Leah was completely exhausted that night when Patty finally escorted the last customer to the door. She fell into a chair with a hard thud and shut her eyes to rest for a moment until the phone rang.
"I got it," Patty said as she untucked her shirt and slid out of her shoes since the customers were gone.
A moment later Patty spoke into the phone. Leah didn't bother to open her eyes. If it was important Patty would tell her.
She opened her eyes when she heard a laugh from the far side of the bar. "Yes, Josh, she's here."
Leah got the receiver a moment later and put it to her ear. "Hello?"
"Levi, it's me," he said, "Sorry I didn't come by today."
"It's ok," she said, "I was so busy today that I doubt I would have even been able to say hello." Leah smiled thinking of how her day had started and hoped that it would end in the same manner. She had to admit, she could get used to waking up and falling asleep at night with JC by her side. "What are you up to now?" she asked.
"We're still in the studio," he said with a sigh.
"Please tell me you haven't been there all day?" she asked.
"We stopped for lunch-er dinner around five but we ordered in," he explained. He sounded tired to her and she wanted to ask him if he was, but didn't deciding that she didn't want to bother him. "It was cool though. Justin's two little brothers were with us so we had a pretty fun day."
"So are you done with the album yet? Lance called and said that Patty and I should come out to the barbecue whatever thing that you're throwing to celebrate the end of it."
"We should be done sometime before Friday if everything goes well," he said. There was a sound behind hm and a second later JC spoke into the phone, "I gotta run, we're starting up again. I just wanted to call and say goodnight."
"Thanks," Leah said with a sigh. What a waste of a good outfit. Oh well.
"If we get out of here for a few hours I'll come by."
"Whatever." Leah shrugged and tried to remind herself that all of this was too crazy and she shouldn't get used to it.
Twenty-four hours later JC was still in the studio. He'd gone home and had taken a shower and had thought about going to Sweet Pea's, but when he'd sat down on his bed to put on his socks after his shower he'd fallen asleep.
He'd been rudely awakened by a phone call from Mike telling him to get to the studio then had spent the rest of the evening in meetings.
Now, as the arms of his watch read three a.m., JC exited the studio, stretched, and immediately thought of Leah. He hadn't seen her in two days now and found himself missing her. He needed one of her smiles to keep him going.
He pulled out his cell phone as he exited the studio parking lot and dialed Sweet Pea's
"Hello?" Patty answered after two rings.
"Patsy Cline! What's up?"
"Hey JoJo," Patty replied.
"Levi around?" He asked and turned down towards Sweet Pea's.
"Nope, she left early tonight."
"She at home?"
"Just ask for the number," Patty said with a sigh.
JC laughed. "You know me too well."
"That's what I get paid for," Patty replied then rambled off the number.
"Do you think she's asleep?" he asked.
"Doubt it. I don't think she'd mind being woken up by you…I know I wouldn't."
"Funny," he said, "I'll talk to you later Cline."
"Bye JoJo," she said.
JC turned the jeep in the direction of the beach to head out of town. He was half way there when he dialed her number.
"Hello?" he heard after a few rings.
"Hey Levi," he said trying not to yell at her over the wind that was around him as he sped down the road in the open topped jeep.
"Hi," she said sleepily. He could tell she was smiling.
"Can I come over and say goodnight?" he asked.
"Where are you?"
Checking the odometer he made as estimation of how long it would be until he'd be at her house, "About fifteen minutes away."
"Well if you're in the neighborhood I could use a goodnight kiss," she said softly.
"Ok, I'll be there in a few."
"Just ring the doorbell," she said.
"Go back to sleep until I get there," he said.
"I wasn't asleep."
"Sure," he said, "Just hang up the phone and close your eyes then."
"Sounds good," she said. "See ya in a minute."
They hung up just as JC hit the town limited. He steered the jeep through the ocean front properties amazed that he remembered the way then found her house, parked on the street, put the jeepp's cover over the roll bars then made his way to the door.
It was freezing outside which wasn't going to help his throat any but he pushed that out of his mind and went to knock on the door.
He was greeted a moment later by Leah. Dressed in baggy pajama bottoms and a tank top she looked sexy as hell, but instead of sweeping him into the house like in one of his dreams he'd had of her she laughed. "No offense, but you look like shit."
"Thanks," he said with a smile. "You look like you just stepped off the catwalk yourself."
She let him into the house and Tahoe greeted him with a bark.
They made their way into the living room and plopped down on the couch next to each other.
"SO how's the album coming along?" she asked again.
He yawned. "It's good. Let's not talk about it though. That's all that's been on my mind since I left he other day."
"Well that and my addiction of course," he said.
"You were that in need of a nap?" she asked.
JC laughed. "Sure…that's what I thought about."
"So do you have tomorrow off?" she asked.
"Most of the morning. I have to be back at the studio at one for an interview and a photo shoot and another meeting."
"I know. It's going to be that interesting," he said.
She yawned again. "I'm sorry."
"Have a long day today?" he asked curling am arm around her, he pulled her close and she snuggled up to him as if they'd sat on the couch like that a million times before.
"Very," she explained. "No psychos, but it was really hectic." She yawned again. "You?"
"Today was fine compared to what's coming up. When we leave on tour I'm going to be working eighteen hour days for almost a month straight--" He stopped and watched her eyes drift downward as if she was having a hard time staying awake.
"OK," he said and scooted out of his seat. "Bedtime for you…"
"Tuck me in?" she said with a sleepy smile.
JC helped her to her feet, wrapped his arms around her and helf her for a moment before they made their way to the second floor.
Leah could feel herself waking up and wondered for a moment why she was so hot. Normally her blankets kept her at the correct temperature, but it felt like she had fallen asleep in a sauna or something.
Finally, when she twisted and turned and still wasn't comfortable she opened her eyes.
