Monday, June 29, 2020

Chapter 24

Nick’s nervous energy would not let him stop wiggling all morning, as he  laid in that hospital bed, despaired and desperate to get another chance to speak with his one true love. He desperately wanted to apologize for taking liberties with Katie when he forced a shiver-full kiss on her earlier that morning, aggravating her all that much more. Each shiver-full move Nick made toward Katie, only drew her that much further into the protective safety of her Scotty’s arms. 
Annie watched as her brother lay helplessly tied to his gurney, with plastic tubing dripping fluid into his veins. Nick held his head in his hands, attempting to squeeze the pain from both his head and his quailed heart. Now that Kentucky State Trooper Scotty P. Well’s ring was back on Katie’s left finger, Nick grappled with the truth that his cockiness just may have been what lost him the only woman he knew he could ever truly love. 
“My head is killing me, Annie.” 
“I’ll get the nurse to give you something. I’m sure something’s ordered.”
“No, I need to stay awake. I need to get up to talk to my Teach. I have to keep my wits about me.” 
“Nicolas Paul, you can’t talk to her. After what you said to Shawn and did to her, there is no way she will be coming back down here.”
Annie left the room to summon a nurse to tend to her brother’s pain. The nurse followed Annie into the room, checked his ID bracelet and administered a strong narcotic pain reliever into his IV fluid, with the effects immediately taking place. Nick felt the physical tension in his body release, as a sleepiness started to take over his wakefulness. 
“Before I fall asleep, Annie, please take me up there.”  
“Nope, I won’t be a part of you getting busted. You heard Shawn say that the trooper said he would re-file the charges if you went anywhere near her.” 
“Then, will you go up and talk to her? See if she’ll come back down. Maybe Shawn is still there. Maybe I could talk to him, and he could help me out there.” 
“Wow, Nicky, you just never ceased to amaze me. What a jerk you are. Shawn is supposed to help you, now?  Didn’t you call him a traitor? Didn’t you tell him to go to hell, again? Now, you want him to run to your side? He may never even speak to you, again, let alone help you with her.”  
The devastating truth of all that Nick had done to force his best friend and his best girl out of his life, began to sink deep into Nick’s head and heart.  His blame shifting of his obnoxious and slanderous behavior on to Shawn was completely uncalled for and unwarranted. His licentious living over the past year closed up his true love’s heart even tighter, causing her to run as far away as she could from that heart-crushing shiver full love. He laid helpless and lost in that bed, as he fought the sleepiness that wanted control over his body and mind, in that order.  
“Please, Annie, I need to talk to her, or Shawn.”
Annie shook her head at her brother’s desperation. She pitied him, knowing that he was truly broken and scared. When she texted Shawn, he told her the room number, but warned her not to mess with Scotty. The threat of felony charges for hitting a peace officer with no statutes of limitations hung over Nick’s head to keep him from any access to Katie.
“Shawn’s gone, already,” she reported to Nick, who was fighting the effects of the narcotic. 
“Please Annie, go ask her to come down, maybe she’ll do it for you,” he slurred. 
“Fine, I’ll be right back, but don’t get your hopes up.” 
Nick soon lost the battle of the narcotic’s effect on him and he closed his heavy-laden eyelids. Even though sleepiness had overcome Nick’s eyes and body, his mind did not rest, but kept focused on his Teach and the long-suffering wait he had to endure those two years, since that magical night when they fell in love on her Valentine’s birthday. Annie returned to report a sign on the door, stating that they not be disturbed. Nick’s sleeping body did not respond to Annie’s report, as it should have. That sign meant nothing to her, but should have provoked Nick to worry even more, knowing that was his idea for sneaking a little recovery between the sheets for himself and Katie.  Annie decided it best to let her brother get some well-needed sleep.
A nurse came in to let Annie know that they were releasing Nick later that day. Annie called their mother, Jeannette Wilson Thomas Williamson, who had also rushed to Nick’s side from Nashville. Nick insisted that she spend the remainder of the late night early morning at a local hotel. Her  intrusiveness into her adult children’s lives, along with her distaste for Nick’s former rival, brought on by Nick’s provocation, only added to Nick’s stress and concussed-induced headache. He was going to have to come clean with his mother in identifying Katie as not only not a rival, but as his teacher, with whom he spoke of with such love and admiration all that time, embarrassing him all that much more with his family.  As Nick’s body drifted into a deep sleep, his mind wandered back to that magical night and the intricate details of the tale Katie called Operation Rescue Fair Maiden from Stalker.
As he drifted into a deep narcotic driven sleep, echoes of his Teach’s voice, in particular her crying voice, drew him back to the tunnel of memories in his subconscious. This trip down the tunnel was different from the first. The images on the wall were not of his own life; rather they seemed to be images of a younger Katie and a younger Matthew, Katie’s former brother-in-law. He noticed images of a young man who looked similar to the younger Matthew; only this man was thinner with longer frizzier and more unkempt hair. He had a different look in his expression. He did not have that kind soft countenance, or comforting voice of Matthew, moreover, his voice was extremely similar in sound to Matthew’s, but had a cockiness to it. 
