Chapter 1


Kevin

The last day of my life, as I knew it, also happened to be the last day of the year.

I guess everyone gets a little reflective on New Year’s Eve, and I was no exception.  As I sat at the kitchen island, spooning pureed squash into my son Mason’s mouth, I thought about how much my life had changed over the past year.  Exactly one year earlier, my wife Kristin and I had announced the news of our first pregnancy to our closest friends and family.  She was barely finished with her first trimester then, and now our baby boy was almost six months old.  I couldn’t believe it.  Time seemed to be flying by even faster than it had before I’d become a father.

Before I’d become a father, I had been a Backstreet Boy.  For thirteen years, I sang, danced, and toured the world with four guys who were like the little brothers I’d never had:  Brian, Howie, AJ, and Nick.  It had been a dream come true… until it wasn’t.  When I realized I was no longer living the dream, but dreading the next tour, I knew my time with the group needed to come to an end.  After six years of marriage, Kristin and I were ready to start a family, and I wanted to be the kind of father who was present and involved with his children, like my own dad had been, not an absent one who was always away for work.  Eventually, I also wanted to pursue other opportunities in the entertainment business, but at my own pace, with no pressure from four other guys or our fans.  I saw myself recording solo music, returning to the Broadway stage, maybe even acting in films someday.  But for now, I was perfectly happy playing my dual role as husband and father.  There were days when I missed being a Backstreet Boy, but on that particular evening, I was enjoying just being a family man instead.

“Here comes the plane!” I exclaimed, making Mason’s spoon zig and zag through the air before zooming into his mouth.  Half of the squash foamed out the sides of his mouth as he slapped his chubby hands against the tray of his high chair, giggling with delight.

“Will you zip me up, hon?”

I looked up to see my wife Kristin standing in the doorway.  She was wearing a long-sleeved, gold dress that stopped a few inches above her knees, showing off her long, dancer’s legs.  I let out a low whistle of admiration.  “Sexy Mama,” I said.

Kristin smiled and blushed, ducking her head a little so that a lock of her long, blonde hair fell in front of her face.  “You don’t think it’s too much?” she asked, resting her hand lightly on her cleavage, which was accented nicely by the dress’s plunging neckline.

I shook my head.  “No way.  If you got it, flaunt it, baby – and you definitely got it.  No one would ever be able to tell you had a baby six months ago.”

She laughed.  “Well, I’m only gonna have boobs this big for a few more months until Mason’s weaned, so I guess I might as well show ‘em off while I can, huh?”

“That’s right,” I agreed, grinning at her as I rose from my chair.

She turned around, holding up her hair so I could fasten her zipper.  Once I’d caught a whiff of her perfume, I couldn’t resist brushing my lips against her back, planting a soft kiss between her shoulder blades before I pulled the pieces of shimmery fabric together.  Goosebumps rose on her skin as I slowly zipped up the dress.  It fit her like a glove.

“Thanks, babe,” she said, turning back around.  “You have no idea how much I’ve been looking forward to tonight.”

I was taking her out for New Year’s Eve – a fancy dinner at one of our favorite restaurants in L.A., followed by dancing and drinks with some friends at a club downtown.  It was one of the first real dates we’d been on since Mason was born, and we were both excited to ring in the new year with some much-needed “Mommy/Daddy” time.

“Me too,” I replied, wrapping my arms around her waist.  Looking into her brown eyes, I felt like the luckiest man alive.  My wife was absolutely beautiful, both inside and out, and the life we’d created together was as perfect as life could possibly be.  She and Mason meant the world to me.

Kristin put her arms around me, too, and we began to rock back and forth, at ease in each other’s embrace.  “Someday…” I sang softly in her ear, rotating her slowly on the spot, “when I’m awfully low… and the world is cold… I will feel a glow just thinking of you… and the way you look tonight.”

Smiling, she slipped her hand into mine, and I moved my other hand to her back, as we danced around the kitchen.  It was times like these that my training as a ballroom instructor and her years as a professional dancer paid off.  Together, the two of us were a perfect match.  “Yes, you’re lovely…” I went on, spinning her out and reeling her back in again, “with your smile so warm… and your cheeks so soft… There is nothing for me but to love you… and the way you look tonight.”  I turned her under my arm, then tipped her backwards and kissed her long and deeply.

“Our son is watching,” she whispered against my lips.

