"Wow," thought Kat as she pulled up in front of the huge house. "Singing sure is a lucrative job!"
The driveway was filled with SUVs, BMWs and other fancy cars. She felt very much out of place as she pulled her brown subcompact rental car into a spot. Another car pulled up behind her and a beautiful blonde woman got out, smiled quickly at Kat and headed straight into the house. "Great," Kat thought, "They are all going to look like that and I am going to look like, well, me."
She was about to get back into the car and head out, when the front door opened and a young boy with white-blond hair came barreling out. He was wearing a pair of long shorts and armed with a large water gun. He ran right up to her, stopped suddenly and looked up at her. "Who are you?" he asked.
It was obvious with his hair, and bright blue eyes, that he was related to Nick. "I'm Kat."
"I heard about you! You went diving with Nick."
"That's me," she smiled.
"I'm Aaron. Come on," he said grabbing her hand and pulling her around the side of the house. "Do you like diving? I love the water. Are you any good at water fights? I have this great gun; I've been getting every one."
Diana had to chuckle a litle; he could talk a mile a minute. "I used to be pretty good. Give me a water balloon and I could soak anyone."
He stopped suddenly looked at her with wide, blue eyes. "Balloons. Why didn't I think of that? I think I have some up in my room. I'll go get them," he said and took off in the opposite direction, leaving Diana standing alone. She looked up at the large group of people on the porch, steeled her nerve and moved forward. She got a few curious glances as she moved through the crowd, and was once again tempted to leave.
"Diana! You made it," Nick grabbed her in big bear hug. 'Hey everyone, this is Diana. My first diving victim, I mean student."
Diana was suddenly surrounded by a huge group of people who shook her hand and shouted their names at her; few of which she retained. She was trying hard to take it all in when a girl at the edge of the group screamed and jumped back. Aaron was standing there with a mischievous grin on his face and another water balloon in his hand. "This was a great idea Diana. Thanks," he yelled as he started to chase a slightly older girl in a blue bathing suit.
"Run BJ, run," Nick laughed and turned back to Diana. "That's my sister and I guess you all ready met Aaron."
"Yeah, he reminds me of my little brother. He really looks like you. And if you are anything as impish as he is I can see why your mother won't go with you to Disney any more."
"I don't know what I did to deserve it; two monster children in one family," a voice said behind them and Diana turned.
"Aww, Mom," Nick said as he kissed the woman on the cheek. He introduced her to Diana and the two older women hit it off immediately. Ducking out of the way of a scampering Aaron, they went into the kitchen and talked as they made more snacks for the party.
Jane told Diana that the colossal house was Nick's, and his alone, which she found surprising until she discovered that the rest of the Carter family lived right next door. Jane wasn't thrilled about Nick living on his own, but he was a young man now, and could afford it. He needed his space, though he still spent as much time at their house as he did at his. And BJ and Aaron treated Nick's house as their private clubhouse. They talked about the travelling and the touring, and Diana was surprised to learn that she knew more about many places that the group had been than the older woman did. Jane just laughed and said that it was because of "tight schedules and too many screaming fans."
"I met a few of them today," Diana said and told her the story of the girls in the scuba shop, which had Jane in stitches. "Can I ask you? Isn't it hard having a son who is a major sex symbol?" Diana asked, but when Aaron ran by she amended her statement," I mean two sons."
"It is kind of scary. I mean I changed their diapers and it wasn't that long ago," Jane replied ruefully, and then leaned in conspiratorially and said, "they are both natural blonds."
Diana almost choked on the drink she had been about to take, and had to grab a tissue quickly to stop the water from coming out of her nose.
"There are girls who throw their phone numbers, their underwear on stage," Jane continued. 'I've had to get girls out of the Nick's hotel room on occasion. He's used to it now, and knows better than to encourage it too much. He's very mature about it all. But I am still his mother and I don't think I will ever get used to it."
"And with Aaron's career taking off?" Diana asked.
