When it was over, there was a languid silence in which Jessica tried her best regain some semblance of reasoning. She loved being in the warm confines of Nick’s arms, but the ability to form coherent thoughts slowly came back to her. It soon occurred to her what just happened, and when it did, she fought fatigue to try and get dressed.
Nick, who was lying on his back in that languid satisfaction, lifted his eyelids a fraction. “Where’re you going? I don’t think I even have feeling back in my feet yet so I can’t catch you if you try to run away.”
“This isn’t the time for joking, Nick. I have to get dressed,” Jessica explained. “And you—”
Nick slowly sat up, eyes completely open. “Jessica, how do you feel about what just happened here?” When she tried to move away, he took her by the arm and held until she looked at him. “Because right now it seems like you’re regretting it.”
The truth was, it was the single most fulfilling experience she had ever had in her life. But guilt gnawed at her, reminding her that technically she was married. She wasn’t supposed to be feeling this way about a man that had walked out of her life years ago only to cross her path by accident.
Jessica retied her wrap-around shirt and shook herself from Nick’s grasp. “Can’t you see how wrong this is?” she demanded.
“And can’t you see how wonderful this is?” Nick shot back.
Jessica gave him a look. “What about Katherine, Nick? How are you going to explain this to her?”
“Katherine doesn’t matter,” Nick insisted as Jessica went for her underwear and jeans. “She hasn’t mattered for a while, and I’m sure she feels that. I’ve been a real jackass in not confronting her before, but I fully intend to now.”
“Oh, because of me?”
Nick reached across and cupped her jaw in his hand. “Yeah. You do mean something to me, Jessica. You always have.”
Jessica felt her resolve weakening. But she didn’t want to give Nick the satisfaction, so she displayed more reluctance. “But things are different than they were when we were in high school.”
“They don’t have to be the same,” Nick pointed out. “We love each other, Jess. I know that. I’ve always known.” Jessica looked away from his intense blue eyes, and he ran a thumb along her cheekbone. “And what just happened now? That wasn’t lust. It was love. Now tell me you don’t think we had that coming.”
Jessica’s lips curved. “Well…” She looked at him. “You do have a point. I think everyone had bets when it was going to happen.”
Nick laughed. Jessica chuckled and found herself drowning in the depths of Nick’s eyes. He leaned in to kiss her, moving the hand that wasn’t in her tawny hair to the tie on the wraparound shirt. He loosened the shirt, and in one fluid move, he brought her into his lap.
“I don’t think they thought it would happen twice,” Jessica murmured.
Nick cupped her bottom and brought her closer, turning her eyes dark with desire. “Yeah, they probably did.”
* * *
That night, when Aidan and Claudia-Michelle arrived at Claudia-Michelle’s house, they could feel something in the air. As they traveled down the hallway to the living room, they shared a glance.
In the living room, Jessica was sleeping on the couch. But she wasn’t alone.
“Fucking holy shit,” Aidan blurted breathlessly. “They did the horizontal hula.”
Exasperated, Claudia-Michelle punched him in the shoulder. As Aidan nursed his throbbing shoulder, Claudia-Michelle walked around the couch and stood over Jessica and Nick’s sleeping forms.
It took a few moments, but Nick was the one who awoke first. He blinked, trying to get his bearings. He wasn’t at home…but this place looked familiar… Aw hell.
“Nicholas Scott Lachey—” Claudia-Michelle began in a rising crescendo.
Nick sat up abruptly, which brought Jessica out of her sleep. Aidan rushed to her side to diffuse the situation as the duo hastened for modesty. “Now Claudia-Michelle—”
“No,” Claudia-Michelle snapped. She whirled on Jessica and Nick. “What the hell are you two thinking? Having sex like this! You’re both in relationships with other people.”
Aidan stepped in between her and the blushing lovers. “They’re in love, Claud. Is that so bad? I know you’re not that rigidly Catholic.”
Claudia-Michelle stomped to a chair and slumped down in it. “I’m as much a Catholic as the pilgrims who landed on Plymouth Rock. Religion is not the problem. But marriage is.”
Jessica’s cheeks reddened at the word marriage. “I’ve decided my marriage to Josh is over. I…I want to get a divorce.”
As this sank into Claudia-Michelle’s head, Aidan shrugged. “I think it’s her prerogative if she wants to leave the bloke. I don’t blame her. He’s a fucking jerk.” To Jessica he asked, “Did you have a prenuptial agreement?”
Jessica shook her head.
Aidan turned to Claudia-Michelle. “I think we best shake a leg on this divorce thing.”
Considering it, Claudia-Michelle nodded absently. But Jessica was confused. She didn’t see the reason why it was so urgent.
“Think about it,” Aidan responded. “If you wait, and then we record your first album and you make a fortune, he’ll be entitled to half. And he doesn’t deserve your money. But at this rate, if we start on this divorce thing now…well…” An impish grin spread on Aidan’s face. “You can take him for all he’s got.”
A moment passed. A smile of the same sentiment spread on Claudia-Michelle’s face.
“Jessica, go to see Josh tomorrow and warn him,” Claudia-Michelle suddenly said. “Tell him you want a divorce. Go around ten o’clock.” She rose to her feet. “If you all would excuse me, I have a phone call to make.”
Claudia-Michelle left the room with Nick and Jessica staring at her quizzically.
“Where’s Claudia going?” Jessica asked.
Aidan sighed as Claudia-Michelle closed herself in her study. “Calling in the cavalry.”
* * *
Meanwhile, in a hotel room in Miami, Katherine Cross sat on the edge of the luxurious tub and fought back another wave of nausea.
It has been like this for days. She didn’t know why—well, she didn’t want to admit to herself the reason why, because that would be one step closer to admitting the truth. Whatever that truth was.
Okay, dammit. The truth was, she could be pregnant.
This did not scare her. Not at all. She had planned on having children anyway, and she and Nick had discussed it. Oh, and Nick… It had infinite possibilities; it could get her what she was after all along: Nick Lachey.
The thing that scared her was that it might not be Nick’s baby.
She barely remembered her night with Josh Martin. She knew that there had been a lot of biting, grabbing, and sweat. And she was sore for a few days. But she couldn’t remember if he used protection. She had a sinking feeling that he didn’t.
It doesn’t matter anyway, Katie thought. I can always convince Nick that it’s his. It won’t be hard. Just a little white lie. A little white lie. She narrowed her eyes. It’ll get rid of that bimbo Jessica in an instant. She’s dumb but at least she’s got morals. Supposedly.
With a renewed spirit, Katie went to the bag that was sitting on the sink. Inside were chocolates, a cucumber, and a pregnancy test.
She picked up the cardboard box and tore it open. She followed the directions, and sat as the urine reacted with the strip.
Thirty seconds passed. A blue strip appeared in the strip of white.