I just laughed.  “So what?  Let him watch,” I said and kissed her again.

Just then, the intercom connected to our home security system buzzed, signalling that someone was waiting outside the front gate.  “That’ll be the babysitter,” said Kristin, hurrying to answer it.  We had hired Rachel, the daughter of a friend from the music business, to watch Mason that night.  While Kristin let her in and went over his bedtime routine, I retreated back to our bedroom to get dressed for the evening.  By the time I was done, Rachel had taken over feeding Mason the rest of his dinner, and Kristin was ready to go.

“We should be back by two at the latest,” she told Rachel, tucking her clutch under her arm as I put my wallet in my back pocket and picked up my car keys.  “Call if you need anything.”

“Sure,” said Rachel, smiling.  “You guys have a good time.”

“Oh, I’m sure we will,” I replied, winking at my wife.  We both kissed Mason goodbye and left quickly, before either he or Kristin could get upset.  Neither of us were used to leaving him, but I knew it would be harder on her than me.

Sure enough, as we climbed into my car, I saw Kristin swipe at her eyes.  “Aww, honey,” I said, squeezing her leg.  “He’ll be just fine, so don’t you worry now.  It’s New Year’s Eve, and you and I are gonna have fun tonight.”

She nodded.  “I know,” she said with a tearful smile.  “I just feel bad leaving before he goes to bed.  I’ve never not been there to rock him to sleep.”

“You’ll be there when he wakes up in the morning,” I replied, leaning over to kiss her forehead before I started the car.  “Now, come on… let’s go ring in the new year.”

***

“Three… two… one… Happy New Year!” the crowd around us chanted, as the clock struck midnight on the West Coast.  Kristin and I kissed, while confetti rained down on us.  It was the perfect start to a new year.

“Here’s to 2008!” I toasted her, holding up my flute of champagne.

“Happy New Year, baby!” she shouted back, clinking her glass against mine.  There was confetti caught in her hair.  Looking down, I saw some stuck in her cleavage as well.  She saw where I was looking and laughed as she glanced down at herself.  “I can’t wait to take this dress off!” she announced, fishing a piece of confetti out from between her breasts and flicking it away.

“I can’t wait to take it off either,” I replied, waggling my eyebrows at her.

She gave me a seductive smile, raising hers.  “You ready to go?”

I shrugged.  “Yeah, if you are.”

She nodded.  “Let’s go.”  She drained her glass in one, long swallow, then set it down and slipped her hand into mine.  We said goodbye to our friends as we wove our way toward the exit of the crowded club, squeezing through the throngs of partygoers.

It was a relief to get outside and feel fresh, cool air.  I handed my valet ticket to the parking attendant and waited with Kristin on the curb for our car to be brought around.  She leaned against me, her arm around my waist, slightly unsteady in her high heels.  Other than a sip of champagne at midnight, I had stopped drinking over an hour ago, wanting to make sure I was in decent shape to drive us home.  My head was clear when I took the keys from the valet and climbed behind the wheel.

I turned on the radio and tuned it to an R&B station – baby-making music, my wife called it – as we crawled through traffic.  Keeping one hand on the wheel, I let my other hand drift over to Kristin’s leg.  Her freshly-shaven skin felt as soft and smooth as silk.  She put her hand on top of mine and held it there.

Once we were out of downtown L.A. and onto the freeway, the traffic thinned out so I could finally go the speed limit.  “When we get home, I’m gonna kiss every inch of your body,” I told Kristin, taking the exit that would lead us there.

“Even my feet?” she asked, giggling.  I always gave her a hard time about her big feet and long toes, which had taken all kinds of abuse during her dance career.

“Every inch,” I repeated, “from head to toe… so, yes, even your feet.”

“You sure about that?” she teased, taking off one of her heels and lifting her leg into the air.  She propped her bare foot up on the dashboard and wiggled her toes, taunting me.

I rolled my eyes at her.  “Real classy, Kristin,” I said, though I couldn’t help grinning.  “Now put that thing down before-”

As Kristin took her foot off the dash, she suddenly gasped.  My head was turned toward her, so I didn’t see what she had until it was too late.  A pair of headlights was already upon us when I heard her scream, “Kevin, watch-!”  Her last words were cut short by the ear-splitting sound of crunching metal and shattered glass, as my world imploded.

***


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