Chapter 1 The Label
"That's probably Justin!" Nicole heard Rachel scream from her bedroom. "Can you let him in?"
Nicole answered back, with her hand on the doorknob. "Do I have to?"
"I heard that!" Justin yelled from the other side of the door. "Open up Nic!"
Nicole chuckled, as she opened the front door. "Oh hi J, didn't realize it was you." she said sweetly, taking a step back to let him.
Justin glared at her and made his way into the living room. She followed him, a smile plastered on her face.
"Nice to see you too." Nicole said to him as she made her way back to the coffee table with her open text book and notes. She sat herself back down on the floor, leaning against the couch.
"Are you doing homework on a Saturday?" Justin asked with a raised eyebrow, placing his hand on the back of the couch, trying to catch a slip of whatever Nicole was doing.
She lifted her head and looked up at him. "Yes. Is this a problem for you Mr. Timberlake?"
Justin shrugged. "No. But I do think you have a problem." He laughed and ducked when he saw the couch pillow thrown his way.
With her back to him she answered defensively. "I have that huge midterm on Monday. I need all the studying I can get."
By that time he had made his way toward her, sitting beside her on the floor. "But not on a Saturday, Nic."
She glanced at him through her eyelashes. "Its one Saturday. I think I can risk partying for one night."
Justin could only look at his friend. He had known her all of his life, and he was still amazed how much she focused her time on school. Not that she wasn't a partier, because she was. Oh she could party with the best of them. He had been witness to it plenty of times. He chuckled lightly. They've had some great times…
"What's the smirk for?" she asked jolting him out his thoughts.
He reached for her notebook filled with notes and answered innocently. "Nothing….just that you would give a very wrong first impression to those that don't know you…"
"Because if anyone were to see you right now, they would assume you're a bookworm-" he chuckle and looked over at her. "But they obviously don't know the real Nicole." Glancing down at her notebook. "If they only knew…"
She snatched the notebook from him. "Oh, if they only knew." she said sarcastically. "Wait-if they did know, then that means your secrets would come out too." Blinking back innocently at him.
Justin reached for a pencil on the coffee table. "Is that a threat?" a smirk on his face.
Nicole shrugged and reminded him. "You brought it up….but-" she leaned in, her face inches from his. "We both know neither one of us would ever spill that secret."
Justin smiled down at her in understanding. "Right." Pulling himself back up. They both knew it was time to change the subject. "Have they finished with the flooring yet?" He asked instead.
She pulled herself up to the couch. "Nope….if its not one thing, its something else." bringing her legs up to her chest.
Nicole had bought her first house 3 months earlier and just started remodeling. The remodeling wasn't going exactly as she planned. In fact, it was turning to a disaster. The contractors she hired weren't exactly the most reliable.
"And were talking bathroom flooring by the way." she informed him with a light frown. "I did not expect this project to go on for so long. "
"You'll get it done." he assured. "Until then, you can always stay here… or back at my place"
She turned her head in his direction a light snort escaping her. "I don't know how your new girlfriend would feel about that."
Justin shrugged. "It is a big house, I probably never see you." a smirk on his features.
"Thanks, but so far Rachel isn't complaining-" Nicole smiled.
"Why I'm not complaining?" Rachel asked, making her way out of the bedroom, running her fingers through her hair. "What the hell are two talking about?"
Justin glance at his cousin/personal assistant. "We were just wondering if you were tired of Nicole yet." he stated.
"Oh." Rachel glanced between them, then continued. "Of course I'm tired of Nicky."
Nicole glared. "Thanks I love you too best friend."
Rachel went over to her and wrapped her arms over Nicole's shoulder. "You know I'm just teasing. I love having you here. I'm glad to have another girl around that has my back against those idiots that live across from me."
"You do realize you live here for free?" Justin reminded.
"And your point is…?" Rachel asked.
"I would kick you out, but I'm pretty sure your mother would kill me."
Rachel only nodded at him. Then glanced over at Nicole. "You sure you don't want to come with us tonight?"
Nicole nodded. "Positive."
"Don't even bother Rach- she's going to play the bookworm tonight."
Nicole turned her eyes to him, giving him a raised eyebrow. "Have fun. Drink for me." she stated , looking away from Justin and back at Rachel.
"Morning sunshine." Nicole greeted Rachel the next day.
Rachel yawned and sat on the kitchen table. "Morning."
"How much did you drink?"
"Cant remember." Rachel mumbled, she yawned once again. "I don't even remember how we made it back home." she glanced up at Nicole. "Thanks." taking the cup of orange juice from her.
"I think you were the only one that made it home last night."
Nicole sat across from her. "I got a text from Trace this morning, letting me know he had stayed with some friends."
