IN FOCUS

By Patricia Brown


THIRTEEN


"Are you ready to go?" Lance asked.

Willa looked up from where she was leaned over searching for her shoe. She sat back up, a triumphant smile on her face as she watched him adjust his backpack on his back. "Almost."

Lance looked at the doorway and swung the other strap over his arm. "The guys are going to be here in a second."

"I know," she said and shoved her shoe back onto her foot and ground her foot around in for a moment before looking up at him to nod to him that she was all set.

"So that plan is for you to go and get your stuff and bring it back here while we're at TRL and taping those commercials for the Superbowl."

She nodded and avoiding making eye contact with him.

"Fred?"

Willa stopped and looked at him. She was scared. For the first time she was scared and she didn't know what to do. In the past she'd been able to put up a good enough front so that people would think that she was ok, but this time she wasn't so sure that she could pull off that routine. It was hard enough trying to convince Lance that she was ok, how was she going to trick the rest of the world? Thank God he'd understood when she'd declined to join him for the tapings and things earlier when he'd asked.

Lance's voice was soft in the quiet room as he looked over his shoulder at her, "It's going to be ok."

Willa ran her hands through her hair and straightened her shirt a little. Her nap had taken its toll on the wrinkle-free clothes and on her moody. She felt groggy. "I know."

Lance held out a hand out to her and pulled her into a hug. He kissed her forehead. "Good."

There was a knock on the door and Justin's voice came through to them. "Time to go."

"We're coming J!" Lance called.

"Come on man...get off her and lets get going."

Willa stopped him as he tried to pull away. "Wait."

"What?" he asked looking at her when she didn't explain why she'd stopped him.

Bringing her hands to his cheeks, Willa pulled him in for a kiss. "I love you," she said. She hated the desperate tone that came out with her words, but it couldn't be helped. She was desperate. Desperate to hold onto a profession that she loved and the only man who seemed to understand and accept every part of her.

"I love you too," he said. He kissed her; one more quick kiss then looked at the door. "We should go."

"I know," she said. She took his hand and the two of them exited the bedroom and joined the others in the living room.

"I packed up your burger," Wes said hanging Lance a small box that looked like a doggie-bag container.

"Thanks," he said and tucked it under his arm.

Wes pulled the door open and the group exited the room and walked down towards the elevator. To Willa it seemed like they were an Army marching to war, except on the lobby level she'd be going off to collect her things and Lance would be the one to go into battle considering that he was going to be interviewed that afternoon.

"How've you been Willa?" Justin asked in a fairly soft voice as they walked, "I haven't talked to you in forever.

"Yeah, it was just last week," Willa said trying to force herself to be normal. She smiled crazily at him trying her hardest to be the person he'd met a few months ago who'd taken on Lance in a yelling match and who'd fought just for the sake of fighting.

"Oh...wait...that was you?"

"Yep," she said, "You were probably drunk off your butt, but I remember it."

"Was I good?" he asked with an evil grin.

"Hey!" Lance protested.

They piled into the elevator, the bodyguards shielding the other passengers from where the doors would open once they reached the lobby.

There was an odd tension that hung in the air when they split into their separate groups in the lobby. She'd stood next to Lance in the elevator, cherishing those last moments before they were to be separated by leaning against his shoulder. Justin, Loni, Lance and Wes would be heading to TRL and Willa and Spanky would make the short trip to her apartment. To Willa the division of the group seemed like it would bring miles between them instead of a few city blocks.

"I love you Fred," Lance said as he let go of her hand. He leaned to kiss her, but was stopped by Justin.

When they both turned and looked at Justin as he leaned towards them, he smiled and said, in an overly dramatic voice while wiping a fake tear from his eyes, "I love you too Willa."

Willa leaned and kissed Lance then leaned and kissed Justin's cheek. "Have fun boys."

Justin's fake announcement of his love to her smile, but she was still worried as she watched them climb into the limo with the others. Lance stopped as he climbed in and gave her a wink then disappeared into the car.

"You ready hon?" Spanky said breaking into her thoughts. She looked over at him, finding him holding the door of a taxi open for her.

"Yeah," she said and climbed into the car, scooting over so that Spanky could share the back seat with her. She'd grown accustom to dealing with Spanky around. At first it had been a battle, but now that they'd become a little team she couldn't imagine doing anything without him.


 

Twenty minutes later, Willa took a breath and threw her keys onto the counter after pushing the door open. She let her hand linger on the doorknob and waited until she felt the weight of the door being taken over by Spanky's hand before she let herself fully step into the room. This time she was glad to see that everything was in the same place as she’d left it. She’d worried all morning about coming home to another mess since she’d been gone all day. The whole break-in thing had caused her to be a little overcautious now when it came to locking the doors and making sure that everything was secure before she left.

"Hey Spanky?"

"What hun?" He asked with a smile following her into the room. He closed the door and gravitated towards the living room as she moved towards her room. He'd slept on the couch the night before, but you would have never known it from the way the room looked. The only remains of his sleepover were the folded blankets on the end of the couch and the pillow that was thrown over it.

Knowing that she didn't have that much time, Willa headed for her room, but called over her shoulder, "Turn on TRL while I pack up my stuff."

"You can’t be away from that guy for even a minute can you?" Spanky’s laugh filled the silent room.

"I can," she said, "I just want to see who is on the countdown today."

"Yeah right!" he mumbled, but Willa heard him.

"I heard that you! Just turn it on," she said with a sigh. "I just want to see what the bastard is saying about me when I’m not around."

"That sounds more like the Willa I know and love," he said with a laugh and a few moments later Willa could hear the television broadcast throughout the apartment.

They went through the normal chatting and joking then the videos were announced for the day. Willa could picture it all as she folded her clothes and stuffed them into the rolling suitcase that she’d just unpacked a few days before after returning from Lance’s.

"Up next, a new bit of news on our guys NSYNC," Carson said as they went to the commercial break just after the number four song. Willa imagined the guys making faces into the camera as they pulled away to commercial.

