Need to Be Next to You -- Chapter 1
‘I can't believe my day has just started and it is already going this bad’, Brighid thought as she sat her car in the middle of yet another traffic jam.
The morning had been crazy. First her alarm didn't go off so she was an hour late waking up. Then, she was in such a rush to get ready that she spilled a glass of orange juice down the front of her favorite suit and wound up having to change.
She needed to be in the office early this morning because she was meeting with a potential client to present a proposal that would give her firm the contract to handle the promotion and public relations for a new line of Teen Beauty Products.
Brighid had graduated from Northwestern two months ago with a job at one of the most prestigious, full-service Public Relations firms in Chicago waiting for her before she'd gotten her diploma. Her first two months on the job were spent working under other account executives coordinating for boring product lines. Her worst experience was with an educational computer software line for children. When her boss had assigned her to develop a proposal and presentation for the new beauty product client, she couldn't believe it. Two months on the job and this was her first chance to really be able to prove herself.
Brighid had been up half the night tweaking her PowerPoint presentation for the proposal and now she needed something to wake her up and quick. She couldn't wait to get to work. She needed to make a quick pit stop by Starbucks before she went into the office. She figured that she still had just over an hour until the potential clients arrived and although she had planned on having more time she would still be able to get what she needed accomplished. She wanted this client and she wanted them bad. She couldn't imagine having to spend another month trying to call the editors at PC World or one of those other computer nerd magazines and pitch stories to them about the wonders of Adding Software for Kindergartners.
As the traffic inched forward, Brighid's cell phone rang. She glanced at the caller ID and groaned. Her sister, Antonia only called at this time of morning for one reason and one reason only, "Hey Antonia what's up?"
"Brig--glad I got ya before you went into your big presentation…" Toni was trying a new approach this morning. Pretending she was interested in Brighid's life was a new twist on an old theme.
She wondered why her sister sounded like she was the one that had something important to do that day, not the other way around. "Yeah, but I am running a little late this morning so make it quick."
"What are you doing tonight?" Her sister's shaky voice was a clue of what was to come. The last time she'd been this jittery Brig had been conned into baking pies for Father Dwyer's Sunday school classes because Antonia was the queen of volunteering people for things they didn't have a clue about.
"Sleeping. This proposal has been the death of me."
Her sister groaned her--you're an old maid--get out of the office and meet a man--groan before taking a deep breath. "Come out with me and Steve tonight."
"Oh no…” Going out socially with her sister and her husband, the perfect couple was horrible. They were constantly trying to set up their single friends and family members. She knew this would be one of those nights that you wanted to forget before it was even over. "The last time you said that I wound up on a double date with Steve's Viagra guzzling older brother."
"Come on Brig." There was that do-me-a-favor-because-an-ugly-guy-needs-a-date voice she had heard so many times before. It was the voice that Antonia would use to play at her sense of compassion and talk her into doing what her sister asked before she had time to make a case for her defense. "He wasn't THAT old."
"Toni he was TWICE MY AGE!” Her voice echoed a little, only reminding her of the anger and embarrassment that had come along with that night. It was sad when she found out that a man that she was dating was basically her father except with lighter hair.
"Brig, he is perfect for you. He is successful, wants to settle down, loves kids--"
She sighed and blinked a few times, trying to pause the conversation long enough so that she wouldn't scream at her sister. "Toni, listen it's actually girls night tonight anyway. Grace, Georgia, and I are headed to Brownies."
"Again?" Her sister groaned, this time it was--the-places-you-hang-out-are-for-college-kids mixed with a little you-need-to-hang-out-and-have-martinis-and-scotch-on-the-rocks-not-Jagger-and-beer-and-fuzzy-navels--groan. "Don't you guys go there every weekend?"
"Yeah, so what?" She didn't think that there was anything wrong frequenting the same bar, by this time in her career, anything that resembled fun seemed like a good idea and the bartenders there always made sure she had a good time.
"Brig I am just saying that maybe you should start thinking about finding a husband rather than hanging out at some bar every weekend."
It was what she said EVERY time they talked. Toni had dragged her to every church bazaar, every fundraiser, and every sporting event she could think of trying to find Brig a husband...not a boyfriend, a husband.
"Thanks for your lovely advice Antonia, but once again it's NOT needed," Brig hung up the phone and put it on the seat next to her. She turned back to the traffic in front of her, deciding that if she was going to sit still she might have at least something to entertain her, so she flipped on the radio and tuned to one of the morning shows hoping to brighten her mood.
Traffic was suddenly in her favor this morning. It looked like the traffic was finally letting up. “Excellent it looks like I will have just enough time to make a quick stop at Starbucks before I head in to set up for the presentation,” Brighid thought to herself.
