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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

I want to take that ride with you. -- Nick