As his body floated down the tunnel, unfamiliar voices rang out from the walls, as well as some acid rock music. He felt himself falling out of the end of the tunnel, not into the warm amber light like before, but a moonlit darkened and empty hotel restaurant with thousands of stars shining above from the windowed ceiling. When he got his wits about him, he found himself sitting across from his Teach in the dimly-lit restaurant booth of the Embassy Suite’s Hotel, where they spent the last few hours of their magical first date. 
That wonderful night, Nick had become so completely enthralled in her exquisite portrayal of her elaborate plot, it was as if he was watching it on the big screen in his mind. Katie described with such vivid details, the ruse incorporating a whole band of family and friends of her first love, and how they worked together to change a cocky, playboy acid-rock lead vocalist, with a self-loathing problem, into the local town hero that magical summer of Katie’s eighteenth year.  


After leaving the manager’s office to return the pool key, the two new lovers made their way to the empty hotel restaurant. Nick made a hand motion for Katie to slide in first. As he started to sit on her side, she pushed him away. She darted a look up at him, with her eyebrows wrinkled.
“Ah, I don’t think so, Nicky, not after the smelly-feet comment.” Nick guffawed. “I think I’ll take my shoes off on this side, Nicky, you may want to sit over there,” she said with her lips pursed. 
Nick chuckled and shook his head, taking the bench across the table in defeat. He reached his hand across the table, wanting her hands in his, and that was as much physical contact as he was going to get, she warned. 
“All right, now Aunt Myrtle, I want to hear what I’ve been waiting all night for, Operation Rescue Fair Maiden from Stalker.” 
Katie giggled, calling them even from the teasing they had done moments before in the hotel manager’s office. She popped out of her seat to jump into his arms. Nick’s face lit up, welcoming her with his opened arms.
“Aren’t you afraid the manager will see us?” 
“Nope, she was off duty a while ago.  She was just waiting for you to show up when I promised I’d bring you by.  She said she had a wicked crush on you, the little cougar.”  
“I can’t believe she waited all that time just to see me.”
“What, you don’t think she wanted a good close up so she could go home tonight and fantasize about the things she’d like to do with the parts she got close to, but couldn’t get close enough to grab, tonight?” He chuckled. 
“And are you going to do that same thing, tomorrow?” He asked. 
“Probably not as much as you are going to,” she cackled. They both laughed and Katie began the story of one man’s journey from pitiful to perfect. “Nicolas Paul, I owe you one hell of a story, and I intend to tell you the greatest story ever written, produced, directed and acted out by yours truly.  It took a huge array of people, but we pulled it off and turned an unscrupulous, selfish and yet self-loathing, playboy cad into the town hero. You ought to get some great songs out of this story.”
“I’ve been looking forward to this all night. Do you want publishing rights?”
“No, just some really good liner notes, okay?” Katie asked. She had not anticipated the media effect his eloquent and love-induced liner notes would have in the country music industry, on his album, and her life, six months later. 
“Deal, now let’s get that movie projector in your head rolling. I love how you tell your stories. It’s almost as if I’m in the story watching it play out in the wings. Nick had been waiting all evening for this story, and Katie did not disappoint.
“Now, before I get into the play which curtain’s rise was on June 29th, I have to give you some background information, otherwise, you won’t see the miracle involved and all the important people who played their parts superbly.” 
“How many people?” 
She pointed at her temple, like she was thinking and adding up all the faces of the gang involved. “Nearly the entire town I think.”
“Oh, now that sounds like a great story.” 
“Yes, by the time it was all said and done, Michael was a true hero, I had my man and poor Steven Schuler walked away with an unplanned   broken nose with multiple cuts and bruises about the face.  
Katie started to review the last thing that she told Nicholas about her Michael. She recalled the night that Michael had a bad fight with his father, and he planned to find a groupie to get mad between the sheets with to feel better about himself. 
“The only time Michael felt good about himself was when some groupie was hanging all over him wanting him to rock between the sheets. Prior to the night he rejected me in that back room that May evening, he would have a different flavor groupie of the week on that couch with him. I had been waiting three months for a second chance at his lips. Of course, little did I know then, that Michael’s want of me had grown so out of control, that he feared his passion would get the better of him. He later told me that he thought of me as way too classy and virtuous of a young lady, to do some serious sweating and petting on that famed brown couch. He felt that was surely not an appropriate place for him to deflower me, especially with all the groupies he had done previously there, and with such disdain for their reputation, or any kind of respect for them. To me, though, that night, all I felt was pure unadulterated rejection by him. He wasn’t the best of communicators back then.  
“Yeah, but you said it was after that night that he started seeing you as a much more serious love interest and possible bride, as well as a mother for his daughter, right?” Katie turned her head in a jerking manner, tucking in her chin. 
“My goodness, you have been paying attention, haven’t you?”
