Bed of Roses
Chapter Sixteen
Chapter One
Chapter Two
Chapter Three
Chapter Four
Chapter Five
Chapter Six
Chapter Seven
Chapter Eight
Chapter Nine
Chapter Ten
Chapter Eleven
Chapter Twelve
Chapter Thirteen
Chapter Fourteen
Chapter Fifteen
Chapter Sixteen
Chapter Seventeen
Chapter Eighteen
Chapter Nineteen
Chapter Twenty
Chapter Twenty-One
Chapter Twenty-Two
Chapter Twenty-Three
Chapter Twenty-Four
Chapter Twenty-Five
Chapter Twenty-Six
Chapter Twenty-Seven
Chapter Twenty-Eight
Chapter Twenty-Nine
Chapter Thirty
Chapter Thirty-One
Chapter Thirty-Two
Chapter Thirty-Three
Chapter Thirty-Four
Chapter Thirty-Five
Chapter Thirty-Six
Chapter Thirty-Seven
Chapter Thirty-Eight
Chapter Thirty-Nine
Chapter Forty
Chapter Forty-One
Chapter Forty-Two
Chapter Forty-Three
Chapter Forty-Four
Chapter Forty-Five
Chapter Forty-Six
Chapter Forty-Seven

Oh, who'd you give it to?
Who're you gonna steal it from?
Who's your next victim?
Oh, who're you gonna lie to?
Who're you gonna cheat on?
Who're you gonna leave alone?
Oh, what're you gonna tell her
After she discovers
You don't really love her

"She's cute."

Nick made a face and shook his head. "No, she's too conservative. You couldn't even get a chick like that in bed after six tequila shots. You'd have her screaming at you about morals and everything."


Nick laughed at the perturbed look on Alli's face. "Just teasing...geez, woman, get a grip."

"Don't call me woman!"

Nick dismissed her annoyed glare with a wave of his hand and grinned cheekily. "So, what'd you think of the show tonight?"

Alli's glare dissipated and she smiled at him. "You guys did really well. Come to think of it, that's the first night you haven't gotten caught up in strutting around the stage and missed your cue..."

Nick's jaw dropped in protest. "I do not strut!"

Alli laughed at his indignant expression and matched his previous tone exactly. "Just teasing...geez, Carter, get a grip."

Nick mumbled something unintelligible and drained the rest of his beer. "I don't even know why I listen to you," he continued to grumble, and Alli smiled brightly at him.

"It's because you love me, silly! You guys seriously did look great, though, as always. You kicked butt on your little line in 'I Want It That Way'." She pretended to wipe away a tear and sniffed. "I was so proud..."

Nick rolled his eyes in mock annoyance, but he was clearly flattered. "Oh, God..."

Alli winked at him and took another sip of her Cosmopolitan. "That crowd was amazing, though. They weren't violent, but they were loud as anything."

Nick grinned broadly at the memory of the audience that evening. "Weren't they awesome? It's so much more fun performing for people who respond like that."

Alli watched the light in his eyes with a slightly empty feeling. "I can only imagine."

Nick continued to grin at her. "I mean, did you hear them scream? They really loved it!"

Alli laughed at the boyish look on his face. For a moment, he looked almost like the guy she remembered. "Of course they loved it! I told you, kicked ass."

Unfortunately, Nick's eyes had already strayed from Alli. He was scanning the dance floor again, nursing another beer and searching for a lady to take home that evening. Alli sighed helplessly, but she caught Amanda's eye from the dance floor. Her friend had been dancing with AJ since their arrival, and Alli couldn't help but smile at how cute they were together. Amanda, however, gave her a pointed look, and a sudden realization dawned on Alli. Oh, shit! I'm supposed to be playing matchmaker!

She made an odd face at Amanda, who laughed, and then began to scan the floor again, looking for a semi-decent woman that she could see Nick becoming attached too. She'd known him long enough to know his type...or so she thought.

"Hey, Carter, what about the brunette by the table?"

Nick discreetly followed Alli's gaze before his brow furrowed and he shook his head. "Al, look at her! She's wearing pants and a top that covers everything, for God's sake. It's not exactly like she's going to jump in bed with the next guy she sees."

Alli cringed. "Would it hurt to look for someone you could commit to?"

Nick gave her a pointed look and she rolled her eyes. Okay, fine. Then we'll have to search for someone who you could unknowingly fall in love with.

"How about the blonde by the bar?"

Nick eyes trailed appreciatively over the blonde that Alli had been referring to. The girl was about medium height, wearing a lipstick red minidress and stiletto heels. He continued to watch, however, as the bartender delivered a line and was promptly rejected.

