Under My Skin by Mellz Bellz

1. Prologue by Mellz Bellz

2. Chapter One by Mellz Bellz

3. Chapter Two by Mellz Bellz

4. Chapter Three by Mellz Bellz

5. Chapter Four by Mellz Bellz

6. Chapter Five by Mellz Bellz

7. Chapter Six by Mellz Bellz

8. Chapter Seven by Mellz Bellz

9. Chapter Eight by Mellz Bellz

10. Chapter Nine by Mellz Bellz

11. Chapter Ten by Mellz Bellz

12. Chapter Eleven by Mellz Bellz

13. Chapter Twelve by Mellz Bellz

14. Chapter Thirteen by Mellz Bellz

15. Chapter Fourteen by Mellz Bellz

16. Chapter Fifteen by Mellz Bellz

17. Chapter Sixteen by Mellz Bellz

18. Chapter Seventeen by Mellz Bellz

19. Chapter Eighteen by Mellz Bellz

20. Chapter Nineteen by Mellz Bellz

21. Chapter Twenty by Mellz Bellz

22. Chapter Twenty- One by Mellz Bellz

23. Chapter Twenty-Two by Mellz Bellz

24. Chapter Twenty-Three by Mellz Bellz

25. Chapter Twenty-Four by Mellz Bellz

26. Chapter Twenty-Five by Mellz Bellz

27. Chapter Twenty-Six by Mellz Bellz

28. Chapter Twenty - Seven by Mellz Bellz

29. Chapter Twenty-Eight by Mellz Bellz

30. Chapter Twenty-Nine by Mellz Bellz

31. Chapter Thirty by Mellz Bellz

32. Chapter Thirty -One by Mellz Bellz

33. Chapter Thirty - Two by Mellz Bellz

34. Chapter Thirty -Three by Mellz Bellz

35. Chapter Thirty-Four by Mellz Bellz

36. Chapter Thirty - Five by Mellz Bellz

37. Chapter Thirty - Six by Mellz Bellz

38. Chapter Thirty - Seven by Mellz Bellz

39. Chapter Thirty - Eight by Mellz Bellz

40. Chapter Thirty - Nine by Mellz Bellz

41. Chapter Forty by Mellz Bellz

42. Chapter Forty - One by Mellz Bellz

43. Chapter Forty - Two by Mellz Bellz

44. Chapter Forty-Three by Mellz Bellz

45. Chapter Forty-Four by Mellz Bellz

46. Chapter Forty-Five by Mellz Bellz

47. Chapter Forty-Six by Mellz Bellz

48. Chapter Forty-Seven by Mellz Bellz

49. Chapter Forty-Eight by Mellz Bellz

50. Chapter Forty-Nine by Mellz Bellz

51. Chapter Fifty by Mellz Bellz

52. Chapter Fifty-One by Mellz Bellz

53. Chapter Fifty-Two by Mellz Bellz

54. Chapter Fifty- Three by Mellz Bellz

55. Chapter Fifty- Four by Mellz Bellz

56. Chapter Fifty- Five by Mellz Bellz

57. Chapter Fifty-six by Mellz Bellz

58. Chapter Fifty-Seven by Mellz Bellz

59. Chapter Fifty- Eight by Mellz Bellz

60. Chapter Fifty- Nine by Mellz Bellz

61. Chapter Sixty by Mellz Bellz

62. Epilogue by Mellz Bellz

63. Author's Note and Thank You's by Mellz Bellz

64. Awards by Mellz Bellz

Prologue by Mellz Bellz
Author's Notes:
Alyssa reminsces about a past love and her life since then.
It was a perfectly sunny July afternoon and as usual on an afternoon such as this in New York City, Central Park was packed. People whizzed by on bicycles, roller blades, or even their own two feet. Groups of teenage girls could be seen laying out on the grass, trying to take advantage of the suns rays as they inconspicuously checked out a group of guys performing skateboarding tricks on the blacktop. Little children clung to their mother's hands, licking ice cream cones, or carrying balloons, heading in the direction of the infamous Central Park Zoo.. It appeared that all of New York City was taking advantage of the beautiful weather.

In the middle of it all was Alyssa Martinelli just sitting contently on a park bench taking the whole scene in. This was one of the things she loved best about New York City, the sense of anonymity it gave her. One of her absolute favorite things to do was just to sit there and watch the people walk by and wonder what their lives must be like. On a day like today, Alyssa could probably sit there all day and go completely unnoticed. I never could do something like this in Florida, she thought to herself.

Florida... Why did she all of a sudden think of Florida? God, it must have been a good three a half years since she moved back home with her parents in New York, So why would she just randomly think of Florida now?

Who was she kidding? Florida and her old life there had been at the back of her mind all day. It was with good reason too. Today was her 25th birthday.

I should be out celebrating with friends, she told herself. Instead I'm sitting on a park bench in the middle of Central Park recounting the last five years of my life and how screwed up they've been. Too bad there really were no friends to call. She'd left them all behind in Florida and had lost touch with them by now. She supposed if she wanted to she could take the train out to her parents house on Long Island and have dinner with them, but how pathetic was that? Or she could take the train in the opposite direction to visit her older sister, Megan, in New Jersey, but being recently married and just settled down in her first real house, Alyssa couldn't help, but feel intrusive barging in on her.

And to think you could have had all that too, a small voice in her head reminded her. Alyssa sighed as she tried to ignore it. Somehow she knew that even if things had gone smoothly, her life as a married woman would have never been as stable and healthy as Meg's appeared to be. It just would have been impossible.

She probably should give her younger sister Stephanie a call and they maybe could meet up for dinner at least. At 19, Stephanie was too young to get into any bars although Alyssa doubted that anyone would bother IDing her because she already looked to be about Alyssa's age if not older. Stephanie was entering her sophomore year at NYU and currently living in a dorm while she was enrolled in some summer program. It's so true what they say about the youngest being the most spoiled, Alyssa thought with a smirk. She had to fight tooth and nail with her parents to get them to allow her to attend college in Florida and even at that Alyssa had to postpone her freshman year while she worked to save up money for an apartment because her parents were so against her going that they refused to help her pay for a place to live down there.

Maybe I should have listened to them, she told herself. Maybe parents really DO know best. She'd moved down to Florida, gotten involved with a guy, and wasted two years of her life, only to wind up back in New York living with her parents and struggling to finish up college almost two years behind schedule. It had only been that May that Alyssa had finally graduated with a teaching degree and moved out to New York City where there was a better chance of getting a job. Sometimes she wondered how her life would have been different if she had stayed down in Florida, much less how different it would be if her and Nick had actually worked out.

Nick.... Exactly the person she did not want to be thinking about today of all days, but like always he haunted her thoughts. Her and Nick. How could two people go through so much together in only a little over two years and honestly overcome all of it? Let's see, she thought. In two years we've been engaged twice, but never married. I've been cheated on by him only to find out that the "other woman" became pregnant as a result. We would be on one minute and off the next, yet no matter what he did I'd always come back to him.It was probably best that things finally ended for them because those obviously were not signs of a healthy relationship.

Yet, he had been the one to break things off with her. More oddly so, at a point in their relationship when things finally were looking up for them. All because he decided that he didn't want to get married after all. Why go through all the trouble of proposing if you're only going to break it off only a few short months later because you "aren't ready?" Alyssa wondered to herself.

Yeah, he had messed her up pretty good. So good that Alyssa had no choice, but to come running home to Mommy and Daddy with her tail between her legs on defeat. Three years ago and it still hurt like hell. Maybe it always would. She knew that since she'd moved back to New York it had become impossible for her to have any sort of relationship with anyone else. Not that there hadn't been offers. She'd try to convince herself to give a guy a chance, but she must not have been very convincing, because there was never that second date. In fact, most of them had told her flat out that they didn't feel as if she was interested in them and they were probably right. Alyssa had no clue what it was that she was looking for, but was hoping that whenever she found it, she would finally feel complete She'd tried the whole one night stand thing thinking that maybe sex would lead to fulfillment for her, but she quickly discovered that it only left her feeling used and even more alone.

Of course Nick did not seem to be having the same problem from what she heard. Maybe it was her. Maybe she was just too much of an emotional person.

OK,enough is enough, she told herself as she got up from the park bench and gathered her things. You're only making yourself feel worse by thinking about him, she reminded herself. Nick was in the past. She needed to forget about him and move on already if she ever wanted to have any kind of a successful future. I'll go back to my apartment, call Stephanie and we'll make dinner plans, she decided as she began to walk away.

On her way to the park exit, she passed a large fountain. Superstitiously, she dug into her pocket for a penny. Staring at its gleaming copper face, she silently wished, I wish that I could finally find happiness with a man again, and flung the penny into the water.

Strange how wishes wind up coming true in the most unexpected of ways.
Chapter One by Mellz Bellz
Author's Notes:
Alyssa reluctantly joins her sister Stephanie for a birthday celebration.

Chapter One

 

It's over and done, but the heartache lives on inside...-Emotion, Destiny's Child

   Later on that evening, Alyssa entered the semi-crowded Italian bistro where Stephanie had asked her to meet her at. Alyssa had never heard of the place, but it was near Stephanie's dorm and she had told Alyssa that the fettuccini alfredo was to die for. It looked like a good place and Alyssa didn't mind her younger sister's suggestion. Besides most of her favorite restaurants in the city had been places that she had eaten at with Nick and Alyssa had had enough painful memories about him for one day anyway.        "Hey birthday girl! Forget what your younger sister looks like already?" Alyssa looked up only to see Stephanie heading towards her. She had been so deep in thought that she hadn't even noticed her walk in.        "I'm sorry," Alyssa apologized as she gave her sister a hug. "I'm really out of it. I didn't even notice you walk in."        "Thanks a lot. I really feel the love," Stephanie sarcastically replied.        Once they were seated and their orders were taken Alyssa finally took a good look at her sister. It was amazing how much she had changed since the day she had shown up on her and Nick's doorstep just about three years ago. At 16, she had been a rebellious teenage nightmare, but now it finally seemed as if she was beginning to grow up. Something in her face seemed more mature than the last time they had seen each other. *******        She and Nick had just settled down on the couch, curled up in each others arms, with a bowl of popcorn sitting in between them all set to watch a movie together when the doorbell rang.        "Who can that be at this time of night?" Alyssa asked in confusion as she peered over at the direction of the front door.        Nick groaned. "You answer it. You're closer."        Alyssa just rolled her eyes at him and playfully threw a kernel of popcorn at him. "You lazy bum," she teased, but still got up from the couch and headed towards the door. "I'm coming! I'm coming!" she shouted as the doorbell rang for a second time.        As soon as she opened the door she gasped as she saw the person standing at the other end, She was completely speechless for a moment. There stood her younger sister Stephanie with a suitcase at her feet and a duffle bag hanging over her shoulder looking very visibly upset.        "Steph? What are you doing here, in Florida? Aren't you supposed to be in New York?" she  asked still not believing that Stephanie was really there.        "You could invite me inside you know. It is the polite thing to do," she cattily reminded Alyssa. "And if you must know I'm never going back to New York ever again. I've had it up to here with Mom and Dad and the way they treat me like I'm in kindergarten, so I figured I'd come down here and start a new life for myself just like you did. It appears to be working out for you."        "Babe, who is it?" Nick asked as he met her over by the door.        Alyssa sighed. "Nick, you remember my sister Stephanie. It appears that we have a runaway on our hands." *******               "What? Why are you staring at me like I have two heads?" Stephanie interrupted her reverie.        "No reason. I was just thinking to myself how grown up you've become You look great!" Alyssa honestly replied. No one would have ever guessed that the pair was related. While Alyssa and her sister Megan had taken after her father and were both olive skinned and,dark haired with deep chocolate brown eyes, Stephanie favored their mother with her porcelain complexion, dirty blonde hair, and hazel eyes. Where Alyssa was very petite and barely 5'2, Stephanie was a few inches taller and had more of a heavier build. She wasn't exactly chunky, more big boned. Her formally light hair was now dyed a deep ebony which contrasted dramatically against her fair skin and her eyes were heavily lined with dark black eyeliner underneath her black "emo" glasses which appeared to make her look older somehow.        "Thanks," Stephanie told her sister wishing that she could say the same about her sister. Stephanie had noticed that since Alyssa had ended her relationship with Nick she had definitely not spent as much time on her appearance than she used to. For instance, now her hair was messily tossed on top of her head and her makeup looked like it was done half heartedly.        Deciding to change the subject, Stephanie casually mentioned, "You know it really is a shame that you've been living here about a month now and this is only the first time you and I have gotten together."        Alyssa nodded. It was a shame, but Stephanie and her had never exactly been close. Alyssa was much closer to Megan growing up since they were only two years apart versus the six years that separated her and Stephanie. By the time Alyssa had moved down to Florida, Stephanie had only been about 13. Maybe that's why she had been so fucked up? Alyssa thought to herself. At the point on her life when she needed guidance from her older sisters the most, both her and Megan had moved out on their own, leaving Stephanie almost like an only child.        "I mean honestly we live so close now we really should get together more often," Stephanie continued. "Do you have any plans for later?"        Alyssa just shrugged. "Probably not."        "No plans? But it's your birthday," she insisted.        "What am I going to do Steph? Go to a bar by myself? How depressing is that?"        "So you go to meet people! Get good and drunk and maybe you'd actually stop being so uptight and meet some people already."        "Maybe I don't want to 'meet people,'" Alyssa stubbornly replied.        Stephanie just sighed. She honestly just wanted to see her older sister happy and enjoying herself for once. "If you want I could try and borrow one of my friends IDs and come with you. I might be able to get away with it."        "That's okay. I really don't want to spend my night trying to bail you out of jail for trying to impersonate somebody else," she said dryly.        Stephanie rolled her eyes. "They don't arrest people for that Alyssa. They just laugh in your face and say 'nice try.''        "You sound like you speak from experience," Alyssa told her, glancing warily at her sister.        "I know the real reason you don't want to go out tonight," Stephanie said avoiding Alyssa's previous comment.        Please, don't do this, Alyssa begged silently. Don't bring him up.        "It's about Nick isn't it? You're still not over him, are you?" she continued on.        "I don't know!" Alyssa finally exploded. "I keep telling myself that I am, but he's always on my mind."        Stephanie's expression softened. "I'm sorry I'm being such a bitch about bringing him up, but I can't help but feel like it was all my fault that you two broke up."        "Your fault? Steph, why would any of it be your fault?" Alyssa asked in a confused voice.        "Because everything was going great between you two. You were engaged, you had a beautiful home, everything looked perfect and then I showed up with all my problems and practically forced the two of you to take me in. All the trouble that I got myself into probably caused such a strain on your relationship that I  made him think twice about marrying a girl who has a sister as fucked up as I was. So you see, it is my fault. I ruined your life," she confessed almost in one breath.        Alyssa almost had to laugh at her sister's guilt. Yes her moving in with her and Nick had made things a little awkward and forced the two of them to become parents to an out of control teen only a few years younger than themselves, but she couldn't say that it was Stephanie who had made Nick decide that he wasn't ready for marriage. "Hun, it's totally not your fault. Nick was pretty understanding about you living with us. Remember he had a brother right around your age. Nick and I... We just grew apart. It wasn't anybody's fault, except maybe our own I suppose, so don't beat yourself up over it."        "But I put you guys through so much hell, I was such a spoiled brat. I guess I thought that if I was living with you and Nick, you two would let me get away with all the crap that Mom and Dad wouldn't just because you two were 'cool' to me. The two of you were way too young to be having to deal with my games."         She couldn't be more right about that, Alyssa thought to herself. Stephanie had definitely given her a run for her money. To this day she still couldn't believe the things that her baby sister had gotten involved in. ***********        "Drug possession! I cannot believe that I just had to bail you out of jail for drug possession!" Alyssa screamed as she angrily threw her keys on the counter.        "It was only a little weed. Not even that big of a deal,: Stephanie muttered as she stared at the floor.        "Not THAT big of a deal?! A big enough of a deal for you to get arrested! Holy shit, how am I supposed to explain to Mom and Dad that while you're down here with me and I'm supposed to be looking out for you, you get arrested for having marijuana on you?" she thundered. At this point, she was angry she was shaking.               Stephanie shrugged. For once she appeared to be speechless.        "You know, Nick and I have been more than generous to you. We've opened up our home to you, given you a place to stay. Anything you want we try to give it to you. I thought that at your age I could trust you and give you a little bit of freedom and THIS is how you repay me? I didn't freak out when I found the package of cigarettes in your room nor did I freak out when you've came home completely wasted from a party. Lot's of teenagers get drunk and smoke cigarettes and turn out fine. Lately though your behavior has been deplorable! Those friends you hang out with are a horrible influence on you! And every guy you bring by here has to be at LEAST five years older than you! Are they aware that you are only 16?"        "You're starting to sound just like Mom and Dad!" Stephanie interrupted defensively.        "I'm only looking out for what's best for you Stephanie," Alyssa tried to explain.        "How do you know what's best for me, huh? You make me laugh! You and Meg both run away and leave me and then you think that you can tell me how to live MY life? I know what I'm doing thank you very much. You can say what you want to about my friends, but at least they accept me for who I am. Besides not like you were perfect... Oh wait! Silly me! I forgot you were!" she sarcastically replied, pretending to cover her mouth in shock.        "Stephanie look at yourself. Can't you see you're ruining your life? Drugs are so not the answer even if it is only marijuana. Marijuana leads to other drugs."        "Since when did you become a drug awareness counselor?"        "Since AJ went into rehab! I saw it happen to one of my best friends and I;I'm not going to let it happen to my baby sister," Alyssa firmly argued.        "Save it, Alyssa. It's not like I have a serious problem or anything. I'll  do what I want to."        "No you won't. Because as of right now things are going to change. No more parties, no more hanging out, and no more liaisons with your male friends."        "What?! You can't do that! That's horse shit! You're not my Mother!" Stephanie exclaimed, outraged.        "If you don't like it, there's the door! Either you get your act together or you leave."        "Fine! I'm sure I can stay at Mike's house or something. I've been spending most of my nights there anyway."        "I've noticed, but don't even get me started on that topic," Alyssa warned her.        "If you are going to warn me to use a condom then don't bother. I'm always safe. I've being doing it since I was 14 anyway. Probably longer than you have,"  she responded as she strode out of the kitchen and up the stairs, glad to have gotten the last word in.        Alyssa sighed and tugged at her hair in frustration. What was she going to do with that girl? She was simply out of control. The nerve of her to act as if she knows more about sex than I do! she thought angrily.        The sad thing was that she had probably been right. **********        "I'm very proud of the way you turned your life around Steph. Honestly. I was really scared that you were going to really mess up your life," Alyssa admitted to her.        "I guess I have you to thank for that. If you and Nick hadn't broken up and you had gotten married and not came back home I don't think I would be like this today," Stephanie confessed. "Thank you."        Wow, Alyssa thought to herself. She had never looked at the situation through her sisters eyes before. Finally something positive had came out of her break up with Nick and just knowing that made Alyssa feel ten times better about the situation.        "No thank YOU Steph," Alyssa told her with a smile. "I never once considered the positive things that happened as a result of my break up with Nick. Maybe in the long run it really was for the best."        "Really?" her sister asked earnestly.        "Really. From now on I am through feeling sorry for myself. Maybe I'll even let you talk me into going to that bar after dinner."        "You mean you'll risk me getting arrested for having a fake ID?" Stephanie asked with a giggle.        "Yes. I suppose I can risk it," Alyssa agreed with a laugh and for the first time in a long time she actually felt alive.                                                        

Chapter Two by Mellz Bellz
Author's Notes:
An e-mail from an old friend stirs up a lot of memories for Alyssa.

Chapter 2

  

I saw your face in a crowded place, And I don't know what to do, Cause I'll never be with you. - You're Beautiful, James Blunt



The next day, Alyssa awoke to her cat Precious gently nudging her sleeping body as if to say, "wake up and feed me." Alyssa's eyes fluttered open and she slowly stretched out her body. " I know you're hungry," she grumbled. This was quite typical of Precious to come in and wake Alyssa up in the morning. When she was living down in Florida with Nick, he would get so pissed off in the morning when Precious would leap onto their bed and force them to wake up in the morning. " That damn cat," he would mutter as it would try to crawl between the two of them.. Alyssa smiled to herself at the memory for a moment, but then realized that she was thinking about him again. Damn him, she thought to herself.

       Precious continued to crawl on top of Alyssa bringing her back to the present. "Okay, Mommy is getting up," she promised as she sat up in bed. "No wonder you're so insistent today," she continued as she glanced at the clock. "It's almost 1:00pm! See what happens when I stay out late and party too much?"

       She had in fact accepted Stephanie's offer to go out to a bar last night and she had to admit that she actually did have a good time. Ironically, the bouncers didn't even give Stephanie's fake ID a second glance, yet they must have spent a full five minutes examining Alyssa's. And I'm the one who is actually of age, she had though defensively to herself. Once inside though Alyssa's mood definitely improved. Who knew that partying with her baby sister could actually be kind of fun? Hell, she'd even talked to a few guys last night and exchanged numbers with one or two of them although she doubted that she would actually call them.

       The getting out had definitely been good for her. Even though she had drank more than she had in a long time she didn't even feel the slightest bit hung over. In fact, she actually felt pretty good.

       Alyssa finally managed to pull herself out of bed and headed for the kitchen with Precious hot on her heels. First, she opened up a can of cat food for Precious and then preceded to make herself a bowl of Cinnamon Toast Crunch. She bought her cereal over to her computer, realizing that she hadn't checked her e-mail in a while.

       "You got mail!" her computer announced to her as she signed onto AOL. Opening her mailbox she murmured to herself as she deleted her junk mail, "Junk... Spam... Porn... When will these people figure out that I do not want to see any 'hot girl on girl action' nor do I need to get prescription drugs at a lower price?" She was totally about to give up in disgust until her eyes caught sight of an all too familiar e-mail address. Alyssa's heart began to pound. What does she want? she wondered. They hadn't spoken since she had left Florida.

       Taking a deep breath she clicked open the e-mail and began to read its contents.

Hey Alyssa!

       Wow! It's really been forever since we talked! I was just thinking about you recently and was curious  about what you've been up to because nobody has heard from you or Meg. Are you still living in New York? What have you been doing? How is Meg and the rest of your family? Is Meg healthy?

       Well, I'm doing really well. Just to update you on my life a little, I'm currently living out in LA with Tristan. (I can't believe that we are still together after almost five years!) We moved out there shortly after you moved back to New York. Anyway I guess you are probably wondering why I'm trying to contact you after all these years. I have big news! After all these years Tristan has finally landed a record deal and the record company wants him to work with some producers and do some recording in New York City, so we're going to be moving to New York! I'm not even sure if you're still living in New York at all, but I would love to get together with you and catch up. My cell phone number is ________. Call me anytime you want.

       I really hope to hear from you. I know our friendship kind of went downhill after you and Nick broke up, but I think by now hopefully you'll be able to at least resume your friendships with your other friends from Florida.
                                                      
You better call me!
Luv Izzy


       Wow... she thought sitting back in her chair. Izzy, my old best friend from Florida. Isabelle Richardson, cousin of Kevin Richardson of BSB. ( Yet not cousins with Brian. She used to always stress that he was the other side of the family.)  The same Izzy who pretty much grew up with Nick. The same Izzy that had introduced the two of them in the first place. She could still remember the day they first met in the college cafeteria clearly in her mind.

*******

       Alyssa was sitting at a table by herself with her books spread out trying to study as she fed herself a carton of macaroni and cheese. It was only the second week of the school and so far she had met absolutely no one.  She was beginning to wonder if moving down to Florida for college had been a wise move at all.

       She was so deep in thought that she didn't even notice someone approach until a slightly southern accented voice spoke up. " Hey, you're in my Intro to Psych class aren't you?"

       Alyssa looked up into the face of a young woman about her own age with her auburn hair pulled back  into a ponytail. She looked vaguely familiar to her, but she wasn't sure from where. It could have been psych class. "9;15 - 10:30 on Monday and Wednesday with Professor Blake?" she asked for clarification.

       "Yep. That's the one! Doesn't that girl who sits up in the front and asks all those questions just annoy the hell out of you?" the girl continued on.

       "Oh my God I know!" Alyssa agreed with a laugh. "Today when we were watching that video and she kept calling out to ask questions I wanted to smack her."

       The girl gave an agreeable nod. " By the way I'm Isabelle Richardson, but most people call me Izzy."

       " Alyssa Martinelli. Pleased to meet you," she introduced.
      
       " Do you mind if I take a seat?" Izzy asked.

       "Not at all," Alyssa told her as she moved her books aside.

       "So, is this your first semester here or have you been going here for awhile?" her new friend asked, as she sat down.

       "My first semester. I actually just moved here from New York," she explained.

       "New York? Wow! Did your family move down here or something?"

       "No. I moved down by myself for school. I needed to get away from them for awhile."

       Izzy looked at Alyssa in admiration. "So, you have your own apartment?"

       "Yea. It's nothing much. Not sure how long I'll be able to afford it, but for now it'll suffice. What about you? What's your story?"

       Izzy all of a sudden looked a little uncomfortable. "My story? Well, there's not much of a story to tell. I was actually born and raised in Kentucky, that's where the accent comes from. I started college out there, but after my first semester I decided to take a break because a lot of crap was going on in my life. My parents were going through a nasty divorce  and home was pretty crappy, so I spent some time with my cousin, who is like a second father to me and he offered me to come down and live with him and his girlfriend and attempt to start college again down here in Florida, so here I am a 20 year old freshman!"

       "Don't feel so bad, so am I. I had to put off college a little bit to save up money for my apartment," Alyssa sympathized.

       "I'm glad there's someone else who knows how I feel. I really don't know very many people down here in Florida outside of my cousin and his friends," Izzy confessed. "I've spent most of my life surrounded by guys."

       "Well, I can't relate to that because I grew up with two sisters, but it sounds kind of nice," she mused. Yes, this Izzy girl seemed maybe a little too friendly, but Alyssa instantly felt some kind of bond with her. Perhaps it was he fact that they were both "older" freshmen, or the fact that they had both sought refuge in Florida in order to get away from their parents. Either way Alyssa was beginning to feel that she had just made her first real friend in Florida.


*********

       Alyssa snapped herself out of her daydream. Maybe she could call Izzy after all. What harm could it do? It would be great to hear her voice again. Besides if she really was as over Nick as she claimed to be this would be the ultimate test right?

       She looked over at her clock which read 1:30pm which would only make it 9:30am on the West Coast. Izzy had said to call anytime, but Alyssa decided it would probably be best to wait a little while longer before calling in case she and Tristan wanted to sleep in.

       So with nothing left to do, but let her mind wander, Alyssa continued to remind herself of the intricate role that Izzy had played in bringing her and Nick together.

*********

       "Okay, tell me everything you know about Pavlov and his dog," Alyssa quizzed Izzy as they sat next to each other on Alyssa's living room couch. "Iz? Earth to Isabelle? Hello! Psych mid-term on Monday... We're supposed to be studying here?" she reminded her.

       "Yea. I'm sorry. Can you repeat the question?" Izzy asked, obviously caught in a day dream

       Alyssa sighed impatiently. "What's with you tonight? This is the fifth question I've had to repeat to you. Neither one of us is going to pass this thing at this rate."

       "I'm really sorry," she apologized. "I just kind of have a lot on my mind right now."

       "Well, do you want to talk about it?" Alyssa's eyes flashed with definite concern.

       Now it was Izzy's turn to sigh. "There's something that I have to tell you. I've kind of been hiding something about me from you and I think that we have gotten so close lately that I feel like I owe you the truth."

       "If you're going to tell me that you're a lesbian, I'm cool with it," Alyssa interrupted.

       "No!" Izzy answered with a laugh. "It's nothing like that. It's about my cousin and the way that I live."

       "Okay," she said slowly, leaning forward to listen.

       "Well," Izzy started off. "I bet you're kind of wondering how come I've never invited you over to my cousins house. Whenever we get together for anything I always come here."
      
       Alyssa interrupted again to reassure her. "I don't think its rude at all. I just figured you didn't want to impose upon him."

       "Yea, uhmm well its more than that," she continued, staring down at her hands. "You see, I mentioned that my cousin was in a band to you right?"

       "Yea," Alyssa said, nodding and wondering what she was getting at. "That's why you want to major in public relations, so that someday you can maybe represent them."

       "Well,  the band is actually more of a group and you actually probably have heard of them before. They're pretty well known around these parts. My cousin is Kevin Richardson. Ever hear of him?"

       Alyssa thought carefully to herself. "The name sounds familiar, but I can't remember where I've heard it before."

       "Ever hear of the Backstreet Boys?" Izzy supplied.

       "Of course I've heard of - Wait! Your cousin is THAT Kevin?" Alyssa asked incredulously.

       "Yes. Please don't freak out. I didn't tell you right away because I didn't know if I could trust you or if you'd even believe me," she explained. "I hope you aren't mad."

       "I'm not mad. Just kind of shocked is all. I never knew anyone who was related to anybody famous before." Alyssa paused for a moment. "So, why tell me now?"

       Izzy shrugged. "We've gotten so close and I feel like I can trust you. Our friendship has gotten to the point where I couldn't hide something like this from you any longer. So you do know them?"

       "Sure I know them. I've heard their songs before and I even own a few of their CDs actually," she confessed with a blush. "But I'm not like a super obsessed fan or anything like that. I don't think I could even tell you their names to be honest. I kind of used to think that the blonde one was kind of cute but -"

       "Nick?" Izzy asked with a laugh.

       "Is that his name? I swear I was like in high school and he was like hottie of the week for a little bit. It was so dumb."

       "He's my best friend," Izzy announced trying to keep a straight face.

       "Oh," Alyssa said trying to conceal her embarrassment. "Then just forget what I said okay?"

       "We're the same age. I used to spend my summers with the guys following them around wherever they went and it was only inevitable that we'd hang out. I've known him since we were like 13 or 14. And no... I've never went 'went there,' " she said anticipating the question that was on Alyssa's lips.

       "How did you know I was going to ask you that?" Alyssa asked.

       "Because everyone does. They assume that just because we're such good friends we've like messed around. Honestly, in the beginning Kevin thought we'd wind up together and we even kissed once or twice, but it was just too weird. We're much better as friends. He's like my brother or something," she explained. Suddenly a devilish glint appeared in her eye. "So do you really think he's cute?"

       All of a sudden Alyssa felt very put on the spot. "Well, he's definitely not bad looking," she answered a bit unsurely. Something about the look on Izzy's face scared her a little bit. "Why do you ask?"

       "He's available. He recently broke up with someone. If you want I can hook it up," Izzy offered with a grin.

       Alyssa almost laughed at the absurdity of it. "He wouldn't be interested in me."

       "Compared to most of the girls he's dated in the past, you re definitely an improvement. He needs a little guidance in the women department," she shared.. "Anyway I really want you to meet my cousin and rest of the guys. Their record company is throwing a little party for them next Saturday night. Would you be interested in going with me?"

       "Me? At a fancy record company party? I don't know Iz... I wouldn't know how to act or what to wear," Alyssa confided to her friend.

       "I'll stick by you the whole night and I'll even help you pick out an outfit or you can borrow something of mine. Just please say you'll come," Izzy begged.

       Alyssa found that she had no excuse to turn her friend down. "Fine. I'll go."

*********

       And so it began. That had been the night that she had first met Nick. Now that she wanted her memories to stop coming back to her, she could not help, but to think back on that particular night as well.

**********

       Alyssa was completely in awe of the whole party. She wondered if Izzy often attended parties like these where the level of her champagne glass never dropped more than halfway before a white gloved waiter came around to  fill it back up again, making it never ending. As promised, Izzy had remained by her side as she introduced Alyssa to Kevin and his band mates, who all seemed quite charming and pleased to meet her. She had met everyone besides the elusive Nick who for the whole night seemed to be swarmed with people.

       "Quick!" Izzy ordered grabbing Alyssa's arm, forcing her to almost spill her champagne. "Nick's heading out from the bathroom. If we run I can introduce you before somebody else gets to him first."

       Alyssa giggled as Izzy dragged her across the room towards Nick hoping that her friend wouldn't say anything too embarrassing in front of him.

       "Hey Carter!" Izzy shouted as they approached him. "What the hell is this that you can't even come over and say hi to me anymore?" She put her hands on her hips and pretended to look annoyed.

       "Sorry," he apologized. "I can't help it if I'm popular," he said with a smirk that made Alyssa's knees a little weak as he stepped forward to properly greet Izzy with a hug and a friendly peck on the cheek.

       Finally remembering that her purpose in approaching him was to introduce him to Alyssa, Izzy grabbed Alyssa's arm. "By the way this is my friend Alyssa, the one I was telling you about," she told him with a knowing look.

       Telling about? What did she say? Alyssa wondered. She hated when people talked about her, even if it was in a good way. Her question was immediately answered by Nick's response.

       "Ahh, yes. The 'cute single' one. I remember now. Pleased to meet you," he said as he extended his hand out to her.

       "L-Likewise," she managed to stutter out as she took his hand. She could already feel a blush crawling up into her cheeks. Wait until she got her hands on Izzy later!

       "Oh look! Some people have Kevin's ear and Melanie looks a little lonely over there across the room. I think I'm going to over there and keep her company," Izzy excused herself. "You two keep talking though," she hinted with a playful grin as she walked away.

       Now she really was going to kill Izzy. Here she was in an awkward situation having to talk with a guy she barely knew who probably had absolutely zero interest in her anyway. A very hot looking guy, she corrected herself. Now that they were alone she finally really took a good look at him and she had to admit that he was gorgeous in person. Striking blue eyes, nicely shaped lips, and a perfect smile were the first things that she noticed about him. His handshake had been firm and confident, with a bit of a squeeze. Alyssa found herself almost afraid to look him straight in the eye because he was that beautiful. Maybe she needed some more champagne.

       Thankfully enough Nick broke the awkwardness and initiated the conversation. "So Izzy tells me that you just moved down here from New York. Where about?"

       "Long Island," she answered him, self consciously twirling a strand of her dark hair around her finger.

       "Oh. I was born in Jamestown, but that's not very close by is it?" he asked uncertainly.

       "Not at all," Alyssa answered trying not to laugh. "Long Island is way South in New York and Jamestown is kind of Northwest from us. Very Northwest."

       Nick shrugged and laughed a little. "I never claimed to be an expert on New York geography. Hell, I'm not good at geography period.  I've been to Long Island before. It's like an hour or so from the city right?"

       "Yes. About that depending on where you are."

       "Yea. We've done a few shows down there. I think I even did a book signing there once," he continued.

       "Yea, you did," Alyssa reminded him, immediately feeling a little foolish. She didn't want to make it sound like she followed his whole career or anything like that. She just remembered hearing about it. "Half the girls in my high school skipped school that day to line up outside of Barnes and Noble for it."

       "And were you one of them?" he pressed, giving her that smirk again. For the first time, she noticed that he had dimples.

       Alyssa suddenly felt a little self conscious in Izzy's short, black, Dolce and Gabanna mini dress that she had been so conscious to not spill anything on the whole night because it probably cost as much as a month or two of rent for her. It wasn't like she had been at that signing, so she didn't have anything to be embarrassed about, but she couldn't quite tell if he was asking because he thought she might have been a fan, or because he was just trying to flirt with her. Either way it made her a little uncomfortable, but not necessarily in a bad way.  "No, I didn't go. A few of my friends went. No offense, but I didn't have much of an interest in going."

       "Fair enough," he replied and changed the subject. Apparently Alyssa had passed the first test. "So how do are you enjoying it here in Florida?"

       "It's all right. So far I'm liking it. I don't know too many people besides Izzy and now you guys," she answered honestly. "It was kind of lonely at first living in an apartment by myself with just my cat to keep me company, but I think I'm finally beginning to get settled."

       "That's good and I'm sure Izzy will keep you entertained. She's quite a bundle of energy," he informed her. "Although I'm sure you've figured that out by now."

       " Oh, yes definitely," Alyssa agreed and was about to tell him the story about how they met when one of the men that Kevin had been talking to interrupted them.

       "I'm sorry," he apologized. "But I need to steal Nick away for a little while."

       Nick gave her an apologetic glance. "Sorry. Business calls."

       "It's okay. I completely understand," she assured him. "It was nice meeting you."

       "Yea same here," he agreed as she stepped forward and gave her a friendly hug. "I'm sure I'll be seeing you around."

       "Definitely," was all that Alyssa could say as she reluctantly let go of him and watched him walk away. Okay, maybe she'd let Izzy live after all, because she had to admit, after talking to Nick for only a few short minutes she could not deny that she was definitely attracted to him.


**********

       The rest had been history. After Izzy persistently demanding to know exactly how Alyssa had hit it off with Nick, Alyssa had admitted that she definitely wanted to get to know him better. From that point forth any opportunity that Izzy had to throw the pair together she took complete advantage of, and inevitably when they had started to hang out on their own, no one was prouder than Izzy.

       Yea, and then the fairytale took a nose dive, Alyssa thought cynically as she glanced at the clock again,, returning once more to the present. Screw it, she decided to herself picking up the phone, If she sat around and waited to call any longer the memories would only become worse and more painful for her. With a determined sigh, she dialed Izzy's cell phone number and listened to it ring.
      
      
      
      

      
      
      
      
      



      
      

      
      

      
      
      
      

      

      
      
      
      

      
      

      



      


      
      
      
      




Chapter Three by Mellz Bellz
Author's Notes:
Alyssa gets the courage to call up Izzy.

Chapter 3


      


For the life of me I cannot remember, What made us think that we were wise and we'd never compromise...- Freshmen, The Verve Pipe



The phone rang... and rang... and rang. It's going to go to voicemail, Alyssa predicted. I should just hang up and call back later. She was just about to give up when she heard the familiar click of someone picking up on the other line.  "Hello?" she heard Izzy's familiar souther drawl answer.

      
"Izzy? It's me, Alyssa," she said slowly, realizing that it was to late to change her mind.

       "Alyssa! Oh my God! It's so great to hear your voice!" Izzy exclaimed. "How are you doing?"

       "I'm all right. I just got your e-mail. So you're moving to the Big Apple, huh?"

       "Yea! I'm super excited! Tristan's record company is hooking us up with the cutest little apartment right in SoHo. I'll be right off Fashion Ave. Just think... Armani... Louis Vuitton... Dolce & Gabanna... All within walking distance. My credit card company is going to love me!" she said with a laugh.

       Alyssa had to laugh too, even though her days of shopping at those kind of stores were long gone now. They were buried somewhere along with her relationship with Nick.  It had been nice when Nick would give her his credit card and tell her to "treat herself to something nice," but now that she was on her own, she had been forced to become a much more thrifty shopper and those designer names were no longer part of her wardrobe.

       "Well, I'm not exactly living it up in SoHo, but I got myself a nice little place near Central Park," she continued.

       "You're living in New York City now too?" Izzy asked excitedly. "Since when?"

       "Since like last month? I just moved out into my own place again after I graduated. I've always loved New York City and its easier to get a teaching job out here apparently, so I figured why not?"

       "That's awesome! We're going to be practically neighbors! We'll have to get together when I arrive. It'll be just like old times!"

       Yea, old times, Alyssa thought with a smirk. Nothing can be like old times.  Changing the subject, she asked, "So, when are you guys moving out here?"

       "In like two weeks if you'd believe it. We just found out the beginning of this month, so Tristan and I are completely stressed out with trying to pack everything up for the move," Izzy explained.

       "Wow, that really must be tough," she sympathized.

       "It is! But anyway, how are you? How is everyone? Happy belated birthday by the way."

       "Thanks. I'm doing okay. Trying to get adjusted to life here. My parents are still my parents. Still bugging the hell out of me by calling everyday to invite me home for dinner."

       "And your sisters?"

       "They're good. Meg just recently got married and is living with her husband in New Jersey and Stephanie is living here in the city at NYU. I just was out with her last night actually," she reported.

       "Meg is married? Oh wow! AJ's going to be heartbroken," Izzy predicted.

       Alyssa just shrugged. "I love AJ and all, but he fucked up big time with my sister, but then again I guess he was just going through a lot. It just wasn't meant to be for them." Just like with me and Nick, she added silently.

       "Oh shit! I'm really sorry! I'd love to sit and talk longer, but I just missed a call from the moving company that I have to return right away. The next two weeks are just going to be completely crazy for me, so I'll just give you a call as soon as I get settled in New York and we'll get together okay?" Izzy interrupted.

       "That'll be great," Alyssa agreed, not annoyed in the least bit. She understood completely how busy Izzy must have been. "Talk to you soon."

       "Uh huh, bye!" she said before hanging up.

       Alyssa sighed as she clicked her phone off. In one sense she was super excited to see Izzy again, but on the other hand she wondered if it would be weird. She and Izzy now lived in two completely different worlds. Not only that, but as their conversation about Meg and AJ had reminded her that talk about the guys would only be inevitable.

       Meg and AJ, now that had been an interesting tale, she thought to herself. Stephanie had not been her only sister to show up on unexpectedly on her doorstep in Florida. Meg had done it over a year earlier, totally out of the blue. She had been living with her boyfriend, Josh, at the time who she had been with since she had graduated high school. The pair had headed off to California when Meg was barely 19. At that point Meg ceased any contact with any of the members of the Martinelli family. Until that one day, almost four years later,  when Meg showed up at her apartment covered in bruises. As it turned out, the uncomfortable feeling that Alyssa had always had about Josh turned out to be true.

       She had been shocked when out of nowhere Meg and AJ seemed to instantly hit it off together. It was so subtle how it happened. One day they barely knew each other, and the next they couldn't keep their hands off one another. The attraction totally bewildered Alyssa. AJ was one of her best guy friends, but she didn't think that him and Meg would ever be a potential couple. Besides she thought Meg would've sworn of men for at least a while after Josh.

       And then the unthinkable happened. The blow that without a doubt was the hardest ordeal ever placed on Alyssa's family. She could still vividly remember the details of that night, the longest night she had ever lived...

******

       The whistle of the tea pot on the stove, interrupted Alyssa's thoughts. Grabbing herself a mug from the cabinet, she prepared herself her cup of tea and sat down with it at the kitchen table, smoothing out her soft, purple, kimono robe as she sat down. 2:30am and she was sitting there with her cup of tea. There was no way that she could fall asleep just then. Every time she closed her eyes, she could not help, but think back on the events of the last few hours with an exuberant grin.

       Just as she began to replay the entire night in her head for about the five hundredth time, she heard her front door begin to open. Panic immediately seized her. Who would be trying to get in at this hour? Her eyes quickly fluttered between the front door and the hallway leading to her bedroom trying to judge if she had enough time to run and wake Nick up.

       Her worries momentarily subsided when she saw that it was only Meg, but then she remembered that Meg was supposed to be in New York with AJ for the weekend. "What are you doing home?" she immediately asked.

       "What are you doing up?" Meg retorted. Realizing that Alyssa was not going to let it go she sighed. "AJ and I had a fight," she admitted as she sat down across from her at the kitchen table.  It was at that moment that Alyssa realized that Meg looked frighteningly pale.

       "About what?" Alyssa asked. It had to have been pretty bad for Meg to hop on the first plane back to Florida. She was surprised that Meg and Nick hadn't bumped into each other at the airport.

       "Remember a few days ago I said I haven't been feeling very well? Well, I'm still not feeling so great and AJ got mad because I didn't want to do anything, but stay and rest in the hotel room. He said if I was that bad off than maybe I should go see a doctor or something and he just pissed me off so much I was like screw you and headed right to the airport," Meg explained.

       Alyssa eyes filled with concern. "Meg, maybe you SHOULD see a doctor. You shouldn't have stomach pains like this for this long. Maybe you're better off at least getting it checked out."

       Meg just rolled her eyes. "Alyssa. It's probably just a gas pocket or something, or maybe I'm getting a stomach flu."

       "Those are two totally different things," she pointed out. "What if you have appendicitis and your appendix winds up bursting? You could die from that you know?"

       "Would you just get off my back! I don't need this shit from you either!" Meg exploded as she stood up from the kitchen table with the intent to storm to her room. All of a sudden the room started to spin and knees buckled out from under her.

       "Meg!" Alyssa cried as she rushed towards her sisters side. She  had just completely passed out. Something was definitely wrong.

       Alyssa knelt over her sisters body helplessly for a moment or two.
Should I call an ambulance or just wake Nick up? she wondered to herself. She couldn't think right now, she was so panicked. First wake Nick up, a rational voice finally spoke to her through all the chaos.

       Bursting into the bedroom she immediately began shouting, "Nick, you have to wake up! It's Meg! She passed out and we have to get her to the hospital NOW!"

********

      
Then there had been the waiting... And waiting... And waiting. Alyssa remembered feeling as if she had been waiting years instead of hours for some kind of answer about her sisters health. There were tests, all kinds of tests. Blood tests, X-rays, sonograms... And then finally she received some sort of news.

********

       Alyssa was just returning from the hospital cafe with what felt like her tenth cup of coffee that night. Beside her Nick was gripping her hand tightly. The pair was completely silent. No words were needed at this point, as it was evident that Alyssa was terrified that something was going to happen to her sister.

      
"Ms. Martinelli?" a nurse stopped them on their way to the waiting area. "We've been looking for you. Dr. Shapiro has some news about your sister's test results. Let me page him for you."

       Alyssa nodded her head weakly. "Thank you," she answered as the nurse disappeared. Turning back towards Nick she squeezed his hand tightly. "Why do I all of a sudden feel like I'm going to be sick?"

       Nick wrapped his arms around her and pulled her closer to him. "No matter what they tell you babe Meg will get through it. She's been through so much as it is," he tried to assure her as he stroked her hair.

       "I know, but I just have a horrible feeling about all this. I'm really scared that it's going to be bad news," she confessed as she buried her head in his chest.

       Nick wasn't sure how to respond, so he just continued to hold her until the doctor finally approached the two of them. "Well, I have the results of Meg's tests," he announced as he approached.

       "And?" Alyssa asked, her body trembling like a leaf.

       "We found a growth on her left ovary, which obviously has been what has been causing her stomach pains. Now as far as we know the tumor can easily be removed, but we're going to have to remove the whole ovary as well."

       "Tumor?" she dumbly asked in disbelief. "But doesn't that mean cancer?"

       "Not necessarily. Not all tumors are cancerous. Once we remove it we'll run a biopsy on it to see if it is in fact cancerous. If it's not she should be perfectly fine. If it is... Well we'll take it from there."

       Alyssa sank back down on the nearest couch in total shock. "Wow... I was thinking bad news, but not cancer," she muttered.

       "I know that this is probably a shock to you, but try to think positively. The operation should go pretty smoothly with a low risk of complications," the doctor explained. "I would still advise though that you might want to call any close family members who would like to be present. Again, I'm very sorry, but she's in good hands." With that said he walked away and disappeared down the hall.

       It wasn't until he was completely out of sight that Alyssa completely broke down in tears in the safe comfort of Nick's arms.

************

       There had been the phone call to her parents. Probably one of the hardest calls she ever had to make. They had flown down almost immediately leaving Stephanie at home to wait by the phone for news. It wasn't the most ideal situation, Alyssa had envisioned for them to first meet Nick, but thankfully they had seemed impressed with the way in which he had refused to leave Alyssa's side. And then there was more waiting and this time the wait was even more excruciating.

       The minute Alyssa first saw the doctor approach them after the whole surgery was over, she could tell it was bad news just by the pitying look in his eyes. Then he confirmed her worst fears. Cancer. It was the scariest word that she had ever known.

      
After the prognosis, everything was a blur. After much talk and discussion, Alyssa's parents decided that it would probably be best for Meg to return to New York with them to receive cancer treatment. Grudgingly, Meg agreed not wanting to be a burden on her younger sister.

       And through all this AJ never once came to visit Meg. Perhaps he had been too scared to face a relationship with a girl who had cancer. Or maybe he just felt weird and was unsure of how to act. It wasn't like they were super serious or anything. Whatever the reason, after Meg returned to New York the two never spoke again. Meg was obviously very hurt and depressed by his abandonment when she needed him most, but she was never aware with the impact her illness had on AJ. Alyssa had noticed that after Meg got sick that was when AJ began to party harder and drink heavier. Within a year he was in rehab.

       Alyssa sighed. God, we were all just so fucked up, she realized.

       Upon returning to New York, Meg fought long an hard battle against cancer. She'd had to have both her ovaries removed and several rounds of chemo. When Alyssa had went to visit her family in New York she barely recognized her sister. Everyday she lived in the fear of getting that phone call that Meg had passed away. But Meg hadn't given up. After almost two long hard years, the cancer had finally went into remission. She'd been healthy for close to three years now, and even though every day she lived healthy meant less of a chance of it returning, Alyssa still feared of history repeating itself.

       And that was just one of the many things that Nick and I were dealing with, she reminded herself. All of a sudden she realized how far off on a tangent she had strayed, and refocused herself on her future meeting with Izzy. She was sure that their conversation would drift towards the guys and ultimately Nick. She had loosely followed their careers, but hearing about them on a personal level would be quite different. She just hoped that she was prepared enough to handle that.

      

      
      

      





Chapter Four by Mellz Bellz
Author's Notes:
Izzy and Alyssa meet for lunch downtown, where they get caught back up with each other.

Chapter 4

  

Take a minute girl come sit down and tell us what's been happening... -Girl, Destiny's Child



   Alyssa's heart pounded in her chest as she nervously rounded the corner of the restaurant where she had agreed to meet Izzy. It was just about two weeks later, and Izzy had called her the night before to arrange for the two of them to have lunch together.

     I don't know why I'm nervous, she chastised herself. It's just Izzy. But it had been three years and a lot could happen in that amount of time. People could totally change.  She wondered if Izzy had changed at all, or if Alyssa herself had changed so dramatically that it would be impossible to resurrect their friendship.

     She scanned the crowd of diners who had chosen to take advantage of the nice weather and eat their meal outside on the sidewalk, before going inside to meet Izzy. There she is. Her breath caught in her throat as her eyes settled upon Izzy herself, who must have decided to get a table while she waited. Her reddish hair flowed freely down her back and even though her face was hidden by a pair of very large designer sunglasses, Alyssa could still recognize her friend. As far as looks went, Izzy was still very much the same.

     Izzy must have caught sight of Alyssa at the same time, because she waved in her direction with a familiar grin on her face. Alyssa returned the smile and made her way over to the table.

     "You look amazing," Izzy told her as she stood up hug her.

     "You haven't changed, but it's a good thing," Alyssa reassured her in return as she took a seat. "So, how are things going here in New York so far?"

     "Good! I love our apartment. You'll have to stop by and see it later." The waiter approached them just then, interrupting their conversation. "Here, I'll let you order and then we can start catching up," she offered.

     They both ordered their meals and as soon as the waiter disappeared, Izzy began to question her. "So, you're graduated from college now?"

     "Yea, I graduated in May with my teaching degree. I still have to go for my Masters though," Alyssa answered.

     "Nice. Where do you think you'll want to go for that?"

     "I don't know yet. I'd love to go to NYU, but its so freaking expensive. I still have to look into it, but right now I want to take a year or so off and get settled here."

     "And are you working now?"

     Alyssa shook her head. "Not right now. I have some money saved to get me through the summer and after that I'm going to try to do some substitute teaching to get my foot in the door. How about you? Have you finished school?"

     "Yes. I finished last year. I've been working at a PR firm in LA doing all the grunt entry level work for experience, but I really want to start up my own firm eventually. Tristan has already agreed to be my first client," she explained with a smile.

     "How are things with him?" Alyssa asked.

     Izzy had met Tristan, a struggling musician not too long after she had introduced Alyssa to Nick. He had been trying to drop off a copy of his demo tape at Jive Records, just as Izzy had arrived to meet up with Kevin after a meeting the guys had just had with their record company. She'd overheard Tristan pleading with the receptionist behind the front desk to give him a chance as she tried to explain to him that they did not just accept random demos from just anyone who walked through the door. Something about the passion in his voice, struck a chord with Izzy and she instantly felt sympathetic towards him. Just as he began to walk away dejectedly, Izzy stopped him. After only a few short minutes, she left with a copy of his demo and his number.

     After listening to his demo, Izzy fell in love with his voice and immediately called him up, intrigued to get to know the man who could write such beautiful music. It wasn't long before they began dating and ultimately fell in love. Even though Izzy had offered to use her cousin's influence to try to get Tristan's music  out there, he refused, deciding that he wanted to land a record deal by himself. It had taken five years, but finally it was happening without Izzy's help.

     "We're great! Better than ever. He's so excited about the record deal. I mean for so many years I've supported him and now he can't wait to pay me back," Izzy explained with a huge grin.

     "That's great. I can't believe that you two have made it so far," Alyssa sincerely commented.

     "Yea, me too." Izzy paused a moment before tentatively speaking up. "Are you seeing anyone?"

     Of all the questions that can be asked she had to ask that one? Alyssa wondered to herself. Talk about getting right at the heart of a sensitive issue. The question had caught her off guard even though she probably should have expected it to be asked sooner or later. What do I say? No, I haven't really dated anyone since Nick because no one can compare to him? Realizing that she had to say something she took a deep breath. "No," she quickly answered. "I'm just so busy getting settled here I haven't had time to meet anyone." It wasn't exactly a complete lie.

     "What a shame. Those guys don't know what they are missing," Izzy replied. "So, when did Meg get married?"

     Alyssa sighed in relief, realizing that she had managed to get past the first awkward moment that had been bound to come up between the two of them. She was thankful that Izzy had switched the conversation over to Meg and taken the focus off of herself. "Back in May, Like around Memorial Day weekend."

     "Who's the lucky guy?"

     "His name is Scott. He's a high school health teacher. They actually met through this program Meg got involved with for the cancer society where she travels to different schools and shares her story with the students. Meg went to speak to his health class and apparently he was so struck by her story that he felt the need to get to know her better," she explained. "The rest is history."

     "Aww that's so sweet! So is the cancer gone?" Izzy asked in a concerned voice.

     "She's in remission now. It could come back at any time, but with each year that passes the chance gets less and less likely. So far she's healthy, so we're just trying to think positively."

     "I'm sure she'll be fine. She's quite a fighter. How about Steph? You mentioned that she was going to NYU. What is she majoring in?"

     Alyssa started to relax. It was such a relief to talk about her sisters instead of herself. Their lives had been much more interesting and productive than hers had been lately. "For now? I think psychology. She changes it every other week though. Other than that she's doing great. I'm really proud of how she's turned her life around. Outside of the occasional few drinks and the fact that she smokes, she's completely clean now."

     "That's totally awesome. I remember how much hell she put you through," Izzy reminisced.

     "Yeah, she almost gave me a few gray hairs in my 20's," she agreed with a laugh. Again, Alyssa could sense an awkward moment building up. They had already been through her whole family now, so the next logical and polite step would be to inquire about Izzy's family, which meant asking about Kevin, which would lead to updates on all of the guys in general, which would ultimately lead to Nick. You've often wondered what he's been up to, she reminded herself. The question was could she handle the truth?

     Taking a deep breath she decided to forge ahead knowing that the conversation would be a difficult one. She started by asking the inevitable question. " So, how is your cousin doing?"

     "Kevin? He's doing quite well for himself. Him and Melanie are great. Everyone keeps bothering them about when they're going to start popping out some kids," Izzy answered with a laugh. "Not long after you left Florida, the guys pretty much decided to take some time to themselves and kind of did their thing away from the spotlight. Kevin actually did some work here in New York on Broadway. He was in Chicago and he was pretty amazing."

     "Wow," was all Alyssa could say. She kind of felt a little hurt that Kevin had appeared in a Broadway play that would've been relatively accessible to her and Izzy hadn't told her. Furthermore, Kevin and Melanie had been living in New York City and Melanie hadn't even tried to contact her? She would've loved to see Kevin perform.

     Her facial expression must have given her emotions away because Izzy's face immediately softened. "I'm sorry I didn't tell you about it. At the time I wasn't sure if you wanted anything to do with any of us and I figured that it was best for you to do your own thing. I thought that it would be too painful for you to attend," she explained.

     Too painful? Why would it have been painful? It wasn't like it would've been like watching Nick up there, she angrily thought to herself. She could see where Izzy was coming from, but she just wished that everyone would've just treated her normally. She knew that Izzy was just skirting around the real issue, the fact that they didn't invite her because they felt that it would be too awkward because of the way things ended with Nick. If they wanted me to do my own thing, then why did Izzy want to contact me now? she wondered.

     "I still would've liked to have seen him perform," she answered honestly. "Just because things didn't work out for me and Nick, doesn't mean that I can't still uphold friendships with the other guys."

     Izzy looked uncomfortable at the mention of Nick's name. "You're right. I should've invited you and I'm sorry about that, but why drudge up the past, right? Did you know that Brian and Leighanne had a baby?" she asked, expertly changing the subject.

     "No!" Again Alyssa felt slightly hurt, but then again why would anyone have told her. She was no longer in their circle.

     "Yea. They had a boy named Baylee. Hold on, I think I have a picture on me." She rummaged through her bag for her wallet. "Here you go," she said as she took out the picture and slid it across the table to Alyssa.

     "Aww, he's so precious! How old is he?" she asked as she examined the picture.

     "Two and a half. He'll be three in November. He's so adorable and Brian is such an awesome father. You should see them together," Izzy answered.

     "Well, I guess parenthood has been keeping Brian and Leighanne on their toes," Alyssa said wistfully.

     "Oh yea it has been. Hmm... Let's see. Howie hasn't changed much at all. He's still exactly the same," she continued.

     "Good old Sweet D," Alyssa mused with a smile. "My dancing partner."

     "Oh yea. I'd forgotten that you danced with him on tour," Izzy remembered. "Are you still dancing by the way?"

     Alyssa laughed. Her? Still dance? At 25 she was considered over the hill in the dance world. No way could she move quite the same way she could back when she was 21. The last time she had danced professionally was with the guys on their Black and Blue tour. Nick had insisted that she audition to be one of their backup dancers even though Alyssa had felt pretty funny about it. She wasn't sure if she was really good enough to audition. A lot of the other girls certainly had much more impressive credentials than her, and she didn't want to only be selected because of who she happened to dating. In the end, Alyssa had been one of the six selected female back up dancers, (one for each of the guys and an alternate in case somebody got sick or was unable to perform) supposedly based on the fact that she had a strong ballet background which many of the other girls didn't have. Still, there had been mutterings about how "unfair" the audition went and how the audition should've been based on "talent" and not on "who you happened to be sleeping with."

     The whole experience dancing on tour with the guys had been bittersweet for Alyssa. It had been one of the most amazing experiences of her life, yet she felt as if she constantly had to prove herself to everyone else to show that she DID have talent and she wasn't just picked because she was dating Nick. That was one of the reasons she insisted so much on NOT being Nick's dancer on the tour. Well that and the fact that she was much shorter than him and it would've looked pretty silly from the audiences perspective. Being the shortest of the dancers, that was how she wound up being Howie's partner.

     "No I haven't really danced since the tour," she answered. "I'm too old and out of shape and who has the time? I mean I've taken a few classes for college credit, but nothing serious. I think my dancing days are over."

     "But you can teach can't you?" Izzy asked.

     "Teach dance? In New York City?" Alyssa laughed again. "You have to be someone huge to teach dance here. Who is going to want to take lessons from me when they can learn from an ex prima ballerina from the New York City Ballet?"

     "I guess you're right," Izzy agreed.

     Alyssa thought carefully before continuing the conversation. She had the perfect opportunity to change the subject, but now she felt as if she HAD to continue it even though it was edging towards dangerous territory. "So what's my friend AJ been up to?"

     "AJ? Well, he's been sober for almost three years now. That's the most important thing," Izzy told her.

     Alyssa instantly felt relieved hearing that. She often worried about him and wondered if he was going to be able to keep up his sobriety. "That's amazing. I am so proud of him. If I could see him right now I'd give him a huge hug. He truly is an inspiration."

     "Yea he is," her friend agreed. "He's really become a much more awesome person and he has the most deep conversations with people. He's almost philosophical if you can believe it."

     "I don't know if I could picture it. I might have to see it to believe it."

     Izzy paused for a moment appearing deep in thought. "He's asked about you and Meg a few times. I'm sure he'd want to see you again too. Look, I feel really horrible about not inviting you to see Kevin on Broadway and I want to try it make it up to you. I don't know if you'd want to, or if you'd even be comfortable with this, but..."

     "Just spit it out Iz," Alyssa interrupted.

     "Well, I'm sure you've heard that the guys just released another album last month, right?" she continued.

     "Yea, I've heard that, but I've kind of avoided all the details."

     "Well, the guys are going to be kicking off their next tour starting next week and they're going to be coming to New York City on the 27th at Radio City. Tristan and I were going to go to surprise Kevin. If you want I can pull some strings and get you a ticket too, but ONLY if you're comfortable. It's okay for you to say no."

     Whoa, Alyssa thought. I know I mentioned seeing AJ again, but I wasn't completely serious. It would be great seeing all the guys again, but what about Nick? It was quite convenient the way they had skirted around him the whole conversation and barely even mentioned his name. Accepting Izzy's invitation would mean seeing Nick and was Alyssa really ready for that?

     " I don't know Iz... There's a lot to consider. Are you sure everyone is going to appreciate me being there?"

     "The rest of the guys have no problem with you Alyssa, and you know it. Nick... Well, he's just going to have to be a mature adult about it," Izzy decided.

     "Ha! Nick a mature adult?" Alyssa scoffed. "That's funny!"

     "Look, I know the two of you really ended up badly, but it has been three years. By now the two of you should at least be able to civil to one another. You might not even bump into each other, you know. I mean it's totally up to you, but I don't think you should let the anger you have against him interfere with your friendships with the rest of the guys,' she reasoned.

     Alyssa considered Izzy's advice for a moment. She was right. It could be possible for her and Nick to miss each other. Hell, he may intentionally avoid her. And if they did see each other would it be such a bad thing? Nick wasn't the type to hold grudges and if anything Alyssa was the one who should be mad at him. He shouldn't have anything against her.

     "I guess you're beginning to wonder why I contacted you and was so insistent on us getting together," Izzy continued as if to answer the question that had been lingering in the back of Alyssa's mind. "Yes, I wanted to see you and hang out with you, but I had other selfish reasons too."

     Alyssa gave her a strange look, but nodded her head as if to urge her to go on.

     "Since you and Nick have broken up, he just hasn't been the same. In fact, he's changed... A lot. Both for the good and bad. He's not a very happy person, Alyssa. He hides it so well, but I've known him so long that I can read him like a book. I've never cared for any of the girls he's ever dated with the exception of you, and no, it's not just because you were my best friend and I practically hand selected you for Nick. You made him happy. You treated him good and you didn't put up with his shit that a lot of girls would've."

     "What are you trying to say?" Alyssa interrupted. "That you want me to get back together with Nick?"

     "No, not exactly. I just think that it might be good for you two to see each other now. It's been long enough where I think that you should be over the anger and can maybe just be civilized. He could really use a friend now."

     "Is he depressed that things never worked out with Paris "I'll give you an STD from just looking at me" Hilton?" she asked bitchily. "Because I did hear about that little romance. Of course how could I not when everywhere you turned there was a picture of them playing tonsil hockey?"

     "You're jealous!" Izzy said with a smirk. "You still care about him."

     "I do not," Alyssa tried to argue. "Whoever he decides to shack up with from now on is none of my business!"

     "You're not completely over him Alyssa. You can't lie to me. I can tell just by the look on your face," she accused.

     Alyssa sighed admitting defeat. "Okay, so maybe a tiny part of me has been thinking about him a lot lately and what might have been. I guess a part of me still does care about him and always will. He was my first love. Of course I'm going to get possessive and jealous."

     Izzy squeezed her hand from across the table reassuringly. "Then come to the concert with me ok? Just see what happens. If you see him and you guys get to talk that's great and if not then well, maybe it wasn't meant to be after all."

     "I guess I could use that bit of closure even if it is three years too late," she agreed. "All right. I'll go."

     "You will? I'm so happy! It's going to be awesome and all the guys are going to be so excited to see you again!" Izzy exclaimed happily as she sprung up from her chair to embrace her friend.

     Will they ALL be happy to see me? Alyssa wondered as Izzy hugged her. And am I sure that I can do this? What did I agree to get myself into?
    
    

    

    
    

    
    


Chapter Five by Mellz Bellz
Author's Notes:
The day of the concert arrives. Alyssa's apprehension about seeing Nick again grows.

Chapter 5

     "Ugh!" Alyssa cried in frustration as she caught sight of herself in her bedroom mirror. This had to have been about the 25th outfit that she had tried on and she still couldn't seem to find anything that suited her purpose. Practically her entire wardrobe lay sprawled out on her bed. This shouldn't be so hard to find an outfit to wear to a concert.

     Of course it's not at any old concert that you're bound to bump into your old boyfriend,
she reasoned to herself. She wanted to look hot, but not so much to impress Nick as to make him feel stupid for dumping her in the first place.  She also didn't want to go completely skank because she figured that there would already be enough girls with their boobs pouring out of their shirts there anyway. On the other hand though, she didn't want to go looking like had just randomly picked the closest thing off the floor either. Bad enough, the day was well into the 90's, probably the hottest day New York City had seen all summer, making her decision even more difficult. Of course by nighttime it would cool down considerably and they would be mostly inside in air conditioning.

     Finally, after much consideration she selected a pair of strategically ripped jeans and a black ribbed tank top that had brown and gold splotches painted all over it with a white tank top layered underneath. She paired the outfit with a pair on black pointy toed pumps. Perfect, she thought to herself. Just the look I was going for. She spent the next hour or so running her flat iron through her hair to straighten it and applying her makeup with careful precision.
    
     She was just completing one final sweep with her mascara when her phone rang. "I'm coming!" she called as she ran towards her phone. "Hello?"

     "Are you almost ready?" Izzy's agitated voice asked on the other line. "Tristan and I have been waiting for you to call for over half an hour now."

     The plan had been that Alyssa was supposed to call Izzy before she left and they were going to meet at Izzy and Tristan's apartment before preceding to Radio City together. "I know. I'm sorry," she apologized. "I'm just about to leave now actually. I didn't know what to wear."

     She could practically hear Izzy rolling her eyes on the other end of the phone. "Okay, well hurry up. At this rate we might just make it for the last song," was her sarcastic reply.

     "Oh, stop being so melodramatic Iz! I'll see you in a few," Alyssa assured her before hanging up the phone. With one final glance at her reflection in the mirror a sort of nervous/excited energy began to fill her body. She was totally unsure of just how the night would play out, but either way it was bound to be interesting. One question though, am I really prepared to see him again? she asked herself for the one billionth time before tearing herself away from the mirror and leaving for Izzy's.

_______________________________________________________________

     By the time the cab that held Alyssa, Izzy, and Tristan pulled up alongside the side entrance to Radio City Music Hall, Alyssa's stomach was completely in knots. As she gazed towards the building in front of her the realization that Nick was most probably in that building at that exact moment finally hit her and she had to take a deep breath in order to calm her nerves.

     "Thanks," Izzy told the cab driver as she handed him a few bills for their cab fare. "Wow, look at all the fans around here!" she remarked as she got out and looked around.

     As Alyssa climbed out of the cab after Tristan, she realized that Izzy was right. The side entrance had been blocked off with barricades, but fans swamped the area anxious to see if they could catch a glimpse of their favorite Backstreet Boy.

     And they weren't disappointed. Just then the stage door opened and AJ McLean appeared wearing a jeans, a yellow t-shirt, and of course his signature sunglasses. Despite the heat and the fact that it was the middle of July, he was wearing a black beanie over his head. He lit up a cigarette and inhaled while fans eagerly snapped pictures. Alyssa's eyes almost filled up with tears at the sight of him again. If I'm this emotional seeing AJ, how am I going to be around Nick? she wondered.

     "Let's go over and say hi to AJ," Izzy suggested as she lead the way across the street and over to the barricades. She inched her way towards the corner and waved her hand to get AJ's attention. With all the fans around, Alyssa wondered if AJ would even notice them. Finally he looked over in their direction and his eyes lit up. He turned and said something to the man standing next to him, who Alyssa assumed was a bodyguard. Within moments the man headed over to their direction and opened up the barricades enough to let the three of them through.

     "Izzy! How are you sweetie?" AJ asked as they approached him and enveloped her in a hug. "I heard that you were coming tonight. How do you like New York?"

     "I love it!" she answered enthusiastically.

     It was at that moment that AJ spotted Alyssa who had kind of been shyly hanging back behind Izzy and Tristan. "Am I seeing things or is that Alyssa hiding back there?" he asked in disbelief as he lowered his sunglasses to take a second look.

     "Ding ding. You're correct. It's me," she replied with a smile. "How are you AJ?"

     "Shocked to see you," he honestly replied as he wrapped her in a bear hug. "You didn't tell me you were bringing her along," he scolded Izzy.

     "I wanted to surprise everyone," Izzy told him matter of factually.

     "You look great," AJ said, turning his focus back on Alyssa again. "What brings you to New York City?"

     "I live here now," she explained. "Izzy and I met up for lunch last week and I was saying how I missed all you guys and she asked me if I wanted to come to the concert tonight, so here I am."

     "Well, I'm happy to see you. Did your sister come too?" he asked looking over Alyssa's shoulder to see if maybe she was hiding as well.

     "No, uhmm she's living in New Jersey now. She's married," she said carefully, knowing that the information would probably hurt AJ.

     "Oh," he answered, looking quite caught off guard and not sure how to act. "Well, we're doing some shows in Jersey, maybe you could convince her and her husband to stop by. It'd be great to see her," he rambled, obviously trying to conceal his shock.

     "I'll try," she told him, not wanting to hurt his feelings any more than she already had. It would be best to just change the topic. "So Izzy tells me its almost been three years since you've been sober."

     "Yea," he proudly beamed. "I'm taking it one day at a time, but I think I've won. I have no desire to drink or anything anymore."

     "I'm so proud of you," she sincerely told him as she gave him another hug. "I told Izzy that I really wanted to see you face to face again, so that I could tell you that."

     "Thank you. That really means a lot to me to hear you say that Alyssa," he answered.

     "So what are the other guys up to right now?" Izzy interrupted.

     "Not much. We're all backstage chilling except Nick. He left a little while ago to get food or something. He'll probably be back like ten minutes before we're ready to go on and drive Kevin absolutely ape shit," AJ reported. "I think they're actually going to open doors in a few."

     Alyssa sighed, half relieved and half disappointed. If she and Nick were going to have an encounter, it would have to wait until after the show. She wasn't sure if that was a good thing or a bad thing.

     "I need to get back inside and start getting ready, but why don't you guys come backstage for a few and just say hello to everyone else before you go to your seats?" he continued as he finished up his cigarette.

     "That sounds like a good idea," Izzy agreed as they followed him back inside the stage door.

_______________________________________________________________

     Close to an hour or so later, Izzy, Tristan, and Alyssa finally made their way towards their seats. They wound up sitting in about the sixth or seventh row. Close enough for me to get a good view of Nick, but far enough for him not to notice me, Alyssa thought as she made herself comfortable. The three of them had spent some time backstage with the rest of the whole gang and everyone had seemed genuinely surprised yet happy to see Alyssa. It almost felt like old times, minus the fact that Nick was missing. How convenient was it that we managed to miss each other? she wondered to herself.

     Beside her Tristan and Izzy appeared to have forgotten all about her. The pair was huddled together, whispering something between the two of them. They're probably having one of those lovey dovey moments that make me want to vomit, she thought dryly. Just then Izzy popped her head back up and turned back towards Alyssa. "Tristan and I were just saying that after the concert we should invite everyone back to our apartment. We haven't had our first official company yet and I know that everyone wants to see the place. You'll come won't you?"

     Okay, so maybe I was wrong about the lovey dovey stuff. Alyssa really wasn't sure if she wanted to go back to Izzy's apartment. It was a huge step that she was just here never mind actually hanging out with her ex-boyfriend and his friends. "I don't know Iz. Don't you think it'll be awkward?"

     "Nonsense! They'll be enough people there to separate you and Nick if it comes down to that. That is if he even decides to come. He may have other plans," she said sounding slightly insulted. "I'm not taking no for an answer. You're going."

     Alyssa sighed in defeat knowing that there was no use in arguing. She was about to try to protest one more time when the group of fans sitting in front of then turned around and interrupted them? "You're Kevin's cousin Isabelle, right?" one of them asked Izzy.

     Izzy immediately plastered on what Alyssa like to call her "meeting the public" grin that she had obviously picked up from her experience in the public relations field. "Yes, that's me. How are you?"

     "We're just excited to see the guys perform. And how awesome is it that we get to sit right by you?" she replied.

     Alyssa tuned out for a while while the group of girls asked Izzy various questions about the guys. Then Izzy introduced them to Tristan and made a point of letting them know that he was working on an album and made them promise to check it out when it was released. Alyssa was just beginning to hope that she could sit there inconspicuously until she felt the gaze of one of the girls on her.

     "Isn't your name Alyssa?" the girl asked suspiciously.

     "Yes, it is," she answered a little shakily. She'd forgotten that in the world of Backstreet no one ever forgot a face.

     "You used to date Nick, didn't you?" the girl continued.

     "Used to," she admitted. Talk about awkward moments. Can it get any worse?

     "I thought you looked familiar! You used to dance with them on the Black and Blue tour. I was actually at the concert where Nick asked you to marry him. It was so sweet, I started crying myself. Why did you guys decide to end things anyway?"

     It just got worse. Alyssa was sure that the girl probably was just too excited to realize how personal she was getting and she didn't want to sound rude, but quite frankly she really did not feel like she should have to explain the complexities of her past relationship with Nick to a random fan who would probably have the whole story posted on the message boards by tomorrow morning. "Can you excuse me for a second? I need to go to the ladies room," she muttered as she slipped away without even waiting for a response.

     As she was walking away she could hear the girl apologizing to Izzy. "I'm so sorry. That was uncalled for. I didn't mean to upset her."

     I'll just let Izzy smooth over the conversation using her lovely PR skills. She'll explain everything in a way that I can't, Alyssa decided as she headed towards the ladies room.

Chapter Six by Mellz Bellz
Author's Notes:
Alyssa gets a glimpse into the ways Nick has changed while she watches him perform.

Chapter 6


     Finally the concert was about to begin without anymore mishaps. Alyssa had never been so thankful for the lights to go down. All throughout the opening acts she could feel fans looking in her direction and almost hear the buzz of gossip among the theater. Of course maybe she was just being paranoid. In any case, she was glad that the guys were finally about to go on and they would definitely divert the attention away from her.

     I wonder what they're going to open with?
she thought to herself. Kevin had told them that their set list included most of the songs off the new album as well as mostly all their singles. Alyssa hadn't heard anything off their new CD at all, so she was actually a little curious to hear their new sound.

     Her question was answered as she recognized the familiar beginning of their song The Call. Interesting song to start with, she noted. She held her breath as the five figures emerged on stage and the concert officially began.

     Of course the first thing her eyes focused in on was Nick. For a few seconds it felt incredibly strange to see him in person again performing. She almost felt like she was dreaming. It felt so voyeuristic to be there watching him when he had no idea that she was out there. After about a minute or two, the feeling began to subside. He looked good... Real good. Sexier than ever, which kind of intimidated Alyssa a bit. Yea, he's going to take one look at me and laugh in my face probably, she thought cynically.

     One of the first things Alyssa noticed about him was his overall presence on stage. He was clearly a performer and he had always known just how to work a crowd, but now she saw a newfound sense of confidence in the way he moved across the stage. He was definitely ten times more wild and crazy in his antics, than how Alyssa remembered him as being. At times, she found herself wondering if she had really seen what she had thought she saw. Every move he made just seemed to ooze sex appeal and it seemed as if the more the girls in the audience screamed, the crazier he would get. Damn... was the only logical thought that could cross Alyssa's mind.

     She also noted that his dancing had improved immensely. She always used to tease him about always being the one that was a step or two behind or slightly out of sync with the music, but now he appeared much more comfortable. Of course he still did not have the natural grace that AJ or Howie had, but he seemed to have developed his own sense of style that appeared to be working very well for him. She had to admit that he could move! Maybe all those private lessons I tried giving him finally paid off, she thought with a smirk.

     Finally, she managed to tear her eyes off of Nick's body, and focused in more on how he sounded vocally. His voice seemed to have matured even more so throughout the years and it had a hint of a slightly raspy quality that hadn't been there before. It gave his voice a bit of an edge though, and if anything made him sound even sexier.

     So, basically I think he's hotter than ever and I am now dying to see him again, she concluded to herself.

     Just when she thought that Nick could shock her no more, he reappeared onstage with a guitar in his hands and Brian at his side. There was some playful banter about how Brian couldn't believe that Nick could actually play the guitar that went on for a minute or so. When did he learn how to play the guitar? she wondered. Finally they launched into one of their new songs that really kind of summed up how Alyssa was feeling just then.


Close your eyes, make a wish
That this could last forever
If only you could stay with me now
So tell me what it is
That keeps us from each other now
Yeah, it's coming to get me
You're under my skin

No I can't let you go
You're a part of me now
Caught by the taste of your kiss
And I don't wanna know the reason why
I can't stay forever like this

Now I'm climbing the walls 'cause I miss you...

     Alyssa was surprised to find that Nick actually played quite well. Just by watching him, you could tell that he was passionate about music. Just then he looked up and appeared to glance directly on her direction. She doubted that he has actually spotted her, but for a moment it seemed as if their gaze had locked. All of a sudden, Alyssa felt overwhelmed with emotion and found herself remembering the moment that they first declared their feelings for each other.

**************

     Ding Dong! The doorbell rang out interrupting Alyssa's unpacking. She had just come back from visiting her family for Christmas in New York that afternoon and had intended to spend the rest of the night relaxing and unpacking. "I'll be right there," she called as she made her way towards the door.

     Opening it, she was both shocked and delighted to find Nick standing on the other side. In the past month or so that they had met at the party they had hung out a few times, usually with Izzy, but so far they seemed not much more than friends. What struck Alyssa so unusual about him stopping by was the fact that he had never just shown up at her door unannounced before. "Nick! What are you doing in these neck of the woods?" she asked as she let him in.

     "I was just in the neighborhood and I actually thought I'd drop off your Christmas present," he explained, presenting a gift bag that was in his hand. "Sorry it's kind of late. I didn't realize that you were going to be away. Izzy told me that you only got back today."

    
Christmas present? I wasn't expecting a Christmas present from him, Alyssa thought in a panic. She felt embarrassed that she hadn't thought to buy a gift for him. "But I didn't get you anything," she protested. "If I knew we were going to exchange gifts-"

     "It's fine," he insisted, interrupting her. "I know that money is tight with you right now. Besides its nothing crazy expensive. Open it," he urged as he handed her the bag.

     "Fine you win," she said defeated as she reached underneath the tissue paper in the bag.

     "There are a few things in there," Nick warned.

     The first item that Alyssa pulled from the bag appeared to be a poster of some sort. Looking at the picture on the wrapping she smiled in surprise. One of her favorite actresses of all time was Audrey Hepburn and one of her favorite movies was
Breakfast at Tiffany's. Nick had gotten her a copy of the original movie poster. "How did you know that I love this movie?" she asked him. She doubted that it had ever come up in conversation.

     "Some careful detective work. I noticed that you have a calendar of her in your room and a bag with her picture on it," he explained. "And
Breakfast at Tiffany's is her most famous movie."
    
     "What a smart cookie," she noted as she dug back into the bag, secretly delighted that he had noticed such minute details. Next, she pulled out a vintage looking t-shirt with Audrey Hepburn's face on it. "Hmm... I'm starting to notice a theme here," she teased.

     "Yea," Nick said with a grin. "There's one more."

     Alyssa pulled out the final gift from her bag. "Oh my God! I've been wanting to buy this!" she said excitedly holding up a copy of the collectors edition of
Breakfast at Tiffany's. "Thank you!" she replied throwing her arms around him.

     "I take it you're happy with your gift?" he asked, lingering just slightly longer than normal in her embrace.

     "I love it!" Never had anyone put so much thought and effort into a gift for her before. "Would you like to stay and watch the movie with me?" she asked, hoping to give him an excuse to stay.

     "I guess I could do that," he replied. "I don't have any other plans."

     Just about two hours later when the movie ended, Alyssa grabbed the remote and shut the TV off leaving them in silence. She hadn't wanted to move from her spot on the couch, especially because at some point during the movie, Nick's arm had snaked its way around her shoulders where it still remained and didn't seem to have any intentions of moving. "So how was your Christmas?" she asked, trying to start up a conversation.

     "It was all right. Nothing very special. Yours?'

     "Weird. It was so strange being at home again and I almost felt like I wasn't even part of the family anymore. I felt like I was just a visitor," she confessed. "I'm glad to be back here."

     "Me too. I missed you," he agreed in a softer tone of voice.

     "You missed me?" The whole visit from Nick was just beginning to feel completely bizarre.

     "Yea, I did. I guess I just didn't realize how much I enjoyed hanging out with you until you weren't there," he admitted brushing a strand of hair from her face. "I really like you Alyssa. More than just a friend. I don't think I really realized it until just this week while you were in New York. At first I didn't want to get involved in another relationship so soon, but now... I  don't know. I think I'm starting to change my mind."

     For a moment Alyssa just sat there stunned, not sure how to respond. She had obviously had feelings for him, but she had no clue that he had them for her until now. It was almost too good to be true. She kept waiting for him to turn around and say "Ha ha. Just kidding!" but he didn't. She had to say something, but she wasn't exactly sure what. Finally she spoke.

     "I've had feelings for you the first day we met. I guess by now you've probably figured out that it was Izzy's idea to get us together. I was attracted to you, but I honestly didn't think that I stood a chance, so I just humored her," she confessed.

     "And how do you feel now?" Nick pressed on, putting her on the spot.

     "Well, I'm still attracted to you if that's what you mean," Alyssa answered getting a little flustered. "I mean feelings don't just go away like that...  Hanging out with you as a friend at first was kind of weird for me because I was so attracted to you, but I really thought that you only saw me as a friend, so I figured I'd rather have you as a friend than not have you at all. I can't believe that you feel the same way about me. Why? I mean I'm just-"

     She was cut off by Nick placing his finger against her lips to silence her. "Alyssa, you're babbling," he told her with a grin.

     "Am I? Sorry," she apologized, very aware of his fingers tracing the outline of her lips.

     Nick laughed softly. "It's okay. It's cute, but I think it'll be better if you don't speak at all right now." Before she could even open her mouth to protest, he had gently lifted her chin and brought his mouth closer to hers until they were finally kissing.

     At first, Alyssa was caught off guard by the kiss, but within a few moments she completely succumbed to it. She was amazed at the way that his kiss bought a strange sensation of warmth throughout her body.
Wow, this feels so right, she thought as the kiss slowly deepened. It was at that moment that Alyssa realized that her attraction to Nick was a lot deeper than it ever was for any other guy, and the thought both terrified and thrilled her.

***************

    
As the show continued on, Alyssa's apprehension about seeing Nick afterwards only intensified. One moment, she felt as if she HAD to see him again and talk to him and the next she realized that she was scared to see him and afraid that he would reject her somehow. Her mind must have played out several different scenarios ranging from Nick taking one look at her from across the room, coming over to her, and enveloping her in a passionate kiss, to him taking one look at her and being like Alyssa who? Of course both extremes were pretty unrealistic, but Alyssa could not seem to control the absurd ideas floating through her head.

     One thing Alyssa actually did take notice of throughout the concert was that a vast majority of the songs from their new album had to do with relationships that hadn't worked out in the end and their wishing that they could have a second chance. Is it because that's the way I'm feeling right now and I'm just focusing in on those kinds of songs because I can relate to them? she wondered to herself. During a lot of their songs she actually wondered if perhaps maybe she was the one that Nick thought about as he sang those lyrics:

Looking at your picture
From when we first met
You gave me a smile that
I could never forget
And nothing I could do
Could protect me from you that night

Wrapped around your finger
Always on my mind
The days would blend
'Cause we stayed up all night
Yeah you and I were everything, everything to me

I just want you to know
That I've been fighting to let you go
Some days I make it through
And then there's nights that never end
I wish that I could believe
That there's a day you'll come back to me
But still I have to say
I would do it all again
Just want you to know...

     I think I'm definitely going to have to pick up this album, she decided, even though the lyrics hit so close to home for her. How could he NOT think about me, every time he sings these songs? she wondered.

     Finally after what seemed like hours, the guys took their final bows after Everybody which had clearly became their anthem. The lights slowly came back on over the theater, after they had disappeared from sight. The change in lighting immediately bought Alyssa back down to reality. In a panic, she suddenly realized that the moment she had been dreading was imminent.

     "Let's go backstage and congratulate everyone," Izzy decided as she grabbed Alyssa's hand.

     Alyssa felt like she was going to throw up.




    

   

    

    
    

    

    
    
    

    

    
    

    

    
    


    




    
    

Chapter Seven by Mellz Bellz
Author's Notes:
Finally they meet again...

Chapter 7

    
     The moment that Alyssa stepped backstage she felt a strange sense of deja vu wash over her as she was met with the general after show chaos. Even though this was a different tour in a completely different year, the scene that lay before her could very well have taken place during the year she toured with the guys on the Black and Blue tour. Crew members swarmed the area, hurriedly trying to pack everything up, yet there was still that congratulatory feeling in the air. It had been a good show that had went smoothly, so everyone involved with it had reason to feel accomplished and be excited.

     "We just missed the guys," Izzy explained as she hung up her cell phone. "I just called Kevin and they're all in the dressing room getting changed. He said he'll be out in as soon as he's done and then he'll see if the other guys want to come over to the apartment for a while."
    
     "Sounds like a plan," Alyssa replied in a far off voice. Naturally her mind was on other things. Mainly Nick. The anticipation of seeing him again was killing her and being backstage after a show like this... Well, it just felt way too familiar. Just being there amongst all the
chaos, filled her head with memories of much happier times, such as after her first show with the guys. With all the noise and bustle around her, it was so easy for her to just imagine that it was a few years earlier and she and Nick had just gotten off stage. Now that the memory was there, Alyssa found it impossible to extinguish it from her mind.

*************
     "You did it baby!" Nick exclaimed as he rushed towards her the minute he spotted her. Throwing his arms around her petite body in a tight bear hug, he lifted her off the ground and twirled her around in the air, as he kissed her. "You did an amazing job! I knew you'd kick ass!" It was quite apparent from the excited glint in his eyes, that he was still on an adrenaline high from the performance.

     "Thanks," Alyssa answered as he set her back down on her feet, a huge grin of accomplishment on her face. She had done it! Despite her initial nervousness, she'd given the first show everything that she had and knowing that fact she had honestly felt like she was on top of the world. "I was really nervous before. I thought I was going to throw up, but once I got onstage I didn't have time to be nervous anymore," she admitted.

     "The first show is always the hardest. The rest of them will be a breeze now," Nick assured her. "You really were awesome up there. In fact, I couldn't keep my eyes off of you the whole show," he confessed with a smirk.

     "Really?" she asked him with a grin. She had thought that she had felt his eyes on her throughout the performance, but had been afraid to double check because she was sure if she did that she would definitely have screwed up. "And?"

     "And what?" he innocently asked.

     "What did you think?"

     "Hmm..." Nick pursed his lips as if he was deep in thought. "Well, first I thought that you were the sexiest girl on that stage and how lucky I was that you're all mine."

     "Keep talking,"  Alyssa urged as she leaned her back up against the wall behind her.

     "And then I realized how proud I was of you. I know that originally you didn't want to audition to be a dancer and I kind of pushed you. I also realize that you were getting a lot of shit from the other girls, but I knew that you'd show them that you have every right to be on that stage as they do, and you did. I knew you could do it. I had faith in you."

     Alyssa could feel herself begin to blush with his compliments. This was doing wonders for her self-esteem. "Thank you for believing in me. And thanks for the flowers too."

     "Flowers? What flowers?" Nick asked, pretending not to know what she was talking about.

     "The dozen red roses that appeared in the dancers dressing room addressed to me from my 'biggest fan,'" she reminded him.

     "I didn't send you any roses," he told her as he tried to keep a straight face.

     "Bullshit. That's why you can't even tell me that with a straight face."

     "Okay. So I was the one who sent you the flowers," he admitted. "I was trying to be romantic."

     "Well, it was a very thoughtful gesture," Alyssa thanked him as she reached up to kiss him. "You're covered in sweat. You need a shower," she told him with a giggle as she pulled away from his lips.

     "You could use one too. You worked up quite a sweat tonight  yourself," Nick pointed out. "If you want, you can join me."

     "Now that sounds like a very tempting offer," she answered as she leaned back against the wall and drew him nearer for another kiss. Within moments, the kiss grew deeper, and soon Alyssa completely forgot that she was backstage and that there were various people surrounding them running in a million different directions. The only two people that seemed to exist just then were her and Nick.

     It wasn't until they heard a familiar cough behind them that they sprang apart. "I understand that the two of you can't keep your hands off of each other, but can't it wait until we get back to the hotel?" AJ asked, looking slightly disgusted.

     "I better go get changed," Nick told her as he pulled away.

     "Yea, me too," Alyssa agreed, slightly embarrassed at AJ's interruption. "I'll see you back at the hotel?"

     "Yea," Nick agreed with a smirk. "Keep the shower running for me."

*************
    
That had been a good night. A very good night, Alyssa thought to herself with a grin. In all seriousness, it had been at a point in their relationship where the two of them had actually been happy and almost like any other couple. They had been through a lot together before then, but they had been able to overcome any obstacle in their way in the end, What happened? she wondered.

     She was forced back into reality as soon as she saw Kevin approach them from down the hallway. "How did you guys enjoy the show?"

     "You were awesome!" Izzy exclaimed as she threw her arms around her cousin. "I loved it!"

     "Yea, you guys were really impressive," Alyssa told him as it slowly sunk in that this was not the Black and Blue tour and her and Nick were no longer a couple.

     "Thanks. The rest of the guys should be out in a few minutes. They all want to see how you liked the show. Then I'll see what everyone is doing and we'll make arrangements to go to your apartment Izzy," Kevin explained.

     "Great! I really hope everyone comes. I want to show off my humble new abode," she said wishfully.

     Oh my God... In a few minutes Nick will be here, right in front of me and we'll have to make polite awkward conversation in front of a whole crowd of people and it'll be totally humiliating, Alyssa realized as her pulse quickened. Suddenly the backstage area seemed even more crowded and she began to feel as if the walls were closing in on her. A wave of dizziness washed over her and she knew that she needed to get out of there now.

     "Are you okay Alyssa?" Izzy asked, noticing how pale her friend had seemed to turn.

     "I think I just need some air. I'll be right back," she promised as she excused herself and stumbled out the stage door into the crisp night air.

     You're such a chicken bitch, Alyssa, she told herself as she laid her head against the cool brick wall of the building. Tears of frustration stung her eyes. This was her one opportunity to see Nick again and here she was panicking and running away. Maybe we weren't meant to meet again, she told herself. Maybe it's for the best that we don't see each other.

     She looked up at the New York City sky and wiped the tears from her eyes. The night had cooled down considerably from that afternoon, yet it was still pretty warm out. Despite the temperature Alyssa felt cold and found herself hugging her body for warmth. Thankfully enough only a few fans lingered around the stage door and when they saw no sign of any Backstreet Boys they quickly gave up assuming that they had already left. Alyssa was glad that none of them tried to approach her. After her one fan encounter earlier, she was unsure if she could handle another one.

     Alyssa was so deep in her self depreciating thoughts that she didn't even notice the stage door open and another figure join her outside. She almost jumped a mile when she heard a voice call out, "Hey you!"

     Great, just what I need. I just want to be left along, she thought angrily to herself. Go away.

     "Do you have a lighter?"

     Alyssa's heart caught in her throat. She had been so wrapped up in her thoughts that she hadn't recognized the voice at first, but now it was clear as day to her. That voice was so familiar for her yet painful to hear. Swallowing hard to make sure there were no more tears in her eyes, she slowly turned herself towards it.

     Standing right in front of her, only feet away was Nick with a cigarette dangling from the corner of his lip. The moment she turned around his face immediately paled and it was evident that he immediately recognized her. "Alyssa?" he asked, removing the cigarette from his mouth after a few moments of stunned silence.

     "Nick," she answered, realizing how dumb it must've sounded as soon as the word left her mouth.

     "Wow, I'm sorry I didn't recognize you. I only saw the back of your head and your hair is darker now," he stumbled about his words.

     "It's okay," she said with a tight smile. "No, I don't have a lighter. I don't smoke and neither did you last time I checked."

     Nick just shrugged. "I started after we... yea," he trailed off as he fought for something to say. "I heard that you were here tonight. AJ told me right before we went on stage."

     "Yea. Izzy convinced me to come to see you guys and I wanted to see all of you, so I decided what the hell. We dropped by earlier, but you weren't around," she explained.

     "Yea. I went out to get something to eat with some friends," he informed her. "By the time I got back you were probably seated already. So, did you like the show?"

     "I did. It was really impressive. You guys have matured as a group so much." The whole conversation was so politely awkward Alyssa wanted to die. If someone were to observe the scene between them just then, they would ever be able to tell that the two of them were the same two people that Alyssa had remembered then being only a few minutes earlier. How can two people go from that to barely being able to talk to each other?  she wondered.

     "Thanks. I uhmm thought I spotted you while I was onstage for a second there, but I'm not sure," he admitted.

     Maybe we really had eye contact earlier on, Alyssa thought to herself. "I didn't know you could play the guitar, so well," she told him, fighting to continue the conversation.

     "Thanks. I started playing while I was working on my solo album and now I try to play at least a few songs during the show. Just so that people can't say I don't know how to play any real instruments because I'm in a boy band."

     The conversation hit a lull there and the two stood there awkwardly for a moment not sure what to say next. This is pathetic, Alyssa told herself, as she decided to take the initiative. "Are you doing anything tonight?" she asked, wincing as she realized how much it sounded as if she was asking him out on a date. "Because Izzy is having all the guys over at her apartment and she wasn't sure if you had plans or anything, but she'd like you to drop by," she added, so that it didn't sound as if she wanted or cared if he came or not.

     "Nothing solid. I was probably just going out to a club, with some friends, but I can get out of it," Nick told her. "I haven't seen Izzy in a while actually."

     "Really?" Izzy hadn't mentioned that before, but then she had remembered Izzy's insulted tone earlier that day. "That is if he even decides to come. He may have other plans." Maybe there was more to that story than Alyssa realized.

   "Yea. Tell Izzy I'll be there." He looked up then and realized that a small group of fans had spotted him and had assembled patiently to wait for an autograph. "I guess I better go over there and do the fan thing. Maybe one of them has a lighter. I'll see you later at Izzy's?"

   Alyssa just nodded. "We can talk more later," he promised as he stepped towards her and gave her an awkward hug. Sadly, she realized that the warmth that had always been in his embrace had seemingly disappeared.
  




    

    
    

    

    
    

    
    

Chapter Eight by Mellz Bellz
Author's Notes:
Izzy warns Alyssa about Nick's change in personality.

Chapter 8

  "Do you think I should put out a tray of cheese and crackers? Or I have some of those ready made pigs in the blanket that I could just stick in the oven? Or maybe I should do both?" Izzy asked Alyssa uncertainly. It was about an hour later and the two were back at Izzy's apartment trying to set things up for Izzy's little housewarming party.

   Alyssa laughed in response. "Why don't you just make some deviled eggs and serve caviar while you're at it," she sarcastically replied. "Relax Iz. You're making way too big of deal of this. The guys aren't going to care about your choice of hors d'oeuvres."

   "I know, but it's the first time I'm having company and I'm just afraid that there won't be enough food," Izzy confessed.

