- Text Size +
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

“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.”


“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.



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.