"How far is this place?" Justin asked JC as they were walking from their hotel down the crowded Chicago streets. It was the middle or rush hour and strangely the best time for the guys to blend in with the rest of the working people.
"I think it's like two more blocks," JC said softly from beside him.
They were headed to the studio to put the finishing touches on their fourth American album. It was an amazing thing to think that it had been so long. JC couldn't believe that they had already been doing this for eight years. It wasn't even that it was eight years. It was the fact that JC could look back and think only proud thoughts about the places he'd been and the music they had produced. There had been so many good times too. Aside from all the success he had achieved, being in NSYNC gave him the four best friends and 'brothers' that someone could ask for.
Despite all the ups and downs he really cared for his 'brothers' and this morning was no different than any other. Even though he was dead tired and probably still needed sleep, he was patient enough to listen to his youngest 'brother’s' current situation.
"Jace, I swear I think Brit’s cheating on me." He was amazed how the boy could chew gum and bounce nervously the way he did without choking or tripping or something. "There is just something off. Things haven't been normal for like the last two months and I don't know what to do."
He sucked in a deep breath of air and somehow caught too much air and coughed. His allergies didn't usually flare up in Chicago, but with the wind like it was that day he was catching something in the air that put him on edge. "Don't jump to conclusions man. Maybe it is just the stress of the album and her tour." He hit at his brother's side. "I mean you guys haven't been getting to spend a lot of time together recently."
"I know man…" He started walking slower, scuffing his feet. "--But that's just it. I haven't been there. Instead she has been all over the damn country with Wade."
"Wade?" JC's feet stopped in the middle of the sidewalk and he gave Justin a harsh look. " You think Brit's cheating on you with Wade?"
“Yeah man. I mean the have BOTH been weird and I don’t know. I have just been getting these bad feelings.”
Bad feelings weren’t out of the ordinary for Justin. For a guy that seemed to have such a cool exterior that boy was wound tighter than a top. He would take an issue and twist it and turn it until either he snapped or someone around him did.
Finding a parking space in downtown Chicago was always a challenge. Luckily for Brighid her company provided them with permits in the parking garage around the corner. There was even a Starbucks on the corner. It couldn’t have been more a more convenient location.
Brighid quickly parked her car and weaved her way in and out of the crowd to make it to Starbucks. Luckily she got there at one of the points where the line wasn’t too long so she was able to order that Tazoberry frozen tea she had been craving all morning and head to the office.
Brighid quickly left the Starbucks and began to wind her way in and out of the hustle and bustle of the Chicago morning rush hour. Her mind was cluttered with her fears at presenting the big proposal. God what if she screwed this up? As she sipped on the Frozen Tazoberry she had been craving so much that morning she continued her minor freak out. This is her first real chance at proving herself screwing up is NOT an option. Suddenly her mind switched gears as she thought of her sister sitting in her house with the white picket fence in suburbia. She could just imagine her sister in her country kitchen with a cup full of coffee still in her pajamas just plotting ways to make her life miserable.
As Brighid began forming ideas for revenge on her sister, she rounded the corner was just about to enter her building when all of the sudden she encountered a wall. She was so startled that her red frozen drink flew out of her hand and splattered against the wall she collided with. As Brighid started to lift her head she realized that it wasn’t a wall she had collided with. It was a young man with a now VERY stained white button-down shirt.
JC started to brush the cold and now melting ice off his chest. He glanced up to see what caused the collision and he saw the horrified face of a young woman. Not just any woman, a young, beautiful woman at that.
“OH MY GOD! I AM SO SORRY! I have been in such a rush this morning and I am running late for a meeting that I have and oh my god I can’t believe I did this! I ruined your shirt! I am so sorry…”
She put a hand out and began wiping his chest, only succeeding in making the spot bigger.
“Hey.” JC tried to stop her ramblings as she reached out again to help him bush the melted mess of his shirt. He kept his eyes on his shirt, but glanced up at her when he saw her hands reaching for him again. This time he took the chance to actually look at her. He couldn’t help but notice how beautiful she was. He wasn’t normally attracted to the business suit type, but there was something about this woman that he found alluring. Underneath the dark business suit and serious haircut and make up, there was a lot more. It was easy to see there was fire in her eyes.
Brighid felt horrible if she would have just calmed down about this presentation and the stupid phone call from her sister, she might have avoided colliding with the two young men. “Please let me pay for your shirt or at least the dry cleaning. My name is Brighid Montgomery” she held her hand out.
