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“Do you need this, Niko?” Joe breathed against her lips. He heard her sharp intake of breath and knew the answer immediately, but he needed to hear it from her lips.

“Do you need me?” He asked her as his mouth moved along her jawline, his hands slipping softly up her shirt.

“Joe…” She whimpered helplessly.

He was doing things to her, he was well aware of it. But all she needed to do was admit it to him and herself. All he needed to hear was one honest word.

“Nikola,” he whispered in her ear.

“Oh, god. Please,” she moaned.

“Do you need me, Niko? Do you love me?” He asked again.

“Oh…” She whimpered as his thumb flicked across her hardened nipple.

“All you need to do is admit it, Nikola, and I’ll give you exactly what you want,” he told her.

“Yes,” she whimpered.

“Yes, what?” He asked her.

“Yes, I need you. I love you. I love you,” she said, fast and breathlessly.

“Good answer,” he cooed, smirking as he ripped her shirt over her head, leaving her bare-chested.

His mouth moved over hers, quickly and passionately as he gripped her in his arms and carried her toward the bed. When he dropped her down onto the mattress, he was startled by what was already in the bed.

Julia.

“Hello, Joe,” she greeted him before smiling and giving him a small wave.

“Julia,” he said wide-eyed, wondering what in the hell she was doing there.

His eyes moved down to Nikola, lying in front of him half-naked. She just smiled up at him contently, completely unphased by his wife, who sat perfectly poised in a dark silk robe on the mattress just a few feet away.

“What is this?” He asked Julia.

“This is whatever you want it to be,” Julia cooed, smiling at him. He was smart enough to know her words were bad for him.

“Whatever I want it to be?” He asked, confused.

“Whatever you want it to be,” Niko said, sitting up as she began to undo his shorts.

“What—” He said, shaking his head, so confused.

“Whatever you want it to be,” Julia repeated as she got up on her knees, removing the robe, leaving her completely naked.

“Whoa!” Joe gasped as Niko continued to remove his shorts.

“Do you want me or do you want her, Joe?” Julia asked, quirking an eyebrow at him.

“Wha—I… I…” He stammered.

“She’s just a baby, Joe,” Julia laughed lazily.

“But… uh…” Joe stammered, looking down as Niko pushed down his boxer briefs.

“I love you, Joe. I need you,” Niko said, looking up at him with doe-eyes.

“Oh my god,” Joe sighed, feeling the tension of the decision weighing him down.

“Do you want her or me, Joe?” Julia’s voice came out more demanding, her eyes narrowing at him.

“Jules—” He breathed, feeling guilty.

“You’re wife or the barely legal nanny, Joe?” Julia’s wrath-filled voice pierced his ears.

“I love her,” Joe breathed, looking up into Julia’s eyes.

“You love me?” Niko asked, looking up at him all innocent and perfect.

“I love you,” he said, nodding as he looked down at her.

Joe’s eyes opened suddenly to a bright morning, the adrenaline of the decision he just made in his dream still coursed through his body. He blinked his eyes a few times before they focused on Niko’s naked back as she sat on the mattress, her legs dangling over the side. When he stirred, she turned to look over at him.

“Hi,” he cooed, smiling at her.

Fuck, fuck, fuck,” Niko said, standing up from the bed immediately, her mind in some sort of disarray.

“What’s the matter?” He asked, sitting up, watching her move quickly across the room to her discarded clothing on the floor.

“I shouldn’t have fallen asleep up here. Fuck,” she said as she started to dress herself.

“It’s not a big deal. It’s a big house. I’m sure you can sneak back to your room without being seen,” Joe told her, trying to help her calm down a little. It pained him to see her that way.

“That’s not the point. I should have never stayed up here,” she said, stopping to stare at him before she resumed dressing herself.

“What’s the big deal?” He asked, feeling his heart hollowing the more she freaked out.

He wanted nothing more than for her to feel comfortable with him, for her to trust him. Watching her lose her mind over the fact that she woke up in bed with him was breaking him down.

“I need to go,” she said once she pulled her shirt down her torso, leaving her fully dressed.

“Niko…” Joe breathed as he pulled himself out of the bed.

He grabbed his boxer briefs from the floor and pulled them up his legs before he crossed the room to her.

“Joe, this is… this is getting out of control,” she said, avoiding eye contact.

“Just calm down,” Joe told her, grabbing her arms gently to keep her from jittering so much.

Her eyes finally met with his and he could see the tears welling in them, breaking him further.

“It’s fine. Just take a deep breath,” he told her and watched as she did what he said.