Thinking that it had to do with the movie deal, Willa didn’t think twice about it and kept packing. She already had three casual outfits packed and was trying to get a fourth one into the tiny suitcase without completely wrinkling it, which at the time seemed way more important than to watch the television screen. She figured that maybe that MTV was going to break the news to the public about the press conference that had been scheduled for the end of the week.

"Willa!"

"What?" She yelled.

Spanky's voice boomed through the room. "You might want to get in here!"

When Spanky yelled for her that she dropped what she was doing and rushed to the television set. He'd never sounded so concerned and she knew it must be something important.

"What?" She asked.

"They just showed a clip of that guy Brennan. I don’t know what’s going on, but I don’t think this is going to be good." He looked at her for a moment then reached out a hand and pulled her so that she was sitting next to him on the couch.

Willa’s eyes were glued to the television set as Bryan McFaden delivered the news of the day. Tiny pictures of her, Lance, Brennan, and Amy were behind him on the green screen shot that served as his background.

"In recent weeks the guys of NSYNC have been very busy. After having record sales of 2.4 million in the first week with their US album No Strings Attached, and rumors flying around about their adventures into the world of movies, you’d think that they would have gotten enough of the spotlight. Well it seems as if the successes and downfalls of their personal lives are now bringing them into our living rooms. This morning a press release from Willa Marviani’s ex-boytoy, model Brennan, showed up on MTV’s doorstep. The release accuses Willa’s current boyfriend, Lance Bass, of NSYNC fame, of not only starting a fight at an Orlando New Years party, but also accuses the NSYNCER of keeping Brennan’s unborn child from him."

"No!" She didn’t ever think that she would ever find herself truly screaming at the television, but a moment later a yell came out of her mouth that would have broken glass if it had been at a higher pitch.

As Spanky reached over and tried to calm her down, Willa searched wildly for her phone and immediately dialed Lance’s number.


[[MTV Studios]]

At the sound of the news report all the guys groaned out loud as if they all could tell that it was a scam and that it wasn’t anything to get upset about. Just another rumor to dispel. It was getting kind of old. Lance took a deep breath and shoved his hands into his pockets. At first he wasn’t sure if he’d heard Bryan correctly. Willa had told him about the report, but the true details of the entire thing had never been revealed to him.

Grounding his teeth together in frustration he prayed that he’d keep his cool. He was pissed off beyond belief that they would read the statement in front of him without asking him about it before hand. It was one thing to hear that the thing had been released, but for MTV, and Bryan, who was a friend of the group, to go on air without clearing or even warning Lance of the news was unthinkable.

"Wow," Carson said when Bryan had finished his report. He looked over at the guys, as if to see what their reaction to the news was before he gave an opinion on the situation. He caught eye contact with Lance then looked away quickly. "You’ve got quiet the little scandal going on there don’t you?"

The anger of the moment welled up in his chest and if Lance would have guessed he would have thought he was having a heart attack. Breathing hard, Lance took a step back and whispered into Joey’s ear, "Get me the fuck out of here before I slam my hand in that guy’s mouth. I know they didn’t clear this with Melinda or Doug or Johnny. What the hell are they thinking?"

"Calm down," Joey muttered and put a hand in front of Lance, shoving him back into position.

This wasn’t the time or the place to settle this matter. Lance knew enough about dealing with the press that he knew he had to take whatever comments came his way. He wasn’t at all going to let this slide off his back, but he was going to act civil until the camera’s went off, then he was going to have a few choice words not only with Bryan himself, but with the producer that let him read that statement on the air.

"What are you doing Joey?" Carson asked with a joking tone as Lance fought against Joey’s arm. "Is this guy getting too much publicity lately?"

"Uh, yeah, I just don’t want him to get a big ego," Joey said, "They’ve already started to call him HOLLYWOOD. We have to keep him grounded."

As if on cue Chris jumped into action and distracted everyone by hamming it up in front of the camera. "Look at me...I’m a monkey!"

"Ok Davy Jones," Justin said with a laugh.

"Not that kind of monkey," Chris said, "A Monkee...here we come, walking down the street!" He kicked his leg out like a miniature Rockettes routine and the crowd cheered.

"Whatever Nutcase!" Justin said and pushed him out of the way trying to get in front of the camera.

"Ok, well lets give this some time to sink in, here is the number three song of the day, from SoulDecision..."

Lance let the voices around him fade away as his anger focused on Bryan. The guy’s back was to him and he planned quickly a way that he could easily jump him from behind. Lance wasn’t at all the physical fighting type, but Bryan had attacked him and Willa without warning and he wasn’t about to forget that or let it go.

"Don’t you even think about it," JC said in a low voice as the screams of the crowd went up as the video played on the screen behind them. With his face only inches from Lance, and their chests bumped up against each other he grabbed Lance’s balled up fist and pulled his fingers from their clenched position. "Don’t you even think about punching that guy. I know how you feel Lance, really I do, but you are not going to attack an MTV VJ."

Lance smiled, "I’m fine. I’m just going to give that guy a piece of my mind."

He stepped forward, but JC pushed him back. "I think right now you’re going to give him more than that."

"And like he doesn’t deserve that?" Lance asked finally making eye contact with JC.

"Of course the guys deserves it, but..." JC gave him a serious, but sympathetic look. "Not now Lance and definitely not in front of the fans."

"Hey, what’s up guys?" Carson asked coming over to them. He moved his way into the huddle almost knowing that the conversation was a private one that the fans a few feet away might be able to hear.

"Make sure that fucker Bryan sticks around. I’ve got a few words for that asshole," Lance said loudly.

A few fans behind him gasped hearing his words. Not thinking about his actions, Lance gave them a dirty look and pushed past everyone. "I’ll be in the green room."

As he pushed through the small studio crowd Wes fell into step with him. He didn’t know if Wes knew how upset he was about the whole thing, but when he saw a production assistant try to step towards him probably to stop him from leaving the set, Wes instantly held the person.

"I think Lance needs a little space right now."