   "It'll be fine! I promise. We're putting out some chips, pretzels, and dip, you can put out some cheese and crackers, I'll make the pigs in the blankets, and Tristan is out right now getting beer, soda, and some dessert," she reminded her friend. "I'm sure that's fine. It's just a little get together, not a formal dinner party."

   "You're right," Izzy agreed. "What would I do without you Alyssa?"

   "Have a nervous breakdown?" she supplied as she preceded to start placing the pigs in the blankets on a baking sheet. There was a bit of a silence between the two of them while Izzy began to slice pieces of cheese for the crackers.

   "It's such a shame that you missed seeing Nick after all that," Izzy remarked after a few moments. "I can't believe that he totally just walked right past me with a quick hello and that was it. Guess his cigarette break was a little more important."

   Alyssa bit her lip, wondering if she should tell Izzy about their awkward encounter outside Radio City earlier that night. She hadn't immediately told Izzy about it because Izzy had been upset that had seemingly ignored her backstage. What is going with those two? she wondered to herself.

   "He probably won't come tonight. I'm sure he has more important things to do like be seen at some hip club, sucking face with some random chick," she continued cattily. Alyssa could notice that just in the way Izzy was handling the knife in her hands that she was pissed.

   "I don't get it. Why are you and Nick all of a sudden avoiding each other like the plague?" Alyssa asked with a puzzled expression.

   "We're not avoiding each other. At least I'm not. Well... not anymore," she tried to answer.

   "Okay. Back up and start from the beginning," Alyssa demanded.

   "It's not a big deal. Just after you and him broke up we stopped being close. It wasn't overnight. I mean we were still pretty close up until around the time he started dating Paris. Tristan and I went out with them once and yea... never again. That girl was just so self involved it made me sick, and the way that Nick was at her every beck and call... It just wasn't fun. He wasn't the guy I remembered being friends with around her. So, I kind of started to blow him off a bit when he suggested we get together. Eventually he gave up. Then after they broke up I guess he figured I didn't want any part of him."

   "So why didn't you call him afterwards and make the first move? Did you ever explain to him how you felt?" Alyssa interrogated.

   "No. I guess I should've, but you know I was busy and so was he. I thought that after they broke up he'd go back to his old self, but he hasn't. Now he's so into partying and drinking and living the life of a bachelor, and Tristan and I are more thinking about settling down. I guess we just don't have very much in common anymore. Regardless, he should've been friendlier when he saw me," Izzy firmly stated.

   Alyssa looked confused for a moment. "Then why did you push, so much for me to come to the concert tonight and for me to see him?"

   Izzy sighed. "I guess it's dumb, but I really hoped that maybe you could get through to him. I thought that maybe if he saw you, old memories would resurface and maybe he'd go back to the old Nick. Not necessarily meaning that he'd get back together with you, but maybe he'd at least take the step in the right direction. He's only going to crash and burn if he keeps up the way he's living."

   "How come you didn't tell me any of this before?" she asked, sounding slightly hurt.

   "How was I supposed to say it Alyssa? Here I am talking about how great everyone else is and then I'm supposed to tell you that I don't think Nick is doing too well? Anyway it doesn't matter now, because if he walked right past me, I don't want to know how he'd treat you. Besides he's not even coming tonight, so why waste time talking about him."

   Alyssa took a deep breath. "Yes, he is. He told me he was earlier."

   "What?" Izzy asked in a shocked voice. "You talked to him?! When?"

   "Remember when I went outside to get some air?"

   "And he went out to have a cigarette..." Izzy slowly put two and two together. "So, you saw him outside? What did he say to you? Was he friendly?"

   "Well, he didn't recognize me at first. In fact, he asked if I had a lighter," she explained, smiling to herself at how ironic the situation had been.

   "No way! So then what?"

   "I turned around and he saw it was me and he got kind of embarrassed. He recognized me and we made really awkward small talk, mostly about the show and stuff. I told him that you were inviting everyone back to your apartment and asked if he was going to come and he said probably. He mentioned something about going out with some friends, but he could get out of it."

   Izzy rolled her eyes. "In Nick's language that means I'll stop by if there's not anything better going on."

   Alyssa shrugged. "He seemed sincere. It was just so awkward. If he shows up I don't even know how I should act or what I should say."

   "I wouldn't worry about that Alyssa. I seriously doubt that we'll be blessed with Nick Carter's presence tonight," she replied icily as she returned to slicing her cheese, leaving Alyssa to wonder if she was correct in her prediction.

Chapter Nine by Mellz Bellz
Author's Notes:
Alyssa decides to try to bring some closure to her and Nick.

Chapter 9

   Alyssa's eyes were transfixed on the front door of Izzy's apartment, where they had remained glued for close to an hour now. Every time she tried to tear her eyes away, she'd find them floating back towards the door again. Izzy was right. He probably changed his mind after all. All the rest of the guys were already there by now and although they insisted that Nick had said that he was going to try to stop by, there was still no sign of him.

   "Alyssa!" Izzy groaned. "Is my door that interesting to you?"

   "Sorry," she apologized, focusing her gaze back on Izzy. She'd been standing there talking with Izzy and Melanie since the guys arrived, but she couldn't have explained a word of what they had discussed.

   "I told you he's not coming, so just forget about it," Izzy chastised. "There's no reason to be gazing longingly at my door."

   "You're right," she agreed as she helped herself to some potato chips. "Guess he decided to go out with his friends after all."

   Just then the doorbell rang interrupting their conversation. "Maybe not," Melanie told them as soon as she heard it. "That sounds like it could be him now."

   "Guess I better answer it," Izzy grudgingly replied as she headed across the room to get the door. Alyssa was glad to see that it was indeed Nick on the other side as Izzy opened the door.

   "You're late," she could hear Izzy coldly reply.

   "I know. I'm sorry. I had some things to rake care of," he apologized.

   "Well, everyone else is here already. They are all scattered about," she told him, emphasizing the fact that he was the last to arrive. "There's food all over, beer in the fridge... Help yourself. I just ask that if you're going to smoke go outside on the balcony and do it because I don't want my furniture reeking of cigarettes."

   Wow, could she be any more unfriendly? Alyssa wondered, instantly feeling bad for Nick even though she probably shouldn't. Still Izzy was supposed to be the hostess and she was being anything but hospitable towards him. She continued to watch as Nick muttered an okay and brushed past her towards the sliding glass doors that led out to the balcony.

   "You could've been a little nicer to him Iz," Alyssa found herself speaking up as Izzy returned to them.

   "Nice? Why should I be nice to him? He walked right past me before with barely a hello and now he shows up an hour late to my party. Can we say disrespectful?" she defensively replied.

   "Point is that he came! If he didn't want to be here he would've just blown it off completely. Now he walks in, you treat him like shit, and now he's all alone-"

   "AJ's out there too," Izzy interrupted.

   "He sees AJ all the time. If he wanted to hang out with AJ he wouldn't have came." Alyssa paused before asking, "Are you just going to ignore him all night?"

   Izzy pretended to think about it for a moment. "Yup."

   "You're impossible!" she cried as she threw up her hands in surrender. "I give up."

   "Why are you so quick to jump to Nick's defense anyway?" Izzy suspiciously asked.

   "No reason. I just feel bad for him. You should be trying to put whatever is going on between you two behind and be the bigger person in this situation."

   Izzy just smirked in response. "Yea, just like you're doing right? I don't see you out there talking shit over with Nick and truthfully I think that you two have a lot more discuss than me and him do."

   Unbelievable. She's turning this whole thing around on me, Alyssa thought angrily to herself. "That's different."

   "How?" she demanded

   "Because what happened between the two of us happened years ago and it's over and done with," Alyssa firmly stated.

   Izzy rolled her eyes. "You could fool me. If you want my opinion I think the both of you could use some closure. If you're so worried about him not having anyone to talk to, why don't you go out there and talk to him?"

   Alyssa froze. The question was a good one. Why didn't she go out on that balcony and try to talk to him? Because you're scared, she told herself. You're afraid of what he'll say and how it'll affect you even after almost three years. Of course she would never admit that fact to Izzy.

   Izzy immediately picked up on her silence. "What's the matter? Are you scared or something?"

   "I'm not scared," Alyssa answered in as strong a voice as she could muster.

   "So then do it. I dare you," her friend challenged.

   Alyssa sighed. She never could turn down a dare and besides this whole argument was beginning to bore her. You feel bad for Nick, so the least you could do is talk to him. You don't even have to bring up the past, she reminded herself. "Fine I will," she accepted as she brushed past Izzy and headed over to the fridge to grab herself a Smirnoff Ice. She couldn't stand the taste of beer, so she preferred to drink Smirnoff's when she was in a situation where mixed drinks weren't being served. After a moment's hesitation she also grabbed a Corona for Nick. Might as well come with a peace offering, she decided. Without another word she left the kitchen and headed towards the balcony.

   She noticed that the sliding glass doors were left open about an inch or so, and she could clearly hear Nick and AJ's voices from outside. Flattening her back up against the wall, she paused for a second, eavesdropping on their conversation.

   "I can't believe how much of a bitch Izzy is being to me. I don't understand what I've done to piss her off like that," she heard Nick's voice say.

   "It's probably just PMS or something. I wouldn't take too much offense in it," AJ told him.

   "Yea, we haven't been as close lately, but then why would she invite me over and then totally treat me like crap?"

   "Maybe she didn't invite you because she wanted to see you. Maybe she invited you for the benefit of somebody else," AJ suggested.

   "Do you mean Alyssa?" Nick asked him. "You think she only wanted me to come because Alyssa is here? That doesn't make sense. Alyssa and I have been over with for over three years now."

   Alyssa bit down on her lip, trying not to cry as she heard Nick's words. It was true. They had been over with for some time now, but hearing him admit it, so nonchalantly was almost too much for her to bear. It made her wonder if Nick would ever want her in his life again, even as a friend.

   "You've been over, but quite frankly you guys have not fully ended things. I think that there is still some unfinished business between the two of you," she heard AJ continue.

   Alyssa's ears perked up as she listened for Nick's response. AJ's analysis of their breakup intrigued her and she was anxious to hear what Nick thought. "I don't think I'm following you. What do you mean by unfinished business?"

   She could practically hear AJ rolling his eyes before he answered. "You broke off an engagement with this girl without giving her any solid reason. One minute you guys were doing absolutely great and then out of the blue you break her heart without even fully explaining yourself. Of course she's going to be hurt and confused and she's going to want answers." He paused before continuing. "Look, I talked to her earlier and I can tell that a little part of her still cares about you just from how disappointed she looked when she found out that you weren't backstage before the show. I'm not saying that you should get back together with her at all. I'm sure you had your reasons for doing what you did, but you owe her some sort of explanation. It's the only way that either of you are going to be able to move on. Talk to her Nick. Now is the perfect opportunity."

   Alyssa found herself incredibly moved by AJ's speech. He was completely right. She still wasn't over Nick, but maybe if he explained himself, explained what had been going on in his head that afternoon when he had turned her life upside down, maybe then she'd finally gain some closure from the situation and ultimately be able to forgive him. Perhaps AJ was right. Perhaps there was a good reason, buried underneath her painful memories of that awful afternoon that had tore her and Nick apart over three years ago.

******

   After searching for Nick all afternoon, Alyssa finally pulled her car into the parking lot. It was late afternoon on a fall day, so the beach was pretty deserted, and Alyssa was easily able to identify Nick's car in the open area. I should've checked here in the first place, she scolded herself. It's no secret that Nick's favorite place to go when he's upset is the beach.She had no clue what was bothering him, but he had received a phone call that morning that had obviously upset him. Afterwards, he had come downstairs and without further explanation, grabbed his keys and announced that he was going out. That had been almost five hours ago.

   When he hadn't returned home after a few hours, Alyssa had tried calling his cell phone, but received no answer. Worried, she called up all the other guys, but no one had heard from him all day. Finally, she decided to go out and search for him herself, sensing that something was seriously wrong.


   Taking off her flip flops, Alyssa stepped out onto the sand and began to walk towards the shore searching for Nick as she went. It wasn't long before she noticed a solitary male figure sitting some feet away on the shoreline. As she got closer she realized that it was definitely Nick.

   "Penny for your thoughts?" she asked as she approached him. He was sitting in the sand with his knees drawn up to his chest and the waves washing back and forth over his bare feet. His expression appeared to be completely stone faced underneath the dark sunglasses he wore.

   "I knew you'd find me here," he grumbled.

   Alyssa sat down beside him, put her arm around his shoulders and planted a kiss on his cheek. "Do you want to talk about whatever is bothering you?"

   "Not really," he dully answered as he continued to stare out at the ocean.

   "You seemed pretty upset this morning. Whatever that phone call was about it obviously had some kind of effect on you. It might make you feel better to get it out," she tried again.

   Nick just shrugged. "I don't think talking about it is going to make the situation any better. It's certainly not going to change anything."

   "No it's not," she agreed. "But it helps to vent sometimes."

   "You wouldn't be able to understand," he insisted. "No offense."

   "I can try. So please, tell me what's bothering you? Who was the call from?"

   Nick sighed as he ran a hand through his hair. "It was from my Mom."

   Just that explanation alone was almost enough for Alyssa. Whenever Jane Carter called Nick, there was usually some sort of resulting argument between the two. "What did she have to say this time?"

   Nick took in a deep breath. "She and my Dad... They've been going through some rough times and they're getting a divorce," he explained as his voice cracked slightly on the word divorce.

   "Oh Nick... I'm so sorry," she responded as she took him into her arms and wrapped him in a tight hug as she rubbed his back. "I can just imagine how I would feel if my parents told me that they were getting a divorce."
  
   "Your parents would never get a divorce period," he coldly replied.

   He was right. Alyssa's parents fought and her mother would constantly say that she wanted a divorce, but Alyssa knew that deep down that they would never actually go through with it. Her father didn't believe in divorce. He was a firm believer that marriage was a permanent commitment. "I can still only imagine what you are going through," she told him in a slightly hurt voice.

   "Can you?" he asked cynically. "Can you really imagine what it's like to discover that your parents, who you have known your entire life, and have been married for years, all of a sudden don't love each other anymore? And what does that say to you about love and marriage in general? You think you're happy and in love and maybe that feeling lasts a number of years, but then eventually it just disappears? Maybe there really isn't any such thing as love. Maybe it's just some illusion created by society to justify your attraction towards another person."

   "Don't say that Nick!" Alyssa protested. "There are lots of couples out there that stay together for their whole lives. And about what you say about love, it does exist. I know because I love you. I honestly and truly do. I don't think love is a lie. Your parents... Maybe they just decided to give up to soon, but that doesn't mean that we're going to end up the same way."

   Nick just shrugged. "Look at the statistics. More than half of all marriages today end in divorce. Why bother going through the trouble of getting married anymore with those kind of odds?"

   Alyssa's eyes narrowed with fear. "What are you trying to say Nick?"

   "I don't know what I'm trying to say!" he cried in frustration. I don't know anything anymore." As he slid his sunglasses off of his eyes Alyssa noticed for the first time that his eyes looked puffy as if he had been crying and it nearly broke her heart in two. Then he uttered those words that changed her life. "I don't think I want to get married anymore."

   "What?!" she responded. "Nick, just because you're confused and worried doesn't mean that you have to throw away our engagement. There's no reason to doubt us! We've been through so much more worse things together and yet we've still managed to survive. If that's not love then I don't know what is!"

   "Alyssa," he said softly as he took her hand. "I'm not ready for marriage. There's too much in my life right now that I need to sort out before I can make that kind of commitment. I guess I just didn't realize that until now and I know its pretty shitty of me-"

   "Damn right it is!" she answered, unable to conceal her anger. She knew deep down that she was only making matters worse by getting angry, but she couldn't seem to control her emotions as tears of frustration burned her eyelids. Things were finally going right with them and now this!

   "Try to understand," he told her. "I know its hard because I can barely understand it myself, but if we were to get married now it wouldn't last."

   "How can you say that?" she asked, not bothering to hide the tears that now freely fell down her cheeks. "You're not even giving us a chance!"

   "I don't need to. I've already had one marriage and I'm not even 23 yet. I'm not ready for another one. I thought I was, but I'm not," he confessed.

   "That was different," Alyssa argued. "It was a marriage of convenience. You didn't love her."

   Nick sighed again. "I'm not marriage material. I need to be free right now. My solo album is coming out, I'm young, and I need to be selfish and enjoy myself now while I still can. I can't do that married."

   "Are you trying to tell me that you want to see other people too?" she questioned as she swallowed back her tears.

   "I guess so," he reluctantly replied. "Maybe its for the best."

   "I don't want to see anyone else. I love you Nick. I want to spend the rest of my life with you," she insisted, giving it one last try.

   "If you really loved me you'd respect my decision," he told her. It was a dirty card to play, but the easiest way out that he could manage.

   "I can't believe that you're breaking up our engagement just so that you can fuck other girls,"  Alyssa said in disbelief as she backed away from him.

   "Come on Alyssa. I didn't say that," Nick answered as he gazed up at her.

   "The intent was definitely there," she defiantly told him as she stood up. She looked down upon her hand at the Tiffany & Co. engagement ring that Nick had given her on the last night of the Black and Blue tour. It really had been the engagement ring of her dreams. Now there was no way that she could stand to keep it as a reminder of what could've been. With a trembling breath, she slipped it off her finger and handed it back to Nick. "I guess I won't be needing this anymore."

   Nick smirked as he accepted the ring. "This is the second engagement ring that you're returning to me."

   "Well, then maybe you should think a little more carefully before you give them out," she tensely replied.

   "Keep it," he insisted as he handed it back to her. "What am I going to do with it?"

   "I don't want it either Nick. I think a broken heart is enough of a souvenir from this relationship."

   Nick's face flashed with hurt from her comment. He looked back down upon the ring and without another moments hesitation he flung it out into the ocean.

   That one simple gesture was the biggest fuck you that Alyssa had ever received.

********

  
Even after all this time, Alyssa still could not let go of that vision of Nick throwing the ring out into the water, symbolizing that their relationship was truly over for good this time. She had to grin though when she remembered Izzy's reaction to the act when she had told her about it. "He threw a Tiffany's engagement ring into the ocean?! Does that man not understand the value of blue box?" she had cried. "I mean I know he has the money to throw away, but you don't just throw a Tiffany's ring into the ocean. That's like a sin!"

  
As she replayed the scene in her head, Alyssa seemed to look at the situation in an entirely different light than previously. Now she could see that the way that she acted was totally childish. She had let her anger overcome and refused to even listen to what Nick was trying to say. Maybe he was trying to explain himself, but I didn't give him the chance, she thought to herself. Also she had almost entirely forgotten that the argument had stemmed from his being upset about his parents divorce. Maybe that had a lot to do with him wanting to break up and I tried to tell him everything would be fine without really listening to him? Maybe the break up had been just as much her fault as his.

   Nick's voice interrupted her thoughts. "I guess you're right J. I did have my reasons at the time for ending things with her, but I don't think that I got them across as well as I probably should. We were both emotional and then she got defensive and it was bad. Maybe we should talk now when we're both a lot calmer. I saw her after the show and the conversation was just so awkward because I think we both wanted to talk about that day on the beach, but we couldn't find any comfortable way of bringing it up."

   "Well, now's your chance Nick," AJ told him. "I can get her out here somehow and then conveniently leave the two of you alone. It's quiet out here and semi- private, so it's probably the best place for the two of you to talk."

   Great, now I definitely can't go out there right now because then it would be a little too suspicious that I've been standing here the whole time, Alyssa told herself. She quickly backed away from the balcony doors and decided to head in the direction of the bathroom to kill some time. She could probably hide for at least a good five minutes before making her entrance on the balcony. By then the conversation should shift and she would be safe.

   Meanwhile she had five minutes to figure out what she wanted to say to Nick.

  
  
  
  


 
  

  
  

  


Chapter Ten by Mellz Bellz
Author's Notes:
Nick explains his reasons for breaking Alyssa's heart.

Chapter 10

    Okay, five minutes are definitely up, Alyssa told herself as she critically took one last glance at herself in the bathroom mirror. She still had no clue what she wanted to say to Nick. She was relying on instinct and the hope that perhaps he would take some initiative in the conversation as well. Gripping both bottles of beer that she still had in her hands she headed down the hall and stopped outside in front of the balcony doors. Taking a deep breath she stepped outside into the cool night air.

    The balcony was actually quite small, so between herself, Nick, and AJ there really wasn't all that much room. Nick was sitting to her left on a chair with his legs stretched out and resting on the railing, while AJ sat on her right. Both were smoking cigarettes.

    "Hi. I thought I'd come out and keep you guys some company," she tentatively spoke up.

    They both turned up and looked at her and AJ stood up. "Here have a seat," he offered her.

    "Are you sure?" she asked.

    "Yea," he said as he put out his cigarette. "I'm going to go back inside anyway. I've been out here for a while."

    That was real subtle AJ, she thought as she sat down in the chair that he had been sitting in. "Thanks."

    "I'll see you two later," he told them as he stepped inside leaving Alyssa and Nick alone together and in an awkward silence for the second time that night.

    "I thought since I was coming out here I'd bring you a drink," Alyssa finally spoke up, remembering the beer in her hand. She placed it on the small table that sat between them and slid it over to him.

    "Thanks," he answered as he examined the label. "Corona, huh? You remembered."

    "How could I forget your favorite," she wistfully responded. "I saw you come in and I heard how Izzy treated you. I yelled at her for you."

    "You didn't have to do that for me Alyssa," he assured her, taking a sip of his beer. "I can handle myself."

    "I did it because she was rude. She shouldn't have treated you that way regardless of what may be going on between the two of you."

    Nick shrugged. "I wish I knew what I did. Lately we just haven't been very close and then today when I decide to try to make up for it by coming here she treats me like shit. Yea, I was late, but I thought it was kind of like just stop by when you can."
   
    Alyssa considered for a moment explaining to him what Izzy had told her earlier, which would certainly clear up why Izzy had been acting so strangely, but it would also be betraying her confidence. It would probably be best to not get involved and act as if she didn't know anything. "I'm not exactly sure what's going on with you guys, but I certainly hope that you two work it out. I really don't want to get in the middle of it or choose sides or anything. I only stood up for you tonight because I really thought that Iz was wrong, no matter what you might have done."
   
    "I understand," Nick told her before changing the subject. "I didn't know that you and Iz kept in touch?"

    "We didn't," Alyssa answered. "We hadn't talked since I moved back to New York. She actually just e-mailed me about 2 or 3 weeks ago to let me know that she was moving here and we got together for lunch recently. She asked if I wanted to come to the concert tonight and well... here I am."

    "I see," he said, wondering why exactly she had agreed to come. Why would she want to after the way things ended with them? "So where are you living now? You're still in New York I guess."

    "I'm actually living right here in Manhattan now. I just moved into an apartment after I graduated in May."

    "You graduated college?" he asked.

    "No, nursery school," she sarcastically replied with a lighthearted laugh. "When I came back to New York I started college again and finished up my degree. I'm going to be a teacher. That is if I can find a job."

    She seems to have gotten on pretty well without me, Nick thought to himself. A new apartment in New York City, a college degree... Still a beautiful face and a very sexy body, he noted as he really gave her a good look for the first time that night. She honestly looked even better then she had a few years ago. Her hair, which had previously been dyed a medium brown color with blonde highlights, now hung long and shiny, past her shoulders. It was now a more natural dark brown color, bordering on black. She appeared as if she had gained a little bit of weight, but it looked good on her. She had always bordered on being almost too thin, and now her figure appeared much more healthy looking even though he would still consider her slender. The most striking thing about her appearance overall was something that Nick couldn't quite put his finger on exactly. Perhaps, it was in her eyes, but he sensed a certain sort of maturity about her that hadn't been there before. Something about her seemed almost aloof and he realized that there was pain there. The pain of someone who had loved and lost. Have I done this to her? he wondered as a wave of guilt rushed over him.

    "Well, you seem to be doing pretty well for yourself," he spoke as soon as he found his voice again. "Do you live by yourself or do you have a room mate?" It was the most indirect way he could think of to try to find out if she had moved on with someone else after him.

    "By myself," she told him. "I really don't know anyone here besides my sister and Izzy."

    That answered that question right there. "How are your sisters?" he politely asked.

    Alyssa went on and explained to him all about Meg's marriage and Stephanie's college. Frankly she was getting sick of retelling the whole spiel about her sisters lately. Nick seemed to be listening intently to her every word, but she wondered if he really was. If only she could know what it was that he was thinking!

    Finally, Alyssa began to feel that she was running out of  words about herself. Besides, she wanted to hear about what he had been up to as well. After a pause she turned the conversation over to him. "So, what have you been up to?"

    Nick just shrugged. "Nothing too exciting actually. I put out my solo album and toured for it."

    "I heard it was pretty good," she interrupted, trying to make him feel at ease.

    "Well, not too many others thought so. It bombed," he told her.

    "Oh," was all that she could say. Okay, so she hadn't actually listened to the album, but could it really have been that bad? "What else?" she continued, moving on from the awkward moment.

    "I moved out to California. I did a little acting. I started to write a little for another possible album, when the guys and I decided to start recording another album. That's pretty much it."

    "You forgot the part where you started dating America's favorite amateur porn star." The words had escaped Alyssa's mouth before she even had a chance to realize how bitchy and jealous she had just sounded.  This was clearly not quite the impression that she wanted to make on him. "Sorry," she apologized. "That was uncalled for."

    Nick smirked. "You know, I'll never understand what it is about you women, that makes you so bitchy towards other women that you don't even know."

    "I guess its in our nature to be bitchy. We're just born bitches," she explained, immediately feeling guilty for saying anything at all. "I probably sound like the queen of all bitches now, don't I?"

    "Nah," Nick replied with a grin. "I'm kind of used to all those types of comments anyway. I guess I'm not surprised things never worked out with her. Our whole relationship was like a joke to everyone else. Although, she turned out to not be the greatest person in the world anyway."

    Can we not talk about this? Alyssa asked herself as she listened to him. Granted she had brought the subject up, but hearing him talk about his relationship with another woman was making her uncomfortable, especially that woman. How sad is it that he's opening up to me more about why him and Paris didn't work out then why me and him didn't?

   
Finally, she decided enough was enough, that she should just take the bull by the horns, and plunge right into what she really wanted to know from him. "Are you happy Nick?"

    "Am I happy? What do you mean?" he asked, looking perplexed. He didn't quite follow where her random question had came from.

    "The reason why you wanted to break up with me is so that you could be independent and single and free. I was just wondering if think that you made the right choice. Are you better off?"

    Nick looked down at his beer bottle for a moment as if he was in deep thought. "Honestly? I think I'd have to say both yes and no. I've been through a lot these past few years and I'm not the same person that I was when we first met. Too much has happened to me since then. I needed to be single when I broke up with you. I was so confused on whether love really existed or not. I couldn't force myself to be in a relationship when I was so uncertain. Having my parents get divorced really made me think. It made me hard, cynical, bitter. I really couldn't be with you at the time and I know I didn't do the best job in explaining myself to you, because at the time I was so mixed up myself. I just knew it was for the best."

    "I can understand how your parents divorce could have that effect on you and I know how much shit you had been through. That day on the beach, I reacted very selfishly. I begged you to reconsider and accused you of wanting to be with other girls. I took it way too personally. I never stopped to think that maybe it was important for you to have your space. Instead I became only concerned with what I wanted," she confessed.

    "I can't blame you for that Alyssa. Anyone else probably would've reacted the same way," he assured her. "Besides I was out of line too. Throwing the ring into the ocean was a pretty stupid and hurtful thing to do."

    "Yea," she agreed. "I think Izzy wanted to murder you for that one."

    "What else is new?" he grumbled. "Anyway as I was saying, at the time I needed space and deep down I knew I made the right decision. You have to remember I had been seriously involved in relationships from the time I was 17 or 18 years old. I was barely single after my relationship with Mandy when I met you and those were both really serious relationships. I didn't know what it was like to be a single guy and not have to worry about anyone else. I think I needed that before I could really settle down with anyone long term."

    "I can understand that," Alyssa sympathized. "Maybe it was different for me because you were my only serious relationship. I had been single for so long that I wanted to be involved with someone."

    "That could be." He continued on, "Well, I did the single thing for a while and enjoyed it. I learned a lot about myself and then I guess I tried getting involved again too soon. I thought that things with Paris would work out because I had that time to myself and I was completely wrong."

    "So now what? Now how do you feel?" she asked.

    "Honestly Alyssa, I really don't know. There are times when I want a committed relationship again, but on the other hand I kind of like being able to just get to know lots of different girls. I date from time to time, but I haven't met anyone I want to commit myself to right now," he explained.

    His answer kind of filled Alyssa with a touch of sadness for him. How bad she wanted to suggest to him that the two of them give it another try! At that moment she wanted nothing more than to take him in her arms and comfort him. To remind him what love felt like and to erase all the pain that he had been through. But that was impossible. They were both different people now and she seriously doubted that Nick wanted to resume a past relationship at this point. "So, I guess that means you really don't want me in your life right now?" she sadly asked.

    Nick sighed. "We were once as close as two people can possibly get. I know feelings like that don't just disappear. I lost you once and yet here we are again. I believe that people appear in your life for certain reasons and the fact that we've crossed paths again leads me to believe that I have been given a second chance." He turned towards Alyssa, took  her hand, and looked her straight on the eye. "I'd like to have you in my life again Alyssa. Not necessarily in a romantic sense, but as a friend."

    Alyssa opened her mouth to reply, but he motioned for her to let him continue. "Before I hear your response, let me finish. I don't expect an answer right away. I want you to think about this long and hard. I'm going to tell it to you straight. As of right now, I want you as a friend and just a friend. Whether something more comes of it, that's only for time to tell. Right now I just need people by my side. And I know that you're a very jealous person Alyssa, so I just want to warn you that by accepting my friendship you are accepting my lifestyle. If you see me with other girls, you can't get angry or jealous alright?"

    Alyssa hated to admit that he was right. Her tragic flaw was definitely her jealously. Maybe it came from her being the doomed middle child in her family, but she always felt like she couldn't be happy unless she had someone's attention. That green eyed monster had definitely played an important role in her relationship with Nick. In a way it made the bad times even worse for them. She had struggled to control it all her life, but sometimes it would rear its ugly head just as it had done only a few minutes ago when they had been talking about Paris.

    Could she really remain completely indifferent to seeing him with other girls though? He was certainly entitled to do so. She didn't own him. They had no commitment. Yet, she knew that seeing him with another girl that wasn't her would drive her absolutely crazy.

    Just then her thoughts were interrupted by AJ returning back onto the balcony. "Sorry to interrupt you two," he apologized, looking around guiltily. "But Izzy and Tristan want everyone inside for a minute because they have an announcement they want to make."

    An announcement? I bet Tristan asked her to marry him and she's been keeping it secret all this time, Alyssa predicted. I'm going to kill her for hiding it from me!

   
"Thanks man. We'll be there in a minute," Nick told him. He waited for AJ to disappear back inside before continuing his conversation with Alyssa. "Look, I know its a lot to digest at once, so I'll tell you what. We're doing a show on Saturday on Long Island at Jones Beach. I'll give you my cell number. Think it all over and if you think you can handle maintaining a friendship with me come out to the show and give me a call. If you don't think you can do it, which is perfectly understandable, then you don't have to talk to me again, no questions asked. I won't hold it against you, but the choice is up to you."

    "Okay," Alyssa agreed as she grabbed her cell phone from her purse. She was thankful that Nick was giving her some time to think things over because she honestly didn't know if a friendship with him would make things better or worse for her. She needed those few days to think it over.

    The two exchanged numbers and then made their way back inside the apartment. It was clear from the position of everyone else seated around the living room, and Izzy and Tristan's standing in the center of the room that they were waiting on them to share their news. "Nice of you to join us," Izzy sarcastically replied, probably directed more towards Nick than at Alyssa.

    Tristan whispered something to Izzy which Alyssa assumed to be something along the lines like, "Let it go." After waiting for Nick and Alyssa to get settled the couple looked at each other as if to ask one another if they should start now.

    "I want to start off with how grateful I am that everyone came by tonight. It's amazing seeing friends that I have not seen in nearly forever," Izzy began. "And being able to share with you our new apartment and Tristan's record deal means a lot to the both of us."

    "Toast!" AJ sang out. "To Izzy and Tristan's success! Now are you going to tell us that you two are engaged already?"

    Alyssa almost started to crack up at AJ's bluntness. Only AJ would have the balls to interrupt one of Izzy's long winded speeches.

    Izzy looked at Tristan and laughed a little nervously. "Actually, our announcement has nothing to do with getting engaged," she replied playing with the rings on her fingers. "We just found that we're going to have another reason to be thankful and to celebrate. We're going to have a baby."

 

Chapter Eleven by Mellz Bellz
Author's Notes:
Memories from the past force Alyssa to contemplate her new relationship to Nick.

Chapter 11

    The next morning when Alyssa awoke, the first thing on her mind was the events of the night before. It had sure been an interesting night. Between Izzy announcing that she was pregnant and her conversation with Nick out on the balcony, there was plenty for her to mull over.

    I can't believe my best friend is pregnant, she thought to herself, trying to picture Izzy with a baby in her arms. She found that she had a hard time trying to imagine the scene. Not that Izzy wouldn't be a great mother, but it was just strange to think of her as one. Of course she knew that Tristan would stick by her, because that was just the kind of guy he was. She's very lucky to have him.

   
Evidently, Izzy had discovered that she was pregnant during her first week in New York. When they went out to lunch, she had suspected, but wasn't sure yet. She didn't mention it to Alyssa because she wanted to make absolutely positive before she told anyone and what would have been the point if it had just been a little scare?

    Alyssa supposed she could understand that. She herself knew what it was like to have a pregnancy scare. In the middle of the Black and Blue tour, she began to feel tired all the time and dizzy. She thought nothing of it, until she realized that she was late. She had immediately panicked and in the long run probably made things worse on herself. She was just at the point where she was going to go out and buy a pregnancy test, when she collapsed on stage during one of the shows. She was rushed to the hospital, only to find out that she was not pregnant at all, but had been battling a bad case of the flu that was beginning to border on pneumonia. She had just been pushing herself so hard, that she hadn't really listened to her body telling her to slow down.

    Besides she would've never known how to tell Nick anyway. It was hard to tell how he would react to something like that. On one hand, she could see him being happy about it. Especially after the whole Katie fiasco, she added. Yet, on the other hand she could see it pushing them further apart at a time when things had finally began to get better again.

    Thinking about Nick brought her back to their conversation last night. What had that been all about? She was actually quite surprised that Nick had opened up so much to her, especially after them being apart for three years. But then again Nick could surprise you like that. At times, he was an extremely difficult person to read. Sometimes she found she always had to go back after having a deep conversation with him and think about what it was that he was really saying. Take last night for example. The whole friendship thing? "As of right now, I want you as a friend and just a friend. Whether something more comes of it, that's only for time to tell. Right now I just need people by my side. And I know that you're a very jealous person Alyssa, so I just want to warn you that by accepting my friendship you are accepting my lifestyle. If you see me with other girls, you can't get angry or jealous alright?" He had seemed to make it clear that if she did accept his friendship, he was not going to change the way he lived his life.

    And can I handle that? Izzy's words from the night before came back to her. "Now he's so into partying and drinking and living the life of a bachelor..." Of course Alyssa had yet to see him in action. How bad could he really be? If anything she was more worried about how she would react if she saw him with another girl, knowing that Nick would never look at her that way again.

    Or would he? He had said something about maybe "something more coming of it." Was it possible that he hadn't completely ruled out the possibility of them resuming a relationship? Alyssa sighed. The situation was a complicated one. If she didn't accept his friendship she would be back at square one and left wondering what might have happened if she had. But if she did accept it, she'd have to totally change her attitude towards him and be accepting of the fact that he was free to see other girls. Of course there also was that small hope that he would change his mind. Weighing out her options left Alyssa to wonder, If I can't have him in a romantic sense, is it a good idea to keep him as a friend?

   
She rolled over and buried her head in her pillow in frustration. Why did things between her and Nick have to be so complicated? She swore that two of them had probably had the world's least conventional relationship in the universe. Even from early on in their relationship, life seemed to like to throw every monkey wrench that it could at them.

*********

    Alyssa smoothed her hands over the smooth material of her lacy pink and black camisole tank top once more as she rang Nick's doorbell. She had spent hours getting ready for tonight, actually taking the time to blow dry her thick unruly hair straight, and apply her makeup meticulously. Really tonight would be the first night since they had started dating where they would be sure to be seen together and she figured if her picture was going to end up in some tabloid, she at least wanted to look good.

    After a few moments, Nick answered the door. To Alyssa's dismay he was not even dressed to go out. In fact, he was dressed in a pair of baggy gray sweats, a white shirt, and his hair was sticking up in all different directions. From the looks of it she doubted if he had even showered yet. Ignoring his appearance at first, Alyssa stepped inside and leaned up to kiss him. "Happy birthday," she greeted.

    "Thanks," Nick said, sounding a little glum as he shut the door.

    "What's wrong?" she immediately asked, picking up on his sour attitude. "You're not even dressed yet and you look like your dog just died or something. I don't think this is how you're supposed to act when you finally turn 21."

    "Sorry," he apologized, as he ran his hand through his hair. "I'm just a little out of it. You're right. I should probably go upstairs and start getting ready to go out."

    Alyssa's eyes softened a little bit. "How did your meeting with Jive go today?"

    Nick sighed. It was quite evident that Alyssa had hit the nail right on its nose with what had been bothering him. "Well, this isn't exactly how I wanted to tell you, but I found out some good news and bad news today."

   
Uh oh... she thought. Whenever someone used the "good news and bad news" phrase it was never a good thing. With a feeling of dread in her stomach she went over to the couch and sat down. "Okay, well I guess we start with the good news, right?"

    Nick nodded as he sat down beside her. " I just found out that we're going to start recording for our next album in a little less than 3 weeks."

    "That's great news Nick!" she exclaimed. "I know how you guys can't wait to get back into the studio. I don't see where the bad news comes in."

    She noticed that Nick looked away for a second as if to collect his thoughts. "There is bad news," he explained, as he took a deep breath. "We start recording on Feb 15th in Sweden and we'll be over there laying down tracks for about six weeks."

    "Six weeks?" Alyssa yelped. Six weeks seemed like an eternity to her, especially since they hadn't even been dating that long.

    Nick gravely nodded his head. "I knew it was inevitable that I'd have to go to Europe to record at least parts of the album, but I never expected it to be this soon into our relationship, or for this long."

    Alyssa thought for a moment and then her face seemed to light up. "I'll go with you! The semester just started, so I can easily withdraw from school and get my tuition refunded. I'm sure I can work something out with work and-"

    Nick held up his hand to silence her. "Alyssa, I'd love it if you could come with me, but to be completely honest, I can't let you drop out of school for a semester, just to hang around while we record. I'm going to be putting in long hours at the studio and we wouldn't have much time left to spend together. It's really not as glamorous as you think, recording an album, and you'd be sitting around by yourself most of the time. None of the other guys are going to be bringing their significant others, so you'd be completely bored. You're better off staying here in Florida and keeping busy."

    "But I don't want to be without you," she protested, her lip trembling. "Especially when we've practically just gotten together."

    "I don't want to be without you either, babe. Why do you think I'm sitting around here so bummed?" he confessed, as he wrapped his arms around her. "But unfortunately this is my job. This isn't the first time I've had to leave a girlfriend behind and it probably won't be the last. We can keep in touch over the phone and through e-mail, and it's only six weeks. That's not too bad. I'll be home the end of March or beginning of April."

    Alyssa tried to force out a reply, but she found that she couldn't speak because her eyes were too welled up in tears. All she could do was bury her head in his chest.

    "I know how you probably feel," he said, stroking her hair. "But this is the way it is. You knew that when you decided to get involved with me."

    "I know," she managed to choke out. "I just didn't think it would be this hard."

    "I know. Me neither," he sighed. "But getting upset and crying over it isn't going to make it any better."

    He was absolutely right. By getting upset, it was only making the situation worse. She tossed back her head resolutely and wiped away the tears from her eyes with the back of her hand. "You're right. Getting upset is only going to make this harder and it's not like you're leaving tomorrow. We still have 2 1/2 weeks left together. And like you said it's only six weeks. It'll probably be over before we know it," she rambled as if the more she talked the more she actually believed what she was saying. "We're just going to have to make every minute count starting now. So, why don't you go upstairs, take a shower, and start getting ready to go out? In the meantime I'll try to fix my makeup and then I'll call everyone else and tell them we're just going to be a little late. There's no reason to ruin your birthday because of the news."

    "Okay," Nick agreed, as he looked down at where her mascara had ran all over his white shirt. "I think you owe me a load of laundry as well," he lightly joked.

    Alyssa smiled a little bit and rolled her eyes. "Just get upstairs and start getting ready."

    "Yes ma'am!" he saluted as he leapt up from the couch and headed up the stairs. Alyssa watched him as he disappeared, hugging her knees into her chest and wondering,
What am I going to do without him for six whole weeks?

******

    Yea, that was the way it always was with us,
Alyssa thought sullenly to herself. She should've seen the signs right there. Surely the two of them being separated so soon into their relationship was bound to cause problems between them. And ultimately it did.

   

*****

    "I think that this has been the best Valentine's Day ever," Alyssa remarked from her position leaned back against Nick's chest, staring up at the night sky. "Of course its not like I have much to compare it to being that this is the first Valentine's Day I'm actually dating anybody."

    "Well, I tried to make it as special as possible for you," Nick told her as he laid a kiss on the top of her head.

    The night had definitely been special. He had purposely kept their plans for the night a secret, so that he could surprise her. After picking her up at her apartment earlier that evening, he had driven her to the marina where they boarded his boat and set off on a romantic cruise. When they had reached what seemed to be the middle of nowhere, he had anchored the boat and they had set down to a candlelit picnic dinner. Presently, the two were nestled on the deck of the boat, sitting upon some blankets that Nick had laid out, enjoying the starry scenery.

    "It's beautiful out tonight. I can't believe it's the middle of February. In New York at this time of year you'd never consider going out on a boat because it would be freezing cold," she continued.

    "I couldn't imagine living anywhere where I couldn't be out on the water at any point in the year," he confessed to her.

    Alyssa sighed for a moment. All night they had been careful not to mention what tomorrow would bring, but it had been on her mind all night long and she was pretty sure that it had to be on Nick's too. It had been an unspoken agreement between the two of them that they not mention it, but Alyssa could feel herself begin to cave in. Seemingly out of nowhere, she turned around and buried her head in Nick's chest. "I don't want you to go tomorrow."

    Nick held her closer to him and stroked her back. "We've talked about this Alyssa. You know I have to go."

    "I know that, but it doesn't mean that I'm not going to miss you. I don't know what I'm going to do without you."

    In the last two and a half weeks whenever Alyssa wasn't in class, teaching dance classes at a local dance studio, or working as a waitress in a popular diner, she had been with Nick. The two had tried to cram just about every spare minute they could with each other and now Alyssa was beginning to wonder if that had been a smart idea. In that short period of time they had grown even closer, making his departure even more painful on her.

    "You're going to keep yourself busy with your schoolwork and your dance classes and I'm going to keep in touch as much as I possibly can," he promised. "Besides I'm sure Izzy will keep you so occupied you won't hardly notice I'm gone." Nick looked down at her and noticed a stray tear slipping down her cheek. "Hey," he said, cupping her chin to force her to look at him. "No crying. You promised."

    "I know," she sniffled as she wiped it away. "I'm sorry. I'm ruining the whole night aren't I?"

    "Definitely not," he assured her. "Why don't we open up our gifts now ok? Maybe that'll help."

    Alyssa nodded. "I'll go first," she offered, as she handed him her gift. "It's kind of cheesy, but I thought it would be a good idea."

    "Cheesy?" he asked, making a face. "This should be interesting." He opened up the package which contained a brand new camera and a photo album.

    "I thought that while you were in Sweden you could take a bunch of pictures for me, so that when you come back I'll feel as if I was there," she explained.

    "Alyssa, that's not a cheesy idea at all. I think it's a great idea! By the time I come home I promise this entire album will be full," he promised. "I'll take pictures of everything I can think of."

    "Thank you," she told him gratefully. "I'm glad you like it."

    "I love it," Nick told her, as he leaned down to kiss her. "Now it's my turn." He reached into his pocket and pulled out a small wrapped package.

    "Hmm..." Alyssa said, shaking the little box. "I'm going to go with jewelry." Opening up the package she gasped as she opened. Not only was it completely beautiful, but completely original too. "You know most guys get their girlfriends like diamond earrings or bracelets, but you got me a diamond belly button ring?"

    "Yea," he said sheepishly. "I thought that you'd like it. It's something different."

    "I think it's awesome and very thoughtful of you. I'm going to go put it in as soon as I get home tonight," she told him, pretending as if everything was perfectly normal.
Who am I kidding? she wondered. She couldn't just toss aside her feelings about his leaving tomorrow even if she was the best actress in the world.

    "Nick, I can't do this!" she exclaimed as she threw herself into his arms. "I'm sorry, but I can't just ignore the fact that tomorrow you're leaving for halfway around the world."

    "All right," Nick agreed as he held her close to him. "If you want we can talk about it, if it'll make you feel better."

    "I don't want to talk. I just want you to hold me." Alyssa could not even believe that she had actually said those words until after they had came out of her mouth. She had thought that only couples in cheesy romantic films actually said phrases like that. Never in a million years had she actually considered that she could say something like that with a completely straight face.

    Nick nodded and drew her closer. Alyssa closed her eyes and tried as much as she could to capture as much as she could about this moment, so that she could remember it in detail later on. The feeling of his arms around her body... The scent of his cologne... She didn't even realize that she had started to cry again until she noticed a wet splotch on his tie. "Sorry," she apologized as she looked up at him. "I know I said I wouldn't cry anymore."

    He reached up to wipe away the tears from her eyes. "At least your mascara didn't run all over me this time," he joked.

    "Yea," she said with a laugh. "This time I made sure to wear waterproof since I anticipated that I'd wind up blubbering."

    There was a pause as Nick's hand floated downwards to tilt her chin. For a moment the two stared deeply into each others eyes, and Alyssa noticed for the first time that night, just how gorgeous he looked in the moonlight. If she could freeze time right at that moment, she would. Before her mind could process another thought, Nick's lips were over hers. Closing her eyes, she forced her mind to fully concentrate on the kiss, which was steadily growing deeper. Again, she tried to memorize every detail that she could from the softness of his lips down to the taste of his tongue. She was so caught up in the moment that she barely even noticed that they were getting more and more horizontal, until Alyssa could feel her head laying back against the soft blankets beneath her. She didn't even object when he reached upwards to slip off the black shrug that she had been wearing around her shoulders.

    Alyssa shivered slightly as the night air hit her skin, but she soon forgot all about being cold as Nick continued to plant kisses down her neck and shoulders. It wasn't until one of his hands found its way to the string that tied her mulberry colored halter style sundress and began to play with it, that it hit her what was going on. Under normal circumstances, after such a romantic night as this, in such a romantic location, she might have considered it. The fact that he was leaving tomorrow and was going to be away so long, restrained her though.  She definitely didn't want to take a step like this with him and then not see him again for six weeks.
I can't, she realized, as she found herself pulling away.

    "What's wrong?" Nick asked her, brushing a piece of hair from her forehead.

    "I'm sorry," she apologized, for what seemed like the hundredth time that night as she sat up and adjusted the halter tie on her dress. "I just can't do this. Not tonight. Not with you leaving me tomorrow morning."

    Alyssa had to turn away as she watched the expression on Nick's face fall. "What difference does it make?" he tried to argue.

   "You're leaving for Sweden tomorrow morning! That's what difference it makes," she answered, a little firmer than she originally wanted the words to sound. Alyssa sighed. She definitely didn't want to spend their last few hours together arguing over sex. In a softer tone of voice she attempted to explain herself. "I just don't want us to get too close by having sex and then have to deal with you leaving. Don't you think that after something like that, it'll make us being apart even harder?"

    "I guess you're right," Nick reluctantly agreed. Even though he had given in, Alyssa wondered if he really did see her point, or if he just didn't want to argue with her tonight.

    "I feel like such a bitch. Honestly if you weren't leaving tomorrow it would be a completely different story," she tried to tell him.

    Nick didn't say anything for a moment. He just rose and looked out at the water. "We should probably start back now. I have to be at the airport early tomorrow."

    Alyssa knew that this was his way of ending the subject, but there was one more thing that she had to say before they laid the matter to rest. She stood up and approached him from behind. Laying a hand on his shoulder she told him in a soft voice, "I know that you don't want to talk about it anymore, but I promise when you get home things will be different."

*******

    How stupid was I?
Alyssa criticized herself as she remembered that night. She had been like a completely different person back then. So innocent and naive and trusting of Nick. She often wondered whether or not things would've been different if she had decided to sleep with him that night.

    Why am I spending so much time thinking about this? she wondered. It had happened five years ago. So much had changed since then. I can't blame a decision made five years ago for all the problems Nick and I endured.

   
But it was so easy to do so.

    Yea I definitely had that whole innocent virgin thing down pat. I might as well been a character in one of those disgusting romantic movies that make me want to vomit now. Just remembering their farewell at the airport made her want to gag.

*******
   
    "I'm going to miss you so much," Alyssa told Nick for about the tenth time that morning. The two were clung tightly to each other, knowing that in only a few minutes Nick was going to have to go through security and be on his way.

    "Me too," he answered, playing with her hair. "I'll call you as soon as I can."

    "You better. Call me anytime. I don't care if it's 4:00am here and I have school the next day. If you need me just pick up the phone," she instructed.

    "I will," he promised, just as Kevin approached the two.

    "Start getting everything together," Kevin told him. "We're about to get going."

    Nick just nodded and began to gather up his bags at his feet. That's when reality began to sink in and Alyssa realized that the moment she had been dreading was finally imminent. "This is really happening, isn't it?" she found herself saying out loud.

    Nick just nodded gravely. "It appears that way. Now please don't start crying or anything now. I'm coming back before you know it. You're only going to make it harder on yourself."

    "Okay," Alyssa agreed, trying to hold back the tears that she already could feel forming in her eyelids.

    Nick looked around and saw all the other guys saying what appeared to be their good-byes to their loved ones. "I guess we should just get this over with. Goodbyes suck."

    "Then let's not even say them," Alyssa suggested. "Just kiss me."

    Doing exactly that, Nick leaned down to give her a farewell kiss. Alyssa slid her arms around his neck and just began to deepen the kiss when she heard AJ's voice interrupting, "Come on you two! We're going to miss the flight!"

    Reluctantly, the pair pulled away and lingered a little bit in each others presence. "I'll call you," Nick promised, before forcing himself to turn away from her.

    As Alyssa watched him head towards the security checkpoint she realized that she couldn't let things just end like that. It just didn't seem right. Before she could even consider what she was doing she found herself calling out, "Nick!"

    He turned around and glanced back towards her for seeing what it was she wanted. "I love you!" she shouted from where she was standing.

   
Are you crazy? she asked herself as soon as the words had came out of her mouth. Could she possibly be in love with him after only dating him for about six weeks? Besides he had never said those words to her before. Alyssa had never been one to toss around terms like that lightly, but something about the way it had came out seemed completely natural.

    Nick looked stunned for a moment and it looked as of he was about to open his mouth to reply when Kevin gave him a death stare and practically dragged Nick the rest of the way to security. That was the last time she had saw of him.

    Later on that evening though she got a call from Nick. The connection was horrible and Nick said that he only had a minute or so to talk.

    "We just arrived here, but we have to get settled and then I need to crash. I need to adjust to this time difference."

    "Call me back whenever you feel up to it," Alyssa told him, choosing not to bring up her dramatic declaration of love at the airport earlier that day.

    "Hey. I gotta go. We're getting ready to leave the airport," he explained. "I'll call you soon."

    "All right."

    "By the way. I love you too."
Click.

*******

    Now if that's not something out of a romantic movie then I don't know what is,
Alyssa thought to herself. Unfortunately, the fairytale hadn't exactly continued. At least not according to plan.

    He told me he loved me too, she scoffed. What a joke! Alyssa had to admit that Nick Carter might just be the most confusing and complex man on planet Earth.

    Yet, she still had the urge to take him up on his offer of friendship. She never could understand how this one man could make her feel so mixed up and confused. How she could both love him and hate him all at the same time.

    What am I going to do? she wondered. Completely frustrated with the situation, she pulled her blankets over her head and decided to try to go back to sleep. She still had no clue if she was going to show up to the concert on Saturday or not.



Author's Note: In planning this story somehow along the line I lost a year and probably should have made Alyssa and Nick a year younger when they met. Anyway, this IS fan fiction, so just bear with me. Even though it's not chronologically correct, BSB is recording Black and Blue at this point in the flashback scenes.  

   

Chapter Twelve by Mellz Bellz
Author's Notes:
Alyssa decides to go visit her parents... coincidentally the same day Nick is on Long Island as well for a show.

Chapter 12

   Saturday arrived all too soon for Alyssa, and when she awoke that morning she still was unsure of whether or not she should show up at Jones Beach that evening. All week indecisive thoughts about accepting Nick's friendship plagued her, making her choice even more difficult. She decided that she would wait until the last possible minute to make her decision. That way she would be going with whatever her heart told her was best.

    Without a particular reason in mind, (at least that's what she told herself) she spent close to an hour in the shower, making sure to use her favorite smelling coconut mango shampoo and conditioner in her hair. Afterwards, she ran a little bit of mousse in her hair so that when it dryed it would settle in loose waves. Heading over to her closet, she selected a long beige pea sent skirt and a brown tank top trimmed with beige lace. She paired it with a beige cardigan sweater and brown flip flops.

    And you're getting all dressed up why? she asked herself as she got dressed. This was definitely not for Nick. No way. I'm only taking the extra time to look nice because I think I'm going to take the train to Long Island and visit my parents today, she convinced herself.

    Alyssa froze with the realization of what she had just told herself. She was going to go to Long Island? Nick was going to be on Long Island. No, I'm not going to see him. I'm just going to visit my parents and that's that. I haven't been out to see them since I moved into the city, she argued with herself. I'm not going to see Nick! That was why she was going to take the train. If she drove she'd have too much of a temptation to go to the concert. Without a car there would be no way of her getting there and her problem would be solved.

     Satisfied with herself, she put on some makeup and secured her hair back with a tortoise shell clip. Alyssa then grabbed the phone to call her mother to tell her to expect her on the very next train. See, I'm just going to spend the day with them, she decided.

    If that was the case though, Alyssa wondered why the more she tried to convince herself of that, the less she started to believe it.




    "I've forgotten just how much I've missed your cooking, Mom," Alyssa told her mother later that evening as she scarfed the last of her Mom's lasagna down. What luck was it that her mother had just happened to have a pan downstairs in the freezer waiting for a special occasion? It was no secret that Alyssa swore that her mother's lasagna was the best in the world.

    "I can tell. I hope you're eating right out there on your own. You're looking a little thin lately," Mrs. Martinelli commented.

    "I'm fine Mother," Alyssa assured her rolling her eyes. Leave it to her Mom to inquire about her current eating habits Truth was she hadn't really been eating as well as she should've. She'd been living on pizza, fast food, ramen noodles, and anything microwaveable.

    "So what are your plans for tonight?" her father asked her.

    "What do you mean?" she asked. She didn't have any plans. Well, she did, but she wasn't really going to go through with them.

    Her father looked at her suspiciously. "You didn't come all the way out here just to visit us?"

    Shit, she thought realizing how strange it probably looked to her parents that she suddenly just decided to come out to Long Island to see them for no apparent reason. "Oh of course not," she answered with a laugh. "I had arranged to meet with some friends from college tonight. We were going to get some drinks at Charlie Brown's and then probably head to a bar." The lie had came out of her mouth quicker than she could stop it.

    "That sounds nice," her mother interjected. "Are they coming by to pick you up?"

    Since when did they get so smart? Alyssa asked herself. Now she had to invent some other means of getting out of the house. How she wished she had decided to drive out, so that she would have had her car. "No, I'm going to actually take a cab," she continued to lie.

    "A cab? That's ridiculous! Your mother will drive you," her Dad insisted.

    He can not be serious, she thought. Some things never change. "Dad, I'm 25 years old. I refuse to have my 'Mommy' drive me to meet up with some friends. I'll be fine," she assured him. "I would've driven out here myself if it wasn't for the fact that we're going to be out drinking." She winced hoping that she wasn't laying it on too thick.

    "Are you going to be staying over here tonight?" her mother asked. "You're more than welcome to. Your room is still just the way you left it."

    Alyssa bit her bottom lip. This was getting way too messy. "We'll see. If possible I'd like to get back to the city tonight, but if it's too late to take the train back I'll come back here. All right?"

    Her parents just nodded in agreement. Alyssa let out a silent sigh of relief. They had bought it. Now all she had to was actually call a cab, but that would be simple. She'd take the cab to the train station and get the next train back into Manhattan and her parents would never know the difference.

    About twenty minutes later her cab pulled up to the house. Giving both her parents a hug and a kiss goodbye and thanking them for dinner, she headed outside towards the cab. After getting in and slamming the door shut the cab driver asked, "Where to?"

    The train station, her mind reminded her, but what actually came out of her mouth was just the opposite. "The Tommy Hilifiger arena at Jones Beach."

    Did I just say what I thought I said? Where I promised I would steer clear of tonight? Who was she kidding? The whole day her subconscious was pulling her towards Nick. The more she tried to fight it the stronger her desire to see him became.

    She could practically see the cab drivers eyes light up. Jones Beach was at least a good half an hour away, which would make this one expensive cab ride. Nick better make this worth it, she thought darkly to herself as the driver pulled away from the curb.




    After arriving at the arena and paying a $30 cab fare, plus tip, Alyssa looked at her watch. Doors had definitely long since been open, but she doubted that any of the opening acts had gone on yet. She'd probably just get to see Nick for a few quick minutes before he had to start getting ready for the show.

    She wondered if he was thinking of her now. Was he backstage pacing, waiting for his phone to ring? Was he beginning to lose hope that she wasn't going to come after all? For some reason this scenario gave Alyssa a strange sense of empowerment. The ball was in her court now, but the question was did he really care which way it went?

    Taking a deep breath, she took out her cell phone and hesitatingly found his number in her phone book. With a trembling hand, she pressed the send key. She listened to it ring and began to panic when she didn't hear an answer. Watch, I came all the way out here and he's not even going to pick up his fucking phone, she ironically thought to herself. That would be typical of him. She was just about to give up when she heard him pick up. "Hello," he answered.

    "Nick, hi. It's me Alyssa. I'm out in the parking lot of the arena by the gates where you first walk in. I just got here," she told him, sounding relieved that he had finally answered.

    "So you decided to come after all," he said, sounding a little smug. "I was beginning to think that you were going to turn me down."

    "Well, I was in the area," she replied. It was the perfect response. It didn't sound as if she had come down there just to see him or anything.

    "Okay. Well stay where you are and I'll send Q down to pick you up and bring you backstage," he instructed, ignoring her remark.

    "All right," she agreed. "I'll see you in a few then. Bye."

    Alyssa closed up her cell phone and put it back inside her purse. Leaning back against the edge of the gate she began to wonder, If I could care less about Nick then why do I feel so excited to see him?

Chapter Thirteen by Mellz Bellz
Author's Notes:
Things get awkward as Nick begins to look at Alyssa in a different light.

Chapter 13


  She came. She actually decided to show up, Nick thought in amazement, after he hung up the phone. He was beginning to think that she wouldn't bother. That she had decided to just let them both drift apart naturally. Yet, she had called only a few minutes earlier.

    And how do you feel about that?
he asked himself. He wasn't exactly sure. As of right now his romantic feelings for Alyssa were just a fading memory, but he still felt some sort of attachment towards her that he couldn't quite explain. He knew that he wasn't interested in picking things up with her where they last left of, yet he felt as if he needed her presence in his life as a reminder of what he could have been. How your life might have ended up if you had chosen a different path, he reminded himself. He didn't know why exactly, but he instinctively felt as if he should concentrate on at least pursuing a friendship with Alyssa. It was just strange for him, because he was not the type to remain friends with any of his exes. In fact, with every other girl he had dated, any hopes of a future friendship had been destroyed when they broke up. So why do I feel this way with Alyssa? For the first time in his life, Nick had to admit that he had no clue what he was doing.

    Nick's thoughts were interrupted as he spotted Alyssa's tiny frame rounding the corner of where he stood. For a moment, he stood there almost mesmerized with her beauty before approaching her for a hug. The attraction he felt towards her was different from the way he felt when looking at other girls. Instead of thinking of her as an object as he would with most other girls, he was genuinely appreciative of her natural beauty.

    "You came," he said as he embraced her, inhaling the intoxicating scent of her perfume. "I wasn't sure if you were going to."

    "Sorry I made you wait. I was out visiting my parents and I couldn't get away any sooner," she explained. "Looks like I got here just in time huh?"

    "Yea," Nick answered realizing how late it was. "I actually can't stay around to talk too long because I have to start getting ready. You know in about five minutes Kevin is going to hunt me down and be on my ass."

    Alyssa just laughed. It was almost never a show without Kevin having to threaten Nick with every inch of his life to get ready. "It's okay. I understand. We can talk after the show if you want. It's my fault for showing up at the last minute anyway."

    "You're welcome to watch the show back here. Or if you prefer I can try to get somebody to find you a seat in the audience," he suggested.

    "Back here is fine," she assured him. Glancing over his shoulder, she noticed both Kevin and AJ heading towards them. "Uh oh. Looks as if they're coming to steal you away already."

    Nick looked up and saw that she was right. "They're a little early," he joked. "Well, I guess I should go now. I'll see you later." After lingering for a moment he bent down to give her an awkward kiss on the cheek.

    "Later," Alyssa echoed as she watched him disappear down the hallway, her hand instinctively flying up to her cheek where he had kissed her.

    "There you are. We were just about to go looking for you," Kevin said, as he approached the two men.

    "Yea I know. Sorry," Nick apologized. "Alyssa dropped by and-"

    "Alyssa?" Kevin asked suspiciously. "By herself? Izzy's not with her?"

    "No," he answered a little unsurely. What business was it of Kevin's who he invited to one of their concerts?

    "Well, you need to forget whatever little games you are playing with her and get ready because we have a show to do in exactly 45 minutes," Kevin told him, before stalking off.

    "What's up his ass?" Nick asked AJ, confused at Kevin's outburst.

    AJ shrugged. "He's Kevin. You know how he gets before we're supposed to perform. But seriously man, what's going on with you and Alyssa?"

    "Nothing's going on," he insisted.

    AJ just rolled his eyes. "Bullshit. As of Wednesday night you two were barely talking and now you're best of friends? Did I miss something at Izzy's? Did something happen between the two of you?"

    "I don't know why everyone is so concerned with me and Alyssa!" he exploded. "It's nobody's business! If you must know we talked like you suggested that we do and I decided that maybe we could try to at least stay friends. Honestly this is the first time I've seen her since leaving Izzy's apartment the other night."

    "Don't do anything stupid Nick," AJ warned. "I know that you probably invited her tonight with pure intentions, but-"

    Nick could not believe the words that were coming out of his friends mouth. "Unfuckingbelievable. You think that I only invited Alyssa out here today because I wanted to get laid?"

    "I didn't say that Nick."

    "You didn't have to," he grumbled, as he rolled his eyes, before beginning to walk away. Thinking of something else, he turned around. "Oh yea. And if I just wanted to get laid I wouldn't waste all the time and energy trying to renew things with my ex girlfriend." With that said he strode off to begin getting dressed for the show before Kevin came and yelled at him again.




    The show was pretty much the same show Alyssa had seen the previous night, only her perspective of watching it from backstage instead of out in the audience gave the experience a new spin. She'd gotten used to watching Nick from backstage anyway during the Black and Blue tour, when she would try to catch as much as she could of the show between costume changes and dance numbers. One thing was for certain, knowing the new songs made a huge difference. The next day after the concert at Radio City, she had went out and purchased a copy of Never Gone and had been playing it non-stop since.

    When the show was over she greeted Nick as soon as he had gotten offstage. "It was great! Even better then the other night!" she told him, giving him a congratulatory hug.

    "Thanks," Nick answered, his mind drifting away. He was still upset about his little argument with AJ from earlier that evening. How could he possibly think that he only invited Alyssa tonight because it would be like a free ticket to get laid?

    But it would be pretty easy.

    He froze for a minute, wondering if he had actually just considered what he had. Dammit AJ, he cursed. Now that AJ had mentioned it, no matter how much he denied that his intentions were innocent, the thought had been planted in his mind. It was like being told to not think about food when you were hungry. He knew that the thought would be running through his head all night now. He valiantly tried to remind himself exactly why he had in fact invited her tonight, but found it nearly impossible with her body so close.

    She obviously still has some kind of feelings left for you, the voice in his head reminded him. It wouldn't be hard at all to stir them up a little.

   
Trying to ignore his thoughts, he let go of her embrace and took a step back, thanking God that Alyssa couldn't read minds. "How'd you get here? Did you take your car or did you get a ride out here?" he asked.

    "Actually, I took a cab," she admitted. "I guess I'll just call another one to take me to the nearest train station."

    Maybe that would be a good idea, Nick considered, but he couldn't just let her leave without them having anytime to hang out. If anything that would make things weirder between them. "I can't let you do that. Why don't you catch a ride back into the city with me on my tour bus? Our next show is in New Jersey, so we're gonna spend the night in the city anyway," he offered.

    Alyssa seemed to think about it. After spending money on a train ticket and a $30 cab fare, a free ride back into the city seemed like a great idea, plus it would give her and Nick plenty of time to talk. "All right that sounds like a good deal," she agreed.

    "I just need to change and get my shit together. I'll be out in five minutes," he promised, as he headed towards the dressing room. Now he was going to have to spend the entire ride back into New York City completely alone with Alyssa. Yea, that's such a horrible fate, he sarcastically thought to himself. He just hoped that he would be able to forget all about AJ's accusations. As long as he didn't think of them he'd be fine, right?

    After he finished with all his usual after show business he gathered up his backpack and returned to Alyssa. "Are you ready to make a run for it?" he asked her referring to them reaching his tour bus.

    "Guess so. Although I am a little rusty," she joked, remembering the days of running through the crowds of screaming girls just to reach the tour buses.

    "You'll be fine," he assured her as he pulled the hood on his hooded sweatshirt over his head. "They won't start a commotion until they see me anyway."

    Alyssa just rolled her eyes as he flashed the infamous Carter grin. A few minutes later, they had safely boarded Nick's bus and were on their way. "Nice little place you got here," she lightly joked before taking a seat, tucking her legs underneath her.

    "Yea, my home away from home," he muttered as he plopped down next to her.

    For the first time since he got off stage, Alyssa began to notice how tense Nick seemed. "Are you ok, Nick?" she asked placing her hand on his shoulder.

    Her touch seemed to feel like fire to Nick as he immediately sat up. "I'm fine," he lied. "What makes you ask?"

    Alyssa just shrugged. "I just noticed that you seem like you have something on your mind. That's all."

    Nick had forgotten just how good Alyssa was at picking out his emotions, but how could he explain to her about the fight he and AJ had earlier? Well, AJ thought that I only invited you to come tonight because I wanted to have sex with you and now that's all I can think about? Somehow that didn't exactly sound like the best response. "I'm fine, really," he repeated. "Just tired."

    "I bet you are. Well maybe tonight instead of going out you should just go to bed," she suggested.

    "Uh huh," Nick agreed, not even listening to what she was saying. He had found his eyes trailing downwards to lacy trim along the top of her tank top. It was pretty low cut, producing a significant amount of cleavage. Realizing that he wasn't exactly being subtle, he peeled his eyes away before she could notice him staring. "I'm really glad that you decided to come tonight," he told her.

    "I wasn't going to," she admitted. "I kept telling myself I was coming out this way to see my parents, but somehow I wound up here."

    "You didn't tell them you were going to see me, did you?" he asked her.

    "Of course not," Alyssa admitted with a slight blush. Her parents had never been thrilled with Nick to begin with and since they had broken up his name had become a dirty word in their house. "I made up some excuse about meeting some old friends from college for drinks."

    "Nice. The old 'friends from college' excuse. Did it work?" He wondered if was wrong to be kind of turned on by the fact that she had lied for him.

    "I'm here. Aren't I?" she replied.

    "I'll take that as a yes," he said with a smirk.

    There was an awkward pause before Alyssa began to speak up. "So, I thought a lot about what you said the other night. About accepting your friendship meaning accepting your lifestyle, and its hard for me to make a definite decision when I'm not sure what you mean. I really don't know how much you've changed. I've been hearing things from other people, but I don't think that I can judge you until I see it with my own eyes."

    "What have you heard and from who?" he asked warily.

    For a second or two Alyssa appeared deep in thought. It was a sticky situation. Nick had a right to know what people were saying about him to her. Well, the "other people" really was only Izzy and the two of them were already having problems. Wouldn't it be wrong for her to reveal to Nick what Izzy was saying about him? Finally she decided the best way to handle the situation would be to tell him what she heard, but not from who.

    "Just that you've changed a lot since we used to date. You like to party more. You drink probably more often than you should. You smoke. And evidently you like to have a good time with the ladies," she reported. "I mean I guess you have every right to. I'm not saying that I disapprove or anything because frankly it's really none of my business."

    Nick sighed. "I guess you could say that all is true. I am a different person now. I just don't know if its a good thing or a bad thing."

    "What do you mean?" Alyssa inquired, looking concerned.

    He inwardly groaned. He really did not feel like getting into another deep conversation with her about his feelings. Especially just then. He seriously doubted that he'd be able to concentrate on a discussion like that tonight. "I don't want to talk about it right now. I'm just trying to get my life together again and the best thing that you can do for me is just be there for me," he told her, shifting uncomfortably in his seat.

    "All right," she agreed. "That sounds good to me. We'll take it one step at a time and see where it leads us."

    "For now I really just want to hang out with you," he admitted. "I think we had enough deep conversation the last time I saw you. If we're going to be friends we need to have some fun. We can't always be talking about feelings and shit."

    Alyssa laughed a little bit. "Well, whenever you do feel like you want to talk about 'feelings and shit' you can always talk to me, okay?" She reached down to give his hand a reassuring pat, but just then the bus changed lanes quickly, causing Alyssa to lose her balance and her hand to instead wind up on the top of his thigh.

    Dear God, Nick thought. I'm trying SO hard to be good, really I am. It was just so hard to think of pure, innocent thoughts with that hand on his thigh. Combined with the thoughts that had already been going through his mind ever since his confrontation with AJ, this was almost too much for any man to bear. Nick would be the first to admit that he was no saint, but why was it that she made no move to withdraw her hand?

    "Oh my God. I'm sorry," Alyssa apologized, her face flushed with embarrassment. "I definitely didn't mean to do that!" She was so mortified that she completely forgot to snatch her hand away, because she was too focused on apologizing. Finally, she looked down and realized that her hand was still sitting there on his thigh.

    Just as she was about to pull it back Nick had placed his  hand over hers, preventing her from moving it away. What is going on here? Alyssa wondered as she glanced up at him looking confused. Talk about awkward situations. She couldn't help, but notice that he had the strangest look in his eyes.

    What are you doing Carter? Nick asked himself as he found himself leaning closer into her. This is a bad idea, he tried to tell himself. Yet another voice seemed to be telling him to go for it. Just one little kiss, it begged. Just to see if there's still anything there. And if there was? Then what? Then we'll just see what happens.

   
Alyssa was very aware of the way that he seemed to be moving in closer and it didn't take a rocket scientist to figure out what was about to happen. She realized that her heart was pounding in her chest and even if she wanted to pull away she really couldn't. This is so wrong, she thought, yet she had she admit that she had definitely fantasized about moments like this ever since she and Nick broke up.

    Their lips were only inches apart when he heard her murmur his name softly as a weak protest, yet Nick chose to ignore it. Forging ahead, he gently pressed his lips against hers, taking full advantage of the fact that he had caught her a little off guard as he explored her mouth with his tongue.

    He's still an amazing kisser, Alyssa thought as she instinctively responded to him, not stopping to think what it meant. It had been too long since she had been kissed like this and she couldn't help, but to take full advantage of it. It wasn't until she could feel Nick's weight shifting forward, causing her to lean back a bit, that she realized that maybe she better call a time out.

    "Nick, what are we doing?" she asked as she reluctantly pulled away.

    Nick looked down at her, as if he had only just realized what he was doing at that moment. "Fuck," he cursed as he let go of her and sat up. What made him think that Alyssa actually would just give in like that?

    "It's okay Nick," she assured him as she placed a hand on his shoulder. "We probably just needed to get that out of her systems. Now its happened and we can move on." She hoped that she sounded a little more convincing than the way that she did to herself just then.

    "I'm sorry Alyssa," he apologized. "I don't why I just did that. I guess it was you know old feelings... and seeing you again... I guess I just got a little caught up in the moment."

    Alyssa could tell that he looked frustrated. Was that really the reason why he had kissed her? And what did he think? Was he still attracted to her? If anything she was left more confused than ever.

    "Look, lets just pretend it never happened okay?" he continued. "I won't tell a soul. You're right it was probably just something that was hanging over us and we did it and now its over with."

    "All right. If that's what you think is best," Alyssa agreed, trying not to show her disappointment. Maybe Nick really hadn't enjoyed the kiss as much as it seemed. Maybe there's something wrong with me? she thought.

    Because the truth was she had enjoyed the kiss. If anything it had stirred up her feelings for Nick even more so, which further complicated matters. Now that she had put herself into this situation she began to realize just how hard it was to turn back.




    Nick had been distant for the rest of the ride back into the city. He had taken out his Playstation 2 and started in on a video game while Alyssa watched, pretending to be interested. In reality her mind kept on replaying that kiss over and over and over again in her mind, like a movie scene.

    She was actually quite thankful when they reached the hotel that Nick was staying at. While they were waiting for the rest of the guys buses to arrive Nick announced that he was going to wait outside to get some air and have a cigarette.

    "I'll go with you. I need to catch a cab anyway," Alyssa told him as she followed him off the bus.

    They stood in awkward silence for a moment as he lit up a cigarette and bought it to his lips, inhaling the smoke, before Alyssa spoke up. "So, how long are you going to be on tour for?"

    "Until mid September," he answered.

    "Wow, so the tour isn't even half over yet huh?"

    Nick shook his head. "We've only done about seven shows so far, so its pretty much just begun."

    "Well, good luck on the rest of the tour. I'm going to miss you," she found herself saying.

    "You and Izzy should try to come out a visit us sometime before the end of the tour. Get a little vacation time in," he suggested as he ruffled her hair.

    "We'll see how money is," she said noncommittally as she leaned off the curb to hail a cab coming down the street. As the cab pulled beside her she turned back to him. "Well, I guess this is it for a while," she told him as she reached up to hug him. "You have my number, so you better keep in touch."

    "I will," he promised. "Especially when I want to talk about 'feelings and shit.'"

    Alyssa laughed a little and was interrupted by the can driver honking his horn. "I better go, before he leaves to pick up someone else. You know how hard cabs can be to find at this time of night."

    "Here," Nick offered as he went into his wallet and produced a ten dollar bill. "My treat."

    "I can pay for my own cab fare," she insisted, ignoring the money.

    "Not after you just paid $30 earlier to go out to Jones Beach to see me. I can do the math," he smirked.

    "Fine. You win," she gave in as he took the bill from his hands. "Good bye Nick." With that said she disappeared into the cab.

    "Good bye Alyssa," Nick echoed as he watched her drive away.

    As Alyssa watched him from the cab window her eyes stung with tears. How typical of Nick, she thought. He comes back in my life for a few days, wrecks havoc on my emotions, and then leaves again. She wondered if he was going to take their friendship or whatever he thought it was seriously in the future.


   
   

   

   


   
   

   

   
   
   

   


   

   

Chapter Fourteen by Mellz Bellz
Author's Notes:
A trip to California to surprise the guys reveals Nick's true colors to Alyssa.

Chapter 14

  The remainder of the summer passed by all too quickly for Alyssa. She tried to make the most out of everyday, knowing that this upcoming school year was going to bring an immense amount of change into her life. She was actually going to have focus on getting a real career going and quite frankly that frightened the shit out of her. Throughout those last few weeks Alyssa bummed around as much as possible, hung out with Izzy who was already shopping for baby things even though she wasn't due until March, and tried to just generally enjoy herself. She even spent a few days at her parents house, so that she could relax by the beach, but that had really been her only vacation.

    That was until Izzy approached her with the idea of flying out to California to surprise the guys at their show in Irvine. "We should do it," she had insisted. "We haven't seen them since they were here in New York last month and I think that we could use a vacation. Especially you Alyssa. Besides, didn't Nick tell you that we should go visit them at some point this tour?"

    Alyssa had told Izzy all about her encounter with Nick the previous month. Well, actually she had left out the part about the kiss. How could she possibly explain that one to Izzy when she herself didn't even understand it? She hadn't mentioned that little detail to anybody. Even her own sisters had no clue that she had even spoken to Nick after they had broken up. Alyssa just couldn't figure out the right way to tell them the truth.

    "Yea, he did," she had admitted.

    "So, then we should do it! I'll make a few calls and get it covered and then we'll just show up unannounced and surprise them," Izzy planned out. "You're in right?"

    It hadn't taken much more persuasion than that. Since she had last seen him, Nick had actually called Alyssa two or three times. Unfortunately, it seemed like whenever he did call, five minutes into the conversation he was being pulled away. They never seemed to be able to get past the small talk. That's what finally helped Alyssa decide to take Izzy up on her offer. All she could think about was that night on his tour bus. The more she thought the situation the more positive she was that there was something there. Exactly what? She really couldn't be sure. All she knew that her friendship was Nick was crazy! It made no sense at all, yet at the same time felt completely right. After that night she had decided to dive right in to it and see where it went. Life was all about risks right? And she had played it safe for much too long.

    So that's how she wound up on a plane to California one afternoon in late August with Izzy and Tristan. She had been so tempted to call or text Nick and warn him that he had a surprise on the way, but she wanted to catch him off guard and knowing her, she'd spill the beans and ruin the surprise.

    Alyssa should've figured out that the trip was going to be a disaster right from the beginning. First their plane had been delayed  three hours. When they arrived in California Izzy lost her luggage and threw a huge scene, only to discover that it had been on the baggage carousel the whole time. After that, the line for the rental car was practically out the door. Then of course they had gotten lost on the way to the hotel, and Alyssa had to witness World War three between Izzy and Tristan, each blaming each other for getting lost. Finally they arrived at the hotel cranky and jet lagged from the time difference.

    They had arranged to stay at the same hotel as the guys, but when they arrived and Izzy made a quick phone call to see if the guys were around she discovered that they were off doing some radio promotion. "Well," she said with a sigh. "Not much for us to do except take a nap and rest up for the show tonight. I've gotten so used to New York time I can't function on California time anymore."

    Alyssa did not protest as she headed up to her room. She had opted to get her own hotel room next door to Izzy and Tristan knowing that they had wanted to be alone. She hadn't been in California, but a few hours and already she had a pounding headache. Setting down her luggage on the floor and kicking off her shoes, she pulled the covers back on the hotel bed, got underneath them, and immediately fell asleep.

    When Alyssa awoke some time later she felt refreshed and her headache had completely gone away. She had just had the most amazing dream about Nick, and she could feel the corners of her lip turn upwards into a grin. They had been on his tour bus again like they had been the month before, only when he kissed her this time, she hadn't pulled away, and things had gone much further. Isn't it a little strange to be having sexual dreams about your FRIEND? she asked herself, stressing the word friend. Not that she was complaining of course. It was just the fact that here she was trying to get over Nick as a lover and dreams like that were not helping one bit.

    Sitting up in bed she glanced at the digital clock on her night table. "Shit!" she cried, when she saw what time it was. Doors were just about to open at the arena for the concert and she had just woken up. How come Izzy never called me? she wondered.

    Grabbing her cell phone she dialed Izzy's number. "Hello...' Izzy sleepily answered after a few rings.

    "Izzy, did you just wake up?" Alyssa frantically asked.

    "Yea. Why? Why'd you wake me up for?" she whined.

    "Look at the clock!"

    "Shit!" Izzy responded as she checked the time. "I'm going to kill Tristan. I don't know why he insisted on getting a flight out here the same day as the concert. He didn't want to miss one more precious day of recording-"

    "Okay Iz," Alyssa interrupted. "Let's blame Tristan later. For now we need to haul ass if we want to make it in time for the concert."

    "You're right," she agreed. "Okay I'll get Tristan up and we'll start getting ready."

    "Sounds good. Whoever finishes first will knock on the others door, okay?"

    "Yes Ma'am. See you in a few."

    "Bye." Alyssa clicked off her phone and quickly went through her bag for a fresh shirt. She wasn't going to get herself too dolled up because chances are they would probably stop back at the hotel after the concert to change again anyway because they'd be going out somewhere later.

    After she had changed into a pink tank top and a black zip up hoodie, she quickly ran a brush through her hair, brushed her teeth and applied a quick coat of lip gloss. Taking a quick glance at herself in the mirror one final time, she set out to retrieve Izzy.




    After the concert, Izzy, Tristan and Alyssa huddled together outside of the arena, trying to concoct a game plan for surprising the guys. By the time they had arrived at the venue before the concert, it had been too late to go backstage and see them, so they were left with no choice, but to take their seats for the concert.

    "Okay, well I could call one of the bodyguards and ask if things are crazy backstage and then maybe if its not we can just pop in," Izzy suggested. "Although I kind of wanted to surprise them with a little more originality. Any ideas?"

    Alyssa shrugged and was just about to reply with a no, when her cell phone began to ring. Going into her bag to retrieve it she was surprised with the irony of the identity of the caller. "It's Nick," she shared with them. "He hardly ever calls me. Do you think he suspects something?"

    "Why would he?" Izzy asked. "Talk to them though. Maybe you can find out what the guys are doing later on. Just don't mention that we're here okay?"

    She nodded as she finally answered. "Hey Nick. What's up?"

    "Not much," his familiar voice replied on the other end. "I just got offstage about 10 or 15 minutes ago and I'm just killing some time before we get back to the hotel and everything. I realized I hadn't talked to you in a while, so I figured I'd just call to see what's going on.

    "I'm doing good. Getting ready to start teaching next week when school starts up again."

    "You nervous about that?" he asked her, sounding genuinely interested.

    "Terrified," she admitted, as she caught Izzy giving her a death glare. Her eyes seemed to be saying, cut the small talk and find out some information! Remembering her purpose, she changed the subject. "So where are you tonight?"

    "California," he answered. "Irvine."

    "Awesome. It must be beautiful there now."

    "Yea. It's pretty hot though."

    The conversation fell flat for a second until Alyssa decided to inquire upon his plans for that evening. "So, you doing anything exciting now after the show?"

    "All of us are supposed to make an appearance at this new club that opened near the hotel we're staying at. I think it's called Heat or something like that. It should be interesting," he reported. "If it's really lame we'll just show our faces and then leave."

    "Sounds a lot more thrilling than what I'll be doing. I'm just about to go to bed," she lied.

    "Oh yea! I totally forgot about the time difference!" Nick apologized. "I'm sorry for calling so late. It has to be about 2:00 am for you. I'll let you go now, so you can get some sleep.

    "Thanks Nick. Hopefully I'll talk to you soon," she said, as she chuckled to herself knowing just how soon, soon would be.

    "Night Alyssa. Sleep tight," were his last words, as he hung up the phone.

    "So? What did you find out?" Izzy pounced on her the minute she hung up the phone.

    "All the guys are going to be making an appearance at this club called Heat by the hotel," Alyssa repeated. "If its dead then they are probably just going to call it a night."

    "Excellent job! You did well," she told her, patting her on the shoulder. "So here's the plan. We linger here for a bit, maybe go get some food to give the guys a head start, and then we go back to the hotel, and get ready. I'll make a few phone calls to make sure they are still at the club and that I can get onto the guest list, and then we show up and surprise them!"

    The plan sounded pretty good to Alyssa. She couldn't wait to see the look of surprise in Nick's face when he saw that she was in California after all.




    Later on that evening, when Alyssa stepped into Heat with Izzy and Tristan, a wave of excitement washed over. She was going to see Nick again! She really looked forward to hanging out with him again. Now that they were friends, it was like a fresh beginning for them. It was almost like more innocent times.

    She had worn one of her favorite club tops that she was dying for Nick to see her in, because even though the two had decided to pretend as if the kiss they had shared last month never happened, Alyssa still wanted to kind of flaunt to him what he could've had. Granted, they were only supposed to be friends, but Alyssa kind of liked the possibility that laid between the two of them. The ivory colored tank top, hugged her in all the right places and had a see through lace back. She could already feel herself getting appreciative stares as she followed Izzy and Tristan to the VIP area.

    As they made their way towards the bar Izzy spotted Melanie and Kevin a few feet away from her. Kevin was engrossed in conversation with somebody, so he didn't take any notice of them, but Melanie did. She and Izzy exchanged eye contact and Melanie's face grew into a surprised grin. Izzy put her finger to her lip to motion for her to pretend she hadn't seen them. Melanie just nodded as Izzy tiptoed behind Kevin and placed her hands over his eyes. "Guess who?"

    Kevin whirled around in disbelief. "Izzy? What are you doing here?" he asked as he embraced his cousin.

    "Tristan, Alyssa, and I thought that we'd come out to California to surprise you. We were supposed to have met up with you before, but we had a few minor setbacks," she explained, glaring at Tristan.

    "You shouldn't have came all the way to see me in your condition," Kevin scolded.

    Izzy sighed, rolling her eyes. "What condition? I'm barely two months pregnant. It's totally safe for me to travel."

    Alyssa lost interest in the reunion between Kevin and Izzy. She found herself scanning the crowd to see if she could find Nick. "I'm going to go the bar to get a drink," she excused herself. She thought for sure she'd see him hanging around there, but no such luck. Giving up, she ordered herself a Malibu Bay Breeze. As soon as the bartender handed it to her she set off in search of Nick, but barely made it two feet before she bumped into another person almost causing her to spill her drink before she had even taken a sip.

    "Hey watch it!" she said nastily and then turned bright red in embarrassment as she looked up at the face of the guy she had bumped into, who was no one else but AJ. "Oh my God. I'm sorry," she apologized. "I don't even know it was you."

    "Alyssa? What are you doing out here in this part of the country? I don't see you for over three years and now I bump into in the damndest places," he joked as he leaned over to give her a kiss on the cheek.

    "I know right," she answered with a laugh. "Izzy and I decided to take a little last minute vacation trip and come out here to surprise you guys. Nick told me that we should just show up one day to visit, so here we are!"

    "I had no clue you were even here," AJ told her. "None of the other guys even mentioned it."

    "We only just bumped into Kevin right now. Nick actually called me after the show ironically and I lied and told him that I was in New York and about to go to bed. That's how we found where you guys are going to be tonight." She stopped to take a sip of her drink. "By the way have you seen Nick? I've been looking around all over for him."

    "Here's around here somewhere," AJ answered. Something about the way in which AJ spoke, gave Alyssa the feeling that maybe he knew more than what he led on. "You and Nick have gotten pretty close again, haven't you?"

    Alyssa shrugged. How could she possibly describe their friendship to AJ when she herself didn't fully understand it? "I guess you could say that," she finally spoke up. "We did a lot of talking that night at Izzy's and we decided that its important for us to still be friends, so we hung out a little bit at Jones Beach and we've talked on the phone here and there. I really wanted to surprise him tonight."

    "You still love him, don't you?" he bluntly questioned.

    "What!?" Alyssa asked, nearly choking on her drink. "That's ridiculous! Of course I don't love him anymore!"

    "I'll take that as a yes," he said with a smirk. "You think you're such a great actress Alyssa, but I know you too well. I can see right through the denial act. You're dying to find him because you can't get enough of him."

    Alyssa felt herself getting flustered and soon finally gave in to her denial. "All right. I wouldn't say I still love him, but maybe I am a little confused about how much I actually care for him, but the more I see of him the less awkward things should be right?"

    AJ shrugged. "I don't know Alyssa. Just be careful."

    "Be careful? What do you mean by that?" she asked, in a puzzled tone.

    "Nick is under a lot of stress right now. I'm not sure if he knows what he wants half the time," he explained with a sigh. "I care about you Alyssa, so I don't want you to get hurt. I just don't want you to put all your eggs in one basket with Nick."

    Alyssa's brow furrowed. "You know something. You don't want me to see Nick right now. What's going on? What could he be up to that would hurtful for me to see?"

    It was then that Alyssa spotted Nick just over AJ's shoulder and noticed that he wasn't alone. If he had been with one other girl it wouldn't have been so bad, but wrapped around each of his arms were two of the trashiest looking girls that she had ever seen. Both had stringy looking bleached blonde hair and matching orange complexions as if they went a little too overboard with the self tanner. They both appeared to be wearing similar outfits, short denim mini skirts with stiletto heels and tops that appeared to be about two sizes too small for their bodies. What look are we going for exactly here? Alyssa wondered to herself. Dirt bag Couture?

   
AJ followed her gaze over to Nick and his female companions. He could immediately recognize the hurt and betrayal in Alyssa's eyes as one of the girls leaned over to whisper something in Nick's ear that made his face light up in a laugh. "I'm sorry," he apologized. "Not what you expected to see, huh?"

    Alyssa indignantly swallowed back some tears and as bravely as possible replied, "I don't care. He's allowed to talk to other girls. Why should I be jealous? It's not like we're still dating or anything."

    "You don't have to bullshit me Alyssa. You're hurt I can tell," he sympathized.

    She continued to watch as both the girls began to sexily grind up against Nick, sandwiching him between both of their bodies. The asshole looks like he's having the time of his life, she thought, a jealous rage bubbling up inside her. Between watching Nick and his fan club and having to listen to AJ console her, Alyssa couldn't take it anymore. Blinded by emotions she quickly blurted out, "I think I'm going to go outside for a minute for air or something. I need to get out of here."

    Without even waiting for a reply she quickly made her way back of the VIP section, ignoring AJ's protests behind her. She threw her drink down on the nearest surface and pushed through the exit of the club into the fresh air.

    Why is that every time I see Nick I wind up practically having anxiety attacks? she asked herself as she rounded the corner of the building before letting her tears pour down her face. Why do I care so much? Why does seeing him with a bunch of trashy girls make me so mad? She had no right to him. They were friends and that was it. She couldn't tell him that he couldn't enjoy himself with other girls.

    But why does it have to be those kind of girls? she wondered.

    She hated feeling like this. She hated how Nick would always make her feel like she was a million dollars one moment and then the next make her feel like absolute shit. It had always been that way with them, beginning with his return home from Europe after that first unavoidable separation as a couple...

**********

    After six unbearably long weeks, Nick was finally returning home from Sweden. Alyssa had been counting the days practically since the day he had left. She had missed him something awful although she had tried her best to hide it. In the beginning, he called her almost every day, but as time wore on, his calls became less and less frequent. Izzy assured her that it was probably just the strain of recording that was getting to him as he put in longer and longer days in the studio and that she shouldn't worry about it, but Alyssa was still paranoid.

    Since he had left she hadn't been able to shake the unsettling feeling that things between her and Nick had cooled  down a little bit. The more she thought about their last night together on the boat, the more she began to wonder if Nick was really disappointed in the fact that she had refused to sleep with him. There really wasn't any real indication of this, but Alyssa still felt uneasy about the way things had ended with them. His behavior at the airport before he left and even his phone call telling her that he loved her felt almost forced to her, but maybe she was letting her imagination get a little too carried away?

    Truth was, she had been thinking about that night constantly and trying to imagine what would have happened if she had given in and they had in fact made love. It had been the first time in their relationship that whole sex issue had ever came up and Alyssa hadn't known how to react, especially with him leaving the next day. This being her first serious romantic relationship, she was still obviously a virgin and she had needed time to think the decision over.

    But six weeks had turned out to be more than enough time for her. The more she thought about the idea, the more comfortable she felt with it, and the more positive she was that she wanted to have sex with him. Badly.

    It totally consumed her thoughts. She was obsessed with the idea. With every passing day her desire to see him again only multiplied, until finally the day she had been waiting for had arrived. The day that Nick returned home.

    When she went to pick him up at the airport as soon as she saw his familiar figure emerge from the terminal she practically jumped into his arms.

    "Someone's happy to see me,' he said with a grin.

    "More than you know," she breathed in as she leaned in to slowly kiss him for the first time in six weeks. God, how had she managed this long without him?

    "Mmm.." Nick responded as he reluctantly pulled away, remembering that they were in a crowded airport terminal. "Save that for later."

    "Gladly," she answered, tugging on his hand. "Come on. Let's get you home."

    On the way to Nick's house from the airport they stopped to get Chinease takeout to eat when they arrived. When they finally reached their destination they brought their dinner into the living room to eat as they tried to settle down and watch a movie. Alyssa not only found that she didn't have an appetite, but she couldn't even distinguish any of the details about the movie they were watching. All she could think about was him and how amazing it was to have him beside her again in person.

    "I missed you so much," she confessed as she nestled her head against his chest.

    "I missed you too, although recording kept my mind pretty busy," he admitted.

    "I bet it did, but that's okay. I understand," she told him as she played with the little hairs at the back of his neck.

    "Well, you had school and work to keep you busy right?" he asked her.

    "Oh yea. They kept me busy, but I still had too much time on my hands to miss you. But you're home now."

    "Yea I'm home, " he echoed, a little thrown off from her behavior.

    "Can I ask you something Nick?"

    "Sure," he answered. "What?"

    "Are you paying attention to the movie at all?" she asked her lips gently tickling his ear.

    Nick had to admit that he wasn't. At least not anymore.

    "That's what I thought," she confirmed as she climbed into his lap before leaning down to kiss him deeply, nibbling gently on his bottom lip.

    Gradually the kisses grew more plentiful and more passionate and Alyssa decided that now was the perfect moment to give him the green light. Pulling her plump lips away from his for a moment she softly whispered in his ear, "Why don't we head upstairs?"
   
    He didn't seem to have to be asked twice. Eagerly, he took Alyssa's hand and let her lead him upstairs to his bedroom. When they reached the foot of his bed, he carefully lifted her up and placed her on top of it. Moments later they were laying side by side, with Alyssa lightly running her tongue over his in a way that she could tell was driving him crazy.  As they continued to kiss, his hands began to play with the bottom of her shirt, slowly inching it up her body. Raising her arms she helped him pull it off, revealing the lacy lavender colored bra she had just bought at Victoria's Secret specifically for this occasion.

    Nick rolled her over onto her back and began a trail of light kisses down her neck and over the top of her breasts. Alyssa moaned softly in pleasure at the new sensation, as his hands ran over her back and stomach. She all of a sudden found herself beginning to crave the feeling of his skin on hers. Very tentatively, her hands crept underneath the bottom of his shirt, letting her fingers explore the skin underneath. She hardly even realized that she was lifting it up until it was over his head and thrown aside.

    His skin felt like heaven on top of hers. Growing bolder now, she rolled them over so she was on top of him. Her finger tips gently traced over the numerous tattoos that adorned his chest and arms while his hands floated over her lower back down towards her butt. She could already start to feel his arousal against herself giving a preview of what was to come.

    As his hands moved back up and lingered about the clasp of her bra, she softly began to suck at a spot on his neck, just below his ear. Discovering that it was a sensitive spot just by his change in breathing, Alyssa continued with just a bit more pressure. She was delighted to hear him moan beneath her.

    That was until the moment she focused her attention slightly upwards to nibble softly at his earlobe. "Mmm... Katie..." he responded.

    Alyssa's head immediately shot up as she froze. She couldn't have possibly heard what she had thought she heard, could she? "Wh- What did you call me?" she stammered.

