DRIVING SIDEWAYS


FIVE:


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.


SIX:


"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.

"Yeah…"

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."

"It's ok."

"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?"

"Yeah."

"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.

"You look…"

"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.

"You sure?"

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.


 

He coughed.

"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'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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