"Ye gods, I can't even control him at a pool party," Jane sighed. "I am going to kill AJ for giving him that water gun. Actually, I think Aaron will adjust much better than Nick; he's grown up with it and seen what his big brother went through. And he's got four other big brothers, the rest of the Boys, who look out for him. But I am really not sure I am looking forward to when he discovers that girls are for more than just throwing water balloons at."
"My fault, sorry. I shouldn't have mentioned the balloons."
"Oh, he would have thought of them eventually," Jane said and they walked back out the party.
Diana wandered around, talking to the occasional person and relaxing in the early evening sun. The blonde girl whom Diana had seen entering the house before her came up and introduced herself as Leighanne, Brian's girlfriend and the two chatted amiably. Diana remembered all the nasty jealous things that she had heard about Leighanne, but found her to be an open, friendly, intelligent person who clearly doted on Brian as much as he did on her. He kept coming over and making sure she was okay, in his charming Southern gentleman fashion. He impressed Diana, even more so as she recalled that he had written some of her most favorite songs from the last album. Brian waved that off, saying that it was a lot more work than it looked like, and he was glad to have had the chance.
Nick circulated the party, stopping to talk to Howie and his date; a beautiful short dark-haired woman named Nicole, and AJ and his girlfriend Celeste. He had seen Brian and Leighanne monopolizing Diana and was a little jealous; he had only met her today but she had put him at ease in an uncomfortable situation (something he hadn't expected), and made him laugh, even at himself. He decided that he was going to introduce her to Kevin, as soon as he showed up. Where was he anyway? Everyone else was here.
"Hey Brian, where's Train?" he asked.
"Dunno. Probably went surfing or something. He'll be there," Brian replied as he poured himself another drink. He walked over and joined AJ and Celeste, and was soon joined by Leighanne.
Nick looked over to see that Aaron was pulling Diana into the pool. Once there she dunked a surprised Aaron under the water. He came up coughing and immediately tried to dunk her. They wrestled for a few minutes before BJ, sensing an opportunity to get back at her little brother, jumped in and the two girls splashed water at the younger boy until he was laughing so hard he could hardly stand. BJ and Diana retired to the side of the pool where they chatted amiably. From the blush on BJ's face she was telling Diana about her crush on Jonathan, a neighbor boy who was also at the party somewhere. Nick wasn't supposed to know, but he was her big brother and he did pay attention to these things as much as he could.
After BJ eventually found Jonathan and headed off to play beach volleyball with him, Diana left the pool, toweled off and pulled her skirt and t-shirt back on. She had been lying on a chaise talking to Leighanne for only a short while when a tall, dark-haired man sat down. Diana recognized him immediately as Kevin, though Leighanne politely introduced him.
"I hear you did well on your diving test today," Kevin remarked. Over his shoulder Diana could see Nick looking at her and giving her a thumbs up gesture.
"I am going to kill that guy," she thought as she tried hard not to blush. "Yes, it went remarkably well once the instructor stopped being obnoxious."
"Nick has been a bundle of nerves ever since he got that license," Kevin said, and nodded goodbye to Leighanne as she rose and returned to Brian's side.
"He has every reason to be. He told me how worried he was about getting a fan in trouble out there. I think his fears are valid."
"But it was okay?'
"Yeah. I was more nervous about the test to worry about who was marking me," Diana admitted.
He chuckled. "Well you passed, and with flying colours according to Nick."
"He's just saying that," she blushed
"I doubt it. He takes diving very seriously. You must be a natural."
"It is incredible," Diana replied, thinking about the dive. "I never really realized how noisy the ocean is. I mean at the shore there is all those waves and stuff, but deep down, everything has a sound. You can hear the fish as they wiggle through the coral. The scratching of crabs as they walk. I always thought it would be silent, you know?"
"True. I've only been diving a few times. I prefer to stay on top of the water," he smiled. "But it is loud. I think it is because it is so silent."
Diana looked at him confusedly.
