Copyright

A Collaboration between Bron and Suzie

Chapter 26

Johnny's idea to have all the boys drive their own cars and meet at Gene's office, then take a limo together to the airport worked out perfectly. Now they all could go their separate ways.

As the couple headed out to the parking lot, Nick grabbed Angelina's hand, spun her around, and enveloped her into his arms. After holding her for a few minutes, he released her, and bent down giving her a warm kiss.

Pulling away, Angelina replied quietly, "I'm sorry I was a little bitchy." She couldn't help but smile at him as her faced mirrored his own.

"A little?" Nick joked. "I've been waiting sixty-eight minutes to hold you," Nick's smile turned into a sexy smirk, "Hope you are feeling better by the time we get home." His eyebrows went up and down matching his playful attitude.

Angelina couldn't help but laugh. "Damn boy. What got into you? You were in a piss-poor mood not too long ago yourself."

While opening the door to his Escalade for her to get in, Nick answered her question, "Cause I'm no longer working. No more Backstreet Boy Nick Carter. I'm just Nick to you." He locked her door and then shut it.

Angelina watched Nick closely as he scurried in front of the car and got in the driver's seat. "And were off," he said as if they were in a race to get to his place.

Meanwhile, back in the office, Marybeth was working on some reports and needed Sheridan's help.

"Sheridan, does this look right to you? I either can't read Angel's numbers correctly or her numbers don't add up."

Leaning over the desk Sheridan agreed, "Yup. That's Angel. She's forever inverting her 7s and 9s. She rushed through that report this afternoon after watching Access Hollywood. She was a bit preoccupied." Sheridan bit her lip as she noticed Kevin walk into Marybeth's office.

"Thank you Kevin and A.J.," Gene called out as he walked down the hallway towards the elevators, "Have a good night ladies."

"Goodnight," Marybeth and Sheridan replied simultaneously. A.J. walked into Marybeth's office and sat down with a thud.

"Man, I'm hungry. You guys want to grab a bite to eat?" A.J. looked at the other three hoping one of them would join him.

Sheridan looked over at Marybeth. 'Oh my, look at that. She looks like she's about to faint,' Sheridan thought. Forgetting Kevin was there, Sheridan asked Marybeth, "Want to? Angelina worked today and didn't have time to cook dinner before we came to the meeting. I'm starved."

Kevin chuckled while watching the woman before him. "You didn't eat because Angel wasn't home to cook for you? What are you going to do over Christmas break when she's back east for a few days?"

"I'll be home as well. My mommy will keep me well fed," Sheridan replied sending Kevin a sheepish looking grin.

A.J. looked over to Marybeth. Marybeth started to reply, "'Uh…well…um… I guess so." She turned and looked at Kevin and Sheridan.

"No more work for you. Let's go grab a bite to eat." Marybeth hesitated for a moment. Going behind her desk and grabbing her hand, A.J. said, "C'mon, my treat. Let's go, I'm hungry!"

Sheridan looked over at A.J., "You're a bossy little thing huh?"

A.J. smiled, "Only when I'm hungry."

"Okay, let's go. But no McDonalds A.J. We are eating real food," The 'Kevin in charge' attitude was back and running the show.

Pulling into Nick's apartment, Angelina helped him carry his bags and the dinner they grabbed on their way home. Neither one felt like being out in the public, especially Angel, she wasn't even sure she could eat at all. Although some healthy food would do her body some good after the past two days.

As Nick took care of his luggage and listened to his messages, Angel set up the table and spread out their dinner. She watched as Nick walked into the kitchen. He was biting the inside of his cheek, making him look like he was a million miles away in his thoughts. "What do you want to drink?" Angel asked.

Breaking out of his daze, Nick focused on Angel, "A beer please. Thanks for getting dinner ready. I'm starved."

At first, the couple sat down to eat with no conversation. Eventually, Angel couldn't take the suspense any longer. "So, did you talk to Aaron?"

Nick nodded his head as he finished chewing, "Yup. I have no idea what that kid is thinking."

"Didn't he explain what he was doing?"

"Yes, but it doesn't make much sense to me. My parents aren't much better at helping me understand it. It's turned into a he-said, she-said blood bath. I am staying out of it. They can handle this mess without me."

