IN FOCUS

By Patricia Brown


ONE


[[New York City, New York]]

Beep. Beep. Beep.

Somehow the sound made it through Willa's sleeping coma. After first trying to block the noise out with a pillow she finally pushed herself out of bed. She shivered at the cool air in the room and looked around for a moment as she cursed herself for falling asleep in the robe she'd changed into the night before after her shower. She'd been so tired that she hadn't put on her pajamas and now was half icicle for it.

"Good morning New York," she grumbled as the snow fell then reached a shaky arm out to turn off the noise coming from her night stand. She stared blankly at the red 10:00 that was glowing happily at her and for a moment tried to remind herself that she really did need to get up and get herself back on east coast time. She'd been in three different time zones in the last three weeks and needed to get back on some kind of schedule. Today was going to be hell to get through, but hopefully the next day would be better as she got reacquainted with being home and being in this time zone.

As she went to go start a pot of coffee she checked her messages, since she hadn't done it the night before. She'd turned off the ringer when she'd gotten home in hopes that no one would disturb her while she tried to catch up on her sleep.

The message machine light was blinking and the tiny digital number read out that she had ten messages. She groaned at the thought of checking them. Some how she knew that they were from reporters wanting to talk to her.

While she'd been away the papers had gone crazy with the rumors about her and Lance. He'd warned her and tried to prepare her for her homecoming, but even he couldn't have warned her about the reporters that took her picture the night before at the airport or the ones who had found themselves a nice little seat across the street from her apartment. Hoping to keep herself from worrying about the reporters she decided not to listen to them until she was more awake. She flipped back on the ringer and headed for the bathroom.

"Beautiful Willa," she said as she caught her reflection in the mirror. She definitely wasn't looking like a model now.

She leaned over and pulled at her face a little. She didn't have any make up on and she wondered for a moment if Lance would really want to stay with her if he knew she woke up looking like that in the mornings. Her eyes carried bags under them and although she had gotten a bit of a tan while she'd been shooting in Australia, she still looked a little sickly.

Hopefully a good shower and the wonders of some make up would at least help her look less like a zombie, even if she still might feel like one.

*****

An hour and a half later, feeling a lot more human than when she'd woken up, Willa took a deep breath and walked through the door to the agency's office, smiling at her escort for a quick moment as she passed him holding the door open for her. She shivered and pulled her jacket around her more. It was almost January and it was snowing out, but they had the air conditioning on in the building. Trust them to do something idiotic like that. With all these little skinny girls running around, Willa would have thought that they would have put on the heater.

"You ok?" Spanky asked from next to her. He was pealing off his scarf and letting it hang around his neck, holding onto the ends to occupy his hands.

She nodded and looked around for a moment. She needed a plan, but she couldn't think of one right away. She knew that she needed to find Elena and to get her pay checks and her schedule, but her mind was so clouded from her sleep deprivation that she didn't think she even remembered the way to Elena's desk at the moment.

She hadn't been in there in almost a month and a half and was almost scared to find out what awaited her now that she had returned to New York. She'd been in touch with Elena by phone, but it wasn't the same thing as actually being close to home, not that it had been her choice to leave in the first place.

Only a small portion of the three weeks away had been her choosing. After her short weekend-like stay with Lance in San Diego, she'd started what would turn out to be the other eighty or so percent of her month outside of the New York City Limits. Her time was spent in four different countries doing God knows how many shows and shoots. It had all been one big blur that had ended the night before when her flight Sydney, Australia had touched down at the JFK airport. She'd never known that she loved the city so much until she stepped off the plane and found herself enjoying the crowds and pushing and pulling of the crowds.

"Does your man get dressed in the dark?" Elena asked, "I think someone attacked him with a BeDazzler!"

"What?" Willa asked and looked up to see Elena watching her as she made her way to the receptionist's desk. Her feet sped up as she moved towards her friend who was dressed in a business casual outfit of a huge sweater and slacks that looked to be designer.

Elena held up a magazine that was folded to an inside page and said, "People magazine has this picture of him in this…God…how do I say this nicely…well in this outfit that well…that isn't at all flattering. He looks like a big sparkling Christmas tree ornament!"

Willa grabbed up the picture and stared at it. Lance had told her about the party he'd gone to in Orlando for one of Justin's parents' groups they were managing. He'd gone alone that night, but had been caught in the photo by the fashion police. He really didn't look that bad in the jeans and jacket that he was wearing in the picture, but the studs on the seams of the clothes did look a little out of place for him. She'd only seen him in very tailored sort of slacks or regular jeans. This was a little more Hollywood glam than she was used to seeing him in if he was off the stage. "I leave the guy alone for three weeks and he goes to pieces…and they say that women shouldn't dress their men."

"It's good to see you!" Elena finally pulled her into a hug and held her close for a moment. It was the only real welcome home she'd had other than the quick hug Spanky had given her at the airport.

Despite much protest on her part, Lance had insisted that when Willa go out and about in the city that she contact Spanky. It wouldn't have normally been something that she would have agreed to, but after a few close calls with some not so friendly fans in San Diego, having Spanky around gave them both some sense of peace.

"It's good to be back." Willa leaned into the hug. She hadn't realized it, but it had been weeks since anyone had really been touchy-feely with her.

While she was on the road she was alone and the only time anyone came within touching distance of her was when they were pinning some outfit, or doing her hair, or putting on her make up. It had been a long month and she was glad to have the contact again with the real world.

"Where are you headed?"

"Back to the desk of doom." Elena made a face. "I really need to take a vacation."

"Traveling isn't really that great," Willa said and let out a yawn, "But then again you should know that."

"Ah…the good old days," Elena said with a sigh. She laughed at her dramatics. "How's Lance?"

"He's fine." Willa found herself smiling when she thought of him. "I talked to him yesterday. They're all down in Florida right now spending a lovely winter in the tropics. He keeps teasing me about the snow up here. I think he just wants me to come and visit, but of course he and I never can make things easy on each other. We always have to do things the hard way. So of course he hasn't asked and I haven't offered."

"Still holding up the front." Elena smiled. "As much as I hate to say this, because of how the jerk screwed with you like that, I'm glad that you two are happy."

Willa ran her hands through her hair and looked over at Spanky. It still made her uncomfortable for him to be watching her. She didn't like the knowledge of anyone looking at her, even though she'd been in a million magazine pictures.

He'd taken a seat in the lobby and had picked up a magazine, but wasn't reading it. He was scanning the lobby as if he expected someone to jump out and grab her or something.

"Well I haven't seen him in three weeks, but I guess that's to be expected. I came over to get a copy of my schedule so I can try to plan something with him. You think you can print me up a copy?" Willa rocked back and forth on her feet and smiled brightly hoping that it wouldn't be an inconvenience.

"For Christmas?"

"Aren't we the little tabloid reporter?" Willa commented swatting at her arm playfully.

Willa scrunched up her toes in her shoes nervously. She hated answering questions about her and Lance. The few weeks out of the country had been nice. She hadn't had to face any of that kind of stuff since she'd left San Diego. She'd been so nervous about answering people in San Diego that most of the staff that worked with Lance thought she was deaf or something because in the forty-eight hours she was in San Diego she only spoke to him and the other guys.

"Come along my dear." Elena's voice was filled with sarcasm. "I just wanted to know where you're going to be so I can forward you all your checks. You missed a payday girl." Elena hooked her arm through Willa's and pulled her along through the maze of cubicles until they were at Elena's desk.

"Well I'm sure my bank will thank you," Willa said.

"So who's the thug with you?" Elena asked in a hushed tone as she pulled out a stash of cookies then turned to her computer screen.

"That's Spanky…well, William. He's my bodyguard."

"Bodyguard?" Elena asked, "Aren't we getting all high and mighty?"

"Lance thinks that I need some babysitting."

"How sweet." Elena rolled her eyes then offered her a cookie.

Willa refused the offer. It was too early in the morning for cookies and after three weeks of having people critique her body, the thought of eating cookies wasn't making her feel quite as cheery as it usually would have.

"You aren't eating these…are you getting picky now? Can't eat any other cookies but your own?"

Willa looked at the cookies then looked away. "It's too early for them."

"You sure?" Elena asked.

"Yes, I've already had my morning coffee and I'm not going to get all crazy hyper on sugar like that," Willa snapped.

"Whoa there turbo," Elena said, "What was that?"

Willa covered her face with her hands for a moment then tried to rub away some of her tiredness. "Sorry, I'm working on like no sleep and I don't know what time it is and right now all I can think of is just going home and going to sleep, but I know I have things to do…it's making me all bitchy."

"Don't worry about it honey," Elena said with a smile. She turned and clicked a few things on her computer then a moment later the printer started up. "I'll get you your schedule and your checks then you should go home and rest. You have the week off so enjoy it because the whole New Years thing is going to be a killer."

"Great," Willa said with a groan.

Elena leaned back in her chair for a moment and looked at her message board. "Oh yeah. We…well you…got a call from WEG. They want you to be in another video," Elena said with a smile.

"Book it," Willa said without any hesitation.

Elena burst out laughing at Willa's reaction to the news of the new video. "You aren't going to pull a Jessica Simpson on me are you?"

"What?" Willa glanced at the cookies again and her stomach rumbled.

"You know, that whole 98 Degrees-Jessica Simpson thing that's going on just because Jessica is dating Nick?"

"You're really scaring me," Willa stared at her for a moment with wide eyes. "You should really try to get a part time gig with the Enquirer."

"I have to pay attention to stuff like that now. I want to make sure that this Lance character keeps his career going for a while longer. I don't want him to mooch off of you."

"Like that will be happening anytime soon." Willa laughed. "He's the one in the family with the money."

"Family?"

A blush covered her face. "I'm not saying anything," Willa said.

"You didn't…" Elena paused and made a face. "You didn't corrupt the guy did you?"

"Corrupt?" she asked.

"You know," Elena made another face, this time wiggling her eyebrows at her. "You are the older woman in the relationship."

"No." Willa blushed for a moment. "I got to San Diego and this whole crazy scene happened in the hallway of the hotel and then he had to work so we didn't see each other until he got back from the concert and by that time everyone was tired and he'd been fighting off a cold." Willa paused and looked across the room to see outside that it had started to snow again. "Did you know that he spent most of the night in Central Park after he came up to tell me about Tracy's death? The guy is nuts if you ask me."

"You're just bubbling," Elena said and reached for her schedule. "We'll have to sit and catch up sometime, but at the moment I have to get back to work and you need to get some sleep girl. You look really tired."

"I am," she yawned suddenly then looked at the schedule as she stepped away from Elena's desk. It seemed that her movement was the cue for people to call again.

The phone rang and Elena reached to pick it up. "Keep in touch you."

"I will," Willa said and wove her way back to the front of the office.

Spanky greeted her with a smile. "It's snowing again."

"I saw," she said and folded the paper in half then shoved it in her pocket. "I think I'm going to just go home from here."

"Sounds good to me," Spanky said, "I'll ride along with you then leave you alone."

Willa frowned and buttoned all the buttons on her long coat. "I don't mean to seem--"

"Look, it's ok. No one really wants to be your age and be baby-sat, but the guy is paying me and I feel like I can't just steal his money."

"I'm sure that he'll appreciate that," Willa said with a smile.

