- Text Size +
Author's Chapter Notes:

Nick hands the photographs over to Alyssa. Shayla makes a startling discovery.

Chapter 11- Curiosity Killed the Cat

Nick took a deep breath as he turned onto the residential street of what was supposed to be Alyssa’s new house. After much internal struggle since his conversation with AJ, he finally decided to do just what his friend had suggested and ask Alyssa for her input on what should be done with the pictures. The more he thought about it, the more he began to feel obligated to include Alyssa in his decision, since obviously they were of her and if anyone ever discovered them she’d probably be the one with the most to lose. He knew that the best way to bring up the pictures would be in person, so he’d given her a call and used the excuse of wanting to return the clothing of hers he’d found, which was at least partly true. He did have every intention of doing just that, but there was nothing wrong with killing two birds with one stone, was there? Alyssa had sounded surprised that he had even bothered to attempt to return the clothing, but hadn’t discouraged him. She suggested that he stop by this afternoon after she came home from work, which was exactly what Nick was doing.

His eyes squinted to see the house numbers since nearly everyone of the houses on the block seemed practically identical. He wondered how Alyssa even managed to find her own home at times. Well, what do you expect? She lives on an army base, he reminded himself. Finally, he spotted her house number and pulled into her driveway, right behind her car. The house seemed nice enough on the outside. It was your average small two story house just the right size for a newly married couple just about ready to start their own family. It seemed to fit Alyssa.

Nick killed the engine and glanced at the cardboard box sitting in the passenger seat beside him. He’d stuffed all the clothing back into the box along with the pictures which were tucked safely on the bottom. He figured that it probably would be best not to bring those up right away. He’d need to work up to them first. He glanced at the digital clock on his dashboard seeing that it was almost four-thirty. Alyssa probably hadn’t been home from work all that long yet, but he knew that she had suggested he come earlier to avoid any run in with Sean. Alyssa’s husband didn’t usually come home for another hour or so and even though Alyssa hadn’t come right out and said it, Nick got the impression that he wasn’t too fond of him.

Guess I better get this over with; he decided as he opened up his door and grabbed the cardboard box in his arms. A few moments later he was standing at the front door ringing Alyssa’s door bell.

“I’m coming!” he could hear a voice from inside call out, and a few seconds later the front door sprang open and Alyssa appeared with a wide smile on her face. “Hi Nick! Come on inside. Don’t mind the mess. I just got in from work maybe ten or fifteen minutes ago.”

“It’s okay,” he assured her as he stepped inside. She hadn’t even had a chance to change out of her work clothes and Nick had to admit that there was something very hot about the black pencil skirt that clung just right around her hips and the thin, white, button down shirt she was wearing. Her dark hair was haphazardly twisted onto the top of her head with one of those large hairclips, loose tendrils already beginning to fall out of its grasp. Completing the look on her feet were a pair of plain black, pointy toed, sling backs. What are you thinking Carter? She’s an elementary school teacher for Gods sake! You’re not supposed to find her outfit hot, he reminded himself. Hell, you shouldn’t even be looking, especially at your happily married ex!

Alyssa’s voice broke through his thoughts. “Why don’t you make yourself at home on the couch while I just run upstairs for a moment to change into something a little more comfortable?”

Without even thinking, Nick found himself protesting. “No, you don’t have to do that. You’re fine just the way you are.” It took all of his willpower for him to not clamp his hand over his mouth after he’d said the words aloud. He definitely hadn’t meant to actually say anything. “I mean, I know you kind of just want to get this over with before Sean gets home and that would just take up more time.” Nice save, he congratulated himself.

Alyssa looked at him a little funny at first, but seemed to accept his explanation. “You’re right,” she told him as she took a seat on the couch. She patted a spot next to her indicating Nick to sit beside her, which he did, placing the large cardboard box between them.

Nick found himself looking around the room at his surroundings as he got himself settled. “Nice little place you have going on here,” he commented.

“Oh, that’s right. I almost forgot that you’ve never been here before,” she admitted, feeling a little embarrassed. “Well, I’d give you the grand tour, but it’s not all that interesting or very grand. This is the living room, kitchen is over that way, bathroom is down the hall, and the laundry room is off the garage. Upstairs we have another bathroom, a guest room, and of course me and Sean’s room. That’s pretty much it. It’s small, but it’s perfect for the two of us.”

