"Flight attendants, please prepare for landing."
Nick Carter was
beyond exhausted. Thanks to turbulence, he'd been rudely awakened from his in-flight nap. The flight hadn't done much for
his headache, either. The entire trip to LA had been a blur of booze, coke, and the occasional video shoot, and he was feeling
it now more than ever. That morning, he had roused from sleep with the notion that he was going to be permanently hung over.
After a warm shower and a cup of black coffee, he'd dispelled the theory--after all, he'd been drinking for the better part
of his young life. If anyone could handle heavy liquor in mass quantities, he could.
Now, as the plane began to shake with the force of decreasing air speed,
he figured he might've been right after all. This was the worst and longest lasting-hangover in his own pathetic history.
Either that, or he was dying.
Man, wouldn't Aaron love that...
The trip to LA, while a favor for the
label that had so graciously given him a job after his flight from the Backstreet Boys, was supposed to be an escape from
everything Aaron. Nick was sick of pretending. He was sick of trying to be something he wasn't. More importantly, he was sick
of trying to please everyone and failing. He was sick of letting people down--including himself.
It was a great plan.
Escape his brother, escape the expectations, get a little bit of breathing room, and come home a new man--or, if not a new
man, a more together man.
He'd failed at that part, too. From the moment he had stepped into LAX, the only thing he
could think about was the fact that he was running away again. Even as he was driving to the video shoot, doing his duty as
a responsible record executive, he could hear Aaron's voice in his ear. As the day progressed, Aaron's voice had gotten younger
and younger until Nick was certain that, somewhere in the depths of his psyche, he heard his younger brother call him a hero.
had been his breaking point. He'd narrowly escaped the extended shoot so that he could go to a club and party the edge off.
He'd gone to the club with the intention of forgetting everything. He came out of the club more keyed-up than ever and fighting
a raging headache.
Drinking himself to sleep had seemed like a great idea when he'd gotten back to the room. Of course,
after a few bottles of vodka and a made-for-TV movie, calling Cara had seemed like a great idea too.
been too drunk and too strung out to regret it. Thankfully, she'd been surprisingly helpful. He was grateful for her open
ears and her guidance. He would've been even more grateful had he been sober--of that, he was sure. Unfortunately, though,
that one conversation had shot the pleasant vacation straight to hell. Do not pass go. Do not collect two hundred dollars.
at this rate, I don't give a shit about the two hundred dollars. I just want my fucking life back. That'd be nice. I wouldn't
mind hearing Aaron call me a hero again either, but I'm not asking for a miracle.
He'd thought about his brother
all weekend. He'd thought about the situation all weekend. He was tired of thinking about it. He was ready to go home.
problem was that he didn't quite know where home was supposed to be anymore, so he went to the club instead. Partying sounded
like a good idea. He knew that Aaron hadn't missed him, and he'd probably driven Cara up the wall by drowning her in his problems
at two in the morning. As for Theresa...he knew full well that there was no love lost between himself and the pretty blonde
bombshell that helped to occupy the apartment. Besides, he had his own blonde bombshell.
He'd canceled his previous
plans and made new ones. He was no longer going back to work. He was going to find large quantities of alcohol. He was going
to feed the massive hangover. And then, when it all got too old too fast, he was going to find Esmerelda.
* * *
"You ready for B-Day?"
Cara shot Theresa a befuddled expression.
Theresa shrugged. "Sure. There was D-Day, right? When the troops landed at Normandy in the second world war?"
today is B-Day. When Baby Backstreet lands at the apartment and throws everyone head over feet again."
her eyes at Theresa's pathetic attempt at wit. "T, not to burst your little self-satisfied bubble or anything, but the expression
'head over feet' is usually used when you're in love with someone. Now, I don't know about you, but I am DEFINITELY not in
love with Baby Backstreet."
"Aw, C, come on..."
Cara raised her head only long enough to glare at her friend
before returning to her lunch. "Not funny."
"Need I remind you about the phone call I took a few
"No," Theresa teased, "but I could give you a quick description of his drug dealer..."
point, Cara dropped her sandwich and turned to face Theresa. "T, what's your point?"
Unless all of this teasing and joking around is eventually leading to something important, you're barking up the wrong tree."
sighed. "Cara, if we don't joke about it, we're never going to be able to fix it."