To Wes that was just about as bad as telling someone to fuck off. Lance knew that early on Wes had learned how to persuade someone to step back rather than pushing them out of the way.

Once in the quiet of the green room Lance turned on his phone and immediately checked his voice mail. He knew that Willa would leave him a message. It was inevitable that she would have seen or at least heard about the announcement. It had only happened a moment before, but if he knew her, either she'd seen it herself or Elena had already been on the phone with her.

"Lance, it's me. I’m on my way over to the hotel in a minute. Give me a call on my cell."

"Shit," Lance breathed out.

When Wes entered the green room Lance looked up at him.

"Willa left you a message?"

"Yeah, she and Spanky are heading back to the hotel."

"You wanna ditch?"

"I'm suddenly feeling like I'm getting a cold," Lance said with sarcasm. He coughed loudly then walked out into the hallway, Wes at his feet.

"I'll call the car and get us a ride."

"Call a cab instead," Lance said, "The car will never make it back to get them if I take it. I may be ditching those guys, but there's no way I'm going to leave them high and dry without a ride."

"If you say so."

"So down to the service entrance?"

"But of course," Wes said. He quickly dialed the number of the taxi service that they used when in the city. He ordered a car to meet them at the back entrance.

In the meantime Lance pulled out his two-way pager and paged all the guys telling them that he was going back to the hotel to talk to Willa. He then two way paged Melinda and Johnny and explained that he wasn't feeling well and needed the afternoon off if he was going to last out the rest of the week. He knew that he would hear about ditching the press, but he didn't car. He needed out of there and he needed out of there now.


 

Willa stepped into the quiet hotel bedroom and shut the door. Spanky had told her that he'd watch TV or something until Lance arrived so as she slid into the room alone she pulled out a set of sweatpants and a T-shirt, her pajamas for the night and slid into them. Her shoulders and neck ached from the tension from the situation and while all she could think of doing was to go and get into bed, she knew that she should wait for Lance. So after crawling into her pajamas she grabbed a pillow off the bed and pushed the door open of the bedroom and went to find a seat next to Spanky on the couch.

"You ok?" he asked.

"I'm a little stressed out. I feel all sore, like I ran a marathon or something."

"Really?"

"Yeah," she said and rubbed her neck as she curled her feet under her and placed her pillow in her lap.

"I know this will sound strange coming from me, but why don't you go take a bath or something? I'm sure you could use the relaxation. I'll leave when Lance gets here."

"As good as that sounds I think I'll wait for Lance to get here before I do anything...and you don't have to leave." Tears welled up in her eyes. "What would I do without you?"

"Probably kill someone."

"No, seriously."

Willa pushed her hair out of her face. "I am being serious."

"It's all good."

"Don't say it's just your job. You know that it's more than that."

"Really Willa, it's not that big of a deal."

"Yes it is," she said, "Are you going to go home tonight?"

"Wes mentioned to me earlier that I should sleep on the couch in his room tonight. I know you're going to be with the guys for the next few days and you don't need the extra protection, but I think I'll stick around."

"Thank you Spanky," she said and a yawn escaped her mouth.

"Dang girl. It's only about two in the afternoon."

"I know, I know," she yawned again. "I just need a little nap."

"Well go on and get to sleep then. Lance will probably kill you if you don't relax a little. I'm certain he'll kill me if you don't chill out."

She laughed and covered her mouth with the onslaught of another yawn. "Sorry."

"Don't worry about it. Just go get some rest. I'm sure that when Lance gets here you're going to have some talking to do. That'll take a lot out of you."

Willa nodded and pushed herself out of the chair. "If I ever forget to thank you Spanky, just remember, I love you for taking care of me."

"No troubles," he said giving her a reassuring smile.

"Tell Lance to wake me up when he gets here."

"Sure thing," he said.

Willa leaned and kissed his cheek then made her way over to the bedroom door. She stopped and turned in the doorway, "I'll see ya Spanky. Thank you."


FOURTEEN


Lance was on his way out of the studio when Melinda caught sight of him. He was feeling pretty good since Wes had kept everyone from asking where he was going, but at the sight of Melinda watching him he got a little nervous. He tried to avoid making eye contact with her, thinking that maybe he could just slip out without a confrontation with her, but it was too late. She had her radar locked onto him and she pulled him in before he could side step her and escape to the stairway or the elevator. She quickly cornered him in the hallway, She pushed him so that his back was against the wall and she grabbed a hold of his arm to lock him into position.

When Wes started to approach to help him out, she threw a glare at him and he backed away.

"You aren't scared of her are you?" Lance asked with a laugh.

Crossing his arms across his chest, Wes shook his head, but didn't move from his position. "They don't call her the Bulldog for nothing."

"Where are you two going?" Melinda asked.

"To the hotel," Lance stared at her hand on his arm then looked her in the eyes then looked back at her hand.

"Oh really?"

Lance smiled. "Yes really."

"And why would that bed?"

When she didn't get the hint and move it he carefully pulled her fingers from their clamped position on his arm and dropped her hand dramatically from his arm. If he'd been in a better mood he would find all of this babysitting act funny, but at the moment he only wanted to get to the hotel and to get to Willa. "Willa's waiting for me."

"I'm sure she can wait," Melinda said. She took a deep breath. "I'm only going to ask this once and I want a straight answer from you. You just walked out on a nationally televised appearance and I'm sure your reason is justified, but you have to tell me what's going on Lance. This isn't just you showing up late or leaving early...you walked out on an interview and you know that something like that can do a lot of damage if you do it to the wrong person. Do you know what kind of press this is going to get you?"

"You tell me," he said with a sigh. He angrily pointed back at the studio and raised his voice. "What the hell was that back there? How could you let them make that announcement without telling me first? Bryan Mc-FUCKING-Faden just got on national television and told the world that my girlfriend is a whore and that...and that I'm..." He took a deep breath, "That I'm an abusive son of a bitch!"

"It's MTV Lance...they can say what they want and we can't do anything about it. We're their guests, you know? They invited us? Remember? Its called Freedom of Speech."

