Quit Playing Games
© Kat Morgan
The conversation had just gotten started when Kat stormed in.
He had been so angry about the story that he’d had his people chase down the source. Other tabloid tales, about sexual shenanigans and family disputes, well, they’d always had a kernel of truth in them. So he’d ignored them and gone on his merry way. This was different. He couldn’t even conceive of doing something like that. The story was correct in that he did feel an affinity to the local water mammal community, but it was with the manatees and dolphins. Not sharks. If truth be told, he was afraid of sharks.
When he’d discovered that the report had come from someone in this city he’d actually thought it was good news. He was sure Kat had returned here after she’d left the tour and he was going to take some time out to find her and asked her why. He still couldn’t get the look on her face the last time he saw her out of his head.
He had only gotten as far as telling David, in graphic detail, what his lawyers were going to do to them – maybe there was a little shark in him after all – when Kat’d shown up.
He recognized her immediately, even before David had said her name, but she had changed a lot. He couldn’t put his finger on it… Sure she’d lost some weight, maybe not a lot, but enough to notice if you hadn’t seen her in a while. It was more than that. Her clothes were pretty much the same – baggy shirts and jeans. Hair pulled back. But she stood taller. Maybe that was it – she seemed more confident than before. No… there was something else.
Then it came to him. He’d worked around her, with her, for two months, and he’d never, ever, seen her angry. He’d seen her shy, nervous, happy, annoyed, cheerful… even terrified. (Why had she been so scared? Later, he’d ask later.) Never angry. Never like this. He was actually considering calling off the lawsuit – if David and Parker could survive this maelstrom they’d be able to survive that. No, he wanted them to pay for what they had done.
Kat would have to pay too. It didn’t take a rocket scientist to clue into who had first started the story. He was surprised: he didn’t think she’d do something like that, even in jest. And she was as furious about it actually appearing in the press as he was. But she’d still been the one who had got the ball rolling…
Listening to her tirade, he figured out why she’d done it. The kind of game that Parker and David had tried to play on her had been cruel. And it was actually kind of funny in a way. ‘I’d been eating seafood’ indeed! Seeing the ‘new’ Kat he wasn’t surprised that she’d fought back. But how could the other two been so damn stupid as to believe the tale? And why had she picked on him to be the one the made-up story was about?
"…you are damn well going to fix it," Kat yelled.
"We can’t," the ‘I’m-so-trendy-black-clad-Barbie-wannabe muttered.
"Can’t? Oh yes, you can. And you better damn well do something about fixing this before Nick finds out about it."
And opportunity for a dramatic entrance if he ever heard one.
The surprised look on Kat’s face when she whirled around was priceless. But it was quickly replaced by a look of fear. She was afraid of him! Why? What the hell was going on?
"Hello Kat. Long time no see. I was going to look you up while I was in town…"
Had she really gone paler when he said that?
"…I didn’t think that you’d be involved with this." He gestured to Parker and David.
"W-what are…?" she stuttered.
"I didn’t like the story much. So I decided to find out where it came from."
"It came from her!" David said, pointing at Kat, trying to weasel his way out of trouble.
"Oh, I get that. And I also get why she told you some made-up tale. What I don’t get is why you sold it to a tabloid," Nick replied, glaring at the other man.
"Blame her, not us," David tried again.
"Why? She told you what could, at best, be called a silly piece of gossip. And I know that her name wasn’t on the cheque that The Universal Informant sent."
"Nick, I wouldn’t… I was just trying to give them something, anything, to make them go away…" Kat stammered, eyes still wide with panic.
"Pick on someone else next time," he growled at her.
"Look, Kat, I am not angry at you too much. You and I are still going to talk about how, and why, this happened. But these guys," he looked back at David and Parker. "They aren’t going to get off easy."
"But she…" Parker started.
"I’ll take care of Kat. My lawyers will take care of you." He rose gracefully from the chair he had been sitting in and walked towards Kat. Who took a step back.
"Come on. I need to talk to you."
He took her arm and led her out of the house.
"You were right," David said once the door had closed.
"Right about what?"
"Right about them. I thought you were kidding when you said that she’d left for a reason. But damn! Did you see that? She is terrified of him."
Parker just stared at him.
"We gotta find out why," he concluded.
"Are you mad?! Do you have any idea what kind of trouble we are in?!" Parker shrieked at him.
"It’s the only way we can fight off the law suit. Figure out why she really left and use that against him. A pipsqueak like that’ll back down right away."
"You’re nuts. He may look like a pushover, but I am damn sure his lawyers aren’t. They found us, didn’t they? How many lawyers can do that? Get that kind of information from a tabloid?"
"So? Let’s keep on this trail," David replied.
She laughed at him, a sharp barking laugh. "Kat was right. You are an asshole. And a stupid one at that. It’s over, David. I am not going to run the risk of getting into even more trouble than I all ready am. You wanna know how to fight the lawsuit? Apologize. And back off. And hope that whatever ‘terrifies’ Kat the way you think it does, and I didn’t see anything other than someone who was upset about being caught, is enough to make her tell him to leave us alone."
"I tell you she was scared!"
"I tell you to leave it alone!"
"And if I don’t want to?" David asked stubbornly.
Damn she hated that pout. Why had she put up with it for so long? Maybe she was lazy, as Kat had said. Too lazy to get rid of this sycophant when she could have. No more.
"Then you can do it on your own. I’m taking my neck out of this noose. And my butt out of here. Goodbye David. Don’t call me, and I won’t be calling you."
The threatening rain had finally started when Kat and Nick emerged from David’s house. She hesitated on the doorstep, wrenching her arm from his grasp.
"Let go of me!"
"Look, if you want to sue me over that crap, go ahead. But other than that just leave me alone." She turned and ran down the steps as he gaped at her.
"No way!" He ran in front of her and stood in her way. "What the hell is going on? I want to know why you made up that story. I want to know why you left. I want…"
"What is it with you damn self-centred Backstreet Boys? Why is it always what you want? You guys don’t give a shit about who you hurt do you?" she shouted back at him, wiping the rain off her face.
Nick had had a hell of a morning and if she was spoiling for a fight, well he’d give her one.
"Yeah, we are self-centred. And I don’t care if you want to be left alone. You are damn well coming with me and explaining this."
"I am not."
"You are too."
They stood there glaring furiously at each other. Then a large drip ran down the back of Nick’s neck, causing him to shiver.
"Look, come on, Kat. It’s raining. You are getting soaked. I have a car waiting. Please just come have a cup of coffee, sorry, tea with me and let’s talk this, whatever it is, out." He gestured to the large black car that she had walked around when she arrived.
All Kat could think was "he remembered I drank tea." It stunned her for a second.
How could Nick be nice enough to recall that, and yet vile enough to do the things that Howie had said they all did? He was playing. He had to be. Just like Parker and David had, he was playing dumb to find out just how much she knew.
"Kat?" He took a step towards her.
She took a step back, grimacing as she stepped into a puddle.
"You’re getting soaked," he said again, persuasively.
She was. She really should have brought an umbrella with her. "Fine. I’ll go with you. But don’t toy with me Nick. You know damn well what’s going on. And I am not going to get sucked into any of your frigging Backstreet games again."
(c) Kat Morgan