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Author's Chapter Notes:
Nick is reminded of a secret from his past that he'd rather forget.
Chapter 36

Alyssa's eyelids fluttered open as she felt the incoming sunlight beating down on her shoulder through her bedroom window. Her gaze automatically drifted towards the empty spot beside her where Nick had been before she had fallen asleep the night before. His absence made her momentarily wonder if last night had really happened or if she had been only been dreaming. Did he really agree to give us another try? she wondered. She'd been hoping that he'd say those words for months now, and now that he actually had, she couldn't help but to have some disbelief. Especially when he seemed so hesitant to let anyone else know about them.

His reluctance frustrated Alyssa. She understood how damaged he'd been from past relationships and cautious he was now, but he had to know that she was serious about this. She wasn't dating him for money or publicity. She was dating him because she loved him, and she wanted everyone to know. But, if Nick needed time she guessed that she had no choice, but to give it to him. There had more than one point in their past relationship where Nick had been patient with her, so she figured she owed it to him.

She wondered when Nick had slipped out and went back downstairs. She'd probably slept better last night then she had in weeks, so she hadn't even stirred. Judging from the warm spot next to her, she figured that it couldn't have been too long ago. Hopefully he had the common sense to go back downstairs and fall back asleep on the sofa bed like nothing ever happened, she told herself. It would be a great start to things for them if her parents had figured out that he'd spent the night in her room. Thank God, we're going back to the city this morning. Of course there wouldn't be all that much privacy there either with Stephanie staying over at Alyssa's apartment. She definitely had enough to keep her busy though. She'd need to pack for LA (and probably run out and grab a few things) and then tonight she and Nick were going to go see the Christmas Spectacular.

We should probably try to catch an early train, she decided as she grabbed some fresh clothes to put on. The more she thought about the fact that she would be getting on a plane to LA tomorrow afternoon, the more panicked she got about being able to pack a suitcase and not forget anything extremely important. Hell, she'd probably have to make an emergency stop at the laundromat sometime today. With that in mind, she slid out of bed and began to get dressed. The sooner she got back to New York, the sooner it would be until she would be alone in LA with Nick. The thought brought a smile to Alyssa's lips.

The way that she felt just then absolutely nothing could get her down.

An hour or two later Alyssa, Nick, and Stephanie were dressed and just about ready for Meg and Scott to drive them down to the train station. And not a moment too soon. Alyssa was already beginning to feel as if the rest of her family members were looking at her as if they knew that something had changed between her and Nick since the night before. Or maybe she was just being paranoid?

"Before we leave I just want to have one more cigarette," Nick told her, heading for the back patio.

"Wait. I'll come out with you," Alyssa offered, glad for any excuse to leave the tension that she felt inside the house. Some fresh air would probably do her some good.

But it wasn't meant to be. Before she could grab her jacket her father stopped her. "Actually Alyssa if you don't mind I'd like to have a word with you.

A word? Her father wanted to have a word with her? Not only did Alyssa feel that she was reduced to the age of a five year old, but she had the distinct feeling that somehow she was in for some kind of lecture. A lecture involving her sudden interest in a certain ex- boyfriend of hers. "Uhmm ok..." she shakily answered, exchanging a worried glance with Nick

"Let's sit down in the den,” he suggested.

Alyssa nodded, following him into the room and making herself comfortable on the couch. Her suspicions that she wasn't going to like what he had to say were further confirmed by her father making sure that the door was shut tightly behind him. The two sat in silence for a moment, while Alyssa nervously played with her fingers in her lap.

Anthony was the first to speak. "I've noticed that you and Nick seem awfully close again. Is there something going on that I should know about?

Alyssa sighed, realizing that she was getting sick of answering this question. "No, Dad. We're just friends. That's it. He had no one to spend Christmas with, so I offered to bring him with me. Can I go now?”

He still looked suspicious. "You're just friends yet you're going out to LA and staying with him?”

“Yes, Dad. We're friends. That's what friends do. They visit each other," she explained, rolling her eyes.