"I just can't believe that they didn't you know...FUCKING MENTION THAT THEY WERE GOING TO...TO...FUCK ME OVER LIKE THAT WHEN I WAS IN THE FUCKING ROOM!"

A few people turned their heads and Lance threw them the finger without thinking twice about it. So much for his southern gentleman ways. This was war and he wasn't going to take it sitting down.

"Calm down Lance, you're making a scene."

"Calm down." Lance looked down the hall then back at Melinda, "I'LL SHOW YOU CALM. I'LL BE DEAD CALM WHEN I MARCH BACK IN THERE AND SLAM MCFADEN IN THE FACE! NOW, ARE YOU GOING TO LET ME OF THIS FUCKING BUILDING OR AM I GOING TO MOVE YOUR FUCKING ASS OUT OF MY WAY?"

"Lance!" Wes said in a loud voice. He stepped forward and pushed Lance up against the wall. "Quit it LB or--"

Lance took a breath and looked at Melinda. He could see that she'd understood his anger, but she didn't seem to be too sympathetic at the moment, especially after he'd yelled at her for no reason. "I'm sorry, but this is--"

She gave him a nervous laugh. "I know its bad, but you can't fly off the handle like this. It's not professional and it's not you Lance." He thought that maybe it was because he never acted like this and she wasn't sure how to handle it.

Lance took another breath and squeezed the bridge of his nose as a headache began to form across his forehead. "Please..." He stopped and tried to keep his voice from sounding like he was pleading with her, but it didn't work too well. "Please just tell me that you didn't know about that before they announced it." Lance shifted his weight from one foot to the other and tapped his foot as he waited for an answer from her.

After avoiding his eyes for a moment Melinda shifted her backpack into a different position on her back then looked at him only for a moment. "I heard..." her voice came out as a mumble and she didn't seem like she wanted to reveal the news to him, "...I heard a rumor about it being released."

"What the hell? And you didn't tell me?" he whined.

"I didn't think it needed to be addressed. Besides, I thought I'd have more time to try to figure out how I was going to explain it to you."

"Explain what to me?" His eyes widened in anticipation of her news.

Melinda reached and dug into her backpack for a moment, pushing a few things around before she withdrew two heavy manila envelopes from the bag. "The papers arrived this morning. They wanted to serve you and Willa with a summons to court, but I knew that you didn't need that this morning. They came to the compound at four this morning and I signed for the papers and told them that I would make sure that they knew I would deliver them."

"A summons?" Lance said. He stared at the envelope. Not again. Hadn't he done his court time for his life? Hadn't it been enough that he'd been drug into court by Pearlman and that whole mess? Didn't that somehow make him exempt from ever going to court again?

"Yes," she explained.

Lance frowned and looked around. "He's really suing me?"

"He claims that you punched him and that Willa is keeping his kid from him."

Lance grabbed the envelope from Melinda's hand and ripped the one open that his name on it. He flipped a page to where the claims were listed. "That's totally not true! I may have wanted to ring the guy's bell, but I swear on a stack of Bibles that I never touched him. And Willa isn't pregnant or if she is she never has told me that."

"I know that. You know that, but for some reason someone out there seems to think that the idea needs to be proven in court."

"When's the court date?" He flipped the pages of the stapled packet and found that they were to be in court by the end of the month.

Melinda handed him the other envelope. "Give this to Willa for me."

"Sure." Lance folded up his copy of the summons and shoved it back into its envelope. He stood for a moment stared at the papers in his hand. He couldn't believe it. The guy was truly nuts. Saying things and slandering people was one thing, but pulling them into court was a whole other story.

Lance glanced at Melinda then shoved the papers inside his backpack. "Can I go now?"

"Make sure you call the lawyer today," Melinda said.

"I will," he mumbled.

"I mean it Lance. I put a call into him, but I'm sure he'll be wanting to discuss this with you. You'll have to give a deposition to him."

Lance looked down the hallway and found some people still watching him. His foot tapped nervously on the ground. "I know."

"Lance!" Melinda said and waved in front of his face.

"I KNOW." he stated firmly. He looked over at Wes, "Are we outta here?"

Wes nodded and they continued on their way down the hall. Lance let his mind wander and he tried to go over that night in his mind. He'd been drinking that night, having a good time, but not drunk off his butt, and he'd been out of control when Brennan had insulted Willa, but he never would have hit him. He never would have even thought to do that. He'd pushed into him a little, but wasn't that what any person would have done in his position? He needed the intimidation factor that came along with the action of pushing him, but Lance had learned long ago not to handle his problems through violence.


 

Willa turned her head to the side and looked out from where her cheek had sunken into the pillow. She had almost gotten fully asleep when she heard her cell phone ring. She was at the point in her sleep pattern where she felt like her body weighed about three times her real weight which made it hard for her to move to even look for the phone, let alone actually go and get it.

Swearing at her carelessness of leaving it across the room she threw the covers off the bed and grabbed for her bag where she'd left her phone. She wanted to catch the call before it clicked over to voicemail thinking that it might be Lance calling to check up on her. She needed to hear Lance's voice if she was going to get through the day. He might have said that he was coming back to the hotel, but knowing his hectic schedule he might have gotten caught up.

"Hello?" she said into the phone.

There was no answer for a moment. The sound of silence scared her a little so she took a breath and tried to calm her nerves by walking over to the window. She looked down at the street below and concentrated on watching people getting in and out of taxis for a moment to try to get her mind off her troubles. Usually, at home, it worked, but today it just reminded her of how long the silence on the phone had been there.

"Hello?" she asked again.

Finally, just before she thought she might hang up there was a low laugh then she heard the voice, "Having fun with him Willa?"

"Who is this?"

"Like you don't know?"

Willa thought for a moment. She took a guess at who it was and of course he had perfect timing. "Brennan?"

There was another laugh. "Good guess honey. I guess you haven't forgotten me."

