I felt extremely guilty that night, leaving the day’s work in the bus while I headed out to enjoy Atlanta’s nightlife. But everyone, and I mean everyone, was going someplace. Andrea had invited me to go clubbing with her and the other dancers, but I politely declined.
“Have a better offer?” she guessed, smiling.
“No! I mean, it’s just someone beat you to it,” I explained.
“You mean someone tall, blonde, and handsome in a “blonde” sort of way?” she inquired, a knowing smirk playing across her mouth. I laughed.
“Nope. Someone dark and handsome in a Latino sort of way.”
“Yup. James is running a little fever so Howie and Leigh are going to take a quick trip to the drugstore. Howie asked me to chaperone.”
“Good luck with that,” Andrea said, laughing. “I heard about your dressing room experience earlier today. You have your work cut out for you.”
“Ain’t that the truth,” I said with a laugh as I finished getting dressed. Before she left, Andrea handed me a huge pair of hoops to go with my little black dress…and a condom.
“What’s this for?” I said, flipping the package over in my hand.
“Safety first, girl.” she said.
“I’m married,” I explained, pushing it back towards her. “I’m not getting into any trouble tonight.”
She pushed the package back into my hand.
“Remember the boy scout motto. Just in case.”
With that she bounced through the bus. I watched through the window as she took off after the other girls clustered in the parking lot. I stared at the foil wrapped package in my hand. The only thing I could think about was whether the Boy Scout motto really was just in case. Somehow I doubted it. Tucking the package under Andrea’s pillow, I grabbed my purse and headed out into the steamy Atlanta night.
Now, I think I need to take a moment to explain that I’ve never been clubbing before. I had heard the stories; I had seen VH1’s Sober House. I knew clubs meant booze and drugs. I knew clubs meant trouble.
What I didn’t know was that I’d never be let back into one in the Atlanta area.
I met the “group,” sans Howie and Leigh, in the parking lot. Leighanne was playfully keeping the car keys out of Brian’s reach.
“Let me drive Leigh,” he said, making a grab for them.
“Nope, I’m DD,” she said with a grin, stepping back and holding the keys even higher.
Nick swooped in with a height advantage, grabbed the keys and tossed them to Brian.
“Somehow I think I’m going to be the one being DD,” Nick explained. Brian smiled. “Good point.” He shook the keys in Leigh’s face and sang flirtatiously, “I’m gonna get-get-get you drunk.” Leighanne rolled her eyes, but gave him a sultry look.
Chatting amongst ourselves, we headed to the car. Somehow, we all managed to fit, even though I ended up half sitting on Nick’s lap.
“This is nice and cozy, eh, folks?” AJ said, his arm draped across Rochelle’s bare shoulders.
“If you say so,” I said laughing.
“Why are you complaining? You don’t have a bony butt pressing into your leg,” Nick teased.
“Hey, peanut gallery! Quiet in the back,” Brian said in his best “dad” voice. “Don’t make me turn this car around.”
“Yes da-ad,” Nick sang in high soprano. Brian made a face in the rearview mirror. “If you were my son I would have left you in the ball pit a long time ago.”
After awhile I tuned out the light-hearted bickering. Atlanta was a huge city and I stared in awe at the mix of big city life mixed with southern charm. Twenty minutes later we pulled up to the Opera Night Club. We hopped out of the car; Brian handed the valet his car keys. From the outside I could hear the music as clearly as if I was already inside.
“Right this way, folks,” Brian said, ushering us around the corner from where the long line of people waiting to get in was sweeping down the street. After a quick chat with a huge bulk of a man at the side door, we entered the VIP area.
I wish I could give a rundown of everyone’s actions that night, but truth is, I let Howie down on the babysitting task. AJ and Rochelle disappeared onto the dance floor. Brian and Leighanne made their way to the bar. Nick led me to a plush booth.
“Want something to drink?” he asked as I scooted and bounced along the seat.
“Why don’t you get me what you’re having?” I said with a smile.
Nick disappeared and I looked around. The room was dark and a little dizzying as several disco balls threw prisms of light helter skelter. A club mix track blared out of invisible speakers. I glanced around, wondering if I’d see Lindsey Lohan or any other celebrity star or starlet causing scandal, but all in all it must have been a slow night in Atlanta.
After about ten minutes, I had started to give up hope on ever seeing a living Backstreet Boy again when Nick sidled back over to the booth. Handing me my drink, he slid in next to me. As he did an identical slide and bounce across the seat, I turned slightly, sneaking a sniff of the cup.
“Diet Coke,” he said. I smiled, hoping he couldn’t see me blush.
“I knew that,” I said, wiping my palm on my bare leg. “I was just checking the fizz content.”
Nick’s eyes crinkled; he gave me a knowing smile. Taking a big sip, he looked around the club.
“Am I going to talk you out on the dance floor tonight?” he asked without turning his head in my direction.
“I can’t dance,” I said sweetly, taking a sip of the drink.
“You can’t dance or you don’t dance? There’s a big difference.”
“I can’t…and I don’t.”
At that moment a beautiful blonde came up to the table. She looked like a cross between Britney Spears and Heidi Pratt.
"Are you Nick Carter?” she said in a voice that would have made Minnie Mouse run screaming out of the building.
Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Nick lean back. He caught my eye and smiled.
“Why, yes, I am.” Nick said, extending his hand. “You are?”
“Rebekah. Oh, I’m like such a fan. Wanna dance?”