"He barely drank, from what I remember anyway…"
Nicole took a sip from her cup. "He probably went back to her place."
Rachel followed Nicole lead and took a sip from her cup. "They've been spending a lot of time together."
Nicole took another sip and glanced out the patio window. "She's a nice girl."
"How long did you stay up frying your brain?" Changing subjects.
"Not that long…especially since I fell asleep." she answered sheepishly.
Rachel shook her head, but laughed. "Your such a dork, but I love you anyway."
"Thanks, I love you too." she stood up. "So how bad was it?"
"The usual…especially since they were tipped off. " yawning once again.
Nicole looked over at her friend. "Okay.. I'm not going to deny it-I did it. I tipped them off. I let the paparazzi know where Justin Timberlake and his posse were going to be last night."
Rachel rolled her eyes. "You are such a bad liar. Always have, always will be."
Nicole placed her empty cup in the kitchen sink, turned around, and leaned against it. "Its sad isn't it?"
Rachel nodded. "Yep. It doesn't matter how hard you try Nicky, you are the worse liar in the world."
"I don't know why. You think being around you so much would rub off and I would have learned how to lie." she teased.
Nicole and Rachel had known each other all of their lives. They had grown up together back in Tennessee. Nicole considered Rachel her sister, since she never had a sister of her own. Growing up they had been inseparable. They went to school together, went to college together and even lived together for awhile. Their friendship was something that Nicole cherished. Not only did she cherished her friendship with Rachel, but Nicole-Nicky- (as everyone that knew her called her) had become friends with Rachel's cousin, Justin and Justin's best friend, Trace Ayala. And even though Rachel was her best friend, Nicky's relationship with Justin had grown. She had shared things with him that she could never share with Rachel-
"Do you still want me to go and check how things are going back at your house?" Rachel asked, interrupting her thoughts.
"Sure. Its either that, or you can help me study."
Rachel frowned, standing up. "I'll be ready in an hour."
Five and half years earlier
Nicole turned the light off in the bathroom before shutting the door behind her. "So I'm going to grad school." she declared, making her way to bed. She pulled her slippers off, pulling the covers off him, as she made her way to him.
"When did you decide this?" he asked, slightly opening one of his arm and feeling her warm body nestle against him.
"This morning." Nicole stated, loosely placing one of her long legs between his. She nestle her cheek on his chest. "Its taken me almost a year, but I'm going to do it. I want to do it." She lifted her head up, in his direction.
"Good." he answered with a smile.
She pulled herself away from him, sitting up. "You think it's a good idea?"
He gave her grin. "Why wouldn't I think it's a good idea?"
She shrugged. "I don't know. I've told everyone I was thinking about it, they looked at me like I was crazy."
He raised an eyebrow. "Since when do you care what people think?"
"I don't. But it would be nice to have their support."
He pulled himself up, leaning in close to her. "You have mine." Brushing his lips lightly over hers. "Okay?" Pulling away.
She leaned in, brushing her lips against his again. "Okay."
"Good." he said into her mouth. He moved his lips away from her mouth, and they moved to the back of her ear. Lightly nuzzling the spot.
Nicole said in a low whisper. "What if I-"
He pulled away, giving her a look. "Don't Nic. Okay? Your going do great. I know you will." Planting a kiss in the top of her forehead. "Forget about what everyone else has told you." He paused. "There is only one person you should listen to….and that's me." grinning from ear to ear.
She couldn't help but toss her head back and laugh. "For some silly reason I was thinking you were going to say me."
He shrugged. "I thought about it for a second but I realized that listening to me would be a better bet." He laid back against the pillows.
She could only grin as she watched him place his hands against the back of his head, watching her as she crawled toward him. "You really think I can do this?" looking down at him.
One hand reached out to touch the side of her face. "No, I don't think you can. I know you can."
Nicole leaned in to him, kissing him once again. "Thank you. "
"For what?" he asked, rubbing her knee.
"For saying that. All day I had been going back and forth about it…" she let out a sigh. "But now I know I'm making the right decision."
For over six months, she had been debating on whether or not she wanted to continue on to grad school. It had been something she thought about right after she graduated college. In fact, everything had been set , but plans change after she had gotten sick.
"That's why you should always talk to me about these kind of things." he stated interrupting her thoughts. "I always have the right answers." pulling her back into his arms. " Say it with me-'Justin's always right."
Nicole rolled her eyes at him, before nuzzling her cheek back against his chest.
"Say it Nic." he ordered with a slight hint of amusement in his voice.
She looked up at him and said in a toneless voice. "Justin is always right."
He frowned down at her. "That was lame Nic."
