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Author's Chapter Notes:

Tensions flare between Alyssa and Sean. Shayla decides she wants to be a mother.

Chapter 4 – Hey Jealously

The very moment that Sean and Alyssa returned back to their hotel room after dinner was the moment that Sean began to sail into her about her lack of honesty about the true identity of her ex boyfriend. “I still can’t believe why you lied to me about Nick!” he thundered as soon as the door slammed behind them.

“I never lied to you Sean!” Alyssa insisted. “I’ll admit that I withheld the fact that the Nick that I used to date is Nick Carter, the Backstreet Boy, but I never lied. Whenever you asked me a question about him, I answered as honestly as I possible could without divulging who he really was.”

“Why couldn’t you just tell me Alyssa? We tell each other everything! To my knowledge we’ve never really had any secrets between us, so why start now?” he asked in a hurt voice.

Alyssa sighed. “What was I supposed to say Sean? I don’t really want to advertise the fact that I once dated a celebrity. I have an entirely different and normal life now. If it got out that I used to date a Backstreet Boy it could interfere significantly with my teaching career. I enjoy my life right now. To tell you the truth, I was never completely comfortable in his world. Shayla’s a much better match for him. She works in the same field as him… She wants the same things… I just don’t see the sense in drudging up the past. Besides, not like you’d probably have believed me if I told you earlier anyway.”

“That’s not true! Why would I not believe you?”

She just narrowed her eyes at him. “If I’d told you in the beginning of our relationship that my last boyfriend was a Backstreet Boy you’d either think I was some kind of psycho teenybopper and run for the hills. Even if you did believe me, you’d still feel threatened by the fact and again run for the hills. So in either situation I’m screwed.”

“What do I have to be threatened about when it comes to that pretty boy?” Sean argued.

“Obviously something or you wouldn’t refer to him as ‘pretty boy’” Alyssa pointed out. “I don’t get why it is that guys like you are so intimidated by guys like him.”

“I’m not intimidated by him,” he insisted in a macho tone of voice.

“You can fool me! That’s why you were so defensive and rude to him at dinner tonight! You refused to even shake his hand! How is that being mature at all?”

“Lyss, you know I’m a gentleman, but I can’t sit there and show some guy like him respect after he’s hurt you the way he’s had. I don’t even know how or why you gave him the time of day you did! You should’ve told him to take his table and shove it up his ass.”

Alyssa rolled her eyes and snorted. “First off, don’t you dare tell me what I should have done. I make my own decisions and because I am a mature adult, unlike you apparently. Yes, Nick did hurt me. He hurt me very badly, but he was also the first guy that I’ve ever loved. We had a very strong connection at one point, so I just think that it would be nice if we could remain friendly. We’re both with different people, so it’s not like I’m going to run off with him or something… That’s really stupid! Secondly, don’t go all ‘Southern gentleman’ on me. You acted like a jerk tonight! What you should have done was be charming and polite and if you were so intent in getting a message across to Nick you should have done it by showing him how well you treat me. Instead he probably thinks that you’re some hot tempered asshole-“

“Why does it matter to you so much what Nick thinks?” Sean bluntly interrupted. “I mean who cares? You’re done and over with.”

His question made Alyssa momentarily freeze. He was right. Why did it matter what Nick thought about her? Why did it bother her so much, especially if she was very happily married at the moment? She thought about it a moment before slowly responding. “It’s not so much that I care what he thinks, it’s just that I want to give him the impression that I’m in a better place in my life. Up until you and I started dating, I was a completely different person. Now I think I’ve changed in so many positive ways and I really want him to be able to see that.”

Still Sean frowned. “Yea, but why is it so important that he sees that you’ve changed? Why does it even matter?”

She sighed, struggling with the best way to explain it to him. “Whether you like it or not, Nick and I have a history together. I loved him very much at one time. Yes, he hurt me, but I’m over it now! Part of me becoming who I am today means letting go and putting the past beside me. The old me would probably still hate Nick for what he did to me to the point that it would make me so bitter inside that I probably wouldn’t be able to truly trust any guy at all. But now the way I look at it is life’s too short to hold grudges. I’m proud to finally be in a spot in my life that if I run into my ex boyfriend and his wife, I can handle it and act completely calm like we were old friends. I’m done hating him for what he’s done to me, so why should you? That is unless you’re jealous…”

“I’m not jealous of that asshole. I have no reason to be. I’m the one who wound up with you in the end.”