    Just from the look of pure horror in Nick's eyes she knew that she hadn't been mistaken. "I can't fucking believe you!" she cried with tears stinging her as eyes as she sprang up from the bed.

Chapter Fifteen by Mellz Bellz
Author's Notes:
To make a bad night even worse, Alyssa is tag teamed by Nick's new "friends."

Chapter 15

    After about 10 or 15 minutes of tears, Alyssa finally came to the realization that she needed to stop. So, he's with some other girls. So, he's hurt me in the past. So, maybe he's just nothing but a horny jerk who can't seem to keep it in his pants. It's no longer my problem and I shouldn't get upset over it, she attempted to reason with herself. The way she was acting was downright ridiculous. She had no right to be this upset.  If Nick didn't want to notice her, she should still have fun, right? There were still four other guys who appreciated her presence.

    Izzy is going to call a search party to look for me pretty soon, Alyssa realized as she made an attempt to compose herself. I better get back inside.

   
When she was sure that she had calmed down, she took a deep breath and rounded the side of building to head back into the club. She'd barely made it two feet when she froze and ducked back behind the corner. Standing near the club entrance, passing around a cigarette, stood Nick and his two new friends.

    Shit, she thought. Why is it that every time I try to run away from him, he always manages to find me? She had no idea what she should do. There was no way that she could walk past them without having to do a lot of explaining, yet it was too painful to stand there and eavesdrop on their conversation.

    The piercing giggle of one of the blondes over something Nick evidently said was enough to make up Alyssa's mind. She couldn't just stand there and watch the three of them. Maybe if she walked by nonchalantly with her hair in her face she could go unnoticed. With a little luck maybe Nick would be either too drunk or too preoccupied to recognize her. Tossing her hair over her shoulder, so that it would conceal most of her face to Nick, she nervously began her descent with her eyes focused low to the ground.

    Please don't see me, she prayed, as she could feel herself walk right past them. Please don't even notice me.

   
She thought that she had made it past them. Thank God, she thought, but her thankfulness was just a little too soon. All of a sudden, she felt a familiar grip on her wrist and she froze. This can not be happening.

   
"You know something? You look just like my ex girlfriend," she heard Nick's voice slur out. She slowly whirled around, so that she was facing him and observed his eyes lighting up in recognition. "Alyssa! It is you! How the fuck are you?" he asked as he stepped forward to give her a hug, stumbling from his lack of perceptual skills.

    "Whoa there," she warned as she helped to steady him. He'd obviously had more than a few before. This was going to be an interesting conversation.

    "Wait a second. Didn't I just talk to you earlier tonight and you were in New York? How'd you get to California so fast?" he wondered out loud as his mind slowly filled in the blanks.
   
    Alyssa could feel the two other girls staring at her contemptuously, as if to ask, who are you? She assumed that she should probably explain herself, but honestly she wondered how much Nick would be able to comprehend in his state. "I lied. I was in California the whole time. You said that I should stop by and visit you on tour sometime, so Izzy, Tristan, and I came out to surprise you and the other guys."

    "I did?" Nick asked, sounding as if he couldn't quite recall the conversation.

    "Yes, you did," she reminded him between gritted teeth. "Remember... Outside your hotel the last time we saw each other... Before I got into the cab?"

    "Oh right! Sorry about that. My minds a little fuzzy right now," he responded with a laugh.

    I bet, Alyssa thought to herself, fighting the urge to roll her eyes.

    "Nicky," the blonde one his left purred. "Aren't you going to introduce us to your friend?"

    "Yes Nick," Alyssa icily replied. "Why don't you introduce us?" The nerve of that girl! she thought. And since when did Nick let anyone get off with calling him Nicky? Usually that would warrant a surefire death glare from him. The only one who could get away with it had been Alyssa and that had only been during sex.

    As soon as he opened his mouth, Alyssa realized that her sarcasm had been completely wasted on him because he seemed too drunk to have picked up on it. "Well ladies, this here is an old friend of mine named Alyssa," he introduced as he casually draped his arm over her shoulder, which Alyssa wasted no time in shrugging off. If Nick noticed, he didn't seem to be the least bit phased by her action.

    "Alyssa, these are my new friends Tiffany," he continued on, referring to the blonde on his left. "And- What's your name again baby?" he asked, the one on his right with a lopsided grin on his face.

    "Cynthia," she replied with a giggle, not at all offended that he hadn't seemed to remember her name. Then again he's never been good at keeping names straight, even mine, Alyssa thought cynically.

    For a moment there was an awkward pause until Alyssa decided that it would probably be best to make her exit now, while she still had the opportunity, and before she made an ass out of herself by saying something she regretted. What was the point of trying to talk to him like this? And why should she submit herself to further torture by sticking around? It would be pointless. "Well, it was nice meeting you girls," she replied with just a hint of sarcasm in her voice. Turning towards Nick she continued, "You look a little uhmm... busy, so if you decide you want to talk or something later, I'll be around." Without even waiting for him to reply, she whirled around and headed back into the club without stopping to look back.

   "What's her problem?" she overheard one of the girls ask Nick.

    Alyssa just smirked to herself as she stepped back inside, not even lingering to hear Nick's response. If only you knew,  she bitterly thought.
   




    Look at them. The way they are all over him like that. Why don't they just have sex right here on the dance floor? Alyssa wondered to herself as she observed Nick and his harem later on that night from her position at the bar. They were dancing (if you could call it that) to Kayne West's Gold digger.

    How ironic, she thought, as she raised her shot glass to her lips. They probably are a bunch of little gold diggers.

   
Tilting her head back, she downed her Kamikaze shot, welcoming the slight burning sensation in her throat from the vodka. It had been her fourth one since she had come back inside after her run in with Nick. She had hoped with the more she drank, the less she would seem to care about Nick's choice in women, but if anything, the alcohol seemed to only be making her even more irrational and bitter.

    "Hey, slow down a little bit with those shots. You're going to get yourself sick you know,"Izzy warned her. Izzy was unaware of what had happened outside, but she was perceptive enough to know that Alyssa was obviously upset with Nick's behavior. That and the fact that Alyssa was making it pretty obvious with the way she kept glaring in Nick's direction.

    Alyssa rolled her eyes. "I'm fine Izzy! It's not like I've never drank before," she answered, a little belligerently. "Do you think they're twins? Because if they are then that's just nasty."

    "Who?" Izzy asked, looking confused.

    "Those two sluts that Nick is with," she impatiently explained. "Come on, the only time I ever went to a club and dressed just like my friend, I was 18. It's just not cute."

    "Alyssa," Izzy cut in trying to calm her friend down.

    Ignoring Izzy, Alyssa continued on her voice beginning to rise. "And who wears black eye shadow? Especially when your skin is already orange. They look like fucking Halloween."

    "Alyssa you can't look like Halloween. Halloween is a holiday, not a thing," Izzy reminded her. "People are starting to stare. Maybe you should lay off the drinks for now, okay?"

    "I don't care!" Alyssa exploded. "I'm having a rough night. The least you can do is let me imbibe in alcohol."

    Izzy leaned back against the bar and sighed exchanging a worried glance with Tristan. She had never known Alyssa to be a nasty drunk, but then again Izzy had never seen Alyssa in this kind of position before.

Now I aint sayin she a gold digger
But she aint messin wit no broke niggaz
Now I aint sayin she a gold digger
but she aint messin wit no broke niggaz
get down girl go head get down
get down girl go head get down
get down girl go head get down
get down girl go head

    Alyssa's attention again focused on the trio out on the dance floor while the song continued to play. What she saw made her mouth gape with shock and disgust. Nick was once again sandwiched between the two girls who were grinding up against him. Only this time as the song moved into the end of the chorus, the girl in front of him seductively lowered her body against Nick's towards the floor, seeming to mimic the lyrics in the song. Her head seemed to be literally only inches away from his crotch.

    "Oh my God!" Alyssa exclaimed from her vantage point, not disguising the fact that she was practically yelling. "Did you see that? She was practically about to suck hi-"

    "Okay!" Izzy interrupted grabbing Alyssa by the arm before she could finish her sentence and further embarrass herself. "Alyssa honey, I think we need to go for a little walk."

    "I don't want to," she whined as she tried to pull away.

    "Too bad. You're going!" Izzy finally managed to drag her towards the direction of the ladies room. Pinching her arm she explained in a softer voice. "You are making a scene and people are staring at you. Let's go into the bathroom and get you calmed down."

    With a sigh, Alyssa gave in and let Izzy lead her into the dimly lit bathroom of the club. Once inside she burst into tears. "I don't get it Iz! Why does he want to be seen with girls like that? What do they have that I don't?"

    "Besides gonorrhea, probably not a hell of a lot," Izzy told her, trying to make a joke as she wrapped her arms around Alyssa and let her friend cry on her shoulder. "You still have feelings for him huh?"

    Alyssa looked up as she wiped her eyes. "You know you're the second person to ask me that today. AJ accused me of still loving him earlier tonight."

    "Are we right?" Izzy tentatively asked.

    "I don't know," Alyssa admitted with a sigh. "I really shouldn't after what he did to me and then after the way he's acting tonight, but I guess I do. Otherwise I wouldn't be this upset over seeing him with other girls like this right?"

    Izzy looked sympathetic. "I can't say I didn't warn you about his behavior, but I suppose you can't control your feelings for another person especially someone that you feel as strongly about as Nick. It's really shitty of him to ignore you especially when he practically invited you to come out here to visit. I don't mean to be cold Alyssa, but maybe you're better off without him. He's not going to change his ways anytime soon. Believe me, I've tried myself to get him to come around, but he's going to continue to do what he wants. Honestly I've seen him much worse off."

    Alyssa leaned her head back against the cool tile wall. "I kept asking myself how bad could his partying be. Okay, so he likes to drink. So he likes girls. I just never knew it would make me feel this way. Why does seeing him with those girls get to me so much?"

    "Because you have class honey and they don't," her friend explained. "Don't give them or Nick the satisfaction that they are hurting you." She stopped to rummage through her pocketbook for some lip gloss. "Here. Fix yourself up and then go out there and pretend that they don't even exist."

    Alyssa grudgingly accepted the lip gloss and attempted to apply some onto her lips, but forgot about her impaired senses and missed her mouth by a few inches. Izzy just laughed at her pathetic attempt. "Let me do it," she insisted as she grabbed the tube of lip gloss and applied a coat to her friends lips.

    Just as she was finishing up the bathroom door swung open and in walked the last two girls Alyssa wanted to see right then. Her body tensed the minute that the two girls squeezed their way over to the mirror to inspect their makeup and she found herself choking on their way too sweet perfume.

    Izzy gave her a look that seemed to tell Alyssa to just ignore the two, so she did. Acting as if they weren't there she pretended to fix her hair for a moment longer. One of the girls had taken out a tube of lipstick and began to apply it in thick coats across her lips. Wet and Wild, Alyssa observed the brand with a smirk. That seems about their style.

   
Making a pouting face at the mirror to ensure that her lips looked full enough, the girl looked up and caught Alyssa's reflection in the mirror. "You're the girl from outside that used to date Nick. Alana was it?"

    "Alyssa," she corrected, biting her tongue to not say more.

    "Oh right," she giggled. "So you and Nick dated a long time huh?"

    Why are they being so nosy? Alyssa wondered as she noticed the second girl patiently waiting to hear her response. "I guess you could say that, but it was a long time ago and frankly I don't think its any of your business."

    Izzy gave her a reassuring pat on her hand. "Let's get going. Tristan is going to wonder where we went."

    Alyssa nodded and started to turn away when the girl who she remembered as Tiffany interrupted her. "I'm sorry. You're right. It's none of my business. I was just wondering if maybe you could help us out a little with something."

    She was obviously being set up and under normal circumstances she probably would have came up with a sly retort, but due to the alcohol and her emotional state, Alyssa seemed to fall right into their hands. "Like what?" she warily asked.

    The two girls exchanged sly glances at each other. "Well, we figured that since you had been so close with Nick and all that maybe you could tell us if the rumors are true?" Tiffany continued, her eyes twinkling in amusement.

    Alyssa looked at them with a puzzled expression. "What do you mean rumors?"

    The pair just laughed at her innocence. "Well," the other girl Cynthia started, as she exchanged a look with Tiffany. "We've just kind of heard that he was uhmm... pretty well endowed and wanted to know if it was true before we let things go any further. Why waste our time only to be disappointed later on tonight?"
  
    Alyssa's jaw dropped and she could already feel the anger rumbling throughout her chest. How dare they expect me to honestly answer a question like THAT? How was she supposed to respond to that? Her first instinct was to lunge at the two girls, but she reminded herself of Izzy's words just a few minutes earlier. You have class Alyssa, she told herself. They're looking for a bitch fight and you are NOT going to give them the satisfaction.

   
Substituting for Alyssa's stunned response Izzy quickly jumped to her friends defense. "You know the two of you are really living up to that whole nasty whore image you seem to be going for. Looks to me like you girls and Nick deserve each other, so have fun tonight! Come on Alyssa," she said, as she grabbed her arm and headed for the door. "We don't need to put up with these bitches and their immature questions. We have integrity." Without looking back she guided Alyssa back out into the crowded club.

    Once they were a safe distance from the bathroom Alyssa collapsed in Izzy's arms. "I want to go back to the hotel," she cried. "I can't stand to be here another moment."

    Izzy nodded. "I understand. Let me just find Tristan and we can leave. God, I can't believe how cruel those girls were. I've seen a lot of nasty girls hanging over Nick throughout the time I've known him, but they were pretty ballsy."

    "I know I've never had that kind of experience with even the rudest of his fans while we were dating," she confessed as she wiped her eyes with the back of her hand.

    "The girls that he chooses to consort with just get worse and worse all the time," Izzy murmured. "I wonder when the fuck he'll just grow up and snap out of it."




    By the time they had reached the hotel, not only was Alyssa feeling emotionally drained, but the Kamikaze shots were starting to take their toll on her. I should've listened to Iz when she told me to slow down, she thought miserably as she clutched her stomach. "I don't feel so good," she groaned as the threesome reached the hotel lobby.

    Izzy sighed and looked up at Tristan as they made their way to the elevator. "I'll get Alyssa settled into her room and make sure she's okay and you can go onto bed. I'll join you as soon as I can."

    "All right," Tristan agreed, as they got into the elevator.

    As the elevator traveled upwards, Alyssa sank to the floor in a little ball with her knees drawn up to her chest. "I think I'm going to be sick," she sniffled. She hated throwing up and did absolutely everything she could to prevent it. Very seldom did she physically get sick from drinking.

    "Well, try to wait a few more minutes. We're almost on out floor," Izzy told her in a soothing voice as she stroked her hair.

    When the doors opened, Izzy and Tristan helped pull Alyssa up to a standing position. Dragging her down the hall to her room Izzy grabbed Alyssa's wristlet from her and took out her hotel key to open the door. As soon as she managed to pry it open Alyssa made a dash for the bathroom and locked herself inside.

    Feeling sympathetic for her friend Izzy went into Alyssa's suitcase and pulled out a pair of pajama pants and a thin camisole tank top for Alyssa to sleep in. Very tentatively she knocked on the bathroom door. "Can I come in?"

    "Yea, hold on," Alyssa weakly replied as she cracked open the door.

    Izzy found her Alyssa sitting in a fetal position with her back leaning against the wall, staring at the toilet as of it were some sort monster. Her skin looked pale and her eyes glazed.

    "Did you throw up?" she asked.

    "Not yet, but I think I might any second now," Alyssa answered.

    Without another reply, Izzy headed towards the sink and filled a plastic cup up with cold water. "Drink," she commanded as she thrust it towards Alyssa.

    Alyssa slowly took a tiny sip of the cool water, feeling slightly relieved as she swallowed it down. "Why didn't I listen to you when you told me to stop?"

    "Because you were too pissed off at Nick to care," Izzy explained as she sat down next to her. "I bought you some clothes to change into for later."

    "Thanks," Alyssa said. "You're going to be a great mother."

    Izzy shrugged. "If taking care of my drunk best friend is any practice for motherhood then I'd hope so."

    "If you want you can go now. I'll be okay. I'm sure you don't want to see me throwing up my guts anyway," she told Izzy.

    "Are you sure? Just a few moments ago you were acting as if you were going to die."

    "I'll be fine, Alyssa assured her. "I have my water and if I need you I'll call."

    "All right," Izzy reluctantly agreed as she stood up. "I'm sorry tonight turned out to be so shitty for you."

    "Me too," Alyssa responded. "We should've known this trip was going to be a disaster from the moment we had all those mishaps at the airport."

    "Try to get some sleep," Izzy told her before she disappeared out the bathroom door.

    Alyssa listened for the moment she heard her hotel room door close. God, tonight has been one hell of a night and not in a good way, she thought to herself. All of a sudden a wave of nausea swept over her and for a moment she was almost certain that she was going to vomit. Taking a sip of water and a deep breath, the feeling slowly subsided. I think I'm going to be okay after all.

   
She managed to strip off her clothes and put on the pajamas that Izzy had left for her. The unsettling sensation in her stomach, although still present, seemed to diminish. She thankfully realized that she was not going to get sick tonight.

    Thank God for that at least, she cynically thought as she stumbled towards her bed and threw the comforter over her head. At least if she slept she wouldn't have to think about Nick or his two skanky companions any longer.

Chapter Sixteen by Mellz Bellz
Author's Notes:
After another run in with the girls, Alyssa confronts Nick about his behavior the previous night.

Chapter 16

   Sleep for Alyssa that night was fitful at best. Contrary to her belief that it would grant her peace from Nick, she was haunted by dreams and memories of him. The most vivid dream had been about the night he came back from Sweden and the argument that had ensued between them after he had accidentally called her Katie. It felt almost as if she was completely reliving it word for word.

*****

    "Alyssa, wait! I can explain," Nick insisted as he sat up in bed.

    "I hope you can fucking explain!" she exploded, searching the ground for her shirt. "You just called me Katie! The last time I checked Katie and Alyssa sound absolutely nothing alike. Obviously whoever this 'Katie' is the two of you managed to get pretty close."

    "I never intended to hurt you," he tried to explain to her with a pleading gaze.

    Alyssa just rolled her eyes as she found her shirt and pulled it up over her head. "I bet Nick. Don't you mean that you never intended for me to find out?"

    "Don't put words in my mouth."

    "So who was she Nick? I already am willing to bet that she was some random girl you came across in Sweden, probably at a club who couldn't keep her hands off of you. Am I getting warm? Then you're going to tell me that you were drunk and had no recollection of what you were doing, so it really wasn't your fault at all. Besides you figured that I'd never find out-"

    "That's not how it happened at all!" Nick interrupted, his anger and frustration evident. "So don't pretend like you know what happened. The situation was much more complex than you seem to think it was. I feel insulted that you think that about me!"

    Alyssa found herself laughing condescendingly. "YOU feel insulted? This is great! You're the one what goes off and sleeps with another girl yet I'M the bad guy. I love how you turn this all around and make it seem like YOU'RE the victim here. Well, if I'm so 'wrong' about the situation maybe you'd like to enlighten me?"

    She stared at Nick with her arms crossed over her chest impatiently waiting for him to collect his thoughts. He was either not sure what to say or fighting to find a good excuse, because he was quiet, but appeared deep in thought. He could be like this all night. She couldn't do this right now. Her body was pounding with adrenaline and the rage she felt bubbling up inside her was threatening to consume her. Fuck explanations. She needed to get out of there before she killed him.

    "Yea, that's what I thought," she replied, taking his silence for a sign of his surrender. "Well, I hope you're happy with yourself." With that said she whirled around and ran down the stairs intent on getting the hell out of there before she broke down in tears.

    She was just grabbing her purse and her car keys when she heard Nick following her down the stairs. "Alyssa," he demanded as he grabbed her wrist. "Will you just listen to me for two minutes?"

    "Honestly Nick as of right now I am so angry that I just can't deal with this right now. I don't want to hear your excuses anymore. I need to leave now before I do or say something I really regret," she tried to explain as she wriggled out of his grasp.

    "Can I call you or something when you're ready to talk?" he asked her.

    "I don't know," she answered. "I just can't be around you right now." Breaking free from his hold she headed towards the door, but before leaving she turned around to get one last word in.

    "You know do you even realize just what was about to happen back there? I was literally putting myself out there for you. I was totally vulnerable, yet willing to give myself to you because I trusted you! And to hear you call me by another woman's name... Well, that hurt me in a way that I don't think that you could even imagine. I was one hundred percent into it and I thought that you were to. Apparently I was mistaken. Your mind appeared to be one other things. So, yea... I just wanted to thank you for making me feel like absolute shit." Without even waiting for his response she bolted out the door and ran to the safety of her car. It was only after she started the engine and drove a block or so from Nick's house that she allowed herself to finally cry.

******

   
When she finally awoke and realized what she had been dreaming about, Alyssa inwardly groaned. Why is he ALWAYS on my mind? That whole fight was like a thousand years ago! Why am I thinking about it now? Deep down, she supposed the answer was obvious, even though she refused to admit it to herself. She'd been upset about seeing Nick with another girl, or in this case girls, which instantly made her think about him and Katie. Funny how history almost repeats itself, she thought cynically to herself.

    I can't waste anymore time thinking of him, she resolutely decided as she sat up in bed. Outside of a slight, dull headache, she felt fine from her small drinking binge the night before. Thankfully she seldom got hangovers. Once her feet hit the floor, she went over to her suitcase to retrieve some Advil and then headed to the bathroom for a quick shower. About 20 minutes later she was dressed in a pair of sweats and a tank top with her hair secured back in a damp ponytail. Slipping on her flip flops, Alyssa realized her stomach was actually growling a little bit. I guess I could check out the hotel cafe for a bagel or something, she decided.

    As she left her room and passed Izzy and Tristan's, she paused for a moment wondering if she should invite them along with her. They probably want to sleep, she reasoned and continued down the hall to the elevator. Once the doors opened she stepped inside and hit the button to reach the main floor.

    The elevator began its steady descent downwards, stopping about three floors later to let on more passengers. As soon as Alyssa heard a pair of loud familiar giggles she instantly regretted not waking Izzy and Tristan to accompany her. Who happened to board the elevator just then, but Nick's two little pals from last night. Maybe if I ignore them they won't say anything to me, she prayed, as she moved closer to the corner of the elevator.

    Glancing at the pair out from the corner of her eyes, she observed that both girls were still dressed in their outfits from the night before. Then it hit her. Of course Nick was staying at the same hotel because Izzy had mentioned that she had booked rooms their specifically for that reason. She wasn't positive what floor Nick was staying on, but she had a sinking suspicion it had been the one that the girls had just boarded from. Oh God, am I bearing witness to the elevator ride of shame? she wondered. All of a sudden she felt sick.

    "Oh, look who it is!" one of the piercing voices interrupted her thoughts.

    Shit. They had spotted her. Acting as nonchalantly as possible, Alyssa plastered a fake smile on her face. "Oh.. uh hi. Funny running into you here," she awkwardly replied.

    "Yea, I mean what are the chances? I didn't know you were staying here?" the one girl, who Alyssa thought was Cynthia asked.

    "Oh, well I am. I didn't know that you were either," Alyssa commented her eyes narrowing slightly. Right after she said it she knew that she had just dug her own grave.

    "We're not. We were just 'visiting,'" her friend threw in as the girls exchanged conspiratorial glances and laughed.

    Yea, I'm sure you were just 'visiting.' And I can probably figure out exactly WHO you went to 'visit,' Alyssa thought to herself, anger already beginning to flood her cheeks. But she refused to give them the satisfaction that she actually gave a damn about who Nick happened to spend the night with.

    Thankfully enough the light on the elevator control panel indicated that they were reaching the main floor. She found herself almost sighing in relief when the doors began to crack open.

    "Oh yea," Tiffany added, obviously wanting to get one last dig in. "Just thought we'd let you know that we found out that answer to those rumors last night." She seemed to pause for dramatic effect. "They're all true. We weren't the least bit disappointed." With that said her and Cynthia exchanged satisfied glances and strode off leaving Alyssa still in the elevator, her mouth gaping in shock.

    Those little bitches! Those filthy rotten whores! Alyssa's mind was still reeling from their last words to her. She easily could've put two and two together and figured out what happened last night between them and Nick. She wasn't stupid. But to hear them be so bold to admit it openly and to seem to be proud of it! It's a good thing that they left before I could react because I think I would've killed those sluts!

   
Alyssa was so wrapped up in her anger that she hadn't even realized that the doors had shut and the elevator had continued upwards again. Great, now I have to ride up again just to go back down. Today was getting off to a great start.

    Once she finally reached the main floor, Alyssa angrily got off and made her way towards the hotel cafe where she ordered a sesame bagel with creme cheese and a small coffee. She paid for her items and then contemplated on whether she should get a table or just take her food up to her room to eat. I really don't want to see anyone right now, she decided, as she headed back towards the elevator. Eating her breakfast in her hotel room by herself sounded like heaven to her.

    She whirled around and headed off towards the elevator until a familiar voice interrupted her. "Alyssa! Wait up!" she heard it say.

    Oh no... Exactly who I DON'T want to see right now. Maybe I can pretend I didn't hear him?

    Too late,
she realized as she felt Nick's hand on her shoulder as he caught up with her. "You were walking so fast I didn't think that you heard me," he told her, sounding a little out of breath from trying to catch up with her.

    She turned around and looked up at him. He was dressed in sweats and a t-shirt with a baseball cap on his head. His eyes had bags underneath him, as if he hadn't gotten much sleep and in his hands was a large cup of coffee.

    "Good morning Nick," she said a little cooly, unsure of how she should act. She was still royally pissed at him for ignoring her last night and now that it was confirmed that he had spent the night with Tweedle Dumb and Tweedle Dumber, she'd lost any bit of sympathy that she had left for him. "Rough night last night?"

    "Yea, sort of," he vaguely answered. "Listen I wanted to apologize for last night. I remember seeing you at the club, but I guess it just didn't really sink in that you were really here. I know its no excuse, but I was drunk and I really wasn't all that quick on my feet."

    "It's ok, Nick," she answered. "I understand."

    "You do?" Nick asked, looking a little confused. He's expected more of a fight out of Alyssa.

    "Yea I do. Completely," she assured him. "I mean why would you remember telling me that I should drop in to see you sometime, when you have two beautiful blondes by your side? I can see how that can affect your memory. And then not even coming by to talk to me for a little bit, after I flew across the country to visit you? Well, I suppose I can forgive that one too. You know I really wouldn't want to compromise your chances of getting laid. By the way, I must congratulate you. A threesome? I'm impressed!"

    Nick sighed. He should've known not to fall into one of Alyssa's little traps. Why did girls have to be such bitches? "I take it you're pissed then."

    "Yea, you could say that Nick. I think I have a right to be. Money is tight with me, but I came all the way to fucking California to visit you and you pass me up for two of the trashiest, rudest, nastiest girls I've ever met. The least you could've done was come over and say hi. Am I only good enough for you when there's no one better around?"

    "There you go again Alyssa! You're jealous of them. I knew it!" he pointed out.

    "I am not jealous of those girls!" Alyssa insisted. "I have no reason to be. I am ten times classier then they are, so what is there to be jealous about?"

    "The fact that they're the ones with me, and you aren't?"

    Alyssa's mouth flew open. "You egotistical bastard! Do you just automatically assume that every female in the world wants you?"

    "No I don't assume that, but I can tell that you are jealous Alyssa, and that's the only reason that I can come up with. We're over! So just get it out of your head!" he angrily replied, not even realizing the enormity of what he had just said.

    Oh my God... Did he just say what I thought he said? Alyssa wondered. Nick was never one to be that firm and blunt about such a delicate issue. Just the way he said it had hit her like someone had stuck a knife through her heart.

    Nick looked over her and realized how hurt she seemed by his comment. "I'm sorry Alyssa," he apologized in softer tone. "That came off way too harsh. What I'm trying to say is that, its none of your business who I sleep with. We're not together anymore, so what does it matter? I want to be your friend, but not if I'm going to have to listen to you judge me over every little thing I do! I told you in the beginning that the only way this is going to work is if you don't get bent out of shape every time you see me with other girls."

    "I wish you'd just make up your fucking mind Nick!" she exploded.

    "Huh?" Nick looked confused. "What do you mean I need to make up my mind?"

    "Well, first you tell me that you want to still be friends, and I can't get jealous if I see you with other girls, but then you kiss me! Granted, it was supposedly just one of those 'caught up in the moment' type things, but still it happened and you don't think that I'm not going to get confused by that? I'm sorry if I can't be all unemotional and detached when it comes to those things. I'm not like you! That's why I try to stay clear from those situations." Alyssa paused to take a breath, her eyes starting to feel with tears. "Okay, so maybe I came out here with a small hope that you'd see me and be overjoyed and it would be almost like when we were dating. Then when I saw you last night with those two girls I realized how wrong I was. Things are never going to be the same and I was stupid to think so."

    Nick looked a little stunned at her confession. What was he supposed to say to that? She was right. He had been the one to kiss her which had probably fucked things up even more so. What do I want? he asked himself. I want Alyssa by my side, but I don't want her in that way. He wanted to still be able to see other girls too. God, this situation is getting much too complicated for me.

    "I'm sorry," he found himself saying. "That kiss... It was a mistake."

    "You know what else was a mistake? This friendship," Alyssa answered coldly. "I can't do this Nick. I thought that I'd be okay if I saw you with a girl, but when its two at a time and you're drunk and just making an ass out of yourself, then I have to draw the line."

    "Are you saying that you don't want to be friends anymore?" he asked, with a sinking feeling in his stomach.

    "As long as your sex life comes before your friends, then I'm going to have to say yes. No wonder Izzy has lost all respect for you," she replied, as she wiped her eyes.

    "My sex life does not come before my friends!" he insisted.

    "You could fool me," Alyssa retorted. "I'd say when you can't even take five minutes to come over to us and make small talk in fear you'll lose your little groupies for the night, its affecting your friendships. I wonder Nick, is it really worth it?"

    She didn't even want to hear his response. Let him think about that one a little bit, she told herself as she turned around and started for the direction of the elevator.

    "Alyssa!" he called after her.

    "Goodbye Nick," she said, over her shoulder, before she disappeared into the elevator.

    Nick stood there for a minute stupefied. What had just happened? he asked himself. Now she's pissed at me. Another friendship down the toilet.

    And then Nick asked himself the very same question that Alyssa had posed to him. Was last night really worth it?
   

Chapter Seventeen by Mellz Bellz
Author's Notes:
Nick has a life changing revelation.

Chapter 17

         Nick awoke and sat up in bed a little disoriented at first. Even though he had been home from his tour for about two or three days now he was still not used to waking up in his own bed. It seems like I spend more time sleeping in hotel room beds than I do my own, he thought to himself as he sat up and stretched.

         It had been a little over two weeks since his argument with Alyssa in the hotel lobby, but to Nick it felt almost like years. So much had changed since then for him. He hadn't tried to contact her and she hadn't made an effort to get in touch with him, but she was on his mind... A lot.

       At first, Nick's reaction to their quarrel had been full of anger and outrage. He couldn't believe the audacity that she had to say those kind of things about him! Who does she think she is, telling me that I need to choose between her and my right to have fun? he had bitterly wondered.  I'm an adult and I make my own decisions. If I want to go out and party and meet girls I will! If anything the fight made him want to continue his behavior even more so.

       And he preceded to do just that. For the next few dates on the tour he partied even harder than usual. With every drink he gulped down and with every girl he slept with he felt as if he was really sticking it to Alyssa.  His spiteful attitude towards her gave him a strange sort of satisfaction.  In a way it was almost his opportunity to let her know that he could honestly give a fuck what she thought. He didn't owe her any explanations.

         Then things began to change. He started to notice the rest of the guys beginning to shy away from him. When they had free time to hang out and relax before shows, he was usually holed up in his hotel room with a hangover, while the others took advantage of whatever city they happened to be in. Because of this there seemed to be a rift growing between him and his band mates. Nick could already tell by Kevin's disapproving glances when he'd report ten minutes late to where he was supposed to meet up with the guys because he could barely drag himself out of bed that he was disappointed in his behavior. It got to the point where Nick began to avoid him just to spare himself the impending lecture that he knew Kevin was just waiting to give him.

         The real icing on the cake had been the day when AJ had pulled him aside to express his concerns about his "rock star" lifestyle.

         "Hey Nick, can I talk to you about something?" AJ had asked pulling him aside one day after they had completed sound check.

         "Sure man," Nick replied as he started to put his guitar away. "What about?"

         AJ looked anxious as if he knew what he wanted to say, but was unsure of how to say it. Nick all of a sudden got the feeling that he was not going to like the words that were about to come out of his friends mouth.

         "Well, all the guys have noticed that you've kind of been acting a little crazy lately," AJ started off. "I know you've always loved to party and have a good time, which isn't exactly a bad thing, but lately its just getting out of control."

         "What do you mean 'its getting out of control'?" Nick asked, trying to hold back the anger that was beginning to loom before him.

        AJ sighed. "Lately, it seems to be getting  a lot more than just harmless fun. I see what happens Nick. I'm not stupid. You're staying out to all hours of the night and coming back with all kinds of girls. Then the next morning when you're too hung over to fulfill your responsibilities to the group. Kevin's pissed at you! He thinks you're really starting to become irresponsible and your behavior is starting to affect all of us negatively."

         "Fuck Kevin! If he sent you to try to talk to me thinking that you can get through to me, he's dead wrong," he replied. "If he has a problem with me he should come and approach me face to face!"

         "He's tried Nick! Every time he attempts a conversation you run off like you're scared of him or something."

         "I'm not scared of Kevin!" Nick scoffed. "And I don't have any kind of problem. I just wish you'd all stop lecturing me all the damn time!"
        
         AJ softened his voice. "Look, I'm not here because Kevin sent me. I wanted to talk to you because I am worried about you Nick. Looking at your behavior lately, I see a lot of traits that I had before I went into rehab. I care about you Nick. You're like a little brother to me and I don't want to see you make the same mistakes that I did. You can turn things around before they get any worse."

         Nick suppressed a frustrated groan as he massaged his temples. Why was everyone against him all of a sudden? First Izzy, then Alyssa, and now AJ and the rest of the guys. He was only being a normal 25 year old guy!  "Thanks for your concerns AJ, but I'm perfectly fine! I have it all together. I'm not as fucked up as you seem to think I am and I just wish that everybody would just lay off and stop trying to tell me how to live my life! I know I'm the youngest one of you all, but in case you haven't noticed, I'm not 14 anymore.  I make my own choices, so just get off my back!"

         AJ looked a little surprised at his outburst, but then remembered that the hardest part of his ordeal had been admitting the problem. He had been in denial for a long time before he was able to admit to anyone that he needed help. In fact, he had sounded a lot like Nick just had when the guys had tried to talk to him about his excessive partying. "All right Nick. I'm sorry I bought it up," he apologized as he backed away. "Just if you ever need anyone to talk to, I'm always around to listen."

         "I appreciate it, but I have some shit I need to do before the show," Nick grumbled as he brushed past AJ.

         God, I was a real dick to AJ, Nick thought to himself as he reflected back on the discussion. He was only trying to help me because he cares about me. And to think that I neglected that friendship because getting drunk and sleeping with girls meant more to me? Thank God I finally got a clue.

        
Of course it had taken one of the worst hangovers he had ever experienced in his life to put things into perspective for him.  He could still vividly remember the pounding across his temples the minute he had woken up the next morning. Glancing over at the sleeping female form beside him, he nearly gagged at the smell of her cheap perfume on the sheets. He barely had the strength to sit up and pull on his boxers before he rushed to the bathroom to empty the contents of his stomach from the previous night. 

         It was only after he had kicked out his female companion and spent most of his morning with his head bent over the toilet, that it finally hit him. Alyssa's words from their fight seemed to ominously echo in his mind. Is it REALLY worth it? Nick was beginning to wonder himself, was it? He loved to go out and have a good time and while he was partying he'd have a blast. Yet,  the next morning when he woke up and the girl or girls who had spent the night left, Nick realized that he was the one left all alone. His only companion would be the occasional resulting hangover, which he could honestly do without.  All his real friends were turning away from him, seemingly disgusted with his behavior. Izzy and Alyssa had been bad enough, but now as he realized that the four men that he had looked up to so much were beginning to turn away from him, he began to see that he needed to stop. What use would it be to party every night away when he was neglecting his friendships with the people that mattered most in his life? They care about me, he realized. And I've been treating them like total crap... What have I done?

        
From that point on Nick vowed to cut down on his behavior. Alyssa had been right. His own self-interest had been getting in the way of his relations with others. Since that epiphany on the bathroom floor, Nick continued the rest of the tour without partying once. Since he had returned home he followed that same pattern. When friends of his had called to ask him if he wanted to go out to a club with them the other night, he had politely turned them down, leaving them to wonder what was up with him.

       Now the next step is to try to rectify some of the friendships I've fucked up, he decided. Things with the guys were getting better. Once they realized that he had stopped staying out late and drinking, they seemed relieved and things improved upon them. He had even been able to spend some quality time with the guys, something that he found he had actually kind of missed. Next on his list was Alyssa.

       She's not going to be an easy person to apologize to, Nick realized. And rightfully so he supposed. Most of what she had said during their fight was true. He really should've forgotten about those two girls and spent the evening with her, especially when she had traveled so far to see him. How can I make it up to her? he wondered.

       Then he had an idea. Money is tight with me, but I came all the way to fucking California to visit you, she had angrily explained to him. The only fair way of making it up to her would be for him to take a trip out to New York City. He'd fly out there next week for a few days and let her call all the shots. Anything she wanted to do, he'd go along with. That would be appropriate, right?

        
Without another moments hesitation, he picked up his phone and made a phone call that unbeknownst to him, would change things between the two of them forever.




         Today was the day from hell, Alyssa thought to herself as she  walked in through her apartment door, threw her things onto the couch and collapsed into the deep cushioning, finally letting the tears that had been threatening to fall all day long.

         How did you ever think that you could become a teacher? You can't even control a group of 25 second graders! How embarrassing is it that the principal had to come in and yell at the class because they refused to listen to you? she told herself as she let the tears flow freely down her face. It had only been her second time substituting in that particular school and after that day she was almost certain that she wouldn't be asked back a third time.  I'm such a failure.

        
Who knew second graders could be so devilish? They had been downright rude to her. Maybe I really should think about a second career?

        
Her sobs were interrupted by the a low beeping sound coming from what she assumed was her cell phone. I bet its the principal calling to tell me that I suck and should have my teaching degree revoked, she thought as she located her phone from her pocketbook. The screen on the front indicated that she had one new voicemail.

         She pressed the button to hear the message and almost gasped in shock when she heard the familiar voice.

         Hi Alyssa. It's me Nick. I know I'm probably the last person you want to hear from right now, but I just wanted to let you know that I've been doing a lot of thinking since our fight. It made me put a lot of things into perspective. A lot of what you said to me that morning was true. I was a real asshole. I should've ditched those girls to hang out with you. I know how expensive it probably was for you to fly out to California to see me and I didn't consider your feelings. I really want to make it up to you somehow. I was thinking that maybe if you wanted I could fly out to New York next weekend and spend some time with you? You don't have to say yes or anything. I just thought it would be a good idea. We could do whatever you wanted and I promise I won't ditch you. So, if you'd like to have me come visit just please give me a call back as soon as possible, so I can book a flight. I... I missed you. Bye.

         What the fuck was that about
? Alyssa wondered as she stared at her phone in bewilderment. Had that really been Nick on the other end? Admitting that he was wrong no less.

         He said he missed me, she realized. Did he really miss her? Her heart softened at those three words. Maybe it was because of the horrible mood she was in, but just then it felt damn good to be missed by someone. And he wants to come see me next weekend? Her mind was already reeling with everything that they could do. It'll almost be like old times...

         Old times...
The thought made Alyssa stiffen a little bit. Could Nick really be trusted to live up to his word? He always could be very charming when it came time to apologize.

*****

         As soon as Alyssa answered the door to her apartment and saw Nick standing on the other side with a bouquet of roses in his arm she started to slam the door in his face. What nerve of him to show up on her doorstep with flowers and think she'd forgive him just like that! What he had done to her was practically unforgivable.

         "Come on Alyssa!" he begged, prying his foot in between the door, causing it to remain open a crack. "I came to explain."

         "I don't want to hear it Nick," she briskly replied. "I don't see how you can possibly explain anything when its obvious what happened. You fucked another girl. End of story. Goodbye!"

         "There's more to it than you think," he insisted. "Can you at least let me defend myself?"

         Alyssa sighed. She'd never get rid of him unless she let him tell his pathetic excuse. "Fine," she agreed, opening the door wider, but standing in the frame, so that he couldn't step inside. "Let's hear it."

        Nick craned his head inside the doorframe as much as he could. "Do we have to do this out here? Can't we sit down inside like two normal adults?"

         Rolling her eyes, Alyssa stepped away from the door and slouched down on the couch, her arms crossed over her chest. Nick followed her inside, placing the bouquet of roses on the coffee table before taking a seat beside her.

         "I hate roses," were the first words out of Alyssa's sullen mouth.

         Nick bit down on his tongue trying to remain calm. "I'm sorry. I thought it would be a nice idea."

         "You should've bought chocolate. Then maybe I'd be nicer," she replied.  "So, lets hear the grand explanation. I'm dying to know who 'Katie' is and why you slept with her?"

         Nick sighed and paused for a moment to gather his thoughts. "Before I get into who Katie is I just need to explain something to you. Before I left for Sweden and you told me you loved me at the airport... well I was shocked to say the least. At that point I really cared about you Alyssa, but I hadn't even considered the term love yet. It kind of freaked me out a little bit."

         "But when you called me up that night you said you loved me too," Alyssa pointed out.

         "I admit I did, but I didn't want to hurt your feelings."

         "So you basically lied to me?"

         " I didn't lie exactly. I did really care about you. I still do! I just didn't know how I was supposed to react. I'd always been the first one in relationships to use the love term."

         "It was such a stupid mistake to tell you that," Alyssa admitted. "I mean what do I know about love? I've never had any other serious relationships before. I don't know why I even said it."

         "Well, point was you did and it got me thinking... a lot. For the first two weeks or so all I did was contemplate my feelings for you," he confessed. "Then I met Katie."

         "And she made you forget ALL about me right?"

         "Not exactly. Would you let me explain? The guys and I were out at this club one night and-"

         "A ha! I KNEW you met the wench at some sleazy European club!" she exclaimed.

         Nick just gave her a warning look. "Before you predict the whole scene, could you at least let me tell MY story? Well, anyway she was standing next to me at the bar and of course we got to talking. I thought she was beautiful, but honestly I really wasn't thinking at that point, Gee, I want to cheat on Alyssa with her. She was really easy to talk to and I felt really comfortable around her. She asked if I had a girlfriend and I was honest. I told her all about you. She told me that she had a boyfriend too, but things between them were a little weird at that point. Apparently, they had only been dating a few months and things had been going great until he started to hint that he really loved her and thought that she was the one he wanted to spend the rest of his life with. Katie started to get a little freaked out because she wasn't sure if she felt as strongly about him, so she suggested they take a break to see other people. He was devastated, but agreed. Then after two days without him Katie realized that she made a huge mistake and wanted him back. Only when she told him how she felt, he told her that he couldn't trust her anymore and couldn't be sure if she would run away every time they started to get serious again. So, basically they agreed to be friends for the time being, but Katie was having a real hard time adjusting."

         "And let me guess? You helped her adjust just fine huh? I bet that whole story was just a load of shit to get you to feel sorry for her and sleep with her out of pity," Alyssa commented.

         "If you really want to know I didn't sleep with her that night," Nick told her, staring her straight in the eye. "And it wasn't just a story she made up. No one is that good of an actress. I felt an immediate bond with her because of what was going on with us and I confided in her about it."

         "You WHAT? You told a perfect stranger all about what is going on in our relationship?!" she cried, not bothering to mask her annoyance. "Maybe I don't want my personal problems spread around to anyone who asks!"

         "I told her because I trusted her! And you know what? She listened and she could relate to what I was going to and it was not just an act. I can ensure you that," he explained. "Anyway before the night ended we exchanged numbers and made plans to hang out at a later date. She was going to show me around Sweden when I had some free time."

         "And let me guess. The tour ended up in her bedroom?"

         Nick decided to just ignore her snide commentary and continued his story.  "We started to hang out more and like I said she was such a good listener and fun to be around. I kind of started to fall for her a little," he admitted, looking a little ashamed. "She was attracted to me too, but we never acted on it because we didn't want to hurt our significant others. Then one day it just sort of happened... I guess it was kind of inevitable. Afterwards, I felt guilty for betraying you, but then I figured that you'd never find out."

         Alyssa didn't know what to say. She could almost accept him fucking the random girl at some club, but him actually having romantic feelings for another woman and acting upon them? That stung. Curiosity nagged at the back of her mind and even though, she knew the answer would hurt her she needed to know. "H-how many times?" she asked, swallowing hard.

         "There was three separate occasions," he solemnly answered.

         Oh God, it was practically a full blown love affair, she thought, with tears stinging her eyes. "Did you love her?"

         "I don't think it was love. I was very attracted to her, I won't lie, but I think it was more out of circumstance. I could relate to her and because of that I felt a very deep connection, but I don't know if I'd call it love. I think we both knew it wasn't something that was going to last."

         "How did it end? Are you keeping in touch? What's going on?"  she demanded.

         "We both agreed to give things another try with our partners. She was going to try to get back with her boyfriend. We said we'd keep in touch to let each other know how things turn out, but who knows what'll happen," Nick admitted. "Look, Alyssa I honestly feel guilty about the whole thing. As soon as I saw you that night I returned home I knew it was going to be harder than I thought to keep this from you. And then the way you were acting.... It was pretty shitty to go along with things, but I couldn't help it. I guess I was so worried about you finding out about Katie that I let her name slip out subconsciously."

         Alyssa's eyes narrowed. "So you weren't like trying to pretend that I was her or anything right?"

         "Not at all. Like I said it was probably just all the guilt that made me say her name instead of yours." The look in his eyes looked sad and forlorn. "I know I really fucked up Alyssa, but I hope you'll find it in your heart to forgive me."

         She looked away. She couldn't do this right now. Wiping tears from her eyes, she stood up. "I need to think about this. It's a lot to consider and I don't think I can give you an answer right away like this."

         "I understand," he told her, as he stood up. "Give me a call when you're ready to talk some more." He stepped closer to her and dropped a light kiss on her forehead before turning away.

         "If I do forgive you Nick, you have to promise me one thing," she called after him.

         He turned around. "What's that?"

         "You have to promise me that you'll NEVER speak to Katie again. I mean it. I don't even want you to have her phone number."

         Without a word Nick reached into his pocket and pulled out his cell phone. After pressing a few buttons to presumably erase Katie's number from existence he looked up. "Consider it done."

******

        
Nick always did have that way with her. Of course ultimately she had forgiven him after much consideration. I still don't know how smart that was, she told herself.

         She stared back at her cell phone thinking Should I call? Or should I not call? Finally she impulsively reached for the phone. She was so upset right now that she could use a comforting voice to talk to.

         "Hello," the voice on the other end said.

         "Hey Nick. It's me Alyssa. I got your message. I'd be glad to have you come for a visit next week."
        
        
Once the words were out of her mouth she wondered to herself, What have I done?
       

Chapter Eighteen by Mellz Bellz
Author's Notes:
An unfortunate event gives Nick the opportunity to play the hero.

Chapter 18

         The week leading up to Nick's arrival in New York was a busy one for Alyssa. She had so much planning to do. Nick had said that the weekend would be completely up to her, but narrowing down her favorite city activities was tough. It was impossible to do much of New York City in only one weekend. Besides Nick had been to the City before. Did he really want to do the normal tourist attractions? A weekend was not a very long time at all, and Alyssa kind of wanted to make the most of every minute she had with him.

         Friday, the day of Nick's arrival, came all too quickly for Alyssa. Nick had arranged to take a very early flight out of LA to arrive in New York at a decent time with the change in time zones. Unfortunately though, Alyssa got a call that morning asking her to substitute for a first grade teacher at the very same school in which she had came home in tears from the week prior. Even though she wanted to spend the extra time with Nick, he had urged her that if she did wind up getting a call into work to take it and they'd meet up later.  He would probably want some time to rest up in his hotel room anyway. Alyssa supposed he was right. Right now she couldn't afford to turn down work, especially at a school where she already suspected that the principal was wary about her teaching ability.

         Surprisingly, her experience at the school this time was much better. The first graders were actually pretty well behaved. During her lunch break the second grade teacher who she had covered for last week, pulled her aside to apologize for her students behavior and presented her with a handful of apology cards that the students had made her. Alyssa was actually quite touched as she flipped through the sad faced pictures crayoned on the fronts and the students attempts to write her an apology. Some of them were so adorable! One of her favorites read: Dear Ms. Martinelli, We are sorry we were bad. We are sorry we made you sad. We hope you come back to our class. We love you. She even got a few hugs from some of the students who recognized her from the week before.

         The best part of the day was as she was leaving for the afternoon, she bumped into the principal who after some tense small talk had told Alyssa that it had took a lot of guts for her to come back after a day like last week and that she hoped to see her again soon. The words left Alyssa  feeling elated. Maybe her future wasn't as doomed as she thought it was!

         As soon as she got out of work she dialed Nick's cell phone. He should've arrived in New York by now, she reasoned as she listened to the phone ring.

         "Hello," Nick's voice sleepily grumbled on the other end.

         "Hey its me. Did I wake you?" she asked.

         "Yea, I was taking a little nap while you finished up work, but its okay," he assured her.

         "How was your flight?"

         "It wasn't bad. The movie sucked," he joked. "How about you? How was your day?"

         "Actually pretty damn good. I can't wait to tell you about it later."

         Nick looked over at the clock by the hotel room nightstand. "Well, its like 4:30 now. Are you home yet?"

         "I'm on my way. I'm just trying to get a cab," Alyssa reported. "I'll be home by 5:00. I made us dinner reservations at Carmine's for 7:00. Is that all right with you? If its too early I can see if I can push them back?"

         "No, 7:00 is great. That gives me plenty of time to shower and stuff and I know you take forever to get ready. Where should I meet you?" he asked.

         Alyssa chewed slightly on her lip as she thought about it. She wanted Nick to see her apartment, but Carmine's actually was kind of in between his hotel and her apartment. It would probably be easier to just meet him there.  "Let's meet up at Carmine's like the at the bar. You remember where it is, right? We went to eat there once before and I know you loved the food."

         "Yea, I remember it," Nick told her. "So I'll see you then?"

         "Uh huh. Can't wait! If you get lost or anything give me a call."

         "Will do," he promised as he hung up the phone.

         As Alyssa put her phone away, she felt a strange fluttering feeling of excitement in her stomach. She had to admit that she was actually looking forward to seeing Nick. Why? she asked herself. He treated you like garbage remember?

         But Alyssa didn't seem to care. Agreeing to his visit had been pure impulse, just like it had been impulse to go see him at Jones Beach and to fly to California. She began to wonder, What is it about Nick that makes me act this way?




        
Two and a half hours later, Alyssa waltzed into Carmine's to meet Nick for their dinner date. Being one of the most popular and well known Italian restaurants in all of New York City, the place was packed as it typically was on a Friday night. I'm glad I called ahead for reservations, she thought to herself as she inched her way over to the bar. Otherwise we might have never gotten to eat!
        
        
While she was waiting on Nick, she ordered herself a cranberry vodka and started to nurse it, as her eyes remained peeled on the door, waiting to catch a glimpse of his familiar blonde head. Five minutes passed, and then ten, and Alyssa began to grow a little scared that he wouldn't show up after all. She just began to dig into her black and gray Coach handbag for her cell phone, when she looked up and finally spotted him searching the crowd for her. Eagerly, she stood up and waved  to get his attention until his eyes lit up in recognition of her.

         "Sorry I'm late," he apologized as he approached her. "I was on my way out of the hotel and some fans recognized me in the lobby, so I had to stop for pictures and autographs and all that stuff."

         "That's okay. I got scared for a minute that you might not come after all," she told him, drinking in his appearance. His hair was messily styled just the way she liked it and he was wearing a blue and white striped button down shirt that bought out his eyes, making them look even more striking than usual. A tie hung loosely around his neck, which seemed to Alyssa like the perfect touch. Wow, he looks absolutely gorgeous, she found herself thinking.

         "No way would I stand you up after flying all the way here," he assured as he reached forward to embrace her. "You look great."

         Dud he just tell me that I looked great? Of course he's probably just being polite, Alyssa decided. She had taken a lot of care to look good for him though. Going for the simple, yet elegant look, she had selected a clingy black cocktail dress with matching black Steve Madden  high heeled slides and a simple strand of pearls around her neck.  "Thanks. So do you," she admitted as she lingered in his arms for a moment or two. She almost felt a little disappointed as he pulled away.

        There was a slight awkward pause between the two before Nick broke it by asking, "Did you check us in already?"

         Alyssa nodded. "It'll probably be another five or ten minutes until they are ready for us, so why don't you order a drink?"

         "Sounds good to me," Nick replied as he ordered himself a beer.

         A few minutes later, their table was ready for them and they were seated. Alyssa was thankful that their table was over in the corner of the room making it semi- secluded. She hadn't requested a table in this area, but was thankful for the accommodation. She and Nick had a lot of catching up to do and she didn't want to be interrupted by people recognizing Nick all throughout their meal.

         Their waiter appeared at their table a few minutes later to take their order for dinner. Like most classy Italian restaurants the portions were served family style, so that they were meant to be shared. After much debate they finally decided to start with an order of mozzarella cheese and tomatoes as an appetizer and for a main course they ordered chicken parmesan, manicotti, and penne a la vodka, as well as a bottle of red wine to accompany their meal.

         "So, how was work? You were telling me you got called back to that school that you had a problem in the other day. What exactly happened to get you so upset anyway?" Nick asked.

         "Oh God. You don't want to know. It was a nightmare!"  Alyssa responded rolling her eyes.

         "A nightmare, huh?" he asked with a playful smirk. "Not exactly a word I'd use to describe elementary school kids. Now you got me interested, so you have to tell the story."

         Alyssa sighed. "Fine. I'll tell you, but you're going to laugh at me. I was subbing in a second grade classroom and the class was a little bit on the chatty side, a little disruptive, but nothing too bad. Typical behavior with a substitute. They were looking to push my buttons and see what they could get away with. Anyway the morning went by relatively painless, but the afternoon was where the trouble began."

         Nick leaned his head a little bit closer, indicating that he was in fact interested. "What did they do in the afternoon?"

         "Well, the teacher wanted me to read the next story with them in their reading textbooks which was actually a little play. So, what I did was I had some students come up to the front of the room and act it out for the rest of the class. At first they seemed really interested, but after a while, I noticed a few kids fooling around and not paying attention. Then all of a sudden this one boy in the front starts pointing and laughing and I yelled at him for being rude to his classmates and demanded to know what was going on. Well, I turned around and saw that another little boy who was doing the play had gotten so nervous that I guess he wet his pants right in front of the whole class!" she explained.

         "Oh wow!" Nick laughed. "That's certainly a distraction. So what did you do?"

         "By then all the kids started to notice and laugh, so I immediately pulled the child aside and calmed him down and then I had to call a janitor because it got all over the floor. Once the janitor got there I sent the kid down to the nurse to see if they could call his parents for a change of clothes. So, then I just get the class somewhat settled down from that disaster when another child raises her hand and tells me she doesn't feel so good."

         "Oh no.... I see where this is going," he remarked, trying not to laugh. It really must not have been very funny for Alyssa at the time.

         "Yep! She threw up all over her textbook. Now you know I get totally grossed out by vomit to begin with, so here I am trying to suck it up as the rest of the kids are going EWWW GROSS!!! So yea, I had to call the janitor again!" Alyssa paused for a moment and then actually started to laugh. hysterically as she looked back on the look of horror that must've been on her face. "All right, at the time I wanted to cry, but now that I look back at it I guess it was kind of funny."

         "Kind of funny? It's hilarious!" Nick told her as he joined in with her laughter. Her giggle had always made him smile. He loved to watch her laugh, the way her lips lifted up in a smile and the way her dimples showed through her cheeks. He wished she'd laugh more often.

         "Then I just send that kid to the nurse and I'm trying to calm down the class again, which is nearly impossible at this point," she continued, laughing so hard she was almost crying. "So, I get all mean and threaten to put names on the board to lose free time at the end of the day and this little second grader turns around and says, 'We don't have to listen to you! You're not our REAL teacher!'"

         "
Whoa..." Nick whistled. "A second grader said this?"

         Alyssa nodded. "Yep. Sad isn't it? I was in so much shock that I think I just stood there gaping for a full minute. I'd expect that out of a fifth or sixth grader, but certainly not a second grader. When I finally composed myself I was just about to start my big speech on respecting guests in your classroom when who walks in, but the principal. She had heard the whole thing! I was mortified!"

         "Oh oh... Did she say anything to you?" he asked.

         "No, thank God! She chewed the kid out who gave me an attitude though and took him down to her office. Then she yelled at the class about how embarrassed she was to see them act this way to a substitute and that their teacher will be hearing all about this when she gets back."

         "Wow... That really does sound like a shitty day."  Nick could barely picture something like that actually happening. He never had to encounter anything like that in his life, but then again he and Alyssa lived in almost two completely different worlds. While she's dealing with difficult children I'm out living it up in the world of the rich and famous, he realized. Do we have anything left in common?

        
"Yea, but today was better. I got called back and the first graders were much better behaved. Then I got an apology from the second grade teacher and little cards from the students which were really cute. But the best part was the principal told me that she was impressed that I came back after last week, so I guess that's a good sign."

         "Yea..." he trailed off a little, only half listening now. We're like two different people,  he sadly thought. While I've been fucking up my life, she's been developing a career. She's been so successful without me. Does she even need me in her life? Did she only tell me I could come to New York because she felt bad for me? Nick wasn't used to strong independent women in his life. He had to admit it all of his other girlfriends had used him as a bit of a springboard to success. If anything Alyssa had done better without him. She's so passionate about what she does. I can tell just by the way her eyes have been lighting up when she talks about the students.

        
"Nick?" her voice interrupted his thoughts. "Earth to Nick?" She looked at him quizzically as if she expected some kind of response from him.

         "I'm sorry. Can you repeat what you just said?" he admitted, feeling his cheeks turn pink with embarrassment.

         Alyssa just shook her head. "I should've known I'd lose you. You have the attention span of a two year old," she teased. "You did look pretty deep in thought there though. Care to share?"

         Nick sighed. How could he try to put his thoughts into words? After pausing to think for a moment he finally decided to give it a try. "Well, I was just listening to you talk and I was thinking how much you've changed... in a good way," he quickly assured her as soon as he saw her giving him a confused glance.

         "How so?" Alyssa asked, sounding intrigued.

         "You're so much more independent now. You're trying to start a career. You have goals and ambitions. You've accomplished so much," he explained. "It's like you're a completely different person from who you were in Florida. You just seem so much more... experienced I guess is the word I'm looking for."

         Now it was Alyssa's turn to blush. "What are you talking about? So I finished up college. That's only half the battle. I still don't have a real job yet. I don't know how any of that makes me more independent exactly," she argued. She was thoroughly confused with his analysis of her. How could he possibly think of her as being strong, independent, and confident, when the last few years she had felt nothing even remotely close to those characteristics. Is that really the attitude I give off? she wondered. Am I really a lot better off than I seem to think I am?

        
"But you will find a job Alyssa," Nick insisted. "I have faith that you will. And graduating college is a huge accomplishment. Especially coming from a guy who barely graduated high school."

         She immediately felt horrible right after he said that. Nick was right. It had been pretty bitchy to downplay a college education in front of him when he'd pretty much graduated high school in a hotel room between tour dates. Of course that was the life Nick had chosen for himself, but Alyssa knew sometimes he could get sensitive about the issue. For Nick, college was like the highest point of a tall mountain, a height  that he would never reach.

         "That was different," she insisted. "Yea, maybe you just barely graduated high school, but you didn't need college. You had a career already laid out for you. You might not have a college education, but you're making more money now than I ever will."

      Nick sighed again. She wasn't getting it. How could he make her understand his point of view? "You're right. Maybe I am making more money than you ever will... now. But what happens down the road when I get older? What do I do if something happens to my voice? I have nothing to fall back on. I can't depend on having a career in show biz forever."

         Alyssa realized he was right.  But how could she respond to something like that? All of a sudden, she felt very grateful for her college diploma. Yes, she may not have a steady job just yet, but there were always other avenues for her to fall back on if it came down to that. What could Nick do if he was told that he couldn't sing anymore?

         And what had brought out this serious side of him? Nick was seldom serious, so is behavior was strange, especially under the circumstances. It made her wonder why exactly he had called to apologize in the first place. What had changed? She realized that she had to know.

         "Why did you call me and offer to cone here to visit me?" she asked.

         Nick looked thrown for a loop by her question. "Well, like I said over the phone. I felt bad for neglecting you when you paid all that money to come out and see me, so I decided it would only be fair for me to come and see you."

         "I know that, but I mean why did you even call up and apologize in the first place? What changed?"

         What changed? Good question... Nick thought. How exactly could he explain his epiphany on the bathroom floor to her? He was embarrassed to admit to her just  how destructive he had gotten and how worried the other guys had been about him. After thinking carefully, he finally spoke up.

"Well, I was doing thinking about what you said to me during our fight, about whether or not partying is actually worth it. It took a little time for me to realize the answer, but finally it hit me. You were right its not worth it. Yea, I was having fun, but after a while it dawned on me that its getting old. All my old true friends were losing respect for me and even the rest of the guys were getting tired of me. I could tell I was hurting the people I cared the most about and they were starting to give up on me. So, yea..." his voice trailed off a little bit as he anxiously licked his lips. "I just wanted to thank you for giving me that wake up call I needed. Even if it took almost two weeks to really sink in."

         Alyssa could hardly help, but to conceal the satisfied grin that tugged at the corners of her mouth. He'd straightened up his act! He was beginning to see that there was more in life besides alcohol and one night stands. And he could owe it all to her. She had been the one to make a difference. She couldn't help, but to be proud of herself. "Thank you," she told him. "That really means a lot to me to hear you say that. I'm glad that you're coming clean."

         Nick shifted in his seat uncomfortably. "Err.. I'm not exactly coming totally clean. I'm definitely not an angel, nor do I want to be. I just realize I need to do a lot less partying, but I never said I'd stop completely."

         She realized he was right. He hadn't said anything to the effect. Oh well... Rome wasn't built in a day. He'd have to take things one step at a time. "At least its a leap in the right direction. Besides a little partying every now and then isn't always bad."

         "Yea, it never hurts to just let loose every once in a while. You should try it sometime," he suggested.

         What the fuck is that supposed to mean? Is he saying that I'm too uptight? Alyssa wondered. She was about to question him on the comment, but was interrupted by their food arriving and the moment was gone. Yet the remark still lingered at the back of her head, gnawing at her.




         Dinner continued on without anything more unusual happening. After they had dessert and paid the bill (which Nick had insisted on taking care of) it was still relatively early so they decided to head over to small, nearby lounge for drinks and to talk some more.

         Alyssa momentarily forgot Nick's earlier comment and was completely engrossed with catching up with him. It really was beginning to feel just like old times again. An hour and a half slipped by before she even noticed, the time. At that point they decided that maybe they should get going. Nick said that he didn't want to make it too late of a night tonight because he wanted to make the most of the whole day tomorrow in the city.

         "Let me at least see you home," Nick offered.

         "But your hotel is in the other direction," she argued, feeling slightly inebriated from the combination of the cranberry and vodka, the wine with dinner, and the apple martini she had nursed at the lounge.

         "It's all right. It's late and I want to make sure you get home safe. Plus, I want to see your apartment."

         "Is that a proposition, Mr. Carter?" she asked raising an eyebrow.

         Nick shrugged as he gave her a playful smirk. "Take it however you want. Shall we?" he asked as he extended his arm to her.

         Alyssa took it and they began to walk down the street arm in arm. Her apartment was in walking distance from the restaurant which she was thankful for. It truly was the perfect night for walking around in the city. The temperature was warm and all the night lights lit up the streets, making the scene look like some sort of beautiful painting. At that moment, there was no place she'd rather be other than walking down the street hand in hand with Nick feeling perfectly contented.

         Unfortunately her exuberant feeling didn't last for very long. "This is my building right here," she explained as she pointed towards a modest looking apartment building ahead of them. "It's not as fancy as Izzy's, but it suits its purpose."

         "Nice," Nick remarked as he took in the sight. It seemed like a nice little place. He couldn't wait to see what the inside looked like.

         It was then he noticed that Alyssa had stopped short in the middle of the sidewalk, a look of shock and confusion masking her features. She appeared to be staring at an empty  spot by the curb nearby.

         "What's the matter?" he asked, placing a hand on his shoulder.

         "M-m-my car..." she stuttered out. "It's gone!"
        
         "What?!" Nick exclaimed. No wonder she looked so upset! "How can it be gone?"

         "It's not here, Nick! That's how! Oh my God, I can't fucking believe this!" she muttered as she pulled away and approached the area where her car had been before she left. Who the fuck would do this to me? Not like I drive a Cadillac or anything actually WORTH stealing.

         "Calm down," he begged as he followed her. "When was the last time you saw it?'

         "It was parked right here when I left to meet up with you earlier today."

         "Was it locked up?"

         "Of course it was fucking locked up! This is New York City," she replied, not bothering to hide her agitation.

         Nick gave her a strange look. "That's a good point. Why do you even have a car here? Do you drive it all?"

         "Not really," she admitted.

         "Then what's the point? You shouldn't have had it parked on the street in the middle of New York City in the first place." He wasn't aware of how unsympathetic the words sounded until they flew out of his mouth.

         Alyssa immediately burst into the tears that had been welling up in her eyes ever since she had noticed her car was missing. "Could you be just a little bit sensitive damn it?! You know not all of us can afford a new car practically every week. I know to you this doesn't sound like a huge deal, but to me its everything! What am I going to do? I've had that car ever since I got my license. What am I going to do if I want to visit Meg or my parents and don't want to take the train?"
        
         Nick instantly felt like an asshole. This was a huge deal to her. There it was, the whole two different worlds thing again. "That was shitty of me to say, Alyssa," he apologized as he wrapped his arms around to call her. "Maybe you just forgot where you parked it?"

         Alyssa rolled her eyes. "No, Nick I'm that dumb where I'd forget where I parked my car. Besides, look at all the glass on the ground over here! They probably smashed open my window." Her eyes met with a pair of fuzzy red dice, that lay abandoned on the ground, obviously discarded from her car. This only made Alyssa cry harder as she went to reach for them. "My dice!"

         Nick knelt down and grabbed her wrist before she could retrieve them. "Don't touch anything," he warned. "You might be disturbing evidence. Besides this glass could be sharp and its so dark it's hard to see. I'd hate to see you cut yourself."

         "Nick," she whimpered as she collapsed against his chest too upset to argue with him any more. "What am I going to do? Who would do something like this?"

         He rubbed her back consolingly as he held her. It was a good thing he decided to take her home. She was shaking like a leaf. What would she have done if I wasn't here? he thought. "It's going to be okay Alyssa," he promised. "I'm going to call the cops for you and we're going to try to find who did this, okay?"

         All Alyssa could do was nod her head. Just the familiar sensation of being in his arms made her feel safe and protected. She was thankful that he was there with her. Somehow she knew that he'd do whatever he could to fix the situation. What would I do without him?

        
Then it hit her like a ton of bricks. No way, she couldn't be right? Not again. Not after she promised herself.

         She was falling back in love with Nick Carter and there was no denying it, this time.

Chapter Nineteen by Mellz Bellz
Author's Notes:
Nick's friendship is put to the test as comforting Alyssa puts him in an umcomfortable position.

Chapter 19

     "What type of car is it again?" one of  the police officers asked Alyssa, for what felt like the millionth time. It was a little over half an hour since she had discovered the car missing and Nick had called the police for her. They'd came rather quickly, but after twenty minutes of the same questions over and over Alyssa was beginning to get a little annoyed to say the least.

         "It's a black Dodge Neon," she replied, through gritted teeth as she rattled off the license plate number as well from her position, sitting on the apartment building steps

         The officer nodded his head in acknowledgement as he scrawled a couple of notes down. "Well, I think we have enough information from you, Miss Martinelli. We'll be in touch if anything turns up. If you don't hear from us within the week you might want to contact us and we can work on getting you a copy of the police report to show your insurance company."

         "My insurance company?" Alyssa asked, sounding confused. Why would I need a police report to show my insurance company?

         The cop's eyes narrowed, looking at her like she was stupid. "Yes. You'll need a copy of the police report to document that there was a theft on your vehicle in order to get compensation. You do have theft insurance on your car, right?"

         "I uhmm think so... Probably," she stuttered out. She began to feel sick. She wasn't sure if she actually did have theft on her car, or not.

         "Well, then if you do we'll fax a copy of the report to your insurance company, so you can a claim going. If not, well..." he paused to shrug his shoulders. "You'll be out of luck."

         Out of luck? There was no way this could be happening... The more she thought about it the more certain she began to get that she didn't have theft insurance. She vaguely remembered being offered it, but turning it down because her insurance payments were enough per month was it was. Especially now that moved to the city her rates had increased even higher. There was no way she could afford it, plus rent, plus other expenses.

         Nick must've sensed her getting upset because he spoke up for the first time since the police had arrived. "Officer, what are the chances of you guys finding the car and having it returned to its proper owner?"

         "It is possible that we are able to intercept a car before any damage has been done to it. We'll let patrols in the area know to watch out for it, and if we see anything we'll contact Miss Martinelli. Most of the time its usually just teenagers who want the car for parts. Typically we find stolen cars in abandoned lots, but usually not without some significant damage," he honestly replied.

         Alyssa sighed in relief. Significant damage wasn't too bad was it? At least it could be fixed, right?

         "So, we'll hopefully be in touch. If you think of anything else just give us a call," the officer interrupted her thoughts.

         "Thank you," she answered, as she watched the two officers retreat back to their patrol car.

         As soon as they drove away Nick offered his hand to pull her to her feet. "We should get you inside now. You're probably tired and your mind must be racing in a million different directions."

         "You still have to see my apartment!" Alyssa cried, realizing how rude she had been in  not inviting him up. Of course under the circumstances it was understandable for her manners to disappear.

         "Well, there's no better time than the present isn't there?" Nick suggested.

         Alyssa just nodded and led him inside the building without another word. In all honesty she was in too much of a daze to really manage much conversation at the moment and thankfully enough she sensed that Nick knew this and wasn't trying to get her to talk. They rode up to her floor in the buildings elevator in silence. When they finally reached her floor, they got off and Alyssa headed down the hallway, stopping at her door. She fished in her bag for her key and unlocked the door.

         "Here it is. Home sweet home," she announced flatly as she stepped inside with Nick behind her.

         Nick's eyes quickly scanned the apartment. It was very strange to see her old furniture from her apartment in Florida in an entirely new place. All in all it seemed like a nice place. A little on the tiny side, but he assumed that with just her living by herself, she didn't need much room. "Nice," he responded as he looked around.

         Alyssa didn't answer. She appeared to be staring numbly into space. Somehow he got the sense that she wasn't going to offer him the grand tour tonight. "Look, you seem to be totally out of it, so why don't you go and get changed and I can make you some tea or something?" he offered.

         "All right," she agreed, snapping out of her daze. "I think there's some tea in the cupboard over the sink in the kitchen. There should be some mugs in the dishwasher. Are you sure you can handle making tea?"

         "Yea. It's not that complicated to make," Nick assured her. "Now you go and relax a little bit ok?"

         "Fine," she agreed as she disappeared down the hall. A few minutes later he heard water running from what he assumed must be the bathroom. He could practically picture her bent over the sink, scrubbing off her makeup from that night. He was flooded with old memories if watching her prepare for bed, back when they used to live together, but quickly brushed them aside. Those days were long gone.

         It's such a shame that her car was stolen, he mused as he began to boil the water for the tea. Why was it that things never seemed to go smoothly when they were together? Things had been going so well between them that night for once. No fights, minimal deep conversation. just them finally being able to catch up with each other like old friends finally. Why did someone have to choose this night to steal Alyssa's car?

         Yea, this is definitely not how you expected your night to end, Carter,
he thought to himself. What are you doing sitting in your ex's apartment making her fucking tea? Nick himself didn't exactly know. It had just seemed like the right thing to do at the time. He couldn't just leave her like this when she was obviously upset, could he?

         About ten minutes later, Alyssa entered the kitchen still looking dazed. Nick almost took a double take when he laid his eyes on her. She had indeed scrubbed off all her makeup from before and her dark hair which had been up throughout dinner now floated freely among her shoulders. She wore a very familiar looking lavender colored kimono style robe that he soon recognized as the same robe that she had owned when they had been dating. He smiled to himself as he noticed the way it still clung to her body in all the right places. He had some very fond memories of her in that robe. Cocking his head to the side, he found himself contemplating what she had on underneath. When he finally realized what he was doing, he quickly sobered up. I was not just checking out my ex girlfriend, he convinced himself. That would be a BAD move.

        
"Have a seat," he offered as he pulled out a chair for her.

         "Thanks," she hoarsely answered taking a seat.

         Nick handed her one of the cups of tea and took his own over to the table, sitting across from her. "Feeling a little better now?"

         "No."

         Nick sighed. He knew she must feel pretty crappy about her car and everything, but her sour mood was making him feel uncomfortable. How was he supposed to act? What was he supposed to say? Should he leave? Maybe she wanted to be alone. On the other hand, maybe she really wanted his company just then. He was thoroughly confused. 

         Clearing his throat he tried more of a "look on the bright side' approach. "I'm sure the cops will find something. And if not there's always insurance money. Think of it as a good excuse to buy yourself a nice, new car."

         Instead of the hopeful response he had wished to evoke from her Alyssa suddenly burst into tears. What did I say? Nick wondered.

         "Alyssa?" he tentatively asked. "Did I say something wrong?"

         "There won't be any insurance money," she confessed between sobs. "I didn't have any theft insurance on my car!"

         "But you told the police that-"

         "I know what I told them! I lied! I just didn't want to sound like an idiot. Bad enough they probably think I'm an airhead," she interrupted.

         "I don't understand... Why would you be so stupid as to not put theft insurance on your car when you live in New York City?" he asked, wincing a little after the word stupid. That had came out pretty harsh. "You know how common car theft is around here."

         "I couldn't afford it, okay?" she snapped, wiping her eyes. "You know not everyone of us are pop stars who make thousands of dollars each minute. Some of us have real things to worry about. Like having enough money to pay rent. Do you know how expensive car insurance is in New York, especially here in the city? Never mind that rent is ridiculous! And I don't even have a steady job yet. Have you looked in my refrigerator? It's practically empty! I'm lucky if I can whip together a salad for dinner. Then there's all my college loans..."

         That's when it hit Nick. She was right. One glance at her cramped apartment was enough to see that it was far from luxurious. While he was making the tea he had noticed that there wasn't much food laying around, but he had just assumed that it was because it was Friday and she would be doing food shopping on the weekend. Perhaps that was the reason she was still wearing the same robe that had to have been already well over three years old. Again, the different worlds thing was coming back full force to slap him in the face. It wasn't like when they were dating when she didn't have any financial concerns because Nick paid for whatever he could. She was on her own now and it was very disheartening for him to see her struggling like this. He wished there was something he could do for her, but he knew that Alyssa would never accept any money from him, even under the circumstances. Now that they were no longer a couple it just wouldn't be right in her opinion.

         "You're right Alyssa," he apologized. "That was a really self centered thing to say, I can only imagine how hard it must be for you. Although I do think you're a little exaggerated in your figures. I don't think I make thousands every minute. But just because I may seem well off doesn't mean that I don't have problems. My life is far from perfect. Money doesn't guarantee happiness."
        
         Alyssa looked guiltily up at him. She realized how unfair she had been to Nick as well. "I'm sorry. I'm just really weirded out by this whole car thing. Not only is my car gone, but everything in it as well."

         "You didn't have anything too valuable in it, did you?" he asked.

         Alyssa sighed. "Well, my CD player... With my Never Gone CD in it..."

         Nick smirked. "I'll get you an autographed copy to replace it. What else?"

         "I don't even know. I think there's a sweatshirt in the backseat, but that's not a huge deal. I'm more worried about all the papers that are in my glove compartment. Whoever has my car can very easily read my insurance papers or whatever and know my name, where I live... They could probably figure out my phone number if they wanted. What if they tried to break into my apartment or something?"

         "I doubt they'd try to break in here. I seriously think they were only after the car and they honestly could give a fuck who you are," he pointed out. "I'm sure you're safe."

         "I don't know. I'm just super paranoid. I don't know how I'm going to be able to fall asleep tonight," she admitted.

         Nick took a deep breath. He knew what the logical offer would be, but would Alyssa get offended? It would be weird for the both of them, but he was concerned about her and didn't think it would be a good idea for her to be alone tonight. "Would you like me to stay here with you tonight?"

         Alyssa got a little wide eyed at his offer. She wasn't quite sure how she should respond. It was a bad idea. Him spending the night, especially after her newly realized feelings for him, was bound to be awkward, but another part of her did kind of like the idea of having him there with her in case something were to happen. "But you have a room already booked at your hotel. It would be a waste of money for you to stay here."

         "I can afford to waste the money. When you make a thousand dollars a minute you can do things like this," he teased.

         Alyssa blushed at his remark, obviously still embarrassed from her outburst before. "Well, all right. You can stay if you want. I have an extra toothbrush in my medicine cabinet that I haven't opened yet."

         "Wow, I even get a toothbrush out of the deal? Sounds awesome!"

         She rolled her eyes at his corny sense of humor. "I'm afraid my couches aren't all that comfortable. If you want you can have my bed and I'll curl up on a couch. I'm smaller, so it'll probably be better that way,"she rambled on.

         "Nonsense," Nick argued. "You had a rough night. I'll manage on the couch. You need your rest."

         "Are you sure?"

         "Positive."

         "Thank you," she said as she stood up and placed her empty mug in the sink. She'd wash it tomorrow morning when she got up. "I guess I should at least try to get some sleep now."

         "You do that. I'm just gonna check out that toothbrush in the bathroom," he told her, as he also discarded his mug in the sink. "If you need anything don't hesitate to call me and I'll be right in."

         Alyssa nodded before heading down the hallway to her bedroom. She felt pretty proud of how she'd handled his offer to spend the night. He'd just be out in the living room in the couch which was probably safer anyway, and not just because of the fact she was scared of getting robbed in the middle of the night.

         She was afraid of what she might do if she'd asked him to sleep in the bedroom with her. Even though it would be strictly platonic, it would just be way too weird. Having him out in the living room was actually quite comforting to Alyssa in a way. She knew she'd be safe that way.

         She slipped off her robe and hung it back in her closet before diving underneath her covers. As she made herself comfortable underneath the sheets she could clearly hear what sounded like Nick brushing his teeth from the direction of the bathroom. It was them that she realized how much she missed living with him. If she closed her eyes, she could almost pretend that they were back in their home in Florida and he was just about to join her in bed. She sighed as she opened her eyes again, feeling disappointed that she was still in her apartment in New York a few years later. All of a sudden her bed felt huge and empty with just her in it. Maybe she could ask him just to lay with her for a few minutes until she fell asleep?

         "Nick?" she found her voice calling before she even realized what she was doing.

         "Yea?" she heard his voice answer back from down the hall.

         "Can you come here?"

         A few seconds later he appeared in the doorway of her bedroom clad only in his boxers. The sight momentarily made her forget her original purpose in asking for him to come into the room. "What did you need?" he asked her.

         Alyssa blushed, now feeling a little bit foolish, but there was no turning back now. "I can't sleep. I was wondering... Do you think that maybe you could just lay here with me until I fall asleep?" she mumbled.

         "You want me to stay here with you until you fall asleep?" he asked sounding a little surprised. "Are you sure?"

         She just nodded her head. "Please?"

         Without another word, Nick crossed the room and pulled back the covers to slip in beside her. He was shocked by Alyssa's request. This was exactly the type of situation I didn't want to get myself into, he told himself as he made himself comfortable. This was bound to get awkward. He decided that he'd only stay until she fell asleep and then go back to the couch. That would be the safest idea for the both of them.

         As he settled closer to her, his earlier question about what she had on underneath her robe was finally answered. He was surprised to discover that she was only wearing a thin black camisole tank top and a pair of boy short underwear. He wasn't quite expecting that.

         She surprised him even further by not hesitating a bit to snuggle herself up against his bare chest. Nick found he had no other choice but to awkwardly wrap his arms around her body and gently stroke her hair. It's not like this is anything sexual, he reminded himself. She's just upset and scared, so enjoy it now while you can. After a few minutes he relaxed and actually found it kind of comforting to have her in his arms again. She still felt familiar to him even after all this time.

         He looked over at her and could tell by the slow rise and fall of her chest that she had finally drifted off to sleep. Very carefully, as not to wake her, he attempted to wrench himself out of her grasp, but soon realized that it was hopeless. There was no way he could get up now without waking her. She needs the sleep, he thought as he looked down at her peaceful figure. I'm better off just staying put.

        
Closing his eyes, Nick shifted his body trying to make himself comfortable already knowing that he wouldn't be getting much sleep at all that night.

  

Chapter Twenty by Mellz Bellz
Author's Notes:
More bad news prompts Nick to make Alyssa an offer she can't refuse.

Chapter 20




         The next morning when Nick opened his eyes, it took him a moment or two to get his bearings. He hated waking up in unfamiliar places, but sadly he was used to waking up and not knowing where the hell he was. He glanced down next to him and for the first time since he had opened his eyes, noticed Alyssa sleeping beside him and then it all came flooding back to him from the night before. Their dinner together... Her car being stolen... Him agreeing to stay the night with her... It had been a pretty crazy night when he thought it all over. And this was how it had ended up. With her falling asleep on him, strangely reminiscent of earlier days.

         He glanced down at Alyssa's body laying next to his. Despite the rough night last night, she appeared to be sleeping peacefully. She was laying on her side, her head nestled in the crook of his arm, with her dark hair spread out against the pillow. He noticed that at some point during the night the thin strap of her tank top had slipped off of her shoulder, exposing a generous view of  the top of her breast. It was difficult for him to tear his eyes away from the sight. She still did have an incredible body. Even though her frame was petite she practically had an hourglass figure. Her chest wasn't particularly large by most standards, but on her body, it seemed proportionate. Anything larger than her C cups would probably be a little too much on her. Her stomach was nice and flat from her years of dance, but not too defined. She wasn't exactly rocking a six pack, but that was fine to Nick. He'd always found that to be a bit of a turn off in women. Her hips curved out sexily to reveal a pair of surprisingly long, well toned legs. For a short girl, she really did have nice legs. And they were now entangled with his.

        Just feeling her body against his, made his mind subconsciously drift back to when they had used to date and how it felt to wake up beside her, especially after an intense night of lovemaking. His thoughts drifted to the small butterfly tattoo she'd had on her pelvis. He remembered how turned on he had been when he had first laid eyes on it. He suddenly longed to see it again and trace his fingers over the pattern. Whoa, there, buddy
.He tensed up as he felt himself grow hard, shifting away from her. This is  exactly why I thought this was a BAD idea. All he needed was for Alyssa to wake up and notice he had morning wood and he'd never hear the end of it.

         He was so deep in thoughts that he never heard Alyssa's cat scamper into the room until it leapt onto the bed and dove between the two of them , nudging them with his paws. He'd almost forgotten about that damn cat. He hadn't seen it last night, so he had assumed that Alyssa had gotten rid of it, but unfortunately no such luck. That cat still knows just how to ruin a moment, he thought cynically.

         Alyssa stirred beside him  as she awoke. "How'd you get in here?" she asked, slowly opening her eyes.

         "You asked me to lay down with you while you fell asleep and well... you
kinda fell asleep on top of me," Nick replied.

         "I wasn't talking to you," she said with a yawn. "I was talking to the cat."

       He rolled his eyes and started to tease her.  "Oh. Well, I'm sure she'll give you an answer any minute now."

         "Fuck you," she grumbled as she sat up, adjusted her tank top, and took the cat in her arms. "Nick doesn't like you very much, but he just doesn't know how absolutely adorable you really are." She bent down to bury her head in Precious's fur and drop a kiss on the top of her head.

         "Aren't you just a ray of sunshine in the morning?" He paused, changing the subject. "Did you sleep good last night?"

         "Surprisingly, yes," she answered. Having him in bed with her was so comforting that she had slept more soundly than she had in a long time. She'd almost forgotten how nice it was to wake up beside someone else in the morning. "What about you?"

         "Oh, yea. I slept great." What a load of shit... He'd barely been able to sleep a wink with her so close to him and so many mixed emotions in the way. Every time he'd start to drift off, she'd shift a little in her sleep causing him to be wide awake again. "So, what have you got planned for us today?"

         Alyssa's face fell a little bit. "Well, originally I thought that we could do some sightseeing and stuff, but I don't want to leave the apartment because what if I get a phone call from the police about my car?"

         "Call the police department and leave them your cell phone number," he suggested.

         She sighed. "But who knows if they'll get it. Sometimes those places can be so disorganized. I'd rather just stay here and be safe."

         "Well, then we can just stay here all day. We can rent some movies or something...Order some take out..."

         "That's not fair to you Nick," she argued. "You came all the way to New York for only a few days. Why waste it staying here with me, watching movies? There's so many other things you could be doing."

         "I came to see you Alyssa," he told her, taking hold of her arm. "Not to do touristy things. I've done all that. I don't care if we just sit here all day. As long as I'm with you."

         Alyssa sighed. She was flattered that he wanted to spend time with her, but she needed to be alone for awhile. Having him so close was nerve wracking on her. "I appreciate it Nick. I really do. I just would rather be by myself for a bit. Besides I have some things I need to do here around the apartment and you'd be bored. Why don't you give Izzy and Tristan a call and try to meet up with them? I promise we can do something together tonight, if you want."

         "Fine," Nick agreed. "But at least let me take you out for some breakfast first."

         "But... The police," she protested.

         "How long will breakfast take? Half an hour? 45 minutes at the most? We'll go someplace close and I'm sure if they do call they'll just leave you a message telling you to call them right back."

         She frowned before finally giving in. "All right. You win, but lets not make it too long."

         "I promise it won't take long at all. We can just throw some clothes on and be ready in 10-15 minutes." He quickly sprang out of bed before Alyssa could have a second to change her mind. It would do her some good to at least get out of the apartment for a little while and her mind off of her car.

         "Aren't you going to get up?" he expectantly asked her after a moment or two when she made no motion to move from the bed.  She was sitting up with her legs crossed, looking towards him with an amused expression. "What? Why are you looking at me like I have two heads or something?"

         This made Alyssa explode into a fit of giggles. What the fuck was so funny to her? Has she finally gone off the deep end? Nick wondered.

         Finally calming down enough to speak she answered his question still smirking devilishly. "Actually you do, and one seems very happy to see me this morning."

        At first Nick wasn't sure if he understood her, but one glance downwards at the very apparent bulge in his boxers and he immediately felt himself turning a little red. So, that's what she had met. Ha ha... That was just SO clever.

         "I'm sorry Nick," she apologized. "I just couldn't resist! I'm getting up right now and then we can go for breakfast."




         Later that afternoon, Nick was laying sprawled out on the bed in his hotel room trying to get some rest. He really hadn't slept well at all last night at Alyssa's, and even now he had drifted in and out of consciousness ever since he returned back to the hotel after breakfast. Every time he closed his eyes he could almost feel her body against his and smell her perfume.Why is it that I can't seem to get her out of my head?

         He groaned in frustration. This was is ex! He wasn't supposed to have feelings for her anymore! Actually, he wasn't even sure if he would go as far as to call how he felt "feelings ." There was no denying the fact that he was still physically attracted to her, but that made sense, right? He wouldn't just automatically think that she was ugly the minute they broke up. Of course he'd still think she was gorgeous. But that didn't necessarily mean he meant that in anything more than an appreciative sense... did it?

         I think lots of women are beautiful,
he reasoned with himself. Hell, I love women period. So, why should Alyssa be any different?

         She was different. Deep down Nick knew that unlike most attractive women he saw, he couldn't just charm Alyssa into bed and then kick her out the next morning. With her it would be messy... and complicated... and not a good idea.

         But do I want to charm her into bed?
He had to stop and consider that one a minute. After some contemplation he realized he had to be honest with himself. If the chance arose and he could get away with it without any strings attached, he'd do it in a heartbeat. Yea, like Alyssa would let you get away with something like that.

         Who knew though? People could change in three years. Maybe she'd be cool with it. Who am I kidding? he found him asking himself. This was Alyssa he was thinking about.

         With Alyssa everything had to be neatly defined and labeled. To her there were no gray areas in a relationship. It was either all or nothing. The only way she'd want something more to do with him would be if he had agreed to give things a try again in an actual relationship. Ugh, relationship... Nick shuddered at the thought. The word relationship was definitely one that didn't exist in his vocabulary.

         Not that Nick never wanted something deep and long term. Just not at this point in his life. The idea of an actual "relationship" scared the shit out of him. He'd been in a number of serious ones up until this point in his life, and none of them had ever worked out. If anything they caused him more grief in the end. Besides, since his parents divorce he had been wary of getting involved with someone seriously. It scared him that even after spending half your life with one person, it could still fall to pieces. What was the point? That was why Nick was completely happy living the single life. Whenever he wanted a little fling he could have it and not have to deal with any of the consequences of being in a committed relationship. It was a perfect situation in his eyes.

         Nick wasn't used to having many friendships with women. Izzy was the exception only because they had known each other so long, and even they were beginning to fall apart. Truth was, he didn't make his agenda to pursue friendships with women. The few times he had tried it seemed that they'd always wind up sleeping together and then it was good-bye friendship. Alyssa was different. She was exactly the one person he should not have any kind of friendship with, yet he felt so compelled to try to make one work with her. She already knew so much about him and he knew that he could trust her which was a biggie. There wasn't very many women Nick could trust in life.

         His thoughts were interrupted by the sound of his cell phone ringing. Grabbing it off the nightstand next to the bed, he glanced over at the number amused to see that it was Alyssa calling. Speak of the devil... he chuckled to himself as he flipped it open. "Hello?"

         "Hey Nick. It's me," she answered. Nick could swear he could hear sniffling in the background

         Concern arched his brow. "Are you okay Alyssa? You sound like shit. Did you hear from the police?"

         "Yea... They found my car."

         "They did? That's great! Where was it? Did they find the people who stole it? Is it okay?"

         She sighed on the other end of the line. That wasn't a good sign. "They found in an abandoned lot. Evidently whoever took it crashed it and then stole whatever parts they could from it. It's totaled. And whoever did it is still roaming free."

         Nick just shook his head. Unbelievable. How could people be so careless? Alyssa shouldn't have to go through this. There was no way she could afford another car. And to think  the car thieves had gotten away too. Was there any justice anymore? "That's horrible Alyssa. I'm really sorry to hear that." He wished there was something he could do for her.

         Then an idea popped into his head. Okay, it wasn't exactly going to bring her car back unharmed, but it might make her feel a little bit better. "I have an idea. I know its not going to make everything better, but how about I take you out tonight. We'll get dinner and then you show me your absolute most favorite nightspot in all of New York City. What do you say?"

         "I dunno, Nick... I'm not in much of a partying mood," she confessed.

         "But you need to get out of your apartment," he insisted. "What else are you going to do tonight? Mope around? Besides alcohol always makes me feel better when I'm upset about something."

         She laughed. "If I didn't already know you so well I'd start to suspect you have a little drinking problem there. Anyway, I'm sure you wouldn't be interested in any of the places I like to go out to drink at. You're probably used to going to all those star studded celebrity clubs that you have to literally sell an organ to get into if you're just any old person trying to get in, like Marquee or something."

         "Okay, I do like to go to Marquee," he admitted. "But this is your night. I want to see where you hang out. Even if it is just some hole in the wall college bar. I want you to have fun tonight and get your mind off of all this shit with your car. I'll even buy your drinks all night."

         "Damn Carter... You really know how to get a girl to come around. Free drinks all night? I'm in!"

         "Really?" he asked, surprised that she gave in so easily.

         "Yea. It's been a while since I've been out to a bar or anything and you're right. I really do need it."

         "Ok, so do you want me somewhere or do you want me to come pick you up?"

         "Why don't you pick me up at my apartment at like 8:00? We can do a late dinner and get to the bar about tenish?" she suggested.

         "That sounds good to me. Have you decided where you want to go, yet?"

         "I have a few places in mind. So I'll see you at 8?"

         "8:00," he repeated. "See you then.

         "Bye."

         Nick hung up his phone and glanced at his watch. 4:30pm. He had enough time to try to squeeze in a little more sleep before showering and getting ready to go out. He wondered what kind of place Alyssa was going to take him to. All he knew was that it was bound to be an interesting night.

Chapter Twenty- One by Mellz Bellz
Author's Notes:
A night out between friends takes a slightly unexpected turn...

Chapter 21


       A few minutes after 8:00 that night, Nick was at Alyssa's apartment door. He took a deep breath and paused a moment to adjust the collar of his shirt and to nervously run a hand through his hair, before finally knocking. You're acting ridiculous Carter. It's just Alyssa.

"I'll be right there!" he heard Alyssa's voice call from somewhere behind the door. A few seconds later the door opened, revealing Alyssa just slipping a funky looking brown dangly earring in her ear.

"Alyssa… Wow! You look great!" he told her honestly, not being able to tear his eyes away from her figure. Anyone who looked at her would not be able to tell that just this afternoon she had been upset. She was wearing a tight low cut chocolate colored tank top with a pair of black gaucho pants and the same black high heeled sandals she had worn the night before. Her dark hair was styled wild and curly and she was wearing a smoky colored brown eye shadow which added an air of sexiness to her deep brown eyes.

"Thanks. You look great too," she told him as she leaned in to give him a hug.

"Mmm… What are you wearing?" he asked as he breathed in the scent of her sweet perfume. "You smell amazing."

Alyssa just laughed. "Jean Paul Gaultier. I get so many compliments when I wear it. It's so sexy isn't it?

"Yea," he found himself agreeing. It certainly smelled delicious on her. "Are you almost ready to leave?"

She nodded. "Just let me grab my wristlet and we can go."

"All right." Nick stood back and watched her hurry back inside to grab the wallet sized bag. He'd forgotten how beautiful she could look when she put the time into dressing up for an occasion. Not to say that ordinarily she wasn't good looking, but when she really tried she could look so amazing that she could make an entire room of men turn their heads to gawk at her curvaceous figure.

Alyssa found her wristlet and did a quick survey of the apartment to make sure she wasn't forgetting anything. She looked up to see Nick's eyes glued to her, staring at her in a way that she couldn't even seem to describe. "What? Why are you looking at me like that?"

"Like what?" Nick asked, seeming to snap out of a trance.

"Like how you just were a minute ago."

"I was just wondering if you picked out where we are going tonight?" It was a weak lie, but it was the best that he had to offer her.

         "Well, dinner is up to you, wherever you want to go, but I was thinking afterwards we can go to this place called McFadden's. I've been there a few times and whenever I go I seem to have a really good time, so I figured it might be fun. Before I moved into the city I used to take the train in with some friends and go every once in a while. I haven't been there since July though. Stephanie dragged me out for my birthday and we wound up there," she explained as she made sure to lock her apartment door. "Sound good to you?"

         "Yea, it sounds great." He really couldn't be too picky when he had told her that she could pick the place. "Ready?"

