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AJ, Nick, and Rochelle met her and Frankie at the front of the church after the service was done.

AJ hugged her.

“Girl, you were on fire!” he said. Rochelle nodded and hugged her too.

“I mean, Nick said you had a voice, but that was absolutely beautiful.”

Elisa looked at Nick, who was still reeling from his revelation. He was looking at her like he’d never looked at her before.

“Nick, you okay?” she asked.

“Yeah. I’m just amazed,” he said, kissing her softly on the cheek.

Elisa hugged Frankie.

“Thank you so much, it meant a lot.”

“Anytime, girl. You rocked it tonight,” Frankie said. He said goodbye to the rest of them and left.

They all walked outside to their cars.

“Okay, we’re going to go get Ava. You two have fun,” AJ said suggestively, as Rochelle knocked him in the stomach.

Nick and Elisa got in the car, and he drove her home.

“You were amazing tonight, baby,” he said to her, taking her hand.

“Thank you,” she said, softly.

“Can I ask you something?”


“Why were you crying during Silent Night?” Nick asked.
Elisa sighed.

“It was my dad’s favorite Christmas song. We used to always sing it together.”

“What happened to him, if you don’t mind me asking?”

“I don’t mind. He was shot. He was a police officer and he was killed during a standoff. I was about eight. My mom had divorced him about a year before he was killed.”

“Damn, baby girl. I’m so sorry.”

Elisa smiled.

“Don’t be. I loved my father very much, and he died doing what he loved. My memories of him are all happy.”

“Well, that’s good,” he said.

“He was the only one who liked me to sing. Him and Grandma.”

Nick kissed her hand as he pulled into her driveway.

He followed her into the house, where she kicked off her shoes. They sat on the couch and watched a movie on TV, mostly in silence. Both were lost in their thoughts, as she snuggled against him. He kissed her every now and then. However, he could tell she was tired by the time the movie was over.

“Look, I’m going to let you sleep, okay?” he said, kissing her gently.

“Okay, but wait a minute.”

She got up and headed to the tree. She came back with something in her hand.

“I’m going to go ahead and give you my present. But you can’t open it until tomorrow,” she said, handing him a small box and an envelope. Nick smiled as he took them from her.

“Okay, I won’t. But I’ll bring mine to you tomorrow after I open yours,” Nick said, taking it.

He kissed her goodnight, and headed home, hoping he could get some rest.


However, at four o clock in the morning he couldn’t sleep. He knew he was in love with Elisa, and knowing that meant sleep wasn’t coming.

At five, he accepted that he was not getting to sleep. He walked downstairs and found the gift that Elisa had given him. He decided to open the letter first.

The past few months with you have meant the world to me. You have seen me in a way I haven’t been able to see myself in a long time. I know that if I ever have a bad day, you’re there to help ease it away. Everything I’ve gone through, I think it was a test of some sort. Because if this horrible crap hadn’t happened to me, I wouldn’t have met you. I don’t know what I did to deserve you, but I’d do it everyday if it meant I could keep you around.
I’m trying to say something huge, something I don’t say lightly. Something I’m having trouble putting down on paper. But here goes.
Nick Carter, I love you so much. My heart hurts when you aren’t with me, but the hurt is forgotten as soon as you’re around. I’m ready to begin this next chapter of my life, and I want it to be with you.
So, here’s the key to my heart, and know that it’s yours forever.

Nick had to reread her letter four times before the words sunk in. She loved him, too. She loved him too! Nick couldn’t help the happiness that filled him as he opened the gift.It was a chain with a pendant in the shape of a key. He laughed, because the gift he had gotten her was a smaller version of the same thing.

Nick looked at the time. Six thirty.

He texted her, hoping she was awake.

Are you up?

Fifteen minutes later, she texted back.


On my way

Elisa dressed in the grey sweaterdress she’d bought in Milan, the one she knew he liked. She was nervous. He now knew how she felt, and now it was sink or swim.

Elisa listened out for his car, and when he pulled up, she unlocked the door. She then sat on the couch and waited.

When he knocked, she said “It’s open” in a shaky voice.

Nick walked in and saw her, sitting there, looking afraid. He said nothing, just walked over and pulled her up into his arms. Picking her up, he wrapped her legs around his waist and kissed her deeply.

She broke away, looking a little scared. He sat down, but kept her in his lap.

