Miriam cursed loudly as she looked her naked body up and down in her full-length mirror. Look at them! All of those lovely bruises… now just slightly yellowed patches of skin. They were fading so fast soon there would be none left. Then what was she supposed to do? She wouldn’t even have anything to pinch or poke in order to get that rush of pain that she needed to get through the day.
And its not like she could get him to try harder.
She’d tried getting him back on the drugs, but with him at home, and around his family, even the subtlest change in behaviour was noticed. She’d even tried dropping hints. But with the chemicals draining quickly from his body, his temperament was returning to, well, normal. And for ‘normal’ Howie, the idea of roughing up his girlfriend was just not something he did.
Hello?! She liked it rough! The rougher the better! Sheesh? What kind of idiot was he that he didn’t get it?
She pinched the darkest bruise she could find, enjoying the short burst of suffering. But it faded far too quickly.
Why couldn’t he just grab a clue? Or better still, why couldn’t he just go away for a few days? The way he was now, even if she could get him to be a little more aggressive, it still wouldn’t be enough. She had a few other men scattered around town who could fill her needs, but he was bound to notice fresh marks and there were only so many “oops, I’m a klutz” moments she could fake. If he was away she could get what she needed, and still have time to recover a bit so that he wouldn’t notice.
What they really needed to do was start touring again. Then no one really noticed his mood swings. Or if they did they put it down to stress. And it was much easier to convince him to take the drugs. And, most importantly, he was a ball of tension, which the drugs exacerbated, and was be the animalistic man she craved.
She sighed. It just wasn’t fair. She had finally gotten him to the point that she wanted, and God how she wanted him like that. The glorious pain that he inflicted… It was better than it had been with anyone for years. Maybe it was the sheer deliciousness of his change in personality: from Sweet D to Brutal D. She wasn’t sure. She just knew that she wanted him badly… when he was being bad.
Well, there was little she could do about it at the moment. She started to get dressed and ready for their date. Another evening of wine and candles. Smiles and eyelash flutters. Romance and affection. Standard sex and faked orgasms.
Maybe if she pushed him to audition for some more TV and movie roles she could get him out of town for a while.
She hoped so. There was a guy she hadn’t seen in a long while getting out of prison in a few weeks. That would be too deliciously pain-filled an opportunity to miss.
Nick sat back in horror.
Okay, he was upset to find out that his worst fears had been confirmed. That Leighanne and Howie had actually slept together. He was also furious that Leighanne had chosen to hide it (though he did sort of understand it). And WHEN it had happened pissed him off to no end.
Leighanne was going to call off the wedding? Brian would be devastated.
"Leigh, just because we know, you don't have to do that."
She just sobbed harder. "But I do! I have to. It has nothing to do with you two. I cheated on him. How could I? I love him so much and I cheated on him. I can't do it. I can't marry him."
Kat pulled her into a firm embrace. "Sweetheart, he loves you so much. Please don't do this. We won't tell him. Not ever. You know that."
"I can't. It's not right."
Nick knelt in front in her, brushing her long blonde hair back from her tearstained face. “No, it’s not right, Leigh. But it is what Howie did you that wasn’t right. You were upset. You needed a friend. And he took advantage of you. It’s not your fault; its his.”
Leigh tried to turn her face away, but he wouldn’t let her. “I mean it, Leigh. This is not your fault. You got stuck in the middle of some twisted game that Howie plays.”
“Really?” she whispered tremulously, and Nick nodded. Leighanne gave another ragged sob, then extracted herself from Kat and threw herself into Nick’s arms. When he didn’t flinch or give any other sign that he might blame her, she clung harder to him, and let her tears flow again.
Nick looked at Kat over Leighanne’s shoulder. She was crying softly too as she looked at Leighanne. She glanced at him quickly, then turned away, to wipe her tears. But he still managed to see the tortured look in her eyes. It wasn’t just this: there had been more in that look than just upset about Leighanne and Howie. Something twigged in his memory: some thing AJ had said about Kat having nightmares. He hadn’t thought about it at the time, but now? There was something more going on in her head. He’d have to remember to ask later.
He sighed and looked back down at Leighanne. Then again; maybe not. He was so intent on asking questions he hadn’t really thought about the consequences. Let Kat keep her secrets. Figuring out how to help Leigh, and Brian, was more important.
