“Hey sweetie, I thought you would be at the After Party with everyone else…” Ava greeted Kathryn when Demyan, Stefan, and Drake had finished helping her and Jade out of the car and she saw one third of her best friends get out of a cab from behind them with Zara in her arms.
“I didn’t really feel up to dealing with the whole party scene tonight,” Kathryn explained as Ava pulled her into a hug and planted a kiss on her cheek and then Zara’s, the younger woman perceptively noticing her friend eyeing Demyan in the corner of her eye, no matter how discrete she tried to be. “So I volunteered to take this little one off of Raven’s hands so she could stay with Brian and left.”
“I don’t blame you,” Ava empathized, hugging her a bit tighter. “I’m not a big fan of the parties that come with the whole celebrity package myself…too many people and I just cling to Nick or Alex the whole time I’m there.”
“But yet, you feel right at home in a crowded concert,” Kathryn pointed out amusedly.
“Yeah, I can’t really explain that logic” Ava laughed and Kathryn hugged her a little bit tighter.
“Anyway, I know you are busy being secretive right now and everything, but do you mind if I hang out with you? I’m pretty good at keeping secrets myself…” She asked and gave Ava a small smile and Ava laughed.
“Yeah, of course it’s okay…more than okay. I could really use some Kat and Ava time right now…”
“But let’s take it up to your suite instead, okay?” Demyan spoke up, coming up behind Kathryn. “It’s not safe to linger here in the parking lot.”
“You could’ve ridden back with us you know, why didn’t you say something?” Ava continued talking to Kathryn as Demyan silently took Kathryn’s side and Stefan took Ava’s and they let them direct them toward the building.
“It was a last minute decision and Howie wanted to talk to me before I left. By the time I was ready to go, you guys had already left.” Ava nodded and kept her arm around her friend’s shoulders while they walked. She didn’t fail to notice the look in her eyes when she mentioned Howie though. As soon as they made it up to the floor that their suites were on, Ava pulled her card out of her pocket and Demyan gently moved in front of her and Kathryn both protectively. This is the first time she’s ever seen the quiet man’s bossy side, usually he lets Stefan take the lead and do the talking.
“Give Drake your key and let him in first…just as a precaution.” He ordered gently and Ava did just that. Drake carded the door and opened it before going inside with his hand rested on his gun just in case and he did a quick search of the place. When he saw that nothing was out of the ordinary, he turned and nodded at Stefan and Demyan. Demyan stepped to the side and allowed them to follow Stefan in, before coming in behind them and shutting the door before doing what he does best and disappearing in the background.
“Mommy, I’m thirsty” Jade announced. “Can I have some chocolate milk please?” Ava scrunched up her nose a little bit.
“How about some iced tea instead?” She offered trying to sound as enthused about this idea as she can. She knows her daughter loves tea, so it can’t be too difficult to convince her. She used to drink tea straight out of her sippy cups because she would see her mommy drinking it and insist on having it too. And since it has all sorts of healthy in it, she didn’t argue and instead took full advantage of training her to be healthy young. Warm tea is her go-to whenever her baby is sick. “I brought some green tea and some chamomile tea…if you don’t fight me on this I’ll even add a little bit of honey to it” She bribed. She just doesn’t have to know that its sugar free honey.
“Okay…green tea, please.” Jade agreed and Ava sighed with relief before looking toward Zara who an amused Kathryn still held.
“How about you miss Zee…tea?” She asked, leaning forward and rubbing her nose over hers. The small child giggled.
“All righty then…I have to brew it, so just hang tight okay?” When both girls nodded, Ava gently put Jade down and headed into the kitchen area and Kathryn put Zara down too and followed.
“What is with you suddenly being the sugar police today, huh?” Kathryn asked teasingly as she watched her friend get her tea stuff out. Not just any kind of tea, but the good expensive stuff…loose leaves and all. Ava and Jade have been making it a big mother and daughter event to visit every tea store they can find around the world when on tour with the boys. They’ve been to so many that there is an entire pantry at the Backstreet House just filled with any kind of tea you can think of down to stuff that will literally clear your stuffed nose when you have a cold.