As her hand reached out, Brighid suddenly got a look at her watch, “OH MY GOD THEY ARE ALREADY THERE!” she started to panic. “Please understand. I am not trying to blow you off. In fact that is the last thing I am trying to do. I am just running late for a VERY important meeting.”
Reaching into the side flap of her purse, she handed the young man, still dripping with red, icy liquid, her business card. “Please give me a call and we can figure out how I can repay you for destroying your shirt.”
“Please it’s no big deal” JC assured the woman, “But I will give you a call later. Good luck with your meeting.” He made eye contact with her for an instant then looked away. He prayed that he wouldn't turn pink. He hadn't meant to look her so straight in the eyes. He knew that it made people paranoid when he did that and with women it always seemed to make them more uncomfortable than the look was worth. He should have just said that it was no big deal. He should have just left it at that. He wasn't a superhero or anything and she wasn't expecting him to take her out, even though most of the population would jump at him to have him even breathe on them.
Justin stood there dumbfounded. Here they are just walking down the street, trying to deal with his Britney issues and suddenly WHAM! JC is drenched with some sort of over priced yuppie concoction from Starbucks, and the to top it all off, now he is asking some completely random chick in a business suit out? They weren’t just your every day John Smith type of guys. They couldn’t just go around asking random strangers out. Justin made a mental note to kick JC’s ass for this one as soon as they got to the studio.
Brighid shook her head. Did he really just say that? He doesn’t want her to pay for the shirt but he wants to talk to her anyway? What is going on here? Brighid looked up at the man smiling down at her and his friend wearing the scowl behind him, “Oh god. This day just continues to get worse” she started muttering to herself. “Excuse me, I am so sorry I miss have understood you. Did you say that you would call me later.”
JC just continued to smile down at the beautiful girl, “I did say I would call you later. See my friends and I are in town for a few weeks on business. We don’t really know the area that well and I thought that maybe you might want to show us around.”
Justin snorted behind him, “Yeah right C. Look at her! She is in a business suit! Doesn’t necessarily look like the type to let her hair down and party with the guys.” Justin looked at the frown on Brighid’s face and smirked. “No offense or anything.”
Brighid just rolled her eyes. “Oh! Of course not!” Sure these guys were good looking but if they were all going to be as snotty as the curly haired god then she didn’t need to deal with it. She had her career and her two best friends to keep her busy enough. She really didn’t need to add entertaining spoiled tourists to her list.
“Excuse my incredibly rude friend Brighid. He’s in a horrible mood. Go on before we make you later for your meeting. Expect a call from me later.” JC smiled.
Shrugging she shook her head, “Really, you don’t have to call. You can just go ahead and send me the bill for a new shirt if you want.”
“I WANT to call.” JC smirked.
“OK. That’s fine. I’m really very sorry, but I HAVE to go.” She purposely mocked him with her words because she suddenly felt as if his tone had gotten a little too friendly.
As she left the two men she tried to place his face, but couldn’t for the life of her figure out why she’d want to remember someone who flirted so openly with her.
Conference call was obviously God’s gift to Brighid, “OK, are you there now George?”
“Present.” Georgia quipped.
Brighid sat back in her chair for a moment then sat up again when she didn’t hear any of the usual craziness in the background at Grace’s office. “Gracie, you still there?”
“Waiting…not patiently, but waiting. So are you going to tell us what happened?”
Relaxing she finally let a smile cross her face. She looked around the room, eyes landing on the magazines and stacks of research she had done for her presentation. “I wanted to tell both of you at the same time.”
Georgia huffed, “If you went through all of the effort to get both of us on the phone to tell us you DIDN’T get the account, I’m gonna be pissed.”
Finding herself not able to sit still now she stood up and started to pace the small office, choosing to take off her jacket in the process. “Well then it’s a good thing I’m not calling to tell you I didn’t get it.”
Grace squealed. There was some background noise then the distinct sound of Gracie’s staff screaming joined hers, as if the whole of the team at Grace & Co. were her personal cheerleaders. “You got it! I KNEW you’d get it. We both told you that you had this thing locked up.”
She sighed and sunk into her chair. The adrenaline of the morning was starting to wear off and she was finding that even the sugar in her Dr. Pepper couldn’t keep her going for much longer. “I wish I had as much faith in my presentation as you two did!”
“It was killer. At least it was killer last night at 2:30…but I was seeing double…but it was doubly good that way.” Georgia laughed.
“I’m sorry for making you stay up and watch me practice the presentation over and over and well over again, but I had to-” She sighed and made sure that her office door was securely shut before going onto her next subject choice. She normally wasn’t that carefully, but she didn’t want a conversation about drinking until she was dizzy to mess up her newly acquired account. “I’ll make it up to you. We are ON for Brownie’s tonight. Make sure you’re ready, because I think I’m gonna go all night.”