He just nodded. “Yea, that’s true. And you have that extra room for the baby.”

“Yea… If it ever happens.” Nick noticed the frown on her face and was about to ask her to elaborate on what exactly she meant by that, but before he had an opportunity to do so she quickly changed the subject, slipping into the role of the perfect hostess. “Can I get you anything to drink? A soda or some juice or something?”

“No, I’m good,” he insisted.

There was an awkward pause for a moment as if neither one of them knew exactly how or where to start. Finally Alyssa broke the silence and started to reach inside the box. “So, let’s see what you have for me.”

Nick helped her remove a few articles of clothing from the box. It mostly contained more summery outfits, more suited for the California weather. She’d decided to leave most of her lighter clothing at Nick’s instead of dragging it back to New York for the month before she was supposed to return to California for good since she definitely wouldn’t have needed it in January. “Well, Shayla wanted me to clean out my office and I had boxes of random crap piled in the corner and in one of the boxes I found your clothes. I know it’s been over three years, but I figured you might want some of them back,” he explained.

Alyssa just laughed as she rifled through the box. “Most of it probably won’t fit anymore. I’ve gained a little bit of weight there, but I’m sure I can salvage some of it.” Nick watched as her eyes lit up when she pulled out a vaguely familiar looking denim skirt and a long, loose fitting purple tube top. “Oh, my God… Last time I wore this was when we went out with Howie, Teri, AJ, and Tricia; the first night I met the girls! We went to that Mexican restaurant and I got really drunk on those margaritas…” Her eyes seemed to glaze over at the memory.

He smirked. “Yea… You were pretty wasted, but I didn’t mind at all. It just made it easier to take advantage of you.”

Alyssa’s eyes widened as the night began to come back to her in more detail. “That’s right! That was the night you dragged me up to that VIP lounge to ‘talk.’” A slow grin grew across her face. “If I remember correctly there was very little talking getting done up there.”

“Well, I wasn’t the one who came right down and told not only Teri, Tricia, and the guys, but almost the whole entire bar, that you and I had just had a ‘quickie’ upstairs.”

Her face reddened a little bit at the memory. Okay, so she’d been more than a little trashed that night. In fact, maybe it was her imagination, but she could almost still smell the scent of the tequila on her clothing. The exact details were a little fuzzy in her head thanks to the alcohol she had consumed, but she could vaguely recall them having a lot of fun with the margarita salt that had lined the rim of her glass. “Not like it wasn’t totally obvious from the way we looked afterwards,” she defended herself. “I was definitely rocking the sex hair.”

It didn’t seem to hit her until just then that she was reminiscing about a sexual encounter with her ex in the very same house that she now lived in with her husband. Now if that didn’t make her feel dirty she didn’t know what else would. Reaching this realization she quickly changed the subject. “That was also the night that Teri, Tricia, Howie, and I signed you and AJ up to sing karaoke to ‘Like a Virgin’ as a joke.”

“Oh yea! I still can’t believe that you guys did that to us. That was pretty messed up.”

“But I must say that you two were very good sports about it. I honestly didn’t think that you guys would actually have the nerve to go up there, but you did and you had fun with it.”

Nick laughed a little bit at the memory of him and AJ doing their most exaggerated, over the top, Madonna impressions at some hole in the wall bar on the outskirts of LA. They’d been embarrassed at first, but decided that if they were stuck in the position of having to sing karaoke to some lame song, they might as well make it entertaining. And entertaining it had been. Howie had recorded the performance on his digital camera and posted it on his My Space page. The fans had gotten quite the kick out of it.

Alyssa continued to remove the other articles of clothing in the box, holding each item up to examine it before folding it up into a neat pile next to her on the couch. “Thanks for bringing all of this back, even though it’s been sitting in a box for like three years. I almost forgot that you had all of this.”

Nick just shrugged. “It was no big deal. I found it and thought that you might want some of this stuff back. You know what they say. Better late than never.”

He was so busy explaining herself that he hadn’t even noticed that Alyssa had reached back into the box and was now holding the manila envelope that contained the infamous pictures. His face paled a little bit because this wasn’t exactly how he had planned bringing them up to her. “What’s this?” she innocently asked. “Is there something else I’m forgetting?”