Alyssa rolled her eyes. “If you’re not jealous then why are you referring to him as an ‘asshole?’?” She just shook her head. “I don’t know maybe it’s an age thing? Maybe it’s something that you just haven’t realized yet? When I was your age I felt the same way about him. Maybe you just wind up going through a stage of acceptance in your late 20’s that you haven’t reached yet?”

Now it was Sean’s turn to get angry. “Don’t you dare pull the age card on me Alyssa! I’m only two years younger than you, not ten, so don’t talk down to me like I’m some child who doesn’t understand anything. I just-“

“Then what the fuck is it Sean? You’re not jealous of Nick, you can’t still be pissed that he hurt me because I’m over it, so what is it about him that bothers you so much? Is it the fact that he’s more successful than you? Or is it the fact that he actually ‘went there’ first?” she finally exploded.

Sean’s face reddened, giving Alyssa the impression that he was boiling with rage on the inside. “I just don’t like the guy, ok? Something about him really just gets me! I don’t trust him.”

“Is it that you don’t trust him or you don’t trust me?” Alyssa’s eyes narrowed expectantly. He hesitated for a moment and she realized that she’d hit the nail right on the head. “Unbelievable,” she sighed as she grabbed his hand and forced him to look at her as she spoke in a softer tone of voice. “Baby, if you’re worried for one second that I’m going to run right back to Nick, it’s not going to happen. I love you and we’re starting a wonderful life together. Hopefully, by this time next year we’ll have a beautiful baby and you’ll be back from Iraq, and things will be perfect. There’s no reason at all for me to go running into his arms again. Besides, Nick seems like he’s pretty happy with Shayla as well. So, you have absolutely nothing to worry about.”

Sean looked away a little uncomfortably. “I just noticed the way he was looking at you tonight, that’s all. And ok, maybe I was a little jealous,” he finally admitted.

“Well, you should feel honored that you have such a hot looking wife,” she joked with a smile. “But seriously though, I’m glad you admitted that to me and I know Nick was probably staring a little. I really don’t think it was in a sexual way though. I think it was more of the shock of bumping into me, especially dressed like this. Let’s just say I’d never have the confidence to wear something like this dress back when we were dating. Another good thing about me that’s changed that I’m glad he got to see.”

There was a pause and from the far away look in Sean’s eyes, Alyssa got the impression that he was thinking back on their night so far and he looked disappointed. Obviously he had gone through great pains in planning this night for them and so far it hadn’t worked out at all as he had planned. “I’m sorry,” she apologized. “I know this isn’t at all how you wanted our night to go. I shouldn’t have taken Nick and Shayla up on their offer.”

“It’s not all your fault. I acted like a real immature jerk. We wasted all this time fighting and it’s our anniversary. Who knows if we’ll even have another one? I don’t want to fight tonight,” he confessed.

“Me neither,” she agreed. “You know this was our first major fight in six months of marriage?”

“Not too bad a track record.” Sean smirked as he wrapped his arms around her. “And I suppose there’s one advantage to us fighting.”

She looked up at him, knowing what he was getting at, but decided to play dumb. “And what’s that?”

“Make up sex,” he seductively replied. Alyssa just grinned and just like that the whole ridiculous fight was pushed away as it had never happened as she felt her husband’s warm lips pressing against hers.

Later on that evening, on the other side of town, Shayla and Nick were just getting home from their night out. After the awkward dinner at Koi with Sean and Alyssa, they’d met a few friends for drinks at a nightclub, but hadn’t made too late of a night of it. Since Nick had lost all the weight he had, he found that he wasn’t much of a drinker anymore. Occasionally he’d go out and have a few drinks socially, but it was no longer constantly to the point of always getting drunk.

