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Author's Chapter Notes:

Nick's surprise party turns out a lot more dramatic than planned.


Chapter 47 - Your Love is a Lie


You look so innocent
But the guilt in your voice gives you away
Yeah you know what I mean
How does it feel when you kiss when you know that I trust you
And do you think about me when he fucks you?
Could you be more obscene?


So dont try to say you're sorry
Or try to make it right
Don't waste your breath because it's too late, it's too late.

~ Your Love is a Lie - Simple Plan


            Alyssa squished the last of her belongings into the small, overstuffed, duffel bag that she planned to take with her to Teri and Howie's that evening. It was finally Thursday night, and the night of Nick's birthday. Alyssa had to admit that her nerves were beginning to get the best of her as she critically eyed the bag laying on her bed. She'd needed enough room to squeeze in her party attire, makeup, and other necessary accessories, plus everyday necessities that she would need to spend the night, but she was beginning to fear that perhaps the bag looked just a little too bulky for just an overnight babysitting gig. I should have packed a separate bag earlier and planted it in my car, she realized. She was pretty sure that Sean might find the size of her bag suspicious, but perhaps it was just her nerves getting the best of her.


            As if on cue, Sean entered the room just in time to catch her attempting to lift the heavy bag off the bed. Immediately, he jumped in to assist her. "Damn woman... What did you pack in here? Rocks?"


            "Ha-ha, funny..." she retorted, playing off his observation.


            Sean seemed unconvinced. "Seriously though... You're staying over there one night. Do you really need to bring all this stuff just to spend the night around the corner babysitting Callie's kids? Are you like expecting to go into labor in the middle of the night or something? Maybe you should tell Callie to just drop the kids off here for the night."


            "No!" Alyssa froze when she realized how alarmed she had sounded at the idea. Like that wasn't at all suspicious. She was beginning to wish that she had the common sense to at least think up a better cover story for her whereabouts that night. The babysitting excuse she was beginning to realize was a little flimsy and lame. Thinking quickly, she rushed out the first reasonable explanation she could think of. "Where are we going to fit two kids for the night, here? Plus Callie warned me that Rich is going through this whole phase where he refuses to sleep in any unfamiliar environment. If he's not in his own bedroom he screams his head off, so it's just easier for me to sleep over there."


            He still looked at her warily. ""Are you sure that you don't want me to come with you?"


            Alyssa frowned as she wondered if maybe she was a little too transparent. Did Sean somehow sense that she wasn't really going to baby-sit her neighbor's children, but attend Nick's party instead? She'd thought that she'd been pretty convincing in her lie, but you never knew. "That's really not necessary Sean. I can handle the kids by myself. Besides since you've came home we've been practically attached at the hip. I love you and all, but I could use some time apart, no offense." It was partly true. Now that Sean was on disability he was always home. The only time she ever got a break from him was when she was at work.


            "Fine," he finally gave in. "But at least let me help you get this into your car."


            Alyssa couldn't find a good excuse to turn him down, so she just nodded and followed him down the stairs and out the front door. She unlocked her car doors and Sean loaded her duffel bag into the backseat for her. Before Sean could voice any other suspicions she quickly stepped forward to give him a light kiss. "Don't worry about me. I'll be fine with the kids. I'm going to have to leave Callie's and go straight to work tomorrow morning, so I'll see you tomorrow afternoon, okay?"


            "Okay," his worried voice echoed. "I'll miss you. Be safe."


            "I will be," she promised although his comment struck her as kind of odd. Without looking back she got into her car and settled herself behind the wheel. Once she had pulled out of the driveway and driven enough of a distance away, she loudly sighed feeling ashamed and guilty about lying like that to Sean. Sure, it had been nothing new, but Alyssa was beginning to realize that with the more lies she told him the deeper she was digging herself into a hole. I have to tell him the truth, she realized. I need to tell him before he catches on. As it was the other night he had bordered very dangerously onto it. She wasn't sure though if he actually suspected her of cheating on him with Nick or he was just being overly paranoid as a result of his mental state. Paranoia was one of the symptoms that some people with PTSD displayed, she had learned throughout her research on the topic.


            I'd rather be safe than sorry. Tomorrow night I'm going to tell him everything, she finally decided. She couldn't keep this up any longer. But for tonight she was going to have fun and enjoy herself.




            Meanwhile on the other side of LA, Shayla and Nick were in the midst of getting ready for what Nick thought was just dinner reservations to celebrate his birthday. In actuality, dinner was just a part of the elaborate scheme that Shayla had cooked up to get Nick to Howie's club for his surprise party. The plan was that they'd go out to dinner to throw suspicion off any other kind of celebration and that Howie would call in the middle of their meal inviting Nick and Shayla to drop by and see how his new club was coming along. As far as Nick knew the place wasn't open yet, so it seemed to be the perfect plan.


            For once, Shayla was pretty much dressed and ready while Nick had yet to even shower. "Nick, if you don't get a move on we're going to be late and lose our reservation," she anxiously reminded him. "You still have to get dressed."


            "Relax," he told her. "I'm jumping in the shower right now. It'll take me two minutes to get dressed and then I just have to run a little gel in my hair. We'll make it, I promise." He disappeared into the bathroom before Shayla even had a chance to shoot him one of her evil glances.


