A Little Taste of Sin by Mellz Bellz

After betraying her trust yet again, Alyssa finally gave up on Nick. She moved on and began a seperate life far away from him. But there are some people that life just won't let you let go of. What happens when they find their lifes entwined once more? Now that the stakes are higher, will they risk losing everything they have for another chance? Sequel to Under my Skin.

Categories: Fanfiction > Backstreet Boys Characters: Nick
Genres: Angst, Drama, Humor, Romance
Warnings: Death, Graphic Sexual Content, Violence
Series: Not Like We Predicted
Chapters: 61 Completed: Yes Word count: 329529 Read: 164218 Published: 11/13/07 Updated: 11/12/08

1. Prologue - Never Again by Mellz Bellz

2. Chapter 1 - Here's to You, Mrs. Robinson by Mellz Bellz

3. Chapter 2 - Jumping the Gun by Mellz Bellz

4. Chapter 3 - Six Month Itch by Mellz Bellz

5. Chapter 4- Hey Jealously by Mellz Bellz

6. Chapter 5 - Saving Grace by Mellz Bellz

7. Chapter 6 - Rise and Fall by Mellz Bellz

8. Chapter 7 - So Far From Where We've Been by Mellz Bellz

9. Chapter 8 - A Picture's Worth a Thousand Words by Mellz Bellz

10. Chapter 9 - Coming Clean by Mellz Bellz

11. Chapter 10 - Spring Cleaning by Mellz Bellz

12. Chapter 11 - Curiosity Killed the Cat by Mellz Bellz

13. Chapter 12 - Wake Up Call by Mellz Bellz

14. Chapter 13 - Survey Says by Mellz Bellz

15. Chapter 14 - Wine Me, Dine Me, 69 Me by Mellz Bellz

16. Author's Note/ Disclaimer by Mellz Bellz

17. Chapter 15 - Joy and Pain by Mellz Bellz

18. Chapter 16 - False Alarm by Mellz Bellz

19. Chapter 17 - Downpour by Mellz Bellz

20. Chapter 18 - Reality Sets In by Mellz Bellz

21. Chapter 19 - The Power of Goodbye by Mellz Bellz

22. Chapter 19- The Power of Goodbye (Real Version) by Mellz Bellz

23. Chapter 20 - Table For One by Mellz Bellz

24. Chapter 21 - The Greatest Gift of All by Mellz Bellz

25. Chapter 22 - A Sterile Revelation by Mellz Bellz

26. Chapter 23 - Denial Is Not Just a River by Mellz Bellz

27. Chapter 24 - Just Hit Static by Mellz Bellz

28. Chapter 25 - You Can Run But You Can't Hide by Mellz Bellz

29. Chapter 26 - Emotion Sickness by Mellz Bellz

30. Chapter 27 - Girls Behaving Badly by Mellz Bellz

31. Chapter 28 - Going to the Chapel by Mellz Bellz

32. Chapter 29 - You May Now Kiss the Bridesmaid by Mellz Bellz

33. Chapter 30 - Damage Control by Mellz Bellz

34. Chapter 31 - Hormonal Overdrive by Mellz Bellz

35. Chapter 32 - Flirting With Temptation by Mellz Bellz

36. Chapter 33 - Too Close for Comfort by Mellz Bellz

37. Chapter 34 - Sweetest Sin by Mellz Bellz

38. Chapter 35 - Still My Addiction by Mellz Bellz

39. Chapter 36 - Family Matters by Mellz Bellz

40. Chapter 37 - Seeds of Doubt by Mellz Bellz

41. Chapter 38 - What's In a Name? by Mellz Bellz

42. Chapter 39 - I Won't be Home for Christmas by Mellz Bellz

43. Chapter 40 - Naughty or Nice by Mellz Bellz

44. Chapter 41 - Giving is Half the Fun by Mellz Bellz

45. Chapter 42 -Another Auld Lang Syne by Mellz Bellz

46. Chapter 43 -Fallen Soldier by Mellz Bellz

47. Chapter 44 - You Know I'm No Good by Mellz Bellz

48. Chapter 45 - Coming Home by Mellz Bellz

49. Chapter 46 - Hot and Cold by Mellz Bellz

50. Chapter 47 - Your Love is a Lie by Mellz Bellz

51. Chapter 48 - The Waiting Game by Mellz Bellz

52. Chapter 49 - The Hardest Thing by Mellz Bellz

53. Chapter 50 -Sick As My Secrets by Mellz Bellz

54. Chapter 51 - The Truth About Lies by Mellz Bellz

55. Chapter 52 -Wake Me Up When It's Over by Mellz Bellz

56. Chapter 53 - One Step at a Time by Mellz Bellz

57. Chapter 54 - Bringing Sexy Back by Mellz Bellz

58. Chapter 55 - A Change Would Do You Good by Mellz Bellz

59. Chapter 56 - Blindsided by Mellz Bellz

60. Chapter 57 - Getting To Know Me More by Mellz Bellz

61. Author's Notes & Thank You's by Mellz Bellz

Prologue - Never Again by Mellz Bellz
Author's Notes:

Alyssa attends the wedding of an old flame.

Prologue – Never Again

I hope the ring you gave to her turns her finger green
I hope when your in bed with her, you think of me

May 2007

It was the perfect day for a wedding. The California temperature was warm, but not too hot, and nice breeze blew off the ocean, letting the smell of salt permeate in the air. The scene looked like something out of a movie. The guests were seated on rows of white chairs at top of a cliff overlooking the Pacific Ocean. And there were many guests. This was big news, the wedding of a Backstreet Boy and a well known entertainment news correspondent. There were photographers everywhere snapping pictures of what was sure to be in every celebrity gossip magazine and shown all over television within the next couple of days.

And in the midst of it all with a sullen expression on her face sat Alyssa Martinelli, arms firmly crossed across her chest, staring straight ahead. Next to her sat her best friend Isabelle Richardson who had her one year old daughter, Grace propped onto her lap. I can’t believe I let Izzy talk me into coming to my ex boyfriend’s wedding, Alyssa thought to herself in disbelief. Furthermore I can’t believe that Nick is getting married period. Was this really the same man who she’d broken up with a little more than a year earlier because of his problems with commitment? She’d told him that he needed to make some major changes in his life, but Alyssa doubted that he’d turned himself around so much in a little more than a year that he was ready for marriage. She had a feeling that he was making a big mistake. Not that it was any business of hers anyway.

I would never wish bad things, but I don't wish you well
Could you tell, by the flames that burned your words

“I can’t believe that I let you convince me to come here,” Alyssa finally said out loud.

“You’re here to show him that you’ve moved on,” Izzy tried to assure her. “You’re over him, so why would you care if he marries someone else. Besides its very classy to show up here with your head held up high. It shows dignity and there must have been some reason why he invited you.”

“You’re right,” she agreed and sat up a little straighter in her seat. “So, have you ever met the lucky bride?”

Izzy nodded her head. “Only once or twice though, so I haven’t completely felt her out yet. She seems nice.”

“She’s in the entertainment business and she’s blonde. That’s enough for me,” Alyssa snottily stated.

“She’s a correspondent for E! News. I hardly consider that to be of celebrity status,” her friend pointed out. “It sounds to me like someone’s jealous…”

“I’m not jealous!” Alyssa insisted. “I’m just interested in Nick’s welfare and based upon his track record with blondes that happen to be in the entertainment business I see reason for concern.”

Izzy just shook her head. “Well, I’m sorry to disappoint you, but I found no reason to really dislike Shayla when I met her. She seemed like a really nice woman. She started off behind the scenes at E! and she actually worked on Nick’s reality show. That’s where they met and it kind of just went from there. Then she got promoted to working in front of the camera and before I knew it they were engaged.”

“Don’t you think that’s a little funny though? How fast things seemed to progress between the two of them? I think it’s a little too soon to be thinking about marriage. I mean I’ve been seeing Sean and marriage is the farthest thing from our minds right now.”

“You’ve been seeing Sean for only a few months now. It’s hardly long enough to consider being serious yet,” Izzy pointed out and then shrugged. “Maybe they just genuinely fell in love. It happens like that sometimes.”

Alyssa just scowled and Izzy continued. “I know you don’t want to hear this Lyss, but maybe he and Shayla just have a deeper connection than he had with you. If you’re really all that concerned about his welfare you’d support him and handle yourself like a friend today.”

“Says the woman who stopped talking to Nick for a while when he was in his destructive phase,” she muttered under her breath.

“He’s changed so much, Alyssa,” Izzy tried to tell her. “You’d be so proud of him. He’s really become a better person. He’s dropped a good thirty or forty pounds and he’s all into living a healthy lifestyle now. He’s stopped smoking and dramatically cut down on the drinking. Wait until you see him again. He looks great.”

I never read your letter
'Cos I knew what you'd say
Give me that Sunday school answer
Try and make it all OK

Alyssa just ignored her friend’s description of the new and improved Nick and went back to her sulking. She could still distinctively remember the shock she had felt when she’d come home from work one day to find that fancy thick envelope with the carefully drawn calligraphy on the front. She’d just about died when she saw Nick’s name linked with that of another woman’s and she realized that it was a wedding invitation. Why would he be so cruel as to invite her to his wedding? Was this his way of throwing it into her face that he’d successfully moved on from her?

Underneath the invitation there was a separate letter addressed to her in Nick’s scrawled handwriting. Not having the courage to read it she’d held it up with the intent to rip it into pieces, but then stopped. She didn’t have the courage to read what Nick had to say on the inside, but something stopped her from completely destroying it. Instead she’d stuck it between some books on her bookcase where it haunted her for months leading up to the wedding.

She wasn’t even going to attend until Izzy had called her up wanting to know if she was going. She’d recently talked to Nick who had mentioned that he hadn’t yet gotten any response back from Alyssa. Izzy finally admitted that it was her who had given Nick her new address in North Carolina in the first place. At first Alyssa had been a little upset because the whole point of her moving away was to start over with him out of her life, but Izzy had been persistent and after much pleading had convinced her to suck it up and attend the wedding with her.

“It might be good for you to attend,” she’d pointed out. “I mean if you can sit there and watch him marry someone else then that just proves that you’re completely free of him. Even though it didn’t work out between the two of you, I think you can still be amicable to each other. You guys have shared a lot together even outside of being in a relationship at one time and he just really wants you there to support him. He’s changed so much and I think he really wants you to see that. You’re going to have face him again sooner or later Lyss. Especially since you share so many mutual friends. Besides, the last time I saw you was Grace’s birthday in March, so you’re definitely due out to LA for a visit.”

So Alyssa had finally caved in, but she still hadn’t bothered to read Nick’s sorry excuse for a letter trying to explain himself. As much as she tried to put on a brave front that she was completely over him, on the inside she still had her moments. She’d come to realize that perhaps things with Nick weren’t completely one sided and she to shared some fault in their demise. She knew that she had her own issues to work out and she had definitely been working on them. Moving down to North Carolina had turned out to be a very smart decision for her. With her first year of teaching just about under her belt, Alyssa had learned a lot about herself and was definitely more confident in her abilities career wise. She’d made a few acquaintances in her fellow teachers at school. She’d even started dating again, although not very seriously. After a few disastrous first dates she’d been on during an experiment with the wonderful world of online dating websites, she’d been ready to throw in the towel completely. When her mentor and fellow second grade teacher, Linda had suggested that Alyssa meet her nephew Sean she’d been skeptical at first, but not wanting to hurt Linda’s feelings she agreed to let her set it up. It turned out that Sean was definitely an improvement over all the internet guys she’d been dealing with. He was a marine currently stationed at a base not far from where she lived and they’d been casually dating for about 2 or 3 months now. Sean was definitely a nice guy and treated her like gold, but there was still something that held her back from getting too serious with him. She tried to tell herself it was the fact that he was two years younger than she, which although she knew was completely acceptable nowadays she still had her doubts. Deep down though, she suspected that the real reason she was afraid to give it her all was because with Sean she could see the possibility of a relationship really going somewhere and it scared her. The only other guy she’d ever considered getting that serious with before was Nick, and look how that had turned out.

Was she bitter? Definitely, but she’d never admit that to anyone else.

Does it hurt to know I'll never be there
Bet it sucks, to see my face everywhere
It was you, who chose to end it like you did
I was the last to know
You knew exactly what you would do
And don't say, you simply lost your way
She may believe you but I never will
Never again

Izzy’s voice interrupted her thoughts bring her crashing back into the present. “I think they’re going to be starting soon. Look, there’s Nick up there now. He looks nervous doesn’t he?”

As much as Alyssa didn’t want to look she couldn’t help but not to. Her eyes drifted up towards the end of the aisle until she found herself gazing at a very familiar blonde headed figure. As contradictory as it sounded, in some ways she almost didn’t recognize him. Izzy had been right. He’d lost a ton of weight and now she reckoned to say that he probably was at the thinnest he’d been since she met him. His new appearance took some getting used to, but Alyssa had to admit that he did look good. Even his whole face appeared brighter and happier. Maybe Izzy was right, she sighed in defeat. Maybe he is much happier right now with Shayla than he was with me.

“I told you he looks good now,” Izzy smirked, as she watched the stunned expression on Alyssa’s face.

“Maybe this was a bad idea,” Alyssa just muttered. “Maybe I’m not as ready to do this as I thought I was.”

“Nonsense! You can do this,” she insisted. “And you will. You’re going to sit through this ceremony and swallow your pride and be happy for him. And after the ceremony you’re going to go up and congratulate the both of them sincerely and civilly, because you are a mature adult.”

“I have to actually speak to him?” Her voice squeaked at the thought.

“Yes, you do. I’ll come with you if you want for support, but trust me Lyss. This is for your own good.”

Alyssa just sighed, but didn’t say anything more. In a way she knew that Izzy was right. She needed to face the fact that he was now completely unattainable to her, so that hopefully she could be completely free of him. Then maybe she could consider making a serious commitment to Sean or any other guy for that matter.

The two women were quiet for the next few minutes. Alyssa amused herself with scanning the rows of the other guests, trying to spot other people she knew. She and Izzy had already bumped into Kevin and Melanie earlier, but they weren’t able to find seats together. She spotted Nick’s sister’s sitting up near the front and she already knew that Aaron was in the bridal party. A huge grin came over her face as she spotted Teri and Tricia sitting a few rows away from her. She assumed that both Howie and AJ were also in the bridal party since there was no sign of them. Just then Tricia turned around and spotted her and nudged Teri who also spun around and gasped when she saw Alyssa. Teri quickly waved and mouthed the word “Hi” blowing her a little kiss. Alyssa giggled and was about to mouth something back, but was interrupted by the beginning chords of the wedding march. Sitting back against her seat, she sighed as her fingers nervously played with the hem of her dress. Let’s hope this isn’t too painful.

If she really knows the truth, she deserves you
A trophy wife, oh how cute
Ignorance is bliss

Alyssa sighed as the bridal party began their descent down the aisle. She had to admit that she was sort of curious to see what exactly this Shayla looked like, although she could pretty much imagine. She always used to tease Nick that all his ex girlfriends seemed to resemble each other and how the hell had he wound up with her when she was the exact physical opposite. It seemed stupid now, but Alyssa had really thought that since she was different than any other girl he’d dated, she would be the one he’d wind up with in the end. It hadn’t worked out with any of them, so surely it had to work out with her, right? Looking back, she couldn’t believe how wrong she had been.

As it turned out, the picture of Shayla that Alyssa had envisioned in her head wasn’t very far off track at all. Alyssa critically took in a good look at her as she walked past her row. It was hard to get a clear look at her face because of her veil, but Alyssa was just able to make out her sharp looking features and piercing blue eyes. Her blonde hair was coiled up tightly on top of her head. She was a little shorter than Alyssa had anticipated and surprisingly healthy looking. Even through her veil, Alyssa got the sense that she was beautiful. Her and Nick probably made the quite the couple.

When she finally reached the other end of the aisle and Alyssa saw the way that Nick’s eyes lit up when he saw her, a pang of jealously ran through her. She could remember a time when Nick had used to look at her that way. Now those days were long gone. Putting on a brave face though, she tried her best to concentrate on the start of the ceremony, but she found her mind wandering off. As she watched the two newlyweds she began to wonder how much of Nick’s past did Shayla really know? Did she know about Katie and Serena? Did she know the details surrounding Alyssa’s relationship with him? Did she know that one of the many reasons they’d broken up was because he’d fooled around with her younger sister? And if she did know all of these things, how could she be completely okay with them?

But when your day comes, and he's through with you
And he'll be through with you
You'll die together but alone

In a way she almost felt bad for Shayla. According to Izzy, Nick had turned his life completely around, but had he really? Alyssa found it very hard to imagine that he could possibly commit himself to a lifetime of being with only one person, so quickly and he’d only known her for slightly longer than a year. What was one year compared to the rest of their lives? She didn’t mean to be a pessimist, but she was already willing to take bets on how long the marriage would last. They were both in the public eye. How long it did the average Hollywood marriage last? Three to five years tops?

Izzy must’ve noticed her zoning out because she felt a sharp elbow in her side. “The least you can do is actually pretend to be paying attention,” she hissed. “You look like you really don’t want to be here. Even Grace is looking more interested than you are right now. Put a smile on and suck it up!”

Feeling reduced to the age of a five year old, Alyssa rolled her eyes in her friend’s direction, but sat up a little straighter in her seat and pasted a fake smile across her lips. To the average outsider she looked like she was just another wedding guest, genuinely happy for the new couple, but on the inside she was seething.

Nick Carter stared out at the sea of familiar faces in front of him and felt a film of sweat growing on his palms. Who knew that getting married could be so nerve wracking? And how could Shayla appear so calm and collected beside him? If someone had told him a year ago that in another twelve months he’d be getting married, he’d probably have laughed in their face. Marriage was the furthest thing from his mind after his breakup with Alyssa. He was unsure if he could ever have a comfortable relationship with another woman again. Then Shayla had come along.

When he’d first met Shayla he had no interest in another relationship. He’d just begun filming House of Carters and was finding that although reuniting with his siblings was the first positive thing he’d done in a long time, it was also emotionally taxing. Naturally, they had plenty of issues to work out between each other, and there were some days when Nick wondered if agreeing to do the show was the best decision he’d ever made. Although he was instructed to try and ignore the members of the behind the scenes crew, he started to develop a very close friendship with Shayla. Whenever the cameras were pointed away from him, he could usually be found alone in some nook of the large house talking with her. She was a very good listener and that’s what Nick needed at the moment. She listened to him when he needed to unload about his frustrations with his siblings. She also managed to pull out of him the whole story of his break up with Alyssa and how he regretted so many of the mistakes he’d made with her. She’d kept everything very confidential, and it wasn’t long before Nick began to suspect that he was developing some sort of feelings for her. Still he waited until after production on House of Carters ended to act upon those impulses. He didn’t want to drag her from behind the scenes to in front of the camera and he definitely didn’t want all of America watching as he attempted to start a new romance that he wasn’t even sure he was ready for. Once the shooting was over he took a chance and asked Shayla out on a formal date. Then it had just skyrocketed from there.

It was hard for him to compare his relationship with Shayla to his prior relationship with Alyssa because not only were they two very different women, but he was at very different parts of his life while he was dating each one of them. When he’d been dating Alyssa he’d been a mess. He hadn’t known what he really wanted in life and he had spent far too much time struggling with the recent events of his life. Their break up had been just the wake up call he needed. He supposed in a way he should actually thank Alyssa for it. She’d told him quite simply that he needed to get his act together or he’d wind up losing everything he had. Over time he had realized that to be true. He began to make changes in his life. Besides the reality show and developing a closer relationship with Aaron and his sisters, Nick had definitely decreased his partying and cut down big time on his drinking. Once in awhile he’d drink socially when appropriate, but he definitely learned to do a better job of keeping it all in check. With his new outlook on life, Nick also decided to tackle something that had bothered him almost all of his adult life, his weight. He began watching what he ate and working out more which had resulted in a dramatic weight loss. Alongside all of these positive changes in his life, Nick began working on a new album with the rest of the guys minus Kevin, and had even worked in time to film a movie. For the first time in a long time, Nick actually felt good about himself. Things with him and Shayla had been going amazingly well. She’d stood by him and been extremely supportive of all of his decisions. It seemed crazy to many people, but once things began to come together for him, Nick reached his decision to ask Shayla to marry him. He knew that they hadn’t even been together a year yet, but she’d been such a source of comfort for him the past few months of his transformation he felt positive that she was the right woman for him. The man who had shied away from anything that resembled commitment a year prior finally decided to take the big leap.

Now that he was standing in front of all of their family and friends and about to make her his wife, the enormity of what he was about to do hovered over him. Why are you so nervous? he asked himself. This isn’t even your first wedding. That realization sort of saddened him. He’d had a brief marriage over five years ago to Katie, a Swedish girl he had met while the Backstreet Boys were recording Black and Blue in Sweden. They’d sort of had a mini romance in the six weeks he had been there which at the time had almost destroyed the beginnings of his relationship with Alyssa. He’d chalked it all up to just being a fling and had no intentions of seeing her ever again, but that had all changed when she’d arrived in the US and tracked him down to announce that she was pregnant with their child. The news had devastated him and at the young age of 21 he had no idea how to handle that kind of responsibility. Alyssa had tried to convince him to petition for custody of the unborn child and he’d considered the idea. Then there had been their disastrous trip to the Bahamas which had resulted in Alyssa walking out of his life for the first of many times. Nick had handled the situation the only way his immature 21 year old mind knew how, with alcohol and a woman. He’d called Katie up and sort of proposed to her over the phone. Looking back he realized that Katie had to have known that he was obviously intoxicated, but she’d clearly taken full advantage of the situation. Her visa would only be good for so long and she had hopes of staying in the United States to raise the baby. By marrying him it would ensure that she’d be able to continue to live in the country. Next thing he knew she’d arrived in the Bahamas and Nick had no clue how to tell her that he hadn’t really meant to ask her to marry him. Finally he’d decided that it was his responsibility to own up his mistake and marry her for the sake of their child. It had been the right thing to do under the circumstances.

The marriage had only lasted about three months. Nick hoped for a better track record this time around although the circumstances were clearly different with Shayla. He certainly hoped that things with her wouldn’t wind up in the same way they’d had with Katie.

He hadn’t realized that he had been zoning until he felt Shayla nudge him in the ribs expectantly. He focused himself back into the present and realized that the priest was looking at him as if he expected some sort of response and he noticed that everyone else was silent. Oh shit… Nick felt his face flush like he was a student who had been caught not paying attention in class. Obviously he’s waiting for me to say something and I have no clue what. Figuring he’d go with the most obvious response he could think that would be expected of him he answered in a proud voice, “I do.”

As soon as the words left his mouth he knew he had the wrong answer by the horrified expression on Shayla’s face. He could hear a few snickers from behind him and he immediately felt like a complete ass. “Whoa there, I think you’re getting a little ahead of me,” the priest joked. “I know you just want to kiss the bride, but I just asked you for your vows.”

Nick turned bright red as he rustled through his pockets for the sheet of paper in which he had written his wedding vows on. “Oh yea, I knew that,” he tried to play off. “Sorry I guess I just zoned out for a second there. My constant ADHD strikes again.”

There were a few more chuckles from the guests which Nick took as a sign that he had handled the situation quite well with his touch of humor. He felt Shayla give his hand a reassuring squeeze letting him know that it was okay and finally he began to relax. After getting through a mistake as embarrassing as that and surviving, he had a feeling that everything was going to be okay.

The rest of the ceremony went off without a hitch and before Alyssa realized it was time to head over to the reception. The ceremony had been hard for her to witness, but she’d gotten through it. She’d been one of the first to crack a smile when Nick had wrongly responded “I do” when asked to recite his wedding vows. The moment had just been so classically Nick that she couldn’t help, but to bite her lip to keep from laughing. Although his physical appearance may have changed big time, some parts of him such as his short attention span had stayed exactly the same, which Alyssa actually found refreshing.

The hardest part of the ceremony for her of course had been the ending when she had to watch him kiss Shayla. It wasn’t so much the act itself that had hurt her. She’d seen with her own two eyes Nick kiss another woman in front of her in a much more aggressive manner. It was more of what the kiss represented that had gotten to her. It meant that the two of them were now officially married and that Nick had officially moved on, something that Alyssa was still fighting to do herself. Maybe Izzy had been right. Maybe coming to the wedding and seeing it happen before her eyes would be just the push she needed.

And to think that the most difficult part was still yet to come! She still had to face Nick and Shayla both and congratulate the both of them sincerely. Just the thought brought a sinking sensation to Alyssa’s stomach. Thankfully enough, right after the wedding ended the newly married couple had been whisked away for pictures. Maybe with a little luck they’ll have so many people surrounding them at the reception that it’ll make it impossible to talk to them, she silently hoped.

She’d spent so much of the cocktail hour worrying about talking to him again that she’d downed three glasses of champagne before Izzy had forbid her from taking another glass. “I know you think alcohol might make seeing Nick again a little easier on you, but you definitely don’t want to be tipsy when you do see him. Besides, you’ll be meeting Shayla for the first time and you don’t want to give her a bad impression, do you?”

Alyssa curled her lip in disgust, but had to admit that once again Izzy was correct. The last thing she needed was for Nick’s new wife to think that she was a lush. So, she steered clear from any alcohol and quickly switched over to soda.

The reception started without any excess excitement and Alyssa was delighted to find that her wish seemed to be coming true. From the moment Nick and Shayla arrived cameras were on them and they were swarmed with other well wishers. It wasn’t until after dinner that the two of them appeared to finally be alone.

Seeing their opening, Izzy nudged Alyssa under the table. “They’re alone now. It’s the perfect chance to go over and congratulate them.”

“I don’t want to,” Alyssa whined. “I’m having fun right here.” She’d been catching up on a years worth of gossip with Tricia and Teri which seemed a lot more productive than going up and having to act all happy for Nick and Shayla.

“Come on Alyssa,” Teri urged. “Just go over there and fucking do it and get it over with. Nick will appreciate it and I promise that Shayla really isn’t that bad. You’ll feel so much better once you get it out of the way.”

Alyssa grudgingly stood up from her seat. “Do you think we could make a stop at the bar first?” she asked Izzy. “I think I could use a shot of something before I go over there.”

Izzy shook her head. “Remember what I said. You don’t need alcohol to do this. I promise you that after you do this you can get as sloppy drunk as you want, but you need to at least be able to get through this sober.”

“When you get back we’ll all do a shot, okay?” Tricia suggested.

“Yea, to celebrate the fact that you actually had the balls to be the bigger person here,” Teri added.

“Fine,” Alyssa agreed as she let Izzy lead her over in the direction of Shayla and Nick. As they approached the couple Alyssa could feel her stomach begin to flip flop.

“Hey!” Izzy brightly greeted the two of them. “I’ve been meaning to come over and give the two of you congratulations, but every time I was about to somebody else grabbed your attention.”

“Thanks Iz,” Nick told her as he bent down to give her a friendly peck on her cheek. “You remember Shayla, right?”

“Oh, yes of course!” She turned her attention to Shayla. “By the way you look absolutely gorgeous.”

“Why thank you,” Shayla answered with a smile on her face. Her eyes looked down at the sleeping baby in Izzy’s arms. “And who is this precious angel?”

“That’s Grace, Izzy’s daughter,” Nick explained.

“Oh, isn’t she adorable!” Shayla squealed.

Alyssa hung back a little, watching the scene feeling pretty much invisible. She wanted to speak up and say something, but she wasn’t sure what she could say without sounding completely fake. She didn’t have much time to think any further because she was immediately pulled into the conversation as Nick finally realized she was standing there.

“And this is Alyssa,” he explained to his new wife as he locked eyes with Alyssa.

Shayla’s eyes lit up in recognition, so Alyssa assumed that Nick had told Shayla all about who she was and their past together. Shayla gave Alyssa a warm smile as she took her hand. “It’s great to finally meet you Alyssa. I’ve heard a lot about you.”

“Hopefully nothing too horrible,” she nervously joked. She critically examined their exchange of words in her head, trying to decide if she was being sincere or not. When it came to Nick she was so used to other women being overly sweet to the point where it felt like an act, but she had to admit that she didn’t feel that with Shayla. She just sounded like she genuinely was happy to meet her. Although she was searching for any small reason to dislike the woman in front of her, there was nothing she could find. “Congratulations,” she managed to stutter out. “It was a really nice ceremony and all.”

“Thanks I’m very happy that you came,” the other woman answered exchanging a glance with Nick. “We both are.”

All of a sudden a slow song began to start in the background. “Hey baby, do you mind if I dance with Alyssa for a moment?” Nick asked.

“No, not at all. Go right ahead.”

“What do you say?” Nick suggested, extending out his hand to Alyssa. “For old times sake.”

“Uhmm, sure…” Alyssa answered, awkwardly taking hold of it. Talk about bizarre… Dancing with her ex boyfriend at his wedding after just meeting his new wife who seemed completely okay with the idea? Not exactly what she’d expected at all.

You wrote me in a letter
You couldn't say it right to my face
Give me that Sunday school answer
Repent yourself away

When they reached the dance floor and Alyssa slid her hands around his neck, familiarity set in and she began to relax a little. “Since when do you ask for permission to dance with another woman?” she teased with a smirk.

Nick just grinned. “Well, I am married now. I have to be a gentleman.” He paused for a moment. “You look good.”

Alyssa bit her lip. “Yea, so do you. I almost didn’t recognize you. Izzy told me everything that you’ve been up to. I must say that I didn’t think I’d ever see the day that you’d be getting married.”

“You and me both,” he nervously laughed. “But really I have you to thank for that.”

“Me?” she squeaked. “Why me?”

“You gave me the wake up call I so desperately needed. You told me that I needed to either shape up or else I’d end up destroying my life,” he explained. “When you left, it put everything in perspective for me and it really hit me that I needed to make some major changes in my life. If you hadn’t done that, I’d have never decided to do the reality show with my siblings and I’d have never met Shayla, so I have to thank you.”

“Oh… Well uhmm you’re welcome I guess.” As if things couldn’t get any weirder now Nick was practically crediting her with leading him to Shayla in the first place? How ironic is life? Alyssa found herself wondering.

“So, how are you doing?” he asked. “I heard you moved down to North Carolina?”

Alyssa just nodded. “Yea… Back last April. I got a job down there teaching second grade and so far it’s been working out really good for me. I have a great group of kids and everyone has been so nice.”

“That’s good.” There was another awkward pause before Nick asked the inevitable question. “What about dating? Any special men in your life?”

Alyssa bit her lip unsure of how to answer that. Yea there was Sean, but she wasn’t sure how special she considered him just yet. She shrugged. “I’m kind of seeing someone right now, but it’s pretty early on in the relationship. We’re not even serious yet.”

“Do you think it could get serious?”

His question startled her. “I don’t know… Maybe someday, but right now I just don’t think I’m ready, plus he’s a Marine and I’m not sure if I want to get involved with somebody in the Armed Forces. I had a friend in college whose boyfriend was in the Air Force and he was over in Afghanistan for awhile. She was a wreck all the time and I’m not sure if I can handle all that worrying and stress.”

“A Marine huh?” he smirked. “I never knew you had a thing for men in uniform?”

Alyssa just rolled her eyes. “Oh yea… That’s why I fell for you. I used to find it so sexy when you and the rest of the guys dressed up in matching outfits.”

Nick just laughed, but then turned serious. “I’m glad that you came. I kind of was afraid that you weren’t going to.”

“I wasn’t,” she admitted. “You can thank Izzy for changing my mind. She insisted that it would be the polite thing to do and would show that I’m over you, but I still support you as a friend.”

“I take it you never read my letter then?”

She looked away. “No, I didn’t. You have to admit the invitation was a shocker enough. I didn’t want to subject myself to any kind of half assed explanation for wanting me here. At the time, I really thought that you sent me the invitation and the letter to ease your own conscious.”

Nick looked thoughtful. “Maybe a little bit, but it was mostly to thank you for helping me turn my life around and that’s the real reason I wanted you here tonight.”

Alyssa realized that was she was speechless. She had no idea how to respond to that. Before she could even open her mouth to say anything, the song ended and Nick’s hands dropped from her waist. “Thanks for the dance and thanks for being here for me.” He dropped a light kiss on her cheek. “Don’t be a stranger, okay?”

She just nodded knowing fully well that she wouldn’t make any attempts to keep in contact with him. She turned around to walk away, but she felt him grab her arm once more. Whipping her head around she turned to face him expectantly.

“One more thing,” he started. “Don’t let what happened with us prevent you from getting involved with someone else.” She opened her mouth to protest, but Nick cut her off. “I know you told me that you’re reluctant to get involved with this guy because he’s a Marine, but I know you better than that. You’re afraid of getting hurt. Don’t be. Go for it.” With that he dropped her hand and walked off the dance floor leaving Alyssa standing there stunned.

How does he know so much about the situation between Sean and I? she wondered. Had Izzy explained the situation to him? No, Izzy doesn’t even entirely know how I feel about Sean. Was Nick really that insightful? Then again he probably did know Alyssa better than almost anyone else. Perhaps he really could read her like a book.

Alyssa spent the rest of the evening getting trashed with Teri and Tricia. She knew the next morning she’d be stuck with one bitch of a hangover, but she needed to feel completely numb. She’d had enough emotion for one day.

Does it hurt to know I'll never be there
Bet it sucks, to see my face everywhere
It was you, who chose to end it like you did
I was the last to know
You knew exactly what you would do
And don't say, you simply lost your way
They may believe you but I never will
Never again

Never Again by Kelly Clarkson
Chapter 1 - Here's to You, Mrs. Robinson by Mellz Bellz
Author's Notes:

Alyssa recounts the craziness of the past year in her life.

Chapter 1- Here’s to You, Mrs. Robinson

July 2008

“Welcome home, Mrs. Robinson,” Sean Robinson whispered into the ear of his new wife as they pulled up to their home where they hoped to spend many happy years together.

Alyssa smiled as they both got out of the car. “It looks perfect,” she breathed in as she surveyed the sight of her new home. The pair had just returned from their honeymoon, a seven day cruise of the Caribbean, and was now about to settle into their brand new home together.

Alyssa was so in awe of the new house that she hadn’t noticed Sean come up from behind her until she felt herself being hoisted up off the ground. “What are you doing Sean?” she giggled. “Put me down!”

“Uh uh,” he argued. “Tradition says I’m supposed to carry my bride over the threshold and that’s exactly what I intend to do.” Ignoring Alyssa’s protests he swung her legs over his arms and carried her up the front steps setting her down in front of the door as he rummaged through his pockets for the key.

While he was doing this Alyssa was already over the shoulder grabbing contents from the mailbox. “How exciting! We already got mail!” She frowned as she leafed through it. “Junk… Junk… Bill? How are we already getting bills? Aww… We got a few wedding cards it looks like. And ooh…” Her eyes lit up as she caught sight of a large manila envelope. ”My new resumes just arrived from the printing place!”

“Only you would get excited over a stack of newly printed resumes,” Sean teased as he stuck the key into the door and turned the lock.

“Well, now that you’ve been transferred out to California I’m currently jobless again, so I’m going to have start sending a few of these out. Besides I’m excited to see them since I had to update my new information,” she explained as she tore open the envelope as she stepped inside. Taking one of the fresh resumes out of the packet she stared up at the newly printed information at the top. “Alyssa Robinson,” she slowly read her new name out loud that was printed in bold letters at the top of the page.

“Still sounds a little funny, huh?” Sean sympathized, placing a hand on her shoulder.

“Yea, I guess it takes some getting used to. I’ve been Alyssa Martinelli for so much of my life that it’s weird to think of myself having a new last name now,” she admitted. “But I’ll get more comfortable with as time goes on.” She definitely didn’t want to give Sean the impression that she was having regrets about marrying him, because she definitely was not. It was just a little bit of a shock to see an unfamiliar name on the top of her resume. It was a little unsettling. For a moment she felt herself wondering exactly who Alyssa Robinson was. She didn’t feel much different except now that she was married and had a new name. She shrugged the feeling aside for the moment, realizing that she was making a big deal over nothing.

She sighed for a moment as she realized just how dramatically her life had changed over the last year or so. Right after Nick’s wedding last May she’d spent the next few days sulking around. She couldn’t understand how it could be possible for Nick to be so over her already that he was marrying someone else, when she could barely bring herself to get involved with another guy. Then it had finally hit her. Nick wasn’t the one holding her back from another relationship. It was only her own fear of rejection that prevented her from letting go. Once she’d digested that fact, she thought about the advice that Nick had given her at his wedding. He’d urged her to move on and take a chance with Sean. Finally feeling like she had nothing left to lose, she’d agreed to take her relationship with Sean to a more serious level.

There had still been some major roadblocks in their way that Alyssa hadn’t anticipated. In beginning her relationship with Sean, she realized a lot of things about herself that she needed to change and for the first time it really hit her just how deeply the scars she suffered from her past relationship really ran. Obviously those were two huge factors that had a very negative impact on her and Sean at first. But unlike many other guys who’d run once they realized how damaged she really was, Sean had been willing to confront her demons head on as painful as it was for both of them.


Alyssa lay there silently for a moment as both her and Sean stopped to catch their breath. Since Nick, Sean had been the first guy that she’d been intimate with and she was finding it a lot harder than she had expected it to be. Maybe it was because she was so spoiled by Nick or maybe again it was her own fears preventing her from getting too comfortable. Whatever the case was, Alyssa definitely was able to get the sense that sex between the two of them had seemed a little strained.

Maybe we’re just not compatible in bed? she wondered to herself.

Her thoughts were interrupted by the sensation of Sean’s arms snaking around her bare waist and pulling her closer to him. She turned her body towards his and could see the frustrated look in his eyes that mirrored exactly what she had been feeling as well. They both seemed as if they wanted to say something, but weren’t exactly sure how to go about doing it.

It was finally Sean that broke the ice. He reached over to tuck a strand of her hair behind her ear. “Alyssa you know you don’t have to be afraid of holding anything back with me, right?” His voice was calm and gentle and Alyssa could tell that he was trying to approach the situation as delicately as possible.

Still she pretended to act dumb. “I don’t think I know what you mean.”

She could just barely make out the rise and fall of Sean’s chest as he sighed. “I just get this feeling like you’re not giving me all of yourself. Like you’re holding something back and I’m just really trying to figure out what it is that makes you so uncomfortable. Have you not been with many other guys or something?”

Now it was Alyssa’s turn to sigh as she realized exactly where this conversation was heading. She shrugged. “I’ve been with five guys my entire life including you,” she answered honestly. “Two of them were stupid mistakes that I made when I was younger. Stupid guys that I hooked up with at bars because I thought that they’d make me feel better about myself, but they didn’t. Another one was a very brief rebound relationship I had while my ex and I were on a break. Then there’s you of course and my ex…”

“So, it’s obviously not the fact that you’re inexperienced,” Sean pointed out. “I just need you to explain the reason why you’re so closed off to me? I mean I don’t understand. We get along great in every other way. We seem to have great chemistry. When I kiss you I definitely feel something and I know I’m giving you everything of me, but I just don’t feel like I get that back in return. Is it something that happened to you in your past? I’m just trying to wrap my mind around this.”

Alyssa could read the frustrated expression on his face and she could tell that unlike other guys who would’ve just given up on their relationship he was prepared to do anything he could to resolve this issue between them. “You know out of all those guys, the only two I can say that I really truly cared about were my ex and now you,” she commented.

Sean’s lips lifted up into a bit of a grin. “I’m really glad that I’m in that category, but I’m just curious to know… Were things this awkward when you were with your ex or is it just me?”

She took in a deep breath trying to figure out the best way to explain the complicated relationship that had been her and Nick. “The relationship that I had with my ex was pretty much an emotional rollercoaster. We were like Murphy’s Law, anything that could possibly happen did,” she started off. “He was my first serious relationship… First love… All of that. I met him through a mutual friend and we seemed to really hit it off at first. Then not that long into the relationship he cheated on me and being young and stupid at the time, I took him back. As it turned out the girl he cheated on me with became pregnant as a result and it was just a really messy situation.”

“He sounds like a really big asshole,” Sean interrupted. “I’m really sorry that you had to go through all of that Alyssa.”

“Oh, there’s more to come,” she warned. “We were on and off for a while and then he went through a really rough time period and I was there to comfort him and get him through it, so we kind of became stronger than ever. All of a sudden things were finally going great between us. I really began to fall in love with him and I was finally beginning to reach a point where I felt completely comfortable doing almost anything he asked me to. We were going to get married… He bought me this beautiful ring and I really thought that this was it. Then he found out that his parents were getting a divorce which really screwed him up big time. His family life wasn’t the greatest, so this really sent him over the edge and he decided that he needed some time to be on his own and figure out who he really was. He’d just come out of his first serious relationship when he’d met me, so he needed some time to be by himself, or at least that’s what he said.” Her eyes closed at the painful memory. ”He took that ring he gave me and threw it in the ocean.”

Sean looked shocked. “He threw an engagement ring into the ocean like it was nothing? What was he? Made of money?”

“Money was something that he really didn’t have to worry about. He was in a position where he was definitely pretty set financially.” She purposely kept the details vague, not wanting to divulge the fact that Nick had been famous.

“Yea, but still…”

Alyssa continued on with the story. “About three years went by and then we wound up bumping into each other again because he did have a few of the same friends. We started talking again and next thing I knew we were beginning to hook up. Of course the more we hooked up the more feelings I began to have for him and I think that the feeling was mutual, only he had developed such a fear of getting involved with somebody again that it prevented him from fully committing himself to a relationship. Finally I got him to agree to give us another try and it really seemed like he was ready for it. He even found me a condo near him, so I could move closer… I really thought that he was finally beginning to change.”

“So then what went wrong?”

“The thing about Nick was that he was a really attractive guy and he had absolutely no trouble getting girls. Very rarely were they the right girls, but all he had to do was smile and he’d get a swarm of them around him. I don’t exactly know what it was, but he was one of those guys that literally girls would just do the craziest things for his attention,” she tried to explain.

Sean just rolled his eyes and snorted. “Oh, one of them. Yea, I know the type. Guys like that make guys like me look bad.”

Alyssa just smiled. “Well, as it turns out I think that you’re way better person than he turned out to be. Anyway I started getting a little self conscious because I would see the way that other girls would openly flirt with him in front of me, and I was always afraid of him not being able to resist them. Plus, I definitely wasn’t naturally a wild person as they were. I have to take baby steps when it comes to trying new things. So, anyway about a week before I was set to move out by him, I decided that I wanted to really do something extra special for his birthday. He was away on business and I decided that I was going to go pop up and surprise him.” She paused for a moment not sure if Sean would be comfortable hearing the details of her surprise.

“Go on…” Sean urged as he noticed her hesitation.

“Well, I just don’t know if you really want to hear exactly what I planned to do for him. It’s not that important, I’m just sure that you don’t want to hear intimate details about my ex boyfriend and I.”

He shrugged. “If it’s going to help me understand you better I don’t mind at all.”

“My plan was that I was going to sneak into his hotel room while he was out and I got decked out in sexy lingerie and candles and the whole works…” She felt her cheeks turn a little red as she realized how dumb of a plan it seemed now, over two years later. “I guess looking back now it seems kind of like a dumb idea.”

Sean mist of interpreted her blushing as a sign of her being embarrassed at what she had done because he grabbed her by her arms and looked into her eyes. “I don’t think that was a dumb idea at all! If I were him I would’ve been so excited to open my hotel room door and see you laying there looking all sexy like that. Please tell me he didn’t do something to screw a surprise like that all up for you?”

Alyssa just sighed. “I wanted to catch him completely off guard, so I didn’t even call him up to wish him a Happy Birthday. I was totally trying to play it off like I’d forgotten. Which again is a mistake that I really regret now. See he thought that maybe I didn’t care or something like that, so we wound up at a bar and got plastered and picked up some random girl that had been flirting with him all night. He decided to bring her back to his hotel room and they pretty much just burst in on me, although they were too busy undressing each other to notice I was even there at first.”

“Wow…” Sean looked shocked. “That uhmm sure explains a lot. What an asshole! He had no right to try to score with another girl just because it was his birthday and you hadn’t called.”

“I know and I totally agree, but it gets better. We had it out and it was a horrible fight in which somewhere along the line he blurted out that back when we were engaged my younger sister Stephanie gave him a blowjob and he allowed it to happen. That’s why me she and I don’t speak anymore…”

“God, you weren’t kidding when you said the two of you had a complicated past. I always wondered what the deal was with you and Steph.”

Alyssa nodded. “Then he turned around and told me that maybe if I’d given him head more often then maybe he never would’ve encouraged Steph. Later on he swore to me that he was just angry and wasn’t thinking about what he was saying and he really didn’t mean it. I honestly don’t think he really meant it, he just wanted to hurt me, but comments like that just can’t be erased from my memory like it had never been said. That really hurt me and took a big toll on my self confidence. I found myself completely blaming myself, thinking that maybe if I would’ve been more affectionate or maybe if I’d been like more adventurous in bed or something none of this would’ve ever happened.” She could already feel hot tears stinging against her eyelids at the painful memory.

Sean looked at her sympathetically. “I think he’s a real dick for putting you through that and making you believe those things about yourself that aren’t true. You can’t blame yourself and wonder if only. It sounds like to me that you could have been the biggest freak going and the outcome would still be the same. Maybe it wouldn’t have played out in that exact way, but he didn’t sound like he was ready for what you wanted to give him. You would’ve fallen apart eventually. But to see you this upset over something he vindictively said to hurt you makes me want to find this guy and teach him a lesson or two.”

At the moment, Sean’s words were very comforting to Alyssa. She buried her head against his chest. “Since then I guess I’ve just had it in my head that I was dull or boring and not enough to keep him interested. To do something so special for him like I planned for his birthday was a big deal to me because I was really pushing my comfort level, but I did it for him because I trusted him and really cared about him. And then he just treated like it was nothing. It really made me insecure if I wasn’t enough already.”

She could feel Sean’s hands stroking her hair as she spilled out her true feelings. She’d told this story many of times, but never to this degree. It was the first time she ever really opened up to anybody the full effect Nick’s betrayal had on her confidence level. It was no wonder things had felt so forced between her and Sean. He was completely right. She was so afraid of letting go because she was so fearful that she wouldn’t be good enough for him. The revelation stunned even her as she finally realized her problem. “I think I now realize why things have been so awkward between us,” she started off.

“I think I know too, but I want you to be the one to tell me,” he urged her.

Alyssa pulled back a little bit so she was able to fully look him in the eyes. “After what I went through with Nick I really had no faith that I was attractive. I really started to think that I was horrible in bed and that I could never compete with other girls. In thinking that way it became a self fulfilling prophecy. I got so hung up on what I thought others thought about me that I wasn’t allowing myself to really be comfortable. I had my guard up so high because I was afraid of rejection that I really sort of closed myself off to really any possibility of letting someone else in that closely again.” She took a deep breath amazed that she’d actually been able to verbalize all that out loud. “Wow… I never told anyone any of that before.”

Sean grinned. “Well, just the fact that you were able to tell me all of that and knowing that I’m the only person who knows that about you is definitely a step in the right direction. I’m almost positive that you can’t be bad in bed if you really just let go and I’m sure it’s going to take time, but you really need to trust me. You need to know that I’m not going to hurt you… I’m not going to judge you… I just want you to be yourself.” He paused for a moment. “And just for the record, it’s not always bad to try new things. As long as we trust each other, you have nothing to be afraid of.”

Alyssa just nodded. “I understand. I know it’s not going to be easy to trust somebody after I’ve had trust broken, but I’m willing to give it a try. You’re just going to have to be very patient.”

“I can do that,” he agreed. “I can be as patient as I need to. It’s all about baby steps here…”


Patient was definitely the word to describe Sean as their relationship progressed. That particular conversation had definitely helped them so much and without it Alyssa had no doubt in her mind that they wouldn’t have lasted as a couple much longer. Sean had opened her up in so many different ways. Not just emotionally, but even persuading her to do things that she’d never had before. Almost immediately their sex life improved ten fold partly due to Alyssa finally being able to feel completely relaxed around him and partly to do with the fact that the whole trying new things idea carried itself over to the bedroom as well. Not that they’d gone the whole whips and chains (okay they had experimented a bit with handcuffs once or twice- It went into the whole “trust” thing) route, but it really wasn’t too much longer until Alyssa even noticed a major change in herself. Sean had completely turned her negative self concept around and for the first time in a long time she actually felt that she could be sexy and desirable to somebody else besides Nick.

With so much that he’d done to change Alyssa’s whole attitude, Alyssa began to seriously consider if he might be the one. They’d talked about the possibility of marriage and she knew that Sean didn’t want to wait long. Being in the military, he never knew if one day he could be sent into the middle of a war zone. Like many young men in his position he at least wanted to attempt to have a wife and a family before that could happen. That’s why Alyssa hadn’t really been too surprised when he’d asked her to marry him just this past Christmas. They’d known each other only a little over a year, but Alyssa’s feelings were that if he had helped her through so much in such a short time than clearly it was meant to be. She’d also hoped to have a long engagement.

But of course life doesn’t always go according to plan. Only a few weeks into their engagement, Sean learned that he was going to be transferred to another base out in California, a little more than half an hour outside of LA, that summer. The couple had been faced with a decision. Should they move up their wedding date? Or should they both move out to California and plan their wedding there? After much discussion, they decided that it would be better off to get married right away, so that once they arrived in California they’d be officially starting their new life together. There was also the fact that if they weren’t already married, Alyssa wouldn’t be allowed to live with him on the base. It had definitely been stressful trying to pull off a wedding in a mere matter of months and unfortunately in doing so, Alyssa had to sacrifice a lot of the elements that she had always dreamed about having at her wedding. She’d originally wanted to get married up in New York, but due to time constraints and money issues they’d wound up having the wedding in North Carolina. The reception hall was nowhere near as fancy as the one Alyssa had always imagined and the guest list was relatively small. The ceremony had been simple. Her bridal party had been comprised of only three people, her older sister Meg as her maid of honor and Sean’s younger sister, Karen and Izzy as bridesmaids. In fact, Izzy had been the only one of her old friends to attend the ceremony. She’d have liked to invite Teri, Tricia, and Melanie, but unfortunately their budget just didn’t allow too many non family members.

Unfortunately, she had no way of getting around not inviting Stephanie. Her parents wouldn’t stand for it, so grudgingly she had, but she’d ignored her younger sister the entire night, not even blinking when she’d tried to come up and congratulate her and Sean. She knew that Stephanie was hurt that she was excluded from the bridal party. It must’ve really stung that she’d included Karen, her future sister-in-law over her, but Alyssa felt little sympathy towards her estranged sibling. Maybe if she’d have learned to keep her paws (or should I say mouth?) away from other people’s boyfriends and then not lie about it for three years, things could be different between us, she’d thought.

Then of course there had been the question of whether or not she should invite Nick. He’d invited her to his wedding which of course had been a much grander affair than hers. As much as it seemed like the polite thing to do though, she couldn’t bring herself to do it. After confessing to Sean how much he’d hurt her, Sean pretty much had said that if he ever met him he’d definitely have a thing or two to say to him. Besides the threat of an altercation between the two men, Sean still had no clue who Nick really was and she intended to keep it that way. Somehow she got the impression that their wedding would not be the place to reveal that her ex was not some spoiled rich boy living off his parent’s trust fund like Sean had assumed, but someone actually famous. So Nick had stayed off of the guest list.

In a way Alyssa had found her wedding to be a great disappointment anyway. Maybe it was because it was so rushed and not exactly the way she had envisioned it. She’d been so worried that everything was going to get done on time that she couldn’t relax enough to enjoy any of it. She hadn’t even gotten to enjoy the reception because every time she turned around the photographer needed her for a picture or someone came up to talk to her. She’d barely been able to eat a bite and every time she’d get a drink, she’d take two sips before having to abandon it and then it was gone when she came back. By the time she finally got a moment to sit, the wedding was over. Both Meg and her mother had assured her that this was normal and explained to her that a lot of brides don’t really get to enjoy their own wedding, but Alyssa still wished she could do it all over again and just really take it all in this time around.

It’s a dumb thing to be upset over, she’d tried telling herself. It’s just a reception. Those things are more for the guests than they are for the actual couple anyway. Besides, the important thing is that you and Sean are married now, you love each other, and you’re starting a new life together. There’s no need for a fancy ceremony to change any of that.

Yet, still a small part of her wished things could’ve been a little different. Even their honeymoon had been less ideal than she’d imagined. She’d mentioned to Sean that she’d always wanted to go on a cruise because she had never been, so Sean thought that he was giving her a wonderful surprise when he’d announced he’d booked a cruise for their honeymoon. As thoughtful as Alyssa found the gesture, in reality although she’d always wanted to go on a cruise, she didn’t see it as an ideal trip for a honeymoon. She’d have preferred to go someplace a little quieter and a little more private. She’d just gotten married! She didn’t want to be crammed on an overcrowded cruise ship where it was nearly impossible to find anytime truly alone. Sean had been so proud of himself though, so she didn’t have the heart to tell him any of this. The cruise had been beautiful and she’d definitely enjoyed herself despite it not being exactly what she had wanted. But still she would’ve preferred something else like Europe or down at a Caribbean resort.

But all that was petty in the grand scheme of things. They’d just gotten married and were fresh off their honeymoon and had finally arrived in their brand new home on a completely different end of the country. It definitely felt like a fresh beginning to Alyssa. New name… New home… New area code… Plus now she wasn’t far away from Izzy and Grace, and Teri and Tricia. It was comforting to be back in the presence of old friends.

“Hey…” Her thoughts were interrupted as she felt Sean come up behind her and wrap his arms around her waist. “You zoned out on me for a second there.”

“Sorry,” she apologized, setting the resume down on the table in front of her. “I guess I was just thinking about all the changes going on right now. Good changes of course.”

“It’s okay, but how about we stop thinking so much and get into breaking in that new bedroom?” he suggested, his lips tickling her earlobe.

Alyssa turned herself around so that she was facing him and grinned. “I think that’s an excellent idea.” And as she leaned forward to kiss him she really did feel happier than she had in a long time.
Chapter 2 - Jumping the Gun by Mellz Bellz
Author's Notes:

Sean delivers some unsuspecting news to Alyssa prompting her to make a big desicion.

Chapter 2 – Jumping the Gun

Alyssa quickly found herself adjusting to married life just fine. It wasn’t as if she’d never lived with a guy (she’d lived with Nick for a few months while they had been engaged when she was younger) before so that didn’t come as a shock to her. Yea having to worry about bills and managing money was something that she really didn’t have to worry too much about with Nick, but it wasn’t as bad as she had thought it would be. Being in the military offered Sean all kinds of financial assistance and Alyssa had been able to get another teaching job fairly easily in a high needs district. Even though she’d been teaching general education down in North Carolina, she was also certified in special education, an area that seemed to be in high demand in California. She was hired right before the new school year started as a special education teacher dealing with a blended class of third an fourth grade learning disabled students. She wasn’t sure how she’d adapt to dealing with children with special needs, but after only a week or two she realized ho much she loved it. She had a class of eleven students who were all sweethearts in her eyes. She had one student that was a bit of a behavior problem, but was manageable and Alyssa found herself actually quite drawn to him and his quirkiness.

Besides the excitement about her new job, Alyssa also became friendly with some of her new neighbors. There were two couples in particular that her and Sean hit it off with. There was Callie and Steve, who lived across the street. They were about Alyssa’s age and had known each other since high school. They’d been married almost six years now and had two children, Carly age four and Richard, age two. Alyssa couldn’t imagine being twenty-eight and already married for that long already, but if things had worked out between her and Nick the first time around, she’d be in the same boat. It was scary to think about. Then there was Kim and Ian, who lived next door to Alyssa and Sean. Ian was about Sean’s age and Kim was only twenty-three, but they’d already been married a little over a year. Alyssa couldn’t get over how early most of the couples around her age had gotten married, but Sean had explained that in a field where the future was so unclear, many young people involved in the military wound up marrying and having children relatively young in their life. Kim was pregnant with their first child, who was to be born in the spring.

Alyssa found it a relief to have some female friends on the base. Yea, she wasn’t very far from Izzy, Teri, and Tricia, but since she’d gotten married she hadn’t really made plans to contact any of them outside of Izzy and that was mostly because of Grace. She’d kept a low profile from the other girls because quite frankly she didn’t want to run into the possibility of running into Nick and Shayla. It was almost inevitable that it would happen sooner or later now that they were living less than an hour away from each other and they sort of ran in the same group of friends. She hadn’t yet explained to Sean that not only did Nick, her ex boyfriend live in LA, but was kind of pretty well known to put it mildly. She knew that the longer she waited to tell Sean, the messier it would be when he finally did find out, but she just couldn’t come up with an ideal way of bringing it up.

So, the first two or three months of marriage flew by rather smoothly for the new couple, but of course there was bound to be bumps in the road at some point or another and they encountered the first one of those bumps one evening in mid October. Alyssa had been in the middle of making dinner when Sean walked in from work, an obvious look of concern on his brow.

“Hey honey. How was work?” she asked him, standing up on her tip toe to give him a welcoming peck on his lips.

Sean just shrugged. “A bit of a rough day,” he grumbled, looking very sullen.

Alyssa immediately seemed concerned. “What happened? Is everything okay?”

Sean just shook his head. “I think that maybe we should go sit down. I have something that I need to talk to you about.”

“All right,” she agreed as she followed him into the living room and sank down onto the couch already getting a bad feeling about what her husband had to say. The news certainly didn’t seem like it was going to be good at all and she could already feel a heavy feeling beginning to build up in her chest.

She watched as Sean settled himself next to her and laced his hand with hers. He was silent for a moment, probably trying to collect his thoughts, so Alyssa took the moment to start the conversation herself. “So, what is this all about? What happened today at work that’s so serious?”

Sean bit his lip. “I got a feeling that this might happen, especially because people say that they ship you out to California before they ship you out of the country. I just didn’t want to say anything because I didn’t want to upset you. This was one of the reasons I wanted us to get married so fast. I wanted you to be taken care of in case anything happens to me.”

“Sean, what are you talking about?” she interrupted. “You’re talking like you’re on your deathbed or something. Are you being transferred someplace already?”

“I guess you could say that.” Sean sighed. “I found out today that my troop is going to be sent over to Iraq. It’s no longer a matter of if; it’s a matter of when.”

“Oh God…” Alyssa’s hand instantly flew to her mouth. Iraq? That was bad news. All she could think about were the thousands of soldiers that were killed or seriously injured over there within the past few years. She’d always known that there was a strong possibility of him winding up over there at one point or another, but she’d always just hoped that the war would end before that could happen. “Do you have any idea how much time you have before they send you?”

Sean shrugged. “Not really. It depends on a lot. It could be months from now, but it could also be in a few weeks if things get bad enough. It all depends on the situation over there. We were just told to be prepared.”

Alyssa sat back against the couch and sighed, trying to digest the news. She didn’t want to think of the possibility of Sean getting sent over to Iraq, especially so soon into their marriage. She’d be devastated if she lost him. Now she understood why so many women were hesitant to get involved with men in the military. She certainly didn’t want to end up a widow within her very first year of marriage.

“Alyssa there’s something else I want to talk to you about,” his voice interrupted her stunned silence. There was more? Alyssa wasn’t sure how many more bombshells she could take.

She swallowed hard. “What?”

“I know this is a lot to take in at once, but I’ve been doing a lot of thinking even before I found out that I’d be going over to Iraq. I always considered the possibility. You have to in this field,” he explained. “Anyway I started to think about my future. About what happens if I don’t come back-“

“Sean please don’t talk like that, okay? I don’t even want to consider that possibility,” she interrupted him.

“Please let me finish,” he begged. “Like I said before if anything happens to me you’ll definitely be well taken care of.” He swallowed hard. “There are all sorts of programs that take care of deceased soldier’s spouses and families. I don’t like thinking this morbidly either, but someone has to.” Again he paused as if he weren’t sure how exactly to bring up the delicate subject. “I know that we haven’t been married very long, so it’s painful to be thinking about these things already. There’s just one thing though that I really wanted to do before I get sent over to Iraq.”

“And that is?”

Sean licked his lips. “I really want to start a family. I know its way earlier than you wanted. I know that you always said that you’d want to wait about two years before trying to have kids, but I might not have two years and just in case something does happen to me over in Iraq I want to leave a piece of me behind for you and my family to remember me by.”

Again Alyssa was stunned. She could totally see where he was coming from. The two of them had discussed the possibility of having kids together in the future. Alyssa especially had always wanted to be a mother when the time was right. She just wanted to be fully settled into married life first before even beginning to try. But now with Sean being sent off to Iraq, things were different. She’d love to provide him with a child and fulfill his wish of becoming a father, but she also had to look at it from what would be best for a child. What if something did happen to Sean in Iraq? Then she’d be a single parent left to raise a child by herself. Would that really be fair to a kid? She’d want to be able to provide it with both a mother and a father and a stable home life. Could she really give a child the best life on her own? And then what happened if he was in Iraq and missed the birth? It wasn’t like with Tristan and Izzy where he could jump on a plane and make it just in time. She’d seen firsthand how frightened Izzy had been during Grace’s delivery when she thought that Tristan wouldn’t make it. She didn’t want to wind up in the same position. “Wow… Sean, I mean this is a lot to take in right now,” she managed to get out too confused about her feelings to really give him any solid response.

Sean looked sympathetic. “I know it is and I realize that you probably need some time to really think about it. I mean it’s your body and I respect that. I don’t need an answer right this second. It’s just something I want you to think about. No rush, but I’d like to start trying as soon as possible. I don’t know how much time we really have.”

Alyssa just nodded her head. “I’ll seriously think about it. I can completely see where you’re coming from; I just don’t know if I’m ready.”

“Fair enough.” Sean stood up from the couch. “I’m going to go change and wash up before dinner. I’ll be back down in a few.” She watched him disappear up the flight of steps to their bedroom.

Alyssa sighed as she lay across the couch and stared up at the ceiling above her. She definitely had a lot of serious thinking to do and she had no clue where exactly she should even start.

The next evening after spending the whole day weighing the pros and cons of trying to have a baby with Sean at this point in their marriage, Alyssa decided that she needed the advice of somebody who had plenty of experience when it came to marriage, her mother. It was very seldom that she went to her mother for advice, but she felt like this was the kind of situation that only her mother could help her with. Taking out her phone, she dialed the number of her parent’s home in New York. The phone rang twice before she recognized her mother’s familiar tone on the other end.

“Alyssa honey, how’s everything going?” Patricia Martinelli greeted her middle daughter.

“Not so good Mom. Actually that’s kind of the reason why I called,” she began. “I need some advice.”

Patricia’s voice immediately rose with concern. “Now don’t tell me you and Sean are already having trouble?”

“Not exactly. We’re doing fine. Great in fact! We’ve just gotten some upsetting news, that’s all.”

Her mother sounded puzzled. “What kind of news exactly?”

Alyssa took in a deep breath. “Sean just found out that he’s being deployed to Iraq. Not right away, but it could be soon enough. He’s not exactly sure when it’ll be because it all depends on how things are going with the war. All he knows is that he’s definitely going at some point or another.”

Patricia gasped. “Oh, sweetie I’m really sorry to hear that. I’ll keep the two of you in my prayers. That must have been very upsetting for you.”

“It has been Mom… We’re barely married! I don’t even want to imagine the prospect of losing him, especially so early on in the game. He’s all talking about ‘in case something happens’ and it’s really freaking me out. And do you know as soon as he heard he was being transferred to California he got the feeling that he was going to be shipped off to Iraq. In fact, he told me that the real reason he wanted to push our wedding ahead was because if he did wind up there and something happened to him ‘I’d be taken care of,’’ she confessed. “I don’t know whether I should be pissed that he had his suspicions and never told me or if I should be touched that he loves me enough to consider my future like that.”

“Well, that is very responsible of him to want to make sure that if God forbid he wasn’t around that you’d be alright on your own. That’s what a good husband should do. It’s his job to look out for the best interests of his wife and family,” her mother explained.

Alyssa just sadly smiled at her mother’s philosophy. Her parents of course were very old fashioned and they respected the fact that Sean acknowledged many of their ideas and practices. In some ways, Sean could also be considered very traditional that way. He definitely had the whole ‘because I’m the male I should be the breadwinner’ belief down pat. Even though he never said it, Alyssa sometimes got the sense that after they began to start a family, Sean would rather her abandon teaching and become a stay at home Mom like Callie. “And to think… All this time I kept thinking about all the things I missed out on by moving the wedding up and he was only trying to do what might be best for me in the long run. I’m a terrible, horrible, ungrateful, person, aren’t I?”

Patricia just lightly laughed. “I don’t think I’d go that far honey. I can see how you probably feel guilty now that you know his true intentions, but there’s nothing wrong with wanting things the way you’ve always imagined them. That doesn’t make you a horrible person. We all have things that we wished we could’ve done differently in our lives. The difference between being ungrateful and wishing things could’ve been slightly different is having regrets. Do you regret marrying Sean at all?”

“No of course not,” she honestly answered.

“Do you love him?”

“Of course I do.”

“Then that’s all that matters. Whether you ran off and eloped or had a small, tiny, wedding, or even some fancy million dollar wedding none of that would change right?”

“No it wouldn’t. You’re right Mom,” Alyssa finally admitted. “I just wish I knew sooner. In a morbid way I think that might just be the sweetest thing anyone’s ever done for me.” She paused for a moment before dropping the second half of her dilemma on Patricia. Finally clearing her throat she found the courage to blurt out the problem that had been eating away at her non stop over the past twenty-four hours. “Sean wants to try to start a family before he leaves for Iraq. You know in case anything happens, but I just don’t know if I’m ready yet to be a Mom.”

She could practically picture her mother’s expression softening on the other end of the line. “Oh Alyssa, I wish I could tell you what to do about that one, but that has to be your decision. To be completely honest, you know I’d be overjoyed to find out that I was going to be a Grandma. You know how Meg can’t have children on her own, so it would be amazing to know that I’d finally get a grandchild. You’re married now and granted you haven’t been married long, but it’s still legitimate. I know that you would’ve liked to wait longer, but the circumstances are certainly unique enough. You have my support no matter what you decide to do though. And for the record I think you’d make an outstanding mother Alyssa.”

“You really think so?” she asked in a small voice.

“Of course! You have the patience of a saint and you obviously have plenty of experience with children as a teacher. I don’t see any reason why you wouldn’t be. You’ve always looked forward to having a family. I’m not sure exactly what’s holding you back,” Patricia pointed out.

Alyssa sighed. “I guess the main thing is as much as I understand how important to Sean it is to leave a piece of himself behind to carry on another generation, especially if he doesn’t…” she stopped and swallowed hard. “…make it back; I also have to think about whether or not I’m at a place in my life right now where I could handle raising a child on my own. I know how much work a child is because I see it with Izzy and Grace, but at least Izzy has Tristan around to help her out. I can’t imagine doing it on my own.”

“That’s completely understandable Lyss. You just have to know that God forbid something does happen to Sean, and I certainly hope it doesn’t because you know how much I approve of him, that your father and I and Meg and Stephanie would be more than happy to help you out in any way that we can. And I’m sure that Sean’s family would feel exactly the same. You also have a wonderful group of friends who I’m sure would provide you with a support system if needed. Before you reach any decisions you just need to realize that you are not alone, all right?”

“Thanks for the advice Mom. You’ve been a big help,” Alyssa told her. “I think that I need to do some more thinking, but it definitely helps to get your perspective on the situation.”

“In the end you just have to do what your heart tells you is right,” Patricia wisely explained.

That Alyssa realized was probably the single most valuable piece of advice her mother had ever given her.

Later on that night after soaking in a hot bubble bath for over an hour mulling over her mother’s advice, Alyssa finally felt confident that she had reached a decision. She waited to discuss it with Sean until they’d slipped under the covers that night for bed. As soon as they’d turned out the lights and Alyssa began her speech. “I think that I’ve finally reached a decision about the whole baby thing,” she began a little nervously.

“Yea?” Sean rolled over so that he was facing her, looking very interested in what she had to say. “And?”

“I really was having some doubts about it until I talked to my mother on the phone earlier tonight and she definitely eased my fears. I was really scared of the possibility that I’d have to wind up raising a child on my own, which is something I’d never voluntarily do. I feel like I was so lucky to be raised by two parents especially when so many of my friend’s parents were divorced or split up. I’d never want to put a child in a situation like that, but this is different. It’s not like you want to leave. You’re doing something honorable for your country and this might sound like something out of some cheesy World War II movie or something, but if you’re killed, you’ll die a hero and I don’t think that would be a horrible situation for a child, knowing that you at least died for your country. It would be something to be proud of. And my Mom already assured me that in the event of tragedy she and the rest of my family would do anything they possibly could to help me out. That and she assured me that I’d make in her words, an ‘outstanding mother.’ So, I guess what I’m trying to say is, let’s go for it.”

“So, you’re positive about this then?” Sean asked her. “Because I don’t want you to feel like I’m pressuring you into doing something you don’t want to.”

“You’re not pressuring me at all,” she confidently replied. “I want to do this. Not only do I feel like I owe you this after everything you’ve done for me, but I really have always wanted to be a mother. Why not now? It’s not what I expected, but that’s okay. Life doesn’t always turn out the way you’ve planned it and I think I’ve finally accepted that.” She grabbed a hold of his hands and looked him square in the eye. “Let’s make a baby.”

She could tell just by the way Sean’s eyes seemed to light up that he was ecstatic with her decision. He gripped her shoulders and kissed her slowly and tenderly as if to show his appreciation. Alyssa returned the gesture savoring the moment before Sean reluctantly pulled away and smirked at her. “You know that this is going to require us to have a lot of sex, right?”

Alyssa just grinned. “And that’s a problem?” Without waiting for a response, she hooked her arms around his neck and leaned in for another kiss.

Unlike Alyssa and Sean, Nick and Shayla’s marriage had gone well over a year without any major problems. They’d joked together that probably the only reason that it had gone so smoothly was because they had both been so involved in so many other things that they didn’t really have much time to fight. Shayla had been busy covering any entertainment event that she could and had just recently launched her own weekly web series on E!’s website where she’d go behind the scenes at Hollywood’s most talked about parties. She was currently in talks to bring the web series into her own weekly TV show with the same premise.

Nick had been even busier than Shayla. The past year had been one of the busiest of his life. Not only had he finished recording the Backstreet Boys latest CD, Unbreakable, but they’d released it last October and completed a world tour for it. Somewhere in between all of that the movie he had appeared in, Fast Glass, had premiered and then Nick began working on something that he’d always dreamt of doing. He began to work on starting up his own record label, Kaotic Records. He hadn’t had a lot of time to focus on the project, but now that the tour had finally wrapped up he could focus almost all of his time onto searching for new artists to sign and developing those that he already had. Since arriving home he’d been pulling long hours in the studio to make up for lost time.

But no relationship could go perfectly and it wasn’t long before the two of them hit their first rough patch as well. It had all started off so simply too…

The night started out like any other normal night. Nick arrived home from the studio after another long day of record label business. “Hey babe,” he greeted his wife who was sprawled out on their living room couch, seeming very absorbed in some kind of magazine article. “I’m home.”

“That’s nice. How was your day?” Shayla asked almost mechanically, not even taking her eyes off of the print in front of her.

Nick frowned. “What are you reading that’s so interesting? More of that tabloid garbage you love?”

“When your job is to report celebrity gossip you need to be up on the latest scandals, but no… I’m not reading a tabloid.”

“Well, then what is it then?” he asked curiously as he peeked a little closer. Before he could get any closer, Shayla had swiftly hid the magazine under a throw pillow. “Come on… What’s the big secret?”

“It’s no secret just you’ll make a big thing about it,” Shayla mysteriously responded.

Nick rolled his eyes. “If you’re reading Playgirl then go right ahead. If that’s the kind of thing that really turns you on then I won’t make a big thing about it. I might never let you live it down, but-“

“I’m not reading Playgirl,” she huffed as she playfully threw the pillow at his head.

“So, let me see then.” He reached to grab the magazine from Shayla’s hands, but Shayla had rolled over so that she was lying on top of it, preventing him from getting a good look. With a mischievous grin, he dove on top of her, grabbing her by her waist and tickling her. As her body writhed in laughter, he was easily able to wrench the magazine from her grasp that was now horribly wrinkled. “Parent?” his voice filled with confusion as he read the title of the publication on the cover. “You’re reading a parenting magazine? Please tell me that this has to do with some sort of research you’re doing for a story. Like something about what’s in style when it comes to the babies of Hollywood?”

Shayla snatched the magazine out of his hand while she smoothed down her hair. “Don’t patronize me. Maybe I just like reading for pleasure.”

“Ooh patronize… Big word there,” he teased. “But seriously uhmm is there something you need to tell me?”

“No… I’m reading a parenting magazine,” she replied. “They have interesting articles sometimes. Its useful information for whenever we decide to start our own little family.”

Nick could feel is stomach drop. “Uhh, say that again?”

“For when we start our own family. Come on Nick…” She looked at him like he was dense. “Don’t you ever think about maybe having kids someday?”

“No,” he quite simply answered. “I really don’t think I’m cut out to be father material.”

“You’d make a great father! I don’t know what you’re talking about. And you’d have to admit that we’d make some pretty awesome looking babies,” she joked, but then frowned when she saw the scared expression on Nick’s face. “You really don’t want kids, do you?”

Nick shrugged. “I used to think I did, but now I don’t know. Right now I’m just content with doing what I’m doing. I have my label and there are so many other things I want to do. Kids just don’t fit into my plans.”

Shayla’s face fell. “Is there any reason? I mean does this have to do with your parents or something?”

Nick looked away. He’d never told Shayla about Katie and Serena. Look at the job he’d done there… Since that experience he’d been very wary of having kids in the future. The only woman that he’d even considered the option of having children with in the future had been Alyssa because she was so great with kids. One of the reasons he’d felt so comfortable with Shayla now was because she was always so career driven, he assumed that she would be the type not to want children. They’d never had the conversation, but he just couldn’t picture Shayla as a mother. She was too high maintenance for motherhood in his eyes. But how could he tell her that without hurting her feelings? So instead of the truth he found the closest excuse he could. “It’s just right now I really want to focus on my career and I thought you did to. No one’s going to be interested in watching a pregnant woman waddle around to the hottest LA night clubs and interview celebrities. Your network is never going to go for that.”

Shayla sighed and brought her knees into her chest. “I guess you’re right Nick. Now’s not the time to be thinking about it. Not with everything we have in front of us.”

Nick couldn’t help and notice the defeat in her voice and somehow he got the impression that this wouldn’t be the last time the subject would rear its ugly head between them.
Chapter 3 - Six Month Itch by Mellz Bellz
Author's Notes:

While enjoying a special dinner with Sean, Alyssa bumps into the last person she ever expected to see.

Chapter 3 – Six Month Itch

Alyssa was surprised to find that actually trying to get pregnant wasn’t as easy as she’d first thought it would be. She’d always thought that it would be fairly easy. They’d have sex and bam, she’d be pregnant. She’d quickly learned that it didn’t exactly work that way. Since she’d been on birth control for quite a few years now, she discovered that even after she stopped taking her pills, it would take some time for her hormones to regulate themselves, making it a little trickier for her to get pregnant. So far, Alyssa hadn’t gotten too concerned though. They’d only been trying for not even three months yet and with the holidays, things got a little crazy and she’d been a little stressed out. She hoped that maybe within the next month or two things would be different.

But at the moment for once, she and Sean were taking the time to spend some time together that didn’t involve worrying about conceiving a child. It was the six month mark of their marriage and Sean had insisted that they go all out for it; since he couldn’t be certain if he’d be even in the same country as her by the time their one year rolled around. He’d been very vague with what he had planned for her. All Alyssa knew was that it involved a drive to downtown LA and he’d rented a hotel room for them that night, even though they were only at the worst roughly forty-five minutes from LA. When she’d pointed that out to him, he’d just smirked and said something about how they could use a “change in scenery.” Alyssa had just laughed it off, but maybe he was right. Maybe a change in scenery might be just what they needed to conceive a child. It certainly couldn’t hurt.

It had just worked out that their anniversary fell on a Friday night, so after they’d both gotten off from work, they made the drive into LA and checked in to the hotel they were staying at. As soon as they arrived at their room, Sean announced to her that he’d made dinner reservations for the two of them, but had remained silent about exactly where.

Alyssa figured that since it was LA, the chances that the place would be semi-formal, had to be pretty high and she knew that you could never go wrong with a little black dress. And she’d just bought one for this occasion. She’d actually bought it the last time she was down in LA, visiting Izzy and it had been a total impulse purchase. Not only had it been ridiculously expensive, but it was the type of dress that up to about a year ago she’d never have even considered wearing out in public. Even now she sort of doubted if she’d have the guts to wear it for Sean. It was very slinky with a neckline that plunged so low, she’d needed to practically suction cup it to her body. It was the kind of dress that she’d only seen celebrities wear on red carpets. As soon as she’d put it on though, she felt a strange surge of confidence go through her, and she grinned just trying to picture the stunned look on Sean’s face when he saw her in it.

After she was dressed and her hair and makeup were completed she opened the bathroom door a crack. She really couldn’t wait to see Sean’s reaction once she stepped out of the door. Taking a deep breath, she opened the door wider and boldly stepped out into the bedroom. “How do I look?” she asked him, with a hand on her hip.

She couldn’t help, but grin as Sean’s eyes traveled up and down her body. She could tell that he was tongue tied just by his hesitation to speak. Finally seeming to find his voice he crossed the room, so that he was right in front of her. “You look amazing baby,” he managed to choke out as his hands found their way to her waist. His lips pressed down over hers in a heated kiss and Alyssa couldn’t help, but smile as she returned the action. “God, that dress is just… Wow!”

“And just wait until you see what I’ve got on underneath,” she teased, moving in to kiss him again.

“You keep talking like that and we’re going to miss our dinner reservations,” he told her as he reluctantly pulled away. “In fact, we need to be leaving about now if we want to get there in time.”

“Fine,” Alyssa finally gave in. “But after dinner, you’re mine.”

“No complaints here,” Sean assured her as he grabbed her hand. Alyssa quickly retrieved her purse and they headed out of their hotel room hand in hand. Alyssa waited until they were outside of the hotel and in Sean’s car, pulling out of the parking lot, before she found herself too curious to hold back any longer.

“So, when are you going to tell me where we’re going?” she begged.

“You’ll find out,” he mysteriously sang as he began driving up the street. “It’s a surprise.”

“Oh, come on,” she whined. “I probably haven’t even heard of the place, so it’ll still be a surprise.”

Still Sean shook his head. “I don’t know about that. It’s a pretty well known place. Lot’s of celebrities tend to frequent it and stuff.”

Alyssa sighed and crossed her arms over her chest, pretending to pout. “Now you’re just being a tease. Can’t you just tell me?”

He just laughed. “How am I being a tease? You’re the one wearing that dress. If anything you’re the one that’s the tease.


“Fine,” he finally gave in. “I’ll tell you. Ever hear of a place called Koi?”

Alyssa could feel the color drain from her face at the mere mention of the name of the restaurant that Nick had taken her the night before she left LA when she’d visited him over three years ago. She found herself thankful that it was dark and with Sean driving he couldn’t get a good look at the expression on her face. “You’re taking me to Koi?”

Sean must’ve taken the disbelief in her voice as a sign that she was happy and surprised at his choice because his face broke out into a wide grin. “Uh huh… I take it you’re familiar with the place?”

“Yea, I’ve heard of it before,” she lied, not having the heart to tell him that she’d actually eaten there before with her ex boyfriend. Sean looked so pleased with himself that he’d surprised her with such a fancy dinner at such a well known restaurant that Alyssa figured it would be better to tell a little white lie. “That’s awesome.”

If Sean picked up on the sudden lack of enthusiasm in her voice, he did nothing to acknowledge it. The two of them grew silent on the rest of the way to the restaurant, and Alyssa found herself staring out the car window wondering if she really would be able to block out all the memories of Nick and enjoy a peaceful anniversary dinner with her husband. Little did she know at the time, that past memories would be the least of her problems that night.

“This is ridiculous! I’m so glad I made reservations,” Sean grumbled to her over an hour later. “We’ve been sitting here waiting for a table for an hour already! I wonder what the wait would’ve been like if I hadn’t?”

Alyssa sighed as she placed a hand over his. “Maybe they’re just really behind schedule tonight. It is a Friday night. Just be patient. I’m sure we’ll be called any moment now.”

Sean made a face, but didn’t say anything more. They’d arrived at Koi nearly an hour earlier and even though they’d made reservations they were still stuck waiting for a table. Even Alyssa was finding the waiting a little ridiculous, but had kept quiet, not wanting to make a scene. Sean on the other hand, was growing increasingly impatient as the minutes ticked by and was doing little to hide it. He watched as another couple walked in and was seated almost immediately. “Did you see that?” he asked, sounding outraged. “They walked right in and skipped ahead of us! That’s bullshit!”

“I think I recognized her from like a soap opera or something. They have more pull than us, sweetie,” she tried to explain to him. “Are you sure maybe you just don’t want to leave and try getting dinner someplace else? I’m not picky. We could find like an Applebee’s or something?”

“An Applebee’s? No. I wanted to take you out someplace trendy and different and really do something special for you. We’re eating here even if I have to pay off the maître d’,” he stubbornly insisted.

Something about the determination in his voice made Alyssa smile and then giggle until she was full on laughing. “What’s so funny?” he demanded to know. “Why are you laughing at me?”

“Because you’re so cute,” she insisted. “You’re willing to do anything to make me happy and I think it’s adorable.”

A small glimmer of a grin came across Sean’s face. “Well, I only want to make sure you have the best.” He squeezed her hand. “I’m going to go see how much longer the waits going to be. You stay right here, okay?”

Alyssa just nodded and watched him walk away, not at all prepared for what was about to happen next.

Meanwhile Nick and Shayla walked into the crowded front entrance of Koi hand in hand. Not only was Koi one of Nick’s favorite restaurants in LA, but he and Shayla came there quite often and today they definitely had reason to celebrate. Shayla’s TV show had been picked up by E! and would begin tentatively shooting next month. She’d just found out the news earlier that afternoon, and Nick had insisted that they go out for dinner that night to celebrate.

“It’s crowded tonight,” Shayla remarked as noticed the waiting area, stuffed with people. “Are you sure we’ll be able to get a table?”

“Don’t worry about it,” Nick assured her. “I’m here so much they may as well just give me a table of my own.”

“Well, you see what you can do. Meanwhile I’m going to stop in the ladies room. I’ll be right out,” she promised, dropping a light kiss on his cheek before disappearing from his side.

Nick hung back for a moment, seeing that the maître d seemed to be busy at the moment. Shayla had been right. The place definitely was crowded and Nick wondered if there was some kind of big event going on that he didn’t realize. He’d have to ask Shayla. She was good at remembering which star was having what party at what night. He began to zone out a little until all of a sudden his gaze fell upon a familiar female face. No… It can’t be, he tried to tell himself. The petite, dark haired, woman sitting a few feet away face was glowing with laughter at something that her broad shouldered male companion had obviously said. It definitely seemed as if they were together and a gentle hand squeeze between the two of them seemed to confirm that suspicion as the guy leaned over to tell her something before getting up and walking in the direction of the front counter. The woman turned her head in his direction and Nick gasped once he realized that he hadn’t been wrong. Alyssa?! What’s she doing here? he wondered as his eyes drank in the sight of her. She looked amazing. He couldn’t quite put his finger on it, but there was a certain something about her that made her even more striking than the last time he’d seen her at his wedding. And that dress… He found that he couldn’t tear his eyes away from the way that it clung to her body in all the right places and the way that it plunged scandalously low until it ended in an enticing v at top of her rib cage. It was the type of outfit he’d never expected to see Alyssa wear out in public, but here she was right in front of him. Something definitely had to have changed.

He was snapped out of his thoughts as he felt their gaze lock and just by the way her full lips formed into an o of surprise, he knew that she had seen him too. He pushed past a few people until he found himself standing right in front of her. “Alyssa? Is that you?” he asked, still not completely positive.

Her face broke out in an excited grin. “Have you forgotten me already, Nick?” she slyly replied.

She laughed as Nick’s face reddened in embarrassment. “Of course not! It’s just, wow you look different and…” he paused, swallowing hard. “What are you doing all the way out here in LA? Visiting Izzy or something?”

All of a sudden Alyssa was very glad that she’d had the guts to wear the provocative black dress. Judging from the expression on Nick’s face and the way his eyes seemed to linger down the open area between her breasts, she could tell that he was completely in shock over her appearance, enough to forget for the moment that he was married. “We live out here now. Sean and I, that is. We got married in July and he got transferred to a base not far from here. We’re just out in LA for the night celebrating our sixth month anniversary,” she coolly explained. “Where’s the wifey?”

“B-b-bathroom,” Nick managed to stutter out, wondering why he was getting so flustered over his ex girlfriend. “I can’t believe you got married. No one ever told me.”

Alyssa was surprised to see how genuinely hurt Nick sounded. “I’m sorry I didn’t let you know,” she apologized, but then quickly remembered she had no reason to have to apologize. “Not that I was supposed to or anything. It kind of got rushed along a little faster than I expected and it was a really a pretty small affair. You can ask Izzy if you want.”

“So, that’s Sean huh?” he asked, shifting his gaze to Sean who at that moment seemed to be arguing with the maître d. Alyssa sighed, once she realized the impression that Nick was probably getting that was completely false. To someone who didn’t know any better, Sean probably appeared like an impatient asshole with a bad temper, which he was anything, but.

Alyssa nodded. “Yea, that’s him. He’s really a great guy. I guess I should thank you for telling me to go for it with him. It was the best thing I probably could’ve ever done. He’s changed me in so many ways that needed changing, and I’m a much better and stronger person now because of him.”

She had to admit that she got a small piece of satisfaction in seeing a shadow fall over Nick’s face as he realized that it took another man to complete what he had failed at. And he’d been the one to push her into his arms in the first place. “That’s great,” he only half heartedly replied.

She was so busy trying to make Nick feel bad that she didn’t notice that Sean had returned until she felt his hands on her shoulders. “They said that they’re booked pretty solidly and they’d try to get us seated as soon as they possibly can,” he reported. He looked up and for the first time noticed Nick standing in front of them. “Who’s your friend?”