I could see the wheels turning in his head. I narrowed my eyes.
“Why, I was just telling my friend here,” he motioned in my direction. “I was just telling her that I’d love to dance. But see, she can’t and she don’t, so…”
“I’ll dance,” I hissed through clenched teeth. Nick turned in mock surprise.
“What was that? You’ll dance?” Nick smiled up at the blonde. “I guess I’m going to have to take a rain check.”
“I’m here all night,” she said sweetly, bouncing off. I was marveling at how she remained upright considering how top heavy she was, when I felt Nick’s warm breath tickle my ear.
“I’ll take that dance,” he said, his voice silky smooth.
Taking another big gulp of Cola (and hoping that a bathroom break would save me from utter embarrassment), I let him take my hand and lead me down a winding staircase to the dance floor. The floor was packed with bodies. The amount of silicon in the room was daunting. I prayed the music would change to something slow; I could easily fake my way through a slow dance with my seventh grade dance moves. Unfortunately, the music continued to thump loudly.
Looking towards the exit, I began to shuffle my feet, feeling a little bit like Godzilla in heels.
“You can do better than that!” Nick said loudly. “Look at me!”
That was my downfall; I shouldn’t have listened to him. Looking up into his face I saw his smiling eyes. He stepped closer, his hands sliding along my waist. My mouth went dry; I really needed that Diet Coke. His body moved automatically to the music and somehow he must have passed on his rhythm gene through his warm palms. I felt myself relax.
“See? Not hard.” Nick yelled over the music. I laughed. He stepped even closer.
I stepped back, caught off guard. Before I knew what was happening, Brian had taken Nick’s place.
“HAVING FUN?” he yelled.
“YES!” I yelled back.
Brian finished out the song and then disappeared into the crowd. I looked around for Nick, but he was nowhere to be seen. Weaving through the mass of bodies, I made my way back up to the booth.
Nick was slouched way down in the seat, his fingers flying over his cellphone. He didn’t look up until I was sitting right next to him.
“You disappeared on me,” I said.
“Sorry,” he said, sliding his phone in his pocket. “I was getting a little bit jealous watching you bump and grind with Brian.”
“I was not bumping and grinding with Brian,” I said, flipping my hair indignantly over my shoulder. Nick grinned.
“So tell me,” he said, his face turning slightly wolfish as he slid closer to me. “since you’re a Backstreet fan…who’s your favorite?”
“What?” I laughed. “That’s so high school.”
“So? Whose picture did you have plastered on your bedroom wall?”
“Justin Timberlake,” I said sarcastically.
“Was it me?”
“I’m not telling,” I said, laughing as he came leg to leg with me in the booth.
“I have ways to make you talk,” he said. Before I could slide away his fingers began to tickle my side. With a laugh and shriek that would have made hyenas jealous, I tried wiggling away from him to no avail.
“Stop!” I gasped, twisting this way and that. His fingers were unrelenting. I reached behind me, running my hand along the wall. I was hoping to find something to grab onto for leverage to pull myself away when my fingers wrapped around what I thought was a coat hook above the booth. I gave a mighty tug and slid back away from his grasp.
And that was when the water started pouring down.
What I had thought was a coat hook was a fire lever. The music stopped and the quiet was punctured by the shrill wail of the fire alarm; the white disco lights were interspersed with the flashing red of warning. I gasped as the cold water rained down in unrelenting torrents. Nick hoisted me to my feet and we headed towards the exit; others ran by shielding their heads with arms or jackets.
A half hour later I stood outside, wrapped in Nick’s jacket, feeling like a very stupid, very drowned rat. I had given a statement to the fire chief and the police and was given a lecture on the danger of creating a false alarm. This was coupled with the club owner’s declaration that I wasn’t allowed near Opera again; not that I would have shown my face in there again anyway.
Of course, Nick took as much of the blame as I did, apologizing profusely to everyone (and I daresay slipping some money for damages). As the policemen walked away, he came up, smiling sheepishly.
“You okay?” he asked, tugging his jacket tighter around my shoulders. I nodded.
“Good job Carter,” AJ said. He sat on the curb, Rochelle leaning against him. He ground a cigarette out onto the street with the heel of his boot.
“It was my fault,” I said. “I was the one that pulled the lever.”
“Nope, that had Nick written all over it,” Brian said, weaving his way towards us through the crowd. Leighanne smiled kindly at me.
“You know,” she said. “AJ promised a crazy night and you and Nick brought it. No harm, no foul.”
“Leigh’s right. But,” Brian checked his watch. “I think we better call it a night.”
Brian and Leighanne dropped the four of us off at the busses, and then headed out to get Baylee. Nick and I stopped outside his bus; he rested her arm above my head as I leaned against the black exterior.
“I guess we should say goodnight,” he said softly, searching my face. My heart began to pound faster at the implication.
“Yes, I suppose we should,” I said softly.
“I had a lot of fun,” he added.
“Fire alarm and all?” I said teasingly.
“Fire alarm and all.”
His face lowered towards mine; my stomach felt like a rollercoaster picking up speed before making a plunge. Panicking, I ducked out from under his arm. Swinging his jacket off my shoulders, I placed it in his free hand and began walking backwards.
“Sweet dreams!” I called, heading quickly to my bus. Nick opened his mouth, but I didn’t stick around to hear what he said.
I knew full well who would be haunting my dreams that night.