"Look, I'm just going to get right to the point because I know that you’re not going to tell me everything, so just listen to what I have to say. Nick might seem like a nice package. He's got good looks, lots of money, talent... He probably seems like a pretty good catch, huh? But unfortunately, there are other things that you need to take into account. Like who he is on the inside. Some of the choices that he's made in life, haven't exactly been the best ones," Anthony explained.

Alyssa could already feel the anger bubbling up inside of her. "So, basically you're judging Nick off of the mistakes he's made in the past and not even bothering to even consider that maybe he's trying to change?”

Anthony looked sadly over at his daughter. "A leopard doesn't change his spots, Alyssa. No matter how much you think that you can change him, it’s not going to work. He's hurt you more than once in the past. What makes you think he won't do it again?"

So this is what this all about? she realized. Her father was trying to warn her not to get involved with him. To cut all ties with him and run. There was no possible way that she could do that to Nick. Especially after all he'd been through. But how could she explain hat to her father without completely reinforcing the point he was trying to make?

"Because he's different now!" she exploded. "He's trying so hard to be a better person and you don't see it because you judge him based on his past just like everybody else does! Don't you ever consider that maybe... just maybe there's more to him than a notorious pop star? Maybe somewhere deep down he wishes he could be more like us. Granted, he's not as polished and well mannered as we are, but that's not his fault! That's how he was raised."

Her father snorted. "I'm not even going to approach his family situation.”

"So just because he had a crappy childhood it means that he's not good enough to earn your respect? You know nothing about the shit he went through! You have no clue just how insane his mother is! So, how can you sit there and act like you know everything about him? Yes, he has issues. And yes he's messed up, but he's trying Dad. He's seriously trying to become a better person." She paused and looked away. "And when he's with me, he is a better person.”

Anthony sighed, realizing that there was nothing more he could say to get through to Alyssa. She's already fallen too hard for him. The only thing left to do is just pray that she doesn't get hurt too much on the way down, he noted. "Sometimes Alyssa it’s the pretty looking boys that'll hurt you the most. Looks aren't everything."

"Trust me. I'm not with him for his looks. It's not as glamorous as you think being close to someone famous," she coldly assured him. "Now if you don't mind I actually have a train to catch." Without even waiting for a reply from her father, Alyssa stood up from the couch, signaling that this conversation was indeed over.

A hurt expression came over her fathers face. "Please be careful Alyssa. That's all I ask. I'm just warning you because I care."

Uh huh... Alyssa thought as she walked out of the room. The only thing he cares about is being able to control my life. Well, unfortunately this time he's out of luck.

She was going to LA. Whether she had her fathers approval or not.

Nick was just finishing up his cigarette when he heard the sound of the patio door being opened behind him. It's probably Alyssa, he figured. He'd been just as curious as she was about what her father had decided was so urgent for him to talk to her about. Somehow, he had the gut feeling that it had something to do with him. Probably warning her to stay away from a loser like me, he thought. If that was the case, he figured that Alyssa would probably be pretty upset after a conversation like that. Truthfully, Nick didn't really care much what Alyssa's father had to say about him. He knew that the man wasn't fond of him and had just tolerated him for the past few days. He also knew that Alyssa valued her family's opinions and would want their approval. In his head he was already stringing together some words to calm Alyssa down, knowing that she'd probably come outside upset.

Looking over his shoulder, he was surprised to find not Alyssa like he expected, but Stephanie instead. Trying to hide his disappointment, he glanced over at her and gave a little wave. "Alyssa still talking to your Dad?" he asked.

Stephanie nodded as she lit a cigarette. "Yepp. He must really be grilling her about you. They've been there for quite a while now.”

Nick looked thoughtful. "So you think that he's really trying to warn her not to get involved with me?"

She shrugged. "Something like that. Probably lecturing her on what she's allowed and not allowed to do in LA. Not like it'll really stop her anyway. But you know my Dad."

"Yea... unfortunately I do. How much you want to bet she comes out here all upset and stuff. She'll be in a bad mood for the rest of the day," he predicted.

