with the girl flirting with the waiter and Brian burying his head in the menu.”

“I can drown my sorrows in food,” Brian said, setting Baylee right side up again. Baylee tackled him in a huge bear hug.

I laughed. “Then we turn to Nick. His lines are…”

Nick began to sing. “You woke me up and said you had a place to go / Just grabbed my keys you took my car and stole my phone / I knew I shouldn’t but I let you get away.”

I closed my eyes; I loved that voice. “That’s it. I can see Nick in bed and the girl waltzes by completely dressed and picks up his keys and phone from the dresser. Then we see Nick getting up and looking out his window as the girl gets into a red sports car and zooms off. Nick throws his hands in the air then places them on the windowpane.”

I cracked my knuckles. Without hearing the song I was having a hard time remembering.

“The chorus is next,” Howie said.

I reached into my equipment bag and quickly pulled out my Ipod and earphones. I located the song and sat for a minute listening to the words. The chorus was I’m not a player / I’m not a clown / I won’t be a puppet just hanging around / You need another man to put diamonds on your hands / and let you take his car / I found out who you are / I finally figured you out. I snapped my fingers.

“The chorus is the dance sequence with all four of you. I can almost see a kick back to N’Sync with the puppets on a string. It would be cool to put in some elements of The Call into it as well. Instead of you guys being the targets, the girls are. So after the chorus Brian and Nick’s girls are X’ed out. Then we have AJ’s verse.”

AJ’s verse went I should have seen it coming / You were just pretend / Used up my credit card and maxed it til the end / I wish I’d known before I hit the ATM / Oh no, it happened again. “I see AJ at an ATM. Remember how The Call zoomed in on the disconnected phone call? I’m seeing this video zooming in on the ATM screen with a message that says ‘Maxed’ or ‘Zero Balance.’ Then I see AJ turning and falling to the ground with his arms held out, screaming ‘again.’ The camera then zooms across town to where the girl is counting out all the money. Then there’s the chorus again and AJ’s girl is X’ed out.

“Then there’s my favorite part,” I finished a little breathlessly. “The part that goes I’m going away / far, far away/ I’m going away / so far away / I’m going away / far, far away. That’s where I’d love to see a shot from the dock of the cruise ship pulling away and you guys on deck singing.”

Howie paused in his writing. He looked at me and a grin spread across his face. “Excellent.”

“And, I think we could still work in a fourth girl so Howie gets to X someone out. The next lines are I’m gonna pack your bags and kick you out / I’m sorry, but I figured you out. I see Howie tossing this pink suitcase off the boat at a girl watching from the dock. The suitcase opens and all of her stuff flies into the water. Then her picture is X’ed out. The last repetition of the chorus is then danced out on the ship in front of the fans.”

I held out my hands. “That’s all I got.”

“The prego’s a fucking visionary,” AJ said. Brian covered Baylee’s ears. Baylee laughed, putting his small hands over Brian’s big ones.

“You’re killing me AJ,” Brian said. “Leighanne’s going to make the poor kid wear earmuffs around you.”

“I’m sorry!” AJ said.

“This is totally doable,” Howie said, holding up the notebook. “Maybe we could even rerelease the album with that song and one or two other unreleased tracks.”

“Like Happily Never After,” Nick said. I smiled. I wouldn’t forget what he did with that song anytime soon.

“So all we need for this video are four skanky girls,” AJ said. “Sweet.”

“Which puts all of us girls off the hook,” I added.

“Well especially you,” Nick said. “You’ll be like six months pregnant by then.”

It didn’t seem possible, but he was right.

“Hey guys, do you realize you should have started sound check five minutes ago?” Leighanne said, poking her head around the corner where we assembled in a circle of folding chairs.

“Fuck!” Baylee said loudly.

“BAYLEE THOMAS WYLEE LITTRELL!” Leighanne yelled. Baylee slid off Brian’s lap and took off like a madman. Leighanne turned angrily to Brian. He scooted down in the chair and pulled his hat down over his face.

AJ whistled innocently.

“Exit, stage right,” he said, doing a jig out to the crowd.

Nick walked by me grinning. “That was classic.”

Brian ducked by me, dodging a smack from Leighanne. As soon as he was sure she couldn’t see his face, even he grinned.

At that moment I prayed for a girl.
Chapter 61 by evergreenwriter83
Chapter Sixty One – Alberta

The scenery of Alberta was a little more like the Canada I had expected. The sound check and the concert the day before had gone well, even with the guy’s late start. Baylee had been grounded and relegated to the bus. I had a feeling Brian received an earful as well; but I wasn’t sure.

The busses had stopped at an IHOP right on the outskirts of Calgary. My mind couldn’t have been farther from breakfast; I was christening the busses toilet with another bout of morning sickness. Nick sat beside me, holding my hair and doing a word search.

“Doesn’t this gross you out?” I groaned, as I wiped my face with a cold washcloth.

“Nope,” Nick said. “Ooh, I found brisket. It was backwards.”

The thought of brisket reminded me of eating. The thought of eating brought around another round of toilet hugging. It was only nine o’clock in the morning and I was exhausted. After feeling fairly certain that I couldn’t possibly throw up any more, I crawled back to bed. Nick tucked me in and then ran inside the restaurant to get a quick bite to eat. Bitsy, who was not a fan of the bus, jumped up to provide an added layer of comfort. Her wet nose nuzzled my arm.

I was drifting off to sleep when I heard a knock at the bedroom door.

“Anyone home?”

It was Leighanne.

“Come in Leigh,” I called out. She came in; I couldn’t help but envy her. She looked amazing while I looked…well, Bride of Frankenstein was the only description that came to my mind.

“I brought you something,” she said. I wrinkled my nose.

“Thank you, but I can’t eat. I think this is going to be another day where I can’t keep anything down.”

She shook her head. “No this will help.” She set a cup down on my nightstand. “Ginger tea. It’s nature’s wonder morning sickness reliever.”

I looked at her doubtfully. “Seriously?”

She smiled. “I absolutely thought I was going to die until my midwife suggested I start drinking a cup every morning. After that I could actually eat again.”

I took the mug and cautiously took a sip. It wasn’t half bad. I felt the warm liquid slide down my throat to my stomach. It felt kind of nice.

“Not bad, right?” she asked. She sat down on the edge of the bed.

“Not bad,” I agreed. We looked at each other.

“Liv…”

“Leigh…”

We laughed. Leighanne spoke first. “Liv, I’ve got to admit something to you.”

I looked at her surprised. “Admit something?”

Leighanne sighed. “I think I'm going crazy thinking about the possibility that this baby could be Brian’s.”

“I wouldn’t expect any less,” I said quietly. I took another sip of tea just to avoid her eyes.

“No, you don’t understand,” she said quickly. I couldn’t help it; I looked over at her. She seemed to be choosing her words carefully.

“Every since you told me about this I can’t get the idea of another baby out of my mind. Like Brian told the fans, we had decided to count our blessings with Baylee. God gave us such a great gift. But then this happened and I…”

“What are you saying, Leigh?” I asked.

“I’m saying,” she smiled. “I wish it was me instead of you. I guess maybe, oh hell, I’m jealous.”

I couldn’t help it; I laughed a little. “Seriously? Jealous? Leighanne, this is definitely not the way I wanted things to work out.”

Leighanne nodded. “I know that. It’s just, I can’t exactly tell Brian how I feel. He already feels terrible. Not, that you don’t,” she amended. “But, woman to woman, I thought you out of everyone might be able to see where I’m coming from.”

I reached out and touched her arm. The ginger tea was already pepping me up. “As someone who was told she could never have children, I completely understand the jealousy thing.”

We shared a smile. She leaned over and gave me a hug.

“If it’s Brian’s, this is going to be one spoiled child,” she added before letting me go. I smiled. “No matter what it’s going to be one spoiled child,” I amended. She nodded, standing up.

“Thanks for the tea, Leighanne,” I said, holding up the cup. She nodded.

“Rest for a couple hours. I guarantee you’ll feel much more human when you wake up.”

After she walked out I finished the cup down to the last drop. Reclining into a massive pile of pillows I let my eyes close.

I had no doubt she was right. In fact, just our little talk had me feeling 100% better.

---------------------------------

I slept so soundly that I didn’t hear Nick come back on the bus nor his phone ring. I woke up just as he was finishing up his call.

“No, this is perfect news. So, as soon as we hear the results we should get it wrapped up quickly, right? Wonderful. Thank you Jim.”

Nick hung up and slid the phone back in his pocket.

“Who’s Jim?”

He spun around surprised. “I didn’t know you were up.”

“I just woke up,” I said, yawning loudly. “What’s going on?”

