I pulled up to find Nick outside my house leaning against his car before jumping into mine.
“Can I just grab a quick minute to shower and change?”
“If I have to wear my soccer stuff, you’ve got to wear your Track stuff.”
“I really don’t want to go dressed like this.”
“Don’t worry about it, you look great the way you are.”
I blushed and tried to pretend he didn’t actually say that about me.
“I have sand in my shoes.”
“You can change your shoes,” he permitted.
I parked the car and we both hopped out. I grabbed my black vans from the trunk and kicked off my spikes.
“These are spiky,” Nick noted grabbing my shoe to observe the shiny silver spikes sticking out the bottom end.
“I just changed the spikes about two weeks ago.”
I saw Nick testing the sharpness of the spike before looking down and watching me change.
I grabbed my letterman cardigan before closing the trunk. My spandex uniform is too tight to walk around in casually.
“Skin tight,” he muttered.
“We don’t get to pick it, I just have to wear it.” I hid the pink shade that consumed my face as I slipped on the looser cardigan.
“I don't think Usain Bolt wears it like that.”
“Usain Bolt isn’t a female. He doesn’t require extra support.”
His eyes shot up from my hands to my breast for only half a second, “oh…”
“This is the worst thing I could possibly wear to eat pasta you know that?”
“I’m going to walk out of there with a food baby and no place to hide it.”
Nick chuckled, “you’ll be fine, don’t sweat it.”
Kevin welcomed us into his home still wearing a jersey similar to Nick’s. “Nessa, great to see you again!”
“Hello,” I greeted shyly.
“I heard you killed it at dodgeball on Tuesday.”
“You should have seen her, Kev, she’s a stone-cold killer. Almost knocked Jacob’s tooth out!” Joe exaggerated. As he stepped in to hug me.
I saw Nick step forward and impede his path.
Thank you so much!
“He had it coming, though.” Nick mentioned, “you know how Jacob can be.”
“What did he say to you,” Kevin asked with an apologetic look on his face.
“N-nothing. I mean… who cares, I got the last word anyway.”
“Kevin, can you please set the table?” I heard Dani call out from some unseen corner of the house.
“Come on in, make yourselves at home.” Kevin looked over at Nick, “can you show her around while I set up?”
Nick nodded as he placed a hand between my shoulder blades and lightly nudged me forward.
“This is the entrance,” Joe announced as we walked further into the foyer.
“I’ve got it, Joe. You can go help Kevin.” Nick dismissed his brother as he removed his hand from my back and walked me around again.
“This is a really nice house.”
“Kevin uses this home for business purposes. He usually keeps on the East Coast.”
I saw the giant glass wall on the other end that led out to a giant pool that could easily fit over 50 people.
Nick led me down a few empty hallways, opening various doors to show me different rooms. I could see him watching me every time I brushed past him through a doorway.
We walked into the kitchen to find a perfectly coiffed Dani pulling a dish out from the oven.
“Dani,” Nick greeted.
Dani turned to see us, “Nicholas, how are you?”
She placed the dish on the center island before removing the oven mitt and moving toward us.
“Good, just preparing for battle.” he responded as she moved in to hug him. They embraced before Nick redirected her attention toward me.
“Vanessa, hi!” She greeted as she offered me a hand.
“Hello,” I responded shyly.
“Kevin has told me so much about you! You’re so cute,” she gushed.
I blushed, “Oh, thank you, your hair is so beautiful.”
She giggled, “You’re too sweet. Nick, will you give me a hand with these dishes, Kevin should be done by now.”
We gathered around the Dinner table and Nick quickly dismissed himself to test his sugar levels before eating. Joe took that as an opportunity to swoop in and steal Nick’s seat next to me.
He offered me a cheesy grin, “Dani makes the best italian food.”
I smiled softly at him not knowing what to say.
Nick came back and saw Joe in his seat. He certainly didn’t seem happy. He took the seat across from me without saying a word.
Joe reached for the lasagna before Kevin spoke up, “Joe you know the deal.”
Joe retracted his hand and reached out for mine instead. I looked around and noticed everyone holding hands and a sympathetic smile on Nick’s lips.
I took a deep breath as I held both Joe and Kevin’s hands.
Dani began the prayer, “dear lord, thank you for everything you’ve given us. Not only in this meal but the amazing life you’ve gifted us. Thank you for bringing us a new friend.”
Joe squeezed my hand and I saw Nick offer me a smile.
“Thank you for giving my husband and my new brothers the chance to tour again. We ask that you look over us, our loved ones, that you may guide us and keep us safe. Amen.”
“Amen,” the guys whispered.
Finally Joe and Kevin let go of my hand as everyone began to pass around the plates at the center of the table.
After dinner, Joe, Dani and Kevin sat around sipping their wine while Nick excused himself to test his sugar levels.
“So, what are your thoughts on, Nick,” Joe smirked down at me.
“Drop it, Joe, it's none of your business,” Kevin scolded him.
“Do you think he’s dreamy?” Joe pressed.
“He’s not going to be happy if he hears you, Joe,” Dani warned him.
I looked around trying to decipher what part of the conversation I was missing.
