Nick felt numb as he sat there on the dock, his feet dangling listlessly over the edge. After all that he had gone through, it was almost like he could no longer feel pain over Kayla. Now he was just numb.
He was so sick of coming so close to getting her and then having her slip away away from him at the last minute. He wanted to either have her or not have her. Being something in between was too frustrating. It kept getting his hopes up and then inevitably dashing them to pieces. And as much as he didn't want to lose his chance at winning Kayla's love, it was getting to the point where he just wanted her to make a choice...even if the decision she made ended up breaking his heart.
"Nick," he heard someone say from behind him, cutting into his thoughts.
He immediately recognized the voice, and his body tensed. He forced himself to turn his body and as always, his stomach tied into a knot and stayed there when he saw her. "Hey," he said stiffly. Just hearing her voice and seeing her face again made him forget his wish to resolve the situation, either negatively or positively. Now his heart was once again taking over and filling his whole body with that desire to be with her, no matter what he had to do to get her.
"I was talking to Brian, and we saw you come out here," she explained.
"Oh," Nick said. He frowned. "Where were you?"
Kayla turned and pointed. "Over there, on the—"
"Roof," Nick finished for her, nodding. "Lemme guess...he sat you down and asked you lots of serious questions about your life."
Kayla looked at him. "Yeah," she said meaningfully.
Nick looked away, gazing out over the water again. "What did he talk to you about?" he asked indifferently.
"Oh...nothing. Just, you know...the usual," she said, grimacing at her bad covering skills.
"Hm," Nick said, still staring out at the ocean.
Kayla could feel herself getting nervous, and she tried desperately to calm down. "It's a beautiful night, isn't it?" she remarked softly.
"Yeah," Nick replied. "I love it." He didn't sound very enthusiastic.
Kayla wanted to wrap her arms around him and make everything okay again, but something told her not to. "Mind if I sit?" she asked.
Nick smiled wryly. "It's a free country."
"If you don't want me to—"
"No." Nick looked up at her and gave her a forced smile. "I'd like the company."
Kayla smiled back and sat down next to him, looking slightly anxious. "Are you okay?" she asked gently.
"Why wouldn't I be?" He was looking away from her again.
"You looked kind of sad," she replied carefully. "I just wanted to make sure nothing was wrong."
"Oh, no, nothing's wrong, Kayla," Nick said, unable to keep just a touch of bitter sarcasm out of his voice. "Everything is just great."
Kayla raised her eyebrows. "Uh...okay," she said hesitantly.
Nick glanced over at her and saw that she looked a little hurt. He sighed. "Really, I'm fine," he said, his voice softening. Goddamn it! She always did this to him! He stared harder at the moonlight reflecting across the water, trying not to let himself think about her.
"Well...Brad asked me out," she said after a moment.
Nick looked up at her incredulously. He said nothing. He didn't have to.
"I told him no," she said quickly.
Still silent, Nick raised his eyebrows inquisitively.
""I told him I kinda have something going on with another guy right now, and...I don't want to ruin it," she explained.
Nick stared her for another second or two before slowly standing up. "No, Kayla," he said.
"No what?" She looked at him quizzically.
"You're not doing this to me again," he said firmly.
Now she stood up too. "Doing what?"
He turned on her. "Fucking around with me like this!" he snapped.
Caught completely off guard by his sudden explosion, Kayla backed away in surprise.
Nick shut his eyes, instantly regretting what he had said. "I mean..." He swallowed. "I'm sorry, I didn't mean to yell."
"No." She coughed. "You should yell at me," she said softly. "God knows I deserve it."
Nick opened his eyes. "Kayla, you don't—"
"Yes, I do," she interrupted. She turned away, stifling tears. "Just...I'm sorry. Never mind."
Nick sighed. "Baby—"
"Don't, Nick, I'm not worth all this...all you've done is try as hard as you can to make everything happen, and all I've done is..." She took a shaky breath. "Is push you away and hurt you over and over, and..."
Nick wanted to tell her that no, that wasn't true, and it wasn't her fault, but then he realized the truth of her words and stayed quiet.