“Well,” Nick said, lying beside me. “Remember how you said I could contact a lawyer and see if I could find a loophole to the Hunter mess?”

I nodded. “I remember.”

“I just received a phone call from Jim, the lawyer that represents our group. Howie found him a couple years ago and he’s absolutely terrific. I told him what was going on with Hunter and the suspension of your divorce. I also told him that you had to have a test that could also be used for DNA.”

“And?”

“Well, when we get the DNA results Jim said he can submit those to the court to prove that Hunter isn’t the father. After that’s done, he thinks the case could be closed in a matter of a month.”

I looked at Nick in surprise. “Seriously?”

“Jim looked at Wisconsin law. The only thing the law says is that the issue of paternity has to be settled. The CVS testing will solve that. So, when we get the results we pass them to Jim and he takes care of the rest.”

“That’s great, but what if the baby’s Brian’s?” I asked. “If Hunter insists on seeing the results he’ll see that and that’s going to open another can of worms.”

Nick shook his head. “The only thing that has to be disclosed is the fact that the results indicate with certainty that Hunter isn’t the father. He has no legal recourse to demand on knowing exactly who is the father.”

I smiled. “Seriously?”

Nick grinned. “Seriously. So by, oh, October 1 at the latest you should be a free woman.”

I hugged him tightly. “That’s amazing.”

A muffled laugh came from him. He pulled away. “That’s not the only thing that’s amazing.”

I looked at him in surprise. “What else?”

“Jim’s going to make sure that Hunter has to pay for the testing,” Nick grinned. “That test is hella expensive. I figure that’s the least he can do for making our lives a living hell.”

I smiled. “That sounds good to me.”

Nick picked at a piece of hair that was sticking to my cheek.“By the way, how are you feeling?” he asked.

I closed my eyes. I was actually hungry. “I feel much better. But I do have a request,” I said.

“What?”

“Well, first, food. Second, a case of ginger tea.”

I figured I needed all I could get.

-----------------------------

I was extremely thankful that I was feeling better by show time. If I had been laid up in bed, I would have missed the first Canadian prank. It was too great to be missed.

My assumption that Brian had gotten an earful about Baylee’s outburst was correct. As the boys were getting dressed, I spotted Brian sneaking out. Turning on my camera, I followed him.

As usual, the stagehands had placed a bottle of water for each boy at a certain place on the stage. AJ’s was on the far right. I tiptoed behind Brian as he kneeled down and picked up the bottle.

“What are you doing Littrell?” I whispered. He jumped.

“You scared me!” he said back in a loud whisper. I smiled. “What are you doing?”

His eyes sparkled mischievously. “I’m putting a soap mixture in his water bottle,” Brian said. “One sip should have him singing bubbles.”

I laughed. “Really?” I watched him put an eyedropper full in the bottle. “Won’t he notice?”

Brian shook his head. “It doesn’t bubble in the bottle, only once he takes a swallow will his mouth taste like soap.”

“That’s disgusting.”

Brian laughed. “That’s the point. It came in a magic kit we got Baylee last year and I took it out for myself. Now we’ll see if it actually works.”

An hour later I crouched by the stage; my camera had been trained on AJ pretty much the whole time. I kept waiting for him to take a sip. He took his sweet time, but finally within the first few lines of If I Knew Then he took a big gulp.

The expression on his face was priceless. His tongue darted out of his mouth as his face screwed up in disgust. He looked at the other guys suspiciously; everyone, especially Brian was focused on the crowd.

AJ shook off the taste and opened his mouth to sing. I couldn’t suppress a laugh as a huge bubble flew out of his mouth. He tried again; a few more little bubbles escaped.

By this time Brian couldn’t help it anymore. As the crowd cheered, he fell on the floor laughing. AJ ran over and began to yell at him; a stream of bubbles sailed up into the air. Brian was laughing so hard he was crying; I saw him reach out and pop one of the last bubbles. The effect didn’t last long but for the few minutes it did, it was great. A stagehand finally swapped AJ’s tainted bottle with a fresh and after a big swig, he was good to go.

“What was that stuff?” Nick asked as they headed off stage. Brian grinned. “Payback.”

“That was not cool man; the stuff tasted like shit.”

“Watch the language McLean or else you’ll get another dose,” Brian warned. AJ rolled his eyes.

“Leighanne has you so whipped.”

Brian wrinkled his nose. “Just you wait AJ, just you wait.”

AJ just laughed. “It’s not going to happen; no one can tame me.”

I stopped short of the dressing room door as the guys went in to change. Rochelle came up beside me smirking.

“No one can tame him?” she snorted. “Oh that boy has no idea.”

I watched her walk off; she seemed to be devising a plan right in front of my eyes.

Somehow I feared it had something to do with whips and chains; in which case I didn’t want to be anywhere near them when the taming took place.
Chapter 62 by evergreenwriter83
Chapter Sixty Two – Manitoba

“Where are we going?” Leigh asked. It had been a busy day. After a successful morning with a cup of ginger tea, I had worked several hours on posting the first Nick’s Corner 2.0 clip, concert photographs and little snippets of rehearsal footage. Then it was off to sound check, a quick dinner, and the concert. Now we were bouncing along in a big van, and like Leigh, I had no clue where we were going.

“Manitoba has over 100,000 lakes,” Nick explained. “Since we have a free day tomorrow, we thought we’d treat our lovely ladies to something special. He glanced back at his laptop. “Lake Winnipeg is in the top 20 of the world’s largest lakes.”

I laughed. “Where are you getting this information?”

Nick grinned. “Wikipedia.”

“So are we going to Lake Winnipeg?”

I received another grin. “Maybe.”

About a half hour later, our bumpy trip ended. Nick and I were the last ones out of the van. I heard ooh’s and ahh’s from the other girls; I looked at Nick. Yet another grin.

“Patience.”

When I stepped out I joined in. “Ooh.”

A huge houseboat was docked at the lake; string after string of large white lanterns were strung along the entire boat.

“We thought that instead of a hotel, we could stay at the S.S. Backstreet,” Brian said.

“A five bedroom houseboat seemed about right,” Howie said. Leigh help onto James with one arm and clung to Howie with the other, her face lit up in excitement. I can imagine my face looked pretty similar.

As Nick and I walked past Brian and Leighanne I heard her whispering to Brian. “Baylee’s supposed to be grounded!”

“Aww, c’mon, Leigh.”

I didn’t see Brian’s face but moments later Baylee ran past us giggling like a free bird. Brian and Leigh’s dogs and Bitsy took off after him, jumping over each other and barking like crazy.

AJ was already twirling Rochelle around on deck. She held onto the beret she wore, her head tossed back in a laugh.

“James can sleep in the fifth bedroom with Baylee,” Howie explained to Leigh. She looked at him uncertainly.

“I don’t know…”

“Oh, c’mon Leigh the guys dying to get some; humor him for one night,” AJ said. Even through the darkness, I could see Leigh’s beautiful complexion redden.

After we all staked claim on a room, we met back up on the deck. It was going on one a.m., but no one seemed especially tired. Leighanne and Leigh went to put the kids down while the rest of us pulled pillows from every room and curled up to enjoy the calming evening air.

Nick was the first to fall down on a huge mountain of pillows. I sank down beside him; he pulled me close. A few minutes later I heard Leighanne and Leigh’s footsteps heading towards their respective husband.

The quiet lasted only a few moments; AJ, always the talker, spoke up.

“Hey Nick, truth or dare?”

Nick laughed. “What?”

“Truth or dare?”

“Truth.”

“Have you ever worn woman’s lingerie?”

I laughed. Somehow I thought I knew the answer.

Nick groaned. I looked at his face; the answer was written all over.

“Yes.”

AJ laughed. Rochelle jabbed him. “Hey, don’t make me get out the pictures, McLean.”

He shut up quickly.

“Brian, truth or dare?”

I saw him grin over at Leighanne. She rolled her eyes. “Dare,” he said.

“I dare you to go into the bathroom and make a shirt out of toilet paper. You have to wear it for the next half hour.”

Brian grinned. He ran off down to the bathroom.

“And you have to sleep with that,” Leigh reminded Leighanne. She made a face.

“Don’t remind me!”

“Liv, truth or dare?” Rochelle asked.

I looked over at her surprised. “Me?”

“Anyone else here named Liv?”

I smiled sheepishly. “Truth.”

“Have you ever kissed another girl?”

Three male heads swiveled in my direction. I laughed. “What?”

“Inquiring minds want to know,” AJ said.

I smiled sweetly. “Yes, I have.”

AJ scoffed. “I don’t believe it. You’re too goody goody.”

“She’s not that goody goody,” Howie said. “Not with a mini-Carter on the way.”