*****

As Willa entered the studio apartment twenty minutes after leaving Elena's desk she heard a noise in the apartment. For a moment she wanted to run down and get Spanky to save her, but then she listened and she realized it was her answering machine and it was just Lance leaving her a message.

"I'm home!" she called out into the apartment and ran for the phone. She grabbed it up just before he was going to hang up.

"I'm here. I'm here."

"Well hello there Miss Marviani," he said with a laugh.

"Sorry about that," she said, "I just got home."

"I thought your flight got in last night," he said.

"It did, I had to go to the agency this morning."

"Troubles?" She loved the way his voice sounded so concerned. It was nice to know that he cared, or at least that he'd thought to ask if she was ok.

"No," she said and took the portable phone towards the front door so that she could lock herself in. "I just had to get my pay checks and I had to get my schedule for the next few weeks."

"That's good." She could hear noises in the background and she tried to picture him sitting somewhere doing whatever it was he was doing.

"So what are you up to?" she asked. His voice sounded a little hoarse and she wondered if he was still working.

He coughed. "Sorry about that…I'm taking a break," he said.

"Are you getting sick?" she asked as she closed herself in and locked the door.

"No," he said. "I just went and got lunch and was trying to do two things at once. I guess that will teach me. I shouldn't try to eat and talk."

"I didn't know you were that talented," she teased.

"Ha, ha, funny one Willa," he said.

"So you guys are still in the studio?"

"Yep, we've gotten a lot done, but with everyone trying to take vacation time and working on other stuff it's not going as fast as we thought it would."

"Do you guys get in trouble for stuff like that?" She made her way over to the couch, slipped out of her jacket and flopped down so that she could sit and talk.

"No, not really. It just costs money to be in the studio and to record so it's a pain in the wallet."

"Are you going to be able to get away for Christmas like you wanted?" They'd talked about their Christmas plans in one of her calls to him. He'd told her he was big on being with his family and had hoped that his studio work would be well into it so that he could take the whole week off to go and visit his hometown in Mississippi.

"I got my ticket this morning." His voice bubbled with excitement at the sound of him going home. "I fly out two days before Christmas and fly back to Orlando for New Years," he said, "What about you? What's your schedule like?"

"I have the whole week off remember," she said. Before, when Lance hadn't known his schedule she'd rubbed that fact in a little. That's when he'd mentioned to her about being in Orlando for the vacation and how it wasn't snowing there. "I thought I'd fly up to Seattle for a day or two, but I'm not sure after my trip that I want to travel again, at least not that far."

"So how far is far?" he asked. She heard noises again that sounded like he was trying to eat again.

"I was thinking of staying on the East Coast, or at least staying on this side of the Mississippi," she said with a laugh. She stopped and finally said, "Lance why are we doing this?"

"Doing what?"

"Just ask me to visit you in Orlando and I'll be on the first flight I can get down there."

"No," he said.

"No?"

"No, I mean yeah I want to see you, but you flew out to Orlando to see me already. I hate to put you out like that."

"Lance, really it's ok."

There was a long pause. "Well I was thinking of going home for that time, but what about New Years. We can spend New Years down here."

"You don't want to do New Years in New York?" she asked with a laugh.

"If I headed anywhere near that city they'd have me on MTV in a minute. I love Carson, but if that guy knew I was in the city limits I'd already be booked to be on some show. I think if I stay down here I at least could relax my way into the New Year."

"Oh," she said.

"What's wrong?" he asked.

"It's just that it's only the twentieth and I won’t get to see you for another week." She took a deep breath and let it out. "God that sounded so girly."

"It actually sounded nice," he said. "I like hearing that you miss me."

"Don't get a big ego," she said.

"AH, there's my girl…couldn't be too nice for too long."

"So do you miss me?" she asked.

"Nope." He sounded completely serious then laughed. "You must not have gotten any of my messages I left."

"What are you talking about?" she asked.

"I called you about five times last night and tried to get a hold of you, but your machine kept coming on."

Willa held the phone to her ear and leaned back into her seat. It was comforting to know that her messages weren't all from strangers. She hadn't checked them yet, hoping to get herself into a good mood before she bombarded herself with the outside world.

"I turned the ringer off when I got home and didn't check the machine before I left to go to the agency."

"You did go with Spanky didn't you?" he asked.

"Of course," she said, "He took me over to the agency then brought me home again safe and sound." She thought of telling him about the reporters at the airport or the ones outside, but decided that he'd probably double the security force if he did know about them.

"Good," he said.

"You know that I hate having him around," she said.

"He's not mean or anything is he?" lance asked.

"No, Spanky is fine. Actually he's really nice. I just don't like to be babysat."

"Yeah well it lets me sleep at night to know that he's there with you. I know you didn't have to deal with him while you were out of the country, but the tabloids and stuff have been going crazy and I don't want anyone to harass you."

"No one is harassing me," she said trying to hope that her lie would work on him.

"Well see then, it's working."

"Whatever."

"Anyway," he said, "I've got to get my lunch down and get back into the studio."

"Ok," she said.

"How about I call you when I get home tonight?" he said.

"Ok," she said, "But if you get the machine it means I'm asleep."

"Turn off the ringer if you go to bed. I don't want to wake you up."

"Don't worry. I will," she said.

"I'll see you in a few days."

"What day are you flying back to Orlando?"

"The thirtieth," he said.

"I'll get a flight down for that day then," she said.

"I'll get you the ticket," he said, "My Christmas present to you."

She thought for a moment about protesting, but she didn't want to fight. "Get it from JFK down there then," she said.

"You aren't going to Seattle?"

"Yeah, but you don't--" She reached for her schedule.

"Just tell me when you want to fly to Seattle and I'll get you all the tickets you need."

She hesitated as she looked over the schedule. "How about fly out the twenty-third to Seattle then back to Orlando on the thirtieth then I'll head back up to New York on the second."

"How about you fly back up to New York on the fifth? They guys and I are going to be going up there then to do a TRL taping."

"You want me down there with you for that long?"

"If your schedule can let you," he said.

"Let me see," she said.

Her eyes flew over the schedule. She had a shoot on the third with a photographer in the city. "I can't stay that long. I have a shoot on the third, but maybe I could take the last plane out that I possibly could on the second."

"Sounds good to me," he said.

"I'll have the tickets waiting for you at the Ritz," he said.

"At the Ritz?" she asked.

"I've got a friend who'll pick the tickets up for me and take them there. You can have Spanky pick them up for you."

"Ok," she said.

"So I'll see you in ten days?"

"With bells on," she said.

Lance laughed. "I hope you'll have more than that on," he said, "It's warm down here in Orlando, but not that warm."

"Whatever Lance," she said with a laugh. "I'll see you then."

"Bye Sweetie," he said.

"Bye," she said and hung up the phone.

Adrenaline filled her veins at the thought of seeing him again. Ten days and she'd be back with him. Part of her was excited and part of her was nervous as hell. The last time they'd been together in Orlando they'd had a great time and she hoped that it would be that way this time.


TWO


[[Orlando, Florida]]

"Come on, come on." His impatient mumble caught the ears of the man next to him, causing the man to look in his direction.

"Waiting for someone special?" the older man in a business suit asked giving him a sympathetic smile.

"You could say so," Lance said and pulled his hat further down on his head. He was taking a chance being there alone, but Wes had been late and he'd had no choice to go and pick Willa up at her gate. He didn't want her to come out and see no one there for her. It would have started off their vacation together on a sour note, which was something he was trying to avoid.

He hadn't slept well the night before because he'd been playing the what-if game. He'd been worried about seeing her again. He wasn't sure how things would go and he didn't want to mess things up with her.

"Girlfriend?" the guy asked.

Lance's heartbeat quickened at the sound of the word. He could feel his pulse pounding in his neck and his head ached a little from nervousness. It was the first time, the first real time that someone had mentioned Willa as his girlfriend outside the confines of the group. Lance looked the guy up and down and saw that he didn't recognize him. This guy wasn't a reporter, just some random person trying to make conversation. "Yeah. I haven't seen her in a month."

"A month?"

Lance let his stance relax a little and tried to act normally while talking. He usually didn't speak to people like that one on one unless it was a business meeting or he already knew tha person so this was a change. "We're sorta busy with…" He stopped for a moment and looked around then chose his words carefully. "…Work."

"Really? I know my wife would kill me if I was gone that long. I can't stand to be away from her for over a few nights a week."

Lance smiled. "Well she understands about me being gone and I understand about her being gone."

"Must be nice."

"It's been so far, but you should see our phone bills. I was calling all over the world to find her and she was doing the same thing. I think those cellular phone companies are going to be in business for a long time if we stay together for a long time."

"All over the world?" the man asked. "I bet you're glad to have her home. I know the feeling."

"Yeah," Lance said and blushed a little. "It's been a while."

"Just take things slow," the man said, "My wife and I have the best…well the best make-up…welcome home…"

Lance nodded in appreciation of the unspoken message. He looked around. "Yeah well we haven't…"

The guy's eyes widened with surprise, "Planning a big night then?"

"Yeah…" Lance looked around again and wondered for a moment if he should be talking about this. If Willa knew that he was talking about their personal lives without her she'd probably get mad. "Eventually."

"So what is she doing out there all this time?"

"She's a model and I'm in a band so we never are in the same place together."

The man looked at him. "Now I know why I recognize you. I think my daughter has your picture on the wall in her room."

"Really?" Lance smiled. It was nice to speak to an adult who didn't seem to think he was stupid for being in a pop group.

"Yeah. It's you and some other kids," the guy said.

"That's probably us," Lance said. He stuck his hand out. "Lance Bass, nice to meet you."

"Nice to meet you too," the man said shaking his hand. "Kenneth Clope."

Lance nodded at him then looked around.

"They should be out soon," Kenneth said looking at his watch. "The flight takes a while to deboard."

The man held up the flower in his hand. "No flowers?"

Lance looked down and saw only his bag and his backpack. He hadn't really thought about getting her anything. Well he had thought about it, but he was so nervous he'd forgotten about getting anything. He had her Christmas present at the house waiting for her, but he hadn't thought of a gift for the meantime. "Shit."

"There's a place just down that way," the guy said and pointed, "They know me by name…I'm always rushing in to get flowers for my wife…she's a flight attendant so I'm there almost every day."

"Thanks," Lance said quickly and collected his bags and rushed towards where the guy had pointed.

In the shop the woman recognized him. It was a pain to have her ask, but he ended up signing some things for her daughter and niece then he paid for his single rose and rushed back to the gate.

*****

The rosebud, which had been in a refrigerator in the store, began to open as he waited with everyone as everyone streamed out of the plane. Lance looked around and saw the man meet up with his wife and smiled. They looked happy together and Lance hoped that he and Willa could be that happy. After months of fighting he was waiting for a nice relationship with her, something a little less stressful than their first few months together.

When he finally saw Willa emerge from the crowd he caught site of a reporter with a camera poised near his face watching her. Lance immediately went to go and greet her with a big hug, holding her close for a moment before presenting her with a flower and a quick kiss. "You ready to go?"

She must have caught the urgency in his voice because she looked around for a moment then nodded. She took his hand, "Let's ditch the reporter."

"Sounds good to me," he said. Together, almost as twins, they walked out towards the parking lot. Each carried a small rolling suitcase in their freehand while keep their other hands linked.

