Nick's face was set into an angry frown as he jogged on the treadmill in the hotel's exercise room. It had been a few days since he'd heard about Kayla being with Derek, and he was still in denial about it. No, he was past the denial phase. Now he was just plain upset. Not only because he wanted her for himself but also because she hadn't told him about it. Before this, Nick had thought that he and Kayla were fairly close. She had even admitted to telling him things she hadn't told anyone else before. But this kind of sent that theory to hell. Nick just knew that she had told her closest friends about the relationship. She wasn't the type to keep something like that completely to herself, even it was supposed to be a secret. And since she hadn't told him, she obviously didn't trust him as much as he'd thought and hoped.
The door to the exercise room opened, and a girl walked in. Nick was so intent on his workout and his thoughts that he didn't even notice her until she came right up next to him and spoke up.
"Hi, Nick," she said as she put her bag and water bottle down next to the exercise bike.
He jumped slightly and looked over to see who had greeted him. A beautiful girl about his age with strawberry blonde hair and green eyes was standing there smiling at him. "Hi..." Nick replied hesitantly. Normally, he would be all over someone as pretty as she was, but today he just didn't have the motivation.
"You don't know me," the girl said in response to his puzzled look. "I'm Michelle."
Nick stopped the treadmill for a moment and picked up his towel, mopping briefly at his face. He stepped down and shook the girl's hand, putting on the show once again. "Hi, I'm..." He trailed off and smiled mechanically, realizing that she already knew. "Well, it's nice to meet you."
"You too. I'm a big fan. You guys are great."
Another artificial smile. "Thanks. Are you coming to our concert tomorrow night?"
"Yeah. I have nosebleed seats, though," Michelle lamented.
"I'm sorry. I would get you better ones, but Brian gave them all away already," Nick replied.
"Oh, that's okay. As long as I'm going," Michelle said.
Nick zoned out a little as she began to tell him some story about how she had tried to get tickets. Usually when a fan talked to him, especially one as pretty as this one, he paid attention, but today his mind was just somewhere else. For no reason, he found himself looking through the large glass window and doors to the now empty pool area as Michelle talked to him.
"I mean, it's just so hard to get tickets of any kind to your shows," Michelle was saying.
"Yeah," Nick empathized. As he watched, the opposite door to the pool opened, and Kayla walked in wearing shorts, a bikini top, and flip flops. She was alone, too. Finally! Now he could actually talk to her about this whole Derek mess.
"I don't know, it's just that sometimes I almost wish you guys didn't have as much success. Then maybe you would look bigger than toothpicks to more of the fans at the shows."
Nick swallowed. He had to get out of there. "Yeah, I know you feel," he said unconvincingly. "Listen, I have to talk to someone, so I'd better get going," he said, his eyes fixed on Kayla taking off her shorts.
Michelle turned around and saw what he was looking at. "To Kayla?"
"You know, there's a rumor that you two are going out," Michelle remarked.
Yeah, I wish! Nick thought. To Michelle, he simply shook his head and said, "We're just friends."
"Oh," Michelle said, sounding encouraged.
Nick gave her a quick hug and a kiss on the cheek. "It was nice meeting you."
"You too. Good luck tonight."
Nick just barely restrained himself from running out of the room.
Kayla chuckled to herself and shook her head as she walked into the pool area with a towel slung over her shoulder. She couldn't believe that she was letting Derek and Lisa, who both had to share rooms with other people, "borrow" hers for the next hour. But she wanted to do whatever she could to help the couple, and besides, she had made them promise to restrict themselves to using only the couch, and she was glad for the excuse to relax and swim a few laps.
She was just getting into the water when the door from the exercise room opened, and Nick walked in wearing workout shorts and a Nirvana t-shirt, his forehead slightly damp with sweat. Kayla smiled and waved at him.
"Hey, Nicky!" she called, grinning.
He rolled his eyes at the despised nickname but replied, "Hey, Kayla!" and came over to stand near the edge of the pool. "What's up?"
"Not much, just felt like going for a swim," she answered, remembering that Nick did not yet know about Derek and Lisa. "Come on in with me, you look hot."
Nick gave her a suave grin. "So I'm told," he agreed.
Kayla laughed. "You know what I mean."
"I would, but I'm not dressed for it. I'll get my feet wet, though, since you're such a loser and have no one else to talk to," Nick volunteered.
"Thanks so much, Nick," Kayla replied, rolling her eyes.
Nick sat down on the edge of the pool and, taking off his shoes, put his feet in. "Yow, it's cold!"
Kayla laughed. "I know...it's taking me forever to get in."
"I'm gonna splash you."
"No," Kayla said.
"Yes," Nick said, grinning.
"Carter, if you do, I will ruin your singing career by turning you into a soprano," Kayla warned.
"I'm practically a soprano already," Nick reminded her, laughing hysterically.
Stifling laughter, Kayla narrowed her eyes at him. "Then you just won't be having any children."
"Great, no kids! No worries!" Nick remarked.
"Fine then! No sex! Beat that one!" Kayla exclaimed.
Nick opened his mouth and then stopped and frowned. "Fine, you win," he muttered.
Kayla grinned. "Yesss..."
"You know," Nick began, gathering all his courage, "speaking of sex..."
Kayla raised an eyebrow. "Yes?"
She looked so amazing like that, Nick had to resist the urge to jump her. "I heard a rumor," he said.
Kayla grimaced. "About who?" she asked, knowing what was coming.
Kayla groaned. "Who told you? It was supposed to be kept quiet."
"Brian overheard Derek telling Benji about it," Nick said.
"He told Benji too?!" Kayla exclaimed. "What a dumbass. Soon everyone's going to know about it."
Nick shrugged. "Would that be so bad?"
"I don't know, it's just not what he wants."
"Well anyway," Nick went on, "I had no idea you that kind of a side to you, Kayla!"
She frowned. "Excuse me?"
"I mean, getting drunk at the party and screwing a guy...I mean, you're not even eighteen yet!"
"Whoa, back up," Kayla said. "Nick, I have never in my life been drunk or screwed anyone," she informed him, raising her eyebrow again.
Now Nick looked confused. "Butó"
"I think you got your facts a little mixed up. Lisa is going out with Derek, not me," she said, laughing.
Nick tried not to let immense relief show on his face. "Oh!" he exclaimed. "That makes so much more sense!"
"Why would you think he's going out with me?" Kayla asked.
"That's what Brian told me! I don't know...it was the day after that movie premiere, and Derek was talking about 'the other night,' so I guess Brian just assumed...and plus, y'all do flirt, I mean, it was believable," Nick added, hoping he didn't sound jealous.
Kayla smiled. "Yeah, but that's just Derek...it's nothing serious," she said, her affirmation of Leighanne's theory making Nick feel relieved once again. "Besides, if that did happen to me, do you honestly think I'd be able to keep it a secret from you and Brian? I tell you guys everything," she reminded him.
Nick smiled. "I didn't think of that," he lied, feeling very satisfied.
Kayla thought about that for another moment and laughed again. "Me and Derek. That's pretty funny."
Nick swallowed. Once again, he could feel that glimmer of hope...hope that just maybe the two of them had some kind of a chance after all. He smiled at her and shrugged. "Yeah. What was Brian thinking?"