Kayla stiffened when she heard knocking at her door one afternoon about a week later. Ever since the whole Nick incident, she had been really on edge, and everything was getting to her. Especially the fact that he was acting as if nothing had ever happened. He had specifically told her that he could not pretend that the meeting had never taken place because...
She shut her eyes and swallowed. God. I don't even want to think about the reason why, she thought miserably. Sighing, she got up from her couch, where she had been reading a book, and went to answer the door, praying that her caller wasn't Nick.
A smile of relief spread across her face when she saw A.J. standing there. "Hey, A.J.," she said.
He returned the smile. "Hey, Kayla."
"What's up? Want to come in?"
"No, no, that's okay. I just have a little proposal for you."
"Okay," Kayla said agreeably.
"Okay. I don't think I told you this, but Amanda's parents live here in Chicago," he began.
"Oh, really?" Kayla said, surprised.
"They weren't at the show yesterday, were they?"
"No. They're out of town right now. They wanted to come, but her dad has to go to some meetings and...well, I'm getting off topic. The point is that they have this huge, beautiful house that's just an hour away, and it has this indoor pool. And since Amanda is flying in tomorrow, and we have the afternoon and evening off, she's throwing a little party at her place. She inviting everyone from the tour, which includes you, of course."
"That sounds like fun," Kayla remarked.
"Yeah, I know. So does that mean you're in?" A.J. asked eagerly.
"Well...I promised my friend Leah that I'd do something with her tomorrow since I haven't seen her in years," Kayla told him.
He shrugged. "So bring her along," he suggested. "She'd have a great time."
Kayla smiled. "Okay, I'll give her a call and tell her to bring a bathing suit," she decided. "Shit. A bathing suit. That's what I don't have."
"You didn't bring one?"
"No...that's the one thing I forgot," she said. "I guess I'll just borrow one from Leah. We always were the same size."
A.J. smiled. "Cool."
"So who else is gonna be there?" Kayla wondered.
"Almost everyone. All the guys, Leighanne, the band, most of the crew, and I'm about to go ask the dancers."
So Nick will be there. Kayla smiled weakly. "Cool."
"Okay, I have to go invite more people, but I'm glad you're coming, and I'll see you later," A.J. said.
Kayla closed the door and locked it, groaning as she walked over to the phone to call her friend.
The air was cold and damp. There was only a little bit of light. The ground was wet and muddy, and it let out a faint squelching sound whenever he took a step.
There was something in the atmosphere of the strange place, whatever it was, that Nick didn't like, something eerie that was sending chills of fear through his body. So he kept walking. He tried to figure out where the feeling was coming from and tried to walk in the opposite direction, but it was no use. Whenever he thought that it was fading away, it came back again, even stronger than before. It was just getting to the point where it was unbearably strong when suddenly, Nick heard it.
The sound of a girl crying.
Nick stopped walking altogether when that sound reached his ears. It wasn't the fact that someone was crying that surprised him so much in this terrible place. It was the fact that he knew that voice.
That was Kayla's voice.
Without hesitation, Nick determined where the sound was coming from and broke into a run. Kayla hardly ever cried. That meant that she must be in some kind of serious trouble now, and from the likes of this place, Nick hated to think of what that trouble might be.
He ran for what must have been at least five minutes. The crying got gradually louder and louder. After those five minutes, Nick found himself facing a cloud of thick, choking fog. He took a deep breath and plowed through it. Once he was surrounded by it, he couldn't see or breathe, but he kept going for Kayla's sake.
Just when his lungs felt like they would burst, the fog suddenly lifted. Very suddenly. It more disappeared than lifted. Nick looked behind him, but there was nothing there now. Surveying his new surroundings, he discovered that he was now on a beach. The sound of Kayla's crying was much softer, but it was still there. Facing the direction from which it still came, Nick squinted hard, and he finally saw her.
She was sprawled out across a light blue blanket on top of the fine sand. A thin white sun dress clothed her thin body. Her face was buried in the blanket, and her hands were balled up into fists, clutching the pale cloth so hard that he could see even from far away that her knuckles were white.
Nick took off again, running towards her as fast as his legs would carry him. He didn't want her to feel pain for even another second if she didn't have to. After what seemed like forever, he finally reached her side. She didn't even realize that someone else was there because she was crying so hard. He crouched down on his right knee and slowly put his hand forward.
"Kayla," he said softly just as his hand came down to rest on her shoulder.
She raised her head and looked up at him. Her face was streaked with tears and her eyes were red, but Nick didn't see any of that. All he could see was the pain that was etched into her beautiful face.