            Shayla sighed in relief once she heard the bathroom door click close. She knew that now she had only five to ten minutes to do what she needed to do. It frustrated her to no end that despite her best efforts to find some kind of proof that Nick was the real father of Alyssa's baby, she was still coming up empty handed. While Nick was at work she'd searched his office, but hadn't discovered anything. Same thing for the bedroom. The search was beginning to become more and more discouraging and she had to admit that even she was beginning to wonder if this whole thing was only in her head.


            You can't give up, she convinced herself. You have another few minutes to do some searching. It would be ideal if she could go into this party tonight knowing the full truth. Feeling a renewed energy towards her search she began to quickly rifle through a pile of Nick's things. After a minute or two, she sighed in frustration. Nick wasn't exactly the neatest person in the world which made finding anything that much harder. She was just about to give up when as if God himself was sending her a sign, an object tumbled off the dresser and landed at her feet. She bent down to retrieve it, recognizing Nick's black leather wallet. Feeling a strange burst of inspiration, without even thinking about it, she unfolded the wallet and looked inside of it. Ironically a folded up piece of paper flew out onto her lap. When Shayla unfolded it she realized it wasn't a paper at all, but a picture. A picture that looked like a sonogram image. She stared at it in shock for a moment or two when she noticed handwriting on the back. She flipped it over and read the inscription. Zoey Michelle Carter. Shayla gasped. This was it. This was the proof that she had been looking for. This confirmed it. Her husband was having a baby with someone, obviously and Shayla was very positive that she knew exactly who it was.


            Hearing the water from the shower turn off, brought Shayla back to the present and she scrambled to fold the picture back up and place it back into Nick's wallet before he came out of the bathroom and back into the bedroom. All she knew was that this party tonight was going to get really interesting. She'd just have to have a little chat with Alyssa and let her know that she on to her game.




            Throughout dinner, Shayla had been able to uphold a calm, collective front and as far as she could tell, Nick had no way of even suspecting that anything had changed while he was in the shower earlier. On the inside though, she was definitely stewing as she thought over the predicament. As much as she should be mad at Nick, she couldn't help but to feel like perhaps he had been a bit victimized by Alyssa. He was a man and he'd obviously had feelings for Alyssa at one point in time. She'd probably manipulated those feelings and somehow seduced him for whatever reason. Shayla was even beginning to wonder if perhaps Alyssa's plan was to get pregnant all along or if the baby was really Nick's at all. For all she knew, Alyssa could've lied to Nick just to ruin their marriage. Really, the only person to really blame in the situation was Alyssa. Nick had probably just gotten caught in her trap. She almost couldn't wait to see her later so that she can call her out on all of this and get to the bottom of it.


            In the meantime though, Shayla played the part of being entirely clueless flawlessly. Dinner had gone quite well and she was sure that Nick didn't suspect a thing. As planned Howie had called to invite them to check out his new club and after a little bit of pleading on her part he'd given in although he'd looked a little surprised at her insistence. Normally she wasn't very comfortable hanging out with his friends, but she'd rattled off some excuse about how she was anxious to see how it measured up to other LA hotspots. Now they were about a block or so away from the nightclub and Nick seemed to not have a clue about the surprise she had waiting for him. She couldn't help, but to feel a little excited as they approached their destination. She couldn't wait to see the look on his face when he saw what she'd put together for him. She knew that he was going to love it.


            "So I guess we just walk in?" Nick unsurely asked as they approached the club. The front doors were closed tightly and the place looked almost abandoned, but then again it wasn't technically open yet.


            "Yea, I'm sure that Howie is inside somewhere already. Let's go." Shayla opened up the door and casually walked in the door with Nick behind her.


            "This is a little creepy," Nick said with a laugh as they made their way through the entranceway of the club. "This reminds me of something out of an old horror movie or something. Why is it so dark?" Already he was having images of walking in to find Howie's bloody corpse hanging from the ceiling or something. You watch waaayyy too many horror movies Carter, he told himself.


            "Stop being such a pussy," Shayla teased him. "God, you'd never guess that you're thirty today. Are you ever going to grow up?"


            Before Nick could answer that question they stepped into the main area of the club that seemed to be pitch black. As soon as they entered the room, lights flashed on and a group of easily two hundred people yelled out, "Surprise!" Nick looked around cluelessly, the realization that this was all for him, not really sinking in until he began to identify several familiar faces in the crowd.


            "Are you surprised baby?" Shayla anxiously asked, looking up at him for approval.


            Nick stood there still stunned, not sure how to respond to her question. Upon closer inspection he realized that only a small percentage of the guests were actually friends or family members of his. In fact, if anything the guest list seemed to be more of a "Who's who of young Hollywood." There were people there who Nick knew hadn't come with the intention of celebrating his birthday at all, but had just wanted to get their pictures in next weeks entertainment news magazines. He had little to no doubt that Shayla had also made sure to invite several photographers. He wouldn't be surprised if she had even sold the rights to the event to a particular magazine. The whole party seemed like nothing more than an overblown publicity stunt. It was exactly how he didn't want to spend his thirtieth birthday, but of course he knew that he'd have to paint a smile on his face and at least give the impression that he was happy with the surprise. "Oh yea... I wasn't expecting this at all," he finally admitted. "How'd you pull it off?"