         Alyssa nodded and took his arm as they headed down the hall. Surprisingly she all of a sudden did feel excited to go out and party. Nick was right. She had been working too hard lately. She really did need to just let loose and have some fun for once. She deserved it.




         They decided to grab dinner at a small bar and grill type restaurant not far from Alyssa's apartment. Since they had went out for a fancy dinner only the previous night, they both decided a more low key place would be better. After dinner and a few drinks they finally decided that it was late enough to proceed on to the bar.

         McFadden's turned out to be a lot different from the high profile clubs that Nick was used to, but not altogether disappointing for him. In fact, he imagined it to be the type of place that he might hang out on a Saturday night with his friends if he was just another normal guy. It was pretty small and he was surprised to find the bar so packed. After paying their ten dollar cover charge, which Nick insisted on paying for Alyssa, the two started to inch their way towards the bar, which was already overcrowded with people.

         Nick paused to take in his surroundings. A few feet from the bar there was a dance floor set up which also seemed packed. From somewhere above a DJ was playing songs, but unlike most clubs Nick went to the music was more than just the current most popular hip hop and dance tunes. He almost laughed once he heard the music change from "Sugar We're Going Down" by Fall Out Boy to "Cotton Eye Joe." Was the DJ on crack or something?

         Alyssa laughed as she noticed the perplexed look on his face. "The music they play here is totally random, but its great when you're drunk," she explained, leaning her head closer to his in order to be heard over the music.

         They continued to forge their way towards the bar for drinks. Just as they reached it, a girl standing next to them turned around and her eyes lit up in recognition in their direction. She let out a little squeal so shrill that she almost dropped her beer. Great I haven't been here two minutes and I've already been recognized, Nick thought.

         He almost fell over in surprise when the girl appeared to walk right past him and nearly jumped on Alyssa embracing her in a tight hug. "Oh my God! Sweetie what are you doing here?!" she asked, as she kissed Alyssa twice on each one of her cheeks. It was clear that she had definitely had more than a few beers before.

         Nick laughed at Alyssa's horrified expression on her face. "Just out for a good time. What are you doing all the way out here?" she politely asked, all the while her eyes pleading with Nick's to save her.

         "My friends birthday. It's turning out to be a wild night!" The music suddenly changed again to  Bon Jovi's "Living on a Prayer" causing the drunk girl to squeal obnoxiously again. "I LOOOOVE this song! I'm going to go dance!" she told Alyssa, kissing her on the cheek one last time. "Come by later though. We have a table in the back!"

         "I'll uhh... do that," Alyssa called after her as the girl danced away.

         "You know that girl?" Nick asked, after she had left, clearly amused at the scene that had just transpired.

         Alyssa rolled her eyes. "Not really. I mean we went to school together and we were in some of the same classes, but we weren't exactly friends. She's never given me such a big hello, like that before. I think she was just pretty wasted."

         Nick laughed bending his head down closer to her ear. "I thought any minute she was going to stick her tongue down your throat. Now that would've been hot."

         Alyssa playfully smacked him. " You wish! Now get your mind out of the gutter and buy me a drink."

         "Aren't we the pushy one?" he teased as he caught the bartenders attention. "I'll have a Corona. What do you want, Alyssa?"

         "A vodka and cranberry," she told the bartender, leaning over the bar. "Heavy on the vodka."

         Nick watched as the bartender smirked at her. "Looking to get drunk tonight?" he asked.

         "Maybe...," Alyssa answered him with a sexy grin. Nick couldn't help, but feel a little jealous that she seemed to be flirting so openly in front of him with the bartender, but then again it wasn't as if he owned her. She had every right to flirt with whoever she wanted.

         "So maybe I'll see you dancing on the bar later tonight?" the bartender continued, not even bothering to conceal the fact that he was staring right at Alyssa's exposed cleavage.

         Alyssa shrugged. "Perhaps. We'll just have to see about that."

         "I certainly hope so," he answered, as he prepared her drink, pouring a generous amount of vodka in the glass. "That enough for you?"

         "It's perfect. Thanks." She flashed him another grin as he finished getting their drinks and Nick paid him.

         "No wonder it took so long to get drinks," Nick grumbled, as they stepped away from the bar. "If he stops to flirt with every girl like that..."

         Alyssa just laughed. Is he jealous? she wondered. She kind of liked the idea, the more she thought about it. Usually she was always the jealous one. It felt good to have the tables turned for once. There was no way she could let this one go. "Aww... What's wrong Nicky? Are you jealous?" she teased him.

         "Why would I be jealous? The guy was an asshole! Did you see the way he was trying to look down your shirt?"

         "Like you've never held a conversation with a girl where you were practically talking to their boobs?"

         Nick had to admit she had him there. "Ok, I'm only human, but I just didn't like the way he was looking at you.

         "Somebody's jealous!" she sang out, but then froze as the fact finally hit her. If he's jealous of me flirting with another guy that would mean that he must have some kind of feelings for me, right?  she asked herself. The thought both scared her and thrilled her all at the same time. This was what she had hoped for! But then again the realization that he could be falling back in love with her too was scary. Was she really ready to give things a second try with him?
        
         I think I need more alcohol,
she thought as she gulped down her drink, trying to suppress her emotions. This was not how she wanted the night to go. Tonight was supposed to be just about the two of them going out and having an awesome time and there was no way she was going to let her awkward feelings get in the way.




         Nick leaned back against the bar and gazed at Alyssa out on the dance floor, grinding provocatively up on some random guy who had asked her to dance. In the almost two hours they had been at the bar so far, Alyssa had barely sat out one dance. The guys had been flocking towards her all night. She seemed to be having the time of her life. There's only one guy she hasn't danced with tonight and that's me.

         As he continued to watch her he found himself growing increasingly jealous of the guy she happened to be dancing with. He should be the one up there with her. Closing his eyes for a moment he could practically feel her hips up against his and his arms encircling her waist. The thought almost made him groan in frustration. She came here with me tonight yet she's spent all her time with other guys.

         He supposed he deserved her ignoring him. The tables seemed to turned from that night in California when he had hooked up with those two girls, and Nick found that he didn't like the feeling at all. Man, karma REALLY is a bitch.

         Usually Nick would be out on the dance floor himself trying to pick up as many girls as he could, but tonight for some reason he had chosen to lay back and keep an eye on Alyssa. There were probably a lot of pervy guys around wanting to get a piece of her, he reasoned. So, he had spent most of his night by the bar quietly nursing beers.

         "What's a guy like you doing standing there all by yourself?" a cute looking blonde asked as she approached him. "Don't you want to dance?"

         "Nahh, I'm good," he replied. What was wrong with him? He never turned down a dance from a good looking blonde.

         The blonde pouted. "You sure?"

         "Yea. Maybe later," he gently put her off. A few other girls had asked if he would dance with them and even though Alyssa had kept urging him to dance with someone, he just wasn't in the mood. There was only one girl he wanted to dance with. And she had seemed to have forgotten that he was even there.
        
         A few minutes later Alyssa staggered over to him breathing heavily from all the dancing. She slammed her empty cocktail glass on top of the bar and reached out to grab Nick's half full bottle of beer from his hand. He stood in shock as he watched her chug it down like a pro.

         "Ah! That hit the spot!" she exclaimed as she finished it and placed the empty bottle on the bar. "Sorry. All this dancing made me thirsty!"

         Nick still looked stunned. Finally he managed to stammer out, "That was my beer!"

         " So, I'll buy you another one. Stop whining," she told him.

         "But, you don't even like beer."

         "At this point I can't even taste it," she shouted into his ear. She had drank quite a few vodka and cranberry's by this point and Nick began to notice that she was starting to get a little tipsy, which to him didn't exactly seem like a bad thing. She was so serious most of the time that when she was drinking it was like a rare glimpse into her fun loving side that he really wished would come out more often.

         "Hey Mike!" she called to the bartender.

         Since when are they on a first name basis?
Nick suspiciously wondered.

         "Can you get me another Corona for my friend here?" she continued.

         "For you? Anything sweetheart," Mike replied as he went into the cooler to pull one out.

         "You really don't have to buy me another one Lyss," he insisted. "I'm supposed to be buying the drinks tonight, remember?"

         "It's only one beer Nick. Besides you've paid for everything this whole weekend. The least I can do is buy you a drink."

         Nick sighed. He could already see that he was not going to win this one. "Fine. I give up. You pay for the beer."

         Alyssa smiled triumphantly and paid Mike for the drink., just as "Save a Horse Ride a Cowboy" by Big and Rich began to play from the DJ booth. "Ha!" she laughed. "I love this song! It's so cheesy."

         The DJ's voice boomed out over the song. "I see a lot of hot, sexy, ladies in the house tonight. Let's try to make a new record tonight and see just how many girls we can get to dance up on the bar tonight! C'mon ladies... Free drinks for all of you who get up there!"

         Nick was amazed as he watched a handful of girls climb up onto the bar. He'd seen some pretty wild things at clubs, but this looked like something straight out of that movie Coyote Ugly. He could already count a good ten or so girls up there with a few more on their way.

         Alyssa could read the shocked expression on his face and laughed. "I forgot to explain to you that its kind of a tradition at this bar to try to see how many girls they can cram up on the bar at once. It's pretty wild to see. Last time I was here I think they got about thirty."

         "Thirty?!" he echoed, almost choking on his beer. "Is that bar even big enough?"

         "Apparently. You'd be surprised."

         Nick smirked. "And would you know this from personal experience?" he asked.

         She almost laughed out loud at the absurdity of what he was getting at. "Who? Me? Dance on top of a bar? I think I'd have to be pretty drunk for that."

         "I think you are a little drunk, Alyssa. For a girl who can't stand beer you sure chugged mine down pretty quickly," he continued to tease.

         Her cheeks flushed. "I thought we were over the damn beer already."

         "So you've never danced on a bar before?"

         "No I swear." As soon as the words left her mouth she knew that was going to regret them.

         Nick's eyes lit up devilishly. "Well, there's a first time for everything. Get up there!"

         "No!" she protested. "You know I can't!"

         "Why not? Are you scared?" Nick knew it was a little mean to push her like this, but she had no idea how bad he wanted to see her up there dancing. It was the least she could for him after ignoring him the whole night.

         "I'm not scared. Just shy."

         "You didn't look so shy on the dance floor with those guys earlier," he pointed out. "Come on I dare you to!" When she still didn't respond he stuck out his lower lip, pleadingly. "You know I came out here all the way from LA and the least you can do is dance on the bar for me."

         Alyssa almost had to laugh at his pathetic attempt to guilt her. Glancing up at the bar she saw that there were a lot of girls on there by now. Not like she'd really stick out too much if she climbed up there and the song was already half over. I suppose I owe it to him, she thought to herself. "Ok, I'll do it! But you're going to have to give me a boost up there. Just try not to touch my ass."

         "Like I would ever dream of it," Nick said, pretending to look insulted as he stepped forward and placed his hand on the small of her back to help push her up onto the bar. Once she was up there and steady he purposely let his hand drift downwards. Hey, I'm the wrong person to tell NOT to do something, he reasoned.

         Alyssa turned around and covered her mouth feigning shock at his wandering hands. She almost laughed as he held up his hands and shrugged as if to say, "Sorry, I couldn't help myself." Secretly she was kind of delighted at his flirty behavior and touching. Maybe it was the alcohol, but it made her feel sexy and desirable, two things that she hadn't felt in a very long time. Of course it probably meant nothing to him. Two friends just messing around could easily be misconstrued as flirting, but she could pretend right? Nick would never have to know what she was thinking.

         It took her a few moments to get used to the feeling of being up on the bar and at first she felt ridiculous, but after a few seconds her dancer's instinct kicked in. She found that it really was no different than dancing on a stage. After a few jerky movements she felt a cold beer being thrust into her hand. After taking a gulp of it and realizing that no one was really staring at her directly (well besides Nick) she finally allowed herself to get into the music. Before long she was dancing just as confidently as she had been on the dance floor earlier that night.

         As Nick gazed up at her he couldn't help, but to feel amazed as he drank in her every movement. He was actually quite shocked that she had actually went up there. He was only intending to tease her, to see how far he could push her. The Alyssa he used to know never would've climbed up on that bar to dance under any circumstances. He couldn't say that he was disappointed in this new boldness within her. Granted, it had taken some persuading, but in the end choice had been hers. Just the fact that she could let go and not worry about way others thought about her, seemed to make her even more attractive in Nick's eyes. If he had to pick the most beautiful girl on that bar just then, it would be Alyssa hands down. She may not have been as sexy looking as some of the other girls, but there was just some kind of natural luminosity about her that made her stand out to him. Of course maybe he was just biased.

         The song finally ended and Nick offered her his hand to help her down from the bar. Alyssa accepted and hopped down onto the floor, grinning widely as she gasped for air. She took another few sips of her beer before she spoke, "I thought I told you not to touch my ass?"

         "Sorry," he apologized with a smirk. "My hands must've slipped."

         "I bet," she said rolling her eyes as the song changed. As soon the new music started, Alyssa's eyes instantly lit up. " I LOVE this song!"

         "I don't think I know it," Nick found himself replying with a frown.

         "So? Who cares? Dance with me!" Before Nick could even try to argue she had grabbed his arm and was dragging him towards the dance floor.

Here we are so what you gonna do
Do I gotta spell it out for you
I can see that you got other plans for tonight
But I don't really care

  Size me up you know I beat the best
Tick tock on time to rest
Let them say what their gonna say
But tonight I just don't really care

       I'm finally getting the chance that I've been waiting for all night, Nick realized as he finally gave in. He was finally going to get to be the one out there dancing with her. Once they got settled into the crowd of people he wrapped his arms around her waist as they began to dance.


Come on baby we aint gonna live forever
Let me show you all the things that we could do
You know I wanna be together
And I wanna spend the night with you
With you
Come with me tonight
We could make the night last forever


       It became apparent through Alyssa's movements that she was still high off her performance on the bar earlier. Whether it was the alcohol, the music, the atmosphere, or a combination of all three, she seemed completely relaxed as she moved with the rhythm of the music, seemingly unaware of the closeness of each others bodies.

I've seen it all I've got nothing to prove
Come on baby just make your move
Follow me lets leave it all behind tonight
Like me just don't care

Let me take you on the ride of your life
That's what I said alright
They can say what they wanna say
cuz tonight I just don't even care


        Much to Nick's surprise it was Alyssa that seemed to make the first move. As she fell deeper into the music her dancing became increasingly more alluring. She seemed to forget that it was Nick she was dancing with, and with a playful grin she took a step closer to him and seductively began to grind her hips against his. Nick was taken by her sudden boldness, but gladly reciprocated. Might as well take full advantage of the moment while it lasts, he decided, pulling her closer to him.

Come on baby we aint gonna live forever
Let me show you all the things that we could do
You know I wanna be together
And I wanna spend the night with you
With you
Come with me tonight
We could make the night last forever


        It didn't take long for Alyssa to realize that Nick had not only become a lot better dancer on stage, but on the dance floor as well. After only a few short moments the two of them seemed to find their rhythm together and it almost began to feel to her that nothing had changed between the two of them. Except the fact that Nick was a much better dancer now. I really should've asked him to dance earlier, she realized.


Lets pretend your mine
We could just pretend, we could just pretend, yeah yeah
You got what I like
You got what I like, I got what you like
Oh come on
Just one taste and you'll want more
So tell me what your waiting for


       What happened next appeared to Alyssa like it was happening in slow motion. One minute they were laughing and dancing freely against each other as if it was the most natural thing in the world. Then something changed. She couldn't exactly pinpoint what it was exactly, but she all of a sudden became very aware of the closeness of their bodies and the way in which they were moving. She'd hardly noticed that she had stopped dancing until Nick looked down at her expectantly.

       She gazed up into his eyes and was sure at that moment whatever it was that had come over her, he felt it too. They just stood there for a moment, staring at each other. He was so close, just then. Maybe a little too close for comfort. Her heart began to pound in her chest as she realized how close their lips were.

       And before another thought could cross her mind, they were drawing nearer. She closed her eyes in anticipation as his mouth finally came crashing down on hers. Hungrily, she responded as her arms snaked around his neck. Yea, they had shared that one kiss on his tour bus back in July, but it was incomparable to this one. This time, it was much more than just a simple curiosity between the two of them. This kiss  was fueled by some kind of hidden tension that had been brewing between them for quite some time now. And finally it had become impossible for either one of them to ignore it.

      
Come on baby we aint gonna live forever
Let me show you all the things that we could do
You know I wanna be together
And I wanna spend the night with you
With you
Come with me tonight
We could make the night last forever


       As the song continued to play on, the two of them continued to stand still and kiss totally oblivious to the other people dancing around them. At that moment, it felt as if they were the only two people in the world to Alyssa, and she couldn't care less if people were stopping to stare at them.

       Finally the song began to fade, reminding her that they were still on the dance floor in a small, overcrowded, New York City bar. She pulled away for a moment and whispered breathlessly in his ear, "Come on. Let's get out of here."

       Nick did not have to be told twice.

*Featured lyrics from "4ever" by The Veronica's

Chapter Twenty-Two by Mellz Bellz
Author's Notes:
Alyssa and Nick finally in to their feelings for one another.

Chapter 22


         They hailed a cab on the street outside of the bar within minutes. The whole time that they waited Nick's hands never once left Alyssa's waist. Nothing was said about the kiss that had just happened moments ago. It seemed like an unspoken agreement between the two not to talk about it. In fact, the two hadn't exchanged a word since then.

         As the taxi pulled up towards the curb, they climbed into the backseat. Without a moments hesitation Alyssa rattled off the address to her apartment and they drove off.

         While they sat in traffic, Nick couldn't help but to glance over at Alyssa beside him. Still she hadn't said a word to him and it was driving him absolutely crazy. He found himself desperately wanting to touch her, but he was unsure if she would be comfortable with it. She'd been rather quiet since they had left the bar. He doubted she had even said two words to him since then.

         He couldn't stand this any longer. He had to make some kind of move. Sliding closer to her, he draped his arm around her shoulder. "Alyssa..."

         She looked up and their eyes locked for a moment. Bad move, she told herself, as she recognized the same desire mirrored in them that she was trying so hard to fight. 

         Why can't I barely seem to look him in the eye? she wondered. Could it be that deep down she actually wanted him as much as he seemed to want her?

         Her eyes quickly flashed back down into her lap, breaking their gaze. "Alyssa," he pleaded again, as he reached forward to cup her chin. "Look at me."

         Alyssa had no choice, but to do just that, her heart pounding wildly in her chest the whole time. Before she had time for any other rational thought, his lips were on hers again, at first soft and gentle, but gradually getting more intense. This is crazy! Not only is it crazy its also completely wrong! You're never supposed to hook up with an ex. It's like asking for trouble!

        
Yet her body still responded, seemingly unaffected by her hesitant thoughts.  It had been way too long since she had shared any type of physical intimacy with a guy and as their kisses grew deeper, the protests in her mind began to grow weaker and weaker.

         Before she knew it, she could feel herself leaning back against the door of the taxi. Nick was now pressed over hers, his fingertips exploring her curves. His mouth momentarily left hers, and traveled to her neck where it gently nipped, searching for a sensitive spot. Alyssa felt her body go limp with every kiss. He must've remembered how her neck was definitely her weak spot. An involuntary moan escaped her lips loud enough for the cab driver to glance back at them through his rearview mirror.

         Alyssa could feel her face flush for a moment, but then remembered that it was an early Sunday morning in New York City. She was pretty sure that she and Nick had not been the first couple that the driver had picked up at this hour to not be able to keep their hands off of each other. He probably had lots of interesting stories to tell.

         It was then that the absurdity of the situation hit her. She was in a taxi cab sitting in the middle of New York City traffic totally making out with her ex and enjoying every minute of it.  It had probably been about two years since the last time she had been with a man and only after a few minutes of making out she was left wanting more. Don't think, she chastised herself as she aggressively reached up to kiss him. Just do.

        
A few moments later, Alyssa found herself sliding into his lap, straddling him the best that she could in the confined space.  He still has an amazing mouth, she thought as she gently tugged at his bottom lip. His hands snaked around her waist to stroke the sliver of bare skin that lay exposed at the small of her back sending shivers throughout her body. As her hips grinded up against his,  she could already feel his hardness beneath her and bit back a moan. She hoped they weren't too much farther from her apartment.

         She could tell that Nick was a little shocked with her sudden change in attitude, but definitely not complaining. Back when we used to date I'd never carry on like this with him in a taxi cab, she thought with a smirk. Might as well make it worth his while. While they continued to kiss she let her hands drift down his chest before finally settling on the hem of his shirt. Slipping them underneath the material she reached up to run her fingertips over his bare stomach, immediately feeling him squirm a little bit. That had always been an extremely sensitive area for him. She then let them float even lower until her hands were resting on the top of his jeans. With a devilish glint in her eyes she hooked her thumbs inside and let them teasingly rest there, lightly stroking his skin. This elicited a frustrated groan from him. "God... Alyssa."

         She grinned at his response, delighted at the way in which he had said her name. At least he had gotten it right this time. She was just playing with the top button on his jeans, when the cab came to a sudden stop, nearly throwing Alyssa off of Nick's lap.

         "Uhh this is your stop right?" the cab driver interrupted them.

         Alyssa looked up and realized that they had indeed arrived at her apartment building. Scrambling off of Nick and opening the door to the taxi she got out her body still reeling from the events of the past ten minutes.

         Nick followed after her digging into his back pocket for his wallet. He handed the driver a crumbled twenty dollar bill. "Keep the change."

         The driver's face lit up. The meter only read that the fare was a little bit over seven dollars. Evidently the extra money seemed to make up for their performance in the backseat. He smiled and gave the pair a wave. "You two have a good night!"

         But the two never heard him. They were already halfway inside the building not bothering to take their hands and mouths off of each other the whole way. Once they reached the elevator and stepped inside, Nick pressed her against the wall with such force that Alyssa wondered if they would even make it up to her apartment. Already the kiss that he had enveloped her in was making her knees weak. Thank God, we're the only ones in here, she thought.

         They reached her floor much to soon. After fumbling down the hallway, they finally reached her door. Retrieving her key and trying to get it in the door proved to be a difficult task for Alyssa in her half drunken state. Of course Nick nibbling at her ear wasn't helping matters much either. Finally, Nick became impatient and grabbed the key from her, unlocking the door.

         "Thanks," she breathed in as she stepped inside the dark apartment. She hesitated for only a moment. If she was going to back out now was her last chance.

         She didn't want to. Before she could change her mind, she slammed the door shut behind him and led him towards the direction of her bedroom. "I thought we'd never get here," Nick confessed as he pulled her down onto the bed with him.

         "I know what you mean," she sympathized, as she straddled his stomach and immediately got to work on the buttons of his shirt, gently sucking at his neck while she slipped it off of his shoulders.

         Nick was amazed at how brazen Alyssa seemed to be. So different from the Alyssa he had known a few years ago. He wondered what had changed in her.  He could tell by her aggressiveness that perhaps it had been a long time since she had last had sex.  Guess I shouldn't keep her waiting, he thought,drawing her down towards him with a deep kiss.

         Within moments he had slipped his hands underneath her tank top and was easing it up over her body.  She momentarily broke away from his lips just long enough to allow him to pull it over her head, before going back to exploring his mouth.
        
        Alyssa's lips strayed from his and paved a trail of kisses down his chest as her fingers clumsily fumbled with the button of his jeans. Finally getting it undone, she began to work them off of his legs. Nick took a sharp intake of breath as her fingertips lightly brushed over the growing bulge in his boxers. This definitely wasn't the Alyssa he remembered, but he sure as hell liked it. The more he thought about the fact that she probably hadn't had sex in awhile, the more of a turn on it  became for him. I could have some fun with this, he decided with a smirk as he flipped them over so that he was on top.

         "Nick," she whimpered. "What are you doing?"

         "Shh..." he told her, cutting her off with a kiss as he fingered the lacy outline of her black bra. "Don't say anything."

         She gave in without anymore protest as he lingered kisses over the top of her breasts and down around her stomach. She bit down on her bottom lip as his fingers rested over her belly button ring.

         "Handcuffs huh?" he asked as he examined the ornament. "Looks kinda kinky."

         Alyssa just shrugged beneath him. "I couldn't resist buying it."

         "It's very sexy," he admitted as he gently tugged on the piece of jewelry with his teeth causing her to shift beneath him and moan. Seeing that she enjoyed the sensation he dipped his tongue into her navel lightly pushing against the barbell. He'd always found the piercing extremely attractive on a woman.

         Alyssa let out another moan as she felt her body temperature starting to rise. As much as she loved having him play with her piercing, she began to get impatient and finally led his hand downwards to her hip hoping that he's get the hint. He did, and finally began to peel down her gaucho pants from her waist revealing the matching black thong she had on underneath.

         Nick glanced over her body before refocusing his attention back upwards. His mouth connected with her collarbone, gently nibbling at the delicate area as his hands reached around her back to unclasp her bra. The garment came off her shoulders with ease and Alyssa could feel her body slightly shiver. Almost instantly his hands reached upwards to take turns cupping each of her breasts, making sure to explore every inch of them. Her back arched in response as he bent down to softly flick his tongue against one of her already hardened nipples. Seeing her reaction, Nick grinned devilishly as he pinned her arms down against the sheets and dropped a few light teasing kisses down her chest. Alyssa squirmed beneath him, but found that she could not wriggle out of his grasp. He was just too strong for her.  His tormenting continued as his mouth engulfed one of the buds gently sucking on it. This produced several frustrated cries from her not being able to withstand the sweet torture. Finally he took pity on her and let her arms free which immediately slid down his back.

         "That wasn't very nice," she pouted, her hands lingering about the waistband of his boxers. "Teasing me like that."

         "And your performance in the taxi earlier, was?" he retorted.

         He didn't even give her a chance to respond because he was quickly distracted by the outline of her butterfly tattoo peeking out of the top of her thong. Nick remembered his longing only that very morning to catch sight of it again. If only I knew how soon that time would be, he thought to himself with an amused grin. Lowering the material off of her hip, he let his fingertips slowly glide over the pattern, his mind being swept up in old memories.

         He was jolted back to reality by Alyssa's hands wandering inside his boxers. "Nicky..." she whispered into his ear. "Just fuck me already."

         For a second Nick seemed to be frozen there in shock. There's no way that just came out of Alyssa's mouth was there? Am I hallucinating? He definitely was floored by her bluntness, and in a perverse way extremely turned on by it. How could he turn down a request like that?

         Pushing his surprise aside, he pressed his lips over her in a passionate kiss as he completely lowered her thong off of her body. Alyssa wasted no time in tearing off his boxers as well. It was painfully obvious that she couldn't wait any longer, and Nick had to admit that he was feeling the same. The minute she first felt him against her thigh, she moaned in anticipation. He couldn't resist teasing her just a little bit more by hovering only inches above her wet folds.

         "Nick..." she whimpered again. By the expression on her face Nick could tell that she was clearly impatient.

         "Hold on one second," he told her as he reached for his wallet to retrieve a condom.  Alyssa grabbed it from his hand and after a few moments of rustling she had  torn open the packaging and expertly slipped it on him. Her heart raced as she felt him position his weight above her and gasped in pleasure the moment she felt him ease himself inside of her. It had definitely been much too long since the last time she had experienced this. I can't believe that I almost forgot how good this feels, she thought as he slowly began to move.

         In her mind, his first few thrusts felt excruciatingly slow.  Relief flooded through her body as it automatically responded to him, causing her hips to roll up against his. Already, her hands pressed up against his back, begging him to venture deeper inside of her. As their pace finally quickened, Alyssa found that she was amazed at the familiarity of his body. Every touch, every kiss, every caress made it seem like they had never spent the last three years apart. He just felt right.

         "Damn baby... You feel amazing," Nick breathed, seeming to read her mind.

         Alyssa could  feel her cheeks flush, but she wasn't certain if it was because of his comment or the sudden heat beginning to radiate throughout her body, or a combination of both. She could already feel the beads of sweat beginning to form on her skin. Sneaking a glance upwards at him, her mouth lifted upwards into a satisfied grin. Just by the expression on his face she could immediately tell that he was enjoying it just as much as she was.

         Nick caught her gaze and returned her grin not being able to even fully believe what was happening. It was taking all of his self control to hold himself back, wanting to extend the moment as long as he possibly could, knowing that he probably wouldn't get a chance  like this again with her.  He dropped a few light, teasing kisses on her lips, before looking for a new area to explore. Finally, he settled for a spot right behind her earlobe. His lips had barely made a connection when he felt her body start to crumple. Realizing that it was a sensitive spot , he grinned mischievously and flicked his tongue against the area producing a load moan from Alyssa.

         "You like that, huh?" he murmured into her ear.

         All Alyssa could do was nod her head vigorously as he continued to run his tongue along the spot.  Her body writhed beneath him as the feeling of pleasure swept throughout her. Between the sensation of his mouth on her earlobe and the motion of their bodies, her mind began to grow fuzzy as the passion overtook her. She knew she wouldn't be able to wait much longer.

         "Nick..." she managed to gasp out. "I'm-"

         "It's okay," he interrupted, silencing her with a kiss. "Just let it go."

         Running his hands over her thighs, he grabbed her legs and pulled them around his waist, allowing him to deepen his thrusts. Realizing that he wasn't going to be able to hold out much longer either, he let his hand slip in between their bodies. The moment Alyssa felt his fingertips stroke her throbbing clit her body  trembled, the extra stimulation pushing her to her limit.  Her arms clung tightly to his neck  as her orgasm washed over her, his name echoing off her lips. After a few more thrusts she felt Nick's body collapse against her as he finally reached his peak.

         For a full minute or two neither of them spoke. The only sound that could be heard in the room was the sound of them both panting for air, trying to calm down the racing of their bodies. What the hell just happened? Alyssa wondered trying to  convince herself that what had just transpired had actually been real.

         Finally Nick shifted his weight and rolled over so that he was laying beside her. Just when Alyssa thought that she was going to scream from the awkward pause, he finally broke the silence. "Alyssa?" he started out seriously. "Can I ask you a sort of personal question?"

         "Okay," she answered feeling a little bit confused at the question.

         "Don't smack me or anything, but I was just wondering... Was I the last guy you slept with?" His face broke into a playful grin, which was a great relief to her. Suddenly the ice was broken.

         She pretended to think carefully for a moment before playfully answering. "What makes you ask that?"

         Nick looked a little sheepish. "It just seemed like maybe it had been a while for you. You were a lot more aggressive than I remember. I don't think I ever saw you so..."

         "Horny?" she supplied.

         Nick laughed as he wrapped an arm around her waist, pulling her closer. "I was going for needy, but horny will work."

         "Well, I think you flatter yourself. I slept with other men after you."

         "Oh yea?" he asked, his interested piqued. "How many?"

         "How many girls have you slept with since me?"

         "Honestly, you don't want to know," he replied. "And I don't think I could tell you."

         "You're right. I probably don't. I'm glad we used a condom," she teased. "Who knows what-"

         "Hey now! If I remember correctly I thought I asked you the question. What's the big dark secret? Are you trying to hide something?"

         Alyssa bit her lip. In reality her sex life since Nick had been nearly non existent and she felt just a little embarrassed about it. She'd rather Nick think that she had no problem getting laid. Of course considering that he already suspected that she hadn't exactly had sex in a while it was kind of hard to pretend otherwise. Knowing she was trapped she sighed. "Ok... Ok... There were two."

         "Two?" Nick repeated. It was obvious from the expression on his face that he was begging to know more.

         "Yea. Two. They weren't serious or anything. After I moved back to New York I tried the random hook up thing, but it wasn't for me," she confessed, her eyes darting away from him.  "I always wound up feeling used and the sex wasn't even that good. So I stopped."

         Nick was a little surprised by her answer. Ok... He had no right to knock her for trying the one night stand thing. Hell, he'd be the worlds biggest hypocrite if he did. Still, he didn't like the idea that she had hooked up with two random guys just to try to get over him. He felt like the worlds biggest asshole then. "How long ago?" he demanded to know.

         Alyssa's face blushed.  "Last one was over two years ago."

        Over two years? Damn... Just the thought of going that long without sex seemed unfathomable to him.

         "I know what you are thinking. How can a person possibly go over two years without sex?" she continued, reading his mind. "It may seem like a pretty unbelievable concept to you, but it can actually be done."

         Nick didn't know how he should respond to that. Feelings of guilt were already clouding his thoughts. Maybe he should've put a stop to things before they started. Somehow at the back of his mind he knew that their relationship, whatever it might be, would never be the same again.  By giving in to their desires they had definitely surpassed the comfort zone that they had been in, and the idea of not knowing what was around the corner was kind of scary to him. He had been right in his thoughts earlier that night. Alyssa wasn't just a girl he could sleep with and then toss aside the next morning. There were sure to be consequences with her. Consequences that could ruin their friendship for good.

         "Do you regret what just happened?" he finally asked, working up the courage to do say what was lingering in the back of his mind.

         Alyssa smiled as she fought back a yawn. "Not right now, but tomorrow morning might be a different story," she lightheartedly joked.

         He reached out to brush a damp strand of hair away from her face. "Tired?"

         She nodded as she curled up against him. "Yea a little bit. You wore me out. I'm out of practice."
        
         Grinning, he moved his hands upward to stroke her back. "Well then enough talking for one night. Get some rest."

         "Okay," she agreed, closing her eyes. Between the warmth of his body and the events of the past evening she found herself drifting off to sleep almost immediately.

         For the second night in a row, Nick watched her as she fell asleep in his arms. Tomorrow he'd have to get on a plane and go back to LA and in another week he'd be overseas for the European leg of the tour. Who knew when the next time he would be able to see would be? He sighed as he asked himself for what felt like the ten billionth time, What exactly do are you doing?

        
It was the first time in his life that he had to admit that he had absolutely no clue.

Chapter Twenty-Three by Mellz Bellz
Author's Notes:
Nothing seems as simple the following morning...

Chapter 23

       The first thing that Alyssa felt when she awoke the next morning was a dull ache pounding across her temples. How much did I have to drink last night? she wondered as she tried to will the energy into her weary limbs to move. It seemed as if every muscle in her body ached. Maybe I'm just getting too old for this.

      
Her thoughts were interrupted as she felt her leg brush up against... something. She froze in shock once she realized exactly what that something was. Or rather who. Cautiously peeking out from beneath her closed eyes she noticed Nick sleeping next to her. Her mind struggled to remember how exactly he had wound up there when for the first time she looked down at herself, finally realizing she was naked.

       Holy shit... What the fuck happened last night?

      
Little by little her mind slowly began to fill in the details. She could vaguely remember the bar and her drinking countless glasses of vodka and cranberries. Did she really get up on top of the bar and dance or was it just her imagination? Then of course she remembered dancing with Nick which lead to her remembering that amazing kiss, and their heated taxi ride back to her apartment...

       Oh my God... she realized. We had sex last night!

       It all came back to her in every last amazing detail. And it had been amazing. Even though at this moment she felt anything, but. That probably explains why I'm sore.

       Even though Alyssa was certain that the sex last night had been great a sense of dread of having to face Nick when he woke up filled her stomach. This was exactly why she was never good at these one night stand things. She never knew how exactly she was supposed to act afterwards. And it would be even more awkward with Nick. Although she secretly hoped that after last night he realized that they were meant to be together she was also realistic. This was Nick. She'd be lucky if he agreed to stay in touch. She just wasn't looking forward to the inevitable "about last night" conversation that was certain to come up.

       She was just contemplating getting out of bed and making a run for it, when she felt Nick shift beside her. From the way he was moving she could tell that he was just about to wake up. She froze like a deer in headlights as she sat up in bed with the sheets protectively held against her chest. She was trapped.

       She watched as his eyes fluttered open and he took a moment to take in his surroundings, probably going through the whole routine that Alyssa had just gone through herself in recalling the night before. Of course he was probably pretty used to waking up beside strange girls in the morning. He sat up and rubbed his eyes before finally speaking. "Hey," he said a little hoarsely. "How are you feeling?"

       Alyssa shrugged. "Not great. I have a headache and I'm pretty sore all over."

       Nick smirked. "I know why you're sore," he teased, sliding an arm around her shoulders. "You know, a hot shower might really help all those sore muscles. We could-"

       She didn't even let him finish. She couldn't do this. She couldn't sit there and act like everything was perfect and like this was completely natural for them. Maybe she could when she was drunk, but not when she was still hung over from the night before and feeling as mixed up and confused as she was. Sliding his hand off of her shoulder she pulled away, wrapping the sheet tighter around herself as she stood up to get her robe.

       "What's the matter?" he asked her, clearly confused by her behavior. Alyssa ignored him, continuing to make her way towards her closet.

       "You know its not like I've never seen you naked before," he pointed out. "Seriously Alyssa what's bothering you?"

       What's bothering me? I just slept with my ex boyfriend who I've been trying desperately to get over the past three years of my life, and he asks me what's bothering me? Alyssa thought that she might explode. Instead she took a deep breath as she grabbed her robe and slipped it on. "Nick, we need to talk..."




       Half an hour later, the two were sitting at Alyssa's kitchen table, fully dressed, with a bag of bagels sitting between them. After Alyssa's suggestion that they talk she had gotten dressed and ran down to the bagel shop to get something for breakfast while Nick grabbed a shower. A little bit of food might make the conversation a little more bearable, she had reasoned.

       The room was full of silence as they both prepared their bagels. It was as if they were each pretending that the other one wasn't even there. She was trying so hard to block Nick out of her mind that she didn't even notice him grabbing for the creme cheese at the exact same moment she did.

       "Sorry," she apologized, her cheeks turning red. "You take it."

       "No, you can have it," Nick answered at the same time.

       Alyssa just shook her head. "You do realize we are fighting over a tub of creme cheese, right?"

       "Homemade creme cheese," he corrected. "Seriously though you take it first."

       With a sigh she gave in, sticking her knife into the creme cheese to spread onto her bagel. This was absolutely pathetic. Someone needed to say something. I WAS the one to suggest we talk, she reminded herself. Guess that means I should be the one to get the conversation started.

       "So uhmm... about last night?" she started, wincing at how cliched the words sounded.

       "What about it?" Nick asked, trying to play it cool.
      
       "Look, I'm not too good at these things, so I'm just going to cut to the chase. I know that last night probably meant something different to each of us. I just wanted to let you know that I don't expect anything from it," she awkwardly blurted out.
      
       Nick leaned back on his chair looking a little surprised by her little speech. Trying to smooth over the awkward moment he chuckled. "Well, that certainly was the most up front 'morning after' speech I've ever heard."

       Alyssa rolled her eyes. "I'm trying to be serious here Nick! I know that you do this sort of thing a lot-"

       "Should I be offended by that?" he interrupted. He smirked as he noticed her getting more and more annoyed. Okay, so it probably wasn't the best time to be a smart ass, but he had to kill the tension somehow. Besides, she was cute when she got mad.

       She sighed, obviously exasperated. "What I'm trying to say is that I don't usually do things like this. I'm not the type of person who can just live in the moment and not worry about what's going to happen next. I need to know."

       "Maybe that's your problem, Alyssa," he told her, all of a sudden sounding serious.

       "What's that supposed to mean?"

       "You worry too much. You're always so uptight. Sometimes in life you don't always know what's going to happen next and its not the end of the world," he pointed out. "Last night I had such a great time with you because for the first time since we started talking again you just seemed so relaxed and carefree. You were fun to be around. I wish you could be like that more often."

       "I was also drunk last night," she replied, refusing to fully digest Nick's explanation.

       "Whatever it was, you were happy. Is that such a bad thing?"

       Alyssa reached upwards to massage her pounding temples. "Look, we went out last night, had too much to drink, and we just carried away in old feelings okay? That was all. Just like what you told me when you kissed me on your tour bus. It's out of our systems now."

       Just by looking at her, Nick knew that she was lying. It hadn't been meaningless to her at all. Hell, it hadn't been meaningless to him either, but he still wasn't sure how he really felt about it. He was just the opposite of Alyssa. He tended to not think about the consequences of his actions until he was literally forced to. For once he was speechless. He didn't know how he should react to that. Maybe it was better for him to just go.

       Realizing that Nick had nothing to say to that Alyssa continued. "Not like this can really go anywhere even if we wanted it to. You're out in LA and I'm here in New York. I don't even know how this friendship is going to work."

       "Why wouldn't our friendship work out?" he asked, sounding confused.

       Alyssa stared at him like he was completely stupid. "Are you kidding me? How can it? We're so hung up on the past that we keep trying to recreate something that isn't there anymore." Her voice broke slightly as if she were trying not to cry. "Maybe we need to stay away from each other for a while."

       Stay away from each other? The idea sounded ridiculous to Nick. He'd finally started to make the realization that he needed to turn his life around with her help and now she was telling him they shouldn't see each other? It sounded so cruel of her. But she sounded so lost and confused that Nick had to admit that maybe that would be for the best. I should've never let things get this far, he criticized himself. Look at how bad I fucked things up? This is all my fault.
      
       "If that's what you think is best Alyssa," he gave in with a sigh. "I'm heading off to Europe next week for the tour anyway."

       "What?" she exclaimed. "What about Europe?" This was the first she had heard about the tour. Of course she knew that he'd eventually be doing a European leg, but she didn't know it was going to be this soon. "No one ever mentioned Europe to me."

       "I thought you knew," he confessed. "We're only home for a free weeks before hitting the road again and we'll be in Europe for about a month and a half. So I guess that kind of takes care of the staying away from each other problem."

       Alyssa was still in shock. She couldn't believe that he never told her he'd be going to Europe. "You always do this," she muttered.

       "Always do what?" he asked.

       "You come into my life for a few days, turn it upside down, and then you just leave," she sniffed. "You're always going."

       Nick sighed. "I can't help it, Lyss. This is my job. You should know the way it works by now."

       "I know! I just wish it wasn't this way."

       "Me too," he told her, clasping his hand over hers. Glancing over at her clock he realized just how late it was. He hated leaving things this way, but his flight was in a few hours and he still had to go back to his hotel to pack up and check out. "Listen, I got to get going. How about you come with me and see me off at the airport?"

       Alyssa just nodded as she wiped her tear filled eyes. "I'd like that."




       A few hours later they were sitting in JFK airport killing the last few minutes they had before Nick had to go through security. The entire cab ride there had been awkward to say the least. The two had sat practically as far apart in the backseat as possible, which seemed ironic after their performance last night.

         I think I've already had a lifetime full of emotional airport goodbyes, Alyssa thought to herself, knowing that the time was drawing nearer.

       "I really had a great time this weekend Alyssa. Honestly," Nick told her, killing the silence.

       "I did too," she admitted. "Despite everything."

       "Did you really mean that about me staying away from you for a while?"

       Alyssa shrugged taking a deep breath. "I don't know. I think we both just need some time to think about what happened and where this is all going. Because I don't want to have keep going through this."

       "I understand that. I won't call you then if that's what you want. You can call me when you're ready to talk."

       "Okay," she agreed as she stood up. "You better get going before you miss your flight."

       Nick stood up and reached into his wallet for some money. "Here. Take it for the cab ride back to your apartment."

       For once Alyssa didn't argue with him. "Thank you," she said, slipping it into her pocket. "Well, I guess this is it..." She wrapped her arms around him in an uncomfortable hug. "No phone calls, right?"

       "No," he painfully agreed, as he held her in his embrace, not wanting their weekend together to end. As soon as he got on that plane reality would be slapping him in the face. He'd have the tour and Europe spread out in front of him making everything that happened with Alyssa feel like just a distant memory.

       Not wanting to let this moment escape him, he reached down to tilt her chin upwards, half afraid that she'd pull away. Realizing that she wasn't going to, he pressed his lips against hers softly, drawing out the kiss for as long as he possibly could, before pulling away. "Good-bye Alyssa."

       "Bye Nick," she echoed, her fingertips already tracing where his lips had just been. Her eyes filled up with tears as she watched him head for the security gate.

       "It's so nice to see a young couple so in love, like a scene right out of the movies," a voice beside her replied.

       Alyssa looked up to see an older woman beside her. If only she knew... she thought, as she smiled weakly at the woman before turning around to walk away as the tears finally began to fall against her face.

       A few minutes later she found herself in the backseat of a cab on her way back to her apartment. Staring out of the window she realized that she was more confused than ever about her feelings for Nick. She hadn't been as drunk as she let on. She remembered everything.

       The only thought that echoed in her mind the rest of the ride home was, How can something so that felt so beautiful make things so damn complicated?

 

Chapter Twenty-Four by Mellz Bellz
Author's Notes:
News from Kevin hits a little too close to home for Nick.

Chapter 24



      
Nick strode backstage still hot and sweaty from his performance just moments ago. It had been the first night of the guys European tour in Stockholm, Sweden and thankfully enough it had went off without a hitch. He had to admit, he had been nervous tonight and not just because it was their first overseas show. Sweden was always a difficult city for him. It always reminded him of her.

       Pushing all thoughts of Katie aside, he grabbed a towel and began to pat his sweaty face with it. He wasn't going to think about her. Thinking about his fling with Katie always reminded him of how he had hurt Alyssa and he wasn't supposed to be thinking about her either. Damn Carter, you're just batting a thousand, aren't you?

       "
Hey, great show tonight!" he heard AJ's familiar voice as he felt a pat on his back.

       "Yea. You too man," Nick responded as he grabbed his water bottle.

       "Listen, Kevin sent me to round everyone up. He apparently has an announcement to make," AJ continued.

       An announcement?
Nick inwardly groaned. Kevin was infamous for his "announcements." "You gotta be fucking kidding me?"

       "Sorry man. Don't kill the messenger. He wants everyone out in the main hallway."

       "Any idea of what this might be about?" he grumbled, as he followed AJ.

       "No clue."

       There was already a small group of people in the hallway. Apparently Kevin had requested that everyone be present from the crew members up to the guys themselves. Who does he think he is, God? Nick wondered as he watched Kevin whisper something to his wife, Melanie. He was tired and cranky and quite frankly just wanted to get back to the hotel and shower.

       After another few minutes it appeared that everyone was present and Kevin seemed satisfied enough to start. Clearing his throat he finally spoke up. "I guess you're all wondering what this is about, huh?"

       Yes, so please get on with and tell us already dammit!


       "Well, I consider all of us involved with this tour one big extended family, which makes Melanie and I very proud to share our special news with you all. It looks like there's going to be another addition to the Backstreet family..."

       "I'm pregnant!" Melanie blurted out.

       Everyone seemed to start talking at once. Congratulations and good luck wishes could be heard from almost everyone's mouth. Everyone's except Nick at least.

       Looking at the crowd as if he was completely removed from the joyous scene unfolding before him, Nick turned away and snuck unnoticed from the group. He was certain that everyone would be so involved in Kevin and Melanie's news that he wouldn't be missed at all.
      




       By the time Nick arrived back at the hotel he was in a daze. Kevin and Melanie's good news had taken a much harder toll on him than anyone realized. I should be happy for them. They've been wanting to start a family for a while now. But he found that he couldn't. How could they have been so cruel to make their 'announcement' tonight of all nights? Couldn't it wait until at least the next stop on the tour?

       "Hey Nicky, you up to checking out some clubs tonight?" he heard Howie ask, interrupting his thoughts.

       "No thanks," he politely declined. The last thing he felt like doing right now was hitting up the clubs, although he had always been fond of the Swedish nightlife. He just simply was not in the mood.

       "Did I hear right? You turn down a chance to meet beautiful women?" Howie feigned shock.

       "Yea. Amazing right?" he muttered as he headed towards his room, leaving Howie behind looking flabbergasted. Once he reached his door he dug into his pocket for his key card and unlocking the door, he stepped inside. Throwing his backpack aside on the floor, he sprawled out on his bed, just staring up at the ceiling. Suddenly, even that shower he had been dying to take earlier seemed like too much of an effort.

       Just when he thought that he was finally alone, he heard a knock at his door. Holy fuck... Can't I be left alone for two seconds? It better not be a group of fans thinking they're being cute. Sighing loudly he called out, "Who is it?"

       "It's me Brian. Can I come in?"

       "Yea. Hold on." Slowly willing the strength to move, he got up and opened the door for his friend. "What are you doing here?"

       "I can't drop by to talk to my friend?" Brian innocently asked.

       "You never just drop by to talk," Nick pointed out. "What's going on?"

       Brian sighed realizing he was trapped as he stepped inside. "I just talked to Howie. He said you turned down an offer to go clubbing with him."

       "So? I thought you all wanted me to cut down my partying," he defensively replied.

       "I know why you're in such a bad mood," his friend said quietly.

       Nick all of a sudden felt enraged. How could Brian possibly know what was bothering him? What did he know? He and Nick were nowhere near as close as they once were. What gave him the right to come into his hotel room and pretend like he knew what was going on his head? In a low voice he responded, "No you don't."

       "What happened was not your fault Nick. I know Kevin and Melanie's announcement struck a nerve with you and all, but-"

       "What do you know about what I went through?" Nick angrily interrupted, pounding his fist on the bed.

       Brian shook his head. This wasn't going at all like he had hoped. "Okay maybe I've never been in your position, but if anything ever happened to Baylee or Leigh... I wouldn't know what to do with myself."

       Nick turned away, desperation pleading in his voice. "Brian please go. I don't want to get into this. Especially tonight. Please. If you're really my friend you'd just leave me alone right now."

       He sighed, knowing that he was defeated. "Okay, I'll leave, but if you want to talk later, call me. Even if its late. I'll listen, I swear."

       "Thanks B," he muttered as he watched his friend disappear into the hallway. Fuck... Why did he have to start? Nick wondered. As if he wasn't already feeling upset enough. All he needed was Brian trying to persuade him to talk about his feelings.

       He sighed as he laid back down on the bed, feelings of guilt eating away inside of him. I'm a horrible person. I'd never have made a very good father anyway. I'm too damn selfish.

       He couldn't believe that his own daughter would've been a little bit older than Baylee by now. Twenty-five years old and already with a four year old daughter... The thought seemed completely alien to him. He couldn't even imagine having a child now... Never mind when he was just twenty-one. He wondered if it would've straightened his act out any. Where would he be now? Would I have done half the dumb shit that I have in the past few years?

       Serena Rose... That was the name he and Katie had picked out for her. He could still vividly remember the day he received the news...

*************

       Who the fuck can that be? Nick wondered staring at the unfamiliar number flashing across his cell phone. He hoped it wasn't another random fan that had somehow gotten hold of his number. He'd already had to change his cell phone number what seemed like half a dozen times. Flipping it open, he responded a little uncertainly. "Hello?"

       "Nick?" a vaguely familiar accented voice asked. After no response it spoke again. "It's me... Katie."

       "Katie?!" he answered, his mind racing. If Alyssa found out that she called him he'd be dead meat. After a good three weeks of having nothing to do with him, she had finally agreed to give him a second chance and he did not want to fuck things up this time.

       "You don't sound very happy to hear from me," she perceptively noted, from the way he said her name.

       He sighed. He didn't want to hurt Katie's feelings, but when it came down to it he didn't want to screw things up with Alyssa. He made a promise and he intended to keep it, even if it meant being brutally up front with Katie. "Look, I don't know how to tell you this, but Alyssa found about us."

       "What?" Katie asked in disbelief.

       "She finally forgave me, but only on the condition that I never speak to you again. If she knew I was on the phone with you now-"

       "I'm so sorry Nick. I never meant to cause any trouble for the two of you, but I NEED to see you. I'm here in Florida.

       Nick sighed. She wasn't getting it. "I'm sorry Katie, but I can't see you. I'm not doing that to Alyssa anymore. I love her."

       It was silent on the other end for a moment until he heard a noise that might have been sniffle. Was she crying? What was going on?

       Finally she spoke again. "The last thing I want is to come between you and Alyssa again, but I honestly really need to talk to you... In person. Please! I'm begging! I never would be this persistent if it wasn't urgent."

       Nick was about to hang up on her, but all of a sudden something made him freeze. She sounded desperate. He couldn't ignore her pleading. Something in his gut told him that she wasn't lying. Alyssa was going to murder him if she found out... Fighting back a sigh, he asked, "Where are you staying?"




       A few hours later he found himself in the lobby of the Fort Lauderdale hotel where Katie was staying. He was thankful that she had chosen to stay at a distance from him. The chances of someone he knew spotting him out here were less than they were in Orlando or Tampa. Still, just in case he pulled his baseball cap lower over his face and focused his eyes downward. He was so engrossed with the hotel carpeting that he barely noticed her approach until he heard her voice. "Nick?"

       His eyes snapped back up and focused in on her. She still looked just as gorgeous as he remembered her. Her long blonde curls hung loosely to the middle of her back and her clear blue eyes seemed relieved to see him. She and Alyssa could not look anything more different. They were like two polar opposites. Katie was a perfect example of Nordic beauty, all fair skinned and tall. She could easily make it as a model if she wanted. Alyssa was more exotic looking with her dark hair and eyes and her petite body. The only thing they seemed to have in common besides Nick was the fact that they were both extremely beautiful in their own ways.

       "Katie... Hi," he awkwardly greeted, enveloping her in an awkward hug. "You look good."

       "Thanks. So do you. Even in your little disguise," she joked.

       He ignored her attempt to be playful and cleared his throat."Alyssa is out all afternoon teaching dance, so we should be okay. Of course you never know if there are any fans hanging around who might recognize me."

       Katie nodded in agreement. "I thought that maybe we could go into the hotel cafe and have something to eat while we talk?"

       "Sounds good to me," Nick agreed, as he followed her. A few minutes they had both been seated. He still had no idea why Katie had wanted to see him so bad. She seemed nowhere near as desperate as she had sounded on the phone. Maybe he had been wrong?

       "So, things with you and Alyssa are going better?" she finally spoke up, after they had ordered their meal.

       "Sort of," he honestly answered. "I let it slip about us pretty soon after I came home from Sweden." He didn't bother to explain anything further than that. Bad enough it had came out the way that it had. "She didn't take it very well obviously and we didn't talk for a weeks afterwards. It's only been just recently that things are starting to get back to normal. She forgives me, but I don't think she really trusts me. Our relationship is in a really weird place right now."

       "But you said that you loved her over the phone to me," Katie pointed out.

       "I do," he admitted.

       "And have you told her that?"

       Nick grimaced. He had forgotten about Katie's remarkable ability to pick up on the tiniest of details. Looking embarrassed he stared down at his hands. "No, I haven't."

       Katie just shook her head. "Well, I don't know about you, but I see a problem with that."

       Why is she so interested in my relationship with Alyssa? he suddenly wondered. Granted, her great listening skills when it came to his confusion about his feelings for Alyssa had been what brought them together, but somehow he got the feeling that her reason for her begging to see him didn't really have anything to do with her concern about his love life.  She had sounded way too upset on the phone. Something else was up. Trying to beat around the bush, he tried turning the tables on her. "Did you ever get back together with Lucas?"

       Now it was Katie's turn to shift in her seat uncomfortably. "No," she answered looking away.

       "But I thought you were going to try to see if he'd give you another chance?"

       "Well, he didn't," she snapped at him.

       Nick was a little taken back by her sharp response. Something was definitely going on here. "Katie, I need to know. Why did you want to see me? What was so important that you had to meet with me in person? You sound like something is upsetting you. Is it Lucas? Did he do something?"

       "No... It wasn't Lucas." Her eyes drifted away from him as her fingers intently played with the wrapper to her straw.

       "Then what happened?" he asked, impatient for the truth to come out.

       Katie looked up and sighed and somehow Nick got the sense that whatever it was it wasn't something that would be easy for her to confess. "It's ok," he assured her, reaching out for her hand across the table. "You can tell me."

       "Well, uhh I guess there's no easy to tell you this except right up front." She paused to take a deep breath. "I'm pregnant."

       Nick's face paled and he dropped her hand as if it were on fire. No wonder she had been so secretive on the phone. His mind flashed a million thoughts at once, but he found himself unable to communicate them. Somehow he finally managed to blurt out, "Are you sure?"

       Katie nodded her head gravely. "Positive."

       "And you're sure that it's... mine?" He felt his voice catch at the end of the sentence. "Not Lucas's?"

       "There's no way that it could be anyone, but yours. I'm almost two months and Lucas and I had been broken up at least a few weeks before we... The doctor gave me a probable date of conception and it matches up to the time you were in Sweden," she explained. "I'm sorry."

       "It's not your fault," he tried to tell her. On the outside he may have appeared calm and collected, but on the inside he was nothing, but. He could barely keep track of the questions that he was internally asking himself. How well do I really know Katie? Can I trust her? Could she be making this up just to get money and/or fame from me? What does she want from me?

       How do I always seem to get myself into these messes? All he could think of was what Kevin was going to say when he heard about Nick's latest bit of trouble. If this got out it could not only ruin his career, but that of his four band mates as well.

       There was a period of silence between the two until Nick spoke up again. "So, what do you want to do? If you need money to you know, get rid of it, I'll take care of it," he assured her, already reaching for his wallet.

       Katie put her hand up to stop him. "I'm not getting an abortion Nick. I'm sorry, but I couldn't. I don't believe in it. I think things happen for a reason and this is no exception. I'm going to take full responsibility for my actions. Besides, this baby is already a part of me. I couldn't go through with it."

       Nick opened his mouth to protest, but she continued. " Listen I don't expect anything from you. I know that this couldn't be any more of a wrong time for this to happen. I'm aware that a baby doesn't fit into your lifestyle right now and I want you to know that I'm okay with it. I don't want you to feel like you have to run off and marry me. I understand that you're with Alyssa right now. The ball is in your court. If you want to be a part of this baby's life it's your choice. I just thought that you had the right to know."

       He sat back stunned. She was giving him a way out. She wasn't blackmailing him or making demands like a lot of other girls would in her situation. She was giving him an opportunity to just walk away. Could he really do that though in good conscience?

       "Wow... Well, to tell you the truth I'm not sure what I want to do," he confessed. "This is a lot to take in all at once. I think I'm going to have to think about what I want to do. You're right. I really can't handle a baby at this point in my life, but then again I don't know if I could live with myself knowing that I have a son or a daughter somewhere out there and I'm pretending they don't even exist."

       She nodded. "I understand that completely. Take all the time you need to think it over. I'm going to actually be staying here in Florida for now until the baby is born, in case you wanted to be a part of it, but again there's no pressure. I'm just looking at apartments now."

       "You're moving to the US? Don't you think that's a pretty bold move there?"

      Katie shrugged. "There's not much left for me in Sweden. Let's just say my family was less than thrilled with the news and when Lucas found out he called me just about every name in the book. There's no future for us, so I'm starting my own. I want my child to grow up in a better place." She paused, all of a sudden looking uncomfortable again. "Of course, it is pretty crazy moving to a new country and trying to afford an apartment, medical bills, baby things, and finding a job. Money is a little tight to say the least."

       Ahh... So this was why she had arranged the meeting, Nick realized. To ask for some financial assistance. He should've known that there was more to it. He was stupid to think that he'd get off that easy. "And you were thinking that since I have all this money I could help you out, right?"

       She turned away from his gaze. "Well, I hate to ask outright, but it definitely would be the least you could do for me. I know you're probably thinking that I'm just using you to get some money out of you, but I honestly feel bad about asking. I wouldn't do it unless I absolutely had to. I'm not trying to scam you at all, I promise. I'm just trying to do what's best for the baby and I know that I can't provide everything on my own. Please believe me."

       Nick sighed as he took of his baseball cap and ran a hand through his hair. He supposed if the baby was indeed his he would be obligated to provide some kind of child support. Still, he couldn't be sure if Katie was being genuine or was just a terrific actress. It seemed like the last thing in the world she wanted to do was ask him for money, but still Nick had to be wary. Katie didn't seem the type, but then again Nick wasn't always the best judge of character.

       "If you want to do a paternity test to confirm that you are the father, I have no problem with that," she offered. "In fact, I would completely understand."

       He studied her expression for a moment and felt somehow convinced that she was being one hundred percent honest. He couldn't see how that face could lie so convincingly. She had to be telling the truth. "I don't how I'm going to tell Alyssa all this," he muttered. "She flipped out once she heard I cheated on her and demanded I never see or talk to you again. She's not going to accept the fact that you're having my baby."

       "If she really loves you she'll learn to come to terms with it and work around it," Katie said wisely. "Otherwise, then I guess she's not the one for you."

       Nick thought about that for a second or two. The statement made sense, but he knew how stubborn and proper Alyssa could be. She wasn't going to let this one go very easily at all. "What are we going to do?" he impulsively asked. "This situation is so complicated."

       "I know," she agreed, reaching forward to embrace him. "But we'll get through it somehow. I promise."

***********

       Yea, we got through it all right,
Nick thought cynically to himself. Look at how it all ended up. He tried to push the thought of his mind, but found himself still feeling an incredible sense of guilt about the whole situation. You really fucked up big time. With a sigh he sat up in bed, all of a sudden wishing he had went out with Howie clubbing. At least then he could drink away the pain and not have to deal with his mixed emotions and unhappy memories.

       I need to do something to keep me busy,
he decided. As long as I keep myself busy I won't think about Katie and Serena. His eyes glanced around the room for a distraction finally resting on the television set. A movie would be good. It would get his mind off things for at least two hours. He reached over at the nightstand to grab the remote, but instead his fingers made contact with his cell phone which was resting next to the remote. He picked it up and stared long and hard at it. All of a sudden he had a strange urge to call Alyssa. Remember she doesn't want you to call her, he reminded himself. She had seemed pretty adamant about that when he had left New York City. Besides who knows what time is it back in New York for her.

       With that in mind, Nick placed the phone back on the nightstand, but still didn't let go of it. Truth was he desperately needed someone to talk to, and in a way Alyssa was the only person who could understand what he was going through because she had been with him at every step of the way throughout the "Katie fiasco" as she liked to refer to it as. She'd definitely understand how he felt and why Kevin's news bothered him so much. She did say if I ever wanted to talk about feelings and shit to call her, he argued with himself. Yea, she had agreed that they not speak until he came home from Europe, but he was sure that she couldn't hang up on him especially when for once he actually needed to talk about how he felt.

       Before he could change his mind, he picked up the phone and dialed her number, his heart pounding in his chest. He just hoped she'd pick up.

Chapter Twenty-Five by Mellz Bellz
Author's Notes:
Nick confides in the one person he feels like he can trust.

Chapter 25


      
        Alyssa was doing the one thing that she had promised herself that she wasn't going to do. She was thinking about Nick. Ugh, why can't I get him out of my head? she thought with a groan. It was nearly impossible. Since the moment he left New York she doubted an hour had went by when his face hadn't flashed across her mind.

       She hadn't gotten called in to work today, so she was trying to make the most of her day off by running errands and trying to tidy up her apartment. Unfortunately, she really hadn't gotten much done. She found that when she was busy her mind was able to push thoughts of Nick aside, but when she wasn't he was all she could think about. Maybe I shouldn't have agreed for us to not talk.

       Something had happened that last night that he was in New York, something that she couldn't quite describe. Of course, duh they'd had sex. That much was obvious. But it was something deeper than that. They'd definitely crossed the border beyond just being friends. Alyssa was convinced that it couldn't have been meaningless. He had to have felt it too, right?

       And the sex of course had been amazing. The only experience she had even worth comparing to it to was... well was with him before they had broken up. Okay, so its not like her sex life was all that full of excitement, but the point was that for the first time in what felt like nearly forever, he made her feel sexy and desirable. It's amazing what one night of great sex can do for a woman's self esteem, she thought.

       Since then she'd done a lot of looking back on her entire relationship with him. It seemed like every spare minute of her time was spent reliving their past. It was downright obsessive, yet she couldn't seem to stop. Realizing that she wasn't going to get anymore work done at the moment, she let herself collapse onto the couch and gave in to the memories that were eating away at her mind.

       She found herself actually having to ask why was it in the first place that she had requested he give her some space. It had only been a week and she already missed his friendship. Of course he probably didn't even care anymore. He'd seemed upset when she first told him not to call her while he was in Europe, but you never could tell with Nick. He was notorious for being fickle when it came to her. One minute he couldn't live without her, and the next he seemed like he could care less...

********

       "Alyssa, we need to talk," Nick told her, in a solemn voice.

       "About what?" She had never known Nick to be so serious, but within the past few days something had definitely came over him. He seemed cold and distant, almost as if he was hiding something from her. After him admitting that he had cheated on her with Katie, Alyssa wasn't sure though what else he could possibly be hiding.

       "About us. Listen, I've been doing a lot of thinking lately..."

       Alyssa swallowed hard not liking the beginning of his speech. Whenever someone started by saying they had been doing a lot of thinking it was never a good thing. "And?" she shakily, answered.

       "Maybe it wasn't a good idea for us to get back together," he blurted out.

       She stood there stunned for a moment. "What do you mean by that?"

       "It's too soon. Things are too weird between us. It's not like it used to be..." Why did it sound like he was just making excuses to her? And not even good excuses!

       "Things aren't just magically going to get better, Nick. You have to work at them . It's going to take time for me to fully trust you again. You must know that."

       "Alyssa, I'm sorry, but I can't do this. I thought I could, but I think we need some more time apart." She could tell that he was lying and doing a horrible job of it at that. There was definitely something else going on.

       "I don't buy it," she argued. "There's something else going on. What is it?"

       "There's nothing," he insisted.

       "Bullshit! You're the one who came crawling back to me for forgiveness. Why would you beg for a second chance only to dump me not even two weeks later? It doesn't make sense Nick. You've been acting strange the last few days. Are you sure there's nothing going on that I should know about?"

       Nick finally appeared to lose whatever composure he had. "There's nothing going on! I just don't think this is working out anymore! I'm sorry that I asked you for a second chance. I should've just let you walk out of my life that night you found out about Katie."

       Alyssa felt as if she had been slapped. Her eyes filled with tears and she almost couldn't breath. "You don't mean that..."

       "I do. It's over Alyssa," he coldly responded.

       "You bastard!" was all she could choke out before gathering her things and turning away before he could see her break down. She couldn't believe how emotionless he had been. Why had he decided to end it like that without any rhyme or reason? There was something else there and she intended to do everything in her power to find out the real reason he had broken it off with her.

***********

      
       Why the hell should such a bad memory of him, cross her mind all over a sudden? Alyssa shuddered a little as she wondered if maybe it was some kind of sign letting her know what she had made the right decision. Nick was nothing, but trouble to her.

       But why is that one minute I feel like I love him and the next I hate him?


       This wasn't helping at all. Laying around was just making her think about him more and more. I should do something productive. Like shower. She'd bummed around all day and she had to admit that she could use one. Plus it would probably make her feel better. Nothing like a nice hot shower to purify her thoughts.

       She headed into her bathroom and undressed. Once she was under the spray she could instantly feel the tension melt from her body. This had been a good idea. As she scrubbed her body, she definitely felt as of she was scrubbing her thoughts of Nick away.

       She had just stepped out of the shower when she heard her cell phone ringing from the other room. I'll let my voicemail get it, she decided as she grabbed her towel, but then she impulsively changed her mind. Maybe it was important. Sighing, she wrapped the towel around her body and padded down the hall to retrieve her cell phone, leaving a trail of water behind her.

       "Hello?" she answered breathlessly, realizing that she hadn't even bothered to check who it was who was calling first.

       "Hey," an all too familiar voice said on the other end. "It's me."

       Nick. So much for getting him out of my thoughts
. What was he doing calling her anyway? "I thought you weren't supposed to be calling me," she reminded him.

       "I know I'm not supposed to, but I really need someone to talk to right now," he answered. Something in his voice seemed almost desperate to her. "Is it a bad time?"

       "I just got out of the shower, but it's fine." Why did I just feel the need to mention that I just got out of the shower? Now he's probably picturing me naked or something.

       "
Oh really? Did you really just get out of the shower?"

       Alyssa sighed. Maybe he didn't really need to talk so bad after all. "Sorry to ruin your fantasy, but I have a towel on and if you called me for one of those phone calls why don't you try a 1-900 number instead. For a guy who needed to 'talk' so badly it doesn't seem like you are interested in talking, so I'm going to hang up now," she continued. "Good-"

       "Wait Alyssa! Please don't hang up!"

       Alyssa froze. She hadn't quite expected him to sound so panicked at the prospect of her hanging up on him. Something was definitely up. Maybe she should just talk to him.

       "Remember when you said if I ever needed to talk about feelings and shit I could call you?"

       She nodded her head. "Yea..."

       "Well, now is one of those times. I got some news today and it kind of brought back some bad memories for me," he explained.

       "Where are you tonight?" she asked as she made herself comfortable on the couch, ignoring the fact that she was leaving a big wet spot from her towel.

       "Stockholm. We had our first show earlier."

       "Oh." Sweden. Just the mention of Katie's home country made Alyssa's stomach turn. "How did it go?"

       "Great. Everything was perfect. Until after the show that is. Apparently Melanie is pregnant and she and Kevin decided to pick tonight to tell everybody about it."

       "That's great news!" she squealed, happy for her friend. She knew that Melanie had been wanting to have kids for a while now and had even been a little depressed when she heard that Izzy was expecting. Then she realized that Nick didn't feel as happy as she did and her mind instantly made the connection. Sweden... Baby... Katie... It wasn't Alyssa's favorite subject in the world, but she understood what Melanie and Kevin's announcement must have meant to Nick and she felt bad for him. She had to admit that even she had secretly grown attached to the unborn baby that Katie had carried, imagining her and Nick taking care of it.

       "I'm sorry Nick. I just got really happy for Melanie for a second there, but I can totally understand how that could effect you. I mean naturally you're going to think about Serena especially being in Sweden and all. Did any of the guys see that you were upset?"

       "Brian dropped by and tried to get me to open up to him. He gave me the whole line about how its not my fault and how he can only imagine what I went through, but it just felt so fake you know? It's hard for me to talk to anyone about Katie and Serena because I just feel so guilty. I know I didn't cause the accident, but I feel like I'm responsible somehow," he confessed.

       "I feel guilty too Nick. But it's not our fault. Like you said we didn't cause anything to happen. It was just meant to be. I just feel guilty that while everything was happening we were..." She trailed off not being able to even finish the sentence. She'd never tell Nick this, but she often had nightmares about that night. Not like it would've made a difference if she'd went to see him or not that night, but the fact that she was with him at the time of the accident...

       "Yea Brian said the same thing to me, but I just feel like I murdered them. I totally destroyed Katie's life. She would've been better off if she never met me."

       Alyssa sighed, feeling  horrible for Nick. She didn't know what to say. She had genuinely disliked Katie for obvious reasons and sometimes she had even wished that she'd disappear off the face of the earth, but never in a million years would she say that she was happy about what happened to her. It was just a very unfortunate tragedy. "Things happen for a reason. That's all I can say Nick. Maybe it just wasn't meant to be."

       "Sometimes I wonder what would've happened if things had been different. Where would I be with a four year old daughter? Sometimes I can practically picture her and I find myself thinking how she'd have been a great playmate for Baylee, or all the places I could've taken her. There are times I wish things hadn't turned out the way they had. If they didn't, I probably wouldn't have done so much of the crazy shit that I've done the past few years. I would've been more mature and responsible and probably a hell of a lot of a better person." His voice broke off for a moment before finally divulging the most powerful thought lingering in the back of his head. "Most of all I wonder where we would be."

       "We? As in us?" Alyssa asked, sounding surprised. "Well, I suppose we'd still be together, maybe married, with a beautiful baby daughter that I'd love just as if she was my own. Of course then I guess I'd have never left Florida and never graduated college." The scenario actually didn't sound so bad when she thought about it. Just thinking about starting a family with Nick bought a smile to her face and it wasn't like a college diploma was doing much for her at this point since she still didn't have a real job. Still, who said it would have been a happy ever after ending for them? It could've went the other way as well, right? "Or maybe the strain of having to care for a child would be too much for us and I wouldn't be able to handle the fact that Serena wasn't mine. Maybe our relationship would've crumbled to pieces. You never know, but its no use to wonder what if. Weren't you the one who told me that I should stop trying to overanalyze everything and just let things flow?"

       "Not in so many words, but you're right," Nick admitted. "Guess its a taste of my own medicine. When Katie first told me that I was going to be a father, I have to admit I wasn't all that pleased. In fact, I was scared shitless. But, over the course of her pregnancy I came to accept it and I was actually kind of looking forward to being a father. So you can imagine how disappointed I was in the end. Of course I never admitted that to anyone else before. It was probably for the best. I can't even take care of myself, never mind a child. I would've probably made an awful father."

       "Nick, some day you're going to make a wonderful father. Maybe not right now, but I can tell that you're not going to fuck it up. You're great with kids and you're just so fun loving and adventurous. And you can be patient when you want to be.  The timing just wasn't right. You needed to do some growing up. You needed to make stupid mistakes, so that you could learn from them and become a better person."

       Nick seemed to get very quiet for a moment as if he was thinking long and hard about what she had just told him. With all this talk of fatherhood, Alyssa all of a sudden felt tempted to share with him the secret of her pregnancy scare. Not like it was a big deal or anything, but it was a perfect example of things happening for a reason. "Can I tell you something that I've never told you before?" she hesitatingly asked.

       "Sure I guess," he answered.

       "Okay. Do you remember on the Black and Blue tour when I came down with the flu?"

       "How could I forget? You scared the shit out of me that night you collapsed onstage right in the middle of More Than That. I could've killed you for not telling anyone that you weren't feeling good. But what does that have to do with anything?"

       Alyssa took a deep breath. "Well, I actually at first thought that maybe I might have been pregnant and I didn't want to tell you until I was sure because it wasn't very long after the accident and I knew it would be upsetting for you. I was about to take a pregnancy test after the show that night, but I never quite made it. Then I found it was just the flu, so I didn't think it was worth mentioning to you. It's just another sign that it just wasn't your time yet to become a father, I guess. Are you mad at me?"

       Nick was silent again as he digested Alyssa's confession. It did come to a bit of a shock to him that she'd been hiding something like this from him, but he couldn't be mad at her. He tried to hide much worse from her. He just felt good to know that she finally felt comfortable enough to tell him even if was a few years later. "I'm not mad. I'm glad you told me. I guess you're right. Maybe it wasn't meant to be. Maybe things do happen the way they do for a reason."

       "Like with us?" The words were out of Alyssa's mouth before she could catch them.

       Us?
  Nick found himself questioning. He was a little surprised that Alyssa had decided to bring the topic up, since she had done all she could to avoid the day that he left New York. But Alyssa could be like that. Sometimes she needed time to process things before she was ready to talk about them. Plus she probably felt comforted by the fact that they were speaking to each other over the phone with an entire ocean between them. Was it fate that brought them together again? He had to admit he had no clue and he was going to be perfectly honest with her for once.

       "Honestly, I'm not sure. I don't know why what happened between us happened, but I liked it," he found himself admitting.

       "Same here," she agreed. "I know it was more than just the alcohol, but I'm not sure what it meant."

       "Well, I think its hard for us to find out how we feel when we're not even on the same continent."

       "Good point. Not like anything can happen right now." Why was it that they finally were able to come somewhat clean with their feelings for each other when it was nearly impossible for them to act on them?

       "Shit! I just realized what time it is over here. It's kind of late and I have to be up early tomorrow for some radio promotion. Kevin's gonna have to drag my ass out of bed."

       Alyssa laughed. "And that's something new for you?"

       "Shut up," he told her, but then turned serious. "Thanks for listening to me tonight. I know it's not an easy topic for you to talk about either."

       "It's okay. That's what friends are for right? To listen when you're upset."

       "Absolutely. Good night Alyssa."

       She was just about to say her goodbyes to him when she remembered something. "Hey Nick, before you go, do you remember when I said that I didn't want you to call me anymore?"

       "How could I forget?"

       "I'd like it if you did call every once in a while just to talk. I only said that because I was so mixed up and confused that I couldn't deal with talking to you, but I realized I kind of missed you," she confessed.

       "Only kind of?" he teased.

       "Ok, I missed you a lot. Just please say you'll call."

       "I will," he promised. "But I really need to get going."

       "All right. Try to get your mind off things."

       That's easier said than done,
he thought to himself, but he wanted to try to sound positive to Alyssa. "I'll try. Night babe."

       "Good night," she repeated before hanging up the phone. Now wasn't that just about the oddest conversation that we've ever had?

       Meanwhile, over in Europe Nick got settled in bed and closed his eyes, trying to will sleep to come. He knew deep down there was only way that he'd be able to sleep soundly tonight.

       And that would be to try to pretend that Alyssa was laying right there beside him.

Chapter Twenty-Six by Mellz Bellz
Author's Notes:
Alyssa fills Izzy on what's been going on between her and Nick.

Chapter 26




      "I'd like three scoops of chocolate ice cream with hot fudge, M&M's, rainbow sprinkles, and whipped cream," Alyssa ordered at the counter of the ice cream shop that she and Izzy had agreed to meet up at.

       The two women really hadn't seen much of each other in the past few weeks. Obviously Alyssa had been caught up with her own problems with Nick and Izzy had been busy doing baby things with Tristan. Finally finding a spare moment, (and having a craving for mint chocolate chip ice cream) Izzy had called Alyssa up for a girls day out starting with ice cream sundaes.

       "Damn Alyssa! Think you ordered enough ice cream?" Izzy sarcastically asked."You know I have a reason for eating like a pig. I'm pregnant. What's your excuse? Are you sure you're not hiding something from me?"

       Alyssa could feel the blood drain from her face. "Don't even say that," she muttered. She was fully aware that her friend was only teasing her and the odds that she could be pregnant weren't very high. Although she hadn't yet gotten her period, it was due any day now, hence the reason for her ice cream binge. And she and Nick had used a condom. It was just the thought of her being pregnant on top of the complicated situation that struck a nerve with her. Of course Izzy had no clue what had been going on. For all she knew it was probably just a completely innocent comment.

       "You do know that was a joke, right?" her friend asked. Evidently Alyssa hadn't done the best job in playing off the comment. "You look like you just saw a ghost or something. Did I say something wrong?"

       "No, I'm fine," she attempted to brush off the comment as she paid for her ice cream and carried it over to the nearest table with Izzy.

       "You're not fine Alyssa. There's no reason you would get so freaked out unless... it could actually be a possibility. You've been sleeping with someone!"

       Alyssa shook her head. She had forgotten how well that Izzy could read her. "I'm not sleeping with anyone," she lied.

       "You're such a horrible liar Alyssa! Come on you can tell me. I want details. Being pregnant definitely puts a bit of a damper on your sex life, so now I need to live vicariously through other people. Who is he? Where did you meet? Was it just a one night stand or is this an ongoing thing?"

       She sighed. There was no use lying to Izzy anymore. She knew that Izzy would not let the subject drop until she got answers. She was just nervous because for the past few weeks she'd kept Nick a secret. She hadn't told anyone about his weekend in New York and she wasn't exactly sure how Izzy would take it. Nick wasn't really her favorite person lately. "Ok. I'll tell you, but you have to promise me that you won't get mad."

       Izzy grinned triumphantly. "Why would I be mad? Unless its Tristan you've been sleeping with. Then I'd have to beat your ass down."

       Alyssa laughed. "I can promise you its not Tristan." She took a deep breath before finally blurting out, "I slept with Nick."

       At first there was no reaction from Izzy and Alyssa wondered if it had been a good idea to tell her in the first place. After a few moments Izzy finally managed to squeak out, "Excuse me, but did you just say you slept with Nick? As in your ex Nick? As in my old best friend who is now a complete and total man whore?"

       "Uhmm... Yea?" she responded, biting her lip.

       "Okay you have a lot of explaining to do Missy. The last I knew of I thought that you totally agreed with me and had lost all respect for him after seeing firsthand what an asshole he can be. God... I can't believe after all that you had sex with him! How did this happen?"

       "Well, its a bit of a long story..." Alyssa said, stalling for time.

       "We have all afternoon, so start talking," Izzy demanded. She couldn't believe how this had happened. How could Alyssa have slept with him after everything he had done to her. She'd lost so much respect for Nick during the last few years. Starting with the moment that she'd caught him at a hotel, embracing another woman, while he was supposedly dating Alyssa...

**********

       This has been a sensational weekend, Izzy thought to herself as she and Tristan had headed down towards the hotel lobby to check out. The two had wanted a little "alone time" so they had checked in to a hotel in Fort Lauderdale for a little weekend getaway. It had been such a relief to not have to worry about anyone, but themselves. Granted it wasn't like they had went on some far off vacation, but it had been relaxing just to get a little change of scenery.

       "Hey Iz, isn't that your friend Nick over there?" Tristan's voice interrupted her thoughts.

       "Where?" she asked, looking a little bewildered. Why would he be in Fort Lauderdale? Kevin hadn't mentioned anything about the guys having any business there, which is exactly why she had considered a perfect location for her and Tristan to spend their weekend.

       "In the cafe over there," he pointed out.

       Curiously Izzy craned her neck in the direction of the cafe to see Nick seated at a table across from an attractive looking blonde woman. "Yea. That looks like him."

       "Wonder who's the girl he's with?" Tristan's thoughts seemed to echo the same ones that were going through Izzy's head. "A relative or something?"

       Izzy frowned. "No. I know all of his family and I'm positive I've never seen that girl in my life." She gasped just as she saw him reach over and embrace his companion. It definitely was more than a friendly hug. The girl seemed upset and looked as if Nick was even rubbing her shoulders. "Did you see that?!"

       "Just because he hugged her doesn't mean anything," he argued.

       "That was more than a hug!" she insisted. "Look at the way he's still holding her. There's something going on there."

       "There has to be some sort of reasonable explanation. I mean maybe she's a friend who is upset or a fan or.... Wait! Where are you going?"

       Izzy was already heading towards the entrance of the cafe. "I'm going to go over and say hi. And then demand for an explanation."

       Tristan grabbed her arm before she could go any farther. "Bad idea. You're best bet is to pretend we didn't see them."

       "What? I see one of my best friends boyfriend canoodling with another woman and I'm just supposed to ignore it? I don't think so!"

       "But you have no proof Iz! It's not your place. Besides isn't Nick one of your best friends too?"

       "Yea," she admitted. "Well, at least he used to be. After hearing how he cheated on Alyssa and now seeing him here with another woman... I feel like he's this completely different person than the Nick I used to know."

       "Look, you're obviously angry and upset for Alyssa, but making a scene is not going to help. Let's just leave like nothing ever happened and if you really want to talk to Nick about it, why don't you try doing it when you calmed down a little. This is not the time or place for it."

       "But Alyssa-"

       "Alyssa can handle it on her own. If they really are having trouble the last thing they need is you sticking your nose into their troubles and causing more problems."

       Izzy sighed, knowing that she was defeated. "Fine. You're right," she agreed as she walked away with her boyfriend. But her eyes were still locked on the fading sight of Nick and the mystery woman sitting in the cafe. She didn't care what Tristan said. Something was going on there and she swore to herself that she'd find out.

*********

       "So, are you going to tell me how the two of you wound up miraculously sleeping together or not?" Izzy asked, sounding impatient.

       Alyssa ignored her friend's sarcasm and started to spill out the story knowing that it was too late now to let things go unexplained. "Well, when we left California I was really pissed at him and hurt that he dumped me for those two dumb sluts and I pretty much told him that either he cleaned up his act or he could kiss our friendship goodbye. I even accused him of putting his sex life before his friendships."

       "Can't say I disagree with you there. I've tried telling him the same thing before, but he was too goddamn stubborn to listen. Of course I obviously don't have the hold over him that you do."

       "Yea, well apparently after I told him off he got really pissed off at me and decided that to spite me he was just going to party harder and be even more of a man whore, not really realizing that it was only going to hurt him in the end. Evidently, the guys began to get a little worried about him because he was showing up to concerts hung over and he wasn't being dependable and stuff, so they tried to talk to him about it. AJ actually pulled him aside and pretty much told him that he was headed down the same track that he had been down during the Black and Blue tour," she continued.

       "I'm glad he did," Izzy commented. "Not like it probably made a difference to him though."

       "At first it didn't. He told him to stay out of his life and he wasn't like him and all that. So the guys kind of shut him out a lot because he was such a nasty person to be around. Then on one of the last dates of the tour something clicked. He realized that his behavior wasn't getting him anywhere. He'd already lost friendships with you and me and was in danger of losing the closest thing to a family he really has. He finally realized that his 'fun' was hurting everyone around him and by going out and being Mr. Pop star he was isolating himself more and more. So when he got home from the tour he called me to apologize."

       "How come I didn't get an apology?"

       Alyssa ignored her friends question. "He told me was really sorry for the way he acted in California and he understood how pissed I was after spending all my money to fly out there and surprise him. So he offered to come up to New York for a weekend to sort of make it up to me."

       "Sounds like he made it up to you all right. So how did the two of you wind up in bed?" It was obvious that Izzy's impatience was getting the best of her.

       Alyssa shrugged. "I'm not even sure myself. It was such an emotional weekend because out of nowhere he was being such a sweet guy. And no... It was not just because he wanted to get laid," she added, already anticipating Izzy's comeback. "He was right by me when my car got stolen and I guess we just really swept up in old emotions. It's complicated."

       "Wow... So you're sure you're not just the flavor of the week?" Izzy asked, finally seeming to see the complexity of the situation.

       "I think its more than that. Since then we've only talked on the phone once or twice, but he's told me that he's just as confused as I am. We both obviously enjoyed it. It's just deciding where to go next."

       "And where do you want it to go?"

       Alyssa appeared a little thrown by the question. She'd been asking herself that for some time now. "I'm not sure," she sighed. "I mean I'd love it if we could just pick up where we left off, but so much has happened since then. I'd really like a relationship, but I'm not sure if that's what Nick really wants."

       "What makes you say that?" Izzy tried probing.

       "Just some of the things he's said. Everything that's happened with his parents has really fucked him up and I think quite frankly he's scared. He hasn't had the best success rate with relationships either. And then there's the whole Katie situation he had to go through... I don't think he's ready to go through any of that again. It's easier for him to go from girl to girl with no strings attached," she explained. "Besides with him finishing up the tour and stuff he doesn't have time to start anything."

       "So, what's going to happen when he comes back? Are you going to pretend like it never happened or are you going to continue to hook up, or what?"

       "Again, I don't know. I'm totally clueless and all I know is what I feel. We were talking the next morning and I was pretty confused and trying to sort everything out and he told me that sometimes in life you don't know what's going to happen and its not such a tragedy. So, that's kind of my attitude about the whole thing. I'm just going to see where it takes me. I'm not killing myself trying to define our relationship. It is what it is. Whether we turn out to be a couple or fuck buddies or whatever, its something that's worth exploring, right?"

       Izzy gave Alyssa a strange look. Since when is Alyssa so relaxed about a situation like this? she wondered. Alyssa had to be the worlds most anal person. Under normal circumstances she'd be overanalyzing what had happened between her and Nick to no end, but now she wanted to just "see where it takes her?"

       "What?" Alyssa asked, finally picking up on Izzy's expression.
      
       "Nothing," she quickly lied.

       Alyssa narrowed her eyes. "Then why are you looking at me like I'm crazy?"

      Izzy sighed, finally giving in. "It's just that I can't picture you being the type of person who would be satisfied with a purely physical relationship. Especially one with Nick. There's too much history there to not get emotionally attached again."

       "But maybe it wouldn't just be physical. Maybe it could turn into something more," she argued. "I'm just saying that I don't stress over it. Whatever happens, happens and if we're meant to wind up together it'll happen naturally."

       Izzy still looked doubtful, but decided to let the subject drop. Even though she wasn't sure if she agreed with her friend's optimistic outlook on her future with Nick, she also knew that there would be no getting through to her. Clearly, Alyssa's feelings for Nick had become much stronger than Izzy had imagined throughout the past few weeks. Izzy just hoped that Alyssa knew what she was getting into. She began to wonder to herself if Nick felt just as strongly, or was he just leading Alyssa on, using her attachment to him to his own advantage.

       Hmm... Maybe I'll have to try talking to Nick and find out what's going on from his perspective, she decided. She'd always tried not to let her friendships with the both Nick and Alyssa interfere with their relationship, but of course there were always exceptions...

************

       "Izzy? What are you doing here? You never just drop by unannounced like this," Nick asked skeptically as he opened the front door of his home.

       "How about we try that again, only this time you try actually being polite," Izzy said in an icy tone, her arms crossed over her chest.

       Nick rolled his eyes. "Good morning Isabelle. To what do I owe this great pleasure of your visit today?"

       Izzy ignored his sarcasm and pushed her way inside before getting into her intentions of exactly why she had decided to stop by. "I want to know exactly what happened last night between you and Alyssa that caused her to call me up hysterically crying, blubbering about how you just decided to break up with her right out of the blue."

       Judging from the exasperated expression on Nick's face, Izzy could tell that he really didn't want to talk about it, but there was no way she was leaving without answers. Seeing him at the hotel with the mysterious blonde had made her suspicious enough, but now breaking up with Alyssa just when it seemed like everything was fine? Somehow Izzy had a feeling that perhaps the two events were somehow connected and she wanted answers.

       "I don't think there's anything to tell. We broke up. That seems pretty evident," he finally answered.

       "I know that part! What I want to know is why? Why break up with Alyssa now? The two of you seemed to finally be patching things up again. So why would you do that to her without even giving her a good reason?" she continued to interrogate.

       "Not that my relationship with Alyssa is any of your business, but I did give her a reason. I told her that things just weren't working out. They weren't how they were when he first started dating. It was too strained," he tried explaining.

       Now it was Izzy's turn to roll her eyes. "Of course things are strained. You cheated on her! How the hell is she supposed to act? You can't just forget something like that."

       "If you came here to try to convince me to change my mind you might as well turn around and go back home," Nick motioned towards the door.

       "I didn't come to 'change your mind.' I came to get an understanding of why you did what you did to Alyssa, so that maybe I could get a grip on this whole situation, but quite frankly I'm just as confused as her! That excuse is such bullshit Nick! Its you being lazy and not wanting to work through the tough points in a relationship."

       Nick shrugged. "Maybe it is. Look, Alyssa and I... We're not meant to be. It's just not going to happen for us and I know that you're disappointed because you're the one that brought us together in the first place. but you have to face reality. We're over with."

       His aloofness about the whole situation made Izzy's blood begin to boil under her skin. She was so enraged that all the composure she had piled up before approaching him began to crumble. "Funny how just a few weeks ago you were practically begging Alyssa to take you back and now you two are just giving up out of nowhere.This wouldn't by any chance have to do with a certain blonde that you met last week for a secret rendezvous at a Fort Lauderdale hotel, would it?" She watched as Nick struggled to protest before cutting him off, "And don't try to deny it. I saw you with my own two eyes."

       Nick's face paled and Izzy was sure that she had struck a nerve. She hadn't anticipated dragging out that incident, but it had slipped out of her mouth before she could even consider it. "H-how do you know about that?" he weakly asked.

       "Nick, I really thought by now with all your experience in the cheating department you'd know better than to actually have lunch with one of your little whores right out in the hotel cafe where anyone could see. Tristan and I just happened to be staying at the same hotel for a little weekend getaway and we spotted you," she explained. "I wanted to go over and say something to you, but Tristan held me back. Lucky for you."

       "It's not at all what you think," he replied as he sank back on the couch, clearly shocked that Izzy had caught him.

       "I'm sure," she answered. "I saw you two hugging. It seemed a little too friendly from my vantage point. So who was she? A fan? Someone you just picked up at a bar? An old friend?"

       Nick gripped the armrest on the couch steadily. "That was Katie."

       "Katie?!" Izzy screeched. "As in the same Katie you cheated on Alyssa with? What's she doing here? I thought you were done with her!"

       "We had something we needed to discuss," he mumbled before taking a deep breath. "If I tell you, you need to promise me you will not say a word about this to anyone. Not Kevin or any of the other guys, not Tristan, and especially not Alyssa. Got it?"

       "Ok, I got it," she agreed as she sat down beside him on the couch. Nick sounded dead serious which was rare for him. This had to be something extremely important.

       "Katie asked me to meet with her because she's pregnant. She's moving to the US to have the baby and... it's mine," he choked out.

       Izzy's eyes widened. "Are you positive about this Nick? I mean she could be making this all up, or maybe she is and she's trying to pin it on you for publicity?"

       Nick shook his head. "I don't think so Izzy. She seemed way too scared and she actually offered to have a paternity test done."

       "What are you going to do?"

       "I don't know," he answered. "She isn't even after me to be a part of the baby's life or anything. She said its up to me. I couldn't handle a child right now, but I also can't turn my back knowing that there's a part of me out there."

       Izzy nodded sympathetically. "Does this have anything to do with why you broke up with Alyssa?"

       "Guilty," he admitted. "I'm lucky she took me back after I cheated on her. Things are complicated enough between us already. If she found out that on top of everything Katie got pregnant it would kill her. I figured the best thing to do would be to let her go before she got hurt even worse. Yea, she probably thinks I'm an asshole now, but she's better off without me. It might take her a while to realize it, but it really is for the best."

       Izzy could already feel her heart starting to soften. "You really do love her, don't you?"

       "Yea. I do," he quietly replied. "I love her so much that I can't stand to see her get hurt. She deserves better anyway. I'm doing her a favor."

       She bit her lip, trying to resist the urge to argue with him. Even though she disagreed with his logic, now was definitely not the time to fight.

       "Iz, what am I going to do?" he asked her, almost looking like a little boy again. "I'm scared."

       Izzy tossed her previous anger aside and reached forward to hug him. Yea, he'd totally fucked things up with Alyssa, but she could tell he genuinely was sorry for it all. In the end, he was still one of her best friends. She only wished there was something she could say to him to ease his fears, but she couldn't seem to think of anything. The only words of reassurance she could give him were, "I won't tell anyone Nick. Your secret's safe with me."


**************

       Ok, so maybe she had let that secret slip... What could she say? She had a big mouth.

       But then again it isn't easy keeping secrets from one of your best friends, especially when they are visibly hurt... Being the middle man in Alyssa and Nick's relationship wasn't easy. Maybe she'd be better to stay out of this one after all.

       "So, how about we start on that shopping?" she asked Alyssa, vowing to steer clear of the topic of Nick for the rest of the afternoon.

Chapter Twenty - Seven by Mellz Bellz
Author's Notes:
An opportunity to see Nick again, causes Alyssa to be swept away in old memories.

Chapter 27


       "I just don't get it Izzy. Why would he break up with me just like that? It makes no sense whatsoever. We were just starting to work shit out and then BAM! He breaks up with me for no apparent reason. Why?"

       Izzy just sighed in response and Alyssa realized that perhaps she was getting a little tired of listening to her go on and on about how she couldn't understand Nick's intentions in breaking up with her. But she couldn't help it. She refused to believe that Nick would just give up on them that easy. She just couldn't seem to let go even though it had been almost two weeks.

       "Maybe he wasn't lying. Maybe he just felt that things were too weird between the two of you after Katie, so he decided it might be better to take a break," Izzy gently suggested. Was it Alyssa's imagination or did she not sound very convincing?

       "I'm sorry, but I can't believe that. He's the one who wanted to give things a second chance, so why would he give up on us without even really trying?" she argued.

       Izzy tried a different approach, not wanting to let it slip that she knew the real reason why Nick had actually broken up with Alyssa. "Don't take this personally or anything Alyssa, but you don't have a lot of experience in relationships, so how can you sound so sure that Nick's excuse for breaking up with you is bullshit? You seem so sure that he's hiding something, but maybe its just your imagination?"

       Alyssa's nostrils flared in anger. "Whose side are you on here anyway? Why are you defending him?"

       "I'm not defending him!" she insisted. "It's just that I'm trying to stay neutral here. Both you and Nick are really close to me and I don't want to have to choose sides." Wasn't it bad enough that she was already pulled into the situation a whole lot deeper than she had wanted?

       "You're lying!" Alyssa accused. "You know something about why Nick really broke up with me, right? You're covering up for him!"