“To every lovely word that has come from those lovely lips, sweetness,” he said as he put his hand behind her neck and pulled her in for a sweet, yet passionate kiss. 
“Kinda like a kiss like that, was what I was hoping for, but Michael felt it would lead to much more. Then he saw us sneaking some rocking between the sheets at his parents’ house, and how complicated that could become. Nope, instead he decided that it was time for him to get a place of his own, so that when he broke me in, it would be under his own roof and not his Christian parents’ roof. He also took a good long hard look at what kind of father he was being to Laurie, and he realized that he needed to be a much more proactive role in her life as a Dad, and not just like an uncle of sorts, which was how he acted toward her. It was time for Michael to grow up, but before that happened, with the rejection I felt, it was also time for Michael to feel a little rejection himself. Finding myself my own groupie was just the trick.” 
“How did you do that?” 
“Well, first of all, Michael knew that he needed a full-time job and luckily for him, the weeknight bartender had just quit at the Rathskeller. The business genius of the owner, Ralph, saw dollar signs in having Michael tending bar during the nights he was not playing in his band, either there, or traveling. His assumption was correct. He took Michael under his wings and taught him how to be an expert mixologist. Michael did not need any training on how to flirt with the ladies to bring them in and draw them to the bar for some serious swooning. Ralph’s profits increased ten-fold that late spring, and he had the hottest pub going in Boston at the time. He packed the house most nights because the groupies came in droves, all vying for a spin on the brown leather couch, or some hospitality between the sheets.”
“Wait, so he was still fooling around then, even after that episode in May when he had the epiphany that he needed to get serious?” 
“No, but Michael was Ralph’s main attraction, and he practically prostituted him, goading him into flirting the girls into spending their hard-earned greenbacks on more and more drinks. It worked fabulously and his prior reputation as a fabulous one-night-stand lover created a buzz and filled the bar. The only problem was that the groupies did not know that he was waning in feeding his manhood, which was quite a challenge for him. That summer he was hot as all hell and making boo-coo bucks in tips. He was able to get his own apartment in no time and we were all so proud of him.” 
“Hold on a second, you keep toting how Michael was the beginning and the end and wanted by everything in a skirt, right?” 
“Yes, right.” 
“And, he wanted you.” 
“Yes, but I didn’t know that at the time.” 
“That’s regardless of the fact. You know that now. He could have had any female in the area, and he wanted you. Yet, you find it so difficult to believe that of all the women I’ve met, I want you.” 
“Well, that’s simple.” 
“Please expound.” 
“First of all, Michael wasn’t known on a national level or surrounded by thousands of drop-dead gorgeous women everywhere he went.” She turned to look at him with one eyebrow raised. His coy expression caused her to chuckle. “I mean the type of females Michael attracted were, how you say, less than debutantes, if you know what I mean. I also had an unfair advantage to all those girls. I had unlimited access to him. His daughter Laurie adored me, and I was good mother and marrying material. Michael was starting to see how having a potential wife would be better than just a few varied groupies who were only good for serving drinks beneath the sheets. The irony of it all was that he started to get serious about me, but kept more distance between us, because of his low self-worth, which kept increasing as the summer went on, with my help, unbeknownst to me.”
“How did you do that?”
“Well, I was mad still from that night he dumped me on the side of the road. I had just about given up on him, until I gave him a piece of his own medicine, and he balked. He didn’t like it one bit.” 
“How did you give him a piece of his own medicine?”
“I was the hope for Marjorie and Mark, as the means to ground their wayward and indiscriminately living son. As it turned out, I succeeded. I came into that family with a lot of baggage of my own, though. Matthew and Marjorie particularly contributed in helping me heal from the inner damage of a little, unwanted abused and neglected child. They showered me with more than double the love I would have received in any normal family, which embolden me on to become the woman I always wanted to be.” 
Nick interrupted her, again. “One who could inspire the world, as well as one who made everyone in your presence instantly fall in love with you, right?”
She turned back around and nestled into Nick’s arms in her favorite position with her back pressed up against his chest, and his arms wrapped securely around her. “No, only a tortoise-brained artist who’s gone off his meds,” she said with a giggle.
He squeezed her even tighter.  “Umm, I don’t think so, princess, it’s like Matthew said...,” Katie interrupted him. 
“Yeah, yeah, well, whatever, forget about that, and let’s get on with the story before the bewitching hour. Now, stop interrupting the teacher, again, and I’ll get to the best parts.” She reached back and tickled his belly, and in his wriggling, he grabbed her hands and held a firm grip.
“Keep your hands out here, princess, and go on with the story.” Katie’s shoulders shook with her giggling.  
“Well, his little rejection episode caused some serious tension between us, and I began to avoid him when I could. Michael, of course, saw my avoidance as rejection from me coming from Becca’s negative influence on me. He figured that she had no respect for him. Michael’s family was well-respected in that community as a good church-going family, and Michael saw himself as the family reject, or the black sheep, the troubled son.”