“She’s just had so much today, that’s all. I think she’s reached her limit” Ava insisted innocently. “I know she’s been very good today, but she does have a reputation where sugar is concerned and everybody is well aware of that. Not only that, but it’s unhealthy to have too much of it. I think my stinginess about the sugar is well justified, especially this late at night.” Kathryn laughed.
“I hear ya,” she responded, leaning in and kissing her cheek.
“Besides, I’d really like her to start winding down so she will be ready for bed when it comes to that time,” Ava insisted, avoiding eye contact with Kathryn as she prepared to brew the tea leaves in two of her hardcore tea makers. When she had it set and doing just that, she looked at Stefan who stood nearby.
“Any of you want to do me a huge favor and run down to the ice machine for me? I should’ve thought to get some at the grocery store, but creeper guy was sitting next to it…”
“Yeah, I know. I will do that for you” Stefan answered, gently squeezing her shoulder before going off to fetch some ice.
Meanwhile at the after party, Tierja and Raven were hanging out off to the side out of the way with Drew while the boys did a quick meet and greet for the fans that paid extra money for it. There was a huge line of lucky fans and security was directing them onto a red couch with the boys behind the curtain to the stage for pictures.
The hundreds of fans not so lucky to score tickets for the event, could be heard on the other side of the curtain enjoying the music and waiting for the boys to take the stage so the party could begin. Nick will be DJ’ing for it and is pretty excited about it, but for the time being there is another DJ in his place.
“No hugs please – and eight to a photo” Q announced, only to have Brian walk up to the next person in line and throw his arms about her in an affectionate hug minutes later and Raven shook her head in amusement.
“How come Kat decided not to come?” Tierja questioned Raven as the two of them sat in chairs cross-legged sipping on apple martinis that Drew had gotten them while they watched the excited fans swoon over the boys. “She seems kind of off lately, what’s going on with her?” She added, looking at Raven concerned knowing that she’s had to of confided in her. The two of them spent the whole day together, hardly leaving each other’s side. Even consumed with her own situation with AJ, she still noticed this.
“I don’t know, she’s not really talking about it much” Raven answered, she too looking concerned. “I can tell you one thing though; she seems to be pretty interested in a certain sexy bodyguard and Howie doesn’t seem to be happy about it. They argued earlier…”
“So it’s not just me who’s noticed that she’s been acting off?” Tierja asked with a slight frown as she gazed into her drink.
“Oh no, even Ava is aware of it, as busy as she is with her own problems. I’m sure she is with her right now and will get it out of her one way or another, she has a certain relationship with her that we could never touch.”
“I hope so,” Tierja responded worriedly and Raven lightly nudged her in the arm. “Speaking of busy…how is it that you are aware of what’s going on with Kat when things seem to finally be happening between you and our AJ over there?” She asked, hoping to lighten the mood and it worked. She watched a smile form on Tierja’s face in an instant and smiled herself. It’s been a very long time since she’s seen her smile like that.
“That was a huge surprise he gave you toward the end of the concert tonight, wasn’t it?” she asked while wrapping an arm around her.
“Do you think he meant those things, Ray?” She asked softly, a mixture of hope and doubt in her voice. “Or was he just singing a song?”
“AJ seems like he has difficulty saying how he feels…so if he looked at you and sang those words at you, he damn well meant them sweetheart.” Tierja nodded quietly and gazed over at the man she has put her all into over the years and she let herself hope even further.
“What all does he have planned for you tonight?” Raven asked, trying to keep her friend positive. She can see the doubt in her eyes no matter how much she tries to hide it.
“I don’t know, he won’t tell me” Tierja smiled softly. “He’s being all romantic and mysterious about it, I love it.”
“You will have to give us all the details in the morning, you know that right? There will be no getting out of it.”
“I will give you details up to a certain extent, that’s all I’m promising” Tierja laughed and she rested her head against her friend’s shoulder and smiled at AJ who glanced her way upon hearing her laugh. He returned her smile with a huge one of his own, crinkling his nose and closing his eyes as he does, making her laugh again and he blew her a kiss before returning his full focus on his work and Raven rolled her eyes playfully.
“He is as bad as Nickolas, I swear.”