“Now just breathe, okay,” he told her.

“Joe, Mary knows we go out to the pool house. We-we can’t…” She stammered.

“Just breathe,” he told her.

It was the second time in less than twelve hours that she started to suggest they end what they were doing and after the dream he just had, he knew he couldn’t.

“Joe…” She sighed.

Neeks…” He cooed, using the nickname he gave her early on this summer. Her lips curved up into a smile and he knew he still had her.

“There’s that smile,” Joe said, smiling back at her, feeling her relax in his arms.

“Let me get dressed. I’ll go down first and keep Mary’s attention. Then you can freely go back to your room. It will be fine. No harm done, okay?” He offered to her.

“Okay,” she agreed with a nod.

Joe leaned in, kissing her to help calm her even further. There was no need for talk of them ending their arrangement. They just needed to be more careful.

“I promise, Niko. Everything will be okay,” he told her just before he was about to slip out of the room once he was dressed.

“I just…” She started.

Shh. I promise,” he told her, kissing her lips again. She nodded and watched as he slipped out.

Once Joe was out of the room, off to keep Mary and the kids distracted, Niko started freaking out again. It was so stupid. They could have gotten caught so easily. It was so irresponsible. She was playing with fire by playing house with Joe while his wife was off in New York. It was ridiculous. He was married and she was letting herself get way too involved.

When Niko snuck down to her room, she was in a full-blown rant in her head. She needed to clear her mind, so she jumped in the shower and turned the music up loudly. When she got out, she was feeling a little better, but decided to hide out in her room anyway.

Grabbing her cell phone, she dialed her roommate Kelsey and once she answered, Niko just let it all out.

“Kels, I’m freaking out a little,” Niko spilled as her heart beat heavy in her chest.

“Why? What’s going on? Does it have to do with that sexy piece of ass you’re getting?” She asked, sounding suggestive.

“Yes,” Niko sighed, closing her eyes tightly.

“What’s going on?” She asked excitedly.

“Last night… uh, last night…” Niko growled, so annoyed with herself.

“Jeez, Niko – calm down,” Kelsey laughed.

“I can’t. Last night I was drinking with Joe and Mary…” She began to explain.

“You were drinking with your boss and the Virgin Mary?” Kelsey asked in blatant shock.

“It was just wine… but yeah, anyway… while we were drinking, Joe got a phone call and while he was out of the room Mary asked me why Joe and I go out to the pool house together…” Niko continued to explain.

“Wait. Isn’t that where you two go to bang?” She laughed, finding humor where Niko couldn’t.

“Yeah,” Niko confirmed through a sigh.

“Oh my god! So she knows!?” Kelsey gasped loudly.

“No, no. I don’t think so. I made up this lie that we are planning his birthday party and I am pretty sure she bought it,” Niko told her.

“Holy shit! Is she mental or something?” Kelsey laughed.

“She’s a very sheltered girl. Believing the best in people and all,” Niko explained, causing Kelsey to laugh on the other end of the line.

“Anyway, last night Joe and I… we spent the night together in his bedroom,” Niko continued.

Oh my god! You guys slept together in the bed he shares with his wife!?” Kelsey gasped again.

“Well, yeah… but the main thing I’m freaking about is that I fell asleep up there with him,” she groaned.

“Why? That’s cute,” she cooed.

“Kels, it’s not cute! It’s stupid! It’s reckless. It’s wrong!” Niko yelled, pacing her bedroom floor.

“It’s wrong? Okay, so fucking a married man isn’t wrong, but falling asleep with him is?” Kelsey countered through a laugh.

“It’s all wrong! I know it, okay? I just… I’m freaking out. Things are getting way too intense,” Niko groaned again.

“Intense?” Kelsey questioned.

“Yes! Seriously intense,” Niko replied, tossing herself back onto her bed.

“What? Are you like, in love with him now, or something?” She asked curiously.

“What!? No! I am not in love with him!” Niko yelled through the receiver.

“But you have feelings for him?” Kelsey wondered.

“No!” Niko protested again as she shot up in the seated position on the bed.

“Nikola Rachelle Banks!” Kelsey scolded her and Niko was silent, sitting with her free arm tightly across her chest in an angered stance.

Nikki…” Kelsey cooed.

“I hate when you call me ‘Nikki’,” Niko grumbled.

“But you love me and you need to tell me the truth

right now,” she insisted.

“About what?” Niko asked, playing dumb on purpose.

“Are you falling for Joe Jonas?” She asked knowingly.

“You’re not helping me at all,” Niko said, dodging her question.

“Nikki!” Kelsey scolded her.

