[SEVEN:

 

A week later…]

Five fucking minutes Justin," she said holding her phone out. It was late in the day and they were both tired, but she was showing more of her fatigue that he was. She was actually ranting and raving at him at this point, which in it self was funny to watch, but it kind of scared him. He wasn't afraid of her at all, but the fact that she wasn't handling the situation well, which didn't shed a lot of light in her future. It was true that he knew how to push her buttons, but she needed to overcome some of her childish hang ups before she went on to work with other producers because they weren't at all going to enjoy her sudden tantrums. "I've sat here and waited for you to talk to Britney for longer than that."

"Why do you need to call?" he asked looking over at her trying to not have much of an expression on his face. He knew that when he didn't show any emotion at all it got her angry so he decided that he'd do nothing and see if it would make a difference since he'd promised his mother that he'd be nice to her. "What's so freaking important?"

"None of your business," she said angrily. She grabbed up a bottled water from the coffee table and took a long drink of it. "It's a fucking phone call. I shouldn't have to ask permission for this. I mean we're both adults here aren't we?" She slammed the cap back on the bottle and twisted it closed tightly.

"That could be debatable," he said. He thought about faking a yawn, but decided not to. Instead, he put a hand to his jaw and rubbed the days' growth of beard on his chin watching her with a look that would make her think that he was thinking about it hard.

"Ugh! Don't even try this Timberlake. It's taking me longer to sit here and argue with you about this than my entire call would have been. Just let me go." She as she held the bottle by the top and shook it at him as if she were disciplining him like a teacher with a ruler in her hand. "You're still so fucking stubborn!" She threw the bottle onto the couch.

"Fine," he finally said and put out his hand to brush her towards the door. "Go already, get out of here. It's about six forty, be back here at seven and we'll do that last stanza over and we'll get the backgrounds for the next one going while we're here."

She huffed a huge breath at him then turned on her heel, "Just because you don't have a life doesn't mean the rest of us don't have one either."

Justin bit his tongue and thought about the promise he'd made to his mother. He wasn't going to turn this into a war. It was too stupid to go that crazy over things. He knew that it was late and he himself had some things to do, but it seemed like the more she hated being there with him the more that he wanted to keep her from whatever business she needed to get done that night. It was probably one of the dumbest things he'd done, but at the same time it gave him a little rush to be the one in control.

The air conditioner had clicked on awhile before and he'd gotten used to the sound of the fan behind him as he moved the knobs around the boards. He was almost to a version that he wanted to set down for the final copy, but wasn't quite there when he heard the door swing open. "I thought you were gonna make a phone call," Justin said looking up at the clock to see that she'd only been gone for a few moments.

The door banged slightly as it shut.

"I think you're looking for someone else."

Justin swung around in his chair and stared at the man in the doorway. It took him only seconds to recognize him. "Dante, what's up?" He stood and walked over to the brown haired guy in the doorway. "How's it going? I haven't seen you since Vegas."

"I was in Europe," he said with a smile and shook Justin's hand. "A little different than being on tour with you guys, but it was fun anyway."

"Well come on it," he said motioning to the room to let him know he should come the rest of the way in. "Does Johnny have you out here for meetings or something?"

"Actually I'm on vacation at the moment." He slid out of his leather jacket to take a seat on the couch. He leaned back a little getting comfortable as if he'd been working all day too. "I'll be here for a week or so." "Cool," Justin said and took his seat again, "I think I could grab tickets to the Magic game on Friday if you want to catch it."

"I don't know man. I might have plans."

"Well what are you doing tonight? We should go do something...nothing extreme like when we took Joey's room and set it up in the elevator, but something like that."

Dante Thomas was a rising star in the music world and the guys had become friends with him as they'd worked on their last tour so they had a lot of stories to tell about their misadventures on the road.

"You look kinda busy," he said looking a little nervous.

"Nah, this is nothing," he said, "I'm just trying to make the artist I'm working with a little hot under the collar. She and I have been battling for a few days about this song."

"You're torturing your artist?" he asked with a laugh, "So do all producers do that or is it just you?" He paused for a moment, "I wonder if my producers did that to me?"

Justin laughed and leaned back. Dante was one in a small group of people that Justin actually get close to him. Lately, with the way their success had been getting more and more out of control it seemed as if the whole group had gotten more picky on who they were themselves with. It was a sad state of affairs, but sometimes it was the only way to know that the people around them were genuine and with Dante it seemed as if he was one of the more authentically nice people that they'd met.

"This is kind of special a circumstance." That was an understatement. He wanted to hurt her a little since she'd hurt him so badly earlier that year. He hated how things had ended up but he didn't want She's my ex-girlfriend so it's one of those little games. She bugs the crap out of me and I bug the crap out of her."

"OK?" Dante said with a strange look at him.

"Believe me...it's better than screaming at each other."

Dante gave him a surprised look. "I didn't know you were dating anyone in the business. I mean everyone hears all those rumors and stuff about you and Britney..."

"Yeah well that's the thing," he explained scratching at his jaw, "I was the one to get her into this so I feel like I need to break her in a little."

"You guys broke up a while ago right?" he said, "because I don't remember any girl on the tour."

"Yeah," he said, "About six months ago. It was right when we were starting practices. I can't believe that stuff like that can get so dramatic."

Dante shook his head in agreement. "That must have sucked."

"It wasn't the most opportune time to have a break up, but then again, when is a good time?"

"True," he said.

Justin decided to change the subject. "So how's your woman?"

Dante frowned, "About a month ago we broke things off. I was in Europe and couldn't get home so it just fizzled."