Angel had been debating about bringing up the holiday schedule. In order to reserve a seat, at a decent price, she needed to buy her ticket immediately. She also promised Sheridan she would talk to Nick about it tonight. Nick watched her as she seemed deep in thought.

'I can't talk to him about Christmas now. His family is in the middle of an ugly dispute. I wonder if he'll even go to Florida? I'm not going again, no way, no how. Okay, I guess I will if he asks me to, but only if he needs me there. He may want to go alone anyways so he can talk with them and not worry about entertaining me. He needs to kick their asses is what he needs to do.'

"What are you thinking about? Angel? Earth to Angel…." Nick leaned over the table to hold her hand causing Angel's mind to refocus to where she was.

"Huh? Oh sorry, I was off daydreaming," Angel was mortified. 'God, you are such a ditz.'

"What were you daydreaming about?"

"Christmas," Angel's mouth announced before her mind told her to shut up and close her mouth.

"Oh yeah, we have to make our travel arrangements for Christmas, don't we?" Nick said as he jumped up to retrieve his calendar from his room.

As Nick walked back into the room, "Angel, get your organizer. We need to make plans before all the flights are booked." Nick was very excited about meeting Angel's parents. Truth be told, he was excited to stay away from his own family, and this was a great distraction.

"Are you sure about this Nick?" Angel questioned, "It's just that… well, my parents may make a bigger deal out of this… what I mean is… they may get the wrong impression about us." Angel couldn't find the right words and was stumbling horribly. "Augh…this isn't coming out right."

Nick noticed the deep blush penetrating her cheeks. It took a few seconds for him to realize what Angel was trying to say, albeit not so eloquently.

"My sister, MaryAnne, knows I'm bringing someone home with me, but I didn't tell her your name. She's curious by nature, so I'm sure she'll read you the riot act, unless I can get Sheridan to occupy most of her time." Angel's mind wandered at her last thought.

"Angel, it's okay."

"I've already tried to explain to them that you were coming and that they shouldn't read into it. But of course, they are. They've already asked me if we secretly eloped; if we are engaged or worse, if I am pregnant."

Nick paled at the last thought.

"Which I'm not!" Angel said with such defiance.

Nick let out the breath he was holding.

"See?" Angel said as she put her elbows on the table and her head in her hands, covering her face. "This is going to be a nightmare, I just know it."

Standing up and taking her arms away from her face, Nick pulled Angel up to him for a hug. "If this is going to be too much for you, I don't have to go."

'You are such an ass,' her head screamed. "No Nick. It will be just fine. This won't be as bad a trip as I'm making it out to be. I'm sorry. Just as long as you understand what my parents are thinking, it will be fine. We'll set them straight. God, I'm such an idiot tonight. What the hell is wrong with me?"

"I know, PMS. Right?"

Angel laughed, "How did you know? Are you keeping track?"

Nick grinned, "Um, no. Sheridan told me."

Sheridan sat in a booth next to Kevin; across from Marybeth and diagonal to A.J. They went to the Saddle Ranch Chop House. Kevin wasn't too happy, but A.J. argued since it was his idea, he could pick the restaurant just as long as it wasn't McDonalds.

Marybeth looked around the restaurant wide-eyed. She had never been here before and was amazed at the scenery. A.J. made a comment about riding the mechanical bull, causing her to choke on her water.

Kevin was closely watching the couple across from him. Kevin turned to Sheridan who was busy admiring the view herself. As her eyes wandered, she locked onto Kevin's and trembled inside.

"Cold?" he asked.

Trying to remain calm, she whispered, "A little bit."

Kevin unzipped his Adidas sweat jacket and began throwing it behind Sheridan, "Here, put this on." Sheridan couldn't speak, so she just let him wrap his jacket around her shoulders.

"Thanks," she croaked out.

A.J. and Marybeth watched in amusement at the couple across from them. After the food was placed in front of them and they all started eating.

Without even realizing it, Sheridan noticed she could smell Kevin. Once she recognized his scent was on his jacket, she sunk her head down towards the collar. 'Nah, this isn't a good spot,' her mind thought. After finishing up her dinner in a hurry, Sheridan pulled his sleeves down over her hand and brought her covered jacket hand to her face, as if she was leaning on it. 'This is much better,' she thought.