“Seems to me he was,” Nick said.
Katie turned to give him that annoyed look. “Sorry, princess, for the commentary.
“Oh, brother, this is going to take all night.”
“Sorry, I’ll stop. So, now, tell me more.”
“Well, his low self-worth was why it was so hard for him to give up the groupie groping, because in his eyes, they were the only ones who worshiped him and made him feel like he was a something or a somebody. Those groupie banging events were his only respite from his self-loathing moments when he couldn’t see any good in himself, mostly from his Pop’s nagging and antagonism. I’ll never forget all those nights, before he gave up his groupie loving, when he did have his flavor of the week. He used to come home in the wee hours of the morning. I’d hear him sneak up the stairs, making the floor boards creak. I could hear the old brass hinges on my bedroom door, and I felt his eyes penetrating my half-sleeping body. He was checking on me, to make sure that I was home, alone in bed. Seems it was okay for him to spread it around, but not me. I hated how he treated me like a kid sister in those days.”  
“I thought he was in love with you,” Nick asked.“Yeah, he was, but at the same time, he seem to teeter between fantasizing about loving me between the sheets in that guest bedroom and also seeing me as a virtuous little teenager, and he was hell-bent on making sure I stayed that way. He always made sure that Matthew kept me close by their side at the Rathskeller, as if they were my babysitters.”   
With vivid details and a precious tender spirit, Katie shared of the love and acceptance she found in Matthew’s family that she never found in her own. Katie paused a moment, closing her eyes, breathing slower as she pictured the scene, revisiting one of the more wonderful times of her life. She took in a deep breath, then let out a long sad sigh as her memory took her back to that very special summer, the best summer of her entire life. The projector began in her head as she laid out the entire scenario in vivid Technicolor for Nick, as she did with all her stories that night. 

BOOK  3   LOVE'S MUSES:  Rectifying His Life and His Love 

Chapter 23

When Katie and Shawn arrived back in the room, Scotty was there with a huge bag of McDonald’s food, and Katie took in a huge breath. He had his hands on his hips with an angry stare at Katie down in the wheel chair. She tried to dodge the issue of where she was.  
“Ooooh, that smells so good. Hurry, get me back up in my bed, so I can feast.”
“Don’t you try to cover, Katie-bear, I know where you went.” He helped her up and guided her into bed. “So, why did you have to go down there now? Can’t you go one day without running to him?”  
“Dude, she went to tell him off for the way he treated me, and man, did she do a great job. You’d have been proud of her.” Shawn said as he put the wheel chair in the hallway.  Scotty threw his head back as Katie nodded. “I was really proud of her, she laid him flat,” Shawn said with a chortle. “She was poetry in motion.”
“Really?” Scotty asked, with his voice raised and his hands holding on to his belt at his waist. 
“Yep, I took that man down at least three or four inches from his stature, didn’t I, Shawn?” She winced over the fact that Nick melted her offensive tactic right after that, hoping Shawn did not know. 
“I’d say no less than half a foot.” They all laughed.
“That’s my firecracker-bear. Good for you, Katie-bear.” He kissed her on her lips, gratified, satisfied and feeling much more secure in his place in her heart. 
The three of them feasted on greasy, very fattening McDonald’s food. Katie did not finish hers, but both Scotty and Shawn were thrilled to watch her immensely enjoy her shake. Scotty saved the rest of her breakfast for later, satisfied and feeling more secure with her increased appetite and willingness to eat, again. The three relished in each other’s company as they forged a new friendship between the two renewed lovers and Shawn. Shawn grew a whole new respect for Scotty and started to really believe Katie was better off with him, maybe permanently. He knew that he was going to have to break it to Nick, but the way Nick was acting, he wasn’t sure if he cared. Jay, Cathy and Shawn may have been plotting the romance of the century, but Shawn was beginning to doubt it. Little did he know, God did not doubt it, nor did He lose faith in His Nicolas Paul.  God was going to over-stuff Nicolas Paul with humble pie, using whoever, or whatever circumstances He needed, until his Nicolas Paul was fat and miserable and could live up to his name, which means victory for the people and humbled. 
Shawn and Katie hugged right before he left. She advised him to not go back down to visit Nick and to let him sweat it out, to which he agreed. Katie scooted back over in her bed and made motion for Scotty to lay down with her. 
“So, you really are going to make me wait one whole year, Scotty? Do you think you could hold out that long without sex you horn-dog?”  Scotty laughed and so did Katie. 
“Well, okay, how about just once, when we get home. Katie-bear it’s been more than two years, and I’m dying to make love to you. I think that if I made love to you even that once, it would hold me over until the year is up. If you love only me after that year, then we’ll get married.”
“Seriously, Scotty, I can’t imagine you holding out for a whole year with no sex, not you.” Scotty laughed. 
