The girls ate a quiet lunch in the buffet at the hotel, accompanied by two security guards and a small handful of fans. They were approached for pictures a couple of times, which the other girls were used to, but it was a whole new experience for Beth. She smiled for the cameras, but was still stunned when the girls knew her name. It was as if she was famous by association.

After the meal, Beth went back up to her room to wait for Chris, while Gail and Kathryn went to find the guys in the arena. Elizabeth pushed the door open and saw Chris lying on the bed, already half-asleep, "You’re back early." She said softly.

"I just got here a couple minutes ago." He said into the darkened room. The thick drapes were drawn so the room was almost completely dark.

"Nap time?"

"Yeah, I’ve got 2 hours before the sound check and overview." He sighed and rolled onto his side to face her.

"Can I join you?" She asked as she crossed the room. She kicked her shoes off and climbed onto the bed beside him. They lay on top of the covers together and she wrapped her arms around his middle, snuggling him from behind. He coughed into his hand and sighed, "I feel like crap."

"I’m sorry." Beth whispered. He wrapped his arms over hers across his stomach. She kissed his warm neck softly at his hairline, "Get some sleep, you’ll feel better."

"I feel better already." He smiled and closed his eyes, then drifted off to sleep. Elizabeth held him close as he slept, and eventually she fell asleep beside him.

Two hours later the phone rang beside the bed to alert them that it was time to head downstairs to the arena. Beth thanked Lance for calling, then shook Chris gently and flipped the bedside light on to offer a little light. "Did the nap help?" Beth stretched her arms over her head and ran her fingers through her curls.

"Yeah." Chris stood up and ran his fingers through his hair as well. His hair stood on end and he yawned. "I just need to get through this show, then I’ll feel a lot better."

"And the after party." Beth said as she walked into the bathroom.

"Right, and the after party." Chris nodded and took his shirt off to replace it with a non-wrinkled one.

"So where to now?" Beth asked when she came out several minutes later.

"Sound check. Wanna come watch?"

"Sure." Beth smiled and followed him out to the hall. They met up with Justin and Kathryn and rode down the freight elevator to the arena level. The guys got together with their vocal coach and sound manager to go over the new plans for the night. Elizabeth stood to the side and watched the guys talk seriously with the vocal coach, Darren, while Kathryn went out to the casino floor to find Gail.

Beth leaned against the opposite wall and watched the five men talking. If the outside world could see this, they would completely change their minds about these guys. They worked hard for what they got, and they deserved every bit of admiration that was sent their way. No one had to like their style, or appreciate their art form, but they should respect the blood sweat and tears that went into everything they did.

Elizabeth watched as JC and Lance leaned over the vocal Darren’s clipboard, pointing things out and shaking their heads, while Justin talked to the sound manager and imitated screaming into the mic and blowing out his eardrums. Chris stood with his back toward Beth, talking to Joey and coughing every now and then. Beth watched, entranced. Joey leaned in to hear what Chris was saying, then laughed casually and stood up straight, he nodded in response to whatever Chris had said, then laughed again.

Joey looked up slowly and caught Beth’s eye for a fraction of a second, he caught her staring at him… and smiled knowingly. Seeing the smile, Chris glanced over his shoulder to see who had been on the receiving end. He saw Beth standing alone by the exit and smiled. Chris sort of half waved over his shoulder then coughed again. Joey got a concerned look on his face and patted Chris on the back, then they continued their conversation.

Elizabeth blushed suddenly and averted her eyes as she opened the side door. She walked quickly towards the back of the arena and took a seat in the second to the last row. She’d heard great things about the sound check, and couldn’t wait to see one for herself.

 

She watched the silent stage for a couple minutes before JC and Darren came out on the stage alone. Darren said something to JC and handed him the microphone, "Check check?" JC said into the mic, causing his voice to echo through the arena.

