It was awkward; Sandra would admit that right away.

Why she accepted a ride home from Nick, however, was something she couldn’t admit to knowing the answer to.

The only words spoken were when he’d asked directions to her house, and she gave them. Other than that, they let the radio do the talking.

‘At least he doesn’t own a pickup,’ Sandra thought smugly, then scolded herself for thinking about something as ridiculous as that. ‘Of course he didn’t own a pickup; this is Nick, not.. him. You’d do good in remebering that..’

“This it?”

She broke out of her train of thought when he spoke. “Yeah, that’s it.”

He pulled into the parking lot and turned the car off. “Can I.. walk you to the door? It’s dark and all... you know, just to be on the safe side.”

She bit back a smile. Something about the way he was fumbling with his words in trying to explain his reasons for wanting to walk her to the door made her want to laugh. In a good way.

“Yeah...” she trailed off. “Just to be on the safe side.”

Nick saw the amusement in her eyes; she could hide a real smile, but the laughter in those brown eyes of hers was unmistakable.

He grinned at her, which turned out to be her breaking point. Her smile shone through, and his insides promtly began to turn sommersaults.

‘Hooked’ was turning out to be a huge understatement .

The walk to her apartment was silent, and Nick was more than prepared to just say goodnight and be on his way when she took him by surprise, once again.

“You.. uh.. you wanna come in?”

He caught himself before his surprise shone through. “Yeah... yeah, that’d be great.”

He followed her into the apartment, and immediately he was wrapped up in a feeling of rightness. he couldn’t understand how or why, but he felt good there... at home. It was a feeling so foreign to him, yet he welcomed it.

When he declined her offer of something to drink, she promptly joined him in the living room, sitting on the other end of her couch, away from him.

“So...” he began, slowly. “Where’d you meet AJ?”

“At Kelly’s,” she replied, “I was a waitress.”

“You worked THERE?” Nick’s eyes grew wide. “That’s.. did anyone ever mess with you?”

Sandra sighed. So Kelly’s had a reputation even the rich and famous knew about.

“Yeah,” she said softly. “But I survived.”

“That’s awful,” Nick remarked. “I mean, that they messed with you, not that you survived...”

“Yeah,” she said curtly. “I know. They were jerks, those truckers. Some a little less than others, but then there were those that...” she trailed off, looking past Nick, focusing her gaze on the wall behind him. “They were just bad.”

“I heard AJ made an ass out of himself the day you guys met,” Nick said quickly, changing the subject.

“He told you that?” she asked, laughing when Nick nodded. “Well, if you call him getting into my boss’ face and quitting my job for me being an ass, then yes.”

“He did that?” Nick’s eyes grew wide. “Why?”

“He didn’t like the way Gayle was yelling at me, I guess,” she shrugged.

Nick knew Gayle all too well; AJ had definitely done a good thing in getting Sandra out of there. “You must’ve been pretty mad...”

“Livid,” she nodded. “And he kept following me, pestering me to let him give me a ride home. He ended up spending the entire day with me, and giving me a job by the end of the night... He’s nice, you know. Not at all like he’d want people to think he is.”

“Yeah,” Nick agreed. “The boy does have his moments.”

She raised an eyebrow inquisitively. “How about you? Are you nothing like your image makes you out to be?”

The question took Nick by surprise. It was forward, to the point, and coming from her, he felt it was important to answer honestly, carefully.

“I like to think I’ma ‘what you see is what you get’ type of person,” he began slowly, “But I’ve learned I’m not like that. Appearances are decieving,” he shrugged. “I try to let who I really am out and about when we’re not on the road, but judging from past experiences, I don’t do a good job of that.”

“Past experiences?”

“You, for example,” he said, and he knew he’d caught her by surprise when she sat a little straighter in her seat. “I don’t know what you thought, or think, of me, but I know your idea of me is not what I’m really like.”

She thought about his answer for a while. “Yeah.. I guess you’re right. So much for thinking you are a stuck up, arrogant, self centered jerk.”

His eyes widened at her serious tone. She thought all that of him?

Her smile gave him his answer. “I’m only kidding. It’s called a joke... you know what those are, right? Funny? Ha ha?”

“Hey,” he said warningly. “I may be blond, but I’m not stupid.”

“Wow, we’re really breaking free of ALL the stereotypes tonight, aren’t we?” she smirked.

“You’re sarcastic,” he pointed out. “I can’t tell when you’re kidding or not...”

“’Cause you don’t know me,” she answered flatly. “It’s why I make AJ mad, too.”

“I’d like the chance,” Nick whispered. “To get to know you.”

Silence was upon them once again. It lasted longer than their actual conversation had, and it was getting uncomfortable.

“It’s getting late,” Sandra said finally, rising to her feet.

“You’re doing it again.”

“Doing what?”

“Pushing me away.”

“Nick,” she groaned. “Don’t start.”

“You started,” he reminded her. “We had a good conversation going back there, and once we hit something you didn’t want to adress, you ended it. Just like that. Why do you do that?”

“Because I don’t want to talk about that,” she said firmly.

“I do,” he insisted. “I like you, San.”


“Why not? You’re... you’re great...”

“I’m not.”

“You are,” he emphasized. “Why can’t you see that?”

“Because,” she replied. “You don’t know me. If you did, you’d see I’m not great. I’m...”

“You’re what?” he asked after she’d remained silent.

“I’m not worth your time,” she said finally. “Not worth anyone’s time. That stuff... what you were insinuating back there... that’s not for me. It’ll never be. I’m sure you’re a great person underneath it all, Nick; I just can’t.. won’t.. I won’t be a part of it.”


“It’s late,” she said again. “I really should get some rest. Hard day; you should know, you were there.”

He went to reply, but was stopped when he saw her determined gaze, the way she stood rigid in her place, chin held up stubbornly. She was not going to budge; the conversation had ended, once again, when she’d wanted it to.

'Someone’s gonna have to make her see she won’t always be able to do that,’ he thought to himself moments later as he climbed into his car. ‘And damnit if it won’t be me who does it.’

[chapter list | chapter ten]