"Kayla..." he repeated, his voice thick with empathy. He could already feel that pain pricking his own heart, even though he didn't even know what was causing it.
She looked back down at the ground, still crying. Her face looked almost guilty, as if she had just been caught doing something she shouldn't. Nick was going to say something else to try and comfort her, but before he got the chance, she rolled over onto her back and looked up at him again. This time, instead of pain, all that he could see in her blue eyes was a plea for help.
Without a word, Nick reached forward and slid his hands under her slim body. Then he carefully got to his feet, picking her up with him and cradling her in his arms just as he would a small child. She wrapped her arms around his neck, clinging to him tightly. He placed a kiss on her forehead to try and soothe her. She let out a little gasp, her crying just becoming worse. Nick tightened his arms around her and started to rock her back and forth.
That worked. She started to calm down a little, although she was still crying. After a moment, she started to struggle against him. Nick let her down reluctantly. He didn't want to force her into anything, but he had been savoring the feeling of her warm body pressed up against his.
But when she was on her own feet again, she surprised him by not backing away. Instead she actually got closer. She wrapped her arms around him and pressed her cheek up against his chest. He smiled slowly when he realized what she was doing and put his hands on her back, stroking it gently. Then he rested his chin on top of her head so that he could feel her eyelashes touching his neck.
After a few minutes spent in his arms like that, Kayla finally stopped crying completely. Nick felt a surge of triumph when he heard her sobbing die away and her breathing return to normal. He hated to see her in that unhappy state.
She slowly lifted her head again, an encouraged smile spreading across her face when she saw him looking down at her. She brought her hand to her eyes and wiped away the tears that were still there before her smile turned shy, and she looked away.
Nick touched the side of her face. "Are you going to be okay?"
She looked at the ground and shrugged timidly. Then she looked into his eyes and whispered one word. "Stay."
He smiled and nodded. "Of course I will, angel."
She blushed when he called her that and rested her head against his chest again. Nick felt a mix of emotions whirling around in his heart, and he held her even more tightly and squeezed his eyes shut. He kept them closed like that even when he felt her lift her head again.
Then he felt a soft pair of lips meet his lower jaw. His eyes shot open in surprise, and he glanced down at Kayla, not daring to move his head. Her eyes were closed, a tranquil expression on her face as she kissed him. After a moment she pulled away and opened her eyes hesitantly, afraid of his reaction. He just stared at her for a moment, still surprised, before he smiled slowly. She smiled too, her face practically mirroring his. She slid one hand up from between his shoulder blades to the back of his neck, playing with some of his hair, and pressed her body against his even more before opening her mouth to speak. Nick stood there riveted as she said the very words he had been dying to hear ever since he had first laid eyes on her face.
"I love you."
He immediately squeezed her tightly, unable to contain his own happiness, and planted a kiss on the top of her head. "I love you, too, Kayla," he whispered back. "Forever."
Just then the alarm in Nick's hotel room went off, some loud rap song playing over the clock radio. Nick's eyes shot open, his breath coming in gasps. He lifted his shaky hands to his eyes and wasn't surprised to find tears there. Wow, was the only thing he could think. That dream had been incredible. More vivid and real than he had ever known one to be.
After turning off the radio, he swallowed hard and sat up slowly, still trying to recover. God, the dream had been exactly what he wanted. He didn't even care about the physical part anymore. All he wanted was to have her heart. What they had done that night one week ago had happened too early. It should have come after both of them had known that they were in love. And Kayla, from what she had told him, obviously hadn't gone through that realization.
Or maybe... Nick frowned. Maybe she had been lying. Maybe she really did love him and she had just been afraid, like Brian had said. If she really didn't have romantic feelings for him, it shouldn't have been that hard for her to turn him away. But then again, if she really liked him as more than a friend, then why would she shy away like she had when he had begged her to be with him?
Nick groaned and put his head in his hands. None of these theories were new. They had been spinning around in his head nonstop for the past week, and frankly, he was starting to get pretty sick of them. If only he could just get her one-on-one again and talk to her. But she was surrounded by people for the majority of the day, and she hadn't come to his hotel room after the show last night like usual. Besides, he wasn't sure if he had the guts to say what he wanted to.
Well...at least there was A.J.'s party tomorrow. Nick knew that she would be there. But maybe if he couldn't get anywhere with her, he could at least meet some of Amanda's friends who would be there too. Maybe there would even be a cute one who wasn't a tease like Kayla.