Deep blue sleepy eyes smiled back at her. "Done tossing and turning?" JC asked with a gruff morning voice.
"What?" she looked around and found that they were in bed together. JC lay next to her, underneath the covers earing only a wifebeater. She lifted the covers and saw that he'd removed his shoes and had slept the night in his jeans next to her.
"Did you know that you snore?" he asked with a playful smile.
"Do not!" she replied.
"Do too," he said and leaned and kissed the tip of her nose. "It's cute…Cute little…" He made horrible snoring noise and laughed.
"You snore too," she said remembering how she'd listened to him on the couch the other night.
"At least I can admit it," he said.
"Don't make fun of me this early in the morning. I'm not awake enough to defend myself."
"Oh poor baby," JC pulled her into his arms.
"Hey, be careful," she said with a laugh. "You might squeeze me to death." He let his arms fall away from her, but she stayed where she'd been pulled onto his chest.
He played with her hair, first pushing it behind her ears then combed it over her face with his fingers then playfully called out. "Look, it's cousin it!"
"There goes your cinnimon rolls," Leah grumbled. She pushed her hair back into place. "Speaking of that," she said, "Where's my breakfast? Or is breakfast in bed only for special occasions?"
To keep her mind off the way her body was draped across his she fixed the strap of his wifebeater which had flipped the wrong way, patting it against his shoulder for good measure when she was done.
"Breakfast in bed is definitely for special occasions, because of my lack in cooking skills."
"Well," she said getting up. "If you're gonna stay in this rancho you've gotta at least know how to make me an omlette." She came around to his side of the bed and pulled him up. "Just because I own Sweet Peas's doesn't mean that I'm ging to be in the kitchen all the time."
JC laughed and followed her to the kitchen.
While she let Tahoe out she called to him. "We need eggs, cheese, onions, bell peppers and grab out the milk."
"OK!" she heard him call to her.
Once Tahoe was outside she returned to the kitchen to find JC with all the ingredients on the counter. "OK, now put on the apron," she said pointing to the apron that was hanging on a hook next to the fridge.
He put the apron on, tied it then wiggled his eyebrows at her. "Gonna kiss the cook?" He asked pointing to the logo on the apron.
I always knew there was a reason I bought that thing.
"Maybe," she said with a teasing tone putting her hair up in a rubber band.
JC took two quick steps towards her and kissed her exposed neck just behind and below her ear sending a tingle that lasted through the time that it took JC to begin to crack the eggs.
She handed him a fork and as he beat up the eggs she added a little milk then salt and pepper.
"Onto the peppers and onion." Setting him to work chopping. She stood next to him with her cheek on his bare shoulder. "Anyone tell you that you have nice hands?"
JC stopped and stared at his hands. She stood on her tiptoes and reached to kiss him on the neck where she'd been kissed. "And nice arms," she said.
"Ya big tease," he said and finished chopping, leaning in the process to steal a kiss from her.
"Be careful, you'll chop off a finger," she said and left him alonw while she got out the frying pan and butter.
"Hello?" Leah said into the receiver in a calm tone despite the early hour.
At the sound of the other person's voice Leah's eyes flew to his face and with a shocked look on her face she covered the phone speaker and said softly, "It's Justin. Do you want him to know that you're here?"
JC held out a hand and took the phone and after clearing his throat and getting a drink of water from the glass on the table he put the phone to his ear. "What's up Justy?"
"Where have you been all night? I've been leaving you messages all over the place."
"What's going on?"
"Johnny moved up the production stuff. He took our week off away and we're starting rehearsals tomorrow at noon," Justin said.
"What?" JC said. His head began to ache from the thought of not getting his week off. He'd been completely exhausted in his last week of recording and had counted on spending at least four of his five days off in bed or at least sleeping the days away on the beach.
"He's pushing it up because Wade wants to give us more time to learn the choreography so starting tomorrow we're going to put together the set list and put together the wardrobe and take a look at the first stage sketches."
"We're going to be stuck out at the compound all night to go over the fucking budget?"
"Looks like it, plus Wade is going to be showing us a few new moves," Justin said.
"What the hell? I was supposed to go home to Bowie next week," JC whined.
"Well I guess he thought you weren't going because you and Boo aren't together anymore."
"He knows about Boo and I breaking up?"
"I didn't tell him man, I think he knows about Leah too," Justin said, "Cuz when he couldn't find you this morning he told me to call whatever girl's house you were at and get you on the phone."
"Damn," JC sighed. "So we have interviews and photo stuff this afternoon then tomorrow we're going to be in meetings?"
"Looks like it," Justin said.
"Screw this!" JC said then took a breath. "I'm sorry Justin," I don't mean yell at you. I'm just pissed because I need my sleep and I haven't been getting much lately."
"What! I don't need to know that much."
Leah gave him a worried look as she walked over to the fridge and got out some orange juice.
"Hey man, don't get all pissy at me," Justin said.
"How'd you get this number anyway?"
"I called Lance who called Patty who said you might be out at Leah's."
"Shit! It's like fifth grade again!"
"Hey, don't kill the messenger," Justin said, "I gotta jet, but I wanted to let you know what was going on."
"See ya this afternoon then." JC let his breath out and looked over at Leah as he clicked the cordless phone off.
"What's up?" she asked looking at him a little strangely. He wondered why she was looking at him like that, but figured it was because he'd been so pissy at Justin. She'd never been around him when he'd really raised his voice, except when he'd escorted Boo out of Sweet Pea's and he was glad that he'd waited until he'd gotten to the car before he'd ripped into her.
"My vacation just got chopped all to hell," he said with a sigh. "I'm going into rehearsals tomorrow instead of next week which means that other that this morning and tomorrow morning, the party over the weekend is the only time I'll have off for about the next month."
"Oh," Leah said.