He turned at the tap on his shoulder and took the damp cloth that Kat offered him. Slowly and tenderly he wiped Leigh’s face, trying to excise the ravages of her tears. Kat sat back and watched him murmur softly to the other woman, calming her. He was still angry: she could tell that from the set of his shoulders. But he was putting that aside to minister to Leighanne.
There was definitely more to the man than anyone expected.
It took a little while for Leighanne to subside. In the meantime Kat had ordered some more food and another pot of tea. Never underestimate the healing power of food. Nick had also opened all the windows in the suite, and the fresh air seemed to remove a lot of the heavy atmosphere from the room.
“So?” Leighanne finally said. “What do I do now? How do I tell Brian without losing him?”
Nick shrugged. “Don’t tell him.”
“I’m serious, Leigh. Don’t tell him. He doesn’t need to know. I’m never going to tell.” He glanced at Kat who nodded. “Kat’s not going to. I can guarantee that we both feel the same way about this: you and Brian HAVE to be together. You belong together. You make sense together. The very idea of you two not getting married is...” He was at a loss for words.
“Anathema,” Kat supplied.
Damn writers and their big words, Nick thought. “What she said.” He squeezed Leigh’s hand. “You and Brian ARE getting married.”
“He has to know. It’s not honest otherwise,” she whispered, desparate for a way, any way, she could avoid telling him.
“Consider it a ‘white’ lie,” Kat suggested. “Think about it: you tell him, then he’ll have to know that nick knows. Brian loves you too much to hurt you, but he’ll pummel Nick.”
“Hey!” Nick gave her a slight grin. “Yeah, he probably would.”
Kat’s face went serious. “And he’d kill Howie,” she said softly. “Not just because of you. The whole thing would come out. Nick already wants a piece of him and so do I. Add Brian, AJ, even Kevin. It’d been the end of the Backstreet Boys in more ways than one.”
“You think I don’t know that?” Leigh asked anxiously. “Not even knowing about the other stuff… That was the other reason I haven’t told him.”
“The way I figure it, no one who knows is going to tell him.” Nick said, gesturing to Kat and himself. “We’ve agreed not to. You don’t have to.”
“What about Howie?”
Kat answered for the both of them. “Leigh, I don’t think he’d dare.”
“But we don’t know that. I just wish we knew for certain. We still don’t know why he’s doing this.”
“Hey, Leigh, come on. Look at yourself in the mirror. You’re one hot babe. Even Howie can see that,” Nick joked.
She chuckled. “And Tanya? Marissa?”
Nick grimaced. “Okay, there goes that theory.”
There was silence in the room, then Nick shoved his hand into his jeans pocket and slammed a quarter down on the table.
“Sorry, no pennies. But I still want to know what you’re thinking.”
“Come on, Kat. You’ve been quiet for a while. And you’ve got that deep thought frown on your face. If you’ve thought of some way for us to get out of this mess, I wanna know what it is.”
She shook her head. “It’s not that. It’s something else. It’s… Leigh, I know you don’t want to think about it anymore, but you said something about that night…”
Leighanne blanched. “Go ahead.”
“You said something about thinking about Brian, toward the end…”
Leigh got whiter. “Yeah?”
“When you said that… was it when you two were…?”
“Was there any reason why?”
“Are you trying to ask me if I had an orgasm?” Leigh asked warily.
Nick gave a little growl in the back of his throat, but Kat shook her head violently. “No! God, no! I mean other than the obvious reason you’d think about Brian. I mean, was there a particular reason to think of him right then?”
Leighanne frowned, trying to think back. “I… Sorry, I am still not sure what you mean.”
“Did Howie say or do anything to remind you about Brian?” Kat leaned forward intently. “Please, Leigh, please try and remember. This is very important.”
“He…” Leigh blushed and turned her head away. “When he… came… he said Brian’s name.”
“Wu-what?” Nick asked in shock. “BRIAN’s name?”
Leighanne nodded. “Not something I’d forget.”
Kat looked at Nick. “Tanya said the same thing. She said that Howie cried out your name.” She sighed heavily, then got up and walked to the window. She looked out sadly, lost in a memory.
Nick’s worried voice pulled her back. She turned and smiled wistfully at Leighanne. “I don’t think you have to worry about him telling.”
Then she looked at Nick. “I think I have a pretty good theory about why he’s doing this.”
(c) Kat Morgan