A shiver ran through her as his slimy voice can through the line. "Brennan what the hell are you doing calling me?"

"I thought you might need a friend right about now," he said, "You know, with all the drama that Lance has brought to your life."

"A friend?" she asked in astonishment, "A friend? What the hell are you smoking you prick? This is all your fault!"

"Down girl, down girl," he said with a laugh. "You wouldn't want to hurt the baby."

"BABY?" she said angrily. "You know that you'll be in trouble when they found out that you filed false accusations against me. You seem to forget that I have one thing on my side Brennan. A good legal team, one that will go the distance for me...unlike you."

"Whatever," Brennan said.

"Why do you even think that I'd be having a kid in the first place?"

"Because I know how you like it. I may have lost you, but I remember how it was. I'm sure you can't leave your hands off Lance. It makes me sick to think that you're doing it, but your libido is too out of control to keep yourself too pure for too long."

"FUCK YOU!"

The door of the room flew all the way open and the door made a banging noise as it hit against the wall. "What the hell is going on?"

"It's Brennan," Willa said to Spanky as he watched her with a worried look.

"Give me the phone," Spanky said angrily.

"He can't save you Willa," Brennan said into her ear through the phone. "I may not be able to rough you up in the way that Lance roughed me up--"

Willa wanted to spit in his face. She would have smacked him across the face if he'd been there in front of her. "Lance never touched you! He might have wanted to beat the shit out of you, but unlike you Brennan; Lance actually has some class. He's not a thug and would never start a fight in a club."

His laugh filled the phone line. "That's not what the doctor said when I showed him my black eye."

"BLACK EYE?" For an instant she felt lightheaded so she moved to sit down. "BLACK EYE, MY ASS!"

Spanky moved towards her, stepping across the room to her in what seemed like only two steps. "Give me the phone Willa," he demanded. He held his hand out and moved his fingers trying to encourage her to hand over the cell.

"There's one thing that I know about you that Lance probably doesn't even know..." Brennan's voice came out sounding sinister. She groaned at the sound of it. This was all too Hollywood for her. The whole think stunk like a bad movie plot.

"What's that?" she asked. She was curious about how he suddenly considered himself an expert on her considering that a few weeks ago she was sure that he wouldn't have been able to even tell someone her full name.

"I know your weaknesses and I know your faults and I know how to get under your skin. Lance may be the bruiser in the family, but words can cut deeper than any physical punch I could throw at you. Don't forget...it was me who you cried to when you had that...well lets say that eating problem a few months ago...and it was me who took you to Haven House."

"GIVE ME THE PHONE!" Spanky pulled the phone from her hand and put it to his ear. "Get this straight Brennan," Spanky spoke slowly. "I know you may think that its fun to torment Willa, but I swear you'd better stay on the other side of the street if we ever see you because I swear I'll kill--no wait...that'd be too easy. I swear that I'll make your life a living hell if you get near her."

Willa sat down on the bed, wrapping her arms around her as she watched Spanky pacing back and forth. She was scared to death and there wasn't a thing she could do about it. It was true. Brennan knew her faults and she had no way of stopping him from going to the press about it.

"FUCK YOU BRENNAN!" Spanky shouted. The voice made her jump a little. Thank God he was on her side, because if she ever had to go up against hi she knew that she'd lose.

As he passed her Spanky made eye contact with her for an instant then slowly let his hand, the free hand, came to rest on her shoulder and he massaged her shoulder a little as he listened.

"Wanna bet?" Spanky growled into the phone. "Wanna know what it's like to pee blood, because if you even think of getting near her I'll beat you senseless."

Willa winced at the sound of truth that she heard in his voice. She didn't want this. She didn't want any of this. All she wanted...all she'd ever wanted was to be with Lance and to be happy.

"Hello?" Spanky suddenly said, "Hello?"

A moment later he clicked off the phone. "Damn."

"What?" she asked.

Spanky stared at the phone for a minute then hit the end button and handed her the phone. "He hung up."

"What am I going to do Spanky?" she asked.

"You're going to stay calm and keep your wits about you."

Spanky angrily stalked out of the room. "I have to make some calls."

Willa watched him leave the room and felt a chill run through her. This was serious. If Spanky was getting involved in her phone calls she knew that her battle was just beginning and from Brennan's attitude on the phone the battle wasn't going to be a pretty one.


FIFTEEN


Lance pushed the door open to the suite without knocking. It wasn't his normal MO, but after this morning's announcement, then seeing Spanky standing in the hallway yelling into his phone, it seemed acceptable that all the manners he learned when he was little could be thrown out the window. Something was wrong and he was about to find out what happened.

When he made it to their bedroom Lance stopped short and found Willa laying in bed, curled up to a pillow half asleep. He quickly shut the door and locked it behind him. For a moment that day he needed to lock out the rest of the world and concentrate on the two of them.

"Lance?"

"Hey Fred," he said in a soft voice. He sighed a sigh of relief finding that she was ok. She looked a bit stressed, but looked no worse than she had that morning. For a minute out in a hallway, when he'd heard Spanky yelling, he'd thought something had gone seriously wrong, but it looked fairly normal from where he stood in the doorway. Her bags were next to his on the other bed in the room and she was there. Nothing could be that wrong if she was still there waiting for him.

She sleepily raised her head and blinked at him a few times trying to keep her eyes open. She looked around, dazed a little bit then asked, "What time is it?"

Lance kicked off his shoes and scrambled across the bed and curled up to her. He spooned up against her, moving her hair from her neck and placed a kiss near her ear. "It's still really early...go back to sleep. I got your message and I came over."

"Brennan called," she said sleepily and turned so that she could curl up against him. She found a spot against his chest, pressed her cheek tightly to him and hugged him before she moved to place a kiss on his chin.

Lance's mouth dropped open as he processed the information. "What?"

"Don't stress out," she said, "Spanky yelled at him already. He basically said what he said on the tv report, just had to deliver the message in person."

