Love Potion Number Nine by honey
Story Notes:
Ok, some of you may recognize this because I stated it a long time ago and then decided to write it as an OF instead, but it just keeps bringing me back to fan fiction. It's just such a Nick Carter story to me I guess. lol. Anyhoo, Hopefully switching it back to Fan Fiction will give me the motivation I've been looking for with it.

1. Prologue by honey

2. Desperate Measures by honey

3. Destination Element by honey

4. Love Connections by honey

5. Awakenings by honey

6. Reality by honey

7. Practicality by honey

Prologue by honey
Love Potion Number 9

Prologue:

There are five different kinds of love, each symbolized with a different color rose. The most commonly known would be the red rose. Red symbolizes passionate love, an earthly or sexual love and is a favorite among men.

The next most well known would be the yellow rose. If a man gives you yellow roses you may not want to get your hopes up too high because yellow represents platonic love. It’s a symbol of friendship, understanding and true companionship.

You also have your pink roses. That is your romantic love. It’s a very tender and gentle love, the type of love you hope to have the first time you fall.

Then there’s the orange rose. Orange represents joyful love. Orange can be very fun. It’s a happy love, light, and bright. The type of love that makes you want to dance your way through life.

And finally, there is the rose of purity, the white rose. The white rose represents the greatest love of all. It represents spiritual love. It’s the kind of love you can only achieve when you’ve experienced all the other kinds of love. It is pure, eternal and unconditional, the type of love that is only truly achieved when you’ve found your soul mate.

Most people in this world believe that true spiritual love does not exist, but there is one story that proves the theory. Greater than even Romeo and Juliet. That would be the story of the notorious bad boy Nick Carter and his blushing bride Stacey, and it begins with an old gypsy, by the name Madame Rue, in a little shop down on 34th and Vine, when she sold a little bottle of Love Potion Number Nine.
Desperate Measures by honey
Chapter 1: Desperate Measures

You have to start out this story not with Nick, and not with Stacey, but with a girl named Beth. The villain of our story, if you will. Not that she’s bad by any means, just naïve. She was a rich girl, from Beverly Hills. She was cute, bubbly, and completely carefree because she always got everything she ever wanted. She was spoiled, and very selfish. It takes a girl like Beth to start this story, because only a girl like Beth would visit Madame Rue.

Madame Rue was a gypsy. A true gypsy, one of the last of her kind, a dying breed. She spent her childhood traveling the roads of Southern Europe on foot, earning her meals through fortune telling and mystical potions. But later in life she found herself in the land of opportunity, and set up shop in none other than Hollywood, California. The shady part mind you, where the drug dealers linger in the alleys and the hookers strut proudly on the corners. But Madame Rue didn’t mind. Drug dealers and hookers tend to be a desperate crowd, and the desperate were Madame Rue’s main clientele.

That’s where Beth comes into the story. The Paris Hilton wannabe had everything her maniacal little heart desired. Everything except the one thing she desired more than anything else on the planet – the love and affection of one Nick Carter.

Beth was as star struck as you can get when it came to the baby-faced blonde of the World renown pop sensation; The Backstreet Boys. You could even say she was obsessed. After years of listening to his songs, reading articles, watching videos and interviews, and tracking his every move, she was desperate to win him over. Well, one night she was finally going to get her chance.

Beth spent enough time in the elite circles that made up LA’s nightlife scene, that she finally met a friend of a friend who knew Nick Carter, and landed herself on the VIP list for club Element where he was having a small private get together.

Now, most people would be thrilled for the opportunity to meet the one they want, and would spend that chance trying to see if they were really meant for each other, but not Beth. When you’re as greedy and desperate and obsessed as Beth, fate becomes a dirty word and you have to do whatever necessary to take nature out of the equation. That’s what makes Beth the villain, and that’s why the night before the party she was spotted wading through a crowd of hookers with a can of mace in her hand, hoping to seal her fate with the love of her life.

A friend of a friend – not the same friend of a friend that knew Nick Carter, but another friend of a friend – told her about this crazy old woman with a golden tooth that could give her a fool-proof solution to her problem. That was all Beth needed to hear, and the next thing she knew she was in Madame Rue’s shop looking at a variety of so-called love potions.

“Something I can help you with, dear?”

Beth was nervous. There was something very unsettling to her about the old woman. But there often is when your in the midst of true greatness, and that’s what Madame Rue was – true greatness. She didn’t just read palms and conjure spells for a price; she practiced magic with the belief that it could change a person’s life.

Beth eyed the mysterious woman cautiously and then pointed to a row of bottles on a shelf labeled love potions. “Do these really work?”

“So its love you’re looking for, is it?”

“I’ve already found it, I just need him to see it as well.”

Madame Rue studied the skeptic for a moment and then smiled. “Love potions can be tricky. That’s why there are so many. Love, believe it or not, can be the most powerful force in the universe. It’s not to be taken lightly. In the wrong hands, a love potion can destroy people.”

Beth was not impressed with the theatrics of Madame Rue’s speech, and the warning went in one ear and straight out the other. “And what about the right love potion?”

“The right love potion? Well, love can be the cure for any problem. Love can move mountains. I’ve seen it done. Match the right potion to the right people and there can be no stopping the happily ever after.”

Happily ever after with Nick Carter? Beth liked the sound of that. “So which one of these is the one I need?”

Madame Rue laughed at the clueless girl and suspected she really had no idea what love was all about. “I’m afraid it’s not that simple my dear,” she laughed. “Before I can match a potion to a person, I need to know what’s in their heart, and the heart of the one they seek. You’ll have to let me take a look inside your soul.”

Madame Rue pulled back a red velvet curtain to a small room. Beth looked at the crystal ball on the small table and chuckled. “You mean like a psychic reading?”

“Just a glimpse into the future to see true love’s first encounter.”

Beth didn’t believe, nor did she see the importance of choosing the right potion. To Beth, love was love. She’d never really experienced it. She didn’t understand that love came in many different forms, but she wanted the potion so she gave in to the old gypsy woman’s request.

She sat down across the table from Madame Rue and had to stifle a giggle as the old woman called out the mystic powers of her crystal ball. “There we are,” the woman said with delight. “A party, and dancing.”

“How did you know that?”

“Oh, now I see,” Madame Rue continued, ignoring Beth’s confusion.

“What?” Beth asked wondering if she’d said anything to the woman about the club. “What do you see?”

“He’s handsome.”

“He’s perfect,” Beth sighed.

“Oh, my dear silly girl, perfection is a different potion, and even harder to achieve than true love.”

“Well he’s perfect to me.”

Madame Rue smiled at the stars in Beth’s eyes and finally understood where the girl was coming from. “Fame and fortune follow this man, I see.”

“Yes, but that’s not why I love him.”

“His looks, his voice, his charming personality and secret vulnerability. Yes dear, I see where your heart lies, and I think I know what can help you. You’re looking for passion – a love that in one night can alter your reality and leave you a changed woman. This man could get inside you and make you feel as if the earth has stopped spinning.”

Beth could practically feel Nick’s sexual touch as Madame Rue spoke of their meeting. Her heart began to race, and she eagerly nodded – agreeing to the passionate encounter. She started to stand, anxious to find out which of the pretty bottles on the shelf would be hers, but then something happened that neither woman expected. The crystal ball showed Madame Rue something she’d never come across in all her years as a gypsy. “The chance encounter that could change his life,” she gasped.

“That’s right!” Beth said with excitement, “How did you know?”

Beth was intrigued by the sudden excitement Madame Rue displayed. She could only assume Madame Rue had seen the love that Beth knew she would have with Nick, should they get the chance.

Madame Rue looked up at Beth with a new sparkle in her eye. “My dear, this is very important. Do you truly love this man?”

“So much it hurts every time I think of him.”

“Are you willing to do whatever it takes to make him happy?”

“I would do anything,” Beth assured the woman. “Nick Carter deserves only the best.”

“Then follow me.”

Beth was so excited she could hardly stand it. This woman told her things that she couldn’t have known unless she’d really seen them in that sparkly little ball. Beth was now a believer, and in just 24 hours all of her dreams would come true. She happily followed Madame Rue into a room in the back of the store.

“The potion we’re looking for I don’t keep on the shelf, it’s far to dangerous,” the old woman explained as she began mixing up a new potion right there in the sink.

“Dangerous?”

“This potion cannot fall into the wrong hands, it is not for everyone. It only works on two people who were destined to realign the stars together. The love of all loves. I call it Love Potion Number Nine, and it’s the most powerful potion I know of.”

“Now you’re speaking my language, Granny.”

Madame Rue gave Beth a knowing smile, then plucked several roses from a vase and began dropping petals in the mixture. “A red one for passion,” she said. “Yellow for friendship, pink for romance, and orange for joy. All very important in obtaining true love.”

The old gypsy could hardly contain her excitement as she returned the roses to their vase, each short a single petal. She then went to her fridge and pulled out the most beautiful rose Beth had ever seen. It had perfect stem length, and crisp petals on a perfect blossom.

“The white rose,” Madame Rue explained, “has great power. One petal for each of the others because for each type of love you have, you must balance it with pure eternal, spiritual love. Then, you add one more to offset the balance ever so slightly and make it unconditional. Nine petals in all.”

Beth watched the woman’s eyes glaze over as she chanted an old Gaelic spell. As the last word left her tongue, a cloud of smoke filled the room with a bang and suddenly a small bottle sat on the counter that had not been there before. Madame Rue gave Beth a satisfied look and carefully placed the bottle in her hand.

“So, what now?” Beth asked taking a close look at the clear liquid. “I just drink this and Nick and I live happily ever after?”

“Not quite,” the gypsy laughed. “The reason that true spiritual love is so strong is that it cannot be forced on two people. It must already exist between them. Even magic cannot control it.”