“This is an old friend of mine,” she quickly introduced, purposely leaving out Nick’s first name afraid that he’d make the connection to the mysterious ex boyfriend Nick she’d told him about.

No sooner had the words came out of his mouth when Shayla approached the three of them. “There you are Nick! I was looking for you.” She stopped dead in her tracks when she realized that he wasn’t alone.

“Shayla, you remember Alyssa, right? From our wedding?” Nick prompted.

“Oh, yes! Alyssa your old girlfriend. How are you doing?” Shayla greeted. “Funny running into you here, huh?”

“Ex girlfriend?” Sean suspiciously asked, already beginning to make the connection. He glared in Nick’s direction. “You’re her ex boyfriend, Nick?”

Before Nick had a chance to even answer, Alyssa interrupted. “Nick this is my husband Sean. Sean this is Nick and his wife Shayla.”

“Pleased to meet you.” Nick stuck out his hand to greet Sean. Instead of accepting the gesture Sean just glared at it, making no attempt to be polite. Realizing that he wasn’t welcome Nick slipped his hand back into his pocket feeling just a little awkward about his obvious lack of respect. He was sure that Alyssa must’ve told him enough stories for the guy to want to practically kill him and then Nick remembered that he was a Marine. Marines were pretty handy with guns… Maybe he better get on his good side.

Luckily the awkward moment was broken by the voice of the maître d as he recognized Nick for the first time since he walked in. “Hello, Mr. Carter,” he greeted as he approached them, completely ignoring Alyssa and Sean. “It’s good to have you back again. If you want we can have your usual table ready in just a moment.”

“Actually, do you think that maybe we could get a table for four? That way my friends can dine with us?” The suggestion flew out of his mouth before he even realized it, but it seemed like the right thing to do. He knew that Alyssa and Sean had been waiting a long time now for a table and he knew on a night like tonight even with a reservation they’d be pushed aside if more well known people walked in. In his eyes he was doing them a favor. “That is if the two of you don’t mind?”

“No problem with me. I’m starved,” Alyssa agreed. What could be the harm of eating dinner with her ex and his wife? She felt secure enough in her marriage and herself to be able to at least be civil to him.

But Sean seemed to protest. “I don’t know… I mean this is supposed to be our anniversary, so we kind of wanted to dine alone.”

Nick just shrugged, knowing that he had been the bigger person just by offering. “Your choice. I just know how busy this place can get on a Friday night and it might be a long wait. I thought I’d do you a favor.”

“Sean!” Alyssa hissed. “We’ll be happy to join you and Shayla for dinner. Right Sean?” She purposely dug her fingernails into his arm to show him that she meant business.

“I guess so,” he finally gave in.

“That can definitely be arranged,” the maître d assured them as he walked away. “Your table will be ready in a few short minutes.”

“Who are you that you get such good treatment around here?” Sean asked the moment the man had disappeared. “We’ve been waiting for over an hour to get a table and you walk in like you own the place. Is your wife famous or something?”

Alyssa could practically see the steam coming out of Nick’s ears at Sean’s comment. Trying her best to keep the peace, she answered before Nick could say anything in response. “Sort of. Shayla is a correspondent for E!” She paused knowing that there was no longer anyway to hide Nick’s fame any longer. Still she tried to keep the details as vague as possible. “And Nick works in the music business.”

“Music business… Wait a second…” Recognition lit up in Sean’s eyes. “You’re one of those Backstreet Boys, aren’t you?” He immediately turned on Alyssa. “You dated a Backstreet Boy?”

“Sean… Let’s not do this here,” Alyssa tried to calm him down. “We can talk about this later-“

Just then the maître d returned. “Your table is ready.” The two couples began to follow him through the crowded restaurant, but Alyssa and Sean hung back.

“Why did you fucking lie about this to me Alyssa? All this time you let me believe that Nick was some trust fund brat and he was actually famous? I can’t believe that you’d keep something like this from me,” Sean argued through gritted teeth.

“Sean, please now is not the time or place to have this discussion. I swear that once we get back to the hotel I’ll answer everything, but could you please just be mature and just suck it up? For me? You don’t want to ruin our anniversary do you?” she pointed out.

“You’re the one who insisted that we sit with them,” he argued. “Why would you even act the slightest bit friendly towards a man who has broken your heart like he has? Who’s disrespected you and treated you like absolute garbage?”

Alyssa sighed, realizing that he did kind of have a point there. Why had she been so polite to Nick? She had no reason to. He’d hurt her in ways that had almost completely destroyed her. It had taken Sean months to break down those walls that she had put up as a result of Nick’s betrayal. So why would she even be friendly to him at all? “I guess it’s because I’m trying to be the bigger person here. The old me would have completely snubbed him and maybe even made a scene. I’ve moved on Sean. I’m with you now and I’m completely over what he’s done to me. If I can sit and have dinner with him and his wife, then that just shows how far I’ve come. I know you don’t want to hear it, but outside of the all the horrible things he’s done to me, he can really be a nice guy. I wouldn’t have stayed with him so long if he was all bad. I don’t know why you feel threatened by him. He’s married now too and from what I hear he’s changed a lot.”

“I’m not threatened by him,” Sean insisted, frustration rising in his voice. “It’s just I can’t look at him and know that he was the guy that hurt you so much. It makes me want to hurt him for what he’s done to you.”

“Sean, please… I know that you’re only trying to protect me, but I’m asking you to please just let it go for tonight, okay? Let’s just get through dinner.

Sean sighed, finally giving in. “Fine… I won’t start anything with him, but you can’t expect me to be polite to him either.”

“Fair enough,” Alyssa agreed as they finally reached the table and sat down across from Nick and Shayla. There was tense silence between the four of them while they immersed themselves in their menus. Finally Shayla broke the ice.

“So, what brings the two of you here to LA? I thought Nick told me that you lived down in North Carolina?”

“We did,” Alyssa answered. “We moved to California right after we got married. Sean’s in the military and he just got transferred. We live maybe half an hour or so outside of LA. I was just telling Nick that we’re here tonight to celebrate our sixth month anniversary.”

“Six months? Wow… I don’t think that we did anything really special for our six month anniversary, did we babe?” Shayla looked over at Nick quizzically.

Nick shook his head. “No. I was busy doing promotion for Unbreakable and starting tour rehearsals and everything and you were out of town covering some awards show or something. We probably weren’t even in the same state at the time.”

Not wanting to make Shayla feel bad, Alyssa quickly blurted out an explanation. “Well, normally we wouldn’t really do anything big either, but Sean just fond out that he’s being deployed to Iraq sometime in the next few months. So, we just wanted to do something special in case he’s not around for our first anniversary.” She wrinkled her nose as she realized how bad that had sounded. “By not around I mean not in this country,” she corrected.

Nick’s eyes sprang up from his menu and showed genuine concern. “Whoa… That must really be rough to find out so soon into your marriage. I can’t imagine what it must be like to be so far apart for so long.”

Sean glared at Alyssa, not at all pleased that she’d decided to share his news with complete strangers. “The distance is the least of my worries,” he coldly explained. “I’m more concerned about coming back in one piece.”

The conversation hit a nose dive right there since nobody knew how to respond to that. Again Shayla made another attempt at rescuing the conversation. “Well, not that it’s the same thing, but we can kind of relate. Nick and I joke that we’re hardly home together long enough for us to ever fight. We’ll be married forever because the secret is that we give each other plenty of space. It’s hard being apart for long stretches of time, but there’s always phone calls and e-mail.”

This time it was Alyssa’s turn to glare at her. How can she compare Nick going off on tour to Sean going off to Iraq? she wondered to herself. They were both entirely different situations. Shayla knew that after a tour Nick would come back home eventually. In Sean’s case, his future was unknown. Alyssa didn’t know if he’d be coming home intact, with a few limbs missing, or at all. What gave her the right to act like she could relate? “Actually, no… You can’t relate. The two of you go off and do your jobs, but in the end you always come home to each other. Sean’s going off into a war zone. No one knows what’ll happen to him there. It’s up in Gods hands, so yea… I can’t possibly see how you can see how it feels.”

Sean kicked her under the table and smirked at her as if to say, What happened to being nice? She noticed the look of surprise on Shayla’s face and she instantly felt a little bad. She hadn’t intended to come off as rude to Nick’s wife, but it was the truth. She couldn’t understand what she and Sean were going through. She was from an entirely different world.

“I’m sorry,” Shayla quickly apologized. “You’re right. I can’t relate.”

Luckily at the moment the waiter came by to take their orders and broke the tense silence between the four of them and Alyssa couldn’t have been more thankful. Maybe this hadn’t been such a great idea after all.

After they’d ordered they were met with more tense silence. “So, uhm are the two of you out for any reason in particular or are you just out for fun?” Alyssa tried to get the conversational ball rolling again.

This brought a smile to Shayla’s face. “Actually we are out celebrating something pretty special.” She turned to look towards Nick. “We actually found out some pretty exciting news, earlier today.”

Alyssa’s face paled as she exchanged a look with Sean. She had a feeling that she knew where this was going and the thought made her sick. By the sympathetic look on Sean’s face, she could tell that Sean was thinking along the same lines as she was. It wasn’t fair that she and Sean had been trying so hard, and Nick and Shayla who were barely around each other for any length of time would be able to get pregnant just like that. Swallowing hard, she put on a fake smile and pretended to be happy for the two of them. “Wow… That’s amazing! Congratulations to the both of you. I know that Nick will make a wonderful father-“

At that moment, Nick had just taken a sip of water and he looked so shocked that he started to choke. He coughed as he gasped for air, all of a sudden looking completely horrified. Finally regaining his ability to speak he managed to croak out, “What?! Did I miss something?”

Based on his reaction and the shocked expression on Shayla’s face, Alyssa realized that she’d been completely off base with her prediction and she could already feel her cheeks redden with embarrassment. “You thought that we were having a baby?” Shayla asked, not being able to control her laughter at the irony of the situation. “Not even close. Nick doesn’t want kids.”

“You don’t want kids?” Alyssa asked in a surprised voice. “You always talked about having them when we were together. How you wanted to do a better job someday than your parents did with you.”

Shayla frowned and Alyssa wondered if maybe this was an ongoing issue between the two of them and that maybe she should’ve kept her mouth shut. Shayla looked over at Nick expectantly waiting for a response.

“I don’t want them right now,” he quickly tried to remedy the situation. “I’ve just got too much going on right now. I just finished up the tour, and I have my label now and I’m thinking about maybe going back into the studio to finally work on another solo album…”

“Your label? You started your own record label?” Alyssa asked, knowing how important that idea had always been to him. “Nick, that was like your biggest dream! I can’t believe you actually went ahead and did it. Congratulations!”

Nick blushed a little. “Thanks… So far it’s really small and underground and I only have a few artists, but I’m working on signing a few more. I’ve got a really diverse group of artists in a lot of different genres, so I’m hoping it’ll be successful once I really get it off the ground.”

“You will… I know you will. I’m so proud of you,” Alyssa told him with an encouraging smile.

Picking up on the moment between the ex couple, Shayla quickly interrupted. “Anyway, unfortunately the news might not be as thrilling as a baby, but I found out that I’m going to be getting my own TV show on E!” she explained. “Isn’t that great?”

“Yea… Great,” Alyssa echoed, wondering what kind of woman could put a TV show on the same pedestal as having a baby, but then again maybe she was a little too quick to judge? “I don’t know why I jumped to conclusions and you and Nick were going to have a baby,” she found herself rambling. “Maybe it’s just because I have babies on my mind, so much lately. Sean and I have been trying for one.”

As soon as the words left her mouth, Alyssa wondered if she should’ve kept the news to herself. Again Sean kicked her under the table and Alyssa realized for the first time that maybe he was uncomfortable with two total strangers to him, knowing so many personal details of his life. There was an awkward pause, and then it was Shayla’s moment to act overenthusiastic. “How exciting! And so soon into your marriage too? I guess the two of you really want a big family, huh?”

“Actually, we were planning on waiting a while, but with Sean being sent to Iraq kind of changed our plans. We’d really like to try to at least get pregnant before that happens,” she explained. “Just because you never know how much time you really have together.”

“Oh… That makes sense,” Shayla quietly responded.

Again there was a brief silence, before Nick finally interrupted. “Well, I’m happy for the two of you. I couldn’t think of a better person to become a mother than Alyssa. She’s amazing with children, so she’ll make a great mom.” She was the only woman I’d ever considered having a child with, he mentally added realizing that in a way he was almost a little jealous of Sean. If he hadn’t made the mistakes he had with Alyssa maybe he could be sitting where Sean was now. Maybe they’d even have a few of their own children by now. It was so funny how life worked out. It was then that it hit him that this was the first time he’d had regrets about his past since marrying Shayla. He’d thought that once he began his life with Shayla it would mean that he’d closed the door on his relationship with Alyssa and no longer felt guilty about it, but now he realized that maybe he wasn’t as over her as he’d originally realized.

The thought literally scared the shit out of him.
Chapter 4- Hey Jealously by Mellz Bellz
Author's Notes:

Tensions flare between Alyssa and Sean. Shayla decides she wants to be a mother.

Chapter 4 – Hey Jealously

The very moment that Sean and Alyssa returned back to their hotel room after dinner was the moment that Sean began to sail into her about her lack of honesty about the true identity of her ex boyfriend. “I still can’t believe why you lied to me about Nick!” he thundered as soon as the door slammed behind them.

“I never lied to you Sean!” Alyssa insisted. “I’ll admit that I withheld the fact that the Nick that I used to date is Nick Carter, the Backstreet Boy, but I never lied. Whenever you asked me a question about him, I answered as honestly as I possible could without divulging who he really was.”

“Why couldn’t you just tell me Alyssa? We tell each other everything! To my knowledge we’ve never really had any secrets between us, so why start now?” he asked in a hurt voice.

Alyssa sighed. “What was I supposed to say Sean? I don’t really want to advertise the fact that I once dated a celebrity. I have an entirely different and normal life now. If it got out that I used to date a Backstreet Boy it could interfere significantly with my teaching career. I enjoy my life right now. To tell you the truth, I was never completely comfortable in his world. Shayla’s a much better match for him. She works in the same field as him… She wants the same things… I just don’t see the sense in drudging up the past. Besides, not like you’d probably have believed me if I told you earlier anyway.”

“That’s not true! Why would I not believe you?”

She just narrowed her eyes at him. “If I’d told you in the beginning of our relationship that my last boyfriend was a Backstreet Boy you’d either think I was some kind of psycho teenybopper and run for the hills. Even if you did believe me, you’d still feel threatened by the fact and again run for the hills. So in either situation I’m screwed.”

“What do I have to be threatened about when it comes to that pretty boy?” Sean argued.

“Obviously something or you wouldn’t refer to him as ‘pretty boy’” Alyssa pointed out. “I don’t get why it is that guys like you are so intimidated by guys like him.”

“I’m not intimidated by him,” he insisted in a macho tone of voice.

“You can fool me! That’s why you were so defensive and rude to him at dinner tonight! You refused to even shake his hand! How is that being mature at all?”

“Lyss, you know I’m a gentleman, but I can’t sit there and show some guy like him respect after he’s hurt you the way he’s had. I don’t even know how or why you gave him the time of day you did! You should’ve told him to take his table and shove it up his ass.”

Alyssa rolled her eyes and snorted. “First off, don’t you dare tell me what I should have done. I make my own decisions and because I am a mature adult, unlike you apparently. Yes, Nick did hurt me. He hurt me very badly, but he was also the first guy that I’ve ever loved. We had a very strong connection at one point, so I just think that it would be nice if we could remain friendly. We’re both with different people, so it’s not like I’m going to run off with him or something… That’s really stupid! Secondly, don’t go all ‘Southern gentleman’ on me. You acted like a jerk tonight! What you should have done was be charming and polite and if you were so intent in getting a message across to Nick you should have done it by showing him how well you treat me. Instead he probably thinks that you’re some hot tempered asshole-“

“Why does it matter to you so much what Nick thinks?” Sean bluntly interrupted. “I mean who cares? You’re done and over with.”

His question made Alyssa momentarily freeze. He was right. Why did it matter what Nick thought about her? Why did it bother her so much, especially if she was very happily married at the moment? She thought about it a moment before slowly responding. “It’s not so much that I care what he thinks, it’s just that I want to give him the impression that I’m in a better place in my life. Up until you and I started dating, I was a completely different person. Now I think I’ve changed in so many positive ways and I really want him to be able to see that.”

Still Sean frowned. “Yea, but why is it so important that he sees that you’ve changed? Why does it even matter?”

She sighed, struggling with the best way to explain it to him. “Whether you like it or not, Nick and I have a history together. I loved him very much at one time. Yes, he hurt me, but I’m over it now! Part of me becoming who I am today means letting go and putting the past beside me. The old me would probably still hate Nick for what he did to me to the point that it would make me so bitter inside that I probably wouldn’t be able to truly trust any guy at all. But now the way I look at it is life’s too short to hold grudges. I’m proud to finally be in a spot in my life that if I run into my ex boyfriend and his wife, I can handle it and act completely calm like we were old friends. I’m done hating him for what he’s done to me, so why should you? That is unless you’re jealous…”

“I’m not jealous of that asshole. I have no reason to be. I’m the one who wound up with you in the end.”

Alyssa rolled her eyes. “If you’re not jealous then why are you referring to him as an ‘asshole?’?” She just shook her head. “I don’t know maybe it’s an age thing? Maybe it’s something that you just haven’t realized yet? When I was your age I felt the same way about him. Maybe you just wind up going through a stage of acceptance in your late 20’s that you haven’t reached yet?”

Now it was Sean’s turn to get angry. “Don’t you dare pull the age card on me Alyssa! I’m only two years younger than you, not ten, so don’t talk down to me like I’m some child who doesn’t understand anything. I just-“

“Then what the fuck is it Sean? You’re not jealous of Nick, you can’t still be pissed that he hurt me because I’m over it, so what is it about him that bothers you so much? Is it the fact that he’s more successful than you? Or is it the fact that he actually ‘went there’ first?” she finally exploded.

Sean’s face reddened, giving Alyssa the impression that he was boiling with rage on the inside. “I just don’t like the guy, ok? Something about him really just gets me! I don’t trust him.”

“Is it that you don’t trust him or you don’t trust me?” Alyssa’s eyes narrowed expectantly. He hesitated for a moment and she realized that she’d hit the nail right on the head. “Unbelievable,” she sighed as she grabbed his hand and forced him to look at her as she spoke in a softer tone of voice. “Baby, if you’re worried for one second that I’m going to run right back to Nick, it’s not going to happen. I love you and we’re starting a wonderful life together. Hopefully, by this time next year we’ll have a beautiful baby and you’ll be back from Iraq, and things will be perfect. There’s no reason at all for me to go running into his arms again. Besides, Nick seems like he’s pretty happy with Shayla as well. So, you have absolutely nothing to worry about.”

Sean looked away a little uncomfortably. “I just noticed the way he was looking at you tonight, that’s all. And ok, maybe I was a little jealous,” he finally admitted.

“Well, you should feel honored that you have such a hot looking wife,” she joked with a smile. “But seriously though, I’m glad you admitted that to me and I know Nick was probably staring a little. I really don’t think it was in a sexual way though. I think it was more of the shock of bumping into me, especially dressed like this. Let’s just say I’d never have the confidence to wear something like this dress back when we were dating. Another good thing about me that’s changed that I’m glad he got to see.”

There was a pause and from the far away look in Sean’s eyes, Alyssa got the impression that he was thinking back on their night so far and he looked disappointed. Obviously he had gone through great pains in planning this night for them and so far it hadn’t worked out at all as he had planned. “I’m sorry,” she apologized. “I know this isn’t at all how you wanted our night to go. I shouldn’t have taken Nick and Shayla up on their offer.”

“It’s not all your fault. I acted like a real immature jerk. We wasted all this time fighting and it’s our anniversary. Who knows if we’ll even have another one? I don’t want to fight tonight,” he confessed.

“Me neither,” she agreed. “You know this was our first major fight in six months of marriage?”

“Not too bad a track record.” Sean smirked as he wrapped his arms around her. “And I suppose there’s one advantage to us fighting.”

She looked up at him, knowing what he was getting at, but decided to play dumb. “And what’s that?”

“Make up sex,” he seductively replied. Alyssa just grinned and just like that the whole ridiculous fight was pushed away as it had never happened as she felt her husband’s warm lips pressing against hers.

Later on that evening, on the other side of town, Shayla and Nick were just getting home from their night out. After the awkward dinner at Koi with Sean and Alyssa, they’d met a few friends for drinks at a nightclub, but hadn’t made too late of a night of it. Since Nick had lost all the weight he had, he found that he wasn’t much of a drinker anymore. Occasionally he’d go out and have a few drinks socially, but it was no longer constantly to the point of always getting drunk.

“I must be getting old,” he remarked to his wife as they walked in the door. “I’m ready for bed.”

Shayla just laughed at him. “Well, you are going to be twenty-nine next week. Damn, twenty-nine!” she whistled. “You are getting old! That’s only one year from-“

“Thirty,” he finished for her. “I know. Please don’t remind me. The only thing that makes me feel any better about turning thirty is that means that Kevin is pushing forty.”

Again Shayla laughed. “Well, if it makes you feel better, old man, I’m kind of tired myself. Bed sounds really nice,” she agreed stifling a yawn.

The pair headed upstairs to their bedroom and began to get ready for bed. Nick headed into the bathroom to brush his teeth, while Shayla worked on washing her makeup off of her face. Finishing up before her, he headed back into the bedroom and stripped down to his boxers before diving beneath the blankets. A few minutes later he felt Shayla slide into bed beside him, the silky fabric of her short nightgown brushing against his bare skin. She cuddled up next to him and just as Nick finally started to drift off into sleep; her voice brought him right back to the present.

“So, I think this was the first time I really got a chance to speak with Alyssa. I mean I talked to her at our wedding, but only for like a minute. I didn’t get to really know her.”

Nick inwardly groaned. Seeing Alyssa again had been confusing enough for him and he really wanted to just go to sleep and get her out of his head. Unfortunately for him, Shayla had other ideas. For some reason she thought that right before bed was the perfect time to talk about her. “Uh huh,” he just kind of grunted, hoping it would discourage Shayla.

“Yea, I’m kind of surprised. She was a lot different than I thought she’d be. She was actually a little on the rude side to me,” she continued. “Did you see how she almost bit my head off when I tried to make her feel better about Sean going to Iraq?”

He rolled his eyes, knowing that he had to say something in Alyssa’s defense. “You compared me going on tour to Sean going to Iraq,” he pointed out. “It’s not like he’s going to Iraq on a business trip, or on a vacation. He’s going out there to fight a war. A war that many guys around my age aren’t returning from. Look, I don’t think she meant to be rude, but you just can’t compare the two.”

Shayla looked hurt. “I was only trying to be nice. I didn’t know what to say, so I tried to sympathize. I guess I was wrong, huh?”

His face softened as he realized that his wife was in her own convoluted way only trying to help. “I think that Alyssa and Sean have probably just been really stressed about the situation. It has to be very sensitive for them, and in the midst of it all they’re in a rush to have a baby before he leaves… It’s just probably a really complicated, emotional situation for her and to hear it compared to something so trivial, she probably took offense.”

“Yea…” Shayla’s voice trailed off. “I guess it must be crazy for them with how fast everything is going. The whole baby thing is like wow, but I can totally understand their reasoning, can’t you?”

Nick frowned, wondering exactly what his wife was getting at before slowly beginning to answer. “I guess I can. Alyssa’s always really looked forward to having kids someday and I suppose she and Sean want to start trying right away, so that they don’t lose out on that chance. I know how much this means to her, so I’m happy for them.” He shrugged. “But why are you so interested in my opinion?”

“No reason in particular,” she quickly answered. There was a tense silence between the two of them until Shayla grabbed his arm. “Hearing Alyssa talk about trying to get pregnant just got me thinking…”

Uh oh, Nick thought, feeling the now familiar sense of dread in his stomach that always formed whenever Shayla was about to bring up the same subject that he feared she was about to. He knew exactly where this conversation was now headed, and after the night he’d just had, he really didn’t want to go down that route with her. I should’ve pretended to be asleep the minute she began talking, he realized. Now it was too late.

“I know that you aren’t thrilled with the idea, but I’d like to become a mother too sometime in the near future,” she continued. “What I’m trying to say Nick is that I’d like to try having kids.”

Even though the words didn’t come as a surprise to him, he still couldn’t hold back a frustrated sigh as he rolled onto his back and stared up at the ceiling. “Shayla, you know how I feel about having kids right now.”

“I know! I just don’t understand why. If anything it’s the perfect time to start trying,” she insisted. “You’re done with your tour. As of right now there aren’t any definite plans for you and the rest of the guys to go back into the studio. All you have on your plate right now is the label, and you make your own hours with that! You have plenty of time to fit in starting a family if you really wanted to, so you can’t use the excuse that you’re too busy right now.”

“What about you Shayla?” he shot back, dodging her question. “Your show just got picked up and you have to start filming soon. Your producers are not going to be thrilled if you turn up pregnant halfway into the season. It isn’t like a sitcom where they can just cover you up in baggy clothes and strategic props. It may sound cruel, but the harsh reality is that if you become pregnant it’s a sure way to make to sure that you’re show never makes a second season.”

Even in the dim light, he could tell that Shayla had a hurt expression on her face. “Not necessarily,” she argued. “I probably wouldn’t get pregnant just like that and by the time I did I most probably wouldn’t even be showing until after the season wraps. If we plan it right, it won’t interfere with my show at all.”

“Sometimes you just can’t plan things like this,” he replied in a cold voice.

Shayla sighed. “Look, I just really need to understand why you’re so against having children Nick. Maybe if I understood where you were coming from better it would help me accept your decision. Like I said, it’s obviously not a time issue. Is it because you’re afraid of not being a good father? Is it because you don’t feel like you’re ready to take on such a huge responsibility? Or is it something deeper than that? According to Alyssa you didn’t always feel that way because she seemed just as shocked as me to hear you didn’t want kids, so what changed?”

Nick bit his lip, for a moment actually contemplating spewing out the whole story about Katie and Serena and how because he had failed them, they’d lost everything. He knew though that Shayla would just shower him with sympathy though, which was exactly what he didn’t want. He supposed that it was more than just Katie and Serena though and the unfortunate circumstances that had resulted from his first marriage. There had been his own miserable childhood to consider. He never wanted to bring children into a home where there was so much dysfunction and chaos. If he ever did decide to have children he wanted to create an environment where they’d have two loving parents at home for them. He wanted them as far away from the entertainment world as possible, so that they’d at least have a shed of normalcy in their lives. With him and Shayla and where they both were with their careers at the moment that would be nearly impossible to provide. So for the moment he was perfectly content without having children.

“Was it because you had such a crappy childhood?” she continued to press, almost reading his mind. “Are you afraid of ruining your children the same way that you feel that your parents ruined you?”

“It took nearly twenty-seven years and countless therapy sessions for me to finally come to terms with my life and realize that most of the mistakes I made in my life stemmed from my parents fucking me up so much. I don’t want to put a child through the shit that I’ve been through. Besides I’m probably too selfish to be a father anyway.”

“Why are you so convinced that you’re going to do such a shitty job as a father, Nick? Maybe you’d be different from your parents. Maybe because you don’t want your children to end up in some of the situations that you’ve been in, you’ll do everything that your parents neglected to do with you? Why are you putting yourself down like that?”

“Because I’m a Carter,” he muttered in defeat before taking a deep breath. “Even if I did agree to having a child Shayla, who is going to take care of it while we’re working? Are you going to quit your career and become a stay at home Mom?”

Shayla just rolled her eyes. “Who’s going to take care of it? You make it sound like a baby is nothing more than a pet dog or something. And this is the 21st century. I don’t see any reason why I have to quit my job. We can hire a nanny to help take care of it when needed.”

“A nanny?” he scoffed. “There’s no way I’d let any of my children be raised by a nanny. More than half of those kids who have full time nannies wind up seeing more of them than their own parents! How is that going to give them any better of a life than the one my parents gave me?”

“Well, I’m sorry that I don’t want to give up my career either! Why do I have to choose between my job and a child? Can’t I have both? Lot’s of women do it! I’m sure that Sean isn’t making Alyssa give up her career to have a baby!”

“That’s a completely different situation,” Nick tried to argue.

“How is that any different?” Shayla challenged.

“First off, neither one of them is famous,” he pointed out. “They’re jobs are demanding too, but are more manageable with a family than ours are. Alyssa’s a teacher. She gets summers off and all these holidays… She’s home usually at four o’clock the latest. I’m not sure if she plans on enrolling her children in day care or not, but that isn’t an option for us.”

“Which is why I suggested we hire a nanny,” she cut in.

“Is a nanny going to work thirteen hour shifts while you’re pulling double duty between your job at E! and then hightailing it over to cover the opening of a new club for your television show? By the time you get home you’d be lucky if you could spend enough time for one feeding with a baby.”

“That’s not true. I’d make it work. I’d figure something out.” Nick could tell just by the passion in her voice that she was trying to hold back tears.

Feeling bad, he rolled back over so that he was facing her and cupped her chin with his hands, speaking in a softer voice. “Just based on the way we’re arguing over things like whether or not we should hire a nanny, tells me that we’re definitely not in a position where we’re ready to start having kids just yet.”

Shayla sighed in defeat, hating to admit that he was absolutely right. “I just wish that you’d start to think about it Nick. I can wait if you need time to get used to the idea. I just really want to have kids with you someday in the future. I think we’d make great parents. Maybe not the most conventional parents, but still good ones nonetheless. Just promise me that you’ll consider it? We can iron out all the kinks like careers and nannies when the time comes. I just want you to be okay with the idea.”

Knowing that the only way out of the situation was to agree he finally gave in. “All right. I’ll think about it,” he lied. He knew it was dishonest, but he really didn’t want to continue the argument just then. This way it would bide him some more time to think up more excuses the next time the issue came up, which Nick feared would be all too soon.

The next morning when Nick opened his eyes it took him a moment to recall the events of the night before. His conversation with Shayla before bed last night about children combined with the effects of seeing Alyssa again had affected him more than he realized. He’d had the strangest dream which was obviously a product of what was going on in his current life

He dreamt that he was staring down at a baby’s crib and inside was a screaming baby. He remembered looking down at it helplessly, not at all sure what he should do to pacify the crying infant. All of a sudden Shayla had appeared beside him and lifted the baby out of the crib. She’d bounced it on her hip, trying to calm it down, but its cries only seemed to intensify. She proceeded to try several different techniques: making funny faces, rubbing its back, talking softly to it, but nothing seemed to work. Finally feeling just as frustrated as Nick, she’d set the screaming baby back down into the crib and exchanged a helpless glance with him.

Then out of nowhere, Alyssa appeared, wearing the very same tempting black dress that she’d been wearing that night, and approached the crib. Without saying a word, she reached into the crib and cradled the infant in her arms. As soon as Alyssa lifted the baby out of the crib, a miracle happened. The baby immediately stopped crying and as Alyssa began to softly coo, a happy smile came across the baby’s face. All Nick remembered was how natural Alyssa seemed to interact with the baby.

Of course the dream really didn’t require any kind of deep analysis on Nick’s part. It was pretty evident that he was having doubts about him and Shayla’s parenting skills based upon their argument the night before. And of course Alyssa was on his mind because he’d just bumped into her unexpectedly and the fact that she had announced that she and Sean were trying to have a baby definitely could explain her care for the baby in the dream. Nick had always known her to be great with kids, so it didn’t surprise him that she’d been the one to calm the baby down in the dream.

Alyssa… His thoughts lingered on her name for a moment as his mind replayed the shock he had gone through when he first laid eyes on her again. He had to admit that he was amazed that she’d been as polite as she had to him, and he was even more shocked that she’d actually eagerly accepted his invitation to eat with him and Shayla. She’d been nothing but cordial and friendly throughout the whole meal, and to someone who didn’t know any better, Nick would bargain to say that you’d think that they really were just old friends. She certainly did nothing to acknowledge the way that their past relationship had ended. Then again she was married to someone else and had her whole separate life from his, so he supposed she felt like she had no reason to hold a grudge against him. Still, it was a big change from the woman who’d once jokingly told him, “I’m Italian I hold grudges.”

And then there was that dress… Nick found that he could still perfectly imagine the way that it had clung to her body, accentuating all her ‘better assets.’ Realizing the tangent he was going off on, he shook his head as to rid his mind of the memory. Pulling himself into a sitting position, he glanced over at the spot beside him and noticed that Shayla had already woken up and was most probably downstairs. That would’ve been real awkward, he thought to himself with a smirk. Having naughty thoughts about your ex girlfriend when your wife is lying right beside you. He’d have to watch himself.

He slid out of bed and pulled on a pair of sweats over his boxers and threw a wifebeater over his head, still continuing to think about Alyssa. There was something about her that just seemed to exude a certain air of confidence that he hadn’t noticed the last time he’d seen her at his wedding. We actually seemed to get along pretty good last night, he realized. Better than he’d certainly expected. He kind of wished that they could’ve talked longer, but he knew that Sean hadn’t been comfortable watching his wife talk with her ex boyfriend, and he suspected that Shayla hadn’t been completely thrilled with the idea, although she did her best to hide it. Sean… Now he was interesting. Nick wasn’t exactly sure where Alyssa saw the attraction. As much of a macho act he tried to put on, there was something about him that gave Nick the impression that he wasn’t as sure of himself as he tried to let people believe. For the first time, he wondered if perhaps Sean was actually a little younger than he’d first predicted. That would make Alyssa a cougar, he thought with a smirk. Was it wrong that he found the idea kind of hot in a strange way?

All of a sudden he wished that he’d gotten Alyssa’s new number out in LA. She’d switched cell phone numbers after they’d broken up and as much as Nick had begged Izzy for the new number, she’d resisted. He’d been surprised that she’d at least given him her address in North Carolina. Not that he was planning on making a move on her again. She was off limits and so was he. He just figured that it would be nice if they could get together more often as friends since she was living so close to him at the moment. She could probably use an extra shoulder to cry on with Sean being deployed to Iraq.

An idea popped into his head. Maybe he could pump Izzy for some information after all. Since he’d gotten married and Izzy had seen how much Nick had changed, she’d definitely been a lot friendlier to him, and their friendship was almost back in the same place where it had been over ten years ago. Maybe she’d take pity on him. It was worth a try. He grabbed his cell phone and dialed Izzy’s number. The phone rang three times before she finally picked up. “Hey Nick. What’s up?”

“How come you never told me that Alyssa got married?” he asked, completely ignoring her question.

He could hear Izzy sigh on the other end of the phone. “I take it you finally bumped into her somewhere?”

“Yea. At Koi, with Shayla. She was having dinner with Sean. We wound up eating together and it was rather awkward,” he explained. “More so for Sean and Shayla. Alyssa and I were fine.”

“Well, that’s definitely a plus.”

“Seriously though, why didn’t you tell me Izzy? Don’t you think that I have a right to know that my ex girlfriend got married?”

Izzy didn’t answer right away, as if she was thinking very carefully about what to say. “I never mentioned anything to you about it because I figured that if Alyssa wanted you to know, she’d tell you herself.”

“Were you there?”

“Yes, I was,” she honestly replied. “I was in the bridal party, but before you jump to any conclusions, you need to know that it was a very small ceremony. None of the other guys were invited or any of their significant others. I didn’t even bring Tristan. He stayed back in LA with Grace.”

“Still though,” Nick stubbornly argued. “I invited her to my wedding.”

“Did you ever stop to think that maybe she wasn’t in a place in her life where she felt comfortable enough inviting her ex boyfriend to her wedding?” Izzy defended Alyssa.

He had her there and Nick found that he couldn’t do much more than sigh. “Well, she seemed pretty comfortable with me when we bumped into each other last night. She seems like a completely different person.”

“She has changed a lot in the past year or so,” his friend agreed.

“So, I was thinking… We were having such a good time catching up with each other again, that by the time she left, I completely forgot to get her number so that we could keep in touch and I was hoping that maybe you could give it to me?” Okay, maybe that was a bit of an exaggeration on his part, but a guy had to do what he had to, right?

There was dead silence on the other end of the line as of Izzy was very deep in thought. Finally after what seemed like an eternity to Nick she gave him a simple answer. “No. I’m sorry, but I can’t do that.”

“Why?” he whined.

“Nick, I love you to death, but even you have to admit, anytime that you try to become a friend to Alyssa you only wind up playing with her emotions and hurting her in the end. There are some people in life who probably just weren’t really meant to be just friends and I think that’s true with you and Alyssa,” she tried to explain. “You have great chemistry in a relationship, but there’s no way the two of you could be just platonic friends.”

Nick had to admit that he felt just a tad bit insulted. “I can so be a platonic friend to her! I’m married now! What do you think I’m going to do? I can’t just forget about Shayla.”

“I don’t know Nick… All I know is that Sean is probably the best thing that’s ever happened in Alyssa’s life. She’s been the happiest that I’ve ever seen her. For once she’s getting everything that she’s always dreamed of, and if you do anything in the slightest to fuck that up for her, I don’t think I could ever speak to you again.”

“I’m not going to!” he insisted. “All I want to do is talk to her! Don’t you think that I should have at least that? Besides, I’d say that it’s up to Alyssa whether not she wants me in her life or not.”

Izzy sighed again. “You’re completely right. Which is why I’m not going to give you her number. If she wants to talk to you so badly, she’d give it to you herself. Until then I’m sorry, but as the one in the middle of the two of you, I can’t involve myself by giving out personal information. I’m trying to make my friendships with the both of you separate. It’s for the best this way.”

Seeing that Izzy wasn’t going to budge on the matter, Nick realized that if he wanted to make contact with Alyssa, he was going to have to go about it from another angle. “Well, I guess if that’s the way you feel I have to respect your decision. I won’t ask anymore.” A wide smile grew across his lips as he was struck with Plan B. Trying to manipulate the conversation into the direction he wanted to go in, he casually changed the subject. “So, how’s Grace doing?”

“She’s doing good. She’s such a ham though. She’s always dressing up and putting on little shows for Tristan and I. It’s adorable! I think she might take after her Daddy and become a musician,” she gushed.

“She’s got a birthday coming up pretty soon, huh?” Nick asked with a smirk.

“Ehh… In a few weeks, she turns three. Thank God, because I don’t know if I can take much more of the ‘terrible two’s.’”

“Do you have anything special planned for her? Three is a pretty important age, so you should do something.”

“It is?” Izzy asked, sounding surprised. “Well, I guess you can say that since most kids start pre-school at around that age. Tristan and I were thinking of having a little party, but we’re not sure yet. She’s so young still that she doesn’t have many friends yet, so it would probably wind up being more of a party for adults than her.”

“Nothing wrong with that. Give me the date and I’ll be there. I wouldn’t miss Grace’s third birthday for the world,” he replied rather enthusiastically.

He could practically picture Izzy frowning on the other end of the phone in confusion. “Since when did you consider a three year old’s birthday party an important social event?” Then his plan finally hit her. “Ohhh… I get it. You only want to go because Alyssa will probably be there right?”

“No… Grace only turns three once and I don’t want to miss it, but if Alyssa just happened to be there since she’s Grace’s Godmother and all, I think that’s just an added bonus.”

Izzy just snorted. “You’re really unbelievable Carter… You just don’t give up, do you?”

“You can’t keep us apart forever Izzy,” he pointed out. “We’re bound to run into each other again at some point or another. Wouldn’t you rather have it be in a controlled environment where you could keep an eye on us?”

“Fine,” she finally gave in. “You’re invited. Saturday, March 14th, my house, 2:00pm sharp. You better bring my daughter one hell of a present.”

Nick pretended to act shocked, even though he knew that Izzy was only joking about the present. “What nerve! Who’s opening the presents? You or Grace?”

“You know what I meant. Anyway, I need to get going.”

“All right. Thanks for the invitation,” he told her. “Even if I had to fish around a bit for it.”

“No problem. Just don’t do anything to make me regret it, ok?”

“Who me?” Nick asked innocently, before hanging up the phone. He had to admit that the idea of possibly seeing Alyssa again filled him with way more excitement then it probably should have. But he’d have to wait. The party was still quite a few weeks away. For now, he’d have to focus his attention elsewhere.

But as hard as he tried, he still couldn’t seem to get thoughts of her, or that dress completely out of his head. Instead the memory lingered in his mind, haunting his thoughts.
Chapter 5 - Saving Grace by Mellz Bellz
Author's Notes:

Alyssa and Nick finally get an opportunity to talk things out.

Chapter 5 – Saving Grace

The next few weeks flew by for Alyssa and she’d pretty much moved on from her chance encounter with Nick and Shayla. She’d chalked it up to pure happenstance and even though they now lived under an hour away from each other, she didn’t plan on running into him anytime soon. They traveled in two completely different social circles and outside of a few mutual friends they’d probably manage to steer pretty clear from each other.

Before Alyssa realized, it was the middle of March and the date of Grace’s third birthday party. She’d driven out to LA for the party alone since Sean had tickets for a Lakers game with Steve and Ian, which was kind of a relief to Alyssa. They’d been spending so much time together lately to make up for their time apart once Sean was sent to Iraq, that Alyssa was beginning to feel just a little stifled. This would be the first time in weeks that they did something apart and Alyssa felt like it would be good for the both of them.

As her car approached Izzy and Tristan’s home, she could tell that a lot of the guests were already there just by the large number of cars parked near the house. Finding an open spot on the street, she pulled over and shut off the engine of her tiny Jetta. A grin came over her face as her eyes grazed over the large wrapped package on the seat beside her. Izzy was going to kill her and she knew that the gift she had brought wasn’t exactly appropriate for a three year old, but Godmothers were supposed to spoil their godchildren with over the top gifts, right? She’d bought Grace an American Girl Doll, something that she’d always wanted when they’d first came out, but her mother had refused to buy it for her saying that spending almost ninety dollars on a doll was ridiculous. Besides, she had pointed out, a doll like that was meant to stand on top of a dresser and look nice, not to play with. Whatever, she thought with a smirk. I’m going to make sure that Grace can play with it. What’s the use of having a doll if it’s just going to sit there and collect dust?

Grabbing her gift, she got out of her car and headed towards the direction of the side gate which led to Izzy and Tristan’s backyard. As soon as she closed the gate behind her she was attacked by a strawberry blonde headed toddler throwing their arms around her waist. “Aunt Alyssa!” Grace squealed.

Alyssa bent down so that she was face to face with her goddaughter. “Hey sweetie!” She wrapped her arms around her in a hug and kissed the top of her head. “You’re getting so big! And so grown up looking!”

Grace just nodded her head before very matter of factely replying, “Well, I am three now.” She held up three fingers to illustrate her point, before finally realizing the present in Alyssa’s hand. “Is that for me?”

Alyssa shook her head trying to hold back a grin. “Nope!” she teased. “I decided this year I should buy a present for your Mommy and Daddy instead.”

The toddler put her hands on her hips. “That’s not how it goes! It’s my birthday, so I get presents. Not Mommy and Daddy!”

“Of course it’s for you, you silly goose! I was just teasing you. Why don’t you show me where Mommy wants your presents to go?”

“Okay,” Grace agreed, taking Alyssa’s hand and leading her towards a table on the patio that was stacked with presents. “Mommy! Aunt Alyssa is here!”

Izzy appeared a moment later, taking the present from Alyssa’s hands. “Hey girl. What’s up?” she asked, placing the present on the table. “Thanks for coming. Where’s the hubbie?”

“Basketball game,” she explained. “One of his buddies scored Lakers tickets and invited him to go.”

“Fun,” she responded, rolling her eyes. “Well, come sit down with us and have a cocktail. Melanie and Leighanne are at the table over there.”

Alyssa looked over in their direction and spotted both Melanie and Leighanne sitting at a round patio table in the corner of the yard. They looked up, spotted her, and waved. Alyssa waved back and followed Izzy over to the table. “Margarita?” Izzy asked.

“No, thanks,” Alyssa politely declined as she took a seat. “I’m trying to avoid alcohol while I’m trying to get pregnant, just in case. I don’t want to find out I’m pregnant and then freak out because I had a drink before I found out for sure.”

“One drink at that early on in a pregnancy won’t kill you, but whatever,” Izzy shrugged.

“You’re really taking this whole motherhood thing seriously, huh?” Melanie asked.

Alyssa nodded. “I have to. This might be my only chance to have children if something happens to Sean.”

“You’ve been trying for a while now haven’t you?” Leighanne chimed in.

“Since the end of October,” Alyssa sighed. “It’s getting a little frustrating. I never thought it would be this hard to conceive a child, but apparently it’s not as easy as it looks.”

Izzy smirked. “I seemed to have no problem conceiving at all. Grace was a complete surprise to Tristan and I. She couldn’t have come at a more imperfect time, but she’s a definitely blessing.”

“Isn’t that totally ironic? Here I am, desperately trying to get pregnant and can’t, yet you had no problem.” Alyssa sighed as she turned towards Leighanne. “Did you have a hard time getting pregnant with Baylee?”

“Not too hard of a time,” the older woman honestly answered. “But the more you stress about it the harder it is. At first, Brian and I were trying so hard and just like you, we kept getting frustrated that nothing was happening. Then it just got to the point where we decided to let whatever happen, happen, and that’s when I became pregnant with Baylee. It’ll happen when the time is right, but you need to relax. Your body can practically feel anxiety.”

“That’s easier said than done,” she muttered. “I’m just so afraid that it’s not going to happen before Sean leaves for Iraq. He wants this so badly, and I feel like if I can’t get pregnant I’m letting him down big time”

“I’m sure Sean won’t be disappointed in you,” Leighanne assured her. “How can he? It’s all up in the hands of God. If it’s meant to be, it’ll happen. If not, then maybe there’s a reason for that.”

Seeing how upset Alyssa looked at the possibility of not being able to become pregnant, Melanie spoke up, trying to reassure the younger woman. “Don’t feel bad Alyssa. You know how hard it was for me and Kevin to get pregnant with Julian,” she explained, referring to her son who was born a few months after Grace. “Everyone kept bothering us about when we were going to start having children, and the worst part was that we were trying, but nothing was happening. We really began to think that maybe something was wrong with one of us and we’d never be able to conceive naturally. I think it’s still a little early yet for you to be so concerned, but if you’re really that worried about getting pregnant, I know an excellent fertility clinic here in LA that I can refer you to. They helped us out immensely and I don’t think we’d have Julian if it weren’t for them.”

A fertility clinic? Just the thought of having to seek out professional help in a fertility clinic, made Alyssa feel sick. She didn’t want to accept the fact that perhaps she or Sean had something wrong with them which was preventing them from conceiving children. Melanie had been right though. It wasn’t as if they’d been trying that long compared to some couples. There was no reason to panic just yet. “Thanks a lot Melanie. I’ll keep that in mind, in case I decide I want to check it out. But you’re right. It is way too early to blow things out of proportions and assume the worst. I’m probably just not paying close enough attention to when I’m ovulating or something like that.”

“It’ll happen for you when it’s supposed to,” Melanie assured her with a weak smile. “Leighanne’s right. You need to relax about it. The more stressed you get it’s only going to screw up your hormones and make it that harder to get pregnant.”

Alyssa just nodded, realizing they were absolutely right. She’d been putting so much pressure on herself that it very well could be affecting her ability to get pregnant. Why was she stressing so much? It would happen. It just needed time. Things like this couldn’t be rushed.

The conversation somehow shifted to Grace’s developing crush on Baylee, but Alyssa found herself only half listening as Izzy described her young daughter’s pre-school love life. Instead, she found herself gazing longingly at Grace, Baylee, and Julian, running around the backyard, involved in some sort of game of tag. Being the only woman at the table who didn’t already have a child made her feel left out in a way. Will I be a mother by this time next year? she wondered as she heard Izzy’s voice far off in her mind.

“She was so funny! The moment I told her that we were going to have a birthday party for her the first words out of her mouth were, ‘Can we invite Baylee?’ I didn’t want to hurt her feelings, but I had to explain to her that Baylee is a lot older than her and might have plans with his friends that are closer to his age. The poor things lip practically started quivering! If Leighanne and Brian didn’t bring Baylee today I think she would’ve thrown the mother of all tantrums.”

“Aren’t they related somewhere down the line too?” Melanie pointed out with a laugh. “Like cousins removed or something? Because that’s a little sick then.”

Izzy laughed. “No, actually they’re not really related because I’m Kevin’s cousin, but not Brian’s. I’m on the other side of the family. So, Grace is cousins with Julian, but not with Baylee if that makes sense.”

“It still sounds kind of wrong,” Melanie snickered.

The three women continued to laugh at the prospect of a future romance developing between Izzy’s daughter and Leighanne’s son, but Alyssa seemed oblivious to the conversation. Instead she was distracted by the rattling of the gate as it was pushed open and she found herself gasping in surprise at the familiar figure that had entered the yard. I had no idea that he was going to be here, she thought to herself.

“Uncle Nick!” she heard Grace’s voice squeal as she ran over to him and threw her arms around his legs.

Alyssa watched for a moment with a small smile on her face as Baylee and Julian also flocked over to him. Nick spent a few minutes talking with the three children and she found herself surprised by the way he seemed to interact so freely with them. Was this really the same man who didn’t want to have kids? He’d make such a great father, she realized as she watched him make a goofy face that made all the children erupt into laughter. She wondered if Shayla was disappointed in his decision or not.

Speaking of Shayla, Alyssa realized that she had yet to appear, making her wonder if Nick had come alone to the party. She watched him as he left the children and headed over to where Brian, Kevin, and a few other people were standing on the patio. The move surprised her a little since she’d expected him to come right over to her. Had it been possible that he hadn’t seen her? There really weren’t that many people in the yard though. She found herself frowning for a moment until she realized what she was doing.

You’re surprised that your ex boyfriend didn’t come over and say hello to you first before two of his best friends? The thought did seem pretty dumb. Why should she care? They were long broken up and with two different people now, so they were now most probably reduced to just casual acquaintances. Still though, he’d been quite friendly with her when they’d met up at Koi. Was that only because he wanted to put on a show for Sean?

She waited for a few minutes, expecting Nick to come over to their table, but instead he got himself a beer from the cooler and continued to talk with Brian and Kevin. The minutes ticked by and he made no motion of approaching them. Very odd for Nick, she noted.

“Alyssa? Earth to Alyssa?” Izzy waved her hands in front of her eyes. “You’ve been way too quiet all of a sudden. Are you okay?”

Alyssa snapped her eyes away from the three men and refocused her attention on Izzy. “Sorry,” she quickly apologized. “I’m fine.”

“Are you sure honey?” Leighanne asked in a concerned voice. “Your face is so pale you look like you’ve seen a ghost.”

Maybe I have, she cynically thought to herself, before directing the inevitable question at Izzy. “How come you didn’t tell me that Nick was coming?”

Nick stood rooted to his spot, sipping his beer, as he listened to Brian and Kevin talk. He hadn’t seen much of the guys since the Unbreakable tour had wrapped up, so there was plenty to talk about although Nick had to admit he was only half paying attention. One eye was on Kevin and Brian, nodding his head as if he were genuinely interested in what they were saying, but the other kept sneaking glances at Alyssa sitting in the corner of the yard at a patio table with Izzy, Leighanne, and Melanie. He’d noticed the surprised expression on her face from the moment he walked into the yard, but he purposely hadn’t gone over to her since he’d arrived. After much thought about how to handle seeing her again, he’d decided not to make himself appear to eager by immediately swooping down on her. He’d been the one to approach her the last time they’d met up at Koi a few weeks prior. He didn’t want to make it seem like she was the only reason he’d came to the party. He was only looking for a friendship and he was afraid that if he did acknowledge her right away, she’d get the wrong idea.

Nick’s plan was simple. He intended to continue to avoid her until finally she came over to him. Yea… It did seem a little juvenile, but he wanted to make sure that she was interested enough to resume a friendship with him. It was a two way street, and he didn’t want to make a fool out of himself by being the only one working at resurrecting things. If she approached him, it would give Nick the indication that she still cared about him enough to at least be friends and that she was definitely no longer angry with him. So far it seemed to be working like a charm. He could tell just by a few glances in Alyssa’s direction that she was confused as to why he hadn’t come over to her. The bewildered look on her face caused Nick to estimate that she’d probably approach him in a few more short minutes. The avoidance trick to get a women’s attention was something that he hadn’t used in a long time, but he’d mastered it well in his early years. It had never failed him yet.

“So Nick how’s the label thing going?” Kevin asked him, interrupting his thoughts. Even after he’d left the group, Nick had to admit that Kevin seemed to still have the ability to tell exactly when he started to zone out and pull him back in again.

“It’s going really good,” he started to explain. “I mean it’s a slow process, but things are beginning to come together. My first artist is just about ready to begin recording and I have two others right behind.” He went on to describe the artists that he was currently working with and how he was currently still scouting out other possible artists which was proving to be the most arduous task for him. “If I have to listen to one more bad demo tape I think I might scream…”

His voice trailed off as he noticed Alyssa stand up from her spot at the table out of the corner of his eye. He smirked to himself as he saw that she was heading in his direction. Keeping his cool he continued to babble on. “I mean you’d be surprised with how many rich kids who have no talent book studio time to record a demo. I guess they think since they have money they can buy talent? All I know is that finding potential artists is a lot harder than I expected it to be.”

He had just finished his sentence as Alyssa approached the three of them. “Excuse me. I’m sorry to interrupt you guys, but I just wanted to say a quick hello. I completely forgot to come by when I first walked in.” Nick watched as she greeted both Brian and Kevin with a hug and a kiss, but seemed to ignore him. Is my plan backfiring? he wondered.

His face must have given him away because Alyssa turned her attention to him. “Oh, and Nick! I can’t believe I didn’t even notice you walked in! Izzy didn’t even mention to me that you were coming.” It was a complete lie, minus the part about Izzy not mentioning Nick had been invited, but Alyssa figured that he didn’t need to know that.

Bullshit, Nick thought to himself, completely seeing through her. That’s why you kept looking over here the moment I walked into the yard. “It was kind of a last minute invitation,” he explained, trying to remain aloof.

Alyssa peered over his shoulder. “Is Shayla with you?”

Nick smirked, knowing fully well that Alyssa had noticed Shayla’s absence the moment he’d walked in. “No, she has some work thing to do.” It was a half truth. Shayla was supposed to be covering some movie premiere that night. He just hadn’t mentioned that he was attending Grace’s birthday party and that Alyssa would be there. “Where’s Sean?”

“Lakers game,” she replied. “A friend of his managed to score some tickets to the game tonight, so they’re having a guy’s night.”

“Nice…” The conversation fell a little flat for a moment. “Can I get you anything? Do you want a beer or something?”

Alyssa just shook her head. “No thank you. Can’t have any alcohol.”

No alcohol? Nick’s eyes widened. If she couldn’t drink that could only mean one thing… He hadn’t expected to be confronted with this, but he wanted to kick himself for not considering it. She had told him that she and Sean had been trying. He swallowed hard. “Wow… I guess congratulations are in order. I know that you’ve been trying, but I’m really surprised it happened so fast. I –“

“What are you talking about Nick?” she asked him with a frown.

Nick could already feel his face redden. “You know… You’re pregnant right? Last time we talked, you and Sean were uhh trying to have a baby…”

Just by the painful look that crossed her face, Nick knew that he couldn’t be more wrong. He grimaced at his blunder. “I guess I was wrong… I’m sorry about that.”

“Don’t be,” she assured him. “It was an honest mistake. To my knowledge I’m not pregnant yet, but since I am trying I’m playing it safe and avoiding alcohol. That’s what I meant when I said I can’t have any.”

He wasn’t sure if it was his imagination, but he could swear that there was a lot less excitement in his ex girlfriend’s voice than there had been a few weeks prior. “So uhh how is it going?” he awkwardly asked. “You guys are still trying?” Again he winced at the way the question had come out of his mouth. Nice Carter… Why don’t you just come right out and ask her how her sex life is?

Luckily Alyssa took the comment lightheartedly. She laughed at his obvious embarrassment. “I think that’s a little bit of a personal question to be asking your ex girlfriend, huh?”

Nick uncomfortably shifted from side to side. “You’re right. I’m sorry I asked. That was inappropriate.”

Sensing the awkwardness of the situation, Alyssa felt guilty. She hadn’t intended to come off like a bitch or anything like that. Giving him a weak smile, she broke the silence. “If you must know though, yes we are still trying. It’s just taking a little more time than expected, but it’ll happen.”

Nick still didn’t buy the false conviction in her voice, but let the subject drop. Instead he took a deep breath and mustered up the courage to suggest what needed to be done. “Listen I think the both of us have a lot of things that we need to say to each other that we couldn’t necessarily say in front of Shayla and Sean, so maybe we should go inside somewhere so that we can talk?”

Alyssa was taken back by his suggestion. Where did that come from? she wondered. Since bumping into Nick a few weeks earlier, she hadn’t really felt that they needed to have a serious conversation about their past together. She thought that it was pretty obvious where they were in their lives at the moment. So, why bring up the past now? Especially when she’d long ago decided to forgive and forget Nick for cheating on her. She now realized that maybe it was meant to be. She was definitely very happy with Sean, and if it weren’t for her breakup with Nick she’d have never moved down to North Carolina, and never met Sean. But maybe it was different for Nick. He’d never been one who would voluntarily face conflict, so just by him suggesting they talk Alyssa got the sense that this was important to him. Maybe it would be good to clear the air between the two of them. “All right,” she agreed. “If you want to talk, we’ll talk. I’m sure Izzy won’t mind if we sit in the living room where it’s quieter.”

Nick just nodded and they both headed inside the house through the sliding glass doors. There was a tense silence in the air as they both uncomfortably settled themselves onto the living room couch. Nick was the first one to break the silence with small talk. “So, are you still teaching? I never got around to asking you that the last time I saw you.”

Alyssa nodded. “I taught second grade for two years down in North Carolina and now I’m teaching third and fourth grade special ed here in California.”

“That’s a big change huh? Must be tough working with special ed students,” he commented.

She shrugged. “It’s challenging, but not as scary as it sounds. Everyone has this stigma about special education. As soon as you hear the words you think mentally retarded or behavior problems, but that’s completely inaccurate. I have learning disabled students and they’re the sweetest things. Once in a while they act out, but it’s mostly because they are frustrated that they’re learning at a slower pace than a normal third or fourth grader. Instead of multiplication, we’re still struggling with addition and subtraction. It’s not so bad though because they’re about the same level as my second graders were, so I can reuse a lot of things I did with them. And it’s nice only having eleven students instead of twenty-five. It just takes a lot of patience and you have to move a lot slower, but they pick up at their own speed.”

Nick just nodded. “That makes sense.” He’d forgotten how passionate Alyssa was about teaching and the way her eyes seemed to light up when she was talking about her career. He finally could understand that the way that she felt about her students was the same way that he felt about his music.

The conversation seemed to fall flat at that moment and Nick realized that since he was the one who suggested that they talk, he should be the one to get the ball rolling. “I’m just going to cut to the chase and say what’s on my mind,” he started off. “Seeing you again at Koi a few weeks ago stirred up a lot of old memories in me.” Noticing the startled look on Alyssa’s face he quickly held up her hand to allow himself to keep speaking. “Before you get all worried trust me, it wasn’t really romantic memories. I understand that you are with Sean now and I’m with Shayla and you seem really happy. So in no way is this me trying to squeeze my way back into your heart. That ship has sailed and I think it’s pretty obvious that we’ve both moved on. Still, situations like this, where we’re bound to cross paths are inevitable and they’re going to happen. I just don’t want things to be awkward or anything between us. I don’t want us to have to purposely ignore each other or anything like that.”

“Nick… I don’t find that things are awkward at all. You’re right. Our ship has sailed, but maybe it was meant to work out this way.” Alyssa took a deep breath prepared to give him the speech that she had rehearsed so many times in her head for exactly this occasion. “No offense, but I think breaking up with you was probably the best decision of my life. I know that sounds cold, but at that point in my life I was a mess. I looked in the mirror and I hated what I saw looking back at me. After all that shit that happened in Australia, it knocked what little self confidence I had in myself completely down. It wasn’t until after Grace was born I realized that I needed to make some major changes in my life in order for me to be happy. I moved down to North Carolina, got a steady teaching job, and I met Sean. But you know what? At first I was so doubtful about myself and afraid of rejection that I almost destroyed my relationship with Sean before it even began. Luckily Sean is the type of guy that saw through all that and once I finally got up the nerve to confess the way I felt, he helped me work through my issues. Thanks to him I’m a much stronger and more confident person. For the first time in my life I feel comfortable in my own skin and being able to let go like that is such an amazing feeling. I just wish it was something that I could’ve done earlier on.”

As he listened to her confession, Nick found himself feeling increasingly guilty. It made him feel ashamed that in as many ways as he’d opened her up to new experiences; he’d also in the end been the one to completely break her. I don’t even deserve her friendship, he realized, and for the first time he began to have second thoughts. Could he and Alyssa possibly ever go back to being at the least friends? “I’m so sorry for the things I did,” he tried to apologize. “I’m not going to make excuses for my behavior because I was really stupid back then. I never intended to hurt you that way and I’m sorry that I put you through all that. I know an apology is too little too late, but I really hope that you can find it in your heart to forgive me.”

Alyssa’s reaction was not at all what Nick had anticipated. Instead of throwing her arms around him or even getting mad that he’d even have the audacity to ask for forgiveness, she did the strangest thing. She laughed. She freakin laughed! It seemed completely out of place to Nick. “Oh, I’ve forgiven you a long time ago!” she replied. “See, the old me would’ve held a lifelong grudge against you and would’ve plotted a thousand and one revenge fantasies, but now that just seems juvenile. Life’s too short to be angry. I think what happened was for the best. We didn’t work out and I met Sean. He’s who I think I’m meant to be with. I’m happy now with him and that’s all that matters, right?”

“Yea,” Nick echoed sadly. As dumb as it seemed he didn’t like the idea of Alyssa being with another man. But you have Shayla, he reminded himself. Still though the thought brought no consolation. Although he’d had relationships with many women throughout his lifetime, in his mind he only liked to think of Alyssa with him. He knew it was a double standard, but he couldn’t help thinking that way. For the first time a horrific thought fleeted across his mind. Are you only with Shayla because she’s a second choice next to Alyssa? Maybe resuming a friendship wasn’t such a great idea to begin with.
As if she were reading his mind, Alyssa immediately zeroed in on the doubt in his voice. “And you’re happy with Shayla too, right?”

“Yea… I mean we’ve kind of been going through some stuff lately, but so does every couple,” he explained, trying to mask the hesitation in his voice. He smirked. “Actually I guess I can blame you for that.”

“Me?” Alyssa’s eyebrows arched in surprise. “What did I do?”

“After we had dinner with you and Sean at Koi and you announced that you and Sean were trying to have a baby, Shayla decided that now she wants one. Personally, I don’t think she’s really ready to have one. Neither am I right now. With Shayla though, it’s more like I think she wants a child just for the glory of being a ‘mother.’ I don’t think she realizes that a baby isn’t like some designer purse that she can cart around on her arm.” He paused for a moment. “I haven’t told anyone that this was going on.”

“Ahh… I see.” It all began to make sense to Alyssa. The couple’s strange behavior when she had blurted out the news of her and Sean’s decision to try and have a child was clearly because the issue was very fresh in their minds. “I’m sorry about that,” she apologized. “I should’ve kept my mouth shut.”

“Not your fault,” Nick insisted. “You didn’t know.”

“Well, just so you know I wasn’t lying when I said you’d make a great father Nick. So, if that’s what’s holding you back, please don’t let it.”

Nick sighed. “It’s a lot of things. It’s just a complicated situation, but we’re working on a compromise. That’s the secret to a healthy marriage, right?”

“Or so they say,” she replied.

“I missed you Alyssa,” Nick confessed, seemingly out of nowhere. “Not in a romantic way, but as a friend. You’ve always given me such good advice. You always manage to pull my head out of my ass when I’m acting like an asshole.”

Not sure how to respond to that, Alyssa decided to go with a joke. “Well, it’s a dirty job, but someone has to do it.”

“Seriously though… We’ve shared so much together, both good and bad and I feel like we have a really strong bond. I was just hoping that maybe we could actually be friends. I know that the friend thing kind of backfired on us the last time we tried it, but it’s different now. We’re both in very solid relationships, so I think that we can pull it off. I just don’t want you to be a stranger to me.”

Alyssa slowly nodded as if she were in deep thought. “I was trying to explain this to Sean because I think he was a little upset that I was so friendly with you at Koi.”

“Sean was jealous of me?” Nick interrupted; secretly a little delighted with the idea.

“Not exactly jealous per say, but he couldn’t understand why I wasn’t giving you the cold shoulder. Sometimes I think that because of his age he doesn’t always the think the same way that I do just yet,” she explained.

“Exactly how old is Sean anyway?” he asked warily. He’d had his suspicions that Sean was younger, but he wasn’t exactly sure how young.

“He’s twenty-six.”

Nick smirked. “Twenty-six, eh? That makes you a cougar.” He laughed, finding the thought pretty funny.

“Shut up… It’s only two years, besides not like you’ve never robbed the cradle before. If I remember correctly Stephanie was only sixteen when you hooked up with her.”

For a moment Nick inwardly cringed at the mention of Stephanie’s name. She’d been on the main reasons they’d broken up in the first place. Finally having the nerve to look at the expression on Alyssa’s face he was relieved to find her smiling. If she can joke about that she really has changed, he realized. “Okay… So I walked right into that one,” he admitted. “On a more serious note though, how are things between the two of you?”

Alyssa just shrugged and looked away, not comfortable with the topic of her estranged relationship with her younger sister. “We don’t talk. She came to my wedding, but more because I was obligated to invite her.”

Nick frowned. “But you forgave me and not her? I thought you didn’t hold grudges anymore?”

“Blood is thicker than water,” she simply replied. “She’s my family and for a member of my family to do that to me is simply unforgivable. She knew better.” Seeing the torn expression on Nick’s face she immediately tried to ease his guilt. “It’s all right Nick. I’m better off without her in my life. If you can’t trust your family who can you trust? She’s always been the black sheep.”

Not wanting to press the topic any further, he changed the subject. “So what were you trying to explain to Sean?”

“Oh yea…” Alyssa remembered her original point of the conversation. “I was telling Sean that as much as he doesn’t like to think about it, you and I had a very serious relationship at one point in our lives, and because of that relationship we share a very special connection. Even though the relationship is dead and buried we’re tied to each other in certain ways. You were the first guy I’ve ever really loved and I think I’d like to say that even though things didn’t work out between us, that we can still be a part of each other’s lives. Not many people can say that they are still on speaking terms with their first love. I admit that the old me wouldn’t have been able to do it. But we’re both different people now and I think that we can handle it.”

Nick’s lips lifted up in a smile. “So that means we’re friends?”

“Friends,” she repeated. Nick was so overjoyed with her response that he enveloped her in a hug. The embrace was tense at first, but Alyssa slowly found herself relaxing in his arms. It was a very different sensation, hugging him as not a lover, but a friend, yet not totally alien to her either.

Neither one of them noticed the sliding glass doors opening until they heard Grace’s voice interrupting them. “Mommy sent me in to get you ‘cause we’re gonna open presents now,” the toddler announced. “She also said that I should check on you and make sure that you are okay.”

“Thanks Gracie,” Alyssa told her, sliding out of Nick’s embrace. “We’ll be right out.”

Grace still stood rooted to her spot eyeing the two of them suspiciously. Alyssa could practically see the wheels turning in her little head. Before either of them could ask her what was wrong, she blurted out, “Aunt Alyssa? Are you and Uncle Nick boyfriend and girlfriend?”

The question threw both of them for a loop as they both stared at each other in bewilderment, neither one of them wanting to approach this one. “What makes you ask that sweetheart?” Alyssa asked. “And how do you know about boyfriends and girlfriends?”

“Wellll… The two of you were hugging and you were in here for a pretty long time!” the child innocently explained.

Alyssa exchanged another glance with Nick trying to hold in her laughter. “Uncle Nick and I are very good friends and we haven’t seen each other in a long time, so we came inside so that we could talk and get caught up again. You can be friends with a boy and not be their girlfriend. Your friends with Baylee and you’re not his girlfriend, right?”

“Bad example,” Nick snickered.

“No, Mommy says that Baylee thinks I’m too young to be his girlfriend, but maybe when I get older, like six, he’ll change his mind.”

Alyssa just laughed at her goddaughter. “Well, it’s okay to be friends with boys and sometimes you hug your friends, especially when you haven’t seen each other in a long time. But honey, Uncle Nick and I are definitely not going out. Don’t you remember Uncle Sean? I’m married to him, so he’s my boyfriend.”

“And Aunt Shayla is my girlfriend,” Nick chimed in.

“Ohhh yea…” Grace finally seemed to realize. “Sorry. I forgot about that.”

“It’s okay sweetie,” Alyssa assured her. “Now let’s head outside because I know that I bought you a really cool present that I can’t wait for you to open up.”

“Okay!” The toddler went bounding out the door ahead of Nick and Alyssa.

“That was officially awkward,” Alyssa announced trying to still hold back laughter. “Where did she even get that idea? Izzy would never have told her that we even used to date.”

“You know what they say. Out of the mouth of babes,” Nick just responded with a lopsided grin.
Chapter 6 - Rise and Fall by Mellz Bellz
Author's Notes:

Alyssa overhears a very personal song written by Nick.

Chapter 6 – Rise and Fall

Although their last encounter at Grace’s birthday party had ended on a positive note, with both Alyssa and Nick exchanging numbers and making promises to keep in touch, Alyssa had yet to make any motion to contact Nick a few weeks later. She definitely didn’t harbor any pent up animosity towards her ex boyfriend, but on the same note she didn’t exactly feel that they were at the phase where she could call him up and invite him out to grab a bite or eat anything either. She’d agreed to a friendship with him, but in her eyes she saw him as the kind of friend who if she bumped into she could talk to, but not the type that she’d really hang out with just yet. Based upon their tumultuous past, Alyssa wasn’t sure if a close friendship would be the best idea, so she intended to keep things strictly casual for the time being. If a closer friendship were to develop between them over time then that would be one thing, but for now Alyssa was perfectly content with their current state.

Instead of harping upon where her friendship with Nick might lead, Alyssa decided to focus her energy and concentrate on another friendship of hers that had been sort of floundering in the last few months. Since moving to California, getting settled into her new life, and trying to get pregnant, she hadn’t been as great as she should have been with keeping up with all of her friends. About two weeks after Grace’s party, she’d received an excited e-mail from Teri announcing that she and Howie had just gotten engaged. Alyssa had felt a bit guilty since she really hadn’t seen or talked much to Teri since her marriage to Sean and she realized that she missed her bluntness and sense of humor. She realized that they definitely needed to hang out, but fitting it in turned out to be a more difficult task than she had realized. Special education required a lot more paperwork than Alyssa had been used to and with annual reviews coming up right around the corner to suggest where her students should be placed the following school year and what services they should receive, she’d been pretty swamped with work. Finally with the arrival of her spring recess from school, she’d found the time to contact Teri and properly congratulate her.

Thankfully Teri had been pretty understanding and had suggested they make plans to hang out since it had been a while. In fact, she invited Alyssa to come with her to look at wedding dresses the following morning. Alyssa was honored and had eagerly accepted, looking forward to seeing her friend again after such a long time.

It was weird, but the women of the Backstreet family seemed to be divided up among two camps. On one end you had Melanie, Leighanne, and Izzy who were all now mothers and definitely on the more conservative side, and on the other Tricia and Teri who were much more free spirited and not afraid to speak their mind. Strangely enough, Alyssa had always seemed to dangle in the middle of the two groups depending on her mood. Lately in some ways she seemed to have more in common with Melanie, Leighanne, and Izzy since getting married, but the whole not having a child thing definitely made her an outsider at times in the group, especially recently. There were definitely things that she felt like she could talk about more comfortably with Teri and Tricia, since she hadn’t met a topic yet that they had found too taboo to discuss. Even though she’d known the two of them for a much shorter time than she’d known Izzy, she sometimes felt more comfortable confiding personal information with them.

So Alyssa found it a relief to be hanging out with Teri again. She’d desperately missed the days of uninhibited conversation. As they searched through racks and racks of wedding gowns, Alyssa realized that Teri valued her opinion since she herself had gone through the whole wedding gown search not too long ago. “Do you have any idea what you’re looking for?” she asked her friend, trying her best to assist her.

“Sort of… I want something very sleek and simple, but still sexy,” Teri explained. “You know I’m not exactly the ‘princess gown’ type. I don’t need too much decoration and beading and crap either. I kind of have a picture in my head of what I want.”

Alyssa nodded, knowing exactly what she meant. “They say that once you see it, you know it’s the one and I found that to be true with my wedding dress at least.”

“What did your dress look like?” she curiously asked. “Since I never got to see it.”

Alyssa’s face floated off into a far away expression as she recalled the description of the dress she’d only just worn a few months ago. “It was kind of princess-like I guess. I know not your style, but you know me. I’m a total girly girl. Strapless with a beaded top and an empire waist and sort of flowy, but not really poofy. And of course I had a ridiculously long train and my veil was attached to a tiara. It was really nice.”

Teri made a face. “Not exactly my style at all, but it sounds like it probably fit you well.”

“It did. It was one of the few things about my wedding that went exactly how I wanted it to,” she mused. “So, finding the perfect dress is essential.” Alyssa paused for a moment before changing the subject. “Have you and Howie set a date yet?”

Teri nodded. “We decided that we really don’t want anything huge and overblown. We want to get married within the next few months, so we decided on October. It’s six months away, so hopefully it shouldn’t be too stressful. Like I said we don’t want anything crazy anyway.”

“Sounds pretty good to me.” Alyssa focused her attention back to perusing the racks for dresses for Teri to try one. Both women’s styles unfortunately were very different, so most of the time when Alyssa held out a dress for her to try, Teri would wrinkle her nose in disgust. After much persuasion Alyssa finally convinced Teri to try on about three of them, but she could tell her friend wasn’t crazy about any of them. “Don’t feel bad Ter. I must’ve gone to three or four places before finding the dress.”

Her friend just sighed. “At this rate I’m starting to feel like maybe it was easier finding the man than the dress.”

Alyssa just laughed, but continued her browsing until her eyes seemed to land on the perfect dress. Upon closer inspection, Alyssa realized that it just screamed Teri. It was plain, white, silk, strapless with a white sash underneath the bust, and very slinky looking. Its simplicity made it fade into the background among the other dresses, but off the rack it had definite possibilities. Alyssa knew it would look great on Teri’s figure and it fit her personality perfectly. Teri wasn’t a typical bride, so Alyssa couldn’t picture her in a typical wedding gown. It seemed like the perfect choice. “Ooh Teri… Look at this one! It’s positively stunning and just your size too.”

The moment Teri saw the dress her eyes lit up. “Oh my God Alyssa, you’re amazing! It’s perfect! Exactly what I wanted! None of this frilly, bubbly, flowing gowns or anything like that. Just a simple A line dress.”

“Well… Go try it on!” Alyssa urged, already pushing her towards the dressing room.

Teri shook her head. “Not yet. Before I try anything on I want to take a look at some bridesmaid dresses while I’m here.”

“Okay,” she agreed, following her friend towards a display of bridesmaid’s gowns further back in the store. “Any idea what color you want as your theme?”

The future bride pursed her lips for a moment as she looked at the dresses. “I was thinking maybe like a plum color actually. It’s not as traditional as like pink or blue or lilac, so it’ll be very sexy and I want me some sexy bridesmaids!”

Alyssa laughed, remembering exactly why she had missed Teri and her outrageous sense of humor so much. “That sounds perfect actually. Plum will look amazing, especially if it’s an October wedding. It’s a great fall color and like you said it’s a little more bolder than you usually see, which of course completely fits you.”

Teri just nodded. “I want something very sleek like my dress and absolutely no chiffon. God, I think chiffon is tacky! I want the kind of dress that all my bridesmaids are going to like and not be embarrassed to wear. I also want something that is going to look sexy on even if you aren’t a size zero; something that’ll look good on everyone.”

“Good idea. In that case simple is probably better. The color will be enough to make the dress stand out.” Alyssa began to rifle through a selection of dresses about the color of what Teri was looking for.

Teri joined her in her search and a few minutes later she heard her gasp beside her. “I think I found it!” The dress that she had pulled off the rack was simply breathtaking. The deep, rich, purple color of the dress shone brightly against the satin fabric. It bore the same long slinky resemblance to the wedding dress that Alyssa had picked out and had a halter neck with a plunging keyhole neckline which was just low enough to show a bit of cleavage, yet still be considered tasteful.

“Ooh! I love it Ter!” Alyssa exclaimed. “It’s exactly what I pictured in my mind.”

“Try it on.” Teri thrust the dress into her arms.

“Me?” Alyssa’s eyebrows rose in surprise and laughed nervously. “I definitely wasn’t planning on trying any dresses on today. This is your day.”

“Oh, come on!” her friend whined. “I need to see how it looks on somebody, especially somebody who is going to be in my bridal party.”

“You mean you want me in your bridal party?” Alyssa’s mouth hung in shock. She definitely hadn’t expected to be asked to be on of Teri’s bridesmaids, especially since they had grown slightly apart recently. Besides, Alyssa hadn’t even invited her and Howie to her wedding back in July, although the circumstances had been different. “Are you sure?”

“Of course I’m sure!” Teri responded with a roll of her eyes. “You found the perfect wedding dress for me. I’d say that’s a damn good reason to include you. Now go on and try the damn dress!”

Realizing that she was defeated Alyssa finally gave in. The two women headed towards the dressing room and separated into two different stalls, promising to come out and model for each other when they were done. Alyssa quickly got undressed and stepped into the dress that Teri had picked out. The color really did look amazing, especially on her. With her darker complexion, she’d always looked better in darker colors than in lighter ones. She had a feeling that it was exactly what Teri had been looking for.

Her thoughts were interrupted as she heard Teri’s voice from the next stall over. “Do you think that you can help zip me up?”

“Only if you zip me,” Alyssa replied as she stepped out of the door and zipped up the back of her friends dress before turning around so that she could do the same. Finally getting a glimpse of Teri in her wedding dress, Alyssa gasped. “Oh Ter… It’s perfect! It’s so you!”

“You think?” she asked, critically eyeing her appearance in the mirror. “You don’t think it’s like too simple or anything?”

“No way! I love it.” Alyssa answered honestly.

Teri’s face broke out into a look of relief. “Good! Because I do too. I think it’s the one.”

“So go for it,” she advised before turning her attention back to her figure in the three way mirror. The dress was not skin tight, but did cling nicely to her figure. She found herself wondering though how it might look on her by October. The wedding had to be roughly six months away and she was currently trying to get pregnant. Would she be sporting a baby bump by then? And how would it look underneath the dress? Would Teri be one of those brides who would freak out that one of her bridesmaid’s had a belly? She’d heard about some brides who would kick their best friends out of their wedding parties’ only weeks before the wedding because they’d gotten too fat. Without even realizing what she was doing, Alyssa arched her back and attempted to stick out her stomach as far as she could, trying to create the illusion of a baby bump, not thinking about how ridiculous she probably looked.

She was interrupted by Teri’s laughter. “What are you doing Alyssa?” her friend asked, looking at her a little strangely.

“Trying to imagine what this dress will look like if I get pregnant at any point from now until the wedding,” she confessed. “Maybe you shouldn’t have me in the bridal party. I don’t want to ruin your whole ‘sexy bridesmaid image’ and there’s nothing less sexy than an overweight pregnant woman. Besides, it’ll cause you all sorts of headaches because I’d constantly be getting bigger. What if I don’t fit into the dress?”

“Don’t be silly!” Teri insisted. “This is me we’re talking about. Do you honestly think that I’m the type to go all Bridezilla and kick you out of my wedding party because you’re having a baby? Besides even if you got pregnant right this minute the farthest you could be along is like what? Six months? You’ll be big by then, but not huge. You’ll look completely cute. Yea, the dress might be a little bit of a problem, but it can be altered. The important thing is that you’re at my side on my wedding day.”

“Thanks Teri.” Alyssa sighed as she realized how ridiculous she was sounding. Teri had said that she wanted her dress to look good no matter what size her bridesmaids were, probably taking into account the possibility of her being pregnant by the wedding. Plus she knew that Teri wasn’t the type to be so shallow that she’d kick one of her friends out of her bridal party over something so petty. “I’m sorry… You’re right, it’s not as big of a deal as I’m making it into being and at the rate I’m going with trying to get pregnant it won’t be a problem anyway.”

The other woman looked at her sympathetically. “It’s not going so well then I guess, huh?”

Alyssa shrugged. “It’s just a lot harder than I thought it was going to be. I don’t know if Sean and I are doing something wrong or what. All I know is that if I’d known that it was going to be this hard for me to get pregnant I probably wouldn’t have waited as long as I did to finally start having sex,” she joked.

“And then you’d have had no trouble conceiving,” Teri concluded. “It’s just life being cruel I guess. It’ll happen eventually, when it’s supposed to.”

“Yea… That’s what everyone tells me, but it’s kind of hard to be patient and stuff. I think Sean is getting frustrated too.”

“What makes you say that?”

Alyssa took a deep breath. She’d yet to confess this to any of her friends yet. “Like we’re still trying, but now its starting to feel like sex is just something we have to do. It’s like we’re not enjoying each other anymore because we’re just so damn focused on creating a child. It’s like; okay we have like an hour or so to ourselves; guess we better try again. I just feel like we’re trying, trying, trying, and instead of getting closer its driving us closer apart if that makes sense.”

“Well duh honey! It sounds to me like the two of you are just stuck in a bit of rut and need to do something a little out of the ordinary to spice things back up between you. It happens to all couples from time to time. The two of you need to create some one on one time where you’re not worrying about your jobs or trying to have a baby; just where you can focus on each other. I might not be an expert when it comes to babies or anything, but I’m sure that once you stop consciously trying so hard, it’ll happen for the two of you,” Teri advised.

“You do kind of have a point there,” Alyssa admitted with a sigh. “Lately I’ve been very wrapped up in work and I’m up to my ears in meetings and paperwork and grades. I’ve been lucky to squeeze in time for a quickie here and there, but truthfully most of the time I’ve just been too tired. It’s just that whenever we do get a moment, it’s like right down to business. I can barely remember the last time we engaged in any extensive foreplay or anything.”

Teri looked shocked. “No foreplay? Oh no, this is worst then I thought!” Seeing the frightened look on Alyssa’s face, she laughed. “I’m only kidding, sweetie. It’s not a problem that can’t easily be fixed. Here’s what you do. Plan a really romantic evening at home for just the two of you and do something a little extra to surprise him. It sounds like to me that the two of you have just been letting so much other shit get in the way that you’ve forgotten how important it is to make time for each other as well. You’re off from work this week, so you should concentrate on making a real conscious effort to spend some more time with him.”

Alyssa thought about her friend’s advice and just nodded her head. As usual Teri seemed to be dead on. What she said did make a lot of sense. She and Sean had been letting all sorts of other things get in the way of their relationship. Between the fear of him being shipped out to Iraq almost any day, trying to conceive a child, and just the daily stress of work, it was no wonder that things had began to seen forced between them. Maybe she could surprise him when he came home from work that night with a romantic dinner followed by a nice long soak in a bubble bath…“You’re absolutely right Ter,” she told her friend. “I swear I should start paying you.”

Teri just grinned. “I’ll gladly accept any kind of money, but seriously you know how much I love this stuff.” She paused for a moment catching a glimpse of herself in the mirror and realizing that she was still in the wedding dress. “But anyway we should probably get changed, so I can see about ordering these dresses. Then maybe you could stop by for a bit to hang out and stuff.”

“Sounds good to me,” Alyssa agreed before ducking back into the dressing room door. She had to admit that after her talk with Teri she felt ten times better about the current state of her and Sean’s relationship and much less apprehensive about not being able to get pregnant. She had every intention of taking Teri’s advice to heart and devoting her entire evening to Sean.

Little did she realize though that her evening was about to take a very different turn than the one she was currently planning out in her head.

About an hour later, the two women finally pulled up in front of Teri and Howie’s LA home. To make things easier, Alyssa had drove over to Teri’s home first and they’d taken one car to go dress shopping. As Teri put her vehicle in park and shut off the engine, Alyssa had already opened up the passenger door. “Is Howie at home? I want to congratulate him on the engagement.”

Teri glanced at the driveway. “It looks like he is, but there’s another car here too, so he probably has someone over. It’s okay though. I’m sure he won’t mind the interruption.” She also got out of the car and the two of them walked up to the front door and entered the house. Surprisingly it was quiet and there seemed to be no sign of Howie at all. Alyssa followed Teri into the kitchen where the door to the basement was only a few feet away. “He’s probably down in the studio working on something or another,” she explained. “Every now and then he likes to go down there and fool around with some possible songs.”

“Maybe we shouldn’t bother him then.” Alyssa warily gazed at the basement door.

“Nonsense! He’s not working on anything really important anyway. He’ll probably welcome the distraction,” Teri assured her, already pulling open the door in front of them.

With no choice, but to follow her, Alyssa slowly made her way down the stairs behind her friend, but then froze after only a step or two. Teri turned around and looked at her quizzically, but after hearing the voices below them she gave Alyssa a sympathetic look.

“Okay, so let me hear that new song that you wrote that you couldn’t stop talking about,” Howie’s voice could faintly be heard from below them.

“It’s not exactly a new song,” an all too familiar voice tried to explain. “I started writing it like right after the Never Gone tour and then kind of forgot about it. Then a few weeks ago I sort of got some inspiration and picked it back up again. I finally finished it and I really want an opinion on it. I think it’s probably the most personal thing that I’ve ever written.”

“I’m sorry Lyss,” Teri whispered. “I had no clue that was Nick’s car out there.”

“It’s all right,” she assured her, still not knowing what exactly she should do in her current situation. Should she just walk downstairs casually or forget about speaking to Howie altogether? Her and Nick were in a sense cool with each other now, but Alyssa still was unprepared to see him at the moment.

They were interrupted by the sound of Howie’s voice again. “This sudden lack of motivation wouldn’t have to do with seeing a certain person again would it?”

Alyssa gasped when she realized that they were talking about her. She leaned closer to hear Nick’s response. She had to admit that she was now curious to hear this new song that Nick had written. Could she really have been a source of inspiration for Nick?

