Emma snuggled deeper into Nick’s arms. He stirred a little, eyes opening drowsily. He looked at her, smiled, tightened his arms around her and went back to sleep.
She couldn’t believe this was happening. In under a week her world had been turned upside down. And sideways. And then around in a few more circles. The simple, straightforward life she thought she was destined for had changed. Suddenly, the woman she was working for, the woman she thought of as a big sister, was someone other than who she said she was. Rina’s patient acceptance of Emma’s crush on the Backstreet Boys, and Nick Carter, was, in a way, far more mysterious.
She tried to remember if she had ever said anything nasty about Kat, the missing Backstreet ex-wife, and came up blank. Though Rina’s comment, one that had stuck in Emma’s mind at the time as odd, about the absent woman now made sense. She had said that nothing was as it appeared. “If she left she probably had a very good reason,” and she had reminded Emma that there was two, and sometimes more, sides to every story.
So not only was Rina, sorry, Kat, revealed, but Chris was not just the cute kid Emma liked to babysit from time to time. But he wasn’t Howie’s son. Howie had even admitted it and accepted it. Who’s son was he? Nick’s?
It would certainly explain why Nick was here. Though it wouldn’t explain why Nick was here-here. If Nick and Kat had had a thing, and Chris was the result, Emma highly doubted that Nick would be here with her right now. And he was here.
This was what stunned her the most. She was lying here in Nick’s arms. And it was the most natural thing. He wasn’t the superstar she’d always envisaged him as. He was just Nick. This guy she met. A friend of Kat’s. Someone who wanted to be around her. Someone who had spent every evening since his arrival with her. Talking to her, goofing around with her, just being a guy with a girl he is interested in with her. It was only every once in a while, when part of her mind started to freak out, that she realized who he was.
He was so damn beautiful. And fun. And intelligent. Yeah, intelligent. People always seemed to downplay him: he was the youngest, the blondest, the shyest. But he had also been a successful player, both as part of a group and individually, in the very tough world of the music industry for more than ten years. You didn’t get there by being stupid. The conversations they’d had were incredible. He knew so much. And what he didn’t know, he had a thirst to learn. She’d never felt so intellectually challenged, and yet fully supported, by any man she’d ever met.
He was also so gentle. They’d known each other for less than a week, spent so much time, and he hadn’t made a single move that wasn’t respectful of her. It’s not like he hadn’t lived the fast life; he had admitted to her a few incidents he regretted. If anything he was so anxious not to go faster than she wanted he’d ended up going too slow. Hell, if he kept up like this much longer SHE’d be the one to jump him!
His kisses set her afire. And the way his arms felt around her. They had done some exploration of each other’s bodies. She was now well-acquainted with those ticklish spots he had on his stomach and neck; when they didn’t make him laugh, they made him groan in very satisfying way. He also knew exactly where to nibble in order to turn her into jelly…
She wanted him. She knew that. Wanted him badly. And he seemed to want her badly too. But he was holding back. Why? If Rina – Kat, gotta remember it’s Kat – was behind it, she was going to give her a stern talking to. After all, it couldn’t be because of the other reason. I mean, it was ludicrious to think that he was doing it because he was falling in love with her as much as she was falling for him, wasn’t it?
Her mind could keep roiling this over all night, heck it had been doing just that for days now, but her eyes were telling her that it was time to sleep. They had taken Chris out for a long hike and boat ride today, and he’d left the two adults with little or no energy. Kat had accepted the sleeping child back with a grin, then told them to go relax. They had dropped onto the couch with a sigh of relief, Nick pulling her into his arms. It had been at least an hour, and they were still there, snuggled together. Kat hadn’t come back downstairs. Em tried to figure out why, but her eyelids were so heavy. She’d have to ask in the morning. She’d also have to ask Kat about the other thing. But not now. In the morning. Sleep now.
Kat finished reading her book and set it aside. She wondered what had been going on downstairs; hoped she’d given them enough time to themselves. She still hadn’t heard Nick come back upstairs, and wasn’t sure if it was safe yet. But she needed to go downstairs. She really needed to get something. She needed to do it now, before she chickened out.