“Ehh… Not exactly… But it is something else that I found while I was cleaning out my office and I thought that you might want.” He swallowed hard as a confused look knitted across Alyssa’s brow, realizing that this was it. “This is kind of awkward, but do you remember before we first broke up you let me take those pictures of you? I mean of course you probably do. That’s not really something you forget, right?” he sputtered, feeling completely stupid. What was with him? Usually girls were the ones who got flustered around him, not the other way around. Besides, it was just Alyssa.

A small smile grew across Alyssa’s lips as she noticed just how nervous he seemed. For once it seemed as if she held the reins in her hands with him which felt pretty strange to her, but not all too uncomfortable. She decided to go with it and with a burst of confidence she angled her body a little closer to his. There was no harm in a little flirting was there? “Well, if I had forgotten about them that probably wouldn’t reflect very well on you, huh?”

“No, uhmm I guess not,” Nick admitted. “Anyway, yea… I found them cleaning out my office and I had forgotten that I still had them. I guess I kind of just packed them away and forgot about them. I don’t think it’s probably such a great idea if I keep them because you know Shayla would get the wrong impression if she ever stumbled upon them, so I thought that it would only be right to give them back to you.”

Alyssa’s smile quickly turned into frown. This was awkward. When he started to bring up the pictures, she hadn’t anticipated that he’d actually brought them with him to give to her. Was that weird? She wasn’t sure. It wasn’t like she allowed every one of her past boyfriends to take naughty pictures of her. “What exactly am I going to do with them?” she asked.

Nick shrugged. “I don’t know… If you want to get rid of them that’s your decision. I just felt like you should have some sort of say in the matter.”

“Honestly, I thought that you did get rid of them. I mean after we broke up there really wasn’t much reason to keep them, right? You never mentioned still having them. I kind of assumed they were destroyed.” She had to admit that she did feel a little uneasy knowing that this whole time he had kept those pictures of her. Has he looked at them regularly? she wondered.

“I didn’t like keep them on purpose,” he tried to defend himself. “After we broke up I wasn’t quite ready to let go of them yet, so I stuffed them in this box and they’ve pretty much been in there since then. I knew I still had them somewhere, but I wasn’t exactly sure where. I guess I just didn’t think about them after a while. But yea… They’re yours to keep now, so do whatever you want with them.”

With a shaky hand, Alyssa slowly opened the envelope. Was it strange that she felt almost scared to look at them now nearly six years later? Not that she was ashamed of taking them in the first place, but more because she just didn’t want to face the emotions that those photographs would stir up inside her. All sexual feelings aside, the pictures represented a time in which she had completely trusted Nick enough to take such a big risk as taking them in the first place. At that point in their relationship she hadn’t even considered the fact that they’d not wind up together forever. They’d been engaged! And now to look back at those more innocent times and think about how their relationship had really played out was just bound to be painful.

Nick nervously shifted in his seat as he watched Alyssa pull out the pictures. The way that her forehead wrinkled up into a worried expression provided him with enough evidence to figure out that it might actually pain her to be confronted with the memories of the photographs. All of a sudden he wished that he didn’t have to sit and watch her as she rifled through the pictures. Not only was it extremely uncomfortable for him, but it made him fear that being confronted with them might ruin the special friendship that they now shared. Maybe it wasn’t such a good idea for him to bring them up to her.

As Alyssa flipped through each picture her fears began to subside and instead of being haunted by the past memories attached to them she actually found it almost refreshing to look at them again. Originally, she thought that she might have been a little embarrassed to look at herself like that, but oddly enough she actually found them empowering. It was the strangest thing, but she felt almost proud of herself for actually having the guts to do something like that. And as conceited as it may have sounded she thought she actually looked pretty damn good. The pictures were taken not too long after the Black and Blue tour, so her body was probably in the best shape it had been in, in her entire life. The weeks of dancing in front of an arena full of people every night had definitely helped tone her up. Not that Alyssa was heavy by any means now. She could definitely still be considered slim, but in the last few years she’d slowly lost the definition she’d built up from dancing and gained a good ten or fifteen pounds. As her metabolism slowed down she found all her weight going straight to her hips and thighs and even though many a woman would kill for Alyssa’s size six figure, it was still nice to look back at when she’d been a size two. Maybe she would keep the pictures after all.