Nick hesitated for a moment. “In a way yes, but it isn’t a love song. It’s basically a song about fame in general and how it can change a person and lead them to make a lot of stupid mistakes. It’s about pushing the important people out of your life for selfish reasons. Basically it really describes the person I was a few years ago and I guess you can say that it was really influenced by my whole break up with Alyssa. And then when I saw her again it brought back some of those memories strong enough to finish it off.”

Teri tugged on Alyssa’s arm. “He wrote a song about you!” she hissed.

“Not about me, at least not directly,” Alyssa corrected.

“Still… Don’t you want to hear it?”

Alyssa had to admit that she did. Silently she sat down on one of the steps and pulled Teri down with her. Nick’s description definitely intrigued her and she was dying to hear the lyrics. It sounded like maybe he really had grown up and was finally able to look at his past mistakes with regret. Being able to reflect on his wrongdoings definitely took a great deal of maturity and she was anxious to hear how much he had grown.

“Sounds interesting. Let’s hear it,” Howie urged.

There was silence for a moment as Alyssa assumed Nick was probably setting the song up to play. After a moment or two Alyssa could hear Nick’s voice kick in beginning what sounded like the chorus to the song.

Sometimes in life you feel the fight is over,
And it seems as though the writings on the wall,
Superstar you finally made it,
But once your picture becomes tainted,
It's what they call,
The rise and fall

The chorus repeated again and Alyssa was a little surprised when once the chorus kicked in that the song had a bit more of an R&B type feel to it than Nick’s usual more rock influenced sound. The lyrics immediately grabbed her attention though. Combined with the sorrowfulness in his voice, Alyssa found herself drawn into the song immediately.

I always said that I was gonna make it,
Now it's plain for everyone to see,
But this game I'm in don't take no prisoners,
Just casualties,
I know that everything is gonna change,
Even the friends I knew before may go,
But this dream is the life I've been searching for,

Started believing that I was the greatest,
My life was never gonna be the same,
Cause with the money came a different status,
That's when things change,
Now I'm too concerned with all the things I own,
Blinded by all the pretty girls I see,
I'm beginning to lose my integrity

Sometimes in life you feel the fight is over,
And it seems as though the writings on the wall,
Superstar you finally made it,
But once your picture becomes tainted,
It's what they call,
The rise and fall

As the chorus kicked in again, Alyssa realized that this was Nick’s song about his path to fame. About how he had started off in the music business so innocent and naïve, but with the more successes he and the rest of the guys gained, and the more money he made, the more and more temptation that lay out in front of him. She found herself leaning even closer, not wanting to miss a word of the second verse.

I never used to be a troublemaker,
Now I don't even wanna please the fans,
No autographs,
No interviews,
No pictures,
Endless demands,
Gave into vices that were clearly wrong,
The type that seem to make me feel so right,
But some things you may find can take over your life,

Burnt all my bridges now I've run out of places,
And there's nowhere left for me to turn,
Been caught in compromising situations,
I should have learnt,
From all those times I didn't walk away,
When I knew that it was best to go,
Is it too late to show you the shape of my heart,

After hearing the second verse of the song, especially that last part, she could already feel a lump forming in her throat. Clearly this verse addressed his entry into the world of endless partying, alcohol, and random groupies that she had discovered him in about four years ago. It was the second part that struck a particularly unnerving chord with her though. The last five lines had actually given her goose bumps just by the way they seemed to reach out and speak to her directly. There was no doubt in her mind that the “compromising situation” he had been singing about was the moment that Alyssa had found him bursting into his hotel room on the night of his 26th birthday with some trashy Australian fan attached to him. Still the last line puzzled her. Too late to show you the shape of my heart? Alyssa wasn’t sure if it was a direct question posed to her or just a cleverly placed allusion to one of BSB’s popular singles. And if it was, did he mean it in a romantic sense? Or was it something more innocent? Maybe I’m just reading too much into this, she tried to tell herself.

Sometimes in life you feel the fight is over,
And it seems as though the writings on the wall,
Superstar you finally made it,
But once your picture becomes tainted,
It's what they call,
The rise and fall

Now I know,
I made mistakes,
Think I don't care,
But you don't realize what this means to me,
So let me have,
Just one more chance,
I'm not the man I used to be,
Used to be

After the bridge of the song, Alyssa found it nearly impossible to hold back her tears. The song was just brilliant and seemed to explain everything that Nick felt about his past. She now understood exactly why he had told Howie that this was by far his most personal song ever. It seemed to speak directly to her towards the end. She could already feel hot tears stinging her eyelids and afraid that she’d start bawling and give away her presence she stood up and ran back up the stairs, furiously dabbing her cheeks with her fingers. Out of the corner of her eye she noticed Teri giving her a concerned look, but she didn’t follow her. She was smart enough to know that Alyssa needed her space at the moment.

Sometimes in life you feel the fight is over,
And it seems as though the writings on the wall,
Superstar you finally made it,
But once your picture becomes tainted,
It's what they call,
The rise and fall

Rise and Fall by Craig David

Teri appeared back upstairs a minute or two later and approached Alyssa with a reassuring hand on her shoulder. “I’m sorry I made you go downstairs. I should’ve recognized that the car in the driveway was one of Nick’s.”

“It’s not your fault,” Alyssa sniffled. “I’m actually kind of glad that I got to hear the song he wrote. It just kind of hit a little too close to home and I needed some time alone to really process it all I guess.”

“It was a beautiful song,” she remarked. “I have to give Nicky boy credit. I’d never expect something so deep to come out of him.”

Alyssa just nodded. “I think it’ll probably be best if I just go now before Nick realizes I’m here. We’ve kind of agreed to put the past behind us and be friendly with each other, but I don’t think I’m ready to face him right now after hearing that song. I’ll have to find some other time to congratulate Howie.”

“Of course. I should invite you and Sean over to dinner or something some weekend soon,” Teri offered.

“That’ll be great. Just give me a call and we’ll arrange it.” Alyssa grabbed her purse and paused to take out her car keys. She was just about to start to move towards the door when the creaking sound of the basement door made her freeze like a deer in headlights. Shit… This is exactly what I was trying to avoid, she told herself.

Howie was the first to enter the kitchen with Nick lingering a few feet behind him. “I thought I heard voices up here,” he commented, approaching the two women. “How’d the dress shopping go?”

Teri proudly beamed. “Great! I put a deposit on a wedding dress and I decided on the dress I want my bridesmaids to wear. Now I just have to take all of them down to get fitted and stuff.”

“Sounds like it was a successful morning.” Howie’s eyes focused on Alyssa who considering her emotional response to Nick’s song only minutes earlier, appeared very well composed. “How are you doing Alyssa?”

“Good,” she responded, going over to him to give him a hug. “Congratulations on the engagement by the way.”

Howie thanked her and then there was an awkward pause as Alyssa found herself now face to face Nick. Neither one of them seemed quite sure what to say until Nick broke the silence. “I didn’t know that you were going to be over here today,” he finally managed to spill out.

Alyssa shrugged. “I was looking at wedding dresses with Teri. I didn’t know you were going to be here today either.”

“Yea… I just came over to show Howie some stuff that I’ve been fooling around with. I needed some opinions on some new songs I wrote,” he explained as he nervously licked his lips.

Alyssa pretended to act unfazed even though she knew just how important and personal the song that he had shared with Howie had been to him. “That’s sounds pretty cool.”

Getting a sudden burst of confidence, Nick locked his eyes with her. “I haven’t heard from you since Grace’s birthday. I was starting to think that you fell off the face of the earth or something.”

She could feel her cheeks begin to redden. She couldn’t really come up with a good way to explain why she hadn’t called him, so she used the nearest excuse that she could think of. “Sorry about that. I’ve just been super busy the past few weeks with my job. It’s committee meeting season where we have our meetings to determine where the students are going to be placed next year and what their goals are going to be, so I’ve kind of been wrapped up with a ton of paperwork and stuff. I’m on Spring Break now, so it’s the first time in a while that I’ve had to get caught back up with people.”

“Oh wow… That sucks.” Nick grew quiet again before getting another idea. “Hey… I was just thinking. Since we haven’t talked in a few weeks or maybe you’d want to grab some lunch with me? If you have other plans or whatever it’s cool. I just thought it would be nice to hang out together again.”

Alyssa hesitated for a moment. She wasn’t sure if agreeing to go to lunch with him would be that good of an idea, but on the other hand she did feel a tiny bit closer to him after hearing the song she had inspired. Maybe she could summon up the courage to confess to him that she’d eavesdropped on him and Howie and heard it. She was curious to hear what he had to say about it. That and the fact that well, she was hungry. “Sure I guess lunch couldn’t hurt,” she finally agreed.”

She was taken back by the way Nick’s face seemed to light up at her acceptance. He seemed pretty happy considering this was supposed to be just two friends grabbing a casual lunch together. I hope he’s not getting the wrong idea, Alyssa told herself, but then realized she was being silly. Nick was married. Happily married. So there should be no reason to suspect that he could have any interest in Alyssa outside of a friendship, right?
Chapter 7 - So Far From Where We've Been by Mellz Bellz
Author's Notes:

Nick and Alyssa wind up spending an unexpected afternoon together.

Chapter 7- So Far From Where We’ve Been

“So I was completely shit faced and for some reason I decided that it would be a good idea to try hitting on Teri. Now you know how Teri is. She found the whole situation hilarious, so she proceeds to purposely flirt back just to make me look like a bigger fool than I already looked like. So she was all over me on purpose just to be a tease and make me look like a bigger asshole than I already seemed. To everyone else it was apparently really funny, but unfortunately for me Howie didn’t see things that way. Naturally he completely misinterpreted the situation thinking I was trying to take his woman from him and next thing I know he’s going all Puerto Rican on my ass and he just decked me. I swear I didn’t even see it coming! But the most embarrassing part was that he actually left quite the nasty bruise on my temple. We had to lie and tell everyone that I was attacked by a group of rabid fans. Then I felt horrible once I found out that fans were getting upset with each other thinking that I was pretty much mauled by a pack of screaming girls. The rest of the guys will never let me live that one down!”

“Howie hit you? Sweet, mild mannered, peaceful, little Howie?” Alyssa asked in disbelief, trying her hardest not to laugh. Her and Nick were in the midst of eating their lunch at a popular diner in downtown LA. Since they’d arrived conversation had flowed surprisingly well between the former couple with Nick doing most of the talking, retelling some of his most recent outrageous experiences like the story he had just finished. Alyssa had to admit that she was relieved for the relaxed atmosphere and the lighthearted conversation. It was almost starting to feel like nothing had changed between the two of them, all romantic feelings put aside.

“I swear to God!” Nick insisted, crossing his heart. “I’ve seen him so pissed in my life. It’s true what they say about those Latin tempers. I’m just thankful that he didn’t try to knife me!”

Just the image of Howie wielding a switchblade in Nick’s direction was enough to make Alyssa completely lose control of her laughter. She gasped for breath as she tried to quiet her giggles. “I think I’m going to have to ask Howie about this one because I still think you’re pulling my leg. I know how you love to make up stories.”

Nick just shrugged and pretended to look hurt. “Fine. Don’t believe me,” he sniffed. “But it did happen!” He paused for a moment and then turned serious. “Anyway I’ve done enough talking. It’s your turn now. You usually have some pretty interesting stories about the children you work with.”

“I don’t know Nick… That last story was a pretty tough act to follow. I just don’t know if I have anything that competes with Howie kicking your ass.”

“Hey he did not kick my ass!” he corrected. “And c’mon you have to have something. It’s been a while since I’ve heard a good puke story.”

Alyssa bit her lip a smirk already forming on her lips. “Well, I could tell you about the time that one of my fourth grade girls got her period for the first time during class and had no idea what has happening to her. I had to pull her aside and have a talk that I really had hoped I wouldn’t have had to have until much later on in life with my own kids. But I’m sure that’s not exactly what you were looking for, huh?”

She watched in delight as a disgusted look washed over Nick’s face as he inched his plate away from him. “Eww… Yea I definitely just lost my appetite. You have to give me something better than that. What about any really bad date stories? You had to have had a few before you met Sean right?”

“Well… I did sort of do the whole internet dating site thing when I first moved to North Carolina,” she admitted. “I was alone in a new state and I didn’t know anyone, so I had to start somewhere. And that was pretty interesting… Met some very uhm unique men and that’s putting it nicely.”

“Now we’re talking.” Nick rubbed his hands together, looking eager to hear more.

“Hmm… “Alyssa looked thoughtful. “Well, first there was the professional peer bong player.”

“You mean it’s actually like an official sport? I thought it was just some lame drinking game played at college frat parties.”

Alyssa just nodded. “Apparently there is actually an American Beer Pong Association out there somewhere complete with their own annual World Series of Beer Pong held where else but Sin City itself, Las Vegas. I only know this because this guy happened to be in training for this very prestigious event.”

“Training?” Nick almost laughed out loud. “How the hell do you train for beer pong?”

“He’d enter all these tournaments at local bars to practice,” she explained. “Every night of the week he had a different bar he’d go to. He told me that he could easily make five hundred a week just from playing beer pong, but I didn’t buy it. Nor did I buy him offering to take me back to his apartment after our first date to ‘teach me how to play’.”

“He actually thought that would work?” This time Nick did little to hide his laughter. “Teach you how to play, my ass! More like how to teach you how to play underneath the sheets.”

Alyssa rolled her eyes. “Exactly the reason why I graciously turned him down and then never called him again. That and the fact that I was kind of looking for a man with a more permanent career in mind.”

“The only game he had in mind involved a completely different set of balls.” Nick smirked not being able to resist the perverted comment the moment he thought of it.

“Nickolas!” Alyssa gasped, pretending to be shocked, but was laughing so hard on the inside that she could feel her face actually begin to redden. “Guess some things never change. I can always depend on your mind to be in the gutter.”

“Well, I didn’t want to disappoint you,” he replied, completely straight faced. “I wouldn’t be me without a dirty mind.”

“Point well taken.” She paused before continuing on. “Then there was the shy guy. Shy guy was actually very nice, but the problem was that he was so shy that he’d only reply in monosyllables. Everything was yes, no, okay, cool, great etc. It made upholding a conversation a real bitch and a half. After coming from our date with a sore throat because I had to do all the talking, I kind of figured there really wasn’t much of a future there.”

“Yea… I could see how that could get to be just a little bit of a problem.”

“Then there was the angry guy who again seemed perfect, but halfway through the date he cursed out our waiter because he bought him French fries instead of a baked potato. We never made it to the movie because he got into it with another guy in the parking lot because the guy stole his parking spot. When I chimed in to remind him that he didn’t have his signal on he turned on me and you know I don’t put up with that shit. I left him there and took a cab home.”

“But the biggest asshole award goes to the guy who actually turned around to me point blank and asked very seriously, ‘Say we’re in a relationship and one night you don’t feel up to having sex. Would you be cool with just blowing me and cuddling afterwards? Or are you the type who only gives it to get it?’ I swear to God Nick, I think my jaw must’ve hit the floor. My only reaction was like what the fuck?”

Even Nick looked shocked by that last story. “Yea really… No wonder this guy is relying on an internet dating service to meet women. It’s probably the only way he gets laid.”

“If he gets laid,” Alyssa corrected. “I don’t know if there’s any woman that would work on.”

“You’d be surprised. Trust me,” Nick responded. “But seriously it’s definitely not the right kind of question to be asking any woman, especially you.”

Alyssa frowned. “What’s that supposed to mean?” she asked in a voice that sounded slightly insulted.

Oh no… Now you’ve done it, Nick chastised himself as soon as the words left her mouth. The comment had seemed innocent enough at first, but the more he thought about it, the more he realized how hurtful Alyssa might view it as. Hadn’t she nearly broken his nose the last time he’d made a comment about what he was hinting at now? He decided that the best course of action would be to play it off like he hadn’t meant it the way it had came out. “Nothing… Nothing at all.”

She looked doubtful. “That’s why you were so quick to answer and you look guilty as sin?”

Nick sighed once he realized that he was not going to be getting out of this one too easily. What a shame when things were going so smoothly, he thought. Leave it to me to fuck things up. Taking a deep breath he blurted out, “It’s just that you aren’t exactly the type to just hand out blowjobs for the hell of it… At least you weren’t.” He grimaced at how badly that had come out and braced himself for what he was certain was going to be a very angry response from Alyssa.

He did not just go there, Alyssa found herself thinking to herself in disbelief. Her first instinct was to tell him off for making such an asshole comment like that. She could already feel the rage beginning to ball up inside of her, but before she could explode and say something she regretted, a voice in her head immediately instructed her to calm down. Nick was probably expecting her to blow up at him. That’s exactly how the Alyssa of a few years ago would’ve reacted. But now that she was a woman, she wasn’t supposed to blow up at dumb things like that. Instead she decided to give him the completely opposite reaction. A slow grin grew over her face. “You’re right,” she answered. “I wasn’t that type of girl. But things can change over time, right?”

She couldn’t help but to grin wider in satisfaction as she saw the unexpected expression on Nick’s face. She almost laughed at the way his mouth actually hung open in shock. Not being able to resist teasing him a little, she playfully thrust a pile of napkins in his direction. “Here. I think you might need these because if you keep your mouth like that you’re going to start drooling in like two seconds.”

“Very funny,” Nick responded with a pout finally finding his voice again. He didn’t even have a moment to think about a clever retort before their waitress appeared at their table and dropped their check on the table in front of them. Trying to avoid further embarrassment he reached for it before Alyssa could even offer to pay for her half. It was the least he could do after practically sticking his whole foot in his mouth.

About ten minutes later the former couple found themselves out in the diner parking lot both reluctantly lingering near their vehicles. Lunch was well over by now and there was no reason for either of them to stick around, but still they awkwardly stood there, neither one of them quite wanting to leave just yet. Their meal had gone extraordinarily well and both Nick and Alyssa were a little surprised by the outcome. They’d expected plenty of awkwardness and sheepish apologies on both sides, but it had been just the opposite. In fact there had been no real mention of the past they’d shared period. Just two friends, joking around, and teasing each other.

Nick was the first one to break the awkward silence. “So, do you have anything special planned for later on today?”

Alyssa just shrugged. “Not really… I was just going to go home and relax a little bit. I’m on vacation this week, so I’m trying to enjoy it as much as I can. Sean comes home from work about fiveish, so I’m going to try to spend a little quality time with him. We’ve both been so busy lately that I feel like we barely see each other. What about you?”

Nick nodded, trying not to make a face when Alyssa mentioned the phrase ‘quality time.’ “I’m off to run some errands right now. Shayla’s birthday is coming up next week and I still have to pick up a present for her. I have no clue what to get her. Any suggestions?”

“Hmm…” Alyssa bit her lip, appearing deep in thought. “That’s tough, especially because I don’t know her very well. I’ve only met her like what? Twice maybe?”

“Thanks for the help,” he responded, rolling his eyes.

Alyssa’s eyes twinkled in amusement. “Well, I do know one thing she’d love, but you’re not too keen on the idea in the first place, so I guess we can toss that one out the window.”

Nick’s brow furrowed in confusion for a moment. “What do you mean?” Then it hit him and he realized what Alyssa was hinting at. “Oh no! Although I’m sure that nothing would make Shayla happier than me telling her I changed my mind about the whole baby situation, it would be a complete lie.”

“Haven’t you even been considering it?” she asked curiously.

“Not really,” Nick admitted. “I just can’t picture the two of us raising children together. I like kids and all, but I also like the fact that I can always hand them off to their real parents when I get tired of them. Maybe I’m just not father material.”

Alyssa strongly disagreed with his last statement, but didn’t say anything. She knew Nick well enough to know that the real reason he didn’t want kids was because of his own childhood. His parents had screwed him up so much, that he lived in fear of fucking up his own children in the very same way. Maybe with a stronger woman he’d be able to overcome that fear, but with Shayla who seemed more interested in a career than raising a child, it only added more anxiety to the situation. Still she was curious to play devil’s advocate for a little bit. “What if hypothetically Shayla were to become pregnant down the road? You more than anyone know sometimes these things do happen unplanned.”

Nick just shrugged. “Then I guess I’d just have to deal with it in the same way I dealt with it with Katie. If it’s meant to be then it’ll happen. I just don’t want to plan on it.”

Alyssa just nodded. His theory made sense. As she was learning firsthand, sometimes planning to have a child was way more stressful than just letting it happen naturally. “That’s smart. A lot of times you can’t plan on these things. It’s a lot harder than you’d think.”

For a moment Nick looked at her quizzically, puzzled by her cryptic message. He knew that Alyssa and Sean had supposedly been trying to have a child since January, and so far their efforts seemed to have failed. He began to wonder if maybe perhaps there was a bigger problem going on then what he was aware of. Was this Alyssa’s way of telling him that she maybe couldn’t get pregnant?

He knew from experience though that a topic so personal was not something he could pry out of her. His best bet was to drop it for now and in due time Alyssa would share it with him when she felt comfortable enough to do so. Changing the subject, he refocused the conversation on his dilemma of finding Shayla the perfect birthday gift. “Well, I’m back at square one with this birthday gift idea…” Suddenly a light bulb seemed to go off on his head. “Hey! Since you’re not doing anything this afternoon, would you mind coming with me to help pick something out? I really could use a woman’s opinion.” For extra emphasis he even added a little pout.

Alyssa laughed at his pathetic expression. “How can I say no to a face like that? I guess I could go with you.” She really couldn’t think of any real excuse not to.

“Thank you!” Nick replied. “I was thinking we could take my car and on the way back I’ll swing by here so you can pick up your car. Sound good?”

“Sure,” Alyssa agreed, not finding any problem with his plan. A few minutes later she found herself sitting in the passenger seat of his Escalade, almost confused as how a simple lunch date between friends had resulted in her going shopping with her ex boyfriend to find his wife a birthday gift.

Unbeknownst to Alyssa, the afternoon was about to get weirder.

Shopping for Shayla’s birthday gift proved to be harder than Alyssa had expected, not because it was weird for her to help Nick buy something for another woman, but because of two simple facts. One was Nick’s obvious obliviousness when it came to women’s fashion and the second was that Shayla was simply overly picky according to Nick.

Every suggestion that Alyssa had made had been shot down for one reason or another. Any kind of clothing was out because Shayla was extremely anal about her clothes and always hated anything that Nick or anyone else besides herself had picked out. Shoes seemed like a good suggestion, but Nick wasn’t sure of her shoe size of the top of his head so that was discarded as well. She had at least a dozen pairs of designer sunglasses according to Nick and enough purses to fit an entire closet. There simply didn’t seem anything that Shayla needed.

By the time the two of them found themselves outside of Tiffany’s, Alyssa was beginning to feel just a little frustrated. She seldom shopped for herself in this part of LA because she simply couldn’t afford it. She found herself a little annoyed that Shayla seemed so picky with so many possibilities in the stores they had visited. Alyssa would have been ecstatic to receive almost anything that expensive, but apparently designer labels were nothing new to Shayla. The only option they hadn’t ruled out yet was jewelry.

“Want to go in and look?” she asked Nick. “There has to be something in Tiffany’s she’d like. What woman doesn’t enjoy blue box?”

“I guess,” Nick answered in a defeated voice. “I just feel like I always wind up getting her jewelry.”

“Well, she doesn’t like anything else apparently.” Alyssa tried to keep the annoyance out of her voice, but failed miserably. If Nick noticed her attitude though, he didn’t comment, and the two of them stepped inside the famous jewelry store.

Nick immediately set off towards one of the glass counters, glancing down at the fine jewelry displayed in them. Alyssa lingered behind him, trying not to appear too awestruck at the glittering diamonds and gold. She’d never exactly been what she’d consider a “jewelry person.” She owned only a few nice pieces of jewelry, mainly past gifts from Nick. Most of her jewelry collection consisted of inexpensive costume jewelry since she had a tendency of losing her more expensive pieces. It was a wonder to her how she hadn’t lost her engagement ring yet. Still though, even she could appreciate the beauty of the rings, necklaces, and bracelets surrounding her. For a moment she secretly wished that Sean had the money to just drop a few thousand on a diamond tennis bracelet like Nick could easily do. As soon as the thought was in her head she immediately felt guilty. She didn’t need expensive jewelry to prove that Sean loved her. Now Nick and Shayla on the other hand… That was a different story.

A saleswoman behind the counter noticed the two of them perusing the display cases and approached them with a wide smile as soon as she recognized Nick. Alyssa wondered if the salespeople were trained to act extra hospitable to celebrity clients. She wouldn’t be surprised. “Good afternoon,” she greeted them. “Is there anything that I can help the two of you with today?”

Before Nick could reply, Alyssa answered for him. “Yes. He’s looking for a birthday gift for his wife.”

The woman’s eyebrows rose a little in surprise at Alyssa’s speaking up for him, but she ignored her and focused her attention on Nick. “All right. Sounds lovely. Did you have anything in mind in particular? Or do you have an idea of what she might like?”

Nick shrugged. “Not really… I’m kind of having a hard time finding her something. She’s very picky, but she’s also very stylish. So I guess I’m looking for something that’s very popular, but of course not too common either.”

“Hmm…” The woman seemed to take a minute to digest the information that had just been shared with her. “I think I might have something you might be interested in.” She walked over to one of the cases a few feet away and pulled out a gold pendant with a row of diamonds that curved in sort of an s shape. “This is one of our newest designs that has been very popular among married couples. The diamonds are supposed to represent the journey of your relationship from the beginning on into the future. We’ve been selling quite a few of them recently.”

Alyssa cocked her head to one side as she examined the pendant more closely. “It’s really pretty,” she told him, tossing in her own two cents. “And it has a pretty special meaning behind it.”

Nick nodded. “This one is a possibility, but I think I’d like to see it on someone else first before I decide. I want to see how it hangs.” He looked back over at Alyssa. “Would you mind trying it on for me so that I can get the full effect? That is if that’s ok with the saleswoman.”

“That’s perfectly fine with me. If you’d like I could even help you with the clasp,” the woman offered. Obviously she wasn’t going to tell Nick Carter that he couldn’t do anything he pleased.

Feeling put on the spot Alyssa found that she had no choice but to agree. “Uhh… Sure I guess.” She couldn’t help, but feel just slightly creeped out that she was being asked to model a necklace that was intended to be worn by her ex boyfriend’s wife. The situation seemed completely taboo to her. Relax, she tried to tell herself. You’re reading way too much into this. Nick just wants to get a sense of how it’ll look on a woman’s neck. That’s all. Still she couldn’t help but to feel slightly uneasy.

The saleswoman took the pendant off of the display and held it out towards Alyssa’s neck. “Just pick your hair up for me dear,” she instructed as she reached around her neck to clasp the necklace.

Trying not to wrinkle her nose up at the word “dear,” Alyssa gathered her hair away from her neck in her hands and twisted it up, so it wouldn’t get caught in the clasp. As she did this, Nick caught sight of a stream of brightly colored stars tattooed on the back of the neck. That’s new, he thought as he continued to stare at the bold colors in fascination. “I didn’t know you got another tattoo?” he found himself casually asking.

“What?” Alyssa asked, distracted by the randomness of his question. She released her hold on her hair and it came tumbling back down over her shoulders. Then it hit her that when she’d had her hair up Nick had noticed the new design. “Yea… I got a few new ones actually.”

“A few?” Nick looked surprised. “I remember you were talking about getting another one when you came out to visit me in LA, but not a few. Where are they?”

Alyssa couldn’t help but to smirk at Nick’s sudden interest in her new body art. “They’re there. You just have to know where to look,” she mysteriously replied. She turned towards him with the diamond pendant glittering. “What do you think?”

The chain was just long enough for the pendant to lie perfectly at the top of her breasts, drawing Nick’s gaze to the area. The pendant was simple yet still unique enough to draw attention and he had to admit that it looked dazzling on Alyssa. His mouth went dry for a moment as he struggled to formulate a response. “It’s… it’s beautiful,” he finally replied.

Alyssa looked at her reflection in a mirror. She had to admit that she liked the way it looked around her neck, but quickly reminded herself that it wasn’t a gift for her, but for Shayla instead. “Question is will Shayla like it?”

“As soon as I tell her its one of the most popular new designs she’ll love it. She’s a sucker for things like that. As long as she has whatever is the new ‘hot item’ of the moment she’s overjoyed.” Nick turned to the saleswoman. “We’ll take it.”

“Perfect! I’m glad that we found you something. I’ll just get it boxed up for you.” The woman disappeared for a moment to retrieve a jewelry box for them.

Alyssa reached behind her neck to unclasp the necklace, all of a sudden feeling very uncomfortable with it on. Wearing the necklace that was intended to represent Nick’s love for Shayla felt very wrong to her and she found that she couldn’t wait to get it off. She was so impatient that her fingers fumbled clumsily with the clasp, not being able to manipulate it into opening.

“Here let me help you with that.” Before she could even protest, Nick had stepped behind her and swept her hair over her left shoulder. A slight shiver ran down Alyssa’s spine which she tried her best to ignore. It’s not because it’s Nick and you’re still attracted to him, she told herself firmly. It’s only because you’re not used to this. Still though she couldn’t help but to draw in a sharp breath when she felt his fingertips against the base of her neck. If he noticed anything unusual about her reaction, he chose to ignore it and within moments the clasp came apart easily in his hands.

“T…thanks,” she shakily replied as she handed the necklace back to him. “Shayla is going to love it.”

Nick just smiled. “I have you to thank. Without you I’d still be struggling to come up with some kind of idea.”

Alyssa just smiled back at him, but deep down she knew that the smile was completely forced. All of a sudden she couldn’t wait to get out of the store and head back home to her husband.

Alyssa’s hopes of returning home to Sean immediately after her and Nick’s awkward moment at Tiffany’s, were squashed from almost the minute they’d stepped outside the store. Nick announced that he had a definite craving for Starbucks after all of their shopping and had asked her if she minded stopping for some coffee. Alyssa gave in since there was a Starbucks only around the corner from where they were.
After ordering their drinks and walking back to Nick’s car sipping them along the way, Nick had one more request. “I know you probably really want to get home, but I actually have to stop at the marina if you don’t mind. I left some crap on my boat last week and I want to pick it up. I figured I could do that now since I’m out this way. The diner is back in the other direction, so I thought that we could head out to my boat first. I’ll only be like five minutes,” he promised.

Alyssa chewed on the straw of her vanilla frap thoughtfully. Truthfully she would prefer to just go straight home. Sean would be arriving home from work soon and she had wanted to set up some sort of romantic evening between the two of them. But Nick’s theory did kind of make sense and she really didn’t want to sound like a bitch by telling him that she really did mind, especially after their afternoon had gone so well outside of that one little awkward moment. “I guess that’ll be okay,” she finally answered.

The two of them were mostly silent on their drive out to the marina which lasted about fifteen minutes. During that time, Alyssa found herself staring out the window wondering what to make of their afternoon together and the weird sensations she felt towards him back in Tiffany’s. Was there a little bit of a spark still there between them? And if so, did it mean anything? Maybe there always would be a bit of chemistry between them, but surely that couldn’t have an effect with her relationship with Sean. Besides did she honestly expect there not to be any awkward patches between her and Nick? As close and comfortable as they were as friends there was no denying that there were still painful reminders of their past together as a couple. Those reminders were bound to flare up every once in awhile. The secret would be to learn to push those feelings aside whenever they did come up. She figured with a little practice it couldn’t be too hard to do. She’d just been caught off guard this time because it had been the first time those feelings had really hit her. Granted she’d loved Nick at one time, but now she was in love with Sean and he was her soul mate, not Nick.

Finally they pulled into the marina and Nick parked his Escalade not far from where his boat was docked. “Why don’t you come up with me for a minute?” he suggested, opening up his door.

“All right,” she agreed as she stepped out of his truck and followed him in the direction of the dock. Once they reached the familiar sight of his boat, Nick took a hold of her hand and helped her up the steps onto the deck. She took in the sight around her realizing not much had changed about the boat that Nick had owned as long as she had known him.

“I’m just going to go inside and get what I need to,” Nick told her as he came up behind her. “You can stay out here if you want. It’s beautiful out.”

Alyssa just nodded and watched him disappear into the cabin. Once he was gone she made her way to the stern of the boat and looked out at the water in front of her. It was heading into early evening by now and the sun was just beginning to set, its rays glittering over the water. Nick had been right. It was beautiful out. The air was a little chilly forcing her to hug her arms around herself for warmth, but otherwise it wasn’t too bad. She smiled a little bit as she thought about the many times she had been out on this boat with Nick while they had been dating. This very deck held a lot of memories for her. She’d come close to losing her virginity on this boat, probably would’ve if it hadn’t been for the fact that Nick was leaving that following morning for Sweden to record.

God, that seems like forever ago, she silently mused to herself and for the first time really beginning to feel old. That had been what? Over eight years ago?
It's hard to remember how it felt before
Now I found the love of my life...
Passes things get more comfortable
Everything is going right

She was jarred out of her thoughts by the sound of footsteps coming up behind her. Whirling her head around, she saw Nick approaching her with a backpack slung over his shoulder and a blanket in his hands. “You look deep in thought,” he noted, coming up beside her.

Alyssa just shrugged. “Not really,” she lied. “I was just thinking that I can’t believe you still have this old thing.”

Nick laughed. “Can’t bear to get rid of it. Too many memories on this baby. It’s followed me all the way from Florida.” He paused for a moment taking in the sight of sun setting on the water. “I had a good time hanging out with you again today.”

“Yea… It was definitely a lot more fun then I thought it would be,” she admitted. “It’s just so amazing, you know.”

“What is?”

And after all the obstacles
It's good to see you now with someone else
And it's such a miracle that you and me are still good friends
After all that we've been through
I know we're cool

Alyssa looked thoughtful for a moment finally feeling free enough to express the thoughts that were at the back of her mind the whole entire day. “If you would’ve told me two or three years ago that there would come a time when we could possibly hang out together after everything that’s happened between us without killing each other, I’d have to say that you were crazy. Then to top it all off that we’d both find happiness with other people and still be able to get along? I think it’s just amazing that we’ve finally gotten to that point with each other. I have to admit that although it’s a little weird, it’s kind of good to see you happy again with Shayla. You and I just weren’t meant to be I guess, but I’m glad that we can at least still be friends. It shows how much we’ve both grown in the last few years.”

Nick slowly nodded his head as he thought about what she was saying. “That is true,” he admitted. “And makes sense. I guess it’s funny how fate works out huh?”

We used to think it was impossible
Now you call me by my new last name
Memories seem like so long ago
Time always kills the pain

“Definitely,” Alyssa answered. “I mean look at me! I purposely moved out to North Carolina to put some distance between us and start over and I wind up meeting Sean, getting married, and moving out here anyway and seeing you again. How’s that for fate? Almost like it was destined to happen.”

“Maybe it was,” he mused. “Maybe he just needed a little bit of time apart to figure things out and make the changes we both needed to make in our lives.”

Alyssa nodded. “I agree one hundred percent. After we broke up I was devastated at first, but it forced me to change the things about myself that hurt our relationship in the first place. Sean helped me work out a lot of things to which I’m sure Shayla helped you with as well. By the time you walked back into my life I was through being hurt and angry anymore. I just had no reason to be. I had Sean and you had Shayla, so it wasn’t like we were going to run off together or anything.” She nervously laughed. “What is that old saying? Time heals all wounds?”

“Something like that.”

Remember Harbor Boulevard
The dreaming days where the mess was made
Look how all the kids have grown
We have changed but we're still the same
After all that we've been through
I know we're cool

All of a sudden Alyssa turned very serious. “Nick… I have a confession to make.”

“Confession?” he asked in a bewildered voice. “About what?”

“Teri and I came back from dress shopping earlier than you probably think. I came inside with her because I wanted to wish Howie congratulations on the engagement,” she started off. “We started to go downstairs not knowing that you were there, but we stopped once we heard you two talking about the song you wrote. What I’m trying to say is that I heard you play the song for him. I heard the whole thing.”

Nick froze for a moment unsure of how to react. It had been a huge enough step sharing the personal piece with Howie. He hadn’t counted on Alyssa hearing it, at least not at this point. Yet, again fate had stepped in and Alyssa had in fact heard the song. Maybe it was meant to be.

“I’m sorry,” she immediately apologized. “I didn’t mean to eavesdrop. I just-“

He held up a hand to silence her and asked the only question he could think of. “What did you think?”

“It was beautiful Nick. I honestly didn’t think that you could put together something as introspective and personal as that.” She bit her lip for a moment trying to muster up the courage to ask the one question that had been plaguing her mind since she had heard the lyrics, earlier that day. “It’s about me, isn’t it?”

“To a certain extent,” he honestly answered. “Obviously you inspired a lot of it. It was my breakup with you that really forced me to look at the person who I’d become and realize that wasn’t who I wanted to be. I didn’t want to be another fucked up musician who crashed and burned in the end, and that was the direction that I was heading in. I’ll always be grateful to you for holding up that mirror for me.”

Alyssa looked back at the ocean in front of her. “That’s another amazing thing. We’ve both changed for the better in so many ways and I think we’re both better people for it in the end. But below the surface we’re still us and hanging out with you today proved that. It was like even though we’ve grown up so much since the last time we really hung out, there are certain things about us that are still the same. It’s kind of relief to be able to see that familiar side come out.”

And I'll be happy for you
If you can be happy for me
Circles and triangles, and now we're hangin' out with your new girlfriend
So far from where we've been
I know we're cool
-Cool by Gwen Stefani

Nick nodded in agreement. “Yea it was kind of comforting in a way. I think this friendship thing might actually work out between us.”

“I had my doubts at first, but hell if I can help you pick out a birthday gift for your wife and survive than I think that says a lot about the friendship that we have with each other,” she pointed out. “I know now that I’m finally in a place where I can not only accept us not working out, but I can feel comfortable around both you and Shayla. In fact, I’d like to get to know her better. I know the last time we met I feel like we kind of got off on the wrong foot and I’d like to give it another chance.”

“I’m sure we can arrange that. I feel like Sean probably didn’t get the best impression of me either. Maybe we can arrange for the four of us to get together some night? Maybe we can invite you over for dinner or something?”

“That sounds like a great idea. I think Sean was just a little caught off guard finding out who you really were. I think another chance to get to know you would be a good thing. Besides, he’s going to have to learn to like you if the two of us are going to continue being friends.”

Nick grinned as he threw a friendly arm across her shoulders. “So, are you saying that you and I are like officially cool now?”

Alyssa pretended to think that one over for a minute. “Yea… We’re cool,” she finally agreed.

Later on that evening, Alyssa walked into her front door precariously trying to balance a white cardboard pizza box in her hands. So much for my nice romantic dinner for two, she thought to herself. By the time Nick had dropped her back off at the diner to get her car, she realized that it was too late to really cook anything, so she’d decided to pick up a pizza for her and Sean on her way home.

She set the pizza box on the kitchen counter and looked around. Most of the rooms were dark and Sean appeared to be nowhere in sight although Alyssa knew that he had to be home since his truck was in the driveway. “Sean?” she called out. “I’m home! I got a pizza down here for dinner!”

A few minutes later a sullen looking Sean came down the stairs looking annoyed. “Where were you?” he demanded as soon as he laid eyes on his wife. “You’ve been gone all day.”

“I’m sorry,” Alyssa apologized, reaching over to place a sloppy kiss in his cheek. “I guess I just sort of lost track of time.”

Sean ignored her lame attempt at an apology. “You lost track of time? How long does it take to look at wedding dresses?”

“Well, not long, but then I stopped back at Teri and Howie’s and had lunch and then we did some more shopping and some catching up with each other. You know we haven’t seen each other in nearly forever.” It wasn’t exactly a lie. She had done everything she said she did, but she just neglected to mention the fact that it had all been with Nick. She wasn’t exactly sure what it was that held her back from being completely honest with him. Maybe it was because she could see that he was already obviously upset and she knew that he already wasn’t very fond of Nick. She wanted the two men to hopefully someday get along and if Sean found out she’d spent the entire day with him, she was sure that it would make it that much harder for Sean to accept Nick’s friendship with Alyssa. She hated lying to her husband, but then again it wasn’t lying exactly if she just left out a few details right? “Teri asked me to be one of her bridesmaids,” she announced, trying to shift the conversation away from her.

Her tactic didn’t seem to work because Sean kept on ranting. “I must’ve called our cell about twenty times today. Didn’t you hear it?”

“No,” she answered, looking surprised. She truthfully hadn’t heard her phone ring once all day. Going into her purse she pulled out her phone to check and realized what the problem was. “Oops… My battery must’ve died. You know how bad I am at forgetting to put it on to charge. That could explain why I didn’t get any of your calls.”

“Well, I just wish you would’ve called or something,” he stubbornly replied. “I was worried about you! I got out of work a little early and was hoping that maybe we could go out for a romantic dinner and then snuggle up with a good movie or something.”

Immediately Alyssa felt guilty. He had been sitting at home planning a quiet night for just the two of them, and she’d been out hanging with her ex boyfriend. Some wife she was! “I’m sorry baby,” she pouted. “Maybe I did screw up dinner, but we can make pizza romantic. And we can still rent a movie. It’s not that late.”

Her guilt must have been genuine because Sean’s expression softened. “You’re right. I’m sorry for being an asshole about this. I just miss not being able to spend as much time with you lately.”

“So do I,” Alyssa admitted wrapping her arms around him. “I promise I’ll be better about checking in with you when I’m going to be out late.”

Her resolution seemed a good enough apology to him. “So, action flick or comedy?”

Alyssa dramatically sighed. “I suppose I owe you an action flick although you may have to keep me awake. I always tend to fall asleep during those things.”

“Oh, I don’t think that’ll be much of a problem at all,” Sean promised as he dropped a light kiss on her lips.

The rest of the evening past by uneventfully with Alyssa and Sean camped out on the couch with slices of cheesy pizza on paper plates, a few bottles of beer, and the latest Bruce Willis movie. Alyssa found herself thankful that she’d managed to avoid confessing to Sean who she had really spent her afternoon with. Hopefully he’d never find out the truth and she could slowly begin to warm him up to the idea of getting to know Nick better.

Unfortunately Alyssa had forgotten that she was had been hanging out in LA with not only her ex boyfriend, but her famous married ex boyfriend. And although it appeared that no one had noticed them, people did talk. It would only be a matter of time before some type of word got out.
Chapter 8 - A Picture's Worth a Thousand Words by Mellz Bellz
Author's Notes:

Tabloid pictures surface of Nick and Alyssa's afternoon together sending rumors flying.

Chapter 8- A Picture’s Worth a Thousand Words

It was almost a week later when the shit hit the fan. A few days had passed by in which Nick hadn’t made any attempt to contact Alyssa and she hadn’t tried to call him either. He knew that she went back to work this week, so he figured that she was probably overwhelmed with that at the moment. He had to admit though that he’d had an awesome time hanging out with her that afternoon the week before. He found himself loving the fact that Alyssa appeared so much calmer and relaxed around him than when they’d been dating. It was almost as if she was finally not afraid to be herself around him for once. Too bad it took two break ups and for us to get involved with other people for her to reach this point, he’d thought to himself. But maybe this was how it was meant to be. Maybe Alyssa was right and they were just meant to be nothing more than good friends.

Still, sometimes it was hard to think of her as just a close friend when at one time they’d been so much more than that.

It was the day before Shayla’s birthday and Nick was struggling to come up with something special to do for his wife. He’d felt a little guilty recently because since her bringing up the whole baby thing, things definitely felt a little tense between the two of them, not that they really were around each other very much to notice it. Shayla had begun filming her television series and there were many nights where she’d go right from her job at E! to cover some Hollywood party for her show. Nick could see it in her eyes that the stress of pulling double duty was taking its toll on her. And she wanted to add a baby to the mix? It seemed like she could barely handle everything that she had on her plate as it was. Shayla had definitely been a lot more irritable and cranky these last few weeks which is why Nick was trying so hard to come up with something special for her birthday.

So far, besides the necklace Alyssa had helped him pick out, he’d ordered a bouquet of flowers to be delivered to the house that next morning. That was pretty much as far as he’d gotten. He was just debating on whether he should take her out for dinner or plan something low key and intimate at home when he heard the front door creak open from downstairs. He looked up at the clock that hung in his office. Hmm… It’s a little early for Shayla to be home already, he realized. He stood up from his chair and headed downstairs to make sure everything was okay. He hoped that nothing was wrong. The only reason that Shayla would be home so early was if she wasn’t feeling well and Nick hoped that wasn’t it. It would be a shame if she wound up sick on her birthday.

When he reached the bottom of the stairs, he spotted Shayla rifling through the pile of that day’s mail. Even though her back was too him he could tell that something wasn’t quite right just by the stiffness of her posture. “Hey baby,” he greeted her. “What are you doing home so early?”

“Don’t ask,” she muttered, not even bothering to glance up at him.

Well, that didn’t sound too good, Nick thought to himself as he came up behind her and put his hands on her shoulders. “Bad day?”

“You could say that,” she curtly replied.

Putting on his best grin he let his hands wander up to her neck and gently began to rub her tense muscles. “Anything I can do to make it better?”

Shayla wrenched herself out of his grasp and spun around to look at him. “Actually there is something that you can do.”

Nick was a little surprised by the coldness in her voice, but he had no choice but to play along with her. “Sure, anything.”

Shayla walked past him to where her oversized Fendi purse sat on the table. She was silent as she rifled through it for a moment until she retrieved what appeared to be a few pieces of paper. Upon closer inspection, Nick realized that they were some kind of pictures probably printed out from the internet. He just didn’t realize what the pictures were of until Shayla slammed them down in front of him. “You could start by explaining to me what the fuck these are.”

Nick looked at the pictures in shock. Spread out before him were pictures chronicling his whole afternoon that he’d spent with Alyssa last week. There were pictures of the two of them laughing together in the diner. Another one showed her climbing into his Escalade as they left lunch. More pictures showed the two of them walking down the street together. In one particular one it almost looked as if they were about to start holding hands. Fucking paparazzi, he silently cursed as he continued to look through the incriminating photos. I didn’t even notice any cameras or anything. He should’ve been more alert. He should know better than anyone that just because you didn’t see them didn’t necessarily mean that they weren’t there. Some bastard had to have been following him and Alyssa all afternoon and snapping pictures. They even had managed to snap a picture of him helping Alyssa onto his boat. But most damaging was the picture taken in Tiffany’s which of course had been perfectly snapped at the exact moment he had been helping Alyssa take off the necklace. On camera, the moment appeared much more intimate than it actually had been. Now he understood why Shayla was so cold to him.

“Where did you get these?” he calmly asked, not even bothering to try to defend himself at first.

“I’m a fucking entertainment news correspondent Nick! It’s my job to report on every scandalous photo of a celebrity that comes out, especially if it includes somebody else than their spouse! Luckily one of our producers found these photos on the internet and showed them to me before they really got out. By tomorrow they’ll be all over the papers and will probably be one of our top stories.”

“I can explain,” Nick tried to reason with her. “These pictures are not what they look like-“

“Not what they look like? You’re carousing around town with your ex girlfriend, holding hands, buying her expensive jewelry, taking her out on your boat… Which sources say you were on for quite some time. Did you not think that any one would notice you? You’re a married celebrity living in LA! It’s only inevitable that something like this would happen. How long have you been seeing her behind my back?” she asked her icy blue eyes flashing with anger.

“I haven’t been ‘seeing her,’” he insisted. “We’re just friends.”

“And since when do ‘friends’ buy each other diamond necklaces?” Her voice was full of accusation.

Nick sighed. “It wasn’t for her. It’s a long story, but she was just trying it on for me.”

Shayla placed her hands on her hips. “Funny because in some of these pictures you’re spotted with a bag from Tiffany’s, so obviously you bought something.”

“All I can say Shayla is it’s not what it looks like,” he pleaded. “I can’t say anymore than that outside of the fact that Alyssa was helping me out with something.”

“I’ll bet.” Shayla rolled her eyes. “I just want to know when the hell this whole little affair started. Did it start back in January when we bumped into her and her husband at Koi? Or was it going on before that and you’re just a good actor?”

It was at that moment that Nick began to lose his calmness. “Affair? Shayla, Alyssa and I are definitely not having an affair! Like I said before, we’re just friends. We grabbed some lunch together and did a little shopping-“

“But you hate to shop,” she pointed out. “And that doesn’t explain what she was doing in your car and on your boat.”

“If you’d just stop interrupting me, maybe I could explain! We took my car because it made better sense to just drive together instead of taking two separate cars if we’re going to the same damn place. LA has enough traffic as it is. And about the boat since I was out that way anyway I figured I’d stop by and pick up the blankets and stuff we left on there the last time we went out on it. I wasn’t about to make her sit in the car and wait for me.”

“Sources say you were on it for a while. Long enough to-“

Now it was Nick’s turn to interrupt. “We were talking and that’s the truth. It was completely innocent!”

Shayla rolled her eyes at him again. “Innocent? You don’t know the meaning of the word! I should’ve known better. You have a history of being unable to stay faithful. Is there even one relationship you’ve been in where you haven’t cheated?”

“That’s not fair Shayla…My last relationship was years ago,” he tried to defend himself. “I’m a completely different person now.”

“What’s the old saying? Once a cheater always a cheater?”

Nick looked at her desperately. “Since I’ve known you have I ever given you any inclination to doubt me? Have I ever even given you a reason to suspect that maybe I was cheating on you?”

Shayla glanced at him warily. “No, but that was all before your ex girlfriend popped back into your life.”

“So, what is it about Alyssa that makes you so convinced that I’m cheating on you with her?” he questioned.

“Hmm… Well, for starters there was that dress she was wearing that night at Koi. Not only was it distasteful, but you couldn’t keep your eyes off her boobs all throughout dinner.”

“What?” Nick looked perplexed. “That’s not true at all! I think you’re imagining things-“

“You were having conversations with her chest! Then there’s the fact that the two of you are supposedly such good friends, yet why is this only the first time I’m hearing about this friendship?” she continued. “How long have you two been hanging out behind my back? And if you’re just friends why couldn’t you just tell me the truth instead of sneaking around?”

Nick had to admit that she had him there. Why hadn’t he just been honest and up front with Shayla about Alyssa from the start? He should’ve mentioned that he’d talked to Alyssa at Grace’s birthday and they’d agreed to take a stab at being friends. Instead he’d kept it hidden from his wife and now it had came back to bite him in the ass. The ironic part (well besides the part that Alyssa had really been helping him pick out a present for Shayla) was that they really hadn’t even hung out together all that much to begin with. “You’re blowing this all out of proportion Shayla. Trust me… It’s not at all what you think. We’ve only recently began talking again like last month. I bumped into her at Grace’s birthday party. Last week was the first time we’ve hung out together and it was completely unplanned. I was over at Howie’s house and she was there visiting Teri and it just kind of happened. I had no idea that there were any paparazzi following us and that’s the honest truth.”

Shayla placed her hands on her hips still glowering at him. “That still doesn’t explain the necklace though.”

“Oh my God, would you just get off the damn necklace already!” Nick threw up his hands in frustration. “I already explained to you that it was no big deal, yet you keep trying to drag it up like there’s some mystery there.”

“Well, it does seem rather mysterious when pictures surface of you helping her take off a very expensive necklace, yet you refuse to give me any sort of explanation outside of it being some sort of secret or something between the two of you. Is that it? Did you buy her off with some expensive diamonds in order for her to keep quiet about the two of you?”

Nick sighed as he raised his hands to his temples, feeling a headache already begin to form across his forehead. “For the last fucking time… There is nothing going on between Alyssa and me outside of a platonic friendship. But why am I even arguing with you? You seem so convinced otherwise. You want to think I’m having an affair with Alyssa go right ahead! You’re just going to believe what you want anyway.” With that he spun on his heels and headed in the direction of the stairs, eager to distance himself from Shayla’s painful accusations.

How can she think I’m cheating on her? he wondered as he pounded up the steps and down the hall to the bedroom he shared with Shayla. He still couldn’t understand exactly why Shayla seemed so distrustful of him all of a sudden. All he knew was that the argument was heading into ugly territory and he could feel his blood beginning to boil under his skin. He knew that if he stayed there with her one more moment he was going to explode and say something that he would later regret. I got to get out of here, he told himself, grabbing an overnight bag from his closet. Almost blindly he began to throw in a change of clothes and a few essentials.

“Nickolas Gene! Get your ass back down here!” he could hear Shayla’s voice yelling from the bottom of the stairs. “This isn’t over yet!”

Ignoring her voice, he zipped up his bag and left the room, making a stop at his office on the way. He approached his desk and opened one of his drawers where he had been hiding Shayla’s carefully wrapped birthday present. After he retrieved it he continued back down the stairs to face one last encounter with her.

When he reached the bottom of the stairs Shayla seemed so upset that she was totally oblivious to his overnight bag. “Not only is this extremely upsetting and humiliating to have pictures of my husband and another woman plastered all over some tabloid, but because I work in entertainment news it’s ten times worse. Do you realize that the minute these pictures leaked I got called into the executive office at E! and was kindly encouraged to take a week off? Which is putting it mildly by the way. I didn’t exactly have a choice in the matter. And it’s all your fault!”

Nick just stared at her knowing that she was nowhere near done. He decided to let her vent a little more, finding it almost entertaining how with each word her voice seemed to rise higher in inflection and her face grew redder. “And of all places it had to be Tiffany’s, right Nick? Can’t spare any expense for your precious Alyssa! Meanwhile I have a birthday coming up tomorrow which I’m sure you’ve completely forgotten about-“

Finally Nick gave in to his rage and lost control of his emotions. “You know what? I’m fucking sick of your jealously and insecurity! These were the reasons I broke up with Alyssa originally, so what makes you think that I’m going to grovel at your feet when I did nothing wrong? But you refuse to hear that because you’re so insecure that you have yourself convinced that I did do something with Alyssa. Fuck this! You’re too busy whining about some stupid necklace and do you want to know what the most ironic part is? That damn necklace you’re so hung up about was for you the whole fucking time! I was trying to be a good husband and surprise my wife on his birthday, but apparently that’s wrong in your book!” He took a deep breath and threw the neatly packaged box in her direction, nearly hitting her in the face with it. “So yea… Happy fucking birthday! I’m out of here.”

After that announcement Nick pushed past her and headed out the front door ignoring her pleas from behind him. Her voice sounded desperate as if his angry tirade had finally made her realize just how much she had overreacted and just how wrong she really was. It was too late now though. He’d completely lost it and now he needed his space while he calmed himself down. He hopped into his BMW since it was the smallest and fastest of his cars. Right now he just wanted to take out all of his aggression on the road. He started up the engine and peeled out of the driveway like a maniac.

After driving aimlessly for a good ten minutes, it finally hit Nick that he had no clue where exactly he was headed. He knew that the door would always be open to him in AJ or Howie’s home, or he could always show up at his friend Chris’s house for the night. But Nick really didn’t feel like being around anyone just then. He realized that he’d rather have sometime to himself to unwind and cool off. He was just entertaining the idea of checking into a hotel for the night when suddenly he recognized the direction he was driving in and smiled to himself as the idea came to him.

About half an hour later, he found himself in another part of LA pulling into a large condominium complex. I haven’t been here in at least a year, he speculated to himself as he pulled into the narrow driveway of one particular building. After his most recent breakup with Alyssa he’d find himself seeking solace in the condo that he’d bought to rent out to her, spending hours within its walls just imagining how life could’ve been for them. After he met Shayla his visits began to grow less frequent until he only popped in every once in a while to check up on the place. Still he didn’t have the heart to sell the property and even though he knew that he could find people who would be interested in renting it from him in a heart beat, he couldn’t let go of it. To him it was comforting to know that he owned this condo and not even Shayla knew about it. It was a place he could go to when he truly wanted to be left alone. Like now.

He got out of his car with his duffel bag on his shoulder and bag from Subway where he’d stopped for dinner in one hand, a six pack of beer that he’d picked up from a convenience store on the way in the other. When he reached the front door he set the beer down on the porch and retrieved the extra key that he had hid in a flowerpot for instances just like this. Once he opened the door, he settled himself inside on the living room couch, spread out his sub, opened up a bottle of beer, and turned on the television.

He sat there most of the night on the couch, drinking beer and trying to erase the memory of his heated confrontation with Shayla earlier.

Nick groaned as he felt incoming sunlight begin to sting his eyelids, forcing them open. Already he could feel a dull headache brewing between his temples which he suspected was a result of not just the empty beer bottles sitting on the coffee table in front of him, but the stress of his fight with his wife the night before. He sat up and realized that he was still in the living room of Alyssa’s old condo, sprawled out on the couch. The television was still blaring leading him to believe that he’d probably passed out before he could will himself to move into the bedroom.

He sighed as he realized that it was a new day and as much of a relief it had been to get away from it all yesterday, he couldn’t hide in the condo he’d bought for his ex-girlfriend forever. As ugly as things had ended with him and Shayla, he knew that he’d have to eventually face her again.

His thoughts were interrupted by the chirping of his Sidekick from across the room indicating that he had received a text message. Dragging himself up from the couch, he made his way towards it and flipped it open. He was not at all surprised to see that the message was from Shayla. He was though a little thrown off guard by her message.

I’m so sorry about last night. I was a total bitch and just started to make assumptions that weren’t correct. I was way out of line and I apologize. Please come home. We need to talk.

He stared down at his phone for a moment, unsure of what to do. The tone of her message definitely sounded as if she was indeed sorry. His mind drifted back to the moment he had walked out their front door yesterday and the urgency in her voice as she called back to him, begging him to turn around. Maybe she really did regret accusing him of cheating. Either way he owed it to her to go back home and talk things out.

Letting out a deep breath, he stuffed the phone into his back pocket and started to clean up the mess he had made from the night before. After he was done he gathered up his things, locked up the condo, and hopped back into his car.

About twenty minutes later he found himself sitting in the driveway staring at their house aimlessly. He knew that he was just wasting time and he couldn’t put off the confrontation any longer. Finally mustering up the courage, he got out of the car and headed inside the front door.

At first everything was quiet and there was no sign whatsoever of Shayla although Nick knew that she was at home because her Mercedes had been parked in the driveway. He didn’t immediately seek her out though because he himself wasn’t sure if he was ready to forgive her yet. He certainly wasn’t going to go crawling after her. Instead he poked his head in the refrigerator, looking for something he could munch on for breakfast.

He froze for a moment after he finally heard footsteps coming down from the stairs. A few moments later Shayla stepped into the room. Just one look at her and Nick knew that she hadn’t had a good night. Her blonde hair seemed tangled and ratty as if she had been tossing and turning all night and her eyes looked puffy and bloodshot. She was uncharacteristically dressed in a pair of baggy sweats that looked as if they’d been hiding in the back corner of her closet and one of his t-shirts. The necklace that Nick had thrown at her the night before hung around her neck, standing out against her frumpy clothing.

“I’m glad you’re back,” she finally said after a moment or two of tense silence. “God Nick, I’m so sorry. I was completely out of line yesterday. I was wrong to attack you like that and jump to those kinds of conclusions about you and Alyssa. You were right. There was no reason for me to think that you could possibly be cheating on me.”

Nick closed the fridge and turned to look at her. “No there wasn’t,” he agreed. “It really hurt me that you don’t trust me enough to remain faithful to you. And quite frankly it kind of caught me a little off guard. You’ve never been the clingy, possessive type. I mean when I was on tour there was plenty of opportunities for me to cheat on you if I had wanted and you seemed like it didn’t bother you at all. Yet, pictures pop up of me legitimately hanging out with my ex-girlfriend innocently and you automatically think we’re having an affair? It’s just not like you.”

Shayla sighed. “I know… It’s definitely not me, but I don’t know. I’ve just been really stressed out lately with work and I feel like I’m barely sleeping… I know I’ve been a real bitch lately to pretty much everyone. I’m not thinking very clearly lately, so when those pictures surfaced and started to circulate throughout the studio, so many of my coworkers had their own interpretations and they kind of convinced me that there was more going on then met the eye. Normally I’d never doubt you, but under the circumstances I let myself believe otherwise and I’m sorry.”

Nick’s expression softened as he heard the tears in her voice. He could tell that she was being genuine with him. It was true. She had been working an insane amount of hours lately and he could tell that she definitely hadn’t been herself these past few weeks. He could sympathize firsthand how stress could blind you and make you believe things that weren’t true. Wasn’t it the stress of touring and being apart from Alyssa that made him believe that she had been cheating on him back at the end of the Never Gone tour? He’d been in Shayla’s shoes and had actually done worse, so he supposed he couldn’t exactly stay angry with her.

“It’s okay, babe,” he assured her, wrapping his arms around her shoulders and pulling her towards him. “It happens. I’m sorry you had to find out that Alyssa and I were hanging out that way.”

Shayla looked up at him, her face tearstained. “I just don’t understand why you didn’t just tell me that the two of you were still friends in the first place? If you’d have just told me up front that the two of you had hung out I’d have been okay with it, but the fact that you chose not to tell me is what made me suspicious. Last I heard the two of you hadn’t talked in years. What changed?”

Nick turned his head away guiltily. She was right. He should have been up front with her about his friendship with Alyssa, but he was afraid that if he had been she would have gotten the wrong impression. Now she’d found out anyway and it made him look ten times more incriminating. “You’re right. I should’ve told you that Alyssa and I were hanging out again. I wouldn’t say we’re best friends, but I do enjoy her company. We weren’t out on some secret date. She was helping me find you a birthday gift. And the picture of her wearing the necklace? She didn’t even want to try it on, but I made her because I wanted to see what it would like on a real person. So, if you want to blame anyone for that, blame me.”

“God… I feel like the world’s biggest bitch right now! The way I carried on about that damn necklace and how it was really for me the whole time.” Her fingers traveled upwards, playing with the delicate gold chain with her fingers. “I guess I probably deserved to get it thrown in my face… Literally.”

“Nah….” Nick replied. “I shouldn’t have thrown it at you. I was just angry. So, now do you understand why I couldn’t tell you what the necklace was for? I wanted to surprise you so badly. I probably just should have been honest, huh?”

Shayla smiled. “I appreciate your effort. And it really is a beautiful necklace. I love it. I’m sorry that some asshole paparazzi had to ruin everything you worked so hard to plan. I think it’s cute how stubborn you were about not giving up the surprise.”

“I’m sorry for the way I acted last night. I probably ruined your birthday.”

“Maybe not. The day is only just begun. We have plenty of time to make up for it,” she said with a smirk. “And I did get the flowers. They were a nice touch.”

“Oh, yea… I almost forgot about them. I’m glad you liked them.” A thoughtful look came over Nick’s face as he grabbed his arms around her waist. “What was it that you said last night about being asked to take the week off?”

Shayla looked at him a little suspiciously, but explained anyway. “My bosses decided that it would be most beneficial for both myself and the network if I took an unexpected vacation until the pictures blow over. I can’t exactly report on my own husband being spotted with his ex-girlfriend walking around LA. And everyone’s attention would be shifted towards how well I’m taking the ‘news.’ So, yea… I’ll at least finally get some time to sleep.”

“Hmm… So it takes rumors of me having an extramarital affair to get you some time off work?” Nick smirked. “Good to know for future reference.”

She laughed and playfully slapped his arm. “I’m pretty sure this excuse will probably only work once. Next time they might decide I’m too much of a liability or something and give me the boot.”

“I have an idea. Since you have the week off and you’re really stressed and we need to do something extra special for your birthday since I fucked things up so badly, let’s spend the week at the house up in Tahoe,” he suggested. “You love it up there and it’ll guarantee us a lot more privacy than here once those pictures hit the tabloids. Besides, it’ll give us some time to spend with each other, since I know that’s been lacking lately. What do you say?”

He watched as Shayla’s face immediately lit up. It had been her idea to purchase the vacation home up in Tahoe after they first got married. Originally, Nick hadn’t been thrilled with the idea. Neither one of them was really home long enough to reap the benefits of a vacation home, but Shayla had insisted. She’d spent a lot of time in the area growing up and had actually learned to ski up there. It was much too late for ski season, but it still offered beautiful scenery and a tranquility that you just couldn’t find in LA. Nick supposed it would do them both good to get out of the city for a bit.

“I think that’s an amazing idea!” she enthusiastically replied. “A trip to Tahoe definitely is exactly what I need right now.”

Nick grinned, glad that he finally had done something right. “Then I suggest you go upstairs and start packing. I’d like to make it up there by dinnertime, so we can celebrate your birthday.”

“Sounds awesome to me. Thanks so much Nick!” She paused to give him a quick peck on the lips before giddily bouncing up the stairs to begin packing.

It made Nick feel good to see his wife this happy and he had to admit that deep down he was a little excited too. He’d been feeling like he was sort of neglecting her lately since they had been so wrapped up in their careers. A week alone up in the mountains, miles away from anyone else, sounded like pure bliss to him. It was the perfect way to hide out from the inevitable media backlash that was sure to follow.

Shit, I better call Alyssa and warn her about the pictures, he realized. He could only imagine Sean’s reaction when he saw the two of them on the cover of some supermarket tabloid. And would the pictures being released cause problems for Alyssa at work? He wouldn’t want her losing her job over something as blown out of proportion as this was. It definitely would be best to give her a heads up so she wasn’t completely caught off guard.

He grabbed his cell phone to dial her number, but then placed it back in his pocket. He still needed to pack and he knew that Shayla was probably impatient to hit the road. He’d give Alyssa a call on their way up to Tahoe at a rest stop.
End Notes:
Thanks to Teri for looking over parts of the chapter for me.
Chapter 9 - Coming Clean by Mellz Bellz
Author's Notes:

Alyssa tells Sean the truth about the afternoon she spent with Nick. Shayla makes a not so veiled threat.

Chapter 9 – Coming Clean

Alyssa sat at her kitchen table, staring at the pictures that laid out in front of her in disbelief. She still was baffled by their existence. Was there really some loser out there who had nothing better to do than follow her and Nick around for an entire afternoon, snapping pictures? And the worst part was the way that the photographer had spun the pictures into something complete untrue; making something so innocent appear so scandalous. It was amazing how the person behind the lens could portray their subjects in any way that they wished. As artists they could skew reality and have their pictures tell whatever story they wished. These set of pictures in front of her clearly told the story of some kind of secret, adulterous love affair. If there was anything farther from the truth, she sniffed to herself, amused by the irony of the whole situation.

The amusement did not last long. Glancing over at the clock behind her, the harsh reality of the situation came crashing down on her. Sean would be walking in that door any moment now and as much as she would’ve liked to ignore the situation that hung over her ominously, she knew she’d have to come clean to him about the pictures, which would mean admitting that she lied to him about her afternoon with Nick. When she’d first gotten Nick’s message about the pictures being leaked, she actually almost didn’t believe him until she’d went online and googled them herself. With the proof right in front of her face like that, there was no denying it. She was going to have to break the news to Sean now before the pictures wound up in some tabloid.

Of course she’d considered just plain not telling him. She’d be able to get away with it… Maybe. Thankfully in most of the pictures she was wearing sunglasses and even the ones where she wasn’t weren’t the clearest. To anyone who didn’t know her very well they might pass the pictures by without suspecting that it was actually Alyssa in the photographs. Sean would be able to tell, but then again he wasn’t the kind who read tabloids or who had any remote interest in celebrity scandals. Still Alyssa realized that she couldn’t take the risk of a friend of Sean’s making some kind of comment or him overhearing any rumors. It would only blow up in her face and make her seem guiltier in his eyes. Honesty is the best policy, she assured herself taking a deep breath.

Her thoughts were interrupted by the sound of the front door opening. The noise made her spring up from her seat as she watched her husband step inside the doorway. She tried to gauge his mood from the expression on his face, but his face was blank. Afraid that she’d lose her nerve, Alyssa met him at the door with a light peck at the corner of his mouth. “How was work?”

“It was all right,” Sean answered, looking at her a little strangely. “What’s going on?”

“What do you mean what’s going on? Nothing’s going on,” Alyssa quickly replied.

Sean still looked suspicious. “You never meet me at the door like this unless you want something.”

Alyssa sighed, seeing the perfect opportunity, but dreading Sean’s imminent reaction to her confession. She knew very well how Sean felt about Nick and he knew he’d be pissed to find out about the pictures. She wondered if he’d even believe her, or if he’d buy the paparazzo’s interpretation of the events afternoon which included Nick buying her a diamond necklace and then the two of them sneaking out for a secret rendezvous on his boat. “Well, there kind of is something I need to talk to you about.”

“Okay…” Sean now looked concerned. “Is there something wrong?”

“Not exactly. Maybe we should sit down at the kitchen table,” she suggested.

Sean still seemed puzzled, but obliged, taking a seat at the table. Alyssa took the seat across from him, gathering up the internet photos before Sean had a chance to look at them yet. “I have something that I need to tell you, but you need to promise me that you won’t get mad, okay?” she began.

“Uhh sure…” Sean answered slowly. “But why would I get mad?”

Alyssa sighed. “There’s something that I haven’t exactly been completely honest about.”

She could tell just by the way that Sean’s lips tightened that he was already dreading what she was about to say. Still though, he remained silent, just looked at her quizzically, almost urging her to continue. Alyssa took another deep breath and nervously clenched her fingers together. “Remember that day I came home late last week? When I was out looking at wedding dresses with Teri?”

“Yea… The day your cell phone died and I tried calling you like a billion times, but you never picked up. I was worried sick about you.”

Alyssa looked away already feeling guilty. “Yea… That would be the one. Well, I wasn’t exactly honest about where I was or who I was with.” Already she could see Sean tensing up. She imagined that his mind had to be reeling with possibilities at the moment. She wouldn’t be surprised if he’d already jumped to the worst possible scenario.

“I don’t understand… Who were you with?” he asked in a shaky voice.

She bit her lip, bracing herself for the imminent explosion sure to come. “I was out with Nick.”

There was dead silence for a moment, almost as if the information had to process for a moment in Sean’s brain. Once it seemed to sink in his face immediately began to redden. “You were with Nick? What the fuck Alyssa?”

She held up a hand to interrupt him before he could go any further and start slinging accusations at her. “It’s not what you think Sean, so please don’t get angry. I bumped into him at Teri’s and he invited me to grab some lunch with him. Then he had to buy Shayla a birthday present and he asked me if I’d go with him because he could use a woman’s perspective. We shopped around a little bit and then we stopped by his boat because he had to pick up some things from it. We were just hanging out and I should’ve called and told you where I was, but I just didn’t think of it.”

Sean sat back against his seat feeling utterly confused. He wasn’t quite sure how to react. The whole conversation was not making sense at all. “I just have one question. If this happened last week, and it was as innocent as you claimed, why didn’t you just tell me the truth as soon as you walked in the door? Instead you lied to my face. You point blank, straight up lied to me! Why?”

Again Alyssa looked away knowing that she had definitely been wrong to hide the truth from him. I should’ve just been up front with him about this, she realized. It’s not like I had anything to hide. “You’re right. I really should’ve been more honest with you. I was just afraid to tell you that I was out with Nick because the last time we bumped into him, you made it pretty apparent that you didn’t like him. I thought that you’d be pissed to find out I was hanging out with him.”

“Well, yea I’m pissed!” Sean’s voice rose. “I mean I think I have a right to be! Suddenly my wife is mysteriously close friends with the ex boyfriend that broke her heart? And she doesn’t even bother to tell me? In fact, when I asked where you were you lied. And now a week later you suddenly feel compelled to tell the truth? What am I supposed to think?”

“I’m sorry,” she apologized in a small voice. “You were already mad at me that night. I didn’t want to make it worse.”

“So, you think that I’m going to be any less mad tonight? If anything its worse because now you’re keeping shit from me.” He buried his head in his hands and groaned in frustration. “I just don’t fucking get it! We never had any problems keeping things from each other. We were always honest with one another. Then out of the blue your ex boyfriend pops back into the picture and lately all I’ve been getting from you is lies!”

“I have not lied about anything else concerning Nick!” Alyssa’s voice all of sudden rose in indignation. “So, I have no idea what you’re talking about.”

“Let me remind you then. You lied to me that he was famous, you lied to me that you still kept in touch with him, and you’re probably lying to me when you say that you don’t still have feelings for him,” he accused, ticking off each lie with his fingers.

“Get off the whole fucking jealously thing Sean! You may be my husband, but you have no say so in who I can or can’t be friends with! Maybe I just like hanging out with Nick because he’s a good person and he’s funny. Not everything has to be sexual between a guy and a girl.”

“Funny, that you’re the one who brought up there being something sexual. If you’ve noticed I haven’t accused you of there being anything sexual between the two of you. Do you have a guilty conscience or something?”

Alyssa could feel herself begin to lose control over her composure and could already feel her infamous temper beginning to boil. “It almost feels like you wish something happened between the two of us!” she pointed out. “Sorry to disappoint you, but my conscience is anything, but guilty. I told you everything exactly the way it happened. If you’d rather believe that I’m still pining away for my ex boyfriend then go right ahead, but don’t think its going to stop me from choosing to hang out with who I want to when I want to.”

Sean seemed unfazed by her response. “You still haven’t denied that you still have feelings for him. I find that very interesting.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?” she asked glaring at him.

“If the relationship is as innocent as you claim then you shouldn’t have a problem telling me that you don’t have feelings for him.” His eyes narrowed in her direction, challenging her. “Go on… Tell me you don’t still get that rush whenever you’re around him.”

“This is fucking ridiculous! I should not have to prove anything to you! Are you that insecure that you need me to reassure you that I’m not still in love with Nick? Come on Sean! Listen to how pathetic you sound right now!”

Sean grinned. “Just as I thought. You can’t do it. You can’t fucking bring yourself to say it.”

“I can too,” she argued. “I just choose not to because I’m not into playing your little games. Believe me; I’ve been in your shoes. I’ve been the one questioning and accusing and letting all my petty insecurities interfere with my relationships before, and it leads to nothing but trouble. If you think that this is going to solve anything between us, you’re dead wrong. You’re just making it worse.”

“I’m making it worse? Alyssa think about all the things that asshole has done to you! Think about the number he did on your confidence! When I first met you, you were so damaged that you were barely able to let your guard down for me to really get to know you. I had to undo all of the damage that he inflicted on you, and now you want to go back to being friends with this guy? Why?”

Alyssa sprang up from the table. By trying to make himself look better and trying to remind her that he’d broken down all her walls, it felt like he was only trying to pin medals on himself to give him the upper hand in the argument. To a certain extent he was right, but he hadn’t done all the work. She herself had to be willing to change and it had taken a lot of work on her side as well, which he refused to acknowledge. “You act like you did it all! Yes, you did help me regain confidence in myself again and made me realize that I’m worth a lot more than I realized. But, in the end it was my decision to change and just stop giving a damn about what people think. So don’t you dare try to take full credit for putting me back together again! As for my relationship with Nick, we’re friends. We’ve talked things over between the two of us and we’re both very happy with our current partners, but we’ve shared so much throughout the years that there’s no way we can just go back to being perfect strangers. I want him in my life as a friend. I choose to have him as a friend! And if you don’t like it, then that’s too bad. You’ll have to live with it, because it’s my decision. I just thought that you’d prefer it if I was actually honest and open with you about it, instead of being sneaky and underhanded. That way you can’t accuse me of having some secret affair with him or something!”

“This is being honest and open? Telling me that you hung out with him a week later after it happened? Which reminds me, you still haven’t explained to me why you only picked now to tell me about it?”

Alyssa sighed realizing that he had her there, but if she showed him the paparazzi pictures now it would probably only make him angrier and think that she only told him about her friendship with Nick because she felt forced to now that the pictures had been leaked. But, she couldn’t not tell him either. Knowing that she was royally screwed she slid the pictures that she had in front of her across the table at him. “I waited to today to tell you because I found out that some paparazzo snapped some photos of Nick and me last week while we were shopping. They were made out to look way more scandalous then they really were, so I knew I needed to explain myself to you before they get published in some tabloid. I was trying to do the honest thing now, while I still had the chance.”

She bit her lip as she watched Sean rifle through the photographs she’d printed off the internet. The hurt expression on his face only made the situation that much more painful for Alyssa and all of a sudden she could feel all her emotions swirling together as tears stung her eyes. “I’m really sorry Sean. I wish I told you earlier, but I was stupid. I never meant for it to work out this way. I didn’t want to hurt you.”

“I’d say it was a little late for that,” he muttered as he crumpled the pictures up in his hand. “I need to be alone for a while. I think I need some time to think about all of this.”

“Okay,” she agreed in a choked up voice, trying her best not to let the tears flow down her cheeks. He didn’t reply as he grabbed his keys and just walked back out of the house like their argument had never even transpired. Alyssa managed to hold her head up high until the minute she heard the front door slam. That was when the dam finally broke and she finally let herself break down. She’d definitely fucked up big time.

It was close to midnight when Alyssa finally heard the front door creak open from her and Sean’s bedroom. She’d forced herself into bed almost two hours ago, but found that sleep was the last thing on her mind. Instead she’d laid their wide awake and crying. She had no one to blame for her fight with Sean, but herself. She found herself wishing she could rewind time and just tell him the truth about her hanging out with Nick. Who knew that something that seemed so insignificant could wind up causing so many problems? She’d never seen Sean so angry before and it made her wonder exactly how he intended on resolving the issue. She couldn’t exactly see him serving her with divorce papers over something like this, but their fight had gotten pretty ugly. Things were bound to be tense between them as a result.

But what bothered Alyssa the most was Sean challenging her to admit to him that she had no feelings for Nick. She had already established to herself that she didn’t, so why couldn’t she just humor him and tell him what he wanted to hear. Instead she had to stubbornly refuse, which looking back, she had to admit had probably just only made things worse. The truth was though that she just couldn’t will herself to speak those words. It’s not because I still have feelings for Nick, she’d told herself. It’s only because a part of me will always love him, but not in the way that Sean seems to think. Still, deep down the whole situation had made her feel uneasy and filled her mind with doubt. Was there a little something there? Her thoughts drifted back to their encounter in Tiffany’s, and those unexplainable feelings she had experienced when he’d helped her remove the necklace. Was she only fooling herself by thinking that they were nothing? Was she just in denial?

Between both the actual argument with Sean and her mixed emotions about whether or not she still had romantic feelings towards Nick, Alyssa had tossed and turned for what felt like hours, wide awake. She definitely wasn’t looking forward to getting up and going to the work the next morning, and for a moment or two she actually considered calling in for a substitute and taking the day off, but quickly changed her mind. That wouldn’t be fair to her students.

She listened quietly, her breath caught in her throat as she heard Sean’s footsteps coming up the stairs. A few moments later she heard the sound of water running in the bathroom. She rolled over so that her back was to the door and clenched her eyes shut, pretending that she was asleep. She wasn’t certain what mood Sean was in and she didn’t want to continue to argue with him. She felt a sliver of light flood into the room against her closed eyelids as he entered the bed room and then she heard some rustling noises which she assumed was him getting undressed. The bed sank down a little with his weight as he slipped underneath the covers beside her. His next move shocked the hell out of her. His hands snaked their way around her waist and he leaned down to leave a light kiss on her shoulder blade, right near the strap of her tank top. Alyssa froze, unsure of how she should react. It was almost as if the entire scene from earlier that night had never taken place.

Before she could further analyze the situation, Sean’s voice broke through the tense silence. “Lyss, I’m sorry for earlier.” He nudged her body with his hand. “Please, I know you’re awake. We need to talk.”

Alyssa took in a deep sigh before slowly rolling back over, so that she was facing him. She knew that her face probably had to be streaked with tears and one look at Sean told her that he’d been feeing just as miserable as her the past few hours. Sean gripped her hands in his and looked down at her guiltily, as if he finally realized how out of line he had been with her. “I shouldn’t have reacted that way. I just was really upset that you felt that you couldn’t tell me the truth. I don’t want to have a marriage where you’ll afraid to tell me where you are all the time.”

“I don’t want that either,” she admitted in a small voice. “I wanted to tell you about hanging out with Nick. I guess I was just afraid that you’d automatically assume the worst. I should’ve told you sooner.”

“And I should’ve been more accepting.” Sean sighed. “I’ll admit. I don’t like the guy. I probably never will. And he might be a great guy, but I just can’t get past the fact that he hurt you. But I also can’t exactly prevent you from being friends with him either. You were right. I’d feel more comfortable if you could be open with me about him then having everything all secretive and suspicious. I promise I’ll try to at least be polite to him, okay?”

Alyssa just nodded. “Thank you. Honestly I don’t expect the two of you to be buddies. That would be just weird and awkward. But I really would appreciate it if you’d at least just accept him as one of my friends. Nothing is going to happen between us. I love you and he loves Shayla, so there’s no reason to worry. Worrying and living in fear that I’m going to cheat on you is only going to drive us farther apart. Believe me. I speak from very personal experience. When I was dating Nick I lived in constant fear that he’d cheat on me, so much so that it prevented me from letting my guard down long enough for us to really connect a lot of the times. Then eventually that distance that I’d created caused him only to cheat in the long run.”

Sean just smirked. “I guess if you can put all the blame on yourself for him cheating, you really have forgiven him.”

“I’m not putting all the blame on myself. He was wrong too. I’ve just learned that people don’t just cheat in relationships to cheat. There’s usually something missing that they’re trying to fulfill. Most times both members of the relationship are at some degree of fault. Someone who is perfectly content and happy is not going to cheat. They have no reason to.”

“I guess that makes sense,” Sean reluctantly agreed. “Anyway I acted like an ass and I’m sorry about it. I’m glad you told me before those pictures wound up on the front cover of US Weekly or something.”

“That was exactly my reasoning for telling you now. I still can’t believe that they were taken in the first place! And I guess I can’t blame you or anyone else who takes one look at them and believes the rumors that they’re trying to spread.” Alyssa sighed. “They were definitely taken at the most inopportune moments.”

Sean nodded his head. “That’s for sure. I’m rather curious myself about the necklace one. That looked pretty straightforward and intimate. What was really going on there?”

Alyssa felt her cheeks redden a little bit as she struggled to explain. “Nick decided that he wanted to buy Shayla a necklace for her birthday, so we were in Tiffany’s and he saw one he liked, but he wanted to see it on somebody first. He asked if I would model it for him and I couldn’t exactly say no, so I did. He wound up liking it, so the sales woman went to get a box and I was having trouble undoing the clasp, so he helped me with it. That’s all that happened. Trust me it’s not in the least bit scandalous.”

“I’ll take your word for it. And I promise I’ll be more trusting of you, especially when it comes to Nick.”

“And I promise that I’ll be more open with you and I won’t hide things anymore,” she swore. “I’m glad that everything worked out between us.”

“Yea me too. I’m sorry for reacting the way I did. We really shouldn’t be fighting like this, especially when the future is so uncertain.” Sean paused and stifled a yawn. “Anyway I probably should let you get to sleep. You have school in the morning.”

“All right. Goodnight.” Alyssa snuggled up against him, trying to make herself comfortable among the pillows. She closed her eyes, but realized that there was still something that she needed to say to him; that he needed to hear. Opening her eyes again she looked back ay him. “By the way, I don’t still have any feelings for Nick. In case you were wondering.”

She could just barely make out a little bit of a grin on his face and she knew the reassurance was exactly what he needed to hear. “Good. It’s comforting to hear that,” he told her.

Again Alyssa tried to fall asleep, but found that she still couldn’t relax enough. Now instead of worrying over her fight with Sean she was worried about what she’d just said to him. She’d promised to be completely honest with him from here on out, but even she wasn’t sure herself if her last statement had been completely true or not.

It had been a few days since Nick and Shayla had arrived at their home in Tahoe and Nick had to admit that the impromptu getaway had definitely been a good idea. Since they’d arrived they hadn’t fought once. In fact, they’d probably spent more time together than they had in a long while. One of the biggest disadvantages of being involved in a relationship with somebody else in the entertainment business was the fact that they operated on two completely different time schedules sometimes. It was very seldom that the two of them had any downtime at the same exact time as one another, which was what made their current situation even more perfect. Now that he was back on another hiatus from the guys and he only had his record company on his plate right now, Nick could choose to work when he wanted to, a situation he wasn’t exactly familiar with, but had to admit that he definitely could get used to. Now that Shayla was on “forced vacation” Nick had the liberty to take the week off as well which was very nice.

Another one of the advantages of being up in Tahoe for the week was that there weren’t very many people around and there really wasn’t lot of things to do. It left their sources of entertainment pretty limited to movies and spending a lot of time in bed, which Nick had absolutely no problem with. Recently it had become increasingly harder to squeeze in any time for sex since Shayla had begun filming her own show, so the two of them were taking full advantage of their surroundings. It almost felt like a much needed second honeymoon for them.

I could definitely get used to this, Nick thought to himself with a smirk as he stretched back out against the plush pillows that lined the head of the bed. As if she were reading his mind, Shayla curled up next to him, her chest still heaving from their activities only a few moments earlier. “You do realize that you’re totally spoiling me, right?”

Nick shot her another innocent smirk. “What do you mean, spoiling you?”

“I’m getting so used to this that it’s going to be really tough going back to work on Monday. “ She sighed in contentment as she buried her head in his chest. “Can’t we just stay here forever? Screw the rest of the world. We’ve got all that we could ever need right here.”

He just lightly laughed. “As tempting as that sounds I’ve still got to go back into the studio with my artists next week. I’ve been slacking a bit with the label. And you have a pretty fully packed schedule there yourself.”

Shayla dramatically groaned. “Must you remind me?”

Nick gave her a sympathetic look. “You don’t sound very happy with what you’re doing.”

She just shrugged. “It’s all right. Just a lot more work than I thought it was going to be.”

“And you wanted to squeeze a baby into the mix? I guess you’re regretting all that now.” Nick froze for a moment, realizing that he’d probably just opened a can of worms, but then quickly relaxed. If she was this overwhelmed now, clearly she’d have to see that a baby would only just make things worse.

He felt Shayla tense beside him. “I’m not regretting anything. In fact I still would like to have a baby. I just need to get settled into my new schedule a bit more. Once I’m comfortable we should spend another week or two up here and work on making that happen.” The dreamy smile that had been on her face faded as soon as she noticed Nick’s obvious lack of enthusiasm. “You’ve been considering the idea too, right?”

Nick remained silent for a moment. He had promised her that he’d kick the baby idea around in his head, but it had more been just to appease her. If anything he was more dead set against the idea than he was in the beginning, seeing how stressed out Shayla had become with work. “Honestly?” he slowly answered. “I really haven’t been.”

