Leighanne started. Had Brian noticed something untoward about Nick's behavior towards Jeanne today? Had they somehow given themselves away? She turned around in her chair. "What do you mean?"
Brian shrugged. "He was acting all weird today. Not his usual self."
Leighanne turned back to the mirror and continued to dab night cream onto her face. She slowly started the rub the slippery cream in, paying particular attention to the fine lines around her eyes. "Seemed the same to me."
"You didn't see it? He was all antsy around Kevin. 'Course that's nothing new. But the way he bumped him off so he could take Jeanne diving..."
"Maybe that is why he was uncomfortable. You know how he hates to push Kevin. Your cousin is a great guy but he's got a wicked temper and short fuse when it come to Nick."
Brian nodded his head, panting a little as he turned over and started his sit-up reps. "That could be it. But what was all that stuff with Jeanne? I mean, he NEVER talks to people he just met. I figured he'd probably sit as far away from her as possible and say nothing much all afternoon."
Damn! That was true. Nick never relaxed around new people that fast. Even if they had been accepted by the others he was always more circumspect. She'd have to talk to him about that. "Love," she said with a smile, "he did just spend several days alone on a boat with AC. And a few days with his parents. He was probably just starved for adult conversation."
Brian chuckled. "True." He got up and kissed her on the top of her head. "And its not like we can provide it."
"Oh hush! That wasn't what I meant." She rose from the table and moved over to the bed, shucking her nightgown and placing it on the bedside chair. "You coming to bed soon, love?"
He peeked his head out the bathroom and gestured at his mouth as he continued to brush his teeth. He finished up then turned off the light and ambled to the bed, burrowing under the covers until he held her close to him.
"Still, he did keep staring at her the whole time. Couldn't take his eyes off her."
Leighanne shrugged. "Maybe he likes her." Got to start planting the seeds now...
Brian frowned. "She's a little old for him. She's better off with Kevin."
She laughed. "Brian, you can't always choose who you are interested in. And I don't think Jeanne is interested in Kevin." Kat - yes. Jeanne - no. Or at least she hoped not. Kat better not let her crush on Kevin get in the way of things.
"True," Brian snuggled closer. "I mean look at us. Who'd have thought..."
She turned and kissed him on the nose. "Anyone with half a brain. I love you so much, Bri-bear," she replied in a low voice.
"Love me, hunh?" he whispered as he started to nibble on her ear and then down her neck. "Care to show me how much you love me?" His hands were already moving over her body, stoking her inner fires.
She giggled once. "I think that can be arranged," she murmured as she drew him down into a passionate kiss.
"I really appreciate the ride. You didn't have to," Jeanne smiled.
He shrugged. "It was on the way. And it is really confusing getting out here if you don't know the way. I mean Nick's instructions aren't always the easiest to follow."
She laughed. "Kevin, I think even I could have managed 'get to International Drive and meet me at the Mickie D's at Sand Lake.' First off because I've been here before and second because it is so simple."
Kevin chuckled a little. "Okay, so maybe I'm being overprotective. It's just, I know Nick: known him since he was 13. He is a nice kid, but he isn't terribly responsible. He's gotten a lot better in the last few years, but still. I just wanted to be here in case he forgot and didn't show up."
Why did she feel a sudden urge to kick his shins? "I doubt he is that irresponsible."
"Oh, he is. Believe me. I have to watch over him all the time or he'd never get anything right."
"Have you ever considered that maybe he is like that because you never let him grow up? He seemed very responsible to me the other day. Perhaps he doesn't need to be treated like a child."
"I'll stop treating him like one when he stops acting like one," Kevin replied absently, looking around the parking lot. "See? He's not here. What did I..." A rap on the window interrupted him. He looked up to see Nick smiling down at him.
"Hello Nick," Jeanne smiled getting out of the car. "Kevin was just saying he couldn't see your car."
"'Lo Jeanne. Kev," He gave Kevin a small hug. "I'm parked over on the side, in the other lot. Figured I'd be better over there out of the traffic." He shrugged, gesturing to the continuously emptying and filling parking spots across from them, close to the door to the restaurant. "You coming too, Kev?" He glanced quickly at Jeanne, anxious to be alone with her so that they could talk. If she'd invited Kevin along...
"Nope. Got a golf game. Meeting up with Brian, Alex and Marcus in half an hour." He nodded to Jeanne. "Rok asked me to drop her off."
"Rok?" Nick asked.