“Hey, we can hang. Don’t worry about us. Just don’t forget about your friends when you’re all important!” Grace laughed.
“I think I’ll be able to pencil the two of you in from time to time.” Brighid rolled her eyes, and was fully aware that Grace knew she was leaning across a pile of J-14 magazines to scribble a note to herself so that she didn’t forget to stop and pick up some more vodka for the obvious amount of partying that was going to go on this weekend.
Georgia interrupted, “Listen guys, I hate to cut this short, but I’ve got to meet with a client in ten. I’ve gotta run!”
“Not a problem.” Gracie sighed. “I need to settle the argument between Lars and Eric about which couch is more Madonna-like and then head over Harpo to take Oprah some fabric samples anyway.” The girls giggled. Lars and Eric were Gracie’s two VERY flamboyant assistants. The two were always arguing over a piece of furniture and which of their favorite celebrities’ homes it belonged in. Usually the argument centered on Madonna or Barbara Streisand.
Brighid couldn’t help but make one more joke before the conversation ended, “Hey George, before you go I had a quick question for you…”
“What’s up, babe?”
“Are your parents married yet?”
Grace burst into a fit of laughter and Georgia growled, “I hate you!”
“You love me.”
“I do not. I hate you.”
“I know.” Brighid giggled.
Brighid’s assistant stuck her head through the door, “Brighid, I’m sorry to interrupt, but there is a JC on the phone.”
“JC?” she closed her eyes for a moment and tried to remember if she was missing out on a call she should have made that afternoon. When she didn’t find that name in her list of things to do she opened her eyes. “What did he want?”
“He didn’t say. He just said that you were expecting his call.”
“Ok,” she said, “What line is he on?”
“Girlies,” She sighed, “Work calls. I’ll see you guys at Brownie’s around seven ok?”
“Gotcha.” They said in unison.
Both girls clicked off the phone and Brighid moved some papers out of the way and found a legal pad to write on before she reached to pick up the line. “Brighid Montgomery, can I help you?”
“Brighid Montgomery, JC Chasez speaking... listen I just wanted to ask you...”
“JC Chasez? I am sorry Mr. Chasez but did Sam from Beauty Basics ask you to call me?”
“Sam? Sam who?" He paused for a moment sounding confused. She hated when people did that. Why couldn't anyone know what they wanted BEFORE they dialed the phone. "No I told you I would call you this morning after we--”
Brighid’s eyes slowly slid from the notepad she had been doodling on to the magazine cover she had used for her research. The young man’s face staring up and Brighid looked familiar and recognition took over.
“OH MY GOD”
“Brighid are you okay? This is JC we met this morning you accidentally...”
“Ruined your shirt! I AM SO SORRY! Listen just tell me where to send you another one and I will get right on that. Again let me please apologize for any incon--”
JC cut her off mid sentence. “Brighid I said it was no big deal I was just calling because I thought of a way you could make the little accident up to me.”
Brighid’s eyes narrowed as she contemplated what his suggestion was going to be. “Oh really? How’s that?”
She hated to be so skeptical of him, but it wasn’t every day that a complete stranger was making deals with her over the phone that clearly didn’t sound business related. She knew the music business fairly well from friends in the industry and this was the type of situation that would end her up on Hard Copy or Access Hollywood for hanging around with a musician after hours.
“Listen my band mates and I are kind of new to the city.” She could hear a little hesitation on his part and wondered for a moment if he was really shy about asking her out or if he was playing shy to make her give him the pity vote. “We are going to be here for a while recording and we wanted to get a lay of the land. Since you are really the only person I have met here so far I thought that you might be able to show us a good time.”
“Sure of course Mr. Chasez, I would be happy to meet with you and your band mates next week for lunch or something.” She sat up and tried to look at her calendar. Her finger scanned the page before she sat back again. “ I actually have a project that I am working on that I would like your input on”
“Slow down their Brig. I don’t want to go for some stuffy business lunch with you.” Again hesitation came and she knew instantly that this was the point of no return. Either he’d ask her something completely insane or she’d be asked something that was clearly a business matter and she’d get embarrassed for thinking that there was something else on his mind. “What are you doing tonight?
Brighid coughed nervously “Tonight? Umm I was actually going to meet up with my girl friends for at a local hangout.”
“The guys and I will meet you there-” His voice was drawn out into a sexy noise that wasn’t quite a moan, but let her to believe that if he was ever to moan that it would be considered music. “--Say 7:30?”