At that moment Brian walked back up on deck. His toilet paper shirt was an absolute train wreck; even so, he took a moment to model for the crowd before sitting down.

“My turn. Let’s see Howie, truth or dare?”

“Truth.”

The game continued for the next couple of hours. The highlights were Nick giving AJ a lap dance and AJ diving off the boat into the water. By three a.m., I was leaning against Nick half asleep.

“Guys we’re going to bed,” Nick whispered. He scooped me up.

“Night guys,” I whispered.

The mass of pillows and blankets were shuffled into their perspective room. Nick set me down and climbed in next to me, throwing our pillows back on the bed as he went. He leaned over and kissed me softly.

“Night, Liv.”

“Night, Nick.”

----------------------------------------

God bless days off. We slept in extremely late. The guys made breakfast for the girls. With Brian’s help, Baylee made a special heart pancake for Leighanne. Then he made a rehearsed speech that I’m sure Brian had drilled in his head about not saying “bad” words. AJ stood up and repeated the same speech. I believed Baylee; AJ was a whole ‘nother story.

“Liv, are you going to stay in Florida once the tours over?” Leigh asked.

I looked over at Nick. “I, er, we haven’t really talked about that. I’m supposed to go back to work at the library full time September 1.”

“Where are you going to live after the baby’s born?” Rochelle asked.

Again I had no clue. I was lucky to know what I was doing the next day let along months down the road.

“We’ll take it one step at a time,” Nick said confidently. “I’m hoping to work on my next solo album in September and October.”

“Me too,” Brian said.

Nick and Brian began an in depth discussion on different songs they had written for their new albums. I saw Howie glance at his watch.

“We need to head back to the busses,” Howie said. “We were supposed to be off the boat at noon; it’s one.”

After a quick race to grab stray sock and other articles of clothing, we were on our way back to the busses. We said goodbye to Manitoba and continued our journey east to Ontario.
Chapter 63 by evergreenwriter83
Chapter Sixty Three – Ontario

Sometime late in the evening we arrived in Ontario. It was too late to check into a hotel, but too early to go to sleep. When I heard a knock on the bus door, I didn’t think anything about it. Even so, I was surprised to see Leigh outside, holding James.

“What’s up?” I asked. Leigh smiled.

“I was wondering if you could watch James for an hour,” she said. I raised an eyebrow.

“Really?”

Leigh nodded. “The last time we were in Ontario Howie took me to this secluded spot and we carved our initials into a tree. Howie wants to go back out there. With all the bugs that are out I don’t want to bring James with us.”

James was fast asleep, his head on Leigh’s shoulder. Half of his hand was in his mouth, covered by drool. He was adorable.

I smiled. “Sure, I can do that.”

A look of relief crossed Leigh’s face. “Thank you so much. I checked with Leighanne but Baylee’s been sneezing like crazy. I don’t want to take any chances.”

I took the diaper bag from her and then she slid James into my arms. He made a noise that sounded like a little grunt, but his eyes never opened. Leigh climbed one of the bus steps to give him a kiss.

“Like I said, we’ll be about an hour.”

I smiled. “Have fun.”

I closed the bus door and half kicked the diaper bag into the living area. I sat down on the couch, keeping James close to my chest.

Nick came out from the bedroom where he had been taking inventory of his clothes; his dirty pile was already much larger than the clean. He had a pair of socks in his hand.

“Do these pass the smell tes---“ he started to ask. “Where’d James come from?”

I smiled. “Heaven.”

Nick looked confused. “No I mean---“

I told him what Leigh had said. Nick looked panicked.

“So we’re babysitting?”

“Yup, it appears that way.”

Nick sat down beside me. He watched James for a few moments. After another few moments, Nick broke into a smile.

“This is easy,” he said.

I laughed. As I did so, James’ big brown eyes opened wide. He lifted his head. When he saw me instead of his mommy, his face crumpled. He let out a high pitched wail. Nick turned pale.

“What do we do?” he asked. I pointed at the diaper bag.

“Give me the bag.” I checked his diaper; all clear. “I’ll see if he’s hungry.”

Nick slid to the floor, grabbing the bag and sliding it my way. I picked up a bottle. James didn’t want to even look at it. His face was turning red.

“He’s hyperventilating,” Nick said. His voice was rising into panic territory.

I refused to be unnerved. I rooted around some more until I found a pacifier shaped like an elephant. I held it up; James paused, sucking in a great big breath. I stuck it in his mouth.

Problem solved. His tearstained face looked from me to Nick as if there had never been a minor meltdown. I smiled, tipping him back gently and tickling his stomach. From around the binky, his face broke into a dimpled grin.

“You’re a miracle worker,” Nick said quietly. He scooted over, resting his head on my lap. He reached forward and tickled James’ feet. He got another dimpled grin.

“He’s going to be a heart breaker when he gets older,” I said. “Aren’t you James?”

He clapped.

“Wanna hold him?” I asked Nick.

“I do better when they’re bigger. Like Baylee.”

I laughed. With playful movements I bounced James into Nick’s arms.

Nick sat there, balancing him on his knee. James looked up at him. He looked like he was concentrating hard; his forehead creased even as Nick began to make animal noises. I saw him give his leg a great kick and his body tense up. I knew what was happening before Nick did, but the smell go to Nick’s nose first.

“What the---oh god!”

---------------------------------------

“Secure that tab a little tighter,” I instructed a few minutes later.

“I didn’t know someone that small could poop so much,” Nick said, doing as he was told. He lifted the freshly diapered James into the air. James continued to suck greedily on the pacifier.

“The look on your face was priceless,” I laughed.

“Shut up. It’s like Howie feeds this kid bean burritos or something.”

I got rid of the diaper as Nick walked around the bus, bouncing James as he walked. I packed up the bag and settled back down on the couch.

“How’d you get so good with babies?” Nick asked me. “You’re an only child.”

I smiled. “I did a lot of babysitting in high school. You learn a lot at sixteen. Like, I never knew poop could be green. And I didn’t know that a quarter could be shoved up a nostril so far that only an ER doctor could fish it out.”

“You’re gonna make a great mom,” Nick said. He turned in my direction to begin walking the length of the bus again. I noticed James had fallen asleep, his head tucked under Nick’s chin. I smiled.

“You’re not going to be so bad yourself, Carter,” I said quietly. The scene made a great picture. Nick sat down beside me and we stayed in silence; the only sound the rise and fall of James’ chest as he fell into a regular sleep pattern. Bitsy crept up and sniffed at him curiously; then after circling our feet several times, she lay down with a soft huff.

Howie and Leigh picked him up about a half hour later. Assured that no disasters occurred, they waved a hearty goodbye. I looked over at Nick. He was fast asleep on the couch. I threw a blanket over him, kissing his forehead.

Babysitting was hard work.

--------------------------------------

“You did not let Nick babysit,” Brian said the next day. His plate was loaded down with food; they had worked up an appetite with another fairly intense Q&A session.

“I did fine, thank you very much,” Nick answered back. He folded three fries, stuffing them in his mouth greedily.

I smiled as I walked by. Nick reached up and squeezed my hand.

“Where are you going?”

“I’ll be right back,” I said. “Can’t a girl go to the restroom in peace?”

“With us around? Probably not,” AJ admitted.

I ducked into the bathroom for what seemed like the fiftieth time that day. I wasn’t nauseous, but I wasn’t feeling right either. As I sat down, I felt myself get a little light headed. I knew the moment I wiped that something wasn’t right. My toilet tissue was covered with blood.

It felt like my heart stopped. I sat there staring at the bright red blood in horror. My brain didn’t seem to want to process any conscious thought. I don’t know how long I sat there; all I know is that by the time I walked out the Boys were onstage. I vaguely remember walking up to Rochelle and tapping her on the arm.

“Hey Liv, what’s----“ she paused. “What’s wrong? You don’t look so good.”

“I think I need to go to the hospital,” I said, my voice barely above a whisper.

She didn’t need me to explain any further. After grabbing her purse, she ushered me out and hailed the first taxi.

Rochelle talked to me all the way there; I didn’t comprehend a word she said. All I could think was the unthinkable.

I had lost the baby.
Chapter 64 by evergreenwriter83
Chapter Sixty Four – Ontario / Nova Scotia / New Brunswick

“Everything looks fine Olivia,” the doctor said as he peeked in the room at me. I was laying on a gurney in the emergency room. “Your blood pressure’s high, but I think that’s more because you’re panicked.”

“Why am I bleeding?” I demanded. The words fine, blood, and baby were three words that did not go together in my English language.

“It’s your uterus expanding. First trimester bleeding is fairly normal. The ultrasound showed no trauma. I would just stay off my feet for a day or so.”

“So I’m free to go?”