"Yes." Jeanne cut in before Kevin could continue to monopolize the conversation. "Apparently having been here several times on my own he felt I would be unable to find it this time." She rolled her eyes.
Nick laughed. "That's Rok. You can fend for yourself all you want, but when he remembers 'bout you, you have to put up with his babying."
"Must run in the family," Jeanne replied sweetly, looking at Kevin. He had the good grace to flush. "I'll just get me stuff out of the trunk, shall I?"
Kevin popped the trunk and she gathered her wetsuit and other diving equipment, and then returned to the front.
"... you sure you don't want me to come and pick her up? You can get her back to Brian's okay?" Kevin was saying.
"I think I can handle it, Kev." Nick looked at Jeanne then grabbed her bag. "I'll take that. You better head out or you'll be late for your tee-off. Come on, Jeanne, I am just over there."
"Take care, Jeanne. Call if you need anything," Kevin shouted as he climbed into his car.
"Which car is yours?" Jeanne asked brightly.
"That one over..." Nick started to gesture, then said, "you know which one it is."
"Jeanne doesn't," she replied through gritted teeth. "And I am not sure he has left yet. Are you?"
"Don't whatever you do, look back!" she warned, stopping him just in time. He shrugged, then gestured to the Durango parked just ahead, then popped its, back door and put all of her stuff on the seat. Then he opened the door for her and nodded as she climbed in. He turned to walk around the vehicle, and sure enough Kevin was still sitting there watching them. He waved quickly, then climbed into the truck and started the engine.
"He gone yet?" She asked.
He glanced in the rearview mirror to see Kevin's taillights flash as he turned onto Sand Lake. "Just now."
She sighed heavily then shook her head. "What is with that stick up his ass?" she said, in Kat's voice.
Nick started to laugh.
They decided against diving, though they did end up on a beach. Jeanne disappeared and Kat re-emerged, much to Nick's relief, though she was a 'new' Kat. A lot feistier than he remembered, but not as flawless as Jeanne had seemed.
"So he's going on about how you need a babysitter and I just wanted to deck him. I mean, what the hell is with those two? Brian and his endless 'oh Kevin'll take you here, Kevin'll take you there,' and Kevin with his damn 'careful around Nick; he is just so irresponsible.' Jeez, how do you put up with those morons?"
Nick giggled. "They mean well."
"Shit! They treat you like some sort of village idiot. Doesn't it make you angry?"
He shrugged. "Used to it, I guess."
"Yeah well, sometimes I want to knock those sanctimonious looks off their faces. Tell them what you are REALLY doing for them." She sighed. "Don't worry, I won't. You can take that freaked out look off your face."
"I am not 'freaked out,'" he replied haughtily. "I am 'quietly concerned'."
Kat started to laugh and was doing it so hard she had to grab onto his arm so she wouldn't fall. "Oh man! Thanks, I needed that."
He grinned then shook his head. "I still can't get over it. You look so totally different, yet exactly the same."
"The same? Don't say that; I went to a lot of trouble to look this way."
"I know... it's just... I know it's you, so I see all the similarities. Fortunately they don't, so all they see are the differences."
"Makes sense, I guess. I am trying hard to be different. Leigh says too hard. She gets all weird-ed out if I don't drop the Jeanne act when we are alone together."
"You dropped it pretty fast with me."
"Yeah well, a lot easier to do when I know we are alone in your car than it is when we are alone in Brian's house. Hell, I NEVER know who is going to walk in next. Can't risk it."
Nick sighed. "True." He glanced around at the nearly empty beach. "Maybe you should bring her back up now. I mean we could run into..."
Kat groaned. "Five more minutes. Please! This is the first time I've actually relaxed since I got here. You know, we never really thought of this... I am going to have to have some down time while we are on tour otherwise I'll got squirrelly."
"On tour?! You aren't going on tour!" Nick protested.
"Hate to tell you, Nick, but it looks like I am." She sat down on the sand, letting it run through her fingers. "You were away all this time so that puts us back a few weeks. And it's not like we can suddenly announce we are an item. Jeanne and Nick only met a few days ago. 'Sides, Howie is acting fine right now. He isn't going to do anything if we go out on a date once or twice before you leave. We have to spend lots of time together."
He sat next to her. "I guess I knew that, but I just never... On tour? It gets a little crazy then..."
"Been there. Done that," she replied. "You are going to have to be a hell of a lot more discreet about your groupies."
"I do not... Okay, so occasionally. But never when I am with someone." He looked sheepishly. "And I guess I am going to be."