"Have a nice vacation," Kenneth said as they passed him. He had found his wife and they were hugging hello.

"Who was that?" Willa asked as they walked past.

"Just this guy I was chatting to."

"You were having a conversation with a complete stranger?"

Lance rolled his eyes. "OK MOM, I always talk to people I don't know."

"You must not have listened to your mom very well when you were little," she said with a laugh, "Never talk to strangers honey."

"Well you'll have to keep your eye on me," he said.

"I'm already doing that." She wiggled her eyebrows at him and Lance felt relieved for the first time that day.

Once to the car Lance opened the passenger door and let Willa get settled in the front seat with her backpack while he took the bags and put them in the back before closing Willa in and finding his own seat on the driver's side.

"How was your flight?" he asked as he started the engine a few moments later.

"Good," she pulled her seatbelt on. "How was home?"

"Good." He nodded. "Christmas was a little wild since all the family was there and my friends were all wanting me to go and hang out. Did you have fun with your parents?"

"Fun wouldn't be the word I'd use," she said with a sigh.

He turned and watched her lean into her seat and move around trying to get comfortable. "Not good?"

"It's my father," she said, "He still thinks, after all this time, that I need a nine-to-five job."

Lance nodded. He didn't know exactly how that was since his parents had been involved since the beginning and now were working with him. "Ah," he tried to sound sympathetic.

"He also asked about you. He figures now that I must be into drugs and stuff since I'm dating a rock star." She laughed.

Lance let out a laugh. "Rock star?"

"That was his word, not mine," she said.

"I like my drinks and all, but who does he think I am, Keith Richards?"

She smiled. "Something like that. He's a bit out of it."

"Sounds like it. That's a first for me though, being called a druggie."

"I showed him your picture in People Magazine and I thought that would have settled him down, but it didn't."

"What's that supposed to mean?"

"Oh hon, you're such a good looking boy…"

"Boy?" he asked with a laugh.

"You know what I mean," she said lazily.

Lance looked over at her and saw that she now had her eyes closed, as if she was going to try to go to sleep on the drive home.

"Hey now," he said softly and reached out and touched her arm on the armrest as he maneuvered the car from the parking lot. "I know I'm boring and all, but don't fall asleep on me just yet."

"Sorry," she said opening her eyes. He could tell that she was exhausted from the way they didn't open up completely. "It's been a long day."

"Well I hope you get some rest tonight because we have invites to four parties for New Years Eve."

"Four?"

"Yeah, there are two informal ones, one at Planet Hollywood, and then Lynn invited us over for breakfast."

"Lynn?"

"Justin's mom," he said.

She let out a laugh. "This sounds like a Prom Night plan."

"Well it sort of is," he said, "Lynn is our surrogate mother since everyone is from out of state. She worries about all of us, but actually I think this time she wants to meet you since she's seen you in all those tabloid pictures."

"Tabloid pictures?" she asked. She reached and took the rose from where she'd put it on the dashboard and smelled it then returned it to it's resting-place.

"Yeah, while you were gone there were a lot of stories run about you. They had pictures from when we were at the VMA's and decided to make up all this drama. It's nothing. The WEG publicity machine went into overdrive and tried to do damage control and they were in touch with Elena."

"Why didn't anyone tell me about it?" she asked.

"Well you were out of the country and Elena and I thought that you could use a vacation…sort of a calm before the storm."

Lance was about to continue when her phone rang. Willa's arm slipped out from under his touch as she reached into her backpack and pulled out the phone. She returned her hand to his and Lance listened as she spoke.

"Hello?"

He smiled at the tone of her voice. She always greeted the caller on the line with an enthusiasm that he'd missed in the last month.

"Yes Elena he's here and we're on our way--"

"Hi Elena!" Lance called out.

"No Elena I'm going to be home the morning of the third. I'm taking the midnight flight up to JFK."

Lance paid attention to his driving, getting onto the freeway while trying to distract himself from the sensation of Willa tracing his arm with her fingernails.

"I'll make it there fine," Willa said, "I'm getting Spanky to pick me up."

Lance felt her move her hand up his arm and across his shoulder. When she began to massage his neck he almost jerked the car out of the lane he was driving in, but luckily he corrected before they got into an accident.

As the muscles in his neck loosened he glanced over at Willa who was watching him.

"I love you too Elena. Tell Amy or anyone else for that matter to just call me on the cell phone if they need me."

When it was time Lance exited the freeway and began to weave his way through the city streets that led to the house. He was just pulling into the driveway when Willa began to say her goodbye.

"Yeah I'll be in touch and no don't worry about me…" She let out a laugh.

Lance caught the shocked look on her face as he waited for the gate to open in front of them.

"Whatever Elena. I'll talk to you soon," she hung up without a goodbye.

"What'd she say?" he asked as he pulled through and followed the short drive to the house.

"You don't want to know."

"Sure, sure," he said.

"Really, you don't want to know."

"A little uncomfortable Miss Wilfred Ann Marviani?"

"Wilfred?" she asked. "How do you know that's my first name?"

"I did a little research. Someone once told me I was going to lose my nickname if I didn't stay up with the times," he said with a laugh.

"Don't call me Wilfred. I hate that name. It was my uncle's name and my parents were too stubborn to think of a girl's name when I was born. I still can't believe that they thought I was going to be a boy."

"Oh come on Fred, I like Wilfred. Like on the Batman show."

"Fred?" she asked.

"WAM?" he said spelling out her initials. "You weren't a part of that group were you?"

"No," she said and folded her arms across her chest.

"So can I call you Fred?"

"No," she turned and looked out the window, but he guessed that her anger was all in fun.

"It's better than calling you babe."

She turned back to him. "You never call me babe."

"Well I didn't want to start," he said with a laugh and pushed the button for the garage door opener, "FRED."

"Whatever."

"So back to my original question Fred," he said, "A little uncomfortable this evening?"

She stayed silent until he pulled into the garage. "A little," she finally mumbled.

"Well come here then," he turned off the engine then turned to her and pulled her closer to him.

He leaned and kissed her lips. "I've been waiting to do that all day, hell all month."

"You kissed me at the airport," she said.

"I did?" He thought for a moment. "Well that was a public kiss…and my public and my private kisses are a little different."

"Oh really?" she asked with a flirtatious look at him.

"Yes," he said and leaned and kissed her again, this time pulling her closer and deepening the kiss until they both broke apart breathless.

"I missed you too," she said.

"You ready to go in?" he asked.

"Not yet. I like making out in the car. I haven't done this in a while," she said.

"Yeah, my garage is the perfect lovers lane."

"I'd make out with you anywhere," she said.

"Ok, let's get inside," Lance said with a chuckle. "Don't forget your flower FRED." They parted and each got out of the car on their respective sides.

They kissed once more before they entered the house, but when they got inside Lance was a little more business like than he'd been a few moments before.

Lance leaned and flipped on the kitchen light and shut the door that led to the garage. "Why don't you put that flower in some water while I take these upstairs."

"Wow. I've moved up in the world. I get to sleep on the second floor this time."

"You don't have to," he said hesitantly. He'd assumed that she'd be sharing his bed and he thought badly of himself for doing so. Not that he planned to seduce her, but now that they'd moved into really dating he'd planned to sleep next to her, if that's what she wanted.

"No," she said, "That's fine."

"Is that a blush?" he asked.

"No," she said.

He walked over and kissed her. "I'll be back in a minute."

She laughed.

"What?"

"I can tell you've been at your mother's house," she said.

"Why?"

"Because all boys…" He gave her a shocked look. "Excuse me…all men seem to be more polite after they've been anywhere near their mother's house."

"Well I'm just trying to be the southern gentleman that I am," he said. He leaned and kissed her again. "I'll be right back."

He left the room, hoping that she would make herself at home. He got to his room and almost thought about dropping the bags on the floor and running back to her. He didn't though. It would have looked strange for him to be overly excited to see her. He'd never been like that in the past, or at least he'd never acted like that in the past.

He carefully set the two bags on the bed and threw the backpacks on top then turned and made his way down to the first floor again.

When he got back to the first floor her flower was in the vase his mother had gotten for him the Christmas before. He looked around for a minute.

"Over here," she said with a small voice.

He went to the living room and found her laying face down on the couch.

"You ok?" he asked.

"I'm exhausted," she said with a sigh.

"Well scoot over. Don't hog the couch."

"There's another one," she said lifting her arm to point at the other smaller couch.

"Sorry," she said and started to sit up.

"Hold up," he said. He took a seat near where her head had been and reached for a pillow and he plopped it on his lap. "Here ya go."

She lay back down and he ran his hand through her hair as she closed her eyes. He started at her forehead and worked her hand through her hair, massaging her scalp the way that the hairdressers and masseuse on tour did with him. He'd never tell anyone where he learned the skill, but he'd found that it had come in handy over the last few years. Girls were suckers for massages and he wasn't at all against them himself.

"Hmm," she mumbled.

"We need this more often," he said finding himself yawning at the thought of going to sleep soon. He stretched out a little more trying to get comfortable. He could see himself falling asleep on the couch and thanked God for whoever had talked him into getting the overstuffed couch.

"What? Be in the same state?" she asked with a laugh.

"That too. I meant that we should hang out like this more often."

"Like what?" she asked.

"Like this," he said, "Listen…no screaming…no people…no cameras…"

"I'm up for that," she said.

Lance took a deep breath. "It's still early, but I think it's time for bed Fred."

"You aren't trying to take advantage of me are you?" she asked.

"Sort of," he said.

"Sort of?" She sounded a bit offended by his lazy answer.

"I'm still trying to be a gentleman." He let his drawl go thicker than normal. "I mean I have to be a good host."

"Ok that's your secret?" she asked and sat up to look at him. "Kill 'em with kindness?"

He smiled. "Is it working?"

"It's working a little," she said.

Lance made a face and scratched his head and looked at her. He was trying to be comedic, but he was a little serious when he spoke again, "I must be getting rusty."

She scooted over to him. "You're not getting rusty," she said. She leaned and kissed him. "Let me go and take a shower and I'll be ready for bed."

"Sounds good," he leaned and kissed her again.

Willa pushed herself up and walked past him. "You know the way?"

"Not really, but I'm sure I can find it," she said with a smile. "Give me about fifteen minutes and it'll be sleepy time."

Lance nodded. "Ok Fred."

Lance watched her leave the room. She looked back at him in the doorway and smiled at him again. "I'm glad I came down here."

She left before he could say anything, but he sure was thinking a good answer. He was definitely glad that she was there with him. He wanted to go and join her in the shower, but he knew he shouldn't. They weren't at that step in the relationship yet, but hopefully they would get to be more physically comfortable with each other now that they'd gotten past a lot of the drama and tension that had plagued them since the beginning.


THREE


"Are you sure you don’t want any Fred?" Lance smiled at her and tipped his glass almost as if he was showing her that it wasn’t going to attack her or something.

"Don’t call me that!" she laughed.

He laughed and gave her a wink. "Ok Fred."

"Stop!" she said and smacked at him.

"Ok, ok." He moved his head around as if he were looking for someone. "Where’s Wes when I need him?"

"He wouldn’t be able to stop me," she said boldly, "He’d probably end up helping me by holding you down. He told me once that if I did smack you that he and I would be better friends."

"Oh he did, did he?" Lance asked. He looked around again. "Where is that guy?"