“My wonderful Katie-bear, that time, when I assaulted you, showed me just how low of a person I was. I think I hated myself more than your Michael ever did himself. You remember we talked all those hours about me being a man God could respect? How could I do that and sleep around. Besides, you were the only woman in my heart, always have been and always will be.” Katie sat up straight. She turned and faced him, shocked at what she heard.
“Are you trying to tell me that you haven’t slept with, had sex with, or made love to any one in over two years?”
“Not even a kiss, or a wink.” Scotty’s smile beamed of pride for his control. “I couldn’t believe I did what I did to you, honey. I’ve busted up so many scum boyfriends for doing that to their women, and I did it to my Katie-bear. I was so disgusted with myself, because I knew that being a brute lost you to me. So, I pledged to God that I would never have sex, nor make love to any other woman. I love you and you alone. I don’t want anyone else. If I can’t have you, I don’t want any other woman. You are it for me.”   
Katie swallowed hard, her eyes about to burst forth with tears. “Oh Scotty, I can’t believe it. I just figured you were making the rounds until I came back. I’m so sorry to have assumed that. Why didn’t you tell me?” 
“I didn’t want to tell you. I wanted you to come back on your own, not because of guilt or compulsion and especially not because you were running from the jerk.” 
“Oh, my darling, Scotty, I love you, so much. I am so proud of the man you have become. Scott Patrick Wells, I am so impressed. I hope I can someday be worthy of you.” He laughed at that statement. All the while he was trying to become worthy of her. Even she thought herself better than him up until recently, and this truly humbled her. This was a new Scotty, and every day he impressed her more. She looked up at him from lying in his arms; this was such a familiar position for them, but not a familiar feeling for her. 
“That’s a riot, honey, I’ve never been worthy of you.” 
“No, Scotty, I’ve been a jerk. I’ve been so uppity when it came to you. I’m so sorry. Can you forgive me?” He laughed and leaned up on his elbow to bend over and kissed her. He stared at her thin, but rounding face. She had some color in it that was not there yesterday, but it was still too thin and pale for his liking. There was a peace and contentment there that he was not used to seeing, especially as of late with the unwanted notoriety and this feud with Nick Thomas. He stared wantonly at her lips. She smiled back up at him. 
“You want that kiss, the one you wanted before, don’t you? How long do you think you can hold out?” 
“Not long, enough.” Scotty pulled her in very slowly and gently placed his lips on hers and tenderly kissed those familiar lips. She parted her lips, inviting him, and she initiated a passion between them that was never in her heart for him before. He partook in that passion she was offering, then jumped back when the compulsion to do what he loved doing with her became too forceful. 
“Okay, that’s enough. I want you too much, Katie,” he said trying to catch his breath. She chuckled and looked at him with that mischievous look in her eye. She thought about Nick and the effect he had over her just moments earlier. The shiver wasn’t there with Scotty, but the love was, and she needed to secure that love deep in her heart for Scotty, thereby,  forcing any love she thought remained for her Nicolas Paul out, and out for good. 
“Well, then, let’s do it, she said, losing all sense of right or wrong. When it came to forcing Nicolas Paul out of her heart, she would sink to any level to scurry him out of her head and heart. 
“We can’t do it here, in the hospital, silly bear. We’ll wait until we get  home.” In Katie’s heart, the ultimate retaliation against Nick Thomas, the cocky superstar, would be to do with Scotty what Nick tried to pull with her last night. This would bring her satisfaction as a just reward for Nick, and she would find a way to make sure he found out what she did. 
“Why not?” She cackled. 
“No way, Katie-bear.”  
“Where’s your spontaneity? Just go tell the nurses that I’m exhausted and need a good couple of hours of sleep, with absolutely no interruption. Tell them I stuffed myself silly, and now I was tired, then shut the door and the curtain. C’mon, Scotty, I know you want it, and I’m offering it, unless of course, this skinny body isn’t attractive to you, any more.” 
Scotty darted out of the room to let the nurses know that she was not to be disturbed. He had them put a sign on the door in big bold letters, “Do not disturb, not even medical personnel.” He shut the door, turned out the lights, drew the blinds and then the curtain. She followed him with her eyes, as he stared at her. He started to unbutton his shirt, as she sat up to take hers off, when a flashback of his violence against her hit him, killing his want and driving him to the prison of guilt that had him captive for all this time. He backed up, breathing heavy. 
“What’s wrong?” She asked. He backed several feet away. “Scotty, what? Don’t I do it for you?” 
“Katie-bear,” he said with tears forming in his eyes. “After I did what I did to you, I never expected to be with you like this, again. I keep seeing that day. I look down on that person as if it were a stranger, and I hate that man.” 
“Scotty, that was a different person. It wasn’t you then, and it certainly is not you, now. How about you just come here and lay with me. Hold me, kiss me, and we’ll see where it goes. If you can’t still, I’ll understand, but I want you. I really do, right now. Scotty,” she said lying to herself and to him, but unaware of her deceptive tactics.  In her mind, bonding with Scotty this way would be the only way to arrest Nicolas Paul, locking him out of her heart forever. “I want you to make love to me, please? I want to feel your love on me, again.” 