"I don't know about that," Stephanie disagreed with a playful grin. "Alyssa might just be so pissed at my Dad that she'd purposely be all over you to spite him. You might make out pretty good actually."

Is she trying to flirt with me? Nick asked himself a little thrown off by her response. Just the idea of it made his stomach knot in discomfort. "Well, I think I should get back inside now and make sure I have everything before we leave. It was uhmm nice talking to you," he mumbled.

"Nick, wait." Her hand reached out to grab his arm. "Before you go I just wanted to make sure that you're okay with me coming back to the city with you and Alyssa. I know it’s a little awkward and weird and you probably wanted to be alone with her. If you really mind that much, it’s perfectly okay. I can see if I could crash at a friends place tonight or something."

Nick sighed. He hadn't exactly been pleased when Stephanie had invited herself back to the city with him and Alyssa, yet he knew that he couldn't exactly say anything either. Even though, she was giving him the perfect opportunity to get rid of her, he knew that he couldn't go as far as tell her that she'd be in the way. He'd just wind up sounding like an asshole, and if Alyssa found out that he'd actually requested that her sister find other sleeping arrangements for the night, she'd probably be pretty pissed. So, he had no other choice, but to lie. "You don't have to do that Steph. Alyssa and I can have all the time alone that we want in LA. I'm not going to tell you that you can't stay over tonight when really it’s not my apartment."

Relief swept over Stephanie's face. "Good. I'm glad you don't think I'm like intruding or anything. I know it’s in the past and we promised that we'd put it behind us, but I'm just really glad that things weren't too awkward between us these past few days. When I heard that you were coming home with Alyssa, I got a little nervous because, well one of the last times I saw you, we were in quite a bit of a compromising position, so to speak."

Dammit... he silently cursed. Why did she have to go bringing that up?; For three days he'd managed to avoid direct contact with Stephanie for this very reason. It was a very touchy subject for him and he'd been relieved that Steph had seemed to erase that night from her memory, until now that was. Apparently it hadn't been as forgettable as he had hoped. It definitely hadn't been one of his prouder moments in life.

"It really was my fault," she blurted out in a rush. "I mean I was completely wasted and I was literally throwing myself at you. I never stopped to even think about how I was hurting Alyssa or anything. I was just so stupid! And you tried to stop me at first... I just was too far gone."

Nick nervously clenched his fists. He really did not want to have this conversation. Why drag up the past was his philosophy. They had both fucked up big time, but thankfully enough they'd decided to keep it between themselves. His eyes darted towards the patio doors, his only means of escape. It would be best to put an end to this conversation and just try to get through the rest of today without anymore reminders of past mistakes. "Steph, you don't have to apologize to me. I'm not innocent either. But it happened over three years ago, so why bring it up now? We should be thankful that Alyssa never found out and just keep it buried. Some secrets are better kept hidden, trust me on this."

Stephanie slowly nodded. "You're absolutely right. There is one thing though that's been bothering me ever since you and Alyssa broke up."

He shot her a curious glance. "Which is?”

The pained look on Stephanie's face was clearly obvious to Nick. "Was it because of what happened between us? Did you break up with her out of guilt?"

Nick's features softened as he saw how upset Stephanie looked. He couldn't believe that she had spent the last three years of her life thinking that she was the sole cause of her sister's pain. "Of course not! There was so much other shit going on in my life at the time that factored into why we broke up. Maybe it played a tiny part, combined with everything else, but it definitely wasn't the number one reason, so don't beat yourself up over it. Even if it had never happened, we probably still would've broken up.

"You really mean that?" she asked, her voice tinged with relief.

"Of course. It wasn't your fault. It was mine," he admitted.

It was the truth. He'd been the one who swore that after Katie, he'd never cheat on Alyssa again. He'd broken that promise when he'd allowed himself to be seduced by her younger, sixteen year old, sister. He had honestly tried to resist, but in the end, his body had betrayed him and won out over his mind. ..