Beth smiled to herself and listened as he warmed up a little, then broke into a song, "Tonight we dance, I leave my life in your hands… We take the floor… Nothing is forbidden anymore… Don't let the world in outside. Don't let a moment go by. Nothing can stop us tonight Bailamos - let the rhythm take you over Bailamos"

"Sounds good Jace, that’s cool. Go get something to drink, we’ll group up in 15." Darren waved JC off the stage as quick as he came, then Chris took center stage. "What’s up Chris, you feeling okay?" Darren asked.

Chris shrugged, "I’ll be okay." He said into his color coded mic.

"Are you ready?" Darren asked.

Chris nodded and cleared his throat then smiled, "Oh won’t you stay? Just a little bit longer? Please, please stay… just a little bit more. Say you will."

"Sweet Chris, you sound great even as sick as you are." Darren waved him off the stage and shouted, "Next! Come on let’s keep it moving."

Joey sauntered to the center of the stage and sat on the barstool, rolling his mic between his hands. "We’re doing a show run through after this, right?"

"You got it."

"Why are we doing this solo stuff then?" Joey asked. Elizabeth sat forward with her elbows resting on her knees as she watched.

"Because I said so. Oscar over there," He waved at the sound tech sitting off in the shadows, "Needs to be sure each mic is tuned right, since this isn’t our sound board."

"Ahhh." Joey nodded and ran his hand through his hair, making it stand up on end, at crazy angles.

"So let me hear what you’ve got." Darren crossed his arms over his chest as Joey closed his eyes and sang.

"I’ll give you the moon at night, I’ll give you the stars to light your eyes, I’ll give you the sun to make just one more dawn, so another day may come. I’ll give you my heart and soul… I’ll be there to catch you when you fall, when you ask me what I’ll give to you, girl I’ll give it all."

Elizabeth watched, speechless. Darren asked Joey to give him another round, a little more up-tempo. Joey shifted his feet uncomfortably and took a deep breath, exhaling into the mic causing it to echo through the arena.

Joey was not supposed to affect her like this. She stood up quickly and draped her purse over her shoulder as she clumsily made her way to the back of the arena and down the stairs. She was set to go distract herself with a few dollars worth of nickel slots. She passed Dean on her way through the halls back to the main casino floor and grabbed his arm, "Where are you headed in such a hurry?" He asked as he laughed and followed behind her.

She stopped, but didn’t let go of his arm, "Do you have like an hour?"

"For what?" He looked back to where he had been standing.

"I need to get out of here for a little and play some slots or something." Beth sighed and shook her head. "I know I need security and you’re my favorite person in the whole wide world, so please?" She smiled with pleading eyes.

"Sure thing kid, let me just let them know I’m re-assigning myself." He moved out of her grasp and opened the small door behind him. He shouted in there to the other guards that he was heading out with, "Beth the girlfriend." Then turned back to head out.

"Beth the girlfriend huh? No cute nicknames?"

"None that I’d say while you were in ear shot." He laughed.

"I’m intrigued." She glanced over her shoulder and asked, "So…?"

"Yeah right, and incriminate myself?" He laughed and shook his head. "Come on, this is business." He straightened his face and pushed the wide door leading to the casino open. Beth stepped past him and into the brightly lit, loud casino. She frowned slightly and glanced around at the $1 and $5 slots.

"Where are the nickel slots?" Beth stood on tiptoe to look around.

"Nickel slots are for wusses, just do the dollar slots." Dean glanced around, keeping his eye on the crowd.

"Dollar slots are the rich people." Beth sighed and continued to look around. "I think they’re over there." She headed off to the right and Dean followed at her side. They walked it what seemed like circles before coming to the small bank of nickel slots by the elevators.

"There you go." Dean laughed as Beth sat on one of the bright purple stools and slipped a ten-dollar bill in the slot. "Ten bucks? Shit, on nickels? We could be here all night."

"Quit complaining and guard me." Elizabeth smiled sweetly and concentrated on hitting the "bid max" button repeatedly. She didn’t pay any attention to her winnings as they added up slowly.