Joe turned his attention back to Dani, “come on, at Nick’s speed? They’ve probably been on half a dozen dates by now.”
Dates? With me?
“Joe,” Kevin spoke again.
“Seriously, she’s like a clone of Nick, you really think he’s just going to let her slip away?”
“Joe…” Nick’s voice was lower than I had ever heard it as he re-entered the room.
Joe ducked his head and fell immediately silent.
Dani smirked as she sipped her wine and Nick came back to the table.
Kevin raised his eyebrows at Joe as if to say, ‘I told you so.’
Dani cleared her throat before continuing.
“So, Vanessa, what does your family do for a living?”
Wait, does Joe think that Nick likes me? Why on Earth would Nick ever like someone like me?
This is not the time; focus.
“Um, my brother is an Army veteran… just got back. He’s working as an electrical engineer now.”
“Tell him I said ‘thank you for your service,’” Joe whispered beside me.
I giggled, “he’ll love that, he lives for it.”
“What about your mom?” Kevin asked.
“She works for EY. She’s the VP of Finance there.”
“No way, we use that company to help us manage payroll and expenses on tour,” Kevin smiled.
“Yeah, she just runs the budget for the company.”
“She runs the budget for a company who runs budgets?” Joe looked completely shocked. “Does this mean she is the one true math wizard?”
Dani and Kevin both laughed at Joe’s assumption.
I shrugged with a smile, “I never really thought about it. I’d have to ask her.”
“What about your dad?”
I bit my lip. I really don’t want to talk about him.
I inhaled sharply, “he’s a truck driver?”
“He has a driving company?”
“No, he just drives for someone else.”
“That reminds me we have not contracted a driver for the tour.” Nick mentioned.
The group went off talking about the excitement of touring and being back on the road.
I placed my elbow on the table and rested my face on my left hand.
Nick glanced over at me and a smile spread across his face. Was Joe serious about the Nick thing?
When I helped Dani clean up, I caught the slightest bit of Nick and Joe arguing.
“Shut up, Joe, you don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“Come on, Nick, just hear me out…”
A few minutes later, Nick and I drove back with Bruno Mars playing in the background.
“And when you smile, the whole world stops and stares for a while, cause girl you’re amazing just the way you are,” he sang quietly.
I blushed and tried not to completely lose my mind at the fact that Nick was hosting a private show just for me.
Nick looked over and saw me trying my best to hide the giant smile on my face.
“How was your Track Meet?”
“I was about an inch and a half short from my PR.”
Nick raised an eyebrow in question.
“Hm, we have very different PRs.”
You should know that, stupid!
“When did you get your tattoo?”
Don’t panic. Don’t give too many details.
“Just after my birthday.”
“It's a flower right?”
“What does it mean?”
Avoid the question.
“I had to wait until my 18th birthday to get it. My mom isn’t particularly fond of them.”
“Isn’t your brother covered in them?”
“Just the sleeves. He also had to wait until he was 18.”
I felt my phone vibrate. I checked the screen to find a call from my dad.
I sighed. I can’t do this right now.
“You need to take that?”
“It can wait.”
Nick looked over at me with a look of concern.
“Is it your dad?”
How could he possibly know that?
“I noticed you didn’t really want to talk about him at dinner. I figured it might be a sensitive subject.”
I shrugged not wanting to discuss it.
“You don’t have to explain. Just know I’m here if you ever need to talk about it.”
“Thank you,” I whispered.
Nick breathed out a soft chuckle. I looked up at him confused.
“You know you have a tendency to whisper every time you say ‘thank you’ or ‘sorry’?”
I blushed not even realizing I’d been doing it.
“Why is that?”
“I don’t know,” I shrugged. “I think I’m just trying to stay out of people’s way.”
“What do you mean?”
“I don’t like inconveniencing people, I don’t want to be a roadblock for anyone.”
Nick reached for my hand beside me and gave it a gentle squeeze, “I promise you, Nessa, you will never, ever, be in my way.”
I smiled shyly as Nick stroked the back of my hand a few times before letting go again.
“So what do you have planned this weekend?”
“Um, Berry asked me to go shopping with her on Friday after work. She has an interview for medical school coming up and she said she needs the ‘spiffiest suit.’”
“Do you have anything going on for Saturday?”
“You don’t have any big exams coming up?”
“None that I’m not prepared for.”
“Saturday Kevin is hosting the band at his place.”
“Pool party and Karaoke.”
“Sounds like fun.” I thought back to the size of Kevin’s pool and came to the conclusion that they still wouldn’t have enough people to fill it.
“I’m glad you think so, cause I think you should come.”
Bikinis and singing. This is a terrible idea. Tell him you can’t make it.
“I think we’ve established that’s not true. Plus, Rochelle, has requested you specifically.”
“I can’t swim.”
Nick rolled his eyes, “I get the sense that isn’t true. You have a pool in your backyard. If not, we can get you some floaties and keep you on the shallow end.”
“I can’t sing.”
“That’s irrelevant, it’s karaoke, talent is not a prerequisite.”
Think of an excuse!
“I’ll keep Jacob as far away from you as possible. Come on, Nessa, you said yourself, it’d be fun.”
What’s a good excuse?
“I…” don’t have one.