"Fred, why did you even talk to him?" He didn't mean to sound that way, but he was very disappointed in her. He'd thought he'd done enough to keep her away from Brennan and when he'd been gone Brennan had managed to get to her.

"I don't know." She sighed and squeezed him, "I should have just hung up on him. I just--"

"Well it doesn't matter now," Lance said stopping her. He was even more stressed than he'd been on the way over to see her and he needed to stop an argument before he started one. "Don't worry about it...everything is going to be ok."

"You keep saying that," she said looking up at him. Her voice shook with emotion, "How can you be so sure?"

"I'm not at all sure," he said and squeezed her closer to her. He moved so that she was more comfortable against him then reached with his free hand to grab up the covers. He threw the comforter over her and tucked her in around her. "I don't know at all what is going to happen, but I've been through a lot worse and have gotten through it just fine. I mean what else could be worse that the whole Pearlman incident. That turned my life upside down and sideways, but the group of us got through it."

"What about the group?" she asked. She sat up a little and rested her hand on his chest so that she could look at him comfortably. "I mean you ditched them today...are they going to be mad?"

"They'll get over it,"Lance said praying that he was right about that. He moved her hair out of her face and tucked it behind her ear. He placed a kiss on his finger then placed it to her lips. "Whatever decisions I make that have to do with them won't effect us. Hey know that."

He was sure that he'd hear something about it, but he knew that the guys wouldn't get totally over excited about it. His rage in front of Melinda would probably get him in more trouble than anything and the finger he threw at the people in the hallway wouldn't go unnoticed, but for the most part he'd probably get a slap on the hand for his behavior.

"Are you sure?" she asked, "I mean its one thing for me to do things...What I do effects me, Elena, and you, but what you do effects a whole group of people that I'm not sure I want to even think about. I just hope that they aren't going to be disappointed."

"Disappointed?" he moved his head to look at her from where he had been laying, "No one is going to be disappointed."

Her sigh was heavy before she spoke, "I just hope that all this trouble is worth it."

"It is," he said and squeezed her against him. "I started this whole press thing and I intend to not let it get to us. It was stupid for me to even start things off between us like that. I should have known how much of a pain in the butt it was going to be."

"You know," she said, "If it ever gets to be too much, I mean I'll understand if you and I--"

"Oh no!" Lance sat up. "Oh hell no girl. You're not backing out on me now...I'm not letting that happen."

"But Lance, all that's gone on since we started seeing each other has been drama. Are you sure you want to keep this up?"

"Fred, I'm not giving up," he said, "I've worked too hard on this. First I had to convince you to love me and I'm not going to let that work go to waste."

"It wasn't that much work," she said with a smile.

"Maybe not to you, but to me it was," he said.

"I'm sorry for making you working so hard. I loved you all along," she said softly.

"Sure you did," he said with a laugh, "I'm sure that you slapped me that one time just for fun then?"

"No," she said, "No that day I really hated you."

"Well I'm glad you changed your mind after that day."

"I am too," she said, "I just want to keep this going well. No regrets."

"No regrets," he squeezed her. "No regrets ever."

"Eva, eva?" she said with a cute kiddy voice.

"Never."

* * * * *

The pounding noise of someone knocking on the door woke him from his nap. He looked around for a moment then found where the noise was. "Lance! Phone!"

Lance pushed himself off the bed where he'd been curled up to Willa and went to the door, stretching his arms and cracking his back as he went. He pulled the door open. "What?"

Chris grimaced at him. "Sorry man. There's a call for you."

"Who is it?" He asked knowing that anyone important would call his cell phone.

"Do you know a guy named Kenneth Clope?"

Lance thought for a moment, running through his mind all the business contacts he could think of. "No?"

"Well he's on the phone and he needs to talk to you."

Lance looked back and made sure that Willa was still asleep then left the room. "Ok?" Lance said and walked across the room to where the hotel phone on the desk was laying off the hook.

Lance settled himself in a seat. "Hello?"

"Lance, Kenneth Clope. Do you remember me?"

"No?" he said, "Should I?"

"I met you in the Orlando Airport a few weeks ago. You were waiting for your girlfriend and I was waiting for my wife."

After a moment the guy's face appeared in his head. "Oh...yeah I remember," he said, "How'd you get this number?"

"It took some doing, but I got the number through your management company."

"What can I do for you?" Lance asked.

"Well actually it's what I can do for you. A friend of mine is a lawyer in New York and came down to visit me the other day. You remember how I told you that my daughter has a picture of you and your group on her wall?"

"Vaguely," he said.

"Well my lawyer friend, Rudgar O'Mear saw the picture of you and started telling me about how he had someone come into his office a few weeks ago and try to set up some papers that would prove a pregnancy. They asked about you."

"What?"

"I know its a big coincidence that I'd met you in the airport, and I'm sure my friend will lose his licence for me telling you this, but they are planning something and I thought you should know. My daughter was in tears over it when Rudgar told us the story so I thought I'd better track you down. It's taken me a while to finally get through."

"Thanks Kenneth."

"Look. I know that you're a busy guy, my daughter was telling me that you're up in New York for a week of press stuff, but I'm flying up to New York tomorrow on business and I thought we could meet up. Rudgar ended up not taking the case for those people, but he spent an afternoon with them and has paperwork that I think you should see."

"Thanks," Lance said. He thought for a moment. "I don't know how much this means to me. I mean this whole thing has been in the news."

"I saw. Trust my daugther to get me involved in something like this. My daughter clued me in, basically told me everything about you, and although I can't do anything really myself, I'm no lawyer, I thought you should know."

Lance smiled. Never again would he say another bad thing about a fan. If this little girl could save his realtionship with Willa she'd have free tickets for a lifetime to any concert she wanted to see. "Is your daughter in school this week?"

"Yeah."

"Is she there right now?"

"Yes," he said, "Why?"

Lance took a breath and thought. "I have a surprise for your daughter, it'll make you the best father in the world if you say its ok."

"What is it?"

"If you say its ok I can get her passes for a press conference we're having on Friday. You can come by, deliver the papers and have lunch with us. I'm sure your daughter would love it. If your friend is in town I'd love to meet with him."