He watched her and could tell that she didn't know how to react to his situation. It worried him that he wasn't going to be able to spend time with her and for a moment he wanted to march up to Johnny and demand for his vacation time, but he knew he couldn't. Too much money was riding on this next tour to not have everything be perfect and he knew that they'd really need the extra time to make the show work, he just wished that they'd planned better before hand so that he could still have his time off.
"It's gonna suck and I'm going to be working my butt off and…" He watched her holding the glass of orange juice and almost expected her to complain, but she didn't. She gave him a sympathetic look and watched him with wide eyes. "…I don't think we're gonna be able to hang out that much after tomorrow morning."
"Oh," she said.
"Say something more than that," he said.
"What can I say? You have work to do," she said. She sipped her drink.
"You're a good actress you know," he said.
"Actress?" Leah went over and found a place to sit on the countertop at the corner where the two counters came together.
"You're telling me that if I walked out of this house right now and didn't see you for almost a month that you wouldn't care?"
"I'd care, I mean who else wakes me up in the middle of the night just to…"
JC frowned and looked at her. This was totally new. He'd never had someone act so--separate. She seemed to not think twice about him having to leave. In one instant it made him feel good. He figured that when he did really leave she wouldn't fall apart on him like Boo always had. In the instant he wondered what her feelings really were for him since she wasn't showing that much emotion about it.
"So I guess I'll leave right now then," he said with an angry tone, trying to sound angry but prayed that she would know it was a joke.
"Bye," she said with a laugh.
"God! You almost had me there," he said giving her a wink and a smile. He got out of his seat and walked over to her, took her glass out of her hand, placed it on the counter and slid his arms around her. He couldn't have planned it better. As he stood there between her legs she wrapped them around him and he picked her up and carried her out of the kitchen. He looked at the clock. "We have four hours until I have to leave for town…which means that we have four hours to…" He stopped and kissed her.
"Wait, did we turn of the stove?"
Leah wiggled against him and he took a huge breath then concentrated on trying not to drop her or bump her against anything while he turned, with her still in his arms and checked to see if the stove was off then nodded.
"I just don't want to get into something that doesn't need to be interrupted then have the fire department show up," she said with a shy tone.
"Oh really?" He flashed what he liked to call his cocky smile. It was the one that Justin always told him made all the girls scream a little louder during concerts.
"Really." She nodded for good measure and leaned her head against his forehead and looked into his eyes. "Where are we going anyway?"
"It's a surprise," he said, "Close your eyes."
When he saw that her eyes were closed he walked through the house and up the stairs.
"Be careful," she said with a soft voice into his ear. She'd moved her head to the side and was now kissing his neck as he climbed the stairs. And Justin says that I can't multi-task.
When she began to slip a little he moved his hands a little lower and cupped his hands under her bottom. He readjusted her against him then took another step.
Leah couldn't stand it any longer and opened her eyes a little. She hated not knowing what was going on and needed to see where he was taking her. JC was almost at the top of the stairs and she was nervous that he might fall, or drop her from the way that he kept moving his hands on her, but was pleasantly pleased to find him with his eyes on her face, still smiling.
"Hey now, I told you not to peek," he said, "You'll ruin the surprise."
Following orders, Leah closed her eyes and enjoyed her ride. She knew exactly where they were in the house and could tell when he got into her room. He stepped through the doorway and took five steps before he stopped. He set her down on the bed and reminded her to keep her eyes closed. "No peeking. Promise me."
"Fine…I promise," she said with a sigh and settled herself back on the mattress to wait for what was to come next. "Where'd you go?" she finally asked when she heard some noise over by where her dresser was.
"Hold your horses," he said.
"How do you want me to hold them?" she asked with a laugh.
"I'm almost done."
She heard a strange sound and a moment later she felt JC's hand on hers.
"I was planning…" he said pulling up from her seat.
She opened her eyes a bit to see where he was taking her now.
"Keep your eyes closed," he said again. He held her hands and pulled her away from the bed. "Anyway...I wanted to take you out dancing…. But this will have to do."
As he finished speaking her CD player next to her desk began to play as if somehow controlled by him.
Your lips, you smile, your tenderness
The way you walk, I can't resist your style,
When I sleep at night, I dream of you…
**Pretty Girl by Jon B.**
His arms slid around her waist and pulled her close. He carefully arranged her arms around his neck then kissed her before nuzzling her neck with his lips.
"Now can I open my eyes?" she asked with a shiver.
"Yep," he said.
He'd closed the blinds making the room really dim and when she looked over she saw that a few of her candles were lit. She didn't know how he'd done that so quickly, but wasn't about to ask the secret behind his tricks for fear that he might not perform them again.
Tears sprang to her eyes and she laughed feeling a little stupid for being so girly about his surprise. She never was over emotional with things like that or at least she hadn't had someone do something this special for her in a long time.
"You're too much," she said nervously. "I can't handle stuff like this."
"Like what?" he asked dancing her around. His arms tightened around her and for a moment she didn't care what time it was or how long until he had to leave or the fact that there was probably some bodyguard on his way to find JC at that very moment. It was just he and she and that's what she truly needed. "You already had the candles, the CD, and well the curtains were on the wall."
"Yeah, but boys don't think of these things," she said. She pulled back and looked at him. "I'm just waiting for this huge secret to come out…some hidden thing that you haven't told me."
He sighed, "The only thing that’s wrong with me is that I'm not going to be able to dance with you again for a long time. Once I go out on the road…" She watched a hurt look wash over his face. He took a deep breath. "I just hope that you can be as cool as you've already been once I go out on the road."
"I'm not expecting a proposal," she said with a serious tone hoping that she sounded convincing. Deep down that’s what she wanted in the big picture kind of way, to meet someone and fall completely in love, but it was too soon and too crazy to think that she would end up with JC in the end. There were too many things to keep them apart.
