“So what’s up, man?” Nick finally asked when he and Joe were sitting down to dinner once Joe reached LA. Nick’s wife Liz let them go out to catch up, but insisted that the next night, they would be having a family dinner – a good old home cooked meal.
“Why does something have to be up?” Joe asked defiantly. He didn’t know why he was being so difficult. Just the thought of Julia put him in a shit mood and she was definitely what Nick was referring to when he asked what was up. He knew.
“I can tell by the way you’re acting that something is up,” Nick said, looking at him knowingly. Joe forgot that Nick was the most observant person on the fucking planet. He also forgot he knew him better than almost anyone.
Joe sighed, preparing himself. He went on to tell Nick all about his fight with Julia, her surgery he had no knowledge of, and the fact that things were worse off than ever before.
“And to top it all off, she hired a smoking hot nanny. I can’t keep my eyes off of her. She’s just… she’s amazing,” Joe told him, running his hands through his hair as he blew out a breath.
“Wait, what?” Nick asked, confused.
“Niko. She’s amazing,” Joe said, looking up into his brother’s disapproving eyes.
“Joe,” Nick said in a warning tone.
“I can’t help it, okay. I can’t. She’s gorgeous and I can’t stop thinking about her,” Joe sighed, giving up holding back what was on his mind.
“Joe, what are you thinking?” Nick asked.
“I don’t know. I don’t fucking know. I just know that Julia is like… a cold hard bitch and I can’t get anything from her. We’ve hit a brick wall. And I’m stuck,” he grumbled. He felt so much pain and resentment when he thought of his wife.
Nick’s eyes only got wider, the more Joe revealed.
“And Niko, we’re like, I don’t know. We get along. We have the same personalities and she fucks the shit out of me with her eyes every time she looks at me,” Joe said, his words coming out like verbal diarrhea.
“Joe!” Nick scolded.
“What?” Joe asked, stopping to look up at him again.
“Do you even realize what is coming out of your mouth?” Nick asked, his mouth slack-jawed with disbelief.
“What?” He questioned, furrowing his eyebrows as he looked at his brother.
“You’re contemplating things you shouldn’t be contemplating,” Nick said in a hushed tone.
“What options do I have left?” Joe asked with a sigh.
“Working things out with Julia,” Nick insisted, like it was the most obvious answer.
“I just… I guess,” Joe sighed, realizing how messed up it all was.
Julia was his wife – the woman he pledged his life to, for better or worse. He was sure they were in the worse portion of their marriage. She was his wife and he did love and care for her, no matter her flaws.
But there was so much temptation with Niko – so much possibility. And Joe didn’t know how much longer he’d be able to last with the lack of intimacy from his wife. He was starting to deteriorate from his sexual drought.
After slightly snapping on Nick about his judgmental tone, Nick eased up and let Joe get things off his chest. He began to side with him for the most part, but insisted Joe needed to choose a side – that he couldn’t have both. He either needed to work things out with Julia or he needed to end it before he started straying from his marriage. Joe knew Nick had a point, but life wasn’t always that easy.
After having a very sexual, very wet dream about Niko that night, Joe was certain his urges were about to blow up in his face. He was doomed to break.
The next couple of days while staying with Nick, Joe debated the topic in his head – whether he was going to be faithful to a wife who had no regard to his feelings or needs, or if he was going to fulfill said needs elsewhere. By the time he saw Niko’s face again, he wasn’t so conflicted anymore. He pretty much decided that he wasn’t going to hold back if things developed between the two of them. And he knew he wouldn’t be able to hold back if they did.
Joe wasn’t kidding when he told Niko he would be gone for the next couple days. He stayed in Los Angeles for the better part of a week with his brother. Niko honestly wouldn’t be surprised if he was out there having an affair behind his wife’s back. She’d already heard a few arguments of theirs in the short time she was there and it wasn’t pretty. Honestly, all Joe really needed to do was come into her room and she could give him everything he needed and wanted. Ha. She wished!
Niko was getting the hang of things with the Jonas kids during the first week she spent with them. Mary would take the kids in the morning. Both nannies were there for lunch. And then Niko took them for the afternoon. They always ate as a family for dinner, no matter how much work Mrs. Jonas wanted to get done during that time. And both Niko and Mary bathed the children and got them ready for bed at night. It was so easy, she thrived on it.
