"We're going here?" Katie asked as they pulled up in front of a club.
"Yeah...is that a problem?" Kevin asked.
"N-No, that's fine. Never mind." The club that they had chosen was A.J.'s favorite, but Katie brushed it off. What were the chances of him being there too?
"Okay," Kevin said, exchanging a look with Linz.
Kevin let the two women out of the car and handed the keys to the valet. He confidently walked up to the security guard at the front, told him his name, and showed him his driver's license. The guard raised his eyebrows and let him in.
Kevin and Linz were too busy talking and laughing when they walked into the club to notice Katie searching the crowd for A.J. with her eyes. She breathed a sigh of relief and started to laugh with her brother when she realized that her ex-boyfriend was not present.
"Come on, Katie, we have to find you a man!" Linz yelled over the music, linking her arm through Katie's. "We'll be back, Kev!" The two of them made their way through the thick crowd to the bar. "There's one." She pointed to a guy dressed in all black sitting by himself. As they watched, he was handed a huge glass of something alcoholic, and he downed it all in one gulp.
"I don't think so, too much like Brett," Katie remarked uneasily.
"Who's Brett? I keep hearing his name, but I don't know who he is."
Katie made a face and pulled Linz into the restroom. "Brett was my boyfriend before A.J.," she explained.
"What was the matter with him?"
"What wasn't the matter with him is more like it. He was mean, controlling, a drunk...and abusive."
Linz raised her eyebrows. "Did any thing happen?"
"Thankfully, no. See, Kevin didn't like Brett from the start, but I was at this point where I was getting sick of Kev's overprotective shit and didn't pay attention to him anymore. Kev kept telling me to dump him because he was no good, but I refused to. This went on for quite awhile, and I kept getting more and more pissed at Kevin because I thought that he had no hard evidence of the theory that Brett was bad news. But in fact, Kevin had found out that Brett had served three months in jail for abusing his ex- wife—"
"Ex-wife?" Linz interrupted. "How old was this guy?!"
"Old. Seven years older than me. So anyway Kevin told me about it and finally convinced me to leave him. I told him that I would dump him that night, because Brett was coming over to my apartment. Kevin said that he was scared that something might happen and convinced me to let him hide in the bathroom. So when I was breaking up with Brett, he started to get mad and hit me...and luckily Kevin heard and ran into the room and basically beat the shit out of Brett. He's in jail now, and it's a longer sentence because it was his second offense...and when he gets out I'm getting a restraining order put on him."
"Sweetie, I had no idea..." Linz wrapped her arms around her boyfriend's sister.
"That's okay. That was a year ago. And since then Kevin and I have gotten to be even closer, so some good has come out of it."
"All right, well, no heavy drinkers then," Linz summarized, taking Katie's wrist and pulling her back out of the bathroom. They continued to go and check out all of the guys. "That one?" she suggested, pointing to one who was dancing.
Katie shook her head. "Too young."
"That one?" She pointed to an older man who was talking to a woman at the bar.
"You're hard to please!" Linz remarked. "Okay...how about that one?" She pointed to a very good- looking guy who was wandering aimlessly around the fringes of the crowd of dancing people.
Katie raised her eyebrows. "Now there's a specimen," she agreed.
"Finally. Come on, let's go say hi."
But as they watched, a young blonde woman walked up to him and started to kiss him.
"Today's just not my lucky day," Katie decided. "Why don't you go and find Kevin? I think I'd have more luck if I was out on my own."
"Okay," Linz agreed. "We'll probably be over at the bar for awhile, if you need anything."
Katie nodded and waved as Linz walked away. As she turned away, someone tapped her shoulder, and she turned back to see a man, about her age, with sandy blond hair and blue eyes smiling at her.
"Excuse me, but are you Katie Richardson?" the man asked.
She smiled back. "Yup."
"I'm Will Cooper," Will replied, extending his hand. "I'm a big fan."
"Thank you." Katie shook his hand.
"You must get that a lot. But I really mean it. I think that you have an amazing voice that has real depth to it. I love the way that when I listen to you sing, I can hear all of the emotions that the lyrics are talking about just in your voice," he said with shining eyes.
"Wow, no one's ever told me that before," she admitted, taken aback at his apparent passion for her music.
"Hey, do you want to dance? Or maybe I could buy you a drink—"
"Dancing sounds great," Katie interrupted. He offered her his hand and she was about to take it when a very familiar hand on her back interrupted her.
"Katie!" A.J.'s voice shouted from behind.
Her eyes widened considerably as she turned around and saw him. "What the hell..." She turned back to Will. "Would you excuse me for just a second?"
"Of course," Will replied, smiling warmly at her and A.J. as he stepped away.
Katie glared at her ex-boyfriend. "What the hell are you doing here?"
"What am I doing here? This is my favorite club, you know that. You were looking for me, right?" A.J. asked hopefully.
"No, I wasn't. Kevin and Linz picked this place by coincidence, that's all," Katie explained angrily.
"Kev is here?" A.J. inferred anxiously.
"Yeah, Kevin is here. Don't worry, though, he's over at the bar, so he probably hasn't seen you yet." Katie started to walk away, but A.J. grabbed both of her arms lightly.
"What are you doing?" Katie wanted to know.
"I...I cried today."
"After you broke up with me," A.J. explained. "I cried."
"Is that supposed to mean something to me?" Katie returned coldly.
"I should hope so," A.J. replied softly.
She broke away from him. "Well, it doesn't." She started to walk away again. A.J. wrapped his arms around her waist and pulled her back against his chest.
"Come on, don't do this, baby. I love you more than anything in the world," he whispered into her ear, feeling tears in his eyes. "Please don't leave me."
Katie closed her eyes and tried to ignore the chills running down her spine at being so close to him. She took a deep breath. "A.J., let go of me now," she commanded in a voice so dull and serious that he automatically obliged. "And from now on, just leave me alone, okay?"
"Leave me alone!" Katie repeated loudly. Before he could say anything else, she choked back a sob and ran into the bathroom again. She locked herself in a stall, burying her face in her hands and sobbing loudly. She stayed there for about ten minutes, just crying as hard as she could. When there were no more tears left inside of her, she walked unsteadily out of the stall and touched up her makeup so that it wasn't so obvious that she's been weeping. As soon as she walked out the door and into the club, Kevin ran up to her.
"Sweets, are you..." He trailed off, seeing her eyes. "Hey, were you just crying?"
Katie looked down. She and Kevin could never hide things from each other, they had been close for too long and had been through too much to do that. "Yeah," she whispered, "but I don't want to talk about it."
"Want to go home?"
Katie smiled unsurely and shook her head. "No, that's okay. You go back to Linz. I'll be fine by myself." Kevin started to object. "Really, I will," she said.
He smiled. "Okay, sweets, see you later."