"So what’s on your mind kid?" Dean asked as he leaned against one of the stools. He didn’t look at her, but instead watched a small group of girls huddling at the edge of the casino.

"Would you take a bullet for me?" She asked monotonously. Three diamonds stopped in front of her and her winnings doubled.

"That’s what made you need to get out of there?" Dean smiled.

"Nope." Beth shook her head, "But would you?"

"Depends on where." Dean said with a smile. "In the arm, sure, in the stomach, well, probably, in the head, no." When she didn’t respond he tapped her shoulder lightly, "I’m kidding kid. There aren’t too many gun toting teeny boppers out there."

"Yeah, but you never know." Beth sighed.

"So that’s what you’ve been worried about?" Dean asked, not believing for a second.

"Nope." Beth shook her head but said no more.

"Wanna talk about it?"

"Why do boys suck?" She asked a minute later.

"Because they’re boys." Dean shrugged and glanced at Beth. "Is there a specific boy that is sucking right now?"

"All of them." Beth sulked in the little chair and hit the "bid max" button again. The reels spun in front of her and she tried to concentrate on her game. "Mainly Chris and Joey."

"Both of them huh? That’s gotta be tough. Your boyfriend and your best friend."

"I know." She stopped playing for a minute and looked at him. "The problem is, is that Joey loves me."

"Sure he does. You guys have been friends forever it seems like."

"We have. But I mean that he loves me." She said softly, it felt good to finally explain it to someone who wasn’t directly related to her.

"Oh." Dean said softly. He glanced over Beth’s shoulder and stood up straight, "Incoming, do you want a fan?"

"Huh?" Beth followed his gaze and saw a girl about her own age walking toward them. Beth nodded slightly, "Stay here though."

"I’m not going anywhere." Dean smiled as the girl walked up and nervously cleared her throat.

"Hi." The girl said as she walked up nervously.

"Hi." Beth plastered a smiled on her face and started to stand up.

"You’re um, Beth right?" She asked.

"Right, hi." Beth continued to smile and shook the girl’s hand.

"Hi, um, I’m Amy and I was wondering if I could um, take a picture with you? I mean, if that’s okay." She looked nervously over at Dean.

"No, that’s fine." Beth smiled and quickly ran her fingers through her curls, trying to make herself look presentable without the help of a mirror. "Dean? Can you take it?" Beth asked.

"Sure thing." He took the girls tiny camera in his hands and held it up as Beth draped her arm over Amy’s shoulder. Dean clicked off two pictures and handed the camera back to the girl.

"Wow, thank you so much." She laughed nervously.

"It’s no problem. Are you here for the show?" Beth asked. She’d learned from the other girlfriends that chatting with the fans won you many points, and with "anti-Beth" websites out there, she needed all the points she could get.

"Yeah." She nodded. "Is uh, how is it really dating Chris?"

"It’s fun." Beth smiled. "When I get to see him. They’re really busy all the time you know."

"I’ll bet." Amy laughed and seemed to lose some of her nervousness. "Do you hate when people come up to you and ask about the guys?"

"This trip is actually the first time I’ve ever been approached. I guess I’ve been out of the spotlight until now. But I heard there are websites about me, so I guess that’s about gone, huh?"

"Yeah, I saw some of those. Half of them have never even met you."

"None of them have." Beth shook her head. "I’ve never talked to fans, I mean… like fans who knew who I was, until I got here the other day."

"Really?" Amy asked.

"Really." Beth smiled.

"Well you’re really nice, I’ll have to let them all know."

"Thanks." Beth laughed and looked over her shoulder at the growing crowd of girls gawking at the other end of the casino. "I’d uh, better get going."

"Oh sure. Well hey, thanks for letting me get a picture and everything." Amy smiled.

"Anytime, have fun at the show." Beth waved as Amy headed back to the little crowd. "We’d better get moving." Beth eyed the crowd.