Scotty laid down next to Katie, and they laid there, facing each other with every memory of the last five years flashing before them in each other’s mind. There was a long history between them and too many high’s and low’s in their relationship, but in all of that, they were steady as she goes with two hearts purely devoted to each other with that sacrificial love.  They stared into each other’s eyes. While his pupils dilated, hers did not. His breathing increased, and to a certain degree, hers did also. As much as she wanted to, she tried to whip up a shiver in her mind, but even while he was kissing her all over her body, the shiver was still downstairs with Nick. 
It was the first time that they had made love when it was truly a love between them. It wasn’t the kind of love Nick had over her, but she was pleasantly surprised that she did not hate it, like she did so many times before. Scotty laid next to her with that wonderful after glow. 
“I gotta say, I’m not sure which was more exciting, making love after waiting two years and it being worth every second of the wait, or the excitement of doing it right here in a hospital room.” Scotty chuckled. Katie squeezed him tight as she lay on his chest, rubbing his six pack abs that she loves so much. 
“I miss these, and how strong they are,” she said as she tickled him. He squirmed laughing and grabbed her hands. 
“And I miss you tickling them. I love you so much, Katie-bear.” 
“I love you too, my big strong handsome trooper.” She lifted her hand and studied the ring. 
An awkward silence followed there wonderful moment and Katie’s smile left her face. Scotty knew that something was bothering her, and then he started to feel guilty about making love to her outside of wedlock, which was something she swore she’d never do, again. 
“Honey, are you feeling guilty because of what we just did, without being married?” That was not what she was regretting, but with him mentioning it, he now  just initiated that guilt on top of the guilt she felt thinking about Nicolas Paul, before during and after making love to Scotty. 
“Yeah, a little bit. Maybe it was wrong, but I was just so desperate to feel your love all over me.” 
“I’m sorry, honey. I won’t put that kind of pressure on you, again.” He kissed her on the cheek and got off the bed and dressed. 
“You didn’t put that kind of pressure on me. It’s just as much my fault. One year, it’s seems like such a long time away.”
“It will fly by, honey. I’m going to make you so happy, then if you still want me, and he’s out of your heart completely, then I’ll marry you in an instant.”  
She wanted to make Scotty happy, she wanted to try and get Nick’s influence out of her heart and hoped making love with Scotty would do that. She wanted to want Scotty. She loved being with him, but the memory of what Nick could still do to her, haunted her. She fell asleep comfortably in his arms, but awoke to Scotty’s groaning and wincing in pain. 
“Your stomach again, darling?” Scotty nodded. 
“I’m sure eating that food from McD’s isn’t helping. Why don’t you just go and get your medicine. You have some in your car don’t you?” He nodded. Scotty always kept a healthy supply of antacid in his glove box for those indigestive moments that were coming much too frequently these days. 
“Oh, I hate getting older, Katie. I’ll be right back. Sleep honey.” Katie laid in her bed, thinking about what she and Scotty just did, knowing it was wrong, but feeling worse about wanting Nick while she was with Scotty, in that way. She looked up to the ceiling and mumbled to herself. 
“Shiver, Oh, Shiver where fore art thou, Oh Shiver, Deny thy country artist and forget that powerful flame. Or if thou wilt not be a Nicholas Paul, And I’ll no longer be holding out at all."

When Annie returned to the room, Nick was still lying there with his hands clasped behind his head, confidently smiling at his ability to knock Katie off her feet. She stood at the end of the bed with her arms crossed. 
“So, what’s that grinning all about? If you ask me, she told you off, and you have nothing to be grinning about, if that’s really your jolt-giver.” 
“Oh, but you didn’t see what happened after she fired at me.” 
“Yes, I did. I peeked around the curtain. I saw you kissing her.” 
“Yep, and she melted in my arms. I did that to her earlier, too. She can’t resist me.” Annie edged over toward the side of the bed and sat where Katie was sitting. She rested her hands on her lap and got ready to finish the job Katie started. 
“She can’t resist you, but she has his ring on her finger, and how do you suppose she came down here? Do you think she wheeled herself?  Nope,
Shawn brought her.” 
“Shawn is still here?” Nick crooked his head and then put his hands down by his sides. 
“Yep, he’s been up in her room, getting cozy with her and the trooper.” 
“Traitor. You see, he’s been wanting me to fall flat on my face.” Annie turned more toward her brother, putting one knee up on the bed. 
“No, he hasn’t been wanting you to fall on your face, but he gave up trying to keep you from doing it yourself. If you ask me, you haven’t fallen far enough, yet.”
“What do you mean by that?” Nick sat up, adjusting the head of his bed.
“Obviously, you think you have your Teach all sewn up, even though she has his ring on her finger. I heard you tell her that you’d have that ring off her finger by this time next year. What makes you think that?” 
“Because, you didn’t see how she melts around me. I shiver her, still.” 
