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.”
“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.