When My World Is Crashing by Mellz Bellz

Nick and Alyssa have survived a series of tumultuous events in the past year - a highly emotional affair, the dissolution of both of their marriages, and the loss of a child. But nothing could prepare them for what happens when they finally are exposed to the media. Can their relationship survive the public scrutiny and stand strong, or will it crumble? Sequel to A Little Taste of Sin.

Categories: Fanfiction > Backstreet Boys Characters: Nick
Genres: Angst, Drama, Dramedy, Romance
Warnings: Graphic Sexual Content
Series: Not Like We Predicted
Chapters: 4 Completed: No Word count: 24468 Read: 6258 Published: 12/01/08 Updated: 04/17/09

1. Chapter 1 - Back to Reality by Mellz Bellz

2. Chapter 2 - Happily Never After by Mellz Bellz

3. Chapter 3 - Money Talks by Mellz Bellz

4. Chapter 4- America's Sweethearts by Mellz Bellz

Chapter 1 - Back to Reality by Mellz Bellz
Author's Notes:
Here it is! Finally the long awaited first chapter of When My World is Crashing. I apologize for the delay. I think it was just getting this one of the ground that killed me. I hope you enjoy and let me know what you think!

Chapter 1- Back to Reality


            Shadows lingered across the room as the first few rays of the mid-dawn sunlight streamed in through the curtained window, making it not completely dark, but not light either, instead bathing it in a soft grey color that was slowly beginning to grow lighter as morning neared closer. In the dim natural lighting, Alyssa momentarily rolled over just long enough to glance at the flashing red numbers on the digital alarm clock that was on the nightstand, still struggling to calm her ragged breathing from the events of just a few minutes prior. 6:03 AM, it read. It had been a long time since she'd voluntarily been up this early and an even longer time that she'd been woken up in the manner that she had.


            "Okay, now I really don't want to get out of bed after that," she lightly joked once she finally found the ability to speak again. She turned back around to where Nick was laying beside her looking just as flushed as she imagined that she appeared.


            Nick's arms snaked around her bare waist, pulling her closer to him. "Maybe that was the plan," he replied with a flirtatious smirk. "To get you to forget all about going back to work and stay in bed with me all day instead."


            Alyssa just laughed. Since when had Nick become one who would be content in spending the entire day in bed cuddling? "Although I do have to admit that the offer does sound tempting, I'm going to have to take a rain check on that. Unfortunately, summer vacation is over and I need to get back to work before they give my job away."


            Nick stuck out his bottom lip in a pout. "You sure that I can't change your mind?"


            "Oh, I'm sure that you can. That's the problem." She leaned forward to give him a light peck on his lips before reluctantly wrenching herself from his grip. "If I stay in this bed one more minute I know that I'll never make it on time, so I'm going to go jump in the shower now." She slipped out of his embrace and pushed the covers off of her body as she stood up. Nick mimicked her movements, but Alyssa held up a hand to stop him. "Uh uh... Under any other circumstance I'd love for you to join me, but you know as well as I do that we'll be in there for a lot more than ten minutes and that's all the time I have."


            She watched as Nick crossed his arms over his chest and sulked a little bit. She knew that Nick just didn't want her going back to work today and was setting out to do whatever it took to get her to reconsider her decision. Oh, well... He'll get over it, she told herself, purposely ignoring his childish behavior as she headed into the bathroom. She turned on the showerhead and adjusted the water temperature before stepping underneath its warm spray. She had to admit that there was a tiny part of her that didn't really want to go back to work, but she knew that deep down it was time. She'd been out of work since the end of January recovering from the accident that had caused her to lose her unborn daughter. The physical wounds had healed in only a few short weeks, but the emotional ones still lingered on. She'd had so many issues to resolve before she could even begin to think of going back to her old life and although she still couldn't say that she was completely past the incident, she had definitely made enormous strides. She supposed that a part of her never would get past the fact that she had lost a child, but she knew that she couldn't sit around and grieve forever. She needed to restore her old life as closely as she could which meant resuming her teaching career.


            Of course she couldn't completely return to her old life before Zoey. That life had long been destroyed. In her old life she had been newly married to Sean, living in a brand new home, and seeming to be living a perfect life. She'd had everything a woman could want. A successful career, enough money to live comfortably, and a husband that had adored her. Still, it hadn't been enough. After the first few months of post marital bliss had faded, their issues had started to come to the surface and Nick had reentered her life. The result? She'd fallen back in love with Nick, and her marriage to Sean hadn't even reached the two year mark before ending in divorce.


            Nick had been her rock throughout these past few months. After the accident she'd purposely pushed him away at first, not having the energy or the strength to allow him to help her grieve. The promises that she'd made to be with him became empty as she let herself fall deeper and deeper into depression. He'd been the one to give her the much needed wake up call that she needed to move on. He'd urged her to seek the help of a therapist and throughout the next few months he stood on the sidelines, giving her support when it was needed, and waiting for her to decide that she was ready to dive back into a commitment with him. It had taken four long months for her to finally realize how ridiculous she was being, but once she had, she wasted no time in confessing to him how she really felt. Since that night they'd been stronger than ever.


            That past summer had been one of the happiest times that Alyssa could remember having in a long time. After literally being put through hell and back, the two of them had decided that they needed some time to reconnect and build up their relationship before they officially became public. Once they took that step, all hell was certain to break loose. Nick was still technically married to his wife, Shayla, an entertainment news reporter, although their marriage had pretty much been over for well over a year now. Nick hadn't yet made a move to end the marriage only because he was waiting until Alyssa was prepared enough to face the consequences from the media that were sure to come once they got wind of the announcement. Shayla wasn't fighting to file for a divorce either. For some deluded reason, she actually thought that there was a chance that Nick would one day change his mind and come back to her. The two of them had decided that a change of scenery was exactly what they needed, so they'd left LA for the summer and headed across the country to the Florida Keys. It was relatively private and peaceful and one of Nick's favorite places in the world to kick back and relax. They'd rented a house on the beach and spent the past few weeks in very much of a honeymoon phase of their relationship. A few of their friends had joined them for a few days here and there, but for the most part it had just been the two of them. Their vacation had definitely been almost a calm before the storm of sorts.


            The only difficult point of the summer had been on one of the last days they were in Florida. They had never had any sort of service or memorial for Zoey because at the time Alyssa knew that she just couldn't handle it. Now that she was stronger, Nick had suggested that they do something to provide the both of them with some sort of closure to the situation. They'd decided to have her cremated and in a private, informal, ceremony of just the two of them, they'd spread her ashes into the ocean. It seemed appropriate being that it was one of Nick's most favorite places in the world. She could only imagine that if Zoey had lived she'd have grown to share in her father's love of the ocean.


            Before Alyssa had realized, it was time to head back out to LA. The past few weeks they had spent in the Keys seemed like they had taken place in an entirely different world. She wasn't looking forward to returning to LA where she knew that pretty soon her private life as she knew it would be exposed for everyone in America to see. She wasn't looking forward to the nasty rumors and the paparazzi trying to snap her picture everywhere she went. Most importantly, she wasn't looking forward to how the media exposure was going to impact her teaching job. She'd worked hard to get where she was. She didn't want to lose her career over her decision to be with the man she loved.


            Don't stress about it, she reminded herself as she finished squeezing the last bit of conditioner from her hair. If it happens, it happens and you deal with it. For now you're starting the school year off fresh and working hard to be the best damn teacher you can be. The harder she worked; she hoped that the less of a difference the media backlash would have on her. She hoped that her coworkers would be able to look past the vicious rumors and see her as an excellent teacher and not just tabloid gossip.


            She turned off the water and stepped out of the shower, wrapping a fluffy, white, bath towel around her body. She grabbed a second towel to dry her soaked hair and stopped at the sink to quickly brush her teeth. Once that was done she headed back into the direction of the bedroom where as expected Nick had gotten over his pouting. He'd pulled on a pair of boxers, but was still sprawled out across the sheets waiting for her to return. She just rolled her eyes and picked up her comb that was lying on the top of the dresser as he wolf whistled at her when he entered the room. "Bathroom's all yours if you want," she announced as she began combing out the few small tangles that had formed in her hair from the night before.


            "It's okay. I think I'd rather just stay right here and enjoy the view," he snarkily replied as he watched her grab a bottle of curl crème, pump a small amount of product into her hand, and bend over as she scrunched it into her hair making loose waves. He loved it when she wore her hair all curly and wild like that.


            Alyssa whipped her head back up and fiddled with her hair for a few more moments until it fell just perfectly enough to satisfy her. "Suit yourself," she shrugged, heading for the closet to pick out an outfit to wear. After a few minutes of selection, she pulled out a pair of grey dress slacks, a white button down shirt with a slightly ruffled front, and a wide black belt to wear around her waist. She quickly pulled out a fresh bra and a pair of bikini underwear from her drawer and sat down at the foot of the bed beginning to wriggle the underwear up her legs.


            "You smell so good right after you get out of the shower." She felt Nick come up from behind her and his lips connect with her bare shoulder. She shuddered a little as he continued to kiss up towards her neck and his hands reached around to unravel the towel around her chest. Alyssa lightly moaned, but then remembering that she had a job to get to, she reluctantly pulled away.


            "Come on," he groaned, clearly frustrated with the situation. With all the time they had been spending together he'd gotten too used to being able to have sex with her wherever and whenever he wanted.


            Alyssa sighed. "I promise you that as soon as I get home I am all yours to do whatever you want with, but I really need to get to work as early as possible. It's the first day and I have so much setting up still to do in my classroom." She reached over to grab her bra which was lying next to her on the bed, but Nick was quicker, purposely scooping the garment out of sight and hiding it behind his back. "Nick..." she whined. "I don't have time for the games this morning."


            He just playfully smirked his frustration now turning into amusement as she got increasingly more annoyed. "You're so cute when you're angry," he observed. "Your face gets all red and your eyes get all dark-"


            "You know hiding my bra is not going to keep me from going to work," she interrupted him, not bothering to listen to him. "I can just go over to my drawer and get another one." She stood up from the bed and did just that, retrieving a nude colored bra from her dresser and slipping it onto her shoulders. She reached behind to clasp it, letting her towel fall away from her body. Next, she grabbed her pants and stepped into them ignoring Nick's very obvious stare. She grabbed her shirt and put her arms through it before sinking back down on the mattress to button it. She started out at the bottom and only got about halfway to the top when she realized that every button she buttoned Nick promptly unbuttoned. Finally losing her patience she rose to her feet and pointed towards the door. "Okay Nick, I love you and all, but please go take a shower. I can't get ready with you breathing down my neck like this. Don't you have plans for today, anyway?"


            "Uhh... maybe?" Nick responded, deciding to play dumb. He knew damn well that he did have plans today. Pretty big plans in fact, but he was trying to delay having to face them.


            Alyssa raised her eyebrows at him. "Maybe? Having second thoughts about finally getting the ball rolling on your divorce?"


            Nick sighed. "Not really. More like I really don't want to have to have the inevitable phone conversation where Shayla calls me up screaming at me and wanting to know why she was served with divorce papers."


            "Come on Nick... She has to know they are coming. You even warned her! I mean yea... It has been a few months now, but what was she expecting? You to just come waltzing back into her door and say that you want another chance?"


            "You never know with Shayla. You know she lives in some delusional fantasy land."


            Alyssa sat back down next to him on the bed and put an arm around his shoulder. "Look, I'm not looking forward to this divorce any more than you are. I know that Shayla is going to do all that she can to make us miserable, but it needs to be done. We can't go on living like this forever you know. I mean I want a future together that includes a marriage and kids and I want to do it the right way this time. I know it feels like we are opening Pandora's Box by getting started with the divorce, but this should've been done months ago. Better late than never."


            "I guess you're right," Nick reluctantly agreed. "Things were so much easier when we were in the Keys and didn't have to worry about anything else, but each other."


            "Well, no vacation can last forever." She gave him a light peck on his forehead. "Go get in the shower. Don't you have an appointment with your lawyer to finalize the papers before Shayla gets them this afternoon?"


            "Yea... I do." Grudgingly he stood up and shuffled over to the bathroom knowing deep down that he was just being a wuss about the whole thing. He didn't want to give up this whole private world that he and Alyssa had created, but she was right. It had to be done sooner or later. He just wasn't looking forward to the media. It had taken a long time for his tarnished image to get back to somewhat respectable status. After the divorce scandal hit, he very much could be done for. All he knew was that Diane was going to love him...




            As soon as Alyssa stepped foot into the school cafeteria that morning to meet her new students and take them back to the classroom she was bombarded by two of the other Special Education teachers Marie and Tara as they enveloped her in hugs.


            "Welcome back Alyssa! It's so great to see you again," Marie gushed. "You look great."


            "Yea, you'd never have thought that just a few months ago you were waddling around these halls," Tara chimed in.