“Nick! You promised that you were going to consider it!” she whined. “You mean to tell me that you haven’t even thought about it one little bit?”

“If you’re asking if I’ve changed the mind, the answer is no. I still don’t think that the time is right for us to start considering having children. As of right now I don’t want kids. End of story.” He knew that his response sounded harsh, but the only way that she’d hopefully get the message would be by being blunt with her.

Shayla let out a frustrated sigh. “Can’t you just give me a reason, Nick? Just one good reason why you’re so dead set against the idea? I just need to understand where you’re coming from better.”

Nick sat up and looked down at her. “You want a reason? I’ll give you one obvious one right off the bat. Since you’ve started taping your show you’ve been barely keeping afloat energy wise. You’re getting up to be at the studio early in the morning, and staying out to cover parties until late hours of the night. You’re only getting maybe five hours sleep tops a night. You’ve become very cranky and I can tell you’re stressed out. How the hell are you going to be able to keep up this schedule if you’re pregnant? Furthermore, how are you going to be able to do everything you’re doing and be a good mother to a newborn baby?”

Shayla looked torn as if she knew that he had her there, but didn’t want to admit it. “I can cut back a little for a baby. I’d figure something out!”

“Just like you’re cutting back now, huh? Instead you keep adding more and more to your plate. When are you going to realize Shayla that you’re not Wonder Woman? You can’t do it all.”

She didn’t respond to this comment, but Nick could tell by the expression on her face that the wheels were turning in her head. Finally after some tense silence she came up with a response. “Okay… Can I just ask you a hypothetical question here?” Nick nodded his head. “I understand where you’re coming from. Maybe it is the wrong time for us to be planning on having a baby, but what happens if by some twist of fate I accidentally do get pregnant? Say we get back to LA and in a few weeks I find out that I’m going to have a child? Then what? Clearly you’re not going to expect me to get an abortion because there’s no way in hell I’m doing that. So, what would you do?”

Nick sighed. This was the same question that Alyssa had posed to him while they were shopping for Shayla’s birthday present and he answered it the same way that he had done with Alyssa. “I guess then I’d have to accept it and we’d work it out. I’d be scared shit, but no I’m not going to like make you have an abortion or something. What kind of person do you think I am? But what’s the point in playing the ‘what if’ game. We know the possibility of that happening is pretty slim. You’re on birth control.”

Shayla just shrugged. “Birth control isn’t always one hundred percent effective. Sometimes you forget to take a dose or two and it can fuck up your whole cycle. Especially when you’re overwhelmed. You tend to get very forgetful.”

Nick’s eyes narrowed. He wasn’t sure if it was just an innocent statement or a veiled threat. You never could quite tell with women. “Is this your way of telling me that you’ve been forgetting to take your birth control pills?” He could already feel his pulse start to quicken and a shaky feeling rumbled throughout his stomach as if he were going to be sick.

“Maybe…” Seeing the frightened look on her husbands face she quickly changed her tune. “Ok, no. I just wanted to see how you’d react. It is possible though.”

Now he was pissed. How dare she try to play games with him like that? He’d had his fair share of mind games with other women he’d dated in the past, but he thought that Shayla wasn’t into things like that. Apparently he’d been mistaken. When it came to desperate women wanting to get pregnant it seemed like they’d stoop to any level. He’d like to believe that Shayla would never go as far as conveniently “forgetting” to take her birth control pills, but now that the seed of doubt had been planted in his mind he couldn’t be too careful. What if she’s stopped taking them for a while now and I just haven’t realized it? His mind thought back to all the sex they’d had so far that week. If he hadn’t felt sick before, now he had to fight back the urge not to vomit.

Without another word he pulled the covers away from him and leapt out of bed as if he couldn’t get out fast enough. All of a sudden he felt the overwhelming need to shower although the damage might have already been done.

“Where are you going?” Shayla asked in a concerned voice.

“I’m taking a shower,” he mumbled as he headed towards the direction of the bathroom.

“Do you want me to join you?” he heard her voice call from back in the bedroom.

“No!” he quickly responded. He himself was surprised with how firm it had sounded. Great, now she’s going to think that I’m like disgusted by her or something.

Shayla sighed to herself as she heard the bathroom door slam behind Nick. She honestly hadn’t meant for her comment to come across like she was plotting to trap Nick into an unwanted pregnancy. That was just psycho and wrong on so many levels.

But she could easily see how he could very well think that. Sometimes, like for instance just now she just had a bad habit of plain not thinking before she spoke.

It was that very same annoying quality that was about to get Shayla’s marriage to Nick into even more hot water when another set of pictures resurfaced, although these were scandalous and damaging in a completely different way than the paparazzi pictures were. These were much more personal.
Chapter 10 - Spring Cleaning by Mellz Bellz
Author's Notes:

Nick comes across some very memorable photographs.

Chapter 10 – Spring Cleaning

“Oh Nickolas… I have a favor to ask of you,” Shayla’s voice sang in that sickingly sweet tone that she only used when she wanted something as she ducked her head into Nick’s office.

It had been a few weeks since the couple had returned back to LA from their vacation in Tahoe and there still was an air of tension between the two of them. At first, after Shayla’s not so subtle hints that in the end it was her who had the power to control whether they had children or not, Nick had lived in a constant fear that any day now she’d turn around and announce that she was pregnant. So far that day hadn’t come and with each day that passed Nick had to admit that he felt more and more relieved. Still there was a part of him who after their conversation in Tahoe, felt like he couldn’t exactly trust her. He had no idea if she was actually taking her birth control pills or conveniently “forgetting” about them. Since there really wasn’t way of forcing her to take them in front of him everyday, he was left no choice, but to distance himself from her just in case. Normally he really wasn’t the type of guy who could live without sex, but after Shayla’s seemingly innocent comments, it was like he was a completely different man. His friends would give him so much shit if they knew the truth, but almost overnight Nick Carter became very good at leading a celibate life style. There was no way he was touching Shayla with a ten foot pole if she was going to play those kinds of games with him.

If Nick’s way of dealing with the obvious tension between the two of them was to avoid her, Shayla’s was to keep her already busy self even busier. Besides returning to work at E! and resuming filming for her television show, she somehow found time on the weekends to devote to a new hobby; interior decorating. Since they’d returned to LA she’d already redone their living room and their master bathroom. She had plans in the works for the dining room and their bedroom, but before that she had her sights set on one other room in the house first.

“I need you to go through all these boxes of junk you have laying around your office in here,” she continued, not even waiting for him to respond. “I want you to get rid of some shit because I want to put new carpet in here and paint the walls and maybe get some artwork or something to spice the room up a bit.”

Nick sighed as he gazed at the piles of cardboard boxes that sat in the corner of the room opposite his desk. He still didn’t understand why Shayla felt the need to redo his office. His office was one of the few places in the house where he felt truly at home in. Besides, no one ever went up there, but him. “Don’t you think I should have any say so in whether or not I want you to redecorate my office?”

Shayla just stared at him blankly. “Nick, you have to be kidding me? This room is a mess! It needs something. No wonder you can never find anything in here. You need to get a system of organization down. Besides nothing goes in this room. It bothers me.”

Nick’s eyes gazed around the room. He had to admit that he had no clue what she was talking about. All the colors seemed to fit in just fine in his eyes. Okay… So maybe the walls were a little too dark for the carpet, but who the hell noticed things like that? Apparently his wife. Not wanting to get into it with her though he grudgingly agreed. “Fine. I didn’t have any other more important plans today anyway. I’ll get right on it.”

She triumphantly smiled; seemingly overjoyed that he had finally seen things her way. “Great! It’s going to look so amazing in here once I’m done!” With one last little overenthusiastic squeal, she closed the door behind her leaving him in privacy at last.

Nick leaned back against his leather desk chair and glared at the mountain of boxes that awaited him to rummage through. He really wasn’t looking forward to the experience. Over the years he’d become sort of a packrat and being in the entertainment business plus the fact that he’d moved around a lot in the last couple of years, meant that he’d accumulated a lot of useless shit that he was unsure of what to do with. He’d always been unsure of what exactly he should keep and what he should throw away, so he usually just kept it all. After he and Shayla got married and moved into their current home he’d sort of just left all his miscellaneous possessions in the corner of his office where they’d been sitting there collecting dust for almost a year now.

Guess I better get this over with, he decided with a sigh as he reluctantly got up from his chair and crossed the room. He grabbed the nearest box from the top of the pile and laid it down on the floor next to him. Plopping himself down on the carpet he began to rifle through the first box which contained several different plaques and awards he’d received throughout his musical career. One by one he pulled out several gold records and statutes from various different award shows. Damn, I could probably make a fortune selling some of this stiff on E-bay, he thought to himself with a smirk. Still, he supposed he should keep all of his Backstreet memorabilia to show off to his children someday. That is if he actually decided on having any.

Right… So not thinking about that, he decided as he reached for another box. This one was full of photo albums from his early days touring with the Boys in Europe. He had to crack a smile at one particularly dorky photo of him and Izzy taken when they were about 14 or 15 outside the Colleseum in Rome. God, I think this had to be taken at like the height of our awkwardness. He was so scrawny in the photograph that even he had trouble believing that it was really himself and Izzy’s wide smile displayed a gleaming mouthful of braces. He’d have to remember to taunt Izzy with this picture next time she came over.

One by one he went through box after box of memories. He flipped through dozens of photo albums immortalizing his history with the rest of the guys. Through pictures, he watched himself grow from a scrawny, awkward looking teenager to the man that he resembled today. He also came across several knickknacks that he had collected from his travels around the world that he really had no use for, but couldn’t bear to part with. About halfway through his rummaging, he looked back down at his piles and realized that very little was going in the pile to be thrown out.

Then he came across the box. The one box he’d almost completely forgotten about, but the one that always came back to haunt him. The Alyssa box.

As soon as he opened it he knew it was the box in which he had packed all the remaining odds and ends that she had left behind in his home because the scent of her perfume immediately intoxicated him. At the top of the box was some clothing she’d left behind when she came to visit him out in LA before they’d broken up. He’d offered to let her leave some of her things with him since the plan was for her to move back out there to be closer to him after the Never Gone tour. That unfortunately hadn’t worked out, and he’d never had the chance to return the clothing. Guess better late than never, he decided as he set it aside. He’d have to remember to return it all the next time he saw her. There was another photo album or two that he flipped through of them during the Black and Blue tour when Alyssa had been one of their backup dancers. He had to smile at the more innocent times those pictures represented. A few special occasion cards and letters that he’d received from her filled the bottom of the box that he just quickly glanced at. He was just about to move on when he felt one more item packed along the back corner of the box. His breath quickened as he pulled out a medium sized manila envelope with a few rubber bands wound tightly around it. Are these what I think they are? he anxiously wondered to himself as if his fingers raced to remove the rubber bands. They had to be. He hadn’t remembered seeing them in a few years at least.

A wide grin grew over his lips as he pulled out the glossy photographs, realizing he had indeed been correct. He doubted that even Alyssa knew that he still had these pictures of her. Right on the top of the pile a younger version of Alyssa at about age 21 or 22, laid sprawled out sexily across what had been his bed in his home in Florida, wearing just a skimpy pink bra trimmed with delicate white lace and matching bikini underwear. He began rifling through the intimate set of pictures, all variations of the original picture in different poses. It was amazing to see the progression between the ones at the beginning to the ones towards the end. The earlier pictures showed her making silly exaggerated faces as if she were not quite sure what she should be doing. But with each additional picture there had been noticeable differences until it became apparent that she’d finally fully relaxed and was comfortable. Any of the pictures that followed that point were just downright sexy.

Maybe it had to do with the fact that he hadn’t had sex in a while, but Nick found himself recalling the afternoon that he had snapped these pictures in very vivid detail. The way that when he had first pulled out the camera, her eyes had widened in shock. The way that she had resisted at first, embarrassed of what would happen if they somehow wound up in the wrong hands. The way that he had slowly persuaded her to change her mind, gently coaxing her along the way. But most importantly how hot it had been once she’d finally completely let her guard down. It was a side of Alyssa that he hadn’t really seen much of in their relationship. A side that was just beginning to emerge throughout the latter part of their first relationship before he had selfishly decided to call it quits after he learned of his parent’s divorce…


“Mmm…” Alyssa moaned against her boyfriend’s lips as his tongue grazed the roof of her mouth. Her left leg was hooked over Nick’s causing the skirt of the pale pink sundress she was wearing to hike up near the top of her thighs. Her teeth latched on to his lower lip nibbling at it gently as his hand traveled up her leg, urging the lightweight cotton garment upwards. Alyssa broke the embrace just long enough to raise her arms to help him pull the dress off her body and throw it to the side of the bed alongside Nick’s shirt that had been discarded only a few minutes prior.

Nick drew in a deep breath as soon as he caught sight of the unfamiliar looking pink and white lace bra and matching underwear with little pink bows.
That has to be new, he decided. He’d never seen Alyssa wear it before. He was pretty sure he wouldn’t forget it if he did.

The stunned expression on his face must have been obvious to Alyssa because she smirked and rolled back over onto her back, allowing him a better view. “You like? I just picked it up yesterday,” she informed him.

“Ah… So that was what was in that Victoria’s Secret bag you brought home yesterday. I was wondering about that.” His fingertips already began to play with her bra straps as he bent down to place a kiss near her shoulder.

Alyssa just grinned up at him. “Yea, I know how excited you get when I walk in the door with that little pink bag.”

“Well, I love it. I think it’s very sexy,” he responded in a husky voice. His head bobbed down lower trailing kisses across the top of his breasts before pulling away with a devilish gleam in his eyes as an idea formed in his mind. “Stay right here,” he commanded, already siding off the bed. “I’ll be right back.”

Alyssa looked at him curiously, but didn’t move from her position, wondering what the hell her boyfriend was up to this time. Her questions were answered a few moments later when he returned to the bedroom pulling his digital camera out of its case.

“Oh, hell no…” was her first response once she realized what he was plotting. “There’s no way that you’re going to get me to-“

Nick slid back down onto the bed and pressed a finger to her lips to interrupt her. “I don’t understand what the big deal is. You look absolutely gorgeous and incredibly sexy right now. You don’t know how much of a turn on this would be for me.”

Alyssa felt her cheeks redden a little bit. She never was one to take compliments well and as many times Nick told her she was beautiful she still sometimes got a little flustered. “You trust me, right?” he continued.

“I trust
you,” she answered honestly. “I just don’t trust what might happen if those pictures wound up in the wrong hands. It wouldn’t be something I’d want my Mother to open up a tabloid and see. Then there’s the fact that I think if they ever got leaked I could probably kiss my entire teaching career goodbye.”

“No one’s going to see them, but us I swear. I won’t even keep them on my laptop if you’re that self conscious about it. I’ll print them out and keep them in a really good hiding spot,” he swore. “Look, let me just take one and if you really hate how it comes out we can delete it right away. Sounds, fair?”

Alyssa still looked skeptical, but seemed to be considering the idea. “You promise you’ll really delete it?”

“I swear,” Nick promised her, crossing his heart for emphasis. “So, will you do this for me?”

A thoughtful look came over her face. The expression on Nick’s face was practically begging. She seemed torn for a moment, but then reluctantly gave in. “All right. I’ll do it, but if I feel too stupid we’re stopping.”

“Fine with me,” he agreed. Alyssa got the impression that he was probably just grateful that he’d been able to convince her at all.

She watched as Nick positioned himself at the end of the bed where he could get the best shot. As he raised the camera, Alyssa was suddenly overcome with an uneasy feeling of shyness. All of a sudden she felt very vulnerable as she struggled to appear calm and relaxed. “How do you want me?” she asked, inwardly wincing as she realized how unsure she probably sounded at the moment.

“However you feel the most comfortable.” It was apparent that Nick was trying to make this as easy on her as possible. “Do whatever feels right.”

Alyssa just nodded and tried to settle herself into a somewhat sexy pose, but after only a moment or two lost it and burst out into giggles. “I’m sorry,” she apologized. “I just feel really retarded right now.”

“It’s okay,” Nick assured her, trying to sound as patient as possible. “I think that you’re trying to over think it too much. Just do it.”

Of course I’m over thinking it too much. Don’t I always over think everything too much? Alyssa asked herself. Nick was right though. She was getting too hung up on whether or not she was projecting a sexy enough image. She took in a deep breath and repeated Nick’s advice in her mind. Just do it. She bit down a little on her bottom lip and attempted to glare proactively at the camera. The flash went off and her eyes wandered up to Nick’s face waiting for approval. She watched as a smirk grew on his face and he handed the camera to her, so that she could view the picture.

“Oh my God… Please delete it,” she begged as soon as she saw the image on the tiny screen in front of her eyes. The expression on her face just looked ridiculous and instead of a sexy glare, her eyes looked halfway closed. “I look like I’m about to pass out from alcohol poisoning or something.”

Nick just laughed. “Well, at least the lip thing was pretty sexy. How about I delete it and we try one more time? Just be yourself though. You don’t need to try so hard to look hot, because you already are. Just do the lip thing again.”

“You mean this?” she innocently asked again biting down just the slightest bit on her bottom lip.

“Yea, that’s exactly what I’m talking about.” Alyssa couldn’t help, but to smile a little as she tried not to laugh and before she knew it the flash had went off again. Again she looked up at Nick anxiously for his reaction and this time she knew that the picture had turned out better just by the smile on his face. This time when he showed her the picture she didn’t cringe as soon as she saw it. She had to admit that it had come across as much more natural and seeing it did help her relax a little more. “Now that’s a great picture,” Nick assured her. “Do you mind if I take a few more?”

Alyssa thought about it for a second or two before slowly shaking her head. “Not at all.” She had to admit that by now she was already becoming curious to see how they’d come out.

The camera flashed a few more times and there were still a few pictures where Alyssa found herself making unnatural facial expressions that just didn’t work right on film, but majority of the pictures weren’t actually half bad and with each click of the camera, she felt herself beginning to feel more and more comfortable with the idea of taking them in the first place. Once Nick could see that she had begun to relax, he began to give her some direction, telling her to tilt her head a certain way or to extend her neck a little more. Alyssa did exactly as she was told and within a few more minutes she forgot all about her initial nervousness. If anything, she began to grow slightly bolder with her poses, lowering her fingertips to play with the lacy trim of her bra. She could tell by the look on Nick’s face that he was enjoying her newfound confidence which only gave her more incentive to become more daring. She smirked as she was struck by an idea that she knew would definitely elicit a positive response from him. Nick could tell by the mischievous look on her face that she was up to something, because he shot her a questionable glance. Not changing her expression, she hooked her thumb into the waistband of her underwear, lowering it just enough for her brightly colored butterfly tattoo to peek out over the top. The camera flashed and she watched as Nick looked down to see the image appear on the screen in front of him. Just by the way that his blue eyes had almost immediately widened, Alyssa got the impression that he’d been impressed with the outcome. Getting curious herself as to what it looked like, she crawled up behind him resting her chin on his shoulder to get a better view.

Even Alyssa found herself a little taken back by the intensity of the picture. She found it almost hard to believe that it actually was herself in the photo. She looked… Well, she looked sexy.

As if he were reading her mind, Nick turned his head towards her, leaving only inches apart between their lips. “God, that last picture was hot… I can’t even think of any other way to describe it. I… I’m…”

“Speechless?” she finished for him with a giggle.

“Yea, I guess you could say that.” His lips drew nearer to hers until they were pressing against them intensely. Alyssa could feel his hand travel upwards to the back of her neck as the kiss deepened. She broke away from him just long enough to switch her position so that she was straddling his lap before seeking out his lips again. They didn’t stay there for long on hers. They made almost a painfully slow trail down the front of her neck and her collarbone. She breathed in sharply as his kisses continued to venture lower.

He pulled away with a sly grin on his face. “That last picture is going to be a hard one to outdo, but I’m sure you’ll give me something memorable.” His hands reached around her back and were just about to pull apart the clasp of her bra when she shrugged out of his embrace. “What’s wrong?” he asked, in a concerned voice.

She looked him in the eye very seriously. “I think now would be a good time to put the camera away.”

“But…” he started to protest. “You’re doing great and we’re just getting started. Please let me-“

Alyssa cut him off. “Absolutely not. You should be glad that you got me this far, but this is where I draw the line. I’m definitely not comfortable with naked pictures of myself being out there.”

“I already told you that no one is going to see these, but me,” he tried to convince her. “Trust me.”

“Nick…” Alyssa crossed her arms in front of her chest and just glared at him giving him the indication that she was not going to budge. He knew from experience that at this point he was better off just cutting his losses and being grateful for the pictures that she had allowed him to take.

“Fine,” he reluctantly gave in with a pout as he turned the camera off and slid it back into its bag. “You win.” He tossed the bag off the side of the bed and turned back to her.

“Thank you,” she told him as she began to pick up exactly where they had left off…


The sound of footsteps in the hallway outside of his office jarred Nick out of his daydream. His heartbeat quickened as he heard the doorknob begin to jiggle. All of the pictures of Alyssa were spread across his lap, painting an obviously incriminating scene. In a frenzied panic, he scooped up all the photographs and hid them underneath their envelope just as Shayla entered the room.

“Wow… Looks like you’ve been busy. I can actually make out the corner of the room finally,” she commented as she looked around the room, finally settling her eyes on Nick’s garbage pile and wrinkled her nose. “Although I hoped that you’d be getting rid of a lot more junk than that.”

“I’m working on it,” he quickly replied, already feeling like a kid caught sticking his hand in the cookie jar.

Her eyes continued to scan around the room before settling on the pile of Alyssa’s clothing, lying on the other side of him. “Why do you have a pile of women’s clothing? Where did that come from?”

Shit, Nick silently cursed as he noticed the pile of clothing for the second time. He’d been in such a rush to hide the pictures that he’d forgotten about the clothing and how suspicious it probably looked. Not being able to think up a good enough lie fast enough he had no choice, but to tell the truth. “They’re some old things of Alyssa’s that she forgot at my place when we were together. I must’ve thrown them into one of these boxes with the intention that I’d like mail them to her or something and forgot about them. I thought that since she’s so close now I could finally return them to her.”

“Ahh, I see.” Was it his imagination or did Shayla’s lip tighten at the mention of Alyssa’s mind. He thought that by now Shayla wouldn’t have much of a reason to dislike Alyssa since he’d explained the whole tabloid scandal to her. Apparently he’d been wrong. “Well, I guess I’ll leave you alone and let you finish up in here.” With that she turned on her heels and left the room.

Why didn’t I just tell her that the damn clothes belonged to one of my sisters? Nick asked himself with a sigh. It would have made the moment ten times less awkward. He removed the envelope from the top of the pile of the pictures and gazing down at Alyssa’s sexy pout staring back at him only made one thing clear. He had to do something about these pictures before Shayla discovered them. If she ever got her hands on them it would not be pretty. Nick may have been able to talk his way out of those tabloid pictures, but even he doubted that he could talk his way out of these pictures.

Nick pondered on what exactly he should do with the pictures that he had discovered of Alyssa over the next few days. They were always there in the back of his mind and every time he closed his eyes he could picture each of them in explicit detail. This wasn't good at all. As of right now, the pictures remained hidden inside his desk drawer, but he knew that they wouldn't be safe for long there. If Shayla stumbled upon them... Well, he didn't even want to take that thought any further. Even though the perverted guy part of him wanted to keep the pictures as sort of a trophy, he also knew that keeping them would be risky. Yet, he couldn't bring himself to destroy them even though he assumed that's probably what Alyssa had thought he did with them. He wondered what she would think if she knew that he'd held on to them for so long. Would it freak her out? But then again it wasn't as if he looked at them everyday either. That would just be creepy and not at all healthy. He even went as far as to consider handing them over to Alyssa and let her decide what to do with them. Then they'd be out of his hands and hopefully out of his head. He couldn't decide though if that was too weird or not, though. He supposed it would seem a little odd if an ex who he now had a friendship with randomly decided to give him such intimate photographs that they had come across. It was evident that he was in desperate need of some advice.

And there was only one person that he'd consider going to for their opinion on a matter as strange as this one. If there was one person one earth who had gotten themself into more awkward situations than Nick, it had to be AJ. He'd pretty much been through it all before with the opposite sex, so in situations such as the one he was in now, Nick never hesitated to seek out AJ's advice.

Finally one afternoon a few days after finding the pictures, he found his mind so engrossed in his dilemma that he realized he was getting very little work done. He was at his office in the studio where he conducted majority of his label business and even though he had a bunch of things that needed to be taken care of, his mind wasn't with it. Realizing that he wasn't going to get any work done until he got Alyssa and the pictures out of his head, he picked up his phone and dialed AJ's number.

The phone rang a few times before AJ picked up. "Nick? Hey, what's going on? Haven't heard from you in a while."

"I've been pretty good," he answered. Before he could say anymore AJ interrupted him.

"By the way, I caught those pictures of you and Alyssa in the tabloids. Pretty brutal, huh? How'd Shayla react?"

Nick sighed, not wanting to relive the whole ordeal. Luckily, since they'd returned from Tahoe the picture scandal had been pretty much dying down, but every once in a while he was still questioned about it, even weeks later. "Yea... The paparazzi can be pretty shitty when they want to be. Shayla got really pissed at first because she saw the pictures before I did, but eventually she accepted my explanation. We hid out in our place up in Tahoe until the whole thing blew over, so it wasn't so bad."

"Since when did you Alyssa start hanging out again anyway?"

"Like a month or two ago? It's a long story. Actually, while we're on the topic of pictures of ex girlfriends I kind of could use some advice about something," he expertly changed the subject.

AJ's interest appeared to be peaked. "Sounds interesting. What kind of issue did you get yourself involved in this time, Carter?"

Nick took in a deep breath. "Okay, so let's say hypothetically speaking you took some rather uhm… intimate photographs of an ex of yours... And then the two of you broke up and you sort of just hid the pictures away in a box and almost completely forgot about them. Fast forward a few years later and now you still keep in touch with the ex, but you're both in new, separate, serious relationships. You come across these photos randomly one day while say, cleaning out your office and now you can't get them off your mind. Also, you definitely don't want your current partner to see them because she's already not exactly fond of this ex. What would you do with the pictures?"

"Okay whoa back up there!" AJ sounded as if he was slowly trying to process this information. "Okay I'm assuming that this hypothetical person is none other than you and the unmentionable ex is Alyssa? And the jealous current partner is Shayla?"

"Wow J... Someone should give you a medal for figuring all of that out on your own," Nick sarcastically replied.

"Shut up, Carter. All right exactly how intimate are we talking here?" AJ asked.

"Does it matter?"

"Of course it does! There's a lot of ambiguity there. Intimate could refer to anything from very private and tame to like triple x hardcore shit," he pointed out. "I need to know exactly what we're dealing with before I can properly advise you on what to do."

Nick wrinkled his nose. "Come on, this is Alyssa we're talking about. Do you really think she'd let me take pictures of her that were that graphic?"

He could picture AJ shrugging on the other end of the line. "You never know sometimes. It's the one's that you least expect sometimes that are the most willing. Besides, if she's anything like her sister..."

Nick inwardly shuddered not wanting to hear the details about AJ's short romance with Alyssa's older sister Meg, going back a good seven or eight years ago. "Well, sorry to disappoint, but they really weren't that bad I guess. I mean bad enough that Shayla would be pissed that I still have them, but not bad enough to where it would be life destroying for her if they ever got out."

“Are they nudie shots?”

“Of Alyssa? Pfft! I could only wish. You know she’d never have gone for that.”

"So, I'm guessing the pictures were of her in some sort of lingerie or something?" AJ guessed.

"Yea..." Nick slowly admitted. "She was in her bra and underwear."

"So, she was in her skivvies... Was there anything else going on in the pictures?"

Nick rolled his eyes. "Who the hell says skivvies?"

"You're avoiding the question," AJ pointed out. "What was she doing in these so said pictures?"

"Nothing too crazy. They were mostly just kind of teasing. Probably the most scandalous one was her pulling down her underwear a bit to show off her tattoo. Otherwise it wasn't like there was anything pornographic going on."

"Okay... I'm beginning to get a visual here now-"

"Hey, I don't want you envisioning Alyssa half naked!" Nick interrupted. "She'd chop off my dick and hand it to me in a plastic bag if she even knew that I was telling you all this."

"Chill Carter... I was just trying to say that I'm beginning to get an idea of what we're dealing with here. Although if she looks anything like her sister underneath all those clothes-"

"AJ! Remember, you're supposed to be giving me advice. Not commenting on how my ex girlfriend might look naked."

"Oh, right... Well, I think that it would probably be best if you got rid of them. Out of sight, out of mind. And that way you can't worry about Shayla finding out about them," he suggested. "Does Alyssa know that you still have the pictures?"

"Not that I know of. She hasn't asked me about them. They're pretty old... Like from 2002. I think she thinks that I've burned them or something. I don't think she has a clue that I still have them."

"Hmm... How close would you say the two of you are as friends? Is this something you'd be afraid of bringing up with her?" AJ asked.

Nick thought about his friends question for a moment. "I think it probably would be kind of awkward, but I think after everything we've been through together there's very little that I'd feel entirely uncomfortable with bringing up with her. Especially lately. Now that we're not together anymore I feel like we're more open with each other in ways we never were when we were dating."

"So, maybe you should bring the pictures up to her and ask her what she thinks you should do with them. I mean they are of her, so I guess she should have some say so about what happens to them. Just explain that you found the pictures and you don't want Shayla to find out about them, so before you go ahead and destroy them you just figured you'd ask her if it was all right. Who knows? Maybe she'll want to keep them," AJ suggested.

"I'm not sure if I can picture Alyssa wanting to keep them. It was hard enough getting her to take them in the first place."

"You never know with chicks. They can be very unpredictable at times. I still think you should take it up with her and at least get her input before you do anything. And oh yea... Even if she says to destroy them I'd still keep one or two, for posterity of course."

Nick grinned at AJ's last comment, amazed at how he had almost read his mind. He could easily hide one or two of them from Shayla. She definitely wouldn't understand his reasons for hanging on to them. It was after all a man thing. "Thanks for the advice J. Strangely enough; you've actually helped me out."

"Well I'm glad I could've been of service then. Let me know how it works out."

"I will. Anyway I should get back to work. I'm at the studio and I'm swamped with shit I have to get to. Thanks again."


The two men said their goodbyes and Nick focused his attention back on the work in front of him. He did feel a certain sense of relief confiding in somebody else about his dilemma. Still, now he was faced with a bigger reason to worry. How was he going to bring up the pictures to Alyssa? Should he bring the pictures up to Alyssa?

Sure, he'd made it sound as if it would be a piece of cake. That he and Alyssa were completely comfortable with each other and their past, but deep down he had to admit that wasn't entirely true. They'd definitely come a long way, but Nick wasn't quite sure if they were at the right place to have a conversation like the one AJ suggested just yet.

Nick sighed in frustration as he banged his head against the desk. Realizing that he wasn't going to get any more work done that day he finally gave up and grabbed his car keys and a pile of things he could attempt to get done at home. All he knew was that whatever he decided to do about this picture situation he had to do it soon because it was starting to prevent him from getting anything accomplished.

Chapter 11 - Curiosity Killed the Cat by Mellz Bellz
Author's Notes:

Nick hands the photographs over to Alyssa. Shayla makes a startling discovery.

Chapter 11- Curiosity Killed the Cat

Nick took a deep breath as he turned onto the residential street of what was supposed to be Alyssa’s new house. After much internal struggle since his conversation with AJ, he finally decided to do just what his friend had suggested and ask Alyssa for her input on what should be done with the pictures. The more he thought about it, the more he began to feel obligated to include Alyssa in his decision, since obviously they were of her and if anyone ever discovered them she’d probably be the one with the most to lose. He knew that the best way to bring up the pictures would be in person, so he’d given her a call and used the excuse of wanting to return the clothing of hers he’d found, which was at least partly true. He did have every intention of doing just that, but there was nothing wrong with killing two birds with one stone, was there? Alyssa had sounded surprised that he had even bothered to attempt to return the clothing, but hadn’t discouraged him. She suggested that he stop by this afternoon after she came home from work, which was exactly what Nick was doing.

His eyes squinted to see the house numbers since nearly everyone of the houses on the block seemed practically identical. He wondered how Alyssa even managed to find her own home at times. Well, what do you expect? She lives on an army base, he reminded himself. Finally, he spotted her house number and pulled into her driveway, right behind her car. The house seemed nice enough on the outside. It was your average small two story house just the right size for a newly married couple just about ready to start their own family. It seemed to fit Alyssa.

Nick killed the engine and glanced at the cardboard box sitting in the passenger seat beside him. He’d stuffed all the clothing back into the box along with the pictures which were tucked safely on the bottom. He figured that it probably would be best not to bring those up right away. He’d need to work up to them first. He glanced at the digital clock on his dashboard seeing that it was almost four-thirty. Alyssa probably hadn’t been home from work all that long yet, but he knew that she had suggested he come earlier to avoid any run in with Sean. Alyssa’s husband didn’t usually come home for another hour or so and even though Alyssa hadn’t come right out and said it, Nick got the impression that he wasn’t too fond of him.

Guess I better get this over with; he decided as he opened up his door and grabbed the cardboard box in his arms. A few moments later he was standing at the front door ringing Alyssa’s door bell.

“I’m coming!” he could hear a voice from inside call out, and a few seconds later the front door sprang open and Alyssa appeared with a wide smile on her face. “Hi Nick! Come on inside. Don’t mind the mess. I just got in from work maybe ten or fifteen minutes ago.”

“It’s okay,” he assured her as he stepped inside. She hadn’t even had a chance to change out of her work clothes and Nick had to admit that there was something very hot about the black pencil skirt that clung just right around her hips and the thin, white, button down shirt she was wearing. Her dark hair was haphazardly twisted onto the top of her head with one of those large hairclips, loose tendrils already beginning to fall out of its grasp. Completing the look on her feet were a pair of plain black, pointy toed, sling backs. What are you thinking Carter? She’s an elementary school teacher for Gods sake! You’re not supposed to find her outfit hot, he reminded himself. Hell, you shouldn’t even be looking, especially at your happily married ex!

Alyssa’s voice broke through his thoughts. “Why don’t you make yourself at home on the couch while I just run upstairs for a moment to change into something a little more comfortable?”

Without even thinking, Nick found himself protesting. “No, you don’t have to do that. You’re fine just the way you are.” It took all of his willpower for him to not clamp his hand over his mouth after he’d said the words aloud. He definitely hadn’t meant to actually say anything. “I mean, I know you kind of just want to get this over with before Sean gets home and that would just take up more time.” Nice save, he congratulated himself.

Alyssa looked at him a little funny at first, but seemed to accept his explanation. “You’re right,” she told him as she took a seat on the couch. She patted a spot next to her indicating Nick to sit beside her, which he did, placing the large cardboard box between them.

Nick found himself looking around the room at his surroundings as he got himself settled. “Nice little place you have going on here,” he commented.

“Oh, that’s right. I almost forgot that you’ve never been here before,” she admitted, feeling a little embarrassed. “Well, I’d give you the grand tour, but it’s not all that interesting or very grand. This is the living room, kitchen is over that way, bathroom is down the hall, and the laundry room is off the garage. Upstairs we have another bathroom, a guest room, and of course me and Sean’s room. That’s pretty much it. It’s small, but it’s perfect for the two of us.”

He just nodded. “Yea, that’s true. And you have that extra room for the baby.”

“Yea… If it ever happens.” Nick noticed the frown on her face and was about to ask her to elaborate on what exactly she meant by that, but before he had an opportunity to do so she quickly changed the subject, slipping into the role of the perfect hostess. “Can I get you anything to drink? A soda or some juice or something?”

“No, I’m good,” he insisted.

There was an awkward pause for a moment as if neither one of them knew exactly how or where to start. Finally Alyssa broke the silence and started to reach inside the box. “So, let’s see what you have for me.”

Nick helped her remove a few articles of clothing from the box. It mostly contained more summery outfits, more suited for the California weather. She’d decided to leave most of her lighter clothing at Nick’s instead of dragging it back to New York for the month before she was supposed to return to California for good since she definitely wouldn’t have needed it in January. “Well, Shayla wanted me to clean out my office and I had boxes of random crap piled in the corner and in one of the boxes I found your clothes. I know it’s been over three years, but I figured you might want some of them back,” he explained.

Alyssa just laughed as she rifled through the box. “Most of it probably won’t fit anymore. I’ve gained a little bit of weight there, but I’m sure I can salvage some of it.” Nick watched as her eyes lit up when she pulled out a vaguely familiar looking denim skirt and a long, loose fitting purple tube top. “Oh, my God… Last time I wore this was when we went out with Howie, Teri, AJ, and Tricia; the first night I met the girls! We went to that Mexican restaurant and I got really drunk on those margaritas…” Her eyes seemed to glaze over at the memory.

He smirked. “Yea… You were pretty wasted, but I didn’t mind at all. It just made it easier to take advantage of you.”

Alyssa’s eyes widened as the night began to come back to her in more detail. “That’s right! That was the night you dragged me up to that VIP lounge to ‘talk.’” A slow grin grew across her face. “If I remember correctly there was very little talking getting done up there.”

“Well, I wasn’t the one who came right down and told not only Teri, Tricia, and the guys, but almost the whole entire bar, that you and I had just had a ‘quickie’ upstairs.”

Her face reddened a little bit at the memory. Okay, so she’d been more than a little trashed that night. In fact, maybe it was her imagination, but she could almost still smell the scent of the tequila on her clothing. The exact details were a little fuzzy in her head thanks to the alcohol she had consumed, but she could vaguely recall them having a lot of fun with the margarita salt that had lined the rim of her glass. “Not like it wasn’t totally obvious from the way we looked afterwards,” she defended herself. “I was definitely rocking the sex hair.”

It didn’t seem to hit her until just then that she was reminiscing about a sexual encounter with her ex in the very same house that she now lived in with her husband. Now if that didn’t make her feel dirty she didn’t know what else would. Reaching this realization she quickly changed the subject. “That was also the night that Teri, Tricia, Howie, and I signed you and AJ up to sing karaoke to ‘Like a Virgin’ as a joke.”

“Oh yea! I still can’t believe that you guys did that to us. That was pretty messed up.”

“But I must say that you two were very good sports about it. I honestly didn’t think that you guys would actually have the nerve to go up there, but you did and you had fun with it.”

Nick laughed a little bit at the memory of him and AJ doing their most exaggerated, over the top, Madonna impressions at some hole in the wall bar on the outskirts of LA. They’d been embarrassed at first, but decided that if they were stuck in the position of having to sing karaoke to some lame song, they might as well make it entertaining. And entertaining it had been. Howie had recorded the performance on his digital camera and posted it on his My Space page. The fans had gotten quite the kick out of it.

Alyssa continued to remove the other articles of clothing in the box, holding each item up to examine it before folding it up into a neat pile next to her on the couch. “Thanks for bringing all of this back, even though it’s been sitting in a box for like three years. I almost forgot that you had all of this.”

Nick just shrugged. “It was no big deal. I found it and thought that you might want some of this stuff back. You know what they say. Better late than never.”

He was so busy explaining herself that he hadn’t even noticed that Alyssa had reached back into the box and was now holding the manila envelope that contained the infamous pictures. His face paled a little bit because this wasn’t exactly how he had planned bringing them up to her. “What’s this?” she innocently asked. “Is there something else I’m forgetting?”

“Ehh… Not exactly… But it is something else that I found while I was cleaning out my office and I thought that you might want.” He swallowed hard as a confused look knitted across Alyssa’s brow, realizing that this was it. “This is kind of awkward, but do you remember before we first broke up you let me take those pictures of you? I mean of course you probably do. That’s not really something you forget, right?” he sputtered, feeling completely stupid. What was with him? Usually girls were the ones who got flustered around him, not the other way around. Besides, it was just Alyssa.

A small smile grew across Alyssa’s lips as she noticed just how nervous he seemed. For once it seemed as if she held the reins in her hands with him which felt pretty strange to her, but not all too uncomfortable. She decided to go with it and with a burst of confidence she angled her body a little closer to his. There was no harm in a little flirting was there? “Well, if I had forgotten about them that probably wouldn’t reflect very well on you, huh?”

“No, uhmm I guess not,” Nick admitted. “Anyway, yea… I found them cleaning out my office and I had forgotten that I still had them. I guess I kind of just packed them away and forgot about them. I don’t think it’s probably such a great idea if I keep them because you know Shayla would get the wrong impression if she ever stumbled upon them, so I thought that it would only be right to give them back to you.”

Alyssa’s smile quickly turned into frown. This was awkward. When he started to bring up the pictures, she hadn’t anticipated that he’d actually brought them with him to give to her. Was that weird? She wasn’t sure. It wasn’t like she allowed every one of her past boyfriends to take naughty pictures of her. “What exactly am I going to do with them?” she asked.

Nick shrugged. “I don’t know… If you want to get rid of them that’s your decision. I just felt like you should have some sort of say in the matter.”

“Honestly, I thought that you did get rid of them. I mean after we broke up there really wasn’t much reason to keep them, right? You never mentioned still having them. I kind of assumed they were destroyed.” She had to admit that she did feel a little uneasy knowing that this whole time he had kept those pictures of her. Has he looked at them regularly? she wondered.

“I didn’t like keep them on purpose,” he tried to defend himself. “After we broke up I wasn’t quite ready to let go of them yet, so I stuffed them in this box and they’ve pretty much been in there since then. I knew I still had them somewhere, but I wasn’t exactly sure where. I guess I just didn’t think about them after a while. But yea… They’re yours to keep now, so do whatever you want with them.”

With a shaky hand, Alyssa slowly opened the envelope. Was it strange that she felt almost scared to look at them now nearly six years later? Not that she was ashamed of taking them in the first place, but more because she just didn’t want to face the emotions that those photographs would stir up inside her. All sexual feelings aside, the pictures represented a time in which she had completely trusted Nick enough to take such a big risk as taking them in the first place. At that point in their relationship she hadn’t even considered the fact that they’d not wind up together forever. They’d been engaged! And now to look back at those more innocent times and think about how their relationship had really played out was just bound to be painful.

Nick nervously shifted in his seat as he watched Alyssa pull out the pictures. The way that her forehead wrinkled up into a worried expression provided him with enough evidence to figure out that it might actually pain her to be confronted with the memories of the photographs. All of a sudden he wished that he didn’t have to sit and watch her as she rifled through the pictures. Not only was it extremely uncomfortable for him, but it made him fear that being confronted with them might ruin the special friendship that they now shared. Maybe it wasn’t such a good idea for him to bring them up to her.

As Alyssa flipped through each picture her fears began to subside and instead of being haunted by the past memories attached to them she actually found it almost refreshing to look at them again. Originally, she thought that she might have been a little embarrassed to look at herself like that, but oddly enough she actually found them empowering. It was the strangest thing, but she felt almost proud of herself for actually having the guts to do something like that. And as conceited as it may have sounded she thought she actually looked pretty damn good. The pictures were taken not too long after the Black and Blue tour, so her body was probably in the best shape it had been in, in her entire life. The weeks of dancing in front of an arena full of people every night had definitely helped tone her up. Not that Alyssa was heavy by any means now. She could definitely still be considered slim, but in the last few years she’d slowly lost the definition she’d built up from dancing and gained a good ten or fifteen pounds. As her metabolism slowed down she found all her weight going straight to her hips and thighs and even though many a woman would kill for Alyssa’s size six figure, it was still nice to look back at when she’d been a size two. Maybe she would keep the pictures after all.

Nick noticed the change in Alyssa’s attitude right away just by the grin that had slowly crawled over her lips. He stared at her for a moment almost dumbfounded by her complete change in attitude. It was almost as if she was actually enjoying looking at them, a far cry from the Alyssa he used to know.

“I think maybe I’ll keep these after all,” she slowly responded after a few more moments, sliding them back into the envelope. “You don’t mind, do you?”

“Not at all,” he responded. “They’re all yours.”

“You sure you don’t want to keep a couple?” she offered.

“Nahh… If Shayla finds them I’d have a hell of a time explaining them to her.” Besides he’d already taken his favorite shots and scanned them into his laptop. He knew it was a risky thing to do, but no one ever touched his computer, but him and he was pretty sure he had hidden them in a pretty inconspicuous folder. Of course he didn’t tell Alyssa any of this.

“That’s true. I’d probably have a much easier time explaining to Sean why I happen to have half naked pictures of myself laying around then you would have trying to explain to Shayla why you have half naked pictures of your ex girlfriend.”

Nick couldn’t help himself, but to ask the inevitable question that was at the back of his mind. “Just curious… What exactly are you planning to do with those pictures?”

Alyssa just laughed and shrugged. “I’m not sure, but I’ll figure something out. Maybe I’ll keep them to show to my kids someday. Like ‘See children… Mommy used to be a sex kitten back in the day, huh?’ Or maybe I’ll save them for after I finally do get pregnant and give birth and have all that baby weight to lose. I can post them in random spots all over the house as motivation.”

“Well, I’d say those are certainly some original ideas,” he smirked.

“Yea… I thought you’d appreciate them.” She grinned, but then looked down at her watch and paled. “Oh shit… Sean should be getting home pretty soon. Where did the time go?”

“I guess that’s my cue to leave?”

Alyssa just gave him a weak smile. “Yea… Not to be rude, but I’d prefer not to have to explain to Sean what you’re doing here. He’s been sort of moody lately and I just don’t want a fight.”

Nick frowned. “Maybe I’m out of line to say this, but if he is so insecure that he has to approve of all your friendships, then that’s not really a sign of a very healthy relationship. I thought that you always said that you wouldn’t stand for a guy who tried to control you, especially with Meg being in an abusive relationship in the past.”

“He’s not controlling me!” she insisted, her eyes nervously shifting around the room. “We’ve just been sort of fighting a lot lately and I just don’t want to give him another reason for him to get angry with me.” She sighed as she noticed the doubtful look on Nick’s face. “I know how it probably sounds Nick, but I swear to God that it’s not what you think. Sean’s really a nice guy and he’s not typically an angry person. He’d never do anything to physically hurt me. We’re just under a lot of stress right now. We have no clue when he’s going to Iraq and then there’s trying to have a baby before then and it’s turning out to be harder than we both anticipated. We’ve just been at each other’s throats a lot lately because everything is so rushed.”

Nick’s face softened at her explanation. He had to admit the stress that Alyssa and Sean were under was enough to cause problems in even the most stable of relationships and it had to be even harder for a couple who wasn’t even married a year yet. Still though he could only feel so much sympathy for them. They couldn’t control certain things like Sean being deployed to Iraq, but the baby thing was a personal choice of theirs. Was it that big of a deal if Alyssa didn’t get pregnant before Sean left for Iraq? Nick just didn’t see the logic in rushing to have a child before a relationship was really ready for one; hence, his current situation with Shayla. “Did you ever stop to think that maybe it wouldn’t be so horrible if you don’t get pregnant before Sean leaves for Iraq? I mean you’re still young and maybe it’s just not the right time for you yet. I just don’t understand what the big rush is for the two of you. It’s only stressing you out and hurting your relationship in the long run because you’re putting so much pressure on yourselves.”

“The big rush is that what happens if he doesn’t come back? What if this his only chance to create a child? He wants the opportunity to leave behind a part of himself so badly and I feel like I’m letting him down by not getting pregnant by now,” she confessed, sounding close to tears. “What if there’s something wrong with me?”

“First off, I see where you’re coming from, but worst case scenario if something does happen to him in Iraq, God forbid, what about you? You’re now not only a widow, but a single mother. Is that really how you want to raise a child?” He took a deep breath. “All I’m saying is my philosophy is that if it happens before he leaves, that’s great! But if it doesn’t, don’t beat yourself up over it. Maybe it wasn’t meant to be for some reason. Maybe it was meant to work out a little differently. And again if something happens to him, you’re still young. I know it sounds cold, but there are other guys out there. I’m sure you’ll become a mother some day. Maybe now just isn’t the right time for you.”

Alyssa sighed, feeling the tingly sensation of frustrated tears burning up against her eyelids. She knew that deep down Nick was right, but she refused to accept it. She hated situations that she had no control over, but the truth was in this case it was all up to the hands of fate. She could do everything in her power to become pregnant, but if it wasn’t meant to happen it wouldn’t no matter what she tried. She knew that Sean felt just as helpless as her and that was probably the source of all of their fighting. They’d been using arguments to hide the fact that they were both scared of their plans not working out as they’d imagined them. Still, it was painful to hear Nick state the truth so bluntly, a truth that she didn’t want to accept.

Nick stood there helpless for a moment, knowing that his words had struck a painful chord in her. Maybe I was wrong in trying to help, he told himself. Obviously this was a very touchy subject for her and he was surprised that she’d opened up to him as much as she just did. I should probably just leave now so she has time to compose herself before Sean gets home. “Look, I know you’re upset right now, so I should probably leave you alone. I’ll give you a call or something and if you ever need to talk I’m around,” he offered. He stood there for another unsure moment before stepping closer to her to give her a hug. She looked like she could’ve used one.

“Thanks,” she told him, leaning her head against his chest. “And thanks for bringing back the clothes… And the pictures.”

“You’re welcome. I’m just glad that you didn’t think it was weird or anything.” Alyssa shook her head and Nick released his grip on her. After an awkward wave he was gone.

Once the door closed behind him, Alyssa collapsed back onto the couch and burst into tears. It was like all the emotion of Nick’s visit had finally hit her. It was a combination of everything. The good and bad memories the clothing had represented, the conflicted emotions over the pictures, and finally her frustration with her inability to become pregnant. It was like everything was pouring out of her at once.

When Sean walked in the door fifteen minutes later that was how he found her. Immediately concerned, he’d rushed over to her and demanded to know what was the matter. Alyssa just shook her head, wiped her eyes, and replied that it was nothing. Probably just PMS. She could see the doubt flicker in Sean’s eyes, but thankfully he backed off. Alyssa managed to compose herself and a few minutes later she was acting as if nothing was wrong.

The next week or so flew by for Nick. He was so engrossed with his work at the label that he had little time to think much about his visit with Alyssa. Finally a few of his artists were scheduled to set foot into the studio within the next few weeks to begin recording and there was a lot to be done. At the moment he was at the studio preparing for a dinner meeting with Kina, the first performer on the label to start on her debut album. He felt pretty confident starting out with her. Her bluesy acoustic sound was very radio friendly and she gave off that whole “girl with a guitar” image that seemed to be so successful with other artists. To him, her music sounded like a cross between Michelle Branch and Amy Winehouse.

He was just making sure that he had all the papers that he would need when he realized that something was missing. “Shit!” he cursed. Somewhere along the line he’d misplaced the tentative recording schedule he’d mapped out for her. All of a sudden he wished he’d thought to bring his laptop into work with him today. He knew he had an extra copy of the schedule saved on it.

He glanced at the time on his work computer. There was no way that he’d have time to head home to pick up an extra copy and make it back in time for his meeting, especially in LA rush hour traffic. The only other thing he could think of to do was to try calling Shayla to see if she could e-mail him a copy. If he was lucky he’d catch her just as she was walking through the door.

Without wasting another moment he dialed Shayla’s cell phone number. “Hello?” she answered after two or three rings.

Nick got right to the point. “Hey babe… I need you to do me a huge favor. Are you home right now?”

“For the moment. I have to be down in Hollywood in like another two or three hours for a movie premiere. Why? What do you need?” Her voice sounded genuinely concerned.

“I lost my copy of the recording schedule for Kina and I’m supposed to meeting with her over dinner about it in like another hour and a half. I don’t have time to run home to print out a new one off my laptop, so I was hoping that maybe you could go into my office and e-mail me a copy from there?” he explained.

“Sure no problem. It’s on your laptop?”

“Yea… I believe it should be in the file labeled Kina. You’re a lifesaver.”

Shayla just grinned on her end of the phone. “Just give me a second,” she told him as she headed directly up to his office and took a seat at his desk where his laptop was plugged in. “I just need to boot up your computer.”

“Take your time. Thanks again.”

“Like I said it’s not a problem. But this is exactly why I keep telling you that you need to be more organized. If you were organized you wouldn’t lose important papers like this,” she giggled. She continued to make small talk with him until the laptop was fully up and running. “Okay, we’re in business now. You said that the file should be labeled Kina?”

“Yea… And I think it’s in a word document titled schedule or something like that,” he directed her.

“All right.” Shayla bit her lip in concentration as she clicked on Nick’s personal folders. She quickly went straight to the K’s and found the folder labeled Kina and clicked on it. Several documents came up, but none of them read “schedule.” She clicked on all of them anyway and found everything from contracts to song lyrics, but nothing that resembled a recording schedule at all.

Nick must’ve realized something wasn’t right because he impatiently asked, “What’s taking so long? Did you find it?”

“No… It’s not in this folder, Nick,” Shayla reported.

“What do you mean it’s not in this folder? It has to be!”

“I checked every file in the Kina folder, Nick! It’s not here! Are you sure you didn’t save it someplace else by accident?”

Nick sighed realizing that was a possibility. As Shayla had just pointed out, he wasn’t exactly the most organized person in the world. “Check some of the other artist’s folders. Maybe I did save it into the wrong folder.”

“Okay,” she agreed as she scanned through his files, looking for names of some of the other artists that she knew Nick was working with. She could find recording schedules for the other artists, but none for Kina. “No luck. I still can’t find it.”

“Shit,” he cursed as he began to panic. “It has to be on that laptop somewhere.”

“Just give me a few minutes and I’ll check some of your other folders,” she offered. “Maybe you were working on it and accidentally just saved it into the last folder that you had open? I do things like that all the time when I’m in a hurry.”

Nick could practically feel all the blood drain from his face. If that’s what he’d done then he was about to be royally screwed. What if he’d accidentally saved Kina’s recording schedule in the same folder that he’d saved the pictures he’d scanned of Alyssa? He’d been so careful to make the folder as inconspicuous looking as possible, titling it with a bunch of random numbers. The more he thought about it, the sicker he felt. It was definitely possibility. He could vaguely remember working on the schedule not very long after he had created the folder containing Alyssa’s pictures. Maybe he had done just what Shayla had suggested and accidentally saved the schedule in the wrong folder. All he knew was that if that was the case he needed to try to convince Shayla to give up her search. He’d be better off calling Kina and rescheduling their appointment. She’d probably be annoyed at him cancelling last minute like this, but nowhere near as pissed as Shayla would be if she caught sight of those pictures.

“You know what Shayla; don’t knock yourself out trying to find it. It’s my fault for being so disorganized anyway. I could just call Kina and cancel for tonight. I’m sure she’d understand,” he tried to tell her, hoping that he didn’t sound as nervous as he felt.

“Don’t be ridiculous Nick! It shouldn’t be too hard to track it down. Why would you cancel over something like this?” Her voice lowered into a taunting, playful tone. “And don’t worry; I won’t get upset over any porn I find.”

If only it was just porn I was worried about her coming across, Nick thought to himself with a sigh. Trying to think optimistically, he realized that there could be a chance that she could find the schedule in the folder with Alyssa’s pictures without actually seeing them or knowing what they were. She’d actually have to click on them for that to happen and with a little luck maybe she’d go right past them without batting an eyelash. Or they could be in another folder entirely.

On the other end of the line, Shayla clicked on a few random folders with no luck. Sometimes she wondered how her husband managed to find anything at all with how messy and disorganized he was. He’d always joked about having ADHD and if she didn’t know any better she wouldn’t doubt it. If I were an important file on Nick’s computer where would I be? she asked herself. Figuring out that in Nick’s world it would probably be in the last place anyone would ever think to look she clicked on one of the least descriptive titled folders, which name was only a series of numbers. Is that supposed to be some code or something? She knew that Nick had some weird fascination with writing secret messages in telephone codes like he’d done in the liner notes for a few of his albums.

The folder appeared to be filled with a bunch of picture images and Shayla was just about to give up when she scrolled down a bit more and discovered a word document titled schedule. Bingo! she thought to herself as she clicked on it. Sure enough, a copy of Kina’s recording schedule filled the screen. “I found it! It was exactly where I thought that it would be. In some non discrete looking folder mixed in with a bunch of picture files,” she announced. “Am I good or am I good?”

“You’re awesome,” Nick responded with a noticeable lack of enthusiasm. His throat felt dry. The file had in fact been in the Alyssa folder. Did Shayla look at the pictures? he fearfully wondered for a moment or two. After thinking about the situation more clearly, he breathed a sigh in relief. If Shayla had seen them he doubted she would be able to play it off as if it were nothing. He honestly believed that he’d gotten away with it. That was close… Too close. “Thanks. I owe you one.”

“You definitely do. I’m e-mailing it right now. Anything else you need?” she asked.

“No… Thanks again. I’ll see you tonight sometime.”

“You’re welcome. Bye.” Shayla pressed the end key on her phone and proceeded to attach the recording schedule to an e-mail document and send it to Nick’s e-mail address. Once the document was sent she closed it and sat back in her chair, feeling rather proud that she’d managed to do something to help Nick out. Since Tahoe their relationship had been very strained and she was starting to fear that maybe her comments about wanting a baby had inflicted some permanent damage on their marriage. She’d noticed how since they’d returned to LA Nick had almost been avoiding her, so she felt that him asking her for help had to be a step in the right direction.

She glanced back at the computer screen, realizing that the folder in which the schedule was in was still open. There certainly were a lot of pictures in the folder and curiosity began to get the better of her. Probably porn, she scoffed to herself. She stared at the screen for a moment knowing that it was wrong of her to go snooping through his personal computer files, but she couldn’t help but to wonder exactly what the pictures contained. They had to be something that he had viewed pretty recently if he’d accidentally saved the recording schedule in the same folder. Finally giving into the temptation that was eating away at her; she leaned forward and clicked on one of the images. Let’s see what Nicky looks at when I’m not around.

Nothing could’ve prepared her for the image that appeared on the screen before her. She almost wished that it had been some large breasted porn star or a picture of two girls going at it. That she could handle. But this she couldn’t. These pictures were obviously personal.

The picture in front of her was of Alyssa lying across a bed wearing only a skimpy bra and matching panties. She was staring seductively at the camera, biting her lip ever so slightly. Shayla could just make out the outline of what appeared to be a tattoo peeking out of the waistband of the lacy underwear. Judging from her appearance, Shayla had to assume that these were not recent pictures. The Alyssa in the pictures appeared a few years younger and slightly thinner. Her hair was also shorter and lighter than how it was today.

She closed the image and clicked on another one, and then another… They were all pretty much the same. All of Alyssa and all meant to be somewhat sexual. Not being able to stand torturing herself any longer, Shayla exited the folder and sat back against the chair again, completely stunned. Surprisingly she wasn’t angry, at least not yet. If anything she was more hurt. Hurt and confused.

Why would he have these kinds of pictures on his computer of his ex- girlfriend? she wondered. It would be one thing if it was an ex that he had no relationship with now, but this was Alyssa. Normally she wouldn’t feel threatened, but after those paparazzi pictures and the fact that Nick had been hanging out with her a lot lately, Shayla was beginning to have her doubts. Did Nick really still have feelings for Alyssa? Had he just been denying it this whole time?

Then came the further question. What should she do about them? Should she confront Nick about the pictures? If she did that though, she’d have to admit that she’d been snooping through his things and he’d sure to be pissed about that. Yet, Shayla wasn’t exactly sure that she could sit back and act like she’d never seen them either. She had no clue what to do.

Finally after much consideration she came up with a plan of action for the time being. For now she’d act as if she’d never seen the pictures, but she’d definitely try to keep a much closer eye on both Nick and Alyssa. Maybe there was a logical explanation after all. But something in her gut told her otherwise.

Better off to play innocent, she decided. You never know when your knowledge of those pictures might become useful.
Chapter 12 - Wake Up Call by Mellz Bellz
Author's Notes:

Alyssa has a dream that sends her reeling.

Chapter 12 – Wake Up Call



The beginning of May was bittersweet for Alyssa. Usually, this time of the year was one of her favorites with the weather steadily growing warmer and summer just within reach. This year though it marked another month of unsuccessfully trying to get pregnant.  It was now just about seven months since she and Sean had decided to start trying for a child and the pressure to become pregnant was even more intense than ever. Even though Nick had tried to reassure her that it wasn’t a tragedy if she failed to conceive before Sean’s departure to Iraq, Alyssa was stubborn. She knew how badly Sean wanted a child with her and she knew that they’d been lucky that he hadn’t been deployed yet, but with each month that passed Alyssa knew that they had less and less time to try. In the past few weeks, she’d become almost fanatical with any way she could find to boost her fertility. She scoured website after website looking for any little tip she could find to improve her chances of conceiving. Some ideas had sounded a lot like old wives’ tale’s such as taking your temperature before having sex to tell how fertile you were or only having sex certain times of the day and in certain positions. Still, Alyssa didn’t hesitate to try anything she read about. She’d even changed her entire diet around after she’d discovered that everything she ate could have an impact on her ability to get pregnant.


            There was always Melanie’s offer lingering in the back of Alyssa’s mind, to refer her and Sean to the fertility clinic that she and Kevin had visited before finally becoming pregnant with Julian. At first, the idea had sounded unthinkable. Alyssa couldn’t even fathom the idea of there possibly being something wrong with either her or Sean which would prevent them from conceiving. As the months wore on though, Alyssa actually began to start to consider it as an option. Maybe they should at least make an appointment for a consultation. It couldn’t hurt right? When she’d asked her gynecologist for her opinion at her last visit though a few weeks ago, her doctor had assured her that the success rate for conception in women her age was very high and that very few women in their late twenties have serious problems that prevent them from getting pregnant. She’d also pointed out that normally doctors recommend that a couple try for at least a year before seeking out other options. Alyssa and Sean had only been trying for seven months, but Alyssa doubted that they’d have an entire year to keep trying. As a result, the situation had left her feeling powerless and frustrated and she’d been snippy at everyone lately.


            Everyone picked up on the change in Alyssa’s attitude, but no one seemed to address it outright. She and Sean barely spoke without fighting and whenever they were on good terms they were trying to conceive a child. It began to seem like all they did anymore was fight and have sex. And it wasn’t even good make up sex. As of lately it was beginning to feel routine and mechanical. There was no more excitement or passion. Sex was beginning to seem like a chore that needed to be done in order to hopefully have a child one day. It was at the point now where Alyssa found Sean to be so boring and predictable she could probably have sex with him in her sleep. Some nights she felt like she did. It was not only her relationship with Sean that suffered though. She’d been harder on her students too, raising her voice much louder than usual with them. She’d even begun to blow off her friends. Whenever Teri called and asked her to do wedding stuff with her or Izzy invited her and Sean over for dinner, Alyssa made up some kind of excuse. She just plain wasn’t in the mood.


            Finally one Saturday afternoon not being able to put up with Alyssa hiding away any longer, Teri and Tricia had driven over to Alyssa’s house and pretty much forced her into going out to lunch with them. They hadn’t heard from her in weeks and knew that an afternoon out with the girls full of raunchy conversation and fattening food was just what she probably needed.


            Their first surprise came after they’d arrived at one of their favorite LA restaurants for lunch and Alyssa only ordered a Caesar salad instead of her usual cheeseburger and French fries. “Is that all your eating?” Tricia asked, with raised eyebrows. “You never order just a salad. Are you like on a diet or something?”


            Alyssa just shrugged. “Not really a diet per say. I’ve just been more conscious about what kinds of food I’m putting into my body lately.”


            Teri narrowed her eyes in Alyssa’s direction. “Trust me, hun. You definitely don’t need to worry about watching what you eat. Now considering I’m getting married in five months, I’m a different story.”


            “I’m not trying to lose weight!” she angrily defended herself. “I’ve been doing some research on things that I can do to help improve my chances of getting pregnant, and one of the first things they tell you to do is to change your diet around. I’ve cut out caffeine and I’m trying to eat more vegetables and less carbs. That’s all.” Her explanation was cut off by the sound of loud giggling coming from a table of young women who appeared to be in their early twenties a few feet away. Alyssa wrinkled her nose in disgust and rolled her eyes in their direction. “God, I hope we weren’t that annoying when we were their age.”


            Teri just smirked at Alyssa’s bitchy remark. “For a woman who is supposed to be getting laid as often as you are you sure are in a nasty mood.”


            “Yea, well maybe the getting laid part isn’t as great as it sounds,” she mumbled.


            Her friend’s face softened. “You and Sean still having trouble finding time for the two of you? I remember you saying that was an issue the last time we talked.”


            Alyssa sighed. “It’s getting better as far as finding the time goes, but I don’t know… Lately it’s just been like the same old routine night after night. And nothing seems to be happening in the baby department, so I guess it’s making the both of us more and more discouraged. It’s like the longer it doesn’t happen, the harder he feels like he has to try, and the harder he tries the worse it gets.”


            “Ouch,” Tricia chimed in sympathetically. “Sounds like you guys are in one hell of a rut. Why don’t you try to change it up a little bit? If he isn’t doing it, why don’t you take control? Do a little something different to change the monotony a bit.”


            “Oh, I’ve tried. Teri suggested that I try to take the focus off of the baby for one night and switch it to just the two of us, but every time I try to get his mind off it he has to go bring it up again. It’s like we can’t have sex without him reminding us that we’re trying to have a baby here.”


            “Have you tried talking to him about how you feel?” Teri suggested. “Maybe he doesn’t realize he’s doing it. Or maybe he does, but doesn’t realize the effect it has. Although I don’t see how he can’t. If things are that strained in the bedroom, doesn’t he realize that something needs to change?”


            “I’ve tried talking to him about it. Whenever I bring it up though, he gets so defensive. It becomes another excuse to fight, so I don’t even bother anymore. And as far as him being oblivious to how routine things are getting… Well, let’s just say I’ve learned to become a really good actress,” Alyssa admitted with a blush.


            “You mean you’ve been faking it?” Tricia gasped. “Alyssa! I’m shocked!”


            “Yea I know… Totally not my style and I was always thought that it was a completely dishonest thing to do, but in my situation its just easier to act like I’m enjoying it and just get it over with. I can’t wait until I actually get pregnant and things can finally get back to normal.”


            “Normal? Ha! You think after you’re pregnant your sex life is gong to go back to normal? Ask Melanie, Leighanne, or even Izzy what happens after you have a baby. Not that I’d know from experience, but most of my friends who had kids said that after the baby came along their sex lives chilled significantly,” Teri pointed out. “Hate to be the voice of negativity, but it’s the truth.”


            “Thanks,” Alyssa dryly replied before sighing. “I’m sorry I’ve been such a bitch lately, but I’ve just been really stressed about this whole pregnancy thing and instead of bringing Sean and I closer it’s only wedging a gap between us. Then I haven’t been sleeping very well. I’ve had a lot on my mind and then I had a really strange dream which I don’t know what to make of…”


            “Dream? What kind of dream?” Tricia curiously asked.


            Alyssa froze for a moment. She hadn’t intended on bringing up the dream that had woken her up in the middle of the night in a sweat and had left her feeling so confused and mixed up that she wound up lying awake for pretty much the entire night. It wasn’t until she’d finally crept downstairs and sprawled out on the living room couch, that she’d been able to get any sleep at all. She supposed it had something to do with the fact that Sean had been next to her the entire time, making her even more uneasy. The dream had been haunting her all day no matter how hard she tried to push it into the back of her mind, so she supposed she shouldn’t be too surprised that her subconscious had chosen to mention it. “It’s not important,” she quickly replied. “It was stupid really.”


            Teri shook her head in obvious disagreement “Dreams are never stupid. They’re actually really insightful in a fucked up way. Why don’t you tell us about it? I love interpreting this kind of stuff.”


            “Oh, you’d definitely have a ball with this one,” she muttered. Again the words were out of her mouth before she even realized it.


            “Ok, now you do realize you have to tell us about it or we will just pull it out of you. And you know that I’m very good at doing that. What kind of dream was it? Was it a good dream or a bad dream?”


            Alyssa sighed, knowing that she was defeated. Teri was right. She may just as well tell them. Besides if there was anyone who could help her figure out the meaning behind this dream it was Teri and Tricia. This particular dream was right up their alley. “Depends at how you look at it. It started out really good. Kind of weird, but damn good.”


            “So I’m guessing this was a sexual dream then?” Tricia slyly asked.


            “Yea,” she reluctantly agreed. “But then it got pretty fucked up.”

            Teri raised her eyebrows and stifled a laugh. “Fucked up in a good way or fucked up in a bad way?”


            She just rolled her eyes at her friend. “Not fucked up in some weird, kinky way. Fucked up as in it got really dark, really fast.”


            The two other women looked intrigued now. Teri was the first to speak after a long pause. “Okay… I have to ask. Who was it about?”


            “Nick… And Sean was in it too.”


            Tricia gasped. “You were dreaming about having sex with Nick?” Already her body was leaned forward intently as if she was clinging to every one of Alyssa’s words. “Something tells me this is going to be good.”


            “Actually that doesn’t surprise me too much,” Teri remarked. “But please start from the beginning. I’m curious to know where Sean comes in.”


            Alyssa took in a deep breath as she began describing her dream in further detail. “Well, like I said, it was starting out like your average sex dream, but then the tables turned really fast and it freaked me out big time…”




            The early morning light filtered through the bedroom window, but Alyssa found herself oblivious to the sun’s rays that flooded over her body. She was too preoccupied on the searing kisses that she was currently sharing with the man beside her. Her mind was fuzzy and even though her eyes were closed, making his identity unclear, she could feel their limbs entangling as their mouths meshed together.



Their lips broke apart for a moment, and Alyssa’s eyes opened as she drew in a shaky breath. For the first time her eyes made contact with his and she gasped once she realized who they belonged to. She’d been half expecting to be met with Sean’s light green eyes, but instead found herself gazing into Nick’s blue ones.



 She stared up at him in shock for a moment, but before she could further react his lips were on hers again, and all questions began to slip away from her mind. Her body instinctively reacted as she surrendered to the kiss. Her fingernails lightly dug into his shoulders while his arms snaked their way tighter around her waist. He rolled onto his back, pulling her on top of him as the kisses once again deepened. Alyssa softly moaned as his mouth made contact with the side of her neck. Her fingers flew up and buried themselves in his hair while her eyes closed, savoring the feeling of his hands over her body.



Nick continued his assault on her neck, nipping and sucking at the delicate area which produced several frustrated cries from Alyssa’s lips. Impatience began to take over her body and her hips rolled up against his almost pleading for him to move on. Sensing her urgency, Nick flipped them back over so their lips were only inches apart. Alyssa hooked her arms around his neck, pulling him down just enough to close up the gap between the two of them. She moaned against his open mouth as his fingertips stole underneath the lacy edge of her bra and brushed against one of her already hardening nipples. A shiver ran through her body when he lowered the material just enough to expose the erect bud before leaning down to swirl his tongue against it. Her back arched in response allowing him to take her more fully into his mouth as he gently sucked against her soft skin. His hand slowly traveled up the top of her thigh and Alyssa writhed uncomfortably feeling it so close to her center. Seeing the effect it had on her, he let his fingertips brush up against her inner thigh, playing with the edge of the black lace boy shorts she was wearing. Another frustrated groan escaped her lips and not being able to stand much more she gripped her hands around his wrist and placed his hand at the top of the waistband, hoping that he would get the hint.



 Seeming pleased with her initiative, he slipped his hand underneath the garment, and Alyssa practically sighed in relief as he dragged a finger up against her. Her hands clenched around the sheets underneath her while he continued to stroke his fingertips against her wet folds. Steadily, he began to rub a little bit harder, leaning down to dip his tongue into her naval. Alyssa bit down hard on her lip as her eyes clenched shut tightly already feeling the heat beginning to rise in her body. Without hesitation, Nick plunged two long fingers inside of her causing Alyssa to gasp loudly. Her body took over automatically moving against each thrust of his fingers as they pumped harder against her. She was so lost in the moment that she didn’t even hear the sound of the bedroom door being kicked open over her increasingly louder cries.



Just as she was beginning to feel the familiar quaking feeling of her orgasm approaching her, she felt Nick stop. Her eyes sprang open in surprise and as she peered over Nick’s shoulder she gasped, this time for an entirely different reason. Standing near the doorway stood an enraged Sean who seemed to be breathing just as heavily as she was; only he looked extremely hurt and pissed off. The wild look in his eyes was enough to sober her as she sat up trying to adjust her rumpled clothing.


I didn't hear what you were saying.
I live on raw emotion baby
I answer questions never maybe
And I'm not kind if you betray me.
So who the hell are you to say we
Never would have made it babe.


“I knew it!” he finally shouted breaking the tense silence. “I knew that you were fucking him behind my back! You kept denying it to me, but I knew that you were lying to me! But in my own bed? That’s fucking low of you Alyssa.”



 Alyssa looked around helplessly her mind scrambling for some kind of explanation, but how could she explain herself when she wasn’t even sure how she’d wound up in the situation in the first place? “I’m sorry,” were the only words she could think of to say, wincing at how pathetic they sounded under the circumstances.



“Sorry? Sorry doesn’t cut it! You made a vow to me Alyssa! Does that not mean anything to you?”



 Again Alyssa just hung her head silently, not being able to defend herself. She’d be the first to admit that she had been wrong, but all she could remember was how right it had felt.



“You know if there was something that you needed that I wasn’t giving you, you really should’ve let me know instead of searching for it in the arms of your ex boyfriend,” Sean continued, all of a sudden sounding almost too calm. “Too bad… Now that you’ve taken something from me, I’m going to have to take something from you.”

Before Alyssa could ask him what he meant by that she caught glimpse of something silver glinting in the sunlight in Sean’s hands. She screamed shrilly when she realized it was a gun.



f you needed love
Well then ask for love
Could have given love
Now I’m taking love
And it’s not my fault
Cause you both deserve
What is coming now
So don’t say a word


The next ten seconds seemed to happen in slow motion for her. Her scream seemed to be frozen in the air and all she could remember was the crazed look in her husband’s eyes. A loud popping sound ricocheted throughout the room like an explosion. It didn’t sink in that Sean had actually fired a shot until she felt Nick’s arms dive around her body, forcing her to duck down beneath the covers for safety. His body covered hers like a shield and Alyssa shrank under the comforter for what felt like forever waiting for her heart to stop pounding.



  Finally getting the courage to open her eyes Alyssa realized that Nick was on top of her. She nudged him with her elbow, but nothing happened. Wriggling out of her position, pinned underneath him she screamed as his body slumped forward. Pulling her hands away she realized they were sticky with warm, red, blood. Her eyes flew up towards Sean who was staring at the gun almost as if he couldn’t believe he had actually shot it. Her attention focused back to Nick who had a clear bullet wound through his back. He’d gotten hit just as he was diving across the bed to protect her. Her hand flew up to her mouth in shock as tears began to flow down her face.



 “Nick… Please be okay!” she begged almost hysterically as she rolled him over, cradling his head in her lap. “You’re fine… Just open your eyes. Please!” Her sobs grew louder once she saw how unresponsive he was, but she refused to accept the fact that he was gone.



  She was so panic stricken that she barely noticed Sean tentatively approach the side of the bed and place his hands on the pulse point near his neck. He looked up at her grimly. “He’s gone, Alyssa. He’s not going to be waking up.”


Wake up call
Caught you in the morning with another one in my bed
Don't you care about me anymore?
Don’t you care about me? I don't think so.
Six foot tall
Came without a warning so I had to shoot him dead
He won't come around here anymore
Come around here? I don't think so.

~ Wake Up Call- Maroon 5




            “Wow… Uhh yea… Now I totally see why you’re so freaked out over this dream,” Tricia said wide eyed after Alyssa finished describing it. “I don’t even know where to start.”


            “I told you girls to have fun with the analyzing. Lord knows there’s plenty of shit in there to talk about,” Alyssa told them, sitting back in her seat. “So, start wherever you please.”


            “Well, first off I think it’s pretty obvious that you still have feelings for Nick,” Teri stated. “Feelings that are more than just friendly. I’d say that you definitely still have sexual feelings about him deep down somewhere.”


            Alyssa opened her mouth to protest, but quickly closed it. She didn’t like to admit to herself that she was still sexually attracted to her ex, but it was kind of hard to deny it if she was having sexual dreams about him. And there had been that little spark she’d felt between them at Tiffany’s with the necklace. She’d brushed it off at the time, but now she had to wonder if it was really attraction she’d felt.


            “And the whole Sean part symbolizes your fear of what could happen if Sean ever realized that you still have these feelings for Nick even though you haven’t acted upon them like in the dream,” Tricia continued before frowning. “You haven’t acted on them, have you?”


            “Do you mean have I done anything with Nick since I’ve been with Sean?” Alyssa asked incredulously. Two pairs of eyes stared at her curiously. “God no! Things between Sean and I are complicated enough right now.”


            “But you’ve thought about it, right?” Teri pressed. “Hypothetically speaking if you could sleep with Nick and get away with it without Sean or Shayla finding out, would you?”


            Alyssa sighed, once again feeling like she was in the hot seat. “That’s not a very realistic situation,” she argued, trying to avoid giving an answer.


            “Just answer the damn question. Hypothetical’s or never realistic. That’s what makes them hypothetical.”


            “All right,” she finally admitted. “I guess based upon where Sean and I are now in our relationship and how crappy our sex life has been lately, if I could do it and get away with it I probably would.” She winced. “That probably makes me a horrible person, right?”


            Teri shrugged. “Not really. At least you’re honest. And it’s not like you’re actually going to do it.”


            “Yea, you’re right,” Alyssa reluctantly agreed. “But I still feel guilty for even thinking it.”


            There was an awkward silence between the three for a moment until a devilish smirk appeared on Tricia’s face. “So, Alyssa… While we’re being honest here and letting loose, who is better in bed? Sean or Nick?”


            Alyssa groaned. “I swear you girls live to torture me by forcing me to admit my deepest darkest secrets.” Knowing that her friends wouldn’t relent until she answered the question she gave in. “Okay. It’s definitely Nick hands down. There’s no contest.”


            “Oooh… Scandalous,” both women hooted.


            “Well, it’s the truth. I mean not that Sean is bad by any means. Yea, right now we’re in the middle of a bit of a rough patch, but usually it’s pretty good. It’s just hard to compare them because they’re just so different. I’ve done things with Sean that I’ve never done with Nick and vice versa. I guess the thing about Sean though is he’s not always consistent. Like one time it’ll be amazing and the next it’ll be like uhh what the fuck was that? But overall it’s usually pretty good,” she confessed.


            “And Nick?” Teri asked.


            A sly look came across Alyssa’s face. “Amazing pretty much all the time. I mean I suppose we’ve had those few times where it could’ve been better, but nine times out of ten it was for lack of a better word, amazing. Let’s just say that I’ve never had to fake anything with him. Shayla’s a lucky woman.”


            The two other women exchanged a glance and laughed as Alyssa continued sounding more serious. “I just sort of wish that I’d had some of the confidence I have in myself now that I lacked back then for him. If I did… Man, I think it would be just unbelievable. But, I guess it wasn’t meant to be.” Her voice trailed off sadly and then it finally hit her enough to make her choke up a little bit. “Fuck. I think I just realized that I’m not as over him as I thought I was.”


            Both women’s faces softened and put their arms around Alyssa who was already beginning to tear up. “I was trying to deny it all this time, but I think my dream proved it. I’m still attracted to him and I think that’s one of the reasons that’s putting a strain on my relationship with Sean and I have no clue what to do about it. I can’t cut Nick out of my life completely because it would mean cutting out nearly all my friends, but the more I hang out with him the harder it is for me to convince myself that I don’t have feelings for him. This could be bad.”


            “Hmm…” Teri pursed her lips. “Well, I’m not denying that you still have feelings for Nick, but if you want my honest opinion, I think that you’re using them as a distraction from your current problems with Sean. In your mind, it would be easier to run back into Nick’s arms then to actually sit down and work shit out with Sean. I can’t tell you who you should be with, but you have to consider Sean and Shayla’s feelings too. You need to at least give things with Sean another shot before making any rash decisions. But you know I’ll support you no matter what you do girl.”


            “You’re right,” Alyssa agreed. “I’m blowing this out of proportion and it’s not like he’s tried to make a move on me or anything. As far as I know this is all in my head. Hell, I don’t even know if he feels the same way. Sometimes I think he might, but other times…”


            “Well, I think that you need to listen to what’s in your heart,” Tricia advised. “If you really, truly think that you and Nick belong together, you need to go for it. You’ve let him slip through your fingertips quite a number of times already. Yea, you’ll probably hurt Sean, but isn’t it even more hurtful to lead him on and believe that you love him when you’re in love with someone else?”


            “I wouldn’t say I’m in love with him, at least not at this point. I just still have an attraction to him and that’s all. It could be completely innocent,” she pointed out.


            “Yea… So innocent that you’re having sex dreams about him.”


            “Tricia… You’re not helping.”


            “Sorry about that,” she apologized. “But yea… Just do what makes you happy. You’re always putting others first before you. Go out and take care of yourself for once.”


            “Thanks for the input ladies, but I’m through talking about me for one afternoon. How are those wedding plans going Teri?”


            Alyssa sat back and listened as Teri began to ramble on about all the unfinished details still left for the wedding, but her mind was a million miles away. If anything her conversation had left her even more confused about her feelings for Nick as well as her feelings for Sean. Was she doing just as Teri suggested and creating these feelings as an excuse to hide from her difficulties with Sean? Or was there honestly something there? And if there was, did she have the balls to do anything about it?

Chapter 13 - Survey Says by Mellz Bellz
Author's Notes:

Alyssa discusses the topic of cheating with her friends.

Chapter 13 – Survey Says

After her lunch with Teri and Tricia, Alyssa arrived home feeling more confused than ever. Between the afternoon she’d spent with Nick last month, the paparazzi pictures, and him finding the pictures he’d taken of her from a few years ago, things had definitely been a little weird between the two of them. Adding it all up together, Alyssa almost wanted to kick herself for being so blind. Of course she still had feelings for him! Not only was it that little spark she’d felt with the necklace, but looking back Alyssa really began to realize just how much Nick had changed and how close their friendship had grown so quickly. They had been so much more comfortable and relaxed around each other. It was exactly how things should’ve been between them in a perfect world.

But then there was Teri’s opinion too. Was it possible that she was just focusing so much on Nick lately as a way of dodging her problems with Sean? Wasn’t it rather convenient that now that the minute she and Sean began to have difficulties in their relationship all of a sudden she realized she might still have feelings for her ex? Or was it just one big coincidence? Alyssa had to admit though that Teri did have a point. The answer to her and Sean’s problems was definitely not through Nick. That would be taking the easy way out instead of facing those problems head on. Besides, what was happening between her and Sean was probably completely normal under the circumstances. Look at everything they were faced with! While doing some of her research about getting pregnant, Alyssa had stumbled upon more than a few sources warning that in many cases becoming pregnant definitely could take its toll on any relationship; even the healthiest of ones. So what she and Sean were going through was completely normal, right?

Still though, she found herself being throughouly confused about what to do if anything about these newly realized feelings about Nick. On one hand she had one person telling her to go with her gut instinct and live impulsively, while on the other she had someone else telling her that she needed to think things through a lot deeper and take a more calculated approach if she decided to do anything about them. Knowing how it felt to be cheated on, she’d never want to put someone else in that position, but regrettably she had cheated on at least one ex of hers with Nick before. Of course, Dan had been a complete rebound relationship after she’d learned that Nick had married Katie. She’d jumped into things with him rather quickly and although he’d been a very nice guy, she couldn’t say that she had any deep feelings for him. Sean was a completely different animal though. She actually shared a deep connection with him and they were married. Cheating on a husband was a lot more serious than just cheating on a boyfriend. Sean’s words from her dream echoed back at her ominously. Sorry? Sorry doesn’t cut it! You made a vow to me Alyssa! Does that not mean anything to you? Just the memory put a chill through her.

Then there was the fact that Nick was also married, so if anything were to happen between the two of them, they’d be breaking up two marriages. She wasn’t quite certain of the whole situation, but she already knew that there was some tension between Nick and Shayla due to their opposing views on children. Two people, who had strong feelings for each other and were stuck in relationships that left them unsatisfied was a sure recipe for disaster, and it scared Alyssa when she realized how the stage was already beginning to be set. Ultimately, the choice would be hers whether she chose to do the moral thing and stay faithful to her husband, but it was almost too tempting the way that circumstances were setting themselves up.

To some people cheating is the worst thing that you can possibly do, but then you have those people who willingly stay in relationships knowing that their partner is having an affair and they’re completely okay with it, she told herself. How can someone stand that? She never quite understood how people could have affairs and not feel guilty. Obviously cheating was one of those personal topics that everyone seemed to have different opinions on. Suddenly, Alyssa developed a strong interest in polling her friends and family about their feelings on cheating. Maybe their answers would help her sort out her mixed up feelings about the whole issue as well as help her decide exactly what she should do about her situation with Nick.

Surprisingly, Alyssa found the next morning that getting her friends opinions on cheating were actually a lot simpler than she’d anticipated. Almost automatically her first opening was almost handed to her with a hysterical phone call from Izzy.

“I think Tristan is cheating on me,” Izzy announced as soon as Alyssa had answered the phone.

“Whoa! Back that ass up and start from the beginning. What makes you think he’s cheating on you?” she curiously asked. She wasn’t sure what to be more stunned about. The fact that Tristan could be cheating on Izzy or the uncanny fact that Izzy had brought up the one topic that had been obsessing her thought’s lately.

“I feel like Grace and I don’t matter much to him anymore. He’s always pushing us aside for his music… You’d think that he was a fucking Grammy winning artist or something! Okay, so maybe his first album did have a pretty decent success. But this new album he’s just released ranks him right back down with some indie artists. I know he’s stressed because his record label is threatening to drop him, but I feel like he’s taking it all out on me!”

Alyssa bit her lip. “Well, I can see how that would cause some problems in your relationship Iz, but I also don’t see any proof of him cheating on you either.”

“I’m getting to that part,” she warned. “He’s been doing all these small club shows and going out practically every night to promote himself. I hardly ever go with him because someone needs to stay home with Grace. He comes home three or four in the morning… sometimes later reeking of some kind of mixture of perfume, alcohol, and cigarettes. There are some days that poor Grace doesn’t even see him and he’s her father! Then I see all these pictures of him with these random girls on his music My Space.”

“I don’t know Iz… I mean I admit that’s pretty shitty of him to devote so much time to his music when he has a daughter that he should be devoting at least half that time too, but you’ve practically grown up in the music industry. You know how crazy groupies can be and you should know firsthand that not every guy gives into the temptations of a scantily clad body. I mean Kevin turned out pretty normal, and I know that he’s definitely had chances.”

