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Author's Chapter Notes:
New chapter up already and only one more after this!  My goal is to finish this story over the weekend, let's see if I actually stick to it. Things are starting to come together in this chapter and I think a lot of you will be happy lil campers. I like to call this chapter the mini climax because well you'll see...

Chapter 56 - Blindsided


            Alyssa nervously entered the coffee shop that she had arranged to meet Nick at and immediately headed towards the counter to order herself a latte and a pastry to nibble on while she waited for him to arrive. It had only been a little over twenty-four hours since her last therapy session with Julia and her realization that Shayla had been the one responsible for her fall. She'd weighed the situation out carefully, so carefully in fact that she'd barely gotten an hour of sleep last night. Even after all that consideration she was still not sure what to do about it. One side of her was full of hate and contempt for the woman, wanting to make her pay for practically stealing her daughter away from her. She wanted to see Shayla pay for what she'd done, to ruin her life the same way that she had ruined her and Nick's. Then of course though there was the softer human side of her. Deep down she knew that Shayla had never intended to hurt her or Zoey. Shayla may have been many things, but Alyssa seriously doubted that a murderer was one of them. She'd been raised to forgive others and it would be almost hypocritical of her to press charges when she hoped that she and Nick would be forgiven for their own indiscretions. She knew though that no matter how conflicted she was on the inside, she needed to let Nick know what was going on and maybe together they could finally decide what their best option was. She just wasn't sure how Nick was going to react to the news.


            She settled down at a table in the corner and a few minutes later Nick walked in through the door and spotted her. She gave him a friendly wave and waited while he ordered his own coffee and joined her on the opposite end of the table. "Hey, what's going on?" he casually greeted. Alyssa could tell though that underneath his eyes he really seemed to be wondering exactly what it was she had called him to talk about.


            "Not much," she answered, playing nervously with the stirrer in her latte. There was no use forcing any awkward small talk. She might just as well cut to the chase. "There's actually something that I needed to talk to you about face to face, something pretty important."


            "All right... I'm listening," he told her, leaning forward attentively.


            "Well, you know how I've been going to therapy and all?" Nick just nodded as she continued. "I had a session with Julia yesterday that was actually pretty eye opening. It made me realize something that I hadn't before that I think you need to know about." She cringed a little when she saw Nick's face light up, immediately realizing that her words almost sounded as if she was finally going to tell him that she was finally ready to be with him. He was going to very disappointed once she told him the truth. "About Shayla," she clarified.


            She watched as Nick's expression fell into a confused frown. "You had a revelation about Shayla? What does she have to do with any of this?"


            Alyssa sighed in preparation for her explanation. "You know how I kept blaming myself for falling? How upset I was that I apparently ‘tripped' and couldn't remember it? Well, I guess I never completely bought Shayla's story. We weren't just talking up there. We were arguing about you. She somehow found out about us and Zoey and was confronting me about it. Anyway, since it was such a big roadblock for me in trying to gain any closure over the incident, it was an issue that Julia wanted to tackle in therapy. In yesterday's session she did this thing called a guided visualization with me to try to put together all the fuzzy pieces of what went on right before I fell. During the visualization I realized that I didn't trip. Shayla pushed me."


            She anxiously searched Nick's face for his reaction. Wordlessly, he slunk back against his seat in almost disbelief. Appearing shocked he finally found his voice. "What? Alyssa, are you sure? I mean that's a pretty serious allegation there."


            "I'm positive!" she insisted, her voice rising with conviction. "She pushed me Nick! I saw it perfectly in my head when I really focused in on what happened. I know it sounds crazy that bam, one day in therapy I'd just automatically remember, but I swear to you that's what happened. You have to believe me!"


            Nick held up a hand to calm her down. "I didn't say I didn't believe you Lyss... It's just wow... I almost don't want to believe it. When you say that she pushed you, do you mean like on purpose?"


            Alyssa shook her head realizing that she letting her emotions interfere with her explaining the situation. It was no wonder Nick seemed confused. "No, I don't think that it was on purpose. We were fighting at the top of the stairs. I told you she was confronting me about you, and I admit I was being a little bit of a smart ass just because I knew that it would get her pissed. I didn't think that it would get her that worked up though. I bought up the whole lying about being pregnant thing, so then she told me that at least she didn't seduce her married ex boyfriend and purposely gotten pregnant. You know how I have a bad habit of not thinking before I say things, so I told her that I didn't have to seduce anyone which of course pushed the wrong buttons. Next thing I know she was getting into my face, screaming at me about how I'm nothing and that you'd never leave her for me. Then she kind of shoved me a little with her fingertips, not hard, but enough to make me lose my balance. I wasn't at all prepared for that so I went tumbling down the stairs. I think if she had pushed harder I could've been hurt a lot worse. If she wanted to really hurt me, she could've, but I think she was just trying to scare me."