"No, she's too picky. She just rejected the bartender, and he looks something like me."

Alli shook her head in disagreement. "He does not. I mean, look at him, Carter. He's HOT."

Nick's jaw dropped again. "And I'm not?" As soon as the words were out of his mouth, though, he flushed crimson, trying to ignore Alli's stifled giggles. "Al, you're such a shit."

Alli grinned in satisfaction and recommenced scanning the crowd. "Okay, twelve o'clock. There's the brunette with the leather pants and the tube top."

Nick scrunched his nose up, and Alli had to fight back a giggle at his expression as he spoke. "The one with the bright pink lipstick?"

Alli sighed. "Okay, when you put it that way, maybe not..."

Nick gave her an odd look. "You know what? You're helping me look for chicks."

Alli arched an eyebrow expectantly. "Yeah. Your point?"

"Just yesterday you were going on and on about me whoring around. What changed your mind?"

Alli made a face. "Who said I was changing my mind? Maybe I just don't feel like arguing tonight."

Nick stared at her uncertainly before taking her drink from her and studying it intensely. It wasn't long before his gaze drifted back over to Alli. "Are you sure you're okay?" His hand ventured towards her forehead, but she smacked him away.

"Carter, get a life, okay? Humor me and help me find you a girl."

Nick was still looking at her curiously, obviously unconvinced. "You've gone nuts. Either that, or they put something really funky in your Cosmo, 'cause you are NOT the same person who chewed me out yesterday about sleeping with girls."

Alli shrugged, inwardly enjoying his look of confusion. "Better girls than guys, right?" She paused, then spoke again when he didn't answer. "Unless, of course, you're picking up guys too..."

Nick's uncertain look twisted into one of clear indignation. "I am not picking up guys! Al, how many times do I have to tell you I'm straight?"

She bit back a smile and stole her Cosmopolitan back from Nick, taking another sip. "Well, one can never be sure. What with all that stuff about the Backdoor Boys and everything..."

Nick clamped a hand over her mouth and looked around wildly to make sure no one had heard her. She was giggling beneath his hand, however, having lost the battle with her laughter. When he wouldn't let her go, she licked him, and he pulled his hand back immediately with a disgusted look.

"Alli! Good God, how old are you, anyway? Not even Aaron pulls that shit anymore..."

While he continued to rant, Alli went back to her search for a decent girl. "Hey, Carter, shut up. What about the redhead at four o'clock? See the one leaning against the wall eating a cherry?"

Nick rolled his eyes and reluctantly looked in the direction Alli was nodding to. His eyebrows rose considerably, however, when he caught sight of the redhead she was referring to. The left side of his mouth curled into a smirk, and he very clearly looked her up and down. She was wearing a tight black leather miniskirt and a matching tube top, with mid-calf boots to complete the ensemble. She was also model thin. Nick's smirk became a grin as he watched her slide the marischino cherry off the stem. She chewed thoughtfully before giving the stem a twirl and tossing it into a nearby trashcan. Nick turned to wink at Alli.

"Al, dear, I think you might've just found us tonight's contestant."

Alli's own eyebrows rose, and she smiled slightly. "Is that a good thing?"

Nick laughed. "Oh, most definitely. I'll have to bring you along more often when I go looking for a conquest...and then, of course, I'll have to bring a Cosmo as well so you don't bite my head off afterwards."

Alli gave him a small smile as he slid out of the booth and began to walk casually towards the woman. When the two began talking, however, she stared down into her drink and began swirling it around in the glass.

"I take it Nick found another girl to harass?"

Alli looked up and offered another forced smile. "Yeah, looks like it. Maybe one of these days he'll meet someone that he can hold onto."

Kevin gave her a pointed look. "Al, I really do love your optimistic attitude and all, but it's not healthy. I've been through that phase, and it's not likely that Nick's going to reject a sexual encounter for something that requires commitment."

Alli frowned and drained the rest of her Cosmopolitan. "A girl can dream."

"To an extent," Kevin corrected with a small smile. "You can't live in a dream, Al, much as you may miss Nick. He'll come around eventually."

Alli rolled her eyes at the words of wisdom. "Thanks so much for the life lesson, Brother Kev. Don't you have a girlfriend you should be tending to?"

Kevin chuckled at the annoyed look on Alli's face. "Actually, Kristin and Leighanne went back to the hotel with Brian awhile ago. I decided to stay and keep everyone company, though. I didn't want Nick to do anything stupid."

