Quit Playing Games
Nick gestured for Kat to get in the car ahead of him. For some reason (what the hell was going on?) he got the impression that if he’d gotten in first she would have bolted. The quick grimace that crossed her face convinced him that was exactly what she’d intended.
Another fat raindrop landed on his head and trickled down his neck and he cursed, wriggling until the fabric of his shirt soaked it up. He glanced over at Kat. The look on her face was one of amusement now, rather than fear.
"Sure, laugh at me why don’t you?" he joked.
"It’s funny discovering that there is still some humanity left in you."
"What the hell is that supposed to mean?"
Kat shrugged and looked out the car window.
"Kat… Please? What are you so angry about? Why did you leave the tour? Why did you make up that story? What is going on?" Nick said, with a slight whine to his voice. He had been trying really hard to get rid of that: he was an adult now, dammit. But with four older "brothers" constantly teasing him it had a tendency to show up from time to time.
"You really want to air this now?" Kat asked, nodding towards the driver who was trying hard to pretend he was not listening intently to the conversation.
"Fine. When we get to the hotel."
Kat’s eyes went wide. "I am NOT going to a hotel with you!"
He frowned. "Where else are we going to talk?"
Kat gaped at him. Was this guy for real?
"Listen, where you come from women may just fall over themselves to go back to a hotel room with you, but not me. You want to talk, we go somewhere else."
He pouted slightly. "You never had a problem being in my room before."
"Yeah, well, I know better now, don’t I? Learnt the hard way."
Nick sighed. "I really wish you’d tell me what that means."
"I told you Nick, no games. You know exactly what I am talking about."
"I do not!" He groaned. This was going nowhere fast. "Fine. Where can we talk? You set the terms."
Kat hadn’t expected him to capitulate so totally. "Ah… My apartment. It’s near here."
"And your apartment is safer than a hotel room?" he asked dryly.
"It is for me. I know where I keep the knives," she fought back a smile.
Nick started to laugh. It was too ridiculous. For some reason she was fearful of him, of all of them, and then she’d go and say something like that. Putting on a brave front, but with enough of her normal sense of acerbic humour peeking through. "Man, I missed you, Kat. Fine. Your apartment. Let’s just clear this up quickly, okay?"
So maybe it hadn’t been a good idea. Having him stalk about her place, poking around, opening drawers, and rifling through things negligently. What was he looking for?
"Would you stop that please?"
"What?" he looked at her absently. "Oh. Sorry. I like your choice of books." He pulled one from the pile. "I haven’t read this one yet? Is it any good? I thought her last one was great. When the demon came out of the circle and ripped that guy apart… Talk about getting your just desserts. Of course, what happened to Richard’s mother and brother…"
"You came here for a literary discussion?"
He breathed heavily. Nope, she was not going to relax. He walked over to the CD rack and pulled one out at random. "Now this, this is a bad album. I’d get rid of it if I was you."
Kat worked hard to repress a grin. "I’d rather get rid of one of the singers, personally."
"Hunh?" He looked at it and blushed. He’d pulled out a copy of the Boys’ first album. "Well, if you hate us that much I am surprised you haven’t thrown it away."
"I was going to, but Brian signed it. It’s a collector’s item now. Maybe I’ll just auction it off online. A little extra cash for the pain and suffering."
"’Pain and suffering’?" he exploded. "What the hell are you talking about? Talk, Kat! Talk now, ‘cause I really did not think that shark story was funny and I want it to stop."
"I promise I won’t say anything more about you or the Boys ever again," Kat whispered nervously, his sudden change of temperament scaring her. "You won’t have to worry. And you won’t have a reason to come looking for me again."
"That is not what I want! What I want is to know why you left. And why are you so afraid of me? Why were you so afraid that night? You owe me that."
"I don’t owe you anything. I trusted you. All of you. And…" She shook her head, and then looked at him, her jaw set stubbornly. "Look, you know damn well what made me leave. Playing dumb doesn’t suit you, Nick."
"Yeah, well, Howie’d say I’d made a career out of playing the dumb blond." He watched her face flush and her hands shake at Howie’s name. "Aha! I knew it was something him did. What did he do, Kat?"