The doctor nodded. “Yup, I’ll get your walking papers.”
As he walked out of the curtained room, Nick ran in. He looked like he was about ready to keel over; he was still in concert clothes.

“Is everything okay? I headed over here as soon as I heard,” he said. He came up and took my hand. “Rochelle said something about bleeding and…”

“I’m fine,” I said. “I just didn’t want to take any chances.”

Nick seemed to lose ability to stand. He sank weakly into the bedside chair; he brought my hand to his lips.

“You’re sure everything’s okay?”

I nodded. “I just have to stay off my feet for a few days.”

Nick sighed. “It’s this tour. You’re crawling along the ground taking photographs and then we’re keeping you up at all hours of the night…”

“It’s not like I’m doing manual labor,” I argued. “The heaviest thing I carry is the video camera.”

Nick shook his head. I had never seen him look so pale
and sweaty. I squeezed his hand; he looked at me, his eyes full of tears.

“I thought I was going to have a heart attack. I just kept thinking the worst…”

“I’m okay,” I assured him. “I’ll turn over the camera to you for another Nick’s Corner and stay in bed and work for a few days.”

“You’re not getting out of bed,” Nick warned me.

“Except to pee,” I amended.

“Except to pee,” Nick relented.

---------------------------

Staying in bed was easier said than done. I managed to wile away my day in bed by staying busy with footage while the guys hit Nova Scotia. By the time we arrived in New Brunswick, I was beginning to hate everything about the four walls that were closing in on me.

“Nick I’m feeling much better,” I said with a smile. He looked at me like I was crazy.

“It’s only been two days,” he said.

“The doctor said I only had to rest for a day or so.”

“Well, you promised me a few days. A few is more than two.”

I folded my arms across my chest. Nick kissed my forehead.

“You’re cute when you pout.”

“Does that mean I can get up?” I said hopefully.

He smiled. “Nope.”

When he left for sound check, I looked at the Nova Scotia footage from the day before. Nick hadn’t disappointed me with Nick’s Corner 2.0 -- Episode 2.

“Today, I, Nick Carter, am going where no Backstreet Boy has ever gone before,” he whispered into the camera. “I’m going into the heart of the beast.”

The camera zoomed out. Nick held up articles of clothing. “I’m going undercover.”

I couldn’t help but laugh. His first task was putting on a brunette wig. That one small change made him look totally different. He slid on a pair of glasses and then struggled into a pair of skinny jeans. By the end, he looked about ten years younger, but a thousand times less hot. He winked at the camera. “Let’s go see what happens. I’ve got a tiny little microcam on my shirt. This should be interesting.”

The view switched to the smaller camera. I watched with interest as he made his way into the throng of girls.

“When does this thing start?” he asked a girl that was craning her head left and right in hopes to get a glimpse of one of the boys. She turned and glared at him.

“I don’t know,” she said. “Oh my god, I think that’s AJ!”

“Ugh, I can’t stand him,” Nick said. Another girl whirled around.

What?”

“My girlfriend thinks he’s so hot, but seriously, he’s getting old. Those tattoos are going to start sagging pretty soon,” Nick said.

He had about five girls frowning at him by the time he was done. He gave a little laugh with a perfect snort at the end. I covered my mouth to keep from laughing out loud. Bitsy looked up from the rawhide bone she was chewing, sniffed the air, then continued with her task.

“Where is your girlfriend?” one of the girls asked suspiciously.

“I don’t know,” Nick said absently. He turned around and looked at another girl. “Want to be my girlfriend?”

I saw drink spots splatter the camera. “Creep!”

The camera cut off. When it came back on Nick was in a different area of the crowd. He stopped at a girl holding a sign that said ‘Nuts for Nick.’

“What kind of nuts does Nick like?” Nick said. The girl looked at him, then stepped away.

Nick wandered around until he finally came to two girls holding a huge BRIAN sign. He leaned forward, squinting up at it.

“That’s a huge sign,” Nick said. The girls smiled, bouncing up and down in excitement.

“It’s for Brian,” they said simultaneously.

“He’s married,” Nick said matter-of-factly.

“So?”

“So, how old are you guys?”

“Nineteen.”

“Do you think Brian’s hot?”

“He’s gorgeous,” one of the girls said. Both giggled.

“He is really hot,” Nick admitted. “I’d do him.”

You could tell the girls were grossed out; but the girl who declared Brian gorgeous took another look at him.

“Wait a minute…” she said slowly. Her eyes widened. “OH MY GOD! You’re Nick Carter!”

Nick tugged at his shirt. His upside down face came into view.

“Busted!”

The last bit of footage was a mess, but I gathered there was a large stampede of girls and Nick ran away screaming.

I added the tagline ‘how many girls will ignore Nick before one realizes who he is?’ and added a counter after each of his encounters. The more I watched the clip; the more amused I got.

“Having fun?” Nick asked. His face was covered with sweat; he had just finished with sound check. I concluded that the temperature must have been hovering around scorching.

“I just posted your footage,” I said with a laugh. He grinned.

“Hey anytime you want me to put on that wig, you got it.”

“I’ll keep that in mind.”

“You hungry?” Nick asked.

I nodded. “What do you want?” he asked.

I really wanted Chick-fil-A, but considering there were none in all of Canada, I figured I was out of luck.

“Surprise me,” I answered. Nick disappeared but returned a few minutes later with some chicken. It wasn’t Chick-fil-A but it was close.

As I ate, Nick sat on the floor and played with Bitsy.

“Am I allowed out tomorrow?” I asked.

“I suppose so. It’s a free day. Then we have
Newfoundland. And then…home.”

I shook my head. “How come we enter a time portal when we hop on these busses? It doesn’t seem like we’ve been on the road that long.”

Nick laughed. “It’s the ‘end of tour’ syndrome. The last leg of the tour always goes super fast because we have everything down so well. You should have seen us overseas for the first couple dates. Somebody must have sprinkled me with uncoordinated powder. I tripped Brian and AJ about thirty times and I completely forgot the words to All Your Life.”

We shared a smile.

“You know,” Nick said, glancing down at the floor. Bitsy was gnawing his toe like a bone. He kept yanking it away but she kept wiggling on her belly like Jaws to bait. “I don’t think I’m ever going to forget this tour. I turned 30 and decided I still didn’t want any direction in my life. Then I met you and…”

He trailed off. I heard him take a deep breath.

“I met you and I realized that I had stumbled across my human compass without realizing it. For once in my life, I think I’m heading in the right direction.”

I felt tears spring into my eyes. When Carter wanted to be poetic, he sure could. He looked over at me as I brushed a tear away. “You’re killing me, Nick,” I said as I turned my face away. I felt the mattress sink down as he crawled up beside me. His arms wrapped around me like a human cocoon. I twisted and turned until we were face to face. The sparkle in his eyes meant everything to me; I kissed him gently.

We lay there for awhile in our own little world. His hands slid under my shirt, his kisses grazed my face. I felt a smile next to my skin.

“What?” I said with a laugh.

He pulled back; his smile grew into a grin. I felt his fingers slide across my stomach.

“You have a baby bump.”

I rolled over on my back and lifted my shirt up.

“I think that’s just the chicken,” I said. Two days ago I didn’t have a bump, but I couldn’t deny it; he was right.

Nick shook his head, still smiling. “Nope, it’s a baby bump.”

He kissed my stomach gently before standing up.

“Where are you going?” I asked. The bed felt cold without him there.

“I’ve got a concert to do,” Nick said. I had forgotten.

“Knock ‘em dead,” I said. “Take some pictures and stuff for me!”

He saluted me and walked out of the room. I glanced down again.

Definitely a baby bump.
Chapter 65 by evergreenwriter83
Chapter Sixty Five – A Day Off

I woke the next morning and did a quiet celebration. I got up and took a well needed shower. After putting on actual clothes I felt a little more human, albeit definitely more pregnant. I was trying to stretch my shirt out against the bathroom sink when Nick walked in. I don’t know how long he stood there, but finally I saw his reflection in the mirror. He was grinning. I seemed to have that effect on him.

“What are you doing?” he asked.

“I’m stretching out my shirt,” I explained. “It’s too tight.”

He shook his head. “No, definitely not too tight.”

From the mirror’s reflection, I saw his eyes dart right down to my chest. I leaned over and smacked him.

“It’s definitely too tight if someone sees us walking around hand in hand around Newfoundland. The fans are panicking about you saying you’re going to get married someday; this would send them into coronary.”

Nick laughed. “Okay, you have a point.”

He walked out and came back with one of his t-shirts. “Luckily for you, we are very close to Avalon Mall. Also lucky for you is that I can’t find a clean pair of underwear to save my life.”

