If I Don't Have You


Chapter One

"Are we early?" Kevin Richardson asked his wife Linz as they walked into the dark New York restaurant one Monday afternoon.

"Um..." Linz checked her watch. "A couple of minutes. But look, there are Nick and Lanie!" Linz grabbed her husband's hand and pulled him over to the back booth where Nick and Lanie Carter were sitting and talking.

"Hey, guys!" Linz said excitedly.

They looked up from laughing and grinned, seeing their friends.

"Linz! Kev! Hey!" Lanie exclaimed, jumping up out of the large booth to embrace them.

"Hey there!" Kevin replied. "How are the newlyweds?"

"Wonderful," Lanie answered as she hugged him.

Nick stood up too and hugged Linz.

"How was Hawaii?" she asked, hugging back.

"Great!" he said enthusiastically as they released each other. He shook Kevin's hand and gave him a clap on the shoulder before wrapping his arms around Lanie. "Especially since my angel was there," he added, giving her a big smooch on the cheek.

Lanie giggled and returned the embrace. "Mm," she agreed, squeezing him affectionately. "Oh, look, here come Bri and Karen," she added, pointing.

Linz and Kevin turned and saw the married couple walking in the door, laughing as usual.

"And Howie and Taylor," Kevin added, seeing the other couple coming in after them. Howie Dorough and his girlfriend Taylor had been seeing each other for about four years now.

Soon the four of them had reached the table, and they were greeted with hugs. After that was done, they all sat down.

"So what is it that you have to tell us?" Karen asked Howie and Taylor, who had arranged the get together, when everyone was settled.

Howie frowned, looking around. "Aren't we missing some?"

"Yeah, A.J. and Katie," Kevin replied, nodding.

"Hey guys, sorry I'm late," A.J. muttered as he slipped into the bath.

Everyone looked at him strangely.

"Uh...Bone...you're right on time," Taylor informed him with some amusement.

A.J. looked surprised. "I am?"

"Yep. It's one o'clock on the dot," she affirmed, looking at her boyfriend and giggling.

"Wow, that's a first," A.J. murmured, leaning back in his seat.

"So where's your other half? Or, as the rest of the world knows her, Katie Richardson?" Brian asked, chuckling.

"Oh, she can't come," A.J. recalled.

"What? Why not?" asked Taylor.

"She has a callback. For the 'Jekyll and Hyde' tour," A.J. said. "But she said to tell you and D that—and I quote—she's really, really, really sorry."

"Whoa, wait," Kevin interjected. "She got the callback?"

A.J. smirked wryly, his face showing a strange emotion. "Yeah. But don't feel too hurt that she didn't tell you, Kev. I practically had to pry it out of her."

Kevin frowned. "Really? Why—"

"Uh, guys," Taylor cut in.

They both smiled sheepishly. "Sorry," Kevin muttered as A.J. motioned for Taylor and Howie to go on.

"So anyway, the announcement," Howie prompted, looking to his girlfriend.

"Oh, you want me to?" she asked.

"Yeah, go ahead," Howie encouraged.

"Okay," Taylor agreed. "Well...the other day, Howie and I were talking, and we—"

"Just tell them, Tay," Howie interrupted.

"We're engaged!" she shrieked, thrusting forward her left hand and displaying a diamond ring.

"Oh my G-d!" Lanie cried, squeezing Taylor and Howie tightly. "Congrats!"

For the next few minutes, everyone hugged and congratulated the two, and all of the women looked at her ring and admired it.

"Damn, Howie! You really can pick 'em!" Linz commented, studying the ring.

Kevin cleared his throat behind her. "Ahem."

"Yeah, Kev, yours is pretty, too, but...shit, look at this thing!" Linz laughed, showing her husband.

He saw it and whistled. "Wow. How much did that cost you?"

Linz smacked him upside the head. "Shh!"

"What? I was just—"

"Guys!" Howie reprimanded, laughing. "We've only told you part of it."

Everyone stopped talking and looked expectantly to him.

"Well, about a year and a half ago, Taylor and I came across this beautiful park where a lot of people get married, and we thought it was the perfect place. We talked the lady who ran the weddings and found out that there was a one and a half to two year wait on the spot, so we decided to put our names down and if we were engaged by the time there was an opening, great, and if not, then we would just withdraw the reservation. So anyway, they called us just recently and told us that they could give us a date...but the thing is, it's in a month!"

"A month?! You're going to plan a wedding in a month?!" Kevin echoed in surprise.

"Yeah," Taylor said, giggling. "The lady has all the connections—food, cake, flowers, dresses—you name it. And I told Howie that I don't want anything elaborate with a zillion people and reporters running around. Just something nice and simple. Plus we want to get married before you guys leave for the next tour," she added.

"Well, good luck," Karen said, smirking. "Ours took...how long did it take to plan, Bri?"

He shrugged. "Eight months? Nine months?"

"But then again, we had to change the date halfway into the process because your touring schedule changed," Karen recalled. She shuddered. "Ick. What a nightmare."

"It did turn out beautiful, though," Brian remembered. "You in that dress...my G-d, that dress..."

Karen giggled. "You know, Bri, I still have it. It's up in our attic."

His eyes widened. "Really? You do? Could you take it down and...uhm..." He looked around the table and saw that everyone was listening to him. "Never mind, I'll ask you later."

"Hey, guess what this means?" Nick realized looking at A.J. "In a month, Bone here is the only one of us who's not gonna be married."

Brian smirked. "Why doesn't that surprise me?" he muttered.

"Well, I don't know...I mean, should we be expecting it anytime soon, J?" Lanie asked, arching an eyebrow.

A.J. shrugged, the strange expression back on his face. "Don't know. Katie and I have never really talked about it much."

"Well, do you want to?" Lanie wondered.

"I...honestly don't know," he admitted. "It just seems so much like what's going to be expected of us. I can see it now. 'Four down, one to go. When will the fifth Backstreet Boy cave and tie the knot?'" He shook his head.

"Well, yeah, you wanna make sure you're doing it for the right reasons," Lanie agreed.

"Yeah," A.J. said, looking a little uncomfortable.

"So anyway, when exactly is the wedding?" Linz wondered to ease the slight tension.

"Four weeks from Saturday. That's July 23," Howie answered. "But we're going to get the invitations done today. Gonna have to bribe them to make ours fast," he said, grinning.

"Great! So are we gonna eat or what?" Linz asked. "I'm starving."

"Sure. Waiter!" Kevin called, motioning for someone to come over to their table.

"Oh, I have to get going," A.J. realized, glancing at his watch. "Katie's car is in the shop so I have to go pick her up from the callback."

"Couldn't she take a cab?" Linz asked.

"I'm not gonna make my girlfriend take a cab," A.J. replied, pouting. "So I'd better go. Congrats again, Taylor and D." Leaning over the table, he shook Howie's hand and kissed Taylor's cheek. "Bye."

Everyone said goodbye except for Kevin, who stood up and stepped over his wife to get out of the booth. "I have to talk to you for a second."

A.J. nodded. "Okay. You can walk me out to the car."


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