Alli groaned. "Yeah, that makes two of us."

Kevin looked at her thoughtfully for a moment and Alli groaned again. "Oh, Lord, he's thinking. Not only at, but he's going to start talking. Goodness knows when we'll get out of here once that happens..."

Kevin chuckled again, and Alli actually had to fight back a smile at the way his nose crinkled when he laughed.

"Seriously, Al, I was just going to tell you that you've been really, really good for Nick. He's much less of an asshole since you've arrived, and the fellas and I are really grateful for it."

For what had to have been the first time ever, Kevin saw a real, genuinely soft smile cross Alli's face. She looked up at Kevin and cocked her head slightly to the side, still smiling. He noticed that her eyes were glowing a bluish-gray in the light of the club, and her entire person looked softer. "You really think I've helped him?"

Kevin smiled warmly at her. "Yeah, Al, I think you have. Who knows? Maybe we'll see the end of this terrible phase sooner rather than later."

As soon as it had come, the soft smile was gone. "No, I wouldn't give myself that much credit. I might be able to land him in an institution, but there's no way in hell I could make him normal again."

Kevin studied her with a smirk as she tugged on one of the locks of hair that was hanging down from her messy bun. He continued to watch her as she pulled the curl smooth and began trying to fit it into the straw that had come with her drink. "No, maybe not," he agreed with a laugh, and Alli guiltily dropped her lock of hair.

"I was bored."

Kevin's smile grew, and his eyes twinkled with amusement. "Suuuure you were..."

"I was!"

"So go find yourself a guy!" Kevin shot back, enjoying the shocked look on her face. It was rare that he ever shocked Alli. "Seriously, you could get Nick back for everything that he's been doing to you lately."

Alli shook her head. "I'm not like that. I don't pick up guys for the heck of it."

Kevin cocked his head to the side in curiosity. "Why not? We all have spells every now and then. You have an excuse at your disposal."

Alli smiled at him sadly. "Yeah, Kev, but I care. That's my problem."

When he noticed that she was looking past him more so than she was looking at him, Kevin followed her gaze out onto the dance floor, where Nick was grinding seductively against the redhead from before. Out of the corner of his eye, he caught the deflated look on Alli's face, and at that moment, he didn't disagree with her at all.

* * * * *


She was imagining things. She was definitely imagining things. There was no way that someone would attempt to enter her room at night, especially while she was fast asleep and happily dreaming about the particularly cute guy that had been on pay per view right before she went to bed. She didn't know anyone psychotic enough to break into her room at night, and she was absolutely positive that the Boys' floor had enough security to keep out anyone that looked remotely suspicious.

"Al? Al, are you awake? Come on, Al, I've got to tell you about this girl I met tonight. Man, I owe you big, you know that? You are definitely my hero..."

Alli rolled her eyes and groaned aloud. So maybe she did know someone that psychotic. "Carter?"

If it was Nick, he was dead set on ignoring her. "I mean, she was gorgeous. Not only that, but she was funny. And you know what? She wasn't looking to get attached either. She was incredibly horny, and she had awhile before she had to work her shift at the strip club across the street, so..."

"Strip club?!"

Alli sat straight up in bed and stared at Nick with wide eyes. I set him up with someone from a strip club? What the fuck is wrong with me? I am so screwed up...

"Hey! You're finally awake!"

Alli, recognizing that he had said that only to get her up, rolled her eyes again and flopped back onto the bed. "I've been awake since your huge ass decided to break into my hotel room and cause the maximum amount of racket ever thought possible. What the hell was that noise anyway?"

Nick actually giggled. "Oh, that? That was me tripping over your suitcase."


"But, anyway, I have to tell you about this girl, Al. I mean, I haven't met someone that good for a long time, you know? Last Night was good, but Tonight was better."

"Does Tonight have a name?"

Alli heard a crack that sounded something like a palm slapping against a forehead. "Shit, I forgot her name!"

"Goodnight, Carter."

He shook his head wildly. "No, you can't do that! I'm wide awake!"

"Your point?"

"Come on, Al, remember our movie nights? We'll have a movie night, and I'll tell you all about my encounter with that chick you found for me."

"It's three in the morning, Carter. I'm going back to sleep."

Suddenly, Nick grinned, and Alli felt the bed moving as he crawled across it. When she finally realized just what he was trying to do, her eyes widened again.

"Oh, no you don't. DO NOT turn on that light. I swear, Carter, if you turn on that light, I'm gonna..."

She was promptly interrupted by a bright beam of light that seemed to temporarily blind her, and she immediately shut her eyes and began swatting at the air in hopes of landing a hand on Nick.

