Kat hesitated at the doorway. What was she doing here? She let her secret, OK secret no longer, obsession get the better of her. So here she was, where she didn't belong. Hoping, praying, for just one glimpse of the man who had haunted her dreams since she had first seen his picture.
She glanced around the room, feeling even more uncomfortable. She must be the oldest one in the room. Well, except for the reporters and record executives over by the wall. Of the fans: she out-aged them by at least ten years. Not surprising considering who they were here to see.
She saw Parker, the music writer for the small entertainment paper that she worked for over by the wall. Clad in her habitual black, the other woman with deep in conversation with one of the writers from the other arts journal, the far more left wing one, in town. Parker must have felt Kat's gaze and turned to look at her, a sneer forming on her face.
"I hope she pulls that nose ring out of its socket when she does that," Kat thought acidly. The short laugh from behind her made her realize that she'd said it aloud.
"So I take it you are not here as a member of the press?" the soft male voice asked as she spun around.
She shook her head, afraid to speak.
"Yes," she managed to whisper. Then cleared her throat and said it again more firmly.
"Then I won’t bother to introduce myself," he grinned. "It’d be redundant. You are?"
She answered his grin. "Kat. Katherine, actually. But Kat."
"Please to met you, Kat," he smiled, shaking her hand.
"Well, look what you found, Kat." Parker’s strident voice broke through and the woman shouldered her way past Kat, standing in front of the man. "Parker Hamilton, With It magazine. Do you have anything you might want to say to our readers about tonight’s concert?"
"Weren’t you here for the press conference earlier?" He smiled politely at Parker.
Parker snorted derisively, "I was thinking of something other than the usual spiel that fans like Kat like to hear. You have nothing to say?"
"You two know each other?" he asked politely, winking at Kat.
"How does he do that?" she thought, as she flushed under his gaze. The smile had been there in his eyes when he looked at her, and gone the next instance when he turned back to Parker.
"Yes. Kat works for With It, too. Just a very junior writer. So brave of her; starting a new career at her age," Parker said bitchily. "Imagine our surprise at the paper to discover her interest in your group. Charming, just charming."
He looked at the artsy pseudo-Goth in front of him. With her tight black outfit over an anorexic frame, dark perfect makeup, crimson-tinted lips, and her bleached white hair with black tips. He compared her quickly to the other woman. Slightly plump, plain of face, medium length brown hair, little or no makeup, casually dressed in a pair of jeans and a royal blue silk shirt. If Parker was an example, he could well imagine what the people at the paper thought of Kat’s interest. And charming wouldn’t have been the world. No wonder she looked like she wanted to hide under a table.
"Very charming," he said, mimicking Parker’s tone, but making it sound so much nicer. He turned, smiling at Kat. "I am always delighted to meet a fan. It is so good to know our music, our message, reaches everyone."
"Your ‘message’? What would that be? Buy more of our t-shirts and calendars?" Parker’s animosity was starting to leak through even more now.
"Of course not," he said smoothly. "That caring, consideration, love and romance, is the answer." He nodded at her brusquely, taking Kat’s hand and brushing past the other woman.
"What was the question?" Parker asked acidly as they moved away.
He leaned in conspiratorially. "I don’t know what hers would be, but mine is: what’s her problem?"
"Overexposure to Rob Zombie and Marilyn Manson," Kat answered snidely, her response popping out before she could repress it.
He burst out laughing as he lead her to the table at the far side of the room. "At last. I was afraid you had no more fight in you."
Kat grinned. "Lots of that. I just don’t get a chance to free it often."
"Why? Because of her?" he indicated Parker with his chin. She had gone back to her place along the media wall, looking condescendingly at the "meet and greet" activities that continued in the room.
Kat sighed. "Unfortunately where I work, she and her black-clad clones reign supreme. She’s the queen bee and Satan forbid you should cross her."
"You think she’s the type to worship anyone else?" He snorted with laughter and Kat pressed on. "Yep, Parker sold her soul for thin thighs, black leggings and that forked tongue of hers."
He was laughing hard now, managing to gasp, "meow. Want some milk?"
She flushed. "Sorry. Not making a good impression, am I?"
"A better one than she did," he said amused.
"Let’s start again, anyway." She held out her hand. "Hello. I’m Kat Morgan. Fan of the Backstreet Boys. And you?"
He shook her hand firmly. "Howie D. Funnily, enough, I happen to be a Backstreet Boy."
She gaped at him comically. "No?! Really?!"
"Oh stop, you are making me laugh too much."
They sat in pleasant silence for a few moments. "Shouldn’t you be mingling or something?" she asked.
