Spirit of Steel 27


The room that they had lunch in was off to the side of the main restaurant and there were two guards that were at the entrance.  She waved to both Mike and Todd as she went inside to find her seat and found herself feeling more comfortable that she thought she would have.

She realized, sitting at the table with so many people, just how big their family had become.  Her parents had always been friendly with the Timberlakes, but now they seemed to have bonded.  It made her very suspicious when everyone started to refer to them as the kids, as if the families were one and not two.  She had a feeling that her parents were looking to marry her off anyway, but it seemed as if they'd already found the groom and in-laws for her.  She should have felt shocked and mad about the whole situation, but when she leaned back in her chair to enjoy her lemonade and Justin leaned back too and put an arm around her to watch everyone, she was sure that somehow this was the right thing, the right place and time to be in.

"You ok?" he asked.

She nodded and sipped her drink.  "I'm a little more tired than I thought, but yeah."

"Well we can go sit on the beach until four if you want to.  After that though I have to go to the club to do sound check.  We're going to take a bus down there and stop to get shave ice on the way--actually it's out of the way, but it's kind of tradition when we come to the island."

She nodded and sipped her drink.  "That sounds good."

"You ok?" he asked.  His eyes moved over her carefully.  "You're quiet all of a sudden."

"Yeah," she said and nodded more furiously.  "Seriously I think it just hit me that we're all here and we're all--"  She looked around the table for a moment, surveying the joy on each person's face before turning slightly more towards him and leaning to speak into his ear.  "We all fit."

Justin leaned his forehead against her head for a moment then moved to look around the table and threw a wink at his mother when she started to stare at them.  "Yeah," he said, "I guess we do."

"It's--" she sighed.  She didn't want to jinx it.  She knew that it would be different this time, but she hadn't expected it to be so easy.  "It's kind of overwhelming."

"What's that?" he asked turning back towards her  He grabbed up his drink and took a sip of it then set it down.

"Well--"  She hesitated, not sure how it would sound coming out of her mouth.  She'd gotten on him about how he'd treated her when he'd disappeared on her and he didn't want to dwell on that, but there was no way to enjoy this new attitude he had without comparing it to the way he'd treated her in the past.  "That's it's working out so well for us this time."

He laughed a bit.  "Well I hoped that it would."

She watched him closely.  He really did feel the guilt of leaving.  She'd thought that he'd meant it the last time they'd spent time together, but that look was clearly still in his eyes.

He cleared his throat a little and kept his voice low as the other people at the table spoke amongst themselves.  "I know I messed up the last time."

She put a finger up to his lips and tried to smile at him to ease his mind.  "I don't mean to keep bringing that up--"

"Ok you two," Paul finally said loudly at the table. "Break it up for a minute."

When they looked over he was standing up with a drink in his hand as if he was going to make a toast.  It was a good assumption.  He cleared his throat and held up his glass.  "I just wanted to thank Justin for flying us all here.  I know it's been a crazy year for us all and I'm glad that we could get together and spend this time here enjoying each other's company and the great weather that we've seem to be blessed with."

Carolina figured he'd probably make a more formal toast if they ended up doing a big Christmas dinner, but for now it was a great way to start off the holiday.

"Cheers," everyone said and lifted their glasses and more than a few eyes were on Justin.

He pushed himself up as soon as his stepfather had taken his seat.  "Well, I guess that I have to answer that challenge."  He looked at his glass for a moment then up at everyone.  "I just hope everyone has a good time.  I know that my career has pulled all of us back and forth at least once or twice--"

"A day," Justin's mother said.

Everyone at the table laughed.

"Yeah Momma," he said giving a very embarrassed look, "A day."

Everyone laughed again.

"So--I just want everyone to know that I'm glad that you could make it, and that I hope you have fun."

Clapping started and Carolina took a deep breath and clapped along with everyone.

*****

Lunch was over sooner than she thought and soon they were out in the heat of the day walking towards the cottages.  A few people seemed to have realized that they were there and more than a few teenage girls followed them down towards the beach area.

"Teenies," Trayce mumbled as they walked across the golf course grass.

"What?"

"Teenies." Trayce motioned towards the girls with his thumb.  "The girls."

When one of the girls called out his name to say hello Justin ducked his head and moved closer to Carolina.  He curled an arm around her and turned his head away from the girls and towards her.

"Are you going to say hi to them?" she asked him with a quiet voice.  She ducked around his body a bit to see the girls who were all staring and giggling now.

"I'm hoping if I ignore them that they'll go away," he mumbled back to her.

Trayce started to laugh a little as if Justin's comment was something that wasn't to be taken seriously.

"Justin, just say hi to them," she pleaded, "It'll make their freaking year if you do that."

He sighed then made a point of slowing down.  "Ok."

He turned halfway towards them and waved the girls over.  There were only a few of them so he signed autographs, got hugs and chatted with them while one of the girls video taped them.

"Can I see your camera?" Carolina said to the girl with the video camera.

"Why?"

"Well you're not in the shot," she said, "I don't mind holding it for a while so you can be in it."

"Really?"

"Yeah," Carolina said.

"Thanks," the girl said.

"Your girlfriend is so nice," one of the other girls said.

Justin looked stunned for a moment then went back to signing and talking to the girls while Carolina turned the camera on the group and filmed them for a bit.  It turned quickly into a game of twenty questions and although the girls didn't have much to say to Justin, they dragged out their time with him out until he finally sighed and said that he needed to go and get ready for the show that night.

Carolina gave back the camera and she and Justin waved to everyone before they snuck off to the cottage.