       "I'm not," Izzy sputtered, knowing that she sounded anything but truthful in her response. This was bad. Time to change the subject, before she let Nick's secret slip. "Look, I know you're upset, so let's go shopping or something. That always helps me when I'm upset."

       "Fuck shopping! Tell me the truth Izzy or so help you God I'll never speak to you again."


       Nick's gonna kill me, Izzy thought as she realized there was no way Alyssa was going to back down until she heard what she wanted to hear. Besides it was getting a little ridiculous trying to pretend like she didn't know anything. Alyssa wasn't stupid. Maybe it would give her some closure to hear the truth. She'd probably find out eventually anyway.
      
       "All right! Nick's going to kill me because he swore me to secrecy, but I'll tell you. You just have to promise me that you won't flip out, ok?"

       "Honestly, after finding out he cheated on me, I don't think anything would surprise me at this point," Alyssa responded.

       "Uhh, maybe you better sit down for this one," Izzy suggested as she gestured towards the couch.

       Rolling her eyes, Alyssa flopped down on the couch with her arms crossed across her chest. "Ok, so what exactly is this deep dark secret of Nick's?"

       Izzy bit her lip.
Please don't be mad Nick. I'm doing this for your own good, she pleaded to herself. "Well, a few weeks ago Tristan and I went to Fort Lauderdale and we saw him at the hotel with another girl." She noticed Alyssa open her mouth to interrupt, but held up her hand in a signal to let her continue with the story. "We were sure there had to be some kind of reasonable explanation, so we just let it go. Then he broke up with you that very same week, which to me seemed pretty suspicious, so I confronted him about it. As it turns out that girl he was with was Katie."

       "That fucking asshole! He was still seeing her behind my back? So that's why he broke up with me! Only because you found out and called him out on it, right?" If Alyssa seemed pissed before she was fuming now.

       "It's not like that Alyssa, I swear! Nothing is going on between him and Katie anymore, at least not in the way you are thinking of. She arranged to meet with Nick because..." She paused and swallowed hard for a moment, hating that she had to be the one to tell her friend the news. "Because she found out that she's pregnant... And it's Nick's."

       Alyssa looked as if she had just been doused with a bucket of cold water. "What? No... She has to be lying! She's probably just making this up in order to get her 15 minutes of fame. She's probably not even pregnant! In a few months I bet she'll "mysteriously' lose the baby. Either that or some other guy knocked her up and she's trying to blame Nick because its convenient. I bet that's it."

       Izzy just looked sadly over at her friend as she went through several possible different scenarios. It was obvious that she was desperately trying to deny the news she had just received. "I'm sorry Alyssa, but Nick seems to think she's telling the truth. She even suggested a paternity test if he was doubtful. Why would she be so cooperative if she had something to hide?"

       "Maybe its an act! Maybe she has this big plan to get someone to mess with the test results so it comes out that Nick really is the father when he's not," she suggested.

       Izzy shook her head. "Alyssa I think you've been watching way too many soap operas lately. Listen to yourself. You're not even talking rationally."

       Alyssa sighed, realizing that Izzy was right. This wasn't a soap opera and although Nick was in a very easy position to be taken advantage of, she knew that there still could be a possibility that this all could be true. "So, that's why he broke up with me? Because Katie is pregnant? He's decided that he should be with her because of the baby?"

       "Not exactly. He's very confused right now. Katie told him that she doesn't really expect him to be part of the baby's life if he doesn't want to. Of course she's going to want money, but that's it. He doesn't even know what he wants to do. This is very scary for him and a lot for him to think about," she explained. "He only broke things off with you because he didn't want you to have to be involved in this whole mess. He thought that it wasn't fair to you and you deserved better. He just didn't want to hurt you any more than he already had."

       The news was a lot for Alyssa to digest all at once. Her head was already swarming with confusion over how she felt. "Thanks for telling me Izzy. I'm sorry that I was such a bitch about demanding to know the truth."

       "It's all right," her friend assured her. "I'd probably have acted the same way."

       "Would you mind leaving me alone for a little bit? I think I need to think all of this over carefully."

       "I completely understand. It is a lot to take in. Call me if you need to talk," Izzy offered, as she grabbed her purse.

       "Thanks."

       Izzy was halfway out the door when she turned around. "He really does love you Alyssa. I know that he doesn't always show it, but he was only trying to protect you. Remember that." Before Alyssa could respond she was out the door.

       Once Izzy left, Alyssa laid back on the couch and the tears that she had struggled to hold back throughout her conversation with Izzy, now fell freely down her cheeks. She was so confused! Nick a father? She couldn't picture it. He was practically still a big kid himself. It was scary to think about. Then of course there was Izzy's confession that he had only broken up with her so that she wouldn't have to be involved in all the baby drama. She wasn't sure if she should feel angry that he thought she couldn't handle it, or touched that he was only trying to look out for her in his own strange way. Hell, she wasn't even sure if she was angry about the fact that Katie was pregnant in the first place. She wasn't exactly pleased and it only made things between her and Nick even more complicated, but was it really the end of the world? It didn't mean that him and Katie were going to run off and get married now just because she happened to be pregnant with his child.

       Izzy had stressed that he did love her despite what she might think. If he really did love her as much as Izzy claimed, then they could work around this, right? It wouldn't be easy and it would take time, but they could do it. He obviously did care about her. She was sick of fighting and lies and she just wanted things to go somewhat back to the way they had been before he left for Sweden.

       She picked up her cell phone that was sitting on the coffee table and stared at it a moment as she contemplated making the phone call. The guys were in New York City for the weekend doing some promotional things now. Meg had gone along with AJ, but still had begged Alyssa to come along with them anyway. She'd declined, figuring being around Nick would be too awkward and painful for her to stand. She sadly remembered how she had promised Nick that the next time he was in New York City she would be his own personal tour guide, showing him the parts of the City that only a person very familiar with it would know about. That made up her mind. Without a second thought she located his number and pressed send.

       The phone rang a few times before heading to voicemail. He probably had business to attend to and couldn't get to his phone at the moment. She listened to his familiar voice while she mustered up the courage to say what she needed to say. The beeping noise indicating that the voicemail was finally recording startled her. "Hi... Nick? It's Alyssa. I know I'm probably the last person you want to hear from right now, but I really need to talk to you. Please don't be mad, but Izzy told me everything about Katie and why you broke up with me. It's not her fault. I kind of forced her to. I know that you're away right now, but when you come please give me a call. I want to try to work things out. I know its going to be hard and awkward with Katie and all, but I'm up to the challenge. I hope to hear from you soon. I love you."

************


       Alyssa awoke with a start. Sitting up in bed she glanced over at her alarm clock and read the blinking red numbers. 3:09am. What the hell was it that woke her up seemingly out of nowhere?

       Then it slowly came back to her. The dream she'd just had. Perhaps flashback might be a more appropriate term because she was dreaming about something that had actually happened to her. Like pieces to a puzzle, her mind filled in the details. She'd been dreaming about the time when Izzy had confessed to her about Katie being pregnant and her emotional phone call afterwards to Nick.

       But why dream of that tonight?
she questioned herself. About two weeks had passed since her conversation with Izzy in the ice cream parlor and she hadn't spoken with Nick recently either. So why is that particular moment sticking with me?

       Just thinking about Nick sent a pang through Alyssa's chest. She'd missed their conversations. After that night he had called from Sweden. the two had spoken once or twice more, but it had been awhile since she had last heard from him. She'd figured that he was probably just too busy with his tour schedule, practically every day a new country. Suddenly she had a strange urge to pick up the phone and call him herself.

       He's probably busy or too tired to talk,
she reasoned with herself as she laid back down again. Besides I don't even know what country he's in now, never mind what time it  might be. I'm better off going to sleep and then trying to figure out a better time to call him in the morning.

       She was just starting to drift back off to sleep when the ringing of her cell phone caused her to nearly jump a mile. She panicked for a moment trying to decide who it could be. Middle of the night phone calls were never good news, especially in her experience. She quickly prayed that it wasn't some awful news about any of her family members before answering in a shaky voice, "Hello?"

       "Alyssa? It's Nick."

       Alyssa let out a sigh of relief. She'd been so startled by the call that she'd forgotten to even look at the caller ID on the front of her phone. "Oh, hi Nick. Sorry I didn't answer right away."

       "That's okay," his familiar voice assured her. "You sound kind of weird though. Did I
call at a bad time?"

       "Not really unless you consider 3 am a bad time."

       "It's 3 am in New York? I'm sorry. I don't know what I was thinking! Sometimes I forget all about the time difference and I just impulsively call people without thinking." She could practically picture Nick slapping his hand against his forehead in embarrassment.

       How typical,
she thought to herself, fighting the urge to laugh. "It's all right. I was up anyway. I couldn't sleep."

       "I'm sorry for calling so late, but I just found out some good news and I couldn't wait to tell you," Nick explained.

       "Good news?" Alyssa asked, sitting back up in bed. "You sound excited. What is it?"

       "We may get to see each other again sooner than we originally thought."

       Alyssa's breath caught in her throat. "What do you mean?"

       "We just signed up to do a few holiday concerts for some of the major radio stations throughout the US in December. And of course one of the ones we're going to be doing is Z100's Jingle Ball at Madison Square Garden. We just finalized it this morning," he reported.

       "So, you'll be in New York in December?" she repeated, not fully being able to believe the news herself.

       "December 16th to be exact. It's our last stop. All of us will be there, but Howie. The dates for his cruise conflict and there's no way he can be in two places at once. I hope that you'll be able to come."

       He wants me to be there?
Alyssa asked herself in amazement. "I'd love to, but those tickets are going to be expensive as hell, that is if I can get my hands on them and my chances of winning them off the radio are slim to none."

       "Winning them off the radio? What are you talking about Alyssa? Don't worry. I got you covered. I'll mail you a pair of tickets. I just want you to be there."

       "Do you really mean that?" She found herself being touched by his eagerness for her to come to the show.

       "Of course I do. I really want to see you again," he admitted.

       "I want to see you again too." The words slipped out of her mouth effortlessly, but her mind was still full with doubts. Did Nick want to see her again because he missed her? Or because he was hoping to have a repeat of the last time he came to visit her? What did he expect? How was she supposed to act? Would it be awkward seeing him again?

       "Listen, I hate to cut this short, but I have to run. We have an interview we have to get done before sound check this afternoon and I'm sure you want to get back to bed. So, I'll mail you the tickets as soon as I get a hold of them and I'll call you again sooner to the date, so we can make arrangements to meet up."

       "Ok sounds good to me. Thanks a lot Nick."

       "No problem babe. Sleep tight."

       "I will. Bye," she promised him as she hung up her phone. Exhaling a huge breath she just sat there stunned for a moment. She had always known inevitably she would have to come face to face with Nick again and her mind had painted up about a thousand and one different scenarios, but knowing that it was definitely going to be happening in just a few weeks frightened her a little. How are we going to be around each other after everything that just happened between us? What's going to happen? Are we going to pretend that his last night in New York never happened? Or are we going to pick up exactly where things left off?

       You have plenty of time to worry about these things,
she tried to tell herself. The concert is a little less than two months away. There's no use in overanalyzing the situation right at this moment. With that in mind, she curled back down underneath her covers and attempted to fall asleep, fighting to keep any thoughts of Nick out of her mind.

       She had a horrible time trying to fall asleep and when she finally did, she wasn't the least bit surprised to be welcomed by more dreams about her past relationship with him...

************

       Alyssa has just finished applying a fresh coat of lip gloss to her lips when she heard her door bell ringing. "Damn it! I told her I wasn't ready yet!" she cursed to herself as she headed towards the door. "I'm coming Izzy! Just give me two seconds!"

       "I thought I told you not to come by for another half-" The words became scrambled in her throat as she opened the door and found not Izzy, who was supposed to be coming by to pick her up for a fun night of clubbing, but Nick instead, clutching a bouquet of roses. Alyssa stood there in complete shock for almost a complete minute before Nick finally spoke up.

       "Are you going to invite me in or do I have to stand out here all night? It's starting to rain, you know."

       Alyssa stepped back from the door allowing him to enter her apartment. "I don't understand. What are you doing here? You're supposed to be in New York with the rest of the guys. How'd you get here?"

       "A plane," he simply answered. After Alyssa shot him a look that indicated she didn't appreciate his humor he sobered up. "I got your message and I thought things over and decided that right now I need to worry more about my personal life than my career. I'm 'sick' or at least that's the excuse the rest of the guys are giving about my absence. They can handle the rest of the promo by themselves."

       "But what about your fans?" Alyssa asked.

       Nick shrugged. "They'll get over it. You're more important to me."

       Alyssa could feel her insides begin to melt with his last sentence and it took all her self control not to run right into his arms. She still had to remember that they were not in the clear yet. They still had a lot they needed to discuss. "I wish you would've told me about Katie."

       "I didn't know how to," he confessed. "I was afraid you'd flip out and you'd probably break up with me anyway. I thought that by breaking up with you I was just saving you an extra step."

       "I know. Izzy told me all about your rationale. I can't say I agree with it, but I suppose its the thought that counts."

       Nick narrowed his eyes at her. "So, you're saying that you would've been completely calm if I just dropped the bombshell about Katie being pregnant on you?"

       Alyssa thought about it and laughed a little. "You're right. I probably would have still flipped out, but after I'd calmed down and had some time to think it over I'd probably come to the realization that you weren't exactly pleased with the news either and if I really loved you I'd try to stand by you and help you through this."

       He looked serious all of a sudden. "And is that the conclusion that you've came to?"

       She thought for a moment before speaking. "Yes. To tell you the truth I HATE the idea that there's some other woman out there who is having your child and I won't lie, I'm going to be jealous of her. I don't like the situation one bit, but I also don't want to lose you. We may not have been together very long, but I know that we have so much potential and if we can work through this, we can get through anything."

       Her eyes searched for some kind of reaction from him and her breathing seemed to come to a stand still. She began to wonder if perhaps maybe her little speech had went a little too overboard. Maybe he didn't agree with her? Finally after what seemed like an eternity to her, Nick's face finally broke into an expression of relief. "I was hoping that you'd say something like that. I was kind of afraid that you finding out that Katie's pregnant would be the last straw. That after that you'd want nothing more to do with me, and I can't say I would've blamed you. I've fucked things up something horrible between us just by making some really stupid choices, but I really hope that you'll give me a chance to try and make it up to you. I'm not sure what I'm going to do about Katie or the baby yet, but I am sure that whatever happens I want you to be right there at my side. I love you Alyssa."

       Alyssa could feel her heartbeat quicken at his last four words. Did he really love her? He had said used that phrase once before, but then admitted that he didn't really consider if he had really meant it or not. "Do you really mean that this time?" she asked, her voice barely above a whisper.

       "Yes," he admitted, looking her straight in the eye before repeating his words again. "I really do love you. I just never realized that I did until I almost lost you."

       At this point Alyssa could barely control the tears building up in the corners of her eyes. "I love you too," she managed to choke out before rushing towards his arms. She buried her head in his chest, inhaling the familiar scent of his cologne, as they wrapped around her body, pulling her closer to him. She found herself amazed at the familiarity of his embrace and how safe she felt there. She had to admit that she'd definitely missed him.

       A chill ran over her arms as his fingertips drifted downwards to cup her face. Before she knew it, their lips were only inches apart from each other. Closing her eyes, her arms instinctively wrapped themselves around his neck, guiding him into the inevitable kiss that she craved. As Alyssa enjoyed the familiar taste of his lips on hers, she came to the realization that no matter what Nick decided to do about the baby, she would be supportive of him. He was exactly where she belonged.

************

       What is with these dreams tonight?
Alyssa wondered as she woke up for a second time. The last dream had left her particularly unnerved. Its significance wasn't exactly a mystery. Deep down, she really did feel as if she belonged with Nick, despite whatever doubts might be surrounding them, just as she had felt that night when he had surprised her on the doorstep.

       She grinned as she thought back on that night. They had been so engrossed in making up that she had almost completely forgotten that Izzy was supposed to come over to pick her up. Just picturing the look of surprise on her face when she finally did stop by and saw Nick (who from Izzy's understanding was supposed to be in New York) was enough to almost send Alyssa into a fit of giggles. They had to practically kick Izzy out with Alyssa promising to explain everything the next morning. Yea...That definitely was a good night, she longingly thought.

       For more than one reason too. Later on, after Izzy had left they'd started the new beginning to their relationship in the most appropriate way they could. That had been the night they had made love for the first time.

       Ironically enough, it had also been the very same night that Meg had flown back to Florida after fighting with a concerned AJ about her health. A chill went through Alyssa, as she remembered her sister passing out on the kitchen floor, her own frightened screams waking Nick. So much for post sex bliss, she sarcastically thought. Instead of spending the night wrapped up in each others arms, they had spent it in the waiting room of the ER, scared and confused.

       It's like we never were allowed to be completely happy,
she realized. Every time even a hint of happiness began to creep into our relationship, something had to happen to go and ruin it.

       Of course she was just thankful that her sister was alive and healthy, today. Maybe it hadn't exactly been a good night, but it had definitely been one of her most emotional ones.

       Glancing at her clock again she saw that it was about 6:00 am. The sun was already starting to peek its way through the blinds on her window. Normally she'd try to sneak in at least another half hour or so of sleep, but what was the use? Even if she were to fall back asleep, she didn't any more emotional memories to haunt her dreams.

       With a sigh, she pulled the covers off of her body and willed her body to get up. "And so starts another day," she muttered. Another day closer until I see Nick again.

Chapter Twenty-Eight by Mellz Bellz
Author's Notes:
Alyssa and Nick's encounter ends not quite the way Nick had hoped.
Chapter 28


"Okay, so what exactly is one supposed to wear the first time she faces her ex boyfriend after they've unintentionally had sex the last time they've seen each other?" Alyssa asked Izzy who was lounging across her bed, waiting for her to decide what to wear that night. "Do you go for the sex kitten look? Or laid back and casual?"

Izzy glanced over at the two outfits that Alyssa had in her hands and almost laughed at the absurdity of both of them. On one hand she was holding a slinky black halter style dress with a plunging neckline, totally inappropriate for December, and on the other a pair of jeans, a faded looking maroon v-neck, and a matching track jacket. "Alyssa, you're going to a concert, not an awards ceremony or a track meet. The dress is
way too fancy and the other outfit? You want to show him some sort of sophistication here, right?"

Alyssa sighed, realizing that her friend was right as usual. It was just that she didn't want to look like she was trying to hard to impress him, but she still wanted to seem stylish and sexy. Every outfit she seemed to pull out seemed either too over the top or too simple though. "Well, what am I supposed to wear then?" she whined.

"Haven't I taught you anything about fashion in the years you have known me?" Izzy criticized. "It's all about balance. You want to look sexy, but conservative, but not like you're trying too hard, right?"

"Exactly!" Somehow she knew that coming to Izzy for fashion advice was a smart idea. She always used to tease Izzy that if a career in PR didn't work out, she could always get a job as a fashion designer. She just seemed to have a knack for throwing outfits together and somehow making them work.

"So what you want to do is combine the two looks that you are caught between and mix them up." When Alyssa shot her a still clueless look she groaned and pulled herself off the bed. "Sure, make a pregnant woman get off her ass and work, huh?" she grumbled as she headed over to Alyssa's closet. Within minutes she had snatched up a pair of vintage washed jeans, a tight red knit sweater, and a lacy white camisole top and handed them to Alyssa. "Here. Wear the camisole under the sweater. The lace will give it a more feminine, sexy look without screaming 'look I'm trying to be sexy.'"

"What would I do without you Iz," Alyssa said thankfully as she began to pull on the outfit. "You really are a life saver."

"Yea, yea," Izzy answered. "So, do you and lover boy have any plans for later?"

"Not that I'm aware of. I think we're just going to play it by ear and see what he feels like doing after the show. Maybe we'll just go back to his hotel and talk or something."

This caused Izzy to let out a condescending laugh. "Talk my ass. I've known Nick forever and let me tell you, very little talking gets done in his hotel room if you know what I mean."

Alyssa could immediately feel her face begin to flush. She had been trying to play things off as if nothing was going to happen tonight between the two of them, but deep down she knew it was a possibility and truthfully she couldn't say she would mind if something did happen. Still, she was nervous enough without Izzy hassling her. "I doubt anything is going to happen," she lied. "Things are pretty weird and I think we're both a little freaked out about what happened. It probably wouldn't be that good of an idea to just let ourselves fall back into bed with each other again."

"Uh huh," Izzy teased, nodding her head playfully. "That's why you're decked out in your best Victoria Secret lingerie. Don't think I didn't notice that one. Or the fact that you're back on your birth control pills all of a sudden... Did you go get a bikini wax earlier too?"

"Shut up," she mumbled, turning almost as red as her sweater. "I just want to be prepared for any situation."

"You want to be prepared to get laid, Alyssa. You can admit it."

Alyssa ignored her and headed over to her closet. "Which shoes should I wear?"

"Go with your Uggs," Izzy advised, sounding disappointed that she had put an end to her tormenting.

She grabbed the boots and pulled them onto her feet, tucking her jeans inside of them. "Thanks a lot for coming with me tonight Iz. I was going to ask one of my sisters, but you're the only one who knows about what's going on with me and Nick, and if one of them came I'd have to do a shit load of explaining."

"No problem. I've been wanting to see Melanie anyway. We can compare morning sickness and stretch marks and all that fun shit."

Alyssa rolled her eyes, remembering that she'd be stuck with two pregnant woman during the concert. Nick had warned her earlier that they'd be sitting by Melanie and Leighanne during the concert.Should be interesting, she thought to herself. "Sounds exciting."

'I know. Look at all that you have to look forward to some day!" Izzy sarcastically answered. "So, are you almost ready? Because we should hightail our asses to MSG."

"Yea, just give me two seconds," Alyssa told her before examining herself quickly in the mirror. She fiddled with her hair for a moment or two until it fell just the way that she liked it and then pouted her lips to ensure that her lip gloss was still perfectly intact. She looked good. The outfit that Izzy had selected for her seemed perfect. Red had always looked great on her. Well, this is as good as its going to get, she deiced after giving herself one more glance. "Come on, let's get out of here."




Alyssa never had been a fan of radio station concerts. In her experience they usually were too overcrowded with big names and only gave an opportunity for each artist to sing only a few songs. It seemed as of you'd just be getting into one act when they'd be finished and it would be time for a set change. Quite frankly, she thought that this is what took up most of the concert.

Fortunately enough the guys were not the last act to perform that night which Alyssa was thankful for. That would mean more time she'd have to spend with Nick later. They had decided to meet backstage right after his set and then take it from there. No use sitting there and watching all the other acts. They'd probably be there all night at the rate these things went.

Finally, after what seemed like hours, the guys took the stage. They only sang about 5 or 6 songs, but the fans in the audience still seemed appreciative. Their time onstage seemed to be over before it really began for Alyssa. It had passed by so quickly that she found herself surprised to see them take their bows and head offstage.

"C'mon, let's go back there and congratulate them," Izzy's voice interrupted her thoughts as she grabbed her arm. "I'm sure you'll probably anxious to see Nick anyway."

Yea, anxious just about describes it, but I'm not sure if its in the excited sense or not, Alyssa thought to herself, her stomach already feeling like it was in knots. If Nick had noticed her from the stage, he hadn't made any sort of signal to indicate his discovery. She wasn't sure if that was a good sign or not. Of course it could be quite possible that he hadn't noticed her at all with the stage lights and everything.

They followed Melanie and Leighanne to the backstage area just in time to meet the guys coming off of the stage. As she watched Nick approach them, a sudden burst of shyness came over, causing her to hang back behind the other women for a moment.

"You guys were awesome tonight," Izzy announced as soon as they were in earshot. "Even without Howie you put on a good performance."

"Thanks Iz. I'm glad you enjoyed it," Kevin told her, as he wrapped his arm around Melanie's shoulders. " I'm happy you decided to come."

Alyssa was so caught up in listening to Izzy congratulate the guys, that she hadn't noticed Nick walk around to approach her, until she felt him come up behind her, placing his hands on her waist. "Can't say hello anymore?" he asked, his mouth only inches from her ear.

He caught her so much in surprise that she nearly jumped a mile. "Hi Nick," she greeted, as she spun around to face him. "I'm sorry. I was about to go over to you, but-"

"It's okay. I'm just teasing you," he interrupted as he threw his arms around her to give her a hug. A sloppy kiss landed somewhere near the corner of her mouth, almost as if he hadn't been sure whether to go for a kiss on the cheek, or on the lips, and wound up someplace in between. "So what did you think of the show?"

"It was great. Over much too quick though. And of course its not the same with only four Backstreet Boys."

"Yea, I know what you mean." Was it just her imagination or did he seem to be looking right at Kevin as he said that?

I'm probably just reading into this too much, Alyssa told herself as she brushed the comment aside. It was probably an innocent remark. "So, are you headed back to your hotel now?" she asked, changing the subject.

"For a little while. I need to grab a shower and change and then I'm supposed to show my face at this new club that just opened up downtown. It's supposed to be the new, hot, celebrity nightspot of choice here in New York."

Shit, if I knew we were going to head to a club I would've worn that black dress, she cursed. The outfit that she was wearing now was nice, but nowhere near fancy enough for a club, never mind a high profile one at that. Well, maybe if I lose the sweater I could get away with just the camisole... But then again if someone spills beer on my Uggs I may just have to take a hostage. There was no way around it. She'd have to go back to her apartment to change. "Sounds good to me, but would you mind if I met you back at your hotel? I'm going to want to change if we're going out."

Nick appeared confused for a second, until a hint of realization swept over his face and then he looked guilty. "Alyssa, I didn't mean to give you the wrong impression or anything, but you can't come with me."

"What?! What do you mean I 'can't come with' you?" she asked, her voice raising slightly louder than she wanted it to.

"There's a pretty tight guest list. I can't squeeze you in. I'm sorry. I wish I could, but maybe afterwards-"

"You're fucking Nick Carter! If you want to bring a guest no one should question it! They should be lucky that you're even showing your face at their stupid club!" she argued, taking a step back defensively.

Nick's eyes darted nervously from side to side, noticing that they were starting to get a few stares from the rest of the guys and a few other people lingering around. "Alyssa, please don't do this here," he pleaded.

"Why not?" she challenged. "I mean you give me this whole line of shit about how badly you want to see me and now that I'm here it's, 'Oh I'm sorry, I have to go and party with a bunch of other celebrities at this club and you're not good enough to get in.' Nice to see how I fit into your life!"

She could tell that Nick was beginning to get embarrassed by her outburst, just by the tinge of redness beginning to creep into his face. He impulsively grabbed her arm and pulled her down into an empty hallway, where they could finish their conversation without an audience surrounding them. Once he was sure that they were alone, he tried to defend himself in a hushed tone. "Do you think I'm pleased about this situation? If I could bring you with me, I definitely would. Unfortunately, I made a commitment to be there tonight and I only just found out that you wouldn't be able to come earlier today. And it's not that you aren't 'good enough' to get in. None of us are bringing anyone tonight."

Alyssa crossed her arms across her chest. "Do you really have to go tonight? Is that big of a deal that you show up at some club?"

Nick sighed. "I made a commitment Alyssa. I'll show my face, have a drink or two, pose for a few pictures, and then leave, okay? We can meet up later and do something just the two of us, I promise."

Alyssa still looked stone faced. "I don't buy it Nick. You just don't want me to be there."

He leaned his head back against the wall in frustration. "I don't know why you keep thinking that I have something against you being there tonight."

"I can think of a few reasons," she spat at him. "Mainly, the fact that I'm just fine for you when no one else is around, but when it comes to the public eye, you have this great 'image' to up hold, and I don't exactly fit the mold of the kind of girl that you are expected to be with. You don't want me there, so that you'll be free to flirt away with as many unattached girls as you can. Who knows? You may get lucky again and find yourself a pair of gorgeous looking twins!"

She watched as she saw the color drain from Nick's face, clearly taken back by her accusations. He hadn't expected this kind of reaction from her at all and now he could feel himself to start to become angry as well. "Is that really what you think about me? Are you really that unconfident with yourself that you make assumptions like that? Maybe that's why I didn't want you there tonight. I didn't want to listen to you whine and complain every time a girl looked in my direction!"

Now it was Alyssa's turn to look as if she had been smacked. "You really are an asshole, you know that? Izzy was totally right about you. God, I can't believe I actually slept with you the last time you were in New York! That had to be one of the worst decisions of my life. To think that you actually pretended to care about me! You really had me fooled, Nick. I honestly thought you were a good guy, but I guess I was just another roll in the sack for you, huh? Well, you know what? Fuck you!" With that she turned on her heels and disappeared down the hallway. Nick didn't even bother to try to chase after her.

Well, that went well, Carter, he sarcastically thought to himself as he angrily punched the wall. Now she's totally pissed off and you'll probably be lucky if she ever talks to you again.

He supposed that he had brought it upon himself though. Alyssa had at least been partly right. He really could've probably slipped her into the club tonight if he had wanted to. But it wouldn't have been a good idea. In the first place, if the two of them had showed up together like that in public, it would seem like they were a couple, and that was something that Nick was totally unprepared for. Although he knew that there was definitely something brewing between the two of them, the thought of them actually 'dating' again scared the shit out of him. Hell, the word 'relationship' was probably the scariest word in the whole English language to him, right now.

But with her it was a possibility. She was probably the first girl since Paris, that he could actually picture becoming involved with. And although he could picture it, he wasn't sure if he was really ready for that fantasy to become reality. It's a classic example of how you can't have your cake and eat it too, he reminded himself. He wanted Alyssa close by and he wanted all the benefits of being in a relationship with her, without having to actually be in a relationship with her.

That brought him to the other reason why he had insisted that she not come out with him tonight. The feelings that he was beginning to have for Alyssa slowly were beginning to get the better of him. At first, while he was in Europe and she was in New York, it seemed like he had a firm handle on them. He was easily able to acknowledge to her that yes, there was something there, but he wasn't sure exactly what it was.

Of course, it's pretty easy to admit your feelings for someone when you know they are millions of miles away and can't necessarily act upon them. At first he had been excited about seeing Alyssa again, but with each day that drew nearer he grew more and more panicked. Truthfully speaking he had been scared of what might happen. Scared that he might actually feel something. So, he coped with his fears in the only way he knew how; the way that he had been coping with them for the last year or two of his life. He'd immersed himself into a world of nightclubs, alcohol, and women. He figured that a couple of one night stands would push all memories of Alyssa away.

It hadn't. If anything it made things worse, because with every other woman he slept with the more he tried to compare her to Alyssa. He knew he had it bad, yet still he didn't feel as if he was completely ready to jump back into a relationship again.

He hadn't wanted Alyssa to show up at the club tonight because he was afraid that one of his friends might slip and say something in front of her that would blow up his spot about his activities as of lately. Even though they were in no way committed to each other, he knew that she'd be destroyed by the news.

Then why do it?he asked himself. Nick found that he couldn't even come up with a good answer to his own question, but he knew he wouldn't stop. In some childish way he almost felt like every time he did hook up with a woman, it was like his own private rebellion against being in a normal relationship.

His thoughts were interrupted as he heard someone approach him. He looked up for a moment, almost hoping that maybe it was Alyssa coming to apologize. Instead he was disappointed to find AJ heading towards him. "Are you ready?" he asked. "We're going to leave and go back to the hotel now."

Nick nodded. "Yea, I'm good."

As he followed, AJ outside into the cool air, he rummaged around in his pocket until he found his cigarettes and his lighter. After his fight with Alyssa God knew he needed a smoke. After placing on in between his lips and lighting up, he took a slow drag, thinking to himself, Well, I might as well make the most of tonight and try to have a good time. He could use something to get his mind off of Alyssa.
Chapter Twenty-Nine by Mellz Bellz
Author's Notes:
Alyssa gets a surprising late night phone call.
Chapter 29


The ringing noise from Alyssa's cell phone caused her eyelids to flutter open and groan. Her first instinct was to glance at her alarm to read what time it was. Okay, who the fuck is trying to call me at 2 am? And how much do they value their life? She laid there for a moment, hoping that whoever it was would just give up, but the damn phone kept ringing. With a sigh, she grabbed it from her nightstand. "Hello?" she groggily answered.

"Hey baby. It's me."

Oh God, what does HE want? she wondered. And where the fuck does he come off with calling me baby?

"Nick, what do you want? It's after 2 and some of us were actually trying to get some sleep tonight."

"You."

Just the way in which the single syllable rolled off his tongue made Alyssa's breath catch into her throat. Had she heard him correctly? How was she supposed to respond to that? This had to be one of his cute little pranks in an effort to break the ice after their argument earlier that night.

She was silent on her end of the line for the moment until finally she decided her best bet would be to just play the comment off. "No really.... What do you want from me Nick?"

"I want to see you," he responded. "So why don't you come to my hotel and-"

Ahh, so this is what its all about, she realized. "Uhh... in case you forgot I'm pretty pissed off at you, so I'm definitely not going to break my ass to come see you."

"You are?" Nick asked, sounding thoroughly confused.

Alyssa frowned. How the hell does he NOT remember that I'm pissed at him? "Yea... Remember? We had a huge fight earlier tonight after the show which resulted in me telling you to go fuck yourself and storming off," she reminded him. "I'd say that's a pretty good sign that I was pissed at you."

"Oh yeaaaa..." he slurred out, as of it were just coming back to him. "You're sexy as hell when you're angry."

"Excuse me?" Alyssa asked, again unsure if she had heard right. Then all of a sudden it clicked. Duh, Alyssa. How did you not notice before that he's completely drunk? That definitely would explain him not remembering their fight and of course the phone call itself. Nick had always been a notorious drunk dialer, so she supposed that she really shouldn't be too surprised to be the lucky one to be one the receiving end of one of those such calls tonight. Oh, boy... This could get interesting. "How much did you have to drink at the club tonight?" she cautiously asked.

Nick laughed on the other end of the phone, as it sounded like he was trying to count for himself. "Only a few... One... Two... Maybe eight... I lost count."

Oh God, we're in trouble, she thought with a sigh. The best course of action would be to end this conversation before it got any farther and he made more of a fool out of himself than he already had. "Okay look Nick, you're obviously not in the right state of mind to be having this conversation with me right now, so I'm going to hang up. Good night!" Before she lost her nerve, she pressed the end key on her cell phone, knowing deep down that it was the smartest thing to do.

Placing her cell phone back on the nightstand, she nestled back into her blankets with every intention to go directly back to go sleep, and pretend that Nick's phone call had never happened, but the moment she closed her eyes, all she could think about was his voice, his words echoing back in her mind. I want to see you... You're sexy as hell when you're angry... She sighed. Of course he didn't mean any of it. It was just the alcohol talking. But in a way Alyssa almost wished that he had been telling the truth. Sometimes she really wondered how attracted Nick really was to her. Was she just convenient for him?

Her thoughts were interrupted by the sound of her cell phone ringing again. She didn't even need to check the caller ID to know that it was Nick. She fought the urge to answer, knowing that it would only encourage him more. I refuse to answer it, she told herself, as she pulled on the pillows over her head to drown out the sound. He'll give up... eventually.

But he didn't. He was a persistent one. Finally after what felt like about ten minutes of constant ringing, Alyssa grew frustrated and losing her patience, she snatched up her phone. "Will you stop fucking calling me? I'm not dragging my ass out of bed and across the city in the middle of the night just to see you. You had your chance to hang out with me and you blew it!"

"Aren't we feisty tonight?" Nick's voice teased. "More the reason you should come see me."

Alyssa clenched her hands up into little balls. She could practically picture him standing there with that damn smirk plastered across his face just then. He was really starting to get under her skin now. "You just don't give up, do you?"

"Well, I'm only going to keep calling until you come," he warned her. "So, the way I see it you might as well just give in baby." There it was again. Second time, so far he had called her baby. Again Alyssa wished that he had meant it as a genuine term of endearment, but Nick called every woman baby, especially those he was interested in trying to lure into bed. It was like a perfectly written script for him. Nice to know, that all of a sudden I'm in the same category as his groupies now, she angrily thought.

"Why do you want to see me so bad all of a sudden? Did none of the girls at the club catch your interest?" she sneered. "Am I just a last resort to you?"

"Come on... Don't be like that," he begged.

"Be like what? How am I supposed to be? Am I just supposed to jump at your every beck and call? You clearly didn't want me around earlier, but now it seems as if you'd do just about anything for my company. Seems a little strange to me..." She stopped, realizing that she was trying to argue with a drunk person which was as pointless as watching two goldfish have sex. She was never going to win. The only thing she'd succeed in doing would be to get herself more and more aggravated. Although she couldn't resist one last dig. "I'm a hell of a lot smarter than most girls you associate yourself with, so its not going to work with me."

Nick seemed oblivious to her entire speech. "Okay, so you're pissed. Just come over," he whined. "I'll make it up to you."

"You'll make it up to me?" Alyssa doubtfully asked. "How are you going to do that?"

Nick continued to ignore her, switching tactics. "You know I can't stop thinking about you and that night we had together. How amazing you felt... How sexy you looked... And especially how turned on you were..."

Alyssa bit her lip. Again, she had no clue of how she should respond to him, but now that he had mentioned that night, she found it impossible not to let her mind wander back to those memories. Damn him, she thought, as the entire night seemed to flash forward in her mind. Maybe he's more alert than what I gave him credit for. Considering he's drunk, he's pretty manipulative.

He had her and he knew it too. Taking full advantage of Alyssa's delayed reaction, he went in for the final blow. "Please just come Alyssa," he pleaded, his voice seeming to take on an urgent tone. "I need you."

She sighed as she realized that he wasn't going to accept no as an answer. She knew that going over to see him in the middle of the night was probably not the greatest idea, but something else seemed to be pushing her to go. Come on... Live a little, she criticized herself. Nothing has to happen. You can just go and make sure he's okay and not doing anything else to further embarrass himself. Besides... He needs you., Yes, he had used the word need, not want. There was clearly a difference between the two. "Okay, give me the address to the hotel again and I'll be there as soon as I can, but I want you to know that I'm only stopping by to make sure you haven't like choked on your own vomit or something."

Her sarcasm appeared to be wasted on Nick as he rattled off the hotel information to her, clearly delighted that he had gotten her to change her mind. "Get here as soon as you can and then just come right up."

Alyssa stifled another yawn as she grabbed the clothes that she had previously worn that night. " Okay. I'm leaving in a few minutes. I just need to change and then get a cab."

Nick seemed agreeable to this and they quickly said their goodbyes. What the fuck are you doing? she asked herself as she pulled her sweater back over her head. This had to have been one of the absolute craziest things she had ever done. What was it about Nick that made her totally just throw any sort of caution she had to the wind? Just a few hours earlier she had vowed to never speak to him again and here she was going off to visit him at his hotel at 2:30 in the morning?

You're just doing this to shut him up, she reminded herself. He'll probably be so drunk by the time you get there that you'll spend the whole night taking care of him. With that thought in mind, she purposely didn't even bother to put any makeup on outside of lip gloss and barely ran a brush through her hair. What did it matter how she looked because nothing was going to happen. Nothing. Zilch. Zero.

With that decided, Alyssa did a quick survey of herself in the mirror, grabbed her keys and her purse, and headed downstairs to the street to catch a cab. Thankfully enough it didn't take very long for one to stop for her. After she got in and told the driver the address of Nick's hotel, she leaned back against the seat and sighed.

I am so screwed, she realized. Why do I have this feeling that maybe I should've stayed in bed?
Chapter Thirty by Mellz Bellz
Author's Notes:
Alyssa has mixed emotions about her and Nick's relationship.
Chapter 30


By the time Alyssa entered the hotel lobby her stomach was doing flip flops and she could feel a flush forming in her cheeks, which she was unsure if it was from the cold, or just from her anxiety about this whole situation. I wonder if I turn around and go back home, how long it'll take Nick to call me again? No, it was too late now. She was already in the lobby. If she just turned around and walked out now she'd look suspicious.

Even though it had to be close to three AM by now, Alyssa noted a small cluster of girls camped out on some couches by the elevator. Great, just what I need. Fans... She'd had enough experience with them throughout the years to know exactly what their game plan was. They were parked on the couches, critically eyeing every person who walked past, to see if they were somehow connected to the Backstreet Boys. If they were really lucky maybe one of the guys themselves would pop out of nowhere and pose for a few pictures. Just their presence made Alyssa's heart rate accelerate because she wasn't sure if they's recognize her or not. It had been a few years since she and Nick had dated and as far as she knew they hadn't been spotted together recently, but you never could tell with Backstreet fans. That one girl at the concert at Radio City had certainly wasted no time in recalling her identity. Would these girls be any different?

Of course if they did recognize her and saw her heading up the elevator, it would be obvious to them that she was heading up to see Nick and then oh, how the rumors would fly! She paused in mid step for a moment to consider her options. There was no way she could avoid walking past them. She needed the elevator and as far as she could see there were no other ways of getting up to his floor. Why didn't I wear a hat? Or better yet I should've brought some rope and just climbed up to his room. She'd have to walk past them. If she kept her head low and her hair in her face, she might be able to get away with it.

By some miracle she reached the elevator without any of them shrieking, "I remember you!" Well, at least God is somewhat on my side tonight, she thought as the doors opened and she pressed the button for Nick's floor. He was staying pretty high up, so the ride seemed to take an eternity to Alyssa.

Finally the doors opened and Alyssa stepped off looking a little lost at first. Now which direction is his room? As she headed down the hall she could hear the sounds of laughter and loud voices echoing from near the end. When she got closer, she could see what looked like an empty pizza box laying outside the room. Sure enough, as she glanced up to see the number on the door, it appeared to be the same number Nick had given her. Why am I not surprised?

She was just about to knock when she got this weird sensation like someone was watching her. Whipping her head around, she caught sight of two or three girls, obviously fans, sticking their heads out of nearby hotel room door. You know, if they just got a few Backstreet fans to join the CIA, we probably would never have to worry about terrorist attacks. She guessed her cover was blown, or maybe they didn't know who she was?

Taking a deep breath in, Alyssa finally mustered the courage up to knock. At first, she wasn't even sure that her knock was even heard. It actually seemed as if there was a party going on. She was just about to take out her cell phone and try calling Nick, when the door flew open.

"Alyssa! You made it!" Nick staggered over as he threw his arms around her in a bear hug.

"Yea, I made it," she repeated as she took a step inside. She was surprised to find that there was in fact a party going on. She recognized a few members of the guys band, some of Nick's friends who seemed to make a career out of following Nick around on tour, and most surprisingly a few scantily clad girls who she was unsure if they were fans or just girls from the club earlier that night. It was also unclear if they were invited by Nick or his friends.

Wow, I feel overdressed, she sarcastically thought. Her eyes shifted as she noticed another empty pizza box on the table, and a few beer bottles littered about. "Looks like you've been having a party without me, huh? "

Nick shrugged. "A little one, but its just breaking up now. Right guys?" Alyssa caught him shooting a glance towards his friends that seemed to beg them to go along with him. She almost wanted to laugh at how see through the whole plan was. The party sounded nowhere near ending before she arrived.

She found herself biting her lip, not to start giggling as soon as all his friends scrambled over each other to say, "Of course!" and started to collect their beer bottles, cigarette cartons, and other valuables. Amidst all the chaos, one of the band members announced that they'd be continuing the party in his room. In just about five minutes, the room was completely cleared out with the exception of Nick and Alyssa.

Interesting... I arrive and the party mysteriously 'breaks up.' Alyssa noted. After the last person left the room, she turned to Nick. "Have them whipped much?" she asked, raising her eyebrows.

Nick just laughed. "What do you mean 'whipped?'"

"Well, as soon as you announced the party was ending it seemed like they couldn't get out of here any quicker," she pointed out. "Do they always jump at your every command?"

"Oh, that...." He shrugged again. "They just knew you were coming and well, frankly they hate your guts and think you're a stuck up prissy bitch."

"Lovely. Well, I think they are a bunch of immature, low class, assholes who only think about sex and alcohol, so I guess the feeling is mutual." It was no secret that Nick's friends and Alyssa never exactly hit it off. They could politely tolerate each other for short lengths of time, but tried to avoid each other for the most part. Alyssa couldn't stand them because she felt like they were a bad influence on Nick. They seemed to encourage the wild behavior that Nick swore he was trying so hard to cut down on. On the flip side, his friends disliked Alyssa for the opposite reason. They claimed that she was trying to "change" Nick and mold him into her definition of the perfect man.

Of course Nick usually tried to sugarcoat the truth by saying something like, "They don't hate you. They just need to get to know you a little better." Evidently, under the influence of alcohol, he seemed to see no reason in hiding the truth. Hmm... Wonder what else I can get him to divulge? Alyssa wondered.

"So, you must have left the club pretty early if you guys were partying back here. Was it that bad?" she curiously asked.

Nick nodded his head. "It sucked. I mean it was a cool place and all, just boring. A few of the guys picked up some chicks there, but we decided we'd have a better time back here."

Aha... Jackpot! "Oh, so your friends came with you to the club? That's funny because if I remember correctly, I couldn't come because there was no room for me on the guest list. Yet somehow your whole little posse could get in?" Alyssa crossed her arms over her chest and glared at him.

Nick clamped a hand over his mouth, realizing that he had just screwed himself over. He looked panicky for a moment as his mind frantically searched for something to cover himself. Shit, Carter... Think! Finally an excuse formed in his brain that he hoped Alyssa would accept. "Okay, you got me! I could've gotten you in, but the guys... they don't know much about what's going with us. And I know how well you all just love each other... They really wanted to check out this place and I know you aren't too big into the clubs, so I just figured you wouldn't mind if the two of us just hung out later by ourselves," he hurriedly explained.

Alyssa looked thoughtful for a moment as she thought about his explanation. "Well, I can understand that Nick, but then how come you didn't tell me that earlier tonight while we were fighting? Instead you lied to me. Why?"

Not having the energy or the brain power to think up any more excuses, Nick went for the next easiest way out of this mess. "You're right. I should've told you earlier. I'm sorry. I don't know what I was thinking. Hey, do you want a beer or something?" he offered, trying to change the subject.

She wanted to roll her eyes at the way in which he tried to end the conversation. For a moment or two she tried to think of a comeback in her head, but then realized it was pointless to continue the argument. It's not like she had missed anything very exciting by not going out with Nick and his friends. In fact, she'd probably have been uncomfortable in the situation since she hated the way Nick seemed to act around them anyway. Under normal circumstances, she may have pushed the issue a little further, just for the principle of the matter, but what was the point now? He clearly wasn't in the arguing mood. "Ok fine. I'll take one, " she gave in with a sigh.

Nick headed towards the mini bar to retrieve two more bottles of beer. "Have a seat," he told her, gesturing towards the bed. "You're making me nervous standing around like that."

"I'm sure..." she muttered under her breath as she flopped down on the edge of the bed. "Better?"

"Much." He crossed the room to hand Alyssa her bottle before taking a seat beside her. "So?" he asked with a smirk after a few silent sips. "Do you still think that having sex with me was the worst mistake of your life?"

Alyssa almost choked on her last mouthful of beer.  Why does he have to say things like that when I'm totally not expecting him too? She struggled to come up with a response while she coughed.

"You okay?" he asked with a laugh. "Do you need CPR?"

"I'm fine," she croaked. "It just went down the wrong pipe and you have to be unconscious for CPR, dumbass."

Nick looked embarrassed. "Oh, well I didn't know that! And you never answered my question by the way."

"All right," she admitted, rolling her eyes. "Maybe I flew off the handle earlier today and said some things that I didn't exactly mean. I was angry and you know how I can get."

"Boy, do I know," he teased. "It's cool. You're cute when you're pissed off."

"Only cute? I thought earlier you used the phrase 'sexy as hell' when we were on the phone?" The words came out so easily, that Alyssa herself was surprised to hear them. Am I actually flirting with him?


"Oh yea... I did," Nick remembered. "Seems like it left quite an impression on you."

Alyssa shrugged. "Well, its not everyday I have a hot guy telling me I'm sexy... Even if its only because of my temper."

"Trust me... It's not just your temper."

What's that supposed to mean? she wondered as she looked up at Nick expectantly. This conversation was beginning to fall into dangerous territory and Alyssa wasn't exactly sure if that was a good thing or a bad thing. As much as she had convinced herself earlier that nothing was going to happen, she couldn't help, but to push the envelope to see where it would go. There was no harm in a little playful flirting was there? "Is that your way of telling me that you think I'm sexy?" she replied.

Nick's lips lifted upwards into a sexy grin as he shrugged. "You can take it however you please."

A slight shiver ran over Alyssa. Yes, this was becoming very dangerous territory. If I don't try to change the subject soon, I'll probably be half naked within five more minutes. "So, how come you didn't pick yourself up a girl at the club like the rest of your friends?" she innocently asked. Okay, it wasn't a great change of subject, but it was the best she could think of at the moment.

He appeared to think a bit before he finally answered. "No one really caught my eye. To be honest I just kept thinking about you."

"Me?" she squeaked. "Why me?" So much for safer territory...

"I'm not exactly sure," he admitted. "I just kept comparing every girl I saw with you. Maybe its because I knew that you were the one girl I couldn't have."

She shot him a bewildered look, almost begging for a further explanation, but then she realized that Nick could just be babbling. It's the alcohol, that's all it is, she convinced herself. "So, is that why you called me?"

"Something like that. I can't stop thinking about you," he confessed, looking deep into her eyes. "I knew I needed to see you again before I flew home."

Again Alyssa was surprised that he was being so open with his feelings, but she wondered how sincere they really were. Was this really how he felt, or was this just all an act? Whatever it was, it was working. With every passing minute, she felt less and less angry with him. Here he was saying all the words that she had been craving to hear from a man for so long now.  It was almost too easy to let herself get swept away in it all. There was something about Nick that made her stop thinking rationally. Out of seemingly nowhere she found herself having the urge kiss him, to feel his soft lips pressing against her own. What are you thinking? her mind screamed. What happened to nothing happening tonight? She almost couldn't believe the conflicting emotions running through her head. Then she remembered her words to Izzy a few months earlier in the ice cream shop. I'm just going to see where it takes me. I'm not killing myself trying to define our relationship. It is what is. Taking a deep breath inwards, she realized that maybe she should be selfish for once and just go for it. Not like it hadn't happened before between them. Things couldn't exactly get any worse, could they?

"Nick... I don't know what to say," she finally managed to pull together.

He slid closer to her on the bed, so that their knees were touching, and reached up to brush a curly tendril of hair from her face. "You don't have to say anything."

Time seemed to stand still as Alyssa looked up at the expression on his face, drinking in every last detail. It was now or never. Here was her opportunity. Licking her lips nervously she finally broke the silence. "So, I believe that you promised to make tonight up to me?" she boldly reminded him.

It was the only invitation that Nick needed. Reaching forward he grabbed the beer bottle from her hand and placed it on the nightstand next to his. Focusing his attention back to Alyssa he grinned. "I did say that, didn't I?" he asked in a husky tone as he gently cupped her chin, his mouth drawing nearer and nearer to hers. Alyssa closed her eyes, welcoming the sensation of his lips slowly meeting hers.

The tension in her body seemed to melt away the moment their lips first connected. Alyssa realized that his kiss felt soft and inviting and absolutely perfect to her.  As the kiss deepened and grew more fervent she found herself lightly moaning against his lips. With each passing moment his last night in New York was coming back to her in vivid detail. Who was I fooling thinking I was going to come here and just talk to him? she asked herself. It was painfully obvious to her at this point that she had been just lying to herself all along. As much as she tried to deny it she had wanted this to happen all along.

After a few more moments, things began to heat up even more so as Nick pulled her onto his lap, his fingers entangling themselves in her dark curls.  She gently nibbled at his bottom lip while her hands automatically floated towards the hem of his shirt. She didn't even realize what she was doing until she felt the smoothness of his skin underneath her fingertips. For a moment she froze and pulled away, surprised by her own boldness. Even though she wasn't directly looking at Nick's face, she could tell that he was smirking , not at all disappointed by her actions. If anything he appeared to be loving the fact that she was taking the initiative. It was then that it hit her. This had been his plan all along,; to ask her to come over for him to apologize and then after a few smooth words, sit back and enjoy while Alyssa was all over him. It seemed to be the perfect plan of seduction.

Question is now that I see through his plan, do I want to call him out on it, or do I honestly just not give a damn?

She didn't need to think the answer over any longer. As much as he seemed to deserve her teaching him a lesson and not letting things get any further, it was even more tempting to continue. So, maybe he was just using her. If that was the case why shouldn't she use him as well? It wasn't as if these kind of opportunities came along very often for her. Before her rational side could protest with this theory, her lips hungrily engulfed his while she aggressively pulled his t-shirt over his head.

If Nick seemed surprised at her sudden change of heart, he hid it well, pulling her body closer against his, while his fingers tugged on the bottom of her sweater. "You're wearing way too many clothes," he murmured as he left a trail of kisses up her neck.

The corners of Alyssa's mouth lifted up into a playful grin. "So why don't you do something about that?" she flirted.

No sooner did the words leave her mouth when she felt the garment being lifted up her body. She lifted up her arms to make it easier for him, welcoming the sensation of his skin against hers through the thin material of her tank top. Pressing her lips against his again, she felt her body involuntarily shift with his until she was laying back against the pillows, her hands running up and down his back. Her head tilted back and a low moan escaped from her throat, as his mouth connected with the side of her neck and continued over her shoulders.  By now any doubts still lingering in her mind were being quickly erased with every passing moment.

She could feel his hands freely exploring her body, causing Alyssa to completely forget about the events earlier that night between them. All she knew was that she had never felt this kind of passion towards any other man before. His fingertips were playing with the skinny straps of her camisole now,easing them down over her shoulders. The lower the strap slipped on her shoulder, the more cleavage was being exposed over the lacy neckline of the top, and Alyssa didn't even have to look at Nick to notice the direction in which his eyes were traveling. She could feel the weight of his appreciative gaze on her and when she finally looked back up at him she was met with his trademark sexy smirk. She'd been in such a hurry to get over there that she had just pulled her sweater on over the camisole without a bra and the thin shelf lining inside did little to hide her aroused nipples. Their eye contact did not last long before Nick's lips came down upon hers once more. This time, his hands moved down lower to her breasts, teasing the hardened buds with his thumb. Alyssa's back arched slightly in response, a satisfied groan resonating from her throat. The light material separating the two of them was beginning to become frustratingly annoying to her. Without breaking contact from him, she pulled herself up to a sitting position and guided his hands down towards the bottom of her top. Understanding the meaning of her action, Nick wasted no time in lifting the bothersome garment up her body and over her head.

She felt herself being pressed down against the pillows once more while Nick took his time, trailing kisses along her chest and stomach. Alyssa's teeth dug into her bottom lip, her hands clutching at his arms. Normally, she enjoyed a little foreplay, but tonight she found herself surprisingly impatient all of a sudden. Perhaps it was the thrill of knowing that what she was doing wasn't exactly the most rational  or healthiest thing in the world, but the fact that it seemed so forbidden was what probably made her want it even more.

And it was that impulse that Alyssa acted upon as she found herself falling into the same familiar path that she had the last time Nick had visited her in New York. What could she say? She was lonely as hell and Nick provided the one thing that seemed to be missing the most in her life lately... Attention.



Alyssa struggled to catch her breath, her mind still hazy. She lay there for a moment, completely still and silent, her body pounding. Her first rational thought, a reminder of her  vow to not let anything happen between her and Nick tonight, momentarily flashed across her mind and she bit her lip in order to keep from laughing. So much for that idea, she thought to herself, grinning.

"What are you smiling about?" Nick playfully asked as he rolled over to face her.

Alyssa could already start to feel her cheeks turn pink. "About how I promised myself that I wouldn't let myself wind up in this position," she admitted.

Nick smirked. "I'd say its a little late for that one."

"Well, its really not my fault," she indignantly insisted. "You're the one that practically seduced me."

"Seduced you?" he laughed. "All I did was give you a little beer. If you consider that seduction then you live a very sheltered life."

Alyssa rolled her eyes. "You did more than just give me beer. Who was it calling me in the middle of night, waking me up from a sound sleep, to beg me to come over and see him? Swearing that he only wanted to "make things up" to me?"

It was Nick's turn to look sheepish. "Okay, you got me there. But you have to admit that I definitely made things up to you, right?" he pointed out, nuzzling up against her neck.

As much as Alyssa didn't want to give Nick the satisfaction that she was so easily manipulated when it came to him, she knew that she wouldn't be able to convincingly lie. Truth was that after two orgasms she was finding it difficult to remember exactly what it had been that they fought about in the first place. So much for being a strong, independent woman, she criticized herself. You can't even be around him without cracking. Holding back her pride, she knew that she'd have to admit that he was right. Damn, she hated that.

"Well, it is kind of hard to stay mad at you. Especially when you're tearing my clothes off," she confessed. "But don't think that you can get away with that every time we have a fight because-"

Before she could even finish her sentence, Nick's lips were pressing over hers, interrupting her little speech. Immediately, Alyssa gave in to the kiss, knowing damn well that it was the only his own little way of shutting her up when he didn't want to hear what she had to say. When they finally pulled apart, she was surprised to find her heart racing. "Damn, I just can't stay mad at you," she sighed, stroking his back.

"That's because I'm just so damn irresistible," Nick joked, shooting a toothy grin.

Alyssa just rolled her eyes and pretended to ignore his comment as she moved her fingertips up to play with his shaggy blonde hair. "You need a haircut," she remarked, changing the subject.

"I know I do, but who has the time for a haircut when I'm touring like this?" he pointed out.

"I guess you're right," she finally agreed. "So what do you have on your schedule for the next few weeks?"

Nick shrugged. "Well, I'm flying back to LA in a few hours and I have off until after the holidays, but then after the New Year we're going over to Asia and Australia until like the end of January."

"Sounds exciting," Alyssa told him, trying her best to sound enthused. In reality, she found his plans to be slightly disappointing to her. She'd sort of secretly hoped that maybe he'd be able to stay in New York a little while longer. She was also not happy that he would again be halfway across the world from her, even though it would only be for a month and after that it would all be over. "Do you have  anything special planned for the holidays?"

Again Nick shrugged. "Actually no. I'm not sure what I'm going to do for Christmas. My family and I aren't on the best of terms right now, so as of this moment I'll be spending Christmas alone."

Alyssa's eyebrows knitted together in a frown. How sad... she thought. No one deserves to be alone on Christmas. Even Nick."Aww... Nick, that's so depressing," she sympathized; leaning up onto her elbow.

"It's not that big of a deal Alyssa. I probably won't end up alone. AJ and his Mom would have no problem if I joined them for Christmas and neither would Brian and Leigh or any of the other guys and their families. Someone will take pity on me," he tried to assure her, but Alyssa could still detect a hint of sadness in his voice.

It's not fair that his family has to be so screwed up, she thought. Seeing how Nick's family treated him always made Alyssa count her lucky stars that she had thankfully been born into one of the most stable and loving families she knew. Although her parents could sometimes be strict, she knew they could be a lot worse. She was lucky. Suddenly a vision of Nick sitting alone on Christmas flashed across her mind and her heart broke for him. Before she even realized what she was saying, the offer was flying out of her mouth. "Well, you're always welcome to spend Christmas with me and my family on Long Island. My Mom always cooks enough for ten extra people and her philosophy is 'what's one more plate?'"

"I really appreciate the offer, Alyssa, but I don't know if that's the best idea," he politely declined, looking uncomfortable. "I know that I'm not a huge fan of your parents and all and I don't want to cause any trouble."

It wasn't exactly a secret that Alyssa's parents weren't particularly fond of Nick. They were never comfortable with the fact that their daughter had been dating a celebrity and were hurt to discover that Alyssa had purposely tried to hide the fact from them. Of course then when the whole Katie scandal had made its way onto the front pages of the tabloids they were mortified for Alyssa. When she and Nick did eventually get back together afterwards,they weren't the least bit supportive and from that point on they didn't even attempt to act nice towards him. Although he had gained a few points of respect in her Dad's eyes after he had actually spoke to him beforehand about his plans to propose to Alyssa, those points were quickly lost when he had impulsively decided to end the engagement. And you want to invite Nick to Christmas dinner in this mess. Are you crazy? she had to ask herself.

"It won't be that bad, " she promised. "My parents are just going to have to suck it up. Besides I think that they'll be able to call a truce in good old holiday spirit."

"I still dunno, Alyssa..."

"Just think about it Nick, ok? If nothing else comes up just know that my door is always open. I hate the idea of you spending Christmas alone, so if at the last minute you wanna fly out here just give me a call."

"Ok, fine. I'll think about it," he finally gave in. "Speaking of flights I have to be in the airport in only about another two hours."

"You should get some rest then," she suggested, shifting her weight so that she was laying her head on his chest.

"I can always sleep on the plane. It's a long flight."

Alyssa stifled a yawn. "Well, I'm exhausted. I haven't gotten much sleep tonight, so I don't know how much longer I can stay awake. Sorry."

"Close your eyes then. It's okay if you doze off," Nick assured her as he wrapped his arms around her body.

"You sure?" she asked uncertainly. Nick just nodded his head in response, so Alyssa did just what he had told her to do. Closing her eyes, she nestled closer to him, amazed at how safe she felt in his arms. Her last thoughts before drifting off to sleep were, How can he be so sweet at times like this, but such a dick at other times?



Alyssa awoke to the sensation of someone shaking her shoulders as if they were trying to gently wake her up from her slumber. She thought she heard someone calling her name in a far off voice, but she tried to ignore it. "Five more minutes..." she mumbled, burying her face in the pillow.

"And you say I'm hard to wake up in the morning," Nick's voice teased.

Alyssa's eyes fluttered open, a little confused to be laying in what appeared a hotel bed with just a sheet wrapped around her body before her memory finally caught up with her. Rubbing her eyes, she sat up in bed to see Nick standing over her, fully dressed, trying to cram last minute things into a suitcase. Glancing around the room she saw that all the empty beer bottles had been cleaned off the tables and all the cigarette butts littering the ash trays had vanished. No one would know that there had been a party going on in the room only a few short hours ago. Nick must've spent the whole time I was sleeping cleaning up this place, she realized.

"What time is it?" she groaned.

"Almost 6 am," Nick answered.

"6 am! What the fuck are you doing waking me up at such a godforsaken hour?" she pouted.

Nick looked as if he was trying to hold back a smirk. "Aren't we just a ray of sunshine in the morning? I have to leave for the airport in about 15 more minutes, so I'm afraid I need to kick you out now."

Kick me out? That sounds cold, Alyssa thought to herself, but decided to ignore it. It could've just been Nick's idea of a joke. "All right," she grumbled, reaching over the bed to gather up last nights clothes from the floor. "Would it be okay if I came with you, to see you off?"

He chewed at his lip, trying not to make eye contact with her. "Actually its probably a better idea if you just sneak out now. The hotel is loaded with fans and if they catch us together, well... you can imagine what the message boards will be like tonight."

"Okay, I understand," she willed herself to say, trying not to sound hurt. He'd love to have you come with him, but it would cause all sorts of rumors and you don't need anything else complicating things even further than they already are, she tried to reason as she pulled on her clothes. She didn't even ask if she could quickly jump in the shower since Nick had made it pretty clear that he wanted her to slip out as discreetly as possible.

Once she finished dressing, and did her best to finger comb her unruly hair, she turned to face Nick. "Well, I guess this is goodbye for now."

"Yea. I'll give you a call when I get back to LA," he promised her, stepping forward to give her a quick peck on her lips.

"Remember my offer about Christmas," she reminded him, after only a moments hesitation. "It's out on the table if you want to take me up on it."

"I'll definitely think about it." He put his arms around her in a farewell hug and Alyssa let herself linger in his arms for a few seconds until she managed to tear herself away.

"Goodbye," she told him, realizing at that moment that she had no clue when the next time they would see each other would be. Too proud to let him know how much he got to her, she turned around and stepped out into the empty hotel hallway before she lost her nerve to walk away.

Well, that was sufficiently awkward, she thought to herself, stopping to adjust her purse on her shoulder. Can it get any weirder?

Her question was almost immediately answered. Yes, it could get weirder... Much weirder... The creaking sound of another room's door opening jarred her out of her thoughts and before she could duck behind a corner, two girls stepped out into the hallway. The same two girls that she recognized from last night, that she had assumed to be fans spying on everyone going in and out of Nick's room. Their eyes locked for a split second and Alyssa instantly knew that they recognized her too... and they knew exactly where she was coming from and what had happened. Their malicious grins were almost too much for Alyssa. Never in her life had she felt so dirty and so transparent.

She quickly lowered her head and started walking down the hallway as fast as her feet would carry her. She didn't look up until she reached the elevator and felt relieved that the girls hadn't bothered to follow her. As the doors opened, she realized that the numbers on the elevator panel were blurry as her eyes filled with tears. Why am I crying? I didn't do anything wrong, right? It's not like I just sleep with random guys all the time. Besides its Nick.

Then it hit her. The way Nick had kicked her out in such a rush this morning, the judgmental stares from the girls in the hall... For the first time in her twenty-five years Alyssa felt as if she had the word 'whore' written across her chest.

She absolutely hated the feeling.
Chapter Thirty -One by Mellz Bellz
Author's Notes:
Nick decides to take Alyssa up on her offer.
Chapter 31


The week before Christmas flew by in a flash for Alyssa. Last minute Christmas shopping and a steady request for substitute teaching kept her fairly busy which was just fine in her opinion. The less time she had to herself, the less time she had to think about Nick and overanalyze all her feelings connected with the last time she'd seen him, only one week ago. Or at least she had thought so until she received a certain phone call a few days prior...

She'd been so shocked and unprepared to speak to Nick that just the sound of his voice had jolted her. What does he want? she found herself wondering. Why would he call me when it seemed so clear that he's only been using me? Is this another one of his pleading manipulative phone calls? Is that what we've been reduced to? Fuck buddies?

"What do you want?" she found herself rudely asking, before she could even realize how bitchy it probably sounded.

Nick seemed a little surprised by her cold response. "Well, uhmm... I was just calling to see if uhh maybe that offer about Christmas was still available?" he stuttered.

The offer about Christmas? Shit, she silently cursed herself. She'd almost forgot that she had offered him the invitation to spend Christmas with her and her family in the worst case scenario. What was I thinking? Alyssa had to ask herself. She remembered Nick saying that he really didn't have anyone to spend the holiday's with and she honestly felt bad about that, but she doubted she would've been as charitable if it wasn't for the fact that at the time she was still on a sex induced high. Besides, she'd made that offer before he pretty much threw her out of his hotel room as if she was just another groupie and not someone that he had been in a serious long term relationship with before.

"I mean I could spend it with one of the guys," he continued to ramble on. "But it’s just a little weird. I mean Kevin and Brian both have wives, so I just feel like a third wheel when I'm with them, especially with Brian now that he has Baylee and all. I feel out of place with all of Howie's family and AJ and Denise are always more than happy to have me over, but I feel like I'm constantly putting them out. You know there's no way I'm spending it with any of my family members, so yea... I just wanted to know if you really meant having me for Christmas," he ended in a big breath.

As much as Alyssa still felt funny about their last encounter, she quickly realized that there was no way she could uninvite him without looking like a heartless bitch. Deep down she genuinely did feel bad for him. It seemed like she'd be selfish not to allow him to share Christmas with her and her family when his was such a mess. So, reluctantly she had agreed to him flying back out to New York for Christmas after all. As awkward as it was going to be for her, she just couldn't let him stay out in LA by himself.

Now it was the morning of Christmas Eve and Alyssa was running around her apartment making sure that she had everything packed for the next few days she'd be spending at her parent’s house. Even though she only lived about an hour from her parents, they'd all decided that it would be easier for her to just stay over. As it was Stephanie was back at home until college started up again in January and Megan and Scott were coming up from New Jersey. It would be a crowded house, but Alyssa didn't mind. She barely saw her two sisters anymore, so she was excited to get caught back up with them again. The plan was for Nick to take a cab to her apartment from the airport and from there the two of them would take the train to Long Island in order to beat holiday traffic. Besides, after her car had gotten stolen, Alyssa had never gotten around to buying a new one. Living in the city, she hadn't really felt the need to.

"Okay... Got all my clothes... Got my makeup... My gifts... What am I missing?" she muttered to herself as she took inventory of the items that were strewn into her suitcase. "Aha! My toothbrush! I knew I was going to forget something important!" Not like it would've been a huge tragedy if she had forgotten it because she could just as easily pick another one up by her parents house, but still she was thankful that she had remembered. She just stepped out of her bathroom, toothbrush in hand, when she heard the familiar chime of her cell phone.

Holding back a sigh, she threw the toothbrush into her suitcase and grabbed her cell phone with the other hand. "Hello?"

"Please tell me that you're on your way?" she heard the familiar sound of Stephanie's impatient voice. "Mom and Dad are driving me crazy!"

Alyssa laughed, knowing exactly what Stephanie must be going through. Holidays in the Martinelli house were anything, but sane and tensions always rose during the last minute preparations. "Sorry, but I'm still trying to finish packing, so it'll be awhile before I leave yet. What are they doing though? Did Mom 'run away' yet?" It was a long standing joke that it was never Christmas unless her Mother stormed out of the house in a huff over something her Dad had said to her.

"No, not yet, but I'm expecting that to be any minute now," Stephanie reported. "Right now we're trying to make sure the house is perfectly clean and of course while Mom and I are polishing every piece of furniture in the house, Dad's got his little dustpan and broom and is pretending to meticulously sweep the stairs even though they're perfectly clean already."

"Sounds like Dad," she giggled. For as long as she could remember her Dad had also been the "stair sweeper" so that he could get out of doing most of the other more tasking holiday cleaning chores.

"Yepp. You're so lucky you don't live here anymore. You and Meg have it easy. All they've done for the past twenty-four hours is fight about everything from the tree to the bathroom not being clean yet," her sister told her. "And when they're not fighting the hot topic around here is you and Nick."

"Me and Nick?" Alyssa asked, sounding surprised. She knew that she had probably opened up a can of worms by inviting him for Christmas, but she didn't expect it to be this whole big scandal. "There is no me and Nick," she clarified, swallowing hard as she said the words.

She could practically picture Stephanie raising her eyebrows over the phone just by her curious pause. "Well, they just think its a little funny that out of the blue your ex fiancée is all of a sudden your best buddy after three years of being apart and now he's spending Christmas with the family? They have all sorts of conspiracy theories going on."

Alyssa inwardly groaned. She should've realized that inviting Nick to New York for Christmas would cause these kinds of problems. She hadn't mentioned her and Nick's new found friendship to any of her family members, so she could see how it could seem suspicious to her parents. When she had called up her mother to let her know that she would be bringing Nick with her, she had sounded surprised and tried questioning Alyssa who had expertly dodged her evasive questions. Not like it had fooled her mother. She'd just try to pump her sisters for information. She knew her parents were not thrilled with the idea, but she hoped that they could at least treat Nick somewhat civilly since this was after all Christmas.

"They keep asking me every 20 minutes if I know anything about what’s going on with you and Nick and how long the two have you been in contact again," Stephanie continued. "I told them the truth. That I'm just as in the dark about the whole situation as they are even though I live in the same city as you. It really hurts that my older sister can't even share such a major event in her love life as this."

She rolled her eyes at Stephanie's mock disappointment. She'd have to at least come somewhat clean in order to make the next few days run smoothly. Of course she wasn't going to tell Stephanie the whole story. Stephanie had a big mouth and never was good at keeping secrets. She might be able to explain the complicated situation to Meg, but definitely not Stephanie. "It has nothing to do with my love life," she insisted. "I just wound up getting back in touch with Nick through a mutual friend and we've decided to be friends. He's not looking for a relationship right now and honestly I'm much too busy for one myself right now."

"So in other words you're fucking him?"

"What?!" she screeched, her face already turning red at her sisters blunt question. Was she really that transparent? "No way... I am definitely not fucking him!" she lied.

"Uh huh... Exes never get back together after a few years to just be "friends," Stephanie pointed out. "Although, I must admit if the two of you were just fucking why would you want him to spend Christmas with your family?"

Alyssa sighed. “Maybe because he doesn’t have anywhere else to go for the holidays. His family is so screwed up that he wants no part of them and he feels like bad imposing on the other guys and their families for every holiday. I felt bad for him, so I asked if he’d want to spend Christmas with us. And that’s all there is to it.”

“Well, it’ll certainly be interesting around here. Honestly, I could care less whatever you have going on with Nick, as long as you’re happy. I just thought you might want to be prepared as to what Mom and Dad are thinking about the whole situation.”

“Thank you,” she told her sister, believing her to be sincere. She knew that in her own way, Steph was only trying to help. Besides it’s not like it was that big of a secret that her parents were not big fans of Nick.

“So, when are you getting here?” Stephanie excitedly asked, changing the subject.

“Whenever Nick gets here. His plane was supposed to land not too long ago, so hopefully it’ll be soon.”

“Good. Meg is supposedly on her way. She and Scott hit some traffic on the George Washington Bridge, but by now they should be past there.”

Alyssa nearly jumped out of her skin when a knock on her apartment door reverberated throughout the room. “Hey Steph, I got to go now. I think Nick’s at the door.”

“Okay. I’ll see you in a few hours. Can’t wait!”

“Same here. Bye.” She pressed the end button on her phone, nervously ran a hand through her hair, and reluctantly approached the doorway. She drew in a deep breath before slowly opening it.

Standing on the other end was Nick wearing a jacket that looked no heavier than a sweatshirt and a skull cap over his blonde hair, clutching a large duffel bag. “Merry Christmas,” he greeted her, stepping forward to give her a light kiss on the cheek.

“Thanks you too. How was your flight?” she asked.

Nick shrugged. “Hellish. It was pretty crowded with all the holiday travelers, but I made it.”

“Yea. The train station is probably going to be a zoo today too,” Alyssa agreed before stepping back and critically eyeing his appearance. “You did bring another jacket didn’t you?”

“No,” he told her. “Why is there something wrong with this one?”

“No it’s fine, but this is New York in December. It’s a lot colder here than in LA. You’re gonna freeze,” she warned him.

“I’ll be fine,” he insisted. “I never get cold.”

“Yet, you’re always sick,” she teased. “You know considering that you were born upstate I thought that you’d know all about cold winters.”

“I’ve repressed all my cold winters once I moved down to Florida,” he shot back. “So, are you almost ready to go?”

“Yea, I just have to throw a few more things in my suitcase and then we can go. Stephanie has already been bugging me about what time we’re getting there. Apparently my parents are driving her crazy or something.”

“It’ll be good to see her again. And Meg. And your parents too of course,” Nick added.

If only they could say the same about you, she thought to herself as she headed back down the hall to finish her packing. Something told her that this was indeed going to be an interesting Christmas.




As expected Penn Station was swarmed with people who had the same idea as Alyssa and Nick when it came to their idea of how to get home for Christmas. Alyssa was glad for the crowd though. With so many people rushing to catch trains and fumbling with large pieces of luggage no one seemed to have the opportunity to notice that she was accompanied by a Backstreet Boy. Of course with his skull cap pulled low over his forehead and his ipod dangling from his ears, he easily blended in as just another New Yorker.

Just to be on the safe side though, Alyssa let him take the window seat once they had boarded the train, so that he could remain better hidden then on the aisle where he would be more visible. Normally, she was very possessive over the window seat, but she’d much rather make the sacrifice then to have some teeny recognize Nick and harass them for the next hour.

Not long after the train had pulled out of the station, Nick had leaned his head against the window of the train and promptly fell asleep. He has to be jet lagged from his flight, she realized as she watched him sleep. With nothing better to do for the remainder of the ride, she dug into her bag and pulled out her own ipod. Adjusting the ear buds she turned it on and leaned back against the seat trying to relax.

The song that filled her ears sent a chill through her as she listened to the lyrics and realized just how close they seemed to hit home as she gazed over at Nick beside her.

Something ‘bout the way you looked at me
Made me think for a moment
That maybe we were meant to be
Living our lives separately
And it’s strange that things change
But not me wanting you so desperately

Oh why can’t I ignore it?
I keep giving in but I should know better
‘Cause there was something ‘bout the way you looked at me
And it’s strange that things change
But not me wanting you so desperately


Alyssa knew damn well, that Nick was bad for her. It was bad for her to be around him because lately every time she was alone with him, no matter how hard she tried to fight it, she found herself giving into him. It wasn’t healthy at all and it frustrated her to no end. Why couldn’t she just ignore her feelings? She really knew that she was only hurting herself in the end, but just one look from him could make her clear levelheaded self vanish and leave a wild and irresponsible person in its place who did crazy, stupid things.

You looked my way and said, “you frustrate me”
Like you’re thinking of lines and times
When you and I were you and me
We took our chance out on the street
Then I missed my chance
And chances are it won’t be coming back to me

Oh why can’t I ignore it?
I keep giving in but I should know better
‘Cause there was something ‘bout the way you looked at me
And it’s strange that things change
But not me wanting you so desperately
So desperately


Was she just caught up in the idea of what could have been if they had in fact worked out as a couple? Was she just clinging to false hopes and illusions? Or was this something different? Maybe there really was something between them. Maybe it wasn’t just completely one sided. Deep down she realized though that as long as they continued to be friends they were going to fall into the same cycle over and over again. He’d be charming and do something to make it extremely hard for her to say no to him, she’d give in, they’d have sex, and then she’d just wind up confused and unsure of where they stood until the cycle repeated again.

Oh why can’t I ignore it?
I keep giving in but I should know better
‘Cause there was something ‘bout the way you looked at me
And it’s strange that things change
But not me wanting you so desperately


Alyssa sighed, laying her against Nick’s shoulder. Why did this have to be so complicated between them? She needed to stop, but she knew she wouldn’t. He was like an addiction to her. A dangerous addiction.

So now that she came to that stunning realization the question was what was she going to do about it?

I want you so desperately
I keep giving in but I should know better
I keep giving in but I should know better
So desperately
I want you so desperately


-Desperately by Michelle Branch
Chapter Thirty - Two by Mellz Bellz
Author's Notes:
Nick and Alyssa arrive home for the holidays. Alyssa plays "catch up" with her sisters.
Chapter 32
"Nick? Nick... You got to get up now. We're the next stop," Alyssa warned, lightly nudging his sleeping form. He'd slept most of the hour long train ride from the city to her parents house, leaving Alyssa to stay awake and watch for their stop. To Alyssa, the ride felt excruciatingly long, but maybe that had to do with the fact that Nick had been right beside her, fast asleep, preventing any kind of communication. Not like she probably would have tried to start a conversation about what to define their unique relationship, especially in front of her parents, but just sitting next to him silently like that had made her feel uncomfortable somehow. She was starting to suspect that the uncomfortable feeling that lingered in the back of her mind was not going to go away at all these next few days.

Nick groaned and slowly peeled his face away from the window of the train which he had been leaning against. Alyssa had to laugh when he turned his head towards her. A large red spot stood out on his cheek from where it had been pressed against the window. The image was so adorable that she couldn't resist a giggle.

"What's so funny?" he grumpily demanded, rubbing his eyes.

"Nothing," Alyssa assured him with a smile. She knew better than to tease Nick the minute he awoke especially when he seemed to be on the grumpy side. He had a tendency to be overly sensitive about people poking fun at him.

"You might want to start getting your stuff together, so we're not fumbling with it as soon as we pull into the station," she continued, as she stood and struggled to pull her suitcase off of the rack above her head.

"Here, let me help you," Nick offered as he stepped out into the aisle.

"No, its okay. I've got it," she insisted.

Nick snickered. "Yea. You've got it. Until the train comes to a short stop and that suitcase comes tumbling down on your head."

Alyssa stopped pulling and defensively looked over at him. "Thanks for the vote of confidence. I'll have you know that I can manage just fine. Not like this isn't the first time I've had to lug a suitcase down from the overhead rack."

"Just let me help you." Before Alyssa could further object he was reaching over her to retrieve both of their suitcases. Alyssa breathed in slowly as she realized how near their bodies were. Was she actually getting a tingly sensation from just being so close to him? This was beginning to get out of hand. There goes my damn emotional attachment again, she realized. Why couldn't she be like other girls and just not have a conscience?

"Thanks," she said in a soft voice when the suitcase was safely on the ground, slowly meeting his eyes.

"No problem," he replied as he reached back up for his suitcase. "Although I must say... For two nights that bag is awful heavy."

"Ha, ha," she responded, rolling her eyes at him. "If you must know its because I have my Christmas presents in there."

Nick looked as if he was going to say something else, but before he could open his mouth he was interrupted by the train coming to a stop and the conductor announcing their stop. "Come on. This is us," Alyssa told him, grabbing his hand as she approached the sliding doors. "I have no idea who is coming to pick us up, so we'll have to keep our eyes peeled."

Obediently following Alyssa, Nick stepped off the train and onto the platform, taking in his surroundings with interest. He wondered just how many times in her lifetime had Alyssa boarded the train to New York City from this very same spot? It had to have been at least dozens. He continued to follow Alyssa up the stairs of the over pass while she explained that while he had been sleeping she had called home and let them know that she and Nick were on their way and that someone from home would swing by the train station to pick them up.

Just as they reached the other side of the platform, Alyssa's eyes scanned the small crowd of people who were huddled near the waiting area, to greet their family members. Finally, they came to a halt on a young couple standing only a few feet away. Nick recognized the young woman instantly.

"Meg!!!!" Alyssa squealed, dropping her suitcase at her feet and rushing towards her older sister, seeming to forget all about Nick beside her.

Nick just grinned as he reached down to pick up Alyssa's abandoned suitcase and pulled it over to where Meg and who he assumed must be Meg's husband, Scott, stood. He knew that Alyssa hadn't seen much of her older sister since she had gotten married and he remembered how close they had always been. It'll be nice to see Meg again after nearly four years, he realized.

By the time he approached the three of them, Meg and Alyssa already appeared to be engrossed in an excited chatter, obviously trying to cram months worth of information into only a few short minutes. He stood there a moment unnoticed by the two sisters until he loudly cleared his throat to remind them of his presence.

"Oh my God! I was so excited to see you I almost forgot that I left Nick behind back there!"Alyssa exclaimed with a laugh as she grabbed Nick's arms. "Meg, you remember Nick right?"

Meg rolled her eyes at her younger sister. "Of course. How could I forget him?" She turned her head to greet Nick with a smile. " How's it going Carter? I didn't think I'd ever be seeing you again."

"Yea, same here," he admitted. "I've been pretty good. You know doing my thing with the guys and all. Congratulations on getting married by the way."

"Thanks," she told him as she laced her fingers with Scott's. "This is my husband, Scott by the way."

"Nice to meet you," Scott introduced himself with a handshake.

"Ditto," Nick replied.

"Okay, sorry to ruin the introductions and everything, but do you think that maybe we can continue this someplace else. Someplace warmer like the car or back at the house?" Alyssa interrupted as she shivered. "I'm freezing!"

"If you insist," Meg said in a over dramatic tone. "Babe, would you mind pulling the car up a little closer, so Alyssa and Nick don't have to lug their suitcases all the way to where we are parked?" she asked Scott, tossing him her car keys.

"No problem," Scott replied as he trotted off towards the parking lot.

Meg remained silent until Scott was out of ear shot. Once she was sure it was safe she impulsively grabbed Nick's arm and twisted it slightly behind his back.

"Oww! What the fuck are you doing?" Nick cried. Since when does Meg know all this tae kwon do shit, and why does she feel the need to practice it on me?

"You mention one word about my past relationship with AJ to Scott and you'll be very sorry. He doesn't know about him and I intend to keep it that way. Comprende?"

"Yes. Now can you please let me go?" he begged. He sighed in relief as Meg released his arm. Rubbing his arm he glanced quizzically at Alyssa as if to ask what the hell was that all about? Alyssa just shrugged in response.

"So we're all good now?" Meg asked. After receiving nods from both Alyssa and Nick she set off towards the curb to wait for Scott and the car with Alyssa and Nick right at her heels.

I haven't been here ten minutes and already things are getting interesting Nick noted to himself. That must be a sign that this going to be one hell of a Christmas!


After only about a ten minute car ride, Nick vaguely began to recognize the sights of Alyssa's neighborhood as they turned onto her block. He realized that in all the time that he had known her, this would only be his second visit to the home that she grew up in. His only other visit had been while they were in New York for the Black and Blue tour and Alyssa had convinced him to come with her to see his parents. It hadn't been the first time he'd met her parents. He'd been introduced to them in the waiting room of the hospital that Meg was being treated in after first being diagnosed with cancer. He could distinctively remember his last visit clearly. It had been during that particular visit where he had spoken to Alyssa's father about his intentions to propose to his daughter.

Normally Nick considered something as asking a girl's father for permission to marry her old fashioned and just plain stupid. In this day and age it wasn't like parents really had much of a say so in the matter really. But, he knew how much of a traditionalist Alyssa's father was and after the way he had fucked things up with Katie, he felt that he owed Alyssa that much. He knew it would mean a lot to her and at the time it definitely did. It had also won him some nice brownie points with her family.

Unfortunately, those points had since ran out somewhere in between him breaking off his engagement with Alyssa and running off to LA to enjoy the perks of being Mr. Popstar. Somehow he got the feeling that Alyssa's parents would be less than pleased with the fact that now three years later. he was spending Christmas with them. Although he was certain that they wouldn't be completely rude to him, he feared that they probably would be a little on the cold side. As the car pulled up in the driveway, Nick wiped his sweaty hands against his jeans, feeling not much less anxious than he had been the last time he had visited Alyssa's home.

"Here we are! Home sweet home!" Alyssa's voice interrupted his thoughts as they came to a stop in the driveway. After gathering up her belongings and leaping out of the car, she was ambling up the steps of the front porch.

Nick had no choice, but to follow uncertainly behind feeling strangely removed from the whole scene. Before he could reflect anymore on these feelings though, the front door opened up and he recognized the familiar face of Alyssa's younger sister, Stephanie on the other side.

"I thought you'd never get here," Stephanie greeted Alyssa with her a hug. "Watch out for Mom and Dad... They're in rare form."

"What is she saying about us now?" the voice of Alyssa's mother called from deeper inside the house. Before Nick had a chance to worry about Stephanie's warning, he found himself face to face with Patricia Martinelli.

"Alyssa, honey! How are you doing?" her mother greeted her with a hug and a kiss.

"I'm doing great, Mom. Merry Christmas! You remember Nick right?" she asked, as she gestured towards him at her side.

"Of course," the woman responded with a tight grin, her cold blue eyes sweeping over him. "Merry Christmas Nick."

It was hard for Nick to believe that this was the very same woman who only a few years prior had been overly friendly to him when he had first met her, insisting that he "call her Pat." Somehow he sensed that he should be more formal this time around, now that he and Alyssa were no longer together. "Thank you, Mrs. Martinelli," he responded feeling just a bit awkward at the way it sounded.. "Same to you."

"Well, come on inside! Your father's been waiting for you to arrive all morning."

Nick swallowed hard as he stepped inside of their house. He was pretty sure that Anthony Martinelli would not be at all pleased to see him and from what he remembered of Alyssa's father he was a pretty intimidating kind of man. Sort of like a taller and scarier version of Tony Soprano. Alyssa had joked with him plenty of times that she was really a Mafia princess and how her Dad would do anything to seek revenge against anyone that hurt one of his precious daughters, and sometimes Nick wondered if it was really true after all. All he knew was that after he broke up with Alyssa he had had quite a few nightmares about Mr. Martinelli chasing after him with a baseball bat. But then again he did have a pretty overactive imagination.

And I'm about to spend the next two days with this man? he asked himself. Maybe I was better off spending Christmas with AJ and his mother after all?


After more painfully awkward introductions and polite small talk, everyone seemed to settle down and head off on their own directions. Already Nick was annoyed to learn that Alyssa's parents had decided to place him on the pull out couch in the living room while Alyssa and her sisters were to stay in their old bedrooms. Scott was allowed to stay upstairs with Megan in her room and when Nick had grumbled to Alyssa about it she had just laughed.

"They're married Nick! That makes a huge difference, especially to my parents. Trust me, if they weren't he'd be joining you on one of the other couches," she tried to assure him.

"But, its not like we're even dating anyway," he argued. At that point he was just cranky from his flight and change in time zones and didn't even care that he was arguing a lost cause.

Alyssa rolled her eyes. "I think that's what scares them even more," she murmured under her breath.

"What was that?"

"Nothing," she quickly lied. "If you really don't want the sofa bed you can sleep in my room and I'll take the living room."

Nick immediately felt guilty as soon as he heard her offer. "It's okay. I'm sure it won't be all that bad. I'm the guest here and I'm just happy that I have someplace to celebrate Christmas. I'm just overtired I guess."

Alyssa's face softened. "I'll tell you what. Mom said that dinner should be ready in like another two or three hours and I kind of want to get caught up with my sisters a little bit, so why don't you go up to my room and take a little nap?" she suggested. "My bed is pretty comfy."

The offer did sound pretty tempting and Nick knew that his presence was awkward in the house. Alyssa, Meg, and Stephanie were the only ones who seemed willing to talk to him. Scott seemed as if he would willingly pal around with Nick as well, but the difference between them was that Alyssa's parents actually seemed to like him. He was pretty tired from his traveling and a nap would allow Alyssa sometime for the obligatory girl talk he knew she had planned with her sisters. Besides, he suspected that his name would probably be one of the topics of conversation between the girls.

So he had willingly headed up to Alyssa's room and passed out in exhaustion while meanwhile a few rooms away, Alyssa, Meg, and Stephanie were stretched out in Meg's room in a semicircle on Meg's bed, listening to what each of them had been up to since the last time they had seen each other.

Alyssa listened intently as Stephanie recounted her entire last semester to her sisters. Strangely enough, Stephanie seemed to be doing much better in college than anyone had expected. While Alyssa had assumed that she'd get too wrapped up in partying to complete her school work, Stephanie had been able to balance both good grades and an active social life.

"And the two of you haven't even heard the best part yet. I've been accepted into a study abroad program next semester in Australia! How unbelievable is that? Perfect weather... Beautiful beaches... Hot men with sexy accents... I can't wait!" her younger sister excitedly shared.

"You're studying in Australia for the semester? And Mom and Dad are okay with this idea?" Alyssa warily asked. "Man, they've really loosened up since I was your age."

"They think it's a great idea! You know how Dad's always been after us to travel and experience other countries. And I get college credit for this too. I couldn't think of a more ideal situation. Plus, it'll be summer over there, so I'll get to miss winter this year."

"Are you there to study or for vacation?" Meg asked with a laugh.

Stephanie rolled her eyes. "Of course to study, but who says I can't have a little bit of fun on the side? And of course you both can come down under and visit me. In fact, I expect it! Well, maybe not so much you Meg, since you have the hubby and all, but you..." she said, pointing a finger towards Alyssa. "You must come and see me and I don't want to hear no as an answer."

"I guess I'm going to Australia then," Alyssa responded with a laugh.

"Good. I'm glad it's settled then," Stephanie said with a satisfied grin. "So Meg, how's married life going for you?"

"Great," Meg replied sounding slightly overenthusiastic. "We're doing good. We're trying to fix up the house a little and really make it our own, so we spend like every weekend at Home Depot. Scott is being considered for a promotion as head of the health education department in the school district he works in. And I'm considering going back to school."

"Back to school? That's great Meg!" Alyssa grinned supportively at her older sister. Meg had only completed about a semester or two of community college before being uprooted to California by her abusive ex boyfriend, Josh. Josh had insisted that she didn't need college. That he could take care of her completely on her own and that her place was at home. After finally fleeing to Florida, it hadn't been long before she had been diagnosed with cancer. "What are you thinking of going for?"

"I'm not sure," Meg confessed. "I've always liked math and Scott could probably help me get a job as a high school math teacher, but honestly I don't know if I'm teacher material, no offense. Maybe I'll go for accounting. Or maybe I'll just take a few classes and decide what I'm interested in."

Alyssa gave her a reassuring glance "Sounds like a plan."

"So, the only person we haven't heard any updates from is Alyssa," Stephanie said with a sly grin, changed the subject. "What's going on with you?"

Just by the tone of Stephanie's voice, Alyssa could tell that what her sister really meant was, So, what's going on with you and Nick? but she artfully dodged the question. "I've been all right. Doing some substitute teaching here and there. Nothing too exciting." It was the truth. Outside of all the drama that was going on surrounding her and Nick, everything else in her life seemed relatively boring.

"Nothing too exciting?" Stephanie echoed. "I don't know if I buy that one Alyssa. Reuniting with your ex boyfriend isn't exciting?"

Alyssa sighed realizing she should've known better than to expect this topic to not surface among her sisters. "We haven't exactly 'reunited.' We're not back together, if that's what you are getting at. I told you this on the phone earlier."

Stephanie and Meg seemed to exchange knowing glances between them. For something that wasn't supposed to be that big of a deal, Alyssa had certainly seemed a little agitated. If nothing was going on, then why would she have been so quick to get defensive?

"Seriously though Alyssa... How did you and Nick wind up getting back in touch again after all this time?" Meg, who had remained pretty quiet while Stephanie had brought up the topic, piped up. "Last I heard things had ended up pretty badly between the two of you. I honestly didn't think that there was any hope of you ever speaking again."

Do I have to retell the entire story yet again? Alyssa asked herself with a sigh. She was getting tired of explaining the complicated situation to even more people, but she knew that she at least owed her sisters the truth... or at least part of the truth. Taking a deep breath she began to explain to them about Izzy moving to New York City and inviting her to the concert nearly six months ago. She went on to describe her and Nick's awkward first encounter and then their talk about the events surrounding their breakup on Izzy's apartment balcony. "Basically his parents divorce really screwed him up big time emotionally," she explained. "It really made him not only second guess his decision to get married, but to lose his faith in committed relationships period. He was confused and needed to work out his issues on his own, so he broke up with me to give himself some space I guess."

"And you're perfectly okay with that?" Meg uncertainly asked.

She just shrugged. "I'm never going to be happy about his decision, but I can't hold it against him. I think it was probably the best for both of us. We needed some time apart, to grow up a little more."

Stephanie leaned forward with her head in her hands. "So, what about now? You had your time apart... You've obviously both grown up... He's had his space... What's stopping the two of you this time?"

It was a good question. A question that Alyssa had asked herself several times as of lately. What was stopping them from picking things up where they had left off? Even though they both had needed some time to grow a little, they were also different people now with completely different agendas. There was her who would love to be in a steady relationship at this point, but had too much else going on in her life career wise to devote much time to one, and on the other hand Nick, who seemed as if he had the means for a relationship, but just didn't seem to want one. Yea, we make a great couple, she thought to herself, trying not to laugh at how wrong the situation was. Picking her words carefully, Alyssa tried to answer her younger sisters question. "Things are just different now. We can't go back to who we were. We have different priorities right now and neither one of us is really looking for a relationship right now. I'm busy with trying to find a job and Nick... well Nick hasn't had the greatest success rates with relationships, so I think he's pretty skeptical about them."

"I'd be skeptical too if my last relationship was with Paris Hilton," Meg muttered, under her breath.

Stephanie looked offended. "Hey! I happen to admire that woman! I'm sure the relationship wasn't as bad as it seemed in the tabloids. Has Nick told you anything about their breakup?"

Alyssa shot her younger sister a horrified look. "First, eww! You cannot be serious when you say you actually respect her?"

She shrugged. "I think she has excellent fashion sense."

"You would! Anyway though to answer your question, no Nick really hasn't opened up to me about him and Paris. I mean maybe really little things like how he thought it was for real, but everyone else acted like it was this big joke or something." Alyssa paused for a moment. "I do get the sense though that whatever happened between them was pretty bad and even though he won't admit it, she really screwed him up even more than he already was."