It was a Friday night and for once Nick actually had the house to himself for the night, a luxury that he had to admit that he sort of missed since Alyssa, and later, Stephanie had moved in with him. He and Alyssa had originally planned on a quiet, romantic, movie night, while Stephanie was out at some party as she usual. Unfortunately, just as he and Alyssa were making themselves comfortable on the couch, Izzy had called up in tears over some fight she and Tristan had just had. Being the ever supportive best friend that she was, Alyssa had packed up the DVD that they were supposed to watch and headed over to Izzy's to have a girl's night in. At first Nick had pouted a little about being pushed aside for Alyssa's best friend, but he'd quickly gotten over it. It wasn't very often he got much time by himself and it was a good opportunity to catch up on some video games.

He was sprawled out on the living room couch in the middle of a particularly challenging level of Resident Evil, when he heard the front door open and in stumbled an obviously intoxicated Stephanie. So much for a nice quiet night at home, he thought as he paused the game for a moment. He watched as she collapsed onto the couch beside him giggling, "Oh man... That was some party!"

The scent of vodka and cigarettes wafted off of her body in a sickening perfume that made Nick wrinkle his nose in disgust, even though he imagined he'd probably come home from parties or clubs smelling no better.

"Where's Alyssa?" she slurred out. "If she sees me like this she's gonna flip out."

"You're safe," he assured her. "She's over at Izzy's for the night. She and Tristan had a fight or something, so they're hanging out."

Stephanie's eyes appeared to be filled with sympathy. "And she left you here all alone by yourself? That's pretty shitty of her."

Nick shrugged. "Actually I don't really mind too much. It's good for us to do things apart sometimes. Otherwise we'd get tired of being around each other all the time."

"Lyss has always been that way. Whenever someone else needs help she's off running. She's really too charitable for her own damn good."

What's that supposed to mean? Nick wondered. Is it just my imagination or does it sound as if she's actually a little jealous of Alyssa? He was probably just reading too deep into things. Stephanie was pretty wasted and just babbling at this point, but maybe there really was a little more going on than what met the eye?

"God, I am SO wasted!" Stephanie's voice interrupted his thoughts as she dramatically flopped across the couch with her head in his lap. The movement was completely surprising to him and although totally innocent, made him shift his weight uncomfortably.

"Maybe we should get you upstairs or something?" he suggested.

"Upstairs?" she asked, pretending to act shocked through her giggling. "My do we move fast!"

Great, she's a flirty drunk, Nick realized, rolling his eyes. This was exactly what he needed. Alyssa's gonna owe me big time for this, he decided. Ignoring her previous comment he helped to sit her up. "Who drove you home?"

"I have no fucking clue," she confessed. "I have no idea how I even got home."

He sighed, hoping that she hadn't been enough to tell everyone she knew where he lived. As it was he would get the occasionally crazy fan or two circulating his property, awaiting a glance at him bringing out the trash or something. He stood up, pulling Stephanie up with him as he dragged her towards the stairs. Her coordination was so screwed up from all the alcohol that he wondered how she made it into the house without busting her ass. I'm going to have to practically carry her up the stairs, he realized.

"You're going to have to work with me here, Steph," he warned through gritted teeth as he wrapped one arm around her waist and the other around her shoulder. "When I say step I need you take a step up for me. Can you do that?"

Stephanie looked offended. "Of course. What do you think I am, retarded?" As soon as she said that she attempted to make her first step up and stumbled almost knocking both her and Nick over.

"Whoa there!" Nick reached out for the banister to save his balance. "Stay with me. Step. Step. That's good. Step. You're doing great." At this rate, he predicted that it would take them another ten minutes just to get to the top of the flight.

About halfway up the stairs, Stephanie exploded into another fit of giggles. "Would you stop touching my boobs?”

"I'm not touching your boobs!" Nick insisted. "My hand is on your shoulders."

After another step, Stephanie froze. "You just did it again!"