Willa moved her hand out and grabbed his chin forcing him to look at her. "All you need to see is right here in front of you. Don’t you be looking at all the other girls here."

"Little jealous Fred?" he asked.

"Don’t call me that."

"Fine, Fred, I won’t call you Fred," he said.

She narrowed her eyes at him. "Watch it Mister."

He laughed and continued to joke with her, "What am I supposed to be watching?"

"Me," she said with a laugh.

"I’m sure that I can do that," he said and gave her a once over. She twirled around a little to show herself off.

When she turned back around he was looking in the other direction. She grabbed his chin again and kissed him. "You better be watching me or I’m going to throw a supermodel fit."

"I’d love to see that," he said. He made a face. "I want my agent! I want my publicist! Where’s my latte?"

She leaned forward and cut him off with a kiss before he could continue. "I’m sure that you would love to see that."

"So do you want something to drink?" he asked as she wiped his lips gently with her fingers.

"No thanks," she said with a smile glancing at the glass in his hand.

She reached out and fixed the collar of his shirt. It somehow had gotten flipped up when he’d pushed through the crowd. She then took his hand squeezing it trying to reassure him that she was fine. He seemed to be worried about her for some reason. Her only excuse for not drinking was that she had been trying to pace herself. She’d had a drink or two at barbecue, but had refused anything to drink when Lance planned to disappear to the bar after they’d come in the place. She wanted to keep her wits about her seeing that she was going to be in public that night and didn’t want to make a fool of herself.

Putting the glass of alcohol to his lips to take a drink Lance paused and she saw is eyes go wider.

"What?" she asked, curious to find out what had caused the sudden shock she saw in his eyes. He’d been a little nervous that day with her, but this sudden nervousness was something new.

He held the glass near his mouth and extended his pinky to point over her shoulder. His eyes narrowed for a moment. "Isn’t that your ex-man over there? Brennan? Isn’t that his name?"

At the mention of Brennan’s name Willa whipped around to the direction that Lance was staring in. She hadn’t seen the guy in months, but she’d heard enough of his big mouth in the press. It seemed as if Brennan couldn’t keep from talking about her enough. He’d slammed her a few times when they’d first broken up and he always seemed to find his way into the press. Elena had tried to keep her from seeing all the reports, but people had mentioned him to her from time to time and when she saw his face on a magazine she’d tried to ignore it, but always seemed to read the comments anyway.

For a moment she didn’t see what Lance was talking about, there were too many people in the confined space of the restaurant and everyone seemed to get lost in the crowd. They’d been there for over an hour and she wondered if she’d ever see any of the guys in the group again since they all seemed to have faded into the mass hysteria of the New Years Bash. She’d seen them from time to time, but it was as if every time she blinked they would disappear again. They’d all arrived there together and had planned to leave together, but she thought it might take them hours to find anyone in the sea of people that started at the door and spread across the bar, the dance floor and the tables.

Just as she was about to give up looking for Brennan in the mess of people in front of her, when the crowd seemed to part just enough for her to catch a glimpse at a man that looked a little like Brennan. He was standing with his right profile to her, but when he turned to talk to the person on his other side she saw his whole face. She should have known. He was in designer clothes; she could almost see the tags on the clothes across the room blaring like a neon sign at her and everyone else in the room.

Someone’s head moved into her line of vision, cutting her off from her little spying session. "What the hell?" She moved to look to see the group he was talking to.

Lance stood on his tiptoes and leaned towards her to see. They must have looked like nosy teenagers snooping like they were, but it didn’t seem to matter what people thought of them for a moment. They were both perplexed by the sight of him across the room. "Isn’t that--?"

"What the hell? Is that Amy?" Willa’s shoulders and back tensed at the sight of her friend with Brennan. She didn’t understand first off what Brennan was doing in Orlando of all places, but seeing Amy with him was more of a shock to her system. "What the hell is she doing here? And where the hell did she hook up with Brennan?"

"I take it that this is a bit of a shock?" Lance asked.

"Yeah," she said and tried to get the dryness in her mouth to go away, "Amy knows how much I hate him. I guess loyalty goes out the window with that one. I wonder how the hell she got together with him."

"Go over and ask," Lance said simply taking a drink. She hated the way he seemed to think that everything was so simple.

He’d acted that way when they’d come in and had seen Brian McKnight near the door. She’d been amazed to see him and Lance had simply gone up to the guy to say hello. She found out later, after Brian excused himself to get another drink, that Lance knew him, but just the idea that Lance would walk up to someone like that and introduce himself was a little bolder than Willa could be. It was one thing to have an attitude, but she never usually was the one who would start confrontations, she just ended them.

"Hell no," she said. The sight of the two was making her sick to her stomach. She thought that she’d told Amy how she hated Brennan. Why would she even be seen with the guy if she knew how Willa felt about him?

"Well I will if you won’t," Lance said and began to move past her then stopped and turned back. He leaned and kissed her cheek then whispered, "Never mind, they’re coming over here."

Willa turned to face them as they approached, sliding her arm through Lance’s for protection. She leaned against him a little for support. He switched his drink to the other hand and ended up unlinking his arm from hers. She protested for a moment reaching out for him, but only found that he had wanted to move his arm so that he could put his arm around her. He pulled her protectively close, even planting a kiss on her forehead as he rubbed the side of her stomach, moving his hand between the black skirt and silver shirt she was wearing, as if he was trying to comfort her.

"Hey girl!" Amy said with a sweet smile and leaned to hug Willa. The scene was a bit sickening, that Hollywood fake kind of greeting that Willa always had said she’d never participate in, but now found herself doing a little too often, especially at an event like that. Everyone had on their smiles and was acting all too sweet to everyone. No wonder people thought that being a celebrity was such a nice thing. They only saw these nice little meetings and would never know what kind of crazy thoughts were going through everyone’s heads during them, like the thoughts that Willa was having at the moment about strangling her friend.

Willa wondered for a moment if Amy was drunk or something. She’d chosen a little more revealing outfit than Willa had ever seen her in before. It was a dress with spaghetti straps that showed off a lot more than Willa ever would in public and a lot more than Amy normally showed off. It was like an episode of the twilight zone. Amy had been taken over by some stranger that was now possessing her and making her act unlike anything that Willa had ever seen before.

Willa reluctantly hugged her then stepped back. She was speechless for a moment. She didn’t know how to start a conversation with her. Normally talking to Amy was easy, but this situation changed everything. She had thought that Amy was on her side, but it was evident that she wasn’t at all as she slid her arm though Brennan’s arm and hugged him. She was very showy in her affection towards Brennan as if she was trying to rub it in that they were together.

Willa didn’t really care. She was glad that he’d moved on. She hoped that it would be a chance for him to get his mind off of her for a change.

"What are you doing here?" Willa asked. She plastered a smile on her face and tried not to sound or look too shocked to see her.

"We thought we’d come down for the weekend seeing as you would be down here," Amy said. "We figured if you two were down here that some great party was going on." She looked around the room for a moment, "And we were right…this really is the best bash in town."

Willa nodded and stared at Brennan. "How’ve you been?"

"Good," he said, although he wasn’t looking at her. He was staring at Lance who was staring back at him.

"I’m Lance, by the way," Lance finally reached a hand to shake his.

"I know," Brennan said with a very deliberate tone to his voice. He sounded as if was trying to make Lance feel stupid for the introduction. It was stupid for anyone to not recognize Lance and the fact that Brennan was her ex-boyfriend did make it a little ridiculous.

The two men had a very tense exchange then Brennan looked at Willa as she slid back to Lance’s side. Lance seemed to see that she was really tense and he put his arm around her and put a hand at the small of her back, rubbing her back as if he could tell that her back was tense. "What a cute couple you make," Brennan said with a slightly evil smile. Willa knew that if people looked at him at that moment they wouldn’t be able to tell that he was being at all mean in his speech to them, but Willa still didn’t trust the look in his eyes. There was something behind that look that almost scared her. She’d known, when they’d dated, that Brennan was very picky about things and when he got pissed enough he was a real brat, but this look in his eyes seemed like he was about to be worse than anything she’d seen before. "Still keeping up the lie I see."

"Lie?" Willa asked hoping that no one around them was eavesdropping. She looked at Lance and prayed that this wasn’t going to bring up something ugly between them. They hadn’t spoken about the lie since she’d showed up on his doorstep before she’d left for Europe. The past had become exactly that, the past, but Brennan seemed to be determined to bring it up again. She didn’t know why he wanted to rub it in, but he seemed determine to never let her forget the decision she’d made and the life she’d chosen over the life she’d had with him.

"Oh give me a break Willa I know that you and he aren’t really together." He looked around for a moment and raised his voice a little. "You told me yourself it was all for publicity sake. I know your career means a lot to you. I mean wasn’t it his idea that you get a little more publicity? I’m sure you two both know how to make a scene."

"Shut up Brennan," she snapped at him, "You’re the asshole who keeps putting us in the news. I mean with your big mouth, we don’t have to say anything to the press. You seem to be promoting us just as well as we’re promoting ourselves! You’re the rat bastard who can’t keep your big fat head out of the press."

Lance grabbed her hand and gave it a squeeze. She looked at him and took a breath as Lance gave her a warning look. Her voice must have been louder than she’d thought.

Brennan just smiled wildly at them. "You have a new profession now, don’t you?"

Willa narrowed her eyes at him watching him closely as he watched her. He was up to something and she hoped she’d find out soon what it was.

"Excuse me?" Lance asked. Willa could see that this was bothering him. It was nice to know that he was being so protective.

"You seem to be really good at pimping yourself out," he said, "Or is that his job?"

"Hey now!" Lance said and took a step towards Brennan. "Mind repeating that?"

Brennan put his hands up. "Sorry, didn’t mean to offend."

"Yeah right," Lance said and bumped him in the ribs.

Willa searched the crowd for a moment for Wes. She didn’t see him around, although she knew he was there somewhere. She worried that there was going to be a brawl right there in front of her with no one to stop it. She knew that she might be able to get in the middle of things, but pulling the two men apart was something she wasn’t ready to do.

"No offense or anything Lance, I mean it worked for Britney and Justin didn’t it?" Brennan commented and pointed to where the younger couple was sitting together in the corner. It seemed as if they were sitting on throwns instead of just barstools. The crowd of the party all seemed to be making their way over to say hello or to wish the couple a happy New Year.

Lance took another step towards him, this time bumping into Brennan a little. He stuck his face up to Brennan’s and stared at him intensely. Willa reached and pulled Lance back. The tension in the air was almost exciting, not because of what Brennan had said, but the fact that Lance was so upset by the comment. It seemed to only reinforce the fact that Lance really felt strongly for her.

"Brennan you’re just jealous. I heard that they picked someone else for the CK ads. That must have hurt," Willa said. She let out a sigh. "I guess business has been bad this year."

"Whatever Willa," Brennan said, "I heard that Hustler called you for a spread, but I’m sure all the spreading you need has already been done."

Lance stepped again towards Brennan.

"God Willa." Amy stepped into the mix and stared at Willa as if she had two heads or something. "I thought you had more control over your man than that. I thought that was your plan, you know…control him and use him for the publicity?"

Willa tensed at the words that were being thrown at her and tried to avoid Lance’s eyes. It was true, that had been the plan, back then anyway, but things were different now. They were a real couple and no one was going to cheapen that.

