Spirit of Steel 22


"No means no."

"Please?"  Justin stuttered out quickly, "Did I say please?"

"Yes," she said and sped up when he looked as if he was going to take her Yes as the answer to his first question, not his second.  "You did, but the answer is still no."

"Why?" he asked.

"Honey, it's nothing against you."  She turned her head to the side and tried to give him a sympathetic look.  It wasn't working very well.  She could tell from the expression he was projecting back at her.  She wasn't about to convince him of anything.  "It's nothing against being on tour, but I have things that I have to do here in Colorado and I can't--"

Justin immediately cut her off.  "Won't."

Carolina pursed her lips and sighed.  She was tired of trying to explain to Justin that she couldn't just drop everything to join him on tour.  "You may be able to run away and join the circus, and as much fun as its been for the last few days with you--I have a life to get back to.  I have coaching and the girls and getting back into shape and--"

"Never mind," he said and rolled away from where they were both lying on the bed.  It was the early morning hours, before Justin would have to get up and go to more press commitments and they had been having a great conversation until the topic of her living in Colorado.

"Jus-tin," she sighed and moved to sit up, pulling the sheet and top blanket up to her chest as he moved to grab up his boxer shorts.  "Please don't be this way."

"What way?" he asked turning back to her once his underwear were on.

Her eyes darted over his body involuntarily.  She hadn't seen him half-naked standing that way before and the time away seemed to have tightened him up a lot.  He looked like a machine.  Turbo performer or something like that.

"What way?" he repeated.

"This way," she said motioning towards him.  "I would come on your tour with you if I could, but right now I can't.  It's that simple.  I'm not trying to complicate your life or mine with my decision."

His expression fell, then the tension released and his shoulders fell.  The life basically fell out of him right in front of her eyes.  She'd beaten him and while she would have loved to have celebrated that, he now looked pathetic.  "Fine."

"Justin," she said when he ducked his head.  She didn't want to discourage him from wanting her to be around, but he had to understand that she wasn't some groupie that was going to become this road friend.

"What Carolina?" he asked looking up at her.  He was still acting like a three year old putting emphasis on her name probably because she had just said his name with a bit of emphasis behind it.

She smiled at him hoping that it would make him smile too.  "When I have time off I'll come and visit, but for now I just can't."

"Ok," he said with a sigh then turned towards the bathroom.  "I've gotta take a shower so I can to my press stuff this morning.  I should be back by noon again if you are going to be staying on until tonight."

She wanted to ask him if he even wanted her to stay, because in his present mood it wasn't clear to her.  "I think I'll stay until you leave Denver," she said, "You leave at noon tomorrow, right?"

"Yeah," he said.  His back was still to her, but at least he was talking.  "We hit Dallas next.  I've gotta be on the bus by eleven tomorrow morning so we can head out by noon.  We get to--" He sighed.  "We get to Dallas around midnight, then perform the next three nights."

"Justin?  Turn around for a second."

He flipped around and she could tell he was grinding his teeth in anger.  "What?" he asked.

"Believe me.  It's not that I don't want to go, but I'm under contract to be a coach to those girls and I don't want to let them down.  Ok?" she said.

He nodded.

She thought quickly about the next few weeks.  They were coming up on a busy time of the season, the weeks that were leading up to all the championships and after that she had a break coming up so she'd be able to lead a half normal life.  She practically snapped her fingers when she remembered the amount of time that she had off after the season.  "But as soon as the season is over I have about a month off."  She thought quickly, not wanting to make any promises she couldn't keep.  "If nothing comes up between now and then I'll come on tour with you.  Ok?"

*****

He felt sick to his stomach standing there watching her.  He didn't mean to be such a little brat, but the thought of her not wanting to come with him seemed strange to him.  She'd had a good time.  They'd had a good time and he thought that they would stay on that mood between them and take a little adventure together on the road.  "Really?" he asked.

She shrugged.