Madame Rue smiled when Beth looked confused. “The potion works for exactly nine days. It strips you of everything but your soul. It takes away fear, doubt, reason, and everything else that can get in the way of love. It allows the other person to truly see that you are what they need. What happens after the nine days, only fate can decide. You see Beth, magic does not solve problems as you might think, people will always have their agency. All magic does is give them a little push in the right direction.”

Beth listened to the old gypsy tale and then purchased the potion. She was sure that she was everything Nick Carter could ever need, and nine days was more than enough time to convince him of it.

Madame Rue slipped the tiny bottle into a small blue velvet pouch and handed it to Beth with a word of caution. “You have only one chance to get it right. You splash it on yourself and the first person to touch you is the one who will see you.”

“First person that touches me. Got it.”

Beth started to walk away, but Madame Rue put a firm hand on her arm. “Once the magic has been used,” she warned, “it cannot be reversed. The spell will take effect and there is no stopping it.”

Beth nodded slowly, finally taking in the severity of the instructions. “Thank you Madame Rue.”

“You’re welcome my dear, and good luck.”

The old gypsy woman smiled with great satisfaction as she watched Beth leave. She knew, for she had seen it, that great things would come from this potion. She only wished she could be there to witness the scene unfold, for a love like this comes along only once in a lifetime.

Destination Element by honey
Chapter 2: Destination Element

Now that we’ve met Beth and we know what she’s up too, it’s time to meet the object of her affection. Nicholas Gene Carter, age 28, astrological sign Aquarius. He’s not exactly living a full on rockstar lifestyle anymore, but he’s still no saint.

He’s had a slew of one-night stands, a few short-lived relationships, and is most notorious for dating Hollywood diva Paris Hilton. He’s tried to love – even put his heart and soul into it – but he was burned one too many times and now wears a decent sized chip on his shoulder.

He’s not just jaded in the love department, though. Growing up in show business has hindered his ability to trust people in general. Deep down he has the biggest heart, and is dying to share it with someone special. But it’s too well guarded, and without that little push in the right direction Madame Rue was talking about, he might never have let anyone else in.

He, like Beth, is very wealthy and has just about everything his heart desires also. The difference between the two is that Nick’s worked extremely hard for everything he has. He understands that sometimes you have to give your blood, sweat, and tears to get what you want. He even knows that love is one of those things that will take that kind of work. He’s just come to a point in his life where he doesn’t feel the need to pursue it.

With so much going on in his life Nick had no time to worry about a love life, nor did he care to. He didn’t feel lonely because he had his band mates, and they were always there for him. Plus, lets face it; he was Nick Carter. He was well aware of the fact that if he ever fancied a little attention from the opposite sex, he could have it at the snap of his fingers without any repercussions or commitment.

Falling in love was never part of the plan. It caught him off guard, which is the only way it could, and he fell hard and fast. Just when he thought his life couldn’t get any better, he got a glimpse of just how wrong he was and for nine days his world became perfect. His eyes were opened to a life he thought only existed in fairy tales, and it all started with a small get together in one of his favorite clubs where he planned on just blowing off a little steam after a staggering promotional tour.

Nick was the youngest member of the world-famous vocal group, The Backstreet Boys, and they were just gearing up to embark on yet another extensive would tour. The group’s latest album, Unbreakable was holding it’s own overseas, but hadn’t done as well as hoped in the United States. Times were different now, and “boy groups” like the Backstreet Boys had to fight to keep their place in the industry, so this tour was going to have to be the best one ever, but Nick didn’t mind the challenge.

He was more excited for this tour than he has been for any tour save his first, and that’s because this time he was ready for it. He was the healthiest he’s ever been in his life both mentally and physically, and couldn’t wait to literally take on the world. That’s why he was the perfect candidate for Beth’s little love cocktail.

He had a few weeks break before the actual tour began, so when he got home he made a couple calls to some of his closest friends and the idea of a party spawned from the conversation.

“Nothing big, though,” he specified when his friend Dave offered to book the VIP room on Saturday night. “I just want to have a little fun and maybe find a good looking chick to take home for some R&R if you know what I mean.”

“I hear ya, man,” Dave laughed on the other end of the line. “I know the perfect one too. A friend of mine knows this chick from Beverly Hills. She’s pretty hot, probably an easy lay too. He says she was asking about you.”

“Ugh, not another groupie,” Nick groaned, “I can’t take any more of that OH NICK CARTER I LOVE YOU, bull.”

“Na man, I think she’ll be cool. I met her once and she didn’t seem like a psycho.”

“Alright, cool. Make it happen and I’ll be there. Time to party it up. It’s been too long.”

And that was that. Events were set in motion. The date was booked and the VIP room reserved. Then Dave called his friend Steve, who called Beth, who bought the potion that would change Nick’s life forever. The only thing he had to do now was wait, and, of course, show up on Saturday night.


***


So now you know Beth, and you’ve met Nick, but there’s still one more major player in this equation – the missing piece to the puzzle – and her name is Stacey Vasquez. Born and raised in Palm Springs, California, Stacey was the front desk manager for the Desert Springs Marriott Resort and Spa. Well, up until that fateful Saturday night at club Element anyway, which coincidentally happened to be her 25th birthday.

Stacey may be the heroine of our story, but, unfortunately, Madame Rue was right about perfection. It’s nearly impossible to obtain, even with magic. And Stacey, like everyone, didn’t have it. She was the most stubborn, judgmental person you’ve ever come across. She may not have been perfect, but she strived to be, and she looked for it in a mate. Most people think that’s the reason all of her relationships seemed doomed for failure before they began, but if you really step back and take a good look, there’s a lot more to it than that.

Stacey lived a life of fear. The flaws that she always found in the people she was dating, to most would be no big deal, or even endearing. But for Stacey they were an easy way to rationalize never taking any risks. Stacey never did anything spontaneous, and aside from the occasional trip to the beach or Disneyland, she rarely left Palm Springs and was quite content about it.

Now, Stacey had her flaws, but they were not necessarily the kind of flaws that make her a villain, like Beth. If she weren’t careful, her flaws could be as self destructive as Beth’s, but what put her on the playing field when Beth failed, is that Stacey had more than enough good qualities to balance her imperfections.

When Stacey let you in, she was the most kind-hearted, caring, generous person on the planet. This was mostly in part due to how much time she spent with her family. As typical in Latino culture they were a large, close-knit bunch mostly content to live out there lives together, simply and happily. They were from El Salvador but came to California a year before Stacey was born, so while she spoke fluent Spanish she didn’t have an accent. What she did have was a strong sense of loyalty, responsibility, a strong will, and a hint of the fear of God.

Although she wasn’t as opposed to the idea of falling in love as Nick, she was every bit as unsuspecting of it. Never in a million years did she think it was just around the corner, and she most definitely wouldn’t have chosen Nick to be the one. But when something’s meant to be, it just is. You can fight it all you want, but you only have two choices. You can blow the opportunity of a lifetime, or you can give in and let love make you sublimely happy forever. I wouldn’t worry too much about our stubborn little senorita though, there’s a reason this story is better than Romeo and Juliet.

But now that we’re caught up on all of our key players, and we know what Beth was doing at the party that night as well as Nick, you’re probably asking yourself, “What was a girl like Stacey doing in one of the hottest clubs the Sunset Strip has to offer?”

The answer to that is a lot simpler than you realize and can be summed up in one word: Jessica. Jessica is Stacey’s life-long best friend and roommate.

While Beth can take full credit for the potion that made Nick and Stacey possible, Jessica is every bit as important in this tale despite her lack of screen time, for it was her who kidnapped Stacey and forced her as far from her comfort zone as heavenly possible. You see, nobody knew Stacey better than Jessica.

Jessica knew that even though it was her 25th birthday on Saturday, the only thing Stacey planned on doing was having a huge dinner with her family and possibly seeing the latest Matt Damon flick before conking out early enough to get a decent night’s rest for work in the morning. Jessica was tired of that same old routine and was itching for an adventure so she used Stacey’s birthday to do just that. Of course she couldn’t tell Stacey exactly what she was up to or Stacey would never have gotten in the car. But once she was buckled, and they were moving at a pace fast enough that Stacey couldn’t make a jump for it, Jessica headed for the interstate instead of the local AMC.

“Where are we going?” was the first thing out of Stacey’s mouth when they merged into the highway in the direction of Los Angeles.

“I’m not telling.”

“You have to.”

“Why?”

“Why?” Stacey repeated. “Because I’m the birthday girl and I say so. Besides, you know I hate surprises.”

“I’m taking you shopping,” Jessica replied. It wasn’t a lie. Shopping was the first thing on Jessica’s birthday to-do list. She just failed to mention that there was a list, and conveniently opted not to disclose everything on it.

“Why are we going shopping? We just went to the outlets like two months ago and I blew way more than what was in my budget.”

“Don’t take this the wrong way Stacey, but you’re never gonna turn any heads with the stuff you bought last month.”

Jessica was right about that. Stacey’s style had always been really conservative. It goes along with that whole not taking risks thing. It also probably had something to do with how much she hated the way she looked.

She had beautiful straight brown hair, which she kept nice and long, but barrettes and ponytails were two of her best friends. She cursed herself for her lack of height, and had a little more extra padding than she’d like thanks to her mother’s excellent cooking. She worked hard to keep her weight under control, and looked better than she gave herself credit for, but still she’s a female and with that comes self-consciousness.

“You said you thought my clothes were cute.”

“They are cute,” Jessica agreed, “but you’re 25 now. Cute is for eleven year old girls. You need something sexy if we’re going to find you a man tonight.”

There was no way Jessica could have known what was in store for her best friend that night, but thanks to her, Stacey did look pretty good by the time they actually arrived at the club. It took a long time to convince Stacey of high heels and an outfit that clung to her figure, but after all was said and done Stacey was secretly excited with the outcome.

When the secret finally came out that Jessica was talking Stacey to her first club, Stacey about had a heart attack and spent the entire drive there trying to come up with excuses not to go, but Jessica had set her mind to it. “I know that there is no one on this planet that loves to dance more than you,” she said.