She was very hurt by Amy’s comment and she didn’t understand where this was coming from. It hurt her to think that Amy was mad or something and hadn’t told her. This wasn’t the way for them to be acting, but she wasn’t going to let Amy or Brennan see that hurt. She had to save face and be the mature one in this situation. She took a deep breath and took Lance’s hand. "Honey let’s go get a drink."

His eyes grew wide again with shock as Lance stared at her. He seemed to be amazed that she would back off from this situation. It was a little shocking for her, because she’d never backed down from a fight in her life, but she knew that this was neither the time or place to get into any kind of a fight. There were too many people there and the press was just outside.

"Willa?" he asked.

"I really think that we need to get a drink," she said firmly and looked over at where Wes was now watching them. He’d kept himself just on the edge of where they were, but he’d been watching them the entire night, which she suddenly found comforting. She knew that if something happened to them that night that Wes would come to their rescue. This time though she didn’t think she needed it so she smiled and waved to him.

He must have seen the entire exchange because he mouthed the words, "Are you ok?"

Willa smiled and nodded then pulled Lance away from where they’d been standing. It wasn’t easy since the testosterone was flying between the two men, but she finally pulled them apart.

"Where are you going?" he asked and looked back over at Brennan and Amy who seemed to be just as surprised to see her leave as Lance was.

"To get a drink," she said. Her teeth were grinding together now in anger, but she knew she couldn’t blow up. There were too many people around and she didn’t think that they needed to witness her emotions like that. She’d tried hard to keep her name out of the papers and she wasn’t going to throw herself into the middle of things now trying to keep her image under control.

"How can you let them say stuff like that to you?" he asked, "You would have decked me for something like that…hell, you have hit me for less than that."

"I’m not going to stoop to their level like that," Willa said, "You know it may be true that this whole thing started out as a lie, but it’s not one now, or at least I don’t think it is. I’m not going to spend my time trying to explain that to them. They need to get a life if they think I’m going to spend my holiday arguing with them."

"But?" he said.

"But nothing," she said and pushed up through to the bar. Lance found a spot next to her and they waited for the bartender to take their order. "You and I are here to have some fun and they aren’t going to ruin that. I haven’t seen you in about a month and I’m not going to let them put a cloud over the fun that you and I are going to have tonight."

The bartender showed up and smiled at the two of them.

"Can I get a shot of tequila?" Willa asked the bartender when he finally came over.

"Tequila?" Lance asked as the bartender turned to find the bottle. He must have been shocked because she’d never really had alcohol in front of him before.

"I need a drink Lance," she said with a sigh.

"Fine," he said and rubbed her back, "Make that two." Lance reached for his pocket and paid for the drinks.

They toasted the tequila shots and slammed them then Willa slid up next to him and pulled him close, pulling him into a kiss before he could stop her. She ran her hands up into his hair and pulled him against her when he started to protest a little.

After a moment he deepened the kiss and put his arms around her, sliding his fingers onto the bare skin of her back, causing her to shiver a little.

When she finally pulled back from the kiss she was breathless. She reached behind him and pulled his hands from around her. "Let’s dance."

Her adrenaline rushed when she saw Amy and Brennan watching them across the room. She leaned towards Lance and kissed him again. "They’re watching us," her voice came out seductively, "Let’s give them a show."

"Sure," he said and Willa thought that he must have caught the dirty looks on Brennan and Amy’s faces because he was staring in their direction.

"I wanna have some fun," she said with a smile turning back to him. He smiled back at her as they made their way out onto the dance floor and joined the crowd that was already keeping up with the music.

When they got to the dance floor Willa slid her arms around Lance and danced closely to him. She wanted to forget the last few moments and immerse herself in Lance and all that came with him. She planned to make her vacation in Orlando as fun as possible and she was going to start as soon as she could.


FOUR


Fun was exactly what Lance wanted to have when he'd thought to invite Willa down to Orlando to visit for New Years, but this kind of fun should have been deemed illegal by the local authorities. He'd wanted to have a good time that New Years and he was sure that this definitely wasn’t going to be a night he would soon forget. He was a normal twenty-something guy and expected that most of the guys his age would act the way he would. He knew that any guy his age would have thought about the same thing having their girlfriend lean all up against them the way Willa was clutching to him. It was clear that this behavior wasn’t just showing that she wanted to cuddle. The sexual tension between them had built up long enough and it was time now to release some of that energy on the dance floor, only a taste, he thought with a smile on his face, of what might come later.

The action of dancing was definitely having more than a little effect on him. He’d tried earlier to stop himself from getting too involved in the moment. After all, he was in a public place and things like that were hard to hide from prying eyes, but the fight had been short lived to keep himself under control. She’d gotten to him mentally, since he couldn’t stop picturing her in bed with him later on that night, as she rubbed herself against him seductively as they danced. He’d already figured out, through some hands-on exploring of his own that she was wearing little under the skirt and shirt she’d worn to the party.

The clothes themselves might have kept her modestly covered, there were girls walking around in less, but they didn’t seem to appeal to him the way she did. He thought that it came partly from the fact that he didn’t suspect that there was too much under her outfit to be covering up. She wasn’t naked, he knew that much since he’d spent more than a few minutes tracing her panty-line with his palms through her skirt as they ground their hips together to an R&B song earlier, but she was definitely going bra-less that evening. There was no mistaking the feeling of her through the material of her top when they pressed together as they made their way across the room to get another drink at the bar after dancing for five songs in a row.

He took a breath as she dipped again and her hip rubbed against him. She grabbed at his shirt collar and brought him closer to her with every beat of the song. Her eyes were sparkling now as she leaned and kissed him. He kept his hands conveniently hooked into the waistband of her skirt and prayed that no one was watching them. God forbid that a moment like that would come back to haunt them. He could see someone being interested in a picture of them like that, since they hadn’t been overly affectionate with each other in public, or in private for that matter, but he didn’t want to know what they looked like being so caught up in the moment. He was out of control himself and he was sure that she was way over the line and he didn’t think they needed to be reminded of that later on since they were both usually so in control of themselves.

For the moment all he wanted to do was to enjoy the feeling of his arms around her and his lips on hers when they had the chance to kiss between dances. Nothing else needed to be remembered or recorded, other than the bliss that had come along with them being so freely affectionate with each other.

The whole physicality of the relationship was something new for them. He was just now getting used to having her in his arms and knowing her body the way he’d known her personality over the last few months. He thought that the tension before would have slowed up them learning to be in the same place together, but she didn’t seem to mind and he wasn’t going to stop her exploring; he was going to enjoy it. She had been shy that morning and the day before, but now she seemed like she’d realized that he was free territory for her to explore. True, it was making it difficult for him to stand away from her without his feelings literally showing for her, but the way her body felt against his was way too good to keep himself from.

Usually he kept his cool about such things. He had to due to his position in life. Being in the spotlight day after day made it important for him to be almost non-sexual when it came to such things. He was supposed to be a heartthrob that everyone wanted, but no one would ever believe would actually have a sex life. He wanted one with Willa. He’d been trying all night to keep his mind on other things, but it was abundantly clear. After all the fighting and struggling with Willa in the past, this new relationship was something he vowed he wasn’t going to complicate with his own preconceived notions of how they should act towards each other.

He wanted Willa. That part was simple to figure out. He’d wanted her since the first time he’d seen her, but now that he had the chance to actually be with her he wasn’t sure how it was going to go. He wasn’t sure if they were at the point in their relationship to really make things more than what they’d been before, although from her actions towards him since they’d gotten onto the dance floor she seemed more than ready to take the next step with him. Petting and pawing at each other was one thing, but bringing sex into the mix definitely wasn’t something to take lightly.

"Fred?" he said softly to her as she turned in his arms and danced with him. Her back pressed against his chest and stomach as her bottom moved in time with his hips. He wrapped an arm around her stomach and rested his chin on her shoulder. "Fred?"

"Huh?" she said. She turned and faced him again and he could see how the dancing was causing her to sweat a little. She didn’t seem to notice the wetness on her forehead or the way that her whole face had become flushed as they’d been moving around the dance floor. She seemed perfectly at ease to be there with him and to hold onto him as they rocked to the music.

"Honey do you wanna get out of here?" he asked. He rushed the words, saying them closely to her ear so that no one else would hear. He was nervous about the outcome of his proposal and thought for a moment if he had to repeat it he’d stumble even worse over the words. Sometimes actions did speak louder than words. If he could just pull her out of the room and into the car he was sure she would come along, but actually asking her was a different thing entirely.

She tilted her head away from where his lips had delivered his message, "Huh?"

Lance leaned again, but this time he changed what he said to her. He would have repeated his suggestion to her, but when he was about to deliver the message to her again he caught someone across the crowd watching them. The hair on the back of his neck stood on end. It wasn’t Amy and Brennan or he would have kept up the act. It was the Planet Hollywood photographer staring at them from behind his lens so he smiled against her ear. "Do you want to go and get a drink?"

She nodded and turned, holding on to his hand she danced her way over towards the bar. He followed along after her, slipping an arm around her waist when they paused to side step a few people in their path. He leaned and kissed her neck and she giggled. "What do you want honey?" she asked.

"How about a slammer?" he suggested into her ear as he pulled her tight against him. He’d already had a few drinks that night, but he could use another one. Since he’d turned twenty one he hadn’t really kept track of his drinking habits. He knew his limits and hadn’t passed them very many times since he’d celebrated his birthday with everyone a few months before.

At least going to the bar would keep him from being so close to her for a little while. He knew that if he didn’t get a little space between them he was going to lose himself too much in the moment and make a fool of himself in front of the few hundred people in the Planet Hollywood that night.

"Sure!" she said enthusiastically.

"Not for you silly girl, for me," he said with a laugh. He squeezed her tight against him for a moment and tried not to imagine her with him like that naked, although that’s what he’d been doing for most of the night.

"What?" she said sounded offended that he wouldn’t be offering her a drink. She turned in his arms and kissed him hard then pulled back. "No love for me?"

"You’ve already had a few Fred," he spoke playfully to her as moved her hair away from her face a little so that he could see her.

"Don’t call me that," she said, "And I’m completely fine." She tried to look sober for a moment. She was having a hard time of doing it, but for a moment her giggles disappeared and the smile was gone from her face.

Lance let out a laugh. "Ok honey, I won’t call you that."

"You’d better not," she said with a smile.

The bartender set them up with drinks and they clinked glasses together before they did their shots. Afterwards she leaned and kissed him deeply. He could taste the alcohol in her mouth and somehow it tasted better than the shot he’d taken. "That…" she said with a smile against his lips, "…was great."

"Good." He captured her lips with his again, nipping softly at her bottom lip before she leaned back a little. He pushed some hair out of her face and kissed her cheek.

"What’s the plan for after this?" She leaned against him wrapping her arms around his waist. Hooking her hands together behind him pulling his hips against hers. She danced a little with the music as they stood in place. The bar area was crowded, but no one seemed to care that everyone kept hitting into each other and no one seemed to mind her dancing with him.

He slid one arm around her to steady her as she began to lean too hard on him then he moved his arm and pushed back his shirtsleeve to look at his watch for a moment. "Well we have another half hour until midnight then we’ll see. Breakfast at Lynn’s doesn’t start until about three or so."

