"So, what's up? How is life back in good old Boston?" Kayla was asking her friend Kristy an or two later. They were sitting at a table near the dance floor.
Kristy smiled. "It's fine. Same as ever."
"How's Jason?" Kayla asked.
Kristy shrugged. "I don't know. I'm thinking of breaking up with him."
Kayla's eyebrows shot up. "Why? Did something happen?"
"No...it's just starting to fade," Kristy replied. "You know how it is." Then she grinned. "Plus there's this really hot foreign exchange student who's staying with one of my friends, and Kayla, he is so incredibly..."
"Foxy?" Kayla asked, grinning.
Kristy laughed. "Not quite the word I was looking for, but yeah."
Kayla smirked. "Nice."
"I know," Kristy agreed with a grin. "But speaking of guys...what about you?"
Kayla shrugged. "I'm not really focusing on that right now," she said. "I have too much to worry about as it is. I don't need another screwed up relationship."
"Well, I think someone has a crush on you," Kristy said in a sing-song voice.
Kayla gave her a puzzled smile. "Who?"
"Isn't it obvious?"
Kristy grinned. "Nick," she said, nodding towards him.
Kayla glanced over at him. He was sitting in a booth with Brian and Leighanne. All three were laughing. She turned back to Kristy. "Nick Carter?"
"Yep," Kristy said confidently.
"Yeah, right. He doesn't like me," Kayla scoffed.
"He practically worships the ground you walk on," Kristy insisted.
"And he wants more."
"Kris, please. Nick has gotten me through the past few weeks. Let's not ruin the friendship by making assumptions."
"How has he gotten you through them?"
"He was there for me," Kayla said simply. "He encouraged me...he held me when I cried...he cheered me up, too."
"Okay, I take that back," Kristy gave in. "He doesn't have a crush on you."
Kayla sighed. "Good."
"He's freakin' in love with you!"
Kayla rolled her eyes. "He is not."
"Lemme guess, he loves being around you, he laughs at all of your jokes, he compliments you..."
"Kris, by that logic, I'm in love with him, too," Kayla said, thinking she had a point.
Kristy grinned. "Okay."
Kayla glared at her. "And with all the other guys," she finished icily.
"So you're telling me there's absolutely no spark at all between you two."
"It's just not like that," Kayla said, shaking her head.
"Sure," Kristy said. "I bet you guys hook up."
"Kris, stop. It's just weird," Kayla said. "We're like best friends. I tell him practically everything."
"What about guys? Do you tell him about your crushes?" Kristy asked.
"I told you, I haven't been thinking about that lately."
"And you guys never, ever flirt?" Kristy went on.
"No," Kayla lied. Nick didn't like her. He couldn't like her!
Kristy looked doubtful, but she decided to leave Kayla alone. It was her birthday, after all. "Okay, okay, I could be wrong," she admitted.
Kayla sighed sharply. "Yeah," she said.
Kristy smiled to herself. Now that she had planted the idea in her head...
"Hey, my parents are waving at me," Kayla said, seeing her mother beckoning.
"Okay, go ahead," Kristy said.
"See you later. I'll call you, and we can talk more about this foreign guy," Kayla said with a grin.
Kristy smiled. "Okay. Bye. And happy birthday."
"Thanks. Bye!" Kayla said as she got up and hurried off.
A little while later, Brian was telling a funny story to Leighanne, Nick, and a few other people, but Nick really wasn't paying any attention. Instead he was watching Kayla. She was holding her little sister and pretending to dance with her, spinning in circles and doing dips as the little girl giggled. Kayla was laughing, too, and that made Nick smile. As he watched, she set Emily back down on her feet and let her run back to their parents.
Leighanne nudged him. "Go dance with her," she whispered.
Nick looked at her nervously. "But..."
"Just go, Nick. She told you to save her one."
"But...the song's almostó"
"Go," Leighanne said, pushing him.
He finally got to his feet and started to go, but not without giving her a dirty look. She just grinned and made a face right back at him. Heart beating, Nick made his way up to Kayla. As he approached her, he had to marvel at how amazing she looked. That black dress fit her perfectly.
Nick went up and tapped her on the shoulder. "Kayla," he said.
She turned around and smiled. "Hey, Nicky! I mean, Nick!"
He smiled back. "How about that dance?"
"Oh! Okay, sure," she agreed.
Nick had been thinking that asking her to dance would be the hardest part, but when they put their arms around each other, he just got even more nervous. However, he noticed the fact that Kayla looked a little nervous too, and that made him feel a little better.
"I'm having so much fun," Kayla told him.
He smiled. "Really?"