Nick looked down and realized that his hand had indeed accidentally brushed up against her breast as she took a step forward. His face automatically reddened as he apologized. "I'm sorry. I didn't like do it on purpose or anything," he stammered.

Stephanie seemed amused by Nick's embarrassment. "It's okay. I understand they're pretty big and all and hard to miss. Don't worry I won't tell Alyssa that you tried to cop a feel."

"I didn't 'try to cop a feel!'" Nick started to argue, but quickly gave up. What was the point anyway? He was just getting himself aggravated.

"Relax Nick. I was only kidding. God, no wonder you and my sister get along, so well. Neither one of you can take a joke."

"I can too take a joke," he indignantly replied.

They reached the top of the landing and Stephanie put a hand on her hip. "Okay then. How about the next time you and my sister are having sex, you do me a favor and pull that stick out of her ass?"

Although Nick knew that he probably shouldn't encourage her, he found himself actually biting the inside of his cheek to keep from laughing. He had to admit that Alyssa wasn't known for always being the most laidback person in the world. She definitely had her typical mood swings.

Seeing a grin slip onto Nick's face, Stephanie smugly smiled. "See! Even you agree, right?"

Finally Nick couldn't hold back and let himself give in to the laughter that threatened to bubble out of his mouth. "Okay, you got me," he admitted. "But maybe we should continue the comedy hour in your room."

Her eyebrows rose up. "Are you trying to get me into bed?"

Nick fought back the urge to smirk. "Not in the way you're thinking, sweetheart." Taking her arm again, he led her down the hall towards her bedroom.

He kicked open the doorway to the dark room, and began to navigate his way towards her bed to the best of his ability in the darkness and with her stumbling against him. Finally he felt the edge of the bed against his legs and carefully lowered Stephanie down onto the surface. "Do you want me to get you any water or anything?" he offered.

"Well, there is one thing you can do for me," she told him, kicking off her shoes.

"And what's that?"

Nick could just about make out the slight pout on Stephanie's lips. "You can tuck me in. Please?"

He rolled his eyes, not having the energy to argue. Just do what she says and then you can get back to your video game, he told himself, as he leaned down to pull the blankets over her body. That, he soon learned, was his first mistake.

Stephanie must have stuck her leg out forcing him to lose his balance and fall forward on top of her. "Oops," she gasped, her mouth only inches from his. "How clumsy of me."

"Real cute Steph," Nick played along as he tried to wriggle out of her grasp. "Now can you please let go of me, so that I can get up?

But Stephanie wasn't letting go, if anything she was holding on even tighter. "What's your hurry for?" she innocently asked, grabbing hold of his arm. Nick's eyes bulged in shock as she pressed his hand up against her breast. "Thought you wanted to cop a feel?"

Before he could further react, her lips were pressing over his, her tongue forcing its way into his mouth. And that's when Nick was met with a rather surprising, but pleasant surprise. Oh man... She has her tongue pierced, Nick realized, wondering why he'd never noticed before. His body automatically reacted to the kiss, his tongue running against the barbell in her mouth. All of a sudden a little voice inside his head seemed to say, Remember Alyssa? Your girlfriend? Stephanie's sister? Guilt began to creep up within him, and he forced himself to pull away, sickened by the way he had given in like that.

He opened his mouth, prepared to tell Stephanie just how wrong this whole situation was, but she spoke sooner. "I've always wondered what that would be like. No wonder Alyssa is so smitten with you. You must make her VERY happy."

"Steph, listen. I love Alyssa and if she found out what just-"

Stephanie silenced him with her fingertip. "Can we not talk about Alyssa? Honestly I'm curious. What do you see in her? I mean you're a fucking Backstreet Boy. You can have any girl you want. Why Alyssa?"

Under normal circumstances, he could blurt out a number of reasons exactly why he fell in love with Alyssa, but in this type of situation where he was put on the spot like this, he found his mind going blank. "Well, uhmm she's really uhh-"

"Can't think of any huh? I thought so," she smirked.

Catching Nick off guard she shifted her position, so that now she was the one on top. Her hands were already sliding underneath the bottom of his shirt, pushing the material upwards.