"That sucks," Justin said, "We should go hit Paradise Island. My new lady is out in LA."

"New lady?" Dante said.

"Yeah Britney and I finally hooked up. It only took us a few years," he laughed, "We've known each other since we were twelve."

Something in Dante's pocket began to play music and he excused himself to grab up the phone.

"Hey babe, where are you?"

Justin sat back in his seat and waited patiently.

"No, I'm here," he said, "Yeah, in the studio...Sorry about that...my phone was off...ok, see ya in a second."

Dante hung up the phone and shoved it back into his pocket and looked over at Justin.

Meredith could feel the tension when she walked in the room. She pushed the door open and felt it in the silence even before she saw them staring at each other from across the room. It was like walking outside in the Florida humidity. It came from nowhere and it hit like a hurricane.

Justin was at his old games again. He wore the same ecpression that he had on his face when she'd first walked into the studio a few weeks before. He was expressionless really, but his eyes sparkled like he had some trick up his sleeve that he was about to pull out and wow the gathered crowd with. Except he wasn't on stage and at the moment she was sure that this move wasn't choreographed.

"Hey D," she said casually coming in to meet Dante, chosing to approach him instead of Justin for the pure fact that Justin would probably yell at her or something. She didn't think that he'd start something with Dante considering that he was there as a guest of someone else. Justin might be childish, but he wasn't stupid when he came to things like that.

She made it to where Dante was sitting, expecting he'd stand up and hug her hello, but he didn't. He leaned forward so that his elbows were on his knees, never taking his gaze from the man on the other side of the room who automatically changed positions so that they looked like book ends staring at each other.

Dante's eyes didn't move from Justin's as if they were having a staring contest and neither of them wanted to lose. "Hello Dante," she said and hit his shoulder lightly with her hand. She tried not to sound too airheaded, but when flirting she always seemed to revert back to her junior high ways.

"I'm here," she said with a laugh.

His reaction was slow, but Dante finally broke his stare away from Justin. Of course this seemed to signal that Justin had won the stupid contest and as Dante stood and hugged her she looked over his shoulder and saw Justin's face go from pure joy to hell in a moment as he watched them together.

"Are you ready to go?" Dante asked as his arms enveloped her in the first real hug she'd had in weeks. Sure there were Gritty's hugs, but this hug was different as was the kiss that he placed on her cheek.

"Justin is making me stay late. I was about to call you and tell you, but since you're here I guess you made a wasted trip over here."

"Awe," Dante said keeping an arm around her as they slipped out of their hug, "Well I guess I could bring dinner to you. I mean if you're going to take a break or whatever tonight."

She didn't like the feeling that Dante would be caught in the middle of things, but she knew that whoever she began to date would be there. It was just fate that it was Dante who had filled the position.

Meredith looked over at Justin and gave him an annoyed look. Without his stubborn nature she would be out on the town on a date, but he seemed to not only want to ruin her mood but her life as well.

"I guess we can break for the night," Justin said. It floored her. Of course it would be that way, because he couldn't look bad in front of anyone else. He'd probably done the same thing with the record company assuring them that he was going to put her album onto the charts. It was only meaningless details when it came to the fact that they couldn't stand to be in the same room together. He sold the idea that he could get the job done and today he'd sold the idea to Dante that he was a nice guy. It wouldn't work anyway. Dante knew all about her troubles with Justin and had actually become a great help to her when dealing with him.

"So I guess we can get going?" Dante said looking at Justin.

Justin turned to the boards and began flipping switches. She watched his back for a moment and felt extremely conflicted. At one moment she felt good about beinging this all up to him, but at the same time she felt horrible at what she'd done to him. She should have warned him at least.

She could already hear Addy yelling at her about it. She always had felt that her reaction to Justin's behavior had only worsened the situation, but at the same time she knew that she couldn't have spoken to him anyway about the situation. She would have lost it completely.

She had managed not to revisit the vision of Justin in Britney's arms. Actually she'd been great about not thinking about Britney much other than the whole issue with Justin and the phone sex, but Britney's words never left her.

****************

"I didn't know you were here."

"Is Justin here?" she asked ignoring the urge to hit her.

Britney smiled, "He had an interview this morning. We got up late--"

****************

Her brain had shut off at that moment. She hadn't been meaning to ignore the rest of the sentence, but she had heard enough to know that she'd walked into a situation that was bound to end badly and that's when she'd made the decision. She wasn't going to let Justin get to her like that ever again.

"Have a good night," Justin said, "Don't forget to fasten your condom!"

Meredith was half way out thedoor but with that comment she turned around and stalked toward him. "What the hell was that?"

He smiled at her, "It was just a joke Meredith...ya know...father of the bride...the whole first date home with dad and all that?"

"You forget though," she said angrily, "You're not my father and you just basically insinutated--"

"Use those big words on me," he joked.

"Justin you just basically called me a whore and unless you want me to call Gritty right now and tell him--"

"Can't fight your own battles these days?" he asked, "You're getting soft these days."

Meredith's hand went flying before it happened to register in her brain that she shouldn't hit him. It connected with his cheek and her expression was almost as shocked looking as his.

Making a superman move, Dante seemed to appear from no where and snatch them both away from the situation. He took Meredith into a hug and walked her out of the room saying over his shoulder to Justin, "Cool off man."

Meredith didn't speak the whole way out to the rental car that Dante led her to. It only took her a moment to be stuffed into the car and then another moment for Dante to get in and drive her away from WEG and the fight that she'd just been caught in.

 

 

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