“Yeah, in my bedroom with the door locked. There’s no way I’m going to be able to enjoy myself with all those conceded, rich, anorexic people around.”

“Nothing that a Vodka Red Bull can’t fix.”

“So now you plan on getting me drunk?” Stacey laughed.

“If I have too. It’s your birthday; you’re allowed to have a little fun. Plus, you aren’t going to know any of those people. What do you care what they think? It’s not like you’re ever going to see them again.”

“Ok, but if we get drunk and stay out till 2 am, how are we supposed to get home?”

Stacey thought she had Jessica on that one but Jessica just smiled at her with a twinkle in her eyes. “We take a cab.”

“All the way back to Palm Springs? And we what, just leave your car here to get ripped off? LA’s a dangerous place you know.”

“That’s why I booked us a room at the Hollywood Renaissance.”

“The Renaissance? That’s like 400 bucks a night.”

“Not after I called Randy and got your fabulous employee discount.”

“You called my boss?”

“Yup. I even got you the next two days off.”

“You what?!”

“Yeah,” Jessica laughed. “It was actually surprisingly easy to do. Randy said he’s been trying to get you to take a vacation for forever. He’s a pretty cool guy actually.”

Now, Stacey may be stubborn, and scared, and hate surprises, but she was always secretly appreciative whenever Jessica did things like this. Beneath all of her false hostility was a heart of gold that longed for a little excitement. And that is why Stacey Vasquez was really Nick Carter’s soul mate in disguise.
Love Connections by honey
Chapter 3: Love Connections

Right now you should already be feeling a little momentum building as you anticipate the events that unfolded in the club that night. And if you close your eyes, you should be able to envision that dark, crowded club that was filled to the brim with beautiful single people in their twenties out to have a good time; all of them hoping to make a love connection.

That force? The one that sucks you in and makes you want to not only hear their story, but feel it and experience it? That force is love. Love is powerful and everyone has it in their heart somewhere. Well that night at Club Element, love was in the air and everyone was feeling it.

Jessica and Stacey were the first to arrive that night because if you’re not on the list, arriving early is the only way you’ll ever get inside, and even then it’s a crapshoot. But the God’s were watching over our girls that night. They got in without any problems, and Jessica was beyond ecstatic.

Although she wasn’t as reserved as Stacey, and knew the Palm Springs nightlife well, she’d never actually been to a real Hollywood club either, and as they wandered the place looking for a spot to settle themselves, she was practically giddy. “Can you believe this, Stacey? I’ll bet there are famous people here. Did you see the paparazzi outside?”

“I saw them frown as we walked by.”

“Do you think we’ll see Orlando Bloom?”

“Jess,” Stacey sighed, “if you act like a groupie they’re going to kick you out.”

“They are not,” Jessica laughed. “Would you stop being such a party pooper?”

Stacey couldn’t help being a party pooper. It wasn’t that she was trying not to have fun, she was actually very curious about it all, it’s just that she was way too out of her element.

Heh, element, no pun intended.

Stacey was uncomfortable. She was willing to admit the stretchy jeans and silky backless top Jess picked out were kind of cute. But she felt ridiculous in four-inch heels, and the huge earrings made her feel like she belonged outside on the corner. “I can’t help it, would you look at these people? We don’t belong here.”

“Why not? You can dance every bit as good as anyone here.”

“Yeah, but they’re all stylish and skinny. And probably rich.”

“Ugh!” Jess groaned. “We are not going to have the ‘you’re not fat’ conversation again, and I told you a hundred times, you look hot! So would you please stop worrying about a bunch of strangers and just have a good time with me? It’s your birthday, live a little!”

“Fine,” Stacey finally huffed in defeat. “Didn’t you promise me a Vodka Red Bull?”

“That’s my girl!” Jess smiled and then happily grabbed Stacey’s hand and dragged her toward the bar.

The next to arrive was Nick, because while Beth new it was important to be fashionably late if you want to get noticed, Nick was just excited to get out. He’d been looking forward to tonight for two days and when he arrived he was nearly bouncing off the walls with energy. He was in such a good mood that he even smiled for the cameras on the way in and told the photographers to look out for “A Backstreet concert near you.”

He entered the club with his chest slightly puffed and his head bobbing along to the music. He headed straight for the VIP room where he knew his friends were waiting for him, but stopped suddenly as he passed the bar.
Now, the skeptics of the world, and the heartbroken crowd, will tell you that he stopped because he simply wanted a drink, but Madame Rue will tell you a different story. There’s a theory that every soul on this Earth has its one perfect match, and when those two souls come close enough together, they can feel each other’s presence. They fight to connect with one another.

It used to be that that tiny pull was enough to lure two people together, like in the old Rock Hudson/Doris Day films, but, the more our society is littered with one-night stands and divorces, and we lose sight of the value of marriage and the sanctity of true love, our souls cannot compete with our brains, and that power when two souls connect feels like nothing more than a strange sense of déjà vu. That’s what really happened to Nick Carter that night. Coincidence had nothing to do with it.

Nick stopped as he passed the bar because his soul could feel its mate reaching out for him, but Nick noticed the drinks before he noticed the girls ordering them. He made his way across the room just as the bartender tender was placing two vodka Red Bulls on the counter. He looked down at the glasses, and as he struggled to make a decision on a drink of his own, Stacey held out a twenty-dollar bill. “Don’t you even think about it!” Jessica hollered as she snatched the cash and put it back in Stacey’s purse. “I told you the drinks are on me tonight, birthday girl.”

Neither Jessica nor Stacey were aware of the man standing next to them until Jessica tried to pay the bartender and Nick stopped her. “I’ve got it,” he said smiling to the bartender. “And why don’t you make me up one of those too, those look good.”

Jessica and Stacey watched curiously as Nick paid for their drinks. When he turned his attention back to them, Jessica froze, trying not to squeal, completely stunned by the familiar face. Stacey on the other hand, didn’t recognize Nick and instead forced a polite smile and held out her money. “Thank you, but you don’t have to pay for our drinks.”

Jessica’s face paled, and Nick smirked as he watched the star struck girl forcefully elbow her friend in the side. “I insist,” he laughed, “I’m in a really good mood tonight, and every woman deserves to have a man buy her a drink on her birthday.”

Nick started to flash a flirtatious smile, but then gave Stacey a peculiar look. “Have we met?” he finally asked after he’d stared just a second too long.

And that was the moment. The moment in the story where for a split second the two souls connect and the audience starts yelling at the main characters that they’ve found each other. But of course they don’t realize it. Even when it’s make-believe it’s never that simple, so in real life our two love birds had no clue what was happening.

Stacey took a moment to look Nick over. She interpreted the strange feeling inside her as a warning. There was something about him, something that felt familiar, but logically there was no way she could know him, so she looked at the smile on his face and decided that his question was nothing more than a ill attempted pick-up line, and she was not the type of girl to hook up with strange men in clubs. “I don’t think so,” she responded in a tone that clearly suggested she wasn’t interested.

Nick took another moment to size up the two girls in front of him. He knew full well he intended on taking someone home with him tonight, but even though both girls were kind of cute, he understood Stacey’s meaning. He also knew there would be plenty of other options come closing time, so he shrugged and picked his drink up off the counter. “Ok, well, I can take a hint, but you have a happy birthday anyway.”

He raised his glass to her before taking a sip and laughed lightly at the disappointed look on Jessica’s face. “You make sure she has some fun tonight,” he instructed before changing course back to his original destination.

“I’m trying my hardest,” Jessica replied, sighing at the charm of the man now walking away from them. “Thank you!” she called out again before turning to hit Stacey for her stupidity.

And that was that, Nick and Stacey’s first encounter. It was nothing exciting, and just like 99.9 percent of all soul mate encounters, it was the missed opportunity of a lifetime with neither party the wiser. Or rather, it would have been a missed opportunity if it weren’t for the second chance they were given by Beth, who ironically is not only the villain of our story, but secretly the hero as well.

And since we’re now on the subject of Beth, it’s time we fast forward about an hour or so, to when she finally arrived at the party looking as hot as anyone could, anxious to meet her dream man, and determined to make him hers forever.

This was not Beth’s first time at a VIP party. She often mingled with celebrities, so when she finally came face to face with her infatuation, and he kissed her cheek hello, she kept her cool like a cat stalking its prey. And honestly, that analogy really wasn’t that far off.

From the moment they were introduced, Beth did her best to stick to Nick like glue. She kind of reminded him a little of his ex, Paris, in the way that she acted, so it took a few drinks before he started paying her any attention. But once he was a little tipsy he only saw how incredibly sexy she was, and was more than happy to get a little provocative on the dance floor.

Beth was disappointed at first when Nick didn’t seem all that interested, but the more they danced the more his hands wandered and the more Beth was certain her plan was going to work. She was only waiting for the perfect moment. Like the gypsy woman said, she only had one shot. She had to wait until they were alone. She couldn’t risk someone else touching her and falling under the spell instead of Nick.

It was 1:15 when Nick led Beth across the club toward the exit, and it had been hours since he’d met Stacey. She hadn’t crossed his mind any more than she would have thought of him, had Jessica not kept trying to convince her that she blew off the famous Nick Carter.

Stacey was sure it wasn’t him because not only had Jessica been seeing stars that weren’t really there all night, someone like Nick Carter would never talk to someone like her, much less be nice and buy her a drink. She’d had a good laugh over it, though, and the drink that he bought her, along with one or two more, had since had time to take effect, finally allowing her to relax on the dance floor.

That’s when Nick noticed her for the second time that night. He stopped for a moment, as several other guys had done before him, to watch the way she swayed gracefully to the music. “How come you don’t look like that when you dance?” he asked Beth with a giggle, in his drunken state.

Beth’s eyes fell upon Stacey and a serge of anger raged through her body. “Because I don’t have a fat ass to shake.”