It had been only three days since he'd seen her last, but to JC it seemed like three days too long. He'd hated to leave her alone at the beach house, but if he'd skipped out on the first rehearsal he'd never hear the end of it. He'd rushed through taking a shower and had crawled back in bed with Leah for a minute to say good-bye before he ran down the stairs and out of the house.
"You like my little brother?" he asked.
"How couldn't I?" she said thinking of how the younger Mr. Chasez had picked her and Patty up that morning.
He'd driven over in JC's jeep and when she'd seen it out the front window she'd gotten excited, but had been a little disappointed to see that it was Tyler Chasez and not Josh Chasez at her doorstep. He'd been a cute high school aged version of Josh. He immediately apologized for his brother's absence and when she was about to say "it's ok" he said it for her remarking that his brother had told him that she'd say that.
"He's like your twin. You even drive the same way." She put her hand out to imitate how the brothers draped their hand over the steering wheel while keeping the other hand on the stick shift.
JC's laugh rumbled in his chest as he took a sip of his beer, put an arm around her and squeezed her against him. "Don't tell my mom that he's like me. She had a hard enough time raising one of me."
"Your brother's a cute kid. I bet he gets all the girls like his older brother," she said patting his stomach playfully.
"What are you talking about? I'm off the market. I'm getting to old to be playing the field," he said looking at her over the edge of his sunglasses.
"Don't tell your fans that," she said sarcastically.
JC looked away from her and sipped his beer. That was the second time that she'd played off their relationship as if it was trivial. He couldn't understand why she seemed so non-chaulant about them being together. Any other girl in the world would at least have been excited, but she seemed to be just as laid back as any other day. He liked to think that their relationship meant something to her, even if they hadn't made any kind of commitment to each other; he at least wanted to be first in line if she ever was in the mood to make one.
"So we gonna party or are we going to stare at the backyard all day?" Patty said flying out of the kitchen door. She had two beers in her hand which she reluctantly shared with Leah.
"My brother gave you the tour right?" JC asked. He flashed them a smile, drained his beer then leaned over and put the empty bottle on a table that was on the porch.
When he leaned to put the bottle down he felt Leah grab his hand and hold onto it as if she was keeping him upright. When he stood up again he leaned towards her, kissed her quickly then looked at Patty. "I don't even think you need any introductions, but why don't we take Leah and get to know everyone."
Patty nodded wildly letting her hair fling around in the air.
"She didn't have any sugar before you got here did she?" JC asked.
Patty nodded her head no while Leah held up her fingers to show "a little".
They made their way off the back deck and the introductions began. He held onto Leah as they walked around and met people and Patty seemed to be attached to Leah's arm as she bounced along with them. She seemed to know who people were before they were formally introduced and at one point she called someone by their nickname even though they'd been introduced by their real name.
Patty really began to freak out when they saw Justin by the pool. Although JC figured he was a little out of her dating range, since she was twenty-three, but she didn't seem to realize the age gap when she saw him bare-chested with Bubba in his lap trying to pull on waterwings while Little J stood and watched them impatiently.
"What's up Justy?" JC asked.
"I'm trying to get these stupid things on!" Justin said yanking on his brother's arm while the platic blow up water wing stuck around his brother's wrist.
"You're going to pull his arm off!" Patty said.
"Where's my mom when I need her?" Justin said moving his sunglasses from his face to a place hooked in his shirt.
JC thought that he heard Patty take a sudden breath and laughed when he turned and saw her staring at him with her mouth open.
"Wait a minute," Leah said.
Dropping his hand she went over to Bubba, held out her hand and took him over to the side of the pool. They sat down on the side of the pool. Leah's feet went far into the pool while Bubba's toes barely reached the surface of the water. She carefully took the water-wing off his wrist then said, "You just need a little water."
JC watched Leah carefully as she reached down and got a handful of water.
"It's going to be cold," she warned. It didn't help much. Bubba still made a face as she poured the water down his arm.
This is too much. JC ran his hands through his hair and slid his sunglasses to the top of his head. He stared at her in disbelief. She was too perfect.
"There you go," Leah finally said slipping the water-wing onto Bubba's arm.
"What'd say?" Justin asked his brother.
"Thank you," Bubba said pushing himself up. He leaned and hugged Leah then ran over to Justin. "She should be your girlfriend not JC's. She's better than any other stinky girl."
Justin laughed and looked over at JC.
Leah looked over at JC when Bubba mentioned that she shouldn't be JC's girlfriend. She and he hadn’t talked about it at all, but when she did a mental checklist of the party goers she found herself coming up with only three girlfriends and wondered who the fourth one was since Tyler had mentioned that there would be four of them at the party.
"My brother always is in the paper with Britney Spears, but Britney is my girlfriend, not his." Bubba said as Justin got out of his chair to help Little J tie a double knot in his boardshorts.
Leah laughed along with the others then asked, "Well then who is Justin going to have?"
"Nobody," Little J spoke up, "He's a playa."
"You aren't supposed to tell girls that!" Justin put a hand around his brother's face to keep him from saying anything else then slipped the boy's head into a headlock before he picked him up and put the guy over his shoulder.
Bubba reached up to Justin to be picked up and Justin balanced both of the boys in his arms as he walked over to where Joey had jumped into the shallow end and was waiting for them.
"Hey Patty!" Tyler called from across the pool. "Come here!"
Patty looked at Leah and JC with a smile then laughed. "My public calls." She put her arms out like Superman and flew her way around the pool to where Tyler was sitting with Chris and the two pug dogs who had been introduced as Busta and Korea.
The rest of the afternoon was spend lounging around the pool, watching Little J and Bubba learn dance steps from the choreographer Wade, and eating some of the best barbecue that Leah had ever tasted. They'd had a caterer come in to feed everyone and must have wiped out a whole heard of cattle to feed them all steaks.