Marybeth chuckled to herself as she realized what Sheridan was doing. Out of the corner of his eye, A.J. watched Marybeth in amusement as she was eating her dinner.

Kevin soon caught on and a smirk crossed his lips. A.J. looked up at him and winked. Kevin couldn't help but smile and blush.

A.J. asked, "So Sheridan, how's Tom been treatin' ya?" then got kicked and elbowed by the other two companions at their table.

Sheridan closed her eyes, willing herself not to fall apart. Taking a deep breath, she stated, "I haven't seen him all week. I've been calling in sick." Now that she said it aloud, she felt ashamed of herself. She shouldn't let Tom make her feel this way. She should be strong enough to deal with this; but she wasn't. "It's not the most mature way of dealing with it, but it's my way, I guess."

A.J. looked at Sheridan like she had two heads. "So how long are you going to call in sick?" Kevin was grateful A.J. asked that question. He had been dying to know what was going on in her head and what her plans were.

Looking at her dinner companions, she sighed, "Honestly? I don't know," shrugging her shoulders as she said it.

"Have you been looking for another job?" Marybeth questioned her.

"I have. I've got a couple of interviews lined up next week. My plan is to quit the insurance company, go home for the holidays, and hopefully start a new job in the New Year." As Sheridan laid out her plans, she felt more confident and hopeful that all would work out in her world.

Kevin sat beside her and listened to her upcoming plans. He knew the economy wasn't that great right now, but she did have a lot of talent and skills that could take her places, but probably wouldn't give her the flexibility to work on their movie project.

"Sheridan, are these job interviews for full or part-time work?"

Sheridan turned to Kevin, "Full time. Why?"

"I was just wondering how you are going to be able to finish up our project and have a flexible schedule with a new job that's all." Kevin said as he took a sip of his beer.

Sheridan's face turned into a frown as she went into deep thought. 'Shit. I knew I had forgotten something. I'm trying to think long term and towards my future. Thanks to Kevin for always thinking things through, dammit.'

A.J. noticed her demeanor change, "Don't worry about it. It will all work out in the end. There's no need to stress before Christmas. Speaking of which, what are your plans?"

"I'm going home with Angel and Nick."

Kevin's head shot up. "What?"

Marybeth and A.J. snickered. Kevin was a little jealous of Nick and his relationship with Angel. But he certainly didn't envy the boy's family.

"Uh yeah," Sheridan said hesitatingly, "Nick's going to spend a few days with Angel and her folks, then they're planning on going to Florida for a day or two, then head back to LA for New Years."

"Oh good. I was hoping we could celebrate New Year's together," A.J. said while rubbing his hands together.

Marybeth looked over at A.J, "What are your plans for the holidays?"

A.J. replied, "I'm staying at home. My mom and her new husband are coming to visit me for a couple of days. Nothing special, just hanging out."

Marybeth looked over at Kevin, "Are you going back home to Kentucky Kevin?"

"I have to. I promised my Mom. She'll kill me if I don't. You know how Moms are. As far as my Mom is concerned, the only excuse you can use for not being home for Christmas is a death certificate and it had better be your own," Kevin said with a chuckle.

Sheridan smiled at Marybeth, "What are your plans Marybeth?"

Shrugging her shoulders, "I'll probably visit my folks in Chicago for a few days, then fly to Arizona and spend some time with my sister and her family. But I can't make any plans until Gene finds out if he received another project. If he does, then I'll only have enough time to visit my parents for Christmas, maybe. I might need to stay here in LA too. It's all up in the air."

A.J. grinned, "Hey, if that happens, you, me, Nick, and Angel could make plans for New Years. Better yet, if you get stuck here in LA, you can come to my house for Christmas dinner. I'm cooking plenty of food and you can help distract me from my mom," A.J. said with a toothy grin.

Upon hearing A.J.'s plans, Marybeth froze. 'Oh my God. Please don't let me say something stupid.' Speechless, Marybeth shoved a forkful of mashed potatoes in her mouth while she shook her head up and down. The others snickered at her response; Sheridan made a mental note to talk to Marbeth later about her behavior.

Kevin turned to Sheridan, "So have you made your flight arrangements yet?"

"Not yet. I'm waiting to hear from Angel. She was going to talk to Nick tonight."