            Alyssa gave both women a tight smile. She knew that today would be a hard day with everyone offering her delayed condolences. "Thanks... I've tried hard to get myself back into shape."


            "How are you doing?" Marie asked in a more serious voice. "I'm really sorry about the baby. That had to be really difficult for you to go through."


            "It was one of the hardest things of my life," she honestly admitted. "It really took a long time for me to get myself together and begin to move past it, but I'm getting better."


            "And to have Sean leave you during that time... What a jerk!" Tara sympathized. "Of all the times for him to decide to bail on you. That had to make things a billion times harder, right?"


            Alyssa just nodded. Neither woman knew the whole story about exactly why Sean had really left her. They had just assumed that the strain of her losing the baby that been too much for their relationship and he couldn't handle it. Never in a million years would they suspect that the real reason was that he had found out that she had been cheating on him with her ex boyfriend. "I guess it was for the best." She shrugged. "I mean I guess we just weren't meant to be together. There's something better out there for the both of us."


            The other two women exchanged a glance. "Is that your way of telling us that there's someone new in your life already?"


            She hesitated for a moment not exactly sure how honestly she wanted to answer Marie's question. She really wanted to keep her relationship with Nick under wraps for the time being. She knew that once everything finally came out in the media there would be no way to hide the truth, but in the meantime she really didn't want to have to answer any questions about her love life. "No, I didn't say there was..."


            "You do look awfully happy this morning," Tara carefully observed. "You're practically glowing."


            Alyssa rolled her eyes, pretending not to have any idea what her two coworkers were talking about. "I'm just happy to be back at work doing what I love to do. Right now meeting my new students is what is number one on my list of importance." She gave the two women a small smile. "Now, if you'd excuse me I better head over and see what I've got in store for me this year. I'm hoping that this class is a little less draining than last years."


            Without waiting for any other questions, Alyssa headed over to the table where her new students were sitting. She taught a class of third and fourth grade learning disabled students. Her first year teaching in California, she'd had a very sweet class who had been a pleasure to work with for the most part. Last year though was an entirely different story. She'd had a number of behavior problems and of course with her being pregnant on top of it all it made dealing with her students even more stressful. Needless to say she'd been looking forward to going out on maternity leave all year. If there had been one advantage of missing out on the last half of the school year that had to have been it. Looking over at the students in front of her though, she had a good feeling that this would be a much better year. About three or four of the students she'd had last year as well, but only one was a troublemaker and Alyssa knew him well enough now that she was confident she could keep him in line. This is going to be interesting trying to explain to the kids that I'm not Mrs. Robinson anymore, but Ms. Martinelli, she thought to herself. It felt kind of strange going back to her maiden name after a full year and a half and she knew that her students would probably assume that she got married again or something. She was already anticipating her old students having a hard time calling her by her new (old) name.


            "Hello boys and girls!" she enthusiastically greeted. A few of her old students rushed up to her to give her hugs. "My name is Ms. Martinelli and I'm going to be your teacher this year. I can already tell that we are going to have a magnificent year together and I can't wait to get to know each and every one of you. I'm going to start by taking attendance and then we'll do lunch count." She smiled at the interested looking faces of her new students as she gathered up her crisp new attendance cards. She'd almost completely forgotten how much she enjoyed her job in her short time away from it.




            Meanwhile across town, Nick was sitting in the office of his lawyer Richard Pierce going over the last few details of the divorce papers he had drawn up before they were sent to Shayla that afternoon. "Okay, so we are filing under irreconcilable differences, right?" he asked.


            Nick nodded his head. "Yea... I think that's the best course of action. Simple, easy, to the point. I don't want to turn this into a blame game."


            "As far as your terms go you want everything to be distributed fairly right? Any special requests for property or assets? Anything that you want her to have or not have?"


            He shook his head. "Nope. I want everything done as simply and as fairly as possible. I want to try to get through this divorce as quickly and amicably as possible. I would like us both to leave with what we came into the relationship with. As far as property goes she can have the house, the vacation home, and the Mercedes."


            Richard nodded as he clanked away on his keyboard to add that bit of information to the final document. "I'm going to try to get this done and over with as quickly and cleanly as possible Nick, but be prepared for a fight. I don't think that Shayla is going to accept this without trying to run you over the coals. I'd be prepared for some resistance on her part."


            "Oh, I'm expecting it," Nick assured him. "More than you know," he mumbled under his breath. "Seriously though what good is it going to do her to prolong this divorce? And furthermore what does she honestly need from me? She's got a pretty successful career going on there herself. She can definitely afford to get by on her own."


            "I don't know about that Nick. You've racked up quite a small fortune throughout your years with the Backstreet Boys. You've been in the entertainment world for over ten years now. Shayla is relatively new to showbiz and she's only a reporter and television show host. Yes, she has enough to get by, but not nearly as much as she had available to her while the two of you were married." Richard sighed and looked at Nick seriously. "There is also another problem. The two of you never signed a pre-nuptial agreement. By right, she's entitled to at least half of everything that you earned throughout your marriage. Now she could agree to these terms or she could decide to challenge you for more money. Judging on what you've told me about her I really don't see her agreeing to these terms. She's going to want every last penny that is entitled to her."


            Now it was Nick's turn to sigh. He knew that his lawyer was right about Shayla. She was going to be pissed and looking to seek revenge on him and what better way to do it than by hitting him in the pocketbook. It wasn't the money that really bothered him. He knew that he'd earned enough money throughout his years of performing that he could live comfortably for probably the rest of his life. He still had money coming in from his label and who knew if in another year or two the guys would be interested in another album and tour. He also knew that Alyssa didn't need any of the materialistic things that he and Shayla had built their world out of. He just didn't want the hassle of the fight. A part of him wanted to just give in to Shayla, but she really didn't deserve half of his riches. She'd proved herself to be an ugly person because of what she had done to Alyssa. He always could use his knowledge of her role in Alyssa's accident to his advantage, but he also didn't want what would probably already be a messy media scandal to get even dirtier. He'd take his chances for now. Maybe she'd be just as fed up as him at this point and agree to his terms amicably. Maybe pigs would start to fly...


            I knew I should've made her sign a damn pre-nup, he mentally cursed himself. It had been a horrifically stupid move on his part. He probably should've known better after the number of times he'd gotten burnt by girls who were only out for his money in the past. He'd just been so infatuated with Shayla at the time, honestly believing that he had changed and because he had changed the type of woman that he had begun to attract were different. He'd never stopped for one moment to consider that one day he'd find himself in this position and that Shayla would actually vindictively try to screw him over just because she could.


            "I guess that's just something I'm going to have to take my chances with," he finally replied, raking a hand through his blonde hair. "It's too late to worry about that now. It's all up to her I guess for the time being. So, what happens after Shayla receives the papers?"


            "She has thirty days to file a response to them. She can either agree to them, sign them willingly, and then we wait six months and you are officially divorced. The more likely scenario in your case is that she will contact her lawyer, and come up with her own terms. If you aren't satisfied with her requests, than the next step would be to take the case in front of a judge and he or she will decide who gets what," Richard explained.


            "And if it goes in front of a judge about how long would that take until we are officially divorced?"


            Richard shrugged. "It depends on how long you have to wait for the case to go to trial. Typically it can take six months to a year and then depending on how complex the situation the trial can last anywhere from a few weeks to a few months. After all is said and done you still have to wait an extra six months for it to be official, so it could take an extra two years or so."


            "Two years?!" Nick's mouth hung open in shock. There was no way that he wanted this divorce to linger on for two fucking years. He and Alyssa were already thirty. He knew that she wanted to get married and have at least two kids within the next five years. They simply could not afford to waste two years on cutting Shayla out of their life.


            "That's worse case scenario Nick. I doubt it'll be that long. I know how quickly you want to get this over with so that you can move on with your life. I'm going to try to get this settled for you as fast as I possibly can," the older man tried to assure him. "Let's just take this one step at a time and we'll cross that bridge when we get to it. You never know what is going to happen."


He pressed some keys on his computer and Nick could hear the noise of the printer starting up behind Richard's desk. "I'm just going to print this out and then all I need is your signature and I'll make sure that Shayla gets these hopefully by the end of the day."


Nick just nodded and a few minutes later the papers were laid out in front of him and Richard indicated to him where he needed to sign. With a sigh, Nick picked up the pen and slowly scrawled out his name in the designated areas all the while wondering if this was supposed to free him from Shayla, why did he feel like he was signing his life away?




By the time Alyssa arrived home from work it was nearly five pm and there was a note from Nick on the refrigerator about him going out to pick up something for dinner and that he'd be back soon. Alyssa was grateful for this because the last thing she felt like doing right now was cooking. Even though she was glad to be back at work it had been a long day and her body wasn't used to getting up so early and then being up on her feet for so long. There had been a short faculty meeting after school and then Alyssa had stayed a little later to get her classroom organized a bit more. They'd moved her this year, so she was still trying to get everything set up the way she wanted it. The commute from her school to the condo was a little bit longer than it was from her home with Sean had been which meant she'd have to leave a little earlier in the morning and she'd be getting home later in the evening.


The first thing she did was head back into the bedroom and change into more comfortable clothes which meant a pair of sweatpants and one of Nick's hooded sweatshirts. Then she headed into the living room and sank back onto the couch looking to see if there was anything worth watching on television besides the news. After only a few minutes of channel surfing she heard the front door open and saw Nick peep his head into the living room holding two plastic bags from the nearest Chinese place.


"Yum, Chinese food," she observed as she eagerly scrambled off the couch. "How did you know that I didn't feel like cooking tonight?"


Nick just shrugged as he headed into the kitchen and plopped the bags onto the table. "I figured that you'd probably be tired from your first day back and we've both kind of had pretty busy days. Seemed like a good excuse for Chinese takeout. How was your day, by the way?"


"It went well," she reported from across the room where she was already pulling out two plates for them from the cupboard. "My class seems to be a lot better than last year which is a definite plus. I'll be able to do so much more with them. Last year we couldn't do anything fun because the minute I gave them an inch of freedom they just couldn't handle it. Everyone seems happy to see me again though, and it is nice to be back and doing something productive again."


"You mean that spending time alone with me isn't productive?" he teased with a smirk. "That's not how you felt this morning."


Alyssa rolled her eyes and playfully swatted his arm. "You know what I meant. How did everything go with you today? Did you get everything straightened out with the divorce?"


"Yea, we did." Nick bit his lip contemplating on how much he really wanted to tell Alyssa. He didn't want to freak her out by telling her that his divorce to Shayla probably would be a lot longer and a lot more complicated than her and Sean's had been. He knew Alyssa wasn't stupid and probably wasn't expecting this to go over easy, but he also knew that she hadn't anticipated the process having to go to trial or taking much more than a year. Then of course there was the whole lack of a pre-nup business. He knew Alyssa would go ballistic on him when she heard about that and he definitely did not want to ruin the good mood that she seemed to be in. "We finalized the papers and she was supposed to get them a few hours ago. I haven't heard from her yet, so who knows if she received them or not. She has thirty days though to decide if she wants to just agree to the divorce and get it over with or if she wants to contest anything."


"And if I know Shayla she's going to have a lot to contest," she finished for him.


Nick shrugged. "I hope not. I tried to be as fair as I could be. I think I was actually very generous. I let her have nearly all our property outside of this place and I let her keep her car. As far as finances go, I just wanted us to leave with everything that we both earned."


"Good luck with that," Alyssa scoffed. "Thankfully enough I didn't have those problems with Sean. I mean first off we didn't have nearly as much assets to worry about and secondly we just both wanted it to be over. I had no reason to contest anything. I didn't need the house and I didn't want any of his money, but then again I was the guilty party so I guess it would've been pretty hypocritical to demand some kind of retribution."


Nick was about to respond when his Blackberry began to ring from where it was clipped on to his belt. He picked it up and stared at the screen and groaned. "Ugh... I guess I spoke to soon. It's her."


"May as well answer it. You're going to have to face her sooner or later. No better time than the present," she advised.


He pressed the button to answer the call and put the phone up to his ear. "Hello?"


"Can you explain to me why the fuck I was served with divorce papers today Nick?" Shayla's angry voice screeched into his ear. "What was that all about? Way to warn me!"


Nick deeply sighed and stepped out of the kitchen into the direction of the bedroom so that he could have more privacy. He didn't care if Alyssa overheard him, but he just didn't want to get himself angry in front of her. "First Shayla, you need to calm down. How can I explain myself when you're screaming in my ear like a banshee? Second of all, I did warn you. Remember we had that whole fight before I moved out and I told you that it was over?"


"But that was months ago Nick!" she pointed out. "And I told you that you wouldn't because you didn't have the guts to really leave me because you didn't want the media to find out about your precious, little affair! That bitch put you up to this, didn't she?"