“I must be getting old,” he remarked to his wife as they walked in the door. “I’m ready for bed.”

Shayla just laughed at him. “Well, you are going to be twenty-nine next week. Damn, twenty-nine!” she whistled. “You are getting old! That’s only one year from-“

“Thirty,” he finished for her. “I know. Please don’t remind me. The only thing that makes me feel any better about turning thirty is that means that Kevin is pushing forty.”

Again Shayla laughed. “Well, if it makes you feel better, old man, I’m kind of tired myself. Bed sounds really nice,” she agreed stifling a yawn.

The pair headed upstairs to their bedroom and began to get ready for bed. Nick headed into the bathroom to brush his teeth, while Shayla worked on washing her makeup off of her face. Finishing up before her, he headed back into the bedroom and stripped down to his boxers before diving beneath the blankets. A few minutes later he felt Shayla slide into bed beside him, the silky fabric of her short nightgown brushing against his bare skin. She cuddled up next to him and just as Nick finally started to drift off into sleep; her voice brought him right back to the present.

“So, I think this was the first time I really got a chance to speak with Alyssa. I mean I talked to her at our wedding, but only for like a minute. I didn’t get to really know her.”

Nick inwardly groaned. Seeing Alyssa again had been confusing enough for him and he really wanted to just go to sleep and get her out of his head. Unfortunately for him, Shayla had other ideas. For some reason she thought that right before bed was the perfect time to talk about her. “Uh huh,” he just kind of grunted, hoping it would discourage Shayla.

“Yea, I’m kind of surprised. She was a lot different than I thought she’d be. She was actually a little on the rude side to me,” she continued. “Did you see how she almost bit my head off when I tried to make her feel better about Sean going to Iraq?”

He rolled his eyes, knowing that he had to say something in Alyssa’s defense. “You compared me going on tour to Sean going to Iraq,” he pointed out. “It’s not like he’s going to Iraq on a business trip, or on a vacation. He’s going out there to fight a war. A war that many guys around my age aren’t returning from. Look, I don’t think she meant to be rude, but you just can’t compare the two.”

Shayla looked hurt. “I was only trying to be nice. I didn’t know what to say, so I tried to sympathize. I guess I was wrong, huh?”

His face softened as he realized that his wife was in her own convoluted way only trying to help. “I think that Alyssa and Sean have probably just been really stressed about the situation. It has to be very sensitive for them, and in the midst of it all they’re in a rush to have a baby before he leaves… It’s just probably a really complicated, emotional situation for her and to hear it compared to something so trivial, she probably took offense.”

“Yea…” Shayla’s voice trailed off. “I guess it must be crazy for them with how fast everything is going. The whole baby thing is like wow, but I can totally understand their reasoning, can’t you?”

Nick frowned, wondering exactly what his wife was getting at before slowly beginning to answer. “I guess I can. Alyssa’s always really looked forward to having kids someday and I suppose she and Sean want to start trying right away, so that they don’t lose out on that chance. I know how much this means to her, so I’m happy for them.” He shrugged. “But why are you so interested in my opinion?”

“No reason in particular,” she quickly answered. There was a tense silence between the two of them until Shayla grabbed his arm. “Hearing Alyssa talk about trying to get pregnant just got me thinking…”

Uh oh, Nick thought, feeling the now familiar sense of dread in his stomach that always formed whenever Shayla was about to bring up the same subject that he feared she was about to. He knew exactly where this conversation was now headed, and after the night he’d just had, he really didn’t want to go down that route with her. I should’ve pretended to be asleep the minute she began talking, he realized. Now it was too late.

“I know that you aren’t thrilled with the idea, but I’d like to become a mother too sometime in the near future,” she continued. “What I’m trying to say Nick is that I’d like to try having kids.”

Even though the words didn’t come as a surprise to him, he still couldn’t hold back a frustrated sigh as he rolled onto his back and stared up at the ceiling. “Shayla, you know how I feel about having kids right now.”