The three of them were silent for a moment, each of them feeling sorry for Nick. He'd been through a lot in the three and a half years since he and Alyssa had broken up and had a lot of unlucky hands dealt to him. Stephanie was the first one to break the silence.

"Wow... I guess I can see how the two of you can have a platonic friendship after everything you've been through together. I think he probably needs someone like you in his life right now. I'm sorry if I doubted you."

"It's okay," Alyssa told her, feeling the guilt creep up her face. Here her sister thought that she was being a reassuring friend to Nick during a difficult time. If anything, she was making his life even more complicated. Or maybe he didn't care. Maybe she was the one who needed him and she was trying to convince herself otherwise.

"Well, if that's all the gossip you have for me I'm going to go take a nice, long, hot shower before dinner," Stephanie announced as she stood up from the bed and stretched. "It's so great to have both of you home. Even if its only for a few days and you both brought good looking men with you." With that she disappeared out into the hallway.

Alyssa took a deep breath as she heard the door close behind Stephanie. She couldn't believe that she had gotten through the whole Nick discussion without telling her sisters the complete truth about what was going on with them.

But there was still Meg in the room with her, which she was harshly reminded by the sound of her voice softly saying, "And then there were two."

Alyssa's eyes connected with those of her older sisters and she gave her a forced grin. She'd learned long ago not to trust Stephanie with secrets, but she and Meg had seldom kept anything from each other. Maybe it was because they were much closer in age than she and Stephanie. Whatever the reason Alyssa knew that she needed top come clean to someone else besides Izzy, and Meg was the obvious choice.

Out of seemingly nowhere she took in another deep breath and impulsively blurted out, "I'm sleeping with Nick."

Evidently, Meg must've been thinking the same thing as Alyssa because at the exact time she made her own confession, their words overlapping each other. "Scott doesn't want me to go back to school."

The two stared at each other for a moment and then began to laugh. It was obvious that they had both been waiting for Stephanie to leave before they discussed what was really going on in their life's.

"What do you mean he doesn't want you going back to school?" Alyssa immediately asked, putting her own problems to the side.

"He wants kids."

Alyssa opened her mouth to object, but Meg continued. "Yes, I know I can't have children, at least not in the traditional, ordinary sense, and Scott knows this. He knows all about my ovaries being removed. He wants to explore other options though. Like receiving an egg donor and I'm not sure if I'm very comfortable with the idea. I always said that if I really wanted a child I'd adopt, but we just got married. There's so much I want to do first. Like finish up college and start a career. I can't do that right now with a child. So, yea... It's definitely put a strain on our marriage. Things aren't exactly as happy as they seem."

"Aww Meg..." Alyssa wrapped her arms around her sister in a sympathetic hug. "He'll get over it. I'm sure of it... I'm not sure if I'd be comfortable with a child that's half my husband's and half some strange woman's. That would definitely be extremely difficult." After the words left her mouth a realization hit her. You claim that it would be uncomfortable for you, yet that was the same situation you put yourself in when you tried to convince Nick to file for custody of Serena. The eerie thought sent a chill through her and she tried to push it out of her head. Bad enough, she was haunted by guilt over the whole situation.

"Are you okay Alyssa?" her sisters voice interrupted her thoughts. "You look kind of pale all of a sudden."

"I'm fine," she lied. Okay, so maybe there were some things she kept hidden from her older sister after all.

"Just do me a favor. Please don't tell anyone else about this. Especially Mom and Dad," Meg begged. "Scott and I are trying to act like everything is great and I don't want everyone to get involved. We're adults and we'll work it out on our own. We're just trying to keep peace for the holidays."

"No problem. I completely understand," Alyssa sympathized. "You and Scott aren't the only ones putting up a facade for the rest of the family."

"How long have you and Nick been... Well, what exactly are you?"

Alyssa shook her head and sighed. "I don't know what the fuck to call us. We're definitely more than friends, but we're not a couple, and I'd like to think we're more than just fuck buddies. You know I don't normally do things like this, but I don't know how to describe it. We've really only had sex twice, but I'm pretty sure its going to keep happening no matter how much I try to convince myself otherwise. The worst part is that I guess I'm afraid to put an end to things because I don't want to be alone."

After the last sentence flew from her mouth, Alyssa froze with the realization of what she just said. I don't want to be alone. So, in her eyes it was better to let herself be used by an ex boyfriend whose emotions were completely screwed up? Maybe he's not the only one of us that's fucked up emotionally? she realized. We really are like two lost souls and that sounds like a complete recipe for disaster.

This time it was Meg's turn to comfort her sister. "That is an extremely difficult position to be in and I wish I knew what to tell you, but I don't. Usually sex based relationships never work once you're emotions get involved and I'd say its a little too late for that. But also I know that you feel that you owe it to Nick to in a sense help 'save' him. I think the best thing you could right now for him though is to just be his friend. His platonic friend. If you don't put a stop to things now, it's only going to get harder to break the cycle with every time."

She's right Alyssa sadly thought. But did she really have the strength to follow Meg's advice? Could she really seriously tell Nick up front that they couldn't sleep together anymore? Even if she did, the past had already happened and who was to say that it wouldn't put a strain on their friendship. Could she really stand to lose Nick again?

All these thoughts were beginning to make Alyssa's head spin and she knew that she needed to close the subject. "Thanks for listening and for the advice Meg. Just please don't let anyone else know. As it is this Christmas is awkward enough with just him being here. Could you imagine Mom and Dad if they really knew what was going on?"

"I don't want to," Meg groaned. "Of course I'm going to keep your secret Lyss. That's what sisters are for. Besides, I got a few secrets of mine I'd prefer remained hidden this holiday."

Alyssa sighed. "Who knew we were in for such a scandalous Christmas?"

Chapter Thirty -Three by Mellz Bellz
Author's Notes:
Nick gets the sense that he doesn't exactly fit in with Alyssa's family.
Chapter 33


How was I supposed to know that Christmas Eve dinner at Alyssa's house required a jacket and tie? Nick asked himself, as he uncomfortably took his seat at the table, a few hours later. As soon as he had walked into the dining room, he knew that his faded jeans and button down shirt had been a mistake. Compared with the rest of the Martinelli family he seemed grossly underdressed. Glancing around the room, he noticed that both Scott and Alyssa's father wore crisp looking dress shirts tucked into their pants and ties, while Alyssa, her sisters, and her mother all wore skirts.

"How come you didn't tell me I was supposed to dress up?" he hissed to Alyssa beside him.

Alyssa shrugged. "It's Christmas Eve Nick. I thought that you'd have known."

Nick sat sulking for a moment. Thankfully enough he had the common sense to have packed at least one pair of khakis and a nice sweater for tomorrow, so he wouldn't have to make the same mistake twice. Yea, and with your luck Carter they'll probably come out wearing tuxedos and evening gowns and you'll wind up looking even more like an ass.

His pouting didn't last long though once he caught sight of the feast that lay in front of him. Alyssa had often joked that her mother could cook enough food to serve a small army, and finally Nick found himself believing it. The dinner consisted of tossed salad, shrimp scampi, flounder,a pan of lasagna, and fresh Italian bread. Already he could feel his taste buds watering from the fresh aroma of the food. He was just about to dig in when he was interrupted by Mr. Martinelli's booming voice.

"In the name of the father..."

Oh, hell no. Were they actually saying grace? I guess it's a good thing I didn't just start grabbing, he realized. Somehow he got a feeling that wouldn't have gone over very well within his company. Glancing over at Alyssa, he saw that her head was slightly bowed and she was mouthing the words along with her father. The scene made Nick uncomfortable as he shifted in his seat unsure of what to do. He was not all a very religious person and he doubted if his family had ever actually prayed before a meal, even on Thanksgiving. Luckily, everyone else was too busy looking somber to notice him.

Finally the prayer ended and again Nick went to grab his fork only this time he felt a sharp pain go through his leg. Trying not to cry out, he bit his lip and was met with a disapproving look from Alyssa. That's when it hit him. It had been her that had kicked him! And those pumps that she had been wearing hadn't exactly helped matters either. "What was that for?" he whispered between clenched teeth.

Alyssa's hand pushed the fork away from his. "We have to have a toast."

A toast? For God's sake! At this rate by the time they got around to actually eating the food, it would be ice cold.

Unfortunately, Mr. Martinelli was one of those long winded speakers and Nick wanted to bang his head against the table listening to him drone on about the importance of family and how glad he was that his three daughters were able to join him on this 'joyous holiday.' Man... This guy could even give Kev a run for his money, he thought as he played with the stem of his wine glass.

Finally he snapped out of his daydream just as everybody else was raising their glasses. He quickly picked up his, hoping that no one had noticed the few drops of wine that had splattered out of his glass and onto the tablecloth.

"To family," Mr. Martinelli announced.

"To family," everyone else echoed before taking a sip (or in Nick's case a gulp) of their wine.

Finally to Nick's relief, the food was passed around. It was silent at the table, while everyone loaded up their plates until Alyssa's father broke the silence. "I meant what I said earlier during the toast."

What exactly did he say again? Nick found himself racking his brain to remember.

"I really am thankful to have all three of my girls home with me this year." Oh, that. "Especially since you'll all out living on your own now and each have things going on in your life. And of course I'm grateful to have my son in law here." He paused to grin in Scott's direction, but then turned his attention on Nick. "And Nick."

And Nick? Was it just my imagination or did he say my name as if he were trying not to choke on it? Nick struggled to decide. If anyone else noticed it besides him, they certainly didn't seem to show it.

Again there was silence until Nick decided that maybe he should at least try to get the conversational ball rolling being as he was the outsider of the group. "So, what do you usually do to celebrate Christmas Eve besides all this food?" Okay, it was pretty lame, but at least it was something.

"Actually we really don't do much else. After dinner and dessert we all help put the presents out under the tree and fill the stockings and stuff. Then sometimes Meg, Steph, and I watch a Christmas movie before bed," Alyssa explained. "That's pretty much it. We do all the gift exchanging tomorrow morning."

Meg sighed, her eyes all of a sudden looking as if they were swept up in memories. "I can't even begin to tell you how many Christmas Eve's Alyssa slept in my room and we'd stay up all night listening for any sound of Santa Claus."

Alyssa's eyes lit up. "How could I forget! We'd glue ourselves to the window and every time we saw lights from an airplane we'd run back to bed and pretend to be fast asleep, so Santa would bring us presents," she explained to Nick. "It was pretty funny how naive we were."

Alyssa's mother sighed. "The holiday just isn't as fun without any little children to share it with. I can't wait until we have grandchildren. There's nothing more precious than a child opening toys on Christmas morning."

Alyssa's eyes automatically settled on Meg who looked uncomfortable. Leave it to their mother to zero in on the one issue that was the most sensitive to her oldest daughter right now. In an attempt to remedy the situation, she quickly took the conversation into a new direction before Meg could start tearing up. "Yea, little kids on Christmas are pretty cute. Unless you're like Stephanie when she was little chanting 'Gimmie presents! I want presents!' And every time anyone even picked up a package she'd be like 'That mine? That mine?'

Stephanie laughed. "What can I say? I was a greedy little child. You have to be when you're the baby of the family."

Meg shot Alyssa a grateful look from across the table. "But let's not forget Steph that you're the only one of us who ever got coal in their stocking."

"Coal?" Nick asked, pretending to be shocked. "Uh oh... What did you do to deserve that?"

"Told my Mom to shut up on Christmas Eve. I think I was all of five years old at the time," she proudly replied.

"That's Stephanie. The family rebel. She was even out of control as a five year old," Alyssa joked. "Although I'll never forget the year that Mom actually packed up all your presents and put them out in the garage and told you that you weren't getting any gifts."

"And then I forgot I put them there and Christmas Eve I'm outside dragging all these presents back in the house in the dark," her mother, chuckled. "Last time I pulled that little trick."

"I think my most memorable Christmas though was the year I got my very first cell phone. I was fourteen and it was the very first present I opened and after that I didn't even want to open any other presents," Stephanie piped up with a laugh. "I thought I was just the hottest thing all because I had a cell phone."

"My most memorable Christmas was the first Christmas after I was diagnosed with cancer. I was in the middle of my chemo and I begged the doctors to let me come home from the hospital for Christmas," Meg wistfully remembered. "They really didn't want me to, but finally they gave in and I got to spend Christmas with my family which meant a lot."

Not to be left out Alyssa thought hard for a second to find one of her most vivid holiday memories. Preferably something light and a little silly to contrast Meg's serious story. "I'd have to say mine was the year I got that play kitchen. I walked into the living room on Christmas and there it was standing by the tree. I was so excited because I wanted one so badly. Then I started to open up the rest of my presents and to my dismay all I got was play food for the kitchen. I was so mad because Meg got all these Barbie Doll's and all I got was plastic muffins!"

"Honey, how can you play with a play kitchen without play food?" her mother pointed out.

"You could've bought me a few non play food gifts," she argued, but then realized how pointless it was to continue an argument over a gift that she had received when she was all of six.

"Aww... With all that practice playing in an imaginary kitchen you'd think that you'd actually be able to cook," Nick began to tease.

Alyssa pretended to gasp. "Hey! That's a pretty low blow though! Okay, Mr. Smartypants, why don't you tell us about your most memorable Christmas if you think you know so much."

"Okay then... I will," he told her, but when he started to really think about it he was met with the realization that he never really had one. There were no cute anecdotal stories like Alyssa and her sisters had in his childhood. In fact, he could barely remember a Christmas before he had started touring with the guys. With five children, there never was a lot of money around the holidays in his family. Then he'd signed the record deal with the rest of the guys and things had changed. His own parents had changed. He supposed there were a few memorable Christmas's after all... Him and his mother spending Christmas overseas in Europe away from the rest of his family, just to make an appearance on some overseas Christmas special...Him fighting with his mother over his decision to spend Christmas with his ex girlfriend Mandy and her family, then finding out that she had done an interview with the tabloids criticizing him for it... (Funny how now she seemed to care less if he spent the holidays with her now.) Then of course there was the awkward first Christmas he and Alyssa had spent together when they'd had Jane over for Christmas dinner...

Secretly, that was probably his most memorable Christmas. Alyssa had been so nervous about trying to make a good impression on Jane which Nick had found adorable. Jane Carter never liked any of Nick's girlfriend's no matter how genuine they were. She'd worried about everything from her appearance to the dinner that she had worked so hard on. Of course Jane had found fault with nearly everything that she could. But Alyssa... She took it all in stride and although Nick could tell that deep inside she wanted to cry, she had held her head up high and did not let Jane have the satisfaction of knowing that she had gotten to her. Afterwards of course, when Jane had left, she had burst into tears, blubbering "Your Mom hates me!" Nick remembered holding her in his arms and explaining to her that his mother hated everyone. She'd finally managed to calm down and after a few glasses of wine and a fire, they had ended their night making love underneath the Christmas tree...

Of course there was no way he could explain all of this to the rest of Alyssa's family, so he just mumbled, "I can't think of any right now."

Alyssa's lip lifted in a triumphant grin. "I figured as much."

"Oh yea. I forgot to mention," Alyssa's mother, interjected. "We're planning on actually making it to midnight mass tonight. You two are coming right?"

At the word mass, Nick's face paled. Him? In church? The last time he had been in one was at Brian's wedding. The roof will probably collapse if I walk in, he predicted. It wasn't that Nick didn't believe in God. He just didn't really consider himself a very spiritual person. He figured that Brian prayed enough for the two of them, so he didn't have to. Deep down, even though he'd never admit it to anybody, the reality was that he was afraid that if he were to be more religious it would be hypocritical of him. He was far from a saint. In fact, in the eyes of most religions he was a just one big walking sin. Even though Brian had tried to explain to him several times that God forgives everything, Nick was still uncomfortable with the notion of religion. And now he was being asked to do the unthinkable, to actually attend a Catholic church service. God, I could sure use a smoke... he thought as his eyes frantically searched for the nearest ash tray.

"What's the matter?" Alyssa asked him, sensing his discomfort.

"I need a cigarette," he muttered, as he stood up reaching into his pocket.

"You'll have to go out to the patio. My parents don't like anyone smoking in here because my Dad has asthma. I'll come with you," she offered.

Nick followed Alyssa towards the sliding glass doors leading out to the patio while he fumbled in his pockets for his cigarettes and lighter. Just as he was stepping outside he could overhear the voice of Alyssa's mother from the dining room ask, "Since when did he start smoking?"

Alyssa joined him on the patio, sliding the door closed behind her. There was a bit of an awkward silence between the two of them as Nick lit his cigarette and slowly inhaled.

"I'm sorry about my family," she finally said after what seemed like an endless amount of time. "I should've prepared you better I guess. At least told you to dress up."

Nick sighed, taking another drag. "It's not your fault, Alyssa. I should've known better. I guess I kind of forgotten how traditional your parents are. Not exactly the way I was brought up, that's for sure."

"Sometimes they're a little too traditional. Especially my Dad. If I hadn't moved down to Florida for college, who knows where I'd be? Sometimes all this 'family togetherness' crap really can get on my nerves."

"I think its kinda nice actually," he quietly replied. "At least he cares. Which is more than I can say about my parents."

"Nick... Don't say that. Your parents do care about you deep down. They just have a funny way of showing it," Alyssa tried to console him.

"Yea, right... They care so much that neither of them even cared if I was home for Christmas. My Dad's too busy with his new family and my all my Mom cares about is how much weight I've put on, or who I'm romantically linked with this week. If all I had to deal with was strict parents, I'd consider myself lucky. Honestly, your parents are just looking out for you because they love you. They don't want you getting involved with some low life like me."

Alyssa looked at him sympathetically. "You're definitely not a low life Nick."

"Face it Alyssa. I'm fucked up. I don't belong here," he solemnly stated.

The grave sound of his voice, sent a chill through her body. She distinctively remembered Izzy warning her that Nick had over the years became a very unhappy person, but this was the first time she herself had seen this side of him and it was painful to witness. He's been through too much shit. Been hurt by too many people, she realized. The scars that he had received within the time period they had been apart were becoming more and more apparent, and Alyssa wanted nothing more to make them go away. This Nick was only a shadow of the man she had originally fell in love with.

She reached out to grab his shoulder and looked up into his eyes. "Listen to me. You belong here, okay? Granted, you may not be my parent's favorite person, but you're here because you want to be a part of some kind of normal family. And mine has to be the best example of your all American tv sitcom kind of family that you'll ever going to find. My parents might be a tad bit disapproving, but they'd never turn down someone who agrees with their definition of family. So you see, you do belong here."

Nick didn't respond, but Alyssa could tell just by the warmth in his eyes that he had understood and that her speech had reassured him. She knew Nick well enough to realize that he just was at a loss of words on what to say to that.

"You're really uncomfortable about going to church with my family tonight, aren't you?" she continued.

"How'd you know?" he asked, sounding surprised.

Alyssa chuckled. "Just a lucky guess. Also the panicked look on your face when my Mom mentioned the word 'mass' was another dead giveaway."

He could feel his cheeks growing pink. "Yea, well churches and I... We don't exactly go together all that well."

"If you want, I'll make up an excuse to my Mom and I'll stay here with you," she offered.

"You'd do that? But what about your parents? Won't they be upset?"

Alyssa shrugged. "Frankly I could care less what they think. Your my guest and it would be more impolite to leave you alone in a strange house."

"Thanks Alyssa," he said, wrapping his arms around her in an appreciative hug. "I really owe you for this."

"It's not a problem," she insisted. "Like I said you're my guest and-"

"You're too good for me," he cut her off, the words seeming to come out of nowhere.

Now it was Alyssa's turn to freeze and not be sure how to respond. You're too good for me... Did he really just admit that? Her eyes glanced upwards to search his face for any sign of expression, but his gaze seemed to be unreadable. Their eyes locked and the intensity of the moment came as a shock to her. Before she could even blink, his hands had dropped to her waist. Involuntarily, her arms snaked around his neck, guiding his lips towards her own. After what seemed like an agonizingly long amount of time, their mouths softly melted against each other.

As the kiss deepened, the cigarette that had been in between Nick's fingers, flew out of his hands as they crept up Alyssa's back. It landed at the bottom of their feet, completely forgotten. To Alyssa, it felt as if the entire world had completely stopped. Before long she completely forgot about the fact that she was freezing from being outside without a jacket on, and she didn't even seem to mind that she could still taste the cigarette that Nick had just been smoking. None of that mattered. Somehow she sensed that the trembling feeling that had began to creep up inside of her had nothing to do with temperature outside.

And that realization sent off a red light in her mind. What are you doing? she found herself asking. Things are complicated enough between the two of you and earth shattering kisses are doing nothing to improve the situation. Reluctantly, she willed her lips away from his and wriggled out of his grasp, breathing heavily.

"I should get back inside now. I'll uhh let you finish up out here," she stammered. Before she could say anything else extremely awkward she rushed inside, sliding the door behind her.

Once inside she leaned back against the cool glass and breathed in deeply her heart still pounding from the kiss. One thing was certain. That certainly wasn't just a kiss between two friends.

That was a kiss between two people who still loved each other... that were both too scared to admit it.
Chapter Thirty-Four by Mellz Bellz
Author's Notes:
Alyssa's family begins to have their suspicions. Nick gives Alyssa an unexpected Christmas gift.
Chapter 34

   The first coherent thought that crossed across Alyssa's mind the next morning was something along the lines of, What the hell is poking me in the back? and Damn... My bed is definitely much more uncomfortable than I remember it being. With a groan her eyes fluttered open, and as she took in her surroundings it all made sense. She was not in her own bed in her old bedroom, but sprawled out on the lumpy sofa bed in the living room. And curled up beside her was Nick.

   She was relieved to find that at least this time they were both fully clothed. Lately you never could tell between the two of them. Still, she hadn't remembered falling asleep there. Last she remembered was the two of them curled up with a few beers and a Christmas cartoon marathon on Cartoon Network, while the rest of her family was at church. I must have dozed off somewhere in the middle of How the Grinch Stole Christmas, she realized, since that was the last thing she could remember. Her thoughts were interrupted by the sounds of pots and pans being shuffled around coming from the kitchen. Her mother was probably starting to cook Christmas breakfast. That's when Alyssa came to a deeper realization.

   Oh, shit. Nick and I fell asleep together on the living room sofa bed. Everyone must've seen us when they returned home last night. That probably looked just a tad bit suspicious. The reality of it all was that it had actually been pretty innocent, but then why did she feel as if she was a high schooler who had fallen asleep at her boyfriend's house?

   With a sigh, she swung her legs over the side of the sofa bed and stood up. She wasn't looking forward to entering that kitchen and having to deal with the inquisition that was surely about to come from her mother. She didn't have to wait long before Patricia spotted her. "Oh, good you're up," she remarked in an undeterminable tone. She thrust a carton of eggs and a frying pan towards her. "Start scrambling."

   "Merry Christmas to you too," Alyssa mumbled, as she got herself settled at the stove and started the eggs.

   Patricia sighed. "I'm sorry. Merry Christmas. It's just that everyone's going to be waking up soon and expecting breakfast on the table."

   Alyssa just ignored her mother and went on working. She was not usually a very good morning person anyway, so she preferred it better if they didn't talk. Besides, the less they talked the less opportunity there was for her mother to pry about the compromising position she and Nick were spotted in. Instead, she let her mind drift back to the kiss they had shared last night on the patio after dinner. Talk about unexpected. It had seemingly came out of nowhere. What was most shocking about the kiss though was not that it had actually happened. During the last few months Alyssa found that she and Nick had shared a lot of unexpected kisses. This time though, it was more than just a passionate moment. This time she could've sworn there was something different although she couldn't quite put her finger on exactly what it was. It had seemed deeper; more genuine, more real. One of those cliched, "knees go weak" type kisses. Does this mean that there is potential for something more between us? she wondered. Is this what Carrie Bradshaw meant when she came up with the phrase zsa zsa zsu?

      "You missed a beautiful mass last night," her mother's voice, interrupted her thoughts. "Such a shame that you decided to stay home."

   Alyssa inwardly groaned. Thanks a lot, Mom. Way to bring up a topic I DON'T want to talk about. She just shrugged her shoulders in response. Honestly, she had a better time staying at home with Nick anyway. She'd been up front with her mother and explained quite simply that because Nick was not Catholic he really didn't feel comfortable attending mass with the family and that she was going to stay behind with him. She thought her mother had taken the news quite well, but now she was beginning to have doubts.

   "You and Nick looked like you had fun," she continued with raised eyebrows. "What did you two do?"

   We had a drunken orgy on the living room sofa bed. Alyssa had to bite her lip in order not to blurt out the sarcastic response. "Not much. We just watched some TV and then we must've fallen asleep."

   "If you don't mind me asking, what exactly is going on between the two of you?"

   There it was. The million dollar question. Now, how exactly do I answer this? Do I play dumb or do I tell the truth? "Nothing. We're just friends," she vaguely replied.

   "Oh. And do 'friends' often just fall asleep curled up next to each other?" her mother doubtfully asked.

   "Mom..." Alyssa groaned, rolling her eyes. "It's totally not what you're thinking. We were watching television and we got tired. We stretched out to relax and we must've fallen asleep. That's all there is to it. I didn't know that I had to explain myself to you when I don't even live here anymore."

   Patricia's eyes seemed to soften. "I'm just curious Alyssa. It just seems rather odd that you and Nick go from not talking at all, to him now coming home with you for Christmas? You were awfully close at one time. And you did seem like you two were cuddled up pretty close on that couch when we walked in. Gave us all a bit of a shock."

   Her mother's nagging was beginning to push Alyssa to her boiling point. What business of hers was her and Nick's relationship anyway? "Look, Mom. Nick and I are friends. That's it. Nothing more. And if you are that pissed about finding us on the couch together and you want to make a big issue of all of this Nick and I can easily pack our bags and head right back to the city."

   Judging from the way that her mother's face seemed to crumble after her outburst, Alyssa immediately felt bad. Her mother was being nosy, yes, but that was no reason for her to threaten to storm back to New York City. Besides almost everything she had just said had been a lie. She herself was just as clueless as to what was going on between the two of them. Alyssa sighed. "Mom, I'm sorry. I didn't really mean that. It's just that a lot of people are just assuming that because Nick and I once dated, that we're dating again and we're not. I didn't mean to jump down your throat." There. A half lie was better than a full one.

   "I'm just looking out for you Alyssa. I don't want to see you hurt," Patricia explained.

   "I know Mom, but I'm 25 years old. I can take care of myself. Please let's just change the subject. I don't want to spend my Christmas fighting with you."

   "What's going on?" a sleepy voice interrupted.

   Alyssa spun around and saw Stephanie's disheveled figure before them, looking concerned. "Nothing," both she and her mother quickly responded at the same time.

   "Uhmm... Okay," Stephanie responded, looking a little lost.

   It was obvious that Stephanie sensed that there was more going on than what met the eye, but neither Alyssa or her mother wanted to dish up the details of the fight. There was a tense moment until Patricia broke it. "Steph, why don't you start setting the table."

   "Do I have to?" she whined, but grudgingly got to work. A few minutes later, the confrontation seemed almost completely forgotten.


   Half an hour later, the table was set and breakfast was finally ready. Everyone else had woken up at that point, except Nick. Alyssa could tell by the anxious looks on everyone else's faces that they were all starving. "I'll go wake Nick up, so we can eat," she offered.

Disappearing into the living room, she paused for a moment as she watched him sleep for a moment. She could only imagine how tired he must be. He'd been touring practically non stop for the past few months, in several different countries. Then he'd been back and forth between New York, LA, and now back to New York within less than two weeks. I dunno how he does it, she realized. If I were him I'd probably just collapse out of exhaustion.

He looked so peaceful that Alyssa almost felt guilty about having to wake him, but she had to do what she had to do. With all her might, she sprang forward and pounced onto the sofa bed, landing right on top of him. "Merry Christmas Nick! Time to wake up for breakfast!"

Nick seemed to jump a mile. "Alyssa? What the fuck?" he groaned. "What time is it?"

"Time for breakfast. And if I were you I'd get my ass in motion because my family is getting very hungry. My Mom doesn't make breakfast very often, so if you wait any longer they may just decide to start without you and eat everything," she replied, a little to cheerfully.

"Ugh... Just tell me one thing. Do I have to get dressed up for breakfast too?"

Alyssa laughed. Even half asleep Nick had a great sense of humor. "That won't be necessary. Breakfast is a casual event. Sweats are perfectly acceptable, in fact they might even be considered 'dressy' since mostly everyone is still in their pajamas. And no... We don't have to say grace this time either," she assured him.

Nick looked relieved. "Thank God... No pun intended." He yawned and leaned up on his elbows. "Is that pancakes I smell?"

His question fell to deaf ears. At that moment, Alyssa finally seemed to realize the intimacy of the moment. Their playful banter, her position on top of him, the way their lips seemed to hover only inches apart... It felt so incredibly comfortable to her and somehow she sensed that if someone else were to walk in the room she'd have a lot of explaining to do.

"Alyssa? Earth to Alyssa?" Nick's voice interrupted her thoughts. "Uhmm... You're going to have to move a little if yo want me to get up because you kind of have me pinned down here."

"Oh right." She could already feel her cheeks starting to flame in embarrassment as she rolled off of him. "Sorry about that. I guess I just sort of zoned out there for a minute."

"Are you feeling all right?" he asked, putting a hand on her shoulder.

"Yea, I'm fine," she assured him as she stood up. "And I can definitely smell my Mom's pancakes, so we better get in there before there's nothing left." Before Nick even had a chance to reply, she was heading off into the kitchen.

Weird... Nick noted to himself. It wasn't like Alyssa to run hot and cold like that. If he wasn't so tempted by the promise of a homecooked breakfast, he might have gave the matter more thought, but instead he got up and followed her.

As promised, Alyssa's mother's pancakes were just as delicious as Alyssa had described them. Of course, it didn't take much to impress Nick. His idea of breakfast usually consisted of a cup of coffee and an Egg McMuffin. Very rarely did he get the chance to enjoy anything more than that, and certainly never anything homemade. It's too bad Alyssa never inherited her mother's cooking gene, he decided.

Once breakfast was finished, it was time to finally open Christmas gifts. After everyone piled into the living room, Alyssa's father started to distribute the presents. Nick sat restlessly on the couch next to Alyssa, hoping that Alyssa's family would be impressed by the gifts he had bought them. Not that he had spent an insane amount of money on them, but he had wanted to show them that he was grateful for letting him spend the holiday with them. He'd dragged Melanie out for last minute Christmas shopping, being as he really needed a female's perspective. With her help, he'd picked out matching silver and turquoise bracelets for Alyssa's two sisters and a cashmere sweater for her mother. He'd had problems finding something for Alyssa's father (because he knew that the man didn't exactly like him) and Scott (because he had never meant the guy). Melanie had suggested something pretty standard for Scott like a nice leather wallet, so that's what Nick had bought. But for Alyssa's father he was at a loss... That was until he remembered the fact that Alyssa had mentioned her father was a huge Yankees fan. He wound up getting him an A-Rod jersey, hoping for the best.

Then there had been the matter of what to get Alyssa. He didn't want to spend a lot of money on her either, because it wasn't like they were dating anymore. Besides, it would look a little suspicious in front of her family. But, she'd been such an important part of his life in the last few months that he felt she warranted something special. The old Nick would've picked out some piece of fancy jewelry for her, but he'd learned the hard way that dropping 40 grand on a necklace didn't exactly ensure a steady relationship. Or he would pull some strings and surprise her with the newest Louis Vuitton purse. Somehow he got the feeling that this time around, extravagant gifts would not work on Alyssa. So, he'd settled on something simpler, but hopefully more meaningful.

Alyssa's family seemed to enjoy their gifts much to Nick's relief. He was also pleasantly surprised to see that Alyssa's parents had attempted to pick him up a few gifts, although Alyssa's mother had confessed that she wasn't exactly sure what to buy him, since he seemed to have everything. She'd finally settled on a sweater, an itunes gift card, and a Simon gift card, so that he could get something he'd like.

From Alyssa he'd received cologne, which surprised him a bit. Cologne was such a typical "boyfriend" gift, not that he was disappointed. Perhaps, she had had the same problems in deciding something to get him for Christmas. He must've looked confused because she immediately began to ramble. "I wasn't sure what to get you and I figured, hey cologne always works. And besides I seriously think that you're probably using the same bottle of Cool Water that you had back when we were dating, and I like Armani Code a lot better. If you don't like it we can return it or something."

"I'm sure I'll love it," he assured her. "You always smell good, so I trust your nose. Guess I should give you your gifts now, huh?" He had purposely been holding them off to the side to give them to her after she had opened everything else.

"That would be nice," Alyssa replied, curious as to what he had gotten for her. She could tell by the way that the rest of her family seemed to sit up a little straighter that they were curious as well.

The first package Nick handed her was a long rectangular package that looked as if it were the shape of a necklace box. He wouldn't get me something like an expensive piece of jewelry, would he? she wondered as she tore open the package. Sure enough the box in her hands appeared to be the same type of box that you would put a necklace or pendent in. Her eyes looked up to meet his. "You didn't..."

Nick grinned, amused by the way that he had thrown her off. "Just open it."

Very carefully, as if she was scared to see what was inside, she removed the cover from the box. Surprisingly there wasn't any jewelry in the box at all, but two pieces of paper that appeared to be tickets of some sort. Flipping them over, a smile spread out over her face. "Two tickets to see the Radio City Christmas Spectacular tomorrow night?"

"Uh huh... Unfortunately, it probably won't be the same after Christmas, but it'll have to do. I remember you saying that even though you've lived n New York all your life, you've never went to see the Christmas show and you've always wanted to," he explained.

Alyssa nodded. "I've always wanted to go, but some people," she paused to glare at her parents, "aren't city people and didn't want to take me, so I was a deprived child. Not like my dreams weren't crushed enough when I found out that I was too short to become a Rockette."

"There's a height limit to become a Rockette?" Nick asked. "No way!"

"Yepp. You have to be like at least 5'4 I think. I felt very discriminated against when I heard that," she confessed. "So, you mentioned the word gifts and I only got one, so is there more?" She craned her neck to try to look around Nick to see if there was anything else for her.

"Didn't anyone tell you that Christmas is supposed to be about giving and being with your loved ones, not about receiving presents?" he playfully joked. "Besides I don't even know if you'd consider this one a gift exactly."

"I'll be the judge of that," she informed him. "So what is this mysterious 'non' gift of mine?"

Nick handed her a flat looking envelope. "Here it is." Was it just her or did he look a little nervous? What could possibly in an envelope that could cause this much fuss? The only things she could think of that came in envelopes was usually money and gift cards.

She wasted no time in opening it up and inside she found a ticket of a different sort. Pulling it out, her face immediately looked puzzled. "Continental Airlines flight 3152 from New York to LA?" she read.

Nick looked a little embarrassed. "It's round trip tickets to come back out to LA with me for a few days. I thought that maybe you'd like to spend the New Year out there. And since you're last trip to California wasn't the greatest, I wanted to make it up to you," he explained.

"Spend New Years out in LA? With you?" she repeated, sounding a little shocked. She was definitely not expecting this! Her eyes scanned over the tickets again. According to them, they'd be flying out the day after tomorrow and then Alyssa would fly back to New York on Jan 2nd.

"Yea... I thought it would be fun. And I have plenty of room at my place for you to stay. I figured it would be our last time that we have to hang out for a while until I head off to Asia and Australia to wrap up the tour. "

Wow... This was a lot to digest all at once. As of lately, all her encounters with Nick had been on her own turf. The idea of going out to LA with him seemed scary. And what exactly was he expecting? She knew that staying with him at his home in LA would be awkward, not only because of their unique friendship, but also because it would almost be like they were living together again. Still, she couldn't exactly turn him down either. It would be really rude and bitchy and besides she'd always wanted to visit LA.

"Thanks Nick," she told him, as she reached out to hug him. "Thank you for both gifts. I can't wait. I probably could use a vacation."

"So you'll come?" he asked, his eyes lighting up in the most adorable way.

How can I say no to that? she tried to justify to herself. She glanced back over at her parents sensing that they weren't too thrilled with the invitation. Her Dad especially put a lot of emphasis on the family ringing in the New Year together. If she went out to LA, she wouldn't even be in their time zone.

It sounded pretty good to her actually. Her mind was made up. "Of course I will," she told him.

Now, she only had to have a talk with him later about exactly what this little trip meant. Was it just one friend visiting another? Or was it something more?

She just needed to wait for the right opportunity. Which she had a feeling wouldn't be until much later tonight...

Chapter Thirty - Five by Mellz Bellz
Author's Notes:
Nick finally agrees to give things another try, but is he as sure about things as Alyssa thinks?
Chapter 35

The remainder of Alyssa's Christmas seemed to pass by uneventfully. Christmas dinner seemed to go more smoothly than the previous night, partly because she figured that Nick knew the drill by now. She was happy to see that by the evening her family seemed to be acting a tiny bit more warm towards him. Perhaps, it was only because they wanted to keep a close eye on him, especially after learning that he and Alyssa were about to spend the entire week together, but whatever the reason, she was relieved. Nick seemed much more comfortable and relaxed and that's all that mattered. In fact, he and Scott had disappeared down into the basement to shoot some pool over an hour ago and since then she hadn't seen any sign of him. It was a little irritating, especially because they still needed to sit down and have a serious discussion about this whole trip to LA. Of course, it would have to be somewhere private and with this many people in the house that seemed almost impossible.

She saw her opportunity when she heard footsteps coming up from the basement and heard Nick shout over his shoulder to Scott, "I'm going outside for a smoke. I'll be right back!"

Throwing a sweater around her shoulders, Alyssa headed out towards the patio after him. This was her chance to find out his true intentions for inviting her to LA. Taking a deep breath she stepped outside, shivering a little bit at the night air. Nick was already sitting outside at one of the tables, lighting up a cigarette. Sliding down into the seat across from him she cleared her throat. "Thought I might find you out here."

"Hey," he greeted as he looked up at her. "You don't have to stay out here with me if you don't want to. If you'd rather stay inside its fine."

"No, it's okay," she assured him. "I wanted to come out here and talk to you anyway. It's been so crazy today I haven't been able to steal you away at all. I just wanted to make sure that things were okay and that you're having a good time."

"I'm fine. Things are going great. I feel a lot more comfortable with your family today for some reason, but I am kind of glad that we're leaving tomorrow," he admitted. "I'm not used to living with so many people anymore I guess. Besides, I'm looking forward to getting back to LA. I haven't been home much the past few months, so it'll be a relief to at least spend a few nights in my own bed. And I can't wait to show you around. It's going to be a lot of fun."

Alyssa hesitated a second before speaking. He'd given her the perfect way to start the inevitable conversation, but she was still dreading it, afraid that she might hear something that she really didn't want to. "About that... I actually kind of want to talk to you about the whole LA thing," she started off.

Nick looked concerned. "What about it?"

Before she could start to voice her concerns about the manner, Alyssa was interrupted by the patio door opening and Stephanie stepping outside also with a cigarette in her mouth. "Hey, do you think I could get a light?" she asked Nick, completely oblivious to the fact that she was interrupting a serious conversation.

"Sure." Nick tossed his lighter in Stephanie's direction.

Alyssa glared at her sister, hoping that she'd take the hint, but Stephanie seemed to ignore it. I totally forgot that she's also a smoker. I should've realized that we don't exactly have privacy out here, she realized. Instead of leaving them alone, Stephanie pulled up a chair and joined them, which was the last thing Alyssa wanted. Somehow she got the feeling they wouldn't be having their discussion until possibly even tomorrow.

"So you're really going to spend New Year's Eve in LA?" Stephanie asked. "That sounds really cool. I bet you're going to have so much fun."

"Yea... It should be. At least Nick promised that I would, so I'm putting my faith in him," she answered.

Nick pretended to look insulted. "You will have fun. I'm not going to let you come all the way out to LA and be disappointed. I'll make it worth your while," he promised wiggling his eyebrows.

Alyssa laughed. Oh, I'm quite sure he will make it worth my while, she thought with a chuckle. It certainly couldn't be anything but interesting, she decided.

Thankfully Stephanie didn't seem to notice Nick's flirty behavior, because as Alyssa soon discovered, she had come out on the patio with her own selfish agenda. "Well, the way I see it, the only problem is that while you're out in LA for almost a week who is going to look after your apartment, get your mail, and feed your cat?"

Damn... I didn't even think of that, Alyssa told herself. Honestly, the apartment didn't need a lot of looking after and her mail could wait, but somebody had to at least stop by and feed Precious, unless she took her out to LA with her, but somehow she didn't think that Nick's dogs would take too kindly to her. "Uhh... I guess I could ask Izzy or Tristan to stop by and look after things."

"Izzy is pregnant, isn't she?" Stephanie pointed out. "You can't expect her to be hustling over to your apartment every day. Besides, aren't litter boxes supposed to bad for pregnant women or something? And Tristan will probably be too busy recording."

Alyssa sighed, knowing exactly what her sister was getting at. She had no choice, but to play right into her sister's hands. "So, what is your suggestion Steph?"

"Well, I'm not doing anything, and since Mom and Dad are driving me absolutely nuts and I have a bunch of friends in the city that I'd rather ring the New Year in with, I was thinking that maybe I could stay at your apartment while you're in LA and 'cat sit.' Please," she begged. "I promise I'll take good care of the place and you won't even have to pay me. I'll even clean up for you."

Ha! As if I'd actually pay her anyway, Alyssa thought, wanting to laugh. Was she insane? Alyssa wasn't even sure if the idea was a good one. Visions flashed across her mind of her coming home from LA and finding her apartment completely trashed, or even scarier an eviction notice waiting for her on the front door. "I don't know Steph. I appreciate the offer, but I just don't think it's the best idea. My neighbors probably wouldn't be too fond of the idea of a bunch of college kids inhabiting my apartment for a week."

Stephanie pulled her face into a pout. "Come on Alyssa! I promise I won't have any parties and if I have anyone over it'll only be like two or three people and I'll clean up after myself. We're not even going to be there on New Years. We'll probably wind up at a club or something. Please!"

God, she's almost as much of a whiner as Nick is. The truth was that Alyssa really did need someone to feed Precious and she couldn't afford to hire somebody to look after her, or to board her at a kennel for the week. To turn down Stephanie's offer would be a little foolish on her part. She sighed again. "Why do I feel like I'm about to dig my own grave?"

"So its a yes?" her younger sister squealed.

"Yes..." she grudgingly agreed. "But seriously, NO parties, got it? And if anything is broken or ruined you're paying to replace it out of your own pocket. And if I get one complaint from any of the other tenants it'll be the last time you even step foot in my apartment, got it?"

"Thanks Alyssa! You're awesome!" Stephanie told her, springing out of her seat to throw her arms around her. "So, I guess I better finish up this cigarette and then get to packing. I figure I'll just come back to the city tomorrow with you and Nick and stay over your place, so I can see you two off to the airport. That is if that's okay with you?"

Great, not only does she have to totally fuck up my opportunity to talk to Nick about LA, but now she has to make it so that we'll have no time alone beforehand as well, Alyssa realized. God, how she hated younger sisters. She exchanged a glance with Nick as if to apologize and he just shrugged in response. Unfortunately, even though it wasn't okay, Alyssa couldn't tell Stephanie that without hurting her feelings. Instead she tried her best to sound enthused. "Yea, sure. That sounds great."

Nick put out his cigarette and stepped up from his seat. "Well, I think I'm going to go back inside. I promised Scott I was going to kick his ass at Halo 2, so I better get to work on that."

Thanks a lot, bitch she thought, glaring at Stephanie as Nick disappeared inside. I'll never get to talking to him at this rate.

If Stephanie picked up on Alyssa's icy glare she pretended not to notice. She had of course gotten her way, as usual.


"Do you think they're ever coming up or should we send a search party?" Meg asked. It was later that night, well after midnight and her and Alyssa were sitting at the kitchen table, bleary eyed, waiting for Nick and Scott to emerge from the basement. By now everyone else had gone to sleep, but Nick and Scott had yet to come up for bed, and Alyssa was beginning to give up on her chances of speaking to him before she fell asleep.

"I don't know," Alyssa replied, stifling a yawn. "Last I heard they were breaking out the Xbox for a Halo 2 tournament."

Meg groaned. "The Xbox? Shit...We'll be lucky if they're not still down there tomorrow morning. Fuck this. I'm going to bed without him. If you're still up and happen to see him, could you send him up?"

"Actually I think I'm going to head up too. I don't have the energy to try to wait out an all night video game marathon. You know how men get with these things." Finally accepting defeat Alyssa stood up and stretched.

The two sisters followed each other up the stairs while Meg clicked her tongue. "I dunno Alyssa... You bring Carter home for a few days and he steals my husband away. Should I be afraid?"

"Yes. Be very afraid," she warned, stopping at her bedroom door. "I'll see you tomorrow morning ok?"

"Uh huh," her sister promised, nodding her head. "I'll definitely be up to see you guys off tomorrow. Night."

"Night," Alyssa repeated, as she stepped into her dim room. Closing the door behind her, she began to undress and change into a tank top and a pair of brand new pajama pants that she had gotten for Christmas. Was it wrong for her to be a little pissed off at Nick? Here, she had waited patiently for him to come back upstairs, so they could finish the discussion that Stephanie had interrupted, and he'd been downstairs playing video games all night. He probably knows what I'm going to say and he doesn't want to have the whole "where are we heading" talk, so he decided to hide down in the basement, the little bitch, she angrily realized. Whatever... If he wanted to be that way, two could play at that game. We'll just see what happens in LA when he starts acting all sweet to me because he wants to get laid, she smugly thought, as she lifted the covers off over her bed, before sliding between them.

With that determination in her head, she closed her eyes and began to drift off to sleep. She was just approaching that divide between consciousness and dreaming, when she could've sworn she heard the clicking noise of her bedroom door being pushed open. Shielding her eyes, from in the incoming light from the hallway, she picked her head up and could just barely make out Nick's silhouetted form between the shadows. Am I dreaming, or is this for real? she wondered, as she searched for her voice. "Nick?"

"Yea. It's me," he answered in a whisper. "I'm sorry if I woke you up."

"No, it's okay," she assured him, rubbing her eyes. "What are you doing in here?"

"Nothing. I just wanted to talk," he replied.

Ahh... So now he wants to talk, she noted. Well, she hadn't forgotten the fact that she was pretty pissed at him. "How'd your video game tournament with Scott go?" she coldly asked.

"Great! I kicked his- I mean it was fine," Nick quickly corrected himself, once he realized that she sounded like she might have been a little mad at him, for disappearing on her. Taking a step closer to the bed, he hesitated. "Can I?"

Alyssa didn't answer, but slid over enough, so that he could lay down next to her. "You know if my parents knew you were up here you'd be lucky if you could walk out of here on both legs tomorrow morning."

Nick smirked. "I guess that's a chance I'll just have to take." His hands reached over to wrap around Alyssa's waist, but she wriggled out of his grasp. "What's wrong?"

"I'm in a mood with you. That's what's wrong," she replied with a pout, rolling onto her back. "I thought you wanted to talk."

"I do," he insisted. "But you're the one who's being all cold and stuff. What gives?"

Alyssa just glared at him as if to say you know what you did. Nick sighed, knowing that the only way to get her to open up was for him to apologize. "Okay, so I'm sorry that I was downstairs playing video games all night with Scott. I just thought that maybe you'd want some time alone with your sisters without me hanging around."

"What was that? Did I actually hear the words 'I'm sorry' come out of Nick Carter's mouth?" she sarcastically asked.

Nick looked embarrassed. "Yes, you did, but don't say it too loud. It's not something I like to admit to very easily."

Alyssa was silent for a moment as she thought of what she wanted to say. "You knew I wanted to talk to you before about this trip to LA and you avoided me."

"I'm here now," he argued. "So, let's talk. What about LA? What's bothering you?"

She sighed, her intuition telling her that now was the time for her to finally ask him point blank about where the hell the two of them were going. "LA isn't what's bothering me Nick. It's us. Us in LA and what's going to happen. What happens every time we're together. Where is this going?"

"Where is this going, as in us?" Nick slowly asked.

"Yes, as in us!" Alyssa cried. "I've tried, so hard to be patient and let things work themselves out, but I can't do that anymore. I kept telling myself, okay the first time I was drunk and it was just curiosity and that's it. It won't happen again. But it did! The last time in New York, you don't even know how much I promised myself that I wasn't going to let myself wind up in that position, and it still happened! And the worst of it was that you got away scot free, but I was the one that had to deal with all the messy emotions. Do you realize that when I stepped out of that hotel room, there were actually fans standing outside? Do you know how that must feel like, to be messed up and confused enough already, and then have to deal with people staring at you like a whore? That's exactly what it felt like! Those girls had no clue what was going on, yet they judged me as if I was just another groupie in their eyes. I know, I shouldn't care what others think, but its damn hard not too."

Nick looked stunned at her confession. "Alyssa.... I had no idea. You should've said something. I..."

She held up her hand to interrupt him. "There's more. Spending this Christmas with you has been both awkward and wonderful. But when you kissed me on Christmas Eve it made me realize something. There's more going on between us than I think either of us realize. So, I've came to a decision. Either we try to decide where the hell this is all going or we just give up on each other. I can't just be your friend, Nick. As it is, I'm lying to my friends ... my family ... everyone I know, and I just can't anymore. I realize that you're scared Nick. Yes, I said it. You're scared. Scared of falling in love with someone again... Scared of it falling apart... Scared of being hurt... But that's the risk you take. Just you need to let me know what you want from me. Because otherwise you're just stringing me along."

She stopped to take a breath, stunned at how the emotions she had been fighting so hard for the past few months just seemed to flow out of her mouth in a rush. She felt as if a great weight had been removed from her shoulders. There... I've laid all out on the table for him. Now the ball is in his court, she realized.

She studied Nick's face for any sign of expression, but there seemed to be so many different emotions going through his head that it was hard for her to pinpoint exactly what he was thinking.

Nick's mind was racing, trying to process all of what Alyssa just said. He'd known all along that he was being unfair to her. She was right. He was stringing her along, his fear of commitment preventing him from getting too close. She'd also hit the head on the nail, when she accused him of being scared. He admitted it to himself, but no one had ever had the guts to go as far as to call him out on it. Her analysis of him had been so close to the truth that it was frightening. And now he was being forced to make a decision, one that could dramatically change his life. The question being, was he ready?

All he knew is what he felt. And Alyssa made him feel things that he hadn't felt in a long time, but the reality was that he couldn't start a proper relationship right now. Not with one more leg of the tour, still to go. But, he didn't want to lose Alyssa. If she really has such intense feelings, she'll wait for you, a voice in his head spoke up. Taking a deep breath, he knew what he must do.

"Lyss," he began as he pulled her body closer to his. "I really had no idea that you were going through this. If I knew that I was putting you through so much crap, I'd have definitely done things differently. I had no idea that you felt that way about me. Listen, are you sure you really want to get back involved with me? I'm pretty screwed up. I've got a lot of issues to sort through. It won't be easy. You'll have to be patient."

"I understand that you've been through a lot Nick," she finally spoke up, her head pressed up against his chest. "But I'm willing to help. I want us to go back to the way things were."

"I'm not sure if they can," he sadly told her. "Look, I know you're freaked out about this whole LA trip. I'd love nothing more to settle you and me once and for all, but we need to really think about how this could work. We live on completely different coasts."

"I could move out to LA. I bet they need teachers in California really bad. We can make this work!" Alyssa insisted.

Nick chuckled a little at her eagerness. "Before you pack your bags there's still the fact that I'm tied up with the tour until February at least. I don't want to start anything until I have all the time possible to devote to this."

"So what are you saying?"

"We're going to be spending every minute of the next week in LA together. I guess we could look at it sort of like a trial period," he suggested. "We can act as if we're a normal couple and see how it works out. If everything goes smoothly I guess after the tour we can talk about you coming out to LA... Permanently."

Now it was Alyssa's turn to look stunned. "Do you really mean that? You're not just telling me what I want to hear, right? You're sure about this?"

Nick took in a deep breath. "I'm not sure how or even if we're going to work out. This could be the best thing that could ever happen to us, or it could totally blow up in our faces. But like you said that's the risk you take when you choose to get involved with someone. I've known you for a long time now and I know that I can trust you. We've been through a lot together."

"So we're really going to do this?" she asked, still in disbelief.

"Yea," he agreed after only a slight hesitation. "Let's at least see what happens this week."

Alyssa's face broke into an exuberant grin. "I thought I'd never hear you say those words to me. This better not be a dream or else I'm going to wake up very disappointed."

Seeing how happy that one simple decision had made Alyssa, Nick couldn't help but to smile too. Was he really ready to do this again? To get involved with another woman? To face the risk of being used and abused? But this is Alyssa his mind argued. She's not that kind of girl. You were the one to fuck things up with her, the last time. He swore to himself that this time things would be different. He wouldn't do anything to jeopardize their relationship this time around.

"I just can't believe I finally got that all off my chest. Now I'm even more excited about this trip to LA. It's going to be perfect. I can't wait to tell everyone that we've finally figured things out and decided to give things a second try," she continued.

As Nick listened to her happy chatter, an uncomfortable feeling began to settle over him. Already this was feeling as if it was going to fast for him. It was a big enough step that he'd agreed to give things another try. He wasn't sure if he was ready to tell the world though. But Alyssa seemed so excited, and he didn't want to bring her down by telling her that he thought they should keep their relationship under wraps. He knew from experience that when Alyssa got like this, there was only one way to shut her up.

"Nick? Are you okay? You got really quiet there for a minute," Alyssa's voice interrupted his thoughts.

He plastered a grin on his face. "I'm fine. Great, in fact," he lied, lacing their fingers together. "You're right. This next week is going to be amazing." Before Alyssa could even try to get another word in, he pressed his lips down against hers.

Alyssa seemed surprised, but returned the kiss, her body instantly responding to it. As the kiss deepened, she found herself being rolled over onto her back, Nick's hands already halfway up her tank top. She pulled away a moment already breathless. "Maybe you better go back downstairs," she suggested. "Because if you don't leave within the next few minutes I might not be accountable for my actions."

"Really?" he asked with a smirk, moving down to nibble at her collarbone. "That doesn't sound like much of a bad thing."

"My parents are right down the hall!" she protested with a giggle.

"So? We'll be quiet," he promised as his lips set out to find the areas that he knew were the most sensitive on her neck. "That is unless you really want me to stop."

From the moment his lips hit the right spots, Alyssa felt the heat rising in her body. She found herself biting down hard on her lip, in order to suppress the moan that was caught in her throat. She realized that if they stopped now, she probably would have a very difficult time falling asleep. Besides, it was definitely a turn on to even be contemplating the idea of having sex in her parents house. "No... I don't want you to stop," she breathed.

"That's what I thought," he grinned, while his fingers went to work pulling at the drawstring of her pajama pants. It easily came undone and before she knew it they were being pulled off, his hands sliding over her smooth legs.

Alyssa helped kick them aside before reaching for the hem of the thin white wifebeater and pulling it up over his head. Her fingernails gently grazed down his chest before settling near the waistband of his boxers. Hooking her thumbs inside she teasingly began to play with the elastic while her lips sought his once more.

She was so involved in the kiss, that she hardly noticed her tank top riding up on her body and being pulled up over her head. She shivered as Nick wasted no time in trailing his lips down over her chest and along her stomach. With every moment it was becoming more and more difficult not to make a sound. When he impulsively lowered his kisses to her inner thighs she couldn't help, but to cry out, having to stifle the sound with a blanket.

Relief flooded through her, as she felt her boy shorts being lowered off of her hips. She had to admit that she was a little afraid that now that they had sorted things out between them, that the passion wouldn't be nearly as powerful as it had been. But just by the way that her body trembled, she knew that she had nothing to worry about. Tugging off his boxers, she found herself pleading, "I can't wait any longer, Nick. Please."

Nick grinned, not being able to resist just a little bit of teasing, even though he was feeling practically the same way. "Still think I better go back downstairs?"

Alyssa's cheeks reddened, "Shut up and just kiss me."

This time, Nick did what he was told. Cupping her chin, his lips came down over hers, as his weight shifted. Alyssa moaned into his mouth, the moment she felt him slide into her, her nails digging into his shoulders. With every movement he made, she was shocked to discover how close she was getting so quickly. As he ventured deeper inside of her she could feel her heartbeat begin to accelerate and the heat beginning to rush through her veins. Finally, she could no longer hold back, and she buried her head in his shoulder as she cried out. Moments later, she felt Nick reach his release and they finally both collapsed beside each other.

Alyssa was the first to speak, still breathing heavily. "God, LA is going to be amazing..."

Nick looked over at her, noticing the glow in her cheeks and the satisfied look in her eyes. It was pretty shitty, but he knew that at that moment she'd agree to do anything for him, and he was about to take advantage of that fact in order to get his way. "Listen, maybe it might be better if we didn't tell everybody that we're going to give things a second chance. I really don't want jinx things between us, so until I come back from Australia, lets just keep a low profile."

Alyssa looked a little hurt. "You want to keep us a secret?"

"Sort of. I mean we can tell a few people, but the less that know the better," he explained.

She sighed. "If that's what you really want Nick." Without another word she rolled over, so that her back was facing him.

Uh oh... She's pissed, Nick realized. This was going to take some careful precision. "Baby, it's just until the tour finishes," he insisted, placing a hand on her shoulder. "Then we can take an add out in the paper for all I care. I just want to make sure that this really works out first."

Alyssa looked back at him appearing deep in thought. "After the tour you swear there will be no more secrets?"

"I swear," he promised.

"All right," she finally gave in. "I guess I could keep this on the down low for a little while longer. At least now I know that this is going someplace."

"Thanks," Nick told her, dropping a kiss on her forehead. "I promise that after the tour things are going to be different. I swear to you."

"I hope so Nick. I really hope so..."

Chapter Thirty - Six by Mellz Bellz
Author's Notes:
Nick is reminded of a secret from his past that he'd rather forget.
Chapter 36

Alyssa's eyelids fluttered open as she felt the incoming sunlight beating down on her shoulder through her bedroom window. Her gaze automatically drifted towards the empty spot beside her where Nick had been before she had fallen asleep the night before. His absence made her momentarily wonder if last night had really happened or if she had been only been dreaming. Did he really agree to give us another try? she wondered. She'd been hoping that he'd say those words for months now, and now that he actually had, she couldn't help but to have some disbelief. Especially when he seemed so hesitant to let anyone else know about them.

His reluctance frustrated Alyssa. She understood how damaged he'd been from past relationships and cautious he was now, but he had to know that she was serious about this. She wasn't dating him for money or publicity. She was dating him because she loved him, and she wanted everyone to know. But, if Nick needed time she guessed that she had no choice, but to give it to him. There had more than one point in their past relationship where Nick had been patient with her, so she figured she owed it to him.

She wondered when Nick had slipped out and went back downstairs. She'd probably slept better last night then she had in weeks, so she hadn't even stirred. Judging from the warm spot next to her, she figured that it couldn't have been too long ago. Hopefully he had the common sense to go back downstairs and fall back asleep on the sofa bed like nothing ever happened, she told herself. It would be a great start to things for them if her parents had figured out that he'd spent the night in her room. Thank God, we're going back to the city this morning. Of course there wouldn't be all that much privacy there either with Stephanie staying over at Alyssa's apartment. She definitely had enough to keep her busy though. She'd need to pack for LA (and probably run out and grab a few things) and then tonight she and Nick were going to go see the Christmas Spectacular.

We should probably try to catch an early train, she decided as she grabbed some fresh clothes to put on. The more she thought about the fact that she would be getting on a plane to LA tomorrow afternoon, the more panicked she got about being able to pack a suitcase and not forget anything extremely important. Hell, she'd probably have to make an emergency stop at the laundromat sometime today. With that in mind, she slid out of bed and began to get dressed. The sooner she got back to New York, the sooner it would be until she would be alone in LA with Nick. The thought brought a smile to Alyssa's lips.

The way that she felt just then absolutely nothing could get her down.


An hour or two later Alyssa, Nick, and Stephanie were dressed and just about ready for Meg and Scott to drive them down to the train station. And not a moment too soon. Alyssa was already beginning to feel as if the rest of her family members were looking at her as if they knew that something had changed between her and Nick since the night before. Or maybe she was just being paranoid?

"Before we leave I just want to have one more cigarette," Nick told her, heading for the back patio.

"Wait. I'll come out with you," Alyssa offered, glad for any excuse to leave the tension that she felt inside the house. Some fresh air would probably do her some good.

But it wasn't meant to be. Before she could grab her jacket her father stopped her. "Actually Alyssa if you don't mind I'd like to have a word with you.

A word? Her father wanted to have a word with her? Not only did Alyssa feel that she was reduced to the age of a five year old, but she had the distinct feeling that somehow she was in for some kind of lecture. A lecture involving her sudden interest in a certain ex- boyfriend of hers. "Uhmm ok..." she shakily answered, exchanging a worried glance with Nick

"Let's sit down in the den,” he suggested.

Alyssa nodded, following him into the room and making herself comfortable on the couch. Her suspicions that she wasn't going to like what he had to say were further confirmed by her father making sure that the door was shut tightly behind him. The two sat in silence for a moment, while Alyssa nervously played with her fingers in her lap.

Anthony was the first to speak. "I've noticed that you and Nick seem awfully close again. Is there something going on that I should know about?

Alyssa sighed, realizing that she was getting sick of answering this question. "No, Dad. We're just friends. That's it. He had no one to spend Christmas with, so I offered to bring him with me. Can I go now?”

He still looked suspicious. "You're just friends yet you're going out to LA and staying with him?”

“Yes, Dad. We're friends. That's what friends do. They visit each other," she explained, rolling her eyes.

"Look, I'm just going to get right to the point because I know that you’re not going to tell me everything, so just listen to what I have to say. Nick might seem like a nice package. He's got good looks, lots of money, talent... He probably seems like a pretty good catch, huh? But unfortunately, there are other things that you need to take into account. Like who he is on the inside. Some of the choices that he's made in life, haven't exactly been the best ones," Anthony explained.

Alyssa could already feel the anger bubbling up inside of her. "So, basically you're judging Nick off of the mistakes he's made in the past and not even bothering to even consider that maybe he's trying to change?”

Anthony looked sadly over at his daughter. "A leopard doesn't change his spots, Alyssa. No matter how much you think that you can change him, it’s not going to work. He's hurt you more than once in the past. What makes you think he won't do it again?"

So this is what this all about? she realized. Her father was trying to warn her not to get involved with him. To cut all ties with him and run. There was no possible way that she could do that to Nick. Especially after all he'd been through. But how could she explain hat to her father without completely reinforcing the point he was trying to make?

"Because he's different now!" she exploded. "He's trying so hard to be a better person and you don't see it because you judge him based on his past just like everybody else does! Don't you ever consider that maybe... just maybe there's more to him than a notorious pop star? Maybe somewhere deep down he wishes he could be more like us. Granted, he's not as polished and well mannered as we are, but that's not his fault! That's how he was raised."

Her father snorted. "I'm not even going to approach his family situation.”

"So just because he had a crappy childhood it means that he's not good enough to earn your respect? You know nothing about the shit he went through! You have no clue just how insane his mother is! So, how can you sit there and act like you know everything about him? Yes, he has issues. And yes he's messed up, but he's trying Dad. He's seriously trying to become a better person." She paused and looked away. "And when he's with me, he is a better person.”

Anthony sighed, realizing that there was nothing more he could say to get through to Alyssa. She's already fallen too hard for him. The only thing left to do is just pray that she doesn't get hurt too much on the way down, he noted. "Sometimes Alyssa it’s the pretty looking boys that'll hurt you the most. Looks aren't everything."

"Trust me. I'm not with him for his looks. It's not as glamorous as you think being close to someone famous," she coldly assured him. "Now if you don't mind I actually have a train to catch." Without even waiting for a reply from her father, Alyssa stood up from the couch, signaling that this conversation was indeed over.

A hurt expression came over her fathers face. "Please be careful Alyssa. That's all I ask. I'm just warning you because I care."

Uh huh... Alyssa thought as she walked out of the room. The only thing he cares about is being able to control my life. Well, unfortunately this time he's out of luck.

She was going to LA. Whether she had her fathers approval or not.


Nick was just finishing up his cigarette when he heard the sound of the patio door being opened behind him. It's probably Alyssa, he figured. He'd been just as curious as she was about what her father had decided was so urgent for him to talk to her about. Somehow, he had the gut feeling that it had something to do with him. Probably warning her to stay away from a loser like me, he thought. If that was the case, he figured that Alyssa would probably be pretty upset after a conversation like that. Truthfully, Nick didn't really care much what Alyssa's father had to say about him. He knew that the man wasn't fond of him and had just tolerated him for the past few days. He also knew that Alyssa valued her family's opinions and would want their approval. In his head he was already stringing together some words to calm Alyssa down, knowing that she'd probably come outside upset.

Looking over his shoulder, he was surprised to find not Alyssa like he expected, but Stephanie instead. Trying to hide his disappointment, he glanced over at her and gave a little wave. "Alyssa still talking to your Dad?" he asked.

Stephanie nodded as she lit a cigarette. "Yepp. He must really be grilling her about you. They've been there for quite a while now.”

Nick looked thoughtful. "So you think that he's really trying to warn her not to get involved with me?"

She shrugged. "Something like that. Probably lecturing her on what she's allowed and not allowed to do in LA. Not like it'll really stop her anyway. But you know my Dad."

"Yea... unfortunately I do. How much you want to bet she comes out here all upset and stuff. She'll be in a bad mood for the rest of the day," he predicted.

"I don't know about that," Stephanie disagreed with a playful grin. "Alyssa might just be so pissed at my Dad that she'd purposely be all over you to spite him. You might make out pretty good actually."

Is she trying to flirt with me? Nick asked himself a little thrown off by her response. Just the idea of it made his stomach knot in discomfort. "Well, I think I should get back inside now and make sure I have everything before we leave. It was uhmm nice talking to you," he mumbled.

"Nick, wait." Her hand reached out to grab his arm. "Before you go I just wanted to make sure that you're okay with me coming back to the city with you and Alyssa. I know it’s a little awkward and weird and you probably wanted to be alone with her. If you really mind that much, it’s perfectly okay. I can see if I could crash at a friends place tonight or something."

Nick sighed. He hadn't exactly been pleased when Stephanie had invited herself back to the city with him and Alyssa, yet he knew that he couldn't exactly say anything either. Even though, she was giving him the perfect opportunity to get rid of her, he knew that he couldn't go as far as tell her that she'd be in the way. He'd just wind up sounding like an asshole, and if Alyssa found out that he'd actually requested that her sister find other sleeping arrangements for the night, she'd probably be pretty pissed. So, he had no other choice, but to lie. "You don't have to do that Steph. Alyssa and I can have all the time alone that we want in LA. I'm not going to tell you that you can't stay over tonight when really it’s not my apartment."

Relief swept over Stephanie's face. "Good. I'm glad you don't think I'm like intruding or anything. I know it’s in the past and we promised that we'd put it behind us, but I'm just really glad that things weren't too awkward between us these past few days. When I heard that you were coming home with Alyssa, I got a little nervous because, well one of the last times I saw you, we were in quite a bit of a compromising position, so to speak."

Dammit... he silently cursed. Why did she have to go bringing that up?; For three days he'd managed to avoid direct contact with Stephanie for this very reason. It was a very touchy subject for him and he'd been relieved that Steph had seemed to erase that night from her memory, until now that was. Apparently it hadn't been as forgettable as he had hoped. It definitely hadn't been one of his prouder moments in life.

"It really was my fault," she blurted out in a rush. "I mean I was completely wasted and I was literally throwing myself at you. I never stopped to even think about how I was hurting Alyssa or anything. I was just so stupid! And you tried to stop me at first... I just was too far gone."

Nick nervously clenched his fists. He really did not want to have this conversation. Why drag up the past was his philosophy. They had both fucked up big time, but thankfully enough they'd decided to keep it between themselves. His eyes darted towards the patio doors, his only means of escape. It would be best to put an end to this conversation and just try to get through the rest of today without anymore reminders of past mistakes. "Steph, you don't have to apologize to me. I'm not innocent either. But it happened over three years ago, so why bring it up now? We should be thankful that Alyssa never found out and just keep it buried. Some secrets are better kept hidden, trust me on this."

Stephanie slowly nodded. "You're absolutely right. There is one thing though that's been bothering me ever since you and Alyssa broke up."

He shot her a curious glance. "Which is?”

The pained look on Stephanie's face was clearly obvious to Nick. "Was it because of what happened between us? Did you break up with her out of guilt?"

Nick's features softened as he saw how upset Stephanie looked. He couldn't believe that she had spent the last three years of her life thinking that she was the sole cause of her sister's pain. "Of course not! There was so much other shit going on in my life at the time that factored into why we broke up. Maybe it played a tiny part, combined with everything else, but it definitely wasn't the number one reason, so don't beat yourself up over it. Even if it had never happened, we probably still would've broken up.

"You really mean that?" she asked, her voice tinged with relief.

"Of course. It wasn't your fault. It was mine," he admitted.

It was the truth. He'd been the one who swore that after Katie, he'd never cheat on Alyssa again. He'd broken that promise when he'd allowed himself to be seduced by her younger, sixteen year old, sister. He had honestly tried to resist, but in the end, his body had betrayed him and won out over his mind. ..

******************

It was a Friday night and for once Nick actually had the house to himself for the night, a luxury that he had to admit that he sort of missed since Alyssa, and later, Stephanie had moved in with him. He and Alyssa had originally planned on a quiet, romantic, movie night, while Stephanie was out at some party as she usual. Unfortunately, just as he and Alyssa were making themselves comfortable on the couch, Izzy had called up in tears over some fight she and Tristan had just had. Being the ever supportive best friend that she was, Alyssa had packed up the DVD that they were supposed to watch and headed over to Izzy's to have a girl's night in. At first Nick had pouted a little about being pushed aside for Alyssa's best friend, but he'd quickly gotten over it. It wasn't very often he got much time by himself and it was a good opportunity to catch up on some video games.

He was sprawled out on the living room couch in the middle of a particularly challenging level of Resident Evil, when he heard the front door open and in stumbled an obviously intoxicated Stephanie. So much for a nice quiet night at home, he thought as he paused the game for a moment. He watched as she collapsed onto the couch beside him giggling, "Oh man... That was some party!"

The scent of vodka and cigarettes wafted off of her body in a sickening perfume that made Nick wrinkle his nose in disgust, even though he imagined he'd probably come home from parties or clubs smelling no better.

"Where's Alyssa?" she slurred out. "If she sees me like this she's gonna flip out."

"You're safe," he assured her. "She's over at Izzy's for the night. She and Tristan had a fight or something, so they're hanging out."

Stephanie's eyes appeared to be filled with sympathy. "And she left you here all alone by yourself? That's pretty shitty of her."

Nick shrugged. "Actually I don't really mind too much. It's good for us to do things apart sometimes. Otherwise we'd get tired of being around each other all the time."

"Lyss has always been that way. Whenever someone else needs help she's off running. She's really too charitable for her own damn good."

What's that supposed to mean? Nick wondered. Is it just my imagination or does it sound as if she's actually a little jealous of Alyssa? He was probably just reading too deep into things. Stephanie was pretty wasted and just babbling at this point, but maybe there really was a little more going on than what met the eye?

"God, I am SO wasted!" Stephanie's voice interrupted his thoughts as she dramatically flopped across the couch with her head in his lap. The movement was completely surprising to him and although totally innocent, made him shift his weight uncomfortably.

"Maybe we should get you upstairs or something?" he suggested.

"Upstairs?" she asked, pretending to act shocked through her giggling. "My do we move fast!"

Great, she's a flirty drunk, Nick realized, rolling his eyes. This was exactly what he needed. Alyssa's gonna owe me big time for this, he decided. Ignoring her previous comment he helped to sit her up. "Who drove you home?"

"I have no fucking clue," she confessed. "I have no idea how I even got home."

He sighed, hoping that she hadn't been enough to tell everyone she knew where he lived. As it was he would get the occasionally crazy fan or two circulating his property, awaiting a glance at him bringing out the trash or something. He stood up, pulling Stephanie up with him as he dragged her towards the stairs. Her coordination was so screwed up from all the alcohol that he wondered how she made it into the house without busting her ass. I'm going to have to practically carry her up the stairs, he realized.

"You're going to have to work with me here, Steph," he warned through gritted teeth as he wrapped one arm around her waist and the other around her shoulder. "When I say step I need you take a step up for me. Can you do that?"

Stephanie looked offended. "Of course. What do you think I am, retarded?" As soon as she said that she attempted to make her first step up and stumbled almost knocking both her and Nick over.

"Whoa there!" Nick reached out for the banister to save his balance. "Stay with me. Step. Step. That's good. Step. You're doing great." At this rate, he predicted that it would take them another ten minutes just to get to the top of the flight.

About halfway up the stairs, Stephanie exploded into another fit of giggles. "Would you stop touching my boobs?”

"I'm not touching your boobs!" Nick insisted. "My hand is on your shoulders."

After another step, Stephanie froze. "You just did it again!"

Nick looked down and realized that his hand had indeed accidentally brushed up against her breast as she took a step forward. His face automatically reddened as he apologized. "I'm sorry. I didn't like do it on purpose or anything," he stammered.

Stephanie seemed amused by Nick's embarrassment. "It's okay. I understand they're pretty big and all and hard to miss. Don't worry I won't tell Alyssa that you tried to cop a feel."

"I didn't 'try to cop a feel!'" Nick started to argue, but quickly gave up. What was the point anyway? He was just getting himself aggravated.

"Relax Nick. I was only kidding. God, no wonder you and my sister get along, so well. Neither one of you can take a joke."

"I can too take a joke," he indignantly replied.

They reached the top of the landing and Stephanie put a hand on her hip. "Okay then. How about the next time you and my sister are having sex, you do me a favor and pull that stick out of her ass?"

Although Nick knew that he probably shouldn't encourage her, he found himself actually biting the inside of his cheek to keep from laughing. He had to admit that Alyssa wasn't known for always being the most laidback person in the world. She definitely had her typical mood swings.

Seeing a grin slip onto Nick's face, Stephanie smugly smiled. "See! Even you agree, right?"

Finally Nick couldn't hold back and let himself give in to the laughter that threatened to bubble out of his mouth. "Okay, you got me," he admitted. "But maybe we should continue the comedy hour in your room."

Her eyebrows rose up. "Are you trying to get me into bed?"

Nick fought back the urge to smirk. "Not in the way you're thinking, sweetheart." Taking her arm again, he led her down the hall towards her bedroom.

He kicked open the doorway to the dark room, and began to navigate his way towards her bed to the best of his ability in the darkness and with her stumbling against him. Finally he felt the edge of the bed against his legs and carefully lowered Stephanie down onto the surface. "Do you want me to get you any water or anything?" he offered.

"Well, there is one thing you can do for me," she told him, kicking off her shoes.

"And what's that?"

Nick could just about make out the slight pout on Stephanie's lips. "You can tuck me in. Please?"

He rolled his eyes, not having the energy to argue. Just do what she says and then you can get back to your video game, he told himself, as he leaned down to pull the blankets over her body. That, he soon learned, was his first mistake.

Stephanie must have stuck her leg out forcing him to lose his balance and fall forward on top of her. "Oops," she gasped, her mouth only inches from his. "How clumsy of me."

"Real cute Steph," Nick played along as he tried to wriggle out of her grasp. "Now can you please let go of me, so that I can get up?

But Stephanie wasn't letting go, if anything she was holding on even tighter. "What's your hurry for?" she innocently asked, grabbing hold of his arm. Nick's eyes bulged in shock as she pressed his hand up against her breast. "Thought you wanted to cop a feel?"

Before he could further react, her lips were pressing over his, her tongue forcing its way into his mouth. And that's when Nick was met with a rather surprising, but pleasant surprise. Oh man... She has her tongue pierced, Nick realized, wondering why he'd never noticed before. His body automatically reacted to the kiss, his tongue running against the barbell in her mouth. All of a sudden a little voice inside his head seemed to say, Remember Alyssa? Your girlfriend? Stephanie's sister? Guilt began to creep up within him, and he forced himself to pull away, sickened by the way he had given in like that.

He opened his mouth, prepared to tell Stephanie just how wrong this whole situation was, but she spoke sooner. "I've always wondered what that would be like. No wonder Alyssa is so smitten with you. You must make her VERY happy."

"Steph, listen. I love Alyssa and if she found out what just-"

Stephanie silenced him with her fingertip. "Can we not talk about Alyssa? Honestly I'm curious. What do you see in her? I mean you're a fucking Backstreet Boy. You can have any girl you want. Why Alyssa?"

Under normal circumstances, he could blurt out a number of reasons exactly why he fell in love with Alyssa, but in this type of situation where he was put on the spot like this, he found his mind going blank. "Well, uhmm she's really uhh-"

"Can't think of any huh? I thought so," she smirked.

Catching Nick off guard she shifted her position, so that now she was the one on top. Her hands were already sliding underneath the bottom of his shirt, pushing the material upwards.

"What are you doing?" he asked in a choked voice, as her lips paved a trail down his chest and stomach.

"Relax, Nick," she advised, between kisses. "Not like Alyssa's home tonight, so someone's gotta take care of business for her. Seriously, you MUST be just a tad bit upset that she dissed you for poor Isabelle? That's gotta sting a little, right?"

Nick gritted his teeth to try to hide the fact that he was getting some enjoyment out of this. "Well, you know Alyssa, chicks over dicks has always been her philosophy."

"Not in this case!" she exclaimed as her fingers wrestled with the buttons on his pants. A satisfied grin swept over her face as she eyed his growing arousal. "Looks like someone is enjoying themselves."

Fuck, Nick realized. There's no way I'm getting out of this, now. He wasn't sure what he should be more panicked about, the fact that if Alyssa found out they' be done with, or the fact that Stephanie was only sixteen (but damn did she seem to know her stuff) and he could get into a lot of shit if this came out? Out of desperation he tried to conjure up the most sobering images that he could. Like his parents having sex. Or more appropriately facing time in prison for statutory rape. Or even worse, Alyssa threatening to pull a Lorena Bobitt on him with a butcher knife. He was just beginning to feel like it might actually be working, when Stephanie’s hands wandered inside his boxers and began stroking his hardened length.

He’d officially reached the point of no return. Sadly, he knew that he couldn’t hold himself back any longer. As much as he tried to fight it, a satisfied groan escaped from the back of his throat.

Stephanie smirked, sensing that she was winning him over. Of course she couldn’t resist one last dig at her older sister. “I know Alyssa hates doing this kind of stuff,” she told him in a throaty voice. “But, I actually kind of enjoy it.” Before Nick even had a chance to respond, she’d lowered his boxers with cat like precision, and her mouth had softly encased him.

Nick’s fingertips immediately clenched the sheets the moment he felt her tongue stud moving against him. He had to admit that she’d been right about Alyssa. Not that she’d never given him head before. As she liked to describe it best with a quote from Sex in the City, it “wasn’t her favorite item on the menu,” but every once in a while she “liked to order” it. Mostly when she felt like she owed it to him, like special occasions such as his birthday, or after a fight. Very seldom, did she voluntarily go down there. But when she did… God, it was amazing. Probably more so because it was so rare of an occurrence for her.

Automatically, his eyes closed, and in his head he began to imagine that it wasn’t Stephanie he was with, but Alyssa instead. He could practically feel the heat of her mouth on him, and her hands on his thighs. He loudly moaned, as he pictured her, in Stephanie’s position. His body shuddered as it neared its release, and with one last sweep of her tongue, he finally came. “God… Alyssa…” he gasped out.

Stephanie’s head immediately snapped up. “Oh no… You did NOT just call me who I thought you did.”

Finally realizing what he had just done, Nick’s expression froze. Oh, shit. I know I was picturing Alyssa and all, but did I really go THAT far? He tried to think of someway to apologize, but his mind went completely blank.

“God, you’re a prick!” she told him, leaping off of him as fast as she possibly could and stumbling towards her bedroom door. “Get the fuck out of here!”

***********

“Nick, are you okay? You zoned out on me for a second there,” Stephanie’s voice pulled him back into the present.

“What? Oh yea, I’m fine. Listen; just let’s not bring this up again. Alyssa could walk outside any minute and-“

Stephanie nodded interrupting him. “Relax Nick. Alyssa’s never going to find out. I’m not going to tell her and I know you certainly aren’t. It’s just going to remain between us. In fact, if you want we never even had this conversation. Agreed?”

“Agreed,” Nick answered as he stared off into space. If both he and Stephanie decided that nobody else would get word of their little tryst, three years ago, why did he have such a feeling of dread about it all of a sudden? He’d moved on and put the mistake behind him.

Relax Carter. Your secret’s safe. Alyssa is never going to know the truth. Like he’d told Stephanie before. Some secrets were better just kept buried.

Chapter Thirty - Seven by Mellz Bellz
Author's Notes:
Nick and Alyssa enjoy their first night out not having to hide their feelings.
Chapter 37

A few hours later, Alyssa found herself never happier to be back home in New York City. She loved her family, but after spending any long stretch of time with them, she was reminded of exactly why she enjoyed living on her own. She had to admit though that all things being considered, Christmas had gone a lot smoother than she had first anticipated. Of course there had been the awkward conversation with her father earlier that morning and the constant dodging of the "are you or aren't you?" questions that everyone had been throwing at her. But, all in all it could've been worse. Much worse.

Alyssa didn't have much time to dwell on the success of this past Christmas though. She only had a little more than 24 hours to prepare for her trip to LA with Nick. In this time, she figured she'd probably need to do some shopping, pack, and somehow squeeze in at least a manicure and pedicure. Then of course, her and Nick had plans for that evening. He promised to take her out for a fancy dinner before the show. She couldn't help, but to realize that in a sense this was actually like a first date for the two of them. A new beginning to their unconventional relationship.

She felt bad leaving Nick to go shopping with her sister, but she knew that Nick had little patience for perusing the sale racks. He'd assured her that he'd be fine by himself and that he'd probably stop by and visit with Izzy and Tristan, since he had Christmas gifts for them and the baby. Alyssa wished that she could go with him to see her friend, but knew that it was impossible on the time schedule she was on. So, after stopping back at Alyssa's to drop off their suitcases, they'd split into two different directions. Nick to visit Izzy and Alyssa to The Manhattan Mall with Stephanie to do some serious shopping.

Their first stop was Victoria's Secret. After doing a quick survey of her lingerie collection, Alyssa had found it in pretty sad shape. Most girls usually had one particular clothing item or accessory that was their weakness such as shoes, handbags, or t-shirts. Alyssa's was underwear. There had been a point in her life when if she hadn't went shopping and not came home with a new bra or a few new thongs, it was considered a miracle. Since she and Nick had broke up though, the novelty had worn off, and eventually once she'd came to the realization that there was no one to impress anymore, she'd let her collection dwindle. But now... Now with her going off to LA to visit Nick, she figured that she could use a few new things.

Alyssa was thumbing through a table of lace thongs, when Stephanie's voice interrupted her. "I'd go with this one," she advised, holding one of them up for Alyssa to see. "Nick will go crazy after seeing you in this."

Since when did she get so smart? Alyssa wondered. From the moment she'd told her sister that she and Nick had started to hang out again, she'd been insisting that they were secretly sleeping with each other. Okay, so maybe that was actually true, but she'd denied it to her sister more times than she could count, and still Stephanie was convinced that there was more going on than Alyssa was telling her. Keeping the charade going, she wrinkled her nose. "There's no way he's seeing me in that."

Stephanie raised her eyebrows. "You're spending almost an entire week out in LA with him at his house and he's not going to be seeing you in your underwear?"

"Nope," she replied, as she turned her attention towards a rack of nighties.

"Okay if things are so platonic between the two of you, why would you need a silk nightgown again for LA? And don't tell me because it’s going to be hot there in December."

"Am I not allowed to look at things? Jesus Christ, Steph! I didn't know everything I looked at I was buying," Alyssa snapped, as she attempted to walk away from her sister.

Stephanie reached out and grabbed Alyssa's arm. "Cut the bullshit Alyssa! I know what's going on with you and Nick. You've been lying to me this whole time!"

"I don't know what you're talking about."

"Fine. I'll be blunt then. I heard the two of you last night," she confessed. "I guess you were both trying to be quiet, but my room is right next to yours and those walls aren't as thick as you think..."

Alyssa felt her face pale. She heard us having sex? If she heard, I wonder if anyone else did?

"Don't worry. I don't think that you guys were that loud," Stephanie assured her, seeming to read her mind. "I just couldn't sleep and I was laying in bed and yea... I knew the two of you were fucking! How long has this been going on?"

"Since September," she mumbled. "Right before he left for Europe."

"I can't believe you didn't tell me! I bet Meg knew right?"

Alyssa sighed. "Yea, I told Meg Christmas Eve," she admitted.

A hurt expression crossed her younger sister’s face. "But you didn't tell me. What? You don't trust me or something?"

How am I supposed to talk my way out of this one? she asked herself. Truthfully, she had no idea why she hadn't told Stephanie the truth. She'd always just been a lot closer to Meg because of their age. Sometimes she found herself forgetting that Stephanie was 19 now and definitely, not a child. Still, she wasn't sure if she was comfortable with Stephanie knowing so many details about her sex life. "It's not that I don't trust you Steph. I guess I only told Meg because I thought that maybe since she was older that she could give me some advice or something."

"If it was advice that you were looking for, I probably have more experience than the both of you put together," she argued.

Alyssa just looked at her sister sadly. In a way she actually pitied Stephanie. What she had just said was the truth. She probably did have more experience than both her and Meg. Just like how in the past Stephanie had alluded to the fact that she'd actually lost her virginity before Alyssa had. What could've possibly driven her to be so stupid at such an early age? she wondered. Her younger sister had done things that Alyssa couldn’t even imagine. In some way, she felt like she was responsible. Like maybe if she had been a bigger part of her sister’s life, things would've turned out differently.

"Why are you looking at me like that?" Stephanie interrupted her.

"Looking at you like what?" she asked, playing dumb.

"Like you feel bad for me or something."

"I'm not. Come on lets finish this shopping, so that you can help me pack." She took her sisters hand and smiled at her as they went back to their browsing. "So, were we really that loud?"

Stephanie just shot Alyssa one of those "you've got to be kidding me" glances and within moments both of them burst into laughter, their argument completely forgotten about.


The rest of their shopping trip went off without any more arguments and when Alyssa staggered into her apartment door a few hours later; her arms were loaded with various different shopping bags. Since doing laundry was out of the question she’d bought pretty much all new stuff for LA.

“What’d you do? Buy the whole mall?” Nick teased as soon as he saw all the bags.

“Very funny,” Alyssa replied, rolling her eyes. “It’s okay. Don’t help me put anything away.

Nick took the hint and grabbed a few of the bags from her arms and helped her bring them into her bedroom for the time being. “You better start getting dressed. We have dinner reservations in an hour.”

“Nick, you didn’t have to do that. I have all this packing to do still and we could’ve just ordered pizza or something,” she insisted.

“I wanted to take you out because you deserve it. I’ll help you pack when we get back from the show,” he promised, dropping a kiss on the top of her head. “Now start getting dressed because I know how long it takes you to get ready.” Before she could further protest, he had left the room, allowing her to get ready.

Knowing that she wasn’t winning this argument, she sighed and headed towards her closet. Since she had no idea where they were going or how fancy of a place this restaurant would be, she decided to go a little more on the dressy side, just in case. She finally decided on a black pencil skirt, a mint green turtleneck sweater and her black boots. Heading over to her mirror, she quickly ran a brush through her hair and put on some fresh makeup. Satisfied with how she looked, she spritzed on a little perfume before heading out into the hallway.

A blush crept up into her cheeks as she heard Nick whistle at her. “Who’s the sexy lady?”

Alyssa just rolled her eyes and reached for her coat. “That was really corny Nick. You ready? We should leave now since you never know how long it’ll take you to get around the corner here in New York.”

Stephanie, who had remained quiet since they had returned back from their shopping trip, popped her head out of the kitchen. “Have fun kiddies! Don’t do anything I wouldn’t do!”

“That leaves us open for pretty much anything,” Alyssa snickered to Nick. “Bye Steph! Try not to get into trouble while we’re gone.”

“Who, me? Trouble? Never!”

Alyssa just exchanged a smirk with Nick before stepping out of her apartment door. Moments later, they were standing out in front of her building, Alyssa huddling against him for warmth. “So where are we headed? Uptown? Downtown? Midtown? Taxi? Subway? What?”

“Subway?” Nick scoffed. “Like I’d take the subway. Could you imagine me getting mobbed in a subway car?”

Alyssa almost laughed at the image. “Oh, I forgot. You’re too good for the subway,” she teased. “I’ll hail us a cab.” She just stepped onto the corner to flag on down when she felt him pull her back.

“Hold on one second. There’s something I want to do first,” he told her. Pulling her closer to him, he impulsively pressed his lips against hers. Alyssa was completely unprepared for the move, and she found herself struggling to catch her breath. She pulled away with a dazed look on her face, amazed at the way her body trembled from more than just the cold.

“What was that for?”

Nick shrugged. “I’ve been wanting to do that all day, just couldn’t get you alone long enough for it to happen.”

Alyssa grinned at his confession. If someone were to ask her two weeks ago if she could ever imagine Nick saying something like that to her and actually meaning it, she’d laugh in their face. But a lot had changed between them in the last few days, and she was looking forward to what other kind of surprises laid ahead the next few days in LA. “Well, we have this whole evening to spend together and then tomorrow we can spend as much time together as we want. We’ll be sick of each other by next week,” she joked.

As much as she wouldn’t mind standing there all night with him, the fact that they had dinner reservations in only about 15 minutes hit her. “We need to get going though if we want to eat dinner and make it to Radio City on time tonight, though.”

“You’re right,” Nick agreed. A few minutes later they were in a cab on their way to a restaurant not far from Radio City. The whole way there all Alyssa could think about was their last heated cab ride on the way back to her apartment from McFadden’s, back in September. Her eyes closed for a second as she remembered the feeling of his lips on hers and the sensation of his hands over her body. The passion between the two of them was so electrifying that even she had been shocked at the way she had reacted. ..

A few moments later, Alyssa found herself sliding into his lap, straddling him the best that she could in the confined space. He still has an amazing mouth, she thought as she gently tugged at his bottom lip. His hands snaked around her waist to stroke the sliver of bare skin that lay exposed at the small of her back sending shivers throughout her body. As her hips grinded up against his, she could already feel his hardness beneath her and bit back a moan. She hoped they weren't too much farther from her apartment.

She could tell that Nick was a little shocked with her sudden change in attitude, but definitely not complaining. Back when we used to date I'd never carry on like this with him in a taxi cab, she thought with a smirk. Might as well make it worth his while. While they continued to kiss she let her hands drift down his chest before finally settling on the hem of his shirt. Slipping them underneath the material she reached up to run her fingertips over his bare stomach, immediately feeling him squirm a little bit. That had always been an extremely sensitive area for him. She then let them float even lower until her hands were resting on the top of his jeans. With a devilish glint in her eyes she hooked her thumbs inside and let them teasingly rest there, lightly stroking his skin. This elicited a frustrated groan from him. "God... Alyssa…"

“What are you thinking about?” Nick’s voice interrupted her thoughts.

“Nothing,” she told him, fighting back a grin.

“Is that why you have such a big smile plastered across your face?” he pressed.

“Maybe,” she replied.

“This doesn’t have anything to do with the last time we shared a cab together, does it?”

Alyssa looked away, knowing that her face gave it all away. “I think I’m going to have to plead the fifth.”

“I didn’t know it was that much of a fantasy of yours,” he teased in a husky voice. “Maybe on the ride back we could complete it?” He wiggled his eyebrows to let her know that he was kidding.

She laughed at how serious he had sounded for a moment there. Rolling her eyes in response she pretended to look at him like he was crazy. “In your dreams, Carter.”

“Get over here.” He playfully grabbed her and pulled her closer towards him and before Alyssa could object his lips were on hers again.


Dinner turned out to be a lot more impressive than Alyssa had originally anticipated. Nick had managed to nab reservations at one of the city’s newest and trendiest four star restaurants. The place had been packed and even those with reservations were stuck waiting for tables. As they walked inside she heard more than a few people grumbling about the wait. Yet, she and Nick walked right in and were seated immediately. There were indeed some perks to his fame.

After they finished their meal, they walked hand in hand the few short blocks to Radio City Music Hall, stopping for a kiss every few moments. Normally, Alyssa had no patience for doting couples such as this, particularly when she was in a hurry to get someplace. But now, that she was on the other side of the fence, she found herself pretending not to notice anyone else, but him. Although it did seem like a scene out of a cheesy romantic movie, she had to admit that it felt nice. It was a relief for her to finally be able to freely express her affection towards with him in public and not have to worry about what others thought.

As they neared the famous neon sign and the lettered marquee of the well known theater, Nick led her around to the side of the building. “Before we go in I just want to have a cigarette.”

Alyssa rolled her eyes in impatience. “You and your cigarettes. It’s such a nasty habit.”

Nick paused mid light. “I didn’t know it bothered you so much?”

She shrugged. “I don’t like it, but it’s your choice. I can’t exactly force you to quit or anything.”

He grinned to himself. This is what he liked about Alyssa. Unlike a lot of girls who would get on his case about his smoking, Alyssa had the confidence to tell him that she disliked it, but was also smart enough to know that nagging him wouldn’t make him quit any faster. If anything it would probably make him smoke even more out of spite. He’d like to quit one day, but he wasn’t quite ready to just yet.

A grin spread out over Alyssa’s lips. “Hey, do you know what I just noticed?”

“What’s that?” he asked.

“Just one day shy of five months ago in this very same spot you walked out that stage door over there and asked me if I had a lighter. It was the first time we’d seen each other since we had broken up. Now look at us.”

She’s right, Nick realized. It was pretty freaky how it had worked out. He’d performed right here at Radio City with the rest of the guys on July 27th. Today was December 26th. She was right. It was practically five months to the exact date. He certainly hadn’t planned it this way. It was a complete coincidence that he had decided to get her tickets to see the Christmas Spectacular. He hadn’t even batted an eyelash at the fact that it was being held at Radio City. Usually minor details such as that escaped him. And he’d only pulled her towards the side of the building because it was on a side street and a better place to grab a quick smoke. Or at least that’s what he had told himself. The feeling of déjà vu that swept over him made him actually wonder if there was some deeper cosmic reason for bringing the two of them together in this spot tonight, as his mind lingered back to the moment they’d first laid eyes on each other again…

Alyssa was so deep in her self depreciating thoughts that she didn't even notice the stage door open and another figure join her outside. She almost jumped a mile when she heard a voice call out, "Hey you!"

Great, just what I need. I just want to be left along she thought angrily to herself. Go away.

"Do you have a lighter?"

Alyssa's heart caught in her throat. She had been so wrapped up in her thoughts that she hadn't recognized the voice at first, but now it was clear as day to her. That voice was so familiar for her yet painful to hear. Swallowing hard to make sure there were no more tears in her eyes, she slowly turned herself towards it.

Standing right in front of her, only feet away was Nick with a cigarette dangling from the corner of his lip. The moment she turned around his face immediately paled and it was evident that he immediately recognized her. "Alyssa?" he asked, removing the cigarette from his mouth after a few moments of stunned silence.

"Nick," she answered, realizing how dumb it must've sounded as soon as the word left her mouth…

“Wow, I didn’t even realize that until just now either,” he found himself remarking. “That’s definitely amazing.”

Alyssa just nodded. “If I knew then that in just five months we’d be giving things another shot between the two of us, I don’t think I’d have believed it.”

“Me neither,” he admitted. “Even now it seems kind of surreal.”

“I always kind of hoped that it would happen,” she confessed. “From the moment I first saw you again.”