"Forgive me if I don't find a cocaine
addiction all that funny," Cara shot back, "but I'm still trying to recover from the last one I witnessed."
last, Theresa's tone turned bitter. "Yeah, you and I both, butthead. Seriously though, I am worried about Nick getting back
tonight. Aaron's been in such a good mood these past few days that I don't want to risk ruining it."
Cara sighed. "I
guess we could take him to a movie or something."
"Is there anything good playing?"
Cara shrugged. "Beats me.
When it comes to the paper, I don't even have time to read the headlines, let alone the entertainment section."
chuckled. "Good point. He might not want to see a movie anyway because of that cold."
"Yeah..." Cara trailed off, and
both women glanced towards the stage where Aaron was running lines with Trent. "I can't believe Cal's making him work today."
turned to her friend with an expression of pure and utter disbelief. "Cara, think about what you just said."
countenance turned sheepish. "Okay, so I can believe it. It's kind of cruel, though."
"Cruel, yes, but I see why he's
doing it. Aaron and Trent have been screwing this scene up since we started running dialogue, and they have yet to get it
right. We're kind of running out of time. We can't afford to let mistakes like that slip anymore."
"True." Cara paused,
listening to Aaron's tortured voice of Edward Hyde for a moment. "You know, this cold could be a good thing."
rolled her eyes. "Right. How so? If Cal keeps going like this, Aaron's not going to be reciting ANY lines."
"Yeah, but he will be exhausted tonight, and there's no way in hell
Cal would keep him for an extra rehearsal. My guess is that Aaron's going straight home and straight to bed."
followed Cara's gaze and sighed. "You've got a good point there. Should we tell him we're going out so he doesn't have an
excuse not to?"
"Honestly?" Cara sighed. "It'd probably be for the best if we did go out. That way Nick won't have
anyone to argue with when he gets back tonight." She stopped, considering the conversation she'd had with the elder Carter
that weekend. "If he gets back tonight. It's a very real possibility that he'll stay out all night with the blonde drug dealer."
does, and I'll kick his ass," Theresa snarled.
"I'd beat him like a rented mule," Cara intoned, "but I don't think
that's a good idea with Aaron around, T. Remember, pain in the ass or not, Nick IS Aaron's brother, and right now he's the
only semi-sane family A has."
"You know, as demented as this sounds, that almost makes me thankful for my herd of knuckleheads
back home," Theresa muttered. Cara allowed herself a bitter laugh.
"Makes me painfully thankful for mine."
"Can we not fight about this?"
Theresa relented with a small chuckle. "Yeah. Lord knows we need
to save some fight for later. Something tells me it's going to be a long night."
Cara followed Theresa's gaze to Aaron
and sighed. She had no idea what was about to happen, but she was willing to bet that it would indeed be a long night.
* * *
"Thug Love" rang out over the darkened dance floor, which he scanned nonchalantly
as he downed his second shot in ten minutes. He was tired and anxious, and the alcohol had yet to take the desired edge off.
The seedy bar downtown had never been one of his favorite places, but because she was there, he was willing to make the sacrifice.
the floor, scantily clad women were grinding their asses against men in black pants and skull caps. Years ago, he would've
been out on the floor in minutes looking for the hottest girl in the place. He'd attach her to him and show her a good time,
take her for a few drinks in between numbers. As soon as he was drunk enough to realize how beautiful she was, he'd drop her.
how the cycle had yet to play out with Esmerelda. She only served to remind him that it had been way too long since he'd allowed
himself to be with a real woman. He arched an eyebrow in surprise and removed his jacket, dropping it on the bar. He didn't
need it. That was the whole idea behind the evening. He didn't have to pretend here. He could be anybody, and it didn't matter.
Not to her or her sleazy friends. It was all about what she had and what he had and what they could do for each other.
he'd missed that. For once, there was no emotional bullshit involved.
"About time you showed up. I was beginning to
think you'd skipped town on me without saying good-bye." Her voice was low and sultry, tickling the insides of his ear canals
as she leaned down to kiss the hollow of his jaw. "I missed you."
He allowed one corner of his mouth to curl. "Ditto.
Did you plan a welcome party?"
"Not quite," she answered. "Jason tells me you threw yourself a little farewell bash,
"Oh, I did. He supplied quite well, too."