"I mean, out of the water there are waves, and birds and people. Underwater it is so quiet that our ears can't get used to it. They seek out any little noise, and because there is nothing to distract you, it seems so much louder," he explained. "And the colours! It is fantastic."
"Yeah. A whole different world," Diana mused.
They were about to talk some more when a blast of water hit Kevin and they turned to see Aaron peeking over the side of the pool with a snorkel in his hand. "Excuse me," Kevin said. "I have to go drown a rat."
He moved off, and was fortunately concentrating on Aaron and didn't see Nick making kissy faces at him and Diana. Diana did though and shook a fist at Nick, which sent him into gales of laughter.
She walked over and socked Nick on the arm.
"Oww," he said laughingly. Then let his arm hang down limply. He kept picking it up by the wrist and letting it fall loosely. "Okay, that's it. You've broken it. I'll never perform again."
"I thought you sang, Nick," she said sweetly. "I didn't realize you needed an arm for that."
"It is for EMOTING," he said, gesturing elaborately. "It makes the song better if you emote."
"I suppose. Lord knows it's not because of your voice."
"Hey!" he laughed. "Are you going to keep insulting me all day?"
"Its called JOKING," Diana replied, using the same tone he had used earlier, "It makes life sillier if you joke."
"You are so childish."
"No. Child-like not childish."
"There is a difference?"
"Of course. Being child-like means that you look at the world with amazement and wonder. That is something you should never lose no matter how old you get. Being childish is chasing someone around with a snorkel."
Nick thought about it for a moment, then remembered that he had done that to her earlier at the scuba shop. Diana could tell exactly when he made the connection and started to giggle.
"Hey! I am not a child!" he said and swept her into his arms, "Behave yourself; I just might prove it."
"Down, boy," Diana giggled.
"I am not a boy, I am a man," Nick said puffing out his chest and then he kissed her lightly on the lips.
Diana pushed him away. "Oh? You guys have changed your name to Backstreet Men?"
"No," said a dripping Kevin as he approached from behind them, "It is supposed to be a given."
She laughed, glad of the distraction. Having Nick's arms around her was suddenly making her feel uncomfortable.
"Aaron's looking for you, Diana. He wants to see how good you are at video games. I think you have a fan there," Kevin said as he toweled off his long, strong arms and sculpted chest. Diana's mouth was a little dry but she replied that she was crappy at them but willing to let Aaron teach her. Nick gave her directions to the den, and she found the two younger Carters all ready at the N64 controls arguing over which game to play.
Nick watched her go, and was surprised that he had felt another flash of jealousy when she looked at Kevin. After all, he had set them up together, why was he envious of Kevin?
"She's great," Kevin remarked, shaking Nick out of his reverie. "Cute, intelligent and the kids adore her. You got really lucky with your first student."
"Are you guys going diving again tomorrow?"
"I think so. Why do you ask?"
"I was just wondering if she would be free tomorrow night. I was going to ask her out for dinner," Kevin replied.
Nick saw green, and it wasn't Kevin's eyes he was looking at, but answered calmly, "Maybe. We were talking about going out in the afternoon and then trying a little night diving if Diana is up for it. I am not sure when we'd get back."
"I'll ask. Thanks, bro, for introducing us, " Kevin walked over to Howie and Nicole.
Nick rushed into the den, and found his baby brother crowing as he trounced Diana, again, in a game. He sat casually on the sofa. "Diana? So are we still on for diving tomorrow?"
"Sure, of course," she replied, eyes shining at the prospect. "I want to see that wreck you were telling me about, and maybe that reef with the octopus...."
"Okay. I also have this really cool place I would like to show you. How do you feel about some night diving?"
She looked worried," I am not sure I am ready for that yet."
"Okay, we'll take it slow. We'll see how you feel when we get out there. Don't make any other plans though, you promise?"
Diana nodded enthusiastically and was drawn back into another game by Aaron.
Nick smiled as he walked back out to the deck. Tomorrow he'd put his plan into action.