            Shayla seemed to proudly beam. "Well, obviously I had Howie's help. It was something I sort of cooked up last minute, so we had to hustle. I did most of the inviting and Howie and Teri collected RSVP's for me. Then of course I pulled a few favors to cover the other things. I'm so glad that you were surprised." She reached up to plant what felt like a completely staged kiss on his lips. Sure enough, as soon as Nick noticed the flash of a camera out of the corner of his eye she pulled away. Before Nick could say anything else he found himself being swarmed with party guests coming up to wish him a Happy Birthday.


            As Nick circulated around the nightclub, attempting to stop at each group of people and thank them for coming he couldn't help, but to be reminded of his twenty-fourth birthday, six years earlier. He'd been dating Paris at the time and like Shayla, she had used his birthday as a way to get herself in the tabloids by showing up to the studio he had been recording at with a birthday cake (with her face on it) and a small army of paparazzi. Just like Paris, Shayla seemed to have planned this party with some kind of hidden agenda in mind. If she really genuinely had wanted to surprise him, she would've planned a much lower key, private party, with just his close friends and family and no media. The media coverage was what bothered him the most. It was almost as if Shayla wanted the world to see what she'd done for him as if she had something to prove. Even now as he mingled with his guests, Shayla remained glued at his side, her arms possessively wrapped around his waist. When he finally did reach his siblings and the rest of the guys, he'd barely gotten a chance to greet them when Shayla was impatiently tugging on his arm insisting that they go over and talk to someone else.


            Finally he had enough of Shayla's incessant clinging and was getting sick of her shuffling him around from group to group of people that he knew could care less about him. What he really wanted to do was hang out with his friends and his siblings. He'd stopped caring about being seen with other celebrities after he'd put his partying days behind him. Now at thirty he could care less. "I'm going to run to the bathroom," he shouted into Shayla's ear, detaching himself from her grip. "I'll find you when I get out."


            "Okay," Shayla reluctantly agreed. "Hurry back."


            Yea... Okay, he thought as he rolled his eyes to himself and disappeared into the crowd. That was one good thing about Shayla inviting so many people. It was so crowded that he could easily lose her for a bit and just claim that he had gotten caught up in conversation with other guests. Instead of heading towards the bathroom like he had told her he was going to, he stopped at the bar and ordered himself a beer. The bartender had just handed him the bottle when he looked up and spotted Izzy waving to him a few feet away from the bar. He grinned and started to head towards his friend who he hadn't seen in quite a while, but then froze in mid step. Izzy wasn't alone. Standing next to her he was shocked and surprised to find Alyssa looking practically angelic in a loose fitting white dress. Her dark hair hung in loose curls around her face and she looked almost uncomfortable being there especially with her bulging stomach. He didn't think that Shayla would invite her, especially when she had made it very clear that she felt as if Alyssa was a threat to her. Furthermore, he was surprised that she had even decided to come after their conversation on the phone almost two weeks earlier. He wondered if Sean had come with her.


            He sighed as he contemplated how to act around her. He honestly was still hurt and angry at her for seemingly choosing Sean over him. She hadn't fulfilled her end of the bargain and he felt betrayed. Seeing her in front of him brought back all of the mixed emotions that he'd tried so hard to repress since they'd last spoken. She's using you, he had to remind himself. Now that Sean's back in the picture she has no more use for you. The realization stung like hell because he realized in that moment, that despite everything she had done to him, he was in love with her. He'd lashed out on her over the phone to protect himself. In a way, he felt justified in saying everything he had to her. Would he really go as far as to fight her for custody of the baby? Probably not... He'd only wanted to scare her, to make her realize that the baby was just as much his as it was hers. That he had a right to be a father to Zoey, if that was even going remain her name now.  In reality, that phone call was an emotionally fueled event that had transpired because he felt abandoned by her and was scared of losing everything they had built. His goal was to hurt her with his words just like she'd hurt him with her actions. He knew that she didn't love Sean, that she didn't want to be with him, but he couldn't understand exactly what it was that made her stay with him. 


Alyssa spotted him at that moment and gave him a small, weak smile. Was it just him or did he see just a hint of regret in her eyes? Her expression gave him at least enough encouragement to approach the two women. "Hey Izzy... It's great to see you again," he greeted her with a hug and a kiss on the cheek. "I feel like I never see you anymore since Kevin left the group." He purposely ignored Alyssa for the moment, focusing his attention on his childhood friend.


            "Well, you can always pick up the telephone and I don't know... Call me every once in a while, maybe?" she sarcastically joked. "Happy Birthday by the way. How does it feel to be thirty, old man?"


            "I don't know... Why don't you get back to me after your birthday?" he teased. "You're heading towards the big 3-0 yourself."


            Izzy dramatically groaned. "Ugh, don't remind me Oh, there's Tristan with my drink," she announced as she spotted her boyfriend juggling two drinks in his hands coming from the direction of the bar. "He looks like he needs a little help there." Immediately, she ran over to help him leaving Nick in the awkward position of being alone with Alyssa. He knew that he should say something, but she was unsure of what.