"Always does," she agreed with a low chuckle. She leaned
back against the bar and casually slid a finger into his belt loop, deliberately brushing his manhood as she did so. "So,
tell me, did you come to drink or dance?"
He held up his glass. "I came to drink, but a dance definitely couldn't hurt."
nodded to the raised glass. "How much have you had?"
"Two shots," he shrugged. "Hardly enough to feel anything yet."
plunked a few bills on the bar and waved to the bartender. "Another round?" she asked, and he nodded. That said, she turned
to wink at Nick. "Give me a chance to catch up with you, and then we'll dance."
"Sounds like a plan," he agreed casually.
He didn't really want to dance, and he was sure that she knew as much. He'd come to get one thing and one thing only, and
he was hoping that she'd be able to lead him to it. For now, he just wanted to be drunk. Later, he wanted to snort a line
or two. He wanted to forget what it felt like to be a failure, and Esmerelda was the only woman in the city who didn't know
him as such.
With that thought in mind, he waved to the bartender and dropped a wad of cash on the bar. "I'll take
a whiskey sour...or a couple." The man nodded, and he leaned back in satisfaction. It was going to be a good night. He was
sure of that much.
They downed the drinks together, side by side like business partners. She caught up to him quickly,
but he kept drinking until the dance floor turned into a mess of half-naked women and flashing lights. It wasn't long before
the entire room was rippling with the beat of the bass. As soon as he lost count of the glasses in front of him, he agreed
to dance with her.
They moved to the music slowly, but forcefully. She manipulated her hips well, brushing her ass
pointedly against his cock to the rhythm of the music. He was mesmerized by her, intoxicated by the flashing lights and the
alcohol swimming in his system. By the end of the first song, he was hard and she knew it. She reached a hand back and raked
her nails along his shaft, allowing him a tiny taste of pain through the fabric of his slacks. She unbuttoned the top button
with little difficulty, but replaced her hand with her left ass cheek before he could lead her lower.
She was playing
with him, and he loved every minute of it.
Her nails raked deliciously against her thighs as she grinded into him.
When he dropped a hand on her breast, she reached back and cupped his ass. She continued to drop feather-light kisses along
his neck, leaning back against his shoulder so she could gain easy access to the exposed flesh. When the song ended, she used
her teeth to tug on his earlobe before suggesting seductively that they go somewhere quieter.
He was too drunk and
too horny to care. "What do you mean?"
She giggled. "Well, we could always grab Jason and go to my place. Be bad little
boys and girls..."
He captured her lips in a searing kiss. "Sounds tempting. Is he going to have all kinds of candy
Her grin was positively wicked. "More than you can ever imagine, Pretty Boy. Say the word and we'll go."
nodded ever so slightly. Cocaine sounded like an excellent idea. He needed to wake up and sober up before arriving back at
Aaron's anyway. Lord knows the kid'll have a shit fit if I show up smashed.
"Let's do it."
* * *
"Okay, one more time," Aaron coughed. "Where are you going?"
"To a bar."
"To a park."
"Hell, maybe we'll even hit up a toy store. We need to catch up on
our quality girl time. You, however, are sick and need to be in bed."
Aaron rolled his eyes and cleared his throat.
"Yeah, thanks for the heads up."
Theresa winked at him. "Anytime, cowboy. We're clearing out, though. You need your
"So, essentially, you're abandoning me in my time of need."
Cara frowned. "I like to think of it more
as giving you some much-needed space."
Aaron groaned, which immediately inspired another cough. "Dammit. Fine. Go out.
Have fun. Leave me here to fend for myself."
The girls exchanged nervous looks. The clock on the wall indicated that
they were running out of time. If Nick was in fact coming home that evening, he'd be there soon, and they wanted Aaron fast
asleep before Baby Backstreet walked through the door.
Cara was the first to speak. "Maybe we could stay a little while."
feed you dinner and get you bathed. Make sure to tuck you in real snug," Theresa teased, allowing a teeny tiny bit of her
southern heritage to creep into the conversation. She grinned broadly when Aaron glared at her.
"I'd groan at you,
but I don't want to suffocate," he muttered. "Why the hell are you two so anxious to get me to bed?"
at him. "You have to ask?"
He gave her a pointed look, letting her know that he was thoroughly not amused. "Not funny."
turned an identically expectant gaze to Cara, who groaned inaudibly. Great. Here we go with the lying again. Maybe he'll
be too sick to notice that I'm full of shit. "Baby, have you listened to yourself? You're going hoarse. Opening night
is in a week and a half. We can't afford to have you bite the dust before your big, critically-acclaimed breakthrough as a
bonafide Broadway star."