Nick noticed the change in Alyssa’s attitude right away just by the grin that had slowly crawled over her lips. He stared at her for a moment almost dumbfounded by her complete change in attitude. It was almost as if she was actually enjoying looking at them, a far cry from the Alyssa he used to know.

“I think maybe I’ll keep these after all,” she slowly responded after a few more moments, sliding them back into the envelope. “You don’t mind, do you?”

“Not at all,” he responded. “They’re all yours.”

“You sure you don’t want to keep a couple?” she offered.

“Nahh… If Shayla finds them I’d have a hell of a time explaining them to her.” Besides he’d already taken his favorite shots and scanned them into his laptop. He knew it was a risky thing to do, but no one ever touched his computer, but him and he was pretty sure he had hidden them in a pretty inconspicuous folder. Of course he didn’t tell Alyssa any of this.

“That’s true. I’d probably have a much easier time explaining to Sean why I happen to have half naked pictures of myself laying around then you would have trying to explain to Shayla why you have half naked pictures of your ex girlfriend.”

Nick couldn’t help himself, but to ask the inevitable question that was at the back of his mind. “Just curious… What exactly are you planning to do with those pictures?”

Alyssa just laughed and shrugged. “I’m not sure, but I’ll figure something out. Maybe I’ll keep them to show to my kids someday. Like ‘See children… Mommy used to be a sex kitten back in the day, huh?’ Or maybe I’ll save them for after I finally do get pregnant and give birth and have all that baby weight to lose. I can post them in random spots all over the house as motivation.”

“Well, I’d say those are certainly some original ideas,” he smirked.

“Yea… I thought you’d appreciate them.” She grinned, but then looked down at her watch and paled. “Oh shit… Sean should be getting home pretty soon. Where did the time go?”

“I guess that’s my cue to leave?”

Alyssa just gave him a weak smile. “Yea… Not to be rude, but I’d prefer not to have to explain to Sean what you’re doing here. He’s been sort of moody lately and I just don’t want a fight.”

Nick frowned. “Maybe I’m out of line to say this, but if he is so insecure that he has to approve of all your friendships, then that’s not really a sign of a very healthy relationship. I thought that you always said that you wouldn’t stand for a guy who tried to control you, especially with Meg being in an abusive relationship in the past.”

“He’s not controlling me!” she insisted, her eyes nervously shifting around the room. “We’ve just been sort of fighting a lot lately and I just don’t want to give him another reason for him to get angry with me.” She sighed as she noticed the doubtful look on Nick’s face. “I know how it probably sounds Nick, but I swear to God that it’s not what you think. Sean’s really a nice guy and he’s not typically an angry person. He’d never do anything to physically hurt me. We’re just under a lot of stress right now. We have no clue when he’s going to Iraq and then there’s trying to have a baby before then and it’s turning out to be harder than we both anticipated. We’ve just been at each other’s throats a lot lately because everything is so rushed.”

Nick’s face softened at her explanation. He had to admit the stress that Alyssa and Sean were under was enough to cause problems in even the most stable of relationships and it had to be even harder for a couple who wasn’t even married a year yet. Still though he could only feel so much sympathy for them. They couldn’t control certain things like Sean being deployed to Iraq, but the baby thing was a personal choice of theirs. Was it that big of a deal if Alyssa didn’t get pregnant before Sean left for Iraq? Nick just didn’t see the logic in rushing to have a child before a relationship was really ready for one; hence, his current situation with Shayla. “Did you ever stop to think that maybe it wouldn’t be so horrible if you don’t get pregnant before Sean leaves for Iraq? I mean you’re still young and maybe it’s just not the right time for you yet. I just don’t understand what the big rush is for the two of you. It’s only stressing you out and hurting your relationship in the long run because you’re putting so much pressure on yourselves.”

“The big rush is that what happens if he doesn’t come back? What if this his only chance to create a child? He wants the opportunity to leave behind a part of himself so badly and I feel like I’m letting him down by not getting pregnant by now,” she confessed, sounding close to tears. “What if there’s something wrong with me?”

