© Kat Morgan 1999/2000
In Name Only
Chapter 32: Distance
Howie was concerned about the sudden distance between Kat and Kevin and asked her repeatedly what had happened. She shrugged it off, saying that these things happened in any friendship. That Kevin had his own life and, besides, Kat and Brian had been the best of friends for a while and that they had grown apart naturally. It was nothing to worry about. She was trying so hard not to show how much it hurt.
She masked her terror over the possibility of losing Kevin by concentrating on her final edits of her book, and Howie’s ongoing troubles in his relationship with Paul. That affair seemed to be drawing to a close and Howie was alternately depressed and relieved.
The short tour that the group had across the States would be the ideal time for him to figure out his feelings for Paul. The other man had made it clear that he wouldn’t accompany him, and Howie was actually glad of the chance to be alone. He missed Kat. Not sexually, that could never happen but their marriage had suffered because of his long affair with Paul. They weren’t as close as they had been before, and he was worried he had been neglecting her. She always smiled and waved her manuscript under his nose when he mentioned it, but he wasn’t convinced. She had done so much for him, for the group, and he had been ignoring her in favour of his lover.
They were in Los Angeles. Kat had been sleeping in Howie’s room for the last few weeks; unable to come up with an excuse to be with Kevin. He had been bitter and distant; willing to spend as many free moments with her as he could, but his unhappiness showing on his face.
To make matters worse they had bumped into Mindy at a club. Kevin’s ex-girlfriend had made her renewed interest in him very clear. Kat wanted to scratch her eyes out, but could do nothing as she watched the other woman draped herself over Kevin, batting her eyelashes and pressing herself up against him as they danced.
Kat couldn’t take it, and made her excuses to return to the hotel early. The others returned hours later. Howie tapped lightly on their door and then looked apologetic as he entered, Paul behind him. The other man had flown out there, trying to make amends. As much as Kat hated him at that moment, she had to admire his dedication. She nodded her okay, and slipped from the room, leaving the two men alone.
She steeled herself and walked to Kevin’s door and knocked. She entered and was surprised to see Mindy reclining on the bed. Kevin was in the bathroom and peeked out at Kat’s entrance. He looked at her, then at Mindy, in her state of partial undress.
"Mindy, that’s not why... Kat, I can explain," he stuttered.
Kat smiled, swallowing back her despair. "Sorry to disturb you Kevin. I didn’t realize that you were busy," she said as brightly as she could, then ran from the room.
Kevin started after her, stricken. "What the hell do you think you’re doing?" he turned on Mindy.
"But, baby. You said I could be here," she pouted.
"Get dressed. That is NOT why I said you could stay," he said gruffly.
"You’re not fooling around with that mouse, are you?" she asked, leaning forward, letting her breasts fall forward.
"She’s Howie’s wife," he protested.
"Awfully late for her to be stopping by," Mindy insinuated.
Kevin thought quickly for an excuse. "We have a surprise party for Howie’s birthday coming up. I asked her to stop by."
"Still she seemed quite upset," the blonde woman insisted.
Kevin went on the offensive. ‘I don't like what you are implying." He picked up her blouse and threw it at her. "You and I have been through for a long time. And I don’t think you have any right to cast aspersions on my friends."
"You two were never friends before," she whined.
"Leave Mindy. I don’t think it’d be too hard for you to find a place to stay. I invited you her in good faith and now you are trashing one of my best friend’s wives."
"Just get out."
Mindy simpered, thrusting her breasts forward and pouting her full lips, but Kevin was having none of it. He offered her the purse she had brought with her and then escorted her to the elevators. He put her in a cab, then went back up to his floor. He started down the hallway, looking for Kat. Then he saw her. In Nick’s arms. Kissing him. Entering Nick’s room.
Kat was livid. She had decided to tell Kevin that she’d do what he asked. That she’d leave Howie for him. Only to be confronted by a half-naked Mindy and Kevin’s weak excuses. She walked down the hall, collapsing in an alcove, holding her head in her hands. She wanted to cry, but the tears wouldn’t come. She was still in too much shock. She raised her head and stared lifelessly out of the window at the city’s lights.
"Kat? You okay?"
Nick’s voice called her back to reality and she smiled weakly. "Fine."
"No, you’re not." He crouched down beside her, concern on his face. "Is it Paul? I saw him come in earlier."
"Sort of," she replied, turning back to the window. She couldn’t tell him anything about Kevin. Even now she protected him. Gods, she had loved him so much and he had betrayed her. And for that bitch.
Nick looked at her. He had stopped making his passes at her, but still wanted her. The unattainable woman. He couldn’t understand Howie; realized that his desires were different, but to constantly reject this woman in favour of that peroxide blond bimbo boy? He’d never understand that.
"Come on. It’s okay. I have a spare bed in my room. I’ll even spot you a game of Mario Kart."
Kat smiled. Nick had calmed down so much over the past while. His brief relationship with Julie hadn’t flourished, and he had been throwing himself into his work. He was maturing fast. They had resurrected their friendship, and he had even stopped propositioning her, though his eyes showed his continued interest. "Thank you, Frack."
He stood and pulled her out of the chair. "I take it Mindy was successful and Kevin’s room is now out of bounds," he said sympathetically, totally unaware of the pain buttons he was pushing.
She blanched, then laughed harshly, glad he was turned away from her and couldn’t see her face. "Yep. Stuck without a home tonight."
"Well, come on then. We can’t have you sleeping in a hallway," he pulled her along the corridor towards his room.
"Nick?" she said as they approached the door.
"You stopped making passes at me."
He stopped and turned to her. "It was making you uncomfortable."
"So you aren’t interested in me any more?"
"No, I mean yes. I mean..."
She silenced him with a kiss. "I don't want to be alone tonight, Nick."
"Are you serious?" he squeaked, thrilled by the touch of her mouth.
"You won’t be," he murmured as he kissed her again, then opened the door and the two slipped inside.
The all-night diner across the street from the hotel was bright, its fluorescent lights glaring.
Kat sat heavily down on the stool at the counter, ordering a coffee. She sipped its rancid brew, wrinkling her nose as she knew it had probably been in the pot since early that morning. It was think and oily, but a welcome warmth to her shivering frame. She had run from Nick.
As much as Kevin had hurt her, she couldn’t do it. Couldn’t pull Nick into her mess. Couldn’t open herself to another man even if the one she loved was with another woman.
Nick had understood. Believing that Howie was the reason for her reluctance. He honestly thought that this was the first time she had tried to take advantage of her so-called "open" marriage with Howie. He was disappointed by, but sympathetic of, her inability to follow through. He had let her leave with a quick hug.
Kat hated herself for deceiving him. For leading him on. For being unable to quench her sorrow over Kevin in another person’s arms.
"Did you do it?" a voice asked and she spun around to see Kevin sitting in a booth behind her. His eyes were red-rimmed and bloodshot, and his face looked gaunt.
"Did you have sex with Nick? I saw you go into his room. I saw you kiss him," the pain in his voice was raw.
"Shouldn’t I be asking you what you did?" she countered.
"Answer the question, Kat. Did you fuck Nick?"
"Yes," she lied.