Chapter 21: Discussing truths
"How do you want your eggs?"
Howie sat and watched her as she busied herself in the small kitchen. "Kat, would you just talk to me! Please."
"I was just going to do scrambled, with a little cheese in them. Do you want some coffee? Or tea? I'm going to make some tea."
He sighed. "Why do I get the impression that you are here, but you've run away from me again."
Kat put down the kettle and stared forward at the kitchen wall. "I am still here. I just don't know what to say."
"What did he say to you, Kat?"
"Howie…" She shrugged, trying again to change the subject, "are you sure you don't want some tea?"
"Jesus!" He exploded out of the chair and turned her around so she faced him. "AJ said something to upset you and I want to know what it is!"
"Kat, please. You are scaring me."
Kat looked into his eyes, seeing the touch of fear and concern. She reached up and stroked his face, loving the touch of his soft skin under her hand. Finally, she swallowed back the confusion that she felt. "AJ says he is in love with me."
"He said he was in love with me, and asked me to come down there to be with him."
Howie was shocked. "You must have been some dynamo in bed with him, " he said brutally, wanting to lash out.
Kat was astounded by his attack. "Here it is," she thought. "Here's where he shows how he really feels. Here is where I lose him forever."
"I… I'm sorry, Howie," she said softly.
"Sorry? You're sorry? Damn it, Kat." He stalked around the small room trying to burn off the anger. "So I suppose you're going to go running to him?"
"No!" Kat hadn't even considered the possibility. It was Howie or no one. "I love you, not him. I mean I care about him; he's a friend, but… No."
"Pretty close friend, hunh?" Howie sneered, letting his jealousy get the better of him. "You like that with all your friends?"
He was rocked back as she slapped him hard across the face. "Get out," she said tensely.
"Get out of my house. Get out of my life. Stay the fuck away from me, Howie."
She walked down the hall into the bedroom. He was about to follow her in when his shirt hit him. She threw his pants at him, too. And he only just managed to duck the shoes. "I want you out of here. I want all of you out of here. I never want to see you, hear from you, or your gang of jerks, again."
"You don't…" he started, but she cut him off. "I do mean it, Howie. I am tired of this, and I am tired of running. I love you. I don't know why AJ is saying those things. But I am not going to let myself sit in the middle of this anymore."
"So that's it? We are over?"
"Damn it, you had every reason before to be angry. I betrayed you. But you said you forgive me and that we could move on." She looked him straight in the eyes, "Now this comes along, and you fly into a rage."
"How am I supposed to feel? My best friend not only slept with the woman I love, but now he is in love with her?"
"Did I ever say that I was in love with him? No. Look, Howie, I told you what happened that night; and I do care about AJ. As a friend. Nothing more."
Kat thought about it for a second. Yes, she had still wanted AJ, but that was before she and Howie had reconciled. She would always have good sexual memories of that night, but Howie made her whole. Gods, he barely had to touch her and she was in ecstasy. She searched her mind, her heart, for any twinge of desire for AJ. There was none.
"So why is he…"
"I don't know. Maybe there was more going on in his head at the time that I realized. He's always been a private person, despite his out-there personality. You know him better than I do, you tell me why he is doing this."
Howie sighed, jealousy receding. He though over AJ's behaviour for the past few months. He had been acting strangely, and Howie had just put it down to guilt. "He had been fighting with Kimberley…"
"Maybe that's it. I mean Nick was hurting so much over Jordan. We all knew that; he was having a tough time hiding his feelings. But AJ is such a flirt. He was carrying on with everyone, same as usual. Maybe he was hiding something."
She thought for a second. "Maybe it is about something Kevin once said to me."
"What was that?"
"That first night, when I met you? AJ and I got into that fight at the club. Kevin said that AJ was jealous of anyone who came near you, anyone who might come between your friendship. I mean, two to have been best friends forever, he looks up to you."
"So you think he confused his feelings for me with those for you?"
"So what do we do about it?"
"That is for you to decide." Kat continued, "Howie, I left once before because I was afraid that my sleeping with him would destroy your friendship. I still feel that way. I love you, and it would kill me not to see you anymore, but you and AJ…the Backstreet Boys. I'm sorry, but that is more important than how I feel about you."
"What about how I feel about you? I promised you this morning that I would never leave your side again and I meant it."
Kat was starting to lose strength. She was trying so hard to be tough, to let him go if he needed to. He better do it soon, because she couldn't stand to be this selfless for much longer. "You meant it, yes. At the time."
"You are saying that we are over because AJ is confused?" Howie asked in disbelief.
"I'd rather let you go like this, than any other way."
He stared at her. "Fine."
He reached down and started to put his clothes on. Kat blinked back tears, heart shattering inside her. He really was leaving. It really was over.
He pulled his shirt on, buttoned it quickly. "Well? Are you coming?"
"I want some breakfast."
"You really thought that I would walk out on you? No way, Kat. Whatever AJ's problems are we can work them out later. Together. You and I are in it for the long haul."
The tears she had held back slid rapidly down her face as she flung herself into his arms. He smiled as he absorbed the impact of her body, holding her closely. "I love you, Kat," he whispered in her ear, then held her even tighter as a fresh bout of sobs wracked her frame.
"I thought you were…" she choked out.
He kissed her tears away, stroking her back. "Never." Then captured her mouth with his, moaning as he drunk in her sweetness. She moaned, aroused by his touch.
"Gods, don't ever do this to me again," she whispered. "Don't ever break down every wall I have around me and then kiss me like that."
He chuckled into her throat and he nibbled on her flesh, "so you have no defenses against me, then?"
His hands were stroking her breasts through the thin fabric of her shirt. "None."
"Good. It makes storming your castle so much easier," he said as he pushed her back on the bed.
"Why, Sir Howard, are you trying to get me to let down my drawbridge?" she murmured sensually as she ran her tongue along his chest.
He groaned as her hands slipped beneath his pants, fondling his rear end. "Yes, baby."
"I prefer my Knights without the shining armour," she chuckled.
And he hurriedly complied.