“Kelsey!” Niko yelled back.

“Your lack of answer only leads me to believe that Joe Jonas’ charm and hot body have infiltrated your mind, causing you to fall in love with him,” Kelsey told her matter-of-factly.

“I’m not in love with him!” Niko growled, rolling her eyes.

“But you do like him? Don’t you?” She asked.

“Of course I like him. I wouldn’t be sleeping with him if I didn’t like him,” Niko said impatiently.

“But you have feelings for him – feelings more than a boss,” Kelsey said in a sing-song voice.

“This conversation is absolutely not helping me in any way,” Niko retorted, rolling her eyes.

“Why are you dodging it? Come on, Niko. He’s amazing. And you told me his wife is a bitch. What’s the problem? Steal him away,” she told her, giving her exceptionally horrid advice.

“Kelsey!” Niko grumbled.

“Do you want me to go to her office and murder her? Cause I will. I will do that for you,” Kelsey joked.

“Kelsey!” Niko squealed.

“Hey, it was just a suggestion,” she laughed.

“Well, it was a horrible one. And I really need to go. I’ve got to get to work,” Niko told her.

“I don’t think you’re ‘problems’ are really ‘problems’, but cute cute cute little blessings,” Kelsey told her.

“Blessings? You’re delusional. I’ve got to go,” Niko told her and hung up before she said something even more dumb.

Kelsey was absolutely no help at all. If anything, she just gave Niko more reason to be worked up over everything, because now she was analyzing her feelings – wondering if she did somehow develop feelings for Joe.

Joe watched Niko from afar that afternoon as she played with the kids in the yard. She seemed like she got over the unfortunate morning. That was until he went to talk to her about who was going to bring Jackson to soccer. She seemed so distant and he knew she was retreating from him. She was trying to distance herself. And he was reminded of his relationship with his wife – a dying relationship with no hope of re-growth.

Joe took Jackson to soccer on his own while Niko stayed home with Avery.

“Uh, Mr. Jonas?” Joe heard Mary’s timid voice from behind him as he cooked dinner in the kitchen that night.

Oh. Hi, Mary,” he said, turning his head to acknowledge her before turning back to the food.

“Um. Nikola told me to tell you she wasn’t feeling well and that she wouldn’t be making it to dinner tonight,” Mary said anxiously.

Joe squeezed his eyes shut tightly, feeling the pain from her words. She was avoiding him completely now.

“Alright,” he said quietly, opening his eyes as he resumed stirring the food.

“I told her she should have spoken to you directly, but she insisted she go right to bed,” Mary told him.

“It’s alright, Mary. If she’s not feeling well, it’s okay,” he said, turning to send her a small smile.

“Alright,” Mary said with a nod.

“Thank you for telling me,” he told her. She nodded her head again before quickly walking out of the kitchen.

Fuck,” Joe breathed, shaking his head, annoyed with everything on the god damn planet in that moment.

That night for dinner, the kids, Mary and Joe all sat in the living room watching a movie while they ate. The kids loved it because they never got to do that. But Joe only allowed it because he wasn’t up for sitting around a table, keeping conversation with Mary. After Mary finished her dinner, Joe told her he would see to it that Jackson and Avery got their baths and got put to bed.

Niko hid out in her room all night – just knowing at some point Joe was going to come find her. She was too nervous to see him. She felt like maybe she was actually going to puke if she saw him. They took things way too far with each other. And there was still a month and a half left of summer. They were only half way through it.

Niko laid in bed, in the dark for hours. She couldn’t get her mind to stop. All she could see was his face, his body, his smile. She got butterflies every time they were together. He made her feel. He… ugh. Niko hated it. She hated that she was analyzing it to death. She wanted to just shut her brain down.

Without another thought, she dug through her first aid kit and extracted a sleeping pill from it. A small little melatonin tablet. She went to the bathroom to get a glass of water, downing the little snooze inducer before she went back to bed. She still laid there for quite some time before she felt the effects of the drug working its way through her system. Before she knew it, she was off to the dream world where Joe Jonas was a figment of her imagination and she wasn’t a filthy mistress.

“Daddy, where’s Niko?” He heard Avery’s voice as she played around with the bubbles in the bathtub later that night.

“Yeah,” Jackson said, looking up at him as if he just realized he hadn’t seen her all night.

“Niko wasn’t feeling well,” Joe told them.

“She had a tummy ache?” Avery asked with real concern on her face.

“Maybe,” he said with a nod.

“I miss her,” Avery said with a sigh. She wasn’t the only one.