"It looks like Kathryn and Gail are here now." Dean heard the crowd start to make noise and took a step closer to Beth.

"Can I just go back up to my room now?"

"Sure thing. Don’t forget your nickels." Dean handed her a big plastic cup and she cashed out her winnings. They went to the cashier’s booth to get it changed into $23 in bills, then Dean escorted her up the elevator to her room. "You sure you’re okay kid?"

"Yeah." Beth sighed.

"Did you want to finish our talk?" Dean asked softly as they stopped in front of her door.

"Nah." She shook her head, she wasn’t sure how she was feeling. "I’m cool." She forced another fake smile and pushed her door open. She slid in and shut the door, casually waving to Dean as she did.

"I’ve been looking for you." Chris said softly from the recliner in front of the TV.

"Oh!" Elizabeth placed her hand on her chest as her heart beat furiously in her throat. "Jesus, Chris. You scared me." She laughed nervously and walked over to his chair. "I thought you guys were busy all day?"

"We were. We are. I just came back to relax a little before the show. I still feel like shit." He grabbed the remote and muted the TV.

"I’m sorry." Beth sat on the arm of his recliner and took his hand. "You’re still going to the after party thing, right?"

"Yeah." Chris nodded. "I can’t miss that."

"Cool." Beth smiled. "What time do you have to go back down?"

"In like, 20 minutes." He covered his mouth as he yawned and began to cough again. "Man, whatever this is, it’s kicking my ass."

"Do you still have the cough medicine?"

"Yeah, but it knocks me out. I can’t be asleep out there tonight."

"Do they have non-drowsy stuff?"

"I don’t know." Chris shrugged and looked up at her.

"Want me to go check?" She asked.

"Nah, I’m okay." He smiled and pulled her onto his lap. "I’m just sorry I’ve been such a looser this trip. I mean, we haven’t done anything."

"It’s okay. We’ll have fun tonight."

"Yeah." He lightly nuzzled her neck, causing her to giggle uncontrollably. "Do you know what you’re wearing?"

"Nothing. I’m going naked." Beth laughed, all her of concern from earlier gone in the time it took Chris to nibble from her shoulder to her earlobe.

"Works for me." Chris laughed.

"Either that, or the outfit I brought."

"Hrmm, is it as cute as you naked?" He smiled and kissed her neck softly.

"I don’t know. It hides a little more."

"A little huh?"

"A lot." Beth smiled and wrapped her arms around Chris’s neck. "A little red satin shirt and black leather pants."

"Hot."

"I thought so."

"I don’t want to go back down there." Chris mumbled into Beth’s neck.

"You have to." Beth whispered.

"I know." Chris nodded.

"You’ll have fun."

"Promise?"

"Promise." Beth smiled and smoothed down his hair as he lifted his head.

"Okay… I’ll go." Chris reluctantly stood up and coughed. "I’ll see you in a little bit." He leaned down and kissed her quickly.

"Okay." She smiled and pulled him close for another kiss before he left.

Once Chris was gone Elizabeth stood up and went into the bathroom. She looked down at her jeans and t-shirt and decided that she should change her clothes before the show, since they would undoubtedly be going straight to the club when it was over. She got her clean clothes out of her bag and hopped in the shower for the second time that day.

She primped and prepped herself for an hour before she felt presentable, then checked her watch. She only had about an hour before the show started, and she was starving. Beth poked her head out of the room and glanced up and down the hall. Dean was manning his post at the elevator, examining his watch. "Hey, do you know where Kathryn and Gail are?" She asked.

"They’re already at the arena." Dean glanced up.

"I need Mexican food, can we grab them and go get some?"

"They ate with the guys." Dean said nonchalantly.

"Well shit, how come no one came to get me? I’m starved." Beth stepped out into the hall and shut the door behind her.

He shrugged and stood up and she approached him, "Gail knocked on your door but there was no answer."