I wrinkled my nose. “How is that lucky for me?”

Nick smiled. “Well that gives both of us an excuse to go shopping and it allows me to get some clean drawers.”

Ninety minutes later Nick, myself, Brian, Leighanne, and Baylee hit the mall. The Littrell’s headed for the toy store; Nick and I walked into Sears.

“Seriously I would have been happy buying some new boxers at Walmart,” Nick said as we headed to the men’s section.

“I know you would,” I laughed. “But somehow I just can’t see you next to one of the Rollback signs.”

As a typical guy, Nick didn’t take long. The longest he paused was to take a look at some of the graphic tees in the teen area. He held up a black shirt that said ‘It’s only funny until someone gets hurt…then it’s HILARIOUS!!!’ I could tell by the smile on his face that it was getting added to his pile. I was right.

“Should I be worried about pranks tomorrow?” I asked as we paid for his stuff. He leaned against the counter, his face the epitome of mock innocence.

“Us, prank?” Nick said in mock horror. “At the last concert? How could you think such a thing?” He laughed demonically as he took his bag. “Alright, lead the way to girlie land.”

I rolled my eyes; my first stop was intimate apparel.

“I like these,” Nick said holding up what looked to be the equivalent of floss. Not that I hadn’t worn a thong or two in my day, but…

“Not happening, Nick,” I said breezing by him. He snapped them playfully in my direction. I ducked; they hit an eighty year old guy in the forehead. I clamped my hand over my mouth to keep from laughing. The guy looked confused for a moment, then continued to shuffle past the department. Nick was doubled over in silent laughter behind a mannequin in a nightie. I walked over and grabbed his arm.

Behave, Carter,” I said. Still chuckling, he followed me through the racks.

“I thought you just needed new shirts,” he said as I held up a plain white bra.

“My stomach’s not the only thing growing,” I said. He glanced at my chest again.

“Yeah, there are some perks,” he admitted. I gave him a signature look.

After I got what I needed to get from lingerie, I ushered Nick over to women’s clothing. I had a feeling that if a fan had spotted Nick in the lingerie department things might have gotten messy.

Much to Nick’s disappointment, I picked some very basic, very forgiving tops and added them to my pile.

“That’s it?” he asked, staring down at my sparse selections. I shrugged.

“We’re only on tour a few more days. This will tie me over until I get back home.”

I saw a change come over his face; it was as if he had forgotten I was going back to Wisconsin.

After Nick and I did a race to see who could get their debit card out fastest (in which I won), we walked back through the mall hand in hand. Nick held both of our bags in his other hand.

“I think we need to talk,” Nick said as we settled down on a bench to wait for the others.

I looked at him surprised. “About what?”

“About you going back to Wisconsin.”

I smiled. “It’s home. My job’s there.”

“You could find a job down in Florida,” Nick said softly. “Or better yet you could just relax until…” he looked around, lowering his voice even more. “until the baby’s born. I’ve heard the sound of the ocean is very calming for expectant mothers.”

“Nick, I can’t just pick up and leave. My mom’s all alone up there. We don’t have much family. I can’t do that to her.”

“I can’t have you away from me this long,” Nick said. “I get all nauseous just thinking about it. I’m going to be home most of the time recording my album. I don’t care if I have to move your mom down to Florida, just please don’t go back.”

I had never heard him sound more serious…or desperate. Before I could answer him, Baylee ran up. He was hugging the biggest brown bear I’d ever seen.

“GRRRR!” he growled from behind the plush.

“Oh no, a bear!” I exclaimed, mockingly jumping out of my seat. Baylee’s head came peeking around the side; he erupted in giggles. “It’s just me!”

“You guys ready for lunch? We’re starving,” Brian said. “I’m so hungry I could eat a bear.”

Baylee looked up at his dad and growled. Brian laughed.

We ended up at McDonald’s, which to my knowledge, was free of bear burgers. After we finished eating, Leighanne and I stayed at the table while Nick and Brian took Baylee into the Playland.

It was a strange sense of déjà vu.

“I bet you’re thinking about Nick diving into the ball pit,” Leighanne guessed. I laughed. “How’d you know?”

“Just a good guess,” she said lightly. She looked past my shoulder. “Oh geesh.”

We both stood up; I craned my neck to see what she had seen. I laughed.

“Brian Littrell get out of the plastic tubes!” Leighanne yelled.

I couldn’t help it; I grabbed my camera and turned it onto video. I saw Nick walk over and say something to Brian. Through the colored plastic I could see him shaking his head. Nick gave him an ‘are you serious?’ face then started laughing.

“I have a bad feeling about this,” Leighanne said. We headed into the Playland. Nick was still laughing.

“What’s going on?” I asked.

“Winnie the Pooh here got his backend stuck in the tube. He can’t get out.”

From a tube farther up , I saw Baylee pushing his giant bear through the maze. Spotting all of us, he rounded the corner to the tube Brian was stuck in. He gave his bear a mighty push; the bear slid down and smacked into Brian’s face. We all heard a muffled yell. His legs kicked out behind him.

“This is why there’s an age restriction, Brian,” Leighanne said, tapping the plastic. He kicked in response.

“I’ll get one leg, you get the other,” Nick told Leighanne as he wiped tears from his eyes.

I zoomed in on Brian in the tube. His face was completely covered by the bear; to make matters worse, Baylee slid down to get it. I heard another grunt from Brian as Baylee landed on the bear which in turn smashed farther down on Brian’s face.

Nick took Brian’s left leg; Leighanne his right. They gave a couple mighty tugs, but he still wouldn’t budge. Baylee, seeing what was going on, put his stocking feet on the top of the bear. Bracing himself in the tube, he began to push on Brian’s head.

It was like a weird twisted game of human tug of rope. Nick looked like he was about ready to pop Brian’s knee out of his socket when with a loud suctioned ‘pop!’ Brian landed on his stomach right outside the tubes. Leighanne and Nick dropped his legs. Baylee came crawling out, a big smile on his face.

“Now, are you going to tell me why you went in the tube?” Leighanne asked. Brian rolled over onto his back. He stared right at Nick.

“You owe me twenty bucks.”

Nick held up his hands. “The deal was to crawl all the way into the tube. I can’t help it if your bubble butt got stuck. No dice.”

“I almost died in there!” Brian said. His face was red and a large imprint from where the bear’s nose had pressed into his cheek was clearly visible.

“You did this for twenty dollars?” Leighanne said.

“Well, he dared me,” Brian explained, as if it made it alright.

“That’s it,” Leighanne said. “Baylee sweetie, we’re going to get ready to go!” She turned back to glare at Nick and Brian. They both looked at her sheepishly.

“You two are not allowed in McDonald’s together anymore.
Ever.”

Nick held out his hand to help Brian up. Brian grabbed onto it, leaping up.

Leighanne walked over to help Baylee get on his shoes.

“I love it when she’s mad,” Brian said with a smile, placing his hands on his hips.

“So what are we going to do if we’re banned from McDonald’s?” Nick asked. Brian and him shared a look and did a weird male ritualistic handshake.

“Chucky Cheese,” they said simultaneously.

I shut off the camera and shook my head.

Frick and Frack sure lived up to their name.
Chapter 66 by evergreenwriter83
Chapter Sixty Six – Newfoundland

“Why are you crying?” Nick said incredulously. I was getting my equipment ready for sound check and I was bawling my eyes out.

“I just can’t believe it’s over. The tour’s over,” I said with a wail.

“Don’t mind her,” Leigh said. She handed me a box of tissues. “Hormones,” she whispered to Nick.

“No it’s not,” I moaned. I dabbed at my red, puffy eyes. “Doesn’t anyone else think it’s sad?”

Nick grinned. “Hey cheer up. We’re kind of like Frosty the Snowman. We do come back again someday.”

“Backstreet’s Back, alright!” AJ sang from the corner.

“I mean if it makes you feel better, the cruise is in a little more than three months,” Nick said cajolingly. I gave a mighty sniffle.

“You’re right,” I said with a sigh. “I’m sorry.”

Nick kissed my forehead. “Let’s go. We’ve got check.” As he headed out on stage, I walked in the opposite direction to get out on the actual venue floor.

“Hey you guys!” Howie yelled out at the crowd.

“How’s it going Newfoundlanders?” AJ screamed. The VIPs screamed back.

“We want to thank you for being here with us today,” Nick said. “This is our last sound check. Tonight we are officially celebrating the end of the This is Us tour. It’s been an amazing ride.”

They launched into Shattered. I launched into another bout of tears.

-----------------------------

By the time the concert rolled around, I was feeling much better. Having cried out my sorrows earlier in the day, I actually felt a little thrill at being able to say I had seen the Boys finish off a whole tour. That meant a new album, new music…

It was exciting.