Why was she shrugging?  Was she not taking this seriously?  He didn't just ask anyone to be on the road with him.  With Britney it had been normal.  She'd been on the road with them when they met up when they were in high school and then she would travel on her own dime to see him wherever he was.  It was normal.

This. This definitely was not going to be normal in any way.  He'd gotten that feeling in Tennessee, but it was being reinforced again now that they were back together.

"Yeah."

His face brightened a bit.  He tried to be not so down on the idea that she wouldn't come along.  If he did that he'd end up throwing back too many JDs and beers with Trace and ruin himself.  "When's your season over?"

"In two months," she said.

He hoped that her tone was one of sadness and not boredom.  Sometimes those two sounded the same.  For him it worked to his advantage.  He could tell people around him that he was tired or bored instead of sad and they usually believed him.  Today though was not a time that he wanted to be dealing with this confusion.  He wanted to know--needed to know--that she was going to be upset when they left each other until she could get back out to him or he could arrange to get back to her.

He frowned again then looked at her.  He had to think fast or he felt as if this would be the last time they'd get to spend time together until he ended his tour and since new dates were being added all the time and they were in the talks to do a UK/Europe tour he knew that finding time to spend with her was going to be hard in the next year or so.  "What are you doing for Christmas?"

She sighed.

He was testing her patience with this.  He didn't mean to, but everything in his life wasn't set, but if he could see what she was going to be doing for Christmas then he could plan for her to fly to where he was.  At the moment that was doing concerts, but if it changed, he'd just get her a new flight to see him wherever.

She shrugged.  "I was going to go home to Tennessee?"

He knew that this would get her.  He would love to be in Tennessee this year, but he was doubting that would happen.  He might get back around spring time, but even that was still up in the air.  "Come to Hawaii with me instead."

Her jaw dropped.  He'd shocked her.  That definitely wasn't what she was expecting to come from him.  "Hawaii?"

"I've got two shows between Christmas and New Years and I'm bringing my family out."  He wasn't really, but if this worked out he would fly them out.  He smiled to himself about that thought.  He could really be manipulative if he wanted to be.

"I'll have to see what my family is up to."  Her expression was serious.

"I'll bring them too," he said.

"You can't buy everything you know," she said.

"I wasn't trying to buy them," he said, "I just want to spend time with you and I know that I won't get to see you until forever unless I get you out to Hawaii for Christmas and I know that family is a big thing so if I want to see you I have to make sure that you see your family too, so I figure that I'd bring them out.  Besides, who doesn't want to be out of Tennessee in the winter time?"

"Where are your bodyguards when I need them?" Carolina joked.  "You're really stubborn, you know that?"

Justin frowned even though he was slightly glad to see that she was fitting in on tour.  It made him feel as if it wouldn't be that hard to convince her to come out and visit once she was done with work.

"I'll think about it," she said, "If my parents want to go to Hawaii with your parents then I'll fly out and meet up with everyone, but if they want to stay in Tennessee then I'm going to have to go home and see them.  Ok?"

"Ok."

"Now," she said with a sigh, "Is there any possible way I can tag along with you this morning?"

Justin twisted his lips into a confused expression.  Why would anyone want to be put through the torture known as press junkets if they didn't have to?  Sitting around answering questions and talking to strangers all day wasn't the way he'd chose to spend his days.  If he could he'd stay at the hotel every morning instead of dragging himself out of bed.  "You want to go to my interviews?"

"Yeah," Her answer came with an implied 'why not? tone' to her voice.  "You got to see me work and I've seen you do half your job, so I'd like to see you do the other part of it."

He shrugged.  "If you want to tag along you can, but I definitely want to warn you that it's going to be REALLY boring."

"I'm sure I can find SOMETHING interesting about the experience," she said, "Besides.  We'll get to spend more time together this way."  She pushed herself up and stepped passed him fully naked as she walked into the bathroom.  "Starting with a hot shower together if you get your butt in here."

Justin had to hand it to her.  Just as he was starting to think that he'd figured her out, she would do something like this.  It was amazing how comfortable she was with him even if he hadn't started out their relationship on a smooth note.


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