Patty spent most of her afternoon eating Pixie Stix and drinking with Joey and Chris who seemed to think that she and Tyler were the other half of their WWF Tag Team fight. They somehow had gotten into a wresting match that ended in a huge pile with Patty in the middle screaming that she was the Champion of the World.
Leah wasn't sure Patty had made the best first impression with most of them, but it seemed that all the guys immedately accepted her as the little pesty sister that she was.
When the weather got a little cooler everyone started to leave until there were only about twenty of them left at the house. Everyone had been out in the sun all day and everyone's sun burns seemed to be starting to effect them.
While everyone went in to join in a few hands of poker while rotating into Little J and Bubba's video game tournament, JC grabbed onto Leah's hand and put his lips to her ear. "Did you bring a suit?"
Leah smiled and held onto her beer while wrapping her arms around him. "Yeps." Leah hadn't realized how much she'd had to drink, but she remembered that she'd had a beer in her hand most of the day.
"Go change and meet me out back."
She nodded and gave him a smile.
"You gonna be ok?"
She nodded. "Stay here."
JC watched her walk away and sipped his beer. He was feeling good after having a few and settled himself into a chair just outside the back door. He was beginning to freeze as the sun was setting, but he figured a quick dip in the hot tub would cure that.
I haven't been alone with her for more than a few seconds since…his mind drifted to the morning that they'd spent at the beach house.
A few minutes later Leah leaned out the sliding glass door to where he was sitting and sort of fell into his lap. He was startled at first, because he'd been so relaxed out there away from the crowd.
"Sorry," she said pushing herself up.
When she put a hand on his thigh to get up into a standing position he finally noticed what she was wearing. "Where the hell is your suit?" he said with a smile.
Leah stepped back and twirled around with her arms in the air. "What? You don't like it?"
JC bit his tongue. What wasn't there too like? There wasn't much material on the tiny black suit, but what was there fit her perfectly.
"Sweety?" he said getting up. "Do you realize that you just walked passed all those people in just that?"
"Who cares?" she said still twirling.
He caught her when she stopped twirling and hugged her to him. "Aren't you cold?"
"No," she said pressing herself to him.
"Come on," he said looking over his shoulder at Justin who was in the middle of a poker hand, but seemed to have his eyes more on them than on his cards.
Wanting to take her out of the view of the others, JC took her hand and led her down off the deck to where the jacuzzi was and said, "Hop in."
"Are you coming?" she asked.
He made a face at her and kissed her quickly before reaching over his back to stip off the T-shirt he'd changed into after he'd been swimming with the others while Leah and some of the other girls had worked on their tans.
When he'd wrestled out of his T-shirt he looked over and found Leah sitting on the edge. "It's too hot," she said as the water bubbled around her legs.
JC climbed up the three steps and lowered himself into the warm water greatful for the distraction of the heat. He spread his arms along the side of the tub and sat and watched her for a moment. "Come here," he said softly. The beer was starting to effect his judgement and although he knew he should be a gentleman, all he could think of was getting her out of her suit.
"I'm here," she said.
"Come and sit by me." He reached out a hand to her and she stepped down into the water and came towards him, finally grasping onto his hand when she got close enough to.
He watched her for a moment as she settled herself into his lap. "Were all the other seats taken?"
She nodded, her eyes drifting between wide awake and half asleep. "I thought that this was the best seat in the house," she said.
"But we're outside," he said.
Leah laughed and leaned against him. "What am I going to do without you around to keep me laughing?"
JC curled his arms around her as she began to slip off his lap. She put a hand onto his shoulder and let it drop from his neck to his elbow then traced a line from his elbow to his hand before holding onto his hand, lacing her fingers with into his.
"Levi?" JC asked leaning to kiss her neck.
"Hey," she said pulling back, "Why do you keep calling me that? My name is Leah. Le-Ah!"
He laughed and kissed her again. "Well, there's a very good reason for the nickname," he said. He reached down and played with the tied string on the left side of her bikini bottoms.
"And that would be?" she asked.
"Cuz," JC said as he pulled out one of the strings to the side of the bikini bottoms. "Cuz I want to get into your pants." He kissed her mouth before she could protest and as he deepened the kiss he doubted that she would remember what they'd been talking about.
"You know what Patty calls you?" Leah asked when they broke apart. She started to laugh before anything came out of her mouth.
JC kept his hand on her thigh and watched her go crazy laughing. "She…" her face turned red and he smiled at her and couldn't help but to laugh along with her, although he wasn't exactly sure what he was laughing at. "She calls you.…HIPS!"
Just as he was going to make a comment on his new found nickname Chris leaned over the edge of the deck and looked down at them. "What the hell is going on out here? Did you hear that?"
Leah didn't seem to be at all startled by his intrusion, but the yelling was sobering for JC. Carefully, as he heard Chris pounding his way down the deck stairs, JC reached around and tied up Leah's bikini bottom.
"What's up Chris?" JC said nervously as Chris came up to lean on the side of the pool.
"Are you guys going to stay here tonight?" Chris asked.
"Yeah, I guess," JC said.
"Good, cuz I think Tyler had too many beers and is throwing up in the downstairs bathroom. Dani's gonna put him to bed after that," Chris said.
"Ty-ler," JC groaned.
"Hey, be nice," Leah said.
"Tell Dani I'll be up in a minute and take care of Tyler so that she doesn't have to," JC said as if the thought of his brother being sick had overtaken the drunken haze he'd just been in.
Chris bounced up the stairs again and JC let out a sigh.
"We should go get Tyler," JC said.
"Awe, come on," Leah said wrapping her arms around him. "We aren't going to see each other in forever."
It wasn't something that he wanted to think about, but in reality it was true. The next month was going to be hell because of work and he couldn't think of any time, at least any time that the sun would be up, that he'd get to see her. Between rehearsals and getting in last minute promotional stuff together, there wasn't going to be time for her.