"Not too thrilled 'bout this too." She grinned impishly. "Think we can have an 'open' relationship?"
He snorted. "One where you can see Kevin too? Isn't this where you came in?"
"I'm not... Jesus, would you lay off about that!" Kat snapped.
"Then stop hanging off him like you've been," he retorted.
"Look, you haven't been around, okay? Leigh dropped all these damn hints to Brian about how cool it would be if I met someone out here... and you weren't around to pick up the ball. 'Sides Rok keeps shoving me at him."
"And you are protesting it so much," Nick replied waspishly.
"Yes, actually, I am. Kevin and I even talked about it and I told him I wasn't interested. And let me tell you, that was damn hard to do. Anyway, he's not either but doesn't have the guts to tell Brian that."
"Uh-hunh. That's why you are all over him. Why he dropped you off today."
"He dropped me off because he didn't believe you would actually show up. And I couldn't tell him that you were pretty much a sure thing, because then I'd have to explain why. Dammit, Nick. I am not in the mood for this crap. If you don't trust me to stick to my part of the bargain and stay away from Kevin just say it now and I am out of here. I don't need this bullshit."
"Fine. Be that way. Walk away from it. See what I care. Maybe I'll bump into you again at Brian and Leighanne's wedding. Oops, silly me. There won't be a wedding," he said maliciously.
"Yeah, well, why the hell don't you just call up Tina and ask her to help. You two deserve each other," Kat surged to her feet and stomped off.
Suddenly remorseful, Nick chased her down, grabbing her arm. "Okay, you win. I'm sorry."
She pulled her arm away and turned to face him. "Look Nick, I said I'd help and I'll do it. But I am not going to put up with any more of your little hissy fits. You're pissed about this putting a crimp in your sex life - tough. Doesn't do me a lot of good either. And if you think, for one minute, that we can take out any urges on each other, think again. You can date Jeanne, but you are not sleeping with Kat." She poked him in the middle of his chest, determined to make her point. "I am NOT in this to fuck around with you."
"I know that!" he protested, a whine in his voice.
"Well, I am not in it to fuck around with Kevin either. He was off-limits to me when he was seeing Lana, and he is even more off-limits since Howie presented his true face. I am sure as hell not going to get into it with him now."
"Okay! Okay! I'm sorry," Nick said, running a hand through his short hair in frustration. "I was wrong. I apologize. I just... this is real now... so real."
"It's been pretty damn 'real' for me for quite a while now so catch up," she snapped.
Maybe it was the thread of panic in her voice, but Nick suddenly pulled her into a hug. "It's all too real for both of us," he whispered. "I am sorry I was a dumbass. I'll try not to do it again."
Kat relaxed into the hug, knowing that she wasn't really mad at him - she was just as scared as he was. She looked up at him. "We are going to have to figure out how to get along if we are going to make this work."
He chuckled. "Not to worry. I never get along with my girlfriends 24/7."
She smiled, moving out of his arms. "Oh goodie. Not only do I get stuck with a dumbass, I get stuck with an anti-social one."
"I'm not anti-social. Just childish, right?"
She snorted. "Kevin better do some growing up himself."
"You want to tell him or should I? Come on. We better start heading back."
"We have to get the 'suits wet first," she reminded him as he lead the way back to the truck. They grabbed the suits and the air tanks and dunked them in the salt water, making them look like they'd been used. Kat stripped off her shorts and t-shirt and dove into the waves, frolicking about in the white-capped surf. Nick looked on until she splashed him, reminding him that he needed to look like he'd actually been in the water. When he didn't move fast enough she scooped some wet sand from the water's bottom and chucked it at him, getting him on the shoulder and up along one side of the face. He swore loudly then chased after her, knocking her over so that she got a mouthful of seawater. He dove away before she could get back at him and laughed as she sputtered and spat, trying to get the taste out of her mouth.
"Hey, what's that?"
She turned towards him, brushing her hair out of her face. "What's what?"
"On your shoulder. It looks like..."
"It's called a tattoo, Nick. See this guy pokes a needle into you and makes a design..."
He splashed at her. "I know what a tattoo is, dumbass. I just never saw it before. Is it new?" He swam over to take a closer look. It was done just in black, it was more of line art than a special design.
"I got it a little while ago," she replied. "So I won't forget who I am."
He looked at her, then at the tattoo again, realizing suddenly that it was a stylized cat. He sighed heavily. "And on that note, maybe we should go back before I end up calling this whole mess off."
(c) Kat Morgan