Quit Playing Games

Chapter 65

It had been good having Leighanne here, and Kat regretted that the other woman was leaving the next day. She had had someone else she could relax around. Someone to make things less lonely.

That was it.

She was sure that the reason she was feeling these things she was for Nick. It was just because when he was around, and they were alone, she could be herself. No pretence. That was it. She was just grateful for a chance to be herself. The relief of being her, and not this persona she'd constructed.

Having Leigh around meant being with someone who knew the truth. She felt better because of it. She wasn't alone. It wasn't just Nick and her against the world, so to speak. If only she could stay. If she did then maybe Kat would stop feeling these ridiculous things that she did about Nick.

Leigh had NOT been happy when she found out that they were sleeping together. That the fiction of them being boyfriend-girlfriend had slid into fact. Kat still wasn't either. But for this game to work she had to be close to him always, including sharing the same room. And try though the two of them had they always seemed to end up in the same bed in each other's arms.

Maybe she could talk Leigh into staying for a while. And they could get a room together, like they had at the beginning. But that wouldn't work. Leigh was there to see Brian, not to help Kat out of this new complication.

It wasn't a complication, she told herself firmly. It's just sex. That's all. Nothing more.

Maybe she should go away for a while. Howie was still flashing her those looks but he hadn't made a move. Maybe if she left for a while he'd do something when she returned. Then it would all be over quicker. She could leave and start her life over. Without any Backstreet Boys hassling her. Without Nick. It would be the best solution.

So why didn't she want to do it?

Jay escorted them to their seats, not far from the stage. The girls in the seats around them suddenly went quiet and then started buzzing furiously. They'd been recognized. It still made Kat uncomfortable that her picture was doing loop de loops around the Internet. Jeanne Jones, Nick Carter's girlfriend. Known on all five continents, and everywhere in between. Sooner or later someone would discover that she had no real history. And someone would recognize her face. Sure, the surgery had changed it a little, but was it enough? The fear started to bubble up in her again.

"Hey," Leighanne said, looking worriedly at her.


"He didn't...," she asked quietly and Kat knew whom she was referring to.

"Howie hasn't come near me. I almost wish he would so we could get this over with," Kat sighed.

Leighanne was about to answer when one of the girls behind them shyly asked for her autograph. Leigh smiled and complied, then turned back to Kat.

"I don't know how you do it. I am not used to any of this. Being recognized stuff," Kat marveled, trying to smile. She too was being asked for autographs and was being gracious, though her shaking hands gave away her nervousness.

"It never gets easy. I've been dealing with this for years." She looked up as the lights went down and the screams started. "Fortunately, Brian makes if all worth it."

Kat nodded. "He's a good man. You're very lucky to have found someone so good for you."

Leigh looked at her speculatively. "Like you have?"

Kat turned away. She knew what she was asking, but couldn't answer. She was too afraid of what her response would be.

The Boys came out on stage and the noise level went through the roof. Even with the sound system set high, she could barely make out the music under the screams, shrieks and calls of adoration.

Leighanne and Kat looked at each other, and foolish grins broke over their faces. No matter what was being left unsaid it was clear -- their men were on that stage, and they felt the same way as every other girl in the stadium. The two started screaming as loud as the people around them.

Nick saw them out of the corner of his eye and smiled. Kat had really needed Leighanne there. The pressure of being Jeanne was starting to get to her and he didn't know what to do. Having someone else around whom could take her aside and let her relax was exactly what she had needed. He was sad that Leigh was leaving the next day, for Kat's sake. But he was also glad. Leigh's disapproval of the fact that he and Kat were sleeping together was starting to get on his nerves. How could he explain it? The first time had been an accident. The next had come out of a need to comfort her. All the rest? He knew what he was feeling, but it was all so uncertain. This shouldn't have happened... It had.

He saw Howie glance at him and tried hard to interpret that look. He knew Howie hadn't made a move yet. Mainly because Nick never left Kat alone. He was too afraid. Howie'd become even more erratic lately; the others had mentioned it too. If Howie came anywhere near her, he'd...

Maybe they should call this off. Maybe Kat should leave with Leighanne. Get away somewhere safe. Even with Jay's help, could he protect her? If she left, if they "broke up" then Howie wouldn't touch her. He'd have to let her go. But could he do it? If this didn't get cleared up then Leighanne would never set the date. She and B-rok would never get married. And that would kill Brian. He looked over at him. The other man was by the edge of the stage, singing his heart out. But Nick could see that his eyes were on Leighanne. And hers on him. No. This had to work. He couldn't let that happen to his best friend.

And he couldn't stand the idea of Kat going away. Not to wake up in her arms. Not to talk to her. Not to hear her laugh. Not to feel her move under him, opening her to him, drawing him in... He shook himself. Not good to go hard with all these people watching.

The song wound down to thunderous applause. Nick flashed the crowd his famous grin and walked to the side of the stage, as the others moved to theirs. He hated this. Dammit, every concert the same thing. You'd think he'd have gotten used to it now, but the fear never went away.

He nodded to the dancers who fastened the ropes to the harness he was all ready wearing. They checked the attachments, and so did he, making sure that all was secure. Then the music started and the pulleys moved, doing their work. He flew up several feet, singing away, concentrating on the words so that he didn't have to look down. If only he'd been on the other side, near Kat and Leighanne. They both knew how he hated this, and would give him supportive faces to concentrate on. But Howie had that area and he'd have to find another face in this sea to focus on.