"So what to do between midnight at three?" she asked. Before he could answer she looked around the room then turned back to him. "Do you know what the other guys are going to do until breakfast? I don’t want you to change plans or something if you guys all had planned something."

He looked around nervously and wondered if she was getting at what he thought she was getting at. "I think they’ll end up staying here maybe go to some other party."

"What are we gonna do?" she asked. She placed a hand over his heart and tapped the rhythm of the song on his chest as she waited for his answer.

"Whatever you want to do," he said and leaned against her a little more relishing the way her body was feeling of her against him.

"Can we go home?" she asked innocently. She danced against him smiling in what he took to be a seductively manner. Her eyes seemed to be half open and her once perfect make up now was smudged a little making her eyes seem smoky and seductive in a way that made him want her even more.

"Go home?" he asked. He wanted to make sure that’s really what she wanted and that he understood her correctly. He didn’t want to assume something more than he should.

"I wanna be alone with you." Her statement was firm, though her voice was soft and seductive in its delivery.

"Alone with me, or just not with all these people?" he asked.

She leaned and sucked on his earlobe for a moment. "Alone with you."

Lance leaned back and looked in her eyes for a moment. She didn’t seem as drunk as she had been a few moments before. There was some soberness, some intent, behind the look in her eyes that made him think that she knew exactly what she was doing.

"How about we stay until just after midnight then go home?" he said, "You don’t want to miss the confetti and the balloons do you?"

She nodded her head no and smiled, "Let’s go sit down though."

"Ok." Lance did a quick scan of the room and found the area that the guys had reserved for the night. Wes and Mike were sitting at the long span of tables that had been pushed together chatting. He wondered for a moment if everyone else was out dancing. He hadn’t been able to spot them in the crowd, but he knew they were probably all there somewhere.

"Come on Fred," he said softly. He tucked her into his arms, facing the table, then pointed so that she knew where they were headed. As they pushed through the crowd to the table he prayed that he could keep his cool. Her body was pressed against his as they walked and the thoughts of being with her later weighed heavy on his mind. He had to stop thinking like that or it was all going to get out of control.

"Hey guys!" Willa said loudly as the two of them slid into the far side of the table so that they were sitting on the bench seat facing the crowd.

"Willa this is Mike. Mike, this is Willa."

"Nice to meet you," Mike said and reached to shake Willa’s hand.

Lance slid an arm around the back of the bench as he slid closer to her so that his hand could rest on her shoulder. He found that while she chatted with the two security guards her hand made its way from resting on her own knee to resting on his. Without looking at him she rubbed her hand against the material a little then tapped her fingers to the beat.

"You guys having fun?" Mike asked.

Lance kept his eyes on the guys across the table. He knew that he should act as normal as possible, but it was going to be hard with her hand in his lap.

"It’s been a blast!" Willa said with an over-dramatic enthusiasm.

"Too much fun." Lance nodded and quickly glanced down at Willa’s hand. Both of his hands were in plane sight and he wondered if the guys noticed her hand being under the table. "We’re gonna head out early tonight, just after midnight."

"Going to get some rest before Lynn stuffs you with breakfast?" Wes asked with a laugh.

Lance wasn’t sure if there was a hidden meaning behind the comment, but he figured Wes probably knew why they were going to leave early. The issues of dating and the guys sex lives had been discussed before and Wes knew not to make comments about his relationships, but this time Wes almost seemed glad that he and Willa would be leaving the party together.

Willa nodded and Lance felt her hand slowly move up his thigh. It made him nervous to have her hand on him like that. He knew that no one could see them, but things like that didn’t happen every day and he wasn’t sure how he should react to her. The table blocked anyone’s view, but he was surprised to find that she was so bold with her exploration of his leg.

Just as her hand began to stray where he knew that it shouldn’t be, he put his hand over hers and stopped her. They made eye contact for a moment and he tried to give her a warning look. He wanted her to stop, not because he didn’t like it. He liked it too much and thought that if she was going to act like that she should wait until they got home to do so.

She was hurt by his expression. He could see it in her eyes.

"Willa honey," he said in a firm voice into her ear. "If you don’t keep your hands off of me until we get home we’re gonna make fools of ourselves."

She smiled and gave him a flirtatious answer back as she ran her other hand along his collar, letting her fingernail trail along his neck. "Can we make fools of ourselves at home?"

Lance leaned and kissed her neck. "Of course." He took her hand and placed it more towards his knee and less towards his lap then spoke again, "But until then I don’t want you teasing me."

"Me? A tease?" she said with a laugh, "Never. I’m an angel." She moved her hands away from him to make a halo over her head.

"You know what I mean Fred," he said.

"What?" she said bumping her hip into his. "I’m not doing anything."

"Sure you aren’t," he said and watched her.

She turned to Wes. "Hey Wes!"

"Hey Willa!" he said back with a silly look on his face.

"Am I a good girl Wes?"

Wes made a sour looking face. "I’m not sure you should be asking me that. Was is or was it not you who smacked Lance a few weeks ago?"

She put her hands on her hips and looked at Lance then back at Wes. "I had a good reason!"

Mike began to laugh.

"Oh shut up you!" She pouted at him. "Be nice to me! Boys are supposed to be nice to girls."

"Boys?" Mike asked with wide eyes.

Lance didn’t think of himself as a boy and wondered why Willa had called Mike a boy. It was actually kind of funny considering that Mike was probably a little too big to be considered a boy. He and Wes both were huge men and Lance had to admit that if he didn’t know the guys better he would have been scared of them.

"You know what I mean."

"Whatever. Just don’t smack the guy again."

"What are you talking about?" Wes interrupted. "You SHOULD smack him."

"Hey you!" Lance yelled. "You watch it!"

"Yeah!" Willa said firmly. "I had my reasons! You weren’t even there. He was being rude and he deserved it!"

"Yeah but I heard about it and that was good enough!" Mike said.

"Be nice!" She pouted. "You’re gonna be next on my smack list!"

"Oh really?" he asked. "You wanna take this outside?"

"Bring it on!" she taunted.

"See I was right. You aren’t an angel." Lance pulled her against him and kissed her forehead trying to get the argument to stop.

"I am so!" She pouted cutely and pushed away from him.

Lance mimicked her face then let out a rumbling laugh and kissed her deeply, running his hands up into her hair and pulling her close kissing her until they were both breathless. Panting he kissed his way along her chin and neck until his lips met with her ear. "I never said that being a bad girl was something negative," he whispered.

"Oh really?" The tone of her voice suddenly changed. She now seemed interested in his reaction to her being a bad girl, as if it now might be a challenge for her to live up to her new bad-girl status.

He nuzzled her neck a little with his nose and placed a kiss on the skin below and behind her ear, making her shiver. "Bad is good sometimes," he said softly into her ear.

"Oh really?"

"Shocked?"

"Just a little," she said, "I mean I always thought you were the good one, but I’m finding out that you are probably the most not like your little star profile."

He smiled at her. "You’d be surprised."


FIVE


"You ready?"

Willa looked up as Lance offered her a hand up. She had been watching the crowd and hadn’t noticed that he’d slid away from her and was now waiting for her to come with him.

"It’s time already?" she asked looking around. She didn’t know what time it was, but figured that Lance was keeping track. He’d told her earlier that he always made a toast at midnight so they’d agreed to get another drink just before the countdown began.

He smiled at her and she felt her insides melt. She loved the look in his eyes. She’d been flirting with him all night and he was matching her cat and mouse game perfectly. Now though she saw the need in his eyes that had been evident when she’d placed her hand on his leg. She’d done it on purpose, to test him a little. They hadn’t had much of a physical relationship and she wanted to see his reaction, which had been what she’d thought it would be. He wanted her. It was clear on his face and in the way he’d kept her hand off of his lap.

"Yeah, let’s go get a drink real quick."

They made their way to the bar just as everyone else was refilling their drinks to toast at midnight.

Lance handed her a glass a moment later and she took a sip of the almost overflowing glass. It turned out to be rum and coke and she could tell, unless she was drunker than she thought, that it was more coke than rum. Lance took her hand and moved through the crowd, pulling her along with him, out into the middle of the dance floor where everyone had stopped dancing and were now watching the huge clock near where the DJ had been set up.

"FIVE!"

Willa got bumped and was about to turn around and start a fight. The drink in her hand had almost spilled on her and she was definitely not going to have coke all over her when she left that night to go home.

"Sorry!" Joey’s wide smile greeted her. He hugged her a little and gave her a kiss on the cheek then pulled his date Kelly up to his side.

"FOUR!"

Britney and Justin appeared out of no where and joined the group.

"THREE!"

JC made his way over with Bobbee and the group now made a circle. Everyone had glasses in their hands and all seemed excited about the countdown. Joey and Justin were making faces and JC was holding onto Bobbee tightly.

"TWO!"

Finally Chris and Dani made it to the group and they moved with the crowd as everyone got ready to scream Happy New Year.

"ONE!"

Somehow before the end of the countdown everyone was there with them. Willa looked around and felt at ease in their presence. She could see that her new little family was all glad to be there and she was glad to be with them.

"HAPPY NEW YEAR!"

The noise of screaming and noisemakers that filled the room made Willa’s ears ring. She let go of Lance’s hand and covered her ears. Lance smiled at her and slid his arms around her, pulling her against him again. She could feel him against her and knew that the night was far from over. They were going to be together that night, she’d tried to hint to him that’s what she’d wanted to happen and it seemed like it had worked.

She closed her eyes for a moment and tried to make a wish like she always did at midnight on New Years, but her thoughts were cut off when she felt Lance kissing her. Slowly she opened her eyes as his lips parted hers and stared into his eyes that were open and watching her. Her heartbeat went out of control as she saw the want in his eyes.

When they finally pulled back from their kiss they made their rounds and gave hugs and kisses to the others in the group then Lance pulled her back into his arms and held her close.

"You ready to go?" he asked in a whisper.

She nodded leaning into him she put her arms around him, slipping her hand into the back pocket of his slacks. She pressed herself against him and kissed his neck.

"Breakfast at four!" Justin called out then was pulled by Britney away from everyone.

*****

Once inside the front door of the house, Lance closed and locked the door behind them then threw his keys onto the table near the door. Willa slid out of her shoes and was carrying them in her hands when he reached out and pulled her into his arms.

"What are you doing?" she asked with a laugh.

"Nothing." He let his hands slid around her so that his hands were pressing her against him. He ground his hips into hers with a mischievous smile on his face. "Just making a fool of myself." He glanced at the stairs then back at Willa. "You wanna go and change?"

Willa tried to speak but found that she couldn’t get the words out. Her voice caught in her throat so she nodded her head. She knew that changing wasn’t the real reason for them going up to the second floor. It was a simple excuse. They both suddenly seemed a bit nervous so his excuse was at least a way to get them from the front door to the bedroom without a hassle or any more nervousness than possible.

Willa slid out of his arms and held onto his hand with her free hand as they made their way up the stairs. She tucked her arm behind her and held her hand at the small of her back and as they ascended the steps his hands brushed against her backside. She enjoyed his hands on her. She couldn’t believe that a few weeks before she’d almost thrown a fit because he’d put his hands on her, now she thought she might throw a fit if he DIDN’T put his hands on her.