“Now, if you haven’t heard,” Nick said as they paused between songs. “We’re pretty infamous for pranks out on tour. Right fellas?”

The guys nodded. “Well, tonight we thought we’d be on our best behavior,” Nick added. “We’re not pranking each other.”

The other guys nodded again. I watched them all head to a different part of the stage.

“Instead,” Nick continued. “We’re pranking you.”

Four super soakers appeared out of thin air. Shrieks abounded as the jets of water hit the crowd. Farther back, big nets of silly string and confetti floated down on those in the stands.

It made my day. I have to admit that the girls that dress up in heels and sexy dresses to go to a concert bother me. There was something refreshing about seeing perfect makeup and hair doused by water and pieces of sticky yellow string hanging off of chins.

It was a job well done. The guys tossed the soakers to the crew and then took a seat on the barstools. They swapped out More than That and launched into Siberia. The crowd swayed along, I saw Leighanne backstage. She was watching Brian lovingly, mouthing every word. After they finished, they remained on their barstools, smiling out at the crowd.

“Now that we’ve slowed things down, we’d like to give a shout out to our dancers and the entire crew for making this possible every night,” Brian added. The crowd cheered as the dancers came out and took a bow. A few stagehands were specifically pointed out and jogged onstage with a quick wave.

“And,” Howie said after the last stagehand jogged past. “We’d like to give a special thank you to a new member of the Backstreet family. Liv, come up here a moment.”

I looked up surprised. I shook my head back and forth. Nick came over and jumped off the stage. Every single guard was over in a flash. With a grin, he grabbed my waist, hoisting me onstage. He scrambled back up after me.

I stood, turned, and looked out at the audience. Dancing during Masquerade had been one thing; I mostly had Nick’s face to concentrate on. Now I was staring back at a sea of curious eyes, some of which probably were freaking out because Nick Carter touched me.

“Olivia has been our videographer and photographer during the U.S. and Canadian legs of the tour. So, if you’ve enjoyed watching any of the footage from the past couple months I think you need to give her a round of applause,” AJ said.

A thunderous clapping met my ears. AJ gave a wolf whistle. I waved awkwardly; my face turned as red as a lobster. When the applause died away, I turned to look at Nick again.

“I should also mention Liv’s other job,” Nick said. I raised an eyebrow as he walked towards me. I looked at him like he was crazy.

“Liv’s done something no other woman has done,” he continued. An instrumental version of No One Else Comes Close started playing. I heard a rush of loud murmuring begin in the crowd.

“Nick,” I whispered. He just shook his head, smiling.

“Liv, no matter how I fight it I can’t deny it, I just can’t let you go,” he sang out over the music. Images of close-ups of Nick singing in the I Still video juxtaposed with the real thing. I felt my entire body freeze as he sank to one knee.

The crowd seemed to disappear. I couldn’t tell if they were yelling, cheering…for those few seconds I didn’t even realize they were still there.

His hand snaked into his pocket. On the way out it got tangled in his pants chain. With a nervous shake of the wrist he held up a black velvet box and pushed it open.

A beautiful diamond heart ring was nestled into the black velvet lining.

“Liv, will you marry me?”

-------------------------------

“I got it all on tape,” Rochelle said. “The look on your face was priceless.”

She held the camera out to me and Nick. My mind was a total blank slate; I think the shock still hadn’t worn off. On the screen, I saw Nick sink down to one knee and open the box. I saw my digital self put her hands to her mouth and take a step back. Nick slid closer on his knee. I saw myself take another step back. He slid forward again and I heard him repeat the question.

That’s when I nodded. He plucked the ring (that was now very comfortably nestled on my finger) out of the box and slid it on my hand. I watched him stand up and scoop me up, covering my face in kisses.

Nick laughed softly; his breath tickled my ear. “Do you remember any of that?”

I shook my head. “Everything before I nodded is a little bit of a blur.” I took a deep breath as I glanced down at the ring; it sparkled back at me. “I still don’t believe it.” Nick kissed my neck, then turned to look at the guys.

“And who’s idea was it to play Another One Bites the Dust?” Nick complained.

Brian and AJ looked at Howie. Nick looked surprised.

“Really?”

Howie grinned. “Hey, you’re the last one.”

They all took a moment to let that realization sink it.

“Our little Nicky is growing up,” Brian said, pretending to wipe away a fake tear.

Everyone laughed. AJ popped open a bottle of champagne.

“Dude,” Nick said. AJ looked at him. “What?”

“Why are you opening liquor?”

AJ grinned sheepishly. “To celebrate?”

“You better have some grape juice for you, me, and Liv,” Nick said.

“Me too!” Baylee piped up.

We settled for ice water. After a round of toasts, everyone drifted off to their busses to get packed up. Everyone’s flights were scheduled to take off in the morning. Nick and I were the last ones backstage. Without a word we walked back onstage and sat down, staring around. It looked totally different without thousands of screaming fans and equipment.

“I was afraid you weren’t going to say yes,” Nick teased. I leaned into him and smiled. In all truthfulness, I hadn’t thought I would say yes. Then I looked in Nick’s eyes and…it was all over.

In truth, it had been all over from the very first day when Nick winked at me and told Tony and Anderson that I got his vote.

In the end, I had gotten so much more than a vote; I had gotten his heart.
Chapter 67 by evergreenwriter83
Chapter Sixty Seven – August 22

“You’ll call as soon as you know?” Leighanne said, hugging me tightly.

Of course,” I said.

Leighanne held up my hand, the ring sparkled in the light. “Congratulations.”

I smiled. “Thank you.”

Nick tugged on my arm. “We gotta go, last call.”

We waved goodbye to Brian, Leighanne, and Baylee. AJ and Rochelle were the first to leave; their flight to LA had taken off a half hour ago. Howie, Leigh, and James were taking the same flight we were.

Nick stuffed our bags into the overhead compartment. I buckled in.

“Need a barf bag?” Nick asked. I shook my head.

“I should be good.”

He sank down next to me, buckling in. I looked over at him; something had been on my mind since the night before.

“Hey Nick?”

“Yup?”

"Did you tell my mom you were doing this?” I asked, holding up the ring.

I saw Nick’s eyes widened. He opened his mouth; then closed it. I took that as a ‘No.’

“Dude,” Howie called from across the aisle. “You always ask the familia before proposing.”

Nick looked at me apologetically. “I wasn’t thinking about that. I was more worried about the ring; it didn’t show up until the last minute.”

I had to wait for the all clear before using any electronic device. When the seatbelt light went off, I took out my phone and dialed my mom.

“Hello?”

“Hey momma,” I said with a smile.

“Oh Liv! How are you feeling sweetie?”

“Not too bad,” I said. “Listen, I called to tell you something.”

“Oh?”

I licked my lips nervously. “Nick proposed to me last night.”

I was greeted by silence. “Mom?”

“What was your answer?”

I let out a little laugh. “I said yes.”

“Do you think that was a good idea?”

I arched an eyebrow. My ever peppy mom was not sounding so peppy.

“What do you mean?”

“Well, you’re still married.”

“Not for much longer.”

“I just don’t want you to rush into another marriage, Liv. You were only ‘officially’ dating Hunter three months before he proposed. And now the same thing is happening with Nick.”

“Yeah, but I’m also a little pregnant this time,” I said lowering my voice to a whisper.

“That doesn’t mean you have to get married!”

I sighed. “Mom, it doesn’t mean we’re going to rush into it either. It will be at least a year.”

“Well I think the big test will be to see how things go when you’re not together every day. When are you coming back?”

I looked over at Nick. The idea of leaving him was sounding worse and worse.

“Liv? When are you coming back?”

“I’ll be back by September 1,” I said. Nick turned to me, frowning. I shrugged helplessly.

“Okay, well,” mom paused. “is the ring nice?”

I smiled. “The ring’s absolutely beautiful.” I spotted the stewardess coming down the aisle with drinks. “We’re on the plane so I’ll call you a little later, okay mom?”

“No problem. Love you sweetie.”

“Love you.”

I hung up; Nick was still looking at me.

“What?”

“You’re leaving me?”

I rubbed the bridge of my nose. “Nick, I don’t know what else to do. Plus, I do have a commitment to be back at work on September 1.”

“What if I hold you hostage?”

I laughed. “As tempting as that sounds…”

“We’ve got to figure this out Livvy,” Nick said. I knew he was right.

“Okay, how about this? I go back September 1, but I’ll put in my two week’s notice by the end of the month. Then I’ll fly down here by mid-October.”

“To stay?”

I nodded. “To stay. I don’t think I’m going to be flying back and forth when I’m eight months pregnant.”

Nick smiled. “That sounds like a plan.”