“I know! I just don’t understand why. If anything it’s the perfect time to start trying,” she insisted. “You’re done with your tour. As of right now there aren’t any definite plans for you and the rest of the guys to go back into the studio. All you have on your plate right now is the label, and you make your own hours with that! You have plenty of time to fit in starting a family if you really wanted to, so you can’t use the excuse that you’re too busy right now.”

“What about you Shayla?” he shot back, dodging her question. “Your show just got picked up and you have to start filming soon. Your producers are not going to be thrilled if you turn up pregnant halfway into the season. It isn’t like a sitcom where they can just cover you up in baggy clothes and strategic props. It may sound cruel, but the harsh reality is that if you become pregnant it’s a sure way to make to sure that you’re show never makes a second season.”

Even in the dim light, he could tell that Shayla had a hurt expression on her face. “Not necessarily,” she argued. “I probably wouldn’t get pregnant just like that and by the time I did I most probably wouldn’t even be showing until after the season wraps. If we plan it right, it won’t interfere with my show at all.”

“Sometimes you just can’t plan things like this,” he replied in a cold voice.

Shayla sighed. “Look, I just really need to understand why you’re so against having children Nick. Maybe if I understood where you were coming from better it would help me accept your decision. Like I said, it’s obviously not a time issue. Is it because you’re afraid of not being a good father? Is it because you don’t feel like you’re ready to take on such a huge responsibility? Or is it something deeper than that? According to Alyssa you didn’t always feel that way because she seemed just as shocked as me to hear you didn’t want kids, so what changed?”

Nick bit his lip, for a moment actually contemplating spewing out the whole story about Katie and Serena and how because he had failed them, they’d lost everything. He knew though that Shayla would just shower him with sympathy though, which was exactly what he didn’t want. He supposed that it was more than just Katie and Serena though and the unfortunate circumstances that had resulted from his first marriage. There had been his own miserable childhood to consider. He never wanted to bring children into a home where there was so much dysfunction and chaos. If he ever did decide to have children he wanted to create an environment where they’d have two loving parents at home for them. He wanted them as far away from the entertainment world as possible, so that they’d at least have a shed of normalcy in their lives. With him and Shayla and where they both were with their careers at the moment that would be nearly impossible to provide. So for the moment he was perfectly content without having children.

“Was it because you had such a crappy childhood?” she continued to press, almost reading his mind. “Are you afraid of ruining your children the same way that you feel that your parents ruined you?”

“It took nearly twenty-seven years and countless therapy sessions for me to finally come to terms with my life and realize that most of the mistakes I made in my life stemmed from my parents fucking me up so much. I don’t want to put a child through the shit that I’ve been through. Besides I’m probably too selfish to be a father anyway.”

“Why are you so convinced that you’re going to do such a shitty job as a father, Nick? Maybe you’d be different from your parents. Maybe because you don’t want your children to end up in some of the situations that you’ve been in, you’ll do everything that your parents neglected to do with you? Why are you putting yourself down like that?”

“Because I’m a Carter,” he muttered in defeat before taking a deep breath. “Even if I did agree to having a child Shayla, who is going to take care of it while we’re working? Are you going to quit your career and become a stay at home Mom?”

Shayla just rolled her eyes. “Who’s going to take care of it? You make it sound like a baby is nothing more than a pet dog or something. And this is the 21st century. I don’t see any reason why I have to quit my job. We can hire a nanny to help take care of it when needed.”

“A nanny?” he scoffed. “There’s no way I’d let any of my children be raised by a nanny. More than half of those kids who have full time nannies wind up seeing more of them than their own parents! How is that going to give them any better of a life than the one my parents gave me?”

“Well, I’m sorry that I don’t want to give up my career either! Why do I have to choose between my job and a child? Can’t I have both? Lot’s of women do it! I’m sure that Sean isn’t making Alyssa give up her career to have a baby!”

“That’s a completely different situation,” Nick tried to argue.

“How is that any different?” Shayla challenged.

“First off, neither one of them is famous,” he pointed out. “They’re jobs are demanding too, but are more manageable with a family than ours are. Alyssa’s a teacher. She gets summers off and all these holidays… She’s home usually at four o’clock the latest. I’m not sure if she plans on enrolling her children in day care or not, but that isn’t an option for us.”