            Finally he cleared his throat and started to say the first words that he could think of "Listen, Alyssa I-"


            At the same time Alyssa began speaking as well. "You're right. I've been -"


            They both stopped at the same time when they realized that they were only talking over one another. Alyssa nervously laughed. "I think we really need to talk. Maybe we could go somewhere a little more private and discuss things?"


            Nick swallowed hard knowing that she was right. They did need to talk face to face. "I'd like that," he agreed.




            Sean had just settled down on the couch in front of the television when the phone rang forcing him to get up and answer it.  "I'm coming," he grumbled. Before he picked up the phone he glanced down at the caller ID noticing Callie's home number flash across the screen. His heart pounded a little bit in panic. He knew that Alyssa was over there and his mind immediately jumped to the worst case scenario. What if she went into early labor or something? he wondered. He was already grabbing the keys for his truck when he answered the phone. "Alyssa?" he asked. "What's up? Are you okay?"


            "This isn't Alyssa," Callie's confused voice answered on the other end. "It's Callie. I guess she's not home, huh?"


            Sean frowned for a moment before replying back just as confused. "No, I thought she was supposed to be at your house. What are you doing home? I thought you had some work thing tonight."


            "No, I'm totally free tonight. Why would Alyssa be at my house? I've been trying to call her, but her cell is off," she explained. "Are you sure that you're feeling okay Sean?"


            "I'm fine," he insisted. "She told me that she was spending the night at your house because you had some benefit thing for your job tonight and she was going to watch the kids."


            "No," Callie repeated beginning to sound a little worried. "I'm sorry Sean, but I don't have any idea where she is. All I know is that she's not here."


            Sean froze for a moment feeling rather humiliated that not only did Alyssa lie to him about her whereabouts, but now Callie knew that she had lied to him. Why would she lie to me about something like this? he wondered. The anxiety he had felt a few moments ago had now only multiplied. Alyssa was nearly eight months pregnant. It wasn't safe for her to be out somewhere on her own for the night.


            Sensing his fear Callie tried to be sympathetic. "Sean? Is there anything I can do? Would you like me to help you look for her? I could call up some of her other friends if you want."


            It was at that moment Sean spotted the thick, white, envelope sitting on the dining room table. He picked it up and pulled out the invitation from the inside. When his eyes glanced over the date he began to put two and two together and slowly his anxiety began to bubble into rage. "No, Callie," he almost too calmly responded. "I have a feeling that I know exactly where she is. Thanks for your help though." Without waiting for her to respond he clicked off the phone and slammed the receiver back down into its cradle. He stuffed the invitation back into its envelope, grabbed his keys, and was out the door and in his truck in a flash.


            I can't believe she'd do this to me... I can't believe that fucking bitch would do this to me... That was the one thought that played over and over again as he furiously drove towards the address on the invitation. Originally he thought that he was only being paranoid in his observations, that Alyssa would never do anything to betray him, but now with her going as far as to lie to him... It made one thing abundantly clear. Alyssa had to have had something going on with Nick... Something that far surpassed any friendship.


            All Sean knew was that he was going down to that party and pulling his wife out kicking and screaming if he had to, but not before he found out the truth once and for all.




            Nick had led Alyssa outside the back door of the club and onto the deck where in warmer weather it would've probably been jam packed with people, but since it was January and a bit of a cooler night, outside of a few smokers, it was relatively private and much quieter than back inside. Alyssa shivered a bit in the cool night air as she and Nick took seats at the outdoor bar which was closed for the night.


            "Cold?" Nick asked, noticing goosebumps beginning to pop up on her bare arms.


            "Yea, a little," Alyssa admitted.


            Without hesitation, Nick pulled the blazer he was wearing off of his shoulders and wrapped it around her. He may have been a little upset at her at the moment, but she was still carrying his daughter and he didn't need her getting sick and jeopardizing the health of his daughter. "Thanks," she told him as she wrapped the blazer tighter around her body.


            "I'm sorry I went off on you like that on the phone," he began after a few moments of tense silence. "I said a lot of pretty hurtful and fucked up things and I was probably pretty harsh towards you. But I do think that some of what I said needed to be said. You did make a promise to me and then you went ahead and broke it. I put myself out on the line like you've always wanted me to and you made me feel like an ass. If you're just going to stay with Sean, please tell me now. Don't dangle false hope in front of me."


            Alyssa glanced downwards looking almost ashamed at her behavior. "You're right. I did break my promise to you, but there really are some extenuating circumstances I think you need to know about. I don't want to stay with Sean, but I'm also afraid to leave him. Since he's came back from Iraq he's changed. He's not himself. I think he's suffering from PTSD to tell you the truth. He has horrible mood swings and his behavior is pretty unpredictable. Do you know that he didn't want me to even come to this party tonight?"


            "What?" Nick asked, unsure if he'd heard correctly. "He didn't want you to come? Well, you're here, so it must not be too bad, right?"


            Alyssa's face reddened. "He doesn't know I'm here," she admitted in a quiet voice. "I lied to him. I told him I was babysitting for Callie."


            Nick looked at her stunned for a moment. Things had to be pretty bad if Alyssa had to lie to her husband just to attend his party. "Why didn't he want you to go?"


