Chapter Two.

“She said that, huh?”

“Nick, I didn’t..”

“She did!” AJ grinned. “She told me so, Nick.”

Amanda leaned in close to AJ’s ear and whispered, “Did she really?”

“No,” he whispered back. “But Nicky doesn’t need to know that. The girl wanted time alone with him, right? Now she’s gonna get it.”

Amanda laughed. She was surprised at how well she’d been getting along with AJ in the two short hours she’d been there. While she’d laughed at his every attempt to sweep her off her feet, it was the moments when he was being himself, completely honest with her, that had her immediately drawn to him. What was coming over her, she wasn’t quite sure of yet, but it was a very nice feeling. To say the least, anyway.

Meanwhile, Nick was smiling mischievously at Sandra. “Why deny it?”

“Because it’s not true,” she said stubbornly. “I think I strangled all the oxygen out of AJ’s brain. Assuming there IS a brain in there,” she added, flicking AJ in the middle of his forehead, causing him to jump back.

Before he could retaliate, Nick slipped his arm around Sandra’s waist, leaning down to nuzzle the side of her neck gently.

“Why don’t we go upstairs,” he whispered softly, “So you can make good on what you told our good friend over there.”

Sandra’s eyes widened as she pulled back to look into Nick’s eyes. His gaze challenged her, dared her to accept the proposal. Feeling a familiar stirring in her heart, she smiled knowingly at him and turned to lead him up the stairs. Not before reaching out and giving AJ a good, swift kick in his left shin, however.

“That sneaky butthead,” AJ grumbled, leaning down and rubbing his sore shin as his two best friends retreated to the second level of his house - an entire floor completely off limits to the other partygoers. “After what I did to get Nick up there, like she wanted.”

His gloomy mood brightened at the sound of Amanda’s laughter. A smile took possession of his own lips as he stood and faced her.

“Tell me,” he began. “You’ve known her longer than I have, apparently. How did you survive all those years?”

“Twelve, to be exact,” she grinned. “And I survived because I made HER life a living hell, too.”

“See, I try that, I really do. But nothing seems to get to her,” he shook his head. “I think I need to be taught.”

She caught the sneaky gleam in his eyes then, and what used to be nervous little butterflies in her stomach were now full grown bats.

“Maybe you do,” she replied, surprised by the calm, even tone of her voice.

“Care to be my teacher?” he asked, stepping closer to her. Not too close, he figured. Close enough, however, to be able to feel her soft breath on his face.

She blinked once, twice, but never stepped away. If anything, she’d found herself with a sudden urge to move even closer - if that was even possible. “I don’t see anything wrong with that,” she answered, her reply coming in the form of a whisper only he could hear.

“Awww, how cute.”

At the sound of Nick’s voice, Amanda’s concentration on AJ was broken, and was now looking halfway up the stairs at Nick’s descending form, Sandra nowhere to be found.

“Didn’t I send you to your room?” AJ asked sternly, his hands on his hips, and he suddenly faltered. “Whoa. I reminded myself of my mom there for a sec. Childhood flashback.”

“Dork,” Nick chuckled. “I need you real quick...”

“Hey now,” AJ held his hands up defensively. “I don’t swing that way, Carter. I mean, San’s pretty and all, but you’re not someone I’d like to see naked.”

“Very funny,” Nick grumbled. “Actually, I wanted to know where you...” he trailed off, glancing nervously at Amanda before whispering the rest of his inquiry in AJ’s ear.

AJ grinned. “What would you do without me?”

“Well, I know what I *wouldn’t* be doing,” Nick laughed, gesturing to the upstairs floor.

“Right,” AJ nodded, chuckling. “Bathroom cabinet. Second shelf. Can’t miss them.”

“Thanks, J,” Nick said, grinning at the pair in front of him. “Look at you guys, all close together and smiling and all. You look like newlyweds.”

As he retreated back up the stairs, AJ observed Amanda’s expression.

Surprise, and he could have sworn he’d caught a bit of excitement in her eyes, as well.

Not that he didn’t feel the same, he thought. Nick had finally been able to paint him a nice picture of what his future could be.

A very, VERY nice picture, indeed.

[chapter list | chapter three]