"Alyssa? No, she didn't ‘put me up to this.' Shayla, I fucking told you point blank that I wasn't in love with you anymore, that I was confused by my feelings for Alyssa, and that I wasn't sure what was going to happen because Alyssa wasn't in a state where she could give me any kind of commitment at the time. I didn't want to drag her into some messy, divorce scandal right after she lost her child and was going through a divorce of her own," he tried to explain.


"So why now?" Shayla's voice challenged. "It's been over six months since you moved out. Why did you wait so long to decide that you finally wanted a divorce? What have you been doing all this time? Are you seeing her?"


Nick took a deep breath knowing that he owed his wife a truthful explanation; one that she was not going to want to hear. "I was staying with Teri and Howie while Alyssa recovered. You can imagine that she not only had a lot of physically healing to do, but emotional healing too. I stood by her as a friend, but we weren't romantically involved until she told me that she was ready and that was only in May. I moved into the condo with her and we spent a few months together to see if it was going to work out. We're very happy with each other and she's finally prepared for all of this to come out."


"She better be, because I'm telling you right now, I am not going down easy. I'll play your little game which by the way, the terms of your divorce are laughable at best. How could you possibly think that I'd walk away from this marriage without at least wanting something? Especially after what you did to me? I'll be talking to my lawyers and I intend on dragging this out as slowly and painfully as I possibly can," she threatened. "When I'm done with you, you are going to wish that you never even met me."


Nick just rolled his eyes in response. Shayla could be so overdramatic at times that he never knew when she was being serious or when she was just flinging empty threats at him. Sometimes he really began to think that that Shayla thought of herself as the star of some kind of warped soap opera going on in her head. His head was beginning to pound and he could feel himself start to reach his own breaking point. "Shayla, I really don't know what you expected to happen here. I left you and said very distinctively that I didn't love you anymore. Did you really expect that I was going to leave for a few months, do my own thing, and then go crawling back to you? You knew this was fucking coming, so don't try and play like you are the victim here! If you want to draw this out and make it some kind of fucking media circus, go right ahead! It's your career that's going to be in jeopardy too!" He could feel his heart start to pound and his body shake with anger and he knew that if he did not end this conversation soon, he was going to wind up blurting out the fact that he knew that she had pushed Alyssa which he knew right now would only make matters that much worse. "Go talk to your fucking lawyers... Just remember two can play at this game." Angrily he pressed the end key on his phone and flung it across the room where it hit the wall with a loud thud.


Hearing the commotion, Alyssa hurried down the wall and stuck her head into the room. She immediately noticed Nick's face red with anger and him struggling to control his breathing. "Is everything all right in here?" she asked, sounding a little worried.


"Yea..." Nick told her, feeling kind of dumb for being caught in such an emotional state. "Just fucking Shayla being Shayla. Making threats, trying to be manipulative... The usual."


Alyssa just laughed lightly trying to make him feel better. "Well, I could've you told that." She stepped closer to him and wrapped her arms around him in a comforting hug. "Let her make threats. I'm not scared of her. She's just pissed off because now she can't justify her delusions that the two of you might still get back together and continue your reign as Hollywood's Golden Couple."


            Her sarcastic response did make Nick's face crack into a tiny bit of a smile. He loved how Alyssa always seemed to know what to say to make him feel better. He bent down to give her a short, reassuring kiss. "Thanks Lyss. I needed that." He tucked a loose strand of hair that had fallen out of her messy updo back behind her ear. "I'm just warning you though. I have a real bad feeling that this is going to get very ugly very quickly. I want to make sure that you can handle it."


            "Of course I can handle it. Come on, after all I've been through this past year? It's going to take so much more than some hateful bitch and some crazy paparazzi to break me down. I'll be fine," she assured him with a confident smile. "And I have you and I know this sounds completely cheesy, but I feel like together we can handle anything that life throws in our path."


            Alyssa may have put on a good front for Nick, but deep down she even had to question herself. Was she really ready? Did she have any idea whatsoever what she was about to get herself into?

Chapter 2 - Happily Never After by Mellz Bellz
Author's Notes:

I want to apologize for not updating in a long time. I've been VERY busy lately and I kind of just needed a break from writing for a bit. A lot has been going on between me working two jobs, the holidays, and a lot of personal/family drama. This is a rough time for me, so I can't guarantee updates, but I will try to get them out sooner. I struggled with this chapter and actually scrapped pieces of it so I could get it out sooner. It's hard to write happy Alyssa/Nick lol. I hope once I really get this off the ground it'll be easier to update. I hope you enjoy!


Chapter 2- Happily Never After


            The next few days flew by quickly with so far no mention of any divorce plans between Nick and Shayla in the media. As far as Nick was concerned, the media still had no idea of the impending divorce. He wasn't too sure how they hadn't yet caught on that something was amiss. They hadn't been photographed together since the night of his birthday which had been over six months ago. He knew that Shayla had been giving pretty bullshit excuses to explain his absence. He'd supposedly been recording for months now to their knowledge. He seriously doubted that excuse would be able to withstand much longer, especially with him being back in LA and Shayla threatening to make his life a living hell.


            Not knowing when or where they'd be when the news finally broke, Nick and Alyssa tried to steer as far away as the public eye as possible. By the time the weekend rolled around they were both bored and beginning to grate on each others nerves from being cooped up inside the condo together. Deciding that they desperately needed to get out and do something by Saturday, they planned to take Nick's boat out for the afternoon. They packed a picnic lunch, rode out into the middle of the ocean, and just relaxed and sunbathed as they enjoyed the tranquility and privacy of being in the middle of nowhere.


            At that particular moment, Alyssa was sprawled out on her stomach on top of a beach towel on the deck of the boat working on her tan. She'd managed to get some pretty good color, having the opportunity to be outside so much this summer. Of course her naturally olive skin tone had definitely helped speed the process along. Her arms were crossed in front of her and her head nestled against them. She had untied the bottom string of her pink bikini top to eliminate any pesky tan lines leaving the string behind her neck still secure. It was so relaxing lying out there with the suns rays radiating against her bare back, and the gentle sounds of the waves lapping against the side of the boat, that she began to feel her eyelids start to grow heavy and before she knew it she was beginning to drift off into a peaceful state of unconsciousness.


            Her moment of serenity did not last long. Just as she could feel herself begin to doze off, a large shadow fell over her body and she shuddered from the sudden lack of sunlight. She twisted her head off to the side to investigate the interruption and was not very surprised to find Nick standing behind her, his arms crossed over his chest and a pout on his lips. "You're blocking my sunlight," she crankily groaned, upset that she'd been pulled out from her almost slumber.


            Nick ignored her complaint, but continued with one of his own. "I'm bored," he whined. "Play with me."


            Alyssa rolled her eyes and chuckled under her breath. "Play with you? What are you? Five?"


            He shook his head. "I'm just really bored and you're ignoring me."


            Alyssa almost couldn't believe that they'd actually gotten to this point. Who would've ever thought that eventually she'd have Nick so whipped that he'd be the one pouting about her not showering him with attention every five minutes? It was ironic how things turned out. Seeing Nick pout over something so infantile filled her with amusement though and she couldn't help but to push his buttons a bit. "Well, I'm quite comfortable right here enjoying the sun. It's peaceful. You should try it."


            "What's so fun about just laying there? I can't stay still for that long," he continued to complain.


            This time Alyssa didn't bother to hide her laughter. "I swear Nick; you really are like a little kid sometimes. I'm not moving, so find something else to amuse yourself with. Didn't you bring your fishing pole?"


            "Yea, but nothings biting today," he reported.


            "Well, try again," she urged before turning her head face down again to send the clear signal that she was done talking to him. She could hear him huff and sigh from behind her, but the shadow lifted as he faintly turned around and walked away. She smiled to herself as she snuck a peek of him a few feet away fiddling with his fishing rod. He was shirtless, only clad in a pair of swimming trunks, and as Alyssa appreciatively took in the sight of him she had to admit that he was probably looking the best that he ever had as of lately. He'd continued to lose weight and although sometimes she thought he'd lost a little too much in his face he'd definitely buffed up in other areas of his body. Not wanting him to catch her staring, she finally peeled her eyes away and got back to her tanning.


            She was just fading out again when all of a sudden she felt something cold and hard bounce off her back causing it to arch in surprise. What the fuck? she wondered as her head shot up just in time to see another ice cube go flying towards her. This one landed right in between her shoulder blades causing a hissing sound to escape her lips as the cold object melted against her hot back. The sensation caused her to clamber up in surprise. Her eyes immediately zeroed in on her attacker who had given up on the fishing and was now bent over the cooler in which they had packed their lunch in. Apparently, his new form of amusement seemed to be in pelting her with ice cubes to see how long it would take her to abandon her sunbathing and pay attention to him. "Nick!" she cried. "That's so not cool!"


            Nick just smirked, clearly pleased with how well his plan had worked out. "But, I finally got your attention. And I get boobage out of the deal. This worked out better than I expected it to."


            Alyssa looked down only to realize that her bikini top was still half untied and when she had sprang up like she had it had flown up, leaving nothing to the imagination. Furiously blushing, she grabbed the towel that she had been laying on and held it up around her chest to cover herself. "You suck," she grumbled. "Fine, you win. I'm all yours."


            Nick came around towards her and settled down beside her, grabbing her waist from behind. "You know, it's not like we're not alone out here in the middle of nowhere and it's definitely not anything I've never seen before," he pointed out, his fingers already dancing along the edge of the towel.


            "I guess you do have a point there," she agreed, releasing her grip on the piece of the material. Even though she was way past the point of being shy around Nick instinct did sometimes kick in like it just had. "So, I take it that you had something specific in mind?"


            "Perhaps," he mysteriously sang, his lips near her ear. She took in a deep breath at the sensation of his lips against her neck. She could feel goose bumps beginning to rise on her arms even though it was far from cold as he continued to trail kisses along to the back of her neck. A small shudder of delight traveled down her spine as his lips landed on the tattoo that lay right above the string that held her bikini top still to her body. "Maybe we should work on getting rid of this," his voice continued, his teeth already nipping at the knot. Within a few moments and with the help of his fingertips, the piece of material fell off of her body, landing in a heap besides them. Not being able to keep up her act any longer, Alyssa whirled her body around and pressed her lips so roughly against his that even she was taken back with the intensity of it. She could tell that Nick was just as surprised by the way his mouth widened against hers, but he quickly recovered and responded back with just as much passion as she had. After a few steamy kisses were exchanged, Alyssa felt herself being lowered against the beach towel beneath them.


            Just as things were really beginning to heat up, the far off sound of Alyssa's cell phone echoed from its place in her beach bag a few feet away. At first, she chose to ignore the disturbance, but the phone continued to ring proving that the person on the other end was not going to give up until they received an answer. "You've got to be fucking kidding me," Nick muttered under his breath, obviously agitated. Losing his patience he finally reached over and snapped up Alyssa's shrilly ringing cell phone, fully prepared to tell who ever it was who had been incessantly trying to reach her off. Not even bothering to look at the number he flipped it open. "What?" he barked into the mouthpiece.


            "Is that anyway to answer a phone, Nickolas?" the familiar voice of his good friend Isabelle Richardson replied with a laugh. "And why are you picking up Alyssa's cell?"

       "Because I was closer," he simply answered. "What is so important that you had to keep calling Alyssa repeatedly for the past five minutes anyway? Did you have some crisis like you weren't sure which shoes to wear with which outfit?"

       "Ouch! That burns! Actually I was hoping to talk with you and not Alyssa. I tried your number, but it kept going straight to voicemail."

       Nick just rolled his eyes in the direction of the phone, clearly impatient by the interruption. "Yea, my phone was off and it was off for a reason. Alyssa and I were kind of trying to spend the afternoon together just the two of us without anyone else interfering. Hence, my phone being off."

       Finally seeming to understand that she had indeed interfered with the couple's afternoon, Izzy seemed to be a little more apologetic. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to like interrupt anything between the two of you. Did I interrupt anything?" She paused for a second or two before changing her mind. "Never mind... I don't really want to know. Like I said, I'm sorry for calling you guys, but this is something pretty important that I think you should know about."

       By this point in the conversation Alyssa had sat up wrapping the beach towel around herself and was looking over at Nick questionably. "Who is it?" she mouthed silently.

       Nick ignored her and continued on answering Alyssa's question anyway. "Just spit it out Iz, so that we can get on with our afternoon. This better be important because so help me God if it isn't-"

       "I'm guessing that you haven't been on Shayla's My Space page recently, have you?" Izzy quickly cut him off.

       Alyssa watched as Nick's face crumpled in confusion and perhaps a little bit of anger. "Oh yea, because I totally check my soon to be ex-wife's My Space page religiously," he sarcastically replied. "Come on Izzy, don't you think that I have a little bit more of a life than that?"

       "Well, I suggest that you take a look at it," she advised. "Like as soon as possible. The shit has hit the fan."