"Eager to get rid of me? No. I did my bit. Nobody’s missing me. Sometimes being the least popular Backstreet Boy helps."
"You are not!"
"Oh yeah? Look over there." He pointed to a corner where two heads, one dark blond, the other lighter, held court with a huge crowd of adoring fans. "Nick and Brian get most of them." He pointed to another group to the left. "Those are the ones who like bad boys, like AJ. And over there, the tall dark and handsome acolytes worship at the altar of Kevin."
She followed his gaze, staring at the man in question. Even from across the room he was everything she’d ever thought and more.
Howie glanced at her. "And look. Another Kevin devotee is with me now." Kat blanched, dragging her eyes reluctantly away from the oldest Backstreet Boy. She was about to deny it, but Howie rolled on. "Anyway. They’re all surrounded by fans. We seem to be surprising alone."
"If it helps, you’ve always been my second favorite." Kat said.
He laughed shortly. "Well good. I’m glad I rate."
"Seriously, Howie. And of all of them, you’re the one I wanted to talk to most."
Kat flushed, fighting the urge to look at him again. "Okay, I have a crush on the man," she said sharply. "I wanted to see him. But not talk to him. It might shatter the fantasy."
"Hmm," Howie said not believing her.
She turned to him angrily. "From what I’d hear of you I thought you’d be good to talk to. Sweet D, isn’t it? The other fans couldn’t say enough good things about you. I didn’t expect you to be a self-centred whiner." Kat stood. She’d had enough. All the teasing at work and from her roommate. All the personal things she was working through. And now he was making fun of her. She couldn’t take it any more. She was getting out of here. Fantasy over.
"Hey," Howie grabbed her hand. "Hey, don’t go."
"Why not? Maybe the reason you aren’t surrounded is because I’m scaring them away," she shot back.
"I think your Parker buddy is was did that. Look, I’m sorry. Please stay. Talk to me. I’ll stop being an ass."
She looked into his pleading eyes. His soft, deep brown, pleading eyes. And sat back down.
He gave her a quick hug. "I am sorry. My girlfriend flew out this morning, and I won’t see her again for a few weeks. I’ve been wallowing in self-pity."
Of course he’d have a girlfriend. Okay, daydream number two shattered.
She smiled. "I suppose I can forgive you. I figure you’re human." She stopped and looked him up and down appraisingly. "You are human, aren’t you? I mean with a body like that…"
"Oh yes, I like you," he laughed, flashing her his patented thousand watt smile.
They sat there talking for ages. They talked about everything; music, movies, religion, politics, the weather. All the things she shouldn’t talk about in "polite company" as her great-aunt used to say. They just couldn’t stop chatting. Kat hadn’t been lying when she’d said she had wanted to talk to him, and she found him to be a far better conversationalist than she’d expected.
They were in the middle of an intense discussion of American foreign policy when Howie suddenly broke up and looked up.
"D, man, we really need to go now." AJ stood beside Kat, looking curiously at the woman who had monopolized Howie’s attention for so long.
"AJ, this is Kat. Kat, AJ," Howie said, noticing for the first time how much the crowd had thinned out.
Kat smiled and shook AJ’s hand, taking in his wiry frame, the t-shirt which only partially covered his tattoos, black jeans, and, naturally, his obligatory sunglasses.
AJ smiled at her and then looked back at Howie. "We have to be at the stadium," he glanced down at his watch, "right now. Come on."
"Are you coming to the concert?" Howie asked Kat as he stood, and she nodded.
"Upper levels. Not the greatest seat, but I’ll be there."
"Forget that." Howie looked around the room, ignoring the bouncing AJ who was eager to get going. "Todd, over here," he called and a slim man pulled himself from where the record company contingent stood propping up the wall.
"Todd, this is Kat. She needs a ticket. Or is it tickets? You coming with a boyfriend?" Kat shook her head. "Good. A ticket and a backstage pass for tonight. My guest."
Todd nodded, holding out a clammy hand for her to shake.
"I gotta go. See you later?" Howie said quickly, then turned back and gave her a peck on the cheek, before heading out with AJ and the others. Kat caught a glimpse of short dark hair and a flash of green eyes, looking at her speculatively. Then they were gone.
Todd, conscientious though officious, took down her information and assured her that a package containing a ticket and pass would be waiting for her. He even offered to send a car round to pick her up, but she refused; she wasn’t going to take advantage of Howie’s generosity any more than she all ready was. It would take a stronger woman than she to turn down a good seat and a backstage pass to see the hottest group on the planet, though.Chapter 2
(c) Kat Morgan