At the top of the stairs Lance slid past her and led the way to the bedroom. She thought back to that morning when they’d been making the bed together. She’d been making it while he was in the shower and he came out wearing a towel around his waist and had helped her finish the job. They’d only fallen asleep in each other’s arms the night before, being that they were so tired from traveling, but she remembered that she loved the idea of falling asleep and waking up in his arms. It had been months since she’d woken up in such a good mood.

"I forgot to give you your Christmas present."

"What’d you get me?" she asked.

She hadn’t really thought about their gift exchanging. She hadn’t gotten him much. She’d searched around New York and had found some stuff for his Dr. Sues bathroom downstairs. It had seemed silly getting him the CAT IN THE HAT toilet seat cover, cup, soap dish and toothbrush holder, but when he’d gotten them the night before he’d loved them. He’d thought that they were outrageous and had gone into the bathroom to put everything in there, which had distracted him from giving her the gift he’d told her he’d gotten her.

"Well, well. Aren’t we the greedy one?" he said.

"What did you want me to do?" She rolled her eyes. "Act like I’m not excited? If I remember correctly you ripped open your presents pretty quickly last night."

"It was Dr. Sues," he said with a boyish smile that ran from ear to ear. "What can I say?"

"I bet you go crazy in FAO Schwartz!" She laughed.

He stopped and gave her a sobering look. "How’d you know?"

"You’re a big child," she said with a laugh.

"You love it though," he said pulling her close he tickled her sides.

She slid away from him and into the bedroom. "Honey, I didn’t say I didn’t."

Willa went into the room and grabbed up her suitcase. She didn’t exactly know if she should be putting on her pajamas, but she thought she would try to act as normal as possible. After all she didn’t want to look too eager, although she was.

When she looked up after putting her bag back onto the floor Lance was standing in the doorway with a box in his hand. It was the size of the boxes that they gave when you bought clothes, although this one had been professionally wrapped in red and green wrapping paper that had hearts and Christmas trees all over it.

"My present?" she asked looking from his eyes to his hand and back again. She abandoned her clothes, throwing them onto the bed to wait to see what he was going to do next.

"Yep," he said with a smile. He held it out towards her and shook it a little. It made a soft crunching noise as if it was wrapped in tissue paper. "Santa came a little late this year, but I’m sure you won’t mind."

"What’s that supposed to mean?" she asked, "Are you saying that I’m spoiled?"

He smiled and came over to her. "No, just well taken care of."

"Quoting license plate covers now?" She reached out to grab the box, but he held it back to her, teasing her two times before he finally handed over the present. "I thought you’d be a little more original than that since you do seem to write songs that are pretty sincere."

Lance spoke modestly. "JC and Justin are the writers. I just sing bass."

"You can write," she said watching her from the side of her eye as she carefully began to slide the red bow off the box he’d handed her. "I still have the card you left with the roses."

Lance seemed to blush a little. "You do?"

"Of course. Romance like that can’t be thrown away. The card is in my wallet."

"That’s a strange place to keep it." Lance made a face.

"Guys keep condoms," she said, "I try to be a little more sentimental. I don’t have a picture of you so it’s the best substitute I could find."

"Did you say you don’t have a picture of me?" He laughed hard and fell onto the bed. "No picture of me…that’s a good one."

"I’m not going to shrink a 16 Magazine shot," she said.

"Well then we’ll have to get a picture of me," he looked around the room. "I think I can find one somewhere around here, although you may have to wait a while since my mom has most of the picture albums."

Willa smiled. "That would be good. We should also have someone take our picture together. I don’t have a picture of us together that isn’t from a tabloid. Elena has a copy of most of the tabloid ones. She insists she keep them with my file at the office."

Lance nodded and patted the bed next to him. She plopped down next to him and wrestled open the box. "I’ll try to get someone to take our picture then," he said, "Maybe we can find one of those picture booth things. I think there is one out on Paradise Island."

"Sounds good," she said and leaned and kissed him quickly.

When she got the box open she pushed back the delicate tissue paper to find a silky nightgown in the box.

"I know it’s predictable and corny and every guy buys their girlfriend…" He paused as she picked up the spaghetti straps of the garment and held it up to look at it. It wasn’t anything too special, she’d seen outfits like it before in Victoria’s Secret, but she loved the color. It was a midnight blue that shimmered just a little.

"It’s gorgeous," she said, "I love the color…blue is my favorite."

Lance suddenly seemed shy.

"I’m gonna go put this on and brush my teeth," she said.

"Ready for bed so soon?" he asked.

"I want to get out of these clothes. I smell like cigarette smoke and bar air."

"I’m gonna change too," he said softly.

She nodded, leaned and kissed him. "Thank you for my Christmas present."

He smiled up and her as she went to leave for the bathroom. "You’re welcome."

"I’ll be right back."

Willa went into the bathroom, leaving the door mostly open. She figured that he was going to see all of her in a few minutes so it seemed stupid to try to hide from him in the bathroom now. She slid out of her shirt and slid the cool fabric of the nightgown over her head. The bottom hem of it hung mid thigh, but didn’t show off her leg well until she removed the skirt from underneath it.

A moment later, as she was grabbing up her skirt off the floor there was a knock at the door.

"Fred?" she heard from the bedroom.

"Yeah Hon?" she said.

"Can I come in?"

"Sure," she said.

Lance pushed the door open, wearing only a pair of flannel looking pajama bottoms.

"You like it?" she asked when she saw him watching her. She spun around a little to show him.

He nodded, not moving from near the doorway.

"Did you need something Hon?" she asked.

"Brush my teeth," he said in a choppy manner never taking his eyes off of her.

She liked the feeling of him being so intrigued by her. It was nice to be appreciated that way. Brennan had been complimentary of her, but she always had a feeling that if they were in the bathroom together that he was staring at himself and not her in the mirror.

Lance made his way over to the sink and they stood side by side to brush their teeth.

"This is too funny," she said with a nervous smile as she grabbed up her toothbrush from where she’d left it near the sink that morning.

"What?" He looked at her sideways as he grabbed his and the toothpaste.

"Brushing my teeth with you." She held out the toothbrush and he put some Aquafresh on it for her.

"Stars brush their teeth too," Lance said. He put the toothpaste on his toothbrush then stuck the toothbrush into his mouth. "Actually I think many of them don’t. You’d be surprised at how many people there are in Hollywood and the music world with bad breath."

She laughed. "That’s not what I meant when I thought it was funny. It’s not funny haha. I just find it strange to think at how many women in the world I’m making jealous right now," she said and stuck her toothbrush into her mouth.

"Too many," he said.

It was a homey little scene that Willa hoped would happen on a regular basis. It was simple things like that, which kept Willa in love. If a person couldn’t do the simple things with their mate, like washing dishes or brushing teeth, then the bigger things that they did didn’t seem to be important either.

As they brushed their teeth Lance made faces at her in the mirror. At one point he tried to say something to her and almost choked. He had to spit because he started to choke, which made Willa need to spit because she started to laugh at him.

They rinsed their mouths out with water still laughing. Lance looked over. "Kiss?"

She kissed him and smiled. "Minty fresh," she said nervously with a laugh.

Lance slid his arms around her and hugged her to him. He kissed her shoulder then let his lips drag along her skin as he made his way towards her ear. "Did I tell you how I love this outfit on you?"

She smiled as he nibbled at the sensitive skin just under her earlobe. "This old thing? I’ve had this forever. This nice guy I met gave it to me," she said.

He smiled as he placed his lips against her cheek. "I figured you’d look great in it, but it’s a lot better than I imagined," he said, and rubbed her back through the material of the gown.

A few moments later they made their way back into the bedroom. Lance pulled back the covers and let her slide in then he went and turned off the lights. She thought it was a very traditional and old fashioned approach to the whole thing. She was soon delighted to find the room romantically lit up by a set of soft white lights, which ran along the junction of the ceiling and walls that were the size of Christmas tree lights.

"Who thought to put those in?" she asked.

"My sister actually," he said with a laugh. "As crazy as it sounds she knows that I'm a romantic at heart, but she also knows that I'm forgetful. She said that she didn’t want me to burn down the house with candles."

She laughed imagining Lance with candles all over the room.

"What time is it?" she asked nervously. All of a sudden she felt this great pressure on her. She hadn’t felt it a few moments before, but now that they were in bed together it was like there was no turning back.

"I love you Willa," he said softly.

She turned and buried herself in his arms when she saw him reaching for her. "I love you too." Her voice was weak when she said it, not because she wasn’t sure about her feelings, but because her nerves were getting to her.

"Then relax," he said rubbing her back again.

"I am relaxed," she said. She sounded stupid saying it because she knew how he probably could tell that she was so tense.

"Honey, it’s not like there is a film crew here or something," he laughed. "Although I can get the radio out and get the porno music going if want to." He made a noise like seventies porno music.

"No, no," she said with a smile trying not to laugh too loudly. Comedy was a good way to ease the tension between them. She remembered that day and how nervous she’d been to be in bed with him for the video, but it didn’t compare to the nervousness she felt now.

"Fred lay on your stomach and I’ll give you a back rub," he said.

"Don’t call me that," she said with a laugh then moved so that she was stomach down on the bed and waited, holding her breath until she felt his hands on her. He pushed the nightgown up her back until it was gathered up around her neck. She took the cue and slid it off, leaving her bare from the waist up, and Lance took the garment and threw it onto the end of the bed.

"So much for that outfit," she said with a smile.

"You know what?"

"Huh?" she said as his hands began to massage her back.

"I don’t understand sexy nightgowns and stuff like that."

"Huh?" she said, "Why not?"

"Well you buy them for someone to wear only for a few minutes." He sounded very philosophical about the whole thing, as if the idea of lingerie was some intriguing subject that needed to be debated. "I mean it seems like a waste."

"Well then you can return it," she said.

"No," he said, "I didn’t mean…"

"Lance, it’s ok. I know what you mean," she said and rolled over onto her back to face him before she thought about it.

Lance’s eyes stayed on her eyes, but his hands were now on her stomach just under her bra line. He took a breath. "I like you in that outfit," he said.

"I know," she said and moved her hands up around his back to pull him towards her. Bare chest to bare chest they lay there for a moment. They’d been like that before, at the video shoot in LA, but now it was just the two of them and no script. The freedom to do whatever they pleased in one hand set her at ease, but in the next moment scared her. She didn’t know what to expect and was having a hard time trying to figure out how to react to everything that was about to happen.

"You should have seen the hassle that it took to get that thing," he said.

"Lance honey?" she said.

"Yeah?" he asked.

"Shut up and kiss me," she said.

As Lance complied with her request she let her mind rest. It was just them again and it was about as perfect as it could get. They were there together and would be together in the morning, something that she’d been waiting for since San Diego.


SIX


As their kiss deepened Lance began to hatch his plan on how to proceed with the rest of the evening. He kept enough of his attention on meeting every move she made against his lips while the other half of him tried to maneuver his body into a more comfortable position over her. When he'd been massaging her shoulders he'd been sitting next to her and when she'd rolled over he'd twisted a little to hug her, leaving him in a strange position. He was already sort of on the top of her so he moved his legs over so that he was basically laying on his stomach next to her with his chest against hers. He slowly slid a leg over hers then began to push with his knee on her leg so that he could rest his leg between hers. He bent his knee once he was between her legs and he heard her let out a breath as his leg parted her legs and lifted up to rub against the crotch of her underwear.