            She looked down at her feet. "He's beginning to have his suspicions about you and I. Not about the baby, but I think he's starting to wonder if maybe while he was away there more was going between the two of us than just a friendship. Right now, I just think it's him being paranoid, but you never know..."


            Nick frowned. "But that's a good thing if he's figuring it out, right? It might make it less of a surprise when you actually do tell him. Maybe he's already beginning to process it all in his mind."


            She shook her head. "I don't think so. He's just so unpredictable lately. I'm afraid that when I do tell him he's going to just snap and do something to hurt me or the baby." Her eyes were wide in both fear and honesty and he could tell that she honestly was terrified. For the first time since Sean had returned home Nick could honestly say that he believed her. No one was able to pull off that look if they were only acting. "I'm scared of how he's going to react. He's never been like abusive to me, but he's never been controlling or possessive either."


            Just the thought of Sean putting a hand on her made Nick's fist curl up into balls as he tried to control his anger. He knew that what he and Alyssa had done was wrong on many levels, but under no circumstances did it make it okay for him to have his kind of fear over Alyssa. "So, that's why you haven't told him, yet?" he gently asked. Alyssa just nodded and Nick sighed, disliking the guy even more so now. After a few moments of thinking he came up with some sort of solution. "Okay... What if we do it together? What if I'm with you when you tell him? We can even do it in a public place, so that if he makes a scene, he looks like the ass. If he wants to hurt you he'll have to get through me first. How does that sound?"


            But Alyssa wasn't paying attention to his suggestion. Instead her gaze had fixated over his shoulder and appeared to be looking at some kind of commotion going on back inside the nightclub. Her face immediately paled and she slid off the barstool her eyes searching desperately for someplace to hide.


            "Lyss?" he asked her in a concerned voice. "What's going on?"


            "He's here," she managed to get out even though she was visibly trembling. "I don't know how he found out, but he's here looking for me and he looks pissed. There's got to be a way out of here..." Her eyes continued to scan the deck, but the whole area was fenced off blocking any additional exit from the deck.


            Nick wasn't sure that he'd ever seen Alyssa look so scared in her life. He turned around and could see Sean who looked like he was exchanging angry words with Izzy and Tristan from back inside the club. At that moment he looked up and their eyes met, a look of pure hatred twisting his features. Within moments the door to the deck swung open and Sean stepped out onto the deck. His eyes swept from Nick to Alyssa, not failing to notice the fact that she was wearing Nick's blazer. Completely ignoring Nick, he turned towards Alyssa. "Let's go. You're coming home with me now," he sharply ordered.


            Alyssa just shook her head, wrapping her arms tighter around her body. "No. Please don't do this Sean... Not here."


            Sean's eyes darkened. "Give your little boy toy over there his jacket back and let's get going. You and I have a lot of talking to do."


            "I'm not going with you Sean," she said in a firmer voice.


            "Unfuckingbelievable!" Sean cursed, finally beginning to lose his cool. "You're the bitch who's been lying to me for months now and yet here I'm the bad guy? Do you realize that I was worried sick about you? But, I guess I shouldn't have bothered. You seem to be in great hands. Probably the same great hands that have been all over you since the moment I left!"


            Alyssa looked as if she had been slapped, but still scrambled to maintain her composure. "Sean, it's not like that... If you'd just let me explain..."


            "Oh, don't worry about owing me any explanations sweetheart," he sarcastically replied. "You make think that you come off as so innocent, but I can tell just by the tone of your voice that you're guiltier than sin. Let me just ask you one thing though, did you ever even think about me when he fucked you?"


            Alyssa loudly gasped in shock and her mouth opened and closed a few times as she struggled to think of a way to respond to his question. The harshness in his voice had certainly caught her completely off guard and hot tears of embarrassment stung her eyes.


            "You don't have to answer that Lyss," Nick's voice finally spoke up sounding as if he was struggling to do the classy thing and not completely blow up at Sean. "A question as disgusting as that doesn't even justify an answer."


            "How cute... He even defends your honor. How noble of him." Sean turned towards Nick. "How about you stay out of this for now and let her fight her own battles, okay?"


            Alyssa looked helplessly between both men, frustrated tears now flowing freely down her cheeks. This wasn't at all the way she had wanted things to go and now that she was in the moment she found herself completely unprepared for it.


            Luckily, Nick stepped in again to save her, noticing her obvious distress. "Lyss, why don't you go back inside and let me handle this man to man. This isn't good for you or the baby being in such a stressful situation. Your husband should know better."


            Alyssa stood there for a moment almost afraid to leave the two men alone with each other. Sean was obviously not in a very stable state and his body was still conditioned for combat. As a Marine she knew that he definitely knew how to defend himself. Nick, on the other hand had always had a bad temper especially when he felt threatened in some way. She remembered watching him beat the shit out of his friend Chris when he'd thought that he had been flirting with her a few years ago. The situation could get very ugly if it came to blows and Alyssa was willing to do whatever she could to keep it from getting that far.


            "Please Lyss, just go inside," he continued to beg. "I'll handle it. I don't need you getting yourself upset. Do it for the baby." His blue eyes seemed to plead with hers.


