Kayla took deep breaths and tried to calm herself down as tears ran down her cheeks that evening. She had recounted the whole story to her friends, and it had only made her feel worse. Of course, they had been really nice about it. Sara had even apologized over and over for the incident at the golf course. But what could they really say to make Kayla feel better and fill that void that was in her heart? They had tried to give her advice, but she had heard it all before, so it didn't even affect her anymore.
Kayla went into the bathroom and washed her face before starting to put on some makeup. Unfortunately, she and the guys had some really important dinner with some executive, so she had to go—without her friends. Kayla was glad that Nick wouldn't be able to hit on Sara, but the prospect of facing him wasn't very appealing at the moment.
Sighing, Kayla finished getting ready and went to get her purse. She could do this. She didn't even have to talk to him. She could just hang out with Howie or Kevin all night, and they would be nice to her without prying and questioning her like Brian and A.J. did.
If only things were really that simple.
Kayla's face was stony as she sat in the restaurant with the guys and they waited for the check to arrive later that evening. What great luck she had. The executives had cancelled on them at the last minute. Oh, they had apologized profusely and promised to be at the rescheduled date without fail, which was nice of them and all, but Kayla had then been stuck at the restaurant with the guys, who had decided to stay and eat dinner there. And even more luckily, she had ended up sitting right next to Nick.
He had been giving her looks the whole night. From the expression on his face, she could tell that someone (probably Brian) had talked to him about how upset his flirting had made her; his face had this mix of guilt and satisfaction. A couple of times during the meal, their arms—or, even worse, their legs—had brushed together, and she had gotten icy chills as she had quickly pulled away from him. She had gotten the feeling that he had wanted to say something, but before he had been able to, she had quickly turned away and started a conversation with someone else.
Kevin took the check. At that point, Kayla felt a hand slide on top of hers. Turning to her left, she saw that Nick was looking at her as he stroked the back of her hand with his thumb. She could easily read the expression on his face: let's-just-cut-the-crap-and-start-all-over. Slightly alarmed, she pulled her hand away and stood up.
"I'll meet you outside," she murmured to the guys before turning and hurrying toward the restroom.
When she was gone, Nick struck the edge of the table. "Damn," he muttered under his breath.
Kayla wanted to cry again when she was alone in the restroom, but she forced herself not to. Determined to be strong and not let him get to her, she took some deep breaths before unlocking the door to the stall and going to wash her hands. She started to look into her own eyes in the mirror but quickly stopped. Now was not the time to psychoanalyze herself. Now was the time to go home, take a shower, and get some sleep.
She was walking out of the restroom when whom should she crash into but Nick?
Seeing the expression on his face, she immediately lost patience and let out a sigh. "Nick, I don't want to—"
"I know," he said quickly. He smiled hesitantly. "I know. I just want to say I'm sorry."
"Sorry?" Kayla echoed, surprised.
"For how I—uh, for how you were feeling today," he corrected himself.
She understood. "Oh. It's no big deal," she said with a phony smile. "All better now."
"Still, I'm sorry," he persisted.
There was a pause.
Nick could see the troubled expression on her face. "Are you sure you're okay, sweetie?" he asked cautiously.
Kayla felt a sudden chill go down her spine when he called her that. What was with him tonight? What was with her, for that matter? She forced herself to remain indifferent. "I'm fine," she said coolly.
Nick could see that he had gotten to her. "Kayla," he said, touching her arm, "what's going on?"
"Excuse me?" She wanted to pull away from, but if she did that, he would know that he'd affected her.
"Between us," Nick clarified. His voice softened. "You know how I feel about you," he added. "What are we?" He wanted to hold her and touch her face and kiss her, but he could tell how uncomfortable she was just from having his hand on her arm. Besides, he knew from experience that doing all those things was the best way to make her run away from him.
"I'm sorry," she said, "but we're nothing."
Nick stared at her. "Nothing?"
"Yes," she said. "The only thing we can be is friends, Nick. I'm sorry."
Nick slowly tightened his grip on her arm. "Don't do this," he practically whispered.
"I'm sorry," Kayla said for the third time as she twisted her arm away, "but it has to be all or nothing, and I'm picking nothing." She started to leave but he stopped her.
"I don't understand. Why? If you wanna move slower or...anything, if there's anything I can do..." Nick looked at her imploringly. "We can work it out."
"I don't want to work it out!" she snapped.
"But..." He struggled for words, but he could only find three, and he knew that saying them would be a mistake.
"Look, Nick, I'm trying to be honest and direct with you. I know that all of this stuff happening between us lately has been hurting you, and that's not right. You don't deserve to be hurt like that. So I'm gonna stop it," she reasoned.
Nick shook his head. "I...don't know what to say."
"I'm sorry. I hope we can still be friends," she said awkwardly, tears stinging her eyes.
Nick was breathing deeply. His brow furrowed. "Something's telling me that's not gonna be possible," he said sharply.
Her vision blurred with tears. "I'm sorry," she whispered before she turned and left.
Nick just stood there, stunned, and watched her go. He felt an emptiness tugging at his heart, and he turned away as he fought the sudden urge to cry and scream at the same time.