"I said it!" she defended, trying to hide her smile.
"Your lucky your so hot." he mumbled loud enough for her to hear him.
"Your lucky I'm comfortable in this position and I don't feel like moving."
He raised his eyebrow at her. "I'm not scare of you Nicole."
She looked back at him. "I'm not scared of you either Justin."
He tried to keep his expression serious, but it only lasted a few seconds before a smile tugged on the side of his mouth.
"With you going back to school, it means you'll be staying put here-"
She let out a small laugh. "Just because I've decided on grad school doesn't mean I'm actually going to get in Justin." she paused. "There is so much I have-"
"Your going to get in Nicole. I know you will. Stop doubting that." he said sternly.
"I could always wait-"
He shook his head firmly. "Nic-this is your dream…and don't tell me it isn't because we both know that you've always wanted this. You've gotten a second chance to do this. Don't loose this chance." he paused. "Not for anyone."
She rested her head against his chest, and shut her eyes, enjoying the sound of his heart beat.
Rubbing her shoulder, he whispered into her hair. "See? I can be a supportive boyfriend-"
Nicole looked up at him, her eyes wide. "Boyfriend?" she whispered.
Justin opened his mouth as if to speak then shut it again. For a few seconds neither one spoke, they just stared at each other.
What they had, was hard to explain. The reason being that there was no explanation. They spent time together. A lot of time together. It wasn't something planned. It just happened. Truth was…it only seemed to happen when they weren't in real relationships…but lately they had began to do couple things.
"J-" Nicole started.
"It slipped out Nic." he stated, glancing over her shoulder to avoid eye contact. "We've been spending a lot of time together…."
She sat up. "Justin-" sitting Indian style on the bed to face him. "We've always spent time together -" she paused. "We've been doing this for years."
Justin narrowed his eyes at her, and retorted. "Right. Sleeping with each other."
She gave him a dirty look. "Your worse than a woman." she half- joked. Before he could retort. She quickly continued. "You just got out a relationship J..." she reminded. "This is what we do remember? I'm your rebound, and your mine. Why do you want to ruin it?"
"Your right." he answered in a serious tone, but he wouldn't look at her.
"I know you don't feel that way about me-"
"What way is that?" he interrupted.
"The way you still feel about Britney-"
"I'm here with you aren't I?" he retorted.
She leaned closer to him, and brushed her lips against his. "I'm the rebound remember? The only difference between this rebound and the ones out there that would kill to be in my position is, I know that's what I'm. And its okay." she paused. "I 'm okay with that."
He pulled away just slightly. "What are you so afraid of Nic-?"
That time it was her that fully pulled away from him. "I don't get it Justin. You were the one that suggested this remember? You were the one that persuaded me remember? Why do you want to put a label on it?"
"I like being with you Nicole."
"And I like being with you!" she exclaimed.
"Then what are you so afraid of?" he repeated.
"What did you think?" Justin asked Rachel later in the day, as they sat across from each other in the kitchen table, going over schedules for the weeks ahead.
Rachel sat a piece of paper back on the table. "It needs work…" she answered truthfully. "But its nothing that cant be fixed. She's just feeling this way because she has the house to worry about and school."
"Did you tell her that?"
Rachel nodded. "Of course I did. But you know how she is." frowning.
Just like she had promised, Rachel had accompanied Nicole to check out the status of the home. Things weren't getting done the way Nicole had planned. For starters Nicole couldn't seem to get in contact with her contractors with not only had pissed her off, but worried her.
"What she doing now?"
Rachel let out a lit laugh. "Probably cursing the contractors to death. All we could think of doing was getting new contractors, and now she's more anal than ever before on who she wants to work with." she paused. "And lets not forget she has that big exam tomorrow…" trailing off.
Justin only smiled. "I think school is what has her more stressed out…" he murmured. "She only has 2 semesters left…"
"Maybe you should go talk to her." Rachel suggested.
Justin shook his head. "I know her, and I'm pretty sure she rather be alone right about now." glancing back down at his paper work in front of him. After a few minutes of looking through the sheet in front of him. He asked more to himself than to Rachel. "Think Jessica would like to fly out to Memphis that week?" pointing down at the paper.
Rachel shrugged. "Doesn't hurt to ask."
Justin glanced up at his cousin with a smile on his face.
"You really like her don't you?"
"I do." Justin answered getting up from his chair, his empty glass in hand. He moved to the sink.
"Think we can get Nicky to fly out to Memphis that week?" Rachel mumbled. "Maybe getting out of here is what she needs…
Justin glanced over his shoulder at his cousin and chuckled. "She'll be okay." he reassured. "But I'll talk to her tomorrow, if you really want me to." he vowed.