            "Fine," she reluctantly agreed, but only because of the fact that she had to keep in mind that she was pregnant. She didn't want to upset herself to the point where she caused herself to go into early labor. Alyssa walked back inside visibly shaken and in tears. She knew she looked like a total mess, but she didn't care. All she knew was that she needed to get this fight broken up before it started and before any of the press found out what was going on.


            "Alyssa!" She looked up and saw both Teri and Tricia rushing towards her, their eyes filled with genuine concern. "What's going on out there?" Teri asked. "Izzy told us that Sean crashed the party and that he demanded that she and Tristan tell him where you and Nick were. Are the two of them still out there?"


            Alyssa nodded as she tried to get herself in check before she got to emotional She was already teetering on the edge and she had to regain control of the situation. "Nick sent me inside because he didn't want me to get anymore upset...and I think he wants to settle this with Sean...He doesn't want me to hear.  He said he's worried about the baby, which I know he is, but that isn't all..." she managed to sniffle out, stopping for a moment as thoughts rushed through her head. She continued, almost thinking out loud, "This is my problem. Nick doesn't need to take care of it for me. I am a big girl. I can handle Sean. Plus, I'm more worried about the two of them being out there alone, all hell could break loose.  You know how Nick gets. He has an awful temper and Sean's a loose cannon lately," Alyssa finished as she headed back toward the door that the two men were on the other side of.


            "Wait..." Tricia grabbed Alyssa by the shoulders before she could take another step out those doors. "Don't tell me that you're actually going to go back out there?"


            "I have to," Alyssa insisted. "I have to put a stop to this before it gets any worse."


            Teri shook her head and attempted to reason with her. "Alyssa, just stop one minute and think about this. Let's just say God forbid it does come to blows. What can you do in that situation? You can't very well break it up yourself. What happens if one of them accidentally hits you in the stomach? Listen, Izzy already went to go find Kevin and he AJ and Tristan are going to go out there and break it up. Let the guys handle this for now. I understand that this is your battle and all, but I think that everyone involved is probably just too high strung to settle this calmly right now."


            "But I can't just stand here and wait for someone to do something!" She was already a bundle of nerves and she knew that being so close to both men, but not being able to do a thing to stop it herself was only going to make herself more upset. Already she could feel herself beginning to get a little lightheaded.


            "I think the best thing right now for you to do is to remove yourself from the situation," Teri calmly suggested. "You look a little pale. Why don't you let Tricia and I take you upstairs to Howie's office so that you can calm down a little bit? Like I said I'm sure the guys are not going to let anything happen to Nick, especially Kevin. They've got it under control. Right now you need to think about what's best for your baby.

            Alyssa sighed, finally realizing that her friends were right. She would be no help to either of them by working herself up into an emotional wreck. She needed to calm herself down, so that when it did come time to face them again later she could do it without stressing herself out. "You're right," she agreed. "I do need to calm down."


            "Come with us," Tricia urged, leading her by the arm and weaving through the crowd. "We'll take good care of you, I promise."


            Reluctantly, she gave in and allowed her friends to lead her in the direction of the stairs leading up to Howie's office. Little did she realize though that only a few feet away Shayla had been standing and had just witnessed the entire scene. It wasn't the most opportune time, but she saw the perfect opening to confront Alyssa about the baby. Maybe I can get her to reveal more when she's already upset, Shayla thought to herself as she turned on her heels and followed the three women towards the stairs at a safe distance behind them.




            Nick stared at Sean squarely in the face while he waited for Alyssa to leave the patio. Once he was sure that she had, he spoke almost so calmly that he surprised even himself how he was able to maintain such control when he really wanted to slug the guy for even daring to speak to Alyssa in such a manner. "You shouldn't talk like such a prick to her, man. She is your wife. What we did was wrong and I'm going to be the first to admit it, but that's no excuse for you to embarrass her like that."


            "Funny that you're worried about her being embarrassed," Sean snarled back at him. "I bet neither one of you even ever stopped to think about whether or not I would feel embarrassed. Do you know that I looked like a damn fool tonight in front of my friend's wife when I realized that Alyssa lied to me tonight?"


            Nick just shrugged not being able to resist one little jab. "Should've let her come to the party," he smirked. "Then she wouldn't have had to lie."


            He noticed Sean clench his fists a little tighter as he tried to restrain himself. "Not like that would've made a big difference. The bitch has been lying to me for months now apparently." He paused and now it was his turn to smirk. "So, I have to ask... How did it feel to be me while I was gone?"


            "I wouldn't know," Nick smoothly retorted. "See, unlike you I'm actually considerate of Alyssa and her needs."


            "Her needs? What exactly do you mean by that? The way I see it, I got that all covered. I provide for her, give her a comfortable home, I'm a loyal husband," he ticked off one by one on his hand. "I don't understand what more there is out there that I can give her to make her happy."


            "Well, you can at least start with an orgasm." Okay, it was a low blow, but the opportunity was just too good for Nick to pass up.


            He watched as Sean's face reddened in anger. Now that Nick had unlocked that box there was no telling where this conversation would go next. "You son of a bitch..." he cursed. "How dare you insinuate that I don't know how to please my wife?"