"Crap." Elizabeth scowled and placed her hands on her hips. "Wanna go get some mex?"

He glanced at his watch again, "You’ve got like 30 minutes before you need to be inside."

"I know, but there’s a little place across the street." She whined.

"Robertos? You know how much grease that has in it?"

"Please?"

"Have you looked outside?" Dean asked.

"Don’t make me beg." Beth gave him the pout lip and tried not to smile.

"Fine. We’ll run across the street, but you’d better eat like the wind." He sighed and stood up. "Let’s go." He poked his head in the room beside the elevator and let the other guard in the room know that he was taking her across the street for food.

"Oh! Bring me a carne asada burrito!" Said the voice inside.

"See? He wants mex." Beth laughed.

"Hey Scotty? You wanna take her?" Dean asked.

"Sure." Scotty said as he stepped into the hall. Scotty was a huge linebacker looking guy with his blonde hair shaved into a crew cut. "I love mex."

"Right on." Beth smiled and extended her hand, "I’m Beth."

"I know, I’m Scotty." He shook her hand and they headed out.

"Thirty minutes." Dean called after them. Elizabeth waved over her shoulder as the elevator doors shut and they were on their way.

Elizabeth and Scotty walked unnoticed across the street to the little hole in the wall Mexican food place and sat outside on the picnic benches to eat their burritos. Beth crossed her legs and sighed, "Tell me, is this the best carne asada burrito you’ve ever had?" She wiped her mouth with the thin napkin and laughed.

"This is pretty good." Scotty agreed as his eyes darted over the parking lot. They finished their meal and washed it down with a large soda as they headed back across the street to the MGM hotel.

"And check it out, we’re even on time." Beth looked at her watch as they walked through the heavy front doors.

"Cool." Scotty grabbed her elbow and led her off to the side, avoiding the crowd of concertgoers that were waiting in line to get into the arena. "Over here." He said softly.

Beth followed him through a side door and around the back way to the arena. They emerged in the backstage area and almost immediately ran into Joey and Lance as they sprinted from hair and make-up to the sidelines of the stage.

"Where’s Chris?" Beth shouted after them, but they didn’t hear.

"He’s probably still back there getting prettied up." Scotty nodded over his shoulder, "Let’s get you situated out in your seat though."

"With Gail and Kathryn?"

"Yep." Scotty nodded and pulled another security guard to the side. He handed Beth off to him and waved as he headed toward the stage. The other guard smiled and escorted her out to the arena floor where the friends and family area was sealed off. She ducked under the barrier and sat beside Kathryn on the little couch provided.

"Now this is the life." Beth smiled and sat back in the deep cushions.

They sat on the comfortable couch and drank the catered drinks for the duration of the show, which was phenomenal. During their last song, Scotty, Ben and Dean came over to retrieve the girls to head to the after party. The security led the way through the arena to the backstage area where they waited in the wings for the guys to complete the show.

"Kick ass." Justin laughed as he ran off stage in front of the others. "That was awesome. He hugged Kathryn and spun her around quickly, then kissed her before he said, "We’re gonna shower and get cleaned up, give us 20 minutes."

Kathryn nodded as the four other guys ran past without so much as a glance towards the girls. Beth followed Gail and Kathryn down the hall to wait outside the dressing room, where the boys emerged a half hour later. They were showered and dressed to impress.

"You look delicious." Chris said softly as he pulled Beth close.

"Thank you." She smiled and kissed him slowly, "Are you ready to party?"

"I’m always ready to party." He smiled and rested his forehead on hers.

"How’s your cough?"

"I’m ignoring it." He shook his head and coughed into his shoulder, "But it’s not going away." Chris shrugged and let his arm fall around Beth’s waist.

"Hey Bethy!" Joey called as he bounced out of the dressing room, pulling his jacket on. "Hey… did your mom get ahold of you?"

"My mom? What, today? No, why?"

"I talked to my mom this afternoon and she said that Rory was hit by a car." Joey frowned and fell into step beside her and Chris.