Niko really was beginning to love those kids and she knew they loved her back. They were incredibly well-behaved for being only seven and five. They were all-around happy, funny and loving kids. They made her job so easy. And Jackson was about to make it even easier. He was starting a summer soccer team in the next week, where he would be gone three out of seven days during the afternoons. But it did bring on more responsibility for Niko – having to drive him to and from soccer practice. She actually looked forward to it though. It was her chance to get out of the house for a little while.
The week Joe got back, Jackson began his summer soccer league. Niko was his designated driver and the poor girl had never been to California before and had no idea where she needed to go, so Joe offered to drive to get her acquainted with the directions.
The fact that Julia didn’t even flinch when Joe told her he was going with Niko, that she didn’t show even the least bit of jealousy, really just went to show how little she had invested in their marriage. Niko was a knock-out and any sane woman would be jealous to have their husband alone with a girl like that, but not Julia. No, she hired her for god’s sake. It was a testament of how little she cared.
“Okay, pay attention now, Niko,” Joe said, smirking over at her once the three of them were in the SUV ready to head to the park.
“Okay, Mr. Jonas,” she replied with a smile as he pulled out of the driveway.
“Joe,” he corrected her once again.
“Joe…” She breathed, nodding her head. Joe looked at her from the corner of his eye as a smile turned up his lips.
“You’re not paying attention,” he laughed.
“Oh, right,” she giggled, focusing on the road they were traveling down.
Once they got on the highway, Niko was so mesmerized by the ocean that she really wasn’t paying attention. She was in complete awe of it. She couldn’t help but fixate on the brilliant blue water and the palm trees going by. It was beautiful and magical. She loved everything about California – from what little she’d seen, anyway.
“I’m going to have to write down the directions anyway, aren’t I?” Joe asked her. Niko giggled and looked over at him bashfully.
“Sorry… it’s just… I’ve never been to California. I’ve never seen the pacific ocean,” she told him, with a small smile.
“There’s a lot to do here,” he said knowingly, smirking over at her.
“I want to do it all,” she added, looking over at him wonder-eyed and perfect. She was so beautiful in that moment, Joe almost couldn’t handle it.
“You’re cute,” he chuckled, looking back toward the road. He felt her eyes on him, lingering and he secretly loved it. He loved every bit of attention she gave him.
“Daddy, are we there yet?” Jackson asked, breaking him out of his thoughts. Joe’s eyes immediately looked into the rearview mirror to see his son in the back seat.
“Almost, bud,” Joe told him with a chuckle. He was so excited to get to play soccer and meet new friends.
“Are you ready to have fun, Jack?” Niko asked, turning in her seat to talk to him, giving Joe a perfect view down her shirt. He bit his lip and reluctantly turned his focus back on the road. He didn’t need to be perving on her like some dirty old man.
“I’m gonna have so much fun! I love soccer!” Jackson said, throwing his arms up excitedly.
“Apparently someone loves soccer,” Joe said to Niko with a smile.
“No doubt,” Niko laughed and turned forward again.
Once they got to the park, Jackson was so excited to play soccer that he was bouncing in his seat.
“Hey, hey. Listen to me, buddy,” Joe told Jackson as they walked up to the group.
“Huh?” Jackson asked, trying hard to focus on his father when there was so much going on.
“Niko and I are going to go, but we’ll be back to pick you up in a few hours, okay?” Joe told him.
“Alright,” he said, not seeming to care as his eyes stared straight ahead at all of the other kids.
“I want you to have fun, buddy. And if you’re not having fun, I want you to call me, okay. Mrs. Anderson has my number,” Joe told him.
“Yeah,” Jackson said, nodding his head.
But Joe knew he’d be just fine. He was a friendly kid and had a lot of friends back home. It wouldn’t be any different in California. Joe signed him in and chatted with the coaches and chaperones before their session started. Niko and Joe stood there watching the beginning of it and Jackson was already in animated conversation with some of the kids.
“He’ll be fine,” Joe heard Niko say and felt her hand on his arm.
“I know. I never had a doubt in my mind,” Joe said, smiling over at her.
She smiled back and he watched as she ran her tongue over her lips. It shouldn’t have affected him the way it did, but for some fucked up reason, he lost the ability to control anything when he was in her presence.
“We should go,” Joe told her.
“Sure. Yeah,” she agreed, nodding her head as she fell into step beside him walking back to the vehicle.
Joe really didn’t want to go back to the house. Julia was there and thinking about being in the same house as her was putting him in a terrible mood.
“Do you want to go somewhere?” Joe asked, looking over at her out of the corner of his eye.
“Like where?” She asked, giving him a sideways smile.