            "So, let me get this straight. The two of you were fighting, things got heated, words were exchanged, and she gives you a little unnecessary nudge and you fall?" he tried to clarify.


            "Pretty much," she nodded. "I really don't think it was premeditated, just one of those in the heat of the moment things. I remember as I was falling she genuinely looked shocked and well... scared. She totally had this ‘oh, shit' look on her face. I really think that maybe I just pushed her too far and she blacked out."


            "Yea, but she should've had enough common sense not to lay her hands on a pregnant woman. Even if you weren't on the top of the stairs and she pushed you something as small as a simple push could've caused your water to break and sent you into early labor," Nick pointed out. "Like she should've known that. It's not rocket science."


            "I think she was just at the end of her rope Nick. She was losing it. You know how important image is to her. It was obvious that she was always more in love with Nick and Shayla, perfect Hollywood couple, than Nick Carter. She would be willing to forgive and forget everything that happened between you and me as long as it meant that the world could go on believing that your guys had the perfect marriage. She's terrified of what the media is going to say when they do find out that you two are getting divorced. She had been trying so hard to keep everything together, but your relationship was crumbling too quickly for her to do damage control." Alyssa was surprised at herself even with her analysis of where Shayla had been coming from throughout this ordeal. Was it possible that she almost felt bad for Shayla?


            Nick looked thoughtful as he considered what she had just said. He supposed that she was right. Shayla definitely had been acting stranger and stranger over the past few months. As if the whole pregnancy lie hadn't been crazy enough there had been the whole Santa outfit nightmare on Christmas Eve. Then there had been the way that she'd practically begged him to sleep with her in Vegas. Even the fact that she'd thrown him the party in the first place had made him believe that she had some sort of ulterior motive in mind. He knew that Shayla was very concerned with media perception, so Alyssa's theory had made sense. Maybe she had just let all the stress get to her and snapped. "I guess it would make sense that she'd lie about it to cover her own ass. You know something definitely didn't seem right about her story, but I never fully pushed it. And the few times I did ask her to elaborate she did seem very jumpy. I think once or twice she even said, ‘It's not like I pushed her down the stairs.' Sounds to me like she had a guilty complex."


            "Definitely..." Alyssa agreed. "And of course she'd cover her own ass. She's not stupid. She knows that if she admitted it we'd probably press charges and then not only would she lose you, but her career would be in the toilet as well."


            Nick just sighed still not wanting to fully believe that Shayla would stoop to that level. "I still don't want to buy it. This isn't the same woman I agreed to marry almost three years ago. I don't know what happened to the old Shayla, the sweet, down to earth, producer who I met while I was filming my show. She's changed so much... It's like she's become a completely different person."


            Alyssa glanced at him sympathetically, knowing how difficult it was for Nick to realize that his wife wasn't the same woman that he had originally married. She just shrugged. "Fame does that to people I guess. She all of a sudden was in all these tabloids and everyone seemed to love her... I guess I can see how that could change a person if they're not careful."


            "So, what do you want to do about this?" he asked, finally finding the nerve to ask the question that they needed to answer. "Do you want to press charges?"


            She sighed, still no closer to reaching an answer than before. "Honestly, I'm not sure Nick. I mean she definitely deserves to be thrown in jail and have her life ruined, but I'm just not sure if I can bring myself to do that to her even after all she's done to me. She's already lost you and that's going to damage her career. I almost think that's enough punishment for her. Like I said, it wasn't vindictive and when all is said and done I think I actually do pity her a bit."


            "You're a much better person than I am because if I was in your position I'm not sure that I could be so forgiving," he told her. "But knowing Shayla I do see your point. She's not a murderer. A manipulative bitch, yes, but a murderer, no. Plus, you need to keep in mind that if we do press charges a trial would only lead to a bigger media scandal which is exactly what we don't want. And you never know how she's going to try to spin this. I mean you even admitted that you kind of egged her on a bit. Knowing her she'd try to claim that you hit her and it was self defense or something like that."


            "So then what do you suggest?" Alyssa asked.


            "I think our best course of action for now is to just sit on this. It stays between us and we let Shayla go on believing that we've accepted her version of the story. We show that we're bigger people and not even mention it to the media or anything."