She crept down the stairs quietly, listening for any noise. Nothing. When she peeked into the living room she realized why. Chris can be a bundle of energy sometimes, and anyone not used to those moods tended to be overwhelmed by it. And it looked like he’d done it again. Nick was stretched out on the couch, head on the low armrest. Em was snuggled up close to him, with his long arms wrapped tightly around her. They both had a slight smile on their faces as their chests rose and fell, almost in unison.
It was so darn cute. She wished she had a camera.
She chuckled as she pulled a blanket out of the cupboard and quickly covered them. Then went over to the cabinet in the corner and pulled out the few things she had come to get.
She checked again before she left; they were still dead to the world. Good. She could do this in private.
Nick made sure he hadn’t appeared to have moves a muscle, but inside he was cheering with joy. The entire time he had been there Kat had steadfastly refused to talk about Kevin. To even look at his picture or watch any of the videos when he and Chris had then out. But he must have been making headway.
What Kat had retrieved from the cupboard was the photo album that Chris had shown him; the one of Kevin. She’d also taken one of the BSB videos.
AJ stared sullenly at his food. He really should eat. He hadn’t eaten much in the last few days, and it was not as if he could afford to lose weight. He was already too damn thin. Scrawny. Skeletal. Emaciated. What else had she called him? Well, ‘fucking asshole’ had figured prominently.
“Hey Bone. What’s shaking?” Brian said as he dropped into the chair across the table from him. “You gonna eat those fries?”
AJ shoved them at him dispiritedly. “Please don’t call me that, okay? I am getting really sick of that nickname.”
Brian was about to through him a quick comeback, but noticed the dejected look on his face. “You okay? This Howie thing getting worse?”
“Howie thing? Oh yeah, that.” AJ shook his head. “No. Howie’s okay. Still hurting. He honestly believed that woman was Kat and that CJ was dead. The guilt he was feeling… well, Kevin has always been really good at kicking D when he’s down. No, it’s not that. Patti and I broke up.”
“Ouch. Wanna talk?”
“Come on, AJ. You do. I can tell. What happened? She dump you or the other way around.”
“I dumped her. It just… It wasn’t working.” He sighed, then leaned forward and poured out his heart to Brian. He’d just come to the realization that while Patti may be the girl for Johnny No-name, he was AJ McLean. Sure, Johnny was part of him, but AJ was also part of something else. Something he wanted more than what he’d had over the past while. He loved touring and all on his own, but he missed being part of a group. He missed the camaraderie, the hi-jinks. He missed the closeness he felt from being with people who knew him inside and out. Patti just didn’t fit into that dynamic. And the more he’d tried to include her the more that had become obvious.
It had gotten to the point where the only place they communicated anymore was in bed. And while it may hurt the persona he’d constructed for himself over the years to say so, that wasn’t enough.
So he’d told her that it was over.
And she’d told him a thing or two back.
He hadn’t enjoyed that much. He knew she’d done it because she was angry. And he knew he’d made the right decision. But it had still hurt.
“I gotta agree with you, man. I liked Patti,” Brian said, ignoring AJ’s snort of derision. “I did, honestly. She was fun and wacky. But she wasn’t right for you. And she was trying too hard. It was like she had to know everything about all of us, and was going to bulldoze the info out of us. We’ve got secrets, bro. You know that. And we aren’t so willing to open up about them. She never seemed to get that.”
“Howie said the same thing,” AJ muttered.
“Yeah, well he oughta know. She was always asking him questions about Kat and CJ. It was driving him nuts. I had to tell her to back off a few times.”
AJ blinked at him. ‘She was? He never said… I didn’t know…”
Brian shrugged. “He wasn’t going to tell you. Just deal with it himself. But it was annoying. And the things she said to Kevin about being him being a slut… It didn’t go over well. And I think she was getting frustrated by us saying ‘leave him alone, he has reasons.’ And then not telling her the reasons.”
“Damn, I thought she was just asking me all that stuff.”
They lapsed into silence. Then Brian grinned evilly. “So when is her book coming out?”
“Yeah, you know, the “I was AJ’s girlfriend and he’s a pig” book? She got a contract for it yet?”
AJ started to chuckle.