"We're not leaving for the night or anything," JC said, "I just want to make sure that my brother gets to bed then we'll hang out again."
"Ok," she finally said, but didn't sound excited.
He was relieved that she didn't make a fuss over the incident. He planned to continue what he'd started, but he knew that his mother would kill him if Tyler woke up the next morning with a hang over and everyone talked about how JC had been missing in action when his brother needed him.
"Come on," he said, "We'll throw him in bed then…" He wiggled his eyebrows at her.
"JC, get up here and get your drunk ass brother out of the bathroom. People gotta piss up in here!" Joey yelled over the side of the deck.
"I'll be right there!" JC yelled.
He helped Leah out of the jacuzzi and found towels in the cabinet next to the control panel for the jacuzzi and after shutting the machine off he took her hand and walked with her upstairs. She'd wrapped the towel around her and was shivering so bad that her teeth were chattering, but he knew if he stopped to try to warm her up that the guys would just bug them more.
When they reached the living room Little J and Bubba were half asleep and most of the others had left. He hadn't thought they'd been in the jacuzzi for long, but everyone seemed have cleared out leaving only the core group. Lance and Nicole were on the couch across from the two sleeping boys sitting and talking while Justin, Joey, Chris and the other girls played poker. Patty had taken a spot behind Justin and sat massaging his shoulders as he played.
"Ok, where's the drunkard?" JC asked.
"Upstairs in the first bedroom," Justin said, "Your sister threw him in bed and then went to sleep too."
JC sighed. He was pissed that the guys had called him away from Leah while his brother was now sleeping off his drunkenness.
"Josh, I gotta go change," Leah said, "I'm freezing."
"Come on," he said suddenly thinking that there could still be some alone time with Leah to be had. He grabbed her backpack for her and they went upstairs. Each of the guys had their own rooms in the house. While Tyler and Heather had been forced to share Justin's room, JC knew that he'd be able to have his room for the night since Justin was going to probably end up on the couch with his brothers that night.
"So what'cha doing?" she asked as noise rumbled in the background on his end of the phone.
"Hold on a second," he said.
It had been almost a week since she'd seen him, but he'd called every day, if not to talk to her for a while, then to leave a message for her to get when she got home. That night she'd gotten home around midnight after leaving Patty in charge for yet another night and had paged JC to tell him that she was home. He'd returned the page immediately and they'd been on the phone for almost an hour despite him had to do a little work while they talked. He'd already autographed posters with the group while they'd stopped for a dinner break then when they'd moved onto something else he'd insisted that she still talk to him until he really needed to get off the line.
"We're all getting dressed," he said, "They're fitting me for an outfit for the show right now. What are you up to?"
"Nothing, just sitting in bed with this hunk with really nice blue eyes."
He laughed. "Tell Tahoe I miss him."
"You know me too well," she sighed.
"Yeah well, I don't know you that well," he said, "If I knew all about you, I think I'd get bored."
"So what do you want to know?" she asked thinking that he would just go for the easy sorts of questions. She imagined explaining her favorite song, color, food, all the simple stuff.
"Ok, so I'm sure Patty has told you all about how I got to be in NSYNC, so how did you get your restaurant?"
"It's a long and boring story."
"I've got time…" She thought he pulled the phone away from his ear then heard a slightly muted yelp.
"Josh?" she said into the phone. "Josh?"
A moment later he spoke again. "Sorry about that, Suzy just poked me with a straight pin."
"Do you need to get off the line?" she asked.
"Don't try to chicken out of this," he said, "Tell me."
"Well…" She reached out and petted Tahoe's ears, trying to distract herself a little. She hadn't told the whole story to anyone except Patty and wasn't sure if she was ready yet to dive into the subject. She liked JC enough, but she wasn't sure what was going to happen for them in the future and she wasn't sure if they were at a point where she could share that kind of information.
"Come on Levi," he said, "I'm standing her with people poking and proding me and you know how I hate needles…distract me a little."
"I can think of so many nicer ways to distract you that telling you this story."
"Oh really?" he said with a laugh.
She was about to explain it to him when he stopped her. "No wait, tell me that later…I really want to know how you got the restaurant."
"It’s stupid Josh," she said, "I inherited it."
"What from an uncle or grandpa or something?"
Why can't he just leave me alone on this one? I don't ask him about stuff like this…
"No." She took a breath and held it for a moment, shifted into a more comfortable position and started into the story. She didn't really know the exact words she used, but she went through the whole news about how she and her brother had found out about the accident and that they'd both been left the restaurant she found tears in her eyes.
"It's stupid. It's been a year and I can't even start to talk about this without crying," she said.
"It's not dumb," he sympathized, "If I lost one of my parents I don't think I could handle it, but if I lost two I think I'd die on the spot."
"I think the hardest part wasn't that part at all, it was the fact that my brother and I have lost touch with each other since then." She wiped her nose with her sleeve and sniffed.
JC sighed. "Hold on a second." She heard him speaking in the background to someone about a patch or button or something then got back on the line with her. "I'm sorry for that. We're almost done here. I guess I shouldn't have brought this up, I should have waited until I was there with you to ask about this."
"No it's not," he said softly as if he didn't want anyone else to hear what he was about to say. "I hate to know that you're crying and I can't be there with you."
Leah wiped her face and tried to calm her breathing. Crying was always a bad thing for her. There were no little tears for her. It was either or a flood or a drought and at the moment she was experiencing a downpour.
"What time are you thinking about going to bed tonight?" he asked a moment later. It got quietier behind him and she wondered if he'd left the crowd that he'd been with before.
"I don't know," she said, "Whenever."
"I think I'm about to head out of here," he said, "Want me to swing by?"
"Swing by Josh?" she said with a half laugh while still wiping tears from her eyes, "You're forty minutes away."
"Yeah well it's on my way home," he argued playfully.