            "You really think that we should just let it go, like that?" Alyssa seemed surprised at his decision.


            "Not exactly," he clarified. "For now we let it go, but something tells me that knowing Shayla she's going to try pulling some crap once our divorce leaks into the media. It'll be useful for us to have something to hold against her in case she does do something crazy. Sort of like a bargaining chip. If we all of a sudden leak the fact that she pushed you down a flight of stairs while you were pregnant causing you to lose the baby, it would be a devastating blow for her. If we save that piece of information to use against her, there's really no way that we could lose."


            Alyssa's eyes widened as Nick explained his reasoning for keeping the news quiet for the time being. "Nickolas Carter! I would never expect you to come up with something so manipulative."


            Nick just shrugged and smirked. "What can I say? I was married to the best and I learned everything I know from her. We have to beat her at her own game."


            A worried crease wrinkled above her brow. "But wouldn't it seem weird if all of a sudden months later we finally decide to take it to court? Isn't there like a time limit between the actual incident and when you can press charges?"


            "Shayla doesn't know that. I think if we just threaten her she'd be so scared that we'd leak it to the media that she'd do anything we asked. Really, we have the advantage here."


            "All right then. I'm in," she agreed.


            Now that they had finally reached a decision about what to do about the Shayla situation and now that Alyssa had finally had the closure of knowing how the accident had happened, she realized that she felt almost a million times better. Now there was just one more thing standing in the way of her progress, and he was sitting right across from her. Her next focus needed to be on really considering whether or not she was ready to take the plunge with Nick. Admittedly, she had let her other problems get in the way of figuring out what she wanted to do about him. She loved him; there was no doubt about that. The only part that was still holding her back was her fear of the road ahead for them. She knew that it wouldn't be easy. Their relationship would be tested in ways that it never had before, and with such a rocky history as their's, one could never tell what could happen. She knew that there was no way to hide the mistakes that they had made from the media. Everything was going to come out eventually. She could lose her job... She hated to think of what her family would think... But most of all she wasn't sure if she was ready for her private life to become public. That was going to have to be something that she focused a lot of thought on in the next few days.




            "I took your advice and talked to Nick," Alyssa reported at her next therapy session the following week. "I told him about what Shayla did to me and we reached a decision."


            "Excellent. I know you were worried that he wouldn't believe you. How did he take the news?" Julia asked.


            "Better than I thought. I mean at first he was a little wary, but I think that it was more that he didn't want to believe that Shayla would do something like that than actually not believing me. He was just very disappointed that someone that he had at one time thought he loved would turn out to be such an ugly person," she explained.


            Julia nodded her head. "I would say that's a pretty normal reaction. It has to be hard on him to hear because he probably at one time really did love her. From what you've told me about her, it seems like she's turned into almost a completely different person."


            Alyssa had to agree. "She has. I mean I never really got to know her previously, but like even from meeting her very briefly at her and Nick's wedding I can see a difference. Evidently before she started working in front of the camera she was a lot different. Then once she got promoted and married Nick, people started to recognize her, and she was in all the magazines, she really changed." She paused to laugh a little. "I don't know if it's all these therapy sessions or what, but I actually can look at her now and almost pity her because I realize just how many issues she has herself."


            "That's definitely progress. I agree that it sounds like she has her own set of problems, but we're not here to analyze her. We're here to talk about you. Let's get back to your decision. What did the two of you decide to do?"


            "We decided for the time being not to do anything," she answered truthfully. "Both Nick and I realize that she didn't do it with the intention to really hurt me. It was something that she did without thinking. I mean don't get me wrong, we're both hurt and angry, but we just think that pressing charges would add a whole new layer onto all of this drama that neither one of us needs. Bad enough, things are going to get crazy with his divorce because I know that Shayla is going to milk whatever she can from it, and then when the media gets involved it'll be a circus. It would just be too much. I'd like to see Shayla pay, but I think having her career and her marriage destroyed is probably punishment enough."


            "That's a very mature decision Alyssa," Julia praised. "A lot of people would not be so sympathetic, but you do make sense. It seems like you've both thought this out very carefully. Pressing charges is a big decision and it would in your situation probably complicate things much further. You are right, the road up ahead is going to be bumpy enough already. Have you and Nick put any thought into where the two of you are headed at this point?"


            Alyssa froze up. There was the one question that she didn't even know herself. "Yes and no," she carefully replied. "I mean we've talked about it and basically the ball is n my court now. He knows that I had some issues to work out and he's been giving me the space to do so, but I know that I can't leave him hanging forever. I feel bad because I'm kind of holding him up from divorcing Shayla because he wants to make sure that I'm ready to handle the media backlash once it happens."