“That will also give you time to work on your music without being distracted.”

“But you’re such a good distraction.”

I laughed. We got some drinks from the stewardess and I leaned my head against Nick’s shoulder. The plan did sound okay; the only one who definitely wasn’t going to like it was my mom. The benefit and problem of being an only child was that I was the center of my mom’s world. To make matters worse, I had a feeling I was taking the second center of her universe away from her too. I knew the idea of her living in Wisconsin while her grandchild and I lived in Florida would not go over well. I just figured I’d cross that bridge when I came to it.

-------------------------

“The Casa de Carter,” Nick said as we walked into his house. Bitsy tore out of her cage, barking happily and chasing after Iggy and Lila. Sun streamed happily through the windows.

“I don’t know,” I said. “I kind of miss the bus interior.”

“Very funny,” Nick said with a laugh.

Nick went to unpack while I walked around the house. It seemed like such a huge place for just one person. Even with the sunshine and the beautiful beaches, I could easily see being lonely.

“Such a serious face on such a beautiful lady,” Nick said, coming up behind me. “What are you thinking about?”

I leaned against him. “I was just thinking how big this place is for one person.” Nick laughed.

“Well hopefully soon it will be a big place for three people.”

I tried to imagine a little one running around the house. I envisioned a little boy that looked just like Nick trying to crawl up the stairs. I practically “aww”ed out loud.

Nick took out me out for a late lunch / early dinner. My appointment was scheduled for early the next morning.

“Are you nervous?” he asked.

“A little,” I admitted. “But really I just want to get it over with. I think the worst part will be the shot of RH immunoglobulin. I hate shots.” I closed my eyes.

“Well, I’ll be there the whole time,” Nick said. I squeezed his hand and smiled.

“Thank you.”

“You’ve got my ring; you’re stuck with me,” Nick teased. I laughed.

“I’ll gladly stick with you.”
Chapter 68 by evergreenwriter83
Chapter Sixty Eight

“Just try to relax, Liv,” Nick said.

That was easier said than done. It was August 23; the day of the CVS testing. I had to be there an hour early; the nurse had me drink a huge Big Gulp sized mug of liquid and I had to pee like crazy. Unfortunately, that wasn’t going to be happening until after the test.

Nick and I sat in the office; even he was getting a little antsy.

“Look at these tongs,” he said, picking up a metal instrument. He snapped them in my direction; I snickered.

“Those are forceps.”

“What?”

“The doctor uses them to help ease the baby out during delivery.”

“I don’t want our baby pulled out like a salad!”

Dr. Tresher chose that moment to walk in. Nick dropped the forceps on the ground.

She laughed.

“Having fun Nick?”

He blushed as he bent down to pick them up. “Just getting a lesson.”

“Oh, that’s nothing. Watch a couple delivery videos. Now that’s a lesson.”

He gave her a panicked look. I laughed. She sat down and opened my chart.

“So now that Nick’s lightened the mood, let’s get down to business. It looks like you’ve gained the perfect amount of weight since the last time I saw you. Eating better?”

I smiled. “A friend suggested ginger tea.”

The doctor smiled. “Ah, nature’s little miracle drink. It doesn’t work for all women, but I’m glad to hear it’s helping you. Shall we get you prepped for an ultrasound? I want to double check how far along you are and make sure we’re good to go today.”

I watched her prepare a tray. She disappeared from my line of sight; I felt the cold gel hit my stomach. I jumped.

“Sorry, it’s cold,” she explained. Nick grabbed my hand, I looked up at him. He smiled comfortingly.

“Now, I received the paperwork from your ER visit as well,” she said as she began to run the wand over my belly. “I bet that gave you a scare.”

Nick snorted. “That’s an understatement.”

I stared at the blip on the screen. Nick squinted.

“I still can’t make out anything,” he complained.

Dr. Tresher laughed. “Well, the baby weighs only about a quarter of a pound right now so I think that’s completely understandable.” She signaled for her assistant. “Everything’s looking good. Shall we get on with it?”

I nodded. “Sounds good.”

The entire process took about a half hour; the actual extraction took only minutes. Nick stuck right by me, talking softly in my ear to distract me. It worked; I only felt mild discomfort.

“Alright, we’re done. You might have a few slight cramps but it shouldn’t be anything intense,” Dr Tresher said. “If you notice any bleeding, please give me a call. If we’re closed, don’t hesitate to go to the E.R.”

“And the results?” Nick asked.

“Three to five days,” she said. “Go ahead and get dressed Liv.”

She closed the door. I took a deep breath and sat up.

“You okay?” Nick asked.

I nodded. “I’m fine. It wasn’t as bad as I thought.”

I couldn’t help but think that waiting for the results was going to be much, much worse.

-------------------------------------------------

Three days later Nick and I were buried under a mound of covers when the phone rang.

“Turn off the alarm,” Nick mumbled. He rolled over.

I slapped at the nightstand. It wasn’t the alarm clock. I reached for the phone, fumbling for the Talk button.

“Hello?” I said groggily.

“Olivia?”

“Yes?”

“This is Dr. Tresher.”

I was awake. I sat up fast, brushing my hair out of my eyes.

“Oh hello, Dr. Tresher.”

Those were the magic words. Nick’s eyes flew open; I hit the speaker button on the phone.

“We have your results.”

I felt my body tense up, Nick’s arms went around me. I saw him close his eyes.

“First things first: the RH test came back absolutely fine. There’s no problem.”

I breathed a sigh of relief. “That’s great.”

“Now in case you’re wondering, the shot we gave you as a precaution shouldn’t have any ill effect either. We just wanted to air on the side of caution.”

“Okay,” I said. I bit my lip; the suspense was killing me.

“And then we have the second test.”

I felt a teardrop on my shoulder. I looked down; Nick was trying his hardest not to cry…he was failing.

“With 99.99% probability, come March…”

I held my breath.

“You and Nick are going to have a beautiful baby.”

It was my turn to tear up. “Are you serious?”

Dr. Tresher laughed. “Yes, there’s no doubt.”

Nick totally lost it; he had to get up and walk into the bathroom. I felt a large tear roll down my cheek.

“You can pick up a copy of the results at the office anytime,” she added.

I closed my eyes. “Thank you so much Dr. Tresher.”

“It’s my pleasure. We just want to keep everyone healthy and happy.”

I expressed my gratitude once more and hung up. I crossed the room to the bathroom just as Nick swung the door open.

I flew into his arms. He covered my face in kisses. By the time he sat me down again, I noticed yet another tear fall down his face. I wiped it away.

“It’s okay, dad,” I said softly.

“I love you,” he whispered. “I love you, I love you, I love you.”

I cupped his face, kissing him again.

“I love you too, Carter,” I whispered.

Now that the hard part was over; the easy part still needed to be done…

Calling Brian and Leighanne.
Chapter 69 by evergreenwriter83
Chapter Sixty Nine

“Wittrell Wesidence.”

I smiled. “Hi Baylee, it’s Olivia.”

“Hi!” I heard a chair scoot back. I could almost see him hopping into it. “What’s up?”

I suppressed a laugh. “Nothing, what’s up with you?”

“I’m eatin' some cereal.”

I heard a spoon dunk into the milk. I smiled.

“Is your daddy home?”

I heard the sound of a spoon being tossed back down into the bowl.

“BWIAN!”

I couldn’t help it; I laughed. I heard a little bit of mumbled talking and the sound of the chair being scooted (most likely closer to the table). Finally, Brian came on the line.

“Hello?”

“Hi, Bri. It’s Liv.”

He lowered his voice; I could almost picture him walking out of the kitchen. “Do you know?”

I took a deep breath. “The doctor just called about an hour ago.”

“Hold on; Leigh wants to get on the extension.”

A few seconds later I heard a click.

“Liv, it’s Leigh.”

“Hi Leigh.”

The tension was oppressive. Not wanting to torture them for another second, I blurted it out.

“It’s Nick’s!”

“Thank God,” Brian said. I heard another click. Nick walked into the kitchen with the extension held to his ear. He started to sing We Are the Champions over the line.

Brian laughed. “Congratulations, Nick,” he said.

“Yes, congratulations you two,” Leighanne said warmly.

“I knew it all along,” Nick said. “We did it like rabbits.”

I punched him in the shoulder.

“Way too much information, Nick,” Brian said, laughing.

We talked for a few minutes longer. I hung up; I felt so much better. Nick propped his elbows up on the kitchen island, his face cupped in his hands. He looked at me flirtaciously.

“So…I’m Nick Carter,” he said teasingly. “And you are?”

I laughed. “Nick…”

“You’re name’s Nick too? What a small world!”

I hopped up on a barstool. “Olivia,” I said, shaking my head.