"To me? Nothing. I’m not a player in the game. I never qualified," she replied snidely.
"Well, I know that what he said happened isn’t the truth."
She puckered her brow. "What did he say?"
"That you’d come on to him and he’d turned you down."
When she compared that to what had really happened it was too funny. And she couldn’t stop herself from laughing.
Nick let her laugh, not stopping her until that slight tinge of hysteria in her voice receded. Then he took her hand and sat her down on the couch. "Yeah, I don’t see D as the great romantic either." He adopted a fussy drag-queen-ish voice. "He doesn’t do a thing for me!"
Kat chuckled. Brian was the one who was always thought of as the funny Backstreet Boy. But when Nick had a mind to, he could beat Brian at it hands down. He just preferred to do it behind closed doors, among friends, whereas Brian was more open about it.
"Good. She smiles," he teased lightly.
"Stop it, Nick. I really need to be angry at you."
"Because I don’t like the games that you all are playing. They disgust me. And I don’t want to be drawn into them," she replied honestly. "It sickens me just to know about them."
"Basketball? Nintendo?" he shook his head, confused.
"I do know, Nick. You can stop the act. Howie told me."
"Good. If you know, then maybe you can explain it to me."
She snorted and got up from her seat, walking over to the window. "Look Nick. I like you. You were fun to be around, and when I needed help starting to get into shape you were there for me. I’d like to think that we could have been friends, and I am sorry about that stupid story. If I’d realized that idiot was going to do what he did I would never have made something up." She sighed. "I thought if I told him something, anything, he and his trollop would leave me alone. THAT was what I wanted. To be left alone. No David, no Parker, no Backstreet Boys. Just me."
He chuckled at her descriptive word for Parker. It was not far off what he had been calling her in his head. "I can understand you wanting them to back off. The stunt they pulled on you was very cruel. They shouldn’t have used you that way."
Used? He wanted to talk about used? He was one to talk! How about all the women they’d use like some sort of revolving door game? Come one, come all, to the Backstreet girlfriend! Want her? Go ahead – it’ll make it easier for me to throw her away later….
"And as for the story," he grinned. "I gotta ask… were you really eating fish when you made it up?"
Her mouth twitched. He was making it hard to stay angry. Be strong, Kat. "Shellfish actually. Not a big fish lover."
"Scallops. Coquille Saint-Jacques. Nick…"
"Well, it’s a white shellfish, so I am not surprised you thought of dolphins. And I do have a shark tattoo… It actually makes a kind of perverse sense. I could see how they would fall for it."
"David didn’t seem particularly bright for a… what is he does?"
"You’re kidding? I wouldn’t let him anywhere near my money!"
"So we agree. But if you didn’t trust him, as you said, then why did you sleep with him? No! Don’t answer that, none of my business." He looked away and muttered, "and I do know a thing or two about sex and trust. Or lack there of…" He looked back at her. "You never met my ex-girlfriend, Tanya, did you?"
Kat shook her head.
"You didn’t miss anything important," he said sourly.
She narrowed her eyes. "Well, I am sure you took care of that in your usual way," she said cattily.
He sighed. "You know, just when I think I have finally gotten you to a point where you will tell me the truth, I seem to go and say something that sets you off again. And I really wish I knew what it was."
"I’m a lost cause." She pushed herself off the window ledge where she had been leaning. "Maybe you better leave."
"We haven’t finished our discussion."
"Bad Kat for spreading silly story. Bad David for selling it to tabloid. Bad Nick go away now," she replied dismissively.
"Only when Bad Nick finds out why Bad Kat left the tour. And why Bad Howie lied about it." He grimaced. "And why we are calling everyone ‘bad’."
"If the shoe fits…"
He groaned loudly. "Listen for someone who doesn’t want to play games, you are doing a damn fine job of it. You seem to think I know something that I don’t. So, pretend I am the dumb blond I have been accused of being, and when I ask once more, give me a truthful, and detailed, answer: why did you leave? And what is making you act like a frightened rabbit?"
P.S. The book I had Nick refer to is called Blue Moon, by Laurell K. Hamilton. It is one of a series about Anita Blake: Vampire Executioner, whom I have mentioned before.
(c) Kat Morgan