Nick removed his arm from around Beth’s waist with a roll of his eyes while he studied Stacey from behind. “That is not a fat ass,” he argued, “It’s quite a nice ass, actually.”

Beth frowned as Nick continued to watch Stacey with a smile on his face. “It wouldn’t kill you to put a little weight on your pretty little ass either,” he smirked. “It gives us guys something to squeeze.”

Nick began slowly drifting toward Stacey as if he was actually going to dance with her and you can only imagine the thoughts speeding through Beth’s mind at that moment. She could no longer wait to get Nick alone. It was now or never, so Beth removed the little blue velvet pouch from her purse. She grabbed Nick’s hand right before he could reach Stacey and gave him the most seductive pout she was capable of. “Weren’t we going somewhere?”

Nick’s eyes fluttered back and forth between Stacey and Beth, and Beth took a deep breath as she pulled the cap off the tiny bottle in her hand. After making the decision that Beth was the easier option, Nick smiled and abandoned the idea of dancing with Stacey. He held out his hand to escort her from the building and that’s when he noticed the tiny little bottle in her fingers. “What’s that?” he asked curiously.

“Oh, it’s nothing,” Beth replied nervously, “just perfume.”

“Let me smell.”

Beth was nervous, but she didn’t want Nick to be suspicious so she hesitantly handed him the bottle. Nick put it to his nose and instantly pulled it away with a cough. “Ugh, what is that?” he laughed.

Beth’s heart fluttered at the way he was drunkenly waving the open bottle around and she reached out for it. “Be careful with that, it’s rare.”

“Seriously, you can’t put this on if you’re coming home with me tonight.”

Nick playfully pulled the bottle away from Beth and laughed when she panicked. “Come on, Nick!” Beth yelled. “It’s not funny, it was expensive.”

“So I’ll buy you some new stuff that doesn’t smell like my grandma.”

Nick started laughing and Beth reached for the bottle again but her urgency only made Nick want to tease her more. He began to taunt her until she was practically wrestling him for it. When she finally grabbed the bottle she pulled it from his hand forcefully, sending the liquid inside flying into the air. Then, just as Madame Rue had seen in her crystal ball, the potion landed all over Stacey’s back.

Beth stood there staring at the now empty bottle while Stacey turned around to find out what she’d just been doused with. When Nick recognized the woman he’d been watching dance, to be the same woman he’d bought a drink for earlier, his face lit up. “It’s the birthday girl!” he said and reached out to wipe the perfume from her skin. “I’m sorry about that,” he began to say until his fingers came into contact with her.

To all the unaware club goers it was as if nothing happened, but to Beth, who knew exactly what was going on, it looked as if Nick and Stacey were never going to end their staring match.

To Nick, time seemed to stand still. It was like he stopped breathing but had no need for the action because the only thing that mattered was the angel standing in front of him. Everything around him faded away and the only thing left was the beautiful soul of Stacey Vasquez. His fingers tingled from the electricity that pulsed through him as they touched, and finally, the two souls that were meant to be one found that connection they’d been longing for.

For Stacey, however, the moment Nick’s fingers touched her skin everything simply faded to white.
Awakenings by honey
Chapter Four: Awakenings

There were nine petals. Then there were nine days. Nine perfect days. But this story isn’t about those nine days. It picks up on the morning of day 10, once the old gypsy woman’s spell was finally broken.

All you really need to know about those nine days is that during them Nick’s eyes were opened to a kind of life he never knew existed, just like Madame Rue promised. And with nothing in the way to stop them, Nick and Stacey’s souls united the way they were truly meant to, and they took advantage of it while they could.

The thing that makes Madame Rue’s love potion number nine so dangerous is that when it finally sets the heart free from restraint, the heart doesn’t always know how to cope. It can get overwhelmed and force a person to act impulsively. Usually a little impulsiveness is just what the doctor ordered, but when someone is already a little impulsive to begin with, and is as passionate as Nick Carter is, you end up in Tahiti celebrating your spur of the moment wedding before those nine days are up. At least that’s what Nick did anyway.

The morning of day ten, when the fresh ocean breeze fluttered through the open balcony doors, bringing in a little of the morning sunlight with it, Stacey’s eyes pulled themselves open very slowly. She took an extra few seconds to bring the dancing curtains into focus because her body felt sluggish and her mind was foggy. She lied there a moment admiring the quality of what she assumed was the Renaissance Hotel – automatically figuring she’d had more to drink last night than she remembered – and then she slowly began to stretch her stiff body.

That was the real end of Nick’s nine perfect days, because when Stacey moved, Nick was released from a happy dream into his new reality that he found even more desirable. A sleepy smile crossed his face and he rolled over, slipping his arm around his new bride. As he pulled her tightly against him he whispered a groggy, “Are you feeling better this morning Mrs. Carter?”

Nick tried not to giggle as he proudly repeated the title Stacey acquired the night before. He was so insanely relaxed and happy that the blood-curdling scream that followed his greeting knocked him clean out of bed. You see, Stacey has a set of lungs – her scream could easily put horror films to shame – and when she realized she wasn’t alone in that bed, she put those babies to good use.

As you can imagine, Nick was shocked. Well, shocked is a gross understatement, traumatized might be a little more appropriate. He jumped back so fast that he fell backward out of the bed and crashed onto the floor in a tangled mess of blankets. By the time he freed himself of the covers and poked his head above the side of the bed, Stacey was on her feet staring at him with wide eyes.

Never has there been a couple as equally distressed, but for entirely different reasons than each other, as these two. For a minute they just stared at one another in silence until Stacey began to panic. When her heart began pounding and her breathing increased, her body began to tremble. Nick noticed the shaking and started to walk around the bed to her. “Baby what’s wrong with you?”

Of course Stacey knew who The Backstreet Boys were, and Nick looked vaguely familiar to her. If she weren’t on the verge of true panic, with a splitting headache, she probably would have recognized him. As fate would have it, though, Nick appeared to be no one more than a complete stranger – not that knowing who he was would have made any difference to a girl like Stacey in a situation like they were in. She still would have done what she did.

“Don’t come any closer!” she hissed as she took a few steps backward.

The command made Nick freeze. He watched, dumbfounded, as Stacey realized she was wearing only a short silk nightgown and quickly pulled a sheet from the bed. She struggled to wrap it securely around her, but her fingers were shaking so badly it took her a few tries. Once she was covered she made eye contact with Nick again. “Who are you?”

“What?”

Fate, it appears, has a sense of irony. Nick had waken up next to countless women in his day that he didn’t really know or necessarily remember going to bed with, but he’d never had it happen to him. It figures the one time the girl truly mattered she would be the one not to remember him. Nick was beyond emotion he was so utterly stunned.

The man is Nick Carter for heaven sakes. He was famous enough that he was usually surprised when people didn’t recognize him. But as he stood there that morning, looking into the terrified eyes of the woman he loved, his fame never crossed his mind. He was confused because Stacey certainly seemed to know who he was last night when she said I do.

He began walking toward her again, afraid that she needed help, but she only became more upset. “Baby are you feeling ok? Do you want me to call a doctor?”

“I am not your baby!” Stacey snapped as she backed herself into a corner, “Please, just stay back!”

The fear in her voice, and the urgency in her eyes, made Nick stop yet again. He felt completely helpless as he watched the woman he loved fight to keep control of her sanity. “I didn’t have that much alcohol last night,” she mumbled to herself. “Someone must have put something in my drink.”

“What are you talking about?”

Stacey ignored Nick’s question as her brain tried to make sense of her surroundings, and suddenly she went green around the gills. “Did you drug me?”

“What?! No!”

Stacey was now far to upset to hear Nick’s response. “Oh no! You drugged me and then you brought me back here and we…” Stacey cut herself off as she gasped. “Did you rape me last night?”

Nick felt the room begin to spin around him. He had to sit down just to keep from falling over. “Stacey you’re scaring me,” he pleaded softly. “Would you please just tell me what’s going on?”

“Did we have sex last night?!”

Nick barely had the energy to shake his head. “You know we didn’t.”

“Right! I only woke up in bed with you, wearing this! I don’t even own anything like this. Where did it come from?”

At this point Nick was so lost he could only shrug and answer the question. “Chanel?”

Tears finally began forming in Stacey’s eyes and Nick quickly became desperate to calm her down. “Stacey, I don’t know what happened to you last night, maybe it was the seafood, but I swear to you, I haven’t touched you!”

Nick smirked sadly, “I’m probably the only guy in the history of the universe that didn’t get laid on his wedding night, but I promised you.”

“What?”

“Baby I told you it was ok. I know we kind of rushed into this and I understand that you’re not ready. I would never do anything to hurt you. You know that. I love you.”

Since this was the morning of day ten, Madame Rue’s spell was broken. That means Nick was on his own here. His declaration was one hundred percent him talking, not some magic spell. He really did love her. That’s what made this day so hard for him.

Madame Rue’s potion was a complete success as far as Nick Carter was concerned, but not even she had seen the small twist of fate that had caused Stacey’s memory to vanish. However, from the moment the potion took affect, that’s exactly what happened. Stacey had not a single memory of the last nine days and as far as she knew, last night she’d gone to a club with her best friend.

Stacey was a victim every bit as much as Nick, only she had more cause to be afraid. Neither of them had any knowledge of Madame Rue or magical potions – nor the fact that they’d been subject to an evil plot by a villain they hardly knew – but Stacey didn’t even know the name of the man standing in front of her declaring his love to her.

“You’re insane,” she whispered as she scooted slowly across the wall trying to reach the telephone on the bedside table. “I’m calling the police.”

“The police?” Nick gasped, jumping to his feet again, “Honey, that’s a really bad idea.”

Nick tried to grab the phone receiver from Stacey’s hands but the sudden movement made Stacey panic again and she picked up the entire phone and smashed it against Nick’s head as hard as she could. “Shit, Stacey!”
Nick yelled as he covered a small cut above his eye.