“Which is why I suggested we hire a nanny,” she cut in.

“Is a nanny going to work thirteen hour shifts while you’re pulling double duty between your job at E! and then hightailing it over to cover the opening of a new club for your television show? By the time you get home you’d be lucky if you could spend enough time for one feeding with a baby.”

“That’s not true. I’d make it work. I’d figure something out.” Nick could tell just by the passion in her voice that she was trying to hold back tears.

Feeling bad, he rolled back over so that he was facing her and cupped her chin with his hands, speaking in a softer voice. “Just based on the way we’re arguing over things like whether or not we should hire a nanny, tells me that we’re definitely not in a position where we’re ready to start having kids just yet.”

Shayla sighed in defeat, hating to admit that he was absolutely right. “I just wish that you’d start to think about it Nick. I can wait if you need time to get used to the idea. I just really want to have kids with you someday in the future. I think we’d make great parents. Maybe not the most conventional parents, but still good ones nonetheless. Just promise me that you’ll consider it? We can iron out all the kinks like careers and nannies when the time comes. I just want you to be okay with the idea.”

Knowing that the only way out of the situation was to agree he finally gave in. “All right. I’ll think about it,” he lied. He knew it was dishonest, but he really didn’t want to continue the argument just then. This way it would bide him some more time to think up more excuses the next time the issue came up, which Nick feared would be all too soon.

The next morning when Nick opened his eyes it took him a moment to recall the events of the night before. His conversation with Shayla before bed last night about children combined with the effects of seeing Alyssa again had affected him more than he realized. He’d had the strangest dream which was obviously a product of what was going on in his current life

He dreamt that he was staring down at a baby’s crib and inside was a screaming baby. He remembered looking down at it helplessly, not at all sure what he should do to pacify the crying infant. All of a sudden Shayla had appeared beside him and lifted the baby out of the crib. She’d bounced it on her hip, trying to calm it down, but its cries only seemed to intensify. She proceeded to try several different techniques: making funny faces, rubbing its back, talking softly to it, but nothing seemed to work. Finally feeling just as frustrated as Nick, she’d set the screaming baby back down into the crib and exchanged a helpless glance with him.

Then out of nowhere, Alyssa appeared, wearing the very same tempting black dress that she’d been wearing that night, and approached the crib. Without saying a word, she reached into the crib and cradled the infant in her arms. As soon as Alyssa lifted the baby out of the crib, a miracle happened. The baby immediately stopped crying and as Alyssa began to softly coo, a happy smile came across the baby’s face. All Nick remembered was how natural Alyssa seemed to interact with the baby.

Of course the dream really didn’t require any kind of deep analysis on Nick’s part. It was pretty evident that he was having doubts about him and Shayla’s parenting skills based upon their argument the night before. And of course Alyssa was on his mind because he’d just bumped into her unexpectedly and the fact that she had announced that she and Sean were trying to have a baby definitely could explain her care for the baby in the dream. Nick had always known her to be great with kids, so it didn’t surprise him that she’d been the one to calm the baby down in the dream.

Alyssa… His thoughts lingered on her name for a moment as his mind replayed the shock he had gone through when he first laid eyes on her again. He had to admit that he was amazed that she’d been as polite as she had to him, and he was even more shocked that she’d actually eagerly accepted his invitation to eat with him and Shayla. She’d been nothing but cordial and friendly throughout the whole meal, and to someone who didn’t know any better, Nick would bargain to say that you’d think that they really were just old friends. She certainly did nothing to acknowledge the way that their past relationship had ended. Then again she was married to someone else and had her whole separate life from his, so he supposed she felt like she had no reason to hold a grudge against him. Still, it was a big change from the woman who’d once jokingly told him, “I’m Italian I hold grudges.”

And then there was that dress… Nick found that he could still perfectly imagine the way that it had clung to her body, accentuating all her ‘better assets.’ Realizing the tangent he was going off on, he shook his head as to rid his mind of the memory. Pulling himself into a sitting position, he glanced over at the spot beside him and noticed that Shayla had already woken up and was most probably downstairs. That would’ve been real awkward, he thought to himself with a smirk. Having naughty thoughts about your ex girlfriend when your wife is lying right beside you. He’d have to watch himself.

