If she didn’t know any better, she’d swear this was a game.

“So... nothing at all?” she asked again.


“Ya sure?”


Sandra stifled a groan, eyeing Nick with growing frustration. This was not good. He wasn’t doing much to elevate her self esteem at that moment; if anything, he was brining it down.

She’d tried to be nicer, and for a while, it had worked; they’d even managed to get out together on occasion and have dinner or lunch with AJ. One time, they even went at it alone. She thought they were making progress, however slow it was going.

Now, however, she looked at Nick and realized the progress she thought existed really didn’t. What did exist was her short temper, and the desire to knock the man’s lights out. She was now experiencing first hand what AJ called “The intolerable, annoying, frustrating child that is Nick Carter,” and she didn’t like it.

She found she couldn’t even make small talk with the man anymore. One or two word answers were not her idea of a stimulating conversation.

What infuriated her even more, though, was that he was getting to her in a way that made her want to scream and hurt the guy, yet the sensations she got every time he spoke, looked, or smiled at her grew in strength as well. It was never one or the other when he was concerned; it was every emotion imaginable, rolled into one. She was in love with him, yet would gladly give anything in her power to knock some sense into him. Literally.

“I give up,” she announced, standing up out of her chair and storming toward the front door of AJ’s house.

“Where are you going?” Nick called after her. “AJ’s gonna be back with the food soon.”

“I’m not hungry,” she informed him, turning in front of the door long enough to look at him.

“So don’t eat,” he shrugged. “We’ll talk then.”

Her eyes grew wide, her mouth dropped open slightly. “Oh, right. RIGHT!” she exclaimed indignantly. “Talk. You’re good at that, aren’t you?”

She turned on her heel and, throwing open the front door, stormed out, almost knocking over AJ, who was on his way inside.

“Whoah - hey! What’s the big idea?!” he called after her.

She shook her head, not bothering to turn to face him. “I’m not hungry, J. Raincheck. Later.”

He stood at his doorstep, their dinner in his hands, and watched her speed out of his driveway and up the street.

‘There’s only one explanation for this,’ he thought smugly, entering his house. ‘And it goes by the name of Nick.’

He was even more confused, however, when he entered his living room. Instead of an angry, upset Nick, he was thrown for a loop when he spied the huge grin on the blond’s face. A huge, mischievous grin that always spelled trouble.

“What’re you up to now, Nick?” AJ groaned.

“Nothing,” he shrugged, innocence masking his true intentions.

AJ searched Nick’s face for a moment before finding the conclusion he was after. “So much for killing the kid with kindness, huh?”

“Yeah,” Nick grinned. “That really didn’t get me nowhere. You saw how it was. First she wouldn’t give me the time of day, and when she did, I’d almost get my head bitten off. Then I ended up in the ‘friend’ zone, and,” he sighed. “I don’t think I want to be just that in her life. I mean, she’s got me as a friend, and I know she’s become mine, too, but I see a lot more.. potential, I guess you can call it, for what we could be.”

“I see,” AJ nodded in understanding. “So what’re you gonna do now?”

”Now?” Nick grinned wickedly. “I’m gonna drive her crazy. Simple as that.”

“You’ve got guts, man,” AJ laughed. “Maybe not brains, but you definitely have guts.” Just thinking of the fury his dear friend was going to unleash on Nick when he pushed the right - or was it wrong? - buttons made him shudder involuntarily. Nick was in for it, and seemingly well prepared, too.

Nick laughed, shrugging slightly. “Love does that to a person, I guess.”

[chapter list | chapter nineteen]