Aaron gave Cara a look of pure disbelief. "You're full of bullshit. Tennessee bullshit, for
Cara gave him a small, sad smile. "Come on. It sounds cuter when I factor in the Tennessee bullshit.
'Sides, we really are worried about you, hon. Both T and I know how much this musical means to you, and we've watched you
work your ass off for a long time to get to the point where you can blow those critics away. We don't want you to blow that
chance on account of Larkin's cold."
As if on cue, Aaron sneezed. "Damn that girl..."
"But Cara's got a point,"
Theresa interjected. "You do need your rest. The more you sleep, the better you'll feel, and the sooner you'll kick this cold
to the curb."
Aaron looked suspiciously from one roommate to the next. "What the hell happened to you two today? Did
you pick up a southern dictionary of metaphors or something?"
"It's Cara's bad influence," Theresa offered hurriedly.
"Get your ass in bed. I'm tired of arguing with you. Now, if I have to give you NyQuil by enema, you WILL sleep tonight."
winced at the mental image of a needle up his butt. "No thanks."
"Great," Cara finished. "No NyQuil. You are getting
sleep, though. Cal's been understanding, babe, but he's not going to be nice forever. He only allows so many easy rehearsals
before he starts kicking you in the ass again."
That made enough sense that Aaron didn't have the strength to argue
with her. "Fine. I'll go to bed."
Both women broke out into big, broad smiles that almost made Aaron regret his decision,
but Theresa spoke first.
"Brilliant. Sleep well."
Cara cocked her head concernedly to the side. "Do you want
us to read you a bedtime story?"
Aaron was about to offer a sarcastic retort, but then he realized that she was serious
and merely shook his head. "No, I'm probably going to be out by the time my head hits the pillow. Thanks, though."
smiled maternally at him. "Anytime, hon. There's extra Tylenol Sinus in the cabinet if you need it."
"Thanks. You kids have fun."
Theresa shot him a megawatt smile and reached for Cara's hand. "Oh, we will. Bye now!"
were almost completely out the door before Aaron had the chance to rethink his farewell, but he hollered over his shoulder
anyway. "Hey, C?"
"You're going to make a kick-ass mom someday."
He barely caught sight of
her proud grin before Theresa slammed the door shut.
* * *
"Okay man, this is premium right here. Top of the line shit. You won't find
this anywhere else because I got mad connections. In fact, I wouldn't even share the shit, but Esmerelda thinks you're cool,
so I figured I'd do you a favor."
The whole room seemed to be swirling around him as he tried to focus on Jason's face.
"Thanks, dude. For real."
"Sure thing. Now, I'll hook you up, but I don't come for free..."
He shook his head,
which turned out to be a bad idea when the room started spinning wildly. Man, how much did I drink? "Totally. Sorry.
How much do I owe you?"
Jason shrugged. Or at least it looked like Jason shrugged. He wasn't really sure.
G's and I'll hook you up for the night."
His eyes widened in shock. "Two G's? That's it? For an entire night's worth?"
winked at him. "Well, Backstreet Boy, tonight's a special occasion. I talked Esmerelda into snorting a line or two with us."
turned in surprise to the dizzily blonde drunk beside him. "No shit? Do you not usually do this?"
She laughed loudly.
"Hell fuckin' no. man! I ain't stupid! I know my shit. Hell, I help sell this shit. I know how bad it fucks you up. I try
not to make a habit of it."
Somewhere in the deep recesses of his consciousness, he figured he could probably learn
from that statement. Unfortunately, he was far too trashed to figure out what he was supposed to learn, exactly.
handed Jason his wallet. "Man, you gotta count it. I can't fuckin' see straight right now."
Jason laughed. "How much
did you two idiots drink?"
Esmerelda rolled her eyes and jerked a thumb in Nick's direction. "Blame him. Couldn't stop
the bastard. He kept ordering more and more and more..."
"Had to forget," Nick mumbled. He couldn't remember what he
had to forget anymore, but he knew that forgetting had been the initial objective. He grinned lightly at that thought. Apparently,
he'd been successful. For once, he hadn't failed. He was getting tired, though, and his dreams these days tended to lean more
towards the depressing side of the spectrum, so he reached for the plastic baggie that Jason held out to him.
man. Not too much at once."