He slid out of bed and pulled on a pair of sweats over his boxers and threw a wifebeater over his head, still continuing to think about Alyssa. There was something about her that just seemed to exude a certain air of confidence that he hadn’t noticed the last time he’d seen her at his wedding. We actually seemed to get along pretty good last night, he realized. Better than he’d certainly expected. He kind of wished that they could’ve talked longer, but he knew that Sean hadn’t been comfortable watching his wife talk with her ex boyfriend, and he suspected that Shayla hadn’t been completely thrilled with the idea, although she did her best to hide it. Sean… Now he was interesting. Nick wasn’t exactly sure where Alyssa saw the attraction. As much of a macho act he tried to put on, there was something about him that gave Nick the impression that he wasn’t as sure of himself as he tried to let people believe. For the first time, he wondered if perhaps Sean was actually a little younger than he’d first predicted. That would make Alyssa a cougar, he thought with a smirk. Was it wrong that he found the idea kind of hot in a strange way?

All of a sudden he wished that he’d gotten Alyssa’s new number out in LA. She’d switched cell phone numbers after they’d broken up and as much as Nick had begged Izzy for the new number, she’d resisted. He’d been surprised that she’d at least given him her address in North Carolina. Not that he was planning on making a move on her again. She was off limits and so was he. He just figured that it would be nice if they could get together more often as friends since she was living so close to him at the moment. She could probably use an extra shoulder to cry on with Sean being deployed to Iraq.

An idea popped into his head. Maybe he could pump Izzy for some information after all. Since he’d gotten married and Izzy had seen how much Nick had changed, she’d definitely been a lot friendlier to him, and their friendship was almost back in the same place where it had been over ten years ago. Maybe she’d take pity on him. It was worth a try. He grabbed his cell phone and dialed Izzy’s number. The phone rang three times before she finally picked up. “Hey Nick. What’s up?”

“How come you never told me that Alyssa got married?” he asked, completely ignoring her question.

He could hear Izzy sigh on the other end of the phone. “I take it you finally bumped into her somewhere?”

“Yea. At Koi, with Shayla. She was having dinner with Sean. We wound up eating together and it was rather awkward,” he explained. “More so for Sean and Shayla. Alyssa and I were fine.”

“Well, that’s definitely a plus.”

“Seriously though, why didn’t you tell me Izzy? Don’t you think that I have a right to know that my ex girlfriend got married?”

Izzy didn’t answer right away, as if she was thinking very carefully about what to say. “I never mentioned anything to you about it because I figured that if Alyssa wanted you to know, she’d tell you herself.”

“Were you there?”

“Yes, I was,” she honestly replied. “I was in the bridal party, but before you jump to any conclusions, you need to know that it was a very small ceremony. None of the other guys were invited or any of their significant others. I didn’t even bring Tristan. He stayed back in LA with Grace.”

“Still though,” Nick stubbornly argued. “I invited her to my wedding.”

“Did you ever stop to think that maybe she wasn’t in a place in her life where she felt comfortable enough inviting her ex boyfriend to her wedding?” Izzy defended Alyssa.

He had her there and Nick found that he couldn’t do much more than sigh. “Well, she seemed pretty comfortable with me when we bumped into each other last night. She seems like a completely different person.”

“She has changed a lot in the past year or so,” his friend agreed.

“So, I was thinking… We were having such a good time catching up with each other again, that by the time she left, I completely forgot to get her number so that we could keep in touch and I was hoping that maybe you could give it to me?” Okay, maybe that was a bit of an exaggeration on his part, but a guy had to do what he had to, right?

There was dead silence on the other end of the line as of Izzy was very deep in thought. Finally after what seemed like an eternity to Nick she gave him a simple answer. “No. I’m sorry, but I can’t do that.”

“Why?” he whined.