"I haven't been treating you right," she continued. "I've just been...scared." She sighed deeply. "Honestly, Nick, I haven't felt like this about a guy before...I mean, I started to realize that ever since my birthday party, when Kristy was telling me that you liked me...and then we went and slept together, when that was exactly the reason why I dumped my last boyfriend, because I didn't want to sleep together, and..." She looked at him. "I'm sorry. I was just scared. I didn't mean to hurt you."
Nick's eyes bore into hers. "You did though," he said quietly.
The expression on his face was too much. Her eyes welled up with tears. "I'm sorry, Nick. I was just being selfish. You deserve so much better than what I've given to you." Her shoulders began to shake, and Nick realized that she was crying silently.
"Kayla," he said, instinctively wanting to comfort her. She shook her head and didn't turn around. "Kayla," Nick repeated, putting his hand on her back. He walked around to stand beside her, rubbing the back of her neck. "You don't have to apologize for being scared," he said when she finally looked up at him. "And what you have given to me has been amazing...because I know that you meant it. I know that every time you wrapped your arms around me, every time we kissed, you meant it. That's what matters."
"I still hurt you though," she said, wiping away tears.
Nick smiled good-naturedly. "Well...I think, if you try reeeally hard, you can make up for it," he predicted.
Kayla smiled back and slowly wrapped her arms around him, her head resting against his chest. Nick felt her hands move up his back, and he kissed the top of her head.
"You know," Nick said after a moment, "I don't mean to sound snotty or anything, but...it's about time."
She laughed. "You are snotty, Carter," she told him.
"Hey," Nick said, pinching her side where he knew she was ticklish.
She giggled and grabbed his hand by the wrist. "You'd better not do that again."
Nick raised an eyebrow. "And if I do?"
Kayla grinned and searched mentally for an applicable punishment. "Ummm..."
"Let me guess," Nick said. "I won't be able to do this." Without warning he pulled her in and kissed her.
Kayla was caught a little off guard, but it didn't take long for her to adjust and kiss him back. The kiss was so genuinely sweet that she couldn't help smiling through it.
He grinned at her when it was over. "So, was I right?"
Kayla glanced at the floor and smiled shyly. "No. I don't wanna give that up," she admitted. Nick smiled back and tucked some hair behind her ear before leaning and kissing her again, showing her just a little more passion this time.
As she stood there embracing him, a funny feeling came over Kayla, one that was different from the pleasant surprise she'd felt the first time he'd kissed her. Suddenly she felt trapped...like invisible steel walls were closing in on her. It almost felt as though she was suffocating. The whole situation felt so wrong to her that she instinctively pulled away, trying to make the feeling stop.
She opened her eyes and found Nick looking at her with pure heartbreak on his face. "Kayla, don't leave," he said softly.
Tears sprang to her eyes. "Nicky..." she began. Her throat dried up, and she couldn't speak.
"Please," Nick said, taking her wrist. His next words were so soft, he wasn't even sure if he had said them out loud or simply thought them. "I love you," he whispered.
Kayla twisted herself free as a tear escaped and slid down her cheek. She felt her heart speeding up to an incredible rate and her hands starting to shake. Those words triggered so many emotions in her, she found it next to impossible to speak. "I'm sorry," she finally croaked. That made the expression on his face even worse. "I need more time," she added as best she could. She looked at him one last time before turning and hurrying away from him.
She didn't let herself look back at him until she was all the way inside the hotel lobby. She saw him sitting on the edge of the dock, his body even more tense than it had been before. As she watched, he picked up a pebble and threw it angrily into the water. Then, as suddenly as it had come, the animosity seemed to vanish, and it almost looked like he had given up right then and there as his shoulders slumped and pain clearly took over his body.
Unable to watch anymore, Kayla turned away and went back up to her room. As soon as
she was alone, she lay down wearily on the bed. Wanting to relieve herself of that awful nauseous
feeling that was clutching at her stomach, she tried as hard as she could to cry, but no tears came.