"What?!" Elizabeth stopped walking and looked at Joey, "What? When? Is he okay?"

"Who’s Rory?" Chris asked.

"Her dog." Joey said, shoving his hands into his pockets.

"You don’t have a dog." Chris looked at Beth, confused.

"The dog I grew up with, he lives with my parents." Beth explained quickly. "Is he okay?" She asked Joey.

"I think so." Joey nodded. "I only talked to my mom for a minute after the sound check."

"Shit, I need to call." Beth looked around for a phone.

"Here." Joey reached into his back pocket and produced his cel phone.

"Thanks." Beth walked away from the two men in her life to find a quiet corner backstage, which was next to impossible.

She finally let herself into the dressing room and sat in one of the directors’ chairs in the corner. She dialed her parents’ number and waited nervously, "Mom?" Beth asked, hearing her moms voice, "Is he okay?"

"He’s going to be fine sweetie." Her mom reassured her.

"What happened?" Beth asked as tears rose in her eyes.

"He got out the side gate when the gardener was moving the mower we think, he was trying to cross down by the Bakers and he was hit by someone turning that corner."

"Oh man mom… are you sure he’s okay?" Beth wiped her eyes quickly and sighed.

"I’m sure honey. Dad took him to Dr. Evans, he didn’t break anything thank goodness. He’s just bruised up real good, and he’ll be stiff for a couple days."

"He didn’t break anything? Wow…" Beth sighed with relief as the dressing room door opened. Chris walked in and sat beside her to hold her hand. "I’m so glad he’s okay."

"We are too." Her mom smiled.

"Okay… I just wanted to make sure he was okay." Beth wiped her eyes again and smiled, she could be so overemotional at times.

"He’ll be good as new in a week or so."

"Okay, man I’m shocked he didn’t break anything. I’m going to come out and visit at the end of the week, since I’m using up my vacation time anyways."

"That’d be great sweetie. Why don’t you give me a call tomorrow and we can talk more then, I’m sure you’re busy."

"Okay, I love you." Elizabeth said soflty.

"I love you too." She smiled and flipped the phone shut.

"He’s going to be okay, he didn’t break anything." She said to Chris.

"Good, that’s great." He leaned over to hug her tightly. Beth smiled and wrapped her arms around his neck, then glanced up at the door to see Joey leaning on the doorframe. He quickly straightened up and ran his fingers through his hair. Joey gave her a thumbs up with a questioning look, wanting to know if everything was okay with the dog.

Beth smiled and gave him a thumbs up behind Chris’s back. Joey returned her smile and waved quickly before he disappeared from the doorway. "Wow, I don’t know why I’m getting all emotional here." She sat back and wiped her eyes again.

"Because he’s your pooch." Chris smiled. "I’d be the same way if something happened to one of my babies."

"Really?" Beth laughed lightly and stood up.

"You bet." Chris took her hand and they left the room, "Are you ready to get down and funky now?"

"Sure." She shook her head and laughed as they joined up with the security at the exit, and headed over to Studio 54.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

"Where do they get this energy?" Elizabeth shouted over the noise at the club.

Gail laughed and shook her head, "I have no idea." She followed Beth’s gaze to the dance floor where Kathryn and the guys were dancing up a storm in the center of a ring of people.

"They’re insane." Beth laughed and shook the ice in her glass. She took a piece in her mouth, then set the glass on the table between her and Gail. "Cover me, I’m going in." Beth hitched up her pants and trotted down the flight of stairs to the ground floor, then forced her way through the crowd to the dance floor.

"Hey there gorgeous, where are you off to in such a hurry." JC smiled seductively and let his arm fall over her shoulders.

"Nice try." Beth rolled her eyes and ducked out from under his arm, "That way, Romeo." She spun him by his shoulder and directed him toward a small group of barely dressed fans.

"There you are!" Chris shouted over the music. He laced his fingers through hers and smiled as he led her to the side of the dance floor. "I’ve been looking for you."