“First off, I see where you’re coming from, but worst case scenario if something does happen to him in Iraq, God forbid, what about you? You’re now not only a widow, but a single mother. Is that really how you want to raise a child?” He took a deep breath. “All I’m saying is my philosophy is that if it happens before he leaves, that’s great! But if it doesn’t, don’t beat yourself up over it. Maybe it wasn’t meant to be for some reason. Maybe it was meant to work out a little differently. And again if something happens to him, you’re still young. I know it sounds cold, but there are other guys out there. I’m sure you’ll become a mother some day. Maybe now just isn’t the right time for you.”

Alyssa sighed, feeling the tingly sensation of frustrated tears burning up against her eyelids. She knew that deep down Nick was right, but she refused to accept it. She hated situations that she had no control over, but the truth was in this case it was all up to the hands of fate. She could do everything in her power to become pregnant, but if it wasn’t meant to happen it wouldn’t no matter what she tried. She knew that Sean felt just as helpless as her and that was probably the source of all of their fighting. They’d been using arguments to hide the fact that they were both scared of their plans not working out as they’d imagined them. Still, it was painful to hear Nick state the truth so bluntly, a truth that she didn’t want to accept.

Nick stood there helpless for a moment, knowing that his words had struck a painful chord in her. Maybe I was wrong in trying to help, he told himself. Obviously this was a very touchy subject for her and he was surprised that she’d opened up to him as much as she just did. I should probably just leave now so she has time to compose herself before Sean gets home. “Look, I know you’re upset right now, so I should probably leave you alone. I’ll give you a call or something and if you ever need to talk I’m around,” he offered. He stood there for another unsure moment before stepping closer to her to give her a hug. She looked like she could’ve used one.

“Thanks,” she told him, leaning her head against his chest. “And thanks for bringing back the clothes… And the pictures.”

“You’re welcome. I’m just glad that you didn’t think it was weird or anything.” Alyssa shook her head and Nick released his grip on her. After an awkward wave he was gone.

Once the door closed behind him, Alyssa collapsed back onto the couch and burst into tears. It was like all the emotion of Nick’s visit had finally hit her. It was a combination of everything. The good and bad memories the clothing had represented, the conflicted emotions over the pictures, and finally her frustration with her inability to become pregnant. It was like everything was pouring out of her at once.

When Sean walked in the door fifteen minutes later that was how he found her. Immediately concerned, he’d rushed over to her and demanded to know what was the matter. Alyssa just shook her head, wiped her eyes, and replied that it was nothing. Probably just PMS. She could see the doubt flicker in Sean’s eyes, but thankfully he backed off. Alyssa managed to compose herself and a few minutes later she was acting as if nothing was wrong.

The next week or so flew by for Nick. He was so engrossed with his work at the label that he had little time to think much about his visit with Alyssa. Finally a few of his artists were scheduled to set foot into the studio within the next few weeks to begin recording and there was a lot to be done. At the moment he was at the studio preparing for a dinner meeting with Kina, the first performer on the label to start on her debut album. He felt pretty confident starting out with her. Her bluesy acoustic sound was very radio friendly and she gave off that whole “girl with a guitar” image that seemed to be so successful with other artists. To him, her music sounded like a cross between Michelle Branch and Amy Winehouse.

He was just making sure that he had all the papers that he would need when he realized that something was missing. “Shit!” he cursed. Somewhere along the line he’d misplaced the tentative recording schedule he’d mapped out for her. All of a sudden he wished he’d thought to bring his laptop into work with him today. He knew he had an extra copy of the schedule saved on it.

He glanced at the time on his work computer. There was no way that he’d have time to head home to pick up an extra copy and make it back in time for his meeting, especially in LA rush hour traffic. The only other thing he could think of to do was to try calling Shayla to see if she could e-mail him a copy. If he was lucky he’d catch her just as she was walking through the door.

Without wasting another moment he dialed Shayla’s cell phone number. “Hello?” she answered after two or three rings.

Nick got right to the point. “Hey babe… I need you to do me a huge favor. Are you home right now?”

“For the moment. I have to be down in Hollywood in like another two or three hours for a movie premiere. Why? What do you need?” Her voice sounded genuinely concerned.

“I lost my copy of the recording schedule for Kina and I’m supposed to meeting with her over dinner about it in like another hour and a half. I don’t have time to run home to print out a new one off my laptop, so I was hoping that maybe you could go into my office and e-mail me a copy from there?” he explained.