            Because you don't? Nick responded in his head, but decided this needed to be handled in a more precise manner. "If she was so happy with you then why do you think she came to me?"


            He could tell that he'd gotten to Sean by the way his voice slightly wavered. "She didn't come to you. She wouldn't... You destroyed every bit of self confidence she had in herself! It took me months to build her back up again. Why would she turn to you? I bet that you took advantage of the fact that I was gone to lure her back into bed because you've never really gotten over her."


            Nick quickly realized that Sean had no idea of exactly how long things had actually been going on between them and he was afraid if the conversation continued in this direction he would divulge too much information. It wasn't his place to give away all the details of their affair without Alyssa's consent. Instead he responded from a different angle that definitely struck a chord in him. "What do you know about what I've done to her in the past?" he asked, getting slightly defensive.


            Sean wickedly smirked. "Everything. She told me the whole story. You know I really shouldn't be surprised because you've always seemed to have a problem staying faithful. How many times was it that you cheated on her in the past? And then having to see it happen right in front of her own eyes? That was four years ago to this date actually, huh?"


            Nick bit the inside of his lip trying to keep his cool. That night in Australia four years ago was definitely his Achilles heel; a constant reminder of how badly he'd fucked things up with Alyssa. For the longest time there hadn't been a day that went by when he hadn't replayed that night in his head and wished that he had done something differently. If only he had gone straight back to his hotel room after the concert instead of going to the hotel bar... If only he had picked up the phone when she'd texted him... If only he hadn't been so stupid as to let himself be manipulated by some sleazy groupie... Being reminded of the night definitely was enough for him to start to crumble. "You don't know shit..."


            Seeing that he got to him only made Sean smirk wider. "Oh, I know all about it. Every last detail down to Alyssa's surprise for you that night. I think she said that she was wearing a red nightie?"


            Being reminded of the night in such vivid detail was enough to make Nick snap and completely forget that it had little to do with what they had originally been fighting about. Maybe this was Sean's plan all along. Maybe he was just looking to provoke him into throwing the first punch. Whatever his purpose was Nick fell for it and lunged at Sean angrily. "You piece of shit..." he angrily swore.


            But before he could get a good swing at him he felt a pair of strong arms wrapping around him and pulling him away from Sean. Nick looked up to find himself in Kevin's grasp. "I see not much has changed, little man," he joked. "I'm still bailing your ass out of trouble."


            "He started it," Nick started to argue, but then quickly gave up when he realized how immature he sounded. This definitely wasn't the impression he wanted to give Kevin of his behavior since he'd left the group.


            Looking up he realized that Tristan and AJ had grabbed Sean and were struggling to hold him back as well. The two men glared at each other before Kevin being ever the one in charge took control of the situation. "The two of you need to knock it off, right now. Whatever the issue is you have Alyssa in tears and she's very shaken up. Now is not the time or place to settle whatever is going on here. There are reporters right inside. All both of you need is to wind up as a front page story in next week's In Touch magazine, especially you," he warned, pointing at Nick. His attention focused back onto Sean. "Now I think its best that you probably leave before we have the cops escort you off the premises."


            No sooner had the words left his mouth when a very pale looking Brian burst onto the back deck. His brow was creased with worry and he looked overly distressed about something. "I hate to interrupt the pow wow going on out here, but you all need to come inside now. Something's wrong..."




            A still very shaky Alyssa reached the top landing of the stairs sandwiched between both Teri and Tricia. She took a look at her surroundings. It was quite obvious that the upstairs area was still being remodeled. "This is going to be a VIP area," Teri explained, noticing Alyssa's glance at the unfinished area. "Those doors over there are bathrooms and the one on the left is Howie's office. We can go in there for a little until you calm down. It's nice and private."


            "Okay..." Alyssa nodded and began to follow Teri towards the office when the sound of a fourth pair of heels came clicking up the stairs and Alyssa heard the sound of a throat being cleared.


            "We've got company," Tricia announced, sounding slightly annoyed.


            Teri spun around finding herself face to face with Shayla. "I'm sorry, but this is a private area Shayla," she told her with a hand on her hips. "You're going to have to go back downstairs with the rest of the guests."


            Shayla just wrinkled her nose. "I planned this party. I think that gives me just as much right to be up here as anyone else. Besides I was just looking to talk to Alyssa for a moment."


            You've got to be kidding me, Alyssa thought to herself. From one disaster to another. What the hell does she want? "Can you just make this quick Shayla? Unless it's really important it's going to have to wait," she told the younger woman glad that at least she'd stopped crying, but she was still sure that she looked visibly upset.


            "Oh, it's important all right," Shayla assured her before turning her attention towards Teri and Tricia. "Would you mind giving us some privacy? This is something I think Alyssa and I need to discuss on our own."


            Both women exchanged worried glances. They were fully aware of the predicament Alyssa was involved in and knew that any discussion between Alyssa and Shayla could not be good, especially when Alyssa was already shaken up. "I'm not sure this is the best time," Teri stepped in to defend her friend. "Alyssa's really not feeling well right now."


            Alyssa held up her hand to cut Teri off. "It's okay Ter. You and Trish can head downstairs. I got this covered."


            Teri looked at her skeptically. "Are you sure Lyss? I mean we can stay up here if you want. If you're not feeling up to this, Shayla can wait."