Nick waved him off. Even drunk, he had most likely forgotten more about cocaine than Jason
would ever know. He'd had far too much experience in the matter. "Yeah, yeah. Just give me a credit card and a dollar bill,
He emptied some of the bag's contents onto the glass coffee table, took the card Jason offered, and began breaking
the lumps, sifting it out. He turned to Esmerelda with a wicked grin and slurred her name. "You wanna try some o' this?"
me a bill," she shot back. Jason pulled a five from Nick's wallet and handed it to her.
"Careful, honey, this shit's
a bit stronger than what you're used to."
She waved him off, watching intently as Nick separated a line of white powder
and set it up. He clumsily bent down to snort it and knocked his nose into the table, which set the other two off. Amidst
raucous laughter, he rolled the twenty he'd received, plugged his other nostril, and leaned down to snort the line. When the
white powder had traveled successfully up the tube, he gave his head a good shake--which sent the room spinning again--and
blinked a few times for good measure.
"Fuck." There were no words to describe the feeling, so he said it again. "Fuck."
Like coming home.
"My turn." Esmerelda clumsily snatched the credit card from him and began sorting her own
line with lumbering confusion. She'd had the same amount of liquor as Nick, but her tolerance was lower because she was so
much smaller. If his head was spinning wildly already, he couldn't imagine how she felt.
He didn't have to try. The
cocaine was already starting to take effect, and he could feel its warm presence flowing through his bloodstream. All of the
insecurity from the weekend was wearing away, replaced by a coke-induced confidence that he loved beyond comprehension. I
deserve it, dammit. I deserve a few minutes of
He turned to Jason expectantly as Esmerelda continued
to fumble with the credit card. "You gonna take a shot?"
Jason shrugged. "I'm not sure. I might smoke a joint first.
It's been a long night. Always lots of business on a Wednesday. Mid-week, everyone starts having a crisis they gotta take
care of. No one's got the balls to take care of their shit without some of my shit, either. It's good news for me, but it
makes for a long fucking day, you know what I'm sayin'?"
He did. He'd felt the same way for the last year of his career
as a Backstreet Boy. Funny how the thought didn't cause him half as much pain when he was doped up on coke and liquor. Made
him want to get drunk a hell of a lot more often.
He didn't think Cara would like that so much. That, and Aaron would
probably give up on him. He could tolerate Aaron hating him, but he definitely didn't want the kid giving up on him. None
of that. I had enough people bail on my ass five years ago when my so-called "brothers" called it quits.
caused the color to drain from his face as a whirlwind of memories took over, and he groaned. "Hey, Jason?"
got anything to drink?"
"You talkin' water or the good stuff?"
Nick leveled him with a breadbox look. "What
the hell do you think I'm talkin' about?"
Jason grinned. "I'll be right back. Are you a rum or beer kinda fellow?"
good. Rum's good. Whatever the fuck you got, I'll take it."
Jason was on his way out of the room when Esmerelda finally
bent over to snort her first line of the evening. She fumbled for a moment with her hair, but Nick finally reached over to
hold it for her while she plugged her nose and took a good sniff.
"Holy mother o' God..."
She started coughing,
and Nick had to pat her on the back to get her breathing again. "It's something, ain't it? He wasn't kidding when he said
he had the good stuff."
She shook her head in amazement. "Man, that'll sober you the hell up in a hurry." At that thought,
though, she winced and raised a hand to her head. "Fuck, the room's spinning. Shit."
"Give it a second to settle down."
He didn't have the heart to tell her that it wouldn't help. He couldn't see any better than a blind man in the dark, but he
was too drunk and too strung out to care. He wanted to kick back a glass of rum, chill for a bit, and then snort another line
for good measure before crashing on Esmerelda's floor.
"Hey, thanks for letting us chill at your place tonight."
she slurred. Another cough followed, and she shook her head in an attempt to clear it, resurrecting the room-spinning problem.
"Get a grip, girl. Don't shake your fucking head," he laughed. "You're giving yourself a headache."
say that again," she groaned. "Damn, I need...another line."
Nick frowned. He was drunk and strung out and confused,
yes, but he knew that two lines in less than ten minutes couldn't be a good idea. His befuddled brain quickly offered up flashbacks
of his conversation with Cara, and he groaned loud.