       Nick frowned. "What do you mean by that?" He could already feel a sick feeling beginning to form in the pit of his stomach and the last few minutes he'd had with Alyssa were already beginning to feel like nothing more than a fading memory. Talk about a buzz kill...

       "She posted a blog and... You just have to read it for yourself. Basically she took it upon herself to let the entire world know that the two of you were getting a divorce. Of course, she didn't hold anything back. I'm sorry Nick, but she pretty much just opened the gates for Hollywood's next big scandal."

       "Shit," he cursed under his breath. "I'm going to kill her! Of course she'd do something like this and in this fashion. She can't just wait to release a public statement. She has to take matters into her own hands and air all our dirty laundry over the internet where anyone can read it! Let me guess, she probably twisted everything around to make her look like the innocent victim right?"

       Izzy hesitated for a moment. "It is pretty bad," she finally admitted. "If you want I can read it to you?"

       "No." Nick shook his head. "I'd rather just read it on my own. Thanks for letting me know though Iz. Alyssa and I are going to be on our way back now. I'm going to have to check this out and then I guess give Diane a call to decide what she thinks the best thing for us to do is. She is going to be livid! I'm really not looking forward to this."

       "Again I'm really sorry to have to interrupt your afternoon with news like this. I just know being in the PR field, what a nightmare something like this could be. If you need anything, professional advice or just someone to talk to, you know that both you and Alyssa can always give me a call."

       "Thanks for the offer and thanks for letting me know what was going on Iz. I guess it was definitely better to hear it from you first than to come home to paparazzi waiting for me at my front door. I'm going to check out this blog and Alyssa and I are going to have to discuss what our next step will be."

       He quickly wrapped up his conversation with Izzy and after ending the phone call, he threw the phone down in disgust. "God, I can't believe that selfish conniving bitch would stoop this low! She's really fucked us over this time!"

       Slightly alarmed by Nick's sudden outburst Alyssa placed a comforting hand on his back to calm him down. "What's going on?" she anxiously asked. "Who are you talking about? Shayla?"


            "Who else would I be talking about?" he answered between gritted teeth. "That was just Izzy. Apparently Shayla has let the cat out of the bag about us... Over the internet where anyone and their grandmother can read all about it."


            Alyssa's hand flew up to her mouth as she gasped in shock. Suddenly Nick's outburst seemed to begin to make sense. She couldn't say that she was entirely surprised because in the back of her mind she'd almost anticipated Shayla doing something like this, but to be that catty and immature as to post the whole story over the internet? That was low. "Where on the internet? And what does it say?"


            "On fucking My Space," Nick grumbled. "In a blog. How classy is that shit? I'm guessing it was sometime within the past few hours. Izzy didn't say when it was posted, but it had to be pretty recently for us not to know about it earlier. I have no idea what it says. I told Izzy I'd rather read it on my own, but maybe I should've had her read it to me. Let us know what we're in for once we get back."


            "Well, you have one of those fancy Blackberry's right?" Alyssa pointed out. "Can't you get internet on your phone?"


            Nick just shrugged. "I do, but I'm not sure if I'll be able to connect to anything this far out."


            "It's worth a try right? Worst that can happen is we can't get it and if that's the case we can always just call Izzy back and see if she can read it to us."


            Nick had to admit that she had a good point there. What did they have to lose? He wanted to know exactly what they were dealing with as soon as possible and he definitely would prefer to read Shayla's blog with his own eyes. "You're right," he agreed. "Let me just get my phone."


He stood up and headed towards the cabin of the boat where he had stashed most of things when they'd first arrived. Retrieving the phone he pressed the button to turn it back on and was instantly greeted with a series of loud beeps indicating several missed calls and messages. It seemed like as if everyone he knew had tried calling him to warn him about Shayla's distasteful blog. "Damn... This must be serious," he murmured as he made his way back onto the deck.


"Is your inbox completely full already?" Alyssa asked as we rounded the corner back into sight. While he had been inside, she'd thrown her beach cover back on and was now anxiously waiting for Nick's return.


"It's pretty swamped," he replied, plopping down beside her. Bypassing all of the missed messages he opened up the internet application on his phone. "Let's see if we can get this to work."


Alyssa bit her lip, patiently waiting another minute or two as Nick attempted to access the website. "Okay, I'm on," he reported. "Just have to get to Shayla's page." Another minute or so painfully ticked by until he scooted his body closer to hers so that she could see the screen. Nick smirked and rolled his eyes as he clicked on Shayla's most recent blog post. "Just the title is enough to make me want to hurl. Here you read it, I don't know if I can stomach this." He thrust the Blackberry towards Alyssa's open hand.


"Okay..." she reluctantly agreed as she began to read the title. "Guess Fairytales Really Don't Come True. Mood: Betrayed. Currently Listening: You Oughta Know by Alanis Morissette." She paused biting her cheek to hold back her laughter. "Wow... She really is playing this whole woman scorned routine to the hilt isn't she? I mean she just went Alanis on your ass. That's serious."


"Please don't remind me," Nick dryly replied. "Keep reading."


Alyssa took a deep breath and proceeded to read the rest Shayla's desperate plea for sympathy.


Guess Fairytales Really Don't Come True

Mood: Betrayed

Currently Listening: You Oughta Know by Alanis Morissette


            Three years ago I had thought that I had found the love of my life. The man that would one day become my husband and the future father of my children. I had it all. The man of my dreams, a promising career in front of me, practically anything I could ever want... It really was almost like a real life Cinderella story.


            Well, the fairytale is officially over. After only slightly more than two years of marriage Nick and I are getting a divorce.


            How do you ask that a couple that seems to be so much in love and so happy together end this way? So many people thought that our marriage seemed to be ideal. That we had it all together; that we had the perfect relationship. So did I, but unfortunately this story has a much bitterer ending to it.


            You see this fairytale ends with the princess finding out that her prince really isn't the kind of man that she thought he was. In this story, the princess discovers that her prince has been living a lie. He has been holding a torch for his estranged ex all this time and has even gone as far as to forge a relationship with said ex behind her back. As if finding out that the person you trust most in life is cheating on you isn't bad enough, the prince's deceit does not end there. Oh no... That is only the beginning of the lies that he has been hiding...


            No, I am definitely not going down that route. I am better than that and I don't need to degrade myself to their level by blurting out the whole sordid truth. Unlike them I do have class, so it is best to keep the details vague. The truth will prevail soon enough as it is. I am just glad that I found out when I did and that I am strong enough to put an end to the marriage. A lot of women in my situation would turn their backs and pretend not to see what was really going on in front of them. Ignorance is bliss and all that. Not me. I am way better than that and I deserve better too.


            I will get through this. I am strong, independent, and I happen to have an excellent lawyer (just kidding). My only regret is that I hadn't realized earlier that no matter how much a man appears to change on the outside, it doesn't necessarily mean that they can change on the inside. I've learned my lesson. The moral of this tale: Once a cheater, always a cheater.


            I may be broken and my trust may be shattered at the moment, but in time I WILL overcome and I will survive.


                                                                                                Signing off,

                                                                                                  Shayla (soon to be ex) Carter


            "What a piece of convoluted bullshit this is!" Alyssa cried in an outraged voice as she lowered Nick's phone after she was done reading. "Is she fucking serious? Does she honestly think that anyone is going to buy her little ‘poor me' sob story?"


            She turned towards Nick who looked just as disgusted as her. "It's fucked up all right, but I have to give her one thing. She certainly knows just how to spin the truth to garner people's sympathy. You forget that we know her well enough to know that this is just another one of her schemes to make herself look good, but to someone who didn't know any better, it might appear that she is actually the true victim here."


            "You seriously think that people are actually going to believe her twisted propaganda?" Alyssa stared back at him in disbelief.


            Nick just shrugged. "You'd be surprised. She's not stupid Alyssa. In fact, I think that she's a lot more intelligent than we give her credit for. First off, in the media's eyes this probably isn't all that surprising to them. You know the field day that the media has had with me in the past. They probably are immediately going to take Shayla's side over ours. Shayla's been their little sweetheart from the moment that we first got together. Secondly, she's worded everything very carefully. Notice that she almost teases everyone with her explanation. She gets as far to reveal that I cheated on her with an ex, but she doesn't mention the pregnancy outright. Just that we were hiding things from her. Then she immediately backs off and goes on that whole rant about how she's not going to lower herself by airing out all her dirty laundry for revenge."


            "But isn't that exactly what she's doing by announcing the divorce in a My Space blog in the first place?" she questioned. "And she has the audacity to claim that what she's doing is ‘classy?'"


            "It's all part of her act Lyss. And you know that in Shayla's mind she thinks that she is the epitome of class even when she's being completely tasteless. Anyway, by doing all that she is only peaking everyone's interest. It's almost like a trailer for a movie. It's to get people talking and wondering what really happened. I guarantee you that this has probably got the paparazzi practically salivating to uncover the scandal. If she just completely sold us out than it would make her look bad, plus it would take away all the mystery. This way she draws it out which makes it all that more dramatic and more shocking when the truth finally does begin to unravel," he explained.


            Alyssa cocked her head to the side as she thought about what Nick had just told her. What he said did kind of make sense to her the more she thought about it. Maybe Nick was right. Maybe they hadn't give Shayla as much credit as she deserved. Maybe she was even more devious than they had originally thought. "That does make sense I guess. But it's so twisted. Who thinks that way?"


            "You kind of learn exactly how to manipulate the media when you're in the spotlight. It's almost an art form I guess. One that I never picked up on until much later in my career after a lot of the damage had already been done. I learned a lot from Paris actually. That girl could make what Shayla is doing now look like child's play."


            Alyssa almost felt sickened by his explanation. Now she remembered exactly why she'd preferred to stay as far as possible away from the limelight while she had been dating Nick previously. She just wasn't good at all the games that other celebrities played to manipulate their image. Now whether she liked it or not she was about to be pulled into this world of mind games and dirty tricks. She was going to have to have Izzy give her a course on how to handle the media without making herself look badly in the process. "But she practically lied Nick! She made it sound like the divorce was all her idea. And she made it sound like she just found out about us when she's known for months now. In fact, she's no better than those same women that she was denouncing for refusing to see what was going on right in front of their faces! How long did she wait around again hoping that you'd change your mind and come back to her? What a hypocrite!"


            "You're completely right, but that's Shayla for you. Did you really expect anything less?" Nick paused and continued on. "At least there's one good thing about this whole situation."


            "There is?" Alyssa wasn't sure if she could think of anything the slightest bit positive about their predicament.


            Nick just nodded. "You see the only person she called out on anything was me. All she insinuated was that I had cheated on her with an ex. I've had lots of exes. So, it at least takes the heat off of you for a bit and gives you some more time to be prepared when the media finally does discover that you're the ex Shayla was talking about. I guarantee you that as soon as the media reads this blog they are going to do whatever is in their power to discover who this ‘other woman' is and they are going to investigate it from every angle."


            "But don't you think I'd be the obvious choice?" Alyssa asked. "We've been together the longest and there were those tabloid pictures of us back after we first started to hang out together again. I just think we'd make the most sense. Katie is out of the equation. Mandy's married, and Paris? After the way things ended with the two of you I don't think anyone is going to buy that you gave things a second chance."


            "You were married too," Nick pointed out. "I really think that the media would check out the Paris or Mandy angle before you just because it's juicier if this other woman was someone in the entertainment world. Besides that, an ex doesn't necessarily have to mean someone that I was serious with. I've dated plenty of other women casually in my past."


            "We know," she remarked with a roll of her eyes, not being able to pass up the opportunity for the snide comment.


            Nick ignored her. "I really don't think they'll find you out right away. We've been keeping things on the down low ever since we decided to make things official for this very reason. And even before that while you were pregnant we were pretty careful. I don't think anyone we know will try and sell us out. We just have to be cautious for a little while more, that's all."


            Alyssa sighed. "I'm just sick of hiding out! I'm sick of not being able to walk down the street holding your hand or show you any kind of affection in public. I thought that the whole point of us deciding to make this work between us was so that there wouldn't be anymore sneaking around? "


            "It is and we'll have all the time in the world for that once this all blows over. But in the meantime, trust me; it's better to let the tabloids do their speculating. Let them stumble upon the truth on their own time," he advised. "Believe me, once we're found out all our privacy is done with until the next bigger scandal arises. You'll appreciate as much time as we can buy."


            "I'll take your word for it." Really Alyssa had no idea how the entertainment world really worked, so she supposed that she had no choice but to rely on Nick and his experience. Still, she worried and doubted him a little bit. There was bound to be someone who had spotted them together at one point or another. And if there was money dangled in front of someone else's face to give them away, she seriously doubted anyone would turn down the opportunity. Her mind briefly flashed to thoughts of Kim, her neighbor when she lived on the base with Sean and ex-friend. Towards the end of her pregnancy, Kim began to grow more and more suspicious of the time she spent alone with Nick and had made it quite clear that she disapproved of their friendship. Her husband, Ian had just been killed over in Iraq a few months earlier and she was struggling to raise their son Gavin on her own. If some tabloid were to offer her money to out them, would she really turn down the money? Or what about her OB/GYN, Dr. Spencer? Although it had never been verbalized, Alyssa was pretty sure that her doctor could put the pieces of the puzzle together on her own. She knew that she had the Hippocratic Oath on her side, but would someone risk losing their career if there was enough money involved? Alyssa couldn't help but to feel paranoid now. Could she really trust anyone?