“Oh really, well guess what you cocky little shit, Buddy still shivers me, every single time we bump into each other, yet I married Ray. You know when Buddy use to pull that same crap with me, I shivered for sure, but the minute I was in Ray’s arms, I was cursing myself for feeling that way.  I love how I feel when I’m with Ray, as opposed to how I felt with Buddy, which was like I was just a female body to screw. Ray’s the man I know who truly loves me, all of me and will be faithful to me. He loves me crazy, and that makes me love him more than I want Buddy. Ray would give up his life for me. Buddy wouldn’t even give up the groupies.  I took Mom’s advice and dumped the “jolt-giver” in my life, because he wasn’t trustworthy.” 
“So, are you telling me that you are still in love with Buddy after all that he did to you?” 
“No, I am not. I’m not in love with him, because I have no respect for him. Shiver means nothing without respect. You cannot be in love with someone you have no respect for. Like Shawn said, love is a heck of a lot more than just that feeling below the belt. How does your teacher feel about her trooper? Does she respect and honor him, because it didn’t sound to me like she has any of that kind of love for you.”  Nick tightened his lips when the truth hit him. “Why do you suppose Shawn didn’t come in here?  Maybe he has no more respect for you than she does? Did you ask yourself why he didn’t tell you that Katie Lynn Moore was your Teach? Did it ever occur to you that he cared more about her heart than yours? If you ask me, he didn’t find you worthy of her, and he would have been right.” 
Nick turned his head away to look out at the cloudy, grey-covered Kentucky sky. He started blinking his eyes furiously trying to hold back the tears. 
“So let me ask you, do you ever wish you were with Buddy?” He asked. She snorted a disgusted chuckle. 
“Oh, I’m not going to lie, just thinking about him and the way he could make me feel, makes me wish he were a better man, but I married the better man. I’m happy with Ray, and he’s going to make a great Dad, someday,” she added, “While Buddy is still out there spreading it around, thinking he’s Mr. Hot Shot. I pity the girl who falls for his crap enough to marry the jerk. It won’t be a lasting marriage.” 
“So, you’re thinking about another man, married to Ray. How do you make love to Ray while thinking about Buddy?”
“Who the hell said I did. I love Ray with everything I have. I love the man he is, not that stupid jolt thing that Gramps is talking about. Ray is just as good a lover as Buddy was, but even better, because I’m not ashamed of the person I was when I was with Buddy. Ray always thinks of me first, not that selfish center-staged jerk Buddy.  I was  wondering all the time, if someone else was doing it with him just the night before, no matter how much he swore he wasn’t doing any other groupie.” 
Nick put his hands together, rubbing them. “I wouldn’t cheat on my Teach.” 
“You stupid hypocrite, lying to everyone, including yourself. What did you do all those nights you were partying, getting trashed? Do you think we don’t know? Are you really that moronic? Did you or did you not sleep with the whack job? How many others were there, while you were allegedly pining after your teacher? You don’t think that she knows all of that, with all the crap that whack job has been writing on her Facebook page? People talk, you know. Do you think the groupies you slept with kept it a secret? What the hell planet are you from? Buddy’s groupies bragged all the time.” 
Panic took over in Nick’s heart, again. “Do you think my Teach knows what I did? So you didn’t trust Buddy, again after that?”
“Of course she knows, and hell no, of course I wouldn’t trust him, nor will she you. He had a track record, and have you forgotten about what Katie’s first husband did? Do you think she wants to go that route, again? Do you think she trusts you now, or ever will?” 
“I’m different from him,” Nick said, trying to justify his behavior. “I made a mistake. I’ll never go back to that. I’m going to make it right.” 
“Oh, and you think she is assured of that? Listen, that cop is not going to let go of her, nor is he going to say anything nice about you to her. He’ll be trashing you to keep her away from you. He’ll fight tooth and nail for her because he loves her and will do anything to protect her, I’ve heard, even to throwing you in jail. He won’t be intimidated by what he considers a two-bit country singer, a lot younger and more immature than him. I love my Ray, and I’m glad that he didn’t let Buddy intimidate him, like that other guy let Gran’s feelings for Gramps get in the way. I’ll bet anything Gramps cheated on Gran, and that was why she broke off the engagement so close to the wedding and ran into the arms of another man, nearly marrying him. Gramps may have been her jolt-giver, but something caused them to break up, only another woman makes sense. Wasn’t it right after he came back from Korea? What the hell do you think he did, stupid?   
“I doubt Gramps cheated. She probably just got cold feet, because he was an artist, and he wouldn’t give it up for her, at first, until he lost her.” 
“That’s not what I heard. I heard the other man dumped Gran at the altar, too.” 
“Where did you hear that?”
“Aunt Evelyn and she were talking about it once in Gran’s kitchen. Gran was too embarrassed to let any of us know that. She said she would really have married that man, and she was crushed when he dumped her. She must have loved him somewhat. She said it took forever for her to be able to forgive Gramps, and as long as he was doing shows, she would never have trusted him, again.” 