“Why are you scared, baby?” he asked softly.

“Because I don’t want us to get hurt,” she whispered back.

“Elisa, I never want to hurt you. But I’m not perfect, baby. I still have a lot of fixing to do, and some parts of me can never be fixed. Are you ready to deal with that?” he asked.

Elisa nodded.

“I’m ready for all of it, especially the not so perfect parts. I’m a little messed up, too. We both know this.”

Nick kissed her deeply, then handed her his gift.

Elisa laughed as she opened it.

“It’s just like the one I gave you, just smaller.”

Nick smiled, and hooked it on her. Then he pulled the pendant out from under his shirt.

“It’s yours, baby. Elisa, I fucking love you. You mean everything to me. The Backstreet Boys could break up right now and I wouldn’t care, because I would have you. I want you forever.”

Elisa smiled through her tears.

“Then I’m yours.”


Nick and Elisa spent the rest of the day on the couch, watching Christmas movies and occasionally making out here and there. Although both of them wanted to make love, they also still wanted to wait. Everything still felt too new, and they were enjoying this slow ride they were taking.

However, their joyful mood was soured that afternoon, by a sharp knock at the door.

Elisa opened it and all the color drained from her face.

Nick saw a blonde woman, in her mid fifties, standing there with a man who was definitely around his age.

Elisa’s sister, Rochelle, was there, looking apologetic.

“What are you doing here Mom?”

Nick felt a sense of revulsion at the woman.

“Well, you’ve definitely changed since the last time I saw you up close, Elisa,” she said.

Elisa glared.

“Yeah I have.”

“How much weight have you lost, fifty, sixty pounds?”

“Seventy, Mom, are you going to tell me what you’re doing here?”

“Tell your friend he needs to leave, Elisa. We need to have a family discussion.”

Nick raised an eyebrow as Elisa laughed humorlessly.

“Okay. Derek , you need to leave with Nick, too, then,” Elisa said sarcastically. “Yeah right, Mom. Don’t come into my house telling me what to do. Nick isn’t my friend, he’s my boyfriend, and you rudely interrupted our first Christmas together. Anything you have to say to me you will say in front of him.”

Rochelle smiled a little at Nick, happy to hear that her big sister was finally happy. Nick grinned back at her. The man looked Nick up and down with a sneer.

“Who gave you the right to talk to me this way?” Elisa’s mom said angrily. As she walked past, Nick caught a wiff of vodka. Shit. Her mom was drunk. He walked away from her and sat next to Rochelle, out of the line of fire.

“You did, when you screwed me out of a fiance. Literally. Now why are you here? The sooner you tell me, the sooner you can leave.”

“I just want to know where the hell you get off embarrassing me the way you do. First my daughter declines to go to my wedding, and now she doesn’t show up to Christmas. How fucking dare you, after everything I’ve done for you-“

“Yeah, stealing my fiance and telling everyone I lied about my rape. You’ve done a hell of a lot, Ma. I should have sent a thank you card.”

“You were not raped! That was a lie because you couldn’t stand me being happy!”

“I was too! What fucking interest would an eight year old have in a thirty year old, mama? You are fucking deluded, you only care about yourself. You think the whole world revolves around, but it doesn’t! You don’t know half the shit I’ve put up with, but I’m not going to put up with it anymore. Thank fucking GOD Rochelle and I aren’t like you!”

Derek rolled his eyes.

“Didn’t Rochelle’s daughter get raped too?”

Elisa and Rochelle both glared at him. That was a low blow. Both to Elisa and to Leah, Rochelle’s daughter.

Nick willed himself not to punch the asshole in the jaw.

“How fucking dare you!” Elisa said, rounding on him. “You don’t even get to speak in my house after what you did.”

“It doesn’t matter. Your mom’s better off without you, we all are.”

Nick stood then. He had heard enough.

“Okay. Derek, you and the trash you’re marrying needs to get the hell out of my girlfriend’s house,” Nick said darkly.

“You have no right-“ Diane started.

“I have every fucking right to make my girl happy, because it’s obvious you’re not going to do it. And right now, she wants you gone. I’m sure her not being there today was clue enough that she doesn’t want you two around. Now leave, before I call the police,” Nick said, keeping his voice low, but he was angry. He'd never wanted to hit a woman in his life until now. Even his mother wasn't this cold.