"Yeah. I'm still in shock!" she said with a grin. "How did you do all this?"
"Oh, it wasn't that hard," Nick said. "I called your parents, and between them, Sara, and Linz, I got the numbers of all of your friends. Oh...by the way, they said they're really sorry that they couldn't come. They're gonna call you and arrange a time to visit later on when they're on break."
"Okay," Kayla said. "Wait. How did you find room for all these people on one plane at the last minute?"
"For once I used that rock star ego and got American to arrange another flight for us," he said.
"For once?" Kayla echoed with a grin.
Nick laughed. "Oh, you think I'm conceited? Do you know...um, A.J. McLean?" he retorted, making her laugh too.
Just then the song began to fade out. Looking disappointed, Nick began to pull away from her, but she stopped him.
"We got gypped. One more dance," she said.
Nick shrugged. "Okay, fine, I'll force myself."
Kayla smiled. "You'd better."
The new song came on.
Oh, the way you do...
"Oh..." Kayla said.
"This is, like, my favorite song," she replied with a shy smile.
Nick smiled back. "98 Degrees?" he asked indignantly, recognizing the voices singing the first verse.
"Don't worry...'I Need You Tonight' is up there too," she promised.
"Up there?" Nick echoed. "What's with this, Kayla? Up there?"
"See what I mean about the ego?" she teased.
"I'm sorry, but this is just unacceptable," Nick said, letting go of her. "And you call yourself a fan!"
Kayla rolled her eyes and pulled him back in again. "Shut up and listen to it for a minute, Carter. It's not that bad."
The two of them fell silent and listened to the chorus.
The way you laugh at what I say,
The way you look at each new day,
The way your tears fall right on cue,
That's what I love about you.
Nobody else knows me by heart,
Takes me where I can reach the stars,
Makes me believe in love
The way you do.
Nick felt that familiar funny feeling come over him again, and he tried to force it away. Talk about one song summing up all of his feelings. He looked at Kayla, but he couldn't tell whether or not she felt it too.
You see in me the man that I can be,
And I'm thanking you.
You've given me all I'll ever need,
All I wanted to.
I know how blessed I am.
Baby, you are my best friend.
The song shifted to the chorus again, and Nick looked at Kayla again. This time she caught him and smiled.
"Not all that bad, huh?" she remarked.
"It's bearable," Nick said, making her smile. "What's it called?"
"'The Way You Do,'" Kayla replied. "Why, are you gonna try to buy it?"
"Shut up," Nick muttered, grinning.
Just like when he had stopped massaging her back and when they had first met, their eyes locked. Nick's heart felt like it would explode from beating so fast as her blue eyes met his own. His lips, his whole body, longed to kiss her. But he was so afraid... He instinctively looked away from her.
Then something funny happened. He wasn't exactly sure how...but the next thing he knew, the foot or so that had been separating them was reduced to absolutely nothing. Her arms were wrapped around his neck loosely, so that her hands could brush against the back of his neck, and her body was touching his in all sorts of places Nick wasn't at all used to. Nick honestly wasn't sure if he had unconsciously pulled her closer or if she had stepped in herself, but he didn't even care. Adjusting his grip on her slightly, he moved his hand up her back a little, his fingers pressing against her in a more intimate way. He felt her adjust too, letting out a little sigh. Nick held her tighter, and he began to remember what Lisa had told him a couple of weeks ago. Suddenly it didn't seem like that horrible or terrifying of an idea anymore. Do I go for it? he asked himself. What do I do? I shouldn't kiss her...her family's here, and the guys are watching us. I could put my hand on her cheek... The nervous feeling returned again, and he became hesitant. What do I do? The song could end any second. Do I go for it or not? This could be a bad time. Hurry up, Carter...it's almost over... And sure enough, just then, the song drew to a close.
...Makes me believe in love
The way you do.
The way you do.
The way you do.
Nick held back a disappointed sigh as he Kayla let go of him and he did the same. He gave her the best smile he could manage.
Kayla's heart was beating very fast as she and Nick drew apart. What the hell had just happened? She gave him an artificial smile. "Thanks for the dance," she said.
"My pleasure," Nick replied casually.
"And thank you again for...all of this."
"You're welcome," he said. Really, you can pay me back if you want to...and I don't mean with money, he thought with an inward groan.
"See ya later, Nick," Kayla said as she turned to head off in another direction.
Nick also began to walk away, deciding not to go back to the table because Brian and Leighanne would never let him hear the end of it. "Yeah," he said. "Later."
Later. That seemed like a word he had been using a lot recently. And it was really starting to get on his nerves.