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Author's Chapter Notes:
Okay, so I'm coming out of the proverbial Backstreet fanfiction "closet" with my first novel. Thank you Kelly for all of your feedback and support! I couldn't have done it without you! Reviews would be appreciated!
“Come on in!” she shouted.

The old hinges creaked as he slowly opened the door. Taking a deep breath, he readied himself for their reunion. Yet, nothing could prepare him for what he saw as he crossed her room’s threshold. There, lying on the bed was her as he remembered her. Her tiny five-foot frame lay on her stomach with her head buried in a book. Her long, black, slightly tinted brown hair spread across her back. Her legs bent upwards, were exposed and swinging, her sweatpants rolled up to her knees. Her head was cradled between her hands and didn’t turn as she spoke, “Hey Jackie, I left the book you wanted on the dresser, just go ahead and grab it.”

Nick held his breath, truth was, he couldn’t breathe. After all this time, she still affected him the same way without even trying. She was truly breath taking. God knows what his reaction would be if she actually tried to affect him but she never did and he didn’t know if she ever would.

Knowing he had a limited amount of time before she realized his presence, he drew up the courage to utter the words he had practiced reciting in the three-hour drive to see her. “Who would have thought classes, exams, and college life would prevent someone from picking up a phone.”

The second he uttered his rehearsed words her entire body visibly froze. Her legs stopped swinging, her hands stopped writing. “Nick," she immediately thought to herself. She didn’t think that she would ever hear his voice this close to her again, especially with the time that had passed. Her heart was beating a mile a minute, knowing she couldn’t just sink into the lush blankets. Finally, after what seemed like hours but really only seconds, she decided to face the music or rather the melody of this blond god.

“Nick,” barely above a whisper she was sure he didn’t hear her.

But his reply made it known he was listening, “Yeah, Carrie, babe, it’s me. Was there any doubt?”

Slowly pulling herself up, trying to calm her racing heart, Carrie twisted her body to be facing him. As she lifted her gaze toward the door she swore that his eyes were a more brilliant blue than she remembered. He gave her one of his famous grins that melted the hearts of millions, completely undoing her own. She timidly placed her hair behind her ear taking the entirety of his being there. Her eyes swiftly swept over him as she tried to accept his presence in her room.

Noticing her close study of him he tried to ease the tension that had overcome her demeanor, “So, do I pass the test?”

If she was one to visibly blush, Carrie was sure that her entire body would be flaming red. Instead, she smiled nervously trying to summon her voice that seemed to have escaped her, “Y-yes-- I mean no, I mean,” "Oh god," she thought to herself, could she be anymore of a stuttering idiot? Trying to calm the rampant butterflies in her stomach, Carrie took a deep breath and smiled nodding, “You look good, Nick. Healthier and happier.”

"But I’m not happier," Nick thought grimly to himself. “Thanks. I’ve been eating a decent three meals a day--I’m never taking food for granted,” he grinned.

Nodding, she looked down to the hands she was wringing on her lap, “Yeah…”

Seeing the sudden change in her mood again, Nick took a few steps away from the door and stepped closer to the bed and her. He hesitated, “You look better but you didn’t gain much of the weight back, did you?”

She looked up from her lap, realizing that he had moved closer to her. Sighing, she craned her neck upwards slowly gazing into his face, “I always wanted to lose those pounds,” she smiled weakly.

Thinking that it was okay to proceed, “Yeah, I never did ask you how much you ended up losing from the--um, what happened,” he ended meekly.

Her weak smile, slowly disappeared as she shifted her eyes off of his distracting face to the windows near her tiny bed. “What are you doing here, Nick?” she whispered.

Sighing, he looked around the room, finally taking it in. The room was small but neat. The room was comfortable and personalized with a myriad of posters. He studied them, noticing that many of them were of the Beatles, Dave Matthew’s Band, and Led Zepplin. He smiled, if she was going to avoid the subject he could do the same, “I didn’t know you liked Dave Matthew,” he said gesturing towards the poster.

“I don’t,” she said standing up, “those are all my roommate’s posters.”

Seeing her standing, he felt the urge to close the distance between them and wrap her tiny and now fragile body in an embrace that would warm both their souls that were hardened in the last year. He took a step forward only to be stopped by her eyes that held the deepest despair. “What are you doing here, Nick?” she repeated furrowing her eyebrows.

“I--I drove three hours so I could--,” Nick stuttered; only to be interrupted by her raised hand.

“Wait--I’m sorry. That was rude. I’m--I’m just,” pausing to slow her racing thoughts she said, “Why don’t we sit down, you’re probably exhausted from the drive.” She gestured to the two chairs located behind the two books-strewn desks. Grabbing a chair, Nick turned it around and straddled it facing her. Reaching for her own chair, Carrie sat down pulling her legs against her chest.

“So, um, when did you come to Illinois?” Carrie hesitantly asked trying to look everywhere except into his face.

Staring, straight at her, Nick realized again why she was so uncharacteristically beautiful. She wasn’t drop dead gorgeous by any means but she was striking. Her true beauty wasn’t measured through her appearance as she constantly reminded him but her amazing soul. But God, Nick reminisced, she was simply stunning when she smiled.

“I flew up to Chicago yesterday and drove down here earlier today,” Nick said finally answering her question.

Raising her eyes, “PR?” Carrie questioned hoping she wasn’t the sole reason he came to her remote town.

“In Urbana?” raising his eyebrow with a smirk, “Nah.”

Her heartbeat escalated once again as she hesitantly asked, “Oh, so--,” only to be interrupted by Nick.

“What am I doing here? Well, isn’t it obvious?” Nick asked with an ever-present smirk.

Trying not to smile at his playfulness, Carrie rolled her eyes, “I was hoping you could point out the obvious, like you usually do.”

“Oooh. Ouch, now that hurt. See if I drive three hours for you again,” Nick laughed, thinking he would drive for an eternity just to see her for a moment. They sat staring at each other as their eyes spoke the words that could not be said.

“Nick…” Carrie attempted to break the intense nonverbal communication and return to the original topic.

“I’m here to see you,” Nick finally answered waiting for her reaction.

“Nick--I don’t think---,” Carrie stammered while her voice attempted to betray her control.

Exasperated Nick interrupted her, “Damn it, Carrie! It’s been six months. Six fucking months! We haven’t seen or heard from you. You didn’t call, email, or even fucking write after everything we‘ve been through! We were fucking worried about you, okay?!” Nick’s voice escalated as his frustration emerged. Getting up from the chair, Nick ran his fingers through his hair frustratingly and walked towards the window. Pausing briefly to look outside into the darkness and calm himself, Nick turned back around to see Carrie’s wounded expression and tears slowly trailing down her face. “Shit," he thought, “I’ve been here for only ten minutes and I’ve already made her cry.”

Walking slowly to her chair, he lowered himself to her eye level, and decisively grasped both of her soft hands into his own, touching her for the first time in over six months. “God, I’ve missed her touch so much,” Nick thought to himself

Staring into her tear-ridden eyes, Nick said gently, “The guys missed you,” hesitating only for a millisecond to say, “I missed you.”

Carrie swore her heart stopped beating when Nick uttered his words. Gently she pulled her hands out of his strong, warm ones. Wiping away her tears she got up and grabbed several tissues from her desk. With her back facing him, she summoned the strength to say what needed to be said.

“You shouldn’t have come, Nick,” Carrie stated as coldly as possible.