            The rest of the ride back towards the marina was tense and silence. Somehow Alyssa had the feeling that as soon as she stepped off that boat and onto dry land, nothing would be the same again.

Chapter 3 - Money Talks by Mellz Bellz
Author's Notes:
Don't have a heart attack, but yes I am actually updating. Writin has been REALLY hard for me lately and this chapter especially was like murder to write. Maybe because its more business and less about Alyssa and Nick's relationship? Anyway I hope that you enjoy and I hope that I can start churning these out sooner!

Chapter 3- Money Talks


            Arriving back at the marina actually was not as big of an event as Alyssa had feared it to be in her mind. They weren't greeted by hordes of photographers eagerly poised to snap their picture the moment they stepped off the boat together. To her surprise everything appeared to be relatively normal for the moment. Still, as a precaution Nick had decided it would be best if they exited the boat separately and that Alyssa should have the car waiting for him, so that they could make a hasty getaway if needed.


            The ride back to the condo had been uneventful and again Alyssa was thankful to see that they didn't have any reporters already waiting on their doorstep. They had the slight advantage in that as of now the paparazzi had no idea where Nick was currently staying. Their destination wouldn't be able to remain much of a secret much longer. Their community was not a gated one and although Alyssa and Nick had kept mainly to themselves and never really acknowledged their neighbors, living in such close proximity someone had to at least have their suspicions about the couple by now. Maybe it would be a better idea if for the time being if they didn't appear to be living together. Maybe Nick was better off crashing someplace else until the truth came out.


            The remainder of their evening was tense. Both of them were on edge, too afraid to turn on the television to hear if rumors of Shayla's blog post had reached the world of entertainment news. They'd picked at their dinner and tried to pretend to be interested in a movie, but not being able to fake it any longer, they'd both given up and resigned to bed fairy early. Both of their phones and the house phone had been ringing so much that they'd had no choice, but to turn the ringers off so that they wouldn't be bothered. Neither one of them could say that they slept very well that night.


            The next morning was no better, but they both knew that today they were going to have to come up with some kind of game plan and seriously consider just how they were going to handle their response to Shayla's blog. The first step would be to get in touch with Nick's publicist Diane Hopkins and get her opinion on the situation. Although she could be stubborn, she'd gotten Nick through some particularly unflattering points in his career without too much permanent damage. Hopefully this would be no different.


            "That's funny," Nick remarked that morning as he scrolled through all the missed calls he had acquired within the past sixteen hours on his phone. "I've heard from just about everyone under the sun, but Diane hasn't called me once. Usually she's the first one to call me the moment I do anything that could even be remotely hurtful to my image. This isn't like her."


            Alyssa just shrugged in response. "I'm sure that there's a logical explanation. It's the weekend. Maybe she went away or she's busy doing something with her family. Or maybe she's sick. You should just try giving her a call."


            "I pay her to be aware of what the media is saying about me though. Even if she is away, the woman couldn't go far without her Blackberry. It's just weird." Realizing that he was getting nowhere with this ranting Nick sighed. "I guess you're right though. I should give her a call and see what's going on." Quickly he located her number in his phonebook and waited while the phone rang on the other end.


            Alyssa only half-listened to Nick's side of the conversation as she poked her head into the refrigerator to search for something to whip up for breakfast. "Hey Diane?" his voice floated from across the room. "It's Nick... Carter... I guess by now you've heard about the blog that Shayla posted yesterday... Yes, that would be the one... I know that it's Sunday, but I was hoping that maybe we could meet with you to come up with some kind of attack plan here before the paparazzi starts to hunt me down... Eleven is good...? At your office...? All right... Thanks again Diane... I'll see you then... Bye."


            As Nick hung up the phone, Alyssa's head perked back up. "What'd she say?" she curiously asked.


            "She wants us to meet her at her office in about an hour to discuss the Shayla situation," he reported.


"Us?" Alyssa stared at him in surprise. She had thought that the initial damage control was something that would be between Nick and his publicist. She hadn't anticipated that she would have to be a part of it all.


            "Yes us..." Nick clarified. "Whether you realize it or not, you're a part of this situation now. I think it's for the best that you are there with me. We need to work as a team if we want to get though this intact."


            "You're right," Alyssa finally reluctantly agreed. She knew that Nick knew what he was talking about and he definitely made a good point. They were in this together. Still, she felt more than a little apprehensive in meeting Nick's publicist. She wasn't exactly sure why, but something about the situation sent a sinking sensation through her stomach that she knew couldn't be a very good sign at all.




            Alyssa's nerves subsided little within the next hour and before she knew it she was sitting next to Nick in the office of Diane Hopkins nervously playing with her fingers. Diane was almost exactly how she'd pictured her to be. A sharp looking, no nonsense woman, she was dressed in a crisp black suit even though it was Sunday and these weren't official office hours. Her short red hair was coiffed into a fashionable bob and her face was expressionless underneath her impeccable makeup job. Underneath the cool exterior Alyssa was certain that she could see something else in the older woman's eyes. The way that they seemed to shift back and forth did little to ease her distrust of the stranger.


            "Diane, this is Alyssa. Alyssa, Diane," Nick quickly introduced the two.


            "It's nice to meet you," Alyssa politely took the woman's hand more out of etiquette than actual friendliness.


            "Pleasure is mine," Diane replied with a tight lipped smile.


            There was a bit of an awkward silence and Nick quickly realized that Diane was waiting for him to begin the conversation. Odd, he thought. Diane usually isn't the type to beat around the bush. Usually she's right down to business. Ignoring her strange behavior he began to speak. "So, what are we going to do about this blog of Shayla's? I admit that parts of it are true. We are getting a divorce and I admit that I did cheat on her, but there is a lot more to the story too that she conveniently left out-"


            Diane held out her hand to cut her off. "Before you go any further with that thought Nick, there is something that I need to tell you. I agreed to meet you down here today for other reasons than to hear your side of the story." Was it Alyssa's imagination or was Diane actually shifting her position uncomfortably from behind the desk?


            Nick exchanged a worried glance with Alyssa before returning his attention back to Diane. "To bitch at me again about how I always find myself in the middle of these kinds of things?" he nervously joked, feeling the tension in the room.


            Diane just shook her bed regrettably. "Look Nick, I've known you for a number of years now and we've been through a lot together. I was there for you when you were arrested, when everything with your family went down, when things went sour with you and Paris..."


            "Why does this sound like you're breaking up with me?" he interrupted, that same nervous humor surfacing again.


            His publicist sighed deeply. "I guess the only way to do this is to come right out and say it. I can no longer represent you."


            "What?!" Nick did little to hold back his surprise and anger at the situation. "What do you mean you can't represent me any longer? We have a contract! I know you don't agree with me and Shayla getting a divorce, but if you just listened to the whole story I'm sure that you'll be able to see my side of things."


            "I can't hear your side of things and I can't represent you. I can't do either of those things because it would be a conflict of interest on my part."


            It took almost a full minute for her words to sink in with Nick, but once they did his hands angrily clenched the arms of the chairs and he could feel his cheeks reddening in anger. "Are you trying to tell me that you're ditching me for Shayla?" His voice was strangely calm, considering his tense appearance.


            "I'm sorry Nick," she apologized. "You know that I've been representing both you and Shayla, so I have to choose one of you over the other, and in the end Shayla offered me a better deal."


            "So, this is all about money then? Never mind the fact that you've been representing me long before I ever met Shayla." His voice began to rise in indignation. "That's bullshit! When were you planning on letting me know about this? Don't you have any code of ethics?  I trusted you! I thought that after years of working together that you had my back, but I guess I was wrong. Nice to know that money really does talk, huh?"


            Diane just sighed as she listened to Nick's rant completely stone faced. If she felt any sort of guilt in her betrayal, she did little to show it, but then again Diane had never been one to show much of any emotion, making her good at what she did for a living. Once she sensed that Nick had finished she responded in a cold, flat voice. "I know that you are upset at me Nick and you have every right to be. I wish you the best of luck in your future and I hope that you are making the best decision for yourself. I did what I had to do and that's the bottom line. Yes, I know that I've ‘sold out' on you, but the decision has already been made. I've chosen my side and I can't go back on my word to Shayla now."


            "If this is just a threat to get me to pay you more money, we can work something out," he continued to stubbornly bargain. "How much is she paying you? I'm sure that we can strike up a new contract. We can toss some numbers around-"


            "I'm not at liberty to discuss the terms of our contract Nick," she interrupted. "As I've mentioned before, it's a done deal."


            Before Nick could make a bigger fool out of himself by trying to further negotiate with his former publicist, Alyssa stepped in, grabbing him by the arm just as Nick appeared to open his mouth to protest. "Nick, it's not worth trying to bargain with her here. Obviously she's made her choice and now it's on her conscience. You know that Shayla only made that offer just to screw us over. She really doesn't care who represents her. We'll just take our business elsewhere." Without another word she stood up to leave ignoring the hateful glare coming from Diane's eyes.


            Nick followed her lead, amazed at the way that Alyssa had just taken control of the situation like that. Without another word he followed her towards the door, but not being able to resist one last stab he turned around once he reached the door determined to get the last word in. "If it wasn't for the fact that I don't want to already add more fuel to the fire I'd sue your ass for breach of contract. I hope that you know what you are getting yourself into. There are things about Shayla that will make every mess that I've been in look like a walk in the park."


            Alyssa gave him a warning look and jabbed her elbow subtly into his side to let him know that he was beginning to say too much. She knew exactly what he was referring to, but it was way too early for that tidbit of information to come out. Shayla's role in her accident back in January was their one secret weapon in this whole situation. Somehow she had the feeling that it would be in their best interest to keep her involvement hush hush for the moment.


            Nick seemed to understand her signal and tightened his lips. He did not look back for a reaction from Diane as he followed Alyssa outside the office doors and into the elevator down the hall. Once the doors had closed and they began their descent back down to the ground floor, he angrily punched the wall of the elevator in frustration. "Well, isn't this just fucking perfect? Now what? Not only did she completely call me out in her cute little blog, but she has to fucking steal my publicist now too? I know she said that she was going to play dirty, but this is ridiculous! How could Diane do this to me?"


            "You know what they say... Everybody has a price," Alyssa dryly replied.


            "Where the hell am I going to find another publicist at this point in the game?" Nick pressed his fingers to his forehead, rubbing his temples. "After the blog incident most people aren't going to want to touch me with a ten foot pole. Then when they actually hear the whole story... No publicist wants to voluntarily take on a huge media scandal like this us turning out to be."


            "There's got to be someone," she tried to reassure him. "I mean you've been in the business since you were a teenager. There has to be someone who could do you a favor. What about the other guys? Diane doesn't represent all of you. Who do they use? Maybe they could refer you to someone?"


            "Refer me? This isn't like going to see a doctor." Nick sighed. "God, whenever I see Shayla again she is going to really hear it from me because this shit just isn't funny anymore. We need at least someone with some knowledge of media representation in our corner."


            Halfway through Nick's tirade, Alyssa felt her mind drift off as she wracked her brain for some kind of solution for their predicament. She tuned back in long enough to catch his last sentence and then something automatically clicked in her head. It was a long shot and completely crazy, but then again it weren't as if they had many other options at the moment. "I think I've got it..."


            Nick just turned and looked at her, a puzzled expression on his face. "Got what? The answer to our problems?"


            Alyssa eagerly nodded her head. "It's so simple; I'm surprised that we hadn't thought of it earlier. You need someone to represent you. Someone who has experience in the PR field and someone that you know that you can trust, right? What about Izzy? You know that she's been working at that PR firm since Grace was born. It's always been her dream to start her own firm. This could be the breakthrough that she needs to really get her career rolling. She's already been doing little things for Tristan and Kevin, and she's had experience working with your PR team while you guys were on tour."


            "Wait... Hold up a minute." Nick held up his hand to stop her. "I appreciate the suggestion, but let's face it. I love Izzy and all like a sister. We've been friends since we were pre-teens and I'd trust her with my life, but this is a big deal. There is a huge difference between doing PR for meet and greets and handling a major tabloid scandal. This is my career on the line here. Izzy's lack of experience just makes me a little wary of the situation."


