“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.
“Yeah, like the itsy bitsy spider.”
He laughed. Reaching over he scratched her behind the ears.
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.