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Chapter Fourteen

March 21

Rielynn and I were on the plane, staring out the window. We were getting ready for take-off and Rielynn was staring wide-eyed out the window. The flight attendant was just getting ready to shut the doors when Charlie burst through, a dozen roses in hand, his doctor’s coat practically falling off, begging me not to go after all or else he’d die of jealousy. He carried me off the plane as everyone stood up and clapped. Rielynn skipped along behind us as the song Up Where We Belong started playing...

If you believe any of that, you obviously haven’t been paying attention to my marriage dynamic. The reality was that I was sitting in an aisle seat with Nick Carter directly across the aisle from me. We were already 37,000 feet above the ground, flying from Nashville to Los Angeles. That flight would take us to Hong Kong and from there we’d land in Malaysia.

And we were going to do this with two toddlers. I needed my head examined.

So far though, the kids were doing great. Both were interested in the view out the window and the only noise from them came from some comment on what it looked like outside. I guess-timated that we were somewhere over Oklahoma.

“So, we’re meeting up with the other guys in L.A.,” Nick said. He had been busy rooting through a little baggie of peanuts. We were sitting in first class and I didn’t think my ass had ever been cushioned so nicely in its entire life. “Watch out for Brian.”

“Brian?” I asked. Nick glanced over at me and smiled.

“Yeah, he’s a flirt, especially with blondes. He comes off like the sweet country boy and then--” Nick made an alligator motion with his hands. My eyes widened and he laughed.

“Don’t worry, I’ve got your back.”

I tucked my legs up under me. “Anything else I should know?”

Nick shook his head. “It’s just business. It’s a quick trip. I’m the only one bringing my kiddo. Spouses are staying at home.”

“Is that why I have to watch out for Brian?” I asked. My 98 Degrees knowledge prevented me from conjuring up a good picture of Brian.

“No, he’s single. That’s why you have to watch out for him. He got divorced a couple years ago. He was under a tight leash with Leighanne. I think he didn’t mind that, but then he found out she was giving him tea and it was tampering with his voice. Things got nasty.”

“Why would she want to tamper with his voice?”

Nick sneered. I could tell there was no love lost between the two. “She wanted him to focus on her clothing business and for him to go solo. She figured we’d get so fed up with Bri that we’d kick him out of the group.”

“But that didn’t happen?”

“Mama, bird poop!”

I turned just to see a giant white splatter hit the windshield. It was one of the grossest things I think I had ever seen. Shit landing on a car window was one thing, but the sheer air force in the sky made the pattern spread like an atomic bomb.

“That deserves a picture,” Nick said. Before I could shield myself, the damage was done. Nick glanced down and nodded. “Awesome. Now, what were we talking about?”

“Kicking Brian out of the group?”

“Oh, yeah. We finally convinced him to go to a throat specialist. They narrowed down what was going on and eventually the truth came out.” A wry smile played on his lips. “Totally the opposite of my situation you could say.” I nodded.

“Dada, look!”

Nick leaned over Parker to see what had captured his attention. I dug through my carry-on bag and found some juice and crackers, but Rielynn had other ideas.

“Mama, pee!”

Rielynn had already been to the bathroom twice. The plane’s bathroom held some sort of mysterious fascination to her. She stared down into the toilet as if her fairy godmother was going to pop up. Stifling a sigh, I scooped her up.

“Pee pants! Pee pants!”

I had just begun to potty train her. Hoping that this could be her warning before the actual occurrence, I hustled. I don’t think I even properly locked the door before I was pulling down her pants.

Shockingly, we made it. Yes, I had to hold her airborne over the seat, my germ-o-phobe mind going crazy, but pee actually made it inside the toilet. Rielynn started clapping.

“Go me! Go me!”

“Good job!” I said happily. Setting her back on the ground, I yanked her pants back up and gave her a big hug. I hadn’t felt more accomplished in my life. She was on her way! She was growing up!

She was growing up.

The thought depressed me and excited me at the same time. I picked her back up to wash her hands and then we headed back to our seats.

“You okay?” Nick asked as I put Rielynn back by the window.

“She went,” I said. Nick smiled.

“Lucky you!”

“She’s growing up,” I sighed.

“Well, you don’t want her to be sixteen and still peeing her pants,” Nick reasoned. I laughed.

“That would actually help me with the whole teenage dating thing,” I shot back. Nick laughed along with me. I leaned my head back against the padded rest. “Have you started with Parker?”

“Not really. I know I should, but I just...” Nick shrugged. “I’m figuring it out as I go along.”

“How long were you two married before you got pregnant?”

For a second, I wasn’t sure that he was going to answer. When I looked over, I saw that he had pressed his head back against his own rest. His eyes half-closed and he smiled. “Probably four hours.”

“Four hours?”

“We left the reception early,” Nick grinned and it was the type of grin that would make any woman’s toes curl. “You?”

I looked away. Rielynn was tracing the pattern of the bird poop with her finger. Aye carumba. “Almost three years. Doctor’s don’t do surprises.”

I knew he was looking at me, but I didn’t look back. “I thought he’d be there.”

My lips felt suddenly dry. “Yeah, me too.”

“I’ve learned not to believe I’m the only person in the world with problems,” he continued. “If you want to talk...”

“I’m good,” I said quickly. “We’re good,” I amended. “We’re good.”

“Well, if you’re ever not good, the offer stands, okay?”

I couldn’t do it anymore. I looked over. Our eyes met. He would listen. I knew he would. His offer was genuine. He was actually willing to listen. I nodded.

“Okay,” I said.

But the words didn’t come. Instead I tugged at my hoodie strings and wrapped my arm around Rielynn. Her eyes were half closed, her body curled up in the seat. We still had about nineteen hours of flight to go including the two layovers.

I had a suspicion that I should get a nap while I could.