"I guess if you're in the neighborhood you might as well stop by," Leah said now trying to compensate her crying by trying to make herself laugh. "Tahoe would love to be serenaded to sleep tonight."
"Oh really?" he asked, "Any requests?"
The tension that he'd created between them a moment before was now fading. He could tell that she was still upset from the little sniffs she made over the phone and the only thing on his mind at the moment was to get out of rehearsal and go to her. With Boo he would have expected her to be pissy with him if he tried to help her out. She was so independent that at some point in their relationship he'd stopped even trying to comfort her. Leah was different. He felt instantly protective of her. He'd been able to ignore the fans crying out, and Boo's dramatics, but Leah's tears tore him apart.
"I'm sure Tahoe will have an answer for you by the time you get here," she said.
"Ok," he said pulling back on the pair of jeans he'd worn that morning to rehearsals. He'd been through most of his outfits for the show and was glad to be back into his own clothes for the night. "I should be out there within the next hour."
"Ok," she said.
"So I'll see you around two?"
"Ok, love ya, bye," he said without thinking about it.
There was a pause then he heard a soft, "Bye."
When JC looked up from his phone conversation Justin was standing in the door of the tiny dressing area staring at him. "What?" JC asked.
"Nothing," Justin said with a goofy smile on his face. "Love ya Bye?"
"Yeah," JC said finding that after their long day of work he wasn't ready to play twenty questions.
"Was she at work?"
JC pulled on his long sleeved T-shirt and stuck his feet into his running shoes before answering. "No, she was at home."
"Oh…ok," Justin said.
"Why?" He tied his shoe quickly while looking around for his keys.
"No reason." Justin gave him a suspiciously cheezy smile and waved, "See ya."
"Justin? What are you up to?" JC called after him. There was something going on. The kid had been on the phone a lot lately and while everyone seemed to know who JC was chatting with, Justin's mystery caller never was introduced into the group's conversations.
He'd wondered for a moment if Justin had a new girlfriend or something, but he thought that Justin would have shared that information with everyone else, since the guys all shared their information with him.
After tying his other shoe up JC exited the changing area and strolled out to the jeep. It was freezing out, but he didn't care, it would help him stay awake enough to get out to the beach. He wasn't about to turn and go to the condo. He hadn't seen her in almost a week and at the moment it was the only thing that he knew would relax him after a tense day of rehearsals and budget meetings.
Leah was sitting in the front window of the house with Tahoe, watching the street when he drove up and parked. She watched him walk slowly up to the house and tried to remain calm enough to not throw open the door and attack him right there.
When she heard three knocks and Tahoe ran to scratch at the door she counted to five then went to get the door. She figured that he hadn't seen her in the window since the lights were off and didn't want him to know that she'd been waiting like that for him since they'd gotten off the phone.
She'd come downstairs after she'd hung up and had sat leaning against the back of the couch in her pajama bottoms and tank top until she'd seen the lights on the deserted street.
"Hello there stranger," she said.
"Hey." He walked forward tiredly, shoulders slumped way down, dragging his feet and pulled her into a hug before she could even step over the thresh hold. He held her tight for a long time then pulled back and kissed her softly then reached down and rubbed Tahoe's ears as the dog jumped up to put his front feet on JC's hip. "Hi Tahoe," he said softly.
"I know, like a zombie," he said. He stretched and groaned a little finding that his body was sore from all the dancing that day. He hadn't noticed it, but his legs were like jello and his back ached and his stomach hurt from all the sit ups that Wade and Darrin made them do after they'd messed up on a song that they should have known by that point in the rehearsal schedule. "I've been up since around five this morning."
"Whoa," she said stepping back into the house he pushed the door shut and they walked into the house with their arms still around each other. "You should have gone to the condo," she said.
"I wouldn't have slept," he said, "I was worried about you."
"I'm ok," she said.
Leah didn't know exactly how to react to his concern. She wanted to tell him that she hadn't been ok until he'd showed up at the door and that she'd been healed by the fact that he'd cared enough to drive out forty minutes to comfort her. Instead she nodded and leaned to kiss him.
"What about you? Are you ok?" she asked.
He looked at her with tired, bloodshot eyes and smiled.
"No matter how much you smile at me I know that you look ready for bed now," she said.
"Speaking of that," he said, "Wasn't there some mention of distracting me?" He leaned and kissed her neck.
She laughed as he let her go and followed her up the stairs. "Maybe you aren't tired."
"No, I am, but I can sleep anytime," he said putting a hand on each of her hips.
They made it to the bedroom and while Leah settled herself back into bed where she'd been talking to him on the phone JC stopped, kicked off his shoes, undid his belt and dropped his pants to the floor then went and sat on the edge of the bed. He pulled off his socks then pulled his t-shirt over his head and as he threw it over to his other clothes asked, "Can you do me a favor and set me an alarm?"
Leah leaned and grabbed her alarm clock. "What time?"
"Nine," he said after a moment as if he'd had to do some calculating to see when he could sleep in until.
While she wound the clock and set the alarm JC lay back on the pillow on his side of the bed and settled himself in. Leah watched him for a moment before reaching across and turning off the light. When she was done she cuddled up next to him then felt Tahoe jump up on the bed and snuggle with them.
"So did Tahoe find a song?" JC asked.
Lifting her head from his chest Leah smiled into the darkness. "Well…I don't know what songs you know," she said.
"Pick one, if I don't know it I'll make up my own words," he laughed.
"Ok…" Leah put her head down. "How about Old McDonald?"
"That’s not really one I can do by myself, Chris is the one who does all the sound effects."
His voice rumbled in his chest and comforted her. She hadn't expected all this. The dancing in the morning, and the late night chats were almost too much to handle. She'd never met a guy like him before and wondered for a split second if she was going to wake up in the morning and have it all be a dream.
"Well you pick one," she said softly.