“I don’t know. Like the beach or something. Or… ooh the Santa Monica pier. That’s not that far from here,” he told her, feeling excited to be able to bring her somewhere, to show her things.
“The pier sounds awesome,” she cooed, smiling widely at him and he knew she was excited.
“Awesome,” he said, smiling to himself as he slid into the driver seat of the SUV.
Niko was so happy to be going anywhere – she had been stuck in the house and on that property for almost two weeks now. And to be going with Joe, it just made it that much more appealing.
The pier was busy, but that wasn’t anything new. There were tourists in California at all times of the year and the Santa Monica Pier was a big destination for a lot of them. Joe couldn’t even describe the freeing feelings he felt as he walked it with Niko. He only went there one time with Julia. In all the time they spent in California in the ten years they were married, they only went there together once. And without realizing it, Joe mentally added that to his list of bitterness having to do with his wife. She never wanted to do anything - to go anywhere.
Joe got both him and Niko each a lemonade as they walked the pier all the way to the end. He really enjoyed talking with Niko. They got along so well with each other. Their personalities were like mirror images and deep down inside of him, he didn’t care that he was playing with fire by being there with her. It didn’t matter to him that he was committing emotional adultery with this girl. She made him feel good. She laughed at his jokes, made jokes at his expense, and overall just seemed to understand him. And the way she looked at him made him feel like twice the man his wife did. He was sliding down a slippery slope, but he just didn’t care anymore.
“Julia would never do this with me,” Joe said, leaning against the railing of the pier, looking out at the pacific. He sighed, feeling the frustration building inside him as he threw the last little bit of his lemonade in the garbage just to prevent him from throwing it in the ocean for some sort of cathartic release.
“She probably wouldn’t be able to get cell service and have an aneurysm over it or something,” he added with a chuckle, trying to keep things light. He heard Niko’s quiet chuckle from next to him, but for some reason he couldn’t look at her. Maybe he didn’t want to associate her with the bad memories of his marriage.
“We come here – to California, but she doesn’t do anything but work. It’s so hard to get anything out of her,” Joe started to explain.
For some reason, he felt like he needed to get it off his chest. He needed Niko to know these details, because he felt something between them. He needed her to know he wasn’t going to pull away from her if she wanted this like he knew she did.
“I’m sorry, Joe,” she breathed sympathetically and he sighed, nodding his head lightly. Niko’s heart broke a little bit as he spoke about his fractured relationship with his wife.
“I miss it here. I used to live here,” Joe said, changing the subject. He didn’t want to think about Julia anymore.
“You did?” She asked curiously.
“Yeah - in Los Angeles, way back when,” he said, finally looking at her with a soft smile on his face.
“Way back when you were a rock star?” She asked, giving him a sideways smile.
“Way back then,” he chuckled.
“Hmm,” she hummed, intertwining her fingers around her lemonade as her arms rested on the railing while she looked out over the water, humming a few bars of When You Look Me in the Eyes.
Sure, she hadn’t been able to stop listening to Jonas Brothers during her free time over the past week, but honestly, When You Look Me in the Eyes was one of the few Jonas Brothers songs she actually knew from her childhood.
“Are you sure you weren’t a fan?” Joe asked curiously, eyeing her.
“Are you sad I wasn’t the type of girl to fawn all over you?” She asked, turning her head to smirk at him.
“Maybe,” he said, smiling slyly.
“What kind of fantasy would that fulfill?” She asked, her voice sounding seductive and sexy as she quirked an eyebrow at him.
Niko’s words shot through him, making him realize this was the time. He couldn’t sit back passively and let the opportunity pass him by. Not when he spent the past decade letting them pass him by for the sake of Julia and their kids. This was it. He was finally going to do something for him for once.
“One that hasn’t been fulfilled in a long time,” he breathed in a husky voice, answering her loaded question.
Things grew serious in a matter of seconds. Niko realized how close Joe got to her and turned her body toward his, letting her smile drop off her face. Her hand came up to rest on his chest and he knew… he just knew what she was thinking.
“I’m a lot older than you,” Joe breathed lowly as his hands found her hips.
“We’re both adults,” she replied, looking up into his eyes. And he could see the anticipation in them.
Joe’s entire body reacted to her statement. She just consented with those three words, she was giving him permission, she was validating their feelings. His eyes searched hers – giving her an extra moment or two to push him away if she wanted to. But when she didn’t, Joe leaned down slowly and kissed her lips. This was it. There was no turning back.
He was hooked.