Stacey flew across the room toward the door, but her fingers weren’t steady enough to take the small gold hook from its latch, and Nick had time to catch up to her. He tried to pull her safely into his arms. “Stacey, wait! Just calm down for a second.”

“Get off me!” Stacey screamed as she fought who she thought was her attacker.

Nick was surprised by the amount of resistance she gave him and he loosened his grip, but stood against the door. He was afraid she was mentally unstable and didn’t want her running away and possibly hurting herself. But he realized she wasn’t ready to talk to him, so he didn’t follow her as she ran across the suite and locked herself in the bathroom.

Once she’d slammed the door shut Nick backed against the door he’d been blocking and slid to the ground. He let go a bewildered sigh and gave himself a few minutes to get his head on straight before making his way to the bathroom. He could hear Stacey’s sobs through the door and it broke his poor little confused heart. He sat down, leaning his head against the door and after a moment of listening to her weep, he tapped lightly on the door. “Stacey?”

“What do you want from me?” she cried in return.

“I want you to calm down and talk to me. Please! Honey if there’s something wrong with you, we need to get you some help. I really think we should call a doctor.”

Stacey didn’t answer Nick’s plea. She was so terrified that she continued to sob just on the other side of the bathroom door. Nick knocked again. “You can’t stay in there forever. The sooner you come out, the sooner this can all be over.”

“Please don’t hurt me,” came Stacey’s meek reply.

A man can only stay strong for so long, and Nick finally cracked. He was so scared that the walls of the lavish room seemed to close in around him as he panicked. He grabbed his cell phone from the nightstand and dialed the only person he could think of that might be able to help. “Brian? I need your help.”

Brian. That’s a name you haven’t heard yet. Brian Littrell, 33 years old, astrological sign Pisces. Band mate, friend, and occasionally, the voice of reason to our young Mister Carter. He and Nick have had their ups and downs over the years, and because of a certain decision to up and marry a complete stranger on a whim, right now they were experiencing one of their downs.

Nick really didn’t want to call Brian, but he was desperate, and Brian had been married for over eight years, so Nick figured maybe he could help. He cringed at the haughty laugh he received. “Gee Nick, I didn’t expect to hear from you quite this soon. I thought for sure you could get through the first 24 hours.”

“Look man, this isn’t funny. I have a real problem here.”

“I hate to say I told you so.”

Now, despite what you may think, Brian is really a good guy. But he’s pretty set in his ways of thinking, and he’d been telling Nick for about 8 days now that he was moving too fast with this girl. He wasn’t just trying to keep his band’s image clean; he was genuinely concerned for his friend. He about blew his top when Nick called and told him that he was getting married and would be back in two weeks for his first day of Rehearsals. Brian tried his best to talk him out of it. He warned him that marriage wasn’t something to joke around with, but did Nick listen?

Luckily for Nick, no, he sure didn’t.

Unfortunately, now that the potion had worn off, Nick wasn’t as sure of himself as he’d been the day before. So when Brian gave him a hard time about it, he broke down. “Forget it!” he choked. “I knew it was a mistake to call you.”

“Nick?” Brian’s hostility was gone the instant he heard the fear in Nick’s voice. “Nick, are you crying?”

But Nick didn’t answer him. He was ashamed, and confused, and scared. He couldn’t let Brian see him like that, so he hung up the phone and called the only other person he could think of. Brian was beeping in on his call before he even finished dialing the number, but Nick didn’t want to talk to Brian any more. There was only one person that he wanted to hear from now.

He would have just called Kevin first, but Brian was the only one he’d told about his elopement. Nick’s former band mate, Kevin Richardson, was not quite a brother, but more than a friend. Ever since the day they met he’d always been there, loving Nick and supporting him no matter what he did or how bad he screwed up.

Kevin was the only person on the planet that knew every side of him, good and bad, and loved him anyway. Nick knew this, so he didn’t even bother trying to be strong this time. He was a mess from the moment he heard the familiar voice say hello. “Kevin?”

“Nick? What’s wrong? Are you ok?”

“No.”

“OK, take a deep breath, and tell me what’s going on.”

“It’s my wife, Stacey, something’s going on with her and I don’t know what to do.”

“I’m sorry, did you just say wife?”

“Yes! She’s my wife damn it!” Nick exploded. He couldn’t help himself really. Stress has a very funny way of doing that to a person, and stress caused by heartache is the worst kind of stress. “Look, I’m really sorry I didn’t tell you, but I didn’t want you trying to talk me out of it, and I knew you would be the only one who could. I promise I’ll give you the full rundown later, but right now I have a big problem and I just need to know what to do.”

Now if there was ever a person that could pull you out of a jam, no matter what it was, Kevin is your man because no matter what his personal feelings are, he always manages to keep a level head on his shoulders. That’s why when Nick was trying his hardest to clean himself up, and fix his relationship with his family, Kevin was the one that got him through it. “Ok Nick,” he said calmly, “what’s wrong with her?”

“I don’t know. She went to bed not feeling that well last night and when she woke up this morning...” Nick stopped for a moment reliving the scene in his mind, and once again had to fight back his emotions. “It’s like she doesn’t remember any of it. She doesn’t even know who I am.”

Nick listened patiently to a long sigh, and then Kevin tried not to chuckle as he spoke. “How much did you guys have to drink last night?”

“Nothing! A glass of champagne when we got up to the room, that’s it!”

“Did you just meet her last night? Is she on some kind of drugs?”

“I didn’t marry a crack whore Kev, she’s a good woman.”

“So there’s no possibility that this girl really doesn’t remember you?”

“It’s been nine days,” Nick sighed in defeat. “The nine best days of my life. She’s the most amazing person I’ve ever met, except that right now she’s locked herself in the bathroom, and she’s completely freaked out of her mind. She thinks I’m some psycho that wants to kill her or something.”

Nick leaned against the bed and rubbed his now throbbing head. He released another deep breath, finally getting a little control of himself, and then, almost in a whisper, said, “She thinks I drugged her or something. She wants to call the police.”

Kevin’s bailed Nick out on a lot of different occasions – he may not be the hero of this story, but he’s definitely one of the good guys – but never had he heard a story quite like this one. And with Nick Carter as one of his best friends, he’s heart some doozies. For the first time in his life he was truly stumped.

“I’m really scared Kev.”

For a moment Nick leaned against the bed listening to Kevin tell him that things were somehow going to be ok. He was so desperate for the comforting words that he didn’t notice that the bathroom door had opened quite some time ago. He had no idea that Stacey had heard his conversation and was now standing behind him, completely dumfounded by what he was telling whoever was on the other end of that phone.

Stacey was still terrified, but she’d always been a very smart, levelheaded person. When she realized that Nick was genuinely as scared as she was, she didn’t see him as a threat anymore. “I won’t call the police,” she said, startling Nick so bad he dropped his phone.

“Stacey!”

“Has it really been nine days?”

Nick nodded his head slowly and couldn’t take his eyes off of her as he brought his phone back to his ear. “I gotta call you right back.”

Nick hung up the phone and then, as slowly as his body was capable of, sat himself up on the bed, making sure to not make any sudden movements or do anything that might set her off again. “Hi,” he whispered as if he were talking to a ghost.

Stacey could see that he was really trying to make her feel comfortable so she wiped away the tears from her face and nervously tugged at the fuzzy hotel bathrobe she’d found hanging in the bathroom. Her voice shook when she spoke, but she tried her best to stay calm because she was desperate for answers. “Who are you?”

“I’m Nick. We met on your birthday.”

“At the club,” Stacey whispered as she tried to piece together the last thing she remembered. “You bought my drink?”

“That’s right. Is that the last thing you remember?”

Stacey’s memory of that night was a jumbled mess, but she knew she didn’t remember leaving the club, so she simply nodded her head. Nick was heartbroken to think that everything he’d experienced over the last week and a half had been erased from her memory, and he was terrified of what this would mean for them. “You really don’t remember any of it?”

Stacey shook her head.

“But how is that possible?”

Stacey shrugged and when her eyes glossed over again Nick felt sick knowing what he was about to explain to her. “Your birthday was nine days ago and we haven’t spent a day apart since we met. It was the best nine days of my life, and I know it probably sounds crazy, but we got married last night, and I meant it when I said I wanted to spend the rest of my life with you.”

Stacey couldn’t hold back the tears any longer. Nick wanted nothing more than to pull her into his arms and tell her it would be ok, but he couldn’t. Instead he let his eyes fall to his lap and muttered, “I thought you did too.”

“I’m sorry,” Stacey whispered through her tears.

In that moment Nick knew that his dream had come to an end and finally his eyes glossed over too. Stacey was surprised to see his tears, and even though she was terrified, she felt kind of bad for him. Somehow, she knew that her next statement was really going to hurt him. “I want to go home now, please.”

Nick sucked up his emotions and buried his heartache as best he could. As much as he loved her and didn’t want her to leave, he knew she was scared, and he just wanted to make her pain go away. “I’ll call the airport right now.”

“Airport?” Stacey gasped. “Where are we?”

Nick gulped. “Tahiti?”

Then, the small town family girl who’d never been outside of California, glanced at the open doors to the balcony and slowly walked toward them as if it were all a dream. She looked out onto a more beautiful setting than she’d ever imagined, and the shock of it all finally caught up to her.

Nick knew what was coming when she started to sway. He leapt toward her just as her eyes rolled back in her head and caught her as she fell to the ground. He carried his unconscious bride to the bed and watched her rest for a moment before picking up the hotel telephone. “Yes, I need a doctor up to my room right away please.”
Reality by honey
Chapter Five: Reality

This is where the story really starts. Where reality checks in and our heroes are forced to deal with the consequences of their actions. And when talking about a person like Nick, those consequences are heavy indeed.

Our actions define us, that’s no secret, and up until this point Nick’s actions have been nothing but noble and very romantic. But until now, Nick had it easy. Things were going to get a lot more complicated once his new bride regained consciousness.