“Can I tell you you’re the most beautiful girl I’ve ever met?”

“I bet you say that to all the girls.”

Nick laughed. He stood up, walking over to my barstool. He swung me around.

“I’m going to marry you someday,” he said sweetly, leaning down and kissing my bottom lip sensuously. My fingers curled around the metal back of the chair.

“Who says I’m going to say yes?” I murmured, as his kisses trailed down my neck.

“Oh, you’ll say yes.”

His hands slid down the back of my pajama bottoms. I allowed my head to fall back, my mouth opened slightly.

“Yes,” I whispered. He scooped me up; I wrapped my legs around his waist.

“Yes.”

------------------------------------

Now that we were assured that the newest member of the Backstreet family was indeed a Carter, I allowed Nick’s imagination to run wild. We spent a whole day in the beautiful room he had shown me before, plotting out where to put the crib, changing table, dresser, and all of the other paraphernalia that a baby required.

“If it’s a boy I want to do the room in Bucs colors,” Nick said.

“And if it’s a girl?” I teased.

“Bucs colors?”

I rolled my eyes. Red and black with skulls and crossbones was a far cry from my ideal vision of soft pastels.

“Maybe we should go shopping,” Nick said. I smiled.

“Something tells me that if I let you go shopping now we’re going to come home with a truck full of stuff.”

He grinned. “So?”

The grin got me every time.

----------------------------------

I walked down the aisles with Nick at a swank baby store in Tampa Bay.

“Kourtney Kardashian shopped here,” Nick said. I turned the price tag over on a soft yellow sleeper. My eyes widened.

“Nick this is ridiculous,” I complained. “The baby would wear this for maybe an hour and poop all over it. For seventy-five dollars I could buy fifty of these at Wal-mart.”

“It’s made from allergen free fibers,” a saleslady said from behind my shoulder; she did not look amused.

“See? Allergen free fibers,” Nick said.

I managed to talk him away from the clothes and we made our way over to cribs. I ran my hand over a couple; then stopped.

There it was. It was a beautiful light honey; the gentle curves reminded me of a sleigh bed. Nick walked past me, placing a hand on it.

“I like this one,” he said, smiling over at me. I looked at him.

“Don’t you like it?”

I nodded. “I love it.” I walked up to him. “How much is it?”

He yanked the tag off and stuck it in his back pocket. “That’s not important.”

I knew right then that it was astronomical.

“Nick…”

He flagged down the sour-faced saleslady and pulled the tag out of his pocket.

“We’d like this one.”

Selling a big ticket item turned sour puss into a ray of sunshine.

“Is there anything else? How about the matching changing table?”

She took us over to a group of changing tables. Sure enough there was an elegant changing table in light honey. Nick nodded.

“Yeah, we’ll take it. He looked around. Is there a matching dresser and rocker?”

I saw dollar signs replace the pupil’s in “sour’s” face as she matched up a dresser and rocker. Nick followed her to the counter; I stayed behind at the crib. After checking out every inch of it, I checked the prices of the cribs around it and blanched.

“You need to stop worrying.”

I looked up to see Nick standing by me, his arms folded.

“I have the money, and I can afford it. You two are worth it. You’re my family.”

I bit my lip, but in all honesty I didn’t have a comeback. Who could argue with that logic?

I was his family.
Chapter 70 by evergreenwriter83
Chapter Seventy – August 30

“You can’t go,” Nick said. He held me tightly.

“I’m keeping my promise,” I said. “I’ll be back by October 15th at the latest. Besides, I have a divorce to finalize.”

“That’s only going to take a day. We’re talking about 47 days,” Nick said. His hands slid to my stomach.

“Time will fly. You’ll be working on your songs.”

“I need an audience,” Nick complained.

I closed my eyes. “Please Nick, this is hard enough.”

His forehead lowered to mine in silent resolution. His eyelashes were so close they tickled my face.

“I love you,” he kissed me gently. “Have a safe flight, Liv.”

I squeezed his hands and slowly backed up. With one last wave I turned and headed down the tarmac as fast as I could.

My stomach was in knots by the time I made it to my seat. I secured my bag and sat down. It seemed weird not traveling with Nick. I looked around.

Right across the aisle from me sat a couple, their heads together, sharing an inside joke. Farther down a blonde haired man was bouncing a little boy on his lap.

I buckled my seatbelt.

Pretty soon the stewardess closed up the cabin and they began an explanation of standard procedures. I heard the plane roar to life. I closed my eyes.

I was leaving my heart in Tampa.

----------------------

My mom was waiting for me at the airport. She rushed up to me, her face lighting up with joy.

“Look at you!”

Her hands flew to my stomach. “Oh, Liv.”

I smiled. “Hi, mom.”

She took my bag and bounced through the airport, talking a mile a minute. I nodded along, interspersing with a ‘yeah’ or an ‘oh really?’ My mind was a thousand miles away.

By the time I sat down to dinner, I was still only half there. I picked at my meatloaf.

“Liv?”

I looked up. “Hmm?”

“Why didn’t you bring Bitsy with you?”

I sighed; I knew she was going to ask. I had good intentions of bringing her; but one look at her curled up with Lila and Iggy had changed my mind. She was truly a beach dog.

“I left her with Nick,” I explained. “She loves the sun and sand.”

Mom frowned. “But you’re not going to see her for awhile.”

Atari came up and nudged my arm. I scratched him affectionately behind the ears.

“Yeah, about that…”

I told mom my plans. As soon as I mentioned putting in my two week’s notice by the end of September I knew this conversation was not going to go well.

“What are you really trying to say Liv?”

I took a deep breath.

“I’m moving to Florida.”

She shook her head. I saw tears spring into her eyes. “You’re taking my grandchild and moving over a thousand miles away? Liv, I don’t have anyone here.”

I sighed. I felt like a Stretch Armstrong; one arm was being tugged by my mom while the other was being tugged by Nick. I was stuck in the middle, praying I wouldn’t get amputated along the way.

“Mom, I don’t want to leave you. But he’s the father of my child and I want to be with him too. Who knows, maybe you can move down to Florida. Like you said, we don’t have any family left around here.”

She scooted away; most of her food was left untouched.

“You’re father’s grave is here.”

I sighed; I looked down at the scarred wood table. He had made it when I was five years old. “Mom, his grave might be here, but he’s in a much better place. He wouldn’t want you to sit in this house all day with the dogs and get lost in the past.”

“I do volunteer work,” she retorted.

“Mom, you know what I mean. You need to live. Get out, meet some friends. Maybe,” I closed my eyes. I knew she wasn’t going to take the suggestion well. “Maybe even go on a date.”

I had touched a nerve. She stood up, shaking her head. “Unlike you, sweetheart. I don’t need a man to feel complete.”

My eyes widened in astonishment and hurt. “Is that what you think?”

“It’s nothing against Nick,” my mom said quietly. “I just think this whole situation is out of control. It’s like a rollercoaster. One minute you’re zooming up and then you’re crashing down.”

I stood up; my body shook slightly. “Mom, I’ve spent my whole life afraid of heights and afraid of taking chances.” I took a deep breath. “Maybe my life is like a rollercoaster, but you know what? I’m beginning to like the thrill.”

I brushed past her and into my room. I sunk onto my bed, burying my face in my hands. I had never argued with my mother; she had always been the one person that knew exactly where I was coming from.

It wasn’t a good feeling.

My mom went to bed without saying goodnight. I crawled under the sheets; pulling Atari close. As I drifted off to sleep I heard a familiar tap at the window. I sat up.

It couldn’t be.

Then I heard it again. I slid out from under the covers and went over to the window. Nick looked in at me, a soft smile on his face. I yanked up on the window.

“What are you doing here?” I asked in a loud whisper. In response, he cupped my face, kissing me hungrily.

“My spidey sense told me I might be needed here,” he whispered back.

He didn’t know how right he was.

“How long are you staying?”

“I’m not leaving without you.”

I knew by the look on his face that he was serious. As he climbed through the window, I felt my heart leap.

I let myself sink into his arms knowing that no matter what, I, no we, would be okay. I couldn’t tell whether my coaster was sailing up or diving down, but at the moment I didn’t care. I was finally at the point in my life where I knew I just needed to sit back and enjoy the ride, for better or worse.

And through it all, I had to believe that Nick would always be right by my side.

THE END


What will happen with AJ and Rochelle’s wedding? Is the newest Carter a boy or a girl?
Will Brian and Nick ever get revenge on Aaron? Is Hunter truly out of the picture?

All this and more will be answered in the exciting continuation of the
Coaster series with Book Two – Cruise Control!


This story archived at http://absolutechaos.net/viewstory.php?sid=10059