            Alyssa slowly nodded. In reality she felt nowhere near prepared to have this conversation with Shayla, but the way she looked at it Shayla was only going to find out the truth soon enough anyway. Better to just face the music now. She had a feeling that after tonight both her and Nick's marriages would be in shambles anyway. "I need to fight my own battles," she reminded her friends. "I love that you have my back, but this is something I need to do on my own."


            The two women again looked a little hesitant, but finally they both reluctantly gave in. "We'll be right downstairs if you need us," Tricia promised her with a small squeeze of her hand as the two women made their way slowly down the stairs.


            "Oh, how cute," Shayla sarcastically replied. "That was just so damn touching I think I need to check that my mascara isn't running."


            "What do you want Shayla?" Alyssa asked, not at all in the mood for her little games. "If you have something to say to me, say it."


            Shayla stared her down placing her hands squarely on her tiny hips. "I just wanted to let you know that I know all about you and Nick and this little ‘thing' the two of you have had going on for months now."


            "Okay... Would you like some sort of prize?" Even Alyssa herself was taken back at her own aloofness towards the matter. She hadn't expected herself to respond the way she had until the words left her mouth and judging from the shocked expression on Shayla's face neither had she. Her reaction left herself feeling quite proud of the way she had handled it. If only she could deal with Sean this easily.


            "You mean you're not even going to deny it?" Shayla's outraged voice cried.


            Alyssa shrugged. "What's the point? You've figured it out... Sean's figured it out... Not much left to hide, is there? I'm actually quite surprised it took you this long to figure it out." She quickly realized that Shayla expected her to collapse into a blubbering mess, so the more unapologetic she acted, the more it would only infuriate the younger woman.


            Seeing that she wasn't upsetting Alyssa, Shayla pulled out her next card. "I know about the baby too. Does Sean know that you're actually carrying Nick's baby in there? Or are you lying to him too? Do you even know who the father is?"


            Alyssa froze for a moment, losing her small sense of victory. She wasn't sure if Shayla actually had proof of this or if she was just calling her bluff. Choosing her words carefully so not to fall in her trap, Alyssa responded, "I know exactly who my baby's father is thank you very much, and I don't see how it's any business of yours whatsoever."


            "It is when it's my husband," Shayla glared back at her.


            Alyssa frowned. "And what makes you so sure that this baby belongs to him?"


            "I found the sonogram picture in his wallet," she simply explained. "It had the name Zoey Michelle Carter written on the back. Nice work... And here I thought I was manipulative, but I'd never think to lie about a baby's paternity just to steal someone else's husband."


            Alyssa quickly found her temper beginning to rise at the accusation and as much as she wanted to handle this as maturely as possible, if a bitch fight is what Shayla wanted; she was surely going to get it. "At least I didn't have to lie about being pregnant! That didn't work out for you so well, right? If I remember correctly it only sent him right back to me, so maybe I should thank you. If it weren't for you I probably wouldn't be pregnant at all."


            "How do you know about that?" Shayla asked sharply, stepping closer towards Alyssa.


            "Nick told me," she confidently answered back, not at all fazed by Shayla's tactics of intimidation. "He was really hurt and betrayed that you'd stoop so low. I mean who honestly would think the ‘fake pregnancy' trick works anywhere else besides daytime television?"


            "I didn't think that seducing an old boyfriend and purposely getting pregnant worked that well in the real world either," she curtly responded.


            "Trust me... I didn't have to seduce him. He was pretty willing." Again it was a dirty card to play, but Alyssa knew from experience that the best way of dealing with bitches like Shayla was to beat them at their own game.


            Shayla continued to move closer into Alyssa until she was practically in her face. "Don't think for one minute that I'm letting Nick go that easily. You may think you have him wrapped around your pretty little finger, but he's not going anywhere. You're nothing!" she spat, barely realizing that she had backed them both even closer to the edge of the landing. "You have nothing to offer him! He's got a great life with me, one that I don't see him giving up anytime soon."


Shayla's eyes were so wild with anger that Alyssa could tell that she'd lost all reason and was now not thinking clearly at all. As if to emphasize her point, Shayla nudged Alyssa's shoulders with her fingertips to send a clear message to back off. Unfortunately, for Alyssa she was completely unprepared for the move and being pregnant, her center of gravity was already off. She felt herself lose her balance and only realized before it was too late how close to the edge of the stairs she was. Fear gripped through her as she felt herself begin to fall.


The next ten seconds seemed to happen in slow motion. Her eyes desperately pleaded with Shayla's to do something to help her, to stick out a hand and try to prevent her from plummeting down the steps. She distinctively remembered the look of pure terror in Shayla's wide eyes when she realized exactly what she had just done. It was obvious that this had not been part of the plan. Her hands flew to her mouth in shock and that was the last thing Alyssa remembered seeing before she began to tumble down the stairs.


Instinctively her hands flew to her stomach, her primary concern to protect the growing infant still inside of her. She found the task to be much harder than she anticipated as her body clanked down the staircase quicker than she could react. Somewhere on the way down, her head slammed hard against one of the steps and then everything went black.


The last sound she could remember hearing was that of people screaming in horror from down below.