Howie was looking down at them as he flew over, throwing his roses to the crowd. Kat repressed a shudder as he swooped low over Leighanne and her. The look was back on his face, and she knew she wasn't alone in seeing it when Leigh shivered.

He dropped a couple of roses almost on top of them. Kat looked at Leighanne, then stooped and picked up the roses. Howie grinned, than a scowl crossed his face as Kat graciously offered the roses to the girls sitting around them. He looked over at Nick, willing it to happen now, then went back to being a good Boy and thrilling the crowd.

Brian took over his vocal section. He's gotten more at ease with this and Nick envied him. He concentrated on flying over the crowd, grinning widely, trying to keep the fear from his face. He was so fixated on this that he'd missed his cue for the chorus. He saw the annoyed look that Kevin shot him. Yeah, well, let's find something that you're afraid of and make you do it night after night and see how you like it, Train.

He sailed back to the stage, and was about to move over the crowd again when he felt the rope shudder and twist. Then go suddenly loose and he began to fall.

Kat was still trying to shake off her chill when the first scream rang out. She was used to them by this point, but it only took a split second to realize that the sound was one of terror, not adulation.

Nick was hanging awkwardly, one of the ropes to one side, hanging broken. She could still see the top part, a slight silver thread hanging from the pulley, swaying as if from a breeze. The weight of his body hanging there had managed to stop the rollers from pulling him along the tractor. So he wasn't moving, but he was dangling.

The look of terror on his face was matched by hers and she screamed his name. Beside her Leigh was shrieking, "omigod, omigod."

Kat didn't think; she had to get to him. She ran down to the front of the stage, moving towards him through the sea of people. She felt someone grab her arm and pull her back. She looked up to see Jay. The big man was talking furiously into his headset, and dragging her along as he moved towards the side entrance to backstage.

"Lower the spotlight on him. Make that side dark. Guys, keep singing. Brian, someone, cover his verses. Just keep going. Larry, lower him carefully and get him off the stage, now..." Jay continued to shout orders as they ran around the back of the stage setup over to the far side were Nick was.

When they got there Nick was down and they were disengaging him from the ropes. He was still shaking and grunted when Kat flung herself into his arms.

"Hey, Hey. I'm okay," he held her tightly, trying to calm her, and himself, but all she could say was his name over and over again.

"Ka..Jeanne, Jeanne. I'm okay," he said, stroking her hair from her face. She looked up into his cornflower eyes, blinking back her tears. "Are you sure?" she finally managed to say though it was more of a choked sob.

"Baby, I'm fine. A little sore, but, fine." He kissed her lightly, trying not to wince as one of the crew started to loosen his pants and unbuckle the harness. "Sweetheart, I have to go. I have to change and get back out there." Kat shook her head about to argue, but he cut her off. "I have to, you know that. Give me a kiss, and let me go change. I'm okay, really." Kat kissed him, clung to him and then stepped back, trying to regain control of herself. She stroked his brow, brushing his hair back from where it was plastered in the sweat of his face. "I was just so scared."

He grinned, trying hard not to show her just how shaken he was. "So was I, but I'm fine now. I have to go." He kissed her again and then moved towards the wardrobe rack, several crew members in tow.

"Jeanne..." Jay tapped her shoulder.

"I know. I'll go back." She wiped away the tears that had started to spill down her face and walked back along the route that she and Jay had taken, heading back to her seat.

Jay leaned down and picked up the piece of wire that had been pulled off Nick's harness, examining the edge where the break was. Then he turned to his headset again. "Yeah, he's clear. He'll be back on in a minute."

Kat shook herself before emerging from back stage. She had to put on a "game face." Nick was fine; he'd said so. And too many people knew who she was. If she came back looking as terrified as she still felt pandemonium could break out.

She plastered a slightly concerned but relieved look on her face and made her way back to her seat. It was working, several people had patted her arm or shoulder as she walked by, giving her strength, and drawing strength from the relief she showed on her face. Leighanne looked at her, and she nodded, saying loudly, "he's okay." There was a soft sigh from the people around her, but she only just registered it as Leigh pulled her into her arms. It was too much and Kat burst into sobs as Leighanne held her close. It took her a few moments to pull herself back together. She raised her head from Leighanne's shoulder, looking at her worried face. "I was just so scared," Kat whispered, and Leigh hugged her close again. "I know."

A loud cheer echoed through the stadium and the two women spun towards the stage. Nick had emerged. Limping slightly, but smiling the famous Carter smile. "And people wonder why I hate to fly," he joked. The applause was thunderous.

When it died down a little, he spoke again. "I have got to thank the guys for covering for me while I got a different view of the stadium. Didn't they do well? Almost makes me feel unwanted."

"No!" was the booming response to that.

"Well, come on people. Let's get going. We're here to sing aren't we?" Nick said and Tommy nodded, starting the band playing "The One."

"Oddly fitting," Nick thought, knowing it was one of Kat's favourite songs. He looked over at her, staring at him, as Leighanne comforted her. And he smiled at her. For her.

And she smiled back. A smile so joyous he felt butterflies start in his stomach.

Leighanne looked at the smile that the two were exchanging and knew. It may not have been intended, but it was clear now. The two were in love.

Howie saw the smile too, and grinned as well. Little Nicky really cared for Jeanne. And she for him. Doing this one was going to be so sweet.

Chapter 66