"I'm sure I could set something up like that," Kenneth said.

"Well then I'll see you on Friday? You know where we're staying so why don't we meet around nine in the morning?"

"Sounds good to me."

"I'll see you then," Lance said.

After hanging up the phone Lance slapped the table and everyone looked at him.

"What the hell is going on?" Justin asked.

"Have you seen Melinda?"

"I think she went to take a nap," Justin said.

"Which room is she in?" he asked.

"Next door, two down on the right," Justin said.

"Great."

"What's going on?" Willa asked coming out of the bedroom with a sleepy look in her eyes.

"I'm going to kick some ass, that's what's going on!"

Willa appeared in the doorway.

"Huh?" She said.

Lance went to her side, hugged her in a huge hug and whispered into the side of her head as he hugged her, "I told you that I was going to fix this and I'm going to keep that promise to you."


SIXTEEN


Friday came too soon for Willa. After a few days of running around in circles, trying to keep track of her schedule and Lance's she was dead tired. It was bad enough when they were in different cities, but trying to coordinate seeing each other when they were in the same city and working was a whole new and backbreaking ordeal. She couldn't remember when she'd made more calls on her cell phone than during that week.

When she pushed her way into the bathroom that morning after waking up alone she found Lance standing, just out of the shower, brushing his teeth. She smiled at the way they'd become so domestic with each other. Every morning that week they'd woken up, showered (sometimes together-sometimes not depending on how much time they had), and had shared the bathroom as they were getting ready for the day. She didn't know at first how much that little time with him each morning would become precious to her, but by lunchtime she was thinking back on those moments. Those boring little moments together, with him brushing his teeth and getting dressed hoping that they would have more calm moments like that together.

It had been a long week. With the worry over the whole court mess, her schedule of three print shoots and an interview with a new designer, and Lance's busy schedule of press events, it seemed as if they barely saw each other during the day. From the time they woke up in the morning until the time they went to sleep at night there seemed to be something scheduled. It wasn't at all the perfect schedule for either of them, but at least they weren't talking to each other over the phone. They had those few minutes before they went to sleep at night and those early morning moments before the alarm went off, that seemed to keep them going.

"Hey," Lance said with a mouthful of toothpaste as he brushed his teeth, "What are you doing today?"

"This morning I have to go to see Elena, get my schedule and stuff, then I have to meet with a new photographer." She moved to the counter next to him and as she passed she placed a kiss on his bare neck where it met with his shoulder. Settling herself on the edge of the counter she picked up her brush and began to pull it through her hair. "I'm going to meet you and that Kenneth guy for lunch."

"Good," he said and spit.

Willa had made a face at that action the first morning that he'd spit in front of her, but now she knew his drill and knew that it wasn't because he wanted to be gross.

He rinsed his mouth out then looked at her with a smile. "All better."

Taking the hint Willa leaned and kissed him quickly. "What about you?" she asked.

"I have a radio thing in about twenty minutes," he turned to the mirror and began to work on his hair. "Then I have a press thing at FAO Swartz, which I'm sure will run over. I need to do some shopping, but I'm sure they'll make us pose with those damn dolls for extra long. Then I'm going to head to lunch while the guys go to Planet Hollywood."

"I still can't believe that my boyfriend has his own Barbie doll. I better not catch you cheating on me with Barbie or Skipper." She laughed.

"It's not a damn Barbie doll. It's an ACTION FIGURE."

"I thought it was an marionette."

He nodded and reached out and pinched her side teasing her.

"What'd they say about your lunch?" she asked. She turned to the mirror and began to pull her hair back into a ponytail. She'd washed it the night before and it would get washed again when the shoot started so she thought she'd only slip into the shower and get clean before she left.

"What? The guys?" he asked.

"Yeah."

"They know that its important and me missing lunch with them isn't at all something that would piss them off. Johnny knows what's going on and Melinda even offered to go with me to lunch. She made sure that the lawyer gets a ride into the city. He's going to show up and eat with us." He didn't look at her while he fixed his hair then he turned and smiled at her. "Look ok?"

Willa moved her hand to his forehead and wiped away some gel that had gotten accidentally put there and laughed a little, "You really are spoiled, you know that, don't you?"

"The only reason I'm spoiled is because I got to spend the week with you," he said.

"Yeah, like we even spent that much time together." She sighed. If she counted up the time they spent together it probably wasn't much, but at least they were there in the same room unlike the time when she'd been in Europe and Australia.

"That's not the point. It was the fact that I got to go through my day thinking about how many hours instead of how many days it would be until I saw you that got me through."

She turned her head and looked at him. She smiled, "You know what?"

"Hmmm," he said as he leaned and moved her robe away from her neck and placed a kiss on the skin that was now bare.

"You really are the mushiest guy I know."

"Mushiest?" he asked with a smile, "Is that even a word?"

"Of course it is," she said with a nod. She leaned her head a little towards him as he kissed her cheek.

"Just making sure," he said. He pulled away from her.

"Where are you going?" she asked.

"Unless you want me to go out in public in this towel, I think I should get dressed," he said, "If we were back home I'm sure I'd stay in this all day, but it's kinda cold out there."

"Oh...yeah," she said.

"And young lady, you should put something on too if you don't want to get assaulted on the streets," he said. He smacked at her bottom playfully and left her in the bathroom.

Willa finished doing her hair, pulling it out of the way then jumped in the shower and quickly washed off. She returned to her robe again and made her way out to their room. Lance was already dressed and was collecting up his things to leave. She found him digging through the rumpled covers on the bed.

"Have you seen my watch?" he asked.

"It's on the nightstand," she said.

He looked up and immediately retrieved it.

"So I'll meet you back here at eleven then?" she asked.

"Yep, Kenneth and his daughter are going to meet us at twelve thirty downstairs for lunch and the lawyer should be checked in and waiting for us here."

"Ok. Call me if you change your plans." She knew he would probably call anyway since he had every other day, but she wanted to remind him to talk to her while she was out and about.