            "And what do you think is holding you back, honestly?"


            She sighed, feeling more and more frustration build up inside her. "I don't know... I love him, I really do. I've always wanted to spend my whole life with him. I guess it's just that we've been through so much and I'd just gotten to the point where I accepted that it would never wok out between us, and here we are again. Like now it's a real possibility and I'm just not sure that I want to go through the hurt of having my heart broken by him again." After she had said it she shocked herself at how she had never admitted that to herself. Instead she had been covering it up with the excuse about the media, which of course was part of it, but the larger issue was she was afraid of being hurt.


            "That's a very valid way to feel in your situation," Julia sympathized. "Especially based upon your past. But, you can't leave him hanging like you are now. You just can't. It's not fair to him or Shayla. I understand that you are scared, I bet he is too, but after all you've been through together this time around is it worth it to waste all that because you're scared?"


            Alyssa thought about that. She thought about their relationship while she had been pregnant. How he'd taken care of her, stopping by to bring her food or just to watch a movie with her. How he'd been by her side at almost every doctor's appointment. The little things he did to show her he cared. Not to mention the strong physical connection that they had shared. It had been almost perfect, the way she'd wished it would have always been. Obviously they were both two very different people now and just maybe this time around things very well could be different. She'd never know unless she tried, right? "God, this is all so stupid!" she exclaimed. "What am I doing here? I have this great guy right underneath my nose and instead of letting myself just be happy with him, I'm sitting here too scared to make a move because I'm too afraid that it's not going to work out! You're totally right... Nick and I survived one of the hardest things any couple can go through and we're still on speaking terms. Not very many couples could go through all we did and still get along. When I first came out of the hospital and wanted to do nothing more than lock myself in my room and cry and feel sorry for myself, he was the one who practically dragged me out of bed. Hell, I wouldn't even be here if it wasn't for him. He's the one who suggested I talk to someone. How could've I have been so blind? Most guys would've given up on me ages ago!" Without even bothering to think what she was doing next she got up and stood from the couch.


            "Wait, Alyssa? Where are you going? We still have another twenty minutes left of our session." Julia looked almost baffled at Alyssa's sudden revelation even though she was glad that it seemed as if Alyssa had finally figured out exactly what she needed to do about her relationship with Nick.


            "I have to go... I need to tell Nick how I feel before it's too late." She was already halfway out the door at this point.


            "And it can't wait another twenty minutes? I'm sure that Nick is not going to decide to give up on you by the end of this session. He's waited this long for you, hasn't he?" Seeing the impatient, but determined glance in Alyssa's eyes finally forced Julia to give in. "Fine... You go have fun and tell that man how you really feel. That will top on her agenda for next week," she joked with a smile.


            "Thank you so much!" Before she could give Julia another moment to reply she'd flown out the door and had already pulled her cell phone out of her purse. Her fingers had just connected with the button to dial Nick's number when she stopped. First off, something of this magnitude would be better said in person than over the phone. Secondly, this was starting to sound a little too much like a bad chick flick with the heroine rushing over to the man of her dreams for the big declaration of love. No, she needed to handle this in a much different more thoughtful way to show him that she was finally ready to dive into a real relationship with him.


            Like lightening, she was all of a sudden struck by the perfect idea just as she reached her car. With one of the most genuine smiles on her face since January, she dialed Nick's number and held her breath anxiously as she waited for him to pick up.


            "Hey Lyss," his voice greeted. "What's up?"


            "Hi Nick. Look I can't talk very long, but I was just wondering if you'd like to come over to the condo for dinner tonight?" It was taking all of her self restraint not to blurt out her real intentions for calling him.


            "Yea... Dinner sounds great. I think Howie and Teri are getting sick of me being the third wheel around here every night, so it'll be good to get out. What time?"


            "How's eight for you?"


            "Perfect. I'll see you then," he told her.


            "Awesome. I have some errands to do right now, so I have to run, but I will definitely see you tonight. Bye!" She clicked off the phone, an excited buzz of energy running through her. Her plan was set. Now all she needed was to get everything that she would need and set it all up. Looking at the digital clock on her car stereo as she started it up she realized she was going to have to hurry if she wanted to get all her shopping done, shower, cook dinner, and make herself look absolutely perfect by eight.


            For the first time in months Alyssa could honestly say that she saw more clearer now than ever.