“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.
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.”
“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.