The sound, most commonly attributed to hysterical laughter, was coming from a hysterical Parker. He was almost hyperventilating, his little hands flying out towards Nick, his cheeks a deep pink.
I was not fearing much better. Rielynn had slid completely down my hip, my leg, and was barely clinging on. With a dramatic squeal, she flung herself backwards onto the ground.
This was my first memory of L.A. We had the attention of every single person in the near vicinity. Nick sank down onto one knee, struggling to keep ahold of Parker.
“Parker Michael Carter,” he said in his ‘I’m not a happy daddy right now’ voice. “I can’t help you unless you calm down.”
The tears were streaming down Parker’s face. Rielynn’s screams rose to a fevered pitch. I knelt down and she body slammed herself back on the ground again. The first hundred times she did it, she scared the living daylights out of me. It was only after I realized that her screaming stopped and she noticeably paused after doing it that I realized it was a test of wills.
Nick had scooped Parker back up. Little fists were slamming against his broad back. I struggled to pry Rielynn’s dead weight up and followed him, feeling everybody’s eyes on us.
It was obvious that it wasn’t Nick Carter’s first rodeo at L.A.X. He wove around like he had the layout of the entire airport committed to memory. Rielynn had pushed herself all the way back down below my hip when he held open a door and I hustled through.
The change was incredible. Gone was the cacophony of bodies shuffling from place to place. The room had lovely window views and there were dozens of grouped, padded armchairs. Big screen TVs changed to a half dozen different channels including, blessedly, amazingly, Disney Junior.
“Park, if you calm down, you can watch Mickey.”
“Rielynn, wanna watch Mickey?”
But Rielynn wasn’t so easily deterred. She fell to the floor again, her face practically turning purple. For more than a minute her mouth was open, but nothing came out. It was the calm before the storm.
Nick swung Parker into the nearest recliner with the best Mickey view. Rielynn just continued to scream. I took a deep breath. This always broke my patience. I had read the books; I knew I just had to walk away. I had to--
It was a smooth voice with a hint of a twang. I turned and met a pair of crinkly, sparkling, blue eyes. He knelt down next to Rielynn and began to sing.
Stop, breathe and calm down, don't let your anger grow
Stop, breathe and calm down, find a quiet place to go
Everyone, once in awhile gets a little bit angry,
So, stop, breathe and calm down
Then come back and play with me.
It was magic. By the second time he sang it, Rielynn was looking up at him, the tear trails already drying. She swung her legs up and wrapped her hands around her shoes. Her breathing regulated.
Then she smiled.
“How’d you do that?”
He rose slowly. “I sang that to my little guy a long time ago. Worked like a charm.” He held out his hand. “Brian. Brian Littrell.”
I took his hand. “Macie.”
“I already warned her about you.”
Nick wrapped an arm around my shoulder. He smiled at Brian. “Sorry.”
Brian’s eyes widened. “Warned her? I’m as innocent as a butterfly.”
Nick snorted. “Bull--”
A tall dark haired guy with a wicked set of eyebrows strode towards us. I watched Rielynn get up and go towards the Mickey Mouse Clubhouse TV. She pressed her sweaty face against the puffy arm of Parker’s chair.
“Nice to meet you.” Kevin smiled warmly at me before addressing Nick. “Howie and AJ are already there. They caught an earlier flight so they could make sure that everything’s in order. We’re going to be cutting it close with our arrival. Our flight leaves in about a half hour but we have a longer layover in Hong Kong.”
“No problem. Parker!”
Parker was hanging over the chair. A long string of drool was just about ready to land of Rielynn’s head.
We both dove in. I got Rielynn just as Parker sucked his loogie back up. I looked at Nick, he looked at me and we started to laugh.
Delirium was sinking in.
In my fantasies, I always pictured myself traveling the world someday. I pictured every flight being smooth and relaxing and each new place exotic and romantic. I couldn’t speak about the exoticness of Kuala Lumpur, but I did know that once we arrived at Hong Kong, it would be a long, long time before I’d think about going on a flight again. Just knowing we had one more leg and the return trip gave me the creepy crawlies. Rielynn had been perfectly happy running across Nick’s lap, but she hadn’t really understood why he practically collapsed in pain when her shoe collided with his crotch. Parker had produced the largest blob of snot I had ever seen and I was pretty sure that I would never get the yellow-greenish stain out of my t-shirt. Add in two more meltdowns, several juice comas, and the fact that I smelled like a barnyard animal, and the allure of being a world traveler had disappeared.
“It’s not usually so bad,” Brian assured me as we waited in the VIP lounge in Hong Kong. Both kids were asleep, sprawled on the long black couch that ran the entire length of the room. “We should have broke you in with Canada or something. Nick always goes big or goes home.”
Nick grinned. “Don’t believe anything, this guy says.”
Brian laughed. “Likewise.” He looked at me. “So are you going to be the official tour nanny?”
“Tour nanny?” I repeated. “No, I’m just helping out this trip.”
He smiled. “Too bad.”
“Her husband would miss her if I whisked her away on a whole tour,” Nick said. I heard the stress on the word ‘husband.’ A silent look was exchanged. I sensed some type of male ritual taking place, the tension ebbing and flowing until finally Brian leaned back in his chair, swinging one leg up on the other. He gave me another smile.
“Well then we’ll have to make sure this is seventy-two hours you don’t forget.”