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Chapter Forty

June 27, 1998

Orlando, Florida

“What do you mean you’re leaving?”

“I mean I’m leaving.”

“But where are you going?”

The answer leaves a bitter taste in my mouth.

“I’ve sold my soul, but my mom’s wired me some money. I’m getting a place.”


I zip my bag and give him a look that would shrivel plants.

“What you and Brian did yesterday was the stupidest thing I’ve ever seen. You guys are acting like I’m property rather than a human being. I’m a human being that is currently worrying about the well-being of two other human beings that need me more than anyone else.”

Nick tugs at his hair. “Listen, I’m sorry. I lost it. It’s just that I can’t handle all these curveballs. I snapped. You’re right. I haven’t treated you with respect. Just stay here. I don’t want to see you living in a roach motel.”

“I’m not going to live in a roach motel. It might be shocking, but I can support myself. I just had to pull my head out of my ass to do it. I’m not like a girl in one of those stupid romance novels. I can survive.”

Nick doesn’t answer. He watches me walk around and stuff more clothes in duffel bags.

The blow-up with Leighanne wasn’t as bad as I thought. I think the combination of Brian being arrested and then learning he had knocked me up was enough to direct her anger away from me and my hair. By the time I left, I was pretty sure she might get arrested for beating him up.

It was all very Jerry Springer.

And I was all very much over it.

“Can I just say one more thing?”

I sigh as I zip my final bag. “Yes?”

“You’ve got a high risk pregnancy. How are you going to support yourself without working?”

I narrow my eyes. I’ll blame it on the hormones, but I take his question as nothing but doubt on my abilities and sanity. Nick Carter, hero. Courtney Standiford, weak, pregnant scab.

“I’ve got that all figured out.”

“Can I at least drive you to wherever you’re going?”


“Are you ever going to talk to me again?”


I would have left our parting just like that, just for the sake of principle, but the look on his face as I grab my stuff is too much. I give him a quick peck on the cheek.

“Stay tuned.”

July 1, 1998

Maitland, Florida

“Breaking News. Reports have surfaced detailing what the fight between Backstreet Boys Brian Littrell and Nick Carter was about. In an issue of People to be released early next week, a nurse dishes the dirt. It appears that Littrell, linked with actress Leighanne Wallace for the last year, is expecting twins with another woman. As if that isn’t juicy enough, the unnamed woman has recently been seen around town with Carter. It leads us to ask: Who’s the daddy? Stay tuned. For MTV news, this is VJ Toby Amies.”

I’m pretty sure that if I ever meet VJ Toby Amies that I am going to kick his nuts so far up into him that he will sing higher than Mariah Carey.

I stare out the window and a beautiful wooded lakefront land greets me. I’m covered in flour, but aside from mauling Toby Amies, I’m rarely calm. I am living in a beautiful bed and breakfast and I have a non-stressful job. Cooking is a lot like constructing a chemical reaction except that the result is much tastier.

My mom has, for once in her life, come through for me. I resisted and wrestled with whether I should, but finally I gave in and called her after the whole Leighanne debacle at the police station. Mom has lived her life being easy, but it's paid off for her in one way:

The woman has the best connections in the hotel and inn business.

It took three phone calls before she called to confirm my employment. Granted, accepting her help wasn’t totally standing on my own two feet, but I'm not being stupid either. My time for total pride will come after successfully giving birth to two live babies.

I don’t know exactly when it became my goal, but it happened quickly. The thought of keeping both of these little jumping beans safe consumes my every waking moment. It's the reason I need to get away from Nick and Brian and the whole mess.

The only thing I need to do now is focus.

And bake.

“This is absolutely delicious.”


“How are you feeling?”

I’m sitting on a lovely wicker chair out on the front porch. I smile. The owner’s daughter sits down across from me with a heavy plate of pie. I've never made a pie in my life, but even the smell of it reeks of success.

“Great. I can’t thank your mom for letting me stay here and work.”

“That’s just how my mom is.”

Kal, short for Katherine Amy Lee, is twelve years older than me. Her little boy Leo looks just like her and her husband is some famous Hollywood director.

But I’ve learned that Kal is way more famous than he is. Kal is the rival Julia Roberts. I’ve spent the last week with her and Leo going through all of her movies that she’ll let him watch. For some reason, I have a vague recollection of other actresses being in some of the roles, but after each movie I can’t think of anyone else to play the role than Kal.

She’s also, for some reason, extremely interested in my well-being. Luckily, it’s not in the same suffocating way as two boys who will remain nameless.

“Do you ever get the feeling...that deja vu feeling?” she asks as she catches a wayward peach.

“Deja vu feeling?”

She smiles at me. “I feel like I’ve met you before.”

I laugh. “I feel the same way about you.”

“You know,” she cuts another sliver. As if on cue, Leo runs out to her, his mouth open like a baby bird. She feeds him the piece. “I think that we probably have some alter ego’s running around somewhere in sometime. We just repeat our lives in different ways and in different places. But when we run into someone from the past that feeling’s there. Does that make sense?”


“It makes perfect sense.”

“Take you and me,” she continues, feeding Leo another bite. “I bet in another life we were some Thelma and Louise gals. I probably made you do all the dirty work because you were so young and naive.”

I grin. “Like making pies?”

“Hey, now!”

“I’m kidding!”

She laughs. “That’s what I like about you.” She steals a bite of her own as Leo runs away, presumably back in to find his grandma. “So what’s your dream?”

“My dream?”

“Everyone has a dream. When I was growing up, my dad really wanted me to be a scientist. Luckily, I grew some balls and headed out to Hollywood instead. So what about you?”

“Well, I want to be a mom.”

Kal smirks. “You’re well on your way.”

I press my hands against my stomach. “True,” I admit. “I…” I close my eyes. Flashes of that fuzzy future swirl around. I’m just not sure how much I want to rely on it anymore.

“I want to sing,” I say assuredly.

“You sing?”

“I sing.”

“Then you’re going to sing for me.”

My eyes fly open and I stare at her incredulously. “Sure I am,” I laugh.

“No, I’m serious. You’ll sing for me.”


“Before I leave. But go on with your dream.”

I close my eyes again. “I want my children to be happy and healthy. I want them to feel safe and loved.”

“And you? Besides singing?”

I look at her again. The pie is gone.

“I don’t know,” I say honestly. I stare out over at the lake.

“I just want someone who doesn’t underestimate me. I want to be swept off my feet, but I don’t want to feel like I’m following. I want to lead.”

“Oooh,” Kal leans forward. She points a perfectly manicured nail at me.

“That right there is a statement of confliction. I think what you’re looking for is someone reactive. You can’t lead and be swept off your feet. But you can try. You, little mama, are looking for two very different guys.”

“There’s got to be one guy that can meet it all.”

“If there is, you’ll be the second luckiest woman in the world.”

“Because you’re the luckiest?” I guess.

She grins.

“You’re smart,” she nods.

“I knew I liked you.”