She wanted so badly to believe that this was an innocent outing, but the fact that she had just landed an account that might one day involve him and she wasn’t about to risk her position there by being seen with him outside of the workplace. “Mr. Chasez.”
“JC” he corrected.
“JC I am sure that you and your colleagues would not be interested in going out with my friends and I,” she prayed that he would know that this was a professional brush off and not a personal one. If she’d met him on the street and didn’t have any kind of ties to him in the business world everything would have been fine.
“Why don’t you let me be the judge of that?" He cleared his throat. “Come on Brig-I can call you Brig right, I mean we’re old buddies-We’ve already technically been on our first date-“
“Drinks this morning. I mean that could be considered a date right?”
“Come on,” he pleaded, “Let your hair down and let us party with you.”
“Excuse me?” She said up in her chair and looked around for a moment shocked that he would be so bold. She knew that this was going to happen, but to actually hear the words come out of his mouth, him inviting her out on what he was going to be considering at date was shocking.
“Come on-” There was background noise for a moment and he spoke to someone standing next to him for a moment. “Justin-the guy I was with this morning said that you’re Business Barbie and that you’ll never-“
“Are you betting over whether I’ll come out with you tonight?” she asked.
“No,” he said with a sincere tone, “Just help me prove to Justin that you can let your hair down and the you are not JUST the business-type”
“What? I don’t know what--” She wished that she had a tape recorder so that she could tape this because no one in their right mind would ever believe that a man was bold enough to say this to her.
“Co;me on Brig I dare you.”
A knock at the door sounded and Brig knew she needed to get back to work. “Fine. Meet us at Brownies. It is on Lincoln and Clark. Be there at 7:30.” She knew that her assistant would be back soon with her afternoon agenda and she didn’t want to have her walk in on the conversation.
Brighid hung up the phone and suddenly the realization set in as she looked at the magazine lying in front of her. It was his face staring back at her. Flesh and blood with that sexy, I just ran my hands through my hair hairstyle and his shirt open to reveal part of his chest, just enough to tease without having parents go bonkers because their children were looking at a sex symbol.
“OH MY GOD!" She breathed deeply and let her eyes rest on the picture of him on the magazine. “What did I do? I just made a date with five millionaires like it was-” She put a hand to her head. “-Easy.”
She picked up her phone and quickly dialed Georgia and Grace back.
Looking up from the paperwork spread out on the coffee table in front of him Lance snickered as Justin and JC walked into the studio, “Have a little trouble finding your mouth there JC?”
JC glanced down at his shirt and shrugged, “I bumped into a girl with some-” His brain went blank for a moment as he pictured her in front of him. “It was one of those--fruity frozen drink in her hand.” He looked into the booth and suddenly realized that they were still recording. He hadn’t even noticed that the “recording in process” light had been on. It didn’t seem to bother Joey and Chris. They both waved at him.
Lance motioned his hand to JC’s shirt. “Does she look this bad too?”
Justin rolled his eyes and flopped down on the couch next to Lance, “NO! SHE looks fine. Not a drop on her. But you haven’t heard the BEST part of the story yet. THIS IDIOT asked her out! Right there on the street, first time he’s ever laid eyes on her.”
Lance smirked, “Is that so?”
Feeling suddenly paranoid, JC shrugged and moved around the far side of the coffee table and found a seat next to the couch. “Sort of. I asked her to show us around Chicago.”
Lance leaned back against the couch, “Ah…C? How far outside of the city is Lake Forest?”
JC answered without looking up, “About an hour up 94.” He picked up the music they would be working on and ran over the lines again.
Lance nodded, “So I just shoot up 94?”
“Yeah, why? You going to visit my parents?” Again, he didn’t even bother looking up.
“I’m just thinking that you know your way around the city pretty well. I didn’t think you needed a tour guide.”
JC glanced up and smirked, “You can ALWAYS learn more about a city.”
Justin growled, “DUDE! You cannot be serious about dragging us out with little Miss Business Woman!”
“Business Woman?” Lance asked. “Please tell me that she’s not a hooker.”
“No,” he said with a laugh. “Business, like she works in a bank or something, not like she works on the street.” A picture flashed through his head of her in those same heels she’d had on that morning but with fishnet stockings and a miniskirt. “She was on her way to a meeting. I’m sure she won’t be wearing that suit tonight with us.”
Lance raised an eyebrow, “Us?”
JC nodded, “I thought we could all go out tonight.”
Justin laughed cynically, “HA! You thought! You already said we’d go!” He turned to Lance, “He just got off the phone with her. He SAID WE’D GO!”
Lance shrugged, “I’m game.”
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