            "I would think that her being so close to you would be an advantage. I think that in this kind of situation it would help having someone behind you who you know that you could fully trust," she pointed out. "We're both comfortable with Izzy. Yea, she does lack experience in this kind of specific situation, but she's smart and aggressive and I know that she's not going to take any crap. If I had to have anyone fight any battle for me I'd want Izzy in my corner. All of that aside, do we really have any other options at this point? Why waste time scrambling to find someone who is probably only going to put a band-aid on the situation when I know that if we just give Izzy some time to think, she'll come up with some sort of plan."


            Nick sighed. He had to admit that his girlfriend definitely did make some good points, but still he felt apprehensive about handing things over to Izzy. He just wasn't sure if he was fully convinced that she could really handle fighting with the big boys so to speak.


            Noticing his quiet reflection, Alyssa continued on with her persuasion. "Truthfully speaking Nick, what other plan do we have? It can't hurt if we just sit down and talk to her and see what she says. We can stop over there right now. I'm sure that she won't mind. We don't even have to decide anything for sure until we've talked to her about it."


            "Fine," he reluctantly gave in more out of desperation than anything else. "We'll talk to her. But I'm not making any promises."


            His agreement was all that she needed for her face to break out into a proud smile. She was quite pleased with herself for coming up with the solution to a seemingly unsolvable problem. She knew that it was a long shot, but something in her gut told her that Izzy was the right person to help them out along the long road that lay ahead of them.




            About half an hour later, Alyssa and Nick found themselves standing on the porch of Izzy and Tristan's home unannounced. They probably should've called before they decided to stop by, but they both had too much riding on this encounter to even bother. Glancing at each other one last time for reassurance, Nick only hesitated a beat or two before reaching forward to press the doorbell. Alyssa could hear it echoing behind the closed door and a few moments later the door opened to reveal Tristan, Izzy's longtime boyfriend.


            "Hey Alyssa, Nick..." he greeted looking surprised, but not entirely disappointed to find the two of them on his doorstep. The two couples had been close throughout their twenties and considered one another practically family. "What are you two doing out this way?"


            "We were actually hoping that we could talk to Izzy about something," Alyssa spoke up, getting directly to the point. "She's here right?"


            Tristan nodded and stepped away from the door allowing them room to step aside. "Yea, she's here. Come inside and I'll grab her for you."


            The two of them stepped inside into the living room and waited impatiently as Tristan disappeared down the hallway searching to find Izzy. They'd only been standing there for a few minutes when they were interrupted by a small figure hurling itself at both of their legs as it bombarded them. "Aunt Alyssa! Uncle Nick! Did you come over to play with me?" a tiny voice asked.


            Alyssa looked down and laughed as she reached down to untangle Grace, Izzy and Tristan's four year old daughter from her legs as she lifted her up to greet her with a hug and a kiss. "Not today cupcake," she apologized. "We actually came over because we have something really important we need to talk to your Mommy about."


            "But you never come over and play with me anymore." The youngster's lips twisted into a sad pout and Alyssa had to admit that she actually did feel guilty for neglecting her Goddaughter over the past few months. With all the craziness going on within her own personal life, she hadn't had much time to devote to others.


            "I promise that we'll definitely come over and play with you really soon," Nick jumped in and promised. "We might be spending a lot more time with your Mommy in the next few weeks, so I'm sure that there will be plenty of time for some long overdue playtime, okay?"


            Grace's face seemed to light up with excitement. "Do you really mean that?" Both Alyssa and Nick just smiled and Grace's pout disappeared into a wide smile. "Mommy, did you hear that?" she asked, racing towards Izzy as she entered the living room with Tristan behind her. "Aunt Alyssa and Uncle Nick promised that they're going to come back and play with me because they are going to be spending a lot of time here soon!"


            "Oh, they are, are they?" Izzy asked with a laugh as she suspiciously glanced in the couple's direction. "Well, Daddy just told me that they have something really important and grown up that they need to talk to me about, so why don't you go play with Daddy for a little bit and then maybe when they're done, Aunt Alyssa and Uncle Nick can stay and play with you for a bit?"


            The compromise seemed agreeable to Grace. An excited smile came over her face as she willingly let Tristan lead her out of the room into the direction of the backyard. Alyssa watched the scene enviously for a moment or two. It seemed like her best friend had it all. Granted, Izzy had shared with her that she and Tristan had been having problems about a year ago and even though the two had been dating for almost as long as Alyssa had known Nick, they still were not married. It wasn't their relationship that made Alyssa jealous though. It was the fact that they had Grace. She couldn't admit it in front of her, but one of the reasons why Alyssa had distanced herself from her Goddaughter was simply because being around Grace was an all too painful reminder of what had been taken away from her. Her own daughter would never get to be Grace's age, and Alyssa would never get to experience the mother/daughter interactions that Izzy shared with Grace. Sure, if she wanted to she'd be able to take another stab at getting pregnant and she did want to someday... Now just definitely was not a good time for her and Nick. Maybe once everything got settled down with Shayla, but somehow Alyssa got the feeling that was not going to be anytime soon.


            Her thoughts were interrupted by Izzy offering them both something to drink as if she had just remembered that she was the hostess. They politely accepted and a few minutes later all three of them were holding fresh cups of coffee and making themselves comfortable on Izzy's living room furniture, Nick and Alyssa on the loveseat and Izzy across from them sitting Indian style on the recliner.


            "So, what was so important you had to talk to me about that you couldn't even call first to tell me that you guys were stopping over?" Izzy began as she sipped her coffee. "Not that I mind because you two know that you are always welcome here. Just it seems really serious."


            "It is," Alyssa promised. "Remember that you said if we ever needed any advice on any of this stupid media garbage that we could come to you?"


            "Uhmm yea... It was only yesterday." Izzy laughed. "Don't tell me that you already have paparazzi harassing you? I swear they're like vultures. It's barely been twenty-four hours since Shayla posted that blog."


            "It's not exactly the paparazzi that is concerning us, at least not yet," Nick interrupted. "So far the coast is clear on that front although I don't anticipate that lasting much longer. Right now our bigger problem is that apparently I no longer have a publicist."


            "What do you mean you don't have a publicist? What happened to Diane?  I thought she's been representing you for years?"


            Alyssa rolled her eyes. "Yea, we did too. Apparently she got a better offer from someone else."


            Izzy's eyebrows rose in surprise and she shot them a quizzical glance obviously awaiting some kind of further explanation. "Diane has decided that she's going to represent Shayla," Nick quickly filled her in. "She was representing the both of us and up until now I assumed that in this situation she'd remain loyal to me given our history, but evidently Shayla made her some kind of deal and here we are. She really was two steps ahead of us on this one."


            "What? Diane sold out on you?" Izzy seemed just as shocked as he and Alyssa had been earlier when they had heard the news. "That's completely fucked up! So, now you don't have anyone representing you?"


            "Nope. We don't have anybody in our corner and we're on the edge of a huge media scandal threatening to explode," he summed up. "You see how this could be a problem, right?"


            "Problem? It's a disaster!" Izzy leapt to her feet, fully understanding the severity of the situation. "I know it's not much, but I can at least try to help you in finding someone else. I have a few connections that I can tap into. Let me just go get my Rolodex and we can try giving some people some calls... I just hope someone will be able to take you guys on so suddenly."


            Alyssa and Nick exchanged a glance. They both seemed touched by Izzy's eagerness to help them out whatever way that she could and Nick had to admit that this did cement their decision to offer Izzy the job at representing them. Alyssa had been right. They did need someone who they knew well and knew that they could trust throughout this ordeal.


            "Iz, wait. Before you go crazy there is one thing that you can do to help us out big time," Alyssa began.


            "Sure," her friend immediately agreed, sitting back down again. "Anything for you guys."


            Alyssa looked back over to Nick to take over where she had left off. "We kind of already had someone else in mind to represent us. Someone who knows us inside and out and that we can both trust," he continued.


            "Oh?" Izzy looked confused. "Well, who is it and what can I do to help?"


            "Her name is Isabelle Richardson and she's been one of my best friends for over ten years now," Nick announced, not being able to hold back a smirk, especially once he saw the shocked reaction on his friend's face. "That is if you're willing to accept the job."


            Izzy continued to look shocked as she sank back against the couch. "Me? You want me to be your new publicist Nick?" her voice practically squeaked. "Wow... I don't know what to say..."


            "Yes, would be appropriate," Alyssa prompted with a laugh.


            "Are you sure about this? I mean yes this is what I have a degree in and I've dabbled in the world of PR leading up to this, but handling your divorce scandal is going to be a whole new level for me," she nervously pointed out. "You might be better off with someone who has a little more experience."


            "Experience only goes so far. We could get the best in the business, but how do we know that they really have our best interests at heart? I mean look at Diane. I thought that I could trust her and she in the end screwed me over for money. I know that I can trust you to do whatever it is in your power to make us look good," Nick argued.


            "And we know you Iz... You're one of the most stubborn people I know. I trust that you're not going to let anyone get away with making us look bad," Alyssa chimed in. "Not without a fight at least."


            Izzy bit her lip looking thoughtful. "It's a lot to consider... This has been one of my dreams to start my own PR firm..."


            "And of course I'll be paying you," Nick added, seeing that she was beginning to be swayed. "By doing this for us, I can definitely help get you started. It would be a great opportunity for you to get your name out there."


            "All right, I'm in!" Izzy enthusiastically agreed. "I'll represent the both of you, but I'm going to need sometime of course to think this all over before I decide what our first move should be. In the meantime, I think Nick should definitely release a statement acknowledging and confirming the divorce, but refusing to comment on any of the affair rumors for the time being. We're on the defensive here, so I think we need to wait and see the full extent of damage that Shayla's blog has really had in the media."


            "Makes sense," Nick agreed. "Take your time. I know that you'll figure out something great. So, should we start talking contract negotiations here?"


            Alyssa sat back and observed the excited glimmer in her best friend's eyes and instantly knew that they had made the right decision in choosing Izzy to represent them. She wasn't sure exactly what tricks Izzy had up her sleeve just yet, but she trusted that she'd come up with something good. As she reached across the loveseat to squeeze Nick's hand she realized that for the first time in twenty-four hours she felt optimistic that maybe they'd get through this without too much damage being done to their reputations.

Chapter 4- America's Sweethearts by Mellz Bellz
Author's Notes:
Whoa shocker! It's been like at least six weeks since I've updated last. I really want to apologize for that. As a lot of you know I have a lot of stuff going on right now, mostly I'm trying to prepare to move out over the summer to probably North Carolina because there actually seem to be teachng jobs there. It's REALLY a very tough desicion and has been on my mind pretty much all the time, so writing just hasn't really been a top priority for me. Plus I'm just having major issues with this story for some reason. With UMS and ALTOS I had a very clear plan. This time around I don't and I am overwhelmed with where I should take this story. You can probably thank Teri for at least getting me to finish this chapter up. (It is a long one though.) Anyway progress on this story will probably be slow moving. If I get to do much writing at all I am thinking about focusing more on some of my other stories and maybe fooling around with some new ideas. I hope you enjoy and please let me know your thoughts.

Chapter 4 - America's Sweethearts


            "And in entertainment news it was announced over the weekend that Backstreet Boy Nick Carter and his wife, E! News reporter Shayla are calling it quits after just under three years of marriage. The pair, who originally met while Nick was filming his E! reality show, House of Carters, was rumored to be having problems after keeping a very low profile since the beginning of the year. Shayla dropped the bombshell in a recent blog post on her My Space page, revealing not only that the couple was getting a divorce, but that the reasoning behind it being that Nick had recently hooked up with an ex girlfriend behind her back. A recent statement released by Nick confirms the divorce, but declines to comment on any other rumors."


            Alyssa sighed as she listened to the radio DJ finish up her entertainment ‘sleaze' report before turning off the engine in her car, taking out the keys, and gathering her tote bag, lunch bag, and purse up off the seat of her car. After the weekend she'd had, she found herself very glad for it to finally be Monday and for the next work week to begin. She knew that her students would be just the welcome distraction she needed to keep her mind off of her personal affairs. So far the repercussions of Shayla's blog hadn't been too hard on her... yet. By now as she had just heard on the radio, the media was beginning to report the divorce and the rumors that Nick did have an affair with an ex-girlfriend, but for now it was just that; a rumor. Alyssa's name for the moment was in the clear. For how long this would be, she wasn't sure, but she was going to make the most of what little bit of privacy she still had left for the moment.


            She got out of her car, locked it, and headed towards the direction of the school building ready to face what was about to be the first full week of the new school year. So far her class seemed decent which was a nice reprieve from last year. She hoped that their behavior would continue like this throughout the next few weeks and not just be the fact that they hadn't yet shown their true colors. Once she was inside, she headed right into the front office to sign in for the day and to collect her mail from her mailbox. Attendance folder, lunch cards, notices to go home, teaching supply catalogue... Alyssa mentally ticked off in her head as she quickly rifled through the pile she had collected. She was just about to head down to her classroom when she noticed a folded up piece of white paper still lying in her mailbox. She grabbed the note and curiously flipped it open, figuring that maybe it was a message from one of her parents or something.