"AUGH!" Nick yelled for the third time since he had begun searching for flights. "This is ridiculous Angel. We'll spend most of our time in a plane or in airports at this point. That's not how I planned on spending our Christmas."

Walking over to Nick, Angel put her arms around his shoulders from behind, giving him a hug as she looked over his shoulder to the computer screen.

Suddenly, Nick's phone rang. It was Jane, his mother. As Nick began to yell, Angel grabbed a beer and went out onto the balcony off of Nick's bedroom. She turned to look back in his condo and she could still hear him. He was now in his room. He saw her and shook his head while running a hand through his hair. He left the room, as his face grew red once again. 'Oh boy,' thought Angel.

Looking out to the skyline, Angel was lost in her thoughts and didn't realize Nick came out to join her. Startled, she jumped a little in her chair. She noticed Nick had a smile on his face. This confused her, "Why are you smiling?"

"Oh, I just figured out a solution to our holiday plans."

"And?"

Nick ignored her questions and walked back through his bedroom and into his living room, where his laptop was set up. Angel was hot on his heels interested in what their holiday plans would be.

"We will arrive in Erie on the 23rd and fly back to LA on the 27th. Spend a few days just the two of us, and then spend New Year's with whoever else is back." Nick grinned as he thought it all out.

Angel's mouth dropped open, "NICK! What about your family? You have to try and see them on Christmas." Angel began pacing the floor, pushing her hair behind her ears, "Was that what you were fighting about with your mom?"

"Only at the end of our conversation," Nick said with a smile, "Right before I hung up on her."

"Nick! She's your mother. C'mon, we'll find a way to make it there to see them." Angel didn't want Jane to think that she was keeping Nick away from his family.

Shaking his head, Nick replied, "NO, we're not Angel. We'll have a great time in Pennsylvania and then come back to LA to par-tay." Nick finished his sentence as he danced his way over to the table.

Nick sat back down at the computer and began his quest. "This one's perfect!" he began writing on paper and clicking on the keyboard. Pulling out his phone, he called his assistant. Angel went to use the bathroom. As she came out, she heard the rest of Nick's conversation.

"I'm sending you an email to buy three first class, round trip tickets. Thanks, I owe ya one."

Angel walked back in to hear the end of his conversation. Nick looked up and smiled, "We're all set. Better call Sheridan to let her know our holiday plans."

"You know she's not going to be too happy that you took care of this already, you know that right? She's a control freak, much like Kevin is, and this may not be too pretty." Angel was jabbering as she dialed Sheridan's cell.

"Hello?"

"Hey Sheridan. Where are you? It's very noisy."

"Hey Angel. A.J. kidnapped us to go out to dinner to some saddle back place."

Angel started laughing, "Make him ride the mechanical bull."

Nick made a face to Angel. She lowered the phone to fill him in.

He came over and they both listened to Sheridan's conversation.

"Sheridan, tell A.J. to jump on the bull and try it out. He'll probably do a lot better now that he's sober," Nick cackled as he listened to Sheridan repeat Nick's request.

Kevin's head came up hearing Nick was on the phone. "Can I talk to him for a second?"

Sheridan handed Kevin the phone, "Dawg, whatcha doin'?"

Angel cocked her head sideways to look at Nick, "He's starting to speak ghetto now too?"

Nick replied nonchalantly, "Nah, he's been drinking."

"Nothing much. Just finished dinner and making plans for Christmas. Who's there?"

"Just me, Sheridan, A.J., and Marybeth. So you're headed to Erie huh?" Kevin said as he rubbed his temples with his free hand. "When you seeing your folks?"

"I'm not. Hey put Sheridan back on the phone so I can tell her she's all set. I want to spend some quality time with my woman."

Kevin moaned, he didn't need to be left with that visual. "Thanks Nick. Fine, hold on. Sheridan, it's Nick for ya."

Sheridan noticed the foul face Kevin made and wondered what the dynamic duo said to him.

"Hey Nick, A.J. and Marybeth say 'hello.'"

Angel's eyes grew wide, "Ohh…are you all on a double date?"

Sheridan answered quickly and loudly, making her dinner guests look up at her, "NO!" Sheridan mumbled a 'sorry.'

Nick continued, wanting to end this call, "Okay, here's the deal. Our tickets to Erie are all set. I'll email you the itinerary when I receive it. Talk to ya later. Bye."

