© Kat Morgan 1999/2000

In Name Only

Chapter 8: Settling In

They started by cloistering themselves in Howieís house. It was a huge place, two stories, with more rooms than she expected, and a pool in the back.

"Wow! This place is a palace."

"Fit for a queen?" Howie stopped suddenly and burst into laughter. "That didnít come out right."

"Donít look at me. I didnít say it," she grinned.

"Come on, Iíll give you the tour," he said, holding out his hand.

It was the room at the top right corner that overlooked the pool that Kat fell in love with. It had huge windows that looked out to the horizon, but caught enough of the pool to have blue light trails cover the ceiling. Kat was mesmerized.

"I take it you want this room?" Howie smiled on seeing her face.

"Its incredible."

"So? Bedroom or study? I was thinking that youíd want the other room down the hall. The one next to mine."

Kat was still looking at the light trails. She sighed. "Study. This room will inspire me. My hand is already itching. The other room would make more sense if we are going to pull off this fiction."

He stopped. "Kat. We donít have to do this. I know you said you would, but we can still forget about it."

"Iím sorry. I didnít mean to hurt you. Iím just nervous," she took a deep breath. "Iím a little out of my depth here."

"Me too."

"No, you donít understand." She grinned evilly, then opened her eyes wide. "Oh my god! Iím like in a Backstreet Boyís house. It is SO totally awesome. I mean, they are so phat." Kat did her best ditz impression.

He smiled. "Youíre joking, but this is hard for both of us. Come on. Iíll show you your room." His eyes lit up. "Then we can go SHOPPING!"

"Now whoís acting like a ditz?" she shook her head, smirking at him.

The room was huge, and also had huge windows. It was done in a light blue, and Kat liked it immediately, though the carpet had to go. The closets were huge, and would hold more clothes than Kat could ever own in her life. It even had its own bathroom, which connected to Howieís room. It was the mirror image of hers, she realized, and she recognized many of its features from the webcam.

"I donít understand you. You have this huge house and you keep your computer in here."

"Its just more convenient," he shrugged.

Dinner was a quiet affair, and the next few days were a riot of shopping, reorganizing and just getting used to having each other around.

And then it was time to meet Howieís family. And finally, the other Boys.

Kevin was still in Kentucky, something Kat was extremely grateful for. It would be bad enough being suddenly thrust in the middle, without his deep glower. Howie had invited the others over for a barbecue, and she was scared. Her hands wouldnít stop shaking.

"Iíve all ready told them about you. You donít have to be so worried."

"Everything?"

He shook his head. "No. They think this is for real. That we are totally smitten with each other. I hate lying to them."

Kat gave him a hug and a kiss on the cheek. "Itís going to be hard for both of us. This will be the big test, I think. If we can manage through this..."

"Yeah." He looked at her curiously. Then leaned forward and kissed her. His lips were soft and brushed lightly, tantalizingly over hers. She was so surprised, she opened her mouth to him and his tongue flicked over hers. He moved in closer, pulling her deeper into his embrace and she put her arms around his shoulders. It felt so good.

"Ahem."

The broke off the kiss and turned quickly, startled by the interruption. Two men stood there and Kat recognized them as AJ MacLean and Brian Littrell. Kat blushed and tried to pull away from Howie, but he gave her another hug before releasing her. Nick came in just as they were moving apart and looked at the faces around him: Brianís with a grin, AJ smirking, Kat blushing, and Howie a little flushed.

"What did I miss?"

"I think Howie and the infamous Kat were about to forget they were expecting guests," AJ chuckled, and Brian swatted him on the arm.

Brian stepped forward and introduced himself, as if he needed to, and the other two men followed his lead. Kat smiled, and was surprised at how instantly at ease she was with Brian, though AJís continual flirting made her a little uncomfortable. Nick just said hello, and then pretty much ignored her in favour off the girl he had brought with him. The three men did take turns coming over and giving her a modified version of the Spanish Inquisition, but that was something she had expected. She managed to answer calmly and rationally, though part of her mind was still reeling from Howieís kiss.

Howie was too. Why had he done it? He hadnít heard the guys coming in, so it hadnít been a reflex to their arrival. It was just something he suddenly needed to do. And it was so sweet. Maybe he wasnít... no. He liked kissing her, liked holding her in his arms, and had real genuine deep affection for her. But it was still not Ďthereí for him. Was it?

