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Chapter Fifty Three

November 1, 1998
Orlando, Florida

“So I did something that you’re going to kill me for.”

“That I’m going to kill you for? Why does this make me nervous?”

“Because nervousness always comes before plotting someone’s demise.”

“You’ve watched too many movies.”

“No, I’ve been in too many movies.”

I laugh. Kal doesn’t. I really do get butterflies.

“What did you do?” “The last time I was up there when you brought Ben home…”

“When you saved my sanity?”

"Yeah, that time.”


“Well, remember when he had that really bad night and you woke up and fed him and changed him and finally after about four hours I came in and I sat up with him?”

How could I forget? “Yes.”

“Well, you were sitting there rocking him and singing to him and I may or may not have...well, taped it."

Silence. I yank off my socks and deposit them in the sadly growing pile by my bed. “You taped it?”



"Because your voice is amazing.”

“No voice is amazing at 3:05 in the morning.”

“Yours is.”

“It doesn’t make Ben stop crying.”

“He has horrible taste.”

I smirk. “So this is your big confession?”

“No, it’s just part one. Hey, it’s quiet on your end. Where’s Ben?”

“Brian took him to see his parents.”

"Took him?”

I glance at my nightstand at a little framed picture of Ben’s baby face. Tears spring to my eyes. “Yeah, it’s killing me.”

"Did he fly?”

“No, he drove. Which didn’t make me feel much better. At least Brian hasn’t gotten drunk since Winnie’s surgery. That I know of.”

“He’s the most eligible bachelor in America right now. He doesn't need to drink. Where’s baby face?”

I brush the tears from my eyes and laugh. “Nick?”

“Yeah. Baby face. Jail bait.”

“He’s not jail bait.”

"He is to me. I’m old.”

“You’re not old.”

“Then I’m in my prime,” I can almost see Kal smiling. “And I’ve distracted you from my confession so I feel his conversation is headed for success.”

“Not anymore. What’s part two?”

Kal sighs dramatically. Then again, Kal can sigh at least ten different ways. I still wonder why she’s chosen plain me to befriend when she could have any Hollywood starlet to pal around with. I wiggle out of my gym shorts. I had been about to enjoy a bath when the phone rang. I wrap the cord from the landline around my finger.

"I may or may not have given the tape to a friend."

"A friend?" I kick the shorts off from my right ankle. "What kind of friend?" I yank my shirt clumsily over my head.

"A phone sex operator."

I'm stuck in my shirt, sputtering. "A what?!"

She laughs. "Kidding. No, a friend in Nashville. Great guy. Working his way up in the music biz. He likes your sound. Says you have twang."


"Yeah. I told him you were from California and he was surprised. His bet was on Kentucky or Alabama."

I roll my eyes. The shirt falls to the floor. "Hunh."

"Anyhow, he passed the tape on and they want to meet you."

I pause, my fingers at my bra clasp. "Who?"

"The execs at Lyric Street. Goodman primarily. Meeting with the founder is huge. He usually puts people on these projects."

"Lyric Street?"

"New record label. That's actually good that they're newer. They give their artists more specialized treatment. They'll hone your sound rather than try to convert you to theirs."

"Wait, what sound? I don't have a sound."

"You totally have a sound."

I finally slide my bra along my arms and deposit it with the rest of my mess. "Kal, that was really nice and all, but I just had twins. Winnie doesn't even get to come home for another 10 days."

"They're booked until February. I just want to get you on their calendar."



I sigh. I vaguely remember the adrenaline rush of being onstage. Then again, I didn't have twins...

"I don't know."

"Do it," Kal says. "For me."

"Why do you care?"

Anyone else would probably have been insulted. Not her. I could almost picture her grin. "Because you can't deprive the world of your talent. Plus, I love vacationing in Nashville. Every time I come to Orlando, my mom's crushed if I don't visit her too. It's a perfect plan."

I laugh. "I'll think about it."

"Is that a yes?"

"No! It's an I'll think about it. I've got to go take a bath before Nick comes to take me to the hospital."

"A bath only to go to the hospital? Or...."

She lets the 'or' disappear in space. "Or?"

"Hasn't it been six weeks?"

It takes me a moment to realize what she's getting at. Once I do, I groan. "No 'or.' I'm never having sex again."

"We all say that. Trust me it's just like riding a horse."

"I'm mutilated."

"Honey, I had to get 22 stitches with Leo. I felt like Frankenstein, but I promise you that the body is an amazing thing. Sex is actually better--"

"My sex drive was destroyed."

Kal just laughs. "Have you stopped leaking? That was the only awkward thing. The airborne milk is an 'oh shit' moment."

I head into the bathroom not quite believing I'm having this conversation. "They gave me a pill that took care of...that. It wasn't like I could breast feed."

"Lucky bastard," Kal declares. "I walked around with cabbage leaves on the girls like I was friggin Eve. I had a fever and the blockage and the pain...Christ, the pain."

I start the water, sliding the stopper into place. "Can I call you later with my decision?"

"After your sexy time with baby face?"

Nick's face flashes before my eyes. I blush. I can't remember what sex with Nick is like. The future continues to blur and disappear. I wonder if he can remember, but I know I'll never ask.

"No sex. Ever," I say stubbornly.

Kal just laughs. "Alright, well just think about it. February. Country music superstar."

I close my eyes, letting the steam bathe my face.

"Will do," I say.

There's a quick exchange of good-byes and I'm free. I settle my body down for a bath. It's been forever since I've enjoyed a bath instead of a shower. I lay my head back and feel my whole body relax...

I must fall asleep. It's the only logical explanation I have because I don't hear him come in the apartment. I don't hear him walk into the bathroom or kneel down. I don't feel his hand in the water, soaking up water into a soft cloth.

No, the first thing I notice is the feel of a washcloth sliding over my chest and Nick's fingertips brushing through the watery trail left behind. I don't panic because I know his fingertips. Just knowing that I already know what his fingertips feel like makes me know that I'm hopelessly his. I hear his breathing, heavier and shorter.

I open my eyes slowly and he meets my gaze even as the washcloth trails over my navel in a slowl sensuous circle. He doesn't say a word. Neither do I.

I just want to find out where the washcloth goes next.