"I’m right here." She smiled and held her arms out.

"I see that." He looked her over, his eyes lingering on her bare midriff. "I was gonna head on up, wanna come?" He leaned close and spoke into her ear.

"It’s only one thirty." Elizabeth frowned, totally missing his meaning.

"Well yeah, but I was thinking-"

"Do you feel okay?" She interrupted him

"Not really." Chris frowned.

"Let’s stay a little longer." Beth pouted and swayed to the music.

"Bethy, come on, let’s go up." He tugged at her hand and gave her his best puppy dog eyes. That usually worked, but Elizabeth was pumped and ready to party the rest of the night like everyone else.

"One more hour." She pleaded, and pulled him back towards the dance floor.

"Alright… here." He reached into his pocket and pulled out a room key. He slid it into her hand and closed her fingers around it. "See you in an hour."

"Okay." She smiled and leaned in to kiss him quickly. Chris ran his hand up through her hair and held her in for a deeper, longer kiss. Butterflies danced the lambada in her stomach as the beat from the music shook her externally.

Beth’s mind immediately returned to Joey’s kiss, and she pulled back sharply, leaving Chris looking confused. She thought quickly and kissed him again, covering up any lingering feelings she thought might show on her face, "Let’s go." She smiled at his surprised expression and followed him off the dance floor. He waved quickly to one of the security guards, signaling that they were leaving, then they headed for the elevators.

Joey stayed in his position against the wall where he had watched the whole scene act out. He shook the mental pictures from his mind and picked himself up off the wall. "Hey J!" He shouted as Justin walked by.

"Yo." Justin said seriously, then dissolved in a fit of giggles. He raised his near empty glass in a silent toast to Joey and said, "Waaaazup?"

"Point me in the direction of the party man, I need some luvin." Joey forced a smiled as Justin laughed again and pointed with his glass towards the opposite end of the room where JC was slyly flirting with as many as four scantly clad young ladies. "That’s exactly what I’m looking for." Joey smiled and high fived Justin as he headed across the room, intent on only one thing… getting back his "Joey status".

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Joey awoke out of a hazy sleep to a feeling of dread. The feeling was intensified as he stretched his arms under the covers and felt the warm body beside him. He squinted at the sunlight coming in through the uncovered window and winced as he caught a glimpse of long red hair.

The girl mumbled something unintelligible and rolled over to face him, nude from the waist up. She was beautiful, there was no doubt about that, but Joey felt miserable. He sighed and pulled the covers back on the bed, not caring that he left her exposed in the process. He stumbled toward the bathroom where he showered quickly and dressed in his clean traveling clothes.

Joey put his electric shaver away when he was done and rubbed his eyes once more before stepping back into the room. He had been in there 20 minutes which was enough time for the girl to get the hint. The bed was empty when he sat to tie his shoes.

 

Chris propped himself up on his elbow and brushed Beth’s hair off of her cheek. The baby soft curls practically covered the entire pillow behind her. Chris smiled at the thought of lying down on a blanket of her hair as he tilted his head to the side and watched her lips move silently as she dreamt.

Chris leaned forward slowly and lightly scruffed his stubbly cheek against hers, then nibbled on her earlobe. He circled the tiny earring with his tongue and whispered, "Hey…"

"Hmm?" Elizabeth mumbled with a half asleep smile.

"How would you…" He paused to lick his lips, then kiss her neck, "Like to meet…" He rolled her onto her back and supported himself on his hands, placed on either side of her face, "The president?"

Elizabeth giggled mischievously and glanced down to where his hips met hers, "We’ve been introduced."

"Of the United States you freak." Chris laughed and tickled her side.

"Oh!!" Beth laughed and ducked out of his reach, "Is that what you meant?" She scooted to the other end of the bed and held a pillow to her chest.