"Have fun with Elena today. Tell her that I wish I could come to visit, but duty calls."

"Duty, yeah right."

"It's hard being me."

"Yeah right." She let out a laugh.

"Just tell her hi then," he said.

"Will do," she said and leaned towards him. It was that type of kiss that seemed comfortable and expected, as if their day couldn't continue unless they kissed each other good-bye. Willa loved that about him. He was very traditional and very non-traditional at the same time and although she was an independent woman, kissing her "hubby" on his way out the door to work always seemed to leave her in a good mood for the rest of the day.

"I'll see ya."

"Stay calm," he said then opened the door. "I love you Fred."

"I love you too," she said and watched him disappear.


"Dahling!" Elena greeted her upon her entrance into the little cave known as Elena's desk. As usual things looked out of control, but Willa had the feeling that it was more creatively organized than unorganized. She'd never lost any of Willa's paper work and didn't think that she would start any time soon.

Willa looked around, saw the pile of papers and said, "Busy much lately sweetie?"

"Not like you miss rock star," Elena joked as the two women shared a hug.

"Yeah…sure…" She sighed and thought of how busy Lance had been that week. "I'm not the one who's been running around in circles all day long. That's Lance."

Elena smiled a wide smile. "And how is your boy?"

"He's fine." She could tell that she was blushing or something from the way Elena smiled knowingly at her, "He's at meetings all day so I came by to see you."

"He let you off your leash?"

"It isn't that bad. I've been working while he's been here. I don't see him except when we're sleeping."

"So you have been staying over there with him."

"That's not your business Elena," Willa said firmly, but could tell that she was blushing more from the way Elena chuckled.

"Where's the monster?" Elena asked standing up and looking over the edge of her cubicle.

Willa pushed her down into her seat. "He's not a monster. SPANKY is in the lobby reading a book."

"Ok first off I can't believe that he can read and second of all I still can't believe you travel with that guy."

"It's come in handy a few times actually," Willa said and perched herself on the edge of the desk.

"What? Does he carry your luggage for you or something?" Elena made an elephant noise. "I'm sure he makes a good pachyderm."

"Elena!" She covered her mouth as she tried not to picture Spanky with huge ears like dumbo. "That's so bad. I don't know what I'd do without Spanky around. And he's not a pachyderm. He's a great guy who is trying to help me stay sane."

"Sane?" Elena said. "You lost that status when you started dating the rock star."

"Lance isn't a rock star. He's…"

Elena made a sour face. "Admit it. A million little kids love the boy. I'd call him a member of a boy band or whatever but I'm sure you'd rip my head off for that too. I think the last I heard Justin was calling them a DUDE band, whatever that means."

Willa laughed then stopped when she noticed herself laughing. Other than the little time she'd spent with Lance that week she couldn't remember a time that she'd laughed. She'd been too tired from everything to even try to laugh, which was something considering they were staying with Chris and Joey. Those two were the funniest guys, but she couldn't remember if she'd laughed at their jokes this trip.

Willa's phone rang in her pocket so she fished it out not bothering to look at the caller ID. She thought it would be Lance and no one else had been calling her that week so she didn't think twice about just answering.

"Hello."

"Hi honey, how are you holding up?"

"Mom?" she asked. It didn't quiet sound like her, but it wasn't Lance or anyone else who she thought would be asking.

"Willa it's Diane, Lance's mom," the voice said.

"Oh," she said and the information seemed to seep through, "Oh. Hi. Did Lance call you or something?"

"You know my boy too well," Diane said, "He wanted me to check up on you a little and see how you were. He and I had a conference call a while ago and he told me to tell you that he's going to be busy until you guys meet up at lunch."

"I can't believe he's making you be a message service," Willa said.

Elena got a phone call so the two women sat and spoke to different people on the phone.

"I don't mind. I haven't seen you or heard from you in a while so I wanted to make sure that you were ok."

"I'm fine and actually this week has been good." She wondered if she knew that Lance had booked her in to stay at the hotel with the others. When they'd been in the presence of his mother and father before there hadn't been much mention of the two of them being that close. Sure they were dating and were close in that sense, but she wasn't sure how open Lance was with his parents about the more romantic parts of his life.

"I heard that you two have been putting up with some crazy reporters."

"Yeah, well we got thrown into this whole court thing...he told you didn't he?...anyway it's all way too complicated, if you ask me."

"Lance was saying you have a meeting today?"

"Yep," she said, "Hopefully we can get some of this stuff settled and move on with things."

Elena's call ended and the phone rang immediately again. "AMY YOU LITTLE!"

"Well honey it sounds like you are busy. I'll let you go. You know you can always come down and escape to good old Brandon, Mississippi if you need to get away."

"Thanks Mrs. Bass," she said.

"No trouble honey," Willa said.

Willa hung up the phone and listened to Elena's conversation.

"No I'm not going to tell you how to get in touch with Willa. She doesn't really want to talk to you right now. The only people I'm allowed to let have her number are her friends and you AREN'T one of them. I'm surprised that you even would side with that ass BRENNAN!"

Willa stood back and watched Elena go into protective mode. There was no stopping her when she was fighting with someone.

The noise must have been loud because people around them were looking over the cubicle and soon Spanky came to find her.

While the yelling continued Spanky spoke to her, "I thought someone was attacking you or something from the noise that she's making," he said with a laugh.

Elena spattered out a string of swear words.

"Elena is just explaining to my 'friend' Amy there that she doesn't need to get a hold of me and shouldn't at all expect that I would want to get in touch with her."

"We should get out of here and get back to the hotel," Spanky said looking at his watch.

"Sounds good," she said.

Willa waved to Elena, mid yell, and put her hand up for Elena to call her later. Elena leaned over and kissed Willa's cheek then went back to her conversation.


 

Willa found herself feeling very nervous as they approached the restaurant. Lance had met her upstairs after his latest morning meeting and they were making their way to eat with the escorts of Spanky and