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“Yeah, well, obviously they did. How do we get out of here?” Tate asked. He sighed.

“My car should just be on the other side of them. We'll plow through, just keep your head down and please, don't say anything,” Nick asked, then started walking forward, keeping her next to him with his grip on her elbow.

“Plow through them!? Nick, there's like fifty people out there!” she snapped. He laughed.

“Not that many. And look, there's hotel security out there – they'll help us through,” Nick pointed out, and at that same moment, a large guy walked in the front doors. He walked up to them and shook hands with Nick.

“I'm Barney Noughby, head of security. Very sorry about this, Mr. Castille. One of the guests at the party, I guess, called one of the papers, and now they're all here. Want me to bring your car around back?” Barney offered. Tate nodded her head yes, vigorously, but Nick just waved the suggestion away.

“We're right here, let's just get this over with,” he replied.

“Alright. Don't worry about a thing, ma'am, it'll be over before you know it,” Barney assured her. She held onto her purse strap and nodded.

Barney nodded one more time, then yanked open the doors. The sound was deafening, all the reporters and paparazzi shouting Nick's name, asking questions. Did he know about his teammate's drug use? Did Nick use drugs? Did Nick use prostitutes? Who was the woman he was with? Did she use drugs? Was she a prostitute?

Tate had to resist the urge to punch one reporter in the throat. Barney stuck by her side for the most part, and she kept her face pointed at the ground. But then a paparazzi grabbed Nick's suit jacket, yanked him into the mob of people. A scuffle started, Nick trying to pull away, more people grabbing at him. Barney leapt into the fray, pulling Nick back and shoving at the reporters. Tate fell a few steps behind, and a reporter grabbed her.

“Miss! Miss! Were you and Nick at the party last night!?” a man screamed in her face.

Flashes were going off all around her and she felt claustrophobic. Tate tried to push away, but someone had a tight grip on her coat. She yanked away again, bumped into someone behind her, then got shoved forward. She lost her footing and started to fall forward, shrieking as she went.

Well, this isn't exactly how I wanted to end this night – flat on my face in front of a million reporters.

But she didn't land on her face. There was a loud shout, commotion around her, and someone grabbed her arm. Yanked her upright. Tate stumbled forward and was pressed flat against a very solid chest. A strong arm wrapped around her shoulders. Tate looked up to see it was Nick who had saved her from complete embarrassment. He was holding her against him while he shouted angrily at the reporters behind them. She had never seen him look so mad.

So much for being like a kitten.

“Are you okay?” he asked, finally looking down at her. Everyone was shouting around them, but he was speaking softly to her.

“Yeah, I'm fine. Thanks for saving me,” she joked.

“I should've had them bring the car around back. I'm so sorry,” he told her, then brushed a hand over her hair, letting his fingers trail through the dark locks. She swallowed thickly.

Maybe falling on my face would've been better.

“Nick, we should -,”

He was kissing her then, and she turned into a statue. Tate hadn't kissed him since the one time they'd slept together, and even then, they hadn't spent much time locking lips. It had been a purely sexual thing.

But there didn't seem to be anything sexual about this kiss. The arm around her waist squeezed harder, and one of his hands moved to the back of her head, holding her tighter against him. She had acknowledged to herself that Nick had a crush on her, but she hadn't thought it was anything more than that. His kiss was now saying otherwise. All his longing, all his desire for her; she could feel it all. And more. This was a man who desperately wanted her.

Tate pressed her hands against his shoulders, but didn't know what else to do. It seemed like thousands of flashes were going off all around them. She was frozen. She didn't want to shove him away and embarrass him further, but she couldn't kiss him back. Not in the same way he was kissing her. Her heart just wasn't in it.

Poor, poor, Nick. Never could tell a succubus when he saw one.

When Nick finally pulled away, a thousand more questions were screamed out by the reporters, but he ignored them. He stared down at her for a long moment. Tate licked her lips nervously, forcing herself not to look away. He frowned, traced his thumb down the side of her cheek, then he was turning away, leading her to the car. Tate kept her head down again, shielding her face with her hand.

Why can't I lead a nice, normal life?

~2~

Tate waited outside for Sanders the following night, trying to smoke as many cigarettes as she could before he got there. Sanders hated her new habit, so she never smoked around him. But her nerves were still a little on edge.

The car ride home the night before had been awkward, to say the least. Nick apologized for kissing her, explained that he hadn't planned on it, that it had just happened. He liked Tate, a lot. But he understood that she was still hung up on her past. Still hung up on Jameson. He promised he wouldn't press his attentions on her.

Thinking about it gave her a headache, so she lit up another cigarette.

She glanced at her cell phone, then looked down the street. One more minute, and he'd be late. Sanders was never late. She thought about trying to call her sister while she waited. Tate figured it was probably a good time to think about moving. Her sister had moved into a much nicer place than Tate's old apartment – Tate figured she could hole up there while she looked for a job.

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