            Please come down and speak to me during your prep period today. There is something that I need to talk to you about.


                                                                                                                   Mike Kirkland


            Alyssa hadn't realized that she'd started to tremble until she noticed the paper beginning to shake between her fingers. Shoving the note quickly into her tote bag she left the office and headed down the hallway in the direction of her classroom the whole time trying to figure out what exactly her principal had wanted to talk to her about. Even though there was no way that he could possibly link her to Nick and his divorce at this point in time, Alyssa still couldn't help but to be paranoid. Had he somehow found out about her affair and was now about to ask her to resign as a teacher in his school? Could he even do that to her under those circumstances? You're not tenured yet, she reminded herself as she unlocked her classroom door.


            But if he were going to fire me wouldn't he do it right away? she argued with herself. Why would he ask me to wait until my prep to speak with him? And when is my prep today anyway? Her eyes quickly darted to the daily schedule poster she had displayed on the back of her door since she hadn't yet fully memorized which special her class had on which day of the week and what time. Of course her Monday special was Art which was her longest prep of the week, ensuring plenty of time for her discussion with Mike. Luckily Art wasn't until eleven followed by lunch at twelve. Alyssa would have the entire morning to prepare herself for her meeting.


            Unfortunately, what had first seemed like a blessing to her, turned out to be a curse. Instead of being glad for the extra time to prepare herself, it only made her more nervous and made her imagination start to get the better of her. By the time her students arrived she was so frazzled that she could barely get through her whole morning routine. Never being the type of teacher to just give her students "busy work," after unsuccessfully attempting to start a reading lesson on vowel sounds, Alyssa had given up and pulled some extra worksheets that she had laying around. She felt guilty doing this, but she knew that her mind was not on teaching at the moment and she would only have to probably re-teach the same lesson the next day. By the time eleven rolled around Alyssa was pretty sure that her students as well as herself were relieved.


            But relief still wasn't exactly in sight. If anything the worst was still yet to come. After Alyssa dropped her class off at the Art room she dragged her feet as she headed to the front office, feeling much like one of her students when they were in trouble. Very tentatively she entered the office and stuck her head into the first doorway belonging to the principal's office. "You wanted to see me?" she barely managed to squeak out.


            Mike Kirkland looked up from his position at his desk with an undeterminable expression on his face. "Yes Alyssa. Come on in and have a seat." Like his expression, his tone was flat and unreadable.


            Meekly, Alyssa entered the room and made herself as comfortable as she could in one of the chairs in front of his desk. Nervously she folded her hands in her lap and looked up at him expectantly, waiting for him to begin. She'd never before had a problem with Mike in her previous two years teaching in the building. In fact, he'd been one of the more laidback and flexible principals that she'd worked with in her teaching career. Normally he wasn't the kind of person that she'd fear, but he still was her boss and her job still hung in his hands.


            "I want to start out by commending you on all the hard work and dedication that you've put into this school since you've began working here," he started off.


            Uh oh... Speeches that start off with that line are never good, Alyssa thought to herself as her heart nearly leapt to her throat. He's definitely getting ready to fire me. Her back immediately stiffened as she attempted to keep her face relaxed and composed.


            "Since you've began teaching here you always have been among the first to volunteer to help out with extracurricular activities. Your first year here you helped behind the scenes at the fifth grade play and then last year even though you were only here for half the school year you still helped set up that pen pal program for our students to correspond with soldiers over in Iraq. You've always gone above and beyond what was expected of you, which is why I think that you'd be perfect for the position that I am hoping to interest you in," he continued.


            Alyssa frowned after his last sentence. Here she was all prepared to be fired, but instead Mike wanted to offer her a new position? This was not at all what she had been expecting and she wasn't quite sure if this was a good thing or a bad thing. "What do you mean?" she found herself asking, curiously.


            Mike took a deep breath as he began to explain. "I'm sure that as a special educator that you are very well aware of the recent trend in the past few years to cut back on the number of students being placed in self-contained classrooms. The new goal is to include as many of them as possible into general education classrooms with the appropriate support available for them to succeed."


            Alyssa just nodded. She was very familiar with the idea of inclusion classrooms; classrooms that were comprised of both regular and special education students working as closely as possible together with proper modifications. Back when she was a substitute teacher in New York she'd worked in a few of them and she knew there were one or two inclusion classes at her old school in North Carolina. She'd been surprised to come to California and learn that her school had yet to develop an inclusion program. "Yes, I am familiar with the inclusion trend," she answered. "I've read quite a number of articles on the subject. I'm familiar with the benefits."


            Her superior looked pleased. "I know that it is a little early to be talking about next year already, but the district has selected our building to launch a new pilot inclusion program for the 2011-2012 school year. Of course you know that the key to a successful inclusion classroom lays in the relationship between both the regular and special education teachers. It requires teamwork, careful planning, and flexibility. Out of all the special education teachers in this building I feel that if anyone you'd be the right person for the job. You have a variety of different teaching experiences under your belt, working in both special and regular education, and you are very open to trying new things. You get along well with others and I think that you'd be able collaborate well with another teacher. Would you be interested in being part of the program? We'd like to know as soon as possible because of course there will be training workshops I'd like to send you to and I'd like your input as we piece together the program."


            Alyssa was floored as she considered the offer. This definitely had not been what she'd been expecting at all. And after all of her principal's compliments her confidence really did feel sky high for the moment. It felt good to know that she had been one of the first people that he had considered for the job. Still, it wasn't a decision that she should just impulsively make. There were still some things that she needed answered. There were different variations of inclusion. In some models both a special education teacher and a regular education teacher taught side by side full time in one class. In others the special education teacher only pushed into the class for a few hours each day and was usually split between two rooms. Alyssa preferred the former option. Although she'd have no problem sharing teaching responsibilities with someone else, she still wanted the security of having her own classroom even if she had to share it with someone else. Plus, splitting her time between two classrooms meant double the students (most likely on different grade levels) and double the workload. "Wow... This is quite a big decision and I'm honored that you thought of me. I just have a few questions about the program. What kind of inclusion model are you planning on using?"


            "We'd like to try it out next year just in one grade with both a general and special education teacher in the classroom full-time. If it is successful over the next few years we'd like to slowly phase in at least one inclusion classroom per grade level," he reported.


            Another thought flew into Alyssa's head. "This is my tenure year. I'm flattered that you'd consider me, but what happens if I don't get my tenure? Isn't it presumptuous of you to start training me for this program this early in the school year?"


            Mike just grinned at her. "I wouldn't worry about it. Between me and you, it would have to take some kind of major scandal to prevent you from earning tenure at the end of this year."


            Alyssa responded with a small, uncomfortable smile. Mike clearly had no idea just how far he was from the truth. Even though he was joking, she found his last sentence struck eerily close to home. If only he knew... she thought to herself. Somehow Alyssa just couldn't be as confident as he was about her earning tenure. In fact, she might be lucky just to have a job next year period.




            By the time Nick heard the front door of the condo open that evening signaling that Alyssa had arrived home from work, he had to admit that he was glad to have her home. His day had not been the greatest and now he wanted nothing more to use his girlfriend as a welcome distraction to all the chaos that was already beginning to unfold. By this morning, news of his imminent divorce from Shayla was widespread and the rumor that their demise had been a result of him cheating was running rampant. Just flipping through the television stations it seemed like everyone wanted to weigh in on the matter. Of course most people seemed more sympathetic towards Shayla in the situation, but then again they had only heard one side of the story. They also all seemed to be trying to figure out the identity of the woman that Nick had cheated on her with. As anticipated Alyssa's name had yet to be thrown into the mix. Most people seemed to be almost hoping for this mystery woman to be one of the better known women he had been linked to in the past. It would make the whole story that much juicier in their eyes.


            Alyssa hadn't greeted him with her usual hello as she usually did, but Nick did not seem to take this as any indication that she was upset. She just wordlessly closed the door behind her and headed into the living room, tossing her purse, lunch bag, and tote bag onto the nearest couch. As soon as she was within reaching distance, his arms reached around her waist, pulling her back down onto his lap. "Hey there sexy," he greeted with a kiss to her neck. "How was work?"


            "Okay," she replied, as she kicked off her heels not seeming at all phased by his advances.


            Nick frowned, immediately picking up on her sullen attitude. His hands froze from the position that they were in already trying to untuck her white shirt from underneath her black pencil skirt. "Just okay?"


            Alyssa sighed and turned her body so that she was looking at him. She knew that Nick was not going to just let this go and truthfully she really didn't feel much like pretending that everything was fine. She might as well just tell him exactly what was bothering her. "I got an offer for a new position next year," she began. "They are starting up a new pilot program and they want me to be one of the teachers involved in implementing it."


            "Lyss, that's great! Congratulations!" At that point Nick quickly realized that Alyssa wasn't at all excited about this new opportunity which confused him even more so. Wouldn't something like this be a good thing? "I don't see why this is a bad thing."


            Alyssa shook her head. "It is good news. Great, in fact. I was so honored to be selected..."


            "So then what's the problem?" he asked in a concerned voice.


            "The whole time I was in the office talking to my principal today he kept showering me with compliments and saying things like he knew that out of all the other special education teachers in the building I was the most qualified candidate for this position. Instead of being flattered I just felt guilty," she confessed. "Like I didn't deserve all that praise."


            "I'm not sure I understand," Nick slowly admitted, continuing to frown. "I mean you're a great teacher and your principal was just recognizing all the hard work and dedication that you put into your career. I know that you've always been a modest person, but you should feel proud. Why wouldn't you deserve some positive feedback?"


            "Because here he thinks that I'm like teacher of the year or something and I've been like living this double life! I'm just afraid that once he does find out about us, he'll change his opinion of me. I feel guilty accepting a position like this when I'm not even sure if next year they'll want me back as a teacher."


            Nick was silent for a moment or two as he processed her admission, finally beginning to see where she was coming from. She was afraid of how her role in his divorce scandal would impact her teaching career. For a second or two he, himself felt a little guilty for getting her involved in this mess, but lot's of people had affairs. It wasn't exactly like they were living in the Dark Ages. Surely they couldn't fire someone for that reason alone. "Lyss... You're a great teacher and if they're going to ignore that and fire you just because your face is all of a sudden in the papers then screw them. They don't know what they are losing. You can always find another job. Your personal life shouldn't have any impact on your professional career."


            "It shouldn't but it does," she sniffled. "You don't understand because you're not part of the educational world. Because I'm a teacher and I'm supposed to be a role model for students, I'm held up to higher standards than most people. If I worked in another field, maybe this wouldn't be such a big deal, but my students are going to see me in the papers and they are going to ask questions... How do I explain something like that to them? I could be the best goddamn teacher in the world, but no one is going to see that. They're just going to see me as home wrecker. And then say I do get fired... It's not like I can just go out and get another job in another district. By then I'll have a reputation and no one is going to want me teaching their child. I'll be blackballed no matter where I go. I'd never be able to teach again. Now just imagine someone telling you that you'll never be able to perform again. How would you feel?"


            Nick sighed. "Pretty lost, I guess. I don't have much going for me outside of singing. I understand what you are saying, but you don't have to put yourself through this. Just resign. I know that you're not just with me for the money. I could care less if you work or not."


            "You're not getting it Nick!" Frustrated Alyssa sprang to her feet. "I enjoy my job. I consider myself lucky to get up in the morning and actually look forward to work. This is my passion and I worked my ass off to get where I am today! I'm not just going to give up on it! I'm not one of those women who are perfectly content staying at home all day and spending their significant others money. I'd go crazy doing that!"


            Nick felt himself beginning to lose his patience with her. He'd had a crappy day too and this was not how he had intended spending time with her. He'd been the sympathetic boyfriend and tried to comfort her, but it seemed like there was nothing that he could do to make her feel better which only frustrated him more. "Well then I don't know what you want me to do Alyssa!" he snapped. "You're just going to have to stick it out and let whatever happen, happen. You knew what you were getting into when you decided that you wanted to be with me! I wish that you could have both your career and me, and that we could just continue on the way that we always have, but you can't have everything. So, I guess you're just going to have to choose between your career and me, although it might just be a little too late for that."


            Realizing that somehow their conversation had wandered into argument territory Alyssa immediately backed down. She didn't want to fight with Nick and he was right. At this point the events were already set in motion and no matter what, her name was sure to come out as the woman that Nick had been seeing. "I'm sorry Nick," she apologized her voice near tears. "I shouldn't have jumped at you like that. I'm not expecting you to fix this situation. There's not much that either of us can do. I just don't want to fight. This shit is stressful enough and I think that it is already getting to us."


            Nick's face softened at her apology. "I'm sorry too. I know you're upset about your job and I really wish there was something that I could do. You're just going to have to ride it out and see what happens. I guess it does make more of a statement if you don't just quit, but stay and fight. I've had a pretty shitty day myself and I guess we were both just taking it out on each other."