“Nick, I love you to death, but even you have to admit, anytime that you try to become a friend to Alyssa you only wind up playing with her emotions and hurting her in the end. There are some people in life who probably just weren’t really meant to be just friends and I think that’s true with you and Alyssa,” she tried to explain. “You have great chemistry in a relationship, but there’s no way the two of you could be just platonic friends.”

Nick had to admit that he felt just a tad bit insulted. “I can so be a platonic friend to her! I’m married now! What do you think I’m going to do? I can’t just forget about Shayla.”

“I don’t know Nick… All I know is that Sean is probably the best thing that’s ever happened in Alyssa’s life. She’s been the happiest that I’ve ever seen her. For once she’s getting everything that she’s always dreamed of, and if you do anything in the slightest to fuck that up for her, I don’t think I could ever speak to you again.”

“I’m not going to!” he insisted. “All I want to do is talk to her! Don’t you think that I should have at least that? Besides, I’d say that it’s up to Alyssa whether not she wants me in her life or not.”

Izzy sighed again. “You’re completely right. Which is why I’m not going to give you her number. If she wants to talk to you so badly, she’d give it to you herself. Until then I’m sorry, but as the one in the middle of the two of you, I can’t involve myself by giving out personal information. I’m trying to make my friendships with the both of you separate. It’s for the best this way.”

Seeing that Izzy wasn’t going to budge on the matter, Nick realized that if he wanted to make contact with Alyssa, he was going to have to go about it from another angle. “Well, I guess if that’s the way you feel I have to respect your decision. I won’t ask anymore.” A wide smile grew across his lips as he was struck with Plan B. Trying to manipulate the conversation into the direction he wanted to go in, he casually changed the subject. “So, how’s Grace doing?”

“She’s doing good. She’s such a ham though. She’s always dressing up and putting on little shows for Tristan and I. It’s adorable! I think she might take after her Daddy and become a musician,” she gushed.

“She’s got a birthday coming up pretty soon, huh?” Nick asked with a smirk.

“Ehh… In a few weeks, she turns three. Thank God, because I don’t know if I can take much more of the ‘terrible two’s.’”

“Do you have anything special planned for her? Three is a pretty important age, so you should do something.”

“It is?” Izzy asked, sounding surprised. “Well, I guess you can say that since most kids start pre-school at around that age. Tristan and I were thinking of having a little party, but we’re not sure yet. She’s so young still that she doesn’t have many friends yet, so it would probably wind up being more of a party for adults than her.”

“Nothing wrong with that. Give me the date and I’ll be there. I wouldn’t miss Grace’s third birthday for the world,” he replied rather enthusiastically.

He could practically picture Izzy frowning on the other end of the phone in confusion. “Since when did you consider a three year old’s birthday party an important social event?” Then his plan finally hit her. “Ohhh… I get it. You only want to go because Alyssa will probably be there right?”

“No… Grace only turns three once and I don’t want to miss it, but if Alyssa just happened to be there since she’s Grace’s Godmother and all, I think that’s just an added bonus.”

Izzy just snorted. “You’re really unbelievable Carter… You just don’t give up, do you?”

“You can’t keep us apart forever Izzy,” he pointed out. “We’re bound to run into each other again at some point or another. Wouldn’t you rather have it be in a controlled environment where you could keep an eye on us?”

“Fine,” she finally gave in. “You’re invited. Saturday, March 14th, my house, 2:00pm sharp. You better bring my daughter one hell of a present.”

Nick pretended to act shocked, even though he knew that Izzy was only joking about the present. “What nerve! Who’s opening the presents? You or Grace?”

“You know what I meant. Anyway, I need to get going.”

“All right. Thanks for the invitation,” he told her. “Even if I had to fish around a bit for it.”

“No problem. Just don’t do anything to make me regret it, ok?”

“Who me?” Nick asked innocently, before hanging up the phone. He had to admit that the idea of possibly seeing Alyssa again filled him with way more excitement then it probably should have. But he’d have to wait. The party was still quite a few weeks away. For now, he’d have to focus his attention elsewhere.

But as hard as he tried, he still couldn’t seem to get thoughts of her, or that dress completely out of his head. Instead the memory lingered in his mind, haunting his thoughts.