"You ok?" she asked.
"Sorry about that, I never usually sing while in bed," he said and a moment later began to sing her to sleep…
She's got a way about her
I don't know what it is
But I know that I can't live without her.
She's got a way of pleasin'
I don’t know what it is
But there doesn't have to be a reason anywhere
She's got a smile that heals me
I don't know why it is
But I have to laugh when she reveals me
She's got a way of talkin'
I don't know why it is
But it lifts me up when we are walkin' anywhere
She comes to me when I'm feelin' down
Inspires me without a sound
I can't explain how I get turned around
She's got a way of showin'
How I make her feel…
He let his voice get softer and JC stopped singing when her breathing got deeper. He stared up into the darkness and lay awake for a moment before letting himself drift off to sleep thanking whatever force had brought them together. He needed someone in his life like her and he knew that whatever it took, he was going to keep her.
"I love you Levi," he said and drifted off to sleep.
Leah awoke to the sound of the alarm and saw JC pushing himself up and reaching for the alarm. He turned back to her and smiled, "Sorry to sleep and run."
"When do you have another day off?" she asked rubbing her face.
"Not until the night that Lance is going to propose," JC said getting up. He pulled on his jeans and wrestled into his shirt. "Want me to stop by and hang out?"
"Sure," she said.
He crawled back over into bed. "I'll miss you," he said with a soft voice then kissed her.
She stared at him for a moment. "I'll miss you too."
It was going to be a long week. They were working through their last week of rehearsals and were going to be leaving to do some more promotional work in Mississippi before the tour started.
"Hey Leah!" Patty called when she arrived at work.
It was really early and Leah was a little more than surprise to see her. They weren't open so Leah yelled back. "I'm in the office."
Patty came running up, almost out of breath, wearing jeans and a t-shirt and spoke as she tried to catch her breath. "When did you tell Justin about your parents?"
"Justin?" she asked, "Justin knows about my parents?"
"He asked me about the accident last night," Patty said.
"Last night?" Leah said with a stunned expression wondering why the two of them had talked then immediately went back to her own troubles. "He did?"
"He said that he heard about it from JC?"
"What?" Leah's eyes began to tear up.
"I don't know what is going on, but I figured that your parents death isn't somehting that you wanted out," Patty said leaning down to hug Leah to console her as she started to cry.
A moment later she completely calmed and to distract herself by asking what Patty was doing talking to Justin.
"He and I have been hanging out here and there," she said, "I babysat his brothers the other day with him. We're not dating or anything, but he's fun to hang out with."
"What about you and Sean?" she asked.
"I don't know. He and I have fun and I like him and all, but really, all he wants to do is be a bouncer and I'm thinking that if I ever were to marry him that I don't want a bouncer as a husband."
"So you're moving onto rock stars?" Leah asked.
"Hey don't snap at me. It's not my fault that JC has a big mouth," she said.
"I'm sorry," Leah said and wiped her face as more tears flowed. "I still can't believe that he did that."
The night of Lance's big proposal came and Leah was glad for the distraction. She'd managed not to talk to JC for a whole week, which had broken her heart, but she'd done it.
"Why haven't you returned any of my calls?" he asked with a soft voice.
"I'm really pissed at you right now and I don't want to talk to you." She glared at him.
"I'm sorry for whatever I did, but I really haven't a clue about what you're talking about."
"Sure," she said turning her back to him.
"Leah, tell me it's ok," he pleaded, "Please tell me that it's ok…before I leave."
"I can't Josh," she said sadly. She looked away and bit down on her lip to keep from crying.
"Please Levi," he said.
"Don't call me that," she spat out at him raising her voice. She stopped with the loud voice, "Don't ever think you can call me that again. You betrayed me JC and I'm not going to forget that."
"Betrayed you?" he asked.
"When I told you about my parents and my brother I didn't want it broadcast to everyone that works with you. I thought that you especially would know about keeping things private." She began brewing the coffee for Lance and Nicole knowing that Lance was going to be proposing after she brought out the coffee tray that would also be holding the box he'd given her from Tiffany's.
"I didn't tell anyone." He held his hands up in a surrendering motion.
"Well then how come everyone seems to know about it. Justin came out here today and told me how sorry he was for…"
"Justin was standing next to me when I was talking on the phone with you the other night." He sighed. "How can I fix this?"
"You can't JC," she said madly.
"JC?" he asked. "You never call me that."
"I will call you that when you become someone I don't know in front of my face," she said, "Please get out of here before you ruin Lance's night."
He stared at her and she saw tears in his eyes but turned away. She didn't want him to have his way. She'd been hurt by the fact that her secret hadn't been kept and being as stubborn as she was she knew that she had to let him walk out that door.
"I have to get out there," she said. Squaring her shoulders she took the coffee tray passed where JC was standing and into the big room to where Lance and Nicole were sitting chatting.
Lance winked at her when she came in then mouthed the words, "You ok?"
"Here's the coffee," Leah said forcing a smile on her face then left the room again trying not to disturb him.
Leah returned to find an empty bar and sighed and cried. She hadn't wanted to do that, but she knew she had to. If it weren't that incident it would have been something else that would have forced them apart. She stood in the bar and watched the delighted look on Nicole's face when she discovered the ring box on the tray and started to practially bawl when Lance knelt down on one knee and asked her the question.
Leaving them alone to celebrate she went into her office and sat down at her desk and spent most of the rest of the night crying.
JC threw the jeep into the next highest gear and sped down the road. His head ached and his eyes itched and he didn't know exactly where he was going, but he knew he couldn't go home and he couldn't go back to her, not after that.
"Déjà vu you idiot!" he yelled at the top of his lungs. He hit the steering wheel with the palm of his hand then shook it when the pain made it's way through his madness. "You should have just proposed! Done something!"
"Driving Sideways you idiot. You never get anywhere this way!"
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