“Is she going to be better tomorrow? She said she’d help me practice dribbling. And if she’s sick, then how is she going to help me?” Jackson asked his dad.

“Hey, buddy. Calm down a little bit, okay. If Niko’s sick, we need to give her the time to get better. And if that means she can’t help you practice tomorrow, then that’s okay. Alright? She’ll help you another day. Plus, I can always help you too. I am pretty good, you know,” Joe told him.

“You are?” He asked, looking wide-eyed up at his dad.

“Yeah. Of course,” Joe chuckled.

“Daddy?” Avery asked, looking up at him.

“What, baby?” He asked.

“You were a rock star, not a soccer player,” she said so seriously, he could do nothing but laugh.

“You’re right, baby. You’re right,” he laughed blithely.

After Joe got the kids to bed, he walked to his own room, closing the door behind him, feeling weighed down with sadness. The bed was still disheveled from the morning, causing his heart to constrict in his chest. Niko was up there with him just that morning and he wanted that again. He wanted her to change her mind about pulling away from him. He wanted things to be okay because he knew he had a huge life decision to make and he didn’t want to count her out. He couldn’t count her out.

Joe found himself lurking the dark hallway outside of Niko’s bedroom, wanting to talk to her, to see her, to get her to change her mind. He knocked lightly, hoping she’d hear him, but of course she didn’t. He went through this before. She was such a heavy sleeper.

Joe pushed open the door and closed it behind him, his eyes focusing immediately on the sleeping girl in the bed. She was so beautiful, lying in the moonlight. It took a few tries to wake her, but when he finally did, he felt relief.

Her eyes fluttered open, not quite registering him or anything right away.

“Neeks,” Joe breathed.

“Joe?” She questioned as she sat up in bed, rubbing her eyes.

“Hey, are you okay?” He asked her, giving himself an excuse for coming to see her – he was just checking up on her.

“Oh. Uh. Yeah, I wasn’t feeling well,” she stammered and he knew immediately she was only saving face by keeping up with the lie.

“Oh, okay. This isn’t about this morning, is it?” He asked, calling her out on it.

She leaned over, turning on her small bedside lamp and Joe watched as her beautiful face came into full view.

“Joe…” She said quietly, keeping her head bowed.

“Niko, what’s the matter?” He asked her.

“It’s just getting way too… intense,” she said, bringing them up again.

“Come on. We’re just having fun. So, you fell asleep with me last night. That doesn’t have to happen again. I mean, we can, you know… ‘plan my birthday party’…” He told her, trying to keep it light.

“Joe… I think we’ve gotten in way over our heads,” she said, slowly looking up into his eyes. He sighed, sitting back slightly.

“So you just want to end it, then?” He asked her, feeling the pain of it like a punch to the gut.

“I don’t know,” she said as her eyes dropped away from his again.

“What do you mean, you don’t know? You either do or you don’t,” he said, letting the bitterness come out in his tone.

“I don’t… but, I think we should,” she told him.

“Uh… okay…” He said quietly.

“I’m sorry, Joe. I think things are just… we’re about to get caught, don’t you realize that? Mary saw us going into the pool house together, for god sakes! Julia’s next,” she started to explain.

“Julia isn’t here!” Joe snapped instantly.

“But she’ll be back and we won’t be able to sneak around anymore then, so why not end it now?” Niko said with a passive shrug.

“Neeks…” Joe sighed, feeling his stomach tie up into painful knots.

“Please, don’t call me that anymore,” she said quietly, literally ripping his heart out with her words.

“Niko…” He sighed.

“I’m sorry, Joe, but you should go,” she told him.

He wanted to yell and scream and fight for this, for them. But he knew it wouldn’t be fair to her. He knew it was his fault she was pulling away. He was the one with the wife. He was the one with the issues. She was right. They were about to get caught. It was only a matter of time. But even that wasn’t enough to make Joe want to back her decision to end things. He wanted her and that’s all that really mattered to him in those moments. But he knew if he were to escalate things by arguing, he might lose her completely. So he decided to back off.

“Okay,” he said quietly, pulling himself up from the bed.

She didn’t look up at him. She just kept her eyes trained on her hands in her lap. He watched her for a few moments before he turned and slowly walked toward her door.

“Goodnight, Nikola,” he breathed lowly before he slipped out of her room.

Niko let out a breathy sigh before she collapsed on her bed. She felt like she was having a panic attack.

She pulled the blankets up over her and let the tears overtake her – because she was feeling things for Joe that she shouldn’t be. But in the end, she knew ending it all was the best way to clean up the messy situation they created.

 

 

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