If Nick didn’t want Stacey to vanish from his life the minute she woke up, then it was going to take a lot of work. Luckily for Nick, he knew that, so he started by refusing to let go of Stacey’s hand until the doctor had to physically pry him away in order to examine her.

Upon checking Stacey’s vitals, the doctor said she probably went into shock, and that it was best to not wake her so her body could have the time it needed to recover. He also told Nick that Stacey’s memory loss was most likely due to a mental problem rather than a physical one, and that he was probably not the right doctor for this job.

Nick was crushed by the news of a possible mental illness and asked the doctor to stay at least until Stacey woke up, to make absolute sure that she was going to be ok. The doctor agreed and actually turned out to be the first person Stacey saw when she came to. “Welcome back, Mrs. Carter,” he greeted. “I’m Dr. Cartwright. You went into a bit of shock but you’re going to be just fine.”

“Vasquez,” Stacey mumbled as she pressed her hands against her throbbing temples. “My name is Stacey Vasquez. I don’t know what happened, there was this guy and he was saying something about Tahiti and being married and… Ow. My head hurts.”

“Try to relax Ms. Vasquez. I can give you something for the headache if you’d like, but I’m also going to give you something that will help keep you calm until you can get home to some familiar surroundings.”

It wasn’t until that moment that Stacey really took a good look around. The minute she’d heard the word doctor, she assumed she was in a hospital or something, and that that morning’s nightmare had been exactly that: a dream. Disoriented as she was, Stacey recognized the hotel and the man sitting in a chair across the room unable to take his eyes off of her.

The room started to spin again and the doctor held out a couple of pills. “I don’t want any drugs,” Stacey said pushing his hand away.

“I really think it might be best.”

“Being drugged is probably what got me into this mess in the first place, ok? I don’t want the pills! I’ll be fine. I’m not going to pass out again, I just want to go home.”

The doctor sighed and then shrugged at Nick. “I think my work here is done,” he said getting to his feet. “Physically everything seems to be ok. And she’s obviously coherent, so there’s really nothing else I can do.”

Stacey watched Nick shake the doctors hand and accept the bottle of medication – just in case she changed her mind later. She started to rethink her decision about not taking it once the doctor was gone and she was alone with Nick. The silence was deafening to both of them, but neither knew what to say so Nick started with the basics. “I’m Nick,” he shrugged.

“I remember.”

“I made all the arrangements. The next plane doesn’t leave until five, so we have a couple of hours still. We’re already packed, so I thought maybe you’d like to go for a walk? I’m sure you could use the fresh air and you probably need to eat something.”

This was first decision that Stacey had to make. Her first action that was not simply a reaction, which would give Nick a glimpse of what he was up against. He knew she was scared – and he couldn’t blame her, he was too – but he also knew that while she may be extremely stressed, she was still the same woman he’d been with for the last nine days.

Stacey is a very practical person – logical in her thinking. Nick knew this because every time he’d tried to get her to do something spontaneous or adventurous, her first instinct was to tell him he was crazy. Even under the affects of a love potion it was still quite the feat for Nick to convince her to marry him.

Nick suggested the fresh air and food, because it was a simple enough request that Stacey might actually agree to it. If he’d suggested they play or explore the island for a couple hours, Nick knew she would have chosen to wait it out in the hotel room. He waited, and then tried not to look too relieved when Stacey slowly nodded. “A bagel and some juice might be nice,” she agreed.

“Done.”

The two were really awkward with one another as Nick waited for Stacey to get dressed and attempted to explain the few unfamiliar items - the new bikini, for example - in Stacey’s suitcase. But they both felt a little better when they got to the hotel lobby and there were other people around, one of whom greeted them the minute they got off the elevator. “Mrs. Carter!” the hotel’s general manager greeted, instantly bringing the tension back. “It’s good to see you up and about. You gave us all quite a scare.”

“Yes, she’s feeling a little better,” Nick answered when Stacey shrugged, a little overwhelmed. “In the mood for a bagel though. Could you point us in the direction of a good café?”

“Of course. There’s an exceptional one right down the street, with a beautiful view of the ocean, but we also have excellent room service if you’re reluctant to leave the hotel.”

“No,” Stacey finally spoke up, “he’s right. I could use the fresh air.”

The hotel manager forced a smile as he nodded his head. But being hotel management herself, and familiar with having to sugar coat something unpleasant for a guest, Stacey picked up on the man’s uneasiness right away. “Is there a problem?”

“Oh, no, Mrs. Carter, I assure you everything here is fine, but are you aware that the news of your marriage leaked over night?”

Stacey was a little confused, but didn’t have time to ask, because Nick beat her to it. “What? How?”

“I have no idea, but it’s all over the tabloids today.”

“Shit!” Nick hissed.

“So far we’ve been able to keep your presence here secret,” the manager promised, “but it’s out of my hands once you leave the hotel.”

“No, no, you’re right. Thank you,” Nick replied, trying his best to hide his anger from Stacey, “I’m sure a little room service on the balcony will be more than enough fresh air.”

“I’ll have something brought up straight away.”

Stacey had been so preoccupied that she’d merely been taking everything in at face value. She was so worried about getting home, that the fact that she was married hadn’t really sunk in yet. And exactly whom she was married to, didn’t sink in until the mention of the paparazzi, but when it clicked, it came down on her like a ton of bricks. “Nick Carter?” Stacey gasped when she finally put two and two together. “The Backstreet Boy?”

Nick tried not to frown because he knew this was coming, but he was still a little disappointed by the look on Stacey’s face. “Not when I’m with you,” he answered, feeling more insecure than he’d ever felt in his life. “I’m just Nick.”

Even in the middle of the most terrifying day of her life, Stacey’s brain automatically recalled the hundreds of tabloid pictures, the DUI charges, the countless women he’d been linked to, and lets not forget the infamous Paris Hilton.

So, tragically, even though Nick was being completely sincere – maybe for the first time in his life – Stacey’s mind about him was already made up, and hearing him say romantic things like “when I’m with you I’m just Nick,” didn’t help the situation any.

“I eloped with a Backstreet Boy?” she repeated again in astonishment and then began spouting a bunch of angry gibberish in Spanish.

Nick didn’t have a clue what she was saying, and, figured he really didn’t want to know, but it was obvious she wasn’t as happy about the marriage as he was. And he was pretty sure he heard the term “stupid idiot” more than once. He wasn’t sure if she was referring to herself or him, but either way it was pretty discouraging. “We’re going to head back upstairs now,” he said to the manager who was now trying not to smirk at the newlyweds.

Stacey’s words didn’t return to the English language until they were back in the hotel room, but the minute the door was closed, she spun around and yelled, “Don’t you think I might have wanted to know that little piece of information?”

“I was just trying to make things easier for you.”

“By lying to me about who you are?”

“I didn’t lie to you.”

“You weren’t exactly straight forward!”

“It’s just that you didn’t recognize me the first time either, and you weren’t very happy when you found out then. I figured it would be the same this time, so I hoped I could get you back home before I freaked you out any more. Honestly, Stacey, I was just trying to help.”

“If you really want to help, then why don’t you tell me how, in the name of God, we ended up in the tropics as Mr. And Mrs..”

“Well,” Nick gulped, “Tahiti was your idea. I said anywhere you want, and you said somewhere that I’d never been so that we could see it for the first time together.”

Stacey’s brow furrowed and her mouth dropped open, but the anger had left her face and she was just genuinely baffled. He was telling her about a conversation that to her didn’t exist. It still seemed impossible that he could know anything about her, yet it sounded exactly like something she would have said.

“It was really sweet, actually,” Nick admitted in a much softer voice. “Most people wouldn’t have considered my feelings like that. I’m a little bummed we’re going to miss it.”

“And the man and wife part?” Stacey asked, suddenly very afraid that that answer might make sense too.

“I don’t know, a miracle? Fate?”

Stacey was a little relieved by the ridiculous answer. She looked at Nick as if he’d absolutely lost his mind, and the poor guy was pretty hurt. “That’s what it felt like to me,” he defended himself in a very desperate manner.

“Everything was so perfect. You were perfect.”

And that’s where Nick lost her. Little miss practical couldn’t handle something quite so romantic, anymore than she could fathom the idea that anyone - especially someone so glamorous - could ever think that about her. Her attitude turned a little condescending, and she asked, “Does that line usually work for you?”

Nick wasn’t sure how many times he’d felt his heart break this morning, but this time it actually felt like it was being stomped on. “It’s not a line! I know I’ve gone through my share of women in the past, but I wouldn’t have committed an entire weekend to any of them, much less till death do I part. Trust me, I didn’t think I was the marrying type! But I never thought I’d meet someone that could see past all the bullshit that goes along with being Nick Carter and love me for just me either.”

What else could Nick say? Stacey didn’t know where to go next either, so they just kind of stood there in silence for a minute until room service knocked on their door. Once it was just Nick and Stacey again, Nick looked at the tray and shrugged, “You should probably eat something. It might make you feel better. I’m not hungry.”

Stacey was surprised when Nick escaped to the balcony needing the fresh air more than she did at this point. She didn’t want to believe the things he’d said because she was scared. She was sure doing her best to convince herself that he was insane. But he looked like he was really struggling to keep it together, and the man made a frighteningly convincing argument.

Deep down Stacey felt bad that she’d insulted him, but she couldn’t take it back. She didn’t want to give any false impressions that he had a chance with her. Even if he was being sincere, Stacey just couldn’t see herself with a man like him. She just wanted to go home. Back to her quiet, little, insignificant life, with her regular, old, boring family. But it wasn’t her fault really; that’s all she really knew.

Stacey gave Nick some space for a while, and kind of picked at the food a little, but she didn’t really have the stomach to eat much either. Eventually, though, her guilt caught up with her and she cautiously stepped out onto the balcony. She stood next to Nick and leaned over the railing, finally allowing herself to take in the beautiful sight. Nick glanced at her but still said nothing, and the two were silent until Stacey worked up the courage to finally mutter an apology. “I’m sorry.”