“Nickolas is completely head over heels and lovey dovey to Ava, so as far as I’m concerned that is not a bad thing.”
“J-Baby, let’s get you in your pajamas and then you can help me with mommy’s surprise dinner for daddy okay?” Ava told her daughter who was sitting nearby on the floor with Zara, the two of them watching cartoons and contentedly sipping on their tea. “We have to get started on it shortly here if we want to finish before his party ends. Brian can only distract him for so long.”
“Okay!” Jade responded happily. She loves to cook. Ava went over and gently gathered her up in her arms and after setting her tea on the coffee table for her to come back to later, she hugged her close to her affectionately. Jade snuggled against her and hugged her back as Ava kissed her forehead and carried her into the bedroom. Kathryn followed her and lingered in the door.
“If you were planning on making dinner for Nick how come you let him eat dinner before the concert earlier?” Kathryn asked amusedly and Ava rolled her eyes playfully.
“Trust me, he will be plenty hungry when he gets home. He always has a gigantic appetite after he’s been working all night, I would know. I’ve been feeding him after shows since I was eleven” She answered while helping her daughter into her pink princess nightgown and slippers, both of which has Cinderella, Snow White, and Sleeping Beauty on them. “Besides, making him not eat would’ve been suspicious,” she pointed out. When she finished she let out her pigtails and lovingly brushed out her blonde hair.
“I should probably get this little one in her pajamas too so that Raven and Brian don’t have to worry about it when they get home…I will be right back sweetie” Kathryn announced while looking down at Zara in her arms.
“Okay,” Ava responded and Kathryn turned around to see Demyan move from his perch against the wall readily. She raised her eyebrow at him, but otherwise didn’t respond as he she walked out of the room and he quietly followed shutting the door behind him. When they reached Brian and Raven’s suite he held his hand out for the key and she quietly handed it over. He wrapped an arm around her, carded the door and gently tucked her under his shoulder as he led her into the room cautiously. When he was sure there was nobody waiting in the room to attack he let her go and watched as she proceeded to take care of Zara.
“Why are you wasting your time protecting me when it’s Ava and Jade they’re after?” she asked, avoiding eye contact with him.
“Why did Howie let you come back here without so much as a single bodyguard?” Demyan demanded, ignoring her question.
“Howie isn’t my keeper” Kathryn insisted indignantly.
“Does he know you came back here alone? I know he’s not stupid, Kathryn.”
“I told him I was going back with Ava, he wasn’t aware that you had left without me” Kathryn answered, shrugging her shoulders. “Not that it’s any of your business.” She glanced up at the security guard just on time to see his eyes darken in anger and she shuddered and looked away from him. She continued to help Zara into her purple Jasmine Nightgown and slippers and when she finished she kissed her forehead softly.
“Ready to go back to Ava and Jade’s room sweetheart?” she asked gently while handing over her favorite doll.
“I have to go potty first” She announced. Demyan peeked into the bathroom and when he saw that nobody was hiding in there and that there wasn’t a window for someone to sneak into when the door is closed, he nodded at Kathryn.
“Okay, go ahead and do that and then we will go spend some more time with Ava and Jade before bed” she told her and she watched as the four year old disappeared in the bathroom shutting the door just a crack. When she did she stood up and Demyan suddenly moved in front of her, standing so close that she was forced to back up against the wall. She looked up into his dark eyes and shuddered again as they pierced her own light brown ones.
“Do not do anything stupid like that again, Kathryn, do you hear me? Your best friend is in danger, which puts everybody she loves in danger too and that damn well makes your safety my business” he informed her seriously. Not only do his eyes darken when he is angry, but his Russian accent gets very strong too and it took Kathryn a moment to remember how to breathe. Kathryn opened her mouth to respond when suddenly the toilet flushed, the sink water started running, and then shortly after turned off and Zara re-emerged from the bathroom smiling happily.
“I’m ready to go Auntie Kathryn,” she announced and Kathryn forced a smile for her. She looked up at Demyan who quietly backed up now that the child is back in the room. “You don’t know the first thing about me, I can take care of myself” She informed him icily and she watched his eyes darken even more and then moved forward and gathered Zara into her arms.