“Sure no problem. It’s on your laptop?”

“Yea… I believe it should be in the file labeled Kina. You’re a lifesaver.”

Shayla just grinned on her end of the phone. “Just give me a second,” she told him as she headed directly up to his office and took a seat at his desk where his laptop was plugged in. “I just need to boot up your computer.”

“Take your time. Thanks again.”

“Like I said it’s not a problem. But this is exactly why I keep telling you that you need to be more organized. If you were organized you wouldn’t lose important papers like this,” she giggled. She continued to make small talk with him until the laptop was fully up and running. “Okay, we’re in business now. You said that the file should be labeled Kina?”

“Yea… And I think it’s in a word document titled schedule or something like that,” he directed her.

“All right.” Shayla bit her lip in concentration as she clicked on Nick’s personal folders. She quickly went straight to the K’s and found the folder labeled Kina and clicked on it. Several documents came up, but none of them read “schedule.” She clicked on all of them anyway and found everything from contracts to song lyrics, but nothing that resembled a recording schedule at all.

Nick must’ve realized something wasn’t right because he impatiently asked, “What’s taking so long? Did you find it?”

“No… It’s not in this folder, Nick,” Shayla reported.

“What do you mean it’s not in this folder? It has to be!”

“I checked every file in the Kina folder, Nick! It’s not here! Are you sure you didn’t save it someplace else by accident?”

Nick sighed realizing that was a possibility. As Shayla had just pointed out, he wasn’t exactly the most organized person in the world. “Check some of the other artist’s folders. Maybe I did save it into the wrong folder.”

“Okay,” she agreed as she scanned through his files, looking for names of some of the other artists that she knew Nick was working with. She could find recording schedules for the other artists, but none for Kina. “No luck. I still can’t find it.”

“Shit,” he cursed as he began to panic. “It has to be on that laptop somewhere.”

“Just give me a few minutes and I’ll check some of your other folders,” she offered. “Maybe you were working on it and accidentally just saved it into the last folder that you had open? I do things like that all the time when I’m in a hurry.”

Nick could practically feel all the blood drain from his face. If that’s what he’d done then he was about to be royally screwed. What if he’d accidentally saved Kina’s recording schedule in the same folder that he’d saved the pictures he’d scanned of Alyssa? He’d been so careful to make the folder as inconspicuous looking as possible, titling it with a bunch of random numbers. The more he thought about it, the sicker he felt. It was definitely possibility. He could vaguely remember working on the schedule not very long after he had created the folder containing Alyssa’s pictures. Maybe he had done just what Shayla had suggested and accidentally saved the schedule in the wrong folder. All he knew was that if that was the case he needed to try to convince Shayla to give up her search. He’d be better off calling Kina and rescheduling their appointment. She’d probably be annoyed at him cancelling last minute like this, but nowhere near as pissed as Shayla would be if she caught sight of those pictures.

“You know what Shayla; don’t knock yourself out trying to find it. It’s my fault for being so disorganized anyway. I could just call Kina and cancel for tonight. I’m sure she’d understand,” he tried to tell her, hoping that he didn’t sound as nervous as he felt.

“Don’t be ridiculous Nick! It shouldn’t be too hard to track it down. Why would you cancel over something like this?” Her voice lowered into a taunting, playful tone. “And don’t worry; I won’t get upset over any porn I find.”

If only it was just porn I was worried about her coming across, Nick thought to himself with a sigh. Trying to think optimistically, he realized that there could be a chance that she could find the schedule in the folder with Alyssa’s pictures without actually seeing them or knowing what they were. She’d actually have to click on them for that to happen and with a little luck maybe she’d go right past them without batting an eyelash. Or they could be in another folder entirely.

On the other end of the line, Shayla clicked on a few random folders with no luck. Sometimes she wondered how her husband managed to find anything at all with how messy and disorganized he was. He’d always joked about having ADHD and if she didn’t know any better she wouldn’t doubt it. If I were an important file on Nick’s computer where would I be? she asked herself. Figuring out that in Nick’s world it would probably be in the last place anyone would ever think to look she clicked on one of the least descriptive titled folders, which name was only a series of numbers. Is that supposed to be some code or something? She knew that Nick had some weird fascination with writing secret messages in telephone codes like he’d done in the liner notes for a few of his albums.