"What are you doing?" he asked in a choked voice, as her lips paved a trail down his chest and stomach.

"Relax, Nick," she advised, between kisses. "Not like Alyssa's home tonight, so someone's gotta take care of business for her. Seriously, you MUST be just a tad bit upset that she dissed you for poor Isabelle? That's gotta sting a little, right?"

Nick gritted his teeth to try to hide the fact that he was getting some enjoyment out of this. "Well, you know Alyssa, chicks over dicks has always been her philosophy."

"Not in this case!" she exclaimed as her fingers wrestled with the buttons on his pants. A satisfied grin swept over her face as she eyed his growing arousal. "Looks like someone is enjoying themselves."

Fuck, Nick realized. There's no way I'm getting out of this, now. He wasn't sure what he should be more panicked about, the fact that if Alyssa found out they' be done with, or the fact that Stephanie was only sixteen (but damn did she seem to know her stuff) and he could get into a lot of shit if this came out? Out of desperation he tried to conjure up the most sobering images that he could. Like his parents having sex. Or more appropriately facing time in prison for statutory rape. Or even worse, Alyssa threatening to pull a Lorena Bobitt on him with a butcher knife. He was just beginning to feel like it might actually be working, when Stephanie’s hands wandered inside his boxers and began stroking his hardened length.

He’d officially reached the point of no return. Sadly, he knew that he couldn’t hold himself back any longer. As much as he tried to fight it, a satisfied groan escaped from the back of his throat.

Stephanie smirked, sensing that she was winning him over. Of course she couldn’t resist one last dig at her older sister. “I know Alyssa hates doing this kind of stuff,” she told him in a throaty voice. “But, I actually kind of enjoy it.” Before Nick even had a chance to respond, she’d lowered his boxers with cat like precision, and her mouth had softly encased him.

Nick’s fingertips immediately clenched the sheets the moment he felt her tongue stud moving against him. He had to admit that she’d been right about Alyssa. Not that she’d never given him head before. As she liked to describe it best with a quote from Sex in the City, it “wasn’t her favorite item on the menu,” but every once in a while she “liked to order” it. Mostly when she felt like she owed it to him, like special occasions such as his birthday, or after a fight. Very seldom, did she voluntarily go down there. But when she did… God, it was amazing. Probably more so because it was so rare of an occurrence for her.

Automatically, his eyes closed, and in his head he began to imagine that it wasn’t Stephanie he was with, but Alyssa instead. He could practically feel the heat of her mouth on him, and her hands on his thighs. He loudly moaned, as he pictured her, in Stephanie’s position. His body shuddered as it neared its release, and with one last sweep of her tongue, he finally came. “God… Alyssa…” he gasped out.

Stephanie’s head immediately snapped up. “Oh no… You did NOT just call me who I thought you did.”

Finally realizing what he had just done, Nick’s expression froze. Oh, shit. I know I was picturing Alyssa and all, but did I really go THAT far? He tried to think of someway to apologize, but his mind went completely blank.

“God, you’re a prick!” she told him, leaping off of him as fast as she possibly could and stumbling towards her bedroom door. “Get the fuck out of here!”


“Nick, are you okay? You zoned out on me for a second there,” Stephanie’s voice pulled him back into the present.

“What? Oh yea, I’m fine. Listen; just let’s not bring this up again. Alyssa could walk outside any minute and-“

Stephanie nodded interrupting him. “Relax Nick. Alyssa’s never going to find out. I’m not going to tell her and I know you certainly aren’t. It’s just going to remain between us. In fact, if you want we never even had this conversation. Agreed?”

“Agreed,” Nick answered as he stared off into space. If both he and Stephanie decided that nobody else would get word of their little tryst, three years ago, why did he have such a feeling of dread about it all of a sudden? He’d moved on and put the mistake behind him.

Relax Carter. Your secret’s safe. Alyssa is never going to know the truth. Like he’d told Stephanie before. Some secrets were better just kept buried.