"You SO didn't just do that..."

"Oh, I SO did," Nick returned gleefully, grabbing both of her hands in his and forcing her to open her eyes so she could glare at him. "And now you're awake! I can actually tell you about Red now."

Alli frowned, despite her angry state. "Her name was Red?"

Nick rolled his eyes with a smile and ruffled her hair. "No, silly. I forgot her name, remember? We're going to call her Red so you know who I'm talking about. Anyway, she does this thing with her tongue..."

Alli tried to collapse against the covers again, but Nick was holding her up. "Dammit, what breed of stupid are you, anyway? Carter, you discuss things like that with your guy friends, okay? I don't want to know what your little girlfriend did with her tongue."

Nick dropped Alli's hands immediately and a horrified look crossed his face. "Girlfriend? What the hell? She wasn't a girlfriend, Al. I'm not looking for a girlfriend. Just a quick fuck. She did well, too, and she didn't want anything more than a way to release her own sexual tension..."

Alli celebrated the freedom of her hands by shoving her fingers in her ears. "I'm not listening to you..." she sang happily as she tried again to slide under the covers. Unfortunately, her legs kept running into Nick's butt, which was parked right in the middle of her bed. "Move, Carter!"

Nick pulled her hands away from her ears and kept them in his grip. "Seriously, Al, you picked a good one. She was terrific, in fact. No attachment, no clingy complex, no expectations for the morning after..."

Alli had an idea and allowed a tiny bit of hope to flit across her features. "So, if she was so wonderful, did you get her number?"

Nick laughed and gave her an odd look. "Um, Al, what part of 'I'm not looking for a girlfriend' did you not understand?"

Alli rolled her eyes in exasperation. "You know what? Who said she has to be a girlfriend. She could just be a friend with benefits..."

Nick chuckled. "Al, if I wanted a friend with benefits, I would have jumped into bed with you a long time ago."

Alli's eyes widened to a huge size before she grabbed her pillow and began bashing Nick with it repeatedly. "!"

Nick burst out laughing. "Al, I know I'm a god, but you really don't have to hit me because of it." When she paused in her attack to stare at him in disbelief, he batted his eyes at her. "Don't hate me because I'm beautiful."

"Then I'll hate you because you're an annoying, evil, inconsiderate PRICK who can't leave his best friend alone long enough to actually let her get a good night's sleep! And I wouldn't jump into bed with you. EVER."

Nick rolled his eyes and held her down, carefully removing the pillow from her grasp. "Stay still, Al, or you're going to start hyperventilating."

"This could qualify as sexual harassment," she snapped angrily, and Nick chuckled.

"Alli, you could qualify as harassment without doing anything but being yourself."

Alli contorted her features in a mock expression of pain. "Oh, that hurt. My poor heart..." When Nick showed no move of responding, she rolled her eyes and sat up, pushing his arms away again. "Anyway, why didn't you get her number? You're always looking for a chick, and you said she was exactly what you were looking for."

Nick sighed. "Al, numbers mean attachment. I don't need attachment."

"Maybe attachment could be a good thing?" Alli tried, allowing the hopeful gaze to come into play again. Nick sighed more heavily before giving her a stern look.

"Alli, what part of 'I'm only looking for a quick fuck' did you not understand?"

Alli pretended to look deep in thought. "The quick part, actually. I don't understand how a really good fuck can be quick..."

Nick grinned and wiggled his eyebrows at her. "I could demonstrate for you."

Her thoughtful expression faded to one of disgust. "No thanks." She let the silence hang in the air for a moment before turning back to him. "So you can't see yourself ever getting committed?"

Nick shook his head fervently. "Not a chance in hell. But about this girl..."

Alli groaned again and grabbed a pillow to cover her ears with. She squealed in protest when Nick pulled it away from her and continued to whine until she realized that arguing with him in his present state was futile. "I'm not getting to sleep anytime soon, am I?"

Nick shook his head, grinning wildly. "Nope. But about this girl..."

With a sigh, Alli reluctantly sat to listen to Nick's play-by-play account of the evening. Mentally, however, she commenced kicking herself for having ever listened to Amanda's idea about matchmaking. She felt a tiny shred of hope slip away as she did so. Dammit, he won't commit. It's all up to me...

She saw the animated look on his face as he talked about the girl and groaned. And what really sucks is that I'm not sure I can change him back anymore.

"Son Of A Gun (I Betcha Think The Song Is About You)"
performed by Janet Jackson with Carly Simon