            "What happened to you today?" Alyssa asked in a concerned voice as she went back to sit next to him on the couch.


            Without even saying a word, Nick flipped on the television which was already turned to E! The face of Giuliana Rancic filled the screen. "We're still following our top story of the day which is this whole divorce drama playing right out in front of us between our own E! news correspondent Shayla Carter and her husband Nick. Rumors are flying all over the place about who exactly this alleged ex girlfriend that came between them could be. Well, one person that we know it definitely isn't is Paris Hilton. We caught up with Paris last night and here is what she had to say on the matter."


            The screen flashed to a picture of Paris on some kind of red carpet with an E! microphone thrust into her face. "Been there, done that, not looking to do it again," she responded with a fake laugh. "Although it doesn't really surprise me much. Nick always did have trouble keeping his attention on one woman. Has there been any relationship he's been in where he hasn't cheated?"


            Alyssa winced at Paris's comments and then gave Nick a small sympathetic glance, trying to appear optimistic. "Well, considering where it's coming from I think that she could have said a lot worse."


            "It's been all they've been talking about all day. I think they've tried to track down every famous woman that I've ever even been linked to. They're just dying to know who became between me and Shayla." Nick put his head in his hands and sighed. "Did you know that Mandy called me today? Apparently she wanted to know why she was getting hassled by reporters wanting to know if she was the one who tore apart my marriage. She didn't sound too happy."


            "I'm sorry Nick... At least though they are looking in all the wrong places," she offered as some sort of consolation.


            Nick just sighed. "Yea, for now... We're running out of time though. I've been holed up in here all day hiding from the paparazzi until Izzy figures out what our next move should be. We can't keep up like this for too much longer. She has to come up with something and soon."


            Alyssa placed a comforting hand on his shoulder. "She will. If I know Izzy she's cooking up the mother of all publicity schemes as we speak."




            Alyssa didn't expect her prediction about Izzy to come true so quickly, but just as she had called it when she arrived home from work the next afternoon she was surprised to find both Nick and Izzy sitting on the couch waiting for her to arrive.


            "Uh oh," she uncomfortably joked as she set her belongings down. "Did Shayla leak any more details to the press about Nick and I?"


            Izzy shook her head. "No, it's good news this time, I promise. Make yourself comfortable and relax."


            Nick waited until she got herself settled between the two of them before speaking. "Izzy came up with an idea for what our next move should be in regards to the media."


            "Oh?" Alyssa looked up at her best friend curiously, her eyes almost begging for an explanation.


            "Well, the way that I see it is everyone is dying to know who this ‘other woman' in Nick's life is, right?" Izzy began. "Already the media is beginning to poke around in his past. It is only a matter of time before someone links you and him together. When they do you'll just seem guiltier for trying to hide it. I think that it would actually almost be better for the two of you to just come clean on your own. That way the two of you seem more honest and genuine. I think that people will respect that."


            "So, you're suggesting that we just call up all the paparazzi and invite them into our home? Ooh, maybe we can even send out official announcements like people do after they get engaged," Alyssa sarcastically replied.


            Izzy just rolled her eyes. "Really Lyss... Give me more credit then that. I have a plan of course. The two of you need to make some sort of statement, but sometimes the strongest statements are the most silent."


            She frowned at Izzy's almost cryptic statement. "What are you getting at Iz?"


            Izzy just grinned. "The VMA's are on Thursday night and they're being held right here in LA this year. I know its short notice and pretty much all the seats have already been booked, but I worked a little magic and got the two of you in; plus, invites to one of the biggest after parties. The red carpet will be filled with reporters and no one is expecting you guys to show up. Imagine everyone's surprise when you two pull up in a limo and without saying a word walk the red carpet like it's no big deal? You'll pose for pictures and of course everyone is going to be firing questions at you, but if you guys handle it just right and be very vague and mysterious with your answers it'll only make the media more curious."


            "But isn't the whole point to detract the media attention?" Alyssa asked. "If they are more curious it's only going to get them even more on our asses."


            "In my opinion it is too late to hide from them. Your best bet is to be honest and to try to win over all this sympathy that everyone is giving to Shayla right now. You need to convince everyone that the two of you belong together. If we angle this right and play you guys up to be like America's Sweethearts this could turn into positive publicity. Your appearance at the VMA's will almost be like a teaser. Eventually we'll set up an interview for the two of you to tell your side of the story, but Thursday night will just be about the reveal; your ‘coming out' of sorts."


            "It is a pretty clever idea," Nick chimed in. "Izzy is right. It'll drive the paparazzi crazy and it'll take some of the spotlight off of Shayla being the victim in all of this. I think the only way to get our side out there is to do something over the top like this. I know it's not your thing Lyss, but its all part of the game."


            Alyssa sighed realizing that she was just about defeated. "It's such short notice though! I mean I'm going to have to take off work Thursday and Friday, which looks bad so early in the school year. Plus, I have nothing to wear to an awards show."


            "Your job will have to deal and I wouldn't worry so much about not having anything to wear," Izzy slyly replied as she stood up from the couch and grabbed a white garment bag that had been draped over the other couch. "Just call me your Fairy Godmother."


            "You didn't buy me a dress, did you?" Alyssa groaned, but her fears were confirmed as Izzy unzipped the bag and pulled out a trendy looking teal colored dress. It was strapless with a lacey bodice and a full tulle skirt that fell into layers until about mid thigh. It actually resembled a really bad 80's prom dress to her, but then again the 80's were beginning to make a comeback in fashion. She supposed it was fashionable in that retro sort of way. Maybe someone young and stylish like Lauren Conrad could pull it off, but Alyssa doubted that at thirty she'd be able to wear it without looking completely ridiculous. Upon closer inspection Alyssa noticed the pink Betsey Johnson tag hanging from the dress and before Izzy could stop her, she'd grabbed it to read the price. "Four hundred and thirty five dollars?" she screeched. "For this? First off I am way too old to pull this dress off and secondly even if I could I couldn't afford to spend that type of money on a dress I'll only wear once!"


            Izzy just rolled her eyes as if she was expecting this argument all along. "You're not too old Lyss. You may be thirty, but you're a very young looking thirty. You don't look a day over twenty-five, so you can work it and you will look fierce. Trust me, it looks a lot better on and the VMA's is all about making a statement," she patiently replied. "And don't worry about the cost. Nick told me to go out and pick you up something to wear and he'd take care of it. So, it's already bought and paid for."


            Alyssa spun around and focused her attention back towards Nick. "You knew all about this, didn't you?" she accused pointing her finger at him.


            Nick held up his hands in defense. "I only found out this morning after you left for work. Izzy called me and told me her plan, I thought it was great, so I asked her if she'd find something for you to wear and I'd pay for it. Really, I think she did pretty good. I was expecting to pay a lot more."


            "Well, I guess I don't have much choice then," Alyssa huffed. "Fine, I'll wear the ugly dress and do the red carpet. I highly doubt people will be interested in what I'm wearing once they see the two of us together anyway."


            "Oh, you'd be surprised..." Izzy responded with a laugh. "People are going to start to become very interested in you in the next few weeks. Just you wait..."



Quite to Alyssa's surprise, Izzy had been right about the horrific dress and once Alyssa actually put it on along with hair and makeup it actually didn't look so bad, in fact it maybe even bordered on stylish in a strange way. Paired with a pair of black peep toed heels and her hair pulled back with a fashionable "bump" at the top, the look seemed to come together. It still wasn't something that she'd normally wear, but it seemed fitting for the VMA's.


            As soon as Nick had seen her he had let out an appreciative whistle. It had been quite some time since Alyssa had really dressed up much for a special occasion and the dress accented the well defined shape of her body that she'd been struggling to regain ever since her pregnancy. Finally being at a weight where she felt comfortable again, Alyssa had to admit that she felt more confident than she had in a long time. Confidence was a definite plus. She knew that she was going to need as much of it as she could muster for the night ahead.


            Still all the confidence in the world couldn't make up for the fact that she was still nervous about the reaction she and Nick were going to get once they stepped out on the red carpet together. What were the reporters going to say? How would other people react? Would they be the talk of the entire night? What if everybody seemed disappointed in the revelation of her identity?


            You're being stupid, she argued with herself as she tried her best to hide any hint of doubt on her face and replaced her expression with a staged smile. She and Nick were now seated in the backseat of a limo on their way to the VMA's. Normally the ride into LA only took maybe half an hour tops, but tonight it seemed to be taking forever.


            "I can't get over how amazing you look tonight," Nick's voice interrupted her thoughts, his hand coming to rest on her bare shoulder. "I think Izzy did an outstanding job on this dress."


            "Thanks," Alyssa modestly replied feeling just a hint of pinkness creeping up into her cheeks. No matter how old she got or how comfortable she felt with herself she supposed that a part of her would always have some difficulties in accepting compliments. "I had my reservations about it, but I guess it really isn't so bad after all once I put it on."


            "Actually I think I'd like it better off," he snarkily replied. "Do you really think that we have to go to that stupid after party? Can't we just blow it off and head right back to the hotel?"


            Alyssa just rolled her eyes at his comment. "I don't think that Izzy would've arranged for us to attend unless she thought it would be a good PR opportunity for us. Truthfully though..." She paused as she collected her words before speaking up again almost timidly. "I'd much rather be anywhere else than here right now. This isn't exactly my scene and if we could just blow the whole thing off I'd do it in a heartbeat."


            Nick nodded his head sympathetically. "Well, if you want it's not too late for me to tell the limo driver to take us somewhere else. We can run away together to some remote island where no one's ever heard of us and start over," he lightly joked.


            "Id only it were that easy," she wistfully sighed. "Can you imagine if we went AWOL right now? Izzy would flip her shit. It is tempting to think about it, but not very realistic I guess. Running away doesn't solve anything, does it?"


            "Not really," he admitted. "Sooner or later it catches up to you and you have to face it head on." He grabbed her shoulders and lowered his gaze so that they were eye level, a serious expression on his face. "Seriously though, if you don't want to do this Lyss let me know and we'll turn around. I won't be upset at you. This is your choice. You have the most to lose here."


            Alyssa's eyes flickered downwards and for a moment or two she actually considered taking Nick up on his offer. She thought about going home, getting out of this dress, and spending the rest of the evening at home with him. It did seem like a very peaceful alternative, but it would only delay the inevitable. The reality was that the truth was going to come out about them and it was going to come out soon regardless if they hid away in their condo for the rest of their lives.


"No, this is something we just have to do. It's awkward and not something that I am comfortable with, but Izzy is right. It's better just to come out together and prove that we have nothing to hide. I think people will respect that more than us hiding out until someone stumbles along the truth. It's the brave thing to do. I just hope that I don't do anything embarrassing to make things worse like trip on the red carpet or something equally humiliating," she shared, trying to make light of the matter.


"Just make sure that when you get out of the limo you keep your legs together," Nick advised with a smirk. "All we need is you pulling a Britney. We're supposed to show that we have class."


Alyssa playfully smacked his arm. "Sorry to disappoint you, but I am wearing underwear, so we don't need to worry about that. Besides, my name isn't Paris," she teased not being able to resist the playful jab at his ex-girlfriend.


            "Ouch... Burn," Nick laughed. "I'll give you that one." At that moment the limo began to slow down as it finally arrived at its destination. "I guess this it," he remarked looking around nervously. "Are you ready?"


            "As ready as I'll ever be," she murmured softly.


            "Just remember; smile, stay right by me, and you don't have to say a word," he coached. "Let me do the talking if it comes down to it. If someone asks you a question directly just try your best to deflect it like Izzy has told you. If you need help I'll jump in and save you, but the point for tonight is to say as little as possible. Understand?"


            Alyssa just nodded and before she knew it the door to the limo was being thrust open. Nick stepped out of the vehicle first and she could tell from the flashing lights of the cameras ricocheting off the tinted windows that her emergence was an eagerly awaited one. Surely the reporters were curious to see who his escort for the evening would be. Taking a deep breath, Alyssa swung her legs onto the curb in front of her and took Nick's hand as she stood up from the limo. The camera flashes came so suddenly that they were almost blinding and it took a moment or two for her to recover and remember to smile.


            Gripping tightly to Nick's arm she followed his lead past the throngs of reporters along the red carpet. As they passed by Alyssa could overhear some of them shouting questions towards the two of them.


"Nick, who is you date tonight?"


"Is this the alleged woman that came between you and Shayla?"


"How are you holding up since you divorce has been announced?"


"Just ignore them," Nick gritted through his teeth. "Give them their photo op, but don't say anything."


Alyssa just nodded and attempted to plaster the most confident smile that she could as she moved closer to Nick to pose for a few shots. She knew that they were already causing quite a stir especially since the way they were standing seemed to be a very clear indicator that they were "together." She just hoped that this publicity stunt idea would work out to their advantage and not completely blow up in their faces.

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