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When they got back to the lodge, Amanda bolted up the ladder to the loft and threw herself onto the bed, pulling the blanket up over her head. Brian glanced at Nick. "What the hell happened?" he asked.

"I feel like we're uttering that phrase a lot today," Nick mumbled. He looked up at the loft, concerned, "Her dad called..." he said, frowning. "I dunno. I thought she was mad at me for getting arrested, she was really weird when I went to the back to see what was up."

Brian's eyebrows knit together. "Weird," he muttered.

Nick sighed, "Should I go see if she's okay?"

Brian shook his head, "Nah, let her cool off for awhile. She'll come down when she's ready. Let her have some space."

The boys headed out onto the deck, and Amanda heard the sliding doors close to afford her some privacy.

She felt as though her heart and loyalty was torn into two pieces. Her father, the man she'd vied for attention and love from since she was a little girl, was finally actually willing to give her the promotion she so desperately wanted (and needed, her rent was constantly going up and her finances stayed exactly the same). On the other hand, what he wanted in return for that promotion was for her to betray the man that she'd slowly fallen in absolute, head-over-heels love with.

But...

"But what? 'That's their job'? I'm a human fuckin' being! ...Why can't they leave us in peace just this once?" Nick's words echoed through Amanda's mind from the morning after she'd accidentally kissed Brian. Although it had only been a little better than a week, it felt like centuries ago.

But sooner or later, whether she wrote the story or not, Nick would find out who she was, and what she'd been there for to begin with. Sooner or later, he would know. And he would hate her.

The thought seared her heart. A sob escaped her and she curled up tighter into a ball and screwed her eyes shut tight. In a way, taking this job had been the most incredibly huge mistake she'd ever made. In another way, if she hadn't taken it she never would've met Nick and Brian at all, never would've gotten to know them or to love them. But she also never would've been able to hurt them the way she was going to before the story was over.



Brian spent the evening throwing up. He claimed the chinese food they'd ordered didn't settle well, and opted to sleep on the bus to be closer to the toilet incase he had to throw up again.

Amanda and Nick sat on the deck after Brian had gone to bed. Nick was stressed, Amanda could tell, because he kept getting up and walking in circles around the deck, then sitting back down and cracking his knuckles, shaking his head, and running his hands through his hair.

They'd been quiet all evening. Nick was still pretty sure Amanda was mad at him, but the truth was she was feeling guilty and sick to her stomach from the position she'd gotten herself into - stuck between a rock (Nick) and a hard place (Eric).

"I'm thinking we should maybe skip the stop in Omaha," Nick muttered suddenly.

Amanda looked up. "Why?" she asked, surprised.

He was glad she'd actually spoken to answer him. It gave him hope that maybe she could forgive him for being such an idiot that morning. "I'm worried about Brian," Nick confessed.

Amanda glanced through the sliding doors to the windows on the opposite side of the lodge, through which the side of the bus was visible. The bathroom light was glowing again. "How would skipping Omaha help?" she asked.

"The next stop after Omaha is Brian's momma's in Kentucky," Nick answered. "I think Jackie could probably take better care of him than I am."

Nick had spent a good portion of the evening sitting out on the bus with Brian, trying to do something to help him. He'd taken the motorcycle down into town to get ginger ale and meds, but nothing was stopping the nausea. Brian refused to go get checked out by a doctor.

"I don't think he'd be too jazzed about Omaha anyway," Nick said, "After the fiasco with the bridge and the bungee jumping."

"What were we going to do in Omaha?" Amanda asked sadly.

Nick smiled, "Sky dive."

"Yeah Brian would've hated that idea," she laughed.

"I probably wouldn't have gotten him onto the plane," Nick smirked.

Amanda and Nick's eyes met, and Amanda quickly looked away. For a split second it had felt like normal between them. But the Berlin Wall had shot right back into place. Nick frowned.

He sighed. "Can you tell me something?" he asked.

Amanda looked up.

"Why are you mad at me? Really?" he asked, his voice sad. It reminded her of the squeaking cry of a kicked puppy.

"I'm not mad at you," she said it gently this time, unlike she had when she'd snapped at him on the bus. "I'm... My dad is..." she wanted to tell him. She wanted to tell him right now the whole truth. "Nick, when we met, outside the hotel and I said I was there on business for my dad?"

"Yeah?"

"Well, I--"

But she was suddenly interrupted by Brian, who stumbled onto the deck. His face was pale and he was covered in sweat.

"Brian!" Nick jumped up. Amanda felt a chill go down her spine.

"I think I'm sick," Brian mumbled.

Nick frowned, "C'mon, let's get you back to the bus. We need to get you checked."

Amanda felt her body launch into action mode, fueled by adrenaline. She quickly ran into the lodge and up the ladder to Brian's loft to grab changes of clothes, fresh boxers, his deodorant, and his wallet, which was sitting on the nightstand.

Meanwhile, Nick had gotten Brian settled into the passenger seat on the bus. He handed Amanda Brian's cell phone when she came crashing onto the bus, carrying Brian's stuff in her arms. "Can you call Leighanne?" he asked.

Amanda looked at the phone, her heart slamming in her chest. He wants me to talk to his wife? What if she's still pissed off because of the kiss? "What do I tell her?"

"Tell her I'm bringing him to the hospital."

Amanda nodded and flipped open the phone, about to dial when Brian's hand reached up and closed it. "Don't call my wife," he begged, his voice weak, "Not yet. She'll just panic and come out. I'm sure it's just food poisoning or... something... something unimportant... or... not.. really..." his voice trailed off, and he coughed deeply, his whole body shaking.

Nick took the cell phone back from Amanda, staring at Brian. He looks so fucking tiny, he thought, and he felt very afraid.

"Should you be driving?" Amanda asked as Nick dropped behind the driver's seat of the bus.

Nick frowned, "Probably not, but are you gonna drive the rig?"

"No."

"Then lets hope we don't get stopped," Nick said, turning the key in the ignition.
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