Spirit of Steel 31


"I'm going to get a drink," she whispered to him after twenty minutes of listening to his side of the interview conversation.  From what she could tell the questions that he was being asked were boring.  Justin didn't seem to help the situation and game his answers in one or two word reactions and a flat tone to his voice.  It left her half asleep in her seat with nothing else to do so she decided that getting a drink was what she needed.

"Can you hold on just a second?" he said into the phone then covered up the phone.  "Can you grab me a Corona?"

"Sure," she said with a smile.  "I'll be back in a minute."

He started to go back to his phone conversation then stopped.  "If you have any trouble find Mike or Todd or--"

"I know," she said, "I'll be fine.  I'm gonna slip out there and get the drinks at the end of the bar next to the door.  I'll be fine."

"Ok," he said, "Thank you."  He finally turned back to his conversation.

Carolina found herself being comfortable enough to go out to the bar on her own.  People were already crowding the place, standing up close to the stage and around the bar, but the bartender recognized her and came over as soon as he could get away.

"Two coronas," she said.  She instantly felt terrible about not being able to tip him.  Justin had told her that she just needed her ID so she had just shoved it into her back pocket without bringing cash with her.  When he popped the bottles and put them on the bar in front of her.  "I don't have a tip," she said.

"No troubles," he said then smiled, "I know I'm not supposed to ask this, but I've got some neighbor girls that love Justin.  I'll ignore the no tip thing if you think you could get me his autograph."

Carolina wasn't sure that she should be trading autographs for drinks.  "Let me check on that."

"Would it help to know that I'm trying to date their older sister?"

Carolina smiled.  "I'll check for you."

"Nevermind."  The bartender stood up straighter and looked over her shoulder at something.

"You ok Carolina?" Todd asked.  It was amazing how just a person's voice could convey so much possessiveness in their voice.  "You need--"

She turned around, "Yeah."  She took a deep breath.  "Thanks."

"You need to get back in there?" Todd said motioning towards the door.

"Yeah," she said and turned back to thank the bartender, but he'd disappeared back to his other customers."Do I need a pass or something?"

"I was just bringing you one," he said and  held up a sticker that said VIP on it.

"Put it on me," she said moving her shoulder towards him.

He took the clue and took the back off of the sticker and stuck it along the arm of her t-shirt.

"Thanks," she said dipping her head at in him acknowledgement.

"Come on," he said, "The show is gonna start soon and I don't want you out here."

"Ok," she said and followed him back to the door.

"Todd?"

"Yes?"

"Can I ask you something?"

"Sure," he said with a shrug.

"Why are you so protective over me?" she asked, "I mean I love that you're looking out for me, but it seems a little strange."

Todd nodded and winked at her.  "I figure we need to keep you around."

"Really?" she asked.

"Yeah," he said, "You're a cool girl."

"Todd?" she said with a lowered tone to her voice.

"What?" he said acting as if there was nothing strange about him treating her that way.

She looked down the hall for a moment and saw Trayce coming their way.  "Did Justin say anything to you?"

"I can't say," he said.

She sighed.  "Did Justin tell you something?"

"Naw," he said and started to joke around.  "I just like that you keep the guy in a good mood.  Everyone has noticed that."

"They have?"

"Yeah," he said with a nod.  "You'd better run off and find the boy.  I've gotta do one more run through before the show starts."

Carolina nodded.  "Thanks Todd."  She moved and kissed his cheek.  "You're a sweetheart."

"Thanks," he said and instantly backed away.

Trayce finally made it to her.  "You ok?"

"Yeah," Carolina said holding up the beers.  "Is he busy or can I--"

"You can do whatever you want," Trayce said, "Even if he was dead asleep and you woke him up he'd smile at you."

"That's just about what Todd was saying earlier.  Do you really think that?"

"Yeah," Trayce said, "Not to get all mushy and shit, but everyone around her likes you, not just Justin."

"Awe," Carolina said, "That's sweet."

"It's be even sweeter if you had gotten me a beer," Trayce joked.

"UGH," she said and nudged him with her arm.  "Thanks."

"It's a compliment," he said in a low voice, "Joking like that means you're one of us."  He took a deep breath.  "I'm off to cause some trouble.  Go find your boy ok?"

She nodded and moved down the hall towards the room where Justin had been.

He was still on the phone when she returned to the room.  Handing over the beer she watched him nod at her in thanks before taking a sip.  When she tried to move away from where she was standing in front of him though he didn't let her, slipping an arm around her to pull her towards him so she soon found herself straddling his legs and sitting on his knees.

She smiled at him as he answered more questions.  "

"I know people have an image of me in their head, but I want them to be able to see past that," he said. "I want them to see the musicality of what I'm doing. There's a portion of people who enjoy what I do. And it's been proven. There's a weight lifted off my shoulders. I don't have to worry about that part anymore."**

*****

He couldn't believe that he was sitting there with her on his lap having to listen to the interviewer in his ear asking questions.  He prayed that his thirty minutes would be up soon.  He still had a million things to do before stepping on stage and the most important of all was that he needed to spend a few minutes with Carolina, calm himself, before he could think about trying to be out there in front of everyone.

"Well thanks for your time," the interviewer finally said.

"You're welcome," he said.

"Have a good show tonight," the interviewer put in.

"Thanks," Justin said with a smile before hanging up.  He set the phone on the couch cushion next to him before he looked up at where she was looking slightly down at him.

"You done?"

"Yeah," he said.  "Just have the show to do and then I'm all yours for a few days."

"That sounds good," she said.

"So did you have any trouble getting your drink?" he asked lifting his own drink to his lips.

"Just a little," she said.

"What?"

"I didn't have a tip for the guy," she said rolling her eyes.  "You don't have to be so overprotective."  She sipped her beer.  "And tell Todd not to be so protective.  I swear between the two of you I'd rather be living back home with my parents and have a curfew."

"Ok. Ok," he said, "I'll tell him to back off.  With club shows like this it gets packed out there and I didn't want you to get into trouble."

She leaned and kissed him.  "Thank you for being protective."

He licked his lips and downed more of his beer.  "You're welcome."

"Oh God!"  Trayce's voice came from the doorway.  When they turned to look at him he had an arm thrown over his eyes and was standing there with his face scrunched up.  "Get a room."

"Funny one," Justin said wishing he could throw something at his friend for being so stupid.

"Dude," Trayce said, "You gotta go on in a second."

"It's that late already?" Justin could kill himself for not keeping better track of the time.

"You need to warm up?"

"Yeah," he said.  He looked at Carolina.  "Why don't you go out and find a spot to watch the show from?  I'm gonna warm up then jump on stage."

She seemed a bit shocked to be sent out of the room, but she smiled and looked at Trayce, "Do you mind babysitting me for a while?"

"It's in my job description," Trayce scratched his head with his free hand, his other hand still clutching a bottle of Jack Daniels.  "I think."

"Good then," Justin took a deep breath.  "I'll see you in a bit then."

"Where do you want me to watch the show?" she asked as she pulled herself from his lap.

"I got something set up," Trayce said with a wink to Justin and Carolina.


**from http://www.rollingstone.com/features/coverstory/featuregen.asp?pid=2460


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