“So, you didn’t trust Buddy ever again, then?” 
“Not even when he begged and swore his undying love to me the day before my wedding when he tried to seduce me. I know Buddy loved me, but he had no clue what real love was. Like Shawn said, love isn’t just that happy feeling you guys get below the belt. It’s a lifestyle. It’s self-sacrifice, like your teacher gave up being with you to take care of a man she was not in love with, but loved all the same. Buddy has no clue about that then, or now. He has no clue how to treat a woman, with gentleness and respect. You think grabbing your teacher and kissing her, forcing yourself on her is going to make her respect you?”  
Nick’s eyes moved to and fro, blinking rapidly, pondering what she just said. “So, Ray knows how you felt about Buddy?” 
“Yes, he also knew what I thought of him as a person, too. He knew he was the better man, and he fought for me, just like the trooper is going to fight for her. Ray was the better man, he still is. As far as I’m concerned, at this point, the trooper is the better man here, and they’ve been together for several years, over your one night. You really are that dumb, aren’t you? You’re a typical man who has no clue what a woman wants or needs. He’s a grown man. You’re just a boy. He’s already offered up his life for her once, as she wrote in her book. News flash, little brother, to him, you’re just a little boy, and he’ll do everything he can to convince her of that.” 
Nick started pounding his fists together. He started to breathe heavy and panicky. “She said the more she’s with me, the more she loves him. Do you think she really meant that, or was just trying to lash out and get back at me? Do you think she’d run to him to run from me?” 
“Not just to run from you, but to hold on to a man who would give up his life for her. Here’s the icing on the cake; I love my Ray, but he’s not near as hot as your Teach’s cop is. Shoot if it were me, it would be the older more mature cop any day over the childish ego-maniac artist with a groupie following. I love that Ray is not an artist. I could have chosen Buddy when he begged me, but I had the sense to ignore that stupid jolt thing and go with what made more sense, the one who I felt more secure with, the real man, not the little boy, the playboy, just like Mom always said. Have you forgotten all the hurt you caused your teacher? Do you think the shiver will take that away?” 
“Annie, do you think my Teach is going to marry him?” Nick’s shaky voice started to show panic setting in and fear gripping his heart.
“Didn’t she say that the cop is making her wait a year; making her wait? I’ll bet after that year, she’ll be hot and ready to marry him. I also heard her say that she wasn’t going to wait a year, that she knows how to get what she wants, and she wants that cop, not you. Don’t you think he’d jump at the chance to marry her if she begged him enough to keep her away from you?” 
Nick’s shoulders dropped, he closed his eyes and his insides flipped upside down picturing his Teach in a wedding dress and Scotty standing at the altar next to her. His labored breathing was deep, trying to hold back the tears. “So, it’s a lost cause then. You think I’ve lost her for good. I blew it. Is that what you’re saying? I’ll never win her back. Oh, Annie, I can’t live without her, again.” Nick’s voice quivered and he dropped his head and started to weep panic-driven sobs. 
Annie shrugged her shoulders. She sat and watched him become a broken man. When he had cried long enough, Annie took him in her arms and comforted him after she dropped him.  
“Nothing’s a lost cause, brother. You just need to be able to earn the respect, honor, admiration and trust that she has in him, and then you’ll have the shiver going for you. But without those other things, and with her past hurts that her Michael caused, you’re history.” 
“What am I going to do? I can’t lose her, Annie, I can’t,” he said in a panic.
“Going to Gramp’s and Gran’s is the best thing you can do for a few days, little brother. They’ll help you. I believe in you. You are not a jerk like Buddy, you have just been acting like one. I know your heart. I think you can earn all that back, but you have to work like hell to become that same kind of man that Gramps became for Gran. That’s why it was so easy for Gramps to give up his career. It was keep Gran happy, or keep touring.
Duh, no brainer here. Are you willing to give that up for her?”
Immediately, the desire to sing and perform for his life’s career, over having his Teach, made the choice crystal clear. A desperate urge came over Nick to go up and see Katie and beg her for another chance to earn her respect back. “I’ve got to see her before I leave. Annie, you gotta take me to her. I have to apologize to her, again.”  
“I don’t even know where she is. I only saw the elevator go up, and Shawn says the cop won’t let you anywhere near her, anyway. He said that if you did try, he’d refile the charges. He ain’t leaving her side, either.”    

Nick turned his head to stare at the cloudy sky over Lexington, feeling that cloudiness in his heart. The bright warm love of his Teach brought light and life to his heart, and now it was overcast with the clouds of dread and doubt. Annie watched as Nick’s head dropped with sobs. He felt more lost at the moment than he did during all of his drinking days and all those mornings that he awoke, having no idea how he got where he was. Despair settled into Nick’s heart that morning and it would not leave, not for many more weeks to come. 

Chapter 24 HOW TO DROP A COCKY COUNTRY SINGER  Nick’s nervous energy would not let him stop wiggling all morning, as he  laid i...