The folder appeared to be filled with a bunch of picture images and Shayla was just about to give up when she scrolled down a bit more and discovered a word document titled schedule. Bingo! she thought to herself as she clicked on it. Sure enough, a copy of Kina’s recording schedule filled the screen. “I found it! It was exactly where I thought that it would be. In some non discrete looking folder mixed in with a bunch of picture files,” she announced. “Am I good or am I good?”

“You’re awesome,” Nick responded with a noticeable lack of enthusiasm. His throat felt dry. The file had in fact been in the Alyssa folder. Did Shayla look at the pictures? he fearfully wondered for a moment or two. After thinking about the situation more clearly, he breathed a sigh in relief. If Shayla had seen them he doubted she would be able to play it off as if it were nothing. He honestly believed that he’d gotten away with it. That was close… Too close. “Thanks. I owe you one.”

“You definitely do. I’m e-mailing it right now. Anything else you need?” she asked.

“No… Thanks again. I’ll see you tonight sometime.”

“You’re welcome. Bye.” Shayla pressed the end key on her phone and proceeded to attach the recording schedule to an e-mail document and send it to Nick’s e-mail address. Once the document was sent she closed it and sat back in her chair, feeling rather proud that she’d managed to do something to help Nick out. Since Tahoe their relationship had been very strained and she was starting to fear that maybe her comments about wanting a baby had inflicted some permanent damage on their marriage. She’d noticed how since they’d returned to LA Nick had almost been avoiding her, so she felt that him asking her for help had to be a step in the right direction.

She glanced back at the computer screen, realizing that the folder in which the schedule was in was still open. There certainly were a lot of pictures in the folder and curiosity began to get the better of her. Probably porn, she scoffed to herself. She stared at the screen for a moment knowing that it was wrong of her to go snooping through his personal computer files, but she couldn’t help but to wonder exactly what the pictures contained. They had to be something that he had viewed pretty recently if he’d accidentally saved the recording schedule in the same folder. Finally giving into the temptation that was eating away at her; she leaned forward and clicked on one of the images. Let’s see what Nicky looks at when I’m not around.

Nothing could’ve prepared her for the image that appeared on the screen before her. She almost wished that it had been some large breasted porn star or a picture of two girls going at it. That she could handle. But this she couldn’t. These pictures were obviously personal.

The picture in front of her was of Alyssa lying across a bed wearing only a skimpy bra and matching panties. She was staring seductively at the camera, biting her lip ever so slightly. Shayla could just make out the outline of what appeared to be a tattoo peeking out of the waistband of the lacy underwear. Judging from her appearance, Shayla had to assume that these were not recent pictures. The Alyssa in the pictures appeared a few years younger and slightly thinner. Her hair was also shorter and lighter than how it was today.

She closed the image and clicked on another one, and then another… They were all pretty much the same. All of Alyssa and all meant to be somewhat sexual. Not being able to stand torturing herself any longer, Shayla exited the folder and sat back against the chair again, completely stunned. Surprisingly she wasn’t angry, at least not yet. If anything she was more hurt. Hurt and confused.

Why would he have these kinds of pictures on his computer of his ex- girlfriend? she wondered. It would be one thing if it was an ex that he had no relationship with now, but this was Alyssa. Normally she wouldn’t feel threatened, but after those paparazzi pictures and the fact that Nick had been hanging out with her a lot lately, Shayla was beginning to have her doubts. Did Nick really still have feelings for Alyssa? Had he just been denying it this whole time?

Then came the further question. What should she do about them? Should she confront Nick about the pictures? If she did that though, she’d have to admit that she’d been snooping through his things and he’d sure to be pissed about that. Yet, Shayla wasn’t exactly sure that she could sit back and act like she’d never seen them either. She had no clue what to do.

Finally after much consideration she came up with a plan of action for the time being. For now she’d act as if she’d never seen the pictures, but she’d definitely try to keep a much closer eye on both Nick and Alyssa. Maybe there was a logical explanation after all. But something in her gut told her otherwise.

Better off to play innocent, she decided. You never know when your knowledge of those pictures might become useful.