Izzy just scoffed. “Yea, Kevin was one story, but then how do you explain Nick? I love him dearly and he’s one of my best friends, but I’ve seen a lot of things concerning him that I really wish that I hadn’t. Face it. He was quite the man whore at one time. I could probably blame him for my paranoia in assuming that Tristan is cheating,” she admitted.

“Hey, if Nick could turn himself around and settle himself down, then I’d say that there’s hope yet for anyone. I think you’re blowing this all out of proportion.”

“Well, there is one more thing that scares me,” she finally admitted. “We’ve been together for how long now?”

“About the same time that Nick and I first got together…” Alyssa paused counting off the years. “So, that would be approximately eight years ago.”

“Correct. And we’ve been living together for six and have had a daughter now for three. Don’t you think it’s about time he thought about just making it official already and putting a damn ring on my finger?”

“Well, uhh… Have you talked about marriage with him?”

“All the time. And every time I bring it up there’s a different excuse. Mostly his music career, but I don’t buy it. What music career? Going to hole in the wall bars to play for a bunch of college students? There’s no way that excuse is going to work on me. Hello, Kevin gave up his career to be a father even before Julian was born. And look at Brian! He manages to have a music career and still be a damn good father and husband. And their careers are much more lucrative than his. It’s just frustrating!” Izzy let out a muffled scream. “I definitely don’t want to think about a future without him, especially because of Grace, but on the other hand I just feel like I’m wasting my time.”

Alyssa couldn’t help, but to feel sympathetic for her friend. A part of her wanted to reassure Izzy that she and Tristan didn’t need a marriage for their relationship to flourish, but she also knew that if she was in Izzy’s shoe’s she’d be desperately waiting for a ring too. “Would you really leave him though? I can’t imagine you and Tristan not being together.”

Izzy just shrugged on the other end of the phone. “If he was cheating on me? In a heartbeat. I’m sorry, but no offense to you because I know you’ve been this situation with Nick, but cheating is unforgivable in my book. Why do you think it took so long for me to even begin to act civil towards Nick again after what he did to you? I have absolutely no respect for cheaters.”

Just from the venomous tone of her voice, Alyssa was already starting to feel guilty and she didn’t even have anything to really feel guilty about yet. “Wow… Those are pretty strong words there,” she remarked.

“I don’t think so,” Izzy icily replied. “I don’t stand for anyone fucking around on me.”

I guess that’s one for the cheating is wrong under any circumstances column, Alyssa noted to herself as she mentally classified Izzy’s opinion.

The next opportunity for Alyssa to raise the great cheating debate was the following afternoon. After work, she and one of her neighbors, Callie headed over to the hospital to visit a mutual friend of their’s Kim, who had just given birth to a baby boy the day before. The two women had become close friends with Alyssa since her and Sean had moved to California and their husbands were also friends with Sean. The three couples often got together for barbeques and poker nights and things like that.

Visiting Kim in the hospital was a little bittersweet for Alyssa. Naturally, it was painful to have to fake happiness over another woman’s successful birth when Alyssa herself was having problems getting pregnant. Out of the three women, she was the oldest by a few months, but the only one of the three to not yet have any kids of her own. Callie already had two children and this was Kim’s first. Alyssa couldn’t help but to feel a little left out.

When they entered Kim’s hospital room, Alyssa’s lip curled slightly in disgust as she realized that Kim was in the midst of breast feeding. Not seeming phased at all by their entrance she smiled brightly and continued what she was doing, not at all embarrassed. “Hey girls! Come on in! I’m just trying to get the hang of this breast feeding thing down. You don’t mind do you?”

“Not at all,” Callie replied, being the first to enter the room. “Yea, breast feeding is a bitch at first, but after the first few times it just becomes second nature.”

“Good… That makes me feel better. I didn’t think it would be so complicated, but it’s so much healthier for the baby,” she rambled on.

And totally does a number on your boobs, Alyssa thought cynically to herself. Although she was nowhere near being pregnant yet she’d already decided against the idea of breast feeding. She knew all the research about it being healthier and all that, but it just sounded like a bigger pain of the ass than it was worth. She hadn’t been breast fed as a baby and she’d turned out fine. Besides, call it shallow, but she liked her boobs just the way they were.

Picking up on Alyssa’s obvious discomfort, Callie laughed. “I think we’re scaring Alyssa over there.”

“Yea, I think so too,” Kim agreed. “I guess then I probably shouldn’t go into too much detail about how long I was in labor for. She might stop trying to get pregnant altogether.”

“You don’t have to worry about that. I’ve already witnessed my best friend give birth to my Goddaughter and I kid you not, I was with her the whole damn time,” Alyssa pointed out. “So, I’ve pretty much seen it all, although I can imagine it has to be ten times worse when you’re actually the one doing the pushing.”

“Oh, it is! It honestly felt like I was being ripp-“Finally remembering her promise not to go into details, Kim clamped a hand over her mouth. “Sorry Lyss. I forgot.”

“So, do you think that you and Ian are going to want anymore kids in the future?” Alyssa tried to change the subject.

“I think so, although it’s a little too early to tell just yet. We’ll have to see how we do with this one. We both want a big family. At least five or six.”

“Five or six?” Now it was Callie’s turn to pale. “You can so tell that you’re a new Mom. Let, me tell you… Come back in like a month or two and I guarantee you that you’ll change your mind. I used to want a big family too, but now I’m perfectly content with two.”

“Yea… Two seems like a good number,” Alyssa agreed. “Of course I’m having trouble getting pregnant with one, so…”

Both women’s faces softened. “I’m sorry Lyss. I wish there was something I could do to help. It took a little bit for me to get pregnant with Carly, but not this long. Then when Richard came along it happened right away.”

“I got pregnant with Gavin here pretty easily,” Kim chimed in. “I mean we weren’t exactly trying at the time, but we haven’t been married very long either. I guess it also helped that I’m pretty young. Not that you’re old of course. Just older.”

Alyssa just rolled her eyes, not taking offense in the younger woman’s comment. Kim was the youngest of the three of them at twenty-three and the one that Alyssa seemed to bat heads with most. Kim was very opinionated and stubborn as was Alyssa, but Kim sometimes came across as overconfident and at times judgmental. Alyssa assumed that because of her age she lacked experience which led to their differences in opinion, but more than once Callie had to referee the two of them in some heated debate. “Actually, my gynecologist told me that a woman my age has the same chances of getting pregnant as a woman your age Kim. Usually fertility stays pretty consistent between women in their early twenties and women in their late twenties. Although the optimal age to conceive is mid twenties, biologically speaking I still have excellent chances.”

“So, there aren’t any problems fertility-wise?” Callie uncomfortably asked. “She didn’t say that you definitely can’t have children?”

“Only about seven percent of women my age actually have fertility problems that are unrelated to a prior event,” Alyssa firmly reported. The other two women looked at her oddly. “What? I’ve been doing my research. The odds that there’s something wrong with me are extremely low. Yea, I’ve been concerned, but my doctor told me that she doesn’t recommend me going to see a fertility specialist until we’ve been trying for at least a full year.”

“I know… It just really sucks because you and Sean don’t have that much more time,” Callie sympathized. Both women were in the same boat as Alyssa when it came to the threat of their husbands being sent over to Iraq, so they were well aware of the pressures that Alyssa was being faced with.

“It’s okay,” she tried to brush the topic off. “It’ll happen. Let’s see what’s on TV.” She grabbed the remote off of Kim’s nightstand, glad to change the subject. She grinned when she saw the beginnings of the Oprah Winfrey show flash across the screen. She was a big Oprah fan and she was even more delighted when the topic of that day’s show was announced.

“All of our women on our show today are different ages, races, body types, and economic levels, but they all share the same deep, dark secret,” Oprah mysteriously began her introduction. “All of these women have admitted to cheating on their husbands and they’re here today to tell their stories. The reasons for their infidelity are different in each of their cases, but they all have one thing in common. They swore that this would never happen to them. So, how does a seemingly happy married woman turn into an adulteress? Today we’re going to see if we can find out.”

Kim grabbed the remote from Alyssa’s hand and flicked the television off. “I don’t want to watch that crap.”

“Afraid it might give you some ideas?” Alyssa teased, secretly happy that the door for the cheating conversation had been opened for her.
“No.”” Kim made a face. “I just don’t want to hear women scramble to make excuses and try to garner sympathy when they were the ones who chose to ruin their marriages in the first place. I mean okay, I admit that most women have fantasized about having an extramarital affair. Even I have dreamt about cheating on Ian with Orlando Bloom, but that’s just it. It’s a fantasy and although it’s completely healthy and normal, there’s also not a snowballs chance in hell of it happening.”

Alyssa thought about what Kim had just said for a moment. Could it just be the fantasy aspect that had her so sure she still had feelings for Nick? So, she’d dreamt about him? As Kim had just pointed out that there was nothing wrong about just thinking about it. It was actually doing it that brought on trouble. Of course in Alyssa’s case, Nick wasn’t just an unattainable celebrity to her. “Okay, but just playing devil’s advocate here… What if the guy you were fantasizing about was actually somebody that you could plausibly hook up with? Not someone you’re probably never going to meet like Orlando Bloom?”

Kim just shrugged. “Can’t say I’ve been in that position really. Yea, every once in a while I’ll see a guy who is pretty hot, but I just don’t have much desire to even risk letting it get that far. I have too much to lose, especially right now. I just had a baby, so I’m more focused on being a Mom right now. Plus, I’m pretty happy and satisfied with Ian. I’d have no real reason to cheat.”

“I agree with Kim,” Callie cut in. “Only I’m probably a lot more adamant about the whole cheating thing. I’d never cheat on Steve. We’ve been together since high school, so that’s almost ten years now. We have too much history just to throw that away for what? One night of hopefully great sex? It’s not worth it. Kim is right. We’ve got too much to lose. Especially with the threat of Steve being sent to Iraq. That would be like a slap in the face to him.”

Alyssa just nodded and mulled the thought over already feeling guilty for even considering cheating on Sean. Callie was right. Doing something like that while he was risking his life for their country was pretty selfish. She couldn’t do that to Sean.

Her thoughts were interrupted by Kim. “What’s your opinion on the whole cheating thing Alyssa?”

Alyssa felt like she was completely being put in the spot, but bit her lip before thoughtfully responding. “It’s tough because I’ve been on both sides of the fence on this one and it’s honestly a horrible feeling to be cheated on. It leaves you wondering what you could have done to prevent it from happening to you. But on the other hand sometimes you just have stronger feelings for someone else and I guess you just can’t help it. You don’t want to hurt the person you’re with by letting them go, but you can’t deny your feelings either.”

She could tell that the other two women didn’t quite agree with her just by the glance they shared. Finally Callie broke the tense silence with question that even Alyssa was unsure of the answer too. “Would you ever cheat on Sean?”

The question shook her and she nervously licked her lips, not sure of how to answer. At this point, she really wasn’t certain. If someone had asked her the same question a few weeks earlier she’d be offended that they’d even ask, but now she had her doubts. Of course, she couldn’t admit those to Callie and Kim. “Of course I wouldn’t. I love Sean.”

She just hoped that she sounded as convincingly as she thought she did.

That evening Alyssa received an unexpected phone call from her older sister Megan, in New Jersey. The call had been just what she needed to pull her out of her worried mood that she’d been in when she and Callie had left the hospital earlier that afternoon. She and Meg had been extremely close at one time, but now that they were living on two completely opposite coasts it made keeping up a relationship very hard. Alyssa wished that they could live closer, but Meg had a pretty set life in New Jersey with her husband Scott.

“Meg! It’s great to hear from you!” she answered the phone excitedly. “How are you and Scott?”

“We’re doing great,” her older sister responded. “Actually I’m calling with some pretty good news. Now that I’ve finally gotten a degree and I have a pretty steady job in a bank as a mortgage consultant, Scott and I have finally decided that it’s a good time to start thinking about kids.”

“That’s great news Meg.” Alyssa was genuinely happy for her older sister. Meg was unable to have children as a result of a bout with ovarian cancer in her early twenties. Now officially cancer free, but without both of her ovaries, Meg’s options for children were limited. She and Scott had discussed their choices and last Alyssa had heard were considering adopting. “So are you still looking into adoption?”

“We’ve already met with an agency and we’ve reached a decision. It’s really competitive and expensive to adopt a baby within this country and we kind of want it to happen right away, so we’ve decided to adopt from another country. If all goes according to plan, Scott and I will be spending our summer in China and coming home with a baby girl,” Meg proudly reported.

“Aww… That’s such amazing news! I can’t believe that I’m going to be an Aunt in only a few short weeks!”

“Uh huh! I thought I’d let you know, so you can already start shopping for things to spoil her with. What about you though?” Meg asked. “Last I heard from Mom was that I might be becoming an Aunt pretty soon there myself.”

Alyssa sighed. She knew her Mom was probably tickled pink to finally be becoming a grandmother and was probably waiting just as anxiously as Alyssa was for the announcement of her first biological grandbaby. “Yea well, we’re trying, but so far no luck. It’s kind of frustrating, but we’re hoping. My gynecologist is convinced that I have nothing to worry about, but I don’t know… Today a friend and I went to visit another friend who just had a baby and the two of them had no trouble getting pregnant and seemed really surprised that I was having this much trouble. What if there’s something wrong with me and I can’t have kids?”

“I seriously doubt that Lyss. You’re way too young to be worried about these kinds of problems. And outside of me there isn’t any history of anyone in our family having trouble conceiving. Usually those kinds of things are genetic.”

“Didn’t Aunt Rose have trouble getting pregnant?” Alyssa asked. “She had a lot of miscarriages or something.”

“Aunt Rose went on to have three healthy children,” Meg pointed out. “And besides, she was married into the family, so if there was any genetic problem it wouldn’t have affected you.”

Alyssa bit her lip. “Okay… Didn’t Grandma Elizabeth have a miscarriage? And one still born?”

Meg sighed. “Again Grandma Elizabeth went on to deliver healthy children. Miscarriages have nothing to do with not being able to get pregnant. What makes you think the problem is you anyway? Hell, there could be something wrong with Sean too.”

“I highly doubt that. I’d say it’s mostly my job to get pregnant.”

“Yea, but maybe he’s shooting blanks?” she suggested.

“Meg!” Alyssa found herself laughing at her sister’s bluntness. “The chances of that are so slim.”

“But not completely unlikely. You just never know.”

There was a bit of a silent pause and that’s when Alyssa remembered the cheating debate from the conversation with Callie and Kim earlier that day. She’d be interested to hear her sister’s take on the issue. “Hey Meg… Can I ask you something personal?”

“I think you and I have crossed personal a loooong time ago,” her sister answered with a laugh.

Alyssa just smiled weakly. “I know you’re happily married to Scott, but do you ever look at other guys and wonder if you made a mistake?”

She could practically hear her sister frowning on the other end of the line. “Well, yea I look at other guys from time to time, but I can’t say that I’d rather be married to some stranger than Scott. I’m not sure I understand your question.”

She thought a little harder before rephrasing it. “Okay, let’s say if someone like AJ was to walk back in your life tomorrow and you had the chance to run off with him. Would you leave Scott to go back to him?”

“Truthfully? No. I mean those few months or whatever I had with AJ were amazing and exciting and full of passion and all that jazz, but in the end, the minute he heard I had cancer he ran like a bat out of hell. And I know everyone told me he was really fucked up back then and just couldn’t deal with something like that, but actions speak louder than words. Even though I met Scott after the whole cancer thing he was always so supportive and I knew that God forbid it came back or if I have any other health scare in the future he’d be right by my side. It’s those things that make a marriage, so no, I couldn’t do that to him after all he’s done for me.”

“Would you at the very least hook up with him if given the chance? Say it was a free pass type thing and Scott would never find out about it?” Alyssa continued to interrogate, this time using the same question that had been posed to her by Teri and Tricia earlier that weekend.

Meg was quiet for a moment. “As much as I do think about it, I don’t think I could. Abandoning me the way he did was unforgivable in my book. But why all the questions? Are you and Sean having problems or something?”

“No, I was just wondering. That’s all,” Alyssa quickly lied.

“Bullshit… Why are you asking about exes and cheating?” Meg gasped as she put two and two together. “Oh no, honey… This is about Nick again, is it?”

Panicking a bit at how well her sister could read her, Alyssa struggled to form a response. She knew that Meg could tell when she was lying, even on the phone and she wasn’t ready to get into a conversation about her true feelings when even she was confused to how true they really were. “You know what Meg? I’d love to sit and talk longer, but I have another phone call on the other line that I really need to take. It’s a parent of one of my students. Can we talk about this another time?”

“Sure I guess. I’ll talk to you later. Just stay out of trouble please,” her sister warned.

“I’ll try. And congratulations again on the adoption. Bye.” Alyssa clicked the end button on the phone and let out a deep breath. She hated lying to her sister, but she knew if she stayed on the line any longer she’d crack and then have to sit through one of her lectures about the thousand and one reasons she should stay far away from Nick Carter.

Just then the phone rang again in her hand, causing her to jump up in shock. “Hello?” she answered, not even bothering to look at the caller ID.

“Hey Alyssa,” a familiar voice came over the end. “It’s me Nick.”

“Oh, Nick! Sorry I’m just a little out of it at the moment,” she apologized, making a face at how retarded she probably sounded although it was a much better response than her saying she was just thinking about him.

“Is everything all right?” His voice was filled with genuine concern.

“Oh, everything is great! I just got off the phone with Meg and evidently she and Scott were approved to adopt a baby girl from China, so I’m becoming an Aunt in a few weeks.” It wasn’t a lie and it seemed like a good excuse.

“Congratulations,” he told her. “That sounds exciting. I’m happy for them.”

“Yea…” Her voice trailed off. “So, what’s new with you? We haven’t talked since you came by with my stuff.”

“Yea, I know. I’ve been really busy for the last week or two. I don’t know if I mentioned it or not before, but the first of my artists just stepped into the studio this week to start on her album, so I’ve been pretty tied up with that. Actually, that’s kind of why I called.”

“Oh?” Alyssa wasn’t sure what one of his artists beginning to record their album had to do with her, but she tried to sound interested anyway.

“I know we were talking about getting together again sometime with Sean and Shayla and I was just wondering… I’m having a dinner party at my house Friday night to celebrate Kina starting her album. It’ll be a few people from the label, Kina, and some of the guys. I was wondering if maybe you and Sean would like to come?”

A dinner party? The last time Sean and Nick had shared a meal, Sean had been anything, but polite. And based upon her current revelations putting the two men in a room together could be extremely awkward. “I don’t know Nick… I’d have to check with Sean.”

“Please do. It would mean a lot to me if you were there.” Alyssa swallowed hard when she heard the obvious plea in his voice.

Just his tone of voice was enough for her to change her mind. If Sean was as serious as he claimed to be in not getting in the way of her friendship with Nick, he could suck it up for one night and attend the dinner party with him. “You know what Nick, Sean probably is free, so don’t worry about it. We’ll be there.”

“Great. I can’t wait to see you.”

“Can’t wait to see you either,” she echoed, trying to ignore the excited chill that ran down her spine. All she knew was she was more confused about him than ever and judging from the way her emotions had been swinging lately; there was no telling how Friday night would go down.
Chapter 14 - Wine Me, Dine Me, 69 Me by Mellz Bellz
Author's Notes:

Alyssa and Sean attend a dinner party at Nick's.

Chapter 14 – Wine Me, Dine Me, 69 Me

“Promise me that you’ll going to be on good behavior?” Alyssa asked Sean for about the millionth time after he parked his truck near Nick and Shayla’s home that Friday night.

“Come on Alyssa… Do you really think that I’m going to make a scene in the middle of his house?” Sean rolled his eyes, sounding insulted. “I know how to act. You don’t have to lecture me like a two year old.”

Alyssa sighed as she opened up the passenger side of the car and hopped down, straightening out her skirt. “Just be nice okay? That’s all I’m asking.”

Sean slung his arm around her waist and pressed his lips against her temple as they walked up the driveway. “I’m always nice.”

She just narrowed her eyes at him, but chose to keep her mouth shut as she reached up to ring the doorbell. A few seconds later the door was thrust open and Alyssa found herself face to face with Shayla. Her hair was hanging in loose blonde curls and she was wearing a simple, sophisticated black cocktail dress. Most surprising was the almost too friendly smile she greeted them with. “Alyssa! Sean! So glad you could make it!”

Aren’t we the merry hostess, Alyssa thought cynically to herself, but then remembered her advice to Sean about being nice. To be impolite would just be hypocritical of her. “Well, thanks for inviting us,” she simply answered as they stepped inside.

“Oh, I didn’t invite you. Nick did,” she pointed out with just a tinge of iciness in her voice. “But thank you anyway. I’m in the middle of heating some stuff up, but everyone else is in the living room. You can head right in.” With that she spun on her black stiletto heels and left the two of them standing there.

“Uhh, is it just me or did the room temperature just drop a good twenty degrees?” Alyssa muttered as they made their way hand in hand towards the living room.

“What happened to being nice?” Sean snickered, clearly amused at the situation.

“Shut up.”

They just reached the living room when Nick spotted them from across the room and came up to them. “Hey, I’m glad the two of you could make it,” he welcomed Sean with a pat on the back and Alyssa with a hug and kiss on the cheek.

“Thank you,” Alyssa told him, reluctantly pulling out of his embrace. Her eyes gazed over the room quickly. “This is some place you have, huh?”

“Yea… It’s not that bad. Anyway I have a few people I want you to meet,” he told her, changing the subject as he led them over to a group of people.

Alyssa tried to be as polite as possible as Nick introduced her to a few people who worked for his label, although she found it nearly impossible to remember all of their names. Finally he approached a tall young woman who appeared to be in her early twenties with thick, curly, medium brown hair and natural looking skin. Even though it was a dinner party and she had assumed the dinner attire was fancy, the woman wore a pair of ripped jeans and a vintage looking t-shirt with a black pin striped vest over it. “And this is our guest of honor for tonight, Kina,” Nick introduced. “Kina, this is a very good friend of mine, Alyssa, and her husband Sean.”

“Pleased to meet you.” Alyssa graciously took her hand and smiled. “Nick has told me so much about you and your music.”

“Uh huh,” Nick agreed. “I think you’d really like some of her stuff Lyss. It’s right up your alley. Sort of bluesy, folkish, pop rock I guess is the best way I can explain it.”

“I’ve been compared vocally with everyone from Alanis Morisette to Amy Winehouse,” Kina chimed in. “With a guitar of course.”

“I’ve always wanted to learn how to play the guitar. Nick tried to teach me once, but I was pretty much hopeless.” Alyssa couldn’t help, but smile as her mind traveled back to that particular afternoon when he’d attempted to help her learn. How he’d pulled her to sit between his legs, with his arms wrapped around her, guiding her hands and fingers to the correct spots on the guitar. Between the closeness of their bodies, his soft touch, and the feeling of his warm breath against her neck, it probably wasn’t very surprising that she had trouble concentrating on what her fingers were supposed to be doing. As patient as he’d been with her, the guitar lesson hadn’t lasted very long before they’d been distracted by ‘other activities.’

She snuck a glance at Nick wondering if he was thinking back to that same afternoon. Judging from the far away look on his face, Alyssa knew he was. Sean’s voice jarred her back into the present. “Wow… That’s a pretty impressive comparison. I’d love to hear some of your stuff sometime.”

Whoa, hold up a minute and rewind? Did I just hear Sean say that he’d like to hear some of her stuff sometime? Since when is Sean into angsty chick rock? Most of his music collection consisted of hard rock and metal with the occasional mainstream rap CD thrown in. Kina definitely did not sound like an artist that Sean would typically be interested in, at least not for her musical talent. Alyssa gave him a confused look, but if he noticed he just ignored her.

“Yea, if you’re interested I have a music My Space that has a few songs on it and as I record I’m sure that Nick wouldn’t mind if you took a listen.”

Nick just nodded in agreement. “It would be good to get some early feedback from a listener’s point of view.”

“That sounds like a good idea to me.” Sean took his Sidekick out of his back pocket. “Hey, maybe you could show me your My Space, so I can add you as a friend?”

Add her as a friend? Is he really serious here? Alyssa was beginning to suspect that Sean’s interests had little to do with her music, but with her exotic looks instead. He’s completely flirting with her right in front of my face! And he has the nerve to be jealous of me and Nick? Her mouth almost hung open in shock as Kina grinned and took the Sidekick from his hands. “That sounds like a great idea to me. And while I have your phone I’ll just put my number into it, in case you ever want to come into the studio and listen to me jam sometime.”

“That sounds great,” Sean enthusiastically replied, in a tone that almost made Alyssa want to throw up. She turned back towards Nick looking for some kind of support. Maybe he could kindly pull his highly attractive female musical artist away from her husband. But at that moment one of the guys Nick had introduced her to earlier approached them and Nick gave them all an apologetic look.

“I’m sorry, but I’ll be right back. Business calls.” Before she could even get out a response he was being pulled away.

Alyssa sighed once she realized that it was now just her, Sean, and Kina. Her two other companions seemed oblivious to us as they engaged in a conversation about their favorite musical artists and she felt a bit like a third wheel trying to join their conversation. Thankfully enough she looked up and spotted Melanie and Leighanne standing off to the corner. The two women spotted her and waved. Politely excusing herself, Alyssa headed over to the two of them and they exchanged welcoming hugs. “I didn’t know that you were going to be here!”

“We just got here,” Melanie explained. “Apparently Nick invited all of the guys, but Howie was busy checking out reception halls or something and I don’t know what AJ was up to.”

“Where are your husbands?”

“They went off to look for Nick and talk to some other people they know,” Leighanne reported with a wave of her hand. “Are you here by yourself?”

“No, I’m here with Sean,” Alyssa answered, realizing that both women had never met Sean before. The last time she’d seen them at Grace’s birthday party, Sean hadn’t come with her. “He’s actually over there on the couch talking to Kina.” She tried to get that last sentence out without clenching her teeth.

Both women’s eyes traveled to the direction of the couch. “Ouch… I take it you’re not too happy with that?” Melanie asked.

Alyssa shrugged, already embarrassed that the first impression that her friends were getting of her husband was of him being a ladies man, especially when under normal circumstances Sean was anything, but. In fact, his flirting with Kina was pretty uncharacteristic of him, and Alyssa wondered exactly where it was coming from. “They’re just talking music and stuff.” Ignoring the two women’s doubtful looks she skillfully changed the subject. “So, just wondering… Was Shayla cold to the two of you at all when you walked in?”

The two women shrugged. “No more than usual,” Leighanne reported. “You have to admit that she’s a little ice queen, but she seemed cordial. Why do you ask?”

“Well, when I walked in she was really friendly, but then when I thanked her for inviting us, she made a big production of stressing that it wasn’t her that invited me, it was Nick. Isn’t that a little funny? I mean I know I don’t know her very well, but the only two other times I’ve spoken with her she seemed to not have a problem with me. It just struck me odd. Did I do something that I’m unaware of?”

Melanie just rolled her eyes. “I wouldn’t worry too much about it. Shayla is a little funny. I mean I have no problem with her specifically. She’s always been polite to me and Nick seems happy with her, but I will admit that she’s definitely a lot less friendly than you are. She’s not really one to socialize with all the other Backstreet wives and girlfriends. Teri and Tricia think she’s a little bit stuck up, but I just think she likes to keep to herself.”

“Maybe you’re reading too much into it,” Leighanne suggested. “Maybe it just came out wrong the way she said it.” This was a typical Leighanne response; she hated to think the worst of people.

Alyssa thought it over for a moment. Perhaps Leighanne was right. She’d been pretty mixed up about her feelings for Nick. Maybe wishful thinking made her hear that bit of bitchiness in her voice, since Alyssa really had no solid reason to dislike Shayla outside of the fact that she was married to Nick. “You could be right,” she admitted. “I just don’t want any weird feelings between the two of us. I mean Nick said that she handled the paparazzi pictures pretty well after he explained them to her, but still I can’t help, but feel that she doesn’t quite trust me.”

“Maybe you should try to get to know her better. Show her how harmless you really are and make realize that you’re not really a threat. I know for a fact that she’s in that kitchen alone trying to get everything set up for dinner, and there has to be at least twenty of us here.”

She had to admit that she did kind of feel bad for Shayla slaving away in the kitchen. No wonder she’d been snippy. She’d probably just been stressed from all the work. “She’s not doing all that cooking, is she?”

“God no! Does she look the type who knows her way around a kitchen?” Melanie laughed. “She and Nick catered most of it, but there are still some odds and ends that need to be done. Setting tables, heating up food, throwing together a salad…”

Alyssa sighed as she realized what she should do in her position. As much as she didn’t want to, she felt like it was up to her to be the bigger person. Besides, maybe Leighanne was right. Maybe it wouldn’t hurt to get to know Nick’s wife better. Maybe she actually wasn’t so bad, underneath the designer clothes and perfectly painted on makeup. “I think I’m going to go in the kitchen and ask if she needs any help with anything. That should clear the air between us, right?”

The two women both nodded in agreement, and Alyssa walked back towards the direction of the kitchen. When she entered the room she saw Shayla struggling to set up a sterno pan and cursing under her breath. “Hey…” Alyssa tentatively approached her. “I noticed that you’re in here by yourself trying to get dinner ready, so I was just wondering if maybe you’d like an extra pair of hands or something?”

Shayla looked up, obviously surprised by her offer. She stared at her for a moment not quite sure how to react, but after a moment or two she gave in, knowing that she definitely could use the help. “Sure, if you want to help. You can start by going down to the basement and bringing up a few bottles of wine to have with dinner. We could use some more wine glasses too.”

“Okay,” she agreed, not at all impressed with Shayla’s gratitude or rather lack thereof, but reminding herself that she was trying to be the classier person in the situation; she turned on her heels and headed towards the direction of what she assumed was the basement door. Grateful that she had chosen the correct door, she headed down the stairs and flicked on the light switch at the bottom of the stairs. In the dim lighting provided, she approached the fully stocked bar on the other end of the room. Shayla hadn’t actually specified where the wine bottles were, so she decided to locate the glasses first. She went around to the other side of the bar and on one of the shelves underneath found a variety of different types of glasses. She quickly grabbed a dozen or so extra wine goblets and placed them on top of the counter. How she was going to manage to carry all of this upstairs was a mystery to her. She’d definitely have to make a few trips.

She turned around looking at the wall of alcohol behind her, but none of the bottles behind her resembled wine bottles. She was just about to give up and ask Shayla where she should be looking, when out of the corner of her eye she spotted a wine rack in the corner, on the other side of the bar.

Good grief! I must’ve walked past it at least five times already. Am I blind or just stupid? she asked herself as she bent over, to read the labels on the bottles. She wasn’t sure what everyone would like, so she made sure to select three bottles of red wine and three bottles of white.

She was so engrossed in picking out the wine, that she didn’t even notice the sound of someone else coming down the stairs. Nick had purposely snuck down as quietly as possible already knowing that Alyssa was already down there. He’d popped his head into the kitchen for a moment to see how Shayla was doing and she’d asked if he’d go down and help in bringing up the wine glasses since it would be too much for Alyssa to carry. And as promised there was Alyssa bent over the wine rack, seeming to be deep in thought about which bottle to choose. Nick couldn’t help, but to stop and stare at how great her ass looked in the tight black skirt she was wearing, but quickly sobered up once he realized that he was completely checking out his ex girlfriend. He cleared his throat to announce his presence which caused Alyssa to jump up so fast that she hit her head on the corner of the bar.

“Shit!” she cursed, holding a hand up to her head. “Next time can you warn me instead of sneaking up on me like that?”

“I’m sorry,” Nick apologized, looking concerned as he took a step closer to her. “Are you okay?”

“I think I’ll live with hopefully nothing more than a little bump,” she muttered, finally letting go of her head. “Thanks for scaring the daylights out of me.”

“I didn’t mean to,” he insisted. “Shayla thought that you could use some help bring up all the wine glasses and stuff. Did you find everything all right?”

“Yea… I pulled some wine glasses and set them on the corner of the bar over there. That should be enough, right? And I figured I’d get a few bottles of red and few bottles of white, so everyone is satisfied.” She didn’t even realize that she was beginning to ramble at first, but it was just easier for her keep the conversation focused on a relatively safe impersonal topic. With her feelings the way they were, she preferred to avoid any conversation that could lead her into dangerous territory.

“I think that should be fine.”

“I just didn’t know if there was a certain type of wine everyone wanted. I’m not exactly a wine connoisseur, so I guess I’ll leave that task up to you,” she continued.

Nick just grinned as he pulled a few bottles off the rack. “You never really were.” They were silent for a moment as they began to gather up some of the glasses until Nick spoke once again looking at her with a serious expression on his face. “So, how are you doing Alyssa? Truthfully.”

Alyssa was thrown for a loop at his question as she set her wine glasses back down again. “I’m fine. What do you mean by truthfully?”

He looked uncomfortable. “Last time we talked you were pretty upset about the whole baby thing and I know your relationship with Sean isn’t the same lately. I can tell that although you’re trying to be strong, it’s really killing you that you’re not pregnant yet. It’s wedging a gap between you and Sean isn’t it?”

“I don’t see how that’s any of your business,” she curtly replied. “I’m doing fine. I’m okay, and Sean and I are doing okay, and I’m just taking everything one day at a time.”

“That’s why Sean’s up there talking to Kina right now, right?” He could tell just by the way her back automatically stiffened that he had struck a nerve.

“Last time I checked you and Shayla weren’t exactly prom king and queen either.”

She had him there. “Touché. But I was asking about you. Is it wrong for me to be worried about you? I mean the last time we talked you practically broke down in front of me, so I thought that maybe you could use someone to talk to.”

Alyssa sighed, trying her best to sound as convincing as possible. There was no way in hell that she could confide in Nick. He was part of the problem in the first place. “For the last time, Sean and I are fine. Yes, we’re definitely in the midst of some rough times right now, but every couple goes through these things. I appreciate you trying to help, but there’s nothing you can do, so just drop it already, okay?” She grabbed a handful of glasses and began to walk away.

Nick was shocked by the way that she’d just snapped at him. That alone told him that she most definitely was not okay, but he knew Alyssa well enough not to press the issue much more. He couldn’t just let her walk away like this, especially when he’d planned this talk with her with an agenda in mind. “Wait, Alyssa.” He grabbed her arm to stop her. “Don’t go yet. Just hear me out for another minute, okay?”

Alyssa looked puzzled, but stopped and set her glasses back down on top of the bar again. “Fine. I’m listening, but this better be good Carter.”

He took in a deep breath. “Listen, I don’t know what’s going at home between you and Sean and I’m not going to pretend that I do. I just have a feeling that as much as you try to deny it to me, things aren’t as peachy as you want me to believe they are.” Alyssa opened her mouth as if to defend herself, but he quickly cut her off. “You don’t have to admit to anything, but I know you’re having problems right now. And sometimes when times are rough you just need to get away for a while. So, I was thinking…” He paused for a moment and dug his hand into his pocket. “Do you remember that condo I bought for you to live in when you moved out to LA, a few years back? Well, I still have it. I never sold it. I just didn’t have the heart to I guess. Anyway sometimes like after when Shayla and I have a fight or something, I go there just to cool down, and it helps.”

Alyssa drew in a deep breath as he took her hand in his. “I wanted to let you know that if you ever feel like you need to disappear for a night or something, the condo is always available to you. And I want you to have this.” She felt a small metal object being pressed into the palm of her hand. She gasped as she looked down and realized that it was a key. A key to the condo.

Her fingers clasped around it. “Nick… I don’t know what to say.”

“You don’t have to say anything. You don’t even have to use it unless you really want to. I just wanted to give you the option.”

Alyssa just shakily nodded not sure how to react. She knew that Nick probably meant it with the most innocent of intentions, but it still felt extremely forbidden for her to even accept the key. Still though, she thanked him and tucked the key into her bra as inconspicuously as possible, since she had nowhere else to put it. She blushed a little feeling Nick’s eyes on her. “No pockets,” she tried to explain.

“That’s quite all right,” he told her with a little smirk. And for the first time Alyssa realized just how close they were standing together. She wondered if Nick even realized that her hand was still on her arm. Looking up into his eyes, she knew that she’d just made a big mistake. The familiar pair of clear blue eyes that stared back at her seemed to be nearly piercing, and then there were those lips… He had amazing lips, which what was probably what made him such a great kisser. And she couldn’t help but notice that the distance between those lips and her own was growing smaller each second. Her mind completely shut down as all rational thought slipped out of her head. She wasn’t thinking about Sean, or how wrong this all us, or even where it might lead to. She was acting on pure impulse. Her eyes closed, and her body took over, as their lips softly met.

The kiss was soft at first, but the electric feeling that traveled throughout all her nerves was undeniable. It started out almost too controlled, as if both of them were afraid of what might happen if they truly let go, but as it slowly intensified it almost felt as if a dam had broken between the two of them. Alyssa’s hands flew up around the base of his neck, her fingertips playing with the ends of his hair as it deepened. A moan escaped the back of her throat the moment she felt his tongue push aggressively into her mouth. She welcomed the sensation and continued kissing him just as passionately, leaning her back up against the edge of the bar for support. As corny as it sounded, her knees were already beginning to feel weak.

She nibbled against his lip, very well aware of his fingertips on her waist, stroking a sliver of bare skin from where the hem of her shirt that rode up just slightly over her skirt. She almost shrieked in surprise when she felt herself being lifted up and placed onto the top of the bar, all the time not once breaking contact with him. She was so into the moment that she completely forgot about the wine glasses besides her, and as she set one hand down on the bar to steady herself, she sent one of then knocking to the ground where it shattered in a million pieces underneath them.

The sound of the glass breaking was enough to bring both of them reeling back into the present. They pulled apart from each other breathlessly, both not being able to do much more than to stare at each other in disbelief over what had just happened for almost a full minute. Finally Alyssa broke the silence. “Oh, God. I’m so sorry!” she cried as she slid down from her position on the bar and began to pick up some of the larger pieces of glass from the floor. “I can’t believe I did that! God, I’m clumsy!”

“It’s okay Alyssa,” he assured her. “It’s just a glass. Don’t touch it. I don’t want you to cut yourself. I’ll get a broom or something to clean this up.”

He disappeared out of sight for a moment leaving Alyssa standing there fighting to control the shaky feeling that she was still trying to overcome. That kiss had just been incredible. She couldn’t even remember the last time she’d felt anything even remotely close to the feeling. And if I feel this way just after a few kisses, imagine… No, she stopped herself. She refused to let her mind complete the thought. The intensity of the moment scared her big time. There was no denying that now she was even more tempted than ever.

Nick returned a few minutes later with a dust pan and a broom and began to sweep up the broken glass on the floor around them. Alyssa could do nothing more than watch. Neither one of them mentioned what had just happened and she knew that it was an unspoken agreement that they wouldn’t talk about it, at least not tonight. Not until they had time to properly sort out their feelings.

“We should head back upstairs. Shayla will probably send a search party for us any minute now,” he announced once he was done.

“You’re right,” Alyssa agreed. In a frenzied hurry, she grabbed a bottle of wine and some glasses and headed back up the stairs with Nick right behind her. She hoped that the guilt on her face wasn’t completely obvious.

When they reached the foot of the stairs, Shayla was waiting for them, tapping her foot impatiently. “What the hell took you two so long down there? I’ve been waiting for that wine for almost twenty minutes now.”

“I’m sorry,” Alyssa jumped to apologize. “I was having trouble finding everything, so Nick had to help me out.”

“And then you know me. Being as clumsy as I am, I dropped a wine glass and it broke, so we had to clean it up,” Nick continued for her.

Shayla looked suspicious for a moment, but didn’t say anything, instead she chose to rant about the wine goblet some more. “I can’t believe you broke one of our wine glasses Nick! Those were a wedding gift from my Aunt and Uncle. They weren’t freaking cheap!”

“We still have the whole set babe. We’re just one short,” he pointed out, trying to console her.

“Whatever,” she sighed, before storming off in the direction of the kitchen. Alyssa raised her eyebrows and exchanged a look with Nick as if to say, What crawled up her ass?

Nick ignored her glance and headed back downstairs to bring up some more glasses and wine bottles. Silently, Alyssa followed him. They continued the rest of their trips up and down the stairs wordlessly, not at all mentioning what had just happened between them.

When she was finished, Alyssa popped her head back into the kitchen. “Anything else you want me to do?” she asked Shayla.

Shayla didn’t answer right away. She just thrust a baking sheet full of dinner rolls in her direction. “Put these into the basket over there on the counter.”

“Sure,” Alyssa answered. She grabbed a potholder from the counter and quickly got to work. Once she was finished she handed the empty baking sheet over to Shayla. “Here you go. Again I apologize for taking so long with the wine I-“

Shayla just stared at her quizzically, appearing almost bored with her words. Not seeming to care that Alyssa was already talking, Shayla grabbed a napkin from the table and handed it to Alyssa, interrupting her mid sentence. “Your lipstick is smeared… You may want to fix that.” Without waiting for a response she turned her back leaving Alyssa standing there gaping.

Cursing under her breath, Alyssa headed in the direction of the bathroom and gazed at her reflection in the mirror. Shayla was right. Her lipstick was smeared. Not horribly, but enough to confirm a suspicion that she’d recently been making out with someone. Fuck, she cursed as she did her best to fix the mess. Was Shayla just calling her bluff? Or did she know more than she let on?

The rest of the evening was all, but ruined for Alyssa. Dinner had been a tense affair, with Shayla practically shooting daggers at her with her eyes, and her and Nick barely able to look at each other period. The tension in the room was getting to her and after the meal she’d whispered into Sean’s ear something about a headache and wanting to head home early.

“You don’t even want to stay for dessert?” he asked, sounding concerned. “Kina’s supposed to play a few songs for us after dinner too, out on the deck.”

At the mention of Kina’s name, Alyssa had just gotten up from the table and grabbed her purse, which had sent Sean with no choice, but to follow after her. Now they were on their way home, and they hadn’t sent a word to each other since they’d entered the car. Finally Sean broke the tense silence.

“What the fuck was that all about, back there? The moment I said Kina’s name you were practically out the door?” he angrily asked. “Seems like you were in a real hurry to leave, which is strange because you were the one who wanted to come in the first place.”

“Please Sean… I don’t want to fight right now,” she honestly told him. She had enough drama on her plate at the moment, and to be completely honest in a way she almost wished Sean really was attracted to Kina. Then at least she’d have a way of justifying kissing Nick tonight to herself.

But Sean wasn’t quite ready to let go so easily. “That’s the excuse that you use every time you know you know you’re wrong in a situation and I’m sick of it! God forbid, I get the tiniest bit concerned over your friendship with Nick and you flip out on me, but the moment you get jealous of me just talking to another woman, you all of a sudden ‘don’t want to talk about it?’ Well, guess what? It doesn’t work that way!”

As soon as he brought up Nick, Alyssa began to lose her cool and all of her sudden her wish to not fight with him tonight was completely forgotten. “Fine! You want to talk about Kina? Let’s talk about Kina! You have absolutely no interest in her type of music, so why were you pretending? Obviously because you found her hot! Which is fine. You’re entitled to your opinions, but then to openly flirt with her in front of me? What the fuck was up with that? You’re not that type of guy Sean and you never were, so why the big show tonight? Was it just to piss me off?”

“Maybe,” he sullenly replied. “Looks like it worked.”

“Why would you flirt with another woman just to get me angry?” she asked, sounding thoroughly confused. “That makes no sense.”

“To show you how it feels,” he countered back. “You know its fine for you to go fawning over Nick right in front of my face! I’m supposed to just sit back and totally be okay with the fact that you’re so chummy with your ex boyfriend, right Alyssa?”

“Oh, my fucking God… I thought we’ve been over this Sean! Nick and I are friends! I don’t know what you’re talking about that I ‘fawn’ over him.”

“And maybe Kina and I want to be friends! You’re not the only one who is allowed to have friends of the opposite sex. And please, you don’t fawn over him?” Sean did his best to imitate Alyssa’s high pitched voice. “Ohh, Nick… Remember that time you taught me to play the guitar and I really sucked at it?” He glared at her, returning to his normal voice. “That’s not fawning?”

“No, it’s not! God, I cannot fucking believe how immature you are, to flirt with a girl just to make me jealous. That’s so high school!”

Thankfully enough they pulled into their driveway at just that moment. Alyssa threw her door open and stormed into the house, not even bothering to wait for Sean. By the time Sean arrived into the house and up the stairs, Alyssa was trudging past him, dragging a pillow and blanket behind her.

“Where the hell are you going?” he asked her, sounding confused.

“I’m sleeping in the guest room tonight,” she firmly replied as she brushed right past him. Behind her she could hear Sean muttering and cursing, but she just tuned him out as she slammed the door behind her.

Letting out a frustrated sigh, she sank her back against the door and all her emotions from that night came spilling out of her in a pool of tears. When she’d finally calmed herself down, she began to unbuttoning her shirt and getting ready for bed. While getting undressed, she’d almost forgotten the key that Nick had given her, until she removed her bra and found it laying in one of the cups. She pulled it out and held it in her hands for a moment. Nick only just gave it to me and I already had to almost use it tonight, she thought with a sad smile. She examined the key closer and slowly her lips curled up into she was almost laughing.

Ironically enough the house number written on the front of the key with a small silver disk was 69. How fucking appropriate, she thought with a smirk as she set the key down on the dresser and climbed in between the sheets.
Author's Note/ Disclaimer by Mellz Bellz
Sorry to disappoint you guys who were hoping this was an update. Actually, it's just sort of an Author's Note/ Disclaimer that I feel needs to be read before this story progresses any further because I have some things I feel I need to get off my chest about the directions that I am choosing this story to go in. When I began planning and writing ALTOS, I really wasn't aware just how morally controversial the topic of cheating was going to be. I guess I hadn't thought about it much, never personally being in that position before. Yea, it happens all the time on soaps and nighttime dramas. It's entertaining, I suppose. But to some people, the topic is definitely one that they have very strong feelings about, especially when it concerns cheating on a spouse. I've come to realize in the last week or so, that cheating might just be up there with such heated topics as abortion and the death penalty. On one hand, you have those who believe that under no circumstances is cheating okay, especially when it concerns marriage. Wedding vows are meant to be taken very seriously and breaking them is one of the worst possible sins that you can commit. Yet on the other hand, look at the divorce rate in this country. Look at how many people have admitted to having affairs and cheating on spouses. It's pretty high... Kind of scary. So, obviously it does happen more often than you think, whether you're against the idea or more open to it.

       I'd like to make it very clear that I in no shape or form condone cheating. I for one do think it’s wrong. I've never been in a situation where I was at all tempted to cheat on anyone before, and I'd like to think that if I was, I'd stand my ground. Of course, I'm not going to go all moral because what happens if down the road in my life I do find myself at those crossroads? I don't want to be hypocritical at all, so I'm not passing judgment, just saying personally in most cases I think cheating is selfish.

       So then why write a story in which the two main characters, consciously, selfishly, and consensually, agree to cheat on their spouses with each other? Not only cheat, but have an ongoing affair? Why would Alyssa and Nick do that, especially since A) Alyssa was deeply hurt by Nick cheating on her a number of times and B) Nick is supposedly a different man, who has reformed from his cheating ways? I guess that's a good question. I've thought long and hard about my decisions and I've come up with some sort of conclusion. The whole cheating issue is so complex and deep I think. People cheat for so many different reasons and I think that both parties in a relationship are usually somewhat at fault for one person cheating. I do believe that sometimes cheating isn't as cut and dry as we think it might be and of course those of you who have been fans since UMS know that I am the queen of complexity and angst. I've always been attracted to situations that really eat away at your emotions and are complicated. I love gray areas, because I feel that's real. As much as sometimes people get turned off by my work because I don't write that neat little romance that ends in a perfect marriage and a couple of kids, that's not me. Right now, I'm sort of in a pretty cynical place when it comes to relationships, so for me to write a story like that, I feel like I'm clinging to a false hope. And not to sound all dark and depressed, but this is what I enjoy. Raw emotional pain. Might sound masochistic to some of you and I hope I portray this type of angst in a way that seems a lot lighter than it really is. I really am trying to balance out the dark with the light. My writing will never be a world full of sunshine and daisies, but that doesn't mean it won't have its rainbow at the end of it. I just hope that my faithful readers will stick with it and appreciate the story for its entirety. I realize that there will be points that I may royally piss some of you off, but hey if I can get you to feel that emotion over just a simple piece of fiction that has to say something right?

       I'm kind of going off on a bit of a tangent here (sorry lol I really do have a lot of pent up frustrations about my writing and how people perceive it.) In ALTOS both Alyssa and Nick are going to make mistakes. They're going to do things selfishly and without regard for other people. They're definitely flawed characters. But, it’s those flaws that make them human. Alongside these flaws I'm also hoping to portray some very real emotions that I think often get overlooked in these situations. They'll definitely be guilt, fear, mixed emotions... They're not just going to cheat and then be together. Do you think I'd make it that easy for them? This is going to be a long story and I won't say whether or not it has a happy ending, but I don't think you'll be disappointed. There will be consequences for their actions. They will lose a lot by choosing to be together. And that's what I'm trying to portray. At first it may sound like just lust, excitement, and passion, but it's a lot deeper than you think.

       So, whatever your feelings are on the cheating issue I ask you to try to go into this open minded. I'm trying to write this as objectively as possible. There will be times you'll be pleased and other times not so pleased. I hope that you can handle the road up ahead because it’s going to be emotional and bumpy. I'd love to have everyone stay with it, but I also know from recent experiences that some people's moral objections are just to strong and when you've invested so much time as a reader into a story and it starts going off course from where you wanted it to be, it's a very frustrating feeling. I guess if you really feel that strongly about it, where you just can't read it without getting upset, then you know what you have to do. It's really hard on me to lose not only readers, but for some of you friends, but I also refuse to change my vision and my style of writing because some people don't agree with it. After the ending of UMS I regretted my decision to end it the way I did because so many people felt it was wrong. I even contemplated turning ALTOS into that cheeky little romance every one else wanted, but I'd be miserable. I was actually considering giving up writing completely. Luckily, I changed my mind, but the experience has taught me one valuable lesson. I'm unique. I have my own personal writing style and I need to stay true to what made me popular in the first place.

Thank you for listening to me rant and I hope now that we're on the same page, the story can progress. Thanks for all my readers who have stuck by me and intend to continue to stick by me. You're truly my inspiration for doing what I do!

Luv Mel :)~
Chapter 15 - Joy and Pain by Mellz Bellz
Author's Notes:

Nick gets some surprising news. Alyssa and Sean visit a fertility clinic.

Chapter 15- Joy and Pain

Throughout the entire next two weeks Nick immersed himself into his work at the studio, devoting almost every spare moment he could to Kina and her album. He told himself that he was doing it just because this was the very first of his artists to begin recording and he wanted to make sure her finished product was completely kick ass. In reality though, he knew deep down that he was using his work as a distraction from his personal problems. Number one on that list being the make out session he’d shared with Alyssa at Kina’s dinner party. As much as he tried to push the memory out of his mind, he realized that it was nearly impossible. Every time he closed his eyes he could practically still feel her soft lips pressing hungrily against his and her hands traveling up and down his back and weaving into his hair. God, it had been hot. But also completely wrong. He had to admit that he definitely felt guilty about taking advantage of Alyssa’s weakened emotional state. He knew that she was going through a lot right now with Sean and her struggles to get pregnant and to make a move on her at that moment was pretty shitty of him. But in his defense, the first kiss hadn’t been premeditated at all. It had just been one of those caught up in a moment type things and to be fair she definitely hadn’t pushed him away. If anything she’d encouraged him with her response. Nick didn’t have to wonder at all about whether or not Alyssa had enjoyed their kisses. I think her knocking over and breaking one of the wine glasses was proof enough, he smugly thought.

He hadn’t called or spoken to Alyssa since that night. Nick wasn’t really sure how to go about contacting her again. The old Nick would not have hesitated to call by now and probably would’ve had her in between the sheets and bragging to all his friends about it. Things were different now though. He was older, a little wiser, and oh yea… married. He’d almost forgotten about that one. Although lately the strange relationship that he and Shayla shared seemed nothing like what a proper marriage should be. Granted, compared to Alyssa and Sean’s growing marital problems, his and Shayla’s troubles seemed petty in comparison, but things were tenser between the two of them than ever. In the past few weeks, Shayla had definitely been running hot and cold with him. One minute she’d be distant and aloof, the next she’d be hugging and kissing him. Her behavior had definitely struck him as odd, and experience told him that something was going on in that head of hers, but he just couldn’t quite figure out what it was. He supposed that he couldn’t have been helping very much either. His vow to stay away from any kind of a physical relationship with her after the birth control threat hadn’t exactly worked out according to plan. For the most part he’d done a pretty good job at avoiding any kind of sexual encounters with his wife and he’d been damn proud of himself, but there had been a few occasions where he’d slipped. Being as close as they were, Shayla definitely knew exactly what to do to push all the right buttons, and well… he was only a typical man. He’d spent the last few hours after these said occasions praying to God that she was still taking her birth control pills. As it was, she hadn’t mentioned the pregnancy topic once since they’d came home from Tahoe, which worried Nick a little bit.

So, when Nick came home from the studio early one afternoon and found Shayla sitting at the kitchen table waiting for him with a plateful of cookies, he could practically feel his stomach plummeting. Something told him that the other shoe was about to drop. “Uhh… Hey babe. What are you doing home from work so early?” he asked a little uncertainly. The last time she’d shown up early it was after the paparazzi pictures of him and Alyssa had surfaced. He decided to lighten up the mood by cracking a joke. “I promise I didn’t do anything controversial to earn you another vacation from work this time.”

Shayla just laughed his attempt at humor off. “No, you’re not in the doghouse this time I promise. I decided to take the afternoon off. I think I’m going to start taking a lot of time off actually.”

“Uhmm ok…” he warily responded, wondering what exactly that was supposed to mean. He wanted to ask, but he had a feeling that was exactly what she wanted him to do, so he resisted. Instead he changed the subject approaching the cookies with a critical eye. “You baked?”

“Yup,” she proudly replied. “I made your favorite, macadamia nut.” She pushed the plate of warm cookies underneath his nose as if to tempt him with it. He could tell just by the smell that they hadn’t been out of the oven long.

Finally admitting defeat, he reached out and grabbed one off the plate. “Okay, so like an idiot I’ll bite. Shayla what’s going on? The cookies? The afternoon away from work? You’re not exactly Martha Stewart, you know.”

Shayla just laughed as she stood up from her seat offering it to him. “Is there something wrong with doing something nice for my husband?” she innocently asked.

“No, just you don’t do these kinds of things often.” Only when you want something, he mentally added as he settled down on the chair.

She stood behind him, placing her hands on his shoulders. “Okay, you got me,” she finally admitted. “I actually have some news I want to share with you and I’m hoping that you take it well, so I thought if I made you cookies it might soften you up a bit.”

Uh oh… Nick’s heart rate nearly tripled as soon as she mentioned the word ‘news.’ He had a feeling he knew where this was headed and he wasn’t sure if he liked it one bit. Please don’t let her say what I think she’s going to say, he silently begged. Somehow he wasn’t very surprised by the next two words that came out of her mouth.

“I’m pregnant,” she blurted out. “I know it’s not what we had planned, but here we are. And I know you weren’t thrilled with the idea originally, but I’m hoping that now that it’s upon us, it kind of grows on you. I’m a little more than a month along. I just found out earlier today.” She paused for a moment to give Nick a chance to respond to the news, but Nick didn’t know what to say. His tongue seemed to be glued to the roof of his mouth. He couldn’t believe this. “Nick? Please say something. You’re scaring me.”

“H-how did this happen?” he stupidly asked, finally finding his will to speak.

Shayla just smirked. “Well Nick, when two people love each other very much –“

“Don’t try to be cute,” he interrupted. “I can figure out that much. I mean how as in how did you get pregnant when you’re supposed to be on birth control to prevent this from happening?”

She shrugged her shoulders innocently. “I don’t know… Birth control isn’t one hundred percent. Things like this happen Nick.”

Nick scowled in her direction. “I just find it pretty damn ironic that just last month you made a comment about birth control not being one hundred percent effective, and now gasp you’re mysteriously pregnant! In fact, if I remember correctly you even said something about forgetting pills?”

“Nick, that was completely a coincidence! Are you trying to insinuate that I purposely got myself pregnant just to piss you off?” Her mock innocence was really beginning to get under his skin.

“Seems rather convenient doesn’t it? And you’re the one who said it, not me! Do you have a guilty conscience or something?”

That’s when Shayla began the water works. “I can’t believe you’re being such an asshole about this!” she began to cry. “Here I am willing to sacrifice my career for this baby and you don’t even seem to want it! It’s not just my fault Nick! I didn’t exactly get pregnant on my own over here. You did your part too.” She made a sniffling sound. “And to think… This baby was probably conceived that week we spent in Tahoe when everything was so great. I can’t believe you’re being so unsupportive! It’s not like we were just messing around and you accidentally knocked me up. We’re married for Gods sake! Is it that big of a deal?”

“It is when I’ve repeatedly told you that I don’t want kids right now! Maybe in a few years, but most definitely not now. I’ve got a huge year up in front of me with my record label and the guys and I have been talking about maybe starting another album. A baby just does not fit in with my plans right now,” he argued.

“Well, you better change your mind, because like it or not the fact of the matter is that I’m pregnant and you’re going to become a father,” she simply stated. “It’s a little too late now to decide that a baby doesn’t ‘fit into your plans.’ And there’s no way I’m having an abortion, so I guess you’re just going to have to get used to the idea.”

Nick sighed as he buried his head in his hands. He had to admit that she did have a point there. He could accuse her of anything he wanted, but the truth was that it wouldn’t change the current situation one bit. She’d still be pregnant, and he’d still be a father. All of a sudden he felt panicked and he knew that he needed to get out of there. He needed some time to do some serious thinking. Without saying another word to Shayla, he got up from his seat and picked his keys up from the table where he’d left them.

“Where are you going? You’re not running out on me right after I just told you I was fucking pregnant, are you?” Shayla frantically asked.

“I need some time alone now,” he muttered. “I need to figure some shit out.”

“So, you’re just going to leave?”

“Yea… Pretty much.” Without bothering to say another word he turned around and marched out the door.

It wasn’t until he was safely in his car and a far enough distance from home that he let himself pound his steering wheel and frustration. What the fuck am I going to do? he wondered. I’m not ready to be a father and Shayla is definitely not ready to be a mother. All he could think about was how fucked up the poor child was probably going to turn out.

“Daddy?” the young girl asked as she entered the room. Nick grinned as soon as he saw her. She looked absolutely ridiculous in a long flowered dress from her dress up collection and a large, floppy, straw hat over her blond curls. Around her neck, arms, and fingers was just about every piece of plastic jewelry from her Pretty, Pretty, Princess game. Topping off the ensemble was a pink feather boa around her shoulders. She was gripping one of her favorite teddy bears and a pink plastic tea cup.

“Yes, princess?” he asked, kneeling down beside her.

“Rusty and me want you to play tea party with us. Puh-lese?” Her cute rosebud lips formed into a perfect pout.

Nick sighed, realizing that he couldn’t possibly say no to that face. His daughter definitely had him wrapped around her little pinky. “Okay Serena,” he agreed. “Lead the way, but only if I get to sit next to Rusty.”

“But Rusty wants to sit next to me,” Serena insisted with a hand on her hip, but then looked thoughtful. “Maybe he
can sit in the middle.”

“I think that’s a good compromise.” He took his daughter’s hand and let her lead him into her bedroom where she already had the entire tea party all set up on her play table. Several of her dolls and stuffed animals were already seated.

“You can sit over there.” She pointed to an empty spot near the head of the table.

Nick kneeled down at his spot and next thing he knew he was pretending to eat plastic muffins and sipping imaginary tea from plastic cups while holding a conversation with the stuffed unicorn on his left. “No Daddy!” Serena cried as she saw him grab his tea cup with both hands. “You have to do it like this!” She expertly picked up the tea cup like a proper young woman with her pinky up in the air and everything.

He laughed, but imitated her much to his daughter’s delight. She clapped her hands together and grinned before snuggling into his chest. “I love you Daddy.”

“I love you too princess.” He went to wrap his arms around her back to complete the hug, but immediately paled as he felt nothing but air.
What the fuck? he wondered, trying again only to get the same result. He glanced down at her and noticed something seemed different about her. She seemed paler… Thinner…

That’s when it hit Nick. His little girl was fading away as if she were only a ghost. Before his eyes she began to appear more and more transparent. “Serena? What’s going on? Serena?” His voice began to rise in panic.

Serena never answered. In a few more short moments she had faded away completely leaving Nick sitting there alone in the bedroom surrounded by stuffed animals and a plastic tea set…

Nick’s eyes popped wide open, the panic from his dream still freshly coursing through his body. He sat up wide in bed for a moment, unsure of where he even was until he realized that he was in the bedroom of the condo where he had crashed the night before. The dream he’d just had was not a new one. It recurred every so often, although as time passed it came less and less frequently. No matter how many times he dreamt it though, it always left him feeling extremely freaked out. He hardly ever dreamt about Serena anymore, so why tonight? Duh asswipe… Your wife just announced to you that she’s pregnant and you’re feeling just a tad bit unsure about taking on the fatherhood role, he reminded himself. He sighed as he rubbed the sleep out of his eyes. If anything the dream reminded him of exactly why he wouldn’t be a good father. Look at how Serena and her mother, Katie, had wound up. He always found that he dreamt of Serena, but never Katie. Maybe because as close as he had gotten to Katie throughout their short lived marriage of convienence, he’d never loved her.

Pushing all thoughts of the past aside for the moment, he realized that he had bigger problems to tackle in his present. He’d run away to the condo for the night to do some serious thinking about this pregnancy bombshell that Shayla had dropped on him, but he had to admit that he felt just as helpless as when he’d arrived. He still felt that he’d been deceived by his wife, but what could he really do? File for divorce? That would really be shitty under the circumstances even though it was fucked up what she did to him. He vowed to himself that if God forbid he ever did wind up having children, he would do whatever was in his power to be a better parent than what his parents were to him. And to divorce his child’s mother before the child was even brought into the world would be even worse than his parents. He had to at least give things with Shayla another shot. If not for himself, but for the baby Shayla was carrying.

Which would mean he needed to completely forget about Alyssa and those few kisses they had shared. He needed to nip that in the bud before things got even more complicated. He admitted that a slight part of him actually wished that she’d dropped by the condo that night as well by pure coincidence, but she hadn’t. It was probably a good thing she hadn’t. It had been wrong to initiate that first kiss at all, but now with Shayla pregnant with his son or daughter it made him feel even guiltier. Was he actually accepting this fatherhood crap? All he knew was that he needed to set the record straight with Alyssa if he was ever going to feel at ease again around Shayla.

He glanced at the clock. It was a little after nine on a Saturday morning. He hoped that he wouldn’t be waking Alyssa up, but he decided to take the chance in dialing her number. He’d been pretty cowardly in not really offering any explanation to their kissing afterwards, so he figured now was as good as any time to apologize.

The phone rang three times before Alyssa finally picked up. “Hello?” she answered a little groggily.

“Hey Lyss. It’s me. Did I wake you?”

“Not exactly. I was awake. Just lying here. What do you want?” Was it just him or did her tone just sound a little cold there.

“Just to talk,” he explained. “We haven’t spoken since the dinner party. I was just wondering how you were doing.”

“Same old. You?”

Nick hesitated choosing not to tell her about Shayla being pregnant, at least not yet. He knew she’d be upset by the news and didn’t want to bring it up until he had a chance to apologize for kissing her at the dinner party. “Yea… I hear you. Not much here either.” He paused, taking in a deep breath. “Look, I actually called because I know things kind of ended weird with us and I wanted to apologize for that. I don’t know what came over me in the basement, but it was wrong for me to take advantage of the moment like that. I swear I’m not that type of guy anymore and you probably think that I really haven’t changed, right?”

“It’s not just your fault Nick. I didn’t have to respond like I did, so I guess I’m just as guilty.” She sighed. “We both know what we did was wrong even though it certainly didn’t feel that way at the time. I don’t want to cause problems between you and Shayla. I feel like I’ve done enough already.”

“And I don’t want to make things even worse between you and Sean. The two of you have enough complications right now,” he admitted. “I’m not even sure how or why it happened. It just did and I can’t explain it. Maybe we should just chalk it up to being stuck in a moment or weird lighting or something, and put it behind us?”

There was a slight hesitation in her voice. “I think that would probably be for the best. And while we’re on the topic of putting our past behind us, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking since the party. This is really a tough decision for me, but I think it’s probably the best thing for the both of us.”

Nick held his breath, knowing Alyssa well enough to know where this was going. She’d changed in so many ways, but in others she was still the same. “I think that maybe this friendship thing that you and I have going on isn’t such a good idea,” she continued. “Izzy was right. You and I, we just can’t be only friends. Maybe if things were different we could, but we’re married! I mean this time yeah, it was only just a few kisses, but what about the next time? You know as well as I do that this is only going to progress the more time we spend around each other. Just look at our history! It happens every damn time. Sean already isn’t thrilled with the amount of time that I’m spending with you, and he’s partly right. It is inappropriate. I know that we’re going to bump into each other from time to time because we’re in the same circle of friends, which is okay. I think we can be cool with each other in social situations. But the phone calls, the hanging out together, the personal conversations… All that needs to end now before we get in over her heads again.”

He sighed, but he had to admit that she had a point there. He already got the impression that Shayla wasn’t thrilled with them hanging out and now with Shayla being pregnant and all, his loyalty had to lay with his wife and child. It was his responsibility as a husband to do the right thing even if it meant sacrificing his friendship with Alyssa. “If that’s what you think is best,” he reluctantly agreed. “I hate to give all that up because you really are a cool person Alyssa, but I also don’t want to sabotage your marriage either. No friendship is worth that.”

“Thanks for being so understanding. I didn’t think that you’d take it this well,” she admitted.

“Yea, well… a lot of things have changed for me in the past twenty-four hours,” he cryptically replied. On the other end of the line Alyssa’s eyebrows rose in confusion, but he continued to explain himself. “Shayla’s pregnant. Personally, I think she conveniently forgot to continue taking her birth control pills, but I can’t prove that. Whether I like it or not, I’m going to be a father, so I have to change my priorities around a little bit.”

Alyssa sat there stunned for a moment trying to digest the news. She knew how devastating this was for Nick who had such strong feelings against fatherhood at this point in his life, but still if faced with the opportunity wanted a chance to do better for his children than his parents did for him. Then there was the fact that this was another constant reminder that everyone else around her, but herself was able to get pregnant without any trouble. “Wow… Nick I don’t know what to say. I’d say congratulations, but I know you’re not very happy about it. You should be though. A child is such a precious gift that unfortunately, not everyone is blessed with. So, next time you’re thinking how unprepared you are and how much you really didn’t want this, take a moment to think about the men who would kill to be in your position right now.” She hadn’t realized how emotional she was getting until she felt her voice break slightly as she tried her hardest to hold back the tears that were threatening to explode.

Nick immediately felt guilty listening to Alyssa’s reaction. How could he be so insensitive to act like he didn’t want this child when Alyssa and Sean were literally trying everything underneath the sun in order to get pregnant? “I’m really sorry Lyss… That was a real asshole thing for me to say. You’re right I should be more grateful. It’s just that I feel a little bit deceived right now. I-“

“Nick I have to go,” she interrupted him, not being able to hold back her tears any longer. Not even bothering to say a proper goodbye, she pressed the button to end the conversation and flung her phone across the bed before burying her head in her pillow and letting the sobs finally escape. It wasn’t fair! Why would God allow Shayla and Nick to be blessed with a child and not her and Sean? They’d have made much more suitable parents. Why was this happening to her?

That was the exactly the position that Sean found her in as he entered the bedroom with a towel around his waist, fresh from the shower he had been taking throughout her conversation with Nick. Since their fight after the dinner party they had reconciled, but their relationship had been tenser and more strained than ever. Seeing his wife sobbing hysterically though filled Sean with concern and he rushed to her side. “Alyssa? What’s wrong? What happened?”

“I just got off the phone with Nick,” she managed to hiccup between sobs.

Sean’s eyebrows immediately knitted into a frown at the mere mention of Nick’s name. “What did that asshole say to you to get you this upset?” he angrily asked, assuming the worst.

“Shayla’s pregnant!” Alyssa tearfully reported. “I don’t get it Sean. Why them? Why not us? We want this so badly, and you want to know the ironic part? Nick doesn’t even really want to be a father! They weren’t even trying and it happened! Meanwhile you and I are doing everything that we possibly can to become pregnant and nothing seems to work for us! I’m getting sick of going through this. Why can’t it just happen already?”

Sean’s expression turned sympathetic as he stroked her hair. “I don’t know babe. I ask myself that all the time. But I guess we just have to be patient. Everything happens for a reason, right? We just have to keep trying and keep up our faith.”

“I can’t even picture Shayla as a mother,” she continued as if she hadn’t even heard what Sean had just said. “I mean she’d probably break a nail or something just picking a baby up. I kind of feel bad for that child.” She paused for a moment, switching gears on the conversation as an awful thought filled her mind again, the same thought that had been lingering in the back of her mind for weeks. “Do you think that maybe the reason why we can’t seem to get pregnant is that maybe there’s something wrong with one of us that’s preventing it from happening?”

“I don’t know,” he honestly answered. “But didn’t your doctor say that we shouldn’t start to panic until we’ve been trying for at least a year?”

Alyssa nodded. “Yea, but I don’t know Sean. I just have this feeling… Melanie offered to give me this name of a fertility clinic that she and Kevin went to. She was able to get pregnant with Julian because of fertility drugs. Maybe we should at least check it out.”

Sean looked wary. “I don’t know Alyssa. Fertility drugs have a lot of side effects. Look at all these women who take them and wind up with like quintuplets or something. How would you handle a multiple birth with me going to Iraq? Even twins would be rough for one person.”

“Okay, maybe fertility drugs aren’t the answer, but there are other options. And maybe there isn’t even anything wrong,” she pointed out. “Wouldn’t you feel more comfortable at least ruling out the possibilities? It wouldn’t hurt just to go for a consultation and find out some more information. Get some tests done and find if we’re making a big deal out of nothing.”

Sean had to admit that she made sense and he could see how important this was to his wife. Even though he wasn’t completely comfortable with being poked and prodded by doctors he’d do it for her and the chance to hopefully conceive a child by the time he was sent to Iraq. “If you feel that strongly about it then I guess it couldn’t hurt.”

Alyssa’s eyes lit up behind her tears. “Thanks for being so supportive Sean. I really feel like this is something we need to do. I’ll give Melanie a call and look into getting an appointment.” She sat up and wiped the tears from her eyes. Now that they’d actually made the first step to try and get some help, she had to admit that she did feel much more relieved about the whole baby situation. She had a good feeling about this decision.

Getting an appointment at the Lakewood Fertility Center was a lot more difficult than Alyssa had imagined. Melanie had failed to mention that it was one of the best fertility clinics in the nation and at first when Alyssa had called; the receptionist reported that they wouldn’t be able to see her for a consultation until the beginning of July.

“No, you don’t seem to understand. My husband is being deployed to Iraq and he might be long gone by then,” she tried to argue. “We need something as soon as possible.” She hated dropping the ‘my husband is fighting for our country’ line, but sometimes it did work and she was desperate.

“I’m sorry Mrs. Robinson, but we’re completely booked. You’re going to have to wait like everybody else for an appointment,” the receptionist told her. “So should I pencil you in for July 7th at 2pm?”

Alyssa felt her frustration level beginning to mount and she realized that she only had one last card to play. It was a dirty one and she hated to do it, but she was sure that Melanie and Kevin would forgive her. “You know I’m very disappointed. I was referred here by two very well known friends of mine who had nothing but wonderful things to say about your establishment and how accommodating and helpful you were to them throughout their struggle to become pregnant. You were highly recommended. Guess I’m going to have to tell Melanie and Kevin Richardson just how poorly I was treated. They won’t be very happy, especially with all the money they’ve donated to you.”

“Did you say Richardson? As in Kevin Richardson of the Backstreet Boys?”
“I thought I did. Do you have a problem hearing?” Alyssa smiled to herself as she saw her plan was working.

“Not at all. Hold on a moment.” She could hear some faint music being played in the background as she waited patiently. The receptionist returned a few minutes later. “Okay, I have a cancellation for next Wednesday. Is 4:00 good for you?”

“Four is perfect. Thank you very much.” Alyssa hung up the phone and rolled her eyes to herself. Okay, so she’d been a little bitchy, but she’d gotten what she wanted, right? And she knew that Kevin and Melanie wouldn’t be upset that she’d done a little name dropping. It was something she always hated to do back when she was dating Nick, but it did sadly get results.

So a little over a week later when she and Sean were led into the office of Dr. William Beard for their initial consultation, she was more than prepared for it. Sean had even arranged to get out of work a little early today just for the occasion. Dr. Beard was exactly what Alyssa had expected. A tall grey headed man with glasses and much fitting to his name a carefully trimmed grey beard. As they entered his office and he shook both their hands and offered them both a seat at his desk, she knew that she was making the right decision.

“It’s nice to meet you Mr. and Mrs. Robinson. What brings you here today?” he asked, as he settled behind his desk.

That’s a stupid question, Alyssa thought to herself. Obviously I’m here because I can’t get pregnant. “Well, we’ve been trying to have a child now for a while now and we’re having some more problems than we expected, so we’re just a little concerned about our chances. We want to rule out any unforeseen problems,” she answered.

“I see. How long have you two been trying?”

Alyssa and Sean exchanged a glance. “Almost eight months now,” Sean replied.

Dr. Beard looked at the two of them. “The two of you seem young and in good health. How old are you?”

Alyssa brushed back a lock of hair. “I’m twenty-eight.”


“Any major health problems in the past?”

“No,” they both answered together.

“What was your primary method of birth control before you began trying to become pregnant?”

Alyssa felt as if this was directed at her so she swallowed. “I was on the pill.”

“For how long?”

Alyssa pursed her lips. “I was on it steadily since I was about twenty-five. I was on it previously when I was about twenty-one. I took it for almost two years and then I didn’t really need it anymore, so I went off it.” She blushed a little. Even though he was a doctor and she knew he needed to know these things, she still felt a little funny revealing so much to a perfect stranger.

Dr. Beard sat back on his chair and looked thoughtful. “Well, I’m going to start off by saying that your age and general health are definitely on your side. It’s very rare that I get a couple in their twenties who are already having trouble conceiving, but it does happen from time to time. I know you’re concerned, but just so you know typically most doctors recommend that a couple continues to try for at least a year before seeking help. It’s also recommended that you’re engaging in intercourse at least two or three times a week on a regular basis.”

“I’ve spoken with my gynecologist about my concerns and she’s said pretty much the same thing,” Alyssa interrupted. “We’re just overly concerned because my husband here is in the military and may be deployed to Iraq in the near future, so we were kind of hoping to get pregnant before that happens. We would like to rule out that there are any physical problems that are preventing us from having children together.”

“Understandable,” the doctor nodded. “Although physical problems again are rare at your age, but we’ll do our best to find out what’s going on. Do either of you have a history in your families of any problems conceiving?”

“No,” she answered.

“Your sister can’t have kids though,” Sean reminded her.

“That’s different Sean. That was a result of circumstance. It wasn’t biological.” She turned towards Dr. Beard to explain. “My older sister Megan had both her ovaries removed as part of a treatment for ovarian cancer.”

Dr. Beard nodded. “That would most probably have nothing to do with your chances of conceiving. Well, the next step in the process would be for the two of you to come in for a follow up appointment if you choose. During that time you’ll both be examined and we’ll run a few tests. The tests will take a while for us to get back the results, as we need to send them out to a lab. Usually we recommend you make another appointment in approximately two weeks later to discuss the results and our next course of action based on the results. Any questions?”

“I know you have no idea what could be wrong at this point, but what would those options include?” Alyssa curiously asked.

“Depending on the specific problem, treatment can range dramatically. In most cases we’ll start you off on fertility drugs. If they don’t work there’s always surgery. Worst case scenario, we start thinking about in vitro or the use of a surrogate,” he explained.

In vitro? Alyssa exchanged a frightened look with Sean. She knew how expensive the process was. Could she and Sean actually afford something like that?

Seeing the frightened look on their faces Dr. Beard gave them a reassuring smile. “Don’t worry. I highly doubt that the two of you will be candidates for in vitro. I see no reason why you shouldn’t have any trouble conceiving naturally albeit maybe with the aid of fertility drugs.”

“Thank you for meeting with us today doctor,” Alyssa graciously told him. “My husband and I need to talk things over a little bit, but you’ve been a big help.”

“Not a problem. Good luck to you and I hope to see the two of you again soon. It was nice meeting you.” The three of them stood up as Dr. Beard ushered them out of his office.

“I think we should do it,” Alyssa whispered to Sean as soon as their feet entered the hallway. “What do we have to lose? So, we go for the tests and hopefully it’s good news.”

“I don’t know Lyss. It sounds a little bit of an arduous process. I might be sent over to Iraq before we even get very far,” Sean pointed out.

“It doesn’t mean we have to stop trying on our own,” she insisted. “Look, we’ve tried pretty much everything else, but this, so it can’t hurt, can it? And okay, say you do get deployed before we get very far. At least we tried, right? So what do you say? Please?”

“Fine,” he insisted, not being able to ignore his wife’s pouting. “I just don’t want you to get your hopes up.”

“Too late!” She threw her arms around him and kissed him. “Come on; let’s go schedule an appointment for us to go for our testing. Hopefully I don’t have to use Kevin and Melanie’s names again to get another appointment before July.” She seemed so happy that she was practically skipping towards the receptionist’s window. Sean had to admit that it was the happiest he’d seen her in a long time.
Chapter 16 - False Alarm by Mellz Bellz
Author's Notes:

Alyssa suspects she is pregnant. Nick finds out that Shayla has been hiding something from him.

Chapter 16 – False Alarm

Ever since they first visited the fertility clinic, a noticeable improvement in Alyssa’s mood became evident to all of those around her. While before she had been moody and irritable, now she seemed hopeful and energetic. Even her relationship with Sean seemed to improve. They’d recently gone for their first appointment to get tested, but had not been able to get another appointment to discuss the results for another three and a half weeks. This bothered Alyssa a great deal, knowing that her results would be ready in two weeks, but because of a tight schedule she’d have to wait even longer. This time, even using Kevin’s name wasn’t enough to squeeze her and Sean in any sooner. She supposed that it could’ve been worse though. The wait definitely could’ve been longer.

Their decision to go through with the testing had also helped to add a little more vigor to their sex life. Things still definitely were nowhere near mind blowing, but Alyssa could swear she at least began to feel some hint at an emotional connection again. It was like knowing that help was coming for them renewed their efforts to continue trying. And finally, it was beginning to seem like those efforts just may have finally paid off.

It was only a few days after the testing when Alyssa began to notice that she was feeling much more tired and rundown than usual. She’d sit down on the couch after work and wind up nodding off until she was woken up by Sean coming home. She’d definitely been moody and irritable lately these past few weeks, ecstatic one minute, having a meltdown the next. Most importantly her period was late. Only by about a week or so, but still, she couldn’t help but to hope that maybe this was finally it. Maybe she was finally pregnant.

She tried hard not to get her hopes up. It wasn’t like she was already experiencing morning sickness or anything really tell tale. Being tired and irritable could relate to a lot of different ailments. If she was pregnant, it would show up in her test results from the fertility clinic. How ironic would it be if she and Sean showed up to their appointment to discuss their test results, only to have Dr. Beard laugh and say that he couldn’t help them because Alyssa was apparently already pregnant? She tried to be patient and wait for either more symptoms to develop or her test results to come back, but like an anxious child on Christmas Eve, she found herself needing to find out immediately, before she went crazy.

She hadn’t even planned on buying the home pregnancy test. There she was pushing her shopping cart around the pharmacy section of Target after work one day, stocking up on some odds and ends, when she’d passed the pregnancy tests. Curiously, she’d paused, picked a box up and scanned the information written on it. She was about to place it back onto the shelf, but another voice in her head held her back. Instead, she placed it into her shopping cart. She wasn’t exactly sure how reliable the results were, but she couldn’t go on like this until her next doctor appointment.

Alyssa had taken the test almost the minute that she’d walked in the door and she had to admit that waiting for the results had to probably be the longest five minutes of her life. When the time was finally up, she drew in a shaky breath as she finally got the courage to look at the symbol that was pictured on the stick.

As soon as her eyes saw the results she instantly felt hot, frustrated tears forming at the back of her eyelids. Negative? It can’t be! she argued with herself. She had the symptoms… She’d practically convinced herself that this was it. The test has to be wrong, she decided. There’s no way I can’t be pregnant. The denial that flocked her brain was so strong that it blocked out all rational reasoning. Alyssa grabbed the directions and searched them over again. These things can’t be one hundred percent anyway.

Her face fell once she read that although it was possible to get a false positive, it wasn’t possible to get a false negative. Translation: She definitely was not pregnant. “Damn it!” she cried out loud as threw down the stick onto the bathroom counter in disgust. She couldn’t believe how she’d fooled herself into thinking that she could’ve been pregnant. She just had wanted it so badly that she’d created this illusion for herself. Call it crazy, but she could actually swear that her breasts were beginning to feel tender and that she was starting to feel queasy in the morning. The mind was an amazing thing sometimes.

Before long, the tears finally fully hit and she began to sob so hard that her knees gave out and she slid down against the bathroom wall until she was sitting with her knees drawn into her chest on the floor. All the cheer and the positive attitude she’d had since visiting the fertility clinic had vanished. Again her hopes were dashed. She couldn’t put herself through his emotional anguish anymore. She was done; ready to admit defeat. She’d wait and see what Dr. Beard had to say about her results, but she was through with consciously trying to get pregnant. She just wanted things to go back to normal, back to a time when there still had been a spark of excitement between her and Sean. Back to the way things were before they began talking about having a baby. If anything, these past few months taught her that she couldn’t rush the hands of fate. If it was meant for her and Sean to become parents it would happen naturally, when the time was right.

Alyssa was still on the floor sobbing by the time Sean arrived home from work. She was so distressed that she barely even noticed the bathroom door creak open or Sean’s comforting arms around her shoulders. “Alyssa? What’s going on?”

His voice sounded far off to her ears even though she was well aware that he was sitting right next to her. She was too upset to answer though and her only reply came in the form of another choked up sounding sob.

“I’m finding you in this position a lot lately,” he commented. “You’re scaring me baby. What’s this all about?”

Throughout her blurry tears, Alyssa could make out the overly concerned look on his face. She wasn’t sure if she’d ever seen him this freaked out before. Still she couldn’t find her voice. All she could do was point towards the discarded pregnancy test that lay on the counter.

Sean stood up and looked over the mess, finally putting two and two together. His expression immediately flooded with sympathy. “You thought you were pregnant…” he whispered. “God Lyss… I’m so sorry. I wish that the outcome was different too, but we can’t give up now. It’s only a matter of time. I mean we’re getting our test results back pretty soon. Once we have those things will get so much easier, I promise.”

“No Sean…” Her voice finally broke through her tears. “Suddenly I’m not feeling as optimistic as I was once about those results. I just want this to be over already!”

“It will be soon,” he tried to reassure her. “We just have to be patient. We’re getting closer and I can feel it.”

Alyssa found herself fighting back the urge to roll her eyes at his false hope. “You’re not listening to me Sean! I don’t want to do this anymore! I can’t keep pressuring myself like this. We can see what Dr. Beard has to say about our tests, but as far as trying to have a baby, I’m giving up. If it happens, it happens. Don’t you see the way this is tearing us apart?”

“What do you mean tearing us apart? Yea, it’s been stressful at times, but I wouldn’t say that it’s actually tearing us apart? Aren’t you being a little melodramatic?”

She opened her mouth, all set to start rattling off the reasons why their inability to successfully become pregnant by now was taking its toll on their marriage, but before she could get a word out edgewise, Sean cut her off. “Look Lyss… You’re pretty upset and worked up right now. Maybe you just need to calm down and think things through a little more before we decide on anything rash. We probably just need a little break from trying or something. Maybe we should just drop the baby conversation for a few days and see how it goes?”

Not having the energy or the spirit to argue with him she just weakly nodded her head. He was partly right. She definitely wasn’t in the most level headed state of mind at the moment. Still, she knew deep down that she couldn’t keep putting herself through this hell. It was only a matter of time before she completely snapped.

Little had changed between Nick and Shayla when he’d finally returned home after Shayla had announced her pregnancy to him. They’d reconciled enough for them to at least act civilly around one another, but Nick still did not give her any indication that he supported her pregnancy. Frankly, he wasn’t sure how he felt about it himself. On one hand, he felt betrayed and angry that somehow Shayla had wound up pregnant against his wishes. Yes, he was well aware that he’d definitely contributed to that outcome, but he found it all too coincidental to be considered an accident. He couldn’t seem to get her innocent remarks about ‘forgetting’ to take birth control pills out of his head. Then though there was the part of him that had to admit as fucked up as circumstances were, it wasn’t their child’s fault, and it wasn’t fair for him to make it suffer. It was still his responsibility to be a good role model and he didn’t want to be one of those deadbeat dad’s who refused to even acknowledge their children.

Nick remained on the fence with what to do exactly until he’d decided to confide in Brian for advice on what he should do. Nick had always looked up to and respected Brian for his family values, and although he gave him a lot of crap about it, he had to admit that Brian was a damn good husband and father. He knew that if anyone could push him in the right direction it was Brian.

And Brian had done just that. He’d pretty much told Nick flat out that becoming a father was the best gift he’d ever received and even if Baylee had been conceived under false pretenses, he couldn’t imagine not having him in his life. Nick would be a heartless asshole to not acknowledge Shayla’s pregnancy, if only for the baby, he’d pointed out. Nick had to admit that his friend was right. He owed it to his unborn child. It couldn’t help the fact that its mother was a master manipulator. Knowing what he must do, he cleared his entire schedule for that afternoon. Shayla had mentioned that she had a doctor’s appointment at two, and Nick intended on being there for it.

