Chapter Seven -- Families Collide

[December, 1998]

“What are they like, Nick?”

“They’re great, Andy, don’t worry.”

“Do they bite, Nick?” Tommy asked, mimicking Andy.

Nick laughed at Tommy’s joke as they drove through the streets of Orlando. They were headed toward the venue where Nick and his band mates would play the New Year’s Eve Homecoming concert later that evening.

“One of them does,” he confessed. “But not unless you provoke him.”

“And how do you provoke him?” Andy asked.

“By being a stunningly beautiful woman, as yourself,” Nick replied, a playful grin on his face.

Tommy and Andy were thrilled when Nick had called them a few days before and asked if they wanted to ring in the new year with him in Orlando. They jumped at the chance, and here they were, three days later, heading to the arena for Nick’s sound check and their first meeting with the guys Nick called his family.

They got clearance from security and headed toward the inside, Nick leading. As they made their way backstage, the got introduced to random members of the band, and were greeted by Nick’s younger siblings, who had been there for a good part of the morning.

They soon reached their destination: the room where Nick and his band mates would relax in until show time. Upon entering the room, Andy suddenly felt a pang of nervousness at being the only female there. She should have grabbed on to BJ and dragged her here when she had the chance. Instinctively, she inched closer to Tommy and peered out at the four young men from behind him.

“Quit hiding behind me,” Tommy whispered over his shoulder. “Nick was only kidding about the biting!”

“I don’t think he was,” Andy replied softly. “And I think I know who the biter is, too.”

She was staring into a pair of big brown eyes when she responded to Tommy’s remark. They had engulfed her the moment she decided to take a peek from her place behind her friend. She didn’t see the rest of him, for once she met his gaze, she was frozen.

“Guys,” Nick said, grabbing an unwilling Andy by the hand and tugging her forward. “These are my friends I’ve always talked about. The two greatest people a person could know. This is Andy and Tommy.”

After a round of introductions and polite questions and answers, Andy found that they were nothing to be afraid of. They were actually very kind, very funny guys, and she completely understood why Nick was so close to them. They varied in age, yet they all shared a common bond that united them in a way she figured they’d have to be in order to survive in their world.

“All this time,” Brian was saying. “Although I knew better, I kept thinking Andy was a guy.”

Andy laughed, completely at ease with everyone in the room. “Didn’t Nick expalin things?”

“He did,” Brian confessed. “But when I hear ‘Andy and Tommy’ I think of two guys. If he’d have said ‘Andrea and Tommy,’ things would have been different.”

“Well, as you can see, I’m a girl,” Andy replied. “Unless there’s a big secret I’m not in on.”

“And you are one hell of a beautiful girl,” AJ told her, and, for the second time that day, she found herself being drawn in by his gaze.

“Careful, Andy,” Nick warned. “He’s the biter.”

“I’m the what?” AJ asked him.

“Nothing,” Nick replied quickly, a smile playing on his features.

“He told Andy you bite,” Tommy informed him.

“Thanks a lot, T,” Nick told his friend. “You’re a real pal. Now I’m gonna get it.”

“You forget,” Tommy replied. “That we’re here in your defense now, Nick. If they get you, they get us.”

“I’ll take Andy,” AJ spoke, glancing slyly at her. “Anytime.”

Tommy’s eyes narrowed disapprovingly at the remark, and he instinctively put his arm around his friend and drew her closer to him. The tone AJ used was not to his liking; Andy deserved more respect than that.

Nick caught his friend’s reaction and immediately went for a change in subject. As the group began a discussion about the night’s show, he knew Tommy wasn’t going to keep quiet about what he had heard. Neither was AJ. It was apparent he was attracted to Andy, and as much as Nick didn’t want anything bad to happen, he knew that trouble was looming just beyond the horizon.

*~*~*

“I have to hand it to them,” Andy exclaimed breathlessly as she and Tommy were being led backstage by BJ. “They were great!”

“I hear ya,” Tommy agreed. “It’s a long shot from what we’re into, but they still put on an amazing show!”

Reaching the dressing room, Tommy asked BJ if they could have a moment alone before joining the guys. She agreed and went in ahead of them.

“What’s wrong Tommy?” Andy asked. “You’ve been acting strange all day.”

“I’m fine. You’re who I’m worried about,” he ran a hand through his hair and continued. “I know you’ve been uncomfortable around AJ.”

“Well...” she trailed off. “I’m...I’m just not used to those kind of remarks being directed at me. All day, did you notice? All day, whether it was soundcheck, downtime, or whatever, he was there, hitting on me. But it’ll change,” she assured her friend. “I’ll talk to him.”

“Be careful,” he told her. “You don’t know what he’s like. This business can make people do some crazy stuff. I’ll always be behind you, but still...be careful.”

She reached up and hugged Tommy, thankful for having him in her life. She knew he’d be there, even without him letting her know. He’d always be there, just as she’d be there for him.

Inside the room, they congratulated Nick on an amazing performance, and then proceeded to congratulate the other guys. Andy avoided AJ as best she could weaving through bodies to get to others instead of him. But she was between a rock and a hard place when she found there was no one left to congratulate but him.

“That was a great show,” she told him. “Congratulations.”

“Thank you,” he replied, ready to pull her in for a hug.

She immediately stuck her hand out, opting for a handshake. Smiling, he took it and placed a kiss on the back of it. Then, without hesitating, he grasped her hand firmly and pulled her in for a tight hug, not caring about the level of resistance in her. She’d cave in soon enough, he told himself.

Across the room, Tommy was conversing with Kevin, a sharp eye on AJ’s movements the entire time. When he saw AJ pull Andy to him, and the way she was trying to push him away, he snapped. That was the straw that broke the camel’s back. In the blink of an eye, he had crossed the room and had AJ pinned against the wall, his shirt bunched in his fists.

“Hey! What’s wrong with you, man!” AJ shouted.

“Who the hell do you think you are?!” Tommy growled. “Where do you get off treating a woman like that?”

“Come on you two, break it up,” Kevin interjected. With Nick’s help, he managed to pull the two apart.

“I didn’t do a thing wrong,” AJ insisted, glaring at Tommy.

“You did plenty wrong,” Tommy retorted fiercely. “You owe her more respect than what you’ve been giving her!”

“What did you do to Andy?” Nick asked AJ, his heart falling into the pit of his stomach.

“He’s been making passes at her all day,” Tommy answered. “Hitting on her, trying to get his hands on her whenever possible. Not caring at all if she resisted or not, especially a moment ago.”

Nick sank onto the nearest couch and put his head in his hands, not believing what was happening. This wasn’t supposed to go down like this; they were all supposed to get along, form friendships. He took a deep breath and picked himself up from the couch he had dropped on moments earlier. He scanned the room for Andy and realized she wasn’t there.

“Did anyone see Andy leave?” he asked.

Tommy shot up from his seat. “She’ll get lost here, she doesn’t know her way around!”

They didn’t bother excusing themselves. Both tore out of the room in the same direction, with the same idea in mind; to find Andy before anything else happened.

[chapter list | chapter eight]