“You did?” The news was a shock to Nick. He’d thought that at first she’d been too angry and hurt to even consider the idea. He was shocked enough at her decision to accept his friendship in the first place. She stepped closer to him and wrapped her arms around his waist, laying her head against his shoulder. “Uh huh. I think a part of me never really moved on after we broke up.”

Nick grinned as he stamped out his half smoke cigarette. Even though her confession had made him feel a little bit guilty for hurting her in the past, it felt good to hear that she had always held a special spot for him in her heart. “You cold?” he asked her.

Alyssa nodded, shivering a little. Without waiting another moment he wrapped his arms securely around her and brought his lips down to meet hers. Her eyes automatically closed and she responded to the kiss eagerly. Reluctantly, they both pulled apart, their breath clouding together in the cold night air.

They were both silent for a moment until Nick finally spoke. “Let’s get inside before we miss the show.”

“Okay,” she agreed, taking his hand a smile still on her face. If things were this good between them already, she couldn’t wait to see how good they’d get in LA.


The show had been just as awesome as she hoped it would be. Alyssa bet that she had the same expression of enchantment across her face as some of the little girls in the audience who were also seeing The Rockette’s for the first time. Afterwards, she and Nick had headed back to her apartment, so that she could do some serious packing. By late evening, Alyssa had mostly everything packed and ready, and finally she began to feel less apprehensive about arriving in LA without something.

Their flight wasn’t until late afternoon, but Alyssa still wanted to get to bed somewhat early. She still needed to run to the nail salon tomorrow morning before heading to the airport. Surprisingly, Stephanie hadn’t given Alyssa much of a fight when she’d told her that she had been assigned the couch for the night. She hadn’t even uttered any cute remarks about how Alyssa only wanted her on the couch, so that Nick could sleep with her in her room. She’s probably hoping she’ll overhear something, so that she can tease me about it all tomorrow morning, she decided.

Of course Nick had a similar agenda. The moment she slipped underneath the covers, his arms snaked around her waist and his mouth went to work leaving a trail of kisses along her neck. Fighting back a moan, she wriggled out of his grasp and rolled over, so that she was facing him.

“Slow down there lover boy,” she teased. “As much as I love it when you do that, we should probably save it for tomorrow night. Old bat ears out there is onto us.”

“What do you mean?” Nick asked sounding confused.

“Stephanie. She heard us last night. Apparently we weren’t as quiet as we thought,” she explained. “She was upset that I didn’t tell her sooner.”

“Meaning that you told other people?” Was it just her, or did Nick sound a little disappointed, like he hadn’t wanted anyone else to know that behind the scenes they were definitely more than just friends.

“Just Izzy. I didn’t think you’d mind because it’s not like she doesn’t already know like everything about you. Oh yea… Meg knows too,” she quickly added.

“Meg? Oh great,” he muttered.

Alyssa rolled her eyes. “Come on Nick. We’re sisters. It’s not exactly like she’s a stranger or anything. And when she was with AJ we knew way more than we wanted to about that relationship.”

Nick supposed that she was right. He decided to drop it and move on. “So, you said she was upset? Why?”

“She was pissed that I told Meg and not her. I mean okay… She asked me straight up if you and I were sleeping together the minute she heard that you were coming for Christmas, and I lied to her. She was one person I wasn’t comfortable telling just yet. I know she’s my sister and all and I love her, but there are times I just don’t trust her.”

With good reason, he mentally added. He’d learned firsthand how sneaky Stephanie could be. That combined with the obvious jealously she had towards her older sister, made him understand Alyssa’s lack of trust towards Stephanie.

“I’ve always been closer to Meg. We’ve grown up telling each other everything, so I couldn’t keep this from her,” she continued. “There’s quite an age gap between Steph and I, and yea I know she’s 19 now and certainly not a child anymore, but there are just certain areas of my life I don’t feel comfortable sharing with her. Granted, she’s very mature for her age and all, but I can’t stop thinking that when I was her age she was barely a teenager.”

Nick tried his best to sympathize with her, but he had to admit that he couldn’t exactly. The age difference between himself and Aaron was about the same as Alyssa and Stephanie, but unlike them they were the only two boys in the family which obviously automatically gave them a special bond. Then he tried to think about his sisters and compare them with Alyssa and her sisters. Again, he found just the opposite with his family. If anything, BJ and Angel were closer despite the age difference, and Leslie was considered the odd one out. “I guess I can understand that. Although, that’s not really the case in my family. Yea, Aaron can be a loud mouth at times, but we’re pretty close despite the age difference.”

“But, you weren’t always like that were you?” Alyssa pressed. “I mean while we were dating and all you two seemed as close as you possibly could be with your schedules. Forgive me if I’m mistaken, because I don’t know the full story, but from what I’ve heard the two of you weren’t getting along for a while there.”

He sighed. The rumor that he and Aaron hadn’t been getting along was nothing, but a lie that the tabloids had cooked up to make his family look even worse. Of course he couldn’t blame Alyssa, for believing the story. She hadn’t known any better. It was half true at least. He had only been able to have minimal contact with Aaron for a while there. “Oh, Aaron and I got along fine. It was my parents that were the problem. After they got divorced Aaron wasn’t allowed to acknowledge me. Once in a while I’d get the occasional phone call, but that was pretty much it.” He paused. “I wish I could’ve been there for him at the time. He took it pretty rough and I could just tell that he was getting involved with the wrong kind of shit, but I couldn’t do anything much to stop him. Now that he’s 18 though, we’re finally starting to get close again. He’s pretty damaged though. You think I’m bad; you should have a talk with him. It’s pretty sad.”

Alyssa gave him a sympathetic look. As fucked up as Stephanie was she couldn’t compete with the Carter clan. Yet, Alyssa could understand to a certain extent. “I know how you feel about knowing that your younger sibling is getting themselves in too deep, but being powerless to stop it. Steph has always been a rebel and after I moved out when we would talk, I’d see all these little signs that she was getting into trouble with the wrong crowd, but I just pretended not to notice. Why should I care? I was in Florida. She was in New York. Sometimes I really regret not being closer to her. Maybe if I had given her more guidance or spent more time with her, she wouldn’t have been so messed up. Sometimes I wonder if it’s my fault she’s the way she is. I think she blames me for a lot.”

She watched as Nick’s eyes softened in understanding. He reached out to cup her chin, so that she was looking right at him. “Alyssa, you can’t blame yourself for Stephanie’s mistakes. Believe me; I’ve been there with Aaron. I thought that if only I hadn’t been so selfish and wrapped up in my life, things would be different. If only I had been a better role model… But, wondering ‘if’ gets you nowhere. You can’t change your past mistakes. You can only learn from them and hope to become a better person because of them. If Stephanie holds any resentment towards you, it’ll disappear in time. I think she really just needs your attention. She looks up to you so much. The more you treat her like an adult the more she’ll appreciate you.”

Whoa… Alyssa laid there, stunned for a moment. Since when did Nick get so deep? And she had to admit that he was completely right. She knew that Nick wasn’t the easiest person to get to open up, but when he did he was actually so much more insightful than people ever gave him credit for.

Nick smirked at her shocked reaction. “What? You didn’t think that I was capable of such wisdom?”

“Something like that,” she admitted, cuddling up to his chest. “Seriously though, you’re absolutely right. I guess I should try to be there more for Steph. Better late than never. I’ll definitely have to work on that. In the meantime though, if I know her she’s sleeping with one ear perked up towards us, so yea… Guess we’ll have to save the ‘nighttime entertainment’ for tomorrow night.” She wiggled her eyebrows for emphasis.

“Is that a promise?” Nick asked pulling her closer to him.

“Promise,” she swore, as she leaned over to kiss him. “I’ll even pinky swear.”

“Oh no,” he joked. “Pinky swearing? This is getting serious.” But he still linked his pinky with hers.

Alyssa laid her head on his chest contentedly. After a few minutes her eyelids dropped downwards and she found herself dreaming about all adventures that lay ahead of them in LA. She had a feeling that it was going to be the best vacation of her life.

Chapter Thirty - Eight by Mellz Bellz
Author's Notes:
Alyssa vows to do whatever she can to erase Nick's pain.
Chapter 38


“This is Continental Airlines flight 3152 from New York to LA. At this time we ask that everyone fasten their seat belts and turn off all electronic devices as we prepare for take off,” the captain’s voice boomed over the plane’s intercom.

Alyssa slid her seat belt across her lap and glanced beside her at Nick who looked pale faced and jittery. I have no idea how after all the flights he’s had to take in his lifetime, he still gets nervous flying, she thought to herself with a smirk. She knew from experience that the take off was the most difficult part of the flight for him. Once they got up in the air, he’d be fine, but until then he’d be a wreck.

She placed her hand on top of his. “Relax Nick. We’re not even off the ground yet. I don’t understand how you get so nervous when you fly everywhere.”

Nick rolled his eyes. “Shut up. I’m not nervous. I just don’t like take off.”

Alyssa laughed. “Would you like me to hold your hand until the seatbelt light goes off?”

“That would be nice. I’d so much rather hold hands with you than Howie,” he joked.

She raised her eyebrows. “So, Howie has to hold your hand through every take off? Aww… I don’t know if I should say that’s sweet or just plain gay.”

“Are you insinuating that I’m gay?” Nick asked, pretending to be offended. “Because we could go into that bathroom back there right now and I can prove to you I certainly aint gay!”

Stifling a giggle, Alyssa just patted his hand. “Let’s leave the initiation into the mile high club for after take off, ok?”

“Oh yea… Uhmm right.” Before he could further respond, the engines roared to life and he clutched on to Alyssa’s hand so tightly that she thought it might break. A few moments later they took off, slowly gaining altitude. Alyssa tried to wiggle her fingers to make sure that they were still working, but Nick had such a tight grip that it was impossible.

She sighed in relief as they finally leveled out to a normal altitude and the seatbelt light went flashing off. Pulling her hand away from Nick’s she shook it to try to get some feeling back into it. “Damn, I know I said you could hold my hand, but did you have to cripple me?”

Nick’s face reddened. “Sorry about that,” he apologized.

Alyssa was about to respond, but just as she opened her mouth she was interrupted by one of the flight attendants coming by to take their drink orders. After they had both ordered sodas, Nick asked for a pillow and a blanket, so that he could take a nap. Alyssa knew that Nick usually liked to sleep on planes because it made the trip seem shorter and it helped him feel more relaxed.

A few minutes later, the flight attendant returned with Nick’s pillow and blanket. She watched as Nick put on a pair of ear phones and then curled up with his head on the pillow and closed his eyes. It wasn’t very long before Alyssa could tell by the steady rise and fall of his chest that he was half asleep.

He drowns in his dreams
An exquisite extreme I know
He's as damned as he seems
And more heaven than a heart could hold


She loved watching him sleep. He always looked so calm and peaceful. You’d never guess just by looking at him now just how tortured he really is inside, she mused. Her thoughts lingered back to their conversation from last night about Stephanie and Aaron. She’d had no idea that his family had actually forbid Aaron to see Nick for a while. Listening to him confess about how he really wished that he could’ve been a better influence on his younger brother’s life, really just about broke Alyssa’s heart. He really was genuinely a good guy on the inside, just misguided.

And if I try to save him
My whole world would cave in
It just ain't right
Lord, it just ain't right


There was something about him that made her want to gather him in her arms and comfort him. Her mind flashed back to his dejected attitude on Christmas Eve after dinner. How he’d insisted that he wasn’t good enough for her family. How he didn’t belong there. She’d had the same desire then to wipe away all the painful memories from his past. Unfortunately, she wasn’t a miracle worker. There was no way she could change the past. All she could do was feel sad and a little angry towards everybody who had made him become the screwed up, complicated, man he was today.

Oh and I don't know
I don't know what he's after
But he's so beautiful
He's such a beautiful disaster
And if I could hold on
Through the tears and the laughter
Lord, would it be beautiful?
Or just a beautiful disaster


Maybe that was the explanation for her attraction to him. Maybe she felt bad for him and her desire to make things better for him, was her motivation to redevelop feelings for him. This whole trip to LA… Their decision to try things again… She had to admit that she had no clue whatsoever where they were heading. Was he serious about getting back together with her? Or was he only telling her what she wanted to hear? Nick frustrated her to no end, in the sense that she felt like he was only saying about ten percent of what he really felt and the rest he kept hidden away. She wished that he’d open up more to her, but of course that would take time and patience.

He's magic and myth
As strong as what I believe
A tragedy with
More damage than a soul should see

He’s been through so much shit
, she bitterly thought to herself. He’s been ripped from his childhood way too soon and thrust into the spotlight. He’s had to deal with all the pressures of remaining a teen idol. His parent’s messy divorce had dragged his entire family through the mud. He’s been hurt by too many women who have tried to take advantage of him in his past… And to think that this was just scratching the surface of the issues that laid inside this man.

But do I try to change him
So hard not to blame him
Hold me tight
Baby, hold me tight


The sad part was that a lot of these things weren’t exactly his fault. Granted, he’d done a lot of stupid things in the past and made some not very smart decisions, but when Alyssa thought about where he was coming from, she realized that she couldn’t exactly pin all of the blame on him. He didn’t know better. The more he confided in her, the more positive she was that his partying and drinking and womanizing were just a defense mechanism that he used to hide his pain. He needs someone like me in his life , she realized.

Oh and I don't know
I don't know what he's after
But he's so beautiful
He's such a beautiful disaster
And if I could hold on
Through the tears and the laughter
Would it be beautiful?
Or just a beautiful disaster


The bold thought made her freeze for a moment. Would it be fair of her to declare that she was exactly what he needed? The cure to all his problems? It was pretty self-righteous of her to suggest. But a part of her honestly believed that. Nick needed someone like her that he could trust. Someone to set him straight and remind him of the way he used to be. Someone to show him how to love again.

I'm longing for love and the logical
But he's only happy hysterical
I'm searching for some kind of miracle
Waited so long
Waited so long


For the last three years of her life, a part of her had been holding out for him. Hoping that he’d have a change of a heart. That he’d give them a second chance. Now, her wish had finally been granted. He’d said the words that she had longed so much to hear. But would they be enough? Would their relationship be able to survive the second time around?

He's soft to the touch
But frayed at the end he breaks
He's never enough
And still he's more than I can take


Only time would be able to tell whether they’d make it or not. All Alyssa knew that it would take a lot of persistence and patience on her part, and she was well prepared for the challenge. She’d readily admit that at times, Nick’s problems seemed way too overwhelming for her to deal with, but she couldn’t deny the fact that she cared a great deal for him. She’d even go as far as to say she loved him, although she was unsure if Nick felt as strongly about her. Their trip to LA was certainly going to answer a lot of the doubts lingering in probably both of their heads.

Oh and I don't know
I don't know what he's after
But he's so beautiful
He's such a beautiful disaster
And if I could hold on
Through the tears and the laughter
Would it be beautiful?
Or just a beautiful disaster

~Beautiful Disaster by Kelly Clarkson

Nick certainly had changed a lot from when she had first known him. He hadn’t always been the broken, relation-phobic man that he was today. Alyssa could remember quite clearly a time when he had been just the opposite. When he had been just as eager to settle down as she had been. She couldn’t help, but to let her memory slip back to the very first time they’d went away together…




**********

“I was thinking… Things have been really crazy around here for the past month or so between you finding out about Katie being pregnant and Meg’s cancer… How about we go away for a weekend, just the two of us?”

Nick’s suggestion had sounded pretty heavenly in Alyssa’s eyes. Although, since Nick had come clean about Katie’s pregnancy, their relationship had remarkably been stronger than ever, they were still both under an incredible amount of stress. As he had mentioned, Meg’s cancer diagnosis had hit Alyssa’s whole family hard, and Alyssa had been struggling with her emotions ever since. In addition, Nick was in the process of putting the finishing touches on the new album with the rest of the guys. Then of course there was the whole Katie issue hanging over their heads.

Since it had nearly destroyed their relationship, Nick had been surprisingly up front with Alyssa about everything. Katie still wanted Nick to be a part of the baby’s life, but left the decision entirely up to him. Nick had seemed to come to terms with the shocking news, and told Alyssa that he intended to take full responsibility for his child. Alyssa had mixed feelings about the whole situation. She knew that Nick was doing the right thing, but a part of her still harbored some jealously towards Katie. No matter what, she’d always have a place in Nick’s life. It amazed her how someone Nick barely knew could share such a special bond with him; a bond that she and Nick didn’t have as close as they were. There was only one way she could think of to sever that bond, and it made her seem like a huge bitch.

When she’d first suggested the idea of Nick filing for custody of the baby, he’d been appalled that she’d even thought of the idea. Katie hadn’t given any indication of being an unfit mother and he couldn’t see himself doing something so sneaky and underhanded to her when she had been nothing, but cooperative throughout the process. Besides, a custody battle would bring the whole mess out into the media which was the last thing Nick wanted, especially with a new album being released. Slowly though, Alyssa began to feel like she was winning him over. She’d painted such a picturesque vision of the two of them caring for a newborn baby together that she was convinced he was actually considering the idea.

There was no doubt that the two could use some romantic one on one time, away from the stresses of all the problems that laid behind in Florida. So, Alyssa had accepted Nick’s offer, and Nick had booked them a weekend at some five star luxury resort in the Bahamas. Alyssa had to admit that she was excited. She’d never been away with a boyfriend before.

The Bahamas had been just as beautiful as she had imagined them to be. It really was the ideal place for a weekend getaway. And Alyssa had to admit that she did kind of like the level of service that the hotel staff awarded them with. She definitely could get used to receiving the royal treatment.

Since they’d arrived though, Nick had seemed very distant, as if he’d been hiding something from her. When Alyssa had questioned him about it, he had muttered something about a “surprise” and that she’d find out “when the time was right.” Her curiosity had definitely been piqued, and she found herself wondering what in the world her surprise could be.

After spending much of their first day lying on the beach, they’d headed back to the hotel. Alyssa had wanted to look in the hotel gift shop for something to bring home for Meg, so while she looked she had urged to Nick to go back to the room by himself to wait for her. Fifteen minutes later, she arrived back to their room with a pucca shell necklace and a glass paperweight with sand that said, “A grain of sand from the Bahamas” on it. She hoped the gifts would cheer Meg up a little in the hospital.

She opened up the hotel room door and saw no sign of Nick. Putting her package and her beach bag on the bed she called for him. “Nick? Where are you?”

“In here, Lyss,” he answered back in the direction of the bathroom.

She stepped into the doorway of the bathroom to find Nick already stretched out in the Jacuzzi tub. “You should really come in. The water feels amazing,” he suggested.

Alyssa had to admit that the bubbly tub did look rather inviting. Without another moments hesitation she slipped out of the beach cover she’d been wearing over her bikini and eased herself down into the steaming water. She closed her eyes, savoring the feeling of the water on her muscles as she submerged herself to her chin. Once, she was inside, she scooted herself next to Nick.

“You’re right. This does feel amazing,” she told him, leaning up to kiss him. It wasn’t until that point that she finally noticed that he’d ditched his swimming trunks long before she’d entered the room.

Reading the recognition on her face, Nick smirked as he pulled her into his lap. “As much as I love the way you look in this...” he told her, fingering the edge of her bikini top. “It has to go.”


I wonder if this is what he meant by my “surprise,” Alyssa wondered as his lips found their way to hers. Although this was nice, she had kind of been expecting something a little more tangible. As the kiss deepened, Nick’s fingertips traveled up towards her neck, pulling at the strings that kept her top in place. Within moments he had it completely untied and removed it from her body.

Any thoughts about the surprise Nick had in store for her flew completely out of her head. Grinning mischievously, she repositioned her body so that she was straddling his lap. Sliding her hands up against his chest, her mouth traced a series of light kisses along his jaw line. She heard him groan in approval and her grin grew wider. She couldn’t help, but to feel satisfied with herself. The whole sex thing was still rather new to her, and she still found it amazing that she had the ability to produce that kind of reaction from him.

Moving down to his neck, she felt his body momentarily tense up for a moment. Alyssa pulled her head up and looked at him. “Are you all right?” she momentarily asked.

Nick’s eyes seemed to be darting nervously towards the direction where his pants were laying a few short feet behind him. “I’m fine, baby. Great in fact,” he assured her with what seemed to Alyssa as almost too enthusiastic a grin.

She shot him a doubtful glance, but refocused her attention back to his neck. Sucking gently at a spot that she knew he loved, she could swear that she could feel his arm reaching for something. “Are you looking for something?” she asked, trying not to sound too annoyed as she pulled away.

“No. I’m not looking for anything,” he replied, his eyes wide with innocence.

“It seemed like you were reaching for something,” she accused.

Nick shook his head. “You must’ve been imagining things.” He reached his hand around to the back of her head pulling her closer to him. “Now where were we?”

“I think right about here…” Her lips connected with his neck again only instead of his arms staying on her they ever so subtly made their way back against the edge of the hot tub. Within another few moments, Alyssa could swear she felt him reaching towards something again with his left arm.

Getting aggravated now, Alyssa didn’t even bother to look up. Instead she reached out and grabbed his arm, to force it around her body. Out of the corner of her eye, she noticed some kind of object fly out of Nick’s hands and go flying with a splash into the hot tub.

“What the hell was that?” she asked as she pulled away and reached over to retrieve the object. Upon closer inspection, Alyssa noticed that it was a small black velvet colored box.

Nick looked sheepish as his cheeks flamed with embarrassment. “Well, uhmm this isn’t exactly how I planned to do this… I wanted to give you this later. I was just waiting for the right moment. I saw it sticking out of my pants pocket and was afraid that you’d see it, so I was trying to push it back in, but when you grabbed my arm, it kind of went flying out of my hand. Go ahead and open it.”

Alyssa slid off of his lap, her hands trembling as she opened the box. She knew what back velvet boxes usually contained, but it couldn’t be. They’d hardly been dating long enough yet and besides this could not possibly be how he planned to ask her to marry him.
I’m sitting here half naked in a hot tub. Completely not the story I want to share with my grandchildren,she told herself. Nope, there was no way that box could contain a ring, at least not an engagement ring.

She gasped in shock as her eyes lay upon the large, sparkling diamond ring that lay nestled in the soft cushioning of the box. “Is this what I think it is?” she asked, completely dumbfounded.

Nick just nodded. “Like I said, this isn’t exactly the scenario I had in mind when I planned on asking you. And I know it’s kind of soon to be doing this, but a part of me has always thought that you were the girl I wanted to marry. So, yea…” He reached for the ring and took her hand in his. “Alyssa, will you marry me?” he asked, slipping the ring onto her finger.

Alyssa just sat there stunned for a moment as she looked at the ring that lay on her finger. She had to admit that she liked the way that it glittered when she held it up to the light. The ring itself was gorgeous. Huge in fact. Almost to the point of looking ridiculous on her finger. But there was something she liked about the way it looked. Granted, they’d never really even discussed the possibility of marriage, but Alyssa figured that they’d have plenty of time to get used to the idea. They were young and they didn’t necessarily have to get married right away. She’d like to finish school first and she knew Nick probably wanted to wait until their next tour was over before he could even think of planning a wedding.

“Yes…” The word was out of her mouth before she even realized that she had said it.

Nick looked relieved as he wrapped his arms around her. “I’m so glad you said that. You were so quiet at first that you really had me sweating it.”

“Of course I said yes,” she gleefully answered. Oh my God, I’m engaged. The news finally hit her. She’d been dreaming about this moment since she was probably about four years old. She was so happy that she even seemed to forget about the awkward way in which Nick was forced to propose. That was until he uttered the most shocking words of all.

“I know that I just asked you and everything, but I was thinking. Since we’re down here in probably the closest to paradise that I can imagine lets get married right away. Tomorrow in fact. Then we can come back home to Florida at the end of the weekend married and surprise everyone.”

Alyssa couldn’t contain her surprise at his suggestion. Asking her to marry him at this stage of the game was strange enough. But wanting to get married less than 24 hours after they got engaged? That was just nuts to her. “What!? Are you crazy?”

“I’m serious!” Nick insisted. “We could get married right out on the beach. Then after we get back we could have like a reception for our family and friends.”

“My parents would never go for that Nick. Besides, I’ve kind of always wanted a big wedding.”

“No one’s taking that away from you,” he pointed out. “You can plan however you want the reception to go. Trust me. We’ll be better off this way. Once the media hears we’re engaged do you honestly think that we’re not going to have every magazine in the country trying to sneak photographers into our wedding? This way we’re one step ahead of them. They can’t ruin our ceremony.”

Alyssa frowned. ‘But what’s to keep them from sneaking into this ‘reception’ we’re planning? I’m sorry Nick, but it seems to me like there’s some kind of ulterior motive here. Why is it so important that we get married right this second? Is this some kind of scheme that your publicist put in your head to garner interest around the new album?”

As soon as she said those words she immediately felt horrible. She could tell just by the reaction on Nick’s face that he was hurt by her accusation. “This isn’t a media scam, I swear to you Alyssa. I love you! I genuinely want to marry you. But I guess maybe there are some other selfish reasons I’m pushing this marriage.” He paused to collect his thoughts. “I’ve been thinking a lot about what you suggested. That I should file for custody of the baby after Katie gives birth. It’ll be hard for me to win a custody battle when my life isn’t very stable. I figured that if we were married it would give us an edge over Katie. At least then a judge could see that the baby would have two loving parents with us. And like I said before, I’ve always known that you were the one. I knew we’d get married eventually. This just means that we’ll have to move things along a little quicker, that’s all.”

She softened at his words. She couldn’t be mad at him with an explanation like that. Not only had he just confessed his love for her, but he also agreed to file for custody. If he was granted it, then she’d be able to share that same bond that she had envied between him and Katie. Yea, she knew that caring for a baby was no joke and would be a lot of pressure. Especially a baby that wasn’t hers, but she was prepared for the challenge. It would be worth it in the end to hurt Katie in the same way that Katie had hurt her. And like Nick had said, they would’ve gotten married at some point anyway. Why not move it up a little bit? “All right,” she found herself agreeing. “Let’s do it. Let’s get married tomorrow.”


**********

Alyssa chuckled to herself at irony of it all. Nick, the man who four years later was scared to death over the word commitment, actually at one point could not get married fast enough. And her… She was almost ashamed of herself. Ripping an innocent child from their mother out of revenge and jealously. Not one of her prouder moments in life. She supposed she should be thankful that things had worked out the way they had. She’d have been a horrible stepmother. At least at that point in her life. She’d been too young and stupid to see how bad of an idea it was.

She glanced at her wrist to check to see what time it was. They still had quite a while to go with the flight. Deciding to take Nick’s lead, she nestled back into her seat and closed her eyes, hoping to fall asleep. If possible, she didn’t want to wake up until they had landed in LA.
Chapter Thirty - Nine by Mellz Bellz
Author's Notes:
Alyssa and Nick arrive in LA where AJ and his girlfriend suspect there's more going on than it appears.
Chapter 39


A few hours later, their flight had successfully landed in LAX despite another mini panic attack from Nick. Unlike Alyssa’s last flight into this airport with Izzy and Tristan earlier that year to surprise Nick in Irvine, this time they’d arrived at their destination on time and with their entire luggage. If this was any indicator of how the next few days were going to be, Alyssa was feeling pretty confident that she’d have nothing to worry about.

The two of them were exiting the baggage claim and heading into the main part of the airport, when it finally dawned on her that someone was probably waiting to pick them up, since she seriously doubted Nick would have left his car in the airport parking lot all weekend. “So, is someone picking us up or are we taking car service to your place?”

Nick had just opened his mouth to answer her question, when Alyssa heard the sound of a familiar rasp calling her name from across the room. Her eyes scanned the crowds and then lit up in recognition as she saw exactly who the voice belonged to. “AJ!” she squealed, as she rushed towards him to give him a hug.

A few seconds later, Nick appeared behind her pretending to look insulted. “I don’t know, J. You must be doing something right because she’s never that happy to see me.”

Alyssa rolled her eyes and playfully smacked him. “No need to get jealous. Just because I don’t jump into your arms the minute I first see you doesn’t mean that I don’t care.” For the first time she noticed that AJ wasn’t alone. Standing beside him was a petite redhead, maybe an inch or two taller than Alyssa, wearing a fitted black shirt and ripped jeans. Alyssa wasn’t entirely sure who she was, but still stuck her hand out politely and decided to introduce herself since no one else had. “Hi, I’m Alyssa. I’m an old friend of Nick and AJ’s.”

AJ finally seemed to remember his manners and put his arm around the redhead. “Oh yea. Before I forget this is my girlfriend Tricia. I’m sorry I didn’t introduce you right away. You didn’t give me the chance to.”

Tricia just shook her head and laughed a little. “Nice to meet you Alyssa. AJ has told me a lot about you.”

“Well, hopefully it was all nice things. You never can tell with this one over here. By the way…” She turned her attention back towards AJ with a hand on her hip. “How come you never mentioned the fact that you had a girlfriend when I saw you in New York, two weeks ago?”

“Uhh… Maybe it had something to do with the fact that I barely said hello to you when Carter over here pretty much kidnapped you and then I didn’t see you again at all?” he shot back.

“Touché. So, how long have you two been dating?”

“Since September when the US tour wrapped up,” Tricia explained. Her eyes darted back and forth between Alyssa and Nick. “What about you two?”

For a second or two, Alyssa was completely thrown by the question. “You mean me and him?” she stupidly asked, gesturing towards Nick.

“Yea… How long have you been dating?”

She froze for a moment, completely unsure of exactly how to go about in answering that question. Although the two of them had agreed on testing the waters so to speak, she was pretty sure that Nick would be pretty hesitant to use the “dating” term just yet. God, we’ve barely landed and already we’re being asked to define our relationship, she thought with a groan. But, she supposed that she couldn’t really blame Tricia. She really didn’t know any better. Alyssa figured that if she was in her shoes, she might have jumped to the very same conclusions. Judging from the stricken look on AJ’s face, she could tell that AJ had neglected to tell his girlfriend their whole sordid tale. Hell, she wasn’t even sure how much exactly AJ knew about her relationship with Nick. She hadn’t talked to him, so unless Nick had mentioned anything he might just as well be in the dark about things as Tricia.

“We’re uhh not dating,” Nick’s voice cut in after what seemed like an eternity of awkward silence. “We’re just friends… Good friends.”

Alyssa inwardly sighed in relief, glad that Nick had answered for her. “Yea, we’re just close friends,” she echoed. “Close friends just spending the New Year with each other.”

“Oh my God… I’m so sorry! I guess I just assumed that you two were going out. Man, do I feel like an ass, or what?” The poor girl’s face was now turning almost as red as her hair.

“It’s okay,” she assured her. “We get it a lot. We’re pretty much used to it by now.” She exchanged a secretive look with Nick and stifled a grin. Wasn’t that the question they’d had to deal with the entire Christmas, from Alyssa’s family?

“We should get going before we get mobbed,” AJ interrupted. “Besides I’m sure the two of you are pretty tired from your flight.”

“Good idea,” Alyssa agreed. Dragging her suitcase behind her, she followed AJ and Tricia towards the exit. “So, AJ? Is it true that Howie has to hold Nick’s hand during every take off?”

AJ smirked. “During every damn one.”




A little while later, the four of them were piled into AJ’s Range Rover on their way to Nick’s house. After leaving the airport, they’d stopped at a McDonald’s drive through because AJ had insisted that Alyssa and Nick had to be starving from their travels. Alyssa and Tricia had teased AJ that he just wanted an excuse to stop at his favorite fast food empire. Alyssa decided that she kind of liked Tricia, despite her mistake of thinking that she and Nick were a couple. She was always pretty critical of the girls that AJ had dated since Meg, but so far she found nothing unlikable about Tricia. She seemed very down to earth and sweet.

“I can’t wait to see your place,” Alyssa told Nick as she munched on a Chicken McNugget. She’d been wondering what his home in LA looked like since she had found out that he had moved out there.

As the words left her mouth, she noticed Tricia staring at her suspiciously from the front passenger seat. “You’ve known Nick a long time now, huh?”

“Yeah. I guess you can say that. A little more than five years now,” she answered.

The suspicion continued to grow on her brow. “And you’ve never been to his house? You’ve been living out here for a couple years now Nick, right?”

Again there was awkward silence. Alyssa supposed that it did seem a little strange that if they were such good friends as Nick claimed, wouldn’t she have visited him at least once before? Of course, the real explanation was that they’d broken up and hadn’t spoken for three years, and it was in that time period that Nick had moved out to LA. But, somehow she got the sense that this wasn’t the time nor place to fully explain the complexities of her and Nick.

Finally Nick spoke up, saving themselves once again. “Yeah, I’ve lived out here for almost three years now I guess. But Alyssa’s never been to my house out here. Long story, but we got to be close while I was living in Tampa and then we had a falling out and didn’t talk for a few years, and that’s when I moved out to LA. We’ve only recently started talking again.”

Tricia seemed thoughtful for a moment, but seemed to accept the answer. “I’m sorry to hear that you two lost touch there for a while, but its nice that you got to be friends again.”

“Yea, I’m glad too,” Alyssa cut in. “Thankfully all of that is in the past now.”

That was close, she told herself. It wasn’t that she didn’t trust Tricia. Just that she hadn’t completely felt her out yet, and although she was positive that she was perfectly nice, she just didn’t feel comfortable telling Tricia that they used to date. If AJ chose to tell her, that was one thing, but Alyssa definitely didn’t want to get into it, especially when she’d only just arrived in LA.

The rest of the ride to Nick’s was pretty uneventful. Exhausted, from the traveling and the time difference, Alyssa curled her head up against Nick’s chest and closed her eyes. Next thing she knew, she was being lightly shaken and she heard Nick’s voice saying that they’d finally arrived home.

She hesitantly opened her eyes, not quite sure what exactly to expect. Her eyes immediately widened. Nick’s house in LA was a lot bigger than his place in Florida had been. She wondered how exactly he could live in such a big house by himself without feeling lost inside. A place like this surely must’ve cost him a pretty penny, and not that he couldn’t afford it, but the Nick Alyssa used to know usually tended to stray away from overly expensive things.

Speaking of overly expensive things, Alyssa’s eyes settled on the pearly white Escalade that they had pulled up behind. Was this seriously Nick’s car? This belongs to the same guy who when I first met him was still driving a Durango?

“Oh no… Don’t tell me you actually drive one of those things,” she dramatically groaned.

“What’s a matter? Are you jealous of my ride?” Nick teased as they climbed out of the car.

Alyssa snorted. “Hardly. I happen to hate those things. And let me tell you, Escalade drivers deserve to have their licenses cut up in little pieces because they are the worst drivers!”

“Hey!”

“It’s true! They think that just because their car is worth more than what most Americans make in a year that they don’t have to obey any traffic laws,” she defended. “Plus, I cannot stand when I’m driving around looking for a parking space somewhere and I see a big ass Escalade parked diagonally, taking up three spaces, so that no one hits it. I bet you’re one of those people right?”

Nick’s face reddened as he muttered, “Well, I don’t want anyone to scratch up my baby.”

“Your baby?” Alyssa laughed. “I’m not even going to waste my time teasing you about that one.” With that she walked around to the back of AJ’s truck to pull out her suitcase. “Let’s just head inside. I’m dying to see what the rest of the house must look like.”




About an hour or two later after Alyssa had been given the basic tour of the house and the two couples had sat around and talked for a bit, AJ stood up from his place at the table. “I think Tricia and I are going to head out now. You two are probably tired from your flight and all and just want to get settled. Give me call tomorrow though. Maybe we can all go out tomorrow night and show Alyssa how we party here in LA. We can even see if Howie wants to come with us.”

“Yea, it sounds good to me,” Nick agreed. “I’ll definitely call you when we decide what we’re doing.”

“It was nice meeting you Alyssa,” Tricia said with a wave as she joined AJ. “Hopefully we’ll see you tomorrow.”

“Nice meeting you too,” Alyssa told her with a smile.

Nick got up and walked them to the door and after a few minutes of goodbyes Tricia and AJ were finally heading out the door and towards AJ’s car. The couple got in and was silent until AJ had backed out of the driveway. “So, what did you think of Alyssa?” AJ finally asked.

“She’s really nice,” Tricia replied. “I’m just not sure if I completely buy her and Nick’s friendship.”

AJ looked confused. “What do you mean by that? You think she’s just using Nick?”

“If it was anyone else maybe… but somehow I don’t think that Alyssa is that kind of a girl.”

“She’s not! I’ve known her for almost as long as Nick has and trust me she’s not the type,” AJ interrupted. “If anything she’s probably one of the better women in his life.”

Tricia looked thoughtful for a moment. “Then why are they just friends? I mean if they’ve known each other for so long and have been so close haven’t they at one point or another at least considered the idea of something more? I can’t see myself being such good friends with a guy for that length of time and not have the thought at least cross my mind.”

AJ sighed and focused his eyes straight ahead on the road. “They dated off and on for about two years. It was a pretty rough relationship. One that neither one of them were probably ready for. I won’t get into ever ounce of drama that went on between them, but pretty much anything that could happen did. Anyway, Nick made the mistake of thinking that if they got married things would be perfect between them. But, not long after he proposed, his parents wound up getting divorced and it really shattered his world. All of a sudden it hit him that even if he and Alyssa got married it was no guarantee that they’d make it. So, he broke off the engagement without really giving her a reason and moved out here to LA. She was devastated.”

Tricia listened intently. “Whoa… Yea I guess you can say they had a ‘falling out’ all right. That actually makes quite a bit of sense based on what I’ve picked up from them. So, how exactly is it that they’re friends again all of a sudden?”

“Long story, but Alyssa is close friends with Izzy, Kevin’s cousin. You’ve never met her, but she’s been best friends with Nick for probably as long as the groups been together. And by the way since you’re in such doubt over how a guy and a girl can be best friends, for the record they tried the dating thing when they were about 14 or 15 for maybe a week and it was just too weird.”

She rolled her eyes. “Thanks for sharing that piece of information because I was just sitting here wondering about who Nick’s first girlfriend was. Can we get to the point here?”

“Oh yea…” AJ scrambled to remember where he left off. “Anyway, so Izzy moved to New York with her boyfriend and got back in touch with Alyssa. Somehow she convinced her to come to one of our shows and afterwards we all went to see her apartment and Alyssa and Nick got to talking. Next thing I know it was like nothing had ever happened. They were like the best of friends again.”

“That quick huh?” Tricia replied with a smirk.

AJ wasn’t sure if he was quite catching on to his girlfriends thoughts. “Yea…I was surprised too. At first I thought it Nick was only interested in her again because it was like a free ticket to get laid. But then I thought about it some more and well… that theory didn’t really make a lot of sense. If Nick just wanted to get laid he could have his pick of girls and not have to even try to be charming. Besides, when Alyssa went to surprise him on tour he passed her over for some other girls. It was almost like he could care less. So, yea… I don’t think there’s anything going on between them besides a friendship. Nick is too much of a man whore anyway.”

“AJ, you’re a guy, so let me ask you this. When you’re attracted to someone that you really shouldn’t be and you’re trying to fight those feelings, what is the first thing that you, as a normal, but not necessarily intelligent, hormonal male do?”

He thought for a moment wondering if this was some kind of trick question. “Uhmm… well I guess I try to pretend those feelings don’t exist and I look for something to distract myself with.”

“Exactly!” Tricia triumphantly pointed out. “And in Nick’s case what does he usually use as a distraction?”

“Women.” AJ sighed. “So you think that Nick was hiding his true feelings about Alyssa by sleeping with other girls?”

Tricia nodded her head. “Makes a lot of sense to me actually. The question is what’s going on now?”

Again AJ looked confused. “What do you mean what’s going on now? They’re friends Tricia. Since when are you so interested in other people’s romances?”

“They’re so more than friends AJ. They’re fucking and you know it!”

“No way! Carter would never be able to keep that shit a secret. If they were, he would’ve told me right away. He’s not one to keep these kinds of things to himself,” he disagreed. “I think you’re wrong.”

She just looked over at him like he was an idiot. “AJ, have you taken a good look at them tonight? The way they’ve been teasing each other? Even just their body language. They were just a little too touchy feely for ‘friends’ that’s all I’m saying. Plus, I don’t know if you noticed, but for the last hour Nick kept shooting you death glares like he wanted us to just leave already. I’m willing to bet that the minute we walked out the door they were going at it.”

“Sorry, but I really don’t want to picture that going on right now.” His body almost convulsed at the thought. “I think you’re just reading too much into this. I know Alyssa and she wouldn’t put up with anything less than a relationship. Besides, no offense, but you barely know them.”

Tricia just tossed her head. “I’m a woman AJ. I have a sixth sense for these things. I say we make a little bet. We try to drag the real story out of them and see which one of us is on the right track.”

AJ appeared interested. “And what are the ‘terms’ of this bet?”

She smirked. “We can think those up at a later time. But I think I’m going to enjoy gloating over the fact that I’m completely right.”

“We’ll see about that one,” he grumbled, as he pulled onto the highway. He was pretty confident that there was absolutely nothing more going on between Alyssa and Nick than a platonic friendship.

At least he was pretty sure… Just to be on the safe side though maybe he’d better take a closer look at the pair the next time he saw them. Just to verify that there was indeed nothing going on. Because there wasn’t. Nick would’ve told him by now. So, he had nothing to worry about in accepting this silly bet.

“All right,” he agreed. “You’re on.”
Chapter Forty by Mellz Bellz
Author's Notes:
Alyssa and Nick are alone at last. More memories from the past come back to haunt Alyssa.
Chapter 40


"I thought that they were never going to leave," Nick groaned as he closed the door behind Tricia and AJ in relief.

Alyssa couldn't help, but to be amused by Nick's obvious attempts at hinting that his friends should leave. Getting up from her seat on the couch and crossing across the room, she wrapped her arms around his waist. "That's not very nice to say about your friends," she teased with a playful smile.

"Well, is it wrong that I've been waiting all day to get you alone?" he asked, tucking a strand of hair behind her ear.

"We're alone now," she pointed out.

"Good point." His hand drifted down towards her chin and slowly guided her mouth towards his. Alyssa closed her eyes and savored the taste of his kiss, losing herself in the moment. She hardly noticed herself being lifted up, until her feet were no longer touching the ground.

"Nick!" she squealed with a giggle as he scooped her up in his arms heading in the direction of the stairs.

They got about halfway up the stairs before Alyssa realized that she couldn’t resist the urge to play just a little dumb. “Are you going to give me that tour of the upstairs now?” she innocently asked.

Nick’s expression lifted up into a cheesy grin. “There’s only one stop on this tour.” Was it Alyssa’s imagination or did he try to wiggle his eyebrows too?
Alyssa rolled her eyes as he set her back on her feet on the top of the landing. “You’re lucky you’re cute Carter because not very many men can pull off a line like that and get away with it.”

He shrugged. “I guess being irresistible has its advantages.” Before Alyssa could respond to that remark, his lips were on hers again in a heated kiss. Without breaking the embrace, he kicked open the door to what she assumed was his bedroom and pulled her inside.

Alyssa’s eyes quickly adjusted to the large dimly lit room. Curiosity over the place where Nick slept at night was pouring over her, but under the circumstances she really wasn’t all that interested in exploring the room. They headed right towards the king sized bed, collapsing on top of it in a tangle of limbs. Alyssa sighed in contentment, feeling the soft mattress beneath her back. The bed was so large that she easily estimated that she could probably roll over at least three times without falling off the edge.

“I wasn’t kidding when I said I’ve been waiting all day to get you alone,” Nick breathed as he pulled her sweater up over her head. “All I could think about was you and how you still owe me from last night.”

Alyssa smirked, feeling practically radiant from his confession. In a way, she’d been feeling exactly the same, only she was just better at hiding her emotions. She herself was a little shocked by how badly she wanted him. You would think that they hadn’t had sex together in weeks, when it had only been the night before last. How did we manage all those weeks apart while he was over in Europe? she wondered. Maybe the secret had been that they hadn’t been near each other, whereas they’d been spending every minute of the past few days with each other.

“Well, just think… We’re finally completely alone and we don’t have to worry about anyone else except ourselves.” Her hands wandered underneath the material of his shirt, her fingertips stroking his skin. “No neighbors in my apartment to overhear us… No fans hanging outside hotel room doors… No parents down the hall… And no annoying little sisters… Sounds pretty perfect to me.”

“Mmm… You’re right,” he agreed, raising up his arms, to help her remove the shirt from his body. “We can finally be as loud as we want.”

A giggle escaped from her lips. “How long does it take you to come up with this stuff?” she teased.

Nick pretended to look hurt. “What? You think that by now I don’t know enough about what to do to make your toes go numb? Maybe I should give you a demonstration.”

Alyssa felt her body go limp as his mouth zeroed in on a sensitive spot near her earlobe. Involuntarily, a moan escaped from her throat as she shivered. Damn him for being right. He really did know just what to do to produce a reaction from her.

Even though the room was dark, she could still barely make out the satisfied grin on Nick’s face. “Yepp. I still got just the right touch,” he bragged.

Ignoring his gloating, she shifted her position so that they were both lying together side by side. Hooking her thumbs inside the top of his jeans, she pulled him closer to her where her lips sought out his. “Okay Nick…” she admitted between kisses. “So, you proved your point. Now why don’t we drop the cheesy lines, okay?”

He just nodded as her fingertips began to play with the button on his jeans while her mouth tugged against his lips. “God Lyssa…” he groaned, while she worked them down his legs. I’m loving this more aggressive side of her, he thought to himself as his hands appreciatively traced along her curves.

His fingertips tangled themselves into her lush curls as he pulled her on top of him. Wasting no time, he fumbled with her jeans, anxious to feel her body against him. He reached his hands around her back to unclasp her bra and practically ripped it away from her body. Another satisfied groan escaped his mouth as Alyssa’s hips grinded up against his. Judging from the wetness he could already feel through the thin, black lacy boy shorts she was wearing, Nick got the impression that he wasn’t the only one who had spent the day anxiously waiting the first moment that they could be alone. Already he was finding it difficult to hold himself back.

The warmth of her breath tickled his neck as her lips strayed from his mouth. Mischievously, her tongue flicked against his earlobe eliciting a low growl from him. I’m not gong to last another minute if she keeps this up, he realized before flipping them over again. It was time to give her a taste of her own medicine. Pinning down her shoulders, his mouth traveled down over her breasts, stopping to tug on her puckered nipples. Alyssa’s back involuntarily arched in response, the frustration in her voice evident.

Nick shot her a cocky grin. “Told you I knew how to make you scream.”

Under any other circumstances, Alyssa probably would’ve argued with him and insisted that she was far from “screaming” but this time she just bit her tongue. “Why do you always have to get the last word in?” she breathily asked.

“Because I’m always right,” he insisted, continuing his descent on her body. His lips came to a halt when he reached her navel, not being able to resist spending a few moments to play with the shiny, jeweled barbell. Her body shivered underneath his, her hands clenched tightly around his shoulders, while his hand drifted downwards fingering the lacy edge of her boy shorts. Just by the way her hips pressed up against his, Nick could tell that she was begging for more.

Sliding his hand over just a little bit, he teasingly rubbed his fingertips up against her, causing a moan to escape her lips. He glanced up at her expression, her eyes closed and her lips slightly parted a look of obvious enjoyment on her face. Grinning devilishly, his hand slipped underneath the thin material. Alyssa gasped at the sensation of his fingers against her and her eyebrows rose in surprise as she felt a long finger slide inside her.

“Mmm…” she groaned, biting down on her lip, as her body automatically responded to his touch. Already she could feel a rush of heat flowing down her body as his fingers pumped faster against her. Once he lowered his mouth to the spot where her tattoo barely peeked out from her boy shorts and his tongue traced over the outline of it, she felt her release unexpectedly consume her. With a loud cry, her body shuddered as she came.

She lay still for a moment catching her breath, before wriggling her boy shorts down her legs, her body still trembling and her face still flushed. Judging by the pained expression on Nick’s face, Alyssa could tell that his patience was wearing thin. “Roll over…” she instructed him as she pulled off his boxers.

Nick did as he was told; staring up at her looking a bit shocked at her boldness. Swinging her leg over his, so that she was straddling him, she leaned down to capture his lips in one last sweltering kiss before sinking down onto him. They both moaned, relief flooding through their bodies before either one of them began to move. When it seemed like neither one of them could take it anymore, Alyssa finally began to rotate her hips, pressing her hands against his chest. His hands dug into her sides, guiding her against him as their pace began to quicken. It had been a long time since Alyssa had tried this position and she was relieved to find that her body instantly remembered how to respond.

As the heat between their bodies increased, she tilted her body slightly forward, so that she was hitting just the right angle. She could hear Nick breathing just as heavily as her and just by the way that his grip on her tightened she knew that he had to be close. Adding just a little more pressure to her movements she dug her nails into his shoulders.

“Lyss…” he groaned between gritted teeth. “I can’t…”

“It’s okay,” she cut him off breathlessly. “I’m right behind you.”

Her body was already beginning to quake when she felt his release underneath her. Moments later, she reached her peak loudly crying out his name before collapsing on top of him.

She buried her head against his damp chest for a moment, fighting to catch her breath, her skin still feeling as if it were on fire. She tried to formulate a rational thought inside her brain, but found that she was too wound up to think clearly.

“So?” Nick’s voice interrupted her thoughts. “Are your toes numb?”

“D-definitely,” she stuttered, surprised she was even capable of speaking more than one syllable at this point. “That was just… wow… It’s never been like that before.”

He chuckled at her obvious loss of words. “Very eloquently put there.”

Alyssa just rolled her eyes at him. “Okay to be more specific it was amazing, ok?”

“And just think… This is only the beginning. You still have quite a few more days out here in LA,” Nick pointed out, looking very satisfied with himself.

She grinned up at him. “Yea I know… I love-“ She froze for a moment, realizing that she’d caught herself just in time. Was she really about to tell him that she loved him just then? By now you should know better that impulsive declarations of love are never a good thing. Remember the last time you blurted your feelings out to him? she criticized herself. It only freaked Nick out and gave him just the motivation that he needed to cheat on you. She had to admit it was pretty tempting to let those three words slip out, but it was all in a moment of passion. He probably wouldn’t even take it seriously. Her mind frantically raced for a way to pull her foot out of her mouth until finally something popped into her head. “I love LA!” she exclaimed. Okay, it wasn’t the most ideal thing to say just then, but it was the best that she could do.

Luckily if Nick thought that her sudden obsession with LA was a little strange, he didn’t show it. He just wrapped his arms around her tighter and pulled her body closer to his. “You know what I love?” he asked, in a husky voice near her ear.
Me? she guessed. It was a nice daydream, but not very realistic, especially coming from Nick, but she could hope right? “What?”

“I love it when you’re like all aggressive and in control like you were tonight. It’s really hot,” he confessed. “I mean not that it’s not usually, but it’s a side of you that doesn’t really come out all that often and I don’t think you realize how sexy it really is.”

Alyssa’s cheeks reddened. It wasn’t a declaration of love, but coming from Nick she figured that it was close enough. “So, you’re saying that you want me to be bolder?”

“Yea, something like that. Confidence is a huge turn on as well. Sometimes I feel like you’re holding back a little. You don’t have to do that.”

“All right,” she agreed, nestling her head in the crook of his arm. Hearing Nick yawn beside her, she gazed up at him. “Tired?”

Nick nodded. “Yea… I think it’s all this bouncing back and forth between time zones. It’s still pretty early, but I’m exhausted.”

“So am I.” Her face broke into a grin. “And this bed is so comfortable that I’m sure I’ll have no problem falling asleep tonight.”

“Yea too bad I’m never home long enough to actually do much sleeping in it,” he explained as he closed his eyes. “Goodnight Lyss.”

“Night,” she echoed back, planting a kiss on his cheek before shutting her own eyes. Although Nick’s bed was very comfortable, Alyssa found herself having much more difficulty falling asleep than she’d anticipated. Her mind seemed too jumbled with the events of the past few days and what lay ahead until New Years. Her eyes opened again and fell upon Nick sleeping beside her. Just like on the plane ride out to LA she watched him for a moment, taking in his peacefulness. She had to admit that so far their new beginning seemed to be off to a great start.

But then again with Nick I feel like I’m always waiting for the other shoe to drop. It seemed as if every time it finally seemed as if they actually had it all together, something would come along to destroy the illusion. That’s not going to happen this time, she argued. Things are different now. We’re different now. Not just two stupid kids trying to rush our futures.
Her mind flashed back to the memory of her and Nick’s trip to the Bahamas that she had been remembering while on the plane this afternoon. That had just been another perfect example of how volatile their relationship had been. One moment he had been asking her to marry him and the next she was heading on a plane back home… by herself.

*********

Somehow I just don’t think this is exactly how a bride is supposed to feel on her wedding day, Alyssa thought to herself as she applied one last sweep of her mascara. She’d hardly even gotten used to the idea of being engaged and less than 24 hours later she was supposed to be getting married? It boggled her mind how absurd the situation was. What was she thinking last night when she’d agreed to go through with Nick’s scheme?

Her eyes wandered down towards the glittering rock on her left hand as she reached for her curling iron, which had just finished heating up.
This is the deal bummer about eloping, she realized as she burnt her finger trying to wrap a section of hair around the thick barrel. She cursed pressing her finger to her mouth. She’d never been great at doing hair and would’ve much preferred to have a professional do it for her. Or even her own mother who had been a hairdresser in her earlier years. Mom… she thought sadly, for the first really noticing what an impact her absence had on her. In the wedding of her dreams, Alyssa had always pictured her mother beside her, helping her to get ready the morning of the ceremony. She’d also pictured Megan as her maid of honor looking absolutely stunning and Stephanie as a bridesmaid complaining about having to wear something so girly. There’d be a church filled with her friends and relatives and a white stretch limo to ride to the lavish reception afterwards…

Reality slapped her in the face as she glanced at her image in the mirror. Instead of the flowing white princess gown, she’d always imagined her wedding dress to look like, she was wearing a simple white cotton sundress. She’d done the best she could with her makeup and she was currently still struggling with the curling iron to get her hair into even looking curls. In comparison to what she had envisioned herself to look like in her head, she looked pretty pathetic. With only half an hour before she was supposed to meet Nick out on the beach, she was feeling hopeless that she’d ever be able to make herself presentable.

Her mind drifted to how her family and friends would react to the news of her and Nick’s surprise wedding. She knew they’d be disappointed that they hadn’t been there and hurt that the two of them had went behind everyone’s back.
My parents will probably already start counting fingers assuming that this is a shotgun wedding and I’m pregnant, she thought with a smirk. Her mind tried to rationalize that what she was doing was actually benefiting her family in the long run. With three girls in the family, I’m doing my parents a favor by eloping. That’s one less wedding they’ll have to worry about.

Who am I kidding? she thought, finally realizing how ridiculous she was being. She could lie to herself all she wanted, but the truth was she’d wanted a big wedding ceremony with the fancy dress and the photographers and the flowers and the cake. She actually wanted the stress of planning a wedding. She wanted bridesmaids and a bridal shower and hell, an engagement party first and foremost.

If Nick really loves you as much as he says he does, he’ll understand, a little voice in her head said. She understood his rush to get married so that they could file for custody for the baby, but surely the fact that they were intending on getting married would be enough in a judges eyes. Taking a deep breath she knew what she had to do.




Half an hour later, Alyssa arrived at the spot on the beach that Nick had requested she meet him at. Still a distance away, she stopped for a moment to take in the scene. Nick was talking to a man who she assumed was some sort of justice of the peace. Instead of wearing at least a suit, he was wearing a pair of rolled up khakis and a loose white button down shirt. Definitely not what she had imagined which only solidified her decision.

Nick looked up as she approached them, his face contorting in a look of surprise. “Lyssa? Why aren’t you ready?” he asked, sounding confused to find her in a pair of denim shorts and a tight fitting t-shirt, her hair messily thrown up on the top of her head, and all of her makeup scrubbed away. “You better run back to the hotel and get dressed.”

“Nick, there’s something I need to tell you,” she firmly stated, twisting the engagement ring around her finger.

A worried look came over his face. Turning to the justice of the peace he asked, “Can we have a moment?”

The man nodded and Nick grabbed Alyssa by the arm and pulled her a few feet away, so that they were out of earshot. “What the fuck is this about?” Nick practically growled.

Alyssa’s stomach flip flopped at how upset Nick sounded. Somehow she had a feeling this wasn’t going to be as easy as she thought. “I’ve been thinking,” she started with a deep breath. “You know I love you very much, but-“

“But you don’t want to marry me right?” he cut her off. “Don’t you think this is something that you probably should have told me, I don’t know… yesterday?”

“I do want to marry you!” she insisted. “Just not today. Not here. Not now. I want a wedding where all our friends and family can attend. I want the kind of wedding that I’ve been dreaming about since I was four years old. And this… This isn’t it.”

Nick looked frustrated. “You agreed to this last night. Remember we said that we’d have a reception when we got back home for our friends and family.”

“It’s not the same Nick. It just doesn’t feel right to me.”

“Don’t do this to me Alyssa!” he begged. “Don’t make an ass out of me after everything I’ve done to make today special. You’re not going to embarrass me by backing out on me now. What am I supposed to say to this man?”

“That we changed our mind and decided to wait,” she explained through clenched teeth. Already she could feel herself beginning to get upset. “Why are you so obsessed with the fact that we have to get married right this minute? Can’t we just enjoy the fact that we’re engaged for a little bit. What’s the hurry?”

“If I remember correctly it was you who kept pushing me to fight Katie for custody of the baby,” he pointed out.

Alyssa looked puzzled. “And what does filing for custody have to do with us getting married?”

“I explained before. If we’re married then we look more stable to the judge which gives us an edge over Katie.”

“So, in other words you only want to marry me so that you can have custody of your illegitimate child?” Alyssa’s blood was boiling at this point as tears filled up her eyes. “And here I thought it was because you genuinely loved me and wanted to spend the rest of your life with me.”

“I do!” he insisted. “I wanted to marry you someday. Just now I have reason to move it up a little bit is all.”

She sighed. “Nick, I don’t think we’re as ready as you seem to think we are for marriage. Obviously we’re in two different places right now. So…” She paused to slip the ring off of her finger and placed it in his hand… “Let’s just call this whole thing off.”

Nick looked completely bewildered. “But what about the baby?”

“Is that all you care about? I’ll admit that there was a time where I wanted that baby just for the satisfaction of knowing I took something from Katie the same way she took you from me. I know… Pretty damn bitchy of me and not the most mature decision I’ve ever made,” she admitted. “But all of a sudden it just doesn’t seem all that important to me anymore.” Without another word she turned around and started walking away before the tears began to fall down her face.

“Alyssa! Come back!” she heard Nick’s voice pleading behind her. “Don’t walk away from me please!” She ignored him, knowing that they just needed some time apart to think things over.

Then he said the unthinkable. “You keep walking away like that and we’re through! I mean it this time!”

She stopped dead in her tracks, contemplating the decision he had placed upon her. She could go back to him, but could they really work out all of their many issues? Slowly turning around she saw the hopeful look in Nick’s eyes and it broke her heart to know what she was about to do.

“Sorry Nick. If you’re in such a hurry to get married and you want custody of your child so bad maybe you should give Katie a call.”

**********
Chapter Forty - One by Mellz Bellz
Author's Notes:
A run in with the paparazzi causes tensions between Alyssa and Nick.
Chapter 41


For the first time since her and Nick had rekindled their relationship, Alyssa awoke disappointed to find him not lying beside her. She could clearly remember that one morning back in September when they’d finally given in to the attraction that still sparked between them. The feeling of dread that had filled her before she opened her eyes, knowing that they’d have to ultimately face the consequences of what they had done, was a feeling that she couldn’t easily forget. On this morning though, almost three months later, Alyssa found that she had actually been looking forward to waking up beside him. Instead when she opened her eyes she was met with an empty spot where he had just been.

Rubbing the sleep from her eyes before extending her arms outwards to stretch, she felt her arm brush against something on the pillow. Looking over she realized that it was a large post-it note attached to the top of Nick’s pillowcase. She sat up and grabbed the note her eyes squinting to make out Nick’s scrawled handwriting.

Alyssa,
I just took a look in my fridge and realized that since I haven’t really been home for very long yet, I don’t really have anything to eat. So, I went to go pick up something for breakfast. In the meantime if you want to take a shower the bathroom is across the hall and there should be clean towels in the closet. I’ll try to be back soon.
Nick


Alyssa let out a small sigh of relief. Even though she knew it was a little ridiculous to think that Nick had run out on her, especially when she was in his house, a part of her couldn’t help but to be just a little worried that he had left her alone. Don’t be stupid, Alyssa she reminded herself. Nick just ran out to get some food. He’ll be back before you even know it.

She reached down towards the floor for the nearest piece of clothing which happened to be Nick’s t-shirt and slipped it on over her head. Her suitcase was still downstairs where she’d dumped it as soon as they’d arrived home from the airport the night before. She’d have to have Nick help her drag it up the stairs later, but for now she at least needed to grab her carry on bag which contained all her essential items like her toothbrush and her shampoo among other things.

After a quick trip downstairs to grab what she needed, she headed across the hall to where Nick had told her the bathroom was located. Stepping inside, she gasped in amazement. His bathroom has to be about twice the size of my bedroom in my apartment, she realized. After a minute or two of gaping, she grabbed herself some fluffy looking bath towels from the closet, her eyes darting back and forth between the frosted glass shower stall and the separate large, old fashioned bathtub in front of her. As tempting as a bubble bath seemed, she opted for the shower, figuring that she could try the bathtub out later in the week.

She turned on the water and while she waited for it to warm up she pulled Nick’s shirt over her head. Once she was satisfied with the water temperature, Alyssa stepped underneath the spray, sighing in contentment. This sure beats the shower in my apartment, she decided, thinking about the tiny stall that was barely enough room for herself and the showerhead that never seemed to pump out water at a full force. Then there was the unpleasantness of having to wait a full fifteen minutes before she could get any hot water…

I sure could get used to this, she thought to herself as she squeezed some shampoo into the palm of her hand and began to massage it into her scalp. As much as she prided herself on being self-sufficient and independent, the reality of it was that struggling to afford a New York City apartment on her measly salary was anything but glamorous. It was kind of nice staying at Nick’s house with all its luxuries for a change. It was nice staying with Nick period.

A grin spread over her lips as her thoughts lingered back to the night before. Reaching up to rinse the shampoo out of her hair, she had to admit that she’d never had such intense feelings for any of the other men she’d dated in the past, and as thrilling as the feeling was, it also scared her. Was there such a thing as too much passion in a relationship? Could their feelings for each other be so intense that they could cause complete destruction? Their relationship was volatile enough to begin with. What would happen if something were to light the fuse that would cause it all to blow up in their faces?

Alyssa was so engrossed in her thoughts that she hadn’t even heard the bathroom door open or notice the presence of anyone else, until out of the corner of her eye she noticed the shower doors spring open behind her. She nearly jumped a mile in surprise when a pair of familiar arms encircled her waist. “Good morning,” Nick’s voice tickled against her ear. “Sleep well?”

She whirled her body around so that she was facing him. “You scared the shit out of me!”

Nick raised his eyebrows at her. “I did? Why? Were you expecting someone else?”

Alyssa just rolled her eyes already feeling her cheeks heating up as she stammered, “No… Just that I wasn’t… I mean… I’m not really used to anyone sneaking up behind me on the shower anymore.”

“But I used to do it all the time,” he pointed out with a pout.

“And it’s been quite a while since.”

“Well…” his voice teased between placing a few light kisses along her neck. “I suppose if you really feel that uncomfortable I could just leave you alone.”

Alyssa bit back a moan. “No, that’s okay,” she insisted. “I mean you need to shower too and-“

“It saves time for us just to do it together?” Nick cut her off.

“That and its more environmentally efficient. You know less water and all that.”

“Since when do you care so much about water conservation?”

“Since when do you know words like conservation?” Alyssa retorted. “I’m impressed!”

Nick placed his palm over his chest pretending to be hurt. “That really hurts Alyssa. And after I went out and got you something really special for breakfast too.”

“What’d you get me?” she asked, sliding her arms loosely around his neck.

“You’ll see,” he assured her as he turned her so that her back was leaning up against the wall. “But breakfast can wait a little bit.”

His lips met Alyssa’s in a kiss, so surprisingly deep that she was thankful that she was leaning against something. All of a sudden she could care less about breakfast…




About forty-five minutes later the two of them were downstairs fully dressed at the kitchen table. “So, what’s for breakfast?” Alyssa asked, finally remembering that had been what Nick had gone out to get earlier in the first place.

“Something that you absolutely love, but don’t get to have very often because you can’t find it by you in New York,” Nick hinted placing two styrofoam containers in front of her.

“Hmm…” Alyssa poked the corner of one the boxes. “This wouldn’t happen to be something that I got hooked on while I was living in Florida, would it?”

Nick shrugged. “Guess you’ll just have to open it up and see.”

She wasted no time in opening up the tops on both containers. Nick watched as her face broke into a pleased looking grin. “Denny’s!” she squealed. “You completely rock! I can’t believe the nearest one for me in New York is like a two hour drive.”

He laughed at her reaction. “I remember how obsessed you are with Denny’s, so I figured why not? You still like the lumberjack slam, right?”

Alyssa nodded her head. “And you even remembered the french fries instead of home fries.”

“Well, it’s kind of hard to forget, french fries with pancakes,” he pointed out.

“Shut up. Don’t knock it until you’ve tried it! But seriously thank you. That was very thoughtful of you.”

“You’re welcome.”

The two ate in silence for a moment until Alyssa interrupted. “So, what’s on the agenda for today?”

“Since I figured that there was no way that I was going to get you to come out to LA without at least one shopping trip, I thought that we could get that out of the way today,” Nick suggested. “We can go downtown and I can show you all the touristy things and watch you gawk at all the designer stores.”

Alyssa pretended to look shocked. “You shop? Voluntarily?”

He nodded. “Yes, and it doesn’t happen very often, so you better take advantage before I change my mind.”

“Okay it sounds like a plan to me,” she agreed. “What about tonight? Didn’t AJ say something about going out somewhere later?”

Nick shrugged. “I’ll have to call him later to find out what he wants to do, but I’m sure we’ll figure out something.”

Alyssa just nodded and went back to eating her breakfast. She had to admit that she was pretty excited about going shopping in LA. I’m such a tourist, she thought with a smile. You’d think that living in New York City would mean that nothing could faze me. In reality though, she knew that she wouldn’t be able to help to feel just a little star struck shopping in some of the very same stores as her favorite celebrities. Of course she probably wouldn’t be able to afford more than a tin of mints, but that was beside the point.

She wolfed down her pancakes in record time and sounding just like a little girl on Christmas morning she turned to Nick and asked, “Can we go now?”

Nick laughed at her eagerness, knowing that it was no use in making her wait any longer. He was kind of looking forward to her reaction to places like Rodeo Drive. Her enthusiasm was just adorable and it was nice for once to be in the presence of a girl that would be easily impressed by the Hollywood lifestyle. “Yea sure, we can go. But let’s go out through the garage. I didn’t get a chance last night to show you my other toys.”

“You mean there’s more?” she asked in a surprised voice. As long as Alyssa had known Nick he’d only owned one car. He’d claimed that anything more than that would just be impractical. So, what had changed?

She followed him out through the garage doors and stopped dead in her tracks when her eyes landed on the monstrosity that lay before them. “Oh my God… I’m speechless,” she managed to choke out at the sight of the practically glowing yellow Hummer parked in front of her.

“It’s hot isn’t it?” Nick asked her with a wide grin on his face.

“Oh, it’s something else all right,” she muttered. “And I thought the Escalade was bad.”

She watched Nick’s expression fall from his face. “You mean you don’t like it?” Was it her imagination or could she practically see his chin quiver?

“Uhm…Well, it’s certainly noticeable,” she told him, fighting for something halfway nice to say about it. “I’m just not very big on trucks in general.”

“It’s not a truck,” he explained. “It’s an SUV. There’s a difference.”

Alyssa rolled her eyes. “Excuuuse me, Mr. SUV. I was trying to be nice here. You know between this and the Escalade, if I didn’t know any better, I’d probably start to think that-“

“Don’t even say it,” Nick warned, knowing exactly what she was getting at.

Alyssa’s grin only grew wider, knowing that he comment would be sure to piss him off. “- that you’re trying to compensate for something!” She immediately turned her expression into one of innocence and batted her eyelashes at him.

She had to bite her lip to try not to laugh as she saw Nick’s face redden. “Well, we know that’s not true.” He grabbed her by the waist and pinned her against the side of the Hummer. “So, I’m afraid you’ll have to come up with another theory,” he told her, his lips drawing nearer to hers.

Alyssa closed her eyes and welcomed the unexpected kiss. She loved this new playfulness that had developed between the two of them. It was an indication that the awkwardness that had originally laid between them had finally begun to dissipate and comfort had taken its place. If things stay like this between us we’ll have no problems.

Reluctantly, she pulled away from the kiss, about to come up with some kind of snarky response, when something caught her attention out of the corner of her eye. Parked on the other side of the Hummer was another car that Alyssa hadn’t noticed before. “And what’s this one?” she asked, already making her way towards it.

Nick smirked as he watched her admire the sleek black BMW with an impressed look on her face. “I see my chick magnet has worked its magic once again.”

Alyssa seemed to ignore his comment as she continued to examine everything from the leather seats to the sun roof. “Now this is a car,” she murmured.

“I take it that this one meets your approval?”

She just nodded tossing him a playful grin. “Definitely my favorite by far. I think I now see why so many girls fantasize about having sex in one of these babies.”

The shocked look on Nick’s face made Alyssa have to bite down on her lip to keep from laughing. She loved to purposely come out with unexpected responses like that just to see how he would react. Yea… Maybe it was being a bit of a tease, but it was fun. After it seemed like he had recovered he attempted to play along. “And are you one of them?”

Now it was Alyssa’s turn to gasp and pretend to act shocked. Playfully she swatted him on the arm. “You wish Carter.”

Rubbing his arm where she’d hit him he shot her a lopsided grin. “I’ll take that as a yes.”

“You have a very interesting way of interpreting things,” she noted. “So, do you have any other cars hiding anywhere else or can we get to that shopping now?’

“No, that’s it. I suppose you want me to take this baby, huh?” Nick asked patting the hood of the BMW.

“As much as I’m dying to take a ride in that thing it doesn’t look like it has very much room for packages. Maybe we better take the Escalade instead. I can fit more shopping bags in there.”

Nick rolled his eyes. “Funny how all of a sudden you don’t mind the size once it comes to shopping.”

“Yes, well I suppose it has its advantages. Now let’s get going. I already feel like I’m missing out on sales as we speak,” Alyssa insisted.




Shopping turned out to be more disappointing to Alyssa than she had originally anticipated. With every store they entered, she felt more and more self conscious as if she had no right to even be looking at the high priced fashion that was most definitely out of her budget. At first, she had been excited, expecting any minute for Jessica Simpson or Lindsay Lohan to come waltzing in on a shopping spree, but so far there had been no celebrity sightings. Must be a slow day in Hollywood, she mused.

What was even more depressing was the fact that everything that she saw and liked was way more than she could afford. By the time they had walked into their seventh or eighth shop, she still had not bought one item. They were in Marc Jacobs when Nick finally decided to comment on her lack of purchases. “What’s wrong? We’ve been in more than half a dozen stores already and you haven’t even considered at least trying anything on. I know that’s not like you.”

Alyssa just shrugged, too embarrassed to admit that she couldn’t afford anything. “I haven’t really seen anything that I’m crazy about. If I’m going to max out my credit card on an overpriced designer article of clothing I’m really going to have to love it.”

“But you’re in LA,” he insisted. “You can’t come out here and not splurge on something ridiculously expensive that you can’t really afford.”

“That’s easy to say when you don’t have to pay rent each month.” She pulled a soft looking black sweater from a rack for closer inspection. With one glance at the price tag she quickly put it down as if it were contaminated. “There goes my credit limit.”

It was then that Nick remembered how bare her apartment had been when he had visited her in September. How she had criticized him for even thinking that she could afford a new car after hers had been stolen. Things had been going so good between the two of them these past few days that he had almost forgot that Alyssa’s financial situation wasn’t the same as when they were dating. Of course she wouldn’t be able to afford to wear designer clothes. She was probably sick of looking at things that she would love to have, but could never afford.

He focused his gaze back on Alyssa who had moved on to another rack and was gazing longingly at a classy looking beige, double breasted, trench coat. “That’s a nice jacket there.”

Alyssa looked up at the sound of his voice. “Yea, it’s very timeless. And it’s perfect for New York City in the spring and fall.” She glanced over at the price tag and made another pained look. “But yea… It’s cute, but not $600 cute.”

It was easy to read the disappointment in her eyes and Nick immediately felt bad. He could tell that she really liked the coat, and it was definitely something that she could use. “If you really like it that much I’ll buy it for you.”

At first Alyssa’s eyes lit up, but then as his words sunk in they clouded over again. “No, Nick. That’s all right. Six hundred dollars is way too much to spend on me. I know that’s practically pocket change to you, but you paid for me to fly out here and even when you came to visit me you paid for everything. I can’t let you do this.”

“It’s really not a big deal Lyss. I can tell you really want it.”

He’d forgotten how stubborn she could be. “Really, Nick. I saw a similar jacket in the Victoria’s Secret catalogue for like a hundred. I don’t need to pay the extra money for the name. It’s probably almost exactly the same.”

“Please let me buy it for you?” he pleaded, for the last time.

“No! I don’t want the fucking jacket!” she exploded. He could see that he had definitely pushed her too far. That was Alyssa for you. No one could accuse her of being a gold digger like some of his past girlfriends. Alyssa had always liked nice things, but had always been hesitant to accept expensive gifts from him. She’d once told him that she didn’t want people to think that she was only dating him for material things. Maybe that explained her reluctance to let him buy anything for her.

Luckily Nick’s sidekick began to ring, breaking the tense moment. Pulling it out of his pocket, he saw that it was AJ calling and he got an idea. “It’s J. Do you want to do me a favor and answer it for me? It’s probably about tonight. I just want to look at some shirts over there.”

“Sure,” she agreed, taking the phone from him.

“You may want to take it outside.” He cocked his head towards the salesgirls. “They don’t really like people talking on cell phones in here.”

Alyssa gave him a weird look, but seemed to buy the weak excuse. “Fine. I’ll meet you outside when you’re done.” He watched as she headed out the store already distracted by her conversation with AJ.

As soon as he was convinced that the coast was clear, he picked up the trench coat from the rack. He wasn’t going to take no as an answer from her this time. He’d buy it for her and give it to her before she flew back to New York. That way she wouldn’t have time to try and return it.

As he brought it up to the register all he could think of was how much Alyssa would kill him once she found out what he had done, but she’d get over it. She always did.




Alyssa was just ending her conversation with AJ when Nick stepped out onto the sidewalk clutching a shopping bag. “You actually bought something?” she asked, surprised at the irony of the situation.

“Yea, just some shirts I saw and liked.” He quickly changed the subject before she could grow anymore suspicious. “So, what did AJ have to say? Did he figure out what we’re doing tonight?”

She nodded. “Yea, he said that he and Tricia will come by to pick us up around eight. He mentioned something about dinner at a Mexican restaurant that’s supposed to be really good and then heading out to a club. He already talked to Howie and he said that he’s in and he’s bringing his girlfriend. He asked Kevin and Melanie if they wanted to come also, but they declined. Apparently Melanie doesn’t like being out in crowds because of the baby and all I guess.”

Nick rolled his eyes. “Yea, ever since they learned that they were having a baby they’ve turned into a bunch of party poopers. Their idea of a hot night is falling asleep together on the couch with a movie.”

“Well, no offense Nick, but Kevin is a little old for the whole club scene anyway.”

“Ooh! I’m telling Kevin that you called him old!” he teased.

“Go ahead,” she told him. “How old are we again anyway? Ten?” Alyssa paused for a moment. “By the way, I didn’t even know that Howie was seeing anyone?”

Nick started to laugh. “Oh yea, I forgot to tell you about that one. They make a pretty interesting couple.”

Alyssa just stared at Nick as he continued to laugh. “What do you mean by interesting? I don’t get it.”

He finally managed to control his laughter. “You’ll have to see it with your own eyes, but let’s just say that Teri is the complete opposite of Howie in every way imaginable. They’re very much the odd couple.”

“That does sound interesting. Tonight definitely should be eventful then, huh?”

Nick just nodded his head. “Hey, are you hungry? Maybe we can stop and get some ice cream or something?”

“Cold stone?” she asked in a hopeful voice.

“Of course. I think there’s one within walking distance.”

The two began to walk down the street hand in hand. Halfway down the block, Alyssa felt his arm slip around her waist and his thumbs hook into the belt loops of her jeans. Oh God, she thought. We’ve become one of those couples I hate who can barely walk because they’re too busy hanging on each other. But secretly she didn’t mind. Just the fact that he felt comfortable enough to walk that way with her in a very public scene meant a lot to her. Like as if the walls were finally beginning to come down between them.

And she was reminded just how public the streets of downtown LA could be as they rounded the next corner. A small group of men with cameras were standing a few feet away and as soon as they spotted the two of them, flashes began to dance before her face. So, this is the paparazzi, she realized.

Her experiences with them in the past had been minimal. Living in Florida they weren’t as common as out here in LA and although she’d encountered them at awards shows and such, never had she been approached with Nick when they were just going about their own business. “Just keep walking and ignore them,” Nick advised through gritted teeth as they approached. “Don’t say a word. They’ll lose interest after they get their pictures.”

Alyssa just nodded. Nick sounded as if he had a lot of experience when it came to dodging the paparazzi, but she supposed he must have learned from dating Paris judging from the number of pictures she’d seen of the two of them in tabloids. Before she knew it they were on them, each of them firing questions at once almost faster than they could snap the pictures.

“Nick, who’s the girl?”

“How long have you two been dating?”

“What’s your name there, sweetheart?”

Alyssa’s heart hammered in her chest as she glanced over at Nick beside her. He just kept on walking stone faced, straight ahead as if the reporters never existed. Now I know why all the celebrities wear such big sunglasses, she noted, thankful for the large frames she had shielding most of her face. At least now if she landed in the middle of some tabloid no one would be able to positively identify her.

Then one of the men uttered the one question that couldn’t be ignored. “Nick, can you comment on the rumors that Kevin might be leaving the group to be with his wife and upcoming child once this tour ends?”

Alyssa felt Nick stop dead in his tracks and her stomach automatically flip-flopped. Kevin leave the group? This is the first I’ve heard about this! Kevin wouldn’t… But then all of a sudden she remembered a comment that Nick had made a few weeks earlier at Jingle Ball…
"It was great. Over much too quick though. And of course it’s not the same with only four Backstreet Boys."

"Yea, I know what you mean." Was it just her imagination or did he seem to be looking right at Kevin as he said that?


I'm probably just reading into this too much, Alyssa told herself as she brushed the comment aside. It was probably an innocent remark…

Was it possible that even then Kevin had been considering quitting the group? Was he even considering it? Or was it just a rumor?

She watched in shock as Nick’s face reddened in anger. “Where the fuck did you hear something like that?”

“It’s all over the internet,” the man explained. “Is it just speculation or is there some truth in the matter?”

“Of course it’s not true! I don’t know why the fuck you would believe some shit like that! And for your information if Kevin were really leaving the group, which he’s not, why would you think I’d tell you assholes?”

“For just a rumor you seem to be getting pretty hot under the collar,” noted another man. “If there isn’t any truth behind it, why are you so defensive?”

“Because it’s none of your fucking business!” Nick exploded.

“No need for all the foul language, man,” the first man began again. “Do you kiss you girlfriend there with that same mouth?”

Bringing Alyssa into it proved to be going too far for Nick’s liking. Unexpectedly he lunged at the man so roughly that Alyssa had to fight to hold him back. “Nick, don’t do this, please,” she begged. “Don’t make a bad situation worse. You’re only giving them what they want.”

Nick didn’t listen though and grabbed the man by the collar of his shirt. “It’s bad enough you’re harassing me, but leave her out of this! You got it?”

The guy just nodded and Nick loosened his grip. “Oh, yea. And one more thing. Hand over the film.”

The man hesitated which only made even angrier. “Hand over the fucking film right now before I call the cops!”

This time the men listened and unloaded their film. Alyssa watched the scene completely petrified. She’d never seen Nick so angry before. It scared her to see how violent he had become.

“Now get the fuck out of here.”

The men quickly retreated and Nick started off down the street walking so fast that Alyssa had to practically run to keep up with him. “What was that all about?” she asked. “There are rumors going around about Kevin leaving the group?”

Nick’s voice was flat and cold. “I don’t want to talk about it Alyssa.”

“Why’d you get so pissed off though? It’s not true, right? Kevin’s not leaving, is he?” she continued to press.

“I said I don’t want to fucking talk about it Alyssa! God… Why are you always so damn intrusive? You’re not my fucking shrink you know.”

His words were like a slap in the face to her. She bit her lip as tears welled up in her eyes. She hadn’t meant to be nosy. She just sensed that there was more to the story that Nick was keeping from her. I only wanted to help him. If only he weren’t so goddamn stubborn and actually opened up to me instead of repressing everything! Well, I’m not in the mood to deal with his bullshit today, especially after everything seemed to be going so well.

“You know what Nick? Screw the ice cream. Take me back to your place. All of a sudden I’m not much in the ‘shopping’ mood.”
Chapter Forty - Two by Mellz Bellz
Author's Notes:
The secret comes out about Nick and Alyssa's relationship.
Chapter 42


If there was one thing that Alyssa was the master of it was multitasking. She never could handle doing only one thing at a time without getting distracted. Which explained exactly how she could be upstairs in one of the extra bedrooms at Nick’s, getting ready to go out that night, while at the same time, managing to have a conversation with Meg on her cell phone. Her older sister had called to make sure that she had arrived in LA safely and now of course wanted to hear all the juicy details of what had been going on since she had arrived.

“So, are you doing anything exciting tonight?” Meg curiously probed.

“Sort of,” Alyssa grumbled, cradling the phone between her ear and her neck as she applied her eyeliner. “We’re going out to dinner with Howie, AJ, and their girlfriends. Then I think we’re going to hit a few clubs or something.”

“Oh… I didn’t know Howie and AJ were seeing anybody?”

Translation: I didn’t know that AJ was seeing someone, Alyssa pieced together just from the tone of her sister’s voice. Even though it had been years since Meg and AJ’s little fling and now that Meg was happily married, Alyssa couldn’t help but to notice that Meg still seemed very sensitive about anything having to do with AJ. It seemed as if a small part of her still hadn’t moved on even after all this time. Maybe it’s not so different than me and Nick? she wondered for a moment before shaking off the ludicrous thought. AJ seemed pretty happy with Tricia and even though Meg had confided to her that she and Scott were having their problems, she couldn’t see Meg being the type to seek comfort in the arms of a past boyfriend.

Keeping in mind her sister’s transparent coolness about the matter, Alyssa decided to keep her explanation as delicate as possible. “Yea, neither did I until I got here. I haven’t met Teri, Howie’s girlfriend, but I did meet AJ’s girlfriend, Trisha. She seems like a nice girl. Thought Nick and I were together, which was a little bit weird, but other than that she seems okay.”

“Well, you and Nick are sort of together, right?”

Alyssa sighed, not wanting to get into it again. At this point she was so completely confused that just thinking about her and Nick’s relationship made her head spin. Then of course there had been his outburst earlier in the afternoon after their run in with the paparazzi… “I don’t even know what’s going on with us anymore. He’s like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. One minute he’s all like I want to give us another try and the next he’s complaining that I’m coming on too strong or something. It’s like I can’t win no matter what I do.”

“Uh oh…” Meg paused dramatically. “Could there be trouble in paradise? What happened?”

“It’s a long story and it’s kind of stupid anyway,” Alyssa tried to dodge the question.

“Did you have a fight?” she continued to press.

“I guess you can call it that. Basically to make a long story short he snapped at me all because I was trying to get him to finally open up and talk to me about what’s going on in that complicated head of his.”

“Ok… Back up and start from the beginning,” Meg demanded.

Fighting back another sigh, Alyssa finally caved in. “Fine… Since we’ve landed in LA things had been going so great it was sort of scary. So anyway this afternoon we went downtown to shop on Rodeo Drive and all those touristy things and like I said everything was going smoothly until we ran into some paparazzi.”

“Anything involving paparazzi is never a good thing.”

“You’re telling me! Anyway at first they were just hounding Nick about who I was and snapping a few pictures, but we just kept walking.” She stopped for a moment, not exactly sure how much detail she could go into about the whole Kevin leaving rumor. She didn’t want to add anymore fuel to the fire, especially if it was as top secret as everyone seemed to be making it out to be. Then again though if she could trust anyone Meg would be at the top of the list. “Look, what happened next is kind of complicated and I don’t have all the details, so you need to promise me that you won’t tell anyone I told you this, especially because I don’t know how true it is yet.”

“Uhmm ok…” Meg agreed, sounding a little confused.

“One of the guys asked Nick if it was true that Kevin is leaving the group to devote more time to Melanie and the baby. Supposedly it’s been going around the internet that after this tour wraps up he’s gone,” Alyssa reported.

“I’m sure that’s not true! You know how those stupid rumors run rampant on those message boards.”

Alyssa frowned. “That’s the thing Meg. As soon as Nick heard the question he literally just snapped and completely went off on this guy. I mean I don’t think I’ve ever seen him that angry before. It was kind of scary and it got me thinking that for him to react that strongly to a ‘rumor’ maybe there’s some actual truth to it? You know how much he looks up to Kevin deep down. If Kevin were leaving it would definitely fuck him up big time. So, after the guys finally left, I tried to ask him about it and he pretty much told me to mind my own fucking business and that I ask too many questions. He said that I wasn’t his fucking shrink, so basically he doesn’t have to tell me anything. Nice, right? Here I am, breaking my ass to make things work between us and he can’t even talk to me about something as big as this going on in his life. It’s completely frustrating that no matter what I do, he still holds up so many goddamn walls! Why can’t he talk to me?”

Meg’s voice softened. “Maybe he’ll open up to you when he’s ready Alyssa. You know Nick. He keeps everything bottled up inside until it just explodes.”

“Well, that’s not healthy Meg! I’m just concerned about him. Like I said everything had been going so amazing between us lately. We’re so good together in every other way, but it just bothers me that two people can share such an intense connection and not be able to fully discuss their emotions. It makes me wonder if maybe there really isn’t any hope for us to turn things around. Maybe all it is, is great sex and that’s all it was really meant to be.” Alyssa sighed catching her defeated look reflecting back at her through the mirror.

“At least you have that,” Meg said consolingly in a lame attempt to make her feel better.

“I don’t know if that’s supposed to make me feel better or worse,” she groaned. “You know me. I’m never satisfied with what I have. I’m always looking for a little bit more.”

There was a bit of a pause for a moment while Alyssa could tell that her sister was fighting to think of something to say in response. After a delayed silence, Meg attempted to change the tone of the conversation. “So, the sex is that great, huh?”

“Meg!” Alyssa already felt her face reddening. Leave it to Meg to pry into the details of her sex life. “I should’ve known you’d want to know all about that, you perv.”

She could practically picture Meg smirking on the other end of the phone. “Well, the honeymoon’s definitely been over between Scott and I, so your sex life is probably a lot more entertaining right now than mine.”

“Okay… Fine. I’ll admit it. It’s been amazing. Better than ever. I mean last night… And then this morning in the shower…” Her voice trailed off too caught up in the memories to complete her sentences.

“I’m sorry I asked!” Meg interrupted. “God, I haven’t had good shower sex in… I can’t remember. Is it sad that I haven’t even been married a year yet and I’m already feeling like a desperate housewife?”

“They say that marriage does that to you.” Just as Alyssa was finishing up her sentence there was a knock at her door. “Hold on a second, Meg.” She cupped the earpiece of the phone and called towards the closed door. ”Yea?”
“Are you almost ready? Howie, AJ, and the girls just pulled up,” Nick’s voice asked.

“Yea. I’ll be out in a second.” Picking the phone back up, she took one final glance at herself in the mirror. “Hey Meg? I got to go now. Everyone else just arrived. Wish me luck tonight?”

“All right. Bye. Try and go easy on him Lyss. I’m sure there’s a logical reason why he kept the whole Kevin thing from you and why he snapped at you.”

“I certainly hope so. Bye.” She pressed the end key on her phone and slid it into her wristlet. She quickly examined herself once more before stepping out in the hall. As soon as she closed the door behind her she could feel Nick’s eyes on her. Purposely she ignored him and walked right past him, swishing her hips as she went by thankful that she had chosen to wear a denim miniskirt with a pair of black stiletto heels. She’d paired the outfit with a loose fitting tube top, which definitely classed it up a little.

“You look great,” he sputtered, following behind her. Any indication of his earlier outburst seemed to be completely forgotten.

She didn’t respond, but just gave him a small, tight lipped, smile. Maybe all it took to make him forget was showing a little leg, but for her it was just the opposite. She had an excellent memory and when it suited her she could be very good at holding a grudge. He’d have to do better than to compliment her looks. Much better.




Despite Alyssa’s obvious attempts at ignoring Nick, the first part of the night flew by rather smoothly. The three couples had piled into AJ’s Range Rover and headed towards the Mexican restaurant that AJ had mentioned on the phone. Alyssa had joked around him that now since he had stopped drinking he must get sick of playing designated driver all the time. The food at the place was delicious, but the margaritas were simply out of this world. In fact, Alyssa reasoned that they probably helped a great deal in having to sit next to Nick and hide the fact that they weren’t speaking from the others.

A little of the pressure was off on her because at least she had met Tricia previously and they’d hit it off pretty well. Thankfully enough, Howie’s girlfriend, Teri, was also extremely likeable, although Alyssa quickly learned what Nick had been getting at earlier about her and Howie being the, “odd couple.” Teri seemed to tower over him and was very loud and outgoing compared to Howie’s quiet personality. She was also very open and blunt as Alyssa quickly learned.

“So, you’re the mysterious Alyssa that Nick’s been talking so much about lately. What a pleasure to finally meet you,” she greeted Alyssa with a warm smile.

Alyssa’s felt her face begin to redden. Nick had been talking about her? What had he been saying? Trying to conceal her surprise she pasted on a sincere grin. “Same here. I’ve heard a lot about you too.”

“Only good things I hope.” The taller woman took a small step closer to her and whispered so only Alyssa could hear, “Nicky boy seems pretty taken with you from what I hear.”

Unsure of exactly how to respond to that remark, her eyes wandered over towards Nick who was a few feet away oblivious to the conversation. Was it possible that she did have a special place in his heart? He certainly didn’t act like it, at least not towards her. Was Teri just bullshitting her or was there some truth in what she was saying? Nick had always been the type to have troubles expressing his true feelings… Especially as of lately.

Shaking off the comment, Alyssa did not let her expression falter. “Thanks I guess.”

Despite the awkward introduction, dinner conversation flowed quite freely. Thankfully Teri seemed to love to talk which helped to disguise the fact that despite Alyssa was sitting right next to Nick, they weren’t actually speaking. The only words she’d actually said to him the whole meal were, “Can you pass the margarita pitcher?” She’d poured herself quite a few of those margaritas. So many that when she stood up from the table as they were getting ready to leave, the room began to spin before her eyes and she stumbled slightly into Nick.

“Are you ok?” he asked, steadying her with his hands. His face flashed in concern.

“I’m fine,” she insisted, letting go only when she was sure she once again had her bearings. How many times did I refill my glass again? she fought to remember. That was the problem with keeping pretty quiet during a meal. When she had a drink in her hand and was engaged in conversation she’d sip it slowly, but otherwise she tended to drink quicker than she realized. They were damn good margaritas though. Maybe the best I’ve ever had.

When they arrived at the club, the three couples found a booth rather easily. It seemed as if the place really wasn’t that crowded, at least by LA standards. Personally Alyssa really wasn’t much of a “club” person. Most of her nightclub memories consisted of overpriced drinks, rude bouncers, bad electronic music, and greasy looking guys who’d attempted to dry hump her on the dance floor. Of course back when she’d been first dating Nick she’d gotten to experience the other side of the club scene; the whole VIP treatment. It had made the whole club experience more tolerable, but she’d never been completely comfortable with it. Give her a small, overcrowded, college bar any day with a cheesy 80’s rock cover band playing and she was happy. But she supposed that no trip out to LA would be complete without visiting at least one celebrity hotspot, so she’d suck it up for one night.

Of course it probably would be a lot less painful if her and Nick were actually on speaking terms.

Instead she sat huddled in the corner of their booth sipping yet another margarita, probably not the smartest move since she was already beginning to feel them, but they were definitely helping in making sitting next to Nick more pleasant. Both Tricia and AJ and Howie and Teri were out on the dance floor, looking as if they were having a great time. Alyssa kind of wanted to join them, but that would mean that she’d have to drag Nick out there, and she definitely did not want to dance with him after the way he’d treated her earlier today.

The corners of Alyssa’s eyes darted towards Nick inconspicuously. She did kind of wonder what was going on in his head. Was he still mad at her from this afternoon? Or was he just giving her space because he knew that it would be pointless to even try to strike up a conversation when she was so clearly ignoring him?

Before Alyssa could ponder on the matter any further, the two other couples approached the table, red faced and breathing heavily from dancing. “What’s the matter with you two? Why aren’t you out there dancing?” AJ called over to them. “I thought you loved to dance Alyssa.”

“I do, but this one over here has two left feet, so it’s pretty much hopeless,” she dryly replied, cocking her head towards Nick. Okay, it was a pretty low blow and the last time she’d danced with Nick at McFadden’s… well, she knew where that had led to. Still, she couldn’t resist at least one little dig at him.

AJ laughed at her insult. “We’ve been trying to help him out with that problem for years now and I agree that he’s a lost cause. It’s a good thing he’s the ‘cute one.’ That’s the only way he gets away with it during concerts.”

Instead of trying to defend himself or coming up with a sly retort, Nick stood up and grabbed his pack of cigarettes from the table. “I’m going out for a smoke. I’ll be back.”

“You know, a cigarette sounds pretty good right now,” AJ agreed. “Wait, I’ll go with you.”

“I guess I’ll tag along with the two of you,” Howie chimed in, not wanting to be left behind with the three girls. “I could use a little air anyway.”

Alyssa didn’t even give Nick a glance as the three men headed off in the direction of the outside deck. She could care less where he went off to until he decided to apologize for his outburst earlier. She was all of a sudden too absorbed in playing with the layer of salt that circled the rim of her margarita glass.

Both Tricia and Teri plopped themselves down in the seat across from Alyssa. Tricia flashed her a concerned look. “You should just come up with dance with us when the guys get back. If Nick wants to sit here sulking, that’s his problem. AJ told me that you’re a great dancer. That you even danced with the guys on their last tour.”

“Yea I did,” Alyssa admitted. “I was actually Howie’s partner,” she explained, looking over at Teri.

Instead of responding with interest though, her comment seemed to have flown over Teri’s head. “What exactly is Nicky sulking about this time? I swear he has more mood swings than a fucking pregnant woman.”

Alyssa’s lips lifted upwards into a grin. “You know he hates being called Nicky.”

“I know! That’s why I call him it,” Teri confided with a smirk. “But seriously, what happened to set him off?”

She bit her lip, unsure of how to respond. “Nothing… I mean I’m not exactly sure,” she stammered. She barely knew these two women and they certainly had no clue what exactly was going on between the two of them. It was safer this way.

The two exchanged glances that seemed to say, I don’t buy it, but let the subject drop. “So, uhmm what did you and Nick do today?” Tricia asked in another attempt to start up a conversation.

“We went shopping,” she simply said. And got confronted by paparazzi who pissed Nick off about rumors that Kevin was leaving the group which caused him to go off on me when I asked him about it.