“It’s not your fault,” Nick grumbled.

“No, but I didn’t have to be rude.”

Nick shrugged his shoulders as if to say forget it and then cast his gaze back out to the water. He looked sad, and Stacey hated to kick him while he was down, but she still had so many questions that she desperately needed answers to. “What’s going to happen when we go back?”

“What do you mean?”

“I’m assuming everything was legal, so we’ll have to get an annulment, right?”

“If that’s what you want, then I guess that’s what we have to do.”

“You can’t possibly want to stay in this marriage?”

Actually, that’s exactly what Nick wanted. Stacey may have been letting the world get in the way of feeling their connection, but Nick remembered the last week and a half. He remembered that feeling of knowing he’d found his soul mate. He knew that somehow, even though he couldn’t explain it, they were connected on a deeper level, and that he would feel that connection whether she stayed in his life or not. That’s the power of love. That’s why it’s called a soul mate.

“I just want to make you happy.” Nick released a painful sigh. “I’ll do whatever you ask me to. If you want it annulled, I’ll get my lawyer on it as soon as we get back.”

It’s not that Stacey is completely made of stone or anything - she has a heart - but all of the love he displayed was frustrating. It just couldn’t be possible, and he shouldn’t be expecting her to just feel the same way. To her, the whole thing was crazy. While it was sweet, it all felt a little too dramatic. “Look, I’m sorry. I really am. But I don’t know what you expect from me. I can’t just stay married to you, I don’t even know you.”

“What do you want to know? I’ll tell you anything.”

That was not the response Stacey wanted to hear and she lost control of her temper. “I don’t want to know anything! I just want to go home and forget any of this happened! My boss is probably pissed that I asked for more time off, and my family must be worried sick! How am I going to explain this to them?”

Unfortunately for Stacey, while she didn’t remember the last nine days, they’d still happened. She would still have to suffer the consequences of her actions. And right then, reality was about to give her an ugly slap in the face. She knew it was coming too. She could tell by the way the blood drained from Nicks face. “What?” she asked frantically.

Nick swallowed a lump in his throat and pulled the bottle of anxiety pills from his pocket. “You might want to take one of these.”

“What is it?!”

“You quit your job before you left, and you’re not exactly speaking to your family at the moment.”

Stacey gasped a very sharp intake of breath, and could barely manage to ask, “What happened?”

“You said your family was pretty traditional, so when we decided to get married I went to ask your father for your hand. Of course he said it was crazy and wouldn’t give us his blessing. You didn’t appreciate that very much. You guys had a pretty nasty fight.”

Stacey brought her hand to her mouth for fear that she might actually be sick. Stacey’s family and her job were the only things in life she really cared about - other than her friend Jessica - and she hated to think that she’d destroyed all of that. She flinched when Nick sat her down, but she was shaking so badly that she had no choice but to accept the help.

Nick watched the flood of tears begin to spill from her eyes and knelt down to her level. “I’m sure they won’t be angry anymore when we explain what happened. This was not your fault. There’s obviously something wrong with you and if anything, your family will just want to help you like I do. They love you. They’ll probably be relieved to hear that there’s some kind of explanation.”

“What do you mean there’s something wrong with me?”

“The doctor said it could be some kind of schizophrenia, or maybe multiple personalities, but don’t worry, whatever it is, I’m sure we’ll figure it out.”

Stacey looked up at Nick in utter shock. “You think I’m crazy?”

Nick pulled at his hair as if that might release some of his frustration. “I don’t know what I think! All I know is that last night you and I were the happiest two people on the planet. How can that just be gone over night? How come you suddenly can’t remember a single moment of our time together? That’s not normal, Stacey. I don’t want to believe it, but maybe the doctor is right. Maybe you need help.”

Stacey was angry and confused, but she couldn’t deny that this situation wasn’t normal. She didn’t believe she was crazy, but then, how often do crazy people know they’re crazy? There really was no other way to explain what was going on and she finally broke down completely. She began to sob and Nick went to get her a bottle of water. When he returned, Stacey looked at the medication sitting on the table in front of her and then swallowed a couple pills, excepting her defeat.

Nick hated to see her give up like that, but he really felt it might be best. All he could do was offer her a small smile, and Stacey stared into his eyes trying desperately to not panic.

Nick took a chance, and gently wiped away the tears from her face. The gesture only made her tears fall faster, but there was something so comforting in his touch that she threw her arms around him.

You can imagine what if felt like for Nick when she allowed him to console her in her moment of need. No one could blame him for the tears that fell from his own eyes as he held her. “It’s going to be ok,” he whispered as he rocked her in his arms, gently stroking her hair, “I promise.”
Practicality by honey
Chapter Six: Practicality

Nick managed to get Stacey all the way to the doorstep of her apartment without being recognized, and, more importantly, without the media figuring out that the honeymoon had been cut tragically short.

Only necessary communication had passed between them the entire trip, but as Nick set the last of Stacey’s bags on her doorstep, he couldn’t keep quite any longer. “Stacey,” he said desperately, but he didn’t know where to begin.

“I’m very sorry about all of this,” Stacey replied when Nick couldn’t find the right words to match the feelings in his heart. “And thank you for getting me home so quickly. I can take it from here.”

They stood in awkward silence for a moment, unsure how to say goodbye, and then Nick’s words came out quick as a whip but in a barely audible whisper, “Don’t do this.”

For the first time since she’d broken down in his arms back on the balcony of their honeymoon suite, Nick reached out and touched Stacey. She flinched in surprise at the feel on his hand on hers, but she was too shocked to pull away. “Please!” Nick continued. “We’ll start over. Let me take you out. Just a date.”

Stacey looked down at the hand that clung desperately to hers, trying to ignore the tingling sensation it created. Her mind was made up. “Don’t you think it’s better,” she said, shaking her head firmly, “after everything that’s happened, that we just move past this?”

“No,” Nick said stubbornly.

Stacey finally pulled her hand from Nick’s with a heavy sigh. She knew what she was going to say would sting a little, but she felt she had to be firm or she might lose it. She’d had no idea that letting him down would be so hard. She could feel tears welling up behind her eyes, but she couldn’t let him see her struggle. She knew it would only hurt him worse, and, despite everything, she really didn’t want to hurt him. “I’m sorry. You seem like a nice enough guy. But I’m just really freaked out, ok? I need to get my life back to normal, and, no offense, but that doesn’t include dating a superstar.”

Nick opened his mouth to argue, but Stacey didn’t give him the chance to say anything. “I don’t know what happened this past week, and I don’t mean to hurt your feelings, but it will never work between us. I don’t belong in your world, and the truth is, I wouldn’t even want to be a part of it. So again, I’m really sorry, but this has to be goodbye.”

Nick stood there gaping helplessly at the love of his life as she stepped inside her apartment with one last apologetic smile, and then shut the door between them forever. He said nothing more. He made no more attempts to stop her, because when the door clicked shut with such finality, it didn’t just break his heart, it broke his soul.

A broken heart is painful, but to break your soul is like having everything that makes you you ripped out of your body. It leaves you empty. Numb. And Nick Carter was now both of those things and much more. He was confused, mostly, still caught in the whirlwind of it all, and since he saw no way out of the tornado, he climbed, dejected, back into the waiting cab and headed home where he hoped he could sleep off the heavy feeling inside him.

***

Well Nick may have surrendered to Stacey, but he was the only one. Fate, on the other hand, was not about to just accept this defeat, so it immediately began working overtime to make sure that its star couple got past this little “hiccup” in their relationship, and it knew exactly where to start.

Kevin lie in a restless sleep, with his feet sticking off the end of the couch, in Nick’s living room when Nick finally stumbled through the door somewhere in the neighborhood of two AM.

“Kev?” Nick muttered, having noticed the man just as he was about to crash down on the sofa himself.

Kevin sprang to his feet a bit startled, but the moment consciousness returned to him fully, he took Nick by the shoulders. “Thank God! You had me worried sick! Are you all right?”

Nick didn’t respond. He didn’t really see the point. He was convinced he would never be all right again, but he was sure Kevin would neither believe nor understand that.

“What happened?”

“It’s over.”

“What’s over?”

“My life,” Nick replied absently.

Kevin gave him a little shake and roared, “Tell me what the hell is going on! You called me this morning in tears talking about your wife, and how scared you were, and then you just hung up and never called me back!”

Kevin’s anger seemed to juggle Nick from his trance. “Sorry man. I guess I just forgot. I’ve had a really shitty day.”

Kevin wanted to be angry. He’d been out of his mind with worry for the younger man, and now that he knew Nick was safe he just wanted to knock him silly like an irate parent. But one really good look at Nick and Kevin hadn’t the heart to lecture him. Instead he heaved a sigh, pushed Nick to the couch and went to retrieve a couple beers from the fridge. “Start from the beginning,” he ordered when he returned to Nick’s side.

Nick took the beer from Kevin’s hand and after a long hard swig said, “It’s gonna take a lot more than one of these.”

Kevin pulled the six-pack he’d grabbed from behind his back, and the tiny smirk on his face was all it took for Nick to break down and tell Kevin absolutely everything.

Nick had been the one to drink most of the beer the night before, but it was Kevin who’d waken with the headache the next morning, because there had been little to no sleeping for the man after hearing Nick’s tale. He was still in shock by not just the tears that fell from Nick’s eyes as he talked Kevin’s ears off about this woman, but also by the stars that were in them.

It was clear to Kevin that Nick was not just in love with this mystery girl, but that he was a changed man because of her. Kevin couldn’t understand how it happened, but it was so obvious, that he had no choice but to believe it. And that left him no choice but to try and fix it.

After Nick had finally passed out, Kevin spent what was left of the night trying to come up with some sort of plan. Which was why, after Nick’s lawyer had drafted the annulment papers, and Nick reluctantly signed them, Kevin offered to be the one to take the papers to Stacey. Nick was more than happy to let him do it too, because he knew he’d never be able to face Stacey and watch her sign him out of her life.