While he drove to office of Shayla’s doctor where Nick had accompanied her a few times before, he had to admit that the idea of a baby was slowly beginning to grow on him. He wasn’t exactly looking forward to midnight feedings and changing diapers, but he had to make the best out of the hand of cards that had been dealt to him. He smiled a little to himself as he thought about how surprised and happy Shayla would be to see him waiting in the doctor’s office for her. Afterwards, maybe he’d take her out for lunch and hopefully they really could sort things out between the two of them.

He pulled into the parking lot a few minutes before two and headed straight inside. His eyes glanced around the waiting room, but there was no sign yet of Shayla. Maybe she’s running late, he figured as he made himself comfortable on one of the chairs. He sat there and waited staring expectantly at the door every time it swung open. None of the women that entered the office were Shayla though, and after almost twenty minutes of waiting, Nick became concerned.

Maybe she got hold up and she called the office to tell them she’d be late? Nick wondered. Maybe they’ve heard from her. Growing more impatient by the moment, he cautiously approached the front desk.

“Can I help you?” a pretty, redheaded receptionist asked him.

“Yea actually you could. My wife was supposed to have an appointment for a prenatal exam today at two and I was showing up to surprise her, but she hasn’t shown up,” he explained, feeling slightly embarrassed. “I was wondering if maybe I missed her or she may have called to say she was running late?”

“What’s the name?”

“Shayla Carter.” Nick impatiently shifted from one foot to the other as the receptionist entered the name into her computer. She frowned as the schedule came up.

“Are you sure she had an appointment today, Mr. Carter? Because she’s not scheduled. Are you sure it was for today?”

Now it was Nick’s turn to frown. “I’m pretty positive she said it was for today. Was it possible that she called to cancel?”

“I’ve been here all day and I’ve had no cancellations,” she reported. “Let me look though and see if maybe she’s scheduled for another day.” She pressed another few buttons on the keyboard and then a confused look came over her face. “You said she was in for a prenatal exam?”

A worried look came over Nick’s face. “Yes.”

“I’m sorry Mr. Carter, but there must be some kind of mistake. Shayla hasn’t been here for at least a few months now.”

“But she had an appointment just last week,” he insisted.

The receptionist shook her head. “I’m sorry, but if she did it wasn’t at this office. Unless she’s decided to change doctors, but we haven’t gotten any requests to send her files to another office yet.”

Feeling his cheeks grow red Nick muttered a quick apology and strode out of the office his mind trying to process exactly why Shayla would lie to him about having a doctor’s appointment today. Furthermore, why would she neglect to tell him if she’d decided to visit another doctor? Granted, they hadn’t been on the best terms when it came to communicating, but Nick couldn’t seem to shake the feeling that something wasn’t adding up.

He was just getting into his car when he felt his Sidekick vibrate against his leg. Opening it up, he saw that he had received a text message from his friend Chris asking him how things were going. Lately Nick had been so busy that he hadn’t had a lot of time to keep up many of his friends and Chris was definitely one of the ones that had suffered. They hadn’t talked or hung out in probably over a month. Nick sighed, realizing that he now had the rest of the afternoon to himself and could probably use something to distract him from Shayla’s suspicious behavior. He quickly texted Chris back and asked if he wanted to meet for lunch. After a few more messages they agreed on arrangements and Nick was on his way to the restaurant that he and Chris had selected.

Being that he was in the general area, Nick arrived first and decided to go on inside and wait for Chris there. He pushed open the door and waited for the hostess to seat him. While he waited his eyes wandered around the restaurant which was relatively empty since most of the lunch crowd had already left by now, but there was one group of four or five women sitting at a table a few feet away. He must’ve stared a little too long because one of the women elbowed one of the others sitting next to her and whispered something in her ear while she continued to look in Nick’s direction. Nick assumed that they were probably fans or something that recognized him which he wasn’t exactly thrilled about. He wasn’t in the mood to do the whole fan thing just then.

Nick quickly changed his mind though once the other blonde headed woman whipped her head around a panicked look in her wide blue eyes. He gladly would’ve welcomed a group of fans over the horrified look on his wife’s face. The group sitting at the table had been Shayla and a few of her friends and judging from the shopping bags that lay at their feet, they’d spent majority of the day shopping. Even more incriminating and shocking to Nick was what appeared to be a Cosmo sitting in front of her with more than a few sips taken out of it.

Anger was already beginning to bubble up inside of him. She lied about her doctor’s appointment to go shopping with her friends? And if she was so gun ho about this pregnancy, why was she drinking alcohol? Not even stopping to think about what he was doing, he approached the table and roughly grabbed Shayla’s shoulders. “I think you and I need to have a talk outside.”

“Nick, I can explain!” she sputtered.

“I’m sure you can and you better,” he coldly responded. “Outside now.”

Shayla didn’t even bother to argue with him. Knowing that she was in trouble she reluctantly followed him outside to the front of the restaurant. As soon as they were outside Nick began to ream into her. “I think you better start talking and explain to me why when I stopped by your doctor’s office to surprise you by showing up for your appointment, you not only never showed, but the receptionist had no record of you coming in at all recently? Then I walk in here to meet up with Chris for lunch, only to find you having a grand old time with your friends, sipping cocktails? Last time I checked pregnant women weren’t supposed to be drinking!”

Finally finding her nerve, Shayla tried her best to turn the subject around. “Since when are you interested in this pregnancy? Ever since I announced it to you, you’ve been everything but supportive! You’ve made it pretty clear that you didn’t give a damn, so why the sudden change in attitude?”

That’s when it finally fully clicked in Nick’s mind what Shayla had done. She hadn’t purposely gotten pregnant at all. In fact she’d done something much worse and much more deceptive. It all began to make sense. Lying about the doctor’s appointment… The cocktail with lunch… How could he have been so blind? “What pregnancy?” he challenged. “Do you really think I’m that fucking stupid that I wouldn’t figure it out?” He could tell just by the guilty look on his wife’s face that he’d hit the nail right on the head. “You were never pregnant in the first place! You lied to me just to give me some kind of test on how I would handle the situation! What was your logic in that? Don’t you think I’d have thought something was up when your stomach didn’t get bigger? Or were you planning on stuffing a pillow in there or something?”

Shayla sniffled, seeing that she was defeated. “I was going to pretend to have a miscarriage,” she quietly admitted.

“Of course! The convenient miscarriage! How soap opera of you,” he sarcastically replied. “I still don’t understand why you’d do something like this? Who actually fakes a pregnancy? What possessed you to do something so psycho?”

She looked up and glared at him completely stone faced. “Let’s just say I had my reasons,” she stiffly answered.

Nick was about to ask her what those reasons were, but quickly realized he really could give a rat’s ass at that point. He actually wasn’t interested in her excuses. He couldn’t wrap his mind around the fact that she’d gone and lied to him in the first place. That was unforgivable to him. “You know what? I don’t even care why you did it anymore! When you first told me that you were pregnant, my first instinct was that you did it on purpose. You made that comment about forgetting your birth control pills, so I just thought this was your way of trapping me. I was really hurt at first, but then I did a lot of thinking and even though I didn’t really want a child, I knew that deep down I couldn’t turn my back on my own flesh and blood. Which is why I was all set to show up and surprise you today. Now as it turns out, you did just the opposite. You lied about being pregnant for some crazy, manipulative reason that only you can figure out. I’d say that this is even worse! Do you realize how upset Alyssa was when I told her you were pregnant? And it’s just some big joke to you!”

“Oh, God forbid we upset Alyssa!” Shayla shot back, not being able to mask her jealously.

“Is this what this is about?” Nick asked, sounding disgusted. “You knew how badly Alyssa wanted to get pregnant, so you figured that if you mysteriously became pregnant it would hurt her?” Shayla remained silent, but crossed her arms over her chest sullenly, giving Nick all the conviction he needed. “Unbelievable… You know you don’t fuck with people’s emotions. Especially by making them believe that they’re going to become a parent. That’s just sick! You disgust me.” Not even having the respect to look at her for another moment he turned around and began walking away.

“Nick!” Shayla attempted to call after him, grabbing his arm.

Nick turned around to face her giving her a warning glance. “Don’t. I’m heading back home and getting my stuff. My lawyer will be sending you over divorce papers as soon as I can draw them up.” Without even bothering to wait for her reaction he turned back around and strode off. In the distance he could hear her muffled tears from behind him, but he had no regrets. He was doing the right thing.

As promised, Sean kept silent about the baby topic for the next two weeks. Neither he nor Alyssa brought it up. It seemed like an unspoken agreement between the two that the subject wouldn’t be mentioned again until their appointment with Dr. Beard to discuss their test results. Alyssa was secretly grateful for this arrangement. It was almost a relief for her to not have to stress over the baby situation constantly hanging over her head. Of course just because the word ‘baby’ seemed to have been eliminated from both of their vocabularies, did not mean that their relationship instantly turned itself around. There was just as much tension between them as ever and whether or not it was consciously or unconsciously, Alyssa found the two of them to be almost politely avoiding each other. It was almost beginning to feel like they were nothing more than roommates, co inhabiting the same space instead of a happily married couple.

Not too surprisingly, Alyssa had gotten her period two days after she’d taken the pregnancy test, sealing the fact that she had been wrong. Afterwards she couldn’t help, but to kick herself for mistaking the symptoms of a really bad case of PMS with the symptoms of pregnancy. She’d moped around for the next few days that followed, but once she realize that she was only making herself feel worse she tried to put on a more cheerful façade, hoping that it would trick her into thinking that she was feeling better. She wasn’t sure if it completely worked, but Sean seemed to buy it. Of course they hadn’t spent very much time together either.

That’s why she was shocked and surprised when he flopped down next to her on the couch that following Friday night while she was curled up with her lesson plan book, trying to map out her daily plans for the remainder of the school year, which was already beginning to dwindle down. Her eyes shot up from her plan book and gave him a questionable glance as soon as she felt his weight next to her. He seemed to have been gone out of his way to steer clear of her for most of the week, so him voluntarily coming to sit beside her seemed a little strange.

Ignoring her suspicious expression, Sean grabbed her legs and pulled them onto his lap, lightly beginning to rub her feet. “Working again?” he playfully teased. “Didn’t you do enough of that today?”

Alyssa appeared blasé to his attempts at pulling her away from her work. “There’s only a few more weeks left of the school year. I’d rather get all my plans intact now so I can concentrate on packing up my classroom for the summer.”

“You have plenty of time for that still,” he insisted, reaching over her to grab her plan book from her hands and setting it on the coffee table in front of them. “It’s Friday night. Surely you can think of something better to do than work on lesson plans.”

Her eyes traveled to the discarded plan book. She was all ready to sail into him for disrupting her work, but something stopped her. This was the most attention he’d devoted to her since the afternoon he’d found her crying on the bathroom floor after the disappointing results of the pregnancy test. She raised her eyebrows and smirked, finally giving in as she slid her body closer to his so that her legs were now dangling off the side of his lap. “Sounds like you have something in mind.”

Sean shrugged. “Not exactly.” He reached out to stroke her dark hair. “I just realized how much I’ve missed being with you lately.”

Alyssa giggled a little bit. “Well, I’ve been right here the whole time. Kind of hard to miss someone when you see them everyday.”

“That’s not what I meant about missing you. Yea, I physically see you everyday, but I just miss the whole emotional connection I guess. Let’s face it, we haven’t been very close lately,” he pointed out. “It’s like we’ve been tiptoeing around each other, and I’m not even sure why exactly.”

She was a little taken aback by his observation. He was saying everything that she had been feeling lately and it made her wonder just a bit where this was all coming from. “Same here. I think that we let so much outside stress get in between us that it really messed up our ability to keep up a solid relationship,” she admitted, trying her best to dance around the baby issue. “I think we sort of started to take each other for granted and kind of stopped communicating there for a while, which definitely was a mistake. Even solid relationships take work to keep them that way and I think we just kind of slacked off. We just became so focused on other things and other people that we forgot to put ourselves first.”

“You’re right,” Sean agreed, tracing circles on the top of her thigh. “I kind of miss the way things were when we first got married. I know the honeymoon doesn’t last forever, but that doesn’t mean that we have to be miserable right? As corny as it sounds I miss those nights we’d just spend on the couch, holding each other.”

Alyssa felt her defenses start to melt. Had he really missed the days before they learned he was being shipped out to Iraq and before they began discussing having a baby, too? “Me too… You know that sounds like a great way to spend my Friday night,” she coyly suggested.

“Better than working on lesson plans?” he teased, as he drew his mouth closer to hers. “Because if you’re really that anxious to get back to them-“

Their lips met before he could even finish the sentence. Pulling away just long enough to get the last word in, she grinned. “This is much better.” Their lips met again, and Alyssa closed her eyes trying to lose herself in his kisses as her hands traveled up to the back of his neck. It felt really good just to sit there and make out with him on the couch like they were a bunch of teenagers. Sadly, Alyssa couldn’t really remember the last time they’d just taken their time with each other. Between trying to get pregnant and both of their overloaded schedules, any alone time they had was always rushed and to the point. So, it definitely was a relief to throw away all sense of time and just relax in each others arms.

Finally Alyssa was beginning to see a glimmer of that emotional connection they once shared and the fact that they were finally bringing the focus back onto each other was definitely a turn on. She couldn’t deny that Sean’s kisses didn’t exactly put the same thrill in her that the fading memory of Nick’s kisses from a few weeks ago, but at the moment his predictability and familiarity seemed comforting and safe. When she felt his fingertips slip underneath the thin material of her tank top, she didn’t hesitate to raise her arms, helping him lift the garment off of her body.

One by one, articles of clothing flew off the couch onto the floor below, until there was nothing separating their skin from each other. Even though it had been a while since they’d really taken things this slowly, Alyssa found herself already growing impatient. She knew that probably seemed pretty ironic since she’d been complaining to Teri and Tricia about how lately her and Sean usually got right down to business, but just the idea of making love without having to worry about whether or not this would be the time she’d get pregnant gave her such a rush. Flipping them over and climbing on top of Sean, she bent down to drop a few light, teasing kisses on his chest as she positioned her body over his. She was just about to sink herself down on him when he gripped her hips, pulling her off of him.

“What do you think you’re doing?” he playfully asked.

Alyssa smirked. “What does it look like I’m doing?”

Sean shook his head at her as he switched their positions so that he had her pinned down against the arm rest of the couch. “Not that way. This way is better.”

She looked up at him with a puzzled expression on her face. “Don’t you get sick of the same thing all the time though? I know you’re a control freak and all, but don’t you want to try something different? And why exactly is it ‘better’ this way?”

Sean seemed to hesitate for a moment. “Uhh, well I guess its kind of stupid, but I just heard somewhere that it’s uhmm easier to conceive a baby in this position. Like you’re at a better angle or something.”

As soon as the explanation left Sean’s mouth, Alyssa sighed and pushed him off of her. Everything had been going so great, but the minute he’d brought up the word ‘baby’, it was like flicking a switch off. She sat up and started to gather her clothes. “Thanks. Way to ruin a mood there.”

“What do you mean? What’d I do?” Sean asked, looking genuinely confused.

Alyssa pulled her tank top back over her head before spinning around to face him. “I thought I made it damn clear that I didn’t want to discuss the baby topic anymore. Why is that every goddamn time we have sex you always have to remind me that we’re trying to create a child? Can’t it just be about the two of us for once? Does it always have to be all about the fucking baby?”

“I’m sorry… I didn’t think-“

“That’s exactly the problem! You don’t think!” By now Alyssa was standing up pulling on her jeans. “And I can’t believe that you’d actually buy some line of crap like that about which way is easier to get pregnant. There’s no proof of that! Besides, we’ve been doing in that way for the past eight months and nothing has happened, so maybe there’s a clue right there!” She crossed the room to where her flip flops were sitting by the door and slipped them onto her feet as she grabbed her denim jacket from where it hung across the banister of the stairs.

Sean watched her with his brows knit in concern. “Where are you going?”

“I don’t know! I just need some space.” Without even waiting for his reaction she opened up the door and stepped outside, ignoring Sean’s pleas to drive carefully. It was a particularly rainy night and just walking from the porch to her car was enough to leave her thoroughly drenched already. She found herself wishing that she’d thought to grab an umbrella or a jacket that was more suited for the weather, but her stubbornness refused to let her back into that house again and give Sean the opportunity to try to calm her down.

She climbed into the front seat and peeled out of the driveway not sure where she was headed. She knew that she’d be more than welcome to spend the night at Izzy’s or with Teri and Howie, but she really didn’t feel like having to explain her whole argument with Sean. She wanted just to go someplace where she could be alone and just relax. Stopping at a red light, she momentarily considered just checking into a hotel for the night, but then she remembered another option. She reached into her glove compartment and felt relief flood over her as she stumbled upon the key to the condo Nick had given her. She’d stuck it in her car to use in exactly a case like this, knowing it was bound to come in handy sometime. He did say that I can use it anytime I need to just get away for the night. Making up her mind, she plugged the address into her GPS system and sped off in the direction that it indicated.

She arrived at condominium complex about half an hour later. The roads had been pretty flooded and miserable and she was just glad to finally arrive at her destination. Thankfully enough, Alyssa had little problem finding the address and she pulled into the driveway. Even though she had the heat blaring, her clothes were still damp from before and as soon as she stepped out of the car door she was soaked again. It really was a torrential downpour and of course once she reached the door, her hands fumbled with the slippery key. When the door finally sprang open she was so drenched that her clothes seemed to stick to her body like a second skin.

Alyssa stepped inside and immediately took off her jacket and hung it on the coat rack next to the door. Not wasting any time she unbuttoned her rain soaked jeans and let them pool around her legs as she stepped out of them. There was nothing more uncomfortable than wet denim. I’ll just get out of these wet clothes and then look for a blanket or something to warm me up, she figured as she pulled her tank top over her head.

She was so focused on getting out of her wet clothes that she hadn’t even noticed the sounds of another person coming from the living room. Nick had arrived at the condo only a few hours earlier. After his confrontation with Shayla earlier that afternoon, he’d cancelled his lunch plans with Chris, gone home, and packed a suitcase with enough clothes to last at least a few days at the condo. He had absolutely no intentions in returning to his home unless it was to retrieve the rest of his stuff. He’d been vegging out on the couch when he thought he heard the sound of the door opening, so he got up from the couch to investigate.

The sight waiting for him around the corner was enough to make him freeze in both surprise and awe. At the end of the short hallway was Alyssa, and he’d gotten there just in time to watch her cross her arms in front of her and pull her maroon colored tank top over her head until she was standing there in just a pair of black and pink boy shorts with a matching black bra. He couldn’t tear his eyes away from her body. Judging from her damp hair and glistening skin, he was able to figure out that she’d probably gotten caught out in the rain and thinking that she was alone, decided to ditch her wet clothes before she caught a chill in the air conditioning. His eyes traveled down her back and spied another one of those newly added tattoos that she’d hinted at; a pair of pink toe shoes peeking out just above the waist of her boy shorts on the right side of her lower back. It was obviously meant to symbolize her long time love of dance. He continued to stare appreciatively, getting a great view of her ass while she bent over to pick up her wet clothes.

He was so transfixed by her half naked appearance that he barely had time to react when she finally turned around noticing him standing there for the first time. Alyssa shrieked in surprise protectively holding her damp clothing over her body as if it were a sight he’d never seen before. “Nick! What the hell are you doing here? You just scared the shit out of me!”
Chapter 17 - Downpour by Mellz Bellz
Author's Notes:

Alyssa and Nick seek comfort in each other.

Chapter 17- Downpour

Nick stood there paralyzed for a moment more before fumbling with an explanation to Alyssa’s question. "I told you I come here from time to time when I need to be alone," he calmly explained to her, trying not to make it completely obvious that he was staring. He couldn’t help, but notice her obvious discomfort by the way her arms were protectively crossed over her chest, her wet clothes held up to shield her half naked body. Trying to make light of the situation, he cracked a smile. "You don't have to be embarrassed. It's not like I've never seen you naked before."

Alyssa blushed a little bit, but relaxed her arms. “I guess you have a point there. If you really want to be alone I could just go,” she offered.

"Not on your life, with this kind of weather," he insisted, grabbing her by the arm. "Come on let's see if I can get you some dry clothes and we can stick these in the dryer for the time being."

Alyssa had no choice, but to agree as she followed him deeper into the condo. She definitely hadn't anticipated running into Nick here tonight. It was definitely more than a little awkward, especially because since the last time they’d been around each other had resulted in a very heated make out session and the last time they had talked, she’d pretty much told him that they probably shouldn’t hang out anymore for that very reason. As weird as the situation was, she’d just have to suck it up and deal with it. Nick was right. The roads were bad and she was upset. It was better if she stayed in one place for now until the weather at least calmed down.

“I’m actually staying here for a few days,” his voice interrupted her thoughts. “Long story, I’ll fill you in later, but point is that I have extra clothes on me. So, I’ll just give you a t-shirt or something to hang out in for now and there should be clean towels in the bathroom if you want to dry off a little. Once you’re all settled we can throw your wet clothes in the dryer.”

“Sounds good to me,” Alyssa agreed as Nick went into his suitcase, pulled out a green t-shirt, and handed it to her. She smirked as she saw the picture of a fork and a spoon on the front and the words, Spooning Leads to Forking across the top. “Nice shirt.”

Nick grinned. “I though you might like it. You remember where the bathroom is right?”

Alyssa nodded and headed down the hallway towards the bathroom door. She could already feel goose bumps beginning to form on her arms and legs. She quickly located a fluffy white bath towel and wrapped herself in it for warmth. She gazed at the shower curtain for a moment, contemplating taking a hot shower to warm herself up, but laziness got the better of her. Instead she changed into Nick’s shirt, not being able to help the fact that she was very aware of his scent that lingered onto the material. Once she was done she picked up her damp clothing and left the bathroom, heading for the washer and dryer that she remembered being off of the garage. She tossed her clothes in the dryer and turned it on, before heading back into the living room.

She entered the living room just in time to see Nick coming out of the kitchen gripping a bottle of wine and two paper cups. “I just remembered that we have a few bottles of wine lying around here from the first night we spent in this place. Don’t have any wine glasses though, so paper cups will have to do.”
“Wine in paper cups?” Alyssa giggled. “That’s classy.” She wrinkled her nose. “These bottles of wine have to have been sitting here for over three years now.”

“So?” Nick shrugged. “Wine doesn’t go bad. In fact, it gets better with age, just like me.”

Alyssa couldn’t help but laugh. “Okay if you say so, but I think that’s probably still up for debate.”

Nick gasped pretending to be hurt. “That was pretty mean Alyssa. I’m shocked!”

“Yea, you’ll get over it.” She plopped herself down on the couch and waited for Nick to join her. She watched as he made himself comfortable and poured her a glass of wine. “Thanks,” she told him, taking the cup from his hand. “I could use a drink right about now.”

“You and me both,” he agreed, already taking a sip from his wine. “Looks like we’ve both had a pretty rough day.”

Alyssa just nodded, curling her legs underneath her. “You could say that. If you don’t mind me asking, what happened? Did you and Shayla have a fight?”

Nick just snorted in response. “Oh, we had a fight all right.” He paused for a moment as if he was unsure of how to break the news to her. “I guess I should be up front with you now because pretty soon the truth is just going to come out anyway. I’m divorcing Shayla.”

The room was so quiet after those three words that Nick swore he could hear a pin drop. Alyssa looked shocked and surprised at his admission. “You’re what? You’re getting a divorce?” She sat back against the back of the couch appearing stunned. She remembered a time when she had almost prayed for this day back before she and Sean had gotten married. Now that it had come though, Alyssa felt anything but triumphant. Alyssa knew how his parents divorce had affected him, so for him to follow down the same path after only two years of marriage something major must’ve happened. “If you don’t mind me asking, why? Why now? You have a child on the way! This is absolutely the worst time to get a divorce.”

Nick was shocked by her reaction; it wasn’t at all how he had expected her to take the news. She seemed almost angry at him. But then again, he could almost see why. She didn’t know what Shayla had done and she was coming from the perspective of someone who would give almost anything to switch places with him and Shayla. So, considering that she had strong personal feelings on the matter, being a woman who was desperately trying to become pregnant, Nick could understand her outrage that his decision to seek a divorce now of all times when his wife would need him the most. He definitely needed to back up and explain everything to her. “There is no baby,” he slowly admitted.

Now Alyssa looked confused. “No baby? What do you mean no baby? You told me yourself that she was pregnant.”

He took in a deep breath. “She made up the whole thing. She was never really pregnant after all. She only did it to try to trap me into accepting the fatherhood role. That way she could conveniently miscarry and easily persuade me into trying for the real thing.”

“Oh my God…” Alyssa covered her open mouth in shock. “That’s just crazy… Not to be mean, but what a bitch! Who does that outside of desperate women on soap operas?”

“My point exactly. I mean she knew what a big deal it was for me to finally agree to take this pregnancy thing seriously. I was actually almost beginning to look forward to us having a baby,” he confessed. “Crazy, huh?”

Alyssa patted his shoulder sympathetically. “Not at all, Nick! I know how huge of a step that was for you and it really shows how much you’ve changed that you were willing to take on that kind of responsibility even though it wasn’t entirely what you wanted. She’s really a bitch for putting you through all that. If she loved you, she wouldn’t have to manipulate you and play games like that to get you to prove that you love her too. How did you find all this out?”

“Well, at first I really didn’t want anything to do with the whole thing because I originally thought she’d gotten pregnant on purpose just to spite me. Kind of ironic how backwards I had it. Anyway, finally I confided in Brian and he made me realize that even if Shayla had purposely gotten pregnant, it would be unfair to let an innocent child suffer as a result. So, I decided that I should suck it up and accept the fact that I was about to be a father for the baby’s sake. I planned on surprising Shayla by meeting up with her at her doctor’s appointment, but when I got to the office there was no record of her having any sort of appointment recently, which I thought was strange. I didn’t get too concerned though, and I made plans to meet up with Chris for lunch. When I got to the restaurant I found Shayla there with a group of friends. They’d been out shopping all afternoon while she was supposed to be at the doctor and she was drinking a Cosmo.”

“Ouch…” she winced, feeling his pain. “So you pretty much caught her red handed.”

Nick nodded. “I pulled her outside and got her to admit the truth. We had a pretty bad argument which ended in me telling her to expect to be served with divorce papers. So, yea… I figured I’d hide out here for a few days at least. I kind of don’t feel much like facing any of my family or friends just yet.”

“Understandable.” She paused a moment before asking the question that was lingering in her mind. “So, you really are going through with the divorce thing?”

He thought about it for a few seconds before answering. “Yea, I think so. I mean I just can’t imagine staying married to someone who would blatantly lie to me like that. My trust in her is pretty much shattered at this point, and what’s the good in being in a relationship with someone that you can’t trust? It’s pointless.”

“I totally agree.” Alyssa knew firsthand from her prior relationship with Nick that one of the many reasons they had failed had been her lack of trust in him. She’d always been so worried that he’d cheat on her, that she supposed she’d made it pretty clear that she didn’t trust him. Otherwise those fears wouldn’t have been there. Because of all of that Nick had gone ahead and cheated anyway, putting faith into those fears. So, after that experience Alyssa had really began to realize just how important it was for both parties to trust each other in a relationship. “I’m so sorry Nick. I can’t believe that she’d do that to you.”

Nick brushed her apology off with a wave of his hand as he poured himself another cup of wine. “It’s okay. I’ll survive. I’m better off without her anyway.”

Alyssa was unsure of what more she should say at the moment, so she said nothing, focusing on the episode of Family Guy that was playing on the television in front of her. She finished off her wine in silence and then poured herself a second serving as well. Her mind tried to focus on the plot of the episode, but for once not even adult cartoon humor was enough to make her smile. Half the jokes that she would normally laugh out loud over seemed to fly completely over her head. Judging from Nick’s reaction next to her, he was feeling exactly the same.

When the show went to a commercial break, Nick finally broke the silence turning the conversation onto her. “So, now that you know what I’m dong here, what are you doing here?”

Alyssa blushed, feeling a little embarrassed. “It’s pretty stupid and petty compared to your story,” she began. “Sean and I had a fight obviously, but like I said it was really dumb. I just needed to get away from him for a while.”

Nick looked at her intently, but surprisingly didn’t really press the matter. Instead he just made an innocent remark. “You and Sean have been fighting a lot lately, haven’t you? What’s gong on with the two of you? I feel like you’re always only telling me half the story.”

She sighed realizing that he was right. She did tend to sugarcoat a lot of the details around him, and she wasn’t quite sure why. Maybe it was because of their prior relationship, she didn’t want him to think that she couldn’t ever be happy with anyone else. Whatever the reason, she’d only given him a small crack of light on what was really going on between her and Sean that day he’d come over with the pictures. All he really knew was that they were struggling to conceive a child before Sean left for Iraq and were having difficulties. He also knew that this was causing some friction between them, but he had no clue to exactly what degree. After the way he had opened up to her about him and Shayla, she supposed that she only owed it to him to do the same with her and Sean. Nick hadn’t exactly been one to share his personal problems with others, so Alyssa knew just how difficult that had been for him.

“Sean and I have been having our fair share of problems,” she slowly admitted. “I guess it’s just this baby thing is really getting to us, in more ways than one. The first few months weren’t so bad, but after a while it just started getting really frustrating when nothing was happening. We literally tried everything. Even all the crazy things that you think would never work. And still I wasn’t getting pregnant. We just couldn’t understand it. You know that we went to visit a fertility clinic last month?”

Nick shook his head. “No, we haven’t talked in a while, remember?”

“Well, we did,” she clued him in. “It was my idea. I was just so afraid that maybe something was wrong with me and I wouldn’t be able to have children that I just had to find out for sure. I mean even my doctor kept telling me that I was probably just overreacting, but something in my gut told me I needed to do this. Sean seemed pretty supportive of the idea. We had some tests run on us to see what the problem is, if anything. We’re supposed to be getting the results back next week. It’s really nerve wracking.”

“I bet it is. I know how important having kids is to you. I imagine that it must be hard on the both of you.”

“It is.” She paused for a moment already growing bolder and more comfortable sharing the details that she’d hid from most of her close friends for months now. She was finding it to be a bit of a relief to get it all off of her chest. “We actually had a false alarm like two weeks ago. I thought that I might have been pregnant and I got my hopes all up and then I took the test and it turned out negative.” Her face fell at the memory. “Afterwards I was a wreck. I had invested so much time in thinking that I was actually pregnant that it was really hard for me to accept the fact that I wasn’t. Since then Sean and I have sort of been avoiding each other. I told him that I wanted us to stop trying for the time being. It was just getting way too stressful on me and it started to become that trying to have a baby was taking over our entire relationship.”

“How so?” Nick asked curiously.

By this point in the conversation the wine she had been drinking was beginning to go to her head and although she was nowhere near drunk, she definitely was tipsy enough to speak about a topic as intimate as her and Sean’s sex life freely. “Well, it was starting to seem like whenever we had time alone it translated into ‘time to work on making a baby.’ It was getting to the point where our sex life was just entirely focused on this baby that hadn’t even been created yet. We entirely stopped making love. It was just very plain, boring, almost mechanical sex. My heart just wasn’t into it anymore.” She paused for a moment as it finally clicked in her mind that Nick probably wasn’t at all comfortable with her sharing such personal details between her and Sean. “I’m sorry… You probably didn’t need to hear all of that.”

Nick just laughed lightly. “It’s okay Alyssa. Not like I seriously think that you and Sean have a celibate relationship or anything. You are married after all and obviously this is bothering you. Besides, I find it entertaining to hear you talk so openly about sex for once.”

Alyssa rolled her eyes and playfully smacked him on the arm, but continued anyway not even aware that she was beginning to slur some of her words. “The fight we had tonight was kind of about that. I told you we’d been avoiding each other since the pregnancy scare and then tonight he sits down next to me and was telling me about how much he missed me lately and how he wishes that we could go back to how we used to be. So, yea we start kissing and it’s finally beginning to feel like its about just the two of us again, and we’re both completely relaxed, there’s no pressure of whether or not this will be the time that we’ll conceive a child. Then just when things are about to happen he goes and brings it all up again! It’s like he can’t let go of the idea of trying for a baby and just let it happen naturally. I really can’t deal with that pressure, so I got up, got dressed, and left. And now I’m here.”

Nick stared at her a moment not at all sure how to react. He certainly hadn’t expected that kind of explanation from her. He really had no idea all of that was going in her and Sean’s marriage, but it began to make a lot of sense based on some of the things she’d said and done lately. That probably explained why she’d been so eager and receptive to his kisses at Kina’s dinner party. He swallowed hard as the implications of her fight with Sean and her arrival at the condo could lead to. He assumed she had to have some pretty strong pent up sexual frustration over the way things had been with Sean lately. And then there was the image of her arriving soaking wet to the condo and stripping off her clothes in the foyer, still fresh in his mind. Now here she was sitting next to him on the couch wearing his shirt and looking rather enticing in it. It would be completely wrong of him to take advantage of the situation. The Nick of a few years ago would’ve been all over her by now, but it just wouldn’t be right in this case.

“What?” Alyssa interrupted his thoughts. “Why are you staring at me like I have three heads or something?”

He shook his impure thoughts out of his head and grinned. “Nothing. Just find it amusing that you’re already tipsy.”

“I’m not tipsy!” she insisted. Nick raised her eyebrows at her until she finally gave in. “Okay… Maybe I am a little bit. But, wine always hits me pretty hard. Plus, the fact that you try not drinking for eight months and see what happens to you the first time you start drinking again.”

“You barely had two cups,” he pointed out with a laugh. “That’s pathetic.”

“Eight months Nick. Remember I haven’t drank in eight months.” She made an attempt to hold up eight fingers for emphasis, but instead accidentally held up nine.

Nick couldn’t help, but to roar with laughter at her pathetic attempt. “You should probably quit while you’re ahead,” he warned.

“Shut up!” Her foot darted out from underneath her to kick him, but Nick grabbed it before she could hit him. His eyes traveled down to her foot in his hand and he was surprised to find another tattoo, a vine of red roses with dark thorns attached. He ran his hands over the skin wondering to himself why he hadn’t noticed it before.

“When did you get this one?” he asked, changing the subject. “It must have hurt like a bitch.”

Alyssa was a bit surprised with his fascination with the tattoo on her foot, but answered his question. “Actually not all that long after I moved down to North Carolina after we broke up. It hurt so badly, but I kind of had a lot of emotional pain I was going through at the time, so I guess it kind of helped with that. I think its one of my favorites.”

“You mean emotional pain because of me?” Nick looked guilty as his finger continued to trace over it.

“Yes,” she admitted, finding it hard to lie to him. “It was kind of therapeutic in a way I guess.” She shifted uncomfortably finding the whole moment sort of weird and tense. Trying to change the subject she pulled her foot out of his grasp and stood up. “My clothes are probably done drying by now.”

“Let’s go see.” Nick stood up alongside her and followed her into the laundry room. Sure enough, the dryer had ended its cycle and he bent down to open up the door. Since he was closer he reached in to begin pulling out her clothes for her. Ironically enough the first object he pulled from the inside of the dryer was her bra.

Alyssa smirked at the image of Nick dangling her bra by one of the straps. She found it adorable how his face reddened a little by the awkwardness of it all. “I believe this belongs to you,” he told her, reaching out to hand it to her.

“Are you sure? I could’ve sworn I was wearing a red bra when I came in,” she joked. “You must have me confused with someone else.”

Nick rolled his eyes. “Yea because I have pretty half naked girls stopping here every day with wet clothes,” he sarcastically replied.

Alyssa just laughed and grabbed on to strap to take it from him, but she froze when she felt her hand clenching over his. Time seemed to stand still as her eyes drifted up from their joint hands to the hungry expression on his face, and back down to their hands again. There was little space left in between their bodies and she barely even noticed his hand linger up to cup her chin. Her eyes closed just in time to feel his lips press down aggressively over hers. Unlike the last time they had kissed, where it had started off slow and sensual, steadily growing into something more passionate, there was nothing soft about this kiss. Alyssa was taken aback by the roughness of it, but at the same time found it to be exactly what she’d been craving for so long. Her hands forgot all about the bra she was holding as they flew upwards towards his hair. She hardly even noticed the garment fly out of her grasp and onto the floor below them.

They continued to kiss hurriedly and passionately as if they couldn’t get enough of each other. Alyssa couldn’t remember the last time if ever she’d experienced such a frenzy of emotions. Her heart pounded wildly in anticipation of where this might lead as she felt her lower back hit the edge of the dryer. Somewhere in the back of the mind a voice tried to remind her that she had a husband at home and even though he was being a complete asshole at the moment, it wasn’t worth jeopardizing their marriage, but its efforts were in vain. She could almost feel her blood pressure rising. She’d already gotten pretty worked up earlier in the night with Sean, so her body was acting on pure impulse. It didn’t even hit her that her hands had climbed up the bottom of Nick’s shirt and pulled it up over his head until after she’d already done it.

She pulled away for a moment, completely breathless as she drank in the sight of his bare chest. This was her first time seeing him shirtless since he’d lost all that weight after their breakup and she had to admit that he looked damn good. She could definitely tell that he’d been working out based on the newly added definition in his arms and chest that hadn’t been there before. Going in for another searing kiss, she pressed her palms up against his chest, slowly letting them slip down his body. She smirked against his lips as she felt him sharply inhale when she reached his stomach which had always been a sensitive area for him. Her fingers hooked into the waistband of the athletic shorts that he’d been wearing, lightly stroking the skin underneath. Nick groaned impatiently against her lips. The thin material of his shorts did little to hide the fact that he was already growing hard against her leg. She finally took pity on him and tugged them off his waist, helping him step out of them.

Nick stepped closer to her and wrapping his arms around her waist, he lifted her up so she was sitting on top of the dryer. Standing between her legs, his hand slid up the top of her thigh and grabbed the hem of the t-shirt she was wearing in his hands. Alyssa’s arms flew over her head as he removed it from her body, shivering a little as she felt cool air against her skin. Nick’s mouth zeroed in on her neck, and her hands gripped tightly onto the edge of the dryer for support as he nipped and sucked against the delicate area. Alyssa moaned once she felt his hand brush against the inside of her thigh while he worked the boy shorts that she was wearing down her legs. Now completely naked, her hands impatiently flew down to Nick’s waist and slid his boxers down his legs.

Things began to heat up really quickly from that point on. With the intensity of almost every moment, Alyssa knew that neither one of them would probably last through much foreplay. Nick inched her body closer to the edge of the dryer and slung her legs around him before pushing his way inside her. Alyssa actually gasped at the intensity of it. Nick tried not to move for a moment, allowing her to become familiar with the feeling of him again, before he went on. Alyssa wrapped her arms around his neck and pulled him closer to her, signaling that she was ready. Nick gritted his teeth as he tried to control himself from starting out too fast. He’d fantasized about getting an opportunity like this with Alyssa and he definitely didn’t want to blow it.

Alyssa’s teeth nipped around his earlobe as she pushed her body up against his. She sighed into his ear as their bodies moved in perfect rhythm with each other. It had been way too long since she’d actually gotten any enjoyment out of sex, so this felt long overdue for her. She wasn’t at all thinking how wrong it was to be heading right back into the very same trap that had caused so much grief with Nick previously. She was solely focusing on the pleasure that filled her body. Her fingernails dug so deeply into Nick’s back that she was certain they’d leave marks the next day, as he slid in and out of her. Her legs wrapped tightly around his waist as he seemed to hit all the right spots, producing satisfied moans to echo from the back of her throat.

Nick’s breathing was ragged and a film of sweat had formed along his forehead. Alyssa found the expression on his face to be extremely sexy at the moment. It was clear that he was trying so hard to restrain himself by the way his tongue hung slightly out of his mouth in concentration. She knew from experience that he was already getting close, so she squeezed her legs tighter around him. Nick gasped as he felt her tighten around him. “Don’t do that,” he begged. “Or I’ll be done in like two seconds.”

Alyssa laughed against his neck. She knew that it was taking every ounce of willpower for him to hold himself back and she felt bad for him. Besides, seeing how hard he was trying to be considerate of her as well was definitely very sexy. She pushed her hips against him harder. “It’s okay,” she assured him. “You don’t have to hold back.”

Nick looked relieved at this and reached around to press his hand against the small of her back, pushing himself deeper inside her. Alyssa moaned loudly as she felt him increase the pace. Her hands gripped his shoulders roughly as he thrust harder into her. She could already feel herself beginning to throb around him and knew that he couldn’t possibly last too much longer. As expected Nick’s eyes closed and his breathing accelerated. His body trembled underneath her touch. “Holy shit, Lyss…” he cried as he finally came.

His release was enough to bring Alyssa over the edge, and for the first time in months she finally found herself not having to fake an orgasm. She almost went limp in relief as she rode out the sensation before collapsing against him, trying to control her unsteady breathing. Finally getting the energy to open her eyes again she surveyed the room in almost disbelief. Had she actually just had sex with Nick again? On top of the dryer in the laundry room of the condo she was supposed to have moved into once upon a time, to top it all off. The situation was just so ridiculous that she couldn’t help but to laugh.

“What’s so funny?” Nick asked her, running a hand through his sweaty hair.

Alyssa just shook her head. “Just how completely ‘us’ this is. God,” she moaned as she pressed her back flat against the dryer. “I think I need to lie down after that.”

Nick smirked. “Well, there’s always the bedroom.” He offered her his hand and helped her down from the dryer and back onto the floor. Her legs almost immediately buckled beneath her and Nick had to catch her to prevent her from falling. “Damn I must be good if you can barely stand.”

Alyssa just rolled her eyes as she took a shaky step. “Okay, I take the comment about you getting better with age being up for debate back. I think you’ve proven me wrong.”

“I love it when you admit that I’m right,” he teased as he led her into the bedroom. “And just for the record you were just like… wow. I’m not sure I ever saw you so just completely at ease. You can definitely tell that Sean wasn’t doing his job.”

Alyssa flopped across the bed and pulled the covers over her body. Just the mention of Sean’s name made her feel slightly uncomfortable. She knew somewhere in between her clouded thoughts that what she just did with Nick had been wrong, but she was too wrapped up in the afterglow to feel any kind of remorse just yet. Superstitiously though, her fingers tugged at the wedding band on her hand until it twisted off, and she placed it out of sight on the nightstand beside her. Almost instantaneously that little shadow of guilt faded away for the time being.

“You’re awful quiet all of a sudden,” Nick commented as he slid down beside her. “Did I say something wrong?”

She just gave him a tiny half smile, not wanting to confess to him that she just had a bit of an awkward moment. Instead she gave him an answer that was at least partly true. “Just thinking about what you just said about Sean. You’re right. He has been doing a pretty crappy job when it comes to keeping me satisfied.” She rolled onto her side so that she was resting on her elbow and blushed a little. “Can I tell you a secret?”

Nick looked amused at her question. “Go right ahead.”

Alyssa bit her lip and lowered her voice almost as if there could possibly be someone else hiding out in the room with them. “It’s been like months since Sean has gotten me off.”

A surprised expression came over Nick’s face and Alyssa was unsure if he was genuinely shocked by the news or shocked that she had been so honest with him. For a moment or two, she wondered if perhaps that was divulging too much information, but his response reassured her. “Doesn’t he realize that he’s not doing it for you?”

“Well…” She felt her cheeks grow even hotter as she realized that she couldn’t really get around confessing that she had been faking things a bit. “I’ve sort of been doing a lot of acting,” she admitted.

This time Nick found it impossible to hold back his surprise. “You? You’ve been faking it?” he incredulously cried. “You’re like the last person I would never expect… I didn’t think that you’d be the type to go there.” He paused for a moment, trying to process the news and then a horrible thought came across his mind. “By any chance you weren’t faking anything back there just now, were you?”

Alyssa almost wanted to laugh at the worried look on Nick’s face as he waited impatiently for a response. She found his self-doubt to be almost adorable especially when he had absolutely nothing to worry about. “Oh trust me, I wasn’t faking anything before. I didn’t need to. That was a thousand percent real. I admit I’ve had some practice lately, but I don’t think I’m that good of an actress.”

Hearing all of that Nick felt his confidence beginning to rise and his lips rose up into a cocky smirk. Honestly, he really didn’t get any indication that Alyssa was doing any kind of pretending and he knew from experience that she didn’t really need to. He had to admit that although it was shocking to see this side of Alyssa that he had never seen before, he actually liked it. It was strange. They’d dated at two different points in the last eight years, yet during both of those occasions he’d always felt that Alyssa wasn’t entirely comfortable with just being herself. So why now did she finally seem to let go and not care what he thought? Was it some level that she’d reached only in age? Whatever it was Nick was feeling a connection with her that although exciting, also scared him a bit. It really sucked that now that she finally seemed to be the kind of woman he’d always wanted her to be, she was off limits. He’d already probably fucked things up badly enough for her. By sleeping with her, he was just making a bad situation with Sean even worse.

But then there was the other part of him that yearned to explore this new bond he felt between the two of them. Although he knew it was wrong, he wanted to test it to see how far it could go. It was easy for him to justify it to himself. She was broken and neglected by her husband. He was readily available and willing to make up for Sean’s mistakes. There was denying that he cared about her, and she deserved better than what she was getting from Sean. Hearing about how mechanical their sex life had gotten actually angered Nick. How could a guy not be considerate of their female partner’s needs and desires?

A feeling of guilt came over him as he realized that maybe back in the laundry room he’d been a little too aggressive and unrestrained. Alyssa certainly didn’t seem to mind, but after hearing that Sean couldn’t even fully satisfy her, Nick realized that what she really needed was to be made love to, something that she’d been deprived of lately. Something that he could do for her.

He snaked his arms around her waist and pulled her body closer to his. “Come here,” he told her, brushing her hair out of her face. He let his hand linger down her face until it rested on her chin. He bent forward so that his forehead was touching hers, and ever so softly he pressed his lips against hers.

The kiss started off innocent, but slowly and steadily grew deeper and more intense. Alyssa actually felt a shiver run through her when she felt his tongue break apart her lips. Out of all of her previous relationships, Nick was definitely the best kisser, hands down. He had great lips for one thing, perfectly full and soft. He also kissed with such intensity that she often wound up being left completely breathless, and he knew how to use just the right amount of tongue. Her eyes closed as she savored the moment, kissing back until she absolutely had to pull away to breathe.

“What was that for?” she asked, feeling as if her heart was about to pump right out of her chest.

Nick just innocently grinned and shrugged. “I don’t know… Felt like it, I guess. You looked like you could use that too.”

Alyssa opened her mouth to ask him exactly what he meant by that, but before she could get the words out of her mouth; his lips were on hers again. This time his kisses were deeper and more assertive, but unlike his kisses back in the laundry room, these still had a certain amount of control and softness to them. She could feel herself becoming more and more limp with each kiss. His hands, which had remained fixed on her waist, began to slowly travel up her torso as instinct took over and their bodies began to rub up against each other.

After a few moments of intense kissing, Alyssa found herself more than eager to go for another round. She rolled onto her back pulling Nick halfway on top of her, hoping that he’d get the hint, but he seemed to have other ideas. Instead he shifted his position so that he was lying on his side behind her. She shivered as his hands pushed her hair aside, brushing up against the back of her neck. A sigh escaped the back of her throat when she felt his mouth connect at right behind her ear. There were a lot of spots in this general area that drove her absolutely crazy and Nick was well aware of where they were located. His lips continued a path down the back of her neck, following the path of her spine. She arched her back against him when his mouth reached the center of her shoulder blades, sending tingly waves throughout her nerve endings.

As his lips continued to nip and suck at her neck and shoulders his hand reached up to cup one of her breasts. She drew in a sharp breath once she felt his thumb brush back and forth against the nipple, causing it to harden. The back of her head pressed against his chest as he further teased her by rolling it between his thumb and forefinger. While he continued to do the same to her other breast, Alyssa uncomfortably squirmed against him, begging for more contact.

Sensing her urgency, Nick finally gave in, sliding his hand between her legs. She cried out in relief when she finally felt his fingertips stroking against her wet folds at a slow and steady pace. Feeling his mouth suction to her shoulder, she firmly moved her hips against his fingers, urging him to go faster. Nick seemed to disregard her pleas and continued almost painfully slow, but with more intensity. Alyssa pressed her face against the pillow, muffling her frustrated cries. He was killing her with how controlled and restrained he was being, and not being able to see his face was getting to her even more. Finally his fingertips brushed up against her clit, rubbing it between his fingers which produced a loud, pleading, moan from her. “Nick… please,” she begged.

“I’ll stop if that’s what you really want,” his voice huskily teased against her ear, sending goose bumps up and down her arms.

Before she had a chance to tell him what she wanted, he flipped her onto her back silencing her with a sensual kiss. Her body was still pleading for his touch and she bucked her hips up against his. Ignoring her movement, Nick grabbed her arms by the wrists and pinned them over her head. Breaking apart from her lips, he trailed kisses across her collarbone, and down over her breasts. Alyssa whimpered as his mouth clamped down over one of her nipples and sucked at the delicate flesh. Her back arched, fighting his hold on her, but she was unable to fully free her arms until he moved farther down her body. She noticed Nick smirk as he noticed that she still had her belly button pierced. “You know that you’re going to have to get rid of this thing if you ever do get pregnant,” he pointed out between a few tugs at it with his mouth.

Alyssa bit her lip as she lightly sighed. She had been thinking of getting rid of it lately, but for now she was secretly glad that she hadn’t yet taken it out. “Well, I’m not pregnant yet,” she responded in a throaty voice.

Nick didn’t say anything to this. He continued trailing kisses along her hip bones his hands already sliding down her thighs as he pushed them apart. Alyssa’s heart rate immediately tripled as she realized where he was heading. She was already breathing heavily in anticipation and she wasn’t disappointed when she felt his tongue against her. Her hips jolted upwards and she gasped feeling it swirl around her opening. It had been a really long time since she’d received any kind of oral pleasure, so the sensation almost felt like a brand new experience to her. She definitely wasn’t used to being the center of so much attention and her body was already trembling from it all. “God…” she moaned as she felt the added stimulation of his fingertips rubbing her. Her head tossed from side to side, feeling her climax beginning to build up while her cries grew louder. If he pulled away again now like he had done before she’d probably have to kill him. Thankfully he didn’t, and Alyssa’s body shuddered as she came even stronger than before.

She could only lay there struggling to calm down her now erratic breathing as he made his way back up her body. She was too stunned to say anything for a moment or two before it finally clicked to her that Nick had to be pretty worked up himself. Wanting to return the favor, Alyssa climbed on top of him and began a feather light trail of kisses down his chest. Nick moaned when he felt the tip of her tongue drag across his skin. Realizing where this was heading he shifted in anticipation remembering her comment at lunch about two months earlier, hinting at how things and people could change. I wasn’t that type of girl. But things can change over time, right? Her words echoed back at him and he had to admit that at the time he really had secretly fantasized about getting the opportunity to see whether or not she was serious or just bluffing. Now that the opportunity was right in his grasp it was very difficult to resist the temptation, but a little voice in his head reminded him of his original intentions. As much as he wanted to take advantage of the situation he knew that it would be wrong to do so. Great time for you conscience to kick in Carter, he told himself, but knew that by stopping her he was doing the right thing. He wanted her to see that he really had changed and turning down a potential blowjob had to definitely do the trick.

Before she could get any farther and he lost his nerve, he sat up causing Alyssa to pull back in concern. Her large brown eyes looked up at him seeming worried. “Did I do something wrong?”

Nick just shook his head. “Not at all. In fact, quite the opposite actually.” This response seemed to confuse her even more, so he continued on trying to offer some kind of explanation. “I just don’t want you to worry about me right now.”

“But-“she sputtered a little bit before he placed a fingertip over her lip to cut her off. Was he actually seriously turning down head?

“I want this to be about you.”

Alyssa could practically feel herself soften at his words. There was something so incredibly sexy about the gesture that it made her want him even more now. It really showed just how much he’d grown in the last three years. Not being able to think of a better response she threw her arms around his neck and kissed him so deeply that it shocked even herself. Although he seemed surprised, Nick returned the kiss and grinned against her lips as he got an idea. Scooting himself back a bit, so that he was leaning against the pillows he pulled Alyssa onto his lap. Understanding what he wanted, she swung her legs onto either side of him so that she was straddling him. She adjusted her body so that it was perfectly lined up with his and slowly she sunk down on him, letting him enter her fully.

Being so close face to face like that, Alyssa could tell that just by expression on Nick’s face that he was relieved to finally be inside of her. He hadn’t made any complaints, but she knew that he had to be dying. Not wasting any more time, she began rotating her hips against him, her hands pressing down on his shoulders. She felt his lips against the front of her throat, making her head tilt back and her eyes close as she increased the pressure of her hips.

“Open your eyes,” he commanded in a low voice next to her ear.

Her eyes snapped back open and locked gaze with his for a moment sending a little shiver down her spine. They were just about eye level with each other and their bodies were as close as they possibly could be. Alyssa was the first to break the gaze, a little intimidated by the intensity of it. Instead she focused her attention on trailing a path of kisses along his jaw line as she concentrated on moving up and down against him. She felt his hands dig deeper into her hips and a satisfied groan escaped his lips. He pulled away from her to concentrate at nibbling on her collarbone eliciting another frustrated cry from her. Normally she’d enjoy the intimacy of the moment, but her patience was already wearing thin. Hooking her hands behind his neck, she pressed her feet against the headboard, trying to get him deeper inside her. Nick noticed her impatience and pressed one of his hands against the small of her back. The other one crept up her thigh towards her hip, directing her where he wanted her.

“You almost there?” she rasped out between breaths, her face already appearing flushed.

“Just about,” he answered between gritted teeth. Wanting to make sure that she definitely came before him, he slipped his hand between the two of them, circling her clit with the pad of his thumb. The added stimulation was just enough to send her release flooding through her. Relieved that he’d managed to hang on, he finally collapsed against her shoulder as he came.

Still feeling a little bit shaky from her orgasm, Alyssa rolled off of him and cuddled up against his side. She had a feeling that she’d definitely be feeling it tomorrow morning, both emotionally and physically, but for now she didn’t want to think about it. Her eyes were already feeling like dead weights, so she allowed them to close stifling a yawn.

“Tired?” she heard Nick’s voice ask beside her.

She nodded. “Uh huh. It’s been a long emotional day.”

“You can say that one again,” he agreed. “Go to sleep. We’ll talk tomorrow morning.”

“Mmhm,” Alyssa replied pulling the blankets over her tighter. It had been an emotionally taxing evening and deep down she knew from experience that it would only be harder tomorrow morning when it finally fully sunk in what she had done. But for now she wanted nothing more than to live in the moment and use an illusion to escape the hard reality in front of her.
End Notes:

Just wanted to thank Tri and Teri for ALL their help on looking through this chapter for me. You were both AWESOME motivators for me and your kind words really helped get my ass in motion. There's hope for me yet! lol

I hope that everyone else notices a huge difference from UMS. I'm very curious to hear what you think and if you notice any interesting changes in Nick and Alyssa from UMS to now.

Chapter 18 - Reality Sets In by Mellz Bellz
Author's Notes:

Alyssa deals with the aftermath of the previous evening.

Chapter 18 – Reality Sets In

The next morning Alyssa shifted her body as she felt herself begin to awaken. She hadn’t yet opened her eyes, but she already had a dull headache between her temples and her body ached something fierce. Slowly she opened her eyes and realized that she wasn’t in her own bed causing her to shoot up into a sitting position. As she sat up the covers slipped off her chest and she looked down realizing she was naked underneath.

It was then that the details from last night flew back to her. She’d stormed out after that tense fight with Sean and driven out to the condo in the pouring rain, but when she’d arrived, she hadn’t been alone. Her stomach turned as her eyes slowly traveled sideways almost hoping that she wouldn’t be met with the same sight that she knew she would be.

Sure enough, lying beside her was Nick, who was still sleeping peacefully and Alyssa was pretty positive that underneath the sheets he was quite naked there himself. Why should I even be surprised anymore? she wondered to herself with a sigh. Not like this a new look for us at all. How many times had it been that after swearing that she wouldn’t let herself fall into his charms again, she’d woken up in this exact same position? Of course this time things were a lot different. This wasn’t just a harmless hook up, this time. They were a lot older now and married to other people, making what they’d just done pretty much unforgivable in most eyes. Granted, Nick intended on divorcing Shayla, but the papers hadn’t even been drafted up yet, which still made him a married man. And her? There was no excuse. She’d just been selfish. She’d let her dissatisfaction with Sean lead her right back to Nick for nothing more than a quick fix. I’m a horrible person, she realized.

A small part of her though couldn’t deny that the sex last night had just been downright amazing. It actually kind of scared her how intense it had been. As she’d confided in Teri and Tricia a few weeks earlier, she’d always kind of wondered what it would be like between them now that she’d become so much more comfortable with herself and now she certainly had the answer. If she had known that would’ve been the result, she probably would’ve worked a lot harder a lot sooner on all her personal issues. She could tell just by some of Nick’s reactions last night that he was pleasantly surprised by the changes in her. And then there were the changes in Nick too… She’d noticed some personal changes in him just by talking and hanging out with him, but last night she’d seen some even deeper changes. In their previous relationships with each other, he hadn’t always been so considerate and concerned about her enjoyment and that side of him had been such a turn on. She had to admit that she’d been more than a little sexually frustrated the past few months, so it probably wouldn’t have taken much to turn her on anyway, but to actually have a man worry about putting her first for once was just incredible. Then there had been that connection they seemed to have. It was very tempting to further explore that, but she didn’t plan on it. As it was this was going to be complicated enough. She wasn’t sure if it was something that she could put behind her and lock away as a secret.

She wasn’t sure what was going to happen this time around. Last night had made her realize that there was definitely some pretty intense feelings between her and Nick; feelings that could threaten her entire marriage to Sean. It blew her mind just how much one night could change everything. She wasn’t sure where this would lead to. If Nick was serious about divorcing Shayla, Alyssa could feasibly have another chance with him. But could she honestly in good faith leave Sean especially with him heading off to Iraq? He hadn’t been the best husband lately, but Alyssa couldn’t deny that things hadn’t always been this way. Hadn’t he been the one to completely open her up and make her realize that she did have a lot to offer? How ironic was it that he’d invested all that time in effort, only to give her the very confidence she needed to be the type of woman Nick had always wanted her to be? She just couldn’t do that to him, especially at this point in the game. They hadn’t even tried to work out their marital problems. She couldn’t just up and leave him without at least trying something to make things better. And would Nick even want a relationship with her? What if Shayla’s betrayal derailed all his progress and sent him exactly back into the kind of man he was after his breakup with Paris? There was no way that Alyssa was going stand to be reduced to just a fuck buddy this time.

Izzy was right. Nick and I just probably aren’t meant to be friends, she realized. It’s just impossible for us to get along and not wind up sleeping together at some point down the road. This friendship was definitely a mistake.

Knowing what she needed to do; Alyssa slid out from under the covers searching the ground for her clothes, but then remembered that they were still in the laundry room. She groaned a little not wanting to take the chance of waking Nick by using one of the blankets to cover herself. She stood up crossing her arms in front of her to shield her body from the cool air of the room and made her way towards the laundry room. When she reached the room she stepped over the haphazardly strewn articles of clothing on the floor, only stopping to retrieve her undergarments and then opened up the dryer to fish out her jeans and tank top. She hurriedly got dressed and headed for the front door where she’d kicked off her flip flops and thrown her jacket. She grabbed her purse and car keys and was about to step out the front door when she paused for a moment. Maybe I should at least leave him a note or something? she wondered. She quickly dismissed the idea, but something prevented her from fully walking out the door. Knowing that she needed to give herself some sense of closure, she tentatively headed back into the bedroom where Nick still lay sleeping peacefully.

She looked down at him almost feeling guilty for not sticking around and attempting to talk about what had happened. She was definitely taking the cowardly way out, but she was just too confused right now to face him. She needed time to sort out all the complicated feelings going through her head. Hell, he was probably just as confused as she was. Maybe even more so since he was still trying to stomach Shayla’s lies. Not wanting to wake him, she leaned down and dropped a light kiss on his cheek. “Thanks for last night,” she whispered, more for herself than for him to actually hear her. “I wish that things could’ve been different.”

Alyssa turned on her heels and headed out of the room, too afraid that he’d wake up to find her standing over him. Right now she found the overwhelming need to head back home and face Sean. He had to be pretty worried about her by now. She’d turned her cell phone off, so he couldn’t reach her. She wasn’t looking forward to it, but knew that it needed to be done. With a sigh, she took one last look around the condo and headed out the front door.

Nick stirred in his sleep as he thought he felt the presence of another person at his side, but before he could really process it, the feeling was gone and he chalked it up to a dream. He was straddling the line between dreaming and waking up when he was jarred awake by the far off sound of a door closing and a car starting up from outside. He sat up, his eyes immediately drawn to the empty spot beside him where Alyssa had laid only a few hours earlier. Shit… She’s leaving, he realized as he sprang out of bed, hoping to stop her, but soon realized that his efforts were in vain. He couldn’t run out of the house naked and by the time he grabbed at least a fresh pair of boxers from his suitcase, she’d be long gone. “Damn it!” he cursed, collapsing back onto the bed.

He knew that Alyssa had to have woken up, realized the enormity of what they had just done, and freaked out, her first instinct being to run. He’d hoped that they’d have woken up in each others arms and been able to talk about what transpired between them the night before. What had happened last night had definitely been a lot more than sex. He’d felt the almost electric connection between them and knew that it had to account for something. He’d had enough meaningless sex in his lifetime to know the difference. And if he felt it, he was certain that Alyssa had to have felt it too. Why else would she run like a bat out of hell first thing this morning?

He supposed that out of the two of them, she was the one who had the most to lose. He and Shayla were definitely on the outs, so he could honestly care less about betraying her. It couldn’t be any worse than the way she had betrayed him. But unlike with his spouse, Alyssa was struggling to improve things with Sean and Nick had taken advantage of that. He really hadn’t intended to make things more complicated for her. In fact, Nick was still pretty firm in his belief that she needed last night. Despite all his efforts to try and give Sean a fair chance, he just wasn’t impressed with the guy. Still Alyssa seemed to cling onto him and Nick wasn’t exactly sure why. Maybe it had something to do with her feeling as if it was her duty to give him a child in case something happened to him in Iraq. Whatever the case, he knew Alyssa, and he knew that she’d beat herself up over the situation and blame herself for letting her selfish desires control her actions. He wanted to reassure her and let her know that she didn’t have to feel guilty for acting on her impulses. In fact, he found it incredibly hot that she now had the confidence to do so. He’d been shocked by how much less guarded Alyssa had been last night and he definitely felt that her confidence only added to the experience. It made him only want more of her.

He shook his head, trying to erase that thought from his head. What was he thinking? He wasn’t even sure what he wanted right now. He still was in the midst of gathering up the nerve to divorce Shayla. He was in no position to be thinking about a relationship with another woman until that was taken care of. And even when that was settled, Alyssa was still involved with Sean. If he was over in Iraq she wouldn’t exactly have an easy time if she decided to divorce him to be with Nick. And then if something happened to Sean in Iraq he knew that Alyssa couldn’t just run off with him immediately in good conscience.

Aren’t you getting a little ahead of yourself there? he asked himself. He almost wanted to slap himself with how whipped he was sounding. Since when did one night of sex turn him into this? But with them it wasn’t just one night of sex. It was a continuous cycle. One that he thought had stopped three years ago, but now they’d just given it another spin.

Nick sighed. He had to admit that there was nothing more he could do at the moment, but to give Alyssa her space. He could try giving her a phone call later, but she’d probably block his calls, being too freaked out to handle speaking to him so soon. All he could do was sit around and wait.

Alyssa creaked open the front door of her home, trying to enter as inconspicuously as possible. Of course that was impossible to do with Sean nervously pacing the living room, obviously worried about her whereabouts. As soon as he heard the door, his body stiffened and his head shot up towards the direction of the sound. Alyssa was immediately flooded with guilt when she saw the dark circles and worried expression on his face. The poor guy looked like he hadn’t slept all night. “Where were you?” he demanded, rushing over to embrace her. “I was worried sick about you, especially with the weather we were having. I thought for sure that you’d crashed into a tree or something and was lying dead by the road or at one of the nearby hospitals. I almost started calling a few of them.”

This made Alyssa feel even guiltier and she stood as still as a statue as he hugged her. “I’m sorry,” she quietly apologized. “I just needed to get away for the night.”

“I understand. I just would’ve felt safer if I knew where you were and who you were with. I already know you weren’t at Izzy’s because she was the first person I called and she swore to me that she hadn’t seen you all night.” His eyebrows rose. “So, where were you?”

This was it. If she could convincingly lie her way out of this one, hopefully she could just move on and put the entire previous night behind her. “I spent the night at Teri and Howie’s.” She knew that this was a safe excuse because Sean did not have their number, so he wouldn’t have called there and she knew that she could always depend on Teri to cover for her with no questions asked. “I’m sorry. I should’ve called.”

“Yes, you should have! Then maybe I’d have actually been able to get some sleep last night!”

Alyssa must’ve looked like she was about to break into tears because Sean’s hard expression slowly began to soften. “I’m sorry for yelling at you. I was just really concerned about you. You were right. I was an ass to bring up the baby thing again, especially at that particular moment. I think we do need a break from all the baby talk for now, so I promise we won’t talk about it until we go back to the clinic for the results if that’s what you want.”

All she could do was nod her head in agreement. “Thank you,” she whispered all of a sudden feeling very uncomfortable. She felt dirty and transparent and was sure that any minute now Sean was going to see right through her lies and call her out on them. She found that she couldn’t face him just then. “I think I’m going to go upstairs and take a shower.”

“Okay,” Sean agreed. Not giving him a chance to say anything else, Alyssa turned and headed up the stairs, eager to scrub away the sins of the night before. Hopefully afterwards she’d finally feel a little less guilty.

Later on that night, Alyssa was sitting on her and Sean’s bed dressed in a camisole tank top and gym shorts rubbing moisturizer over her legs. After her shower, she’d managed to avoid Sean for most of the day by making an excuse about needing to do some grocery shopping. In reality, she just needed to get out of the house. After spending most of the afternoon running errands, she’d came home and made something for Sean to eat, but she found that she had no appetite. Instead, she’d come upstairs to change and then hoped to curl up in front of the TV for the rest of the night to get her mind off things. She almost wished that it was Sunday night, so that she had work to look forward to in the morning.

She looked up, hearing the bedroom door open and noticed Sean enter the room and sit down beside her on the bed. “Are you feeling all right?” he asked, sounding concerned.

“Yea, I’m fine,” she lied. “Why are you asking?”
Her husband just shrugged. “You’ve just seemed really distant all day today,” he confessed. “Like not yourself. Are you still mad at me?”

Alyssa shook her head. “No. I’m not mad.”

Sean looked relieved. “Good. I’m glad. I’m really sorry about last night again. I guess I really have been putting so much emphasis on a baby that I’ve lost sight of the two of us as a couple. I’ve really been neglecting you,” he admitted, wrapping his arms around her waist and dropping a light kiss on her shoulder blade.

Alyssa wriggled out of his grasp, uncomfortable with the intimate movement. “It’s fine Sean. You already said you wouldn’t bring it up anymore, so I think we’re good. We meet with Dr. Beard next week and hopefully he’ll have good news for us.”

He grabbed her by the shoulders, forcing her to turn towards him and look him directly in the eye. “I really need you to know that you scared the crap out of me last night. Walking out on me like that… I thought you were walking out for good. I know I haven’t been the best husband lately, but I can’t live without you Alyssa. If I lost you, I don’t know what I’d do. I love you Alyssa.”

He leaned forward and kissed her softly on her lips, but Alyssa felt nothing, but guilt. How could he feel that way about her when in reality she’d betrayed him in the worst way possible with the one person she swore she wouldn’t? There was no way that she could keep up this charade any longer. The tears that she had been bottling up all day long began to flow down her cheeks.

“Lyss I know we’ve been growing through a lot lately, but you don’t need to cry about it,” he tried to comfort her, sweeping away her tears with his thumbs. “We’re going to be okay now. I promise. I’m going to try to be more sensitive to your needs and to be a better husband. I’d even be willing to try marriage counseling if it wasn’t for the fact that I might be deployed soon. I’ve just realized that we could have so little time together and we’re wasting it by letting all this other stupid shit get in the way.”

This is all too little too late! her mind screamed. She tried to come up with some kind of response, but she could only begin to cry harder. She was thankful that Sean thought that she was just so overcome with the emotion of the moment, that she wasn’t sure how else to get her feelings across. She felt his arms wrap around her and gently pull her down so that she was lying right beside him as he stroked her hair and kissed her tears away, but she knew she wasn’t entirely there. She was completely numb to his advances. She could hear him pleading with her not to cry and telling her that everything was going to be better now, but his voice sounded far off to her ears. Before she realized it he was kissing her and she was kissing back, but mostly out of reflex than any real kind of passion. When she felt his hands at the hem of her tank top, her arms almost robotically lifted up over her head to let him remove it. She wasn’t at all in the mood for sex at the moment, but she knew if she turned him away, Sean would only demand some kind of explanation from her.

So for now it was just her going through the motions with him. She knew the routine well enough by now. Even without the so called pressures of working on creating a baby he was being as predictable as always. Better just lay there and at least pretend to somewhat enjoy it. She owed it to him. Besides, it was just easier this way.
Chapter 19 - The Power of Goodbye by Mellz Bellz
Author's Notes:

Sean is deployed to Iraq. Shayla confronts Alyssa and they work out an interesting compromise.


Chapter 19 - The Power of Goodbye


            The guilt that Alyssa harbored over cheating on Sean with Nick did not fade away as easily as she'd hoped, and the next few days were harder on her than she'd ever imagined. Thankfully enough once Monday rolled around, Alyssa still had school to distract herself with. There was only about another week or two left before school let out for summer, and Alyssa was beginning to regret choosing not to volunteer to teach summer school. At least it would be something to get her mind off of the mess that was her personal life. Teaching became her escape from reality. Her classroom was the one place she could go and pretend that she was anyone else, but herself.


            She'd successfully managed to avoid Sean as much as she possibly could. So far, if he noticed her irregular behavior, he hadn't brought it up with her. She knew that it was only a matter of time though before he began to realize that something was up, and Alyssa wasn't sure how much longer she could keep the ugly truth inside. She could only pray that something would come up to make her inner struggle easier to fight.


            In some cruel, perverse way, God answered her prayers. It was only a few days before they were due back at the clinic for their follow up appointment to discuss their test results, when Sean arrived home from work one day looking pale and pensive. As soon as she saw the look in his eyes, she knew that the day that they had been fearing since mid- October had finally arrived. So, she wasn't at all surprised when he made the announcement that could potentially change their lives forever.


            "It's official. I'm going to Iraq. I ship out next weekend."


            Alyssa hadn't exactly known how to react. On one hand even though she'd known that him being deployed was inevitable, she couldn't help but to think that somehow this was all her fault, like her unfaithfulness had caused it to happen. Yes, she knew she should be grateful that he hadn't been taken from her sooner, but she couldn't deny the feeling of bad karma when it came to the timing of it all. Then there was actually the part of her that as cold as it sounded was actually relieved. Without him around for a while, it would certainly make it easier on her to put the past behind her. Of course if God forbid anything happened to him over in Iraq, she wouldn't be able to live with herself. The guilt that she'd been carrying would only grow to be ten times worse.


            They'd talked over what exactly they should do about their upcoming doctor's appointment. Sean didn't want anymore bad news before he left for Iraq and he'd pointed out that no matter what the results read there wasn't much they could do at this point to change their fate. Besides, he didn't want to spend what little time they had left together in a doctor's office receiving potentially upsetting news. He urged Alyssa to reschedule the appointment until after he left, so that at least she'd be able to find out what the problem might be for future reference. She'd already called to cancel their appointment, but at the time chose not to reschedule, promising that she would be in touch. She doubted she ever would go back on her own.


            Their last few days together flew by all too quickly for Alyssa. It was strange, but knowing that he was going to be leaving made it easier for her to be around him. All she needed to do was pretend as if nothing had changed between them for a few days and then he'd be out of sight and hopefully at least a little out of mind. Then maybe she could begin to muddle through her confused emotions regarding her feelings for Nick. She hadn't spoken to Nick since sneaking out of the condo that morning, but he'd called her numerous times. There had even been a few calls on her cell that had been from a restricted number who she was more than positive was him trying to reach her. With Sean leaving, she could only deal with one hardship at a time.


            She and Sean's last night together was bittersweet. They'd tried to make it as romantic as possible, opting for a quiet, intimate dinner at home, versus going to a crowded restaurant and being surrounded by happy people. Then of course afterwards Alyssa knew that there was no way that she would be able to excuse herself from the farewell sex that was just expected. This time though, she was able to muster up at least a little bit of eagerness. As dead as their relationship had been as of lately, and as tainted as she felt after sleeping with Nick, she had still cared about Sean a great deal at one time. To think that he could possibly not make it back alive from Iraq was enough for her to be able to temporarily push her guilt aside and make love to him for what could very well be the very last time. She did it more to provide herself with a sense of closure than anything else.


            After it was all over, and the enormity of what was about to happen to him fully hit her, Alyssa couldn't help but to burst into tears. Always one to comfort her, Sean had held her close and stroked her back, trying to console her. But it was impossible. Alyssa was just simply inconsolable. He didn't understand that she wasn't just crying because he was leaving her to fight a dangerous war for their country. She was crying because she'd failed him as a wife. Not only did she disappoint him by not being able to bear any of his children before this point, but she'd gone off and found comfort in the arms of another man; a man that Sean despised. And through it all he didn't suspect for one moment that she'd been unfaithful to him at all. If anything, he thought she was just taking his leaving very roughly. If only he'd known the real reason for her tears.


Finally somewhere in the middle of the night she'd finally cried herself to sleep only to be awoken a few hours later to have to go with him to the airport to see him off. The entire morning passed her by as if she was in a fog, until finally she found herself standing with him at the air force base, realizing that they only had a few precious moments left together.


            "I promise that I'll try to keep on touch the best that I can," Sean began, breaking the awkward silence between them. "I'll call whenever I can get near a phone and I packed my laptop and my webcam, so we can talk through e-mail and instant messages and stuff."


            Alyssa just nodded. She should be used to tearful airport goodbyes by now. Lord knows she'd had more than her share of them from her experience dating Nick in the past. But then again this was a different situation entirely. On each of these occasions when she'd seen Nick off on his next tour or overseas recording session, she always knew that he'd definitely be back eventually. With Sean going over to Iraq, Alyssa didn't have that automatic guarantee. There was always that possibility that he'd return home in a body bag instead.


            Sean sighed at her silent reply. Obviously he seemed frustrated by her lack of words and was beginning to run out of things to say to keep the conversation going. "Lyss, please say something," he begged. "This could be our last five minutes together and I'm already running out of things to say to you. Please tell me what's going on in that head of yours."


            Alyssa sadly looked back up at the pleading expression in his eyes. His cleanly pressed uniform made the reality of the moment that much more severe. If only she could tell him what was really going on in her head at the moment. If only she could admit to him the guilt that she was feeling over his departure. How she felt that this was somehow her punishment for sleeping with Nick. Somehow though, she got the feeling that now was not the time or place to admit to her infidelity, so instead she did the best to push those feelings aside and focus in on the fears that she could admit to him. "I'm sorry I'm so quiet. I guess that it just hasn't really sunk in until just now that this is it. You're really leaving," she tearfully admitted. "It's not like I shouldn't have been prepared. We both knew that this day would come, but now that's it finally here it just feels really surreal."


            Sean looked at her sympathetically as he wrapped his arms protectively around her and pulled her body close to his. "I know. I can barely believe it either. It just feels like a scene out of some bad war movie or something. I don't think it's really going to hit me until I'm on the plane."


            Alyssa broke her gaze with him and focused down on the ground sniffling. "I'm sorry that I disappointed you. I feel like I failed as a wife because I wasn't able to give you the one thing you really wanted."


            He frowned appearing confused. "What do you mean? How did you disappoint me?"


            "I wasn't able to get pregnant. I know how badly you wanted to a child and now you might never get that chance," she explained. "I feel like it's my fault. That I shattered your dream."


            Sean looked startled by her confession and immediately reached down to cup her chin, so that he was sure that she was looking at him straight in the eyes. "Hey, I need you to know that I don't blame you, okay? I'll admit that I really did want a child before this point, but maybe it just wasn't meant to be. It's just not the right time for us and I'm sure that when I get back and things settle down it'll happen like it's supposed to. Besides..." He paused letting his hands drift down to her stomach. "Who knows? For all we know we could have a little son or daughter in there already and not even know it yet."


            Alyssa tightened her lips, but nodded in agreement as she reached up to brush away a few stray tears that had trickled down her cheeks. She would love to have shared Sean's optimism, but she found it impossible. After eight months of unsuccessfully trying to be become pregnant, she doubted that in the last few weeks it had just magically happened, but she didn't want to tell him this. She was just opening her mouth to say something in response when she heard the sound of Ian's voice a few feet away where he stood with Kim and their newborn son Gavin. "Sean, they're starting to get ready to board so you may want to wrap it up."


            "Thanks man," he shouted back, turning his attention back to Alyssa. Even he sounded a bit choked up. "Well, I guess this is it."


            The tears that Alyssa had fought on and off broke free as she tightened her grip around him. "Please try to stay safe," she begged. "I don't want to see you on the local news unless it's for doing something heroic."


            "I'll try," he promised. He tucked a strand of hair behind her ear and bent down to kiss her softly and as slowly as he possibly could. Alyssa closed her eyes and felt a chill go through her as she realized that this really could be their last kiss. Reluctantly, he pulled away squeezing her hand in his. "God, I'm going to miss you."


            "I'll miss you too," she echoed, as their hands drifted apart.


            "I'll try to talk to you as soon as I can."


            Alyssa just nodded. "Good-"


            Sean held up his hand to stop her. "Don't say goodbye. It's too final. I'm coming back. I promise you that. I just don't want to end it like this."


            "Okay," she agreed, biting her lip. She looked up and saw that other soldiers were beginning to prepare for boarding. Sean just bent down and gave her another light kiss on her cheek before gathering his belongings and shooting her one last smile, turned around and started heading towards the gate.


            Alyssa watched him go through a film of tears. No matter what anyone said she was certain that this was God's way of punishing her for what had happened between her and Nick. All she knew that was of anything happened to him over in Iraq she really would not be able to live with herself. If he was killed, in her eyes it may just as well have been herself that pulled the trigger.




Shayla adjusted her dark designer sunglasses along the bridge of her nose as she killed the engine of her Mercedes. She glared up at the house in front of her knowing exactly what she needed to do. Opening up the car door, she stepped out onto the asphalt driveway, making sure the manila envelope that she had brought with her was carefully tucked under her arm. She hadn't heard a word from Nick in almost two weeks now and nobody seemed to know about his whereabouts, but there was still one person she hadn't tried, and she had the feeling that this person would know exactly where he was hiding.

       Of course getting Alyssa to talk wasn't going to be easy. Shayla wasn't dumb in the least bit. That's why she'd printed off the copies of the pictures she'd found of her on Nick's laptop. She figured that she'd need a little motivation to supply her with the information she wanted. Shayla just knew that there had to be more going on between her husband and his ex-girlfriend, ever since the dinner party where Alyssa had mysteriously came up from the basement with smeared lipstick. She wasn't exactly sure what she would do if Alyssa did in fact confess to having an affair with Nick, but she knew that she couldn't live without him, so some sort of decision would have to be reached.

       Her high heeled sandals click clacked up the driveway until she reached the front door. She rang the doorbell and after only a few moments a surprised Alyssa answered the door. Her eyes looked puffy and had dark circles under them like she hadn't slept very well the night before and she was dressed in sweats with her hair thrown messily on top of her head. "Shayla?" she asked sounding confused. "What are you doing here?"

       "We need to talk," she sharply insisted, nearly knocking Alyssa over as she pushed past her into the house.

       "Uhh ok... But now really isn't the best time. I-"

       "Oh, it's the perfect time," Shayla nastily interrupted. "I'm not going to beat around the bush here. I know you know where Nick is. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if you've been hiding him out somewhere, so that you can go and visit him every time your husband has his back turned. By the way, I heard about him being sent to Iraq. You must be relieved. Now you're free to fuck my husband right here in the comforts of your own home!"
       Alyssa gasped, looking as if she'd been slapped. "If you came here to accuse me of hiding Nick from you, please leave. Maybe Nick is hiding from you because you're a lying, manipulative bitch!"

       Shayla looked unfazed. "I find it ironic that you have the audacity to call me a lying bitch when you've done quite a bit of lying yourself there lately. In fact, you're lying to me right now."

       "Get out now before I call the police and they drag you out."

       "Not until you tell me not only where Nick is, but what's been going on between the two of you lately. I know that the two of you have been doing more than just hanging out together."

       Alyssa snorted. "There's nothing going on between Nick and I. But as his friend, I will say that what you did to him, lying about being pregnant, was extremely fucked up and I completely support his decision to divorce your sorry ass!"

       "Of course you support his decision, hun. In fact, you're hoping he divorces me! That way you can squeeze your way right into my place, right?"

       Alyssa had to hold herself back from lunging at the blonde woman in front of her. "For the last time, I'm not interested in Nick like that!"

       "But he is of you," she pointed out.

       Alyssa looked confused. "What is that supposed to mean?"

       Shayla just smirked and for the first time Alyssa noticed a manila envelope in her hands. She watched as Shayla opened the flaps on the envelope and pulled out what appeared to be some kind of photographs. Alyssa paled when her eyes finally came into  contact with the very same compromising pictures of herself that Nick had given her only a month or two ago. "Care to explain what these were doing on Nick's laptop?" she icily asked.

       She sputtered trying to get her mind to formulate a response. "Those pictures are really old. They were taken back when we first started dating. I didn't think that Nick still had them."

       "Bullshit. You probably gave them to him. You're a teacher, right? I wonder what your principal would think if these ever got into the wrong hands? You'd lose your job, wouldn't you?"

       "You wouldn't..." Alyssa gaped.

       "Oh, yes I would. That is unless you start talking and tell me the truth. The whole truth. Or else you won't have a job come September," Shayla threatened. "So, I'll ask you again. Where's Nick?"

       Fuck... Alyssa mouthed to herself, seeing that she was cornered. She had no choice, but to admit the whole truth to Shayla since she held all the cards at the moment. "He's staying at a condo about twenty minutes from here," she sighed. "It's a place he bought for me back when we were dating and I was supposed to move out here. It never wound up happening and he kept the place for himself to go when he needs to."

       "And I take it that you've seen him since he's been at this condo, huh?" she continued to interrogate.

       "Yes... Yes I have," Alyssa carefully admitted.

       She watched Shayla's lips tighten as she attempted to bring up the inevitable question. "And you've slept with him there, haven't you?"

       There it was. The million dollar question and Alyssa was unsure whether or not she should answer truthfully or not. She didn't have much choice she supposed. Every moment that she hesitated made it more and more obvious that the answer was yes. Her eyes floated downwards, not having the courage to meet Shayla's gaze. "I'm sorry Shayla..." Those were the only words she could get out.

       Surprisingly Shayla did not look very shocked. She'd probably mentally prepared herself for that admission. "I knew it! How long has this been going on between the two of you?"

       "Not very long," Alyssa admitted. "We only slept together twice and it was only after Nick decided he was going to divorce you. I swear that nothing happened between us before that point."

       Shayla raised her eyebrows suspiciously. "What about the dinner party last month? How exactly do you explain the fact that you're lipstick was perfectly intact when you went down to the basement to get those wine glasses, but once you came back up it was smeared?"

       Again Alyssa knew that she had been caught in another lie. "Okay. We did share a few kisses down in the basement, but you need to know that at the time I knew that it was wrong and I honestly tried to distance myself from Nick because I was afraid of hurting both you and Sean." The stress of the situation was beginning to eat away at her as her voice rose in distress. "I even told him that we should stop hanging out with each other. We were doing pretty good too until Sean and I had a fight and I ran off to the condo for the night not knowing he was there. That's exactly how it happened."

       The other woman rolled her eyes in disgust. "Sounds rather convenient to me."

       Alyssa sighed already feeling frustrated tears burn under her eyelids. "Nick and I have had a rather complicated past and I've only just recently realized that I don't think that we can be friends without flirting with the idea of something more. It's happened more than once to us, and although it certainly is no excuse for what we've done, it explains a lot. As hard as we try to stay apart from each other, fate just keeps pushing us together again. It's almost like a vicious cycle with us."

       "That's real cute that the two of you can't live without each other, but I'm sure as hell not going to sacrifice him by handing him to you on a silver platter. I love him too and I'm certainly not going to give up on our marriage, divorce or no divorce. So, you see where this could be a bit of a problem?"

       "I'm sorry Shayla. I'm not asking him to choose between me and you. Like I said, I never meant for this to happen between us and if it's easier for me to just cut myself out of his life; I'd do it in a heartbeat. The last thing I want to do is ruin his life or his marriage."

       Now it was Shayla's turn to sigh in defeat. "As much as I'd love that solution, it would never work. I know Nick and the fact that you're even less attainable will make you even more desirable to him." She paused as her eyebrow furrowed as if she was deep in thought. "As much as it pains me to admit this, I don't think that Nick's ever gotten over you and I don't think he ever will. It's obvious he loves you although I have no idea why. But as I said, I also love him and I'm not ready to let go of him either, so I see only one option in mind."

       Alyssa eyed her warily. "What exactly do you mean by that?"

       Shayla just smirked. "We reach a compromise. He's not ready to let go of you, and I'm not ready to let go of him, so the way I see it the only way of ensuring that everyone's happy is if he can have us both..." 

       Nick must've ran just about every red light from the condo to Alyssa's house, because he arrived there in record time. He was actually surprised to have arrived there in one piece and without a speeding ticket. Normally he'd be more cautious, but when Alyssa had phoned him a little while ago, she'd sounded noticeably upset to him. She'd pleaded with him to come by the house because she wanted to see him and the need was quite clear in her voice. He'd at first tried to convince her to come over to the condo, but she'd been quite insistent on him coming to her. Nick decided that if it was that important to her something definitely had to be up. He knew that Sean had just left for Iraq, so maybe she just needed someone to talk to.

