They looked at each other for a moment, the silence was there, but it was not uncomfortable. He looked different to her for some reason, but she couldn't place what had changed about him.
"Can I take you for dinner?" he asked.
"I'd love that. I just have to change." She smiled, he nodded.
"Unfortunately, it's too much effort to leave the hotel, so we'll just go downstairs if that's alright."
"For sure." She agreed, thinking he meant that after a long day, he didn't want to bop around the metropolis. Little did she know at the time, it was much more involved than that.
There was so much for her to learn. So much innocence to be left behind.
"I can drink here legally!" Nick called out to her as she changed her clothes in the bathroom.
"Wow, Carter. I'm sure that is really new territory for you as well." She responded sarcastically. He smiled to himself with a light laugh as he looked around the room. Her jacket draped over a chair, her headphones and a walkman on the desk with a small notebook and a pack of gum â€” the simple artifacts of her life - another relieving comfort.
As they ventured down to the restaurant, Nick dialed his speed dial save #3.
"Hey. I'm heading to dinner downstairs. â€¦ Coll is with me now. I know, I should have. Well, I'll see you in 2 minutes. Yes, sir." Nick laughed as he hung up, shoved his phone back into his pocket, and pushed the call button on the elevator.
"Billy." He informed her. She nodded. "Bodyguard. He gets anxious real easy."
Coll pursed her lips, not sure what to say.
For as much as she and Becka speculated about this experience, her naivety was surfacing rapidly. She questioned whether she was out of place - in Europe, in this scenario, and in Nick's life right now in general.
She left it to simmer as she stepped into the elevator.
Billy was waiting for them when the doors opened in the lobby.
"Coll, Billy, Billy, Colleen." Nick made quick intros as the two shook hands.
"Whatever you need, you let me know. You don't go anywhere without me or my permission."
"I haven't given her the riot act yet." Nick interjected.
Billy gave him a look; they were all silent as Coll's eye darted between them.
"Colleen, it's great to meet you." Billy bowed his head in her direction, "I'll be at the bar." He stated matter of factly as he moved into the restaurant, leaving them alone but not out of eyeshot, never out of eyeshot.
The nervousness was evident on Coll's face, but she didn't say anything as they were seated in a large booth in a quiet corner of the restaurant.
She slid into the booth as her eyes scanned the rest of the surroundings. She could see Billy, sitting at the bar, phone to his ear, about 60 feet away from them.
"Is he always that intense?"
"Do I -"
"Look, I don't want you to worry about anything. The only thing you have to do is let him - or Jen - know if you're going somewhere. I'll get your pass and stuff tomorrow. You just have to be careful. It's a little crazy out there."
Nick made short work of filling her in on some of the current threats: crowds - massive, unruly, loud crowds -were the number one issue at the moment. Anywhere the guys went, there were crowds. Marks - as Nick called them - you do not lose your mark. Lose your mark, and you're in trouble. Marks included passes, tickets, passports, IDs, or any other travel-related or tour related materials and any information about where you should be and when. And finally, lone crazy fans - or small groups of them. "As a female who has any association to any of us ..." he grinned before going on, "particularly me - you're at above-average risk for assault."
Coll's eye nearly popped out of her head. She knew important things were happening for them right now, but they were bigger than she could comprehend, especially from afar. For all she did know though, there were significant gaps. Her college friends weren't into BSB or their music, though they would dance to it at bars when it came on. She wasn't in the demographic, so she had missed a lot of the details on the public response.
"I mean, I saw TRL."
"Right, soâ€¦" Nick sighed, brushing his hand across the smooth tabletop for no reason. "Don't befriend them. It's too dangerous." he laughed.
"Thank you for the advanced warning â€¦ ?"
"Look, you've got the security of the entire operation; it's just that our operation is much smaller than theirs."
Dinner was, after the scare wore off, fun, relaxing, and enjoyable. Conversation flowed easily, the food was delicious, and three rounds of drinks were consumed.
"So what else should I know? Anything? Tell me about the people." Coll inquired honestly as she pushed some rice around on her plate.
Nick's eye got wide. "Wellâ€¦." He began with the people she already knew and ventured into people and particulars she could never have imagined to ask about.
In the time it took to eat a single meal, a whole new version of reality made itself apparent - and accessible to Coll.
"I just want you to have fun." He said, genuinely.