"That was amazing," Justin said with a smile as he let them back into the cottage.

She walked passed him into the cottage and went to get a drink.  It was strange that it wasn't THAT hot in Hawaii, but she seemed to need more water here than any other place she'd ever traveled to.

Justin closed the door behind them.  "What's that?"

"The way you were hanging out with those girls."  He scratched his forehead.  "I've never had any of my fans be too thrilled about my girlfriends."

"Really?" she said sipping her drink, "I just figured I'd better make a good first impression and I think I did that."

Justin took her lead and grabbed a drink before he moved into the living room motioning for her to come with him.  "You definitely did," he said.

"Why didn't the fans like your other girlfriends?"

He shrugged then drew open the sliding glass door that lead out to the back.  "Most of them have been in the industry and I think a lot of girl fans thought that they were with me to just further their careers."

Carolina didn't claim to know much about his past relationships.  Of course there was all the information out about his relationship with Britney, but most of that was gossip so she tended not to believe anything that anyone had told her about Britney and Justin being together, although she suspected that their relationship was only so visible because it helped both of their careers.  "Well were they?"

"I think a little bit of the reason was because I was so famous, but for the most part I don't think that people can stand the idea of a pop star being with someone."

"That's a sad existence," she said.

He shrugged again and came to sit next to her.  He slid an arm around her and hugged her to him.  "Yeah well, it's part of the business."

She let that thought sink in for a while.  It was a moment by moment surprise these days.  Even when she thought she'd figured out how to deal with his lifestyle and his experiences, he would bring her something more to deal with.  "Do you think that it'll be that way if we stay together?"

"That they'll hate you?" he supplied for her.

She leaned her head against him.  "Yeah."

"Ordinarily I would say yes, but so far everything about you has been the complete opposite of what I would expect so I have a feeling that if you treat them the way you treated those girls that they'll end up loving you."  He put his hands up.  "I can't be one hundred percent sure of that of course, but for the most part I don't think you have to be worrying about that."

"That makes me feel better," she said.

He looked at her with a careful eye.  "You've been worrying about it?"

"Not really, but there are some things to consider with this relationship that I don't normally have to worry about in the other relationships I have in my life."

"Other relationships?"

"Not relationships," she said, "Believe me...you're almost too much for a girl to handle.  I just ment that with most people I don't have to worry about what I say or do ending up in the tabloids.  And that's nothing against you at all.  I know that it's just part of your life and I'm starting to get more used to that, but every once in a while--"

He put a finger to her lips.  "You're babbling honey."  He leaned and replaced his finger with his lips.  "I know what you mean.  If you think about it too much it just is mind boggling."

"Yeah," she said with a sigh, "Like today at lunch.  If I really thought about it hard enough, and let myself forget a little bit about reality I might have thought that my parents were trying to marry me off or something.  They seem a little too comfortable with the idea of you and I being a couple."

"Well--" He sighed.  "I kind of had a hand in that."

"What?"

"When I invited your parents out I got on the phone with your dad for a bit and he warned me that I was not to be messing with your emotions again so I tried to reassure him that my intentions are only that I keep you as happy as can be."

"That's all you said right?"

"Yeah," he said with a smile, "What else would I say?"

"No-nothing," she sighed.  "Never mind.  I think the heat is getting to me."

He nodded towards the beach outside.  "You want to take a little dip in the water before I have to head out of here?"

"Sure," she said, "That sounds like just what I need."

"Good then," he said, "Go grab your suit and I'll find some towels."

*****

It didn't take long for them to find their suits and meet at the back door.

"Suntan lotion," Justin said just as Carolina reached for the door.  He motioned for her to turn around so she put her back towards him letting him spread lotion across her shoulder blades and her exposed lower back.  "Believe me I know from a really bad case of sun burn, definitely put some on.  It looks safe enough out there, but after being in the states for so long, I swear that the sun just knows to attack the whitest people on the beach."

"And I just thought you'd want to rub your hands all over me," she said with a sigh.

"That," he said moving closer to her so that he could speak in her ear, "That part comes later."

"Oh," she said.

"Yeah," he laughed.  "I know it's hard to believe that I've turned into an old man, but seriously you'll thank me later."

"That," she said with a hushed voice, "That part comes later too."

"Oh really?" he asked with a sly voice.

She nodded.

"I like your suit," he said as his hands dipped to her lower back.

"Thank you," she said, "It was a pain in the ass to get a swim suit this close to Christmas, but I figured if I'm gonna be in Hawaii I might as well look the part."

"Well it was a good choice," he said.

"Thank you."  She turned and looked back at her leg.  "I'm hoping that it takes away from the huge scars on my ankle."

"You really worry about that?" he asked.

"A little," she said, "Not that I think it's ugly, but I don't know how much pity I can take when someone comes up to me and seems to think I'm an invalid because of the scar there."

"I don't think that you're an invalid," he said and turned around, handing her the lotion so that she could do his back.  "Actually," he moved his hips a little and danced, "I think you move just fine."

"Hmm," she said, "And how would you know that?"

"I've got a GREAT memory," he said, "But--"  He turned back towards her, "The memories are starting to fade so I hope that I can put new memories in their place."

"OH MY GOD," she said with emphasis, "Please don't try to be corny.  Just come out and say that you want to jump my bones because that whole Memories thing makes me want to start singing Andrew Lloyd Webber songs."

"I'm the singer in the family," he said with a smile, "You're the mover and the shaker."

"Well," she said finishing up his back, "We both better move and shake or our trip to the beach is going to turn into a trip to the porch because it's getting late."


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