       When he got to the door and rang the doorbell though, he was not at all prepared for the Alyssa that met him. Instead of the grieving wife of a husband that had just left for war, he was confronted with a total sex kitten who looked like she'd just stepped off the pages of a Victoria's Secret catalogue. She came to the door clad only in a short purple and black nightie that barely grazed the top of her thighs. Her dark hair cascaded down her back in loose waves and was that a glass of champagne in her hands? This Alyssa seemed anything but upset like she had sounded over the phone. For the first time, Nick wondered if perhaps maybe it had just been a ploy to get him over there.

       Smirking at his stunned response to her appearance Alyssa grabbed his arm and pulled him inside, slamming the front door behind them. "I'm so glad that you're here," she purred, throwing her arms around his neck and pressing her body tightly against him. "I've been waiting."

       Before Nick could respond, her mouth enveloped his in a sweltering kiss that caught him completely off guard. He was almost too shocked to respond to the action. This certainly wasn't the reception he'd expected from her, but between the sweet taste of her lips against his, the light floral scent of her perfumed skin, and the thin, satin material of her outfit, he found himself having little problem going along with it. She broke contact with him, just long enough to ditch her champagne class onto the coffee table, finally giving Nick an opportunity to speak.

       "Is everything okay? You sounded pretty upset over the phone earlier," he rasped out.

       Alyssa just waved her hand. "Everything's fine now," she told him stepping closer to embrace him again. "Especially now that you're here." She raised herself onto the balls of her feet, so that her mouth grazed his ear. "I have a surprise for you."

       Nick couldn't help, but to grin wondering what it could be. Based on the way she'd met him at the door and her aggressive greeting, he could only guess that the 'surprise' had to be something sexual. "Oh, yea? What is it?"

       She just shook her head teasing him. "I can't tell you because it would ruin the surprise. It's upstairs though." She led him back towards the foot of the staircase, pausing for another steamy kiss.

       By now Nick was more than curious to see what exactly Alyssa had hiding up her sleeve. He groaned against her lips as he impatiently grabbed her hips and began to pull her up the steps not coming up for air the whole time. Alyssa nipped at his bottom lip as her hands dove under his shirt and tore it off his head, letting it fall somewhere along the middle of the stairs. By the time they reached the top landing, Alyssa was already fiddling with his belt as she backed into the nearest doorway which Nick assumed was the bedroom. Once they were inside it took a moment or two before he felt the presence of a third person in the room. Pulling away, he gasped as his eyes settled on Shayla who was standing near the bed, her hands on her hips. Like Alyssa she was also dressed in bedroom lingerie.

       His eyes darted back and forth between the two of them, not believing what he was seeing. This can't be what it looks like, he told himself. This has to be some kind of set up or something. Any minute or now they're both probably going to turn on me. He actually braced himself expecting the imminent confrontation, but shockingly enough it never came. In fact, the two women actually exchanged a glance and giggled! "Okay uhh can someone please explain what's going on here?"

       This only made Alyssa giggle harder. "Nick you're so adorable when you're clueless! It's very cute."

       "Yea, really," Shayla agreed. "I didn't think that the situation really required much explanation though. To me it seems pretty obvious."

       Nick's jaw actually dropped in shock. "Are you trying to tell me...?" He stumbled over his words already getting flustered. "If this is some kind of joke it's not funny. Please tell me you're not fucking with me?"

       "We're quite serious," Alyssa assured him.

       "Uh huh. We're definitely not fucking with you. At least not yet anyway," Shayla snickered.
       "Holy shit... What? How?" He sputtered.

       The two women exchanged another conspiring glance. "Well, Shayla confronted me about what was going on with you and me and kind of cornered me into confessing that we'd hooked up again," Alyssa admitted.

       "And since it's pretty evident that you don't want to let Alyssa go, but you're still married to me we decided that our best option would be a two for one special," Shayla continued with a smirk.

       "But you hate each other," he pointed out.

       "Pretty much, but if that's the only way to keep you interested in our relationship, it's a sacrifice I'm willing to make," she confessed. "I'd do anything to ensure that you stick around."

       Another round of giggles escaped from Alyssa. "I think this is a first. Is Nick Carter actually reconsidering a chance for a threesome?"

       Hearing it said outright like that was enough to make Nick realize that both women were very serious about this. Yes, it was an extremely fucked up situation, one that he wouldn't have imagined actually happening in a million years, yet he also found the idea strangely hot in a disturbing way. Maybe it had to do with the fact that he knew exactly how much both women disliked each other, so he was hoping for some fiery passion between the two of them. After swallowing hard, he finally found himself able to respond. "No way. I'm totally fine with it. Seriously!"

       "Now that's more of the reaction I expected." Alyssa stepped closer to him. "Strip," she commanded.

       Nick did exactly what he was told, fumbling with the button to his jeans and pulling them off so clumsily, he was sure that he was a sight to see. He didn't care though. He wasn't completely shocked by Shayla's willingness to a threesome, but Alyssa? He never would've imagined it in his wildest dreams... Okay, maybe he had, but he was pretty damn sure those dreams would never turn into reality. One thing was for sure, she was certainly shocking the hell out of him today.
       Both women grabbed his arms and pulled him down onto the bed between them. Nick lay back against the pillows with a huge grin on his face. He still couldn't believe it, but hey he wasn't going to question what was being handed right to him. His eyes widened as both of them crawled up next to each side of him and leaned across his chest, giving him a perfect view of their mouths drawing nearer and nearer to each other. 

       This is the coolest thing that's ever happened in my life, he decided as their lips just barely touched...

       The loud beeping of his alarm clock sent Nick shooting up into a sitting position in bed, breathing heavily. Oh, my fucking God... Why did the alarm have to go off at precisely that moment? he wondered. His skin felt hot and his heart was still racing from the dream he'd just woken up from. It was probably one of the most fucked up ones he'd ever had, but he couldn't help but to feel disappointed that he'd been woken up just before it had began to get good. Never would happen in a million years, but it certainly would've been interesting.

       He pulled the blankets away from his body and stumbled towards the bathroom. Something told him that a cold shower was definitely in order at the moment.




- In case you hadn't noticed (Which if you didn't what is wrong with you? Do you REALLY think I'd write a threesome? Much less one featuring Alyssa/ Nick/ Shayla? Maybe if I were on crack which many of you probably thought I was while reading this LOL) this is NOT the real Chapter 19. The first scene is from Chapter 19, but the rest was all an alternate chapter I wrote as a joke (Sorry! I couldn't resist!). I hope you thought it was funny. I have kind of a fucked up sense of humor, so I at least thought it would be funny. I'll post the REAL Chapter 19 in the next few days. Thanks for being such good sports! Hopefully I didn't piss anyone off. *hides*


Chapter 19- The Power of Goodbye (Real Version) by Mellz Bellz
Author's Notes:

Sean is deployed to Iraq. Nick has a meeting with his publicist.


Chapter 19 - The Power of Goodbye


            The guilt that Alyssa harbored over cheating on Sean with Nick did not fade away as easily as she'd hoped, and the next few days were harder on her than she'd ever imagined. Thankfully enough once Monday rolled around, Alyssa still had school to distract herself with. There was only about another week or two left before school let out for summer, and Alyssa was beginning to regret choosing not to volunteer to teach summer school. At least it would be something to get her mind off of the mess that was her personal life. Teaching became her escape from reality. Her classroom was the one place she could go and pretend that she was anyone else, but herself.


            She'd successfully managed to avoid Sean as much as she possibly could. So far, if he noticed her irregular behavior, he hadn't brought it up with her. She knew that it was only a matter of time though before he began to realize that something was up, and Alyssa wasn't sure how much longer she could keep the ugly truth inside. She could only pray that something would come up to make her inner struggle easier to fight.


            In some cruel, perverse way, God answered her prayers. It was only a few days before they were due back at the clinic for their follow up appointment to discuss their test results, when Sean arrived home from work one day looking pale and pensive. As soon as she saw the look in his eyes, she knew that the day that they had been fearing since mid- October had finally arrived. So, she wasn't at all surprised when he made the announcement that could potentially change their lives forever.


            "It's official. I'm going to Iraq. I ship out next weekend."


            Alyssa hadn't exactly known how to react. On one hand even though she'd known that him being deployed was inevitable, she couldn't help but to think that somehow this was all her fault, like her unfaithfulness had caused it to happen. Yes, she knew she should be grateful that he hadn't been taken from her sooner, but she couldn't deny the feeling of bad karma when it came to the timing of it all. Then there was actually the part of her that as cold as it sounded was actually relieved. Without him around for a while, it would certainly make it easier on her to put the past behind her. Of course if God forbid anything happened to him over in Iraq, she wouldn't be able to live with herself. The guilt that she'd been carrying would only grow to be ten times worse.


            They'd talked over what exactly they should do about their upcoming doctor's appointment. Sean didn't want anymore bad news before he left for Iraq and he'd pointed out that no matter what the results read, there wasn't much they could do at this point to change their fate. Besides, he didn't want to spend what little time they had left together in a doctor's office receiving potentially upsetting news. He urged Alyssa to reschedule the appointment until after he left, so that at least she'd be able to find out what the problem might be for future reference. She'd already called to cancel their appointment, but at the time chose not to reschedule, promising that she would be in touch. She doubted she ever would go back on her own.


            Their last few days together flew by all too quickly for Alyssa. It was strange, but knowing that he was going to be leaving made it easier for her to be around him. All she needed to do was pretend as if nothing had changed between them for a few days and then he'd be out of sight and hopefully at least a little out of mind. Then maybe she could begin to muddle through her confused emotions regarding her feelings for Nick. She hadn't spoken to Nick since sneaking out of the condo that morning, but he'd called her numerous times. There had even been a few calls on her cell that had been from a restricted number who she was more than positive was him trying to reach her. With Sean leaving, she could only deal with one hardship at a time.


            She and Sean's last night together was bittersweet. They'd tried to make it as romantic as possible, opting for a quiet, intimate dinner at home, versus going to a crowded restaurant and being surrounded by happy people. Then of course afterwards Alyssa knew that there was no way that she would be able to excuse herself from the farewell sex that was just expected. This time though, she was able to muster up at least a little bit of eagerness. As dead as their relationship had been as of lately, and as tainted as she felt after sleeping with Nick, she had still cared about Sean a great deal at one time. To think that he could possibly not make it back alive from Iraq was enough for her to be able to temporarily push her guilt aside and make love to him for what could very well be the very last time. She did it more to provide herself with a sense of closure than anything else.


            After it was all over, and the enormity of what was about to happen to him fully hit her, Alyssa couldn't help but to burst into tears. Always one to comfort her, Sean had held her close and stroked her back, trying to console her. But it was impossible. Alyssa was just simply inconsolable. He didn't understand that she wasn't just crying because he was leaving her to fight a dangerous war for their country. She was crying because she'd failed him as a wife. Not only did she disappoint him by not being able to bear any of his children before this point, but she'd gone off and found comfort in the arms of another man; a man that Sean despised. And through it all he didn't suspect for one moment that she'd been unfaithful to him at all. If anything, he thought she was just taking his leaving very roughly. If only he'd known the real reason for her tears.


Finally somewhere in the middle of the night she'd finally cried herself to sleep only to be awoken a few hours later to have to go with him to the airport to see him off. The entire morning passed her by as if she was in a fog, until finally she found herself standing with him at the air force base, realizing that they only had a few precious moments left together.


            "I promise that I'll try to keep on touch the best that I can," Sean began, breaking the awkward silence between them. "I'll call whenever I can get near a phone and I packed my laptop and my webcam, so we can talk through e-mail and instant messages and stuff."


            Alyssa just nodded. She should be used to tearful airport goodbyes by now. Lord knows she'd had more than her share of them from her experience dating Nick in the past. But then again this was a different situation entirely. On each of these occasions when she'd seen Nick off on his next tour or overseas recording session, she always knew that he'd definitely be back eventually. With Sean going over to Iraq, Alyssa didn't have that automatic guarantee. There was always that possibility that he'd return home in a body bag instead.


            Sean sighed at her silent reply. Obviously he seemed frustrated by her lack of words and was beginning to run out of things to say to keep the conversation going. "Lyss, please say something," he begged. "This could be our last five minutes together and I'm already running out of things to say to you. Please tell me what's going on in that head of yours."


            Alyssa sadly looked back up at the pleading expression in his eyes. His cleanly pressed uniform made the reality of the moment that much more severe. If only she could tell him what was really going on in her head at the moment. If only she could admit to him the guilt that she was feeling over his departure. How she felt that this was somehow her punishment for sleeping with Nick. Somehow though, she got the feeling that now was not the time or place to admit to her infidelity, so instead she did the best to push those feelings aside and focus in on the fears that she could admit to him. "I'm sorry I'm so quiet. I guess that it just hasn't really sunk in until just now that this is it. You're really leaving," she tearfully admitted. "It's not like I shouldn't have been prepared. We both knew that this day would come, but now that's it finally here it just feels really surreal."


            Sean looked at her sympathetically as he wrapped his arms protectively around her and pulled her body close to his. "I know. I can barely believe it either. It just feels like a scene out of some bad war movie or something. I don't think it's really going to hit me until I'm on the plane."


            Alyssa broke her gaze with him and focused down on the ground sniffling. "I'm sorry that I disappointed you. I feel like I failed as a wife because I wasn't able to give you the one thing you really wanted."


            He frowned appearing confused. "What do you mean? How did you disappoint me?"


            "I wasn't able to get pregnant. I know how badly you wanted to a child and now you might never get that chance," she explained. "I feel like it's my fault. That I shattered your dream."


            Sean looked startled by her confession and immediately reached down to cup her chin, so that he was sure that she was looking at him straight in the eyes. "Hey, I need you to know that I don't blame you, okay? I'll admit that I really did want a child before this point, but maybe it just wasn't meant to be. It's just not the right time for us and I'm sure that when I get back and things settle down it'll happen like it's supposed to. Besides..." He paused letting his hands drift down to her stomach. "Who knows? For all we know we could have a little son or daughter in there already and not even know it yet."


            Alyssa tightened her lips, but nodded in agreement as she reached up to brush away a few stray tears that had trickled down her cheeks. She would love to have shared Sean's optimism, but she found it impossible. After eight months of unsuccessfully trying to be become pregnant, she doubted that in the last few weeks it had just magically happened, but she didn't want to tell him this. She was just opening her mouth to say something in response when she heard the sound of Ian's voice a few feet away where he stood with Kim and their newborn son Gavin. "Sean, they're starting to get ready to board so you may want to wrap it up."


            "Thanks man," he shouted back, turning his attention back to Alyssa. Even he sounded a bit choked up. "Well, I guess this is it."


            The tears that Alyssa had fought on and off broke free as she tightened her grip around him. "Please try to stay safe," she begged. "I don't want to see you on the local news unless it's for doing something heroic."


            "I'll try," he promised. He tucked a strand of hair behind her ear and bent down to kiss her softly and as slowly as he possibly could. Alyssa closed her eyes and felt a chill go through her as she realized that this really could be their last kiss. Reluctantly, he pulled away squeezing her hand in his. "God, I'm going to miss you."


            "I'll miss you too," she echoed, as their hands drifted apart.


            "I'll try to talk to you as soon as I can."


            Alyssa just nodded. "Good-"


            Sean held up his hand to stop her. "Don't say goodbye. It's too final. I'm coming back. I promise you that. I just don't want to end it like this."


            "Okay," she agreed, biting her lip. She looked up and saw that other soldiers were beginning to prepare for boarding. Sean just bent down and gave her another light kiss on her cheek before gathering his belongings and shooting her one last smile, turned around and started heading towards the gate.


            Alyssa watched him go through a film of tears. No matter what anyone said she was certain that this was God's way of punishing her for what had happened between her and Nick. All she knew that was of anything happened to him over in Iraq she really would not be able to live with herself. If he was killed, in her eyes it may just as well have been herself that pulled the trigger.

            Nick trudged through the lobby of the office building that housed his publicist Diane Hopkins. Diane, a sharp witted, no nonsense woman, had been managing his career since even before he'd released his solo album and had gotten him through some pretty messy media scandals in the past. He smirked, thinking about all the shit he'd gotten into that Diane had bailed him out of throughout the years. He definitely had made sure that her job was anything, but boring. Between arrests, his partying lifestyle, and of course the whole Paris situation, he'd had to withstand a lot of Diane's ranting lectures in his younger days, but in more recent years he'd definitely calmed down a lot, especially since marrying Shayla. So, when Diane had called him that morning, demanding that he meet with her immediately, he found himself a little confused as to what she wanted. As far as he knew he hadn't done anything that would require "immediate damage control" as she liked to call it, so he was at a loss. But he knew from experience that it was no use arguing with the woman. When she said she needed to speak with him she always meant business.


            Not much had changed for him in the past week or two since he'd discovered that Shayla had lied to him about the baby and he'd hooked up with Alyssa. He was still laying low at the condo although he heard from several of his friends that Shayla was frantic in trying to find out where he was. It might have seemed cowardly, but he still wasn't ready to face her just yet. He'd called his lawyer yesterday to inquire about starting the divorce proceedings between the two of them, but hadn't yet made any solid plans to meet with him about drawing up the papers yet. He wasn't looking forward to it. Somehow he had a feeling that Shayla would do everything in her power to make the process difficult for him. He didn't want a nasty divorce plastered over the tabloids, but he also knew that it would be unrealistic to expect their marriage to end amicably.


            He took the elevator straight up to the floor of Diane's office and the moment he walked in the door, her secretary motioned for him to head right in. When he finally entered her private office, he found her standing behind her desk, her arms firmly crossed in front of her. Feeling as if he was a kid being sent to the principal's office, Nick slunk down in the seat across from her desk. Somehow he got the distinct feeling that whatever this meeting was about it was going to result in him getting bitched out. Trying to break the ice he laughed nervously. "Whatever it is, I didn't do it."


            Diane did not appear amused by his sense of humor. "Yes Nick, I forgot. You never do anything. You just have a remarkable talent for getting yourself into the most compromising situations, while still remaining completely innocent."


            "Well, I try," he sheepishly replied, his eyes darting around the office nervously. "But seriously... What's this all about? I swear I've been good lately. Okay, maybe there were those tabloid pictures of Alyssa and I a few months ago, but that's blown over by now and it wasn't that big of a deal."


            His publicist seemed to ignore his question for the moment just narrowing her eyes at him before she began to explain herself. "I spoke with your lawyer today."


            "Oh?" Nick wasn't exactly sure what her having a conversation with his lawyer had to do with her demanding he come down and speak with her the first thing that morning, but he had a feeling that there had to be some unforeseen crisis he didn't know about.


            "When were you planning on informing me that you were thinking about divorcing your wife?"


            There it was. There was the reason she felt the need to leap into damage control mode. He really should've known better by now than to assume that his publicist wouldn't freak out about his plans to divorce Shayla. Obviously it would have some kind of impact on his public image. He sighed, running a hand through his hair. "Good news sure travels fast, huh?"


            "Cut the crap Nick and get to the point. What's the deal with you and Shayla?"


            Seeing that he was defeated, Nick took in a deep breath and began his explanation. "Well, without disclosing too many details, Shayla did something to ruin any ounce of trust I did have in her, and I've decided that I can't be married to somebody that I can't trust. I would've told you sooner, but this was only something I decided in the last week or two. Right now I'm staying at one of my other places and I only called my lawyer to inquire about divorce proceedings. Nothing is finalized just yet."


            Diane looked strangely relieved. "Great!" She clapped her hands together. "So, then it's still not too late to talk you out of making a very grave mistake."


            "Talk me out of what?" Nick looked shocked at her reaction. "You dragged my ass down here to try and convince me not to divorce my wife after she did the unthinkable to me all because you think I'm making a mistake?"


            "Oh, I don't think. I know," she confidently replied. "Nick do you realize what marrying Shayla has done for your career? Just a few years ago people saw you as a joke. Just another notorious pop star with a messed up family. Your antics were entertaining, yes, but they didn't exactly win you any brownie points with the media either. Then all of a sudden you meet Shayla and you turn yourself around. You lost weight... Projected a more positive image of yourself... People began to give you a second chance. You and Shayla make a gorgeous couple and people love that. Your approval rating is way up right now. If the two of you were to break it off now... Well, I'm afraid that it would just undo everything you've worked so hard to put behind you."


            Nick just rolled his eyes. "My approval rating? Who the fuck am I? The President?"


            Diane glared at him. "No, but like it or not Nick, you are in the public eye. You and Shayla are both celebrities and even if you don't realize it, people scrutinize every move you make. A divorce would be disastrous to both your careers. Do you really want your personal affairs to be dragged out into the middle of some supermarket tabloid for everyone to read?"


            "Well when you put it that way..."


            The older woman just sighed as she switched tactics, picking up a copy of US Weekly and flipping to a page that contained a picture of him and Shayla, happily smiling at a red carpet event only a few weeks prior. "Read the caption for me," she demanded.


            "Backstreet Boy Nick Carter and his entertainment reporter wife, Shayla showing their faces at the MTV Movie Awards last month in LA," he read in a dull voice. "The couple who just recently celebrated their second anniversary together says that the secret to keeping their relationship so strong is being supportive of one another's careers and keeping open communication with each other." He stopped and snorted. "Yeah, total bullshit."


            "And this one," she continued, opening up another magazine. This picture was a paparazzi photo of him and Shayla shopping in a children's clothing store in downtown LA. The picture was actually from a few months ago and they'd been shopping for Grace's birthday present back in March.


            Nick cleared his throat. "E! news correspondent Shayla Carter and her husband, Nick were recently spotted shopping at Kitson Baby. Sources say that they purchased clothing for a friend's toddler, but they did linger over the infant section. Could there possibly be a baby Carter on the way?"


            "See? America is already waiting for the two of you to start popping out some kids." Nick just bit his lip. The subject of the two of them having children was a very touchy one, especially in light of recent events. He wasn't about to tell Diane though that was the reason he was considering divorcing Shayla. He felt like it would do neither one of them any good to spill their personal matters out into the open like that. He'd prefer to keep the subject as private as possible.


            Diane reached over and opened up one last magazine. She flipped it open and rifled through the pages until she reached the article she was looking for and placed it underneath Nick's nose. The title read, "Ten Hollywood Couples Who Have Exceeded Our Expectations." In the first box on the page, he noticed his own name along with Shayla's in bold red print with a picture of the two of them besides it. Luckily, for this particular excerpt Diane took it upon herself to pick up the magazine and read the words to him. "We have to admit that when he heard that Backstreet Boy Nick Carter was getting married, our bets were that the marriage would last maybe six months tops. It's no secret that that Nick loves to party and let's face it; his past relationships haven't been all that successful. (Paris Hilton, anyone?) Surprisingly enough, married life seems to be suiting Nick well. He and his wife Shayla (who you probably recognize from E! News) just celebrated their second anniversary, shattering most of our expectations. Both Nick and Shayla have had successful years career wise with Nick wrapping up another world tour with the Backstreet Boys and starting his own record label, and Shayla beginning production on her own weekly entertainment show, slated to premiere on E! this fall. And wouldn't you know it? The two of them are actually beginning to grow on us! It should be exciting to see what's next around the corner for this couple.'


            Nick sighed. "Okay. I get it. For once the media actually approves of who I'm with and what I'm doing with my life. They like me with Shayla, but they're only seeing one side of things. They're seeing what they want to see. They don't know what goes on between us behind closed doors at home."


            "You do realize though that if you and Shayla get divorced at this point, you're going to be the one they are going to pin the blame on, right?" Diane pointed out. "Especially since there really haven't been any telltale signs of the two of you having problems. They're going to assume that you being your typical self ran out and cheated on her."


            "I didn't cheat on her!" Nick insisted. Well, at least not before she betrayed me, he silently added, although he didn't exactly consider sleeping with Alyssa ‘cheating' on his side since he'd already at that point told Shayla that he didn't want her in his life. "If anything she's the one to blame. She-"


            Diane held up a hand to cut him off. "I don't know what she did. All I'm trying to say is that I think you should give this whole divorce thing a second thought. I don't care if she cheated on you or whatnot, but there are less drastic measures. Like marriage counseling for instance."


            "And how exactly is the precious media going to react when they find out that Shayla and I are going for marriage counseling?" he challenged.


            The older woman just shrugged. "It could be a positive. It worked for Ryan and Reese. The media had a lot of respect for them when they announced they were seeing a therapist."


            Nick rolled his eyes. "In case you've forgotten counseling didn't work for Ryan and Reese. They're divorced now. So, obviously it couldn't have helped too much."


            "At least they tried, which is more than I can say for you. Nick, you do realize how much bad publicity a divorce is going to give you, right? And maybe it doesn't bother you, but bad publicity for you directly means bad publicity for your label as well. Think about how your artists are going to be affected being so closely tied with your name? It could destroy their careers before they've even started. Do you really think anyone is going to take them seriously?"


            He hadn't thought about that one. He froze for a moment realizing that for once she actually had a valid point there. His mind drifted back to Kina for the moment. They'd been hauling ass to get her album recorded and he was currently pushing for a late fall release, just in time for the holidays. After all the hard work she'd put in, Nick would feel horrible of her album bombed not because it sucked, but because her single didn't get radio play all because people thought he was a joke. He couldn't do that to Kina or to any of the other artists who were preparing to record their albums. Maybe he should hold off on the divorce until at least Kina released her first single?


            Seeing that she'd gotten to him Diane triumphantly grinned. "You see where I'm coming from now, huh? I'm not asking you to think about this to make your life miserable. I just think that you should think this over more carefully. My suggestion would be for you to informally separate for the time being if you need to. Maybe the time apart will be just what you need to fix whatever problems you're going through."


            Nick couldn't think of any more reason to argue with her. He sighed, knowing that he was defeated at least for the time being. In no way was he ready to forgive Shayla, but maybe he would give it a little more time before working on those divorce papers just yet. He wasn't sure if he was quite ready to deal with the media backlash and he sure as hell didn't want it interfering with the emergence of his label. He just needed a little more time to figure out a plan for dealing with the situation when it arose. "Fine you win," he grudgingly admitted. "I'll think it through a little more carefully and get back to you in a few weeks when I decide what I want to do."


            Diane looked smug as she triumphantly grinned. "I knew that you'd see it my way eventually."

            The rest of the month of June was difficult for Alyssa without Sean around. As much as she wished he'd just disappear before being deployed to Iraq, she soon realized the house was empty without him. She'd lived alone for a large chunk of her twenties, so she figured that this shouldn't be much different. Unfortunately, it was much harder than she had originally thought. With the school year now officially finished, Alyssa found that she had nothing but free time on her hands; free time that she spent a large part of playing the blame game with herself. As guilty as she felt, there was that tiny devilish voice in her head that reminded her with Sean gone it would make it so easy for her to explore the new territory that had been opened up to her by sleeping with Nick. It took a lot of willpower, but she managed to somehow ignore it. As tempting as the idea was, it wouldn't be solving anything, just opening up a new can of worms. She'd already caused enough problems in her marriage, so to turn it into a full blown affair would be just asking for trouble. So, she continued to ignore any attempt at contact from Nick and tried to get by day by day.


            Callie and Kim turned out to be a great source of comfort, since the two other women were going through exactly the same thing as her. Both of their husbands had been sent off to Iraq at the same time Sean was and in some ways their situation was even worse because both of them were forced to raise children on their own for the time being. Kim especially was finding it difficult to balance a newborn and a job all on her own. Now that school was out, Alyssa had offered to watch Gavin while Kim went to work during the week, which worked out well for the time being. Once September came though, Kim feared that she'd have to either look into daycare or quit her job.


As awkward as being around an infant was for Alyssa, she actually found her childcare gig comforting in a weird way. She felt good being able to do something to help out a friend, and taking care of Gavin did give her a little bit of something to get her mind off her situation with Sean and Nick. It may have sounded a little crazy, but sometimes Alyssa liked to pretend as if Gavin was really her son. She liked people mistaking her for a mother when she bought him along for her daily errands. It only made her more anxious for the day that she'd have a child of her own to care for.


Before she knew it July had already begun and it was 4th of July weekend. This year the holiday fell on a Saturday and instead of taking up Izzy on her offer of attending a party at her house, Alyssa opted to just invite Callie, Kim, and the kids over for a small barbeque. She was too scared of Nick showing up and she definitely did not want to face him. She figured that she probably couldn't hide from him forever, but it was tempting to try. Her impromptu party had went well and at the moment the three women were sitting on Alyssa's porch, Alyssa and Callie sipping beer as they watched Callie's two children, Richard and Carly, catch lightening bugs on the front lawn in paper cups. Gavin was inside sleeping although Kim had taken the baby monitor outside with her, expecting him to wake up any minute now from the loud noise of the fireworks already beginning to go off.


            A large burst of bright color exploded against the black sky and the women watched as both Carly and Richard gazed up at the sky in astonishment at the sight. Alyssa noticed a sad far away look on Callie's face as she watched the reaction of her children to the fireworks. Their eyes locked and Callie sighed as she took a sip of her beer. "Steve should be here to see this," she wistfully stated. "Yea, I could snap picture after picture to send him, but it still wouldn't be the same."


            Kim and Alyssa just nodded in agreement, both understanding exactly where she was coming from. "How are the kids reacting to Steve being gone?" Alyssa curiously asked. "How did you explain it to them?"


            "It's been a little rough," she explained, playing with her beer bottle. "They're still so young that they don't really fully understand what's going on. Rich is so little that it doesn't seem to affect him too much. He asks where Daddy is every few days and I've just been telling him that Daddy had to go on a trip for work and he won't be back for a long time. He seems to accept that, but Carly is more difficult. She's at that age where she's full of questions." Callie smirked. "Do you know she actually asked me if Steve was on vacation the other day? She got so upset because she thought that ‘Daddy had went off to Disney World' without us. Ironically, he's in the farthest place from Disney World. I tried to explain to her that he wasn't on vacation, but he was actually sent to another country for a few months to try and help the people there. She keeps coming up with new questions to ask and I'm always struggling to find ways to answer them. Now she's having trouble sleeping at night without Daddy to tuck her in... It's been a fun few weeks."


            "Eesh," Kim responded, shaking her head. "It's so sad to see the effect that this stuff has on kids. It's true though. How do you explain to a young child that their father is out fighting in a dangerous war and you may not ever see him again? You must feel bad for sugarcoating it like that, but there's no other way. You want to still protect their innocence."


            "Exactly. I feel guilty not being entirely truthful, but she's only five. I can't tell a five year old that." Callie stopped and sighed. "Sometimes I really hate this country for dragging on this damn war. I know it's fucked up to say, especially on today of all days, but this should've ended years ago. How many more families have to be torn apart before the government decides this is senseless and finally just gives up? I mean look at you for instance Kim. You and Ian just had Gavin barely even a month ago and already he's gone. Now you're struggling to raise an infant on your own and thankfully you have your family and Alyssa and I to help, but its still got to be stressful for you, right?"


            Kim nodded her head. "More than you imagine. I guess I should be thankful because Gavin really is a pretty easy baby. I mean I've heard some mothers having to wake up every hour on the hour, but of course he doesn't sleep through the night yet. At first, Ian was around to get up with me when it came down to feeding, but now that it's just me, it's definitely a lot harder. I'm exhausted almost all of the time. Don't get me wrong... I feel so blessed to have Gavin and I'm still in awe that he belongs to me, but I have to admit that being a mother is a lot harder of a job than I thought it would be. Especially without Ian around to help out. I mean I look at some of my other friends my age and it's like we're in two different worlds. They're finishing up college and starting out their careers, buying themselves nice things... Most of them are still single and kids are the furthest thing on their minds right now. Sometimes I wonder if maybe I was better off not getting married so young and going off to college. Does that make me a selfish person?"


            "Not at all," Alyssa assured her. "I give you credit. When I was twenty-three and twenty-four I couldn't handle everything that you're going through. When I was younger I thought I could. I was even engaged for a bit at twenty-one and twenty-two, but I realize now it was probably a good thing we broke it off. We definitely weren't ready at the time."


            "You were engaged to Sean at that young? What happened?" the younger woman asked curiously. Alyssa winced, almost forgetting that she had kept most of her personal past a secret from her two neighbors.


            She shook her head. "No, I didn't know Sean at the time. It was to someone else. Anyway the point is it's very tough to make a decision like that at such a young age and I think it takes a certain person to handle marriage and a child at your age," she quickly changed the subject. "You're doing a great job."


            Kim looked relieved by the compliment. "Thanks Alyssa. That means a lot to me. It's like the past two or three years of my life just flew by like crazy. One minute I was engaged, and then I got married, and then before I knew it I was already pregnant. I almost wish that things had just happened a little bit slower is all." She paused. "I'm just afraid now that Gavin might grow up never knowing his father."


            "You can't think that way Kim. You have to think positively. I know it's hard because I have the same fears with Rich and Carly, but you have to be strong," Callie urged her.


            Alyssa now felt guiltier than ever sitting in between the two of them. Here these girls are worrying that their children might never get a chance to know their fathers and I'm meanwhile almost glad that Sean is gone for now, she thought to herself, taking a large gulp of her beer. I'm so selfish. I could have it so much worse. "Wow... I don't think I've ever realized just how hard this is on you guys too," she finally spoke up. "I've been so wrapped up in being depressed about not getting pregnant; I guess this might just be a blessing in disguise."


            "Oh, we didn't mean to make it sound like your problems are insignificant compared to ours," Callie jumped to apologize.


            "Absolutely!" Kim agreed, nodding her head. "I mean your situation sucks too. At least we have our children to help us get by and you don't even have that. Plus Sean leaving now really is bad timing for you. You guys haven't even hit the one year mark, right?"


            Alyssa slowly nodded. "It'll be our one year anniversary next weekend. And my birthday is towards the end of the month."


            "Ouch," Callie sympathized. "Well, if you need anyone to distract you, you're welcome to give me a call and we can hang out."


            "Or me! Sometimes it does get a little lonely when Gavin actually is sleeping."


            "Thanks girls. I may just take you up on that offer." Raising her beer bottle she rolled her eyes as she proclaimed a toast. "I guess we can say Happy fucking Birthday America, right?"

            "I'll drink to that!" Callie enthusiastically agreed as she clinked her bottle against Alyssa's and Kim's water bottle.


Chapter 20 - Table For One by Mellz Bellz
Author's Notes:

Alyssa spends her first anniversary without Sean.


Chapter 20 - Table For One


            The next week leading up to Alyssa and Sean's first wedding anniversary passed by in a blur for Alyssa. Although she finally found herself beginning to adjust to not having Sean around, it did not make her miss him any less. At first, a part of her had felt a little relieved that they'd have some space between them, but after her conversation with Kim and Callie the week before, she'd done a lot of thinking about her feelings for Sean. Right before he left, she'd felt incredibly mixed up; torn between her feelings for him and her feelings for Nick. The guilt associated with sleeping with Nick had still been quite fresh in her mind at the time. Now as time passed the guilt had finally begin to subside slightly. Not to say that she was completely over what had happened between them. She wasn't sure if that would ever happen. She'd just reached a point of understanding where she was able to analyze her relationships with both men and she'd come to the conclusion that although she felt an amazing physical attraction to Nick, she wasn't sure if she could actually see them having a relationship. Sean on the other hand may have lacked that excitement and passion, but underneath all of that was really a very genuine and sweet guy; the kind of guy she knew would take care of her and be a good father someday to their children. Nick had made it quite clear that children just really weren't on his agenda which Alyssa had definite problems with. Sean may not have come off as the better man on the surface, but a part of Alyssa did truly care for him and even loved him. And she'd pissed that all away, sending him off without truly conveying that.


            Alyssa tried to keep herself as busy as possible so that she didn't have the time to dwell on her personal problems. Babysitting Gavin took up a lot of her time and energy. She found that by the time Kim came by to pick him up at the end of the day, she was completely exhausted. She wasn't sure what was wrong with her lately, but she'd come very lethargic and it wasn't as if she was doing a lot. She was much busier during the school year. Now she'd sit down on the couch for a few minutes and next thing she knew she'd be out for a little cat nap. She really needed to start taking more vitamins and eating healthier. Since Sean had been gone, she'd had little desire to cook for just herself, so more often than not she'd pick up some fast food or pop a TV dinner into the microwave if she decided to eat at all.


            Now that the day of her anniversary had arrived, Alyssa was unsure of exactly how she should feel. She'd always imagined that her first wedding anniversary would be full of excitement and romance and overall just a very special, memorable occasion. She supposed she could classify this as memorable at least. The fact that she was spending it alone while her husband was overseas was certainly something that she couldn't forget.


            Even though both Callie and Kim had offered to hang out with her today and get her mind off of Sean, Alyssa had politely declined, instead opting to spend the day by herself. She knew that it would probably be pretty lonely, but she just didn't feel like having to pretend that today was just another day and that everything was perfectly fine. Since it was a Saturday, she didn't have to watch Gavin today, so she'd pulled the covers over her head and spent most of the morning catching up on much needed sleep.


            The shrill sound of the phone ringing around 11:30 forced Alyssa to pop out of the tightly wrapped comforter she had cocooned herself and pick up the phone. "Hello?" she answered groggily.


            "Happy Anniversary baby," Sean's voice greeted her on the other end of the line.


            "Sean?" The sound of his voice was enough to completely perk her right up. "It's so great to hear from you! I didn't think that you'd be able to call today at least I wasn't counting on it."


            She could practically picture him grinning on the other end of the line. "Well, I only have a few minutes, but did you honestly think I'd let our first wedding anniversary go by without doing everything in my power to talk to you?"


            Just hearing his voice was enough to cause Alyssa to be overcome with emotion. Already she could feel tears stinging her eyes and she immediately felt stupid. God, I'm crying at the drop of a hat lately. When did I turn into such a sap? she wondered as she wiped her eyes. "You don't know how happy I am to hear your voice again. I've missed you so much and it's only been what? Two weeks?"


            "I know. I've missed you too. I hope that you're doing okay on the base by yourself. I keep thinking about you all the time. It makes the time pass quicker as corny and cliché as it sounds," he admitted.


            "That's not corny at all," she whispered. "I've been surviving. Callie, Kim, and I have been leaning on each other a lot for support since you all left. I've been helping them out a lot with the kids. I'm watching Gavin during the week for Kim while she works."


            "I hope that's not weird for you being around a baby and all that," Sean commented in a concern voice.


            Alyssa shook her head. "No, it's actually kind of comforting in a way. It makes me even more excited for you to come back, so we can keep trying."


            "Have you made an appointment to go down to the fertility clinic again by yourself to get the results?"


            "No, not yet," she replied. "Everything's just been a little crazy right now, so that's put on hold for a bit."


            Thankfully Sean decided to change the subject. "So, are you doing anything special today to celebrate?"


            Again Alyssa shook her head. "Uh, uh. It just doesn't seem quite right to celebrate without you. I'll probably get up and do some housework or something. Maybe I'll splurge and order a pizza or something tonight. Sounds exciting right? What about you? How is everything going over there?"


            "Not too bad yet. We haven't really been in any combat situations just yet thank God. I heard-" At that point the line was full of static and Alyssa found herself unable to hear what Sean was saying.


            Grr! Damn long distance service, she grumbled to herself as her voice searched for him through the muffled reception. "Sean? Sean? Are you still there?"


            "Alyssa? I can't... too well. I think... cut off." She frowned trying to fill in the blanks with the odd word or two she was able to catch as he was breaking up. "I lov-" Click. The line went dead before he could even finish his sentence.


            Alyssa stared down at the phone in frustration as her fingers dejectedly pressed the end key. It wasn't fair that the first time she'd gotten to talk to him since he'd arrived in Iraq, they had to be separated by a bad connection. And on their anniversary no less.


            Just my luck. She rolled her eyes as she slid out of bed figuring that she may as well get out of bed and at least attempt to do something productive. It was a lot better alternative than sitting around sulking all day.



            A few hours later Alyssa was standing on her kitchen in a pair of raggy sweats and a three quarter sleeved football jersey style shirt with her hair piled messily on top of her head. She was struggling to push the vacuum cleaner across the carpet when she heard her doorbell ring over the loud noise. "I'm coming!" she shouted as she switched off the vacuum and  made her way towards the front door wondering who it was She hoped it wasn't Callie or Kim or any of her other friends stopping by to check up on her. She really wasn't much in the mood for company at all.


            When she opened up the door she was surprised to see a delivery man holding a large bouquet of flowers in his arms. "I have a flower delivery for Mrs. Alyssa Robinson," he reported.


            "That's me," she told him as she took the pad and pencil from his hand and signed for the delivery the whole time wondering who they were from. Probably Sean, she thought with a smile. Even though he was halfway around the world he'd still found some way to do something special for her which cheered her up a great deal. He's too sweet.


            The man handed her the bouquet of flowers and nodded his head at her. "Have a great day and congratulations."


            "Thank you." She shut the door behind him and carried the bouquet of flowers back into the kitchen, so that she could get a vase to put them in. Once she located one she started to unwrap the cellophane paper around them until she spotted a card. Setting the flowers down on the table, she picked up the card and opened it gasping at the message that was written inside.


To Alyssa,


            Happy First Anniversary! I know that you're going through a rough time right now and I know that it's tough not having Sean here with you today, so I thought that the flowers might cheer you up. If you ever need a friend to talk to, please give me a call. I know that things have gotten weird between us, but I also don't want to lose you as a friend.


                                                                                                                                  Love, Nick


            Alyssa stood there frozen in shock. She'd never in a million years expect the flowers to have come from Nick. She knew he meant it as an innocent gesture, but after what had went on between them, the move seemed all too coincidental. She hadn't even remembered ever telling Nick the date of her anniversary. Izzy probably mentioned it to him, she deduced. She blew out a huge breath, not sure exactly what she should do. Simple etiquette told her that the polite thing to do would be to call him up and thank him for the flowers, but that would require having a conversation with him, which she was hesitant about. She'd just about convinced herself that her feelings for him were just created out of self doubt over her relationship with Sean. Now that he was sending her flowers and offering her a shoulder to lean on, those feelings of confusion were beginning to creep up on her again. Damn him, she silently cursed as she stared at the phone, wondering what to do.


            After a few moments of considering her options, Alyssa realized how dumb she was being. She couldn't hide from Nick forever and that's exactly what she'd been doing for the past few weeks. She couldn't just cut him out of her life and expect him to vanish into thin air. He was always going to be around and she was going to have to deal with him eventually. Better to clear the air between them now before the situation got any worse. Besides, if she really cared as much about Sean as she seemed to think she did, she should have no problem discussing with Nick the night they had shared and hopefully then she'd finally be able to put the ordeal to rest.


            Very tentatively, she picked up the phone and bit her lip as she dialed Nick's cell phone number. It rang a once or twice before she heard Nick answer on the other end.


            "Ahh, so you're alive after all," he teased. "I was beginning to think that you had vanished off the face of the earth. You know, I thought I was supposed to be the one to run off and not call afterwards, not the other way around. You don't strike me as much of the ‘love em and leave em' type."


            Alyssa just rolled her eyes into the air. "I'm not. I just had a lot of thinking to do. There was a lot of shit I needed to figure out." She quickly remembered her original purpose for calling and momentarily shifted the conversation. "I just wanted to thank you for the flowers. I definitely wasn't expecting them from you, but it was a sweet thing to do."


            "No problem," he told her. "Izzy told me about Sean being deployed and everything and I really thought that you'd probably be pretty bummed today. So, I thought the flowers might brighten up your day a little bit."


            Her expression softened. When did he decide to become so sweet? she wondered. "They were very thoughtful of you."


            "So, how are you holding up? You sound kind of down. Have you heard from Sean at all?"


            "I'm doing okay. As good as can be expected I guess. I'm a little lonely without him around, but I guess that's normal," she reported. "He called earlier and we talked for a few minutes, but then we got disconnected."


            "That sucks," Nick sympathized. "Please tell me that you're at least spending tonight with some friends or something though, right? Sitting at home feeling sorry for yourself is only going to get you more depressed."


            Alyssa hesitated for a moment. "Actually I'm not doing anything tonight. My two neighbors offered to keep me company, but they have their kids and right now I just don't feel like being around all that. It'll be okay though. I'll probably curl up with a book or something to get my mind off of things."


            "That's really not good," he chastised. "You need to be around other people right now. As it is I know since Sean has gone to Iraq you haven't hung out with Izzy or Teri or Tricia. You need your friends now more than ever."


            Since when is he such an expert on what I need? Alyssa wondered, taken back by his criticism. "Well, thanks for your opinion, but I'd rather be alone right now."


            "I'm coming over," he impulsively announced. "I'm coming over to keep you company and I'm going to bring you some dinner and some movies to get your mind off being alone for a while."


            "Nick that's really not necessary... I'll be fine on my own. I'm just really not up to any visitors right now."


            If Nick heard her he just kept talking as if he hadn't. "Should I bring Chinese or should I just do pizza? What are you in the mood for? And definitely a funny movie, right?"


            "Nick! I'm really not in the mood to be around anyone. You're not coming over."


            "Come on Lyss," he begged. "You can't say no because I'll just show up anyway. I'm worried about you." He paused and continued in a more serious tone of voice. "Listen if you're afraid of something happening like the last time we were together, I promise I'm not going to try anything, especially not on your wedding anniversary. That would just be wrong on so many levels."


            Alyssa was silent for a moment as she thought it over. It was so strange him bringing up the last time they were together like it was no big deal really. But he had a point there. Even he realized how fucked up it would be if they hooked up again tonight of all nights. His offer seemed genuine and completely innocent. And Alyssa figured she could use the company of someone else.


            "Come on..." He continued to whine. "I don't bite."


            "You do too, liar," she argued, with just the slightest hint of a grin.


            "Okay. You got me. But to be fair you do too sometimes. But I promise, no biting tonight."


            "Fine," Alyssa reluctantly agreed. "You can come over and keep me company, but bring Chinese food. I want chicken chow mien."


            "As you wish," he told her. "I'll be by in like another hour or so, okay?"


            "Sure." She just hoped that she was doing the right thing and not causing herself any more problems. She couldn't deal with anymore emotional turmoil right now on her plate.



            As promised, Nick showed up at her door a little more than an hour later with a plastic bag full of white square Chinese food cartons and a few movies. Alyssa had decided not to do anything extremely special to make herself look nice, since she really was definitely not looking to impress him. She had kept her sweats on from before and only added just enough makeup to hide the fact that she looked as if she hadn't really been sleeping lately. She'd already set up some plastic utensils and paper plates in the living room and as soon as he arrived and they exchanged hellos, they began digging into the food.


            "So what movies did you bring?" Alyssa asked as she scooped a large spoonful of rice onto her plate.


            "Snakes on a Plane and The Matrix," he replied, already beginning to eat.


            Alyssa rolled her eyes and groaned. "I thought you were going to bring funny movies. Like as in comedies. Not action movies."


            "Snakes on a Plane is a funny movie! Come on, what could be more ridiculous then Samuel L. Jackson saving a plane full of people from highly poisonous snakes while flying across the country? That's pure genius there! And The Matrix is just fucking awesome."


            "Yea... So fucking awesome that I always wind up falling asleep about halfway through it. So, typical of you! Only thinking about yourself," she teased in an overdramatic voice.


            Even though she was just kidding with him, Nick's reaction was quite serious. "I only think for myself? That's not the same way you seemed to feel the last time we were together."


            Alyssa was silent for a few seconds as her mind scrambled in disbelief. She couldn't believe that he'd actually brought up their hooking up so casually like that. It completely threw her off the way he'd mentioned it. She'd walked right into that one. Now if she could just think of something to say!


            Luckily Nick noticed her stunned silence and continued for her. "We can't just pretend like it never happened and not talk about it. It's going to be on the back of our minds until we do, and I don't know about you, but I find it really awkward walking on eggshells around each other."


            "You mean more awkward then the fact that we not only made out with each other in your basement, but we slept together not once, but twice at the condo that I was supposed to move into three years ago? Not to mention the fact that oh yea, we're married to different people?" Alyssa finally managed to blurt out once she found her voice.


            "I guess not," he admitted. "But we wouldn't have to do one if the other hadn't happened." He paused for a moment before asking the one question that had bothered him ever since he woke up that morning. "Why did you sneak out on me like that? What was that all about?"


            Alyssa let out a long sigh. "I don't know... I just woke up and saw what had happened and I guess the enormity of what I'd really done hit me. I was so mixed up and confused and guilty that I just couldn't face you just then. I needed time to process what had really happened. God, it was hard enough facing Sean afterwards. I really needed some time to do some heavy thinking."


            "Okay... but then how come you just continued to ignore me?" he pressed. "I tried giving you space and it was like you'd forgotten that I existed. No offense, but that's not really typical of you."


            "I didn't mean to pretend that you weren't something I had to deal with," she confessed. "The past few weeks have been emotional hell for me. First I wind up hooking up with you, which caused all kind of complications and forced me to reconsider my feelings for Sean. Then just when I'm the most confused, Sean gets deployed to Iraq making me feel even guiltier. Now all of a sudden I'm trying to adjust to a life without him for the time being and it's a really rough transition for me. I guess I just wasn't quite ready to face you on top of everything else."


            Nick placed his hand on her arm and looked her in the eye. "You can't just run away from your problems Alyssa. I know it's really crappy timing, but it happened and we need to deal with it. The way I see it, the ball is in your court here. You're the one who has the most to lose. So, what do you want to do?"


            Alyssa just looked away helplessly. She didn't like being put into this position because she honestly wasn't sure what she wanted. Plus, she wasn't sure how serious Nick was. Did he mean that if she said that she wanted to divorce Sean and be with him, that he'd be open to a relationship with her? Somehow she doubted it. Nick was more of the "let's see where this leads to" type guy. Besides, in all honesty she didn't feel like she could abandon Sean now in good faith. She'd have to wait until he returned and then see where their relationship stood. "I don't know Nick...  I know you're not a big fan of Sean's, but him being deployed really put a lot into perspective for me. He's definitely been neglecting me lately, but I don't think it's necessarily his fault. We've a lot of crap going on with the whole trying to get pregnant thing by a certain deadline thing. I kind of have a feeling that maybe when he comes back from Iraq and there's not as much pressure on us, things will get better."


            Was it her imagination or did Nick actually look a little disappointed? "So, you're saying that you want to give him a second chance?"


            She nodded. "Yea... I think I owe it to him. I mean I'll admit you and I were just incredible, but how many times can we go down the same path? I really want to keep you in m life as a friend, but I'm not sure if that's the wisest decision. Sean is my husband and I can't just walk away from him the very first time I don't feel completely satisfied. I think our best bet would be to just keep this between us and go on like it never happened."


            "If that's what you want... But it seems that no matter how many times we keep saying that we're not going to let it happen again, it does," he pointed out.


            "We're just going to have to be really cautious around each other from here on out. Like I said I don't want to lose you as a friend, so we don't have to completely stop talking, but I think it's probably best if we stay away from any kind of situation that forces us to be completely alone with each other. We should probably only hang out if there's at least one other person there, so the temptation isn't there at all."


            Nick shrugged. "We're alone now."


            "And it's my anniversary and you swore to me that you'd behave yourself," she finished for him. "If that's a problem you could always leave."


            He shook his head vigorously. "Nope. No problem whatsoever. Nothing happened between us and no more alone time. I got it."


            A hint of a smile formed on Alyssa's face. "Good. Now that we've got that over with, how about those movies? I'd like to consider this subject closed."


            "I agree." Nick got up from his seat on the couch and set up Snakes on a Plane first, since Alyssa did have a habit of falling asleep during The Matrix. As the movie progressed, Alyssa found that she was surprisingly enjoying the movie. Just as Nick promised, the plot was so ridiculously farfetched that it came off as more of a spoof of an action movie than an actual action movie. She wasn't a big fan of snakes, but the digitally enhanced creatures looked too fake to really be believable. Of course she found it too ironic not to crack up laughing when the snakes claimed their first victims, a couple who had snuck off for a quick rendezvous in the plane's bathroom.


            "Oh my God! That's too funny! Can you imagine? One minute you'll all like into the moment and then out of nowhere these killer snakes start attacking you? That was genius!" she commented as she tried to control her laughter. "How can you not find that hilarious?'


            She glanced over to Nick who was laughing just as hard as she was. "I don't know, but it's refreshing that someone shares the same sick, twisted, sense of humor that I have. I guess that's why they say not to have sex in horror movies, right?"


            Alyssa nodded her head as she tried to calm down. "You have sex in horror movies, you die. At least that's what they said in Scream but Sydney got off."


            "Oh, she got off all right," Nick snickered.


            "Nickolas! Not like that! Eww you perv..." she giggled. "I meant she got off like as in off the hook. Like she got luc- Never mind. That was another bad example. You know what I meant though."


            He smirked. "Oh, I knew what you meant, but it was too tempting to pass up."


            "Dork." She rolled her eyes at him and continued to watch the movie.


They both continued to crack up at the absurdity of it and when Samuel L. Jackson delivered his famous line. "I'm so tired of these motherfucking snakes on this motherfucking plane!" Alyssa again burst into hysterics. It made Nick realize that this was an excellent movie choice because for the first time in a long time it seemed to him as if she was genuinely smiling and laughing, which made him happy, even if it was only because of a really lame movie.


            "How much you want to bet the writers just based this whole storyline around Samuel L. Jackson saying that line?" she asked.


            "It wouldn't surprise me one bit," Nick agreed. "But it was a pretty brilliant idea."


            "Yea really..."


            Finally the movie ended and Alyssa had to admit that she'd actually enjoyed it and found it pretty damn funny. Her good mood was interrupted by Nick springing off the couch and heading towards the DVD player to switch movies. "Okay, Matrix time!"


            Alyssa groaned. "Ugh! Do we have to?"


            "Yes,' he told her. "And I'm going to make you stay awake even if I have to keep pinching you the whole way through the movie. Seriously, how do you fall asleep during this movie?"


            "I think its Keanu Reeves. He's a god awful actor and just something about him just makes me want to conk out. Like I think I have Keanu Reeves narcolepsy."


            Nick just laughed. "Wonder what it says about that one in a medical journal."


            "Seriously have you ever seen him try to do a romance movie? It's like torture. He has no personality," she argued.


            "Oh, shush you. The movie's starting." Nick focused his attention on the screen in front of him as he quickly became absorbed in the movie. Every now and then he gave Alyssa's back a little nudge to make sure she was still awake, but otherwise she was very quiet. About halfway through the movie, he tore his eyes away from the screen only to find Alyssa's head slumped against the arm of the couch and her eyes closed. It looked like she was officially down for the count.


            Nick raised his arm all ready to pinch her as he promised, but he stopped himself when he noticed her slow, shallow, peaceful, breathing. For the first time Nick noticed that she looked tired and it appeared that she was already pretty deep into sleep. Deciding not to bother her, he got up from the couch and turned off the movie. He cleaned up the remains of their Chinese food feast and gathered up all of his belongings. Right before he was about to leave, he noticed an afghan draped over the recliner across the room. Bringing it over the loveseat he gently tucked it over her sleeping body and lingered over her for a moment or two. "Night Lyss," he told her, tucking her hair behind her ear.


            Then before she could wake her up he turned around and headed out the door into the night air. Alone.


Chapter 21 - The Greatest Gift of All by Mellz Bellz
Author's Notes:

Alyssa gets the news she's been waiting for.


Chapter 21- The Greatest Gift of All


         Alyssa began the morning of her twenty- ninth birthday by sprinting towards the bathroom door and arriving just in time to fall to her knees in front of the toilet, before violently emptying the contents of her stomach. Ugh, she thought as she continued to heave. Usually I end the night of my birthday doing this. She absolutely detested throwing up and usually did everything she could to avoid it. Even when she had the stomach flu, which she suspected what this was, or had drank more alcohol than she could handle, she'd try to hold back. In fact, she very seldom actually got sick from drinking.


Finally feeling as if she was done, she backed away from the toilet feeling shaky and disgusting. She wasn't sure what had happened. She was downstairs, scrambling an egg for breakfast when all of a sudden she was overcome with the violent urge to vomit. It had crept up on her so sneakily that she hadn't been able to fight it and was thankful enough just to make it to the bathroom in time. Damn stomach bugs, she cursed as she slowly stood up and flushed the toilet. Not being able to withstand her yucky puke breath, she grabbed her toothbrush and a tube of toothpaste and began scrubbing away at her teeth.


            Once her mouth had been rinsed clean, she stared at her pale reflection in the mirror and realized that it probably wasn't the best idea for Kim to bring Gavin by today. If this was a stomach bug it was probably highly contagious and she'd hate to pass it on to a poor infant. Besides, she couldn't really take care of a baby if she was running to the bathroom every hour. With that decided she headed downstairs and dialed Kim's number hoping that there was still time for her to make other arrangements for Gavin before she had to be at work.


            "Hey Alyssa," Kim answered. "What's going on? I'm surprised to hear from you so early."


            "I'm really sorry, but I'm not going to be able to watch Gavin today. I think I have the stomach flu or something. I'm sorry to back out on you last minute like this, but it's just hit me now and I don't want to pass it on to him," she hurriedly explained.


            "It's okay," the younger woman assured her. "If you don't feel up to it, don't force yourself. I'll have to see if maybe Callie can take him just for today or something. I hope you feel better soon. Such a shame you're sick on your birthday too."


            "Thanks. Yea, it really sucks! I don't know what's wrong with me lately. I'm like falling apart. Ever since Sean's left I've been feeling really blah and tired and depressed and stuff and now I have the stomach flu..."


            Kim seemed surprised. "You've been feeling tired you said?"


            "Yea... Really tired. Like the littlest task takes so much out of me. I'm constantly taking naps. Maybe I'm like anemic or something."


            "Could be, but..." she stopped and giggled.


            "But what?" Alyssa asked raising her eyebrows.


            "Well, not to get your hopes up or anything," Kim slowly began. "But the whole being tired thing sounds exactly how I felt before I found out I was pregnant with Gavin. And there's the fact that you got sick this morning. Do you think that maybe it wasn't a stomach flu at all, but morning sickness?"


            Alyssa was stunned for a moment or two at just the possibility. "I don't know Kim...  I mean feeling tired doesn't necessarily equal pregnancy. Besides, Sean and I have had so much trouble conceiving that I seriously doubt that something magical happened right before he left, although I guess the timing seems plausible."


            "Is your period late?"


            She thought for a moment and realized that she hadn't had it since after her last pregnancy scare a few weeks ago. "Yea," she admitted. "I've just been under so much stress lately that I wasn't overly concerned. I think I would've been more worried if everything was all regular and normal."


            "Well, I think you should see a doctor or something. Even if it turns out to be something else, you shouldn't be this rundown and tired all the time. It would be best if you got it checked out now, so that you could set your mind at ease," Kim advised.


            "Yea... Maybe you're right," Alyssa agreed, her mind already reeling a million miles a minute. Could she really be pregnant? Or was she just getting her hopes up again only to have them smashed down in the end? She honestly did not know what to believe.




            Alyssa stood in the bathroom later that day staring warily at the pink box in front of her. After Kim had put the idea of her possibly being pregnant in her head that morning, she hadn't been able to concentrate much on anything else. She hadn't been sick again since this morning, further confirming that Kim's suspicion could be right. There was only one way to know for sure, so finally out of sheer impatience she'd run out to buy a home pregnancy test.


            Now that it was staring her in the face she was almost afraid to take it. It wasn't as if this was the first time she'd had to take one. In fact, it had only been maybe six or seven weeks ago that she'd taken the last one. Honestly she was afraid of the results. She didn't want to be left disappointed again like the last time, especially on her birthday. How amazing would it be to find out on today of all days that she was actually pregnant? It would be the most awesome birthday gift ever.


            It's now or never, she realized as she tore open the kit taking a deep breath. After a few minutes she was done with the actual test part and was just nervously waiting her results. She paced around the tiny room, trying her best to avoid glancing at the stick that was lying on the bathroom counter to see what it was doing. Finally after what felt like an excruciatingly long amount of minutes passed by, it was time to check the results. Alyssa crossed her fingers as she picked up the stick very carefully and read the results on the front.


            She gasped once she saw the tiny plus sign on the front and her eyes immediately filled up with happy tears. Somehow despite everything she was indeed pregnant according to this test. Her hands instinctively flew up to her stomach as it fully hit her that there was a human life growing inside of her. In a couple of months she'd be a mother... She'd always dreamed about this day since she was a little girl and now that it was here she almost found it hard to believe. And to receive the news on her birthday made the experience that much sweeter. Who could ask for a better birthday present?


            Her mind immediately began shooting off in a dozen different directions. I can't wait to tell Sean. He's going to be ecstatic, she realized. Her expression sank though when she realized that she might have to wind up telling him through only an e-mail since she never knew when he'd be available to talk to her personally. The thought did put a little bit of a damper on her good mood. A part of her couldn't wait to call up everyone she knew to share her exciting news, but she also felt that it was unfair to let anyone else know before she got a chance to tell Sean first. She just hoped that she wouldn't have to wait long. She wasn't sure if she could keep something like this a secret for very long without blurting it out to someone.




            Luckily for her, Alyssa didn't have to wait as long as she'd originally expected to share her news with Sean. Late that evening she'd signed on to her computer to check her e-mail. It sucked sometimes finding time to talk to Sean because of the time difference. Take now for instance it was fairly early in the morning over in Iraq, Alyssa seriously doubted that Sean would be able to sneak onto his computer for a chat. The best he could do was send her a birthday e-mail which Alyssa quickly read with a smile on her face and just clicked on the button to reply back to him when an instant message popped up in front of her.


USMarineSR4Life: Hey baby! Happy Birthday!


Alyssa's face broke into a huge grin. It made no sense why he'd be on his computer right then, but she was sure glad that she was. She eagerly clicked into the text box and began typing a response.


MissLyssa1980: Hey! Thanks! What are you doing on so early?


USMarineSR4Life: Shh... I snuck on for a few minutes so I could wish you a Happy Birthday properly.


MissLyssa1980: That's really sweet of you. I don't want to get you in trouble or anything though.


USMarineSR4Life: Don't worry. I have to do something to make up for the fact that I really couldn't get you anything.


MissLyssa1980: It's okay. It wound up being a pretty good birthday anyway. And I wouldn't worry so much about not getting me anything...


USMarineSR4Life: ??? What's that supposed to mean?


            Alyssa held back a smirk at her husband's confusion. He really had no clue that she was about to tell him, which made her surprise even more exciting to share. She was already bubbling over with the anticipation of blurting it out just to see his priceless reaction. She bit her lip as her fingers flew over the keyboard.


MissLyssa1980: Can you get onto your webcam?


USMarineSR4Life: Yea... Sure. But I don't get it. Why?


MissLyssa1980: Just do it.


            She gave him a few moments while she adjusted her webcam and then clicked on the box to send him an invitation to a live chat. A few seconds later his face appeared on the screen in front of her, and she found herself amazed for a moment that she was actually seeing him again even though he was halfway around the world. She found herself speechless for a moment or two, almost forgetting her original purpose until Sean broke the silence.


            "So, what's this all about?" he asked curiously, a sly grin on his face. "You seemed pretty adamant about being able to speak with me face to face."


            Alyssa smiled brightly. "I just have to tell you something really important and I felt that it's something that I should tell you face to face because I want to be able to see your reaction."


            "Ok, now you got me curious here. What's going on? It has to be something good because you're practically glowing," he observed.


            "It is," she assured him as she tried to decide exactly how she wanted to go about telling him the news. Already the intensity of the moment was beginning to get her flustered and she already felt tears stinging her eyelids. Now I guess I finally know why I've been crying so much lately, she thought to herself as she fanned her eyes with her fingers. "Sorry... It's just so amazing being able to see you right now and this is just a really huge moment..."


            Sean's brow furrowed in concern. "You're scaring me a little Alyssa. Just tell me what it is."


            Alyssa swallowed hard. Outside of her wedding day this was probably about to be one of the most joyous moments in her life and she wanted to choose her words carefully. "Well, I haven't been feeling so great lately," she started off. "I've been really tired and emotional and just not myself. I even got sick this morning and at first I thought it was just a stomach flu, but Kim convinced me that maybe I was wrong. I took another pregnancy test and... we're going to be parents!"


            She couldn't help but to beam as she watched Sean's expression as his mind processed the news. At first, his mouth gaped in shock, but as soon as the news really sunk in his lips rose into an excited grin. "That's amazing news Alyssa! I'm going to be a father!" he whooped to anyone who would listen to him. "When did you find out?"


            "Only today. It was the best birthday present I could ever ask for."


            "So, you haven't seen a doctor or anything yet, huh?"


            Alyssa shook her head. "Nope. Not yet. I'm going to have to see about making an appointment sometime in the next few days."


            She watched as Sean still seemed stunned by the news. "Wow... I wonder when it happened? Isn't it so weird that it worked out like this? I bet it was that night before I left, right? I just had a really good feeling about that night for some odd reason."


            Alyssa laughed at her husband's excitement. "I don't know yet, but that could very well be. I'm not sure how far along I am yet. I guess we'll find out when I finally see a doctor."


            "Have you told anyone else yet?"


            She shook her head. "Nope. Not a soul. I wanted you to be the first person I shared this with. I guess tomorrow I'll start calling everyone."


            Sean nodded in agreement. "Sounds like a plan. Definitely call my folks for me because I can't guarantee when I'll be able to get around to doing it myself."


            "Of course," she told him. "I'm glad that I could at least give you some good news."


            "It's awesome news! Seriously I'm really excited about it. I just wish that I could be closer to you. I'm sorry that I won't be around to be by your side during your pregnancy."


            "Don't apologize," she warned him. "It's not like you don't want to be here. We can't help timing, can we? I have plenty of people back here, who would be willing to help me out, so don't worry about me."


            "I'll try not to, but it's hard." He sighed for a moment as he realized what time it was. "I'm so happy that God finally seemed to have answered our prayers. I wish I could talk longer, but I have to get going now. I just want to thank you."


            "Thank me?" Alyssa squeaked. "Why?"


            "You just gave me another reason to look forward to each day," he simply stated. "No matter how bad it gets here, I know that eventually I'll be back home again and when I do I'll have a family waiting for me."


            As corny as that may have sounded, it was enough to send the waterworks flowing down Alyssa's face once more. She just hoped he was right and he really did make it back home in one piece. All she could do for the time being was to look forward to the day that their little family would finally be reunited again. She didn't want to consider the alternative of having her baby grow up without ever setting eyes on its father.




            Not much had changed for Nick since the night of Alyssa's anniversary when he'd spent the evening camped out on her couch with movies to distract her from Sean's obvious absence. Since he'd left her on the couch, Alyssa had made good on her decision not to go out of her way to contact him. It definitely sucked big time that this had been the consequence of their little tryst a little over a month ago and although Nick seldom did have very many regrets in his life, he was beginning to wonder if it had been worth it in the long run. Yes, the physical connection between the two of them had been overwhelmingly powerful, but if he had known then that it would possibly tear their friendship apart, he'd probably have never gone through with it.


            Now he was holed up in the condo without Alyssa or Shayla. He had to admit that he was getting pretty lonely. He'd distanced himself from most of his other friends in the last few weeks because he didn't want Shayla to get wind of where he was staying. In doing that though, he'd almost cut himself off from most of society. He knew that there was no way he could keep this up permanently, but he just wasn't sure what he wanted anymore. He knew that he owed it to Shayla to come up with some sort of decision about the status of their relationship. After his meeting with Diane, he was having second thoughts about something as rash as divorce just yet, but he definitely thought that some sort of long term separation would probably be the best alternative for them under the circumstances.


            He'd also come across another revelation in thinking over his behavior in the last few weeks. He'd been taking the cowardly way out when it came to his decision to avoid Shayla. He could hide out from her as long as he wanted, but he'd have to face her eventually. Right now he was only delaying the inevitable, which seemed like a pretty childish thing to do. He was supposed to be a mature adult and the responsible thing would be to at least give Shayla a call and let her know that he was at least alive and well. Then maybe he could explain to her more calmly that it might be best if he went back home to get the rest of his things, so that they could spend some much needed time apart while they figured things out.


            As much as Nick realized that speaking to Shayla again was the right thing to do, he procrastinated in picking up the phone to call her for a few days. Finally he literally had to force himself just to go ahead and do it. His hands shook as he dialed her familiar number and his palms grew sweaty against the back of the phone. He wasn't even sure exactly what he was going to say to her and before he could formulate any kind of speech in his head, her relieved voice broke through his thoughts.


            "Nick? Where have you been? I've been so worried about you! I've been looking everywhere for you, but no one seems to have seen you," Shayla blurted out all at once. "I'm so sorry about the pregnancy thing. You're right it was a really fucked up thing to do and I don't know why I even thought it would be a good idea... Just please come home! I promise if you do I won't even mention the baby thing again. I swear!"


            Finally finding an opportunity to break through her rambling, Nick cleared his throat. "I don't know if that's the best idea just yet Shayla. I mean what you did isn't just something I can forget just like that. You lied about something pretty major. If you're willing to lie about being pregnant, what else is there that you could be lying about?"


            "I swear I've never lied to you about anything else!" she frantically promised. "Lying about being pregnant was the stupidest mistake I ever made and living without you these last few weeks has definitely taught me a lesson. I promise if you come back there will be no games or no more schemes. I miss you!"


            Nick just shook his head. A part of him really wanted to believe that Shayla was being sincere with him, but then another part of him was doubtful. He'd been burnt too many times by women in his past to just let this go after only a few weeks. "I just wanted to call you to let you know that I'm going to stop by this week and pick up the rest of my things."


            "What? You're moving out? No...You can't!" her voice cried. "Where have you even been staying?"


            "I'm renting out a hotel suite for the time being," he lied, still not wanting her to know about the condo's existence. "I just think that it's probably for the best if we just separate for a little bit to get our heads on straight."


            "My head is on straight! My mind has never been clearer! I love you Nick and I don't want to lose you!"


            He sighed as he rubbed the bridge of his nose, wishing that she wouldn't make this so difficult for him. "I need some more time," he calmly told her. "So, I just want to get my shit and get settled on my own for a while. Then maybe in another few weeks we can meet again and try to talk things out."


            "You mean you may be willing to give us a second chance?" Her voice soared with hopefulness.


            I didn't say that! He wanted to scream with frustration, but sometimes in situations like this it was better to fill Shayla with false hope. It usually at least shut her up for a bit. "We'll have to see what happens. Right now I just think we need some time away from each other."


            "So, does that mean that you're not thinking about a divorce anymore?"


            Again he sighed. He really wasn't sure. At the time, his first instinct was to head right to his lawyer, but now he was beginning to have his doubts. He really didn't want to go through all the messy legalities and media backlash of a divorce right now. Maybe it would've been different if there had been someone else waiting in the wings for him. A few weeks ago he thought that maybe that could've been Alyssa, but now he realized how foolish he had been. There was no way that Alyssa was going to leave Sean at the moment. For once he was the one who had gotten screwed over and he had to admit that it definitely wasn't a very good feeling. "I don't know," he answered noncommittally. "Right now I just think its better if we separate first before we go making any really rash decisions just yet."


            As if she were reading his mind, Shayla asked the question that he himself had been wondering about ever since he had reached this decision. "Just one question, how are we supposed to explain our sudden separation to the media? I mean we've both been laying pretty low these last few weeks, but they're bound to figure it out sooner or later. Then what do we do? Divorce rumors are going to be just as hard to deal with."


            Nick shrugged. "I guess we just try to put on an act to the media. We're entertainers. Hopefully we can pull it off for at least a little while before anyone figures out that not everything is perfect between us."


            Shayla hesitated on her end of the line seeming doubtful. "I'm not sure if they'll buy it, but I don't see any other option." She stopped and sighed. "Do what you must. If it's going to help us out in the long run, then I guess I'll just have to deal. I hope you're right and it's just that we need some time apart. I really don't want to live without you."


            "We'll just have to play things by ear," he assured her. "So I'll stop over sometime in the next few days while you're at work and I'll give you a call or something in another few weeks."


            "Okay," she sniffled. "Don't be a stranger. Call me anytime."


            "I will." Of course he didn't really plan on it, but he didn't want to crush her feelings anymore than he already had.


            "There's just one more thing I need to know," Shayla's voice suddenly broke through the ending of their conversation as she swallowed hard. "Is there someone else?"


            Now it was Nick's turn to hesitate. "No... There's no one else," he finally managed to get out. It wasn't completely a lie. There might have been someone else, but he certainly didn't stand any kind of serious chance with her. She'd made it quite clear to him that history would no repeat itself again this time.        

Chapter 22 - A Sterile Revelation by Mellz Bellz
Author's Notes:

Alyssa receives some unsettling information.


Chapter 22 - A Sterile Revelation


        The next day, Alyssa wasted no time in calling up her friends and family members to share the exciting news about her pregnancy. Of course her parents had been overjoyed with the news that they would be becoming grandparents, as were Sean's parents. She couldn't get a hold of Meg just yet since she and Scott had already left for China, but she had left her an e-mail. As for letting Stephanie know that she was going to be an aunt, Alyssa left that up to her parents. It would be over her dead body before she let her younger sister be a part of her child's life.


            Her friends were more than supportive when they heard the news. Kim and Callie were especially happy for her, knowing firsthand how much of a struggle it had been for her to become pregnant in the first place. Already they were offering her everything from old hand me downs, to accompanying her to her doctor's appointments. She'd also called Izzy, who already vowed to be with her in the delivery room just as Alyssa had done for her when Grace was born, and Teri and Tricia who although weren't exactly the children type seemed genuinely happy for her.


            There was just one person that she hadn't called to share her news with and that was Nick. She still wasn't quite sure if she should call him to tell him or just let Izzy or someone else tell him for her. Based on how weird things had been between them lately, she found herself a little uncomfortable with the idea of telling him that she was pregnant. She knew that he'd be happy for her, but it was also had to be a bit of a sore subject for him after Shayla's pregnancy stunt. He had pretty clearly stated that he didn't want kids, but she also could tell that he'd actually began to maybe look forward to a child with Shayla under the circumstances.


            She stared down at the phone in her hands, trying to will her fingers to dial his number when the phone unexpectedly began to ring, causing her to jump back from the shrill vibration. Looking down at the caller id on the front, she realized that she didn't recognize the number. That would have been really freaky if that had just been Nick, she thought to herself with an amused smirk as she answered the call. "Hello?"


            "Hello. May I speak to Alyssa or Sean Robinson, please?" a pleasant sounding voice on the other end of the phone asked.


            "This is Alyssa Robinson," she answered.


            "Hello Mrs. Robinson. This is Paula from the Lakewood Fertility Center. I'm just calling to reschedule an appointment for you and your husband to come down and discuss your test results. I noticed you were supposed to come in a few weeks ago and had to cancel, but you never made a follow up appointment."


            "I'm really sorry about that," Alyssa apologized. "It's been a very crazy last couple of weeks. My husband was just deployed to Iraq, so obviously that came first before setting up another appointment."


            "Well, would you like to care of that now? I don't mean to rush you, but we really can't hold on to your test results for too much longer. Otherwise you'd have to start the whole process all over again," she explained.


            "Actually I'm no longer needing your services. I just found out yesterday that I'm actually pregnant after all, so I guess that the tests really couldn't have been very conclusive anyway."


            The receptionist sounded a little surprised, but still kept her composure. "Oh, congratulations! That doesn't happen very much I suppose, but the world works in mysterious ways, sometimes."


            "Definitely," Alyssa agreed. "But thank you so much for everything. I'm glad that we at least went for the tests. If we didn't, knowing how twisted fate is we probably would still be struggling to conceive."


            The other woman just laughed. "Better be safe than sorry, huh? Well, good luck with everything and I'm glad that we could've been of assistance to you."


            Alyssa thanked the woman again before saying goodbye and ending the call. While she had the phone out, she called up her OB/GYN to make an appointment for her first check up, for the following week. Putting the phone down, she couldn't help but to let out a little bit of an excited squeal as she wrote the appointment down in her date book. The whole pregnancy thing still felt almost a little too good to be true to her, but maybe God had decided to grant her a miracle after all.


            Little did she know that in a few short hours, her optimistic look at her pregnancy would totally be shattered with just four little words.

            It was a little after five that evening, and Alyssa was actually cooking herself dinner, something that she'd neglected to really do since Sean had left for Iraq. Now that she was pregnant she'd made a vow to begin eating better again since she was after all now eating for two. She had decided to make a chicken stir fry and was just cutting up some vegetables for it when the phone rang loudly.


            "Hello?" she answered it brightly, figuring that it maybe was one of her friends or relatives that she hadn't gotten a chance to reach just yet who heard about her pregnancy from someone else.


            Instead of hearing a familiar voice though, she was met with a gruff sounding male voice. "Is this Alyssa Robinson?"


            "Yes, this is she," she answered, frowning uncertainly.


            "This is Dr. Beard calling from the fertility clinic," the voice continued.


            Alyssa's frown grew as she wondered why exactly the doctor had called her up personally. Hadn't she just explained to the receptionist earlier that afternoon that they wouldn't be needing another appointment with them? She'd thought she came across pretty clear, especially in actually telling her that she was now pregnant. Maybe the message had gotten lost somewhere along the way? Whatever the case, Alyssa did her best to hide her confusion. "Oh, yes! Hello, Dr. Beard. What can I do for you?"


            "Paula's told me that she called you today about rescheduling your appointment to discuss you and your husband's test results, but you told her that it wasn't necessary because you're already pregnant?"


            "That's correct." Alyssa felt her eyebrows knit tighter together in confusion. "I just found out yesterday. I guess that Sean and I really were stressing over nothing after all."


            The doctor hesitated for a moment, making her stomach flip flop, and not in the pregnancy sickness type of way. "Have you seen a doctor yet to confirm this pregnancy?"


            "No... Not yet," she slowly answered. "I just made an appointment to see my doctor next week. Why? Is there a problem?"


            Dr. Beard sighed. "Technically I'm not supposed to discuss any test results over the phone with a patient, but when Paula told me that you were pregnant I was a little concerned. I looked over your test results again and it appears to me that there's some discrepancy. See, if you are indeed pregnant there's no way that Sean could be the father." He took a deep breath and then said the four words that changed her life. "Your husband is sterile."


            Alyssa froze, so stunned that she nearly dropped the phone. Her mind raced in a million different directions all at once. It couldn't, she argued with herself. Those tests have to be wrong. I mean what are the chances? I only slept with Nick twice and... Fuck. How could she have been so stupid? The thought of using a condom hadn't even crossed her mind. Quickly she worked out the calculations in her head and she cursed herself for not considering this possibility sooner. It made perfect sense. All those months that she and Sean had been trying to get pregnant with no avail and then of course she slept with Nick and bam! There obviously had to have been something wrong with Sean, but she'd just been in too much denial to really consider it. Her mind drifted back to Meg's suggestion during their phone conversation a month or two beforehand. Yea, but maybe he's shooting blanks? Her older sister had called it right then and there, but still Alyssa had refused to believe it, choosing to pin the blame on herself instead. How could I have been this blind? she wondered.


            Finally finding her voice she managed to sputter out, "What?" Her mind still refused to fully accept the prognosis.


            "His test results show that he is completely sterile," the doctor explained. "The cause is unknown and although it is uncommon in men his age it's not altogether strange. Most likely it could be a result of some kind of illness he had in his past or some kind of environmental effect, but we can't really say exactly. All we do know is that he is unable to bear children naturally. So, it is completely impossible that he could've impregnated you. I'm sorry. Maybe you took a defective pregnancy test or something?"


            She could tell just from the doctor's tone of voice that he was only trying to placate her. Deep down underneath the words he knew how Alyssa had wound up pregnant and it filled her with shame. Not being able to stand another minute of the conversation she hurriedly tried to end the call. "I... I have to go." Without waiting for a response she hung up the phone and let it slip out of her hands onto the floor.


            What the fuck am I going to do? she wondered. The moment she had been looking forward to most in her entire life was now all but ruined for her and now more than ever she was full of regret.

Chapter 23 - Denial Is Not Just a River by Mellz Bellz
Author's Notes:

Alyssa visits the doctor for the first time. She contemplates telling Nick the truth.


Chapter 23 - Denial Is Not Just a River


Alyssa nervously sat in the waiting area of her doctor's office, jiggling her knee as she surveyed her surroundings. Most of the other women in the waiting area were at various stages of pregnancy, some already even with other young children waiting with them. Her eyes sympathetically glanced at a very pregnant looking woman across the room who was struggling to quiet a pair of crying twins who couldn't have been more than about a year old themselves. I guess things could be worse, she thought wistfully, wondering exactly how the woman could handle soon to be three kids under the age of two.

       It was the date of her first doctor's appointment. The one most women looked forward to in anticipation. She'd have her pregnancy confirmed... Find out how far along she was so far and most likely when the baby was conceived (although she now had no doubts about that one)... Maybe even get to hear the baby's heartbeat for the very first time. Yet Alyssa had to admit that she was anything but excited right now. All the joy and anticipation that she had initially built up had pretty much crumbled since her conversation with Dr. Beard. Instead of looking forward to this pregnancy, Alyssa actually felt a strange sense of dread instead.

       Alyssa's life seemed to dramatically change from the moment that Dr. Beard dropped the shocking bombshell that Sean was unable to have children, confirming the fact that the baby that she was carrying had to belong to Nick. Ever since that fateful phone conversation, Alyssa appeared to move in a stunned haze, too wrapped up in her sticky predicament to really pay much attention to anything around her. She hadn't been able to sleep comfortably in the last couple of nights. Instead she spent most of the time tossing and turning and worrying about what she should do. Callie and Kim had immediately picked up on her change in attitude and had shown some concern. Alyssa had tried to evade their questions by convincing them she was fine, just a little depressed that Sean was so far away and not by her side to experience her pregnancy alongside her. That had seemed to satisfy the two women who had also chalked up her sudden change in moods to a shift in hormones, which they'd already warned her would get much worse as her pregnancy progressed. Just what I need, she'd scoffed. As if I'm not already emotional enough without my hormones going bonkers.

Both Callie and Kim had offered to go with her today for her first appointment, but she'd politely turned both of them down. She didn't want to have to fake excitement and happiness for them when she really felt nothing of the sort. Just kind of an empty hollowness inside herself. She wanted to do this alone.

       Her thoughts were interrupted as the door to the examining rooms opened and a young nurse stuck her head out. "Alyssa Robinson?" she called.

       Alyssa gathered up her things and got up from her chair. She followed the nurse behind the doorway into one of the examining rooms on her left. As she made herself comfortable on the examining table the nurse flipped open her chart. "So, I hear that you just found out you're pregnant?"

       Alyssa nodded and tried to fake an enthusiastic grin. "Yea... Just last week."

       "Congratulations," she told her as she reached over to begin taking her blood pressure. "How have you been feeling? Any fatigue? Soreness? Morning sickness? Moodiness?"

       "Oh yeah..." she laughed. "All of the above. I get so winded from the simplest things. I'm a little worried how I'm going to feel once I actually start getting bigger."

       The nurse just smiled. "Well, Dr. Spencer will be giving you a prescription for prenatal vitamins today and that should help control a little bit of that fatigue. This is your first pregnancy, correct?"

       Again Alyssa nodded. "Uh huh, so I'm a bit nervous," she carefully admitted.

       "Most first time Mom's are. Don't worry though. You're in good hands." The nurse scrubbed her hands in the sink and pulled out a pair of latex gloves. "I'm just going to take a quick blood sample and when I'm done I'll let you change into a gown and Dr. Spencer will be in shortly to examine you. Sound good?"

       "I guess so," Alyssa answered, staring warily at the needle that was about to pierce her flesh. She wasn't a huge fan of giving blood, but she knew that she'd have to do a lot of this throughout her pregnancy. She held out her arm for the nurse and gritted her teeth as she felt the needle poke through her skin. She made a little hissing noise as the nurse drew her blood.

       "Almost done," she assured her as she withdrew the needle and bandaged up her arm. "Not so bad, huh?"

       You're not the one giving the blood here, Alyssa wanted to say, but bit her lip. The nurse handed her a white cotton gown to change into. "Make yourself comfortable and Dr. Spencer will be in to see you shortly."

       She left the room and before she knew it, Alyssa was alone again. She stripped off her clothing and put on the paper gown and lay back down on the examining table, staring up at the ceiling tiles. As the minutes ticked by she could feel her stomach tightening up more and more. She hated all this waiting. All it did was give herself more time to think and to worry about her current predicament.

       She'd obviously been doing a lot of thinking, weighing her options and such. She'd examined the whole messy situation from every possible angle and the only conclusion she'd been able to reach was that no matter what she chose to do, someone was bound to get hurt. It all basically boiled down to which man would be willing to sacrifice their rights as a father. The logical and probably most moral choice would be to confess everything to Sean about the night she'd shared with Nick and his sterility. The aftermath would be ugly though. She didn't even want to imagine how crushed he'd be to learn that he wasn't about to become a father after all along with the fact that he couldn't have kids period. Sean wasn't the type to take cheating lightly; especially cheating with her ex boyfriend who she had sworn to him several times that she no longer had any feelings for him. He'd probably divorce her. She really was no better than Shayla when it came to lies and betrayal.

       Then there was Nick. Alyssa had no idea how he'd react. It was really hard to say because Nick was hard to read at times. Sometimes just when you think you'd have him all figured out, he'd do something completely unexpected. He'd been pretty adamant about not wanting kids, but then he himself had admitted to being a little disappointed to learn that Shayla wasn't really pregnant. Could something have changed? Of course their relationship was complicated enough already. What would happen if she decided to tell him the truth? How would he react? Would he be ecstatic or terrified? Would he want to completely drop Shayla and be with her? There was too much uncertainty there. Yes, Nick had changed a lot in the last four years, but she wasn't sure he had changed that much. News like that would probably send the old Nick running for the hills.

       Really Alyssa could only see three options of how this could play out. Option A would be that she came clean with Sean. Sean probably would not be willing to raise the child on his own knowing that it was not only his, but Nick's and their marriage would end on the spot. Then there was still the question of whether or not Nick would even accept her and her child. That led to a whole other set of worries and concerns which led to Option B. Nick could divorce Shayla and her and Nick could live happily ever after, but Alyssa had her doubts. Although in TV shows and movies, babies seemed to be just the thing to bring two people together, back in the real world Alyssa knew that more than likely they caused the opposite effect. Nick obviously had his reasons for not wanting kids. Being forced into the situation like this definitely could take its toll and destroy the little bit of a friendship they shared. Then there was Option C. It was definitely a risky one, and although completely reprehensible, Alyssa was beginning to wonder if maybe it was the best option for everyone involved. It was a plan that only Shayla could probably appreciate and if it came out, it could hurt her relationships with both men. But it was such a tempting offer. What if she just simply kept her mouth closed? Let both men go on believing that she was pregnant with Sean's baby? Ignorance was bliss, right?  It could go smoothly and neither one would ever know. But, of course Alyssa did have a conscience. Was it really fair to hide a health problem such as Sean's sterility a secret from him? Would it be fair to deny Nick of knowing that he had a son or daughter? And of course would it be fair to the child not to know their real father? Situations like this happened a lot actually. She'd heard of many a person reacting this very same way in her situation. It was selfish and unfair and hurtful, but at the same time she'd only be doing it to protect those that she cared about.