“Great, let’s go back to our friends” she told her and proceeded to carry her back to the other room with Demyan quietly following her.
Meanwhile at the After Party, the boys were out on stage entertaining their fans and Tierja and Raven stood just inside the door to the backstage watching and talking amongst themselves, when suddenly Luke appeared at Tierja’s side and the two of them looked at him curiously.
“Hey Luke…what are you doing here?” Tierja asked curiously.
“Yeah, the boys’ band doesn’t normally attend these things…” Raven added while eyeing the guitarist curiously and Luke shrugged his shoulders.
“I had nothing better to do, so I figured I’d see what a Backstreet Boys After Party is like.”
“They can get pretty crazy,” Tierja answered and upon hearing the fans get louder, she turned to see what is going on just on time to see AJ and Howie with the company of Mike and Q, go out into the crowd just to get them riled up even more and the fans instantly formed a circle around them as the boys sung along and moved to the music that Nick currently had playing and touched and held hands.
“I see that,” Luke responded and Raven and Tierja continued to watch in amusement as the boys put on their charm, effortlessly making their fans go crazy. AJ was being the big time flirt that he is reputed to be.
“It looks like you’re just about done with that drink of yours; do you want me to get you a new one? Apple Martini, right?” Luke asked Tierja and she looked down at the drink in her hand before nodding and smiling at him.
“Yeah, sure thanks” She told him and he flashed a grin before going off toward the bar.
“You know he is into you honey…right?” Raven questioned when he was far enough away that he couldn’t over hear with the loud music going on.
“Yes, I’m aware but I made it perfectly clear to him that I’m in love with AJ this afternoon.”
“I don’t think he really cares, honey…you didn’t see it because it was going on behind your back, but he issued a very clear challenge to AJ when he came backstage earlier.”
“Did he?” Tierja asked while raising her eyebrow and Raven nodded.
“AJ looked like he might seriously hit him. Kat and I were worried we were going to have to call someone back to break up a fight.” When Tierja didn’t respond as she was clearly taking a moment to process this new information, Raven continued. “I don’t like him and neither does Kathryn…and Ava hasn’t been very fond of him from the start either.”
“Ava is like that with everybody she doesn’t know very well,” Tierja reminded. “She’s the baby and she’s painfully shy, you know that. It has nothing to do with Luke.”
“She’s warming up to the new security detail pretty fast…and I don’t think challenging one of the main members of the boy band that hired him is a fine way of keeping his job. You would think he would have a little more respect.” Tierja shrugged her shoulders.
“He’s been nothing but nice to me, Ray. He’s my friend…” Raven gazed at her in silence, but otherwise didn’t respond as Luke returned right then and handed over the brand new apple martini. Tierja smiled at him slightly and took it.
“Thanks,” She told him and took a sip.
“No problem,” Luke responded, and then turned his attention back on what is going on causing the two women to do the same. The moment Tierja turned her gaze back on AJ however, it was just on time to see a woman who had been standing amongst the crowd around him slide her arms around his neck and claim hips lips for her own in a deep kiss. Tierja froze where she stood and grabbed onto Raven as the world stopped spinning around her and she waited for him to pull away. Any minute now he is going to, right? He loves her. But a full minute went by and when he placed his hands to the woman’s shoulders, tears instantly flooded Tierja’s eyes and she turned away not being able to stomach looking anymore.
“Honey…” Raven began, but Tierja thrust her drink into her hand and looked at Luke.
“Take me back to the hotel…get me out of here” She sobbed. Luke nodded readily and he slid his arm around her and steered her out of the place. Raven arched her eyebrow and frowned, before turning and looking at AJ just on time to see he had finally managed to come out of his shock and push the woman off of him. The moment he did, he turned in the direction he knew Tierja had been, fear evident on his face, only to meet Raven’s eyes.
“You’re in big trouble,” she mouthed, and he looked at Q and gave him a desperate look. Q wrapped an arm around him and steered him toward the stage and as soon as he was on it, he wasted no time in running after Tierja, needing to explain. He only had her by a very thin thread already, this is going to be the very thing that he loses her over, and he knows it. The real fear of it twisted at his gut and heart.