He glanced over to where Kat was talking to AJ. His buddy was putting his usual moves on her and Kat was rebuffing all of them with a firm, but laughing, manner. He knew that would impress AJ, but was still surprised by a quick surge of jealousy. Kat was his, not the guys. They shouldnít... What the hell was he thinking? Kat was no oneís but herself. Man, this whole situation was starting to affect him.

"Hey, Howie. Got any more beer?" Brian interrupted his musing.

"Isnít there more in the pantry?"

Brian shook his head. "Can't see any."

"Damn, I thought I had more than just that one case."

"Iíll go get some. Iíve only had one and a half... pesky Nick, stealing my booze." Brian headed towards the door, pulling his keys from his pocket, then walked over and invited Kat along.

She realized immediately what he was up to. Time to talk to the new person alone. So she agreed though she was a bit wary.

Brian was quite relaxed and even gave her a small tour before they pulled up at the store and got another two cases of beer. One for now, one to keep on hand for the future.

It was on the way back that he hit her with the big guns.

"Youíve known Howie for how long?"

"About eight months."

"And how well?"

She gaped at him. "Thatís somewhat personal. I mean we have been close friends for ages, and then it got closer, but..."

"Do you love him?"

Kat answered honestly, even surprising herself with the answer. "Yes."

He glanced at her, reading her expression. Then nodded.

They returned to the house, and Nick suddenly felt the need for a long walk around the house and could she escort him? His questions were similar to Brianís though not as blunt.

AJ didnít try and get her alone that night, but offered to show her the studio, where they recorded from time to time, the next day.

By that evening Howie had the results in and they were much in her favour.

"Thatís good. I just hope they stay that way when we roll out part two of this," Kat said as she set up her computer, on her lucky desk. All of her things had finally arrived and it seemed as good a time as any to settle in.

She plugged the power bar in and turned on the machine, happy to see it startup without any difficulties. Howie was hovering over her, as he had been for the last 24 hours. They had avoided talking about it, but she couldnít hold it in anymore.

"What was that kiss for?"

He looked away, trying to collect his thoughts, and then back at her. "I donít know. I just wanted to kiss you."

"Look, if we are going to go forward with this we need to figure things out. If I am supposed to be your wife I know we are going to have to be more affectionate with each other in public, but I admit I am finding this confusing."

"I like holding you. And I really enjoyed kissing you. I just canít promise more. And I donít think I should force you into more."

"You wouldnít have to force me," Kat said, laying her soul bare.

"No," he sighed. "And I donít think it would be a hardship for me. I do love you, Kat. Iíve told you before. I just..."

"If we go forward there are only two ways I can do it. Either we really are man and wife and that is for real, or we arenít. I realize the first option isnít possible, so..."

"Who says it isnít possible?" Howie said as he took her in his arms. He lowered his head and was about to kiss her when she said, "Kevin." He reacted with a small gasp, and his eyes dilated for a second. She stepped back.

"See? I just have to say his name and you canít hide your desire for him. What happens when he comes back? Any promises you make to me will fall by the wayside and we both know it. Donít deny what you are, Howie. Whether it is Kevin or someone else, you are gay. And I am not interested in being sloppy seconds."

"So what do we do?"

She sighed and wandered over to the window, gazing out at the pool. "Kiss me."

"What?"

"You heard me. Kiss me."

He gingerly took her in his arms and gave her a small peck on the lips. He pulled back then kissed her again, deeper. The kiss continued, uninterrupted this time. They explored each otherís mouth, giving and receiving pleasure from the gentle stroking of each otherís tongues. Both were a little breathless when it ended.

Kat took a moment to allow her pulse to slow. "That is as intimate as we can ever be."

"But..."

"No, Howie. Thatís it. That much would be expected of us and clearly we can manage that much without gagging. But no more than that. Please." She looked at him with wounded eyes, Then said, "excuse me" and ran to her room.

She sat on the edge of the bed, a tear running down her face. She could still feel his lips on hers, and touched them lightly. They still felt warm from his breath. Maybe it was because she had gone for so long without someone in her life? This was getting difficult and it hadnít even started. She curled up on he new bed and cried herself to sleep.

"Okay, could I feel like a bigger heel?" Howie thought as he watched her go.

He went downstairs to the music room and took a guitar down from its stand. This usually calmed him down, but tonight it just didnít seem to do it. He was about to give up when he heard a knock on the door. "Kat?" He went to answer it and was grabbed quickly and a pair of strong, firm lips descended on his.

Chapter 9