He stopped what he was doing at the sound. "You OK?" he asked retreating a bit so that his full weight wasn't on her.

Her breaths were labored as she nodded up at him. She licked her lips and moved her arms more securely around him.

"You sure?" he asked. "I'm not squishing you am I?"

She nodded that she was ok then reinforced the feeling by pulling him down to kiss her again. "Did I tell you that I like these pajama bottoms?" She leaned and looked at them over his shoulder. "I'm just surprised they aren't Dr. Sues."

"I have a pair of those," he said with a laugh and kissed her. "And a pair of Tasmanian Devil ones too."

Willa moved her legs a little settling into a more comfortable position underneath him then moved her legs again and smiled, "Flannel, just like my sheets at home."

"You don't get hot in those?" he asked. Just the thought of flannel made him sweat. The only reason he'd put on the pants that he had on was because they'd been the clean ones of his set of sleeping clothes.

"No," she said, "Why? You do?"

He nodded, "Flannel sucks unless you're in the middle of winter. I like to sleep cold. Flannel is too hot." He was already hot just having her body against him. He would have just worn boxers to bed, but he didn't know what the plan was so he didn't want to chance offending her.

"You're wearing it now though," she said.

"I know, I know, and I'm regretting it already," he said moving his away from her a little as the heat began to make his leg uncomfortable.

"Well take them off then," she said softly.

Lance tried to swallow, but he found that he couldn't. She was killing him with her boldness. He'd never dated anyone who really spoke their mind like she did. For a few moments that night she'd been a bit shy, but once they'd had their drinks she'd said whatever seemed to come to her mind.

"God Willa you kill me," she said and leaned his forehead against hers.

"What?" she asked, "You're hot, take them off."

"Are you still drunk?"

"No," she said, "Just a little buzzed, why?"

Lance stared at her for a moment. She had no clue what her comment was doing to him. "Are you kidding me?"

"No," she said.

"Whatever I did to deserve you, please let me keep doing it," he said with a laugh.

Willa moved her hands to push against his chest. "Come on, get up and get them off. I'm getting hot too."

"Whatever," he said and pulled away from her. He pulled the pants off and slid back into bed completely naked. The sheets were cooler than he thought and for a moment, before the heat of her body began to warm him up he felt goosebumps all over his body. He couldn't remember the last time he'd been naked like that in bed, but Willa seemed to take control, moving so that she was laying on top of him.

His breath caught in his throat as her bare legs met his and he could feel the silkiness of her underwear against him. He gave her a what-are-you-doing look, but she didn't notice, or at least it didn't cause her to pause her actions.

His arms slid around her, resting at the small of her back, his fingers playing with the edge of her underwear covering her bottom. He let out a satisfied groan as he lifted his hips up a little. He'd only meant to move into a more comfortable position, but the material of the tiny scrap of clothing that she wore was causing the crazy sexual thoughts he'd been imagining about her at the party to return.

As she propped herself up on her elbows and looked down at him he closed his eyes and willed himself not to move against her.

"Well one of us has to get this started or we're gonna be here all night TALKING," she said.

"I'll shut up," he said and took a breath as she moved her hips against his, "I promise."

"Go-od," she said pressing her hips against him tightly for a moment. He knew that it was evident her effect on him and although it was a little embarrassing to be that "excited," he knew that she liked it, or at least he figured that she did because she didn't move away from him at all when he matched the rhythm that she set for them.

Soon they were kissing again, then even sooner than he expected her underwear joined his pajama bottoms on the floor.

The Christmas tree lights on her skin made her glow and as they moved through the motions of their love making he marveled at how good they were together. He'd imagined it before, on many occasions, but even she was going past his wildest dreams.

It was perfect, too perfect, and when they finally collapsed on each other, completely sated they both laughed.

"I can't believe that we didn't do this sooner," he said with a smile.

"As I remember honey, you were ready to do this at the video shoot. I know that wasn't a pencil in your pocket back then."

Lance tucked her into his arms and kissed her forehead. "You're hot, what can I say?"

"I know what I say," she said lifting her head to look at him.

"What's that?" he asked.

"Shower," she said softly, leaning to kiss his neck, "You and me and a whole lotta hot water."

"Hmm," he said. He took a breath and ran his hand through his hair with his free hand then squeezed her closer to him for a moment. "Sounds good to me."

*****

Beep. Beep. Beep.

Lance could hear the alarm through his sleep, but he wasn't at all in a rush to turn it off. Somehow, even in a half asleep daze, he knew that it was a day off and that he didn't need to get up right away. With his eyes still closed, the rest of his body started to wake up. He felt warmer than normal, but only on part of his body. He usually slept on his stomach, but he knew that he was on his back and his arm was half asleep. When he went to reach for the alarm he found that his arm was caught on something.

Beep. Beep. Beep.

He heard a groan next to him and opened his eyes to find Willa holding her head up staring at the alarm. His arm was free now and he stretched it a little trying to get the circulation done. She rose from where she must have been resting her head on his chest and turned the alarm off by reaching across him to reach it. Her bare chest slid across his and although he was dead tired, one part of his anatomy was definitely wide awake due to her move.

"What time is it Fred?" he asked as he tried to concentrate on something else. He stared at the ceiling and tried to keep his gaze off of her.

"Don't call me that!" she pouted.

"Why not?"

"I don't like it," she said.

"Honey it's not a bad thing. Its like a pet name for you," he ran his hand along her bare back then tucked the sheet around her. "I think you'd object to Babe."

"I don't like it," she said with a pout.

He pouted back. "What time is it?"

"About three thirty," she said.

He let out a groan. He'd known that he'd slept hard that night, well the hour that they'd been in bed after their lengthy shower. "AM or PM?" he asked closing his eyes again.

"AM," she said softly then changed her tone to one of sarcasm, "Lynn better be a good cook."

He opened his eyes and found her looking down at him. "Ah, poor baby. Needs more beauty sleep?" He reached up and pushed her hair behind her ear.

"It's too early," she said and rested her chin against his chest.

"Morning honey."

With a smile he reached up and pulled her down to him for a kiss. His hand met wet hair and for a moment he was confused then he remembered the shower that they'd shared before they'd fallen asleep earlier. It had been quite the little experience taking a shower with her. He'd never gotten to the point of taking showers with his former girlfriends. Other girls had been intimate with him, but somehow they'd never been that open and easy enough with each other to do that.

"Morning," she said.

He watched her smile at him softly. Her eyes crinkled at the edges.

"We should get up."

"I know."

"We don't have to dress up or anything," he said.

"Good."

"You have pajama bottoms you can wear over there?" he asked.

"I have sweats."

"Well grab them up and put on some running shoes and we'll head over to Lynn's."

"OK," she said. She hopped up and walked naked over to her suitcase.

"God Willa, you're killing me," he said softly.

"Huh?" she asked as she leaned down to get her clothes. She pushed her hair over her shoulder then pulled out underwear and clothes to wear to breakfast.

"Nothing," he said and slid out of bed and went to the closet so that he could get dressed himself.

"Ugh!" He heard a moment later.

"What?" He asked turning back to her.

"I look like hell," she said. She had caught her reflection in the mirror and was staring at herself.

"It's three thirty in the morning," he pulled on his underwear and the nylon running pants he'd grabbed out and went over to her side. "No one is going to take your picture Fred. Throw your hair up and we'll head over. I'm starving."

Willa leaned and kissed him. "Ok."

*****

Twenty minutes Lance pulled Willa up close to him at Justin and Lynn's door. When they'd gotten out of the car she'd been hesitant, asking about her outfit as a way of stalling. They both had on nylon running suits, Lance's was purple and hers was black. He reached and knocked and looked around for a moment trying to see if he could tell if everyone had gotten there yet or not. He didn't see any extra cars, other than his own SUV.

"Finally, the missing duo," Lynn Harless said as she opened the door. She smiled at them both then held the door open as they entered. "Happy New Year kiddies."

"Happy New Year," they replied in unison. Lance had Willa's hand and could tell from her grip on his hand that she was nervous.

"Everyone's already here?" Lance asked hugging his second mother. He'd always loved coming to Lynn and Justin's house, other than being back home in Mississippi, this was the closest thing to really being home.

"Yeah, down in the basement watching movies." Her southern accent was fairly thick that morning which could only mean one thing, that she and Justin had been visited by his little half brothers, Stephen and Jonathan. The two little boys from Tennessee always seemed to bring their accents with them when they came to visit.

Lance looked at Willa and noticed how nervous she was. She pulled her hair down from the rubberband she had it in and ran her hands through her hair then put it back up in a ponytail. "Oh, sorry," Lance said, "Lynn Harless, this is Willa Marviani." "Its nice to meet you," Lynn said and hugged Willa. "Come on in, we'll get you guys breakfast and you can go watch movies with everyone, although they're probably already falling asleep. I haven't heard Chris or Joey laughing in a while."

Lance and Willa followed Lynn into the kitchen and Willa slid into a chair when Lance pulled one out for her at the breakfast bar as Lynn slid around into the kitchen.

"What can I get ya?" she asked.

"What's on the menu?" Lance asked with a laugh.

Lynn smiled at him. He knew that she would make anything he wanted. He was on her good side and he knew that she liked to baby him when his own mom wasn't around. "Anything sweetie, you know that."

"Got any French Toast?"

"But of course," she said, "Would you like some too Willa?"

"Sure," Willa said with a shrug, "I don't want you to go out of your way to get us fed."

"No worries," Lynn said, "I've already helped make omelets, hot cereal, cold cereal, orange juice, grape juice. I'm my own little catering service."

Lance let out a laugh thinking of the eight others, plus the two boys running around in the kitchen with Lynn as the ring master of her own little circus.

Lynn went about making the French Toast and Lance slid into a chair next to Willa.

"Honey did you have fun with your mom and dad at home?"

"Yeah," he said, "I got to see Darren and Kerri and my sister and Ford and I hung out for a while too."

"That's good," Lynn said dunking the bread into the egg and milk mixture. She glanced at Willa. "What about you hon?"

"Oh I flew from New York to my parents house in Seattle for the week. I hadn't been home in a while. It was pretty good, although my parents still think of me as their little baby."

"Oh Willa, parents always think of their kids as babies. I mean Justin is almost twenty and is about a foot and a half taller than me, but he's still my little baby."

Lance let out a laugh at that comment.

"You be careful James Bass. Your mother says the same thing about you."

"Yeah, but at least she doesn't say it to my friends," he said.

"Well I'll remind her to do that next time."

Lynn began to cook the pieces of bread and Lance watched closely.

"So how was your night?"

"Other than a run in with a few people we didn't want to see, it was great."

Willa let out a groan and looked at Lance. "I still can't understand what they were doing there together."

"They?" Lynn asked.

"My best friend, excuse me, my former best friend and my ex-boyfriend showed up at Planet Hollywood tonight. I just don't understand how they got there together. I know that Amy knows how much I hate Brennan."

"Brennan? That model guy?" Lynn asked, "I'm glad you picked Lance. I don't like that guy. He's too pretty."

Willa nodded.

Lance smiled, "I must be better looking than I thought if even you know that I'm better than that guy."

Lynn laughed. "I'm biased."

"Me too," Willa said and leaned over and kissed Lance's cheek.


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