Before Sheridan could get a word in edgewise, Nick hung up the phone.

Looking at her phone shocked, Sheridan moved her head up to look at her dinner companions, "The little prick hung up on me."

Marybeth smiled, A.J. chuckled, and Kevin laughed, "You better get used to that."

"Oh the hell I will! I don't like people taking control of my life," Sheridan spit it out so fast, she didn't realize what she said until it was too late. Her finger jamming the redial button as fast as her words were coming out.

A.J. couldn't resist commenting, "No wonder you and Kevin don't get along."

Kevin gave A.J. a hurt look, "Hey, we get along just fine!" Kevin put his arm around Sheridan's shoulder and pulled her in close, "Don't we?"

Sheridan couldn't find her voice, making Marybeth laugh out loud. A.J. looked at her, "What's so funny?"

"Oh I was just thinking of Nick, Sheridan, and Angel sitting together on a plane for 8 hours on their flight back east."

Nick hung up the phone, "Sheridan's all set,"

Angelina walked into Nick's bedroom with a questionable look, "She's all set how? That you told her the plans and she's okay with it? Or that you told her what the deal was and didn't give her time to complain?"

Nick was sitting on his bed turning off his phone, and then he pulled the cord to the house phone out of the jack. Looking sheepish, Nick replied, "I hung up before she could say anything. I shut this one off, re-dial won't work."

Wrapping her arms around Nick's shoulders, Angel sat on his lap and kissed his nose, "Good boy."

As he pulled Angel against his chest, Nick wasn't sure if Angel would go along with his plan, "I don't plan on being good tonight." He watched for her reaction.

"That's good, cause I don't want a good boy. I want a bad boy. A very, bad boy."

"Ask and you shall receive," were Nick's last words before he began manipulating and taunting Angel. Not that she was a virgin to roughness, quite the contrary - she enjoyed it very much, every once in a while. However, sometimes Angel did have some flashbacks to when rough sex wasn't very enjoyable or pleasant.

Nick woke with a start. "What the hell?" he thought.

Angel had pulled all the covers off the bed and was thrashing her body into Nick's side in her sleep. Gently, Nick tried to grab onto Angel and help soothe her back to sleep.

Angel tensed up when she felt herself being grabbed and began yelling in her sleep, "Stop it Joey. Please don't. NO!" Angel began crying.

Nick froze. He wasn't sure what happened between Joey and Angel in their past, but he had a good idea which made his skin crawl. Leaning over towards Angel's ear, he began whispering to her, calming her down. Feeling her relax, he held onto her for a long time. When Angel's breathing returned to a steady rhythm, Nick carefully got up and put the sheets back on the bed. He was definitely going to talk to her about this in the morning.

Across town, Kevin was having trouble sleeping thinking about Sheridan's job situation. He also wanted to know more about Tom and what the hell he was up to with her. Thinking of a plan, he smiled to himself, rolled over, and fell asleep instantly.

The smell of coffee hit Angel's senses waking her up. She felt achy and stiff. Stretching, she got out of bed and walked into the kitchen. There she observed Nick sitting at the kitchen table deep in thought. Immediately, Angel thought it was something having to do with his family.

"Hey you!" Angel leaned down to give Nick a kiss on the cheek.

He gave her a weak smile, which made her think something was very wrong. "Hey."

"Everything alright?" Angel thought it would be best to question the positive, rather than the negative. Grabbing a mug of coffee, she sat down and prepared it while carefully watching Nick. Nick stared at Angel; watching her every move. Angel felt completely naked and exposed with his eyes gazing at her.

"Why are you staring?" she questioned.

"We need to talk," Nick replied, never blinking.

"Why do I have the feeling I'm not going to want to talk about whatever it is that you want to talk about?" Trying to change the subject, "What time are Aaron and Angel coming today?"

"Probably not and they're not coming."

"Why not? Something else happen?" Angel was hoping to focus the conversation on his brother and sister.

"Nope. Now, back to the subject you are trying to avoid."

Angel cringed. She hated not knowing what was going on. Nick read her facial expressions and decided he needed to calm down and be more inviting if he was going to have this conversation with her.

"Angel, you know that I really like you right?"