Derek and Nick stared each other down.

“Do you need a map to the door?” Elisa finally asked.

Getting up, her mother glared at her.

“I don’t know where I got such an ungrateful bitch for a daughter, but if I could return you, I would. Let’s go, Rochelle.”

Rochelle sighed as Diane stalked out, Derek at her heels.

“I’m the DD. She practically forced me to drive her here. I’m sorry, Leese,” she explained.

Elisa hugged her sister.

“Don’t worry about it. She’ll get hers one day. Love you, Chelle.”

“Love you, too. And congrats, you two.”

“Thanks,” Nick said as Rochelle left.

After the door shut, Elisa sunk into the couch, breathing heavily, practically hyperventilating.

“Elisa!” Nick exclaimed, rushing to her. He held her face in his hands. “Focus on me, girl. It’s okay.”

“I have a prescription bottle in my medicine cabinet. Xanax. Get it for me, please,” she said, trying to control her breathing.

Nick rushed to her bathroom and got what she asked for. He was shocked at the reaction she was having. She was having a full blown panic attack, and he felt awful for her.

He got a glass of water, and handed the bottle and the glass to her.

She popped out two, and took them.

Nick held her until her breathing returned to normal.

“I am so sorry, Elisa.”

“You had no way of knowing they were coming. And thank you for kicking them out,” she whispered.

“No problem. When did you start Xanax?”

“After I caught them together. I rarely take it, honestly. This is the third time I’ve needed it.”

Nick rubbed her back as she took deep breaths.

“Let’s not let them ruin today. I’ll cook something for dinner, then you can corrupt me with Gone with the Wind.”

Elisa smiled and nodded.

“I’d like that.”


“Not really Christmassy but it sounds great.”

Nick walked in her kitchen and pulled some things out to make tacos. As he browned the meat, he processed what had just happened.

How was it that Elisa had grown up with the mom she had, and yet never did half the shit he got into? Yeah, she had lost seventy pounds, but other than that, there was no signs of drug or alcohol abuse. The Xanax didn’t count, it was a full bottle so he believed her when she said she rarely took it.

He looked into the living room and saw that the Xanax had definitely helped. She was calmer, and she was writing in a book.

He hadn’t seen the book before, and, while he was curious as to what it was, he wasn’t going to push the issue. Obviously, it was private to her, and if she wanted him to know what it was, she’d tell him.

Elisa was writing in her journal. It helped her more than Xanax did most days, but the ordeal her mom just caused called for the medication. She wrote a lot about her feelings, how she would love to never see her mom again for a while. At the end she wrote how thankful she was that Nick was in her life. She didn’t know what she would have done without him here today.

“Dinner’s ready,” he said a few minutes later.

She put the book under her couch cushion and walked into the kitchen.

They ate mostly in silence. Nick kept making sure she was okay, and she assured him he was.

After they were done, they both settled in to watch Gone with the Wind.

Nick wrapped an arm around her as she laid her head on his shoulder. He rubbed her arm affectionately as they watched the movie together. Despite his initial protests, he had to admit the movie was excellent. It told a wonderful story, and had enough action to keep him interested. It gave him ideas for what he’d like to do with the woman in his arms, when he wasn’t so busy with the group.

He dropped a soft kiss to Elisa’s head as the movie ended. He looked at his phone, and checked the time.
It was 10:30PM, and, even though it wasn’t late, both of them were tired.

“I don’t want to go home,” he said softly as the credits rolled on the screen.

“I don’t want you to go, either,” she replied, squeezing his hand.

“I have to. If I stay, there’s no telling what I’d do,” he said, running his hand over her thigh.

Elisa inhaled sharply and closed her eyes.

“I don’t care,” she whispered.

“I do, though. Trust me, Elisa, I want you…so fucking bad. But the wait will be worth it, I promise. Sure, I could use my hands to give you another amazing orgasm, but soon, that won’t be enough. I want to take my time with you, show you the way a man should love a woman,” he said huskily, kissing her neck. “I want to give every inch your body my undivided attention, because every part of you deserves to be loved, and loved right.”

She moaned a little as he kissed her collarbone, and then kissed her lips again.

“Go on, get out of here then,” she said lowly when they broke apart.

“I love you,” he whispered against her lips.

“I love you, too.”