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Annie barely slept at all that night, mainly out of guilt. She couldn’t stop thinking about how on the exact day she decided to take off her wedding band, she ended up making out with a pop star. Neither of them acknowledged the kiss the next day as they finished up work on Annie and Brian’s track. Nick did, however, notice that she hadn’t put her ring back on, though he thought it might be wise not to say anything about it. He booked a flight to Tampa for Friday that coincidentally was leaving Atlanta around the same time that Annie was scheduled to fly back to Kentucky. Brian dropped the three of them off at the airport and they walked in together. “So, you’re not going back to Los Angeles?” she asked him.

“No. Not for a while. My place there was half Lauren’s, anyway, and I don’t see myself living there by myself right now, so she’s sending most of my stuff to the house in Tampa. If I decide to go back to California, I’ll just get another place, or maybe crash with AJ or at Brian and Leigh’s west coast place for a while.” He shrugged nonchalantly.

“You mean you’re just giving it to her?” Annie suddenly got a little defensive. She didn’t want Lauren taking advantage of her new friend, and she suspected that this was the type of thing women had done to Nick before.

“Oh, no. Not at all. I’m selling it to her. We’ve talked a couple times this week after everyone’s gone to bed, and we really want to make this as quick and painless and possible and just move on,” he explained. “Even though it didn’t work out between the two of us, and I’m still pretty mad at her, Lauren’s different.”

“Well, that’s good to hear.” They got through check-in, and he helped Annie and Drew to their gate.


“So....” They both laughed. “It was really nice to meet you, Nick.” Annie held out her hand for a formal handshake.

Nick playfully stuck out his tongue at her and wrapped his arms around her neck. “I think I at least deserve a hug, don’t you?”

Annie curled her arms around his waist and hugged him back warmly. “Yeah. Yeah, Nick. You do.”

“I really did enjoy spending time with you the other day.” He leaned forward to whisper in her ear. “All of it.”

Annie gulped and looked up at him. “I enjoyed spending time with you, too, Nick.”
Drew squealed from his stroller just to make sure they knew he was still there, and Nick shot a funny face in his direction, causing him to crack up.

“So, um....” Nick looked down and kicked at the tile beneath his tennis shoe, then looked back up at her. “Do you think I could get your number?”

Annie’s breath hitched in her throat. Part of her wanted to give it to him, but the other part of her-- the part that wasn’t so sure about the implications, the part that said she wasn’t ready for this, the part that said getting involved with Nick Carter might be a little nuts, told her no. “Nick.....” She took in a deep breath let it out. “I’m not so sure that’s a good idea.” He pursed his lips and nodded quietly silently. “But... tweet me, okay? And hopefully, I’ll see you on the cruise.”

He smiled weakly. “You promise?”

“I’ll try.”

He placed his hand on the small of her back and bent down to give her a quick peck on the cheek. “Good luck on the flight, Annie.” With that, he walked away.

He “tweeted” her that night to make sure she got back home okay, and only once or twice a week after that, not wanting to scare her away. Even then, it was usually just a “Hey, how you doing?” Two weeks later, she got a call from Brian just as she got to work. She was working a rare night shift, which she was dreading, not to mention that she felt incredibly guilty for having to leave Drew at Tim and Tracy’s overnight. “Annie, they love you!” Brian said excitedly.

“What? Who loves me?”

“The record execs. I just left a meeting about putting the finishing touches on my album, and they completely fell in love with ‘I Turn to You.’ They want it to be my first single, and they’re ready to give you a five hundred thousand dollar contract. That’s a lot for a Christian artist, and one who’s unknown, no less. Annie, this is huge,” he declared.

“Brian, that’s ludicrous! Why would they be willing to give me a contract after hearing just one song?” She paused. “A duet, so half a song. Actually, you sing lead, so less than half a song!”

On the other end of the line, Brian grinned sheepishly. “Nick might have been recording some of your warm-ups and stuff, too,” he admitted.

“What?! Brian, that was private!”

“I know. I’m sorry. I didn’t even know he did it until I went down to the studio a couple days ago to put some finishing touches on my album tracks before the meeting and happened upon some unlabeled tracks. The meeting was at my place, and they asked if I had something else of yours for them to hear. I couldn’t help myself.”

Annie sighed exasperatedly as she pushed through the locker room door. “Brian....”

“Annie, just meet with them. They wanted to have a meeting with you about promotion for the single anyway. Just listen to what they have to say. I’d be happy to help you in any way I can.” Annie’s favorite thing about Brian was his sincerity, and at the moment, he was laying it on thick.

“Well, if I’m going to have to meet with them anyway...okay. Come up with a couple possible dates, and I’ll check my work schedule. I just got to work, so I’m going to have to go. Just let me know, and give Leighanne and Baylee my love.” Brian told her goodbye, promising to call her back soon with meeting details. She hung up and tucked her phone into the pocket of her scrubs, then turned around to find herself face to face with Brad. Actually, it was more like face to chest. The man was really tall.

“Hey, Ann. Thank so much for switching shifts with me today. I really owe you one. There was just so much I needed to do tonight.”

Annie smirked. “So, when was Todd’s flight supposed to get in?”

“Five.” He glanced down at his watch with a dreamy smile on his face. “If baggage claim was quick, I expect that he’ll be waiting for me when I get home.”

“Well, you better get going, then.”

“Not so fast. What is it that you need to check your work schedule for? Date with Brian?” he asked, his arms crossed, as he looked down at her.

“Just some record company stuff. They want to make the song I sang with Brian his first single from this new album.”

“Annie, that’s awesome! I’m surprised they aren’t trying to get you to make an album of your own.”

“Yeah. It’s weird.” Annie shrugged exaggeratedly and attempted to push past him.

“You are such a terrible liar, Annie Morgan. I eavesdropped on your entire conversation.”

“You’ve got to quit doing that,” she hissed.

“So, are you going to do it?”

“Probably not,” she said over her shoulder as she headed towards the tracking board.

“Then you’re fired.”

She whirled around and put her hands on her hips. “You can’t do that! On what grounds?”

“You’re right. I can’t.” He walked over to his computer and sat down. Then, he opened a document and started typing.

“What are you doing?” He didn’t answer-- just kept on typing. She sighed and turned back to the tracking board, then pulled the charts of the two patients that were waiting to be seen and started looking at them. Finally, she heard the humming of the laser printer, and seconds later, Brad handed her a piece of paper and a pen.

“Sign this.”

“What is this?” she asked quizzically.

“Your two week notice.”