'Okay, never told me that before. Hoped you did, but you never told me.' Half her mind screamed. 'Will you focus on this conversation? Nick looks serious.' Her other half chimed in.

"Judging by your reaction, I guess I haven't and I'm sorry." Reaching across the table, taking her hand in his, staring into her eyes, he began, "Angel, I really do like you and I would never hurt you."

"Okay," she replied weakly. Shifting herself in her chair, she felt a jolt of pain and recalled their encounter last night. Warning flags went off in Angel's head.

"I had an amazing time last night," Nick began blushing, he hated talking about sex, "And I hope you did too." He waited for her to answer.

Slowly she shook her head up and down as she began to panic. Closing her eyes, she licked her lips and began to take deep breaths. Finally, she mumbled "A-ha."

Sensing a panic attack in her future, Nick moved closer to hold her, "I need for you to know that I will keep you safe. I won't ever hurt you or harm you in any way."

After hearing where this conversation was going, Angel felt foolish for over-reacting, "Nick, I feel very safe with you."

"Good, I'm glad to hear that." Taking a deep breath, Nick continued, "Because you sort of… well, you had a nightmare last night. You yelled out for Joey to stop."

Angel's head dropped to her chest as her hand moved to muffle the cries that she knew would come. She may have been able to keep her cries quiet, but her shoulders began to shake. Nick pulled her into his embrace and held her close whispering in her ear, "It's okay Angel. Everything's going to be alright."

Pulling away, Angel smiled and said "Thanks. I guess talking about the holidays and having Joey call my apartment… it's just bringing my past to my present and I hate the thought. I want to focus in the present and look forward to the future."

Nick grinned at his girlfriend liking her explanation, "I like the sound of that" was all he said leaning down to give her a kiss.

"I'm sorry about last night Nick."

Putting his fingers on her lips, signaling her to be quiet, "Not another word about it Angel unless you want to talk about it. Just know you are safe with me and nothing or no one is going to harm you ever again."

Tears trickled down her cheek as she kissed him again whispering, "Thank you."

Rubbing her back, he murmured, "Anytime Baby." Suddenly, Nick's phone rang causing the couple to jump up.

"Guess you plugged your phone back in huh?"

Both laughed as Nick answered, "Hello?"

"Hey Nick. I need your help."

Rolling his eyes at Angel, Nick replied, "What's up Kevin?"

Angel blew Nick a kiss as she went into the bathroom to take a shower. She was going to head to the gym, but first needed to wash the smell of sex off her body. Not that she minded, but others might.

Nick poured himself more coffee as he listened to Kevin rattle off his new plan. "Are ya sure that's a smart thing to do Kev? I mean, if Sheridan finds out, she might be upset. Look how upset she got with you when you did the same thing to her and Angel."

"This is different Nick," Kevin reasoned, "This is to keep her safe."

"Safe from whom? Tom? He couldn't hurt her. Not to mention, Angel would kick his ass."

"Just do me this favor Nick, please? Find out from Angel and I'll forever be in your debt."

"I'll ask Kevin, but don't think Angel won't wonder why I'm asking."

"Thanks man. Well, if she gives you a hard time, you can explain it to her. She has kept secrets you have told her before to herself, so I know can trust her."

Nick was going to say something to defend himself, but decided to let it go. It was the truth, no need to lie. "You got it Kev. I'll call ya later. Bye."

Angel walked out of Nick's bedroom dressed and ready to go. "You off to the gym?" Nick questioned looking at her sweats and t-shirt.

"Yes, I need to check in with the bar first though." Angel walked over to her bag. Pulling out her cell phone, she called her boss, Craig. Writing down her schedule, she looked over at Nick who was watching her. Turning her thoughts back to Craig, she informed him of her holiday plans and that she would be unavailable until the New Year.

As she hung up the phone, Nick called out to her. "Hey Angel, do you happen to know where Tom lives?"

"I think in the Hills. Not sure of the exact location. Why?"

"Kevin was interested."

Angel chuckled, "Why, did he agree to meet him for his date?"

Nick smiled, "No, smart ass; he was just curious. Have a good day at work. I'll call ya later. Maybe we can grab a late dinner?" Nick gave a hopeful look.

"We'll see. I should probably spend the evening with Sheridan. If anything, may be you could come over for dinner."

Leaning down to give her a kiss, Nick answered, "Okay."

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