Seeing that Alyssa wasn’t going to give anything up too easily, they looked at each other again and Tricia gave a slight nod. Turning back towards Alyssa, Teri took a deep breath. “Listen sweetie, I’m a pretty blunt person in case you haven’t already guessed, so I’m just going to ask the question that we’re all wondering… Are you fucking him?”

Alyssa practically choked on her margarita. “Since when is everyone all of a sudden interested in my sex life?” she managed to somehow get out. “If I had a dollar for every person who’s asked me that…”

“Well? Are you?” Tricia pressed. “Because I have a bet going on with AJ over this.”

Under normal circumstances Alyssa probably would’ve been angrier that two complete strangers were begging to know the most intimate details of her personal life, but the combination of the tequila and the absurdity of the situation actually made her laugh. “You’re taking bets on my sex life? Yours must be pretty boring if you’re so interested in mine.”

“Actually mines pretty damn good thank you very much,” Teri replied. “Pretty. Damn. Good.”

Alyssa wrinkled her nose. “Okay, I can’t even go there thinking about Howie… and eww! No!”

“It’s true,” Tricia verified. “Believe me I get to hear all the graphic details and let’s just say that she’s completely corrupted poor Howie.”

Teri grinned smugly. “Hey, he was willing to try anything I asked him to. But, we’re not talking about me right now. We’re talking about you.” She pointed towards Alyssa. “And judging from the fact that you’ve successfully dodged my original question for almost five minutes now, I’m going to have to go out on a limb and say the answer must be yes. No one beats around the bush unless they have something to hide. And I’m also going to have to assume that the sex has got to be pretty hot for you to drag yourself across the country to come visit him, so I think you’d better drop the act and just start talking.”

Alyssa’s mouth must have been nearly hanging on the floor in shock over just how outspoken Teri was being, because Tricia just giggled. “Teri! That completely came across like you were accusing the poor girl of some horrible crime or something. Come on, not like you never slept with anyone and tried to keep it on the down low before.”

“All right,” she agreed with a sigh. “I’m guilty. I don’t mean to come across sounding like a bitch. I’m just a nosy person by nature. We’re just curious is all. We know Nicky long enough now to realize that he usually doesn’t let himself get too attached to women, so we’re just sort of wondering how’d you do it?”

“AJ told me that the two of you used to date a few years ago,” Tricia piped up. “What happened?”

Seeing that she was busted, Alyssa sighed and took another long sip of her margarita. Something told her she was going to need it. Honestly though, she could sense that the two women were harmless and just as they said curious about her. Besides, if things were to actually work out with Nick, she’d be seeing a lot of them and it would definitely be more pleasant if they could get to be friends. She had to admit that she hadn’t really had much female confidantes throughout the whole Nick ordeal. With the exception of her sisters and Izzy, who clearly wasn’t very supportive of the situation, she hadn’t had anyone else to go to for advice. Tricia and Teri definitely seemed quite open and ready to voice their opinion.

“Fine! I’ll spill! But it’s a really long story, so I’m basically going to just give you the cliff notes version,” she began. “Yes, Nick and I used to date. We were actually engaged when we broke up about three years ago. It was a really complicated situation. Nick had just found out his parents were getting a divorce and it really messed him up big time. He kind of needed some time to go off and think about his life I guess. So, he moved out to LA and I moved back to New York. Flash forward a few years and we wound up bumping into each other this past summer through a mutual friend of ours and we talked things over. We kind of forgave each other, but he explained that he really wasn’t ready for a relationship at that time, so we agreed to keep in touch as friends. Then he came to visit me for a weekend and we kind of hooked up.”

“Kind of?” Teri interrupted. “How do you kind of hook up? You either do or you don’t.”

Alyssa’s face flushed. “Okay, we hooked up. Afterwards it was really weird for me because I’m really not the hook up type and I knew especially with him it probably wasn’t the best idea. I think it was kind of inevitable though, because I guess we were both still curious to see if there was anything still there.”

“And was there?” Tricia asked.

She chewed on her bottom lip, deep in thought for a moment. “Well, I can only speak for myself, but I definitely felt some kind of deeper connection. Like I said I’m not the hook up type, although I have done it before and with him it was completely different. The other times I knew it was just sex and that was it. Of course maybe this was different because we had actually had a past together. Anyway, I wasn’t sure if Nick felt the same things I did. Believe me I’m well aware of his track record, so I assumed that to him it was pretty meaningless.”

Both women appeared riveted to her story. “So then what happened?”

“We decided to give each other some space to think things over. It was around the time of the European tour too, so it worked out. We talked a little on the phone here and there, and I thought we had put it behind us. Then when I finally saw him again, the same thing happened. It’s become like a cycle for us now and it’s just really, really confusing.”

“So what exactly is going on right now? Are you doing the friends with benefits thing?” Teri interrupted.

Alyssa sighed. “Christmas night we had a really long talk and I pretty much laid everything out for him. How I still had feelings for him and that if he was just going to keep jerking me around like this, then maybe we should stay away from each other for good this time. I kind of gave him the ultimatum that either we figure out where this is going or end it right now. See I’m kind of starting to get the sense that he really does have feelings for me, he just is scared to admit them I guess. He’s very reluctant, but I can just tell that I mean a lot to him for some reason. Anyway this trip out to LA is supposed to be a ‘trial period’ for us. We’re kind of just letting whatever happen, happen and if it works out I may be moving out here and we might be getting back together.” She paused for a moment, waiting for a reaction, but none came. “You both think I’m crazy don’t you?”

“Not at all honey,” Tricia assured her. “If your heart is telling you that you’re doing the right thing then that’s all that matters. Screw what anyone else thinks.”

Teri nodded her head in agreement. “As long as you’re happy. And like I said before, I may not know Nicky very long or very well, but whenever he’s mentioned you in front of me and Howie his face just lights up. Howie says he hasn’t seemed this genuinely interested in a woman in a really long time. I think he’s just forgotten how to conventionally begin a relationship with anyone because he’s so used to hiding his true feelings behind a string of one night stands.”

She breathed a sigh of relief. At last someone was acknowledging her feelings and not criticizing her for her choices. Their encouraging responses allowed her to feel free to open up even more to them. “It’s just so frustrating sometimes because I start to think that we’re making all this progress and everything and then he just shuts down on me. Just when I think I have him all figured out, he closes himself up. I’m not sure if a relationship can work between us if he can’t put himself on the line and really talk to me. I get these rare glimpses of his emotions, but otherwise he’s an extremely private person, which is fine, but you can only have just so much privacy in a relationship.”

Tricia’s face softened. “Is that why the two of you are acting like each other doesn’t exist and why Nick is pouting like a two year old?”

“Pretty much. It’s a long story and I’d rather not get into specifics, but basically I knew something was bothering Nick and I tried to get him to talk about it and he snapped at me. I was really hurt by the way he responded and until he apologizes for it and lets me know what the fuck is going with him, I really don’t want to speak to him right now.”

“Don’t worry. He’ll come around,” Teri promised. “Just wait until he wants to get laid and he won’t be able to apologize fast enough. But seriously, cut the guy a little bit of slack. He obviously has serious trust issues, so you can’t expect him to immediately let you in, even if he’s known you for a long time. When he’s ready he’ll tell you anything you want. You just need to be patient.”

Alyssa nodded slowly. “That’s exactly what my sister said. And that actually makes a lot of sense. How do you know so much? Are you a psychologist or something?”

Teri giggled. “Far from it. I’m actually a photographer. I just watch way too much Dr. Phil.”

Alyssa laughed and realized that she was growing more comfortable by the minute with the two women. They both had such outgoing personalities that it was hard not to relax and let her guard down. For the first time in a long time, Alyssa was enjoying being just one of the girls.

“Okay enough relationship drama. It’s making my head spin. Let’s talk about something else completely not serious,” Tricia suggested.

“I’ll drink to that!” Teri raised her midouri sour to her lips and took a sip before grinning mischievously in Alyssa’s direction. “So, Alyssa, where was the craziest place that you’ve ever had sex?”




“Jesus Carter… What crawled up your ass and died?” AJ asked as he inhaled a drag from his cigarette.

Nick, who was purposely standing a few feet away from both AJ and Howie rolled his eyes. “Nothing’s up my ass,” he grumbled.

“Bullshit! That’s why you’ve been in one of your infamous pissy moods all night long, right?”

Nick sighed. “I’m not in a pissy mood. Howie, tell him I’m not.”

Howie held up his hand. “I’m not getting involved in this one.”

“Howard…”

“Well… You are kind of antisocial tonight.”

Nick shot him a dirty look. “I should’ve figured you’d take his side.”

“Hey, just because Alyssa isn’t speaking to you doesn’t mean that you should take it out on us,” AJ boldly interrupted. He’d been looking for just the right moment to bring her name up, so that he could get to the bottom of this once and for all.

“What do you know about me and Alyssa? And since when is it any of your business?”

AJ grinned seeing that he had clearly struck a nerve. “Get off it Nick! It’s completely obvious that she’s the source of your pouting. Plus you haven’t even glanced at each other all night. What exactly is going on between the two of you?”

Nick’s eyes lowered. “Nothing. We just had a fight over something stupid.”

“Why don’t you just cut the crap and tell us the goddamn truth? You’re so hitting that!” As Nick’s mouth opened to defend himself, AJ cut him off. “And don’t even try to fucking lie about it Carter, because believe me, I’ve been there. It’s completely obvious .” Okay, so maybe Tricia had to clue him in at first, but the more he had thought about it the more sense it had made.

Looking defeated, Nick glanced over at Howie helplessly. “Uhmm… Well, it was kind suspicious that all of a sudden the two of you were hanging out so much lately,” the Latino man reluctantly admitted. “But when you invited her out to LA I sort of figured that something must be going on.”

“I think I liked you better before you started getting laid,” Nick grumpily stated. He paused for a moment, to take a drag from his cigarette. “Well, I guess the cats out of the bag then.” Under normal circumstances he might have tossed in a little play by play, purely for entertainment value, but for once in his life he felt the need to keep the details private between just him and Alyssa.

“How come you didn’t tell us?” The hurt in AJ’s voice was clearly evident. “Usually we wind up knowing way more about your sex life than we’d ever like to know. So why become Mr. Secretive now?”

Nick sighed, knowing that he wouldn’t be able to lie to his brothers anymore now that they knew that there was more going on between him and Alyssa than met the eye. “I don’t know. It’s a confusing situation. What I have with Alyssa right now is unlike anything I’ve ever been involved in before.”

“Do you mean to tell me that Nicky might possibly be falling in love?” Howie asked, pretending to be shocked.

Nick’s could feel his cheeks redden. “I wouldn’t go that far yet. But it is very special and I guess I just didn’t want to like jinx it or anything. Not that we’re actually dating right now or anything. We’re just… us.”

Even AJ looked sympathetic. “So, what was the fight about?”

“Well, we were out shopping earlier today and we bumped into some paparazzi. They know about Kevin,” he began.

“Oh shit…” AJ muttered. “But how could they? It’s not even set in stone yet. Kevin just started to consider it. He only spoke to us and management about it a few weeks ago. “

Nick shrugged. “I wish I knew. They made a vague reference to the internet which means that LD is probably where they got it from.”

“I bet someone who works for management let something slip. Or someone overheard that wasn’t supposed to,” Howie reasoned.

“It doesn’t matter. Anyway I was so thrown off guard by the question I uhmm… kind of flew off the handle a little bit,” he admitted. “Which means I’ll probably be on the cover of every tabloid next week along with an article about how I practically assaulted reporters like I supposedly assaulted Paris and have serious ‘anger issues.’”

“Just peachy. Kevin will love that one,” AJ commented with a roll of his eyes.

“So, why is Alyssa mad at you?” Howie asked, bringing them back to their original topic of conversation.

“I guess she was hurt because I hadn’t mentioned it to her.”

“But none of us have mentioned it to any of our girlfriends,” AJ argued. “Well, I’m pretty sure Brian told Leigh, but that’s different. They’re family.”

“I know, but like I said she kind of found out from the wrong people. So, she’s not only hurt that I didn’t tell her, but when she asked me about it I blew up at her and told her to pretty much stop trying to stick her nose into my business. I think she was really hurt by that,” Nick explained.

Both AJ and Howie were silent for a moment. The three of them had made an unspoken agreement, not to mention Kevin’s decision to anyone outside of them, including their significant others. What was the use if Kevin was only considering the idea of leaving the group? They had no idea though that already rumors of his departure were beginning to leak. If the paparazzi knew, some of the fans definitely had to know as well. All four of them had taken Kevin’s decision hard, but it was no secret that Nick seemed to be the most affected by it. Kevin had always been a father figure to him, steering him on the right path and keeping him out of trouble. With Kevin gone who would look after Nick? Obviously Alyssa had picked up on this and had only wanted to comfort him.

Howie finally broke the uncomfortable silence. “I think you need to apologize to her. It sounds like she was concerned about you and she only wanted to try to help.”

Nick frowned. “She’s expecting me to pour out my heart and soul to her and cry on her shoulder. Truth is, I’m not ready to talk about it all yet. I think I’m still in denial about the whole thing, you know?”

“Then you need to explain that to her. Tell her that yes, if Kevin leaves the group it will be very hard for you, but that you’re just not quite ready to deal with those emotions yet. If she cares about you she should respect that.”

Nick appeared deep in thought for a moment. “I guess you’re right D. I don’t know what I’d do without you. Thank God I’m such good friends with a guy who is so in tune with his emotions and stuff, you know. I love you man!” he melodramatically cried, wrapping his arms around the smaller man in a bear hug.

“Aww… This is just so touching I feel like I might just have to join in,” AJ joked, pretending to brush away a fake tear.

For a moment the three men stood there hugging until it finally sunk in what they were doing. “Uhmm yea… This is pretty gay,” Nick announced as he pulled away.

“I agree. That just got really awkward.”

“If anyone asks that never happened, right guys?” AJ insisted.

“Right.”

“Of course. Never happened.”




A few minutes later, when the three men entered the club again, Nick chose to delay the inevitable task of apologizing to Alyssa, by making a stop at the bar first for another beer. He figured he could probably use some reinforcement by the way of alcohol. As the bartender handed him an ice cold Corona, he looked over at the booth in which the rest of his friends sat a few feet away. He watched as Alyssa burst into a fit of uncontrollable laughter over what probably had been one of Teri’s outlandish tales. Judging from the way that Howie’s face had taken on a crimson glow, Nick figured that the story probably was an embarrassing one about him, and knowing Teri probably had involved something pretty kinky.

At least she seems to be hitting it off with the girls, he mused as he continued to watch Alyssa giggle, her face turning red and tears in her eyes. Not many girls that he had dated had meshed very well with the other guys and their girlfriends or wives. You’d think she’s known Teri and Tricia for years.

You’re stalling Carter,
he reprimanded himself. Taking a deep breath he made his way back to the booth just in time to hear Alyssa finally struggling to catch her breath, sinking back against the cool leather. His fingertips brushed against her bare shoulder and she slowly turned her head towards him. “Yes?”

“We need to talk,” he simply said.
Chapter Forty-Three by Mellz Bellz
Author's Notes:
Nick charms his way out of another fight with Alyssa.
Chapter 42


Alyssa’s eyes snapped up, a worried expression coming over her face. Nick actually wants to talk? she asked herself. She wasn’t sure if his request was a good or bad thing because you never could tell with him. Of course, just the fact that he wanted to have some kind of deep conversation with her could be considered an improvement.

“All right,” she finally agreed as she stood up from the booth, her margarita glass in hand.

“Follow me,” Nick instructed, grabbing her arm as they weaved between the crowds of people heading towards what Alyssa assumed to be an outdoor patio where it would be less crowded. Instead Nick stopped in front of a flight of stairs that had been roped off to the public. Standing in front of the stairs was a large, burly looking bouncer. “Stay here for a second.”

Alyssa did as she was told and watched with mild curiosity as Nick approached the broad shouldered man. The two of them exchanged a few words and Nick gave him a friendly slap on the back. It was pretty clear to Alyssa that Nick obviously knew this bouncer pretty well. The two men conversed for another few moments and she saw Nick gesture towards her. The bouncer seemed to nod and reached over to unhook the rope closing off the stairs. Nick motioned for her to join him, which she hesitatingly did.

“Thanks man,” she heard Nick say as she approached.

The bouncer nodded. “Any time Nick. You better get up there now though because you know I’m not really supposed to do this.”

Nick nodded. “I appreciate it.” He ushered Alyssa up the stairs, following close behind her.

About halfway up the stairs, Alyssa turned towards Nick. “Okay, what was that all about?”

Nick just laughed. “Charles is a buddy of mine. I used to come here pretty often and I usually spent way too much money here, so most of the bouncers and stuff know me pretty well. There’s this private VIP lounge up here that they open up when its really busy or for like special events, but tonight its pretty dead, so its closed off.”

“This is dead?” Alyssa asked in amazement as she stared down at all the people below.

“By LA standards, yes.”

“Wow…” she murmured as they reached the landing. “So this is what a VIP lounge looks like.”

“Don’t sound so impressed. You’ve been in VIP areas before at clubs before.” Nick led her towards a comfortable looking leather couch and helped her have a seat.

“Yea, but not in LA,” she argued, getting herself comfortable. “This is kind of weird being the only ones up here.” Already her mind couldn’t help, but to wonder just how many other girls Nick probably had taken up there in the past.

Nick shrugged. “It’s kind of nice. It’s a good place to talk which is impossible to do downstairs.”

Alyssa had to agree that he did have a point there. The blaring music from downstairs was reduced to only a dull roar which made it actually possible to hear what another person was saying and not have to shout. “So… Speaking of talking. I believed that you wanted to speak to me?”

“Yea, I did. I guess I just want to apologize for this afternoon,” he admitted, looking down at his beer bottle.

“Wow… An apology. I’m impressed. What changed your mind?”

Nick sighed. “A conversation with Howie and AJ. I was wrong to snap at you. I was just really pissed off at the reporters and I lashed out at you because you were the closest target.”

“That’s big of you to apologize Nick, but you can’t jump down my throat every time I try to help you. I could see that you were upset, but I wasn’t even clear on why. I only asked about Kevin because I was concerned about you.” She paused remembering her conversations with her sister and with Teri and Tricia. “I know that you don’t like to talk about things, but you can’t just treat me like shit because you’re in a bad mood and not explain why. It’s not fair to me.”

“I know that Alyssa. I just really am not ready to go into the whole Kevin thing right now. It’s a really complicated situation and I’m not ready to talk it out just yet. I’d rather pretend its not happening,” he tried to explain.

“Oh yea, and that’s healthy right? Denying your problems makes them just disappear? If only life were that easy. You are only going to have to face them eventually, so what’s the use in hiding from them?”

This conversation is not going the way I want it to, Nick thought to himself growing increasingly frustrated. He really did not want to pour out all his problems to Alyssa, especially in the middle of an LA nightclub. This trip was supposed to be about them just enjoying being with each other without any of the other bullshit that had been surrounding them the last couple of months. Hadn’t things been complicated enough for them? Why did she have to keep digging up more problems for them?

Switching tactics he grabbed her arms. “Lyss, I’m not hiding from my problems. I know that they are there, but right now this is my off time. In another week I have to get back to touring which is stressful enough. Then I can deal with Kevin. But for now I want to enjoy what little time I have off and I want to enjoy it with you. Haven’t we done enough fighting? I didn’t invite you out here to argue with you. Can’t we just enjoy what time we do have together?”

Alyssa looked away, clearly still hurt. “I was only trying to help by being a good listener,” she tried to explain in a small voice.

“And I really do appreciate the thought Lyss. But I really just don’t want to bring myself down by thinking about it right now. I was doing fine with pretending that everything was cool until those damn reporters had to bring it up. Honestly, I’ve probably been happier the last few days than I’ve been in awhile.”

Alyssa sat there stone faced without saying a word. The silence was deafening to Nick’s ears. After a few moments he quickly realized that she was not going to be the one to break their silence. He sighed loudly and ran a hand through his hair. “Look I promise that if I change my mind and I need to talk you’ll be the first person I go to, okay? Just please don’t let something this stupid ruin the next few days we have together. Can you forgive me?”

Again Alyssa refused to answer. She appeared much more interested in playing with the stem of her margarita glass. His eyes remained glued to her as she raised the glass to her lips and took another sip. It amazed him how he could find something as simple as watching her sip a drink so completely enticing. He found himself mesmerized by the way her lips met with the glass and the way that her tongue ever so subtly darted out of the corner of her mouth to catch a few grains of salt at the rim. It was a completely innocent action, not meant to be overtly sexual, but Nick still found himself having to uncomfortably shift his position a bit on the couch. How fucked up is this? he sternly asked himself. She’s obviously pissed at you and all you can think about is sex? Then again, she did look pretty hot when she was angry; especially when her dark eyes were clouded with frustration like they’d been just a few moments ago…

“Why are you staring at me like that?” her icy voice interrupted, snapping him back into the present.

If only you knew… There she was with that look in her eyes again. She was clearly annoyed with him and there was only one way he knew of to bring her back around again. Yea, it was a bit on the messed up side, but it was the only surefire way he knew of to get his way with her. Unexpectedly, he pulled her towards him and pressed his lips up against hers.

The kiss caught Alyssa off guard at first, so much so that her body was about ten steps ahead of her mind. Automatically the tough exterior that she had put up began to melt away and she fully reciprocated, allowing the kiss to grow deeper. Of course the alcohol probably a huge role in her response. By the time her brain caught up, she was already reclined back against the arm rest of the couch.

“Dammit!” she cursed as she pulled away. “Why do you always have to do that?”

Nick innocently smirked. “Do what?”

Alyssa’s eyes darkened. “You know… The minute I start to get mad at you somehow you manage to charm your way out of the situation with a kiss. And stupid me always falls for it.”

He just shrugged. “Sorry. Can’t help it if my ninja kissing skills have struck again. Did it work?”

She rolled her eyes. “Come on Nick. Be serious. You can’t solve everything with a kiss. Because one kiss turns into two kisses and two kisses turns into-“

As she was in the midst of her rant, Nick seemed to have tuned her out and leaned over her dropping light kisses on her neck. “Oh, I can’t solve everything with a kiss?” he asked her between kisses.

“No,” she repeated with a sigh, even though she had to admit that even to herself she didn’t sound very convincing. He knew damn well that her neck was one of her weak spots and even though she was determined not to let him get his way this time out of principle, she was beginning to find it difficult to stand firm. Maybe she shouldn’t have had all those margaritas…

“That didn’t sound very convincing,” he noted as his mouth connected with the area where her neck and shoulder met.

Alyssa bit back a moan, feeling his lips lightly suck against the area. “You’re just doing this to piss me off because you’re drunk.”

“I’m drunk?” Nick laughed. “Not even close. If I remember correctly you’re the one who almost fell on the floor at the restaurant. If I hadn’t been there you would’ve so busted your ass.”

“I did not almost fall!” she argued.

“Yes you did! I had to grab your arm because as soon as you got up you almost went down again.”

“Well, it wasn’t from the alcohol. If you must know it’s these ridiculous shoes. I merely tripped is all.” Alyssa firmly nodded her head to make her point more believable.

Again Nick was unable to keep a straight face. “I merely tripped is all? Sounds to me the tequila is beginning to do the talking. And how could you trip when you didn’t even take a step? Face it, you’re the drunken one.”

“Am not!”

“Are too!”

“Am not!”

“Are too!”

It was around that moment when Alyssa realized that she was still sort of pinned underneath him on the couch before and was it just her or was the closeness between them beginning to fill up? Still she continued the childish fight. “Am not!”

“Are too!”

It wasn’t just her imagination. Nick was indeed drawing closer to her, but instead of the kiss that she had anticipated his fingers dug into her sides and began tickling her. Alyssa, who was extremely ticklish immediately, began to writhe in laughter beneath him. “Come on Nick… Please stop!” she begged, tears forming behind her eyelids.

He just grinned, clearly enjoying the opportunity to tease her. Besides it was a good way of getting her to lighten up and forget about being mad at him.

“Nick I swear if you don’t stop I’ll bite you!” She loudly chomped her teeth together in his direction to let him know that she was serious.

Another playful smirk grew over his face. “Sounds pretty kinky to me. Watch out, you might turn me on.”

Alyssa managed a groan between her giggles as he continued to tickle her. “Why did I have the feeling that you were going to say something like that?”

Finally after a few more moments of torture, Nick’s fingers froze. “Okay. I’ll stop. But on two conditions. One, you have to admit that you’re drunk and two, you have to say that you forgive me.”

“You drive a pretty high bargain there Carter. All right…” she finally admitted. “Maybe I am a little bit drunk.”

“And do you forgive me?”

Alyssa pretended to sigh dramatically. “I suppose so.”

Nick impishly grinned at her submission from his position still hovering above her. “Good… Now that that’s out of the way we can concentrate on the making up part.” Before she could further protest his lips were pressing over hers again.

Alyssa closed her eyes and welcomed the sensation of his kisses, a fuzzy feeling beginning to cloud her head thanks to all the tequila. Those margaritas were definitely starting to hit her now. Pulling away from him for a moment she cocked her head to one side thoughtfully. “What were we fighting about again anyway?”

“Who cares?” Nick softly laughed. “Does it really matter anymore?”

A few more heated kisses and Alyssa had to admit that he was definitely right. After another minute or so with him she really could care less.




The giggling couple that approached the very same booth that they had left over an hour earlier seemed nothing like the pair who had been sitting there previously, stone faced and not even acknowledging one another. Hand in hand, they exchanged matching conspiratorial smiles between the two of them, as if they were sharing some kind of juicy secret. They both appeared to be noticeably more disheveled than before they had disappeared, his shirt buttoned unevenly and hair slightly sticking up, her makeup slightly smeared and her skirt twisted around her legs. But they both looked happy, which they were anything but earlier in the evening.

“And where have the two of you been for the last hour or so?” AJ asked Alyssa and Nick as soon as they were in ear shot.

“Upstairs,” Alyssa answered. “There’s this really cool VIP area up there! Oh, wait…” She clamped a hand over her mouth. “I wasn’t supposed to mention we were up there, was I?”

Nick just laughed. “It’s okay. I think that we can all keep a secret over here. Alyssa’s just had a little too many margaritas,” he explained to the others.

“Awesome,” Tricia chimed in with a smirk on her face. “So, what were the two of you doing up there for so long?”

“Just talking,” Nick responded, a little too quickly.

“Yea, talking,” Alyssa echoed.

Terri snorted. “Yea… Talking my ass!”
Nick looked offended. “What’s that supposed to mean?”

“Hey Nick,” AJ interrupted. “You might want to check yourself there. Your fly is open.”

“Oh shit, is it?” he cursed, his face turning crimson in embarrassment as he glanced downwards only to discover that he’d been duped. “Real funny J. How old are we again?”

AJ cracked up in laughter at the expression on his friends face. “Gotcha! You should’ve seen how red you just got. Yea…it’s completely obvious that the two of you were definitely doing a lot more than talking up there. So, why don’t you just come clean and admit it?”

“Not to mention the fact that the two of you look like you’ve been rolling around somewhere,” Teri pointed out with a snarky grin. “And judging from the marks on Alyssa’s neck-“

Alyssa’s hand immediately flew up to her neck. “Marks? What marks?”

“I rest my case. So, yea… Basically we’re calling you out.”

“All right! So you got us,” Alyssa admitted, not realizing just how loud she was talking in her altered state. “We just totally had a quickie up in the VIP section!”

Naturally at that precise moment, the song that had just been playing was close to the end, and had faded out just softly enough for practically everyone sitting around them to overhear. Several heads turned towards their direction towards a very embarrassed looking Nick and a completely oblivious Alyssa. This caused Teri and Tricia to explode into a fit of giggles before grabbing Alyssa by the arm and dragging her into the direction of the bathroom. “Let’s get you freshened up a little before you say anything else incriminating,” Teri suggested.

Once they stepped inside the bathroom doors, Teri immediately burst into laughter. “Oh my God, that was like the funniest shit ever! Nicky boy looked like he wanted the floor to swallow him up whole or something. I’m surprised at him. I thought he’d be the one bragging all about it.”

“How much did you have to drink already Alyssa?” Tricia asked in a concerned voice. “You’ve got to be a freaking light weight or something.”

Alyssa shrugged. ”Damn tequila… It always brings out the worst in me.” Out of nowhere she began to giggle. “God, I’m fucked up.” Finally catching a glance of her appearance in the mirror she continued to laugh. “Holy shit… You weren’t kidding when you told me I looked like crap!” Her hair, which she had spent forever straightening earlier, was already beginning to frizz and most of her makeup had since rubbed off. Then there were those lovely red marks along her neck and shoulders…

“That’s why we dragged you in here,” Tricia explained as she dug around in her purse. “I know I have a brush in here somewhere.”

“And I have some extra makeup on me,” Teri piped up. “Thankfully enough I always carry plenty of concealer on me. You never know when you’re going to need some, especially in situations like this.”

The two girls got to work on her, and after a few minutes, Alyssa again looked as polished as could be expected under the circumstances. Nothing could be done about the slight wave to her hair, but at least it looked tamer. And Teri’s concealer was a shade or two to light for her skin tone, but it would suffice. She’d just have to keep her hair over her shoulders.

“Well, you’re as good as you’re going to get,” Teri remarked. “You picked the wrong night to wear a tube top though.”

“And the wrong night for stilettos,” Tricia agreed as she helped lead Alyssa back into the club. “I bet you fifty bucks that you’ll land on your ass by the end of the night.”

“No I won’t!” Alyssa indignantly replied. “I can walk just fine. See!” After only about two steps on her own she stumbled and her body pitched so far forward that Tricia had to practically dive to catch her.

Somehow they made it back to the table in one piece. As they approached though, the three men were standing around waiting for them, as if they were about to leave. When they were within ear shot, AJ spoke up. “Since the entire club now knows way too much information about Nick’s sex life thanks to a certain petite brunette, we’ve decided that it’s probably best if we head out now. It’s kind of a boring crowd tonight anyway. We’re going to check out this smaller bar.”

“Are you feeling up to it?” Nick asked Alyssa in a concerned voice.

“Of course! I feel great!” she insisted with a bit too much enthusiasm.

Nick exchanged a worried glance between his friends. He doubted that he’d ever seen Alyssa this drunk, at least not in a very long time. With those odds, there was no telling how this night could wind up.




Thankfully enough, the ride between destinations was pretty uneventful. They had about a twenty minute ride, since the other bar that AJ had wanted to go to was actually a little outside of LA. During that time, Alyssa had curled up against Nick’s chest and drifted off to sleep for a bit. Nick supposed that she needed to sleep off some of that alcohol although he wasn’t really sure how much of a difference her little cat nap would make.

The new bar that they had entered was the exact opposite of the posh LA nightclub they had just been to. This place was much smaller and low key. In fact, it kind of reminded Nick of that place that he and Alyssa had went in the city when he’d gone to visit her. Only there was one difference…

“Oh my God! They have karaoke!” Alyssa exclaimed as they found themselves a table in the back corner. As soon as they sat down she made a grab for the song booklet and quickly began thumbing through it.

“Please tell me you’re not going to sing,” Nick begged her, in a dry voice. “I’m afraid to even think about what you’d pick.”

“How about ‘Tequila Makes Her Clothes Come Off’?” Teri snickered. “I think that would be an appropriate choice.”

“Don’t encourage her Teresa Marie.”

“What’s the matter Nickolas Gene? I thought the prospect of Alyssa taking her clothes off would get you more excited?”

Nick opened his mouth as if he was about to say something in response, but then decided against it and gave up. He wasn’t in the mood to playfully argue with Teri and the scrawny looking dude who was currently on stage singing Bon Jovi’s ‘Wanted Dead or Alive’ was killing the song, so badly that Nick was afraid his eardrums might rupture in another minute or so. Whose bright idea was it to go to a karaoke bar anyway? “I think it’s about time for another cigarette break. What do you say Bone?”

“You read my mind,” AJ replied as he stood up. “We’ll be back in a few.”

Teri watched as the two men disappeared out towards the deck and as soon as they were out of sight a devious grin washed over her face. “What do you say we play a prank on those two?”

“Anything that involves humiliating my boyfriend and I’m in!” Tricia quickly agreed.

Howie stroked his chin thoughtfully. “It would be nice revenge to get Nicky back for all those pranks he’s pulled on me throughout the years.”

“What’s your idea?” Alyssa asked, leaning forward in interest.

“We sign up Nick and AJ to sing something completely and utterly embarrassing. Then when their name gets called we laugh our asses off at how embarrassed they get,” she explained.

“Hmm… That could be pretty damn funny.”

“And I brought my camera with me too…” Howie’s face broke into a huge grin. “Can we say blackmail?”

Alyssa flipped through the song catalogue looking for the most humiliating karaoke song that she could think of. It didn’t take long for her to find it. “I got it!” she announced, pointing the title out to Teri.

“Like a Virgin by Madonna? Oh my God! That’s perfect!” she agreed, jotting it down on one of the pieces of paper on the table. “I’m just going to drop this off up front and then we’ll be good to go.”

When Nick and AJ returned from outside a few minutes, the four of them tried their hardest to keep poker faces on. After a few moments, they all relaxed and ordered a round of shots, minus Alyssa, who had drank more than her full earlier and AJ of course. About half an hour passed by, and the group seemed to forget all about the prank they had pulled until the DJ raised his microphone once again.

“Next up, we have Nick and AJ performing Madonna’s ‘Like a Virgin.’ Let’s give it up for them!”

Nick, who by this point had downed two or three rounds of shots just laughed. “Hey, those two douche bags have the same names as us!”

“And they’re singing Madonna. How gay is that shit?” AJ nodded in his head in agreement.

“Nick? AJ? Don’t be shy, guys. Come on up!”

“What a bunch of pussies. They’re probably too embarrassed to go up there,” Nick commented, rolling his eyes.

“Or maybe their friends put their names down without them knowing it,” Tricia innocently suggested.

“Why don’t you two go on up there and show these guys how to be a man about it?” Alyssa giggled.

Teri joined in. “Yea… Why don’t you? I mean you’re such manly men.”

Slowly both men began to connect the dots. A look of horror crossed over AJ’s face. “Oh no… You’ve got to be fucking kidding me.”

“You didn’t really put our names down to get up and sing in front of this whole place, did you?” Nick asked, wide eyed. “You guys suck!”

Teri lost her composure just then and cracked up laughing. “Looks like you two are the two douche bags huh?”

“Howie…” Nick whined. “Did you know about this?”

“I might have had a part in it,” he innocently replied. “Revenge is sweet, Nicky.”

“Traitor,” AJ mumbled under his breath.

“Last chance guys. Nick and AJ wherever you are, I’m sure this audience is dying to hear you perform.”

With a sigh, the two men exchanged a defeated glance. They knew that either way they were screwed. If they went up there they were sure to embarrass the hell out of themselves, but if they didn’t they’d never live it down. “You owe us big time,” Nick told them as he took a large swig of his beer before following AJ up to the stage.

Alyssa couldn’t help but laugh at how pissed off the two of them looked. It was even funnier once they got up to the stage and it became obvious that they were recognized by more than a few patrons. Voices were heard echoing throughout the bar, shouting out everything from, “Will you marry me Nick?” to “Get the fuck off the stage you queers!” She watched as Nick whispered something to AJ and AJ nodded, just as the beginning of the infamous Madonna song began to play.

The moment they opened their mouths, Alyssa just about lost it. In their best high pitched Madonna voices both men began to sing, purposely trying to be outrageous for laughs.

I made it through the wilderness
Somehow I made it through
Didn't know how lost I was
Until I found you

I was beat incomplete
I'd been had, I was sad and blue
But you made me feel
Yeah, you made me feel
Shiny and new


As if the singing wasn’t hilarious enough, they both began to dance, doing some kind of odd variation of a bump and grind that made them look completely ridiculous. She could tell from the reaction of the audience that they were finding the performance just as funny, but instead of laughing at them, they were laughing with them.

Like a virgin
Touched for the very first time
Like a virgin
When your heart beats
Next to mine


And somewhere between the drunken cloud that had been hovering above her all night, Alyssa had a moment of complete clarity. In that moment, she saw Nick, actually laughing and looking as if he was actually having a good time despite being pretty much forced up there to look like an asshole.< I>He’s a really good sport,
she realized. How many other guys would get up there and put themselves on the line like that? In a strange way it made him even more appealing in her eyes.

And then the moment was gone.
Chapter Forty-Four by Mellz Bellz
Author's Notes:
Nick and Alysa invite Kevin and Melanie over for dinner.
Chapter 44


The pressure in between Alyssa’s temples was clearly evident before she even opened up her eyes the next morning. Her body arched as she stretched out her sore muscles and a tired groan erupted from her mouth when her eyelids fluttered open. Immediately, she buried her head back into her pillow. “Ugh, why is it so bright in here?”

“Morning sleepyhead. How are you feeling?” she heard Nick’s voice ask from beside her.

“Like crap,” she replied. “What the hell did I have to drink last night?”

Nick smirked as he rolled over onto his side. “Almost an entire pitcher of margaritas. And that was only at dinner.”

This produced another groan from Alyssa. “I’m never drinking tequila again. The last time I was this hung over was two years ago. I went out with some friends from work and wound up doing shots that I later learned were Irish car bombs. Evidently whiskey and Malibu rum don’t sit well together, as I learned the hard way.” She finally forced her eyes back open realizing that she was dressed in only her undergarments from the night before. That was typical of her when she was drinking heavily. She’d always manage to get about half her clothes off before just giving up and passing out. “I didn’t do anything last night really embarrassing that I should know about, right?”

“Well, you did announce rather loudly to the whole club that you and I had just ‘had a quickie’ upstairs in the VIP lounge…”

“No way! I would never do something like that,” she insisted. “You’re making that up!”

Nick gave her a shrug of his shoulders. “Well, you did, and I have four other witnesses that’ll back me up on it. It was just a tad bit embarrassing.”

Alyssa sighed, looking defeated. ”Okay, I’ll have to take your word for it. Anything else?”

“Nothing too bad. You just stumbled a lot and giggled and said stupid things. Oh, yea… And you got up and sang karaoke, but you weren’t alone. You, Tricia, and Teri got up and sang ‘Man I Feel Like a Woman.’ Nick’s eyes glazed a little as his mind recalled the events of the night before. “But Howie stole the show there.”

“Howie? What do you mean?” she asked, not really remembering this part of the night too well.

Nick chuckled to himself at the memory. “Well, I don’t know what Teri told him, but she whispered a few words in his ear and he jumped up with you girls and sang the whole damn song. Rather loudly too. Especially on those ‘Oh, oh, oh,’ parts. It was actually pretty entertaining.”

Alyssa had to laugh. “I think I vaguely remember that. Knowing Teri she probably bribed him with a blow job or something. That reminds me. I had the strangest dream last night involving karaoke. You and AJ were singing ‘Like a Virgin’ and dancing around and acting all gay and stuff. It was really bizarre!”

Now it was Nick’s turn to look embarrassed. “Well, uhmm actually that wasn’t a dream. AJ and I actually did go up and sing ‘Like a Virgin,’ but only because the rest of you signed us up to sing it without letting us know about it. And at least I can use the excuse that I had been drinking. I don’t know about AJ though. Maybe he had too many Red Bulls or something.”

“Wait… I think I remember now Howie filming the whole thing on his phone. He mentioned something about using it as blackmail…”

Nick groaned. “Great! I guarantee that shit is up on YouTube as we speak.”

“What’s wrong? You mean you don’t want to be the next internet sensation?” she giggled. “It’s like an assured spot on the next episode of Web Junk 20.”

“Like I need any more publicity after yesterday afternoon,” he quickly muttered.

Not wanting to get into the sore topic again, Alyssa changed the subject. “Well, I’m glad that I wasn’t too embarrassing. Honestly you know I don’t normally drink that much. I guess it’s pretty hypocritical because I was trying to lecture you on your drinking and I’m here one night and I already got completely wasted. So, I guess I really shouldn’t talk.”

Nick just shrugged. “You’re entitled to get drunk every once in a while. I won’t hold it against you or anything.”

Alyssa rolled over onto her back and attempted to sit up, but the pain in her head made the task too difficult for her. “Nick, can you do me a favor?” she asked in a little voice.

“Depends on what it is.”

“Can you get up and get me some Advil or something? My head feels like its going to explode.”

His face immediately went into a pout. “But I don’t want to get up.”

“Please,” she begged. “I don’t know where you keep it.”

“In the bathroom medicine cabinet, third shelf.”

“You’re closer though. And I’m your guest. Aren’t you supposed to be waiting on me?”

Nick sighed as he swung his legs over the side of the bed. “I almost forgot that you like to whine more than I do.”

“Thank you. You know I love you.” As soon as the words left her mouth she froze like a deer in headlights. Obviously she hadn’t meant it seriously, but just the idea of saying those three words to him was completely frightening. Judging from the stunned expression on Nick’s face, she could tell that the words had hit him in a strange way too. This required major damage control. “Well, I mean I don’t love you like that at least,” she stammered. “But yea… you know what I mean, right?”

The confusion grew on Nick’s face. “Uhmm yea… I think so. Maybe I should go get you that Advil now.” Without another word he strode out of the bedroom as if he couldn’t get away fast enough.

Nice job, Alyssa, she congratulated herself. Not only did you make a complete fool out of yourself, but you now made things even weirder between you and Nick.

A few moments later Nick reappeared with a glass of water and two Advil. She thanked him and quickly downed the two pills between gulps of water before settling back down against the pillows. “So, what time is it?”

“After twelve. You’ve been sleeping for quite a while.”

“After twelve? But that means that I wasted almost the entire day!”

“Don’t worry about it,” he assured her. “It’s raining, so there’s not much to do anyway. It was a good day to sleep in.”

“Guess that’s a good thing. I’m not feeling much up to doing anything right now anyway. I wouldn’t mind spending the whole day in bed. That is unless you have anything else planned?”

“Well, Kevin did call me earlier while you were sleeping. He and Melanie want to get together sometime tonight for dinner or something since they feel bad about not coming out last night. I told them I’d have to see how you were feeing,” Nick explained, sliding back into bed beside her.

“I’m sure I’ll be feeling fine by this evening. Are we going to go out again?”

“I was thinking of just inviting them over here and ordering out for something. I don’t want another run in with the paparazzi, so I thought something low key might be better.”

Alyssa just nodded. She herself did not want to bear witness to another paparazzi invasion, especially because this time they’d have Kevin himself to confront. It was probably best if they just invited the couple over. “That sounds like a good idea. But for now I think I just want to go back to sleep for a little bit longer.”

Nick grinned a little bit as he wrapped his arms around her waist and pulled her body closer to his. “Well, I think that can be arranged.”

Nestling into the crook of his arm, Alyssa shut her eyes and waited for the pounding in her head to subside into a dull ache. Then she finally drifted back off to sleep.




As expected, by the time Kevin and Melanie had arrived, Alyssa did feel much better. Her headache had long disappeared, but there still was an uncomfortable knot in her stomach. She suspected it had to do with the fact that she anticipated that dinner would be a little on the awkward side. She wasn’t exactly sure how things were between Nick and Kevin, but knowing Nick, Alyssa expected things to be a little strained between the two men. Obviously Nick was feeling a little abandoned by Kevin’s consideration to leave the group, and even if they steered clear from the topic, it would still hang over them ominously. Alyssa knew it would be up to her to keep the peace at the table and to make sure that the subject was not brought up at all.

Of course her job was made much easier by the fact that Melanie was pregnant. Her pregnancy was obviously an easy and safe subject for discussion. Who didn’t love babies? And she anticipated that being an expectant mother, Melanie would be gushing with details about the upcoming birth. At least that’s how Izzy had been lately.

That’s why the moment the older couple came through the door, Alyssa nearly pounced on Melanie. “How’s the mommy to be doing?” she asked, her hands already reaching out to touch her barely protruding stomach. “Aww… You’re starting to get a little baby bump!”

“Yea, all my clothes are starting to not fit me very well. Guess I’m going to have to hit Kevy up for a shopping spree pretty soon,” Melanie replied, glancing up at her husband with a twinkle in her eye.

Kevin just rolled his eyes. “You’ve been on a shopping spree ever since we found out that you were pregnant. I swear this kid is going to have more crap than it can ever possibly use.”

“But you still love it, right Kev?” Alyssa teased.

Nick, who had been standing there a little uncomfortable by all the baby talk, cleared his throat. “I ordered from that Italian place that you guys like. We would’ve cooked something, but yea… Both me and Lyss are pretty much helpless in the kitchen.”

“That’s completely fine Nick. I’ve had a craving for Italian food anyway,” Melanie assured him.

“Great, so it works out then!” Alyssa said a little too enthusiastically. “I’m starved and everything smelled so good, so why don’t we get right down to eating?”

Kevin and Melanie exchanged a little bit of a confused glance over Alyssa’s eagerness to rush right into dinner, but they still followed her into the direction of the dining area, too polite to ask any questions. Alyssa had only taken about two steps before Nick grabbed her arm and pulled her back towards him, so that they were out of earshot of the other couple.

“What the hell was that all about?” he hissed. “Don’t you think that they’re going to be a little suspicious of why all of a sudden you’ve turned into Suzy Sunshine?”

“I’m just trying to make sure that certain sensitive topics don’t come up tonight,” she tried to explain. “You told me last night that you didn’t want to have to deal with any of this crap about Kevin, so I figure if I steer the conversation the right way we’ll be able to avoid it. Don’t worry… I know what I’m doing.”

Nick wasn’t sure if he was supposed to be touched or worried by Alyssa’s plan. It was true that he would preferably like to pretend that Kevin wasn’t actually contemplating a break from the group, but he also knew that Kevin was very good at seeing through peoples actions. How many times had he himself been called out by Kevin in the past based on his behavior? Surely dozens. The plan seemed risky, but he figured that it was worth a try. “I certainly hope that you do know what you’re doing.”

“I’m doing this for you Nick,” she reminded him, before continuing on into the dining room where Melanie and Kevin were already seated. “Sorry about that. Nick just wanted to make sure if I remembered to heat everything up.”

“Well, it seems pretty hot to me,” Kevin remarked as he dug into a plate of lasagna.

“Good.” Alyssa pasted a wide smile on her face before taking her seat at the table. She waited until everybody had helped themselves to their food before continuing the conversation. “So Melanie… How far along are you again?”

“I’m around four months,” she answered between mouthfuls.

“Do you know if you’re having a boy or a girl yet?”

Melanie laughed a little bit. “It’s a little too soon to tell yet. I won’t know until about another few weeks. My doctor said that maybe at my next ultrasound we’ll be able to find out, but it all depends on what position the baby is in.”

“Did the two of you decide if you want to know the sex of the baby?”

The couple glanced at each other. “We’re not sure yet,” Kevin finally answered. “We’re kind of leaning towards wanting to be surprised. You know sometimes those things aren’t even accurate.”

Alyssa nodded. “Yea, I’ve heard that. Izzy and Tristan decided they wanted to know right away. She said that it made things easier as far as buying clothes and deciding how to set up the nursery and stuff. I guess it’s easier to know whether to buy pink or blue.”

“Yellow and green are always safe colors,” Melanie pointed out. “So what is Izzy having?”

“They’re having a little girl, but they’re not sure about a name yet. Izzy has a new idea for a name just about every day. She’s doing good though. She’s due sometime in March, so I guess that’ll make her about six months now. I actually haven’t seen her since Jingle Ball. With the holidays and all its been crazy, but Nick stopped over there the day after Christmas.”

“Oh yea? And how’s my baby cousin doing?” Kevin asked.

For the first time since they’d sat down, Nick spoke up. “She seems to be doing pretty good. It’s really weird seeing her pregnant though. I mean this is the same girl that I put itching powder in her training bra as a joke when we were fourteen.”

Alyssa laughed. “Izzy never told me about that one.” Turning her attention back towards Melanie she continued her interrogation. “So, any weird food cravings? And how about the morning sickness? Was it as bad as everyone says it is?””

“What’s with all the questions Alyssa?” Kevin interrupted. “I never knew you were so interested in pregnancy.” Hs eyes darted suspiciously back and forth between Alyssa and Nick. “Is there something that you’re not telling us?”

Both Alyssa and Nick shared the same horrified look on their faces before Alyssa erupted into giggles. “Wait… You think I’m…” By this point she was laughing so hard she couldn’t even get the word out. “God, no! Are you kidding me? I’m nowhere near ready for a kid yet. I was just wondering for you know… future reference, that’s all.”

Kevin pretended to let out a sigh of a relief. “Good because as of right now the Backstreet family doesn’t need anymore babies.”

I wonder if he made that comment insinuating that I’m pregnant just to trip me up because he assumes that all this baby talk is just an excuse to avoid any other type of conversation? Alyssa wondered as she zoned out while Melanie launched into some longwinded explanation about just how bad her morning sickness had been. Thankfully enough, the rest of the meal went by smoothly without any other embarrassing moments. After a few minutes, the conversation turned to football which normally Alyssa could care less about, but under the circumstances it seemed like a relatively safe topic.

Once everyone had finished, Melanie pushed her plate away and placed her hand over her stomach. “Sometimes with this eating for two thing I definitely overdo it. I’m stuffed, but it was delicious!”

“Yea, it was pretty good considering its LA, Italian food,” Alyssa admitted, sticking her tongue out at Nick.

Kevin raised his eyebrows, so Nick volunteered to explain. “Alyssa insists that the only place for Italian food is New York City.”

“It’s true! New York City has the best food period! Best Italian… Best pizza… Best bagels… Best ice cream…”

“Ice cream… Now I can totally go for some of that,” Melanie admitted.

“But I thought you said you were stuffed,” Nick reminded her.

“I did, but that was before Alyssa mentioned ice cream. I have a wicked craving all of a sudden for pistachio… I can practically taste it.”

Nick wrinkled his nose. “Yuck, pistachio!”

Melanie ignored him and turned towards her husband, sticking out her bottom lip slightly. “Kevin…”

Kevin sighed. “Let me guess… You want me to go out and get you pistachio ice cream, right?”

She just nodded. “Pretty please?”

“Fine,” Kevin agreed. “Nick do you want to take a ride with me?”

Nick looked a little unsurely at Alyssa. “Go,” she insisted. “I’ll stay here with Melanie and we’ll do a little girl talk. We’ll even clean off the table.”

“You sure?”

“Yes, go with Kevin. We’ll be fine.”

A few minutes later, the two men were headed out towards Kevin’s car leaving Alyssa and Melanie alone at the table. As soon as they were out the door it was Melanie’s turn to pounce on Alyssa. “So, what’s the deal with you two? Are you together now or what?”

Alyssa sighed, getting sick of explaining the situation to everyone. “Sort of. We’re kind of giving things another try… Or at least trying to. It’s complicated, but we’re working through it. It’ll probably just take some time.”

The older woman nodded her head. “Yea, I understand that. Truthfully though I’m kind of glad that you two found your way back to each other. Nick could use someone dependable like you in his life.”

Alyssa wasn’t quite sure how she should take that. Obviously it was a compliment, but it was the first time that anyone had really given their support to her. Sure, Tricia and Teri had encouraged her last night at the club, but they hadn’t known Alyssa as long as Melanie had. It meant a lot to her, that Melanie felt that way. “Thanks a lot. You don’t know how much that means to me. Ever since Nick and I rekindled our relationship, I’ve had pretty much everyone close to me tell me that I was crazy for getting involved with him again. I admit, it hasn’t been in the most conventional way, and it’s been a very bumpy, painful road, but I really think things are improving between us. He’s just been through so much since we broke up; it’s very hard to undo all the damage he’s sustained in the past three years.”

Melanie looked sympathetic. “Yea, I understand that, but you’re doing great. It’s going to take time and patience, but if anyone can set him back on the right path again, it’s you.”

Alyssa bit her lip, contemplating on whether or not she should confront Melanie on the rumors about Kevin. She didn’t like going behind Nick’s back like this, but by now the curiosity had gotten to her. She couldn’t fathom the idea of Kevin even toying with the idea of leaving the band, especially after all these years. He could still manage a family and a career. Brian seemed to do a great job of it. So why would Kevin be any different?

“What’s wrong?” Melanie’s voice interrupted her thoughts. “You look like you’re torn about something.”

She sighed, deciding to jump right into it. “Look, it might be my place to be asking you this, but Nick and I were shopping yesterday and we bumped into some paparazzi, and they mentioned something about Kevin thinking about leaving the group. I knew they probably were just rumors, but Nick got really upset and defensive and when I asked him about it, he completely shut down. I know it’s not any of my business, but please Melanie, tell me the truth. Is Kevin leaving the group?”

Melanie looked away for a moment and paused as if she wasn’t quite sure how to answer. After a few excruciatingly long moments she finally broke the silence. “Yes… Yes Kevin has decided to leave the group. He wants to devote all the time he can to this baby, and he insists that if he stays with the group he won’t be able to do that.”

Alyssa gasped. She’d been expecting some kind of shocking news, but not that. The reporters had only mentioned that he’d been tossing the idea around, but she had never anticipated that he’d already reached his decision, so quickly. “But… What about the rest of the tour? And I’m sure he could handle both. Look at Brian… Him, Leigh, and Baylee, are extremely well adjusted considering that they live their life traveling from city to city.”

“There’s a difference there Alyssa. When Baylee was first born, the band was on hiatus. Brian was able to be there for every first step along the way. Kevin’s afraid that he’ll be at some interview when this baby says its first words or performing at some concert when it takes its first steps. He doesn’t want to miss out on anything,” she explained. “It was completely his decision. I would’ve supported him no matter what he decided. He’s going to finish out the tour and wait until things die down a little bit before he breaks the news to the media.”

It was then that the obvious thought flashed across her mind. “Does Nick know?”

Melanie shook her head. “No, he doesn’t, but if I know Kevin he’s probably breaking the news to him as we speak.”

“Oh God…” Alyssa murmured as she sunk further down into her seat. “He’s going to be devastated…” She could only imagine how Nick was going to react to the news.

And the bigger question: How was she going to be able to pick up the pieces once he arrived back home?
Chapter Forty-Five by Mellz Bellz
Author's Notes:
Kevin drops a major bombshell on Nick.
Chapter 45


“Just think… Some day in the future, you’ll be the one running out at all crazy hours of the night to buy Alyssa ice cream or whatever type of food she craves,” Kevin predicted, laying a friendly pat on Nick’s back as he dumped a carton of pistachio ice cream onto the supermarket conveyor belt. “See what you have to look forward too?”

Nick shook his head in response. “That’s not going to be for a long, long, long, long, time. Alyssa and I can’t even decide if we want to be with each other a week from now, so I don’t think we’re in any kind of position to be thinking about kids. Besides, you forget, I’ve experienced a pregnant woman’s cravings firsthand. Been there, done that.” Katie had always craved cheesecake while she had been pregnant with Serena, which had usually resulted in Nick running out to the nearest supermarket, bakery, or restaurant to bring her back a few slices. It hadn’t been fun in his book.

“Oh yea…” Kevin realized, momentarily forgetting that his younger friend had been through all of this before him. An awkward silence fell over them, as the cashier rang up their purchase and Kevin paid for the ice cream. He grabbed the plastic bag and began to walk towards the door, before he finally spoke again. “She’s good for you, you know.”

Nick looked confused for a moment. “Who’s good for me?” he asked, clearly thrown by the randomness of Kevin’s comment.

“Alyssa. She keeps you stable. I can definitely see the difference in you.”

“Really? You think I’m different around her?” He hadn’t noticed anything different in his behavior, but then again he was only able to see things from an inside perspective.

“Absolutely. You look happier than you have been in a long time. And the two of you seem really relaxed around each other. I’m not sure exactly what is going on between you, but I can tell that you and her are more than just friends. I know I had my doubts in the beginning and I gave you a bit of a rough time, but I can see now that I was wrong about the two of you,” the older man confessed. “You definitely have my blessing.”

“Thanks…” Nick just looked stunned for a moment. Kevin apologize? And he gave them his blessing? This was beginning to feel a lot more serious than he originally thought. “She is good for me,” he finally admitted. “She’s been a very big comfort to me these past few months.”

Kevin grinned as they reached his car. “Never thought I’d see it with my own two eyes, but I think that you’ve finally met the right woman, little man. Now just don’t fuck it up.”

Kevin’s words echoed in Nick’s mind as he climbed into the passenger seat. Could Alyssa really be “the one?” He hadn’t really considered the thought before… Well at least not recently. There had been a time when he had been positive that Alyssa was the woman that he was meant to spend the rest of his life with, but a lot had changed since then. He was an entirely different person now. Besides, he didn’t believe in all that soul mate crap anyway. He laughed nervously. “I’ll try not to.”

A few more minutes of tense silence passed between the two men as they drove off. There had been some sort of wall built up between the two of them ever since Kevin had first announced his plans to possibly leave the group. Ever since then, the two men had been polite, but nowhere near as friendly towards each other as they had once been. Kevin suspected that Nick felt betrayed that he’d even entertain the idea of leaving, and now that he had reached a final decision, he wasn’t looking forward to breaking the news to him. Deep down though, Kevin knew it would be best to tell Nick first, since he anticipated that he’d probably take the news the hardest. Now would be a perfect opportunity, since they were completely alone and since they were in a car, Nick couldn’t storm off, a typical reaction for him when he received particularly unpleasant news.

Kevin cleared his throat and gripped the steering wheel tighter before initiating the conversation. “I talked to Howie this afternoon.” After seeing no response from Nick, he continued. “He told me about what happened yesterday afternoon with the paparazzi.”

“He told you?” Nick looked as if he was about to lash out, but quickly managed to calm himself. “It doesn’t matter. It was stupid anyway.”

“It’s not stupid. Obviously it upset you a great deal. I mean I heard that you had quite a few choice words for them-“

“If you brought this up to lecture me about how I need to keep my temper in check around the paparazzi, I don’t want to hear it!” he interrupted. “Bad enough I realize now that because I got so angry, I gave them exactly what they wanted and now I probably just helped sell a few thousand more copies of their trash.”

“They know that I’m thinking about leaving, Nick. That means that some of the fans are probably already starting rumors. We have to face this!”

Nick looked away. “No we don’t. Keep quiet and just keep denying it. The rumors will die down in a few weeks.”

Kevin swallowed, knowing that the truth was about to come out any minute now. “What if it’s true?”

This caught Nick’s attention and his head whipped back around. “What if what’s true? That you’re leaving the group? We know it’s not… At least nothing has been decided yet.”

“I have reached a decision-“

Kevin’s heart nearly broke as he saw the hollow look in Nick’s eyes as if he knew what Kevin was going to say before he actually said it. All of a sudden, it seemed to Kevin as if Nick was fourteen again. “No!” he insisted. “You’re not leaving the group Kevin! Please, tell me you’re not!”

“I am… I’m sorry Nick, but it’s the right thing to do under the circumstances.”

“Circumstances? What circumstances? Fuck the circumstances! We need you!”

Kevin sighed, already feeling tension building around his head. “I have a wife who is pregnant with my child. I want to devote every minute that I can to them. I feel that if I’m a part of this band I won’t be able to give 100% of myself to either the fans or my family. It wouldn’t be fair to either one.”

“That’s bullshit! You act as if you’re the only one in the world who has ever had a baby on the way. Look at Brian! He didn’t run off to quit the group the minute Baylee was born. And he’s a damn good father! And I had no intentions of leaving the group when Katie was pregnant!”

“That was different. We were on hiatus when Baylee was born, so Brian had the leisure of being able to spend time with his son,” Kevin pointed out. “And you… Well, that was a completely different story. “

“I don’t see it that way at all,” Nick challenged. “You know what I think Kevin? I think that you’re a coward! You’re just sick of performing or maybe you just can’t hack it anymore or whatever, so you’re hiding behind the excuse that you have a child on the way. Why don’t you just come out and say the truth? That you don’t want to be a part of the group anymore, because you’re sick and tired of us!

Kevin’s voice caught in his throat. “That’s not true at all! You know that I see you guys as my younger brothers. I’d never turn my back on you for no reason!”

“Well, you certainly have a funny way of showing it,” he muttered, just loud enough for Kevin to hear.

“Nick, this might not even be forever. When things clear up and when the baby is old enough, who knows? Maybe I’ll come back, but for now-“

“Maybe we won’t want you! What makes you think that you can just come and go as you please? What makes you so special? You’re the one who was ready to throw AJ out of the band once you found out he was using drugs. You were pretty much ready to turn your back on him, yet you want us to leave the door open for you? Why should we?”

“Now hold on! That was a completely different situation!” Kevin sputtered, before he realized how pointless this all was. He knew by now that Nick’s anger was almost impossible to match, and the few times he had tried it always ended with holes punched into hotel room walls or the other guys having to hold the two of them back from each other. In this situation, Kevin knew that he wasn’t going to win and it was probably best just to let Nick vent.

“It was not! God, I’m so fucking sick of you thinking that you’re like God or something! That’s one thing I am not going to miss! Maybe we’re better off without your sorry ass!”

Thankfully enough at this point, they were only about a block away from Nick’s house and Kevin was relieved. He did the best he could to tune Nick’s ranting out, but it was difficult. Already, Kevin began to feel like he’d taken a physical beating, but he knew Nick long enough to know that he didn’t really mean about half of what he was saying. Right now he needed to just cool down and let the news settle in rationally.

He was never so relieved to pull into Nick’s driveway. “I guess Melanie and I will be going. Just send her out on your way in.”

“Yea, whatever,” Nick muttered as he tore open the car door.

“Nick… I’m sorry,” he attempted one last lame stab at an apology.

Nick looked back at him and for a moment their eyes locked and Kevin had a glimmer of hope that he’d change his mind. That glimmer was shattered when Nick looked away, a look of pure hatred in his eyes. “Fuck you Kevin,” he spat, before turning on his feet and disappearing inside his house.




Inside the house, Melanie and Alyssa were just beginning to load the dirty dishes from dinner into the dishwasher when they heard the sound of Kevin’s car pull into the driveway. The two women exchanged a worried glance, already expecting the worst possible scenario. As they raced towards the front door, their expectations were met when they heard the car door slam loudly and Nick’s voice ringing out quite loudly, “Fuck you Kevin!”

Melanie grimaced as soon as she heard the words. “Wow, he’s lucky that Kevin probably feels bad for him right now, because under ordinary circumstances he’d never be able to get away with that shit.” With a sigh, she picked her purse up from the couch where she’d thrown it when she had walked in earlier that evening. “I guess it’ll probably be best if I leave now. Good luck trying to calm him down. Whatever you do please make sure he doesn’t hit the bottle. You know how he gets.”

Alyssa nodded, not at all looking forward to Nick’s wrath. His outburst with the paparazzi the other afternoon had been scary enough for her, and something told her that his anger would be multiplied at least tenfold after hearing Kevin’s decision. She’d never seen Nick this angry before and although she was positive that he would never intentionally hurt her, she knew if she didn’t at least allow him a little space to cool off, he’d only take his anger out on her verbally. “Good night Melanie.”

Just then the front door flung open and Nick strode past the two of them looking as if he was literally fuming. His blue eyes looked as cold as ice and his face was clearly red. He walked in the door in such a frenzy that he nearly knocked poor Melanie over. Alyssa pressed a hand to her mouth, silently thankful that he only just brushed past Melanie. She could only imagine what would have happened if she had fallen and something had happened to the baby.

She felt as if she ought to try to offer some kind of consoling words to him, but she couldn’t think of any. “Nick…” she started off, fighting to come up with something.

“Don’t! I’m not in the mood Alyssa!” he warned her, holding up a hand. “I feel like shit. I’m going to bed. Please just leave me alone before I say something I regret, okay?”

“All right,” Alyssa reluctantly agreed as Nick headed upstairs towards the bedroom. A few moments later Alyssa could distinctively hear loud crashing noises that sounded as if Nick was probably tearing up his entire bedroom. She jumped at the noises, not feeling at all comfortable even being in the house at the moment. For a moment or two, she even contemplated giving AJ or Howie a call and seeing if she could possibly spend the night with one of them or the girls, but she quickly reconsidered. If she called one of them she’d have to explain what exactly had set Nick off, and she was pretty sure that Kevin had yet to share his news with the rest of the guys. Plus if she wasn’t there to make sure that Nick didn’t do anything stupid, his next move after destroying his bedroom would probably be to grab his keys and head out to the nearest bar and get drunk. And in his current mental state, Alyssa doubted that he’d remember that he already had one DUI charge under his belt. So, because she cared so much about him and was worried sick by his erratic behavior, she stayed.

Maybe he just needs to get all that angry energy out and after he’s broken a few things, he’ll calm down. Maybe he’s not so different from some of the difficult students you’ve encountered, she tried to tell herself. Maybe he just needs to have his tantrum and then he’ll be okay.

As difficult as it was to ignore what was going on upstairs, Alyssa tried her best to tune it out as she finished loading up the dishwasher and started the load. When that was finished she began to wrap up the leftovers that were still on the table and put them in the refrigerator for lunch the following day. After that, searching for something to do she found a sponge and began to scrub his countertops. She’d never been much of a neat freak herself, but now she found her searching for any kind of menial task to kill some of the tension that lingered in the air and to get her mind off of how concerned she was.

At this rate, Nick’s house will be spotless by the time he gets over the snit he’s in. The thought brought a slight smile to her face for a moment as out of boredom she moved on to straightening little things up. If anyone walked in on me right now they’d probably swear up and down that I have OCD.

Finally after nearly an hour of cleaning, Alyssa collapsed on the couch not knowing what else to do with herself. She supposed she should probably head upstairs and find an empty bedroom to crash in since Nick had made it pretty clear that he didn’t want to see her or anyone else for that matter. Just the thought of heading up those stairs made her stomach twist into knots though.

After a few minutes of fighting with herself, she reluctantly headed towards the stairs and slowly ascended them pausing midway. The crashing noises that had echoed throughout the house earlier had subsided and everything seemed still. Alyssa wasn’t sure if that was a good or bad sign though.

When she reached the top landing and started down the hall she stopped next to Nick’s closed door. Curiosity and concern got the best of her, and she pressed her ear against the door to see if she could hear anything going on inside that would give her a clue as to how Nick was doing. Even though she was straining her ears, nothing could be heard. Maybe I should just stick my head in and make sure he’s all right? she wondered. After a few minutes of fighting with herself, she took a deep breath and quietly pushed the door open.

The sight that lay before her made Alyssa gasp. A lamp from Nick’s nightstand lay sideways on the floor, visibly cracked. Dresser drawers had been pulled out haphazardly and various articles of clothes littered the carpet. Shards of glass were all that remained from the mirror that had stood above the dresser. In his rage Nick had completely ransacked the room. Alyssa was afraid to even look further to see what other damage had been done.

Her gaze drifted over to the bed where she could just about barely make out Nick’s huddled form. His back was to her and he was lying on his side as if he were sleeping. Upon closer inspection, Alyssa suspected by his breathing that he actually wasn’t sleeping, but just pretending to do so. She assumed that like she had originally predicted, he had blown off all his steam and now finally the anger was turning into depression.

“Nick?” she tentatively spoke up. There was no response. Nick just continued staring in the direction of the wall. “Nick? I know you’re not really sleeping.”

Again there was no answer. Feeling braver now, Alyssa stripped off her clothing until she was in just a tank top and boy shorts and slid into bed next to him, sliding her hands around his waist. “If you don’t feel like talking I understand that. Just please don’t shut me out, okay? I didn’t do anything wrong.”

Nick still didn’t say anything, but Alyssa could tell by the change in his breathing that he knew that she was there and he made no move to shrug her off, which she took as a good sign. “Melanie told me that Kevin decided to leave the group,” she continued. “I understand how upset and angry and betrayed you probably feel right now. I’m not going to force you to talk about it though. I just want you to know that I’m going to be here for you, and if or when you feel up to talking about it, I’ll definitely listen.”

Finally Nick responded by rolling onto his back and turning his head to look towards her. Alyssa could practically feel her heart breaking as she realized by the puffiness in his eyes that he had actually been crying. “I can’t believe he’s actually doing it. He’s actually fucking doing it,” he said in a cracked voice.

Alyssa sighed as she reached out to rub his back. “I know… It’s going to be hard without him.”

“Who’s going to be the one to speak for us at interviews? Who’s going to be the one to kick me under the table when I zone out during meetings? Who’s going to be on my ass, making sure I’m ready on time in the morning? Who’s going to stand up for me to the media the next time I make one of my infamous mistakes?” As he asked each question, he looked more and more lost.

“I don’t know Nick… I guess the four of you are going to have to step things up a bit and be more independent.”

Nick rolled his eyes. “Me? Independent? If it hadn’t been for Kevin I don’t know where I’d be now. He was always the toughest on me and I used to hate him for it, but as of lately I’ve started to appreciate it more. He was only doing it because he cared about me, you know.”

Alyssa nodded. “That’s very true. He’s helped you out a lot throughout the years hasn’t he?”

“Yea… I really don’t know how I’m going to do it without him,” he admitted.

“You’ll do it. You’re strong enough now. It’s not like your fifteen anymore. You’re almost twenty-six. You don’t need anyone pushing you along anymore. I think you’ll be fine. Yea… you’ll still miss him and it’ll be weird him not being there, but its not like you can’t be friends anymore. You can still keep in touch.”

Nick looked down. “I don’t know… Sometimes I wonder about being strong enough part. I tend to do really stupid things and rely on Kevin to smooth everything over for me. Now its like I finally have to take responsibility for my actions and it’s sort of scary to think about.”

“Aww Nick…” Alyssa hugged him closer to her. “That’s a really hard thing to be able to admit. But just the fact that you did shows a certain level of maturity. I think that even since July when we first met up again, there’s been a really big change in you for the better.”

“Really? You think so?”

Alyssa nodded. “Uh huh. This past summer you were such a player. With the partying and the drinking and all those random girls… I was really afraid that the old Nick that I used to know was gone for good. But somewhere along the line in the past few months something changed. You slowly began to cut down on all that negative behavior and it seems like you’re finally beginning to remember who is important in your life. I think you’ll be okay Nick. I honestly do.”

A sad expression came over Nick’s face. “I really fucked things up with Kevin though. I said a lot of really horrible things to him that I didn’t mean. I was just really angry and I think some of what I said can’t be taken back.”

“I’m sure Kevin realizes that you didn’t mean it. After being your friend for almost thirteen years now, I think that he knows you well enough to know that when you’re upset you often say things that you don’t mean. I’m sure he was expecting that kind of reaction from you,” she tried to assure him.

“I told Kevin to fuck himself. That’s not something you get away with too easily. That’s like telling your Dad that. You always want to and you say it under your breath a lot, but you’re always scared to actually do it because you’ll know he’ll beat your ass for it,” Nick tried to explain.

Alyssa had to crack a smile at his analogy. “I know you did. Melanie and I heard it and under the circumstances I think Kevin might just let you slide this time as long as you apologize. Trust me; Kevin is not going to want to let all those years of friendship go to waste over something like this. He’s going to want to leave the group on good terms and he’s going to want each and every one of you to be a part of that baby’s life once it’s born. Like I said, it’s not going to be easy going back into the studio without him, but you have to make the most of these last few weeks of the tour that you have together.”

“And then what happens after the tour?”

“Don’t think about that now. You don’t want to spend your last few chances to perform altogether worrying about the future. You want to go out on a positive note right?”

Nick nodded. “I guess you’re right. But after the tour it’s really going to hit me I think and that’s when it’ll really start to suck. I don’t know what I’m going to do to keep myself distracted.”

“Well, you’ll have me,” she pointed out, laying her head against his chest.

“What exactly do you mean by that?”

Alyssa froze for a moment, realizing that once again she had spoken without thinking. Did she really mean what she had implied? She quickly thought it over in her mind and as crazy as it seemed, something in her gut told her that it was right thing to do, especially if she cared this much about him. He needed her, and she was not about to abandon him now. Whether it was as friends or perhaps something more, she owed it to him to be there for him.

She took in a deep breath. “You’re obviously going to be really depressed and bummed and stuff when the tour wraps up. I’m anticipating that you’re probably need a good friend to talk to or maybe somebody who’s good at cuddling. So, I guess I’m just going to have move out here to LA.”

Nick looked shocked for a moment. They’d discussed the possibility of her moving out there a few days earlier when they’d agreed to give things another try between them, but he definitely hadn’t expected anything to be decided so soon. He was surprised how fast things all of a sudden began to be moving, but strangely he was not all together freaked out. He had to admit that it would be comforting to have her closer to him. “But you love New York City,” he stuttered.

Alyssa shrugged. “Yea, I know I do, but something tells me that LA might not be so bad.”

Through the darkness, she could barely make out the shape of Nick’s lips lifting upwards into a small smile. “Thanks,” he told her in a low voice. Then he did something completely unexpected. Pulling her body closer to his, his hands reached upwards into her hair and pulled her head closer to his. When their lips met, Alyssa almost gasped at the intensity of the kiss. Maybe it was all the emotions that were clearly tearing at Nick during that moment. Whatever it was there was one thing that Alyssa was sure of.

She’d made the right decision.
Chapter Forty-Six by Mellz Bellz
Author's Notes:
Nick plans a thoughtful surprise for Alyssa.
Chapter 46


Damn… Did I really do all this damage? Nick questioned himself the next morning when he opened his eyes and saw the state of disarray his bedroom was in from his fit the night before. He hadn’t even remembered doing it at first. It was like he had completely blacked out during that time period. Maybe the media is right. Maybe I do need some anger management classes. No wonder they thought I was really responsible for those bruises on Paris.

He was so deep in his thoughts that he didn’t even notice Alyssa stirring beside him until he felt the warm touch of her hand on his back as she sat up next to him. “Kind of hard to believe you did all this, huh?” she asked, reading his mind.

“Yea… Scary part is I barely remember doing it.” He sighed. “It’s going to be fun cleaning up this whole mess and replacing what’s broken.”

Alyssa just silently nodded her head. “I’ll help,” she promised.

Nick gave her a grateful look. “Thanks a lot… For everything. You must have been pretty freaked out seeing me like that. I know getting angry isn’t the right solution to any problem at all, but I really wasn’t myself last night.”

“I know… And it’s okay Nick. I completely understand why you acted the way you did. I’m not going to hold it against you.”

“Can I ask you a question? Did you really mean what you said last night about moving out here to LA?”

Alyssa looked surprised at his question. Had he really not believed her last night? “Of course I was serious. Why would I agree to it if I wasn’t?”

Nick shrugged. “I don’t know. Maybe just to make me feel better I suppose. So, if you were serious I guess the next question is how do we make this work?”

“What do you mean, how do we make this work?”

“You know… Like where are you going to live and stuff?” he asked, getting a little flustered. “I mean if you really want I guess you can stay here. The house is big enough and all.”

Alyssa laughed a little bit because she could tell that Nick really didn’t want her to move in with him, but he was too polite not to offer. She couldn’t blame him though. Given the choice and based upon where their relationship was at now, moving back in with him would be way too awkward. “It’s okay Nick. We’re both so used to living on our own right now and it would be rushing things way too much if I were to move in with you. Remember, we promised we’d take things slow right? I think I’d be the happiest with my own little condo across town. Be prepared though, I’m planning on lots of sleepovers both here and at my place,” she added with a smirk.

Nick grinned as he slid his arm around her. “I don’t think I’ll have a problem with that arrangement.” He paused for a moment. “So, I guess we’ll have to squeeze in some condo shopping huh?”

She shrugged indifferently. “It doesn’t have to be right away. If need be I can always come back out here for another visit after the tour to look at places, but right now we don’t have to waste our time with that. It’s going to be a pretty crazy transition moving all my furniture and everything cross country and then trying to find a job out here…”

While listening to her lament about how complicated the process of moving out to LA was going to be for her, Nick was hit with a brainstorm. His face broke out in a grin as he formulated his plan. After everything she had done for him last night, he at least owed her this much. “Hey, Lyss,” he cut her off. “I’m sorry, but I just remembered that I have a few calls I need to make. You know… Business stuff. So, why don’t you go down to the kitchen and see if you can rustle something up for breakfast and I’ll be down as soon as I can.”

“Okay,” Alyssa agreed, leaning over to give him a kiss on the cheek before springing out of bed. “Have fun with that!”

“Oh, I will!” Nick echoed back as she disappeared down the hall. Once she was gone, he got up and headed down the hall in the opposite direction towards his “office room” as he liked to call it. It hadn’t exactly been a lie to Alyssa. He did have a few calls to make. Only they weren’t exactly business ones.




When Nick came back downstairs about twenty minutes later he found himself quite amused at the sight before him as he stepped into the kitchen. A few feet away Alyssa stood near his stove, still in her boy shorts and tank top, flipping what appeared to be pancakes. She seemed completely oblivious that Nick had entered the room, but that probably had to do with the fact that she had jacked up the volume on his stereo and was now too immersed in singing along with the Black Eyed Peas on the radio.

What you gon' do with all that junk?
All that junk inside that trunk?
I'ma get, get, get, get you drunk,
Get you love drunk off my hump.
What you gon' do with all that ass?
All that ass inside them jeans?
I'ma make, make, make, make you scream
Make you scream, make you scream


Nick chuckled to himself as he watched her swing her hips along to the beat of the music in an exaggerated dance. He knew that once she finally noticed him, she was sure to be very embarrassed. Clearing his throat, he stepped further into the room. “Am I interrupting something?”

Alyssa jumped nearly ten feet as her face reddened. “Oh my God, Nick… You scared the shit out of me!”

He just smirked. “Sorry about that. Didn’t look like you were expecting anyone.” He made his way over to her side to inspect what she was doing. “You cooked?”

“Uh huh,” she nodded, holding up a piece of bacon for him to sample. “Not too bad, right?”

“Mmm…” Nick agreed as he bit into it. “Strangely enough it’s actually edible.”

Alyssa playfully smacked his arm. “You know, I can manage something as simple as pancakes and bacon. Speaking of, the pancakes should be ready any minute now, so have a seat.”

“Yea… Uhmm about that… I actually have to run out for a little bit. I have something that I need to take care of, but I swear after that I’m all yours.”

It was then Alyssa noticed for the first time that he was now fully dressed in a pair of jeans and a polo shirt and was gripping his car keys in his hand. “Can’t it at least wait until after you eat?” she pouted. “I mean I slaved over this hot stove and all…”

“Well, maybe I could just wolf down a few pancakes really quickly.” If there was one thing Nick had always been a sucker for it was her pouting. She was just so cute when she got that look on her face, that he found it hard to say no to her.

“That sounds better,” she told him with a triumphant grin on her face.

A few minutes later, the pancakes were out on the table and Nick had already almost inhaled two or three of them. “Slow down there buddy,” Alyssa teased. “Where do you have to go that’s so important?”

“Just got to pick something up.” It wasn’t exactly a complete lie.

“Do you want any company? I could go along for the ride if you want?”

“Nah… It’s okay. It’s just some more business stuff. You’d be bored out of your mind. I’ll be back before you know it,” he promised.

Alyssa gave him an odd look as if she didn’t quite believe him. “Okay then.”

Oh, oh. She’s onto you Carter. Nick’s mind quickly raced for some way to smooth over her worries. “While I’m gone make sure that you’re all dressed and everything. Then we can go out and do something.”

“Whatever you say.” She still seemed to be looking at him skeptically, but there was slightly less doubt in her voice. “Have a good time, I guess.”

“I’ll try, but yea… You know how business things are.” With that he stood up from the table. “I’ll see you later.”

“Later,” Alyssa echoed as she watched him leave. What the fuck was that all about? she wondered. That man just gets stranger and stranger each day.

With Nick gone and the house to herself, Alyssa wasn’t left with much to do, so she headed upstairs for a quick shower. Once she was finished, she changed into a pair of jeans and one of her favorite t-shirts that read Blondes Tease, Brunettes Please. After she was completely dressed with nothing else to do, she went back downstairs and plopped in front of the TV, searching for something to catch her attention until Nick returned.

She was halfway through a rerun of The Practice when she heard the front door open indicating that Nick had finally returned from his business. She looked up just as Nick walked in with a wide grin on his face. “What are you so smiley about?” she asked him, looking at him strangely.

Nick ignored her comment. “Good, you’re dressed! We’re leaving now. I have a surprise for you.”

Alyssa looked confused. “A surprise? For me?”

“Yep,” he confirmed as he threw his keys over to her. “Here you go. You’re driving.”

Alyssa glanced down at his keys, realizing that they were the ones to his BMW. Her eyes lit up. “You’re going to let me drive the Beemer?”

Nick nodded. “Call me crazy, but yes, I’m trusting my baby in your hands. So you better get moving before I change my mind.”

She didn’t need to be told twice. She sprang up from the couch and followed him out to the garage. “Is this my surprise?”

“Nope. It’s even better than that,” he promised as they reached the car. “Nice shirt by the way.”

Alyssa smirked as she unlocked it and slid into the driver’s seat. “I thought you might like it, being the king of the perverted t-shirts and all.” She reached up to adjust the rearview mirror and push her seat up much closer to the steering wheel. “I’m curious, is there any truth to that?”

Nick laughed a little bit at her flirting. “I think I might have to plead the fifth on that one.”

She rolled her eyes. “Whatever… We all know that it’s true. Okay… What freakin button do you hit to open up the moon roof?”

“That one over there.” Nick leaned over her lap to open it for her. “It was right in front of your face.”

“Shut up! I’m not used to such luxuries okay? I was lucky my last car had cup holders. Although I do admit… I definitely can get used to this.” She started up the engine and then placed her sunglasses onto her face before beginning to back out the driveway. “So, where am I going?”

“I’ll give you directions,” Nick assured her. “We’re going to need to head over to the parkway, so you’re going to have to make a left out of here.”

“I guess now would be a good time to remind you that I haven’t driven since September before my car was stolen.” Alyssa laughed as Nick’s face turned just a little white. Flashing him a grin she continued to drive. “But, don’t worry. I’ll be careful, I promise. I’m not doing that bad am I?”

“Please just stop speaking and concentrate on driving,” he begged through gritted teeth. “You’re going to make me regret my decision.”

“Nick, I was only kidding! I’m fine. Trust me, how can you be nervous at all driving a car like this?” She frowned once she realized that probably wasn’t the most encouraging thing to say under the circumstances. “Okay, don’t answer that. But seriously this is one amazing car. It runs five billion times better then my old hunk of junk did.”

Nick finally seemed to relax as a proud look came upon his face. “Yea… It’s pretty sweet, huh?”

“It is. You better watch it. I might just steal it on you,” she joked. “Which reminds me… I’m definitely going to need a car out here. One more expense for me. I seriously need to get my ass a steady job.”

“Well, if you really need to, I guess I can loan you this one for a bit until you save up enough money,” he offered. “Maybe I can even help you find a deal or something.”

Alyssa looked shocked. “You’d loan me your BMW? Are you crazy? You love this car!”

Nick shrugged. “Yea, I do, but I have two others. And I kind of owe you for picking up your entire life and moving all the way out here just for me. I figure if I want you around, I’m going to have to pitch in somehow.”

“Well, that’s really sweet of you Nick. You really want me to move out here that badly?”

After considering it for a moment or two Nick slowly nodded. “Yea, I do. After the tour wraps up things are going to be pretty weird. Kevin will be preparing for fatherhood, Brian will be in Georgia with his family, and AJ and Howie are going to be too wrapped up in their own relationships to really be there, so I think I’m going to need someone to talk to.”

Alyssa had to admit that she was touched. How am I supposed to respond to that? “Thank you, Nick. That means a lot to me.”

The rest of the ride passed by uneventfully with the only real conversation being Nick instructing Alyssa on which way to go. About twenty minutes later, they pulled into what appeared to be a modern looking condominium complex. Alyssa could tell just by the salty smell of the air that they couldn’t be too far from the ocean. With a puzzled look on her face, she turned towards Nick. “What are we doing here? Are we visiting someone? Does one of your sisters live here or something?”

Nick just chuckled at her questions. “You’ll see,” he mysteriously told her. “Park here.”

Alyssa pulled into the parking space that Nick had indicated and shut off the engine. The complex really was very well kept and inviting. Sort of like the kind of place that she’d like to live when she moved out to LA. Ha! And can you just imagine what one of these babies probably cost?

“Come on,” Nick told her, already out of the car. “I want to show you something.”

“Okay,” Alyssa responded uncertainly as she followed him towards the direction of one of the condos. To her surprise, Nick whipped out a pair of keys and stepping right up to the doorway of one, he jiggled the key into the lock, causing the door to spring open.

She must have been standing there gaping for a moment because Nick just laughed. “Don’t just stand there. Go inside.” He waved his hand in the direction of the open doorway.

` Slowly she stepped inside looking slightly awed. On the inside the place was completely gorgeous. About three times the size of her cramped apartment in New York City, the living area was spacious and inviting with white walls and wood paneled floors. A pair of skylights hung from the ceiling flooding the room with light. Sliding glass doors opened up to a small deck, barely big enough for two people that provided a beautiful view of the ocean in the distance. The kitchen area was small, but still bigger than what she had in New York City and looked very homey.

She was so entranced by the beauty of the condo that she jumped when she heard Nick’s voice behind her. “It’s beautiful isn’t it?”

Alyssa nodded. “Yea… It’s great.” She was still quite confused on why exactly Nick had brought her there though.

Nick grabbed her hand. “Come on you have to see the bedrooms and the bathroom.”

“Bedrooms?” Alyssa laughed. “I’m used to only one.”

The master bedroom was painted a calming light blue color that reminded Alyssa of the ocean. Again, it was about twice the size of her bedroom back in her apartment, and the walk in closet was a nice touch. Adjacent to the master bedroom was a smaller bedroom that she assumed was meant to be a guest room. Even that room was still slightly bigger than that she was used to. And across the hall was the bathroom, which was a sea foam green color with white tile floors. The best part to Alyssa was that the room was big enough for a bathtub with a showerhead, which seemed a lot better than her cramped, boxed in shower stall in her apartment.

“So, what do you think?” Nick asked her once she had seen all the rooms and they headed back out to living room area.

“It’s a really nice place. Not too over the top, but definitely a lot nicer to what I’m used to,” she confessed, even though she was still a little lost. “Is it yours?”

Nick just nodded. “Uh huh… Just bought her this morning.”

“This morning?” Now Alyssa looked even more confused than ever. “But I thought you were out doing something business related this morning?”

He shrugged. “I’d say that this is pretty business related, don’t you? Especially since I’m obviously not going to be living here. What do I need a condo for when I have a house not even half an hour away?”

Slowly a look of understanding began to appear on Alyssa’s face. “So then what are you planning to do with this place?”

“I’m thinking about renting it out actually,” he slyly replied. “Know anybody who might be interested?”

Alyssa’s expression turned into one of disbelief, but she continued to play along. “I think I know of someone. She’s looking to move out here to the West Coast from New York and a place like this would be ideal for her. Only problem is I think its way out of her budget.”

Nick grinned. “Well, we can negotiate a little bit on the rent. I’m sure that I could strike up some kind of deal with her. So, what do you say?”

“Oh Nick, its perfect! Exactly what I wanted! I can’t believe that you fucking did this. How did you fucking do this? We only discussed it this morning.”

“Must I give away the mystery?” A stern look from her answered the question. “All right, fine. I’ll tell you. A few weeks ago when I came back from the European tour Aaron was looking for a new condo out here and he invited me to come look at a few places with him. This was one of them, which I really liked, but it wasn’t exactly what Aaron was looking for. I think he wanted something a little more pimped out, I guess. Anyway this morning when you mentioned that you would like a condo out here I immediately thought of this place. So, I called up the realtor and as luck might have it, it was still available. This morning while I was supposedly out ‘conducting business,’ I was signing the papers on it and picking up the keys. I didn’t want you to lose the place, so I bought it under my name and figured that I could rent it out to you. That way we could be flexible with the rent since I know that money is a little rough right now for you. And yea… That’s pretty much it!”

Alyssa’s eyes almost filled up with tears. As much as she hated to accept charity, especially from him because she was so paranoid of being considered a gold digger, the thought that he had put into this completely overwhelmed her. It wasn’t something that she would’ve expected from him; that was for sure. “I can’t believe you did this… but thank you. It’s probably one of the sweetest things that anyone has ever done for me.”

Nick beamed. “So, should we start talking business here? Throwing some numbers on the table?”

Too choked up to speak at first, Alyssa nodded her head. “What’s your offer?”

“I know that its going to be a tough time for you money wise between moving and having to get settled in here with a job and then buying a car, so how about $150 a month?”

“$150 a month?! Are you fucking insane!” she exclaimed. “That’s like giving me the place for free! I don’t even think that could cover all the utilities. No way, am I agreeing to that!”

He sighed. “Well, how much do you feel is appropriate and that you can handle?”

“I won’t settle for less than $300 a month. And even at that, I feel like I’m getting away with robbery.”

“Well, it’s not like I need the money,” he pointed out. “I just know you and know what you would insist upon giving me something each month. How about we compromise? $250 a month?”

Alyssa shot him an “are you kidding me” look. Obviously she wasn’t going to give in too easily. “If you’re really that concerned that you’re not paying me enough, I can collect rent in other ways too,” he joked, wiggling his eyebrows. “I’ll gladly accept sexual favors.”

This made Alyssa’s serious glance fall apart and crumble into laughter. “Well, if that’s the case then we might just be able to work something out,” she finally gave in. “$250 it is then.”

Nick stuck out his hand. “So, it’s a deal, then?”

“Deal.” Alyssa accepted his hand, but then pulled herself closer to him and wrapped her arms around him. “This was a wonderful surprise Nick.”

“I thought you might like it,” he told her with a smirk, before tilting her chin upwards for a kiss.

Breaking away, Alyssa looked around the room in excitement. “So, how soon can I move in?”

“As soon as you want. Our tour wraps up on February 2nd, so I should be home within that next day or so. I figured that you’d probably have to be out of your apartment by the first anyway, so you could come right out here, get settled, and it should work out perfectly. You’ll be here just in time for us to celebrate Valentine’s Day together.”

Valentine’s Day? He’s talking about the two of us celebrating Valentine’s Day together? Alyssa was shocked to say the least. Two weeks ago, it had seemed like Nick couldn’t seem to get rid of her fast enough. What had changed? And furthermore why was she complaining? This was what she wanted, right? “Sounds absolutely perfect. I just have one request though.”

“And what’s that?” he asked.

“Do you think that maybe we could stay here tonight? I know there’s no furniture yet, but we can get an air mattress or something and cook dinner on the grill,” she suggested. “I think it would be kind of romantic.”

“Whatever you want,” Nick assured her, before bending down to capture her into another kiss.

As Alyssa lost herself in the moment, she couldn’t help, but wonder exactly what had brought this sudden change upon Nick? Could he possibly be beginning to fall back in love with her too?
Chapter Forty-Seven by Mellz Bellz
Author's Notes:
Nick finally opens up to Alyssa about Paris.
Chapter 47


The rest of the afternoon seemed to fly by for Alyssa as preparations were made for her and Nick’s little indoor picnic/camp out in her new condo. After leaving the complex, they had headed straight back to Nick’s house to gather up a few essential items that they’d need for the evening, and then it was on to a nearby Super Wal-Mart, to pick up an air mattress and something that they could cook up for dinner out on the grill on her deck.

At the moment they were both perusing the meat department while Nick pushed a shopping basket that already was filled with the air mattress and some plastic plates and utensils. For some reason the sight of Nick pushing a shopping cart around Wal-Mart like any old Joe made Alyssa almost want to giggle.

Her face must have given her thoughts away because Nick paused to look over at her. “What are you smiling about?”

“Nothing,” she convinced him with a wave of her hand as she focused her attention back to the packages of various meats in front of them. “Hey, they have shell steaks on sale! Think that we can handle that?”

Nick shrugged. “What’s so hard about frying up a steak? Don’t you just kind of put it on the grill until it’s cooked?”

Alyssa laughed as she picked up a package and threw it into the cart. “Something like that. I’m sure we’ll manage. And it’s semi-classy. Anything else you think we need?”

“Nahh… I think we’re pretty good here.”

“All right. Let’s head over to the check out counter I guess,” she suggested. “Hopefully the lines aren’t too bad.”

“It’s Wal-Mart there’s always a line,” Nick pointed out.

When they reached the front of the store, they were indeed greeted by a long line. Growing impatient after only about a minute or so, Alyssa was relieved when they finally moved up close enough to the counter where they could see the magazine racks. Reading the covers of the latest issue of Cosmo and the tabloids might just keep her amused for another minute or two. Her eyes swept over one of the headlines of the tabloids nonchalantly at first, but then she froze the minute she recognized the scene photographed on the cover. There was a picture of a very enraged looking Nick lunging at a paparazzi looking as if she was spitting out obscenities. In the right hand corner of the picture, Alyssa could barely make out the frightened looking figure of herself in the background. Across the page were big bold letters: Backstreet Meltdown! Nick Carter Assaults Reporters as Frightened Girlfriend Looks On!

How did they get this out so quickly?
she wondered. Those pictures were only taken about two days ago! And I thought that they handed over all the film to Nick? Obviously at least one of them had been hiding their footage. Or who knew? Maybe they’d given Nick just any old roll of film figuring that he wouldn’t know the difference. Whatever the situation, the photos had in fact leaked and Alyssa was sure that the story would soon be everywhere.

“What’s wrong?” Nick asked her immediately picking up on the shocked expression on her face. “You look like you’ve just seen a ghost.”

Alyssa inwardly sighed in relief as she realized that Nick’s back was to the magazines and thankfully he was completely oblivious to the fact that right behind him his face was plastered in a not so flattering position. She knew that it would be nearly impossible to shield him from the story for long, but she also knew that he’d definitely be upset when he did see the articles. And she absolutely did not want anything or anybody to come between the two of them tonight, especially after all the planning they’d been doing. Besides, Nick seemed to be in a really good mood considering everything that had went down last night between him and Kevin, and Alyssa intended to keep it that way.

“Oh, I just realized what we’re forgetting!” she quickly covered up. “We should go get a bottle of wine or something to eat with dinner.”

“Well, there’s a liquor store, right next door. We can stop there as soon as we get out of here,” he suggested.

Thinking quickly Alyssa was already one step ahead of him. “Actually, you know I’m not much of a wine drinker and stuff, so you probably have a better idea than me what’s good. So, why don’t you just head over there now and I’ll take care of all this stuff and meet you back at the car?”

Nick looked at her a little oddly. “Uhmm okay… But are you sure?”

“Yes. I trust your judgment. Don’t worry I have enough money to cover all of this,” she assured him.

“All right. I’ll see you in a few then.” He squeezed her hand before he turned to walk towards the exit, which thankfully was in the opposite direction of the magazines.

Alyssa felt a wave of relief wash over her as she watched him leave. Crisis averted. Her eyes again glanced up at the copy of the tabloid in front of her. She wasn’t sure exactly what possessed her. Maybe it was some morbid curiosity to know exactly what they seemed to be saying about Nick. Whatever the reason, she impulsively grabbed a copy from the shelf and threw it into her basket.



Thankfully enough the rest of their night seemed to fly by smoothly. Alyssa safely assumed that Nick hadn’t seen the tabloids because he seemed to be in a great mood. They’d actually had a good time cooking dinner together and surprisingly the steak had come out not all that bad. Maybe there was hope for the two of them yet. They’d blown up the air mattress and eaten their dinner on top of it, since there really wasn’t any other furniture in the condo just yet.

After their dinner, they had both playfully joked about having to “christen” the new condo, which led to their current position tangled up in each others arms on the air mattress with only a thin blanket covering them. Candles that they had lit earlier that evening for dinner flickered in the background and articles of clothing littered about the floor around them.

They were both silent for a few minutes, just seeming to be taking in the moment when Alyssa finally interrupted