It gave her some consolation that there was at least one other option out there that would be even more selfish and cowardly. Some women placed in her situation might actually go as far as to choose to have an abortion. That was one thing that Alyssa could never do. No matter how unplanned or unexpected and no matter how many problems this baby was causing, she knew that she could never in good conscious choose to end her baby's life before it even began.


The door creaked open interrupting Alyssa's thoughts and in walked Dr. Spencer, a petite blonde woman in her early thirties with a bright smile on her face. "Good afternoon, Alyssa! How are we feeling?"


"Pregnant, I guess," she responded, trying to make a joke.


Dr. Spencer laughed and looked down at her chart. "Well, I think that's a pretty accurate description. I just got done looking at your blood work and you are in fact pregnant. Congratulations! Didn't I tell you that you had nothing to worry about?"


"Yea... That you did," Alyssa answered, trying not to be appear uncomfortable. All along she really didn't have anything to worry about with her personally. It had been Sean who had the problem.


"So, first what I want to do is examine you to make sure that everything seems to be going along okay and also to give me an idea of how far along you are. Then maybe we can try to see if we can get a heartbeat for you."


Alyssa nodded and lay back as Dr. Spencer began her examination. While she was doing this, she asked Alyssa some general questions that she did the best to answer. She tried to pay attention whenever the doctor explained anything to her, but there were just so many things to remember that her brain felt like it was on complete overload. Finally after what felt like forever after lots of poking and prodding, Dr. Spencer pulled away with a grin on her face.


"Well, based on when you told me your last period was and from what I can tell, I'd say that you're about five to six weeks along. You'll be due most likely sometime in March."


Sounds about right, she figured in her head. It had been roughly six weeks since her encounter with Nick at the condo. The timing definitely worked out.


"Everything seems fine so far, but I want to see if I can get a heartbeat for you," the doctor explained as she got the proper equipment ready. "The heart muscles have just begun to develop, so it'll probably be a little hard to hear, but if you listen to it closely you can make it out."


            Alyssa nodded and took a deep breath as she felt the coolness of the stethoscope against her stomach. She glanced over at the fuzzy image on the screen next to her and she found it hard to believe that the little spot of white was her baby. "Ok listen carefully," Dr. Spencer instructed. "It's soft, but it's definitely there."


            Her ears perked up and she could very faintly make out a soft pounding sound. For the first time all week a genuine smile lit up her face and she realized that she was actually amazed. It had finally sunk in that she was really pregnant. In nine months she was going to be a mother. Okay, maybe she did have some major baby daddy drama to figure out, but hearing her unborn baby's heartbeat with her own two ears was almost like a reassurance to her that things were going to work themselves out. Everything was going to be okay.




            When Alyssa left the doctor's office about half an hour later her hands were full of pregnancy pamphlets, a prescription for prenatal vitamins, and a list of foods that she should be eating. She got into her car and headed home, stopping only to drop off her prescription at the drug store. Just as she was stepping inside her door she heard her cell phone ring from inside her purse. She fumbled with the pamphlets in her hand, tossing them onto the nearest table as her hands dug into her purse to fish out her phone. "Hello?" she answered not even bothering to check who was calling.


            "When were you going to tell me that you were pregnant?" a familiar voice demanded on the other end of the line.


            Alyssa's face paled as she recognized Nick's voice. She was confused enough about him and now here he was calling her. She definitely didn't want to spill the beans and confess to him the entire truth about her pregnancy, but she was afraid that he'd see through her act. "Wow... Gossip really travels huh?" she finally managed to stutter out.


            "Izzy called and asked if I was going to send a congratulations gift to you or anything. Being completely clueless I asked why the hell we were congratulating you. Imagine my shock when Izzy explained to me it was because you were pregnant. Why didn't you tell me? You told everyone else apparently?" Nick appeared to sound hurt and a small flash of guilt hit Alyssa.


            "I'm really sorry," she rushed to apologize. "I was going to call you, but things got really crazy and I've been feeling really tired and a little sick and I just haven't been up to it. I figured someone would tell you sooner or later anyway."


            There was a pause and Alyssa was pretty sure that Nick didn't believe a word that she just said, but thankfully he didn't question her on it. "Well, congratulations. You and Sean must be thrilled."


            "Yea... We are," she half-lied. Sean was thrilled. She had been thrilled until she'd found out the results of her and Sean's tests and then all the excitement had been gone, just like that.


            The conversation hit an awkward patch in which neither one of them was quite sure what to say next. Not being able to stand another torturous moment Alyssa quickly scrambled for an excuse to get him off the line. "Thanks for calling me up to congratulate me, but I just got in from the doctor's and I think I'm going to lay down for a bit. I'm feeling a little nauseous."


            "Okay. I hope you feel better and good luck. Give me a call next week or something and maybe we can do something. Maybe I can help you start baby shopping or something."


            Help me baby shop? If Alyssa hadn't felt sick before this definitely did it. There was no way that he was helping her go baby shopping. That would just be weird and awkward on so many levels. But not wanting to hurt his feelings, she quickly brushed him off. "Sure. I'll talk to you soon," she lied, before hanging up the phone.


            She sighed loudly, sinking back onto the couch. Of course now of all times Nick was going to be all Mr. Supportive Best Friend and help her do all the things that Sean couldn't do being away. As if things weren't complicated enough. She wondered if Nick knew that this was actually his baby she was carrying, would he be this dedicated and helpful? Or would he be avoiding her like the plague? Alyssa wasn't sure she wanted to find out. The best thing for the both of them right now would be for her to play the avoiding game, a game that they'd been playing for the last six weeks, but only now had gotten a hell of a lot more interesting.


Chapter 24 - Just Hit Static by Mellz Bellz
Author's Notes:

Alyssa continues to avoid Nick. Nick receives an interesting phone call from Shayla.


Chapter 24 - Just Hit Static


            Over the next month or so, Alyssa turned avoiding Nick into an art form. Instead of continually stressing over the predicament she was in, she threw herself into preparing for motherhood. By immersing herself in her pregnancy, she found little time to worry about the whole Nick and Sean situation. She'd decided to at least try to put it onto the backburner for a while. She did after all have until March to figure out what she was going to do. In the meantime she devoted herself one hundred percent to her child. Being a first time mother, there was so much to learn. With so many of her friends already being mothers, she had thought that she was pretty knowledgeable about pregnancy, but Alyssa was finding it to be a whole other ball game when she was the pregnant one. She was surprised to find it actually fairly easy to hide from her personal problems if she forced herself to focus on learning as much as possible about the changes going on in her body.


            Her coffee table was now littered with various baby books and magazines that she had picked up recently at Border's, and of course her new bible, What to Expect When You're Expecting, was tucked safely away on her bedroom nightstand. Her refrigerator was now fully stocked with only the kinds of foods that Dr. Spencer had recommended and she usually arranged to go walking with Callie or Kim every day as light exercise. Her spare time was spent posting on an online message board for expectant mothers. It filled her with a bit of a relief being able to talk to other pregnant women. Granted, most of their pregnancies were meticulously planned and there were no surprises when it came to the identity of their baby's fathers, but at least they seemed to be going through the same symptoms that she was and it was nice having someone to commiserate with.


            Besides battling morning sickness which Alyssa began to seriously wonder who coined the term because it seemed as if she was sick at all hours of the day, Alyssa also found herself running to the bathroom a lot more frequently than usual. She'd always thought that the excessive peeing didn't start until later on in her pregnancy, but she quickly learned that it started now and only would get worse in the coming months. Between all her trips to the bathroom and the throwing up, Alyssa wondered how she was going to make it when school started up again next month. Thankfully enough she was assured by many woman on the message board that by then the worst of her morning sickness should be over with. In addition to all of this, even though it was too early for her to really be showing yet, she did notice her pants fitting slightly tighter and a thickening in her middle that hadn't been there before. But the worst were her breasts. Already they were feeling swollen and tender and none of her bras seemed to fit quite right. Lately she'd been finding only sports bras to be comfortable and she figured that she'd probably have to break down sometime next week and go shopping for some more comfortable maternity bras. And to think they're only going to get bigger, she realized with a smirk. Who needs a boob job? By the time I give birth I'll definitely be at least a D cup.


            Everything seemed to be going as well as could be expected under the difficult circumstances. At least until that day in mid August when she received an unexpected package that just brought all the painful memories that she was trying to suppress right back up to the surface. She was babysitting Gavin again for Kim and had just put him down for a nap when a brown UPS truck pulled up in front of her house and she heard her front doorbell ring.


            She hurried to answer it finding a delivery man holding out a brown box. "I have a package for Alyssa Robinson?"


            "That's me," Alyssa answered as she reached out to accept the box and signed his clipboard. She wondered what it was and who it was from. She hadn't ordered anything online recently and there weren't any special occasions looming close by. Not being able to wait another moment after the delivery man disappeared back into his truck; Alyssa brought the package inside and tore open its contents. The first thing that lay on top was an envelope with her name on the front. She ripped it open and pulled out a simple white card with blue lettering across that read Congratulations! On the inside of the card she gasped when she recognized Nick's familiar scrawled handwriting.


Dear Alyssa,


            I wanted to send you a little something special to congratulate you on the baby. I know how much you've been hoping and praying for a child of your own, and I'm glad that your prayers have finally been answered. You're going to make an amazing mother and I can't wait to hopefully be a part of your child's life. In the mean time here's a little something to keep the little squirt snug and warm in.




            Alyssa felt a lump beginning to rise in her throat which she quickly swallowed back down. The tone of the card sent a little bit of a chill through her, particularly the line about not being able to wait to be a part of the baby's life. Oh, trust me... You're a WAY bigger part of this baby's life than you even realize, she thought to herself. She knew that he only meant it to be more like the role of an Uncle, but it was still a painful reminder of the mess that she was currently tangled up in.


            Trying to fight back her emotions, she dug deeper into the box and pulled out a soft yellow fleece baby blanket. She could tell just from the texture of it that it was of very good quality, almost too nice to use for a newborn baby. When did Nick become so thoughtful? she frustratingly thought. They'd dated on and off for almost ten years now and he never once had been so kind and considerate until now of course when it was too late. It figured. She stuffed the blanket back into the box as she blinked away tears. This whole hiding the truth from Nick thing would be SO much easier if he decided to be a selfish asshole. Why was it that now he chose to do the decent thing?


            All Alyssa knew was that she was now more confused than ever. And then she was hit with the chilling revelation that no matter how hard she tried to distract herself with baby books and online pregnancy forums, she couldn't completely hide from the truth. She was going to have to make a major decision and she was going to have to do it soon.




            Later on that same night across LA, Nick was just settling into bed for the night at the condo. He'd been feeling absolutely perplexed and a little hurt at Alyssa's obvious avoidance of him. He wondered if he'd done something wrong that he was unaware of. She hadn't even bothered to tell him herself that she was pregnant and Nick had been pretty sure that he'd be one of the first people she'd call under the circumstances. He just didn't get it. Was she really that wrapped up into her pregnancy that she didn't even have time for their friendship anymore?


            "Women... I'll never understand them," he muttered as he crawled between the covers of the bed and punched his pillow a little to fluff it up. He made himself comfortable and closed his eyes. He was just one step away from a deep sleep when he heard his cell phone ringing far off in the distance of his self consciousness. Groaning a little he tried to ignore it, but the phone kept ringing. Acting on impulse his hand floated over to the nightstand and he picked it up without even bothering to see who was calling, which turned out to be a big mistake. "Hello?" he groggily answered.


            "Hey Nicky! Did I wake you?" Shayla's familiar perky voice invaded his ears.


            Ugh... Speaking of women I don't understand, he thought to himself. "Yea... I was just about to fall asleep," he admitted, ignoring the Nicky comment. Hopefully she'd get the hint.


            "Oops my bad!" she giggled.


Nick could hear a loud thud on the other end of the line that sounded like she had fallen or knocked something over. "Uhh, you ok?" he asked warily.


"Yea, sorry I just tripped going up the stairs. I just got in from this really awesome party at the Playboy Mansion. Too bad you missed it. It was wild! You'd have had a great time. So many really hot, gorgeous, half naked women walking around. I mean I'm completely straight and even I had to admit that I was turned on."


Just by the way her words were slurred and the way she was babbling on, Nick could tell almost immediately that she'd had more than her fair share of alcohol at this party. It all made sense now. She was drunk dialing him, purposely trying to say things to get a rise out of him, so that somehow in her twisted little mind he'd go crawling back to her. He should know better than anyone. How many times had he done the same thing to many a girl, Alyssa included? Drunk dialing was a nasty habit that he'd finally grown out of, but he supposed that this was his punishment for years of offense. Karma was a bitch like that sometimes.


Knowing from experience how to handle drunk dialers he tried to steer the conversation into convincing her to go to bed and sleep it off. He knew damn well that if he hung up she'd only just keep calling. "Sounds like you had a good time. Lot's of alcohol there I bet, huh?"


"Oh, yeah! I'm completely toasted, but I feel great!" He could hear another noise that sounded as if Shayla had flopped across a soft surface such as a couch or a bed. "It must've been those damn jello shots. I think I had about twenty of them, they were so fucking good."


Nick's eyebrows rose in concern. "You didn't drive home, did you?" Even though their relationship had definitely been stilted as of lately, he couldn't be as heartless as to not to worry about whether or not she got into a car drunk. She was still technically his wife, so if anything happened to her he'd have to be the one to pick up the pieces.


"No, of course not. I was on assignment, so I had a driver. Thank God for editing! I hope they won't be able to tell how messed up I was during the parts I filmed," she continued to babble on. "So, what are you doing?"


Nick sighed. "Honestly? I was trying to go to sleep until you called."


"Oh yea... Duh! You did say that. So... does that mean you're in bed?"


He rolled his eyes at the phone quickly losing her patience with her. Dude, did I sound this retarded in my drunk dialing days? he wondered. Even though he knew that it would probably go right over her head, he couldn't fight the urge to answer back sarcastically. "No, I'm in the bathtub."


"The bathtub?" Shayla sounded confused. "Why would you sleep in there? Isn't that uncomfortable?"


I should know better than to use sarcasm on a drunk person. "I was being sarcastic sweetie. It was a joke. I really am in bed."


"Well, you don't have to be so testy about it. Sounds to me like you need to get laid..."


"Oh, you have no idea what I need," he found himself saying before he could even stop himself. Luckily Shayla seemed to interpret his words a little differently, saving him a whole lot of explanation.


"I think that maybe I do," she replied. "I'm lying in bed too and I'm pretty lonely. I miss you not being here." Her voice lowered several octaves. "I'm wearing that gold mini dress you love. The backless one that barely covers my ass. And guess what I have on underneath?" She paused for a moment or two for dramatic effect. "Nothing."


Nick lay there for a moment processing everything that she'd just said and he had to admit, under normal circumstances he'd be really turned on right about now. But there was something about the situation that just wasn't doing it for him. Maybe it was the sloppy way in which she slurred out her words, which totally ruined the effect of her sultry tone of voice. Or maybe it was more than that. Maybe it was the fact that he just simply wasn't attracted to her anymore. Whatever it was, for once he could not think of a single damn thing to say in response, so instead he stayed quiet.


"I really wish you were here right now," Shayla moaned, making Nick wonder what exactly was going on, on the other end of the line. She paused seeming to wait for Nick to come back with some sort of sly response, but it never came. Losing patience, Shayla sighed in frustration. "Are you alive over there Nick? Did I give you a heart attack or something?"


"I'm here," he distantly responded. "I'm just really tired though. I think I should just go to bed and you probably should too."


He could practically picture Shayla's mouth gaping in indignation. "Are you serious?" she asked. "You seriously want me to stop? Are you feeling okay Nick?"


"Yea, I'm fine. Just tired. And you're drunk. We shouldn't be doing this."


He heard her snort on the other end of the line. "Since when did you become such a gentleman?"


Nick's voice rose a little as he began to lose his patience. "I just don't think that this is the answer to our problems. You're drunk and probably have no clue what you're saying and doing and I think that things are complicated enough already between us. Get some sleep and we can talk tomorrow morning when you're sober if you want."


That's when the dam burst open and the waterworks began to pour out, further confirming to Nick that she was completely unfit to have this conversation. "I just miss you Nick!" she sniffled. "It's really hard for me you know. Now all your stuff is gone and it just seems so real. You're never coming back, are you?"


Nick sighed, not wanting to go down this road tonight. "I didn't say that. I just need a little more time."


"More time? You've had almost three fucking months! I can't live like this anymore Nick. You have to make up your fucking mind! If you're going to divorce me just do it already and get it over with! Don't leave me dangling here with false hope."


He sat there silently not wanting to admit that even in her drunken stupor she was completely right. He wasn't being fair to her, but he just wasn't sure what he wanted. He was pretty sure he didn't feel the same way he once did about her, especially after his night with Alyssa, but as selfish as it sounded he didn't want to completely let her go either. As it was Alyssa had all but completely abandoned him. He didn't want to end up completely alone. "We'll talk about this another day," he tried to assure her. "I'm going to hang up now. Try and get some rest."


Before she could get another word in edgewise Nick ended the call and lay back down. He needed to make some major decisions in his life and soon. If he didn't decide what he wanted to do about this Shayla situation it was only going to get worse.


Little did he know that his life was about to get a hell of a lot more complicated and his relationship with Shayla was about to become the least of his worries.





End Notes:
Thanks to Tri for helping out with this! I've missed our writing parties!
Chapter 25 - You Can Run But You Can't Hide by Mellz Bellz
Author's Notes:

Nick confronts Alyssa.


Chapter 25- You Can Run But You Can't Hide


            The summer was just about gone before Nick even realized. He had been so wrapped up in his problems with Shayla and then of course the whole Alyssa drama that he had admittedly missed out on one of his favorite times of year. Not much had changed in the past two weeks. Unlike what he had promised Shayla, he hadn't called her back and he was a little surprised that she didn't try contacting him again. Maybe she was finally giving up on him for good this time. As for Alyssa there had also been no change. He knew that by now she'd have to have at least received his card and the baby blanket he had sent her. If she had, she had done nothing to indicate it and didn't even seem the least bit thankful. That was unlike Alyssa. She usually was the queen of the etiquette; the type of person who sent out thank you cards in the mail anytime she received any kind of gift from anyone else. Something was definitely up with her, but he was having a really hard time figuring what it was when she seemed to be going to great lengths to avoid him. He really was beginning to wonder what her issue was. Was she still upset about them hooking up back in June?


            With Labor Day around the corner, Nick saw a perfect opportunity to finally be able to pull her aside and find out what was really going on with her. Izzy was having a Labor Day barbeque at her house and of course had invited both Nick and Alyssa. Izzy had no idea that the two of them had hooked up earlier that summer. Alyssa had distanced herself a lot from her old crowd as of lately. Nick was pretty sure that she kept their night a secret between the two of them. For a moment or two he actually wondered if he should confide in Izzy, but then quickly decided against it. She and Tristan were struggling enough and he was pretty sure she wouldn't take the fact that they'd both broken their wedding vows very lightly. Anyway he was hoping that the little get together would give him a chance to see her again.


            Unfortunately, Izzy was disappointed to report back to him that Alyssa wouldn't be attending the barbeque after all. According to her, Alyssa had claimed that she had already been invited to another barbeque with two of her neighbors and their children. Izzy had explained that since Sean had left for Iraq she'd grown close to these other two women who were also military wives. Apparently they were a good source of comfort for her or something.


            Izzy had seemed to buy the excuse, but Nick found the fact that she already seemed to have plans awfully coincidental. Maybe it was just him being paranoid, but something in his gut made him doubt her. He began to obsess over it until he knew that there was only one thing he could do to ease his fears. As psycho as it sounded, he planned on driving by her house before stopping by Izzy's that afternoon. If she really wasn't home he could rest assured that she really was telling the truth. If not, he planned on confronting her about it. She couldn't hide from him if he cornered her in her home, right?


            As he drove over to her house he tried to tell himself how crazy he was being. This is such a chick thing to do, checking up on her like this. I hate to be this sneaky, but if it's the only way to get her to open up to me, so be it. He hated to think that she was lying, but the truth was that something had to have been bothering her lately and he had the sneaky suspicion that it somehow had to do with him.


            He slowed his BMW down to a crawl as he turned onto her block. As expected her black Jetta sat parked in her driveway, giving more evidence to the fact that she was indeed home after all. Not necessarily, he argued with himself. If the barbeque was at a neighbor's house she could've very well walked. Why waste the gas? There was only one way to know for sure if she was at home or not and that would be for him to get out and actually knock on her door. Before he lost his nerve, he pulled over towards the curb and got out of his car. Hesitantly he walked up the driveway and approached the front door if the house. With a shaky hand, he raised his finger up to press the doorbell and he waited.


            He could hear the electronic noise reverberate throughout the house and stood for a moment or two waiting with no response. He was just about to give up and go back to his vehicle when he heard the door knob being twisted open. He froze when the door opened up to reveal Alyssa standing there in a loose pair of capri pajama pants and a matching tank top. The expression on her face appeared to match the same shocked one that he knew must've been on his own.


            She lied. She REALLY lied to us. But why? he wondered. He didn't have a chance to debate this question any further because Alyssa's voice interrupted his thoughts. "Nick? What are you doing here?" she asked, sounding slightly defensive.


            It took a moment or two for him to find his voice. "I just wanted to stop by to see how you were doing. You've been avoiding me lately and I know that you turned down Izzy's invitation the barbeque-"


            "So you were checking up on me?" Her nostrils flared in indignation. "Real nice. I bet you were just hoping to catch me red handed, huh?"


            "Well, no offense, but you told Izzy that you were going to a neighbor's barbeque. It doesn't look like you're going anywhere today to me," he retorted, glancing over her frumpy appearance. "Why would you lie about something like that?"


            "Why would you think you have to check out my story like a fucking detective?" she shot back. "And if you must know the barbeque was cancelled. One of Callie's kids is sick, so she called it off."


            Nick didn't buy the excuse one bit. "Get off it Alyssa. That's a lie and you know it. Why don't you just admit that the real reason you didn't want to go to Izzy's barbeque because you didn't want to have to deal with seeing me, right?"


            Alyssa's eyes flickered a little and Nick knew that he had struck a nerve. "We should take this inside," she told him as she opened up the door for him. "If we're going to fight I don't want my entire block to get a free show. They're all horrible gossips anyway."


            Nick followed her inside, but once they were far enough into the house where he knew he couldn't be heard he turned on her again. "Why the fuck are you trying so hard to avoid me lately?"


            "I don't know what you're talking about. I've done nothing of the sort," she denied, but Nick couldn't help but notice how she refused to make any eye contact with him.


            "Are you trying to say that you haven't been avoiding me? That's strange because the last time I saw you was your anniversary and I had to practically invite myself over in order to see you. Since then anytime I call you rush me off the phone. You haven't even acknowledged the fact that I sent you a congratulations gift for the baby. Hell, you told everyone else that you were pregnant, but me! I had to find it out through the grapevine from Izzy like I didn't even matter to you or something. What gives! I thought that we were closer than that."


            "I've been really busy Nick. Ask Izzy or Teri or Tricia if I've hung out with them once since Sean left for Iraq?" Alyssa tried to defend herself. "It's been really rough without him and then I found out I was pregnant and it's just been non stop. Between doctors appointments and baby planning... I just don't have a lot of free time right now."


            "Since when the hell are you so reliant on Sean? If I remember correctly before he left you had nothing but complaints about him. About how he was so obsessed about getting you pregnant that he was treating you like a machine instead of a person? How he was forgetting all about your needs? How he did nothing at all to satisfy you? If I remember correctly, you came crying on my shoulder begging for comfort, which I more than readily gave you, and now you actually have the nerve to forget all of that because he's temporarily out of the picture? You'd rather pine away over that asshole than be with your friends who have been with you for way longer than he has?"


            "My husband is over in Iraq fighting for our country! What the fuck are you doing right now Nick? Playing in a recording studio with a bunch of no name hopefuls?" As soon as the words left her mouth she regretted them. She knew that had been an unfair remark to make and she really hadn't meant a word of it, but it was too late to take it back now.


            She watched as Nick's face turned red in anger. "Don't you fucking dare try to compare me to him! And don't try to make him out to be some great hero or something. Admit it, deep down you're glad that he's gone. Now you don't have to feel guilty every time you look at his face because you know what you've done to him."


            "Why would I feel guilty?" Alyssa challenged, trying her best to act distant and oblivious. "It was a mistake and I'm over it. Completely."


            "Bullshit! You think you're so put together and collected, but let me tell you something; you're completely transparent! You still haven't gotten over the fact that we slept together. You think that if you just act like it never happened it'll just magically be erased. But the truth is that you do think about it. A lot more often than you want to admit. And if you could you'd do it again too. You feel guilty because I kept you more satisfied than your husband! Why don't you just drop the act and just admit that it was the best sex that you'd had in a long time."


            Alyssa's mouth hung in shock and she felt her blood pressure begin to spike. Okay, maybe everything he just said had been true, but she wasn't about to let him have the satisfaction of being right. "Do you listen to yourself? How much more of an overconfident prick could you sound like right now?"


            Nick stepped closer to her. "Admit it," he demanded, grabbing her arms. "You still have feelings for me."


            Alyssa shrank back a bit almost afraid that he might hit her. You're being ridiculous, she chastised. Nick would never hit a pregnant woman. Still her stubbornness continued to fight. "For you? Please. You just caught me at a weak moment."


            "Then prove it." He tightened his grip on her wrists and pulled her closer to him, sweeping her lips up against his roughly. The movement was so unexpected and her body was still pounding with adrenaline that she was caught completely off guard and her body responded before her mind could. She returned the kiss just as roughly, twisting her arms out of his grasp and pressing her hands hard against his back. Her heart was racing a mile a minute and when common sense finally kicked in and she pulled away she found it hard to hide the fact that she was left trembling from the passionate moment.


            Nick shot her an arrogant smirk. "Yea... That's what I thought."


            He almost expected her to smack him. Or start screaming at him. Kick him out of her house. But instead she did the most unexpected thing. She backed away, took a deep breath and then began to cry. Not little tears either. Emotional gut wrenching sobs. Shit, what did I just do? he wondered. He knew pregnant women could be emotional train wrecks, but he wasn't quite sure if he'd seen anyone flip moods like that so quickly. He stood here helplessly for a moment as he watched Alyssa collapse back onto the couch, her head in her hands.


            Don't just stand there. Apologize! he told himself as he slid down next to her putting an arm on her shoulder. "I'm sorry Alyssa. I shouldn't have done that. I was way out of line. You're right. It was a pretty prickish thing to do."


            Alyssa just shook her head still crying. "It's just such a fucked up situation. How did we get ourselves into this mess?"


            Nick wasn't sure how to answer that, but quickly found out that it was a rhetorical question because Alyssa continued to ramble on clearly in the midst of some sort of mini meltdown. "I'll admit it. I did enjoy our night together. Very much. But things are different now. We can't just casually continue to hook up anytime we're feeling restless. There are other people involved now. Lord knows I fucked up enough just by this time alone. I was so happy when I found out that I was pregnant. Then I found that Sean is sterile..."


            Sean is sterile? Wait, hold up! If he's sterile he can't have kids which means... Oh, fuck. Nick's mind finally connected the dots, but he refused to fully believe it. "What do you mean Sean is sterile?"


            "He can't have kids," Alyssa tearfully explained. "Apparently they found out when we went to the fertility clinic to get those tests done."


            "Then that means..." Nick paused, practically gulping for air. "That means that the baby is mine?"


            Alyssa could only nod before bursting into another set of tears. "I'm so sorry Nick. This was entirely not the way I wanted you to find out."


            Nick sat back feeling completely stunned. That baby in there was his? He was really going to be a father? For real this time? The more he thought about the more sense it made. The avoided phone calls... The obvious distance she'd drawn between them... Of course Sean wasn't doing the job because he was shooting blanks the whole time. How ironic... It was Alyssa's frustration with not being able to get pregnant that had sent her into his arms in the first place. And they'd created a baby that night. It was way too much for him to process. Just as he had reacted when Shayla had told him she was pregnant his instinct to run took over and he shot up from the couch. "I need to think about this. I'm sorry, but I have to go."


            Not even waiting to see the hurt and abandonment in her eyes he was out the door in a flash. Once he was in the safety of his car and far enough away from her house he finally allowed his emotions to get the better of him.

Chapter 26 - Emotion Sickness by Mellz Bellz
Author's Notes:

Alyssa reaches a big desicion.


Chapter 26 - Emotion Sickness


Nick gazed out at the clear blue ocean that stretched out in front of him from the deck of his boat and loudly sighed. It was the next day and he was still trying to recover from the bombshell that Alyssa had dropped on him the previous afternoon. He'd been absolutely stunned ever since she'd told him the truth and of course just like had it been with Shayla his first instinct was to run. He needed time to think and make sense of it all. Even now twenty-four hours later it still felt like some kind of sick joke. But Alyssa wouldn't lie about something like that, he rationalized. Why would she? She'd seemed completely distraught over the situation and no one was that good of an actress.


He'd lain awake almost all night, staring up at ceiling like a zombie, his thoughts rushing at him faster than he could process. Finally realizing that he needed to really think this out as clearly as possible, he'd decided to take his boat out today. He hadn't done that in awhile and he had to admit that he did some of his best thinking while he was out on the water. It was the perfect day to be out on the water too. There wasn't a cloud in the sky and the early September sun was just warm enough.


He wished that on the inside he felt just as peaceful as the weather today. Instead he had so much turmoil balled up inside of him. Honestly, he wasn't sure what his next step should be or much less what he wanted it to be. For the second time this year, he found himself faced with the scary reality of fatherhood looming before him, only this time he knew that it was the real deal. Being a father wasn't really a role that he really wanted to accept at this point in his life. But with Alyssa? He had to admit that he'd considered her to be probably the only one of his serious relationships he'd even imagined possibly having a child with someday. When he had been dating Mandy, they were both young and kids were the last thing on either one of their minds. Then he'd dated Alyssa and he'd actually kind of been thrust into fatherhood with Katie. As bad as things had wound up with Katie, when he and Alyssa got back together and they'd gotten engaged, he definitely could picture a family in their future. His parents divorce had ruined that illusion for him. His next serious relationship had been Paris and kids hadn't even been a discussion for them. Anything that could jeopardize her stick like figure was an automatic no. And now with Shayla? He just couldn't picture her as the motherly type. She was too career oriented.


He knew how badly Alyssa had wanted to become pregnant, but of course not like this. How ironic was it for Sean to be unable to have kids all along? If he hadn't been sterile, Alyssa probably would have gotten pregnant a lot sooner and not have been as frustrated with Sean. If everything had just worked out the way they were supposed to he began to seriously wonder if the night they had shared together ever would've happened at all?


There was no way that he ever could've imagined that on that particular night they'd actually go as far as to create a baby. It was just so crazy how fate turned out. He wanted Alyssa to become pregnant to make her happy, but he certainly hadn't planned on himself to be the one to be responsible. Things had just happened to work out that way though. And now he was being faced with the decision of what to do now.


He supposed Alyssa was the one with the hardest burden to bear. Stupid him hadn't even stuck around long enough to find out what exactly she planned on doing about the baby. He realized that in the end it was her ultimate decision whether or not she wanted him to be a part of their baby's life. He was well aware about how badly Sean wanted this child, so for him to find out that it wasn't his after all, sure would be devastating for him. He seriously doubted that Sean would be the type who would be okay in raising his baby. It would mean that Nick would constantly be involved in Alyssa's life, and he doubted Sean could stomach that. But what other option was there? For a moment or two he pictured Alyssa leaving Sean and him leaving Shayla and the two of them running off and making a new life for each other, but he quickly shook the image from his head. Not only was it completely unrealistic and way too neat and tidy, it just sounded like something out of some cheesy movie. With much hesitation, he had to admit that the only thing he really could do at this point would be to stand by Alyssa and support whatever decision she decided to make.


There was one thing he needed to do though. He needed to let Alyssa know all of this. He hated to think how upset she probably was after the way he had just ran out like that on her the day before. He needed to apologize for his actions and let her know that he'd stick by whatever choice she made. He dug into his pocket and fished out his cell phone taking a deep breath before he dialed Alyssa's now familiar phone number.


The phone rang a few times before he heard Alyssa's voice on the other end. "Hello?" she answered, her voice sounding tired and small.


"Hey Lyss... It's Nick." He didn't give her time to respond before he rushed to continue his little speech. "Look, I really want to apologize for last night. I shouldn't have run out on you like that. It was a pretty asshole kind of thing to do under the circumstances."


"It's all right. I probably would've done the same thing in your shoes too I guess," Alyssa admitted.


"I think that we should get together and talk about this now that we've both had some time to think things over I guess. Probably face to face would be best," he continued. "I'm out on my boat right now and it's a beautiful day. It's nice and private, so it might be a good place to talk. Could you maybe meet me at the arena in like forty-five minutes? I'll turn around and pick you up."


He could hear Alyssa swallow on the other end of the phone. "All right. That sounds like a good idea. I'll pack us some sandwiches or something."


"Sounds good. I'll see you then," he told her before hanging up the phone. He stared out at the ocean one last time before preparing to head back to shore to pick Alyssa up. His stomach knotted in nervousness. As much as he didn't want to have the conversation that lay ahead of him, he knew it was necessary. He just wondered what exactly was going on in Alyssa's head at the moment.




By the time he pulled back into the dock, Alyssa was already standing there waiting for him dressed in a pair of denim Bermuda shorts and a long, flowy grey and green cotton tank top that was fitted on top. On her feet were a pair of green flip flops and a pair of sunglasses were placed on top of her loose wavy hair. In her hands she was holding a blue beach cooler.


"You're early," Nick remarked in surprise as he anchored the boat.


"Yea I know. I wasn't waiting very long though. I just got here a few minutes ago," she explained, avoiding making direct eye contact with him.


"You look nice," he told her, trying to break the ice a little bit between them.


"Thanks." There was another awkward pause until Nick stepped forward and held out her hand to help her onto the boat. A few moments later she was all aboard and dropped Nick's hand as if it were on fire.


"You ready?" he asked as he began to steer the boat back away from the dock.


Alyssa just nodded and turned her attention back out onto the water. The two of them remained silent for about twenty minutes as Nick piloted them a reasonable distance out into the ocean, the whole time Alyssa seeming very interested in the water below her. Finally when Nick seemed satisfied with their location, he dropped the anchor and let them drift a little bit with the current.


"I don't know about you, but I'm pretty hungry," he hinted, eying the cooler sitting in Alyssa's lap. "What did you bring?"


"Turkey, cheese, and mayo," Alyssa answered. "And bottled water. Is that okay?"


"That's fine," he assured her, grabbing the cooler from her. "If you want I think I have a blanket inside the cabin that we can spread the food out on."


"I'll go check," she offered, seeming grateful for an excuse to leave him out on the deck for the moment. A few moments later she reappeared with a red and blue plaid blanket in her hands. She laid it out flat on the deck and made herself comfortable on it.


Nick, who had already helped himself to his sandwich and bottle of water, plopped down beside her as he took a bite of his sandwich. "Mmm... Not bad."


Alyssa narrowed her eyes at him. "Nick it's a turkey sandwich. They all pretty much taste the same no matter who makes them."


"Okay you're right," he admitted. "I was just trying to find something to say to make this less awkward."


She sighed, her gaze shifting back out onto the ocean. "I don't think that there's anything you really could say to make this less weird."


"Right again. So, let's not try to dance around the topic any longer." Nick took a swig of his water bottle, wishing that it contained vodka instead. Lord knew he probably could use some to help him get through this. "I just want to let you know that I've done a lot of thinking since I ran out on you last night. Again I apologize, but if you haven't realized by now that's kind of me when I get unexpected news. My first instinct is to run away and hide until the news has really sunk in and I'm prepared to deal with it. Well, I've thought about it and I'm now prepared to deal with it. As much as this is the last thing either of us expected to happen as a result of that night, it happened and it's my responsibility to own up to the consequences. I know that this really is your decision in the end and I just want to let you know that whatever you decide, I'm willing to cooperate one hundred percent."


Alyssa's eyes glistened with tears in the sunlight as she turned to look at him for the first time since he'd picked her up. Obviously his words had struck some kind of painful chord in her. "Whatever I decide, huh?" she asked. "You'd really be cool with anything I wanted?"


Nick shifted on the blanket uncomfortably feeling like this was some sort of trick question. "Well, I guess just about anything. I mean it's your body and you have more to lose than me with Sean and all. Unless you're thinking about getting an abortion or something... I wouldn't want you to do that especially because I know how badly you want a baby even if its father isn't exactly the same man that you planned on it being." He stopped once he realized that he was babbling.


Alyssa's eyes narrowed at him again. "You honestly think I could go into an abortion in good faith? I'm one hundred percent against the idea. Besides, it's getting too late for that anyway. I'm almost done with my first trimester already."


"So, have you thought at all about what you do want to do?" he tentatively asked.


She paused looking back down at her fingers. "It's really complicated. Sean seems so thrilled about this baby. He keeps leaving me e-mails about all the things the three of us are going to do as a family when he comes home from Iraq." She looked back up at him, tears streaking her cheeks. "He's so clueless it's heartbreaking. He has no idea that this baby I'm carrying is yours and that the truth is that he can't have kids naturally on his own. How am I supposed to break that to him? Especially when I can't even have the decency to do it in person, face to face? I can't just be like oh yeah; on second thought you're not going to be a father. I've never seen a man so grateful for this opportunity before."


Nick could already feel his stomach drop knowing exactly where this was heading. "What are you thinking of doing?"


Alyssa sighed, giving Nick the indication that this was an extremely difficult decision for her. One that she had given a lot of thought to and although it would be hurtful to him, it would be the best for everyone involved. "This is really a shitty situation and I'm so sorry to place you in the middle of this. At first I thought about not even telling you period, but that would be extremely unfair. You should know that you have a child out there somewhere. It's not fair to deny you of that. And I want you to be a part of this child's life. You deserve that much, but-"


"What are you trying to say?" His heart was hammering in his chest so hard that he didn't even realize that he had interrupted her.


She took a deep breath. "Look, you've made it pretty clear that you aren't a fan of having kids of your own right now and that's fine. That's your choice. It's not fair that because of one night of too much wine or whatever you have to be forced into a situation that you want no part of. Sean wants this so badly Nick. Much more than you do. I know this is asking you to make the ultimate sacrifice, but could you keep this a secret? Let the world believe that this baby does belong to Sean. Then after it's born I can think of some way to let Sean know that he's infertile. Maybe let him believe that it's a result from some chemical over in Iraq. But please let him have just this one chance."


Nick could do little to hide the fact that he was stunned. Completely and utterly stunned. Of all the possibilities, this was the one option that he hadn't even thought about. The one option he was almost sure of that Alyssa would never consider. Desperation really brings out the worst in people, he realized. He had to admit, part of him was appalled that she'd even ask him to give up his rights like this, but as much as he wanted to scream at her and really ream into her for even thinking he would be okay with the idea, he also knew this wasn't a decision that she'd reached without considering every other option. As much as he wanted to, he couldn't consider her to be a selfish bitch. He knew Alyssa and he knew she was doing this because she cared more about those around her than herself, so ironically enough this seemingly selfish act was completely unselfish. He knew how Alyssa's mind worked and he knew the guilt that would eat away at her every time she saw Sean hold his baby. It would haunt her for the rest of her life. But that was the price she was willing to pay just to protect her husband.


Still was he willing to give up his chance at fatherhood for Sean? Alyssa had been right. He hadn't wanted her baby to be his. He didn't really want kids, but knowing that he had a son or a daughter right underneath his nose was kind of hard to ignore. It hurt big time that Alyssa just had assumed that he didn't want the responsibility, so they might as well turn it over to someone who did want it. Okay, maybe he wasn't jumping up and down like Sean was, but did that make him any less of a person? Yea, he'd have other opportunities for children. Hell, if he really wanted, he could run right back home to Shayla and work on having their own child and she'd be just ecstatic. But it wasn't the same. He'd created something so special with Alyssa, probably the most influential woman in his life, and to have her ask him to give it up just like that was pretty much just a slap in the face.


"Nick please say something," she tearfully begged, her eyes pleading with his. "This really is the hardest thing I've ever had to do. I hate all these lies and deceptions, but it's for the best. It could never work with you and me. You know that and I know that. Like I said I want you to be a part of this baby's life. You're definitely be the Godfather. I'm not going to deny you from spending time with him or her."


Yea, Godfather, Nick scoffed to himself. What a joke!


"Besides Nick... You did say that you would support my decision no matter what I decided, right?" she continued.


"Yea." He swallowed hard. "I did say that." He looked away almost embarrassed to feel tears well up in the corner of his eyes. "Do what you have to do," he told her in a choked up voice as he stood up from the blanket knowing he wouldn't be able to hold it together much longer. "I'm going to go inside for a bit," he muttered as he headed into the cabin.


Alyssa turned and watched him go before drawing her knees up to her chest and burying her head into her legs as she cried. She knew that she had hurt Nick very badly. It hurt her to see him so upset and to know that for once she'd been the one to cause him pain. But it really was the best thing to do. In the end, she had to be loyal to her husband. She just hoped that in time he'd learn to understand and hopefully forgive her.




            Nick slammed down his cocktail glass for the third time onto the hotel suite nightstand, before grabbing the half empty bottle of Jack Daniel's he had grabbed from the hotel mini bar, and refilling his glass again. He'd been long awaiting the chance to drink himself until he felt so numb that he couldn't feel the emotional pain that Alyssa had put him through earlier that afternoon. He'd wasted no time in heading back to the marina where Alyssa had been smart enough to exit his boat without even bothering to say goodbye. After he'd secured his boat to the dock, he'd driven straight to the condo and headed in just long enough to grab his things. He knew he couldn't stay there with all the memories of his night with Alyssa there to haunt him. He'd checked in to the nearest four star hotel for the night while he cleared his head, which is where he was presently.


            He was just at the point where he was beginning to feel a nice little buzz beginning. He could feel the numbness in his hands and feet and laid his head back onto the bed in relief. His arm brushed against the outline of his cell phone in his pocket and he pulled it out and flipped it open, having the urge to talk to someone, but he wasn't sure who. He flipped through his contacts and then stopped when he saw his wife's name highlighted.


            That's when he knew what he had to do. It was pretty obvious that what had happened between him and Alyssa was not going to happen again and she'd hurt him just as badly as Shayla had. He realized for the first time that he was no longer angry with Shayla. He dialed her number before he lost his nerve and waited as the phone rang.


            "Nick!" Shayla's voice broke through the line. "I'm so glad to hear from you! Where are you?"


            Nick took in a deep breath. "I'm in a hotel suite at Chateau Marmont... Do you think you could stop by?"


            "Of course. I'm cancelling all my meetings right now," she assured him. "What's the hurry? You sound urgent."


            "It is. I want to come home."

Chapter 27 - Girls Behaving Badly by Mellz Bellz
Author's Notes:

Alyssa spends the night partying with the girls for Teri's bachelorette party.


Chapter 27- Girls Behaving Badly


            Another few weeks passed by and with it Alyssa began her second trimester of her pregnancy. It almost blew her mind how fast the time was going by. Now that morning sickness was officially behind her, this new phase of her pregnancy brought up some new things to look forward too. Although she still wasn't very large, she was just beginning to sport a very slight baby bump underneath her clothes. It all depended on what top she wore and what angle she was caught from, but several of her friends and coworkers were beginning to take notice of the change in her body. Making it to this point in her pregnancy sent a large sense of relief through her. Statistically, she'd heard that the first trimester was usually the most likely point for anything to go wrong, so making it through that point helped her relax a little bit.


            She also felt a little more relaxed now that everything was out in the open with Nick about the baby. They hadn't spoken since the day after Labor Day and Alyssa knew that he was upset with her. She still hated herself for being so cruel to him, but she had to make the decision that was best for her child. For a guy who didn't want kids he seemed awfully upset at Alyssa's decision to raise the baby as Sean's, prompting Alyssa to wonder if perhaps there was more to the story. Could Shayla's fake pregnancy scare really have changed Nick's mind? But if he really wasn't okay with the idea why didn't he just say something? she wondered to herself. How was she supposed to know what was going on in his head if he didn't tell her?


            She'd heard through the grapevine that he and Shayla had gotten back together. He'd moved back in not on after she'd told him the truth about the baby. She knew Nick well enough to know that underneath the exterior he really had only gotten back with Shayla because he was upset at her. Nick simply couldn't be alone. He needed a woman to take care of him, and Shayla was more than willing to provide him with that. Plus, Alyssa figured it would be hypocritical for him not to forgive Shayla after she'd gone and hurt him equally as bad. Whatever... she'd told herself. Maybe it's for the best. It might be safer if he hates my guts. Things were easier before we decided to try being friends again anyway.


            Unfortunately, with Teri and Howie's wedding right around the corner, and them both being in a bridal party, they were going to have to see each other soon. The wedding was only a week away now. What made the situation even more awkward was that no one else knew the whole story between them or even knew that they were no longer talking. It certainly was set to be an interesting wedding. Alyssa just hoped that they could try to politely avoid each other. She wouldn't want any drama to take away from Teri's wedding day.


            She hadn't hung out with the girls very much since Sean had left for Iraq and she'd found out she was pregnant. She hadn't socialized much with anyone. Even her contact with Sean had been limited. Things were beginning to start to get more serious over in Iraq and he'd warned her that he wouldn't be able to get online very much for the time being. Although she'd relented, Teri had insisted though that Alyssa join her, Tricia, and the rest of the bridal party for her bachelorette party. Alyssa really hadn't been too enthusiastic about the idea. She was never one for the typical male stripper bachelorette party, and being pregnant definitely made her feel even more out of place at one. It wasn't like she could drink anyway.


            But Teri had been stubborn and in the end had convinced Alyssa to change her mind. Surprisingly, Teri had decided on something much more low key and enjoyable for her bachelorette party. She'd booked a spa afternoon, followed by dinner at a popular downtown LA restaurant, and then possibly a stop at a bar afterwards for a few drinks. Alyssa had managed to excuse herself from the bar part, but had agreed to the first two events, especially after Teri had told her that the spa offered a special pregnancy massage for expectant mothers that was supposed to be to die for. It had been a long time since Alyssa had let her hair down and partied with the girls and with all the drama going on in her life the past few months she figured she could use a ladies night.


            Alyssa knew she had made the right decision the moment that she arrived at the spa and her massage began. As the masseuse worked on kneading the tense muscles of her back, she instantly felt all the stress of the past three months temporarily get pushed aside. She closed her eyes and for the first time in a long time she actually felt relaxed.


            "So how did your final dress fitting go?" Teri asked, from the next massage table over sounding a little worried. "Were they able to fix it to make up for the baby weight you've gained?"


            "Yea... It fits perfectly," Alyssa assured her. "I was sweating it too, but thankfully I still haven't gained too much weight lately. Sorry to panic you the last minute like that. I think I'd have had a stroke if I found out a week before my wedding that one of my bridesmaid's dresses might not fit the bridesmaid. You took it quite well."


            "You know I'm not the Bridezilla type. Things always work out in the end, so why stress? That's my philosophy." Teri was quiet for a moment or two before speaking up again. "So, how've you been doing lately? I feel like I haven't seen you much at all these past few months."


            "Well, pregnancy has kind of taken a lot out of me," she half-lied. "I've just been busy with doctor's appointments and I haven't really been feeling the best with morning sickness and all that fun stuff. Then I just started work again last month and I've been pretty much exhausted. I have a really difficult class this year, so they suck a lot of my energy from me. Plus, it's a lot harder having to do everything for myself without Sean around to help."


            "That certainly does sound like a lot going on," the other woman admitted. "I've just missed hanging around with you lately. I'm really glad that you decided to come out with us. I hope that once you become a mother you don't forget all about the girls."


            Alyssa laughed a little at her friend's insecurity. "I promise I'll try to squeeze in some girl time. All I need is a reliable baby sitter and I'm set. But how are you doing? I mean you're the one getting married next week. How are you so calm? I was a nervous wreck at this point before my wedding."


            Teri just shrugged her shoulders a little bit. "I don't know. I guess it's because I'm not exactly the ‘typical bride.' I mean I was never the type of girl who spent most of her childhood imagining her wedding day. I don't think I ever really counted on getting married period. I was perfectly content in just being in a relationship with somebody and if it happened, it happened. The great thing about not ever planning on getting married is that I don't have any expectations about the big day. So, I'm not really worried about anything."


            "That's a good way of looking at it." Alyssa sighed. Teri's explanation did make a lot of sense. "I was just the opposite though. I was the girl planning her wedding since she was four and I actually wound up a little disappointed in the end."


            "Really?" Teri asked. "How so?"


            "I wanted everything just so and sometimes it just doesn't realistically work out that way. I had to settle for a lot and I was a little disappointed. That's why it probably is better to have lower expectations. The best advice that I can give to you is to just enjoy the day and let everything happen naturally. I really wish that I had let myself enjoy myself more. Sometimes I wish I could rewind time and do it over again," she wistfully explained.


            "You can always do it over again," Teri pointed out. "Look at how many couples renew their vows. Besides you never know what the future holds for you."


            Alyssa frowned. "What is that supposed to mean?"


            "Nothing," she replied in a sing song voice. "I was just saying." She paused for a moment before changing the subject. "So, I take it you've heard that Nick and Shayla are back together now?"


            Alyssa felt her back stiffen at the mention of Nick's name, but tried to keep her cool. "Yea, I may have heard something about it."


            "So, what are your feelings on it?" Teri casually asked.


            Alyssa just shrugged. "None of my business. As long as he's happy. He's a big boy now. He makes his own decisions."


            Teri seemed amused by her response. "Well, I personally think it's a mistake. I don't exactly know the details about why they separated exactly myself, but I'm just not a fan of hers. There's something very fake about her."


            "I thought you said she wasn't so bad?" Alyssa asked, remembering the exact words that Teri had said to her when they were all urging her to go up to congratulate Shayla and Nick at their wedding.


            "That's what I thought originally. She seemed okay at first, but after she and Nick got married she seemed to grow a major stick up her ass or something. I mean I'll admit I've always been closest too you and Tricia. I don't exactly have loads in common with Melanie or Leighanne outside of dating a Backstreet Boy, but when I'm around them we're friendly and we get along decently. But Shayla... I don't know. She just rubs me and Tricia the wrong way. Okay, none of us have as exciting careers as she does, but she just acts like because she's a television personality she's so much better than any of us. And the way she's always hanging on Nick whenever she is around? It's just kind of sickening. She's not very friendly at all."


            Hmm... Alyssa wondered. This was now the second member of the Backstreet family to confide in her about Shayla's superiority complex when it came to the other Backstreet wives and girlfriends. Melanie and Leighanne had already hinted to her that they weren't big fans of Shayla's. Alyssa began to seriously wonder if there really was good reason to dislike the woman other than her being married to Nick. "Well, I've only met her like three times actually. Once was at her and Nick's wedding, then when I bumped into her and Nick at Koi, and finally at Nick's dinner party he threw for Kina. The first two times she seemed nice, but almost too nice like it was an act. Then the last time she was very cold to me, so I don't know. She seems very moody, but who am I to judge? If she makes Nick happy..."


            "So, it doesn't bother you that he's with her?" Teri continued to press.


            "Why should it? It's not like I still have feelings for him or anything," she snapped. "I really don't care what he does as far as his marriage. In case you've forgotten, I'm married too. Happily married."


The more she rambled on the more it began to sound as if she was trying to convince herself of that and she hoped that Teri didn't catch on at all. Teri didn't reply back to her, which made Alyssa feel slightly nervous. At that moment, both of their massages just finished up and Teri sat up, clutching her white spa towel around her chest. Alyssa felt her eyes on her as she herself sat up. "What?" she asked, not being able to stand another moment.


"Nothing," Teri quickly replied as she looked away.




            After a few more spa treatments including facials, manicures, and pedicures, Teri, Alyssa, and the rest of the girls in Teri's bridal party left the spa and piled into the black stretch limo they had rented for the night. "Now that we got all the beauty stuff out of the way the real party can begin," Teri announced as they pulled away from the curb. "There's a bottle of champagne in the ice bucket and I think there should be some sparkling cider for you Alyssa."


            The rest of the girls began pouring glasses of champagne and passing them down until everyone had a glass. Alyssa was grateful to see that there was indeed a bottle of sparkling cider for herself. She was very impressed that the girls had tried their best to include her as much as possible. When everyone had a glass in their hand, they made a quick toast to Teri, promising to get her completely fucked up. Alyssa grinned as Tricia took the honor of pulling out a variety of embarrassing bachelorette accessories of a large shopping bag and all the girls cheered and snapped pictures as Teri proudly adorned everything. Tricia clearly hadn't spared any expense to make her friend look absolutely ridiculous and Alyssa couldn't help but laugh at the result. She definitely could sympathize. She could still remember her own bachelorette party that Meg had been in charge of. Although she'd been grateful that Meg had listened to her one request of no cheesy strippers, she must've figured she'd have to go all out with party favors to make up for it. The last time I put Meg in charge of anything, she thought with a smirk.


            Her attention was pulled back to the present as Teri already reached for the champagne bottle again to refill her glass, clearly in the mood to party. They were now on their way to dinner. "Hey, you know what I want to do?" she asked Tricia and Alyssa her eyes lighting up mischievously. "I want to listen to the Backstreet Boys!"


            Tricia giggled. "Well, it just so happens that I did bring along some Backstreet Boy CDs. Alyssa, could you reach into that bag next to you? The CDs are in there and the CD player is right by you."


            "Sure," Alyssa agreed, as she fished into the bag next to her and pulled out the newest Backstreet Boys CD Unbreakable. She had to admit that she hadn't listened to the CD even though it had been out for a long time now. She tended to steer clear of painful reminders of Nick. It was just easier for her that way. She laid the CD case out onto her lap as she pulled out the CD with her right hand, balancing her champagne glass in her left. As she leaned forward to push the CD into the CD player, the case shut close between her thighs. Once the CD was in place she sat back against her seat catching Tricia and Teri both red faced and snickering.


            "What's so funny?" Alyssa asked, looking confused.


            This caused both girls to laugh harder and Alyssa began to wonder if maybe there was something more in their glasses than just champagne. Finally Tricia managed to compose herself enough to answer Alyssa's question. "Sorry. It's just Teri pointed out that you have Nick between your legs right now and I just find that really funny."


            "Wouldn't be the first time!" Teri blurted out trying to control her laughter.


            Alyssa looked down at the CD case and pulled it out of her lap and back into the bag now completely red faced herself. "You guys suck," she muttered.


            ""Aww... Come on lighten up," Teri insisted. "What good is a bachelorette party without corny sex jokes? Take one for the team."


            "Oooh... I love this song! Turn it up," Tricia interrupted, as she leaned over Alyssa to adjust the volume as an up tempo dance beat flowed out of the speakers.


Walking along the sky
Chasing a glimpse of you
Painting a world with stars I found inside your eyes
Up here above the haze
Everything looks so clear
Wondering what it would be like if you were here


And time takes time
But I can't wait
To tell you how I feel


            "Oh you're the calm when my world is crashing... My heart, my blood, my passion... Whyyyy, tell me whyyyy... You're everything but mine..." Tricia began to sing along with the track.


            "I hold you close when it all goes crazy... And through it all, you'll be my lady...  Whyyy tell me whyyyy... You're everything but mine," Teri chimed in to join her.


            As the two women continued to sing along with the song, Alyssa listened carefully to the lyrics, which as usual with most Backstreet Boy songs always struck a chord with her and this was no exception. Even though it was up tempo and reminded her of something you'd hear in a club, it still hauntingly enough reminded her of her relationship with Nick.


            She must have looked a little dazed because as the song ended she was jarred back into the present by the sound of Tricia's voice calling her name. "Alyssa? Are you okay? You look a little out of it."


            "I'm fine," she insisted, painting a fake smile on her face. "Really."


            "You're not still pissed about the joke I made about Nick are you?" Teri asked.


            "I wasn't pissed in the first place Ter. I'm fine. I promise," she insisted.


            Both girls looked at her doubtfully, but thankfully let the subject drop. The rest of the limo ride passed by uneventfully and before Alyssa knew it they had arrived at the restaurant for dinner. After they got out of the limo they were ushered into a private back room and once they were settled in a waiter came around to take their drink orders. The women perused the menu for a few more minutes and by the time their drinks arrived they were ready to order their meals.


            After the waiter took all of their orders and was out of sight Teri looked around at the faces of the other women at the table mischievously from her seat at the head. "So, I figure what's a party without goodie bags? Which is why I bought a little something for all of you girls. Take it as a little thank you gift for all of you for being in my bridal party on my special day. I hope you like it." She paused to smirk as she grabbed a large shopping bag from her feet. "I know you'll definitely enjoy at least one part of the gift."


            Uh oh... Alyssa thought, knowing Teri to well to know that at least one of the items in the little pink gift bags that were making their way down the table had to be something dirty. At first Alyssa was surprised when she got her bag and first pulled out a white square jewelry box with a gorgeous silver and purple bracelet that would match their bridesmaid's gowns perfectly. But the bag still wasn't empty yet and once Alyssa pulled out the second object she couldn't help but to laugh. "Gee thanks, Teri. Exactly what every pregnant woman needs, a vibrator."


            Teri cracked up at Alyssa's reaction and just shrugged her shoulders. "Who knows? The baby might like it."


            "Actually..." Teri's cousin, Lisa spoke up from her spot at the table. "I have two kids so I speak from experience. You'd be very surprised. Once those pregnancy hormones really hit you'll be doing things you never imagined you'd do. How far along are you again?"


            "A little more than four months," Alyssa answered.


            "Mmhmm..." Lisa nodded with a smirk. "It's that second trimester. I'm telling you."


            " I dunno..." she doubtfully answered. "I can't imagine feeling the least bit sexy with a big ole belly. Besides my husband is overseas-"


            "Then I'd hold on to that vibrator," Lisa interrupted her. "Trust me on this."


            "Uhh ok..." Alyssa answered with a polite smile. She'd heard all sorts of tales about raging hormones throughout pregnancy, but the only kind of hormones she was feeling lately were the emotional ones that turned her into a total basket case. That's totally not going to be me.


            "Alyssa might be okay. She might just shock us all and get herself a little booty call on the side," Teri announced shooting her a knowing glance.


            "What?" Whatever gave Teri that idea? she wondered as she realized that this had been the second or third time that night that Teri had made a comment that had gotten under her skin. Was it possible that she knew more than what she let on?


            "I was just kidding. Relax Lyss," Teri assured her.


            It's a little hard to relax when she's making not so innocent comments like that all day. Alyssa made a mental note to pull her aside later and ask her what exactly was going on. There definitely had to be more to this story.




            After dinner was finished, Alyssa excused herself to get up and use the bathroom. After she was done and excited the stall she was met with both Teri and Tricia at the sink waiting for her. "What's going on?" she asked as she turned on the water to begin washing her hands.


            "We could ask you the same thing," Teri countered, her hands on her hips. "You've been acting all weird and uptight all night. Especially whenever I bring up Nick. I thought the two of you were all best friends lately?"


            "We were never best friends," she tried to argue. "We were just hanging out."


            "But you did admit to us that you were still a little physically attracted to him and if you had the opportunity to sleep with him and get away with it, you would," Tricia reminded her.


            "So?" Alyssa turned off the faucet and grabbed a paper towel to dry her hands. "Yea I did, but it wasn't like it was serious. It was one of those hypothetical things. Not like it was actually going to happen." She attempted to push past the two girls to get through the door, but they blocked her exit.


            Teri stood with her arms firmly crossed over her chest. "Come on Alyssa. The two of you were really close and now we're hearing that since he got back with Shayla the two of you haven't spoken? Something tells me there's more to this story than you're letting on."


            "You know that you can tell us anything Lyss. Like seriously Teri and I are probably the world's least judgmental people. I don't think there's much that you could tell us that would shock us beyond belief," Tricia added.


            Alyssa sighed wanting so much to confess the current mess she was entangled in with someone, but knew that the idea was not a smart one. The more people who knew the situation the more of a chance there was of it exploding in her face. "I don't know anything. Nick and I just stopped talking because Shayla and I aren't fond of each other," she quickly lied.


            "You slept with him didn't you?" Teri boldly accused.


            "No, why would you think that?" she answered a little too quickly.


            "Because I know you and Nick. I know your past and I know that there's definitely been a lot of tension between the two of you. Factor in the fact that Sean is away and you've got to be feeling pretty lonely, I'd say it's pretty obvious."


            Both women glared up at her expectantly and Alyssa knew that there was no way that she could hold up any longer without cracking. Even though she hadn't known Teri and Tricia as long as she'd known Izzy or any of the other girls, they just had a way of reading her way too well. She'd never been able to convincingly lie to them, so what on earth made her think she could start now? "Fine," she admitted throwing up her hands. "I slept with him. Are you happy now?" Not even having the nerve to look at their reactions she grabbed another paper towel to dab away the frustrated tears that she already felt forming under her eyelids.


            It was eerily quiet in the bathroom; so silent that you could hear a pin drop. The silence scared her and she desperately wished that someone would say something to break the tension.


            As if to answer her prayers Teri's voice was the first to speak. "So, how was it?"


            "What?" Alyssa was so shocked by Teri's reaction that she was forced to look up at her face. "Did you seriously just ask me how it was? You mean you're not going to tell me what a horrible person I am for cheating on my husband with my ex boyfriend?"


            "Not unless you want me to. Remember, I'm non-judgmental. Besides... I've always been more interested in the juicy, intimate details anyway."


            Alyssa laughed through her tears. The response was just so Teri. "It was amazing," she admitted. "He's so different from back when we were dating a few years ago. He's so much more attentive and caring, which of course makes him even sexier. You would've been proud of me." The corners of her mouth lifted up into a smirk at the memory. "We did it right on top of the dryer in laundry room in the condo that he originally bought for me when I was supposed to move out here."


            "He still has that place?"


            "And how do you have attentive and caring sex on top of a dryer?" Tricia piped up who had remained quiet for the most part throughout Alyssa's admission.


            Again Alyssa laughed a little, feeling more at ease already. The two women weren't out to judge her. It was beginning to feel like old times again with the three of them swamping outrageous sex stories. "Yea, he still has the condo. He hung on to it as sort of a hideout whenever he needed to get away. That's where he was staying while he and Shayla were separated. And to answer Tricia's question, no we didn't have attentive, caring, sex on top of the dryer. That time was pretty much just crazy and passionate and really, really, hot."


            Teri's eyes widened. "How many times did you do it?"


            "Only twice. Each time was completely opposite too, but both equally amazing in their own way. Like I said the dryer sex was really wild and totally heat of the moment. Then afterwards the second time was slower and more restrained, but like I said he was very attentive which was something that I wasn't used to."


            "Especially because Sean was all like wham, bam, thank you ma'am," Tricia filled in. "It's a wonder he was even able to get you pregnant at all."


As soon as the words left her mouth she froze for a moment and Alyssa noticed her exchange a glance with Teri. Alyssa shifted her weight uncomfortably as her hands involuntarily floated up to her stomach.


‘H...how long ago was this?" Teri hesitantly asked.


Knowing that there was no use in lying now Alyssa looked away as she answered. "June..."


She could practically hear them counting off the months in their heads and knew they were done once she heard them both gasp. "This baby? It's not Sean's, is it?" Tricia delicately questioned.


Alyssa could only shake her head in response before the tears returned. Sensing how emotional this was getting for her, both women stepped forward to embrace her as Alyssa let herself cry. She felt their hands stroke her back trying to calm her down. Finally managing to control herself Alyssa pulled back, wiping her eyes. "I'm sorry. I'm a basket case lately. All I ever do is cry anymore."


"With good reason. Most pregnant women cry at the drop of a hat anyway, but with everything you've got going on, I think it would be weirder if you weren't so emotional," Teri sympathized.


"So, who knows about this? Does Sean? What about Nick? How did you find out?" Tricia asked her all in one breath.


"Sean and I went to a fertility clinic to find out why we weren't conceiving after we'd been trying so long," she started to explain. "We had some tests done, but before we could get the results back, Sean was deployed to Iraq. Shortly after I find out I was pregnant and when I told Sean he was overjoyed. We just thought it was like some weird twist of fate or something. Anyway a few days after I found out I was pregnant, the clinic called me. Turns out that the reason I was having so much problems getting pregnant was because Sean is sterile."


"Ouch. What a way to find out," Teri commented.


"Yea... So that kind of explains my distantness from all of you I guess. I had so much on my mind that I just needed some time by myself to process it all."


Tricia looked at her sadly. "So, what are you going to do now?"


Alyssa shrugged her shoulders. "I told Nick and it didn't go so well. Well, the actual telling him part wasn't all that bad. He took that part pretty well, maybe a little too well. I think he was expecting me to divorce Sean because he felt obligated to take care of me, but that's just it. He feels obligated. He doesn't really want this. The man has been pretty vocal about how he doesn't want kids. Meanwhile Sean is willing to give anything to be a father."


"So, can't you just tell Sean the truth?" Teri suggested. "I mean just because he's not the biological father doesn't mean that he can't raise the child like he's the father. If fatherhood is that important to him he'll learn to adapt to the situation."


            Alyssa shook her head. "Not Sean. First off he'd be devastated if he found out that I cheated on him. But to find out that I cheated on him with Nick? He's made it quite clear that he's not a fan of his. In fact, I've actually sworn to him that there was nothing still there between the two of us. So, he wouldn't take it very lightly at all. Then there's the fact that he's so set upon us having a baby. Our own baby. It would kill him to know that this was a child I created with another man. Anyway, it's too late now."


            "What do you mean it's too late?" Tricia asked.


            She sighed. "I already told Nick that I wanted to raise the baby as Sean's and let Sean believe he was the father. I'll figure the rest out when the time comes. I know it's horrible of me right? I think I really hurt Nick's feelings. In a strange way I think he almost wanted the baby, but then why did he make such a big show telling Shayla he didn't want kids? I really fucked up our friendship big time and now he doesn't even want to talk to me."


            Both women looked shocked before they remembered they were supposed to be non-judgmental and support whatever decision Alyssa made regardless of whether or not they agreed with it or not. "I don't think you totally fucked it up, Lyss. All you have to do is talk to him," Teri assured her. "Tell him you changed your mind."


            "But I haven't changed my mind! I still think that it would be best for everyone if Sean thought he was the father. Sean and I are married and Nick and I? Well, we might have amazing physical chemistry, but we just don't work together in a relationship. Every time we try it only gets messed up in the end."

            "You're older now though," Tricia argued. "Maybe things are different."


            "I thought that when we tried getting back together four years ago and guess what? They weren't. Face it. Nick and I just don't work together. I'm better off with Sean. There's more security with him and he's more responsible. It's a better environment for a child," she pointed out.


            Noticing things were getting heated, Teri put a sympathetic hand on her shoulder. "Well, whatever you decide to do we'll be by your side because now more than ever I think you need some faithful friends. But you're going to have to face him next week at the wedding Alyssa. He's one of Howie's groomsmen. I know I'm a very laidback bride, but I don't want any unnecessary drama at my wedding."


            "Don't worry. We're not going to ruin your wedding day," Alyssa assured her. "We'll deal with it. In the meantime thank you so much for listening to me girls. I already feel a little less stressed since I've confided in you. It's felt like I was carrying around this huge weight on my shoulders."


            "Don't sweat it. Stress isn't good for the baby and despite all the baby daddy drama you got going on, you have to remember that your main goal in all of this is to deliver a healthy baby boy or girl. If you ever need to talk, you can always call on Tricia and I. Just not on my honeymoon. I'm going to be a little busy ‘getting busy' if you know what I mean." Teri wiggled her eyebrows suggestively.


            Alyssa laughed before giving the two women one last hug. "Thank you so much for everything. Now let's go back out there and celebrate. The other girls are going to start getting worried about us pretty soon."


            Teri and Tricia agreed and the three linked arms as they exited the bathroom. This is why I love these girls, Alyssa thought to herself. They always seemed to know exactly what to say to make her feel better. Now if only all my friends could be this supportive and non judgmental. Sadly Alyssa realized that majority of her friends would not be as forgiving, which only reaffirmed her decision to keep the identity of her baby's real father a secret.

Chapter 28 - Going to the Chapel by Mellz Bellz
Author's Notes:

Alyssa reflects on some old memories before Teri's wedding.


Chapter 28 - Going to the Chapel


            The day of Teri and Howie's wedding arrived in a blur and just from the way that Alyssa was nervously pacing the back of the church, it seemed as if she were the one getting married. In fact, even Teri appeared more calm and collected than she did at the moment as they waited for the ceremony to begin.


            "How are you not nervous?" Alyssa asked her. "Hell, I'm already married and I'm nervous for you."


            Teri just shrugged her shoulders innocently. "I'm just not. But then again..." she paused to smirk. "I'm not worried about any encounters with an old flame."


            Alyssa rolled her eyes at her friend. "Thanks a lot by the way for switching it so that Nick and I are partners. For someone who didn't want any drama at her wedding you're certainly doing everything you possibly can to make it awkward."


            "I just like to keep things interesting. You need to talk to him anyway, so this gives you a perfect opportunity. Besides I couldn't resist the urge to watch Shayla squirm having to watch you and Nick walk down the aisle together," she replied with a mischievous glimmer in her green eyes.


            Alyssa sighed as her eyes traveled up towards the front of the church. Nick was already up there talking to Howie. As soon as the bridal party had arrived at the church, Nick had made a point of distancing himself from her and headed right up to the front of the alter with Howie. If he can barely be in the same room with me, how exactly does Teri expect us to walk down the aisle with each other like everything is fine? She definitely was not looking forward to this.


            Not like it would be the first time they'd been paired up in a bridal party. Back when Kevin and Melanie had gotten married they'd been partners and ironically enough at the time they were also in two separate relationships. Nick had been married to Katie, and Alyssa had been casually dating, Dan, a friend of Tristan's. The wedding had been one of the first times they had seen each other since their bitter argument on the beach in the Bahamas after Alyssa rejected his proposal. It was scary how well the circumstances mirrored what was going on in the present.


            There had been one big difference though. That night had been one of the most emotional ones of her entire life. The guilt stemming from that one night had plagued her in a way that could only be matched by the guilt that she felt over cheating on Sean with Nick. In a way that night was even harder for her to get over. Not only had it been just another example of how her attraction to Nick had interfered with her relationship with another man, but she also couldn't shake the feeling that because of her and Nick's selfishness, an innocent person had to pay...




            Alyssa nervously shifted her weight as she approached the hotel room door. What am I doing? she asked herself as she tried to muster up the courage to knock. She knew that Nick had to still be awake because she could still make out a flood of light from the crack underneath the door. This was crazy!


After Kevin and Melanie's wedding had ended, she and Dan had headed back to their hotel room. Alyssa had decided to hop into the shower to wash all the styling products out of her hair. By the time she had gotten out, Dan had already fallen asleep waiting for her. She'd attempted to fall asleep beside him, but once she'd gotten into bed she became extremely restless. Her mind kept playing over the wedding that had just taken place. It had definitely been weird since this had been the first time she'd seen Nick since she'd found out about his marriage to Katie. The whole experience was made even weirder by the fact that her and Nick had been partnered up in the bridal party. They'd gotten through the awkward experience with overly polite attitudes making things seem forced at best. She knew that she didn't want things to be that way forever between the two of them. Granted, they hadn't worked out after all, and although it hurt like hell at first, they were both involved with other people. Why shouldn't they at least be able to act somewhat normal again around each other?


            Finally realizing that she wasn't going to get any rest until she did something to clear the air with Nick for her own peace of mind, she'd thrown on her robe and headed across the hall to Nick's hotel room where she now stood. She told herself she'd just go to see if he was still up, but now that the light was on she had no excuse, not to knock.


            Biting her lip, she raised her arm and softly rapped against the door. She could hear Nick's muffled reply from the inside of the room, and a few moments later he appeared at the door, his eyes wide in surprise to find her. Alyssa was almost just as shocked as the sight for him. His suit jacket had gone missing and his dress shirt was half untucked with the first couple of buttons undone. His tie still hung loosely around his neck and his blonde hair appeared to be sticking out in several different directions as if he'd been running his hand through it. As disheveled as he appeared, there was something that she found very sexy about the look.


            "Alyssa?" he asked in a surprised voice. "What are you doing here?"


            "I just wanted to stop by to talk," she shyly responded, her jaw trembling slightly. "Can I come in?"


            "Uhh, sure..." Nick stepped back from the doorway allowing her to gain entrance to the room. Across the room she saw Nick's laptop set up on a table indicating that he was probably just surfing the internet when she had knocked.


            "Where's Katie?" she asked as she entered the room. She'd vaguely noticed her leave the reception early. She thought that she'd seen Nick kiss her goodbye and put her into a black town car, but she couldn't really be certain of the exact details.


            "She's heading back to Tampa tonight," he explained. "Her best friend from Sweden is flying in tomorrow morning, so she wanted to be there to welcome her. She insisted that I stay and enjoy the wedding though and fly back tomorrow with everyone else."


            "Oh I see."




            The conversation went flat right there and Alyssa figured that it would probably be best just to cut right to the chase and get down to the reason she dropped by the first place. "Look Nick... I really wanted to stop by because I know things were pretty weird and stuff between us tonight and I don't want it to be like that. I think enough time has passed for us to accept that things didn't work out between us. I mean now you and Katie are married and expecting a child together pretty soon and I've been seeing Dan... I just want us to be able to be friends. You've obviously had a huge impact on my life and we've shared some great memories. I don't regret any of it. I guess it just wasn't meant to be with us. So, yea... Friends?"


            Nick stood there appearing a little taken back by her speech. "Of course we can be friends Lyss. I think it's only inevitable that we're going to bump into each other from time to time. We're just in two totally different places in life right now. I mean not to downplay anything going on in your life, but I'm about to come a father. It just wouldn't have worked with us. It wouldn't have been fair to you to have to take responsibility for my mistake, especially when you're still so young."


            Alyssa rolled her eyes a little bit. "Not like you're that much older. There's only like what? Six months between us?"


            "Still... It's one thing for me to take responsibility because I got myself into this mess. You shouldn't have to pay for my stupid decisions is all I'm saying," he clarified.


            "Well, as long as you're happy with Katie." Alyssa narrowed her eyes at him in a serious glance. "You are happy with her, right?"


            "As happy as I can be I guess." Was it just her or did he not sound completely convincing? "And you're happy with Dan, right?"


            "He's a nice guy. Very sweet," was all that she could think of to reply.


            "Then I guess we're cool then. As least as cool as we can be."


            "Yea... I'm glad we got a chance to have this talk. I know it sounds stupid, but I felt like I couldn't fall asleep tonight until I got this cleared up with you. Lame, right?"


            Nick shook his head in disagreement. "Not at all. I'm glad we had this talk too. It had to happen sooner or later, so better sooner than later."


            "Yea... Well, now that I got that off my chest I guess I'll let you go to bed or whatever." She stood there a little uncomfortably for a moment or two before deciding to give him an awkward hug. "I'll see you tomorrow morning."


            "Yea... See you." Again, Alyssa wasn't sure if it was her imagination or not, but his hands seemed to linger at her waist as he reluctantly broke the embrace and he seemed to pull her in just a little tighter than necessary.


            Alyssa shrugged out of his grasp and turned towards the door. "Goodnight Nick," she called over her shoulder.


            She almost made it to the door when she felt his hand clamp down on her arm. "Alyssa, wait," he begged. She whirled around and the minute she did she knew she'd just made a huge mistake. His blue eyes appeared stormy and intense as she felt them take in her appearance. The short purple kimono robe she was wearing wasn't very heavy and she knew that her skin still smelled fresh from her shower. All of a sudden she felt very self conscious. "Don't go just yet," he continued his voice low and husky.


            At that moment Alyssa knew that the right thing to do would be to drop his hand and just run, but she was frozen. She continued to stay rooted to her spot on the floor as he stepped closer to her and stroked her hair with the palm of his hand. His hands lingered down to her chin and she willingly let him tilt her head upwards to meet his awaiting lips.


            As soon as their mouths connected, Alyssa instantly could feel a major difference between Nick's kiss and the way that Dan usually kissed her. Sometimes kissing Dan could almost feel like kissing a brother. There just wasn't really much of a spark there. But Nick was an entirely different story. From the moment his lips touched hers, Alyssa felt a chill over her body. Her mind went blank and her body took over, her hands instinctively snaking up to the back of his neck as the kiss deepened.        


            Her fingernails dragged lightly against the base of his neck while she felt her back being pressed against the wall behind her. Their kisses were becoming increasingly more intense by the moment and Alyssa knew that there was absolutely no turning back now, especially after Nick's hands found their way to the belt of her robe, his fingers eagerly playing with the knot that kept it closed. She made no attempt to stop him and within moments he'd gotten it open and was pushing the silky material off of her shoulders, revealing the black camisole tank top with pink trim and matching boy shorts that she'd had on underneath. This must look like to him like it was so planned, but it really wasn't, she thought to herself with a smirk.


            His lips wandered down to her neck and it wasn't long before she became completely oblivious to the fact that her current boyfriend was asleep across the hall while she was in the midst of a very heavy make out session with her ex. She was past the point of thinking. Her body was simply on autopilot. They continued to kiss each other hungrily, their hands freely roaming each others bodies. The thin material of her clothing did little to shield her from the heat of his touch and she moaned against his lips when she felt his thumb brush across her breast.


            Secretly she had to admit that since she and Nick had parted ways after their trip to the Bahamas, she'd had this fantasy about them hooking up again, and now that it was actually happening Alyssa couldn't help but to think that this was all too good to be true. Wanting to take advantage of the opportunity while it lasted, Alyssa grew bolder and broke away from his lips for a moment, an enticing smirk on her lips. She wedged herself away from the wall and playfully tugged on the bottom of his tie, pulling him slightly towards the direction of the bed...




            The shrill sound of the telephone ringing woke Alyssa up from a deep sleep. She opened her eyes, confused for a second or two about her surroundings and then she remembered showing up at Nick's hotel room door earlier that night. She felt a surge of panic go through her as she saw the time on the digital alarm clock on the dresser. She definitely hadn't gone into Nick's room with the intention of them actually sleeping together, nor did she go in with the intention of spending the night. She must've dozed off after they'd had sex. Although it made her very satisfied to know that she'd in her own way gotten her revenge on Katie by sleeping with Nick, (karma was definitely a bitch the way it came back around) she also felt guilty for cheating on Dan. It wasn't very long into their relationship that Alyssa had come to the conclusion that she didn't exactly have very deep feelings for Dan. He was just a nice guy who seemed to worship the ground she walked on and she'd definitely taken advantage of that fact. Truth of the matter was that she had been a total bitch for stringing him along like she had. She hadn't been ready for another relationship, she just was searching for a replacement for Nick and she'd pretty much just confirmed that nobody could replace Nick in her heart.


            She heard Nick grumbling besides her, still half asleep himself. "Who is calling the room so late?" He reached over to grab the phone sitting on the nightstand. "Hello?"


            While Nick was on the phone, Alyssa took the opportunity to gather up her clothes and start getting dressed again. With a little luck she could get back into her hotel room and in bed with Dan without him even knowing she was ever gone. As she slipped her clothes back on though she could clearly hear Nick's side of the conversation. She frowned. She was unsure of who it was on the other end, but she could tell just by the look on Nick's face and the panic in his voice that it was serious.


            "Ok... Yes... Where is she...? I'll be right there." He hung up the phone with a dazed expression on his face.


            "What's wrong?" she asked sounding concerned. "Who was that on the phone?"


            Nick looked up at her his brows knitted in worry and a mixture of some other emotion. Guilt maybe? "There was an accident... Katie..." His voice broke off not even being able to finish the sentence. "I need to get down to the hospital right away."


            Even though he hadn't said it, Alyssa could tell just by the expression on his face that this was serious. And now she felt even guiltier about what her and Nick had just done. "Wait. I'll go with you," she offered.




            "Earth to Alyssa! We're going to start in like another five minutes. Are you okay?" Teri asked in a concerned voice. "You kind of just zoned out on me there."


            "Sorry about that," she apologized. "I was just got caught up in an old memory, I guess."


            "An old memory about Nick?" she pressed.


            "Yea... I was just thinking about Kevin's wedding. It's just weird how history repeats itself," Alyssa explained.


            "What do you mean?"


            Alyssa shrugged. "We were partnered up in the bridal party and it was when he was married to Katie. We hooked up." She laughed. "What a good little Catholic girl huh? I'm probably going to hell now."


            Teri laughed. "If you're going to hell then I'll probably already be there. It'll be a party. Besides, I'm only Catholic in name and the only reason I'm getting married in a church because Howie's parents would be devastated if we didn't. Anyway you little minx you've been holding out on me! Where did you hook up with Nick at Kevin's wedding? In a confessional? That's totally hot."


            Alyssa just gave Teri a bewildered look. "What are you talking about?"


            "You said you hooked up with Nick at Kevin's wedding. Where did you guys do it?  It had to be pretty scandalous if you're talking about going to hell for it. I want the details!"


            Alyssa just burst out laughing. "Teri! We didn't do it at the church! Come on... This is me we're talking about. Talk about going to hell... I just meant that I'm going to hell for thinking about sex in church and now after this conversation I think I need to make confession although now I'll never be able to look at a confessional the same way again. We hooked up after the wedding. At the hotel. It's a long story. I won't bore you with the details. It was like eight or nine years ago."


            "Oops..." Teri placed a hand over her mouth. "Wow that was embarrassing, but definitely makes to an interesting start to my wedding."


            Before anyone could say anything further, Alyssa saw Nick finally heading towards the back of the church. They would have to probably start lining up any minute now. "Well, I guess this is it," she told her friend, giving her a quick hug. "Good luck and don't trip on your way down the aisle."


            "Good luck to you too," Teri whispered as she stole a glance at Nick. "You may be needing it." She smirked not being able to resist one last jab. "The confessional is always avalible if you need to ‘talk.'"


            "It's a good thing that we're in church, so I can't say what I really want to say to you right now," she joked. Taking a deep breath she smoothed her hands over her stomach and made her way bravely towards Nick. It was now or never and she figured it was up to her to break the ice.


            "Hi," she greeted him with a small smile as she got into her place in line next to Nick. "Feels kind of like déjà vu, huh?"


            Nick looked over at her and for a moment or two Alyssa was afraid that he'd just ignore her, but after a moments hesitation he decided to save face and be polite. "Yea... It does. So, you ready to do this again?"


            "Yea I think so," she told him still smiling. In that moment she knew that things could probably only get better between them.


Chapter 29 - You May Now Kiss the Bridesmaid by Mellz Bellz
Author's Notes:

Nick tells Alyssa how he really feels.


Chapter 29 - You May Now Kiss the Bridesmaid


            The ceremony went off without a hitch and before Alyssa realized it, the actual wedding part was over and the bridal party was posing for pictures outside of the church. Teri had really looked gorgeous and it had been a beautiful ceremony. And surprisingly she and Nick had made it down the aisle as politely and professionally as possible. Evidently they must've pulled it off well because Shayla still shot her a dirty look as they'd past her by. Alyssa had just given her a wide smile in return.


            Now it was time to head over to the reception hall. They'd all piled back into the limos where they took more pictures. And then when they'd finally arrived at the reception still more pictures. Finally just when Alyssa thought that her mouth was going to be permanently frozen into a smile position it came time for the bridal party to finally make their entrance. Again she faked enthusiasm to be walking into the reception arm in arm with her ex boyfriend (and now she could add father to her child to the list) while a DJ announced them. But she was doing it for Teri and Howie, so she made the best of it for them.


            There was one wedding ritual she'd forgotten about though, the bride and groom's first dance. The wedding party would be expected to stand around for the first minute or so watching the happy couple dance to their slow song of choice for the first time as husband and wife. Then they'd be invited to join in, meaning Alyssa would have to slow dance with Nick until at least the DJ invited everyone onto the floor and Shayla had a chance to break them up. Any close contact with Nick was weird right now, but there was no getting out of it. You only have to dance with him for like a minute, she told herself. Surely you can stand that much. Besides you danced with him at his own wedding. This can't be any worse.


            She stood there watching from her spot on the dance floor as the DJ announced the new Mr. and Mrs. Dorough. She smiled, genuinely happy for her two friends. Then of course the beginning notes of "I'll Be" by Edwin McCain began to play. All eyes were on Teri and Howie as they took center stage of the dance floor and began to sway back and forth in each others arms to the music. Then came the awkward moment that she was dreading.


            "Our new couple now would like to invite the rest of the bridal party to join them in their first dance as husband and wife," the DJ announced. "Grab your partner and go out and join them."


            Nick grabbed her hands first. "Shall we?"


            Alyssa shrugged. "Guess we don't really have much choice." She followed him out to the center of the dance floor and tensely raised her arms up to his shoulders. She tried to find a comfortable position for her body, but with her growing stomach in between them it made it hard to get too close.


            "Sorry," she apologized, glancing down at her growing baby bump. "This is really awkward."


            Nick gave her a weak smile. "It's okay. You're pregnant. It's understandable."


            The two unsteadily rocked back and forth silently for a moment or two before Nick interrupted again. "I can't believe how big you've gotten since the last time I saw you." His cheeks immediately flushed as soon as he heard the way it had came out. "Not that I'm trying to say that you got fat or anything. I mean duh, you're pregnant. You're supposed to get bigger, right? I was just trying to say that it's just weird seeing you because you weren't really showing a few weeks ago and now you are." You're a fucking idiot Carter, he told himself realizing that he probably wasn't making himself sound any better.


            Luckily Alyssa didn't seem to be offended. She just lightly laughed. "It's okay Nick. I have been putting on weight lately and ev