"No. Wait. Bad idea." His words were coming out too slowly. Even
to his own ears, he sounded drunk.
"Nick, my man! You're in luck, buddy. I got Coronas coming out my asshole." That
said, Jason plunked a six-pack on the table and lit a joint he'd somehow managed to acquire. Nick couldn't see the pot, nor
could he see the beer, but he could definitely smell weed all of a sudden. In the back of his mind, he wondered if one joint
could give someone a contact high. Not that I'd mind getting high. Fuck. That'd be fun. He'd have to wait awhile,
"Hand me a beer, man."
Jason obliged, offering one to the sputtering Esmerelda as well. Both twisted
the remainder of the bottle cap off and took a healthy swig. Nick glanced at Esmerelda's bottle and saw that she'd taken a
bigger gulp, so he chugged the rest down. He wasn't about to be outdone by a girl.
He set the empty bottle down on
the table with a satisfying clunk. "Good shit, man. Good shit."
Esmerelda nodded her agreement and bent down over the
table a second time. Jason started to say something to her, but she waved him off. "One more, babe, thas it."
a second line, and Nick opened another bottle of Corona. He sipped it slowly, trying to absorb the alcohol into his veins.
Maybe, if I drink it slowly enough, it'll get caught in my tongue and I can bite down on it and get drunk whenever I want.
That'd be fucking awesome.
Beside him, Esmerelda swayed. "Holy fuck, Jason. Where the hell'd you get this shit?"
of a friend. He knows where to find the top grade stuff." He grinned proudly. "Why, baby? You like?"
slowly. "It's great." The room was spinning, whirling to an unknown rhythm. Maybe it's one of Nick's songs... She
turned gingerly to the handsome blonde man beside her. "Hey sexy."
Nick furrowed his brow. Everything seemed to be
moving in slow-motion all of a sudden. Esmerelda's voice sounded a hell of a lot deeper than he remembered it being. Whoa.
barely had a chance to breathe before her lips crashed down on his. He could taste the beer on the tip of her tongue and began
to suck it lightly like a baby looking for milk. As he sucked her tongue, she fed on his lips, biting and tugging and sucking
and massaging as best she could from their twisted angle. When she couldn't get as close to him as she wanted to, she shoved
him onto the floor and tried not to giggle at the way the carpet bounced beneath him.
He didn't seem to mind at all.
unbuttoned his shirt with all the grace of a three-year-old as she continued to lick her way down him. He pulled her hungrily
up to him, kissing her full on and assaulting her with his tongue. He buried his fingers in her hair and she broke away from
the kiss, unzipping his pants with a blurry, sultry grin.
Both of them were moving in slow motion. He knew she was
talking, but he couldn't understand a single word. She jerked him off, and he shoved his fingers deep inside her, but the
room shook with a much less passionate force. Every time she raked a nail down his shaft, his vision turned silver-lined and
shaky, shuddering with his shoulders. Every time he slammed his hand into her, the room shook with equal force.
weren't simply hand-fucking each other anymore. They were hand-fucking the universe. He'd never felt anything like it, and
yet he'd never been so scared in his entire life.
Her walls tightened around his three long fingers, and her entire
world shook with her orgasm. The furniture seemed to quake, to bend and blur until there was nothing left but a bunch of twisted
shapes in different sizes and colors. She gave his shaft one more forceful stroke before passing out on his chest.
release was powerful and painful, all at the same time. He shot his wad somewhere into the expanse of Esmerelda's apartment
as the room shimmered around him. A white hot light mid-scene caught his attention for a moment before fading to a dull silver.
He blinked multiple times in an attempt to clear his head, but the whole room bobbed with his eyelids. Holy shit.
out of the corner of his eye, he could make out Jason's figure perched on the arm of the couch, holding a joint between his
lips. The smoke curled up into the air, and Nick would've sworn that it had a life of its own as it struggled to reach the
ceiling. He brought his punch-drunk gaze back to Jason, whose eyes were still fixed on Esmerelda.
He was watching
us this whole time...
He shuddered, and the room quivered, and he leaned over and vomited as best he could with
Esmerelda on top of him. He could feel his insides burning and quaking with nausea. He emptied his stomach, dry-heaved for
a moment, and then everything faded to black as he passed out on the floor.