"Yes that what I meant." Chris smiled and shook his head, then dove for the pillow. They wrestled for the pillow for a minute before they fell to the floor in a heap of blankets.

"What are you talking about?" Beth asked breathlessly as she tried to untangle her legs from the sheets that had followed them.

"I’m talking about meeting the president." Chris laughed and kicked the blankets away from his feet.

"Are you buddies or something?"

"We’re going to seethe three tenors at the Kennedy Center 8 weeks, and I thought you might like to go."

"You’re kidding. Really?" Beth asked excitedly.

"Yeah, it’s black tie, you know… formal."

"Of course. Wow, and the president will be there?"

"Yeah." Chris nodded. "We’ve met him before, but still…"

"Wow, yeah, I’d love to go." Beth smiled and pushed herself to a sitting position. "Are you serious?"

"I’m totally serious." Chris kissed her quickly then wrapped the sheet around his waist as he headed to the bathroom. "So you’ll get to see us in our monkey suits." He said as he shut the door.

"Man, I’d pay good money to see that." Beth laughed and tossed the blankets back on the bed. She straightened them out as well as she could, then adjusted her oversized t-shirt and sat at the little table to order up some toast and juice.

They ate the light breakfast and got dressed, then began to pack up for their move to Caesars. "What time are the others leaving?" Beth asked as she zipped her backpack.

There was a knock on the door and Chris said, "Right about now I guess."

Beth laughed and pulled the door open, "Perfect timing!"

"Hey, you guys are sticking around here for a couple days, right?" Lance asked.

"Yeah, at Caesars." Chris said from inside the room.

"Okay, there’s been a slight change of plans." Lance said slowly as Gail yawned and rested her head on his shoulder.

"What? No way, come on, two measly days is all I want." Chris whined and hopped over his suitcase to talk to Lance at the door.

"Nah, you can stay for two days, but instead of meeting up in New York to go to Japan on Friday, we’re leaving from Orlando."

"Friday?"

"Yeah." Lance nodded.

"Okay. That’s cool. You’ll call and remind me though, right?"

"Yeah, someone will call." Lance laughed and took Gail’s hand, "Our van leaves in about 10 minutes though, so I’ll see ya later."

"Wait, I’ll go down with you so I can say good bye." Beth stepped out into the hall with them, "Coming?"

"Nah, I’m going to finish up in here." He smiled and kicked his suitcase out of the way.

"I’ll be right back." Beth said as she followed Gail and Lance to the elevators and then on down to the lobby.

"Hey Bethy." Joey forced a smile as he leaned on the black lacquered planter beside the valet booth.

"Hey Joey, you look like hell."

"It’s the price to pay for partying." Joey yawned and wiped his mouth on the sleeve of his sweatshirt.

"Worth it?" Elizabeth asked with a smile.

Joey shrugged and looked over his shoulder at the van by the curb being loaded with all of their stuff, "It’s better than the alternative."

"What’s that?" Beth asked.

Joey just shrugged again and looked back at Beth with bloodshot eyes, "So, things are going pretty good with Chris, huh?"

"It’s harder than I thought it would be." Beth said, trying to smile.

"You haven’t said a word." Joey frowned and shifted his bag from one shoulder to the other.

"Well I don’t… I mean, I just feel kind of weird coming to you for help with… well… Chris."

"If anyone would know how to help, it’d be me." Joey mumbled.

"I know." Elizabeth nodded and stuck her hands in her pockets, "It’s just…"

"I can help you out, all you have to do is ask." Joey pulled her in for a quick hug, "I know both of you better than you think."

"Thanks Joey. I’ll see you when you guys get back from Japan." She kissed his cheek quickly before he hopped into the van and sat beside Justin. Justin threw his body into Joey and body slammed him as the door shut. Joey playfully shoved Justin away from him and smacked his head.

Beth smiled and watched the van pull out of the driveway, then turned to go back up to the room where Chris was waiting for her.

 

 On to the next part…

 

Copyright 2000 Amy Lynn