Kevin arrived at the small Palm Springs apartment shortly after three PM. He didn’t really have any sort of speech prepared, but being the no nonsense man that he was, he didn’t hesitate a second to knock on the door. “Ms. Vasquez?” he called. “Hello?”

At first it sounded like no one was home, but after a few moments a wary voice called, “Who is it?” through the unopened door.

“I’m here on behalf of Nick Carter,” Kevin answered professionally. He was afraid that if she knew it was him, she wouldn’t open the door. “I’ve brought the paperwork for you to sign.”

“Paperwork?” She still hadn’t opened the door.

Kevin glanced around, not wanting to draw any attention to himself, but all was quiet. He lowered his voice anyway. “For the annulment?”

After a moment the deadbolt slid open and a tired looking woman with puffy red eyes answered the door in pajamas and a bathrobe. “Ms. Vasquez?” Kevin asked, a little startled by the haggard appearance.

Kevin waited for the door to be slammed in his face, but Stacey never gave any hint of recognition. She did, however, sound a little suspicious as she said, “That was fast.”

“Isn’t that the point of an annulment?” Kevin teased lightly.

“I’m sorry,” Stacey said finally pushing the door open for Kevin to enter. She showed him to the living room sofa. “I guess I’m just paranoid. I have this nightmare in my mind that all these reporters are going to swarm my place any minute. Ridiculous huh?”

Kevin hated to be the barer of bad news, but he couldn’t exactly lie to the girl. She needed to know. “Oh, that’ll come,” he said. “Eventually. Once people figure it out.” Stacey’s face went pale, so Kevin quickly added, “But don’t worry. Nick will do everything he can to keep the media away from you.”

Stacey’s face changed when Kevin said Nick’s name. “So you saw him this morning? How is he doing?”

Kevin raised a curious brow and resisted the urge to ask her why she cared. “Honestly? I’ve never seen him quite like that before. Kid’s a complete mess.”

Stacey’s sudden concern not only intrigued Kevin, but it gave him a glimmer of hope that maybe he had a chance of convincing her of his plan if he could only put it in the right words. He watched Stacey very carefully, studying her, as she collapsed into a chair across from him and release a long woeful sigh. “God, what a mess. I feel terrible, you know?”

“Do you?” Kevin’s question sounded harsh, and he kicked himself for letting it slip. It was just that he was so protective of all the Backstreet Boys, Nick especially. And seeing him the way he was this afternoon when he’d finally drug himself from bed made it hard not to be angry at the woman that had caused him so much trouble. It was hard not to be suspicious of her intentions. So many women in the past have tried to take advantage of Nick for his fame or his money. And this story about how she suddenly couldn’t remember anything? Well it was particularly hard to swallow.

“Of course I do! I’m not a heartless bitch!” Stacey sneered.

Kevin kicked himself again, worried that he’d just screwed everything up. “I’m sorry,” he muttered, but it didn’t do a lot of good.

“It’s not like I meant to hurt him! I didn’t do this on purpose!”

It was at that moment that everything simply became too much for Stacey to handle. Her world had crumbled and she’d been hanging on by a thin thread, but Kevin’s doubt in her character was more than enough of a blow to snap that thread.

“I don’t even know what happened!” she screamed as hysteria and a flood of tears overtook her. “My family’s so angry they won’t even answer my phone calls! I’ll be lucky if my father ever speaks to me again! I don’t have a job anymore, and I can’t even get it back because they managed to fill my position already. And come next week, I won’t even have a place to live because my husband so kindly paid to break my lease so that my roommate wouldn’t be stuck here by herself. She’s already found herself a new roommate! In nine lousy days! It’s like fate is working against me or something! Nine days that I can’t even remember and I’m suddenly unemployed, homeless, I have no family supporting me, and any minute now the paparazzi are going to figure out what happened and I’m going to be branded around the world as the crazy bitch that broke Nick Carter’s heart!”

Stacey stopped screaming because she was too upset to form words anymore. Kevin sat in shock, watching her come apart at the seams, with no idea what to say or do. Eventually Stacey took a deep breath and managed to calm herself enough to speak again. “You know what the worst part is? I’m starting to think Nick’s right. I must be mentally ill because I managed to destroy my life in less than two weeks’ time and I have now clue why or how I managed to do it. I don’t remember anything! Nothing! Not even fuzzy images. It’s like the last two weeks of my life never even happened. How is that even possible?” Stacey began to sob violently again. “I just spent the entire morning on the phone with a psychiatrist who recommended I check myself into a mental health clinic, and the scary thing is, it doesn’t sound like such a bad idea.”

“Don’t do that. I’m sure there’s another way to fix this.” Kevin finally spoke up in a gentle voice and risked crossing the room to put a reassuring arm around the newest addition to the Backstreet family.

Stacey was surprised by the kind gesture, and needed the support so badly it didn’t matter that he was a complete stranger. “I’m sorry,” she cried, ashamed buy her outburst. “You just kind of caught me on a bad day.”

“Understandably. And I’m sorry too. I shouldn’t have been so quick to judge. It’s just that Nick’s kind of like a little brother to me, and I sometimes take it personally when he gets hurt.”

Stacey wiped her tears as best she could and frowned up at Kevin. “Like a brother? Just how often does Nick Carter need a lawyer?”

Kevin was confused for a moment, but chuckled when he saw the briefcase he’d bought with him. “I’m not Nick’s lawyer,” he explained. “My name is Kevin Richardson. I used to be in the Backstreet Boys with him, and he’s one of my best friends. I offered to bring over the papers because he was… He wasn’t sure you would want him to bring them himself.” That last part was a lie, but Kevin didn’t have the heart to tell Stacey he was too heartbroken to come himself.

Stacey took another deep breath, wiped her eyes and reached for a Kleenex to rid her swollen nose of all the snot running down it. “God, he must absolutely hate me.”

“On the contrary. He’s just very worried about you. He wants to help you any way he can. In fact, so do I.”

“Why would you want to help me?”

“Because, Ms. Vasquez, I’m not exactly a heartless bitch either.” Kevin winked at Stacey and then more seriously added,  “You’re important to Nick, and Nick’s important to me, so whatever I can do, I’m going to do it.”

“That’s kind of you, but I got myself into this mess somehow. I’ll get myself out of it.”

“You didn’t exactly do this alone you know. Nick’s as much responsible for what happened as you are. And he’s going to suffer the consequences same as you. Aside from the… disappointment, Nick’s going to take a serious hit over this.”

“What do you mean?”

“Well,” Kevin shrugged, “once you sign these papers, you’ll no longer be Mrs. Carter.” Stacey flinched at the title, but Kevin kept talking. “You realize that’s less time than the 55 hours Britney Spears was married. The press is going to have a field day with this. His reputation, his ego, even his career, it’s all going to be hurt by this.”

“But…” Stacey stammered, disturbed by the idea of being the cause of anyone’s public humiliation. “He didn’t mention anything any of this on the way home yesterday. He just said that he’d get everything done as quickly as possible.”

“I’m sure he didn’t. I’m sure he was more concerned for your well being than himself. Despite what you may think – I know he’s gotten himself into trouble in the past, and Paris Hilton aside – Nick is a really good guy. It’s true he can be a little irresponsible, for instance running off to get married without thinking it through, but he’s got a bigger heart than anyone else I know.”

“Oh God!” Stacey groaned in frustration. “This is all just… just… GOD!”

“Ms. Vasquez? May I suggest something?”

Stacey glanced curiously at Kevin and he took a deep breath. It was time to lay out his proposal. Stacey was finally calm again, and appeared to be thinking rationally. He figured he might not get a better chance than this. “Look, what’s done is done, but that doesn’t mean you’re on your own. Maybe you and Nick could help each other.”

“How?”

“You said yourself that you need a place to stay. Nick has plenty of space, I’m sure he wouldn’t mind. At least until you find a new job and a place and all that.”

“How exactly does that help him?”

“Well,” Kevin hesitated. “If you held off on signing those papers, if only until the excitement over the elopement dies down, it would make a huge difference with the amount of backlash he gets for it.”

Stacey’s eyes grew wide. “You’re suggesting we stay married?” she gasped as she leapt to her feet and began pacing the length of her living room, spouting off Spanish curses.

“Not in the biblical sense,” Kevin said nervously. “Just sort of in the technical sense.”

Kevin tried to smile but cringed beneath Stacey’s piercing glare, and waited patiently though another round of Spanish. “Did he put you up to this?!” Stacey roared, finally returning her dialog to a language Kevin understood. “Did he send you hear to ask me not to sign the papers?! Of all the nerve! If he’s so worried about his precious career, he should have had the guts to come himself!”

“Come on, Ms. Vasquez. Stacey. Think about what he looked like last night as he dropped you off. You know he didn’t think of this. In fact he’ll probably punch me when he finds out I did.” Kevin popped open the briefcase he’d brought with him and handed her the annulment papers. “Look for yourself. He’s already signed them. He didn’t want to, but only because he didn’t want to give you up so easily. But he signed them anyway because it’s what you wanted.”

Stacey stared down at the sloppy signature scrawled at the bottom of the document in her hand, and she could almost picture the look on Nick’s face as he’d written it. She imagined it was much like the one he wore when she’d shut the door last night, and she knew Kevin was telling the truth.

“Nick says you’re a very practical woman,” Kevin began again. “So just think about it. It’s just a piece of paper. And Nick isn’t the only one who will be hounded by the paparazzi either. This will help you both. You don’t really want to check into a psychiatric hospital do you? Come back with me and we’ll sit down with Nick and figure out some kind of plan.”

Stacey stood silent for a moment, still staring at the papers, and slowly the wild flare of anger left her eyes. “Well,” she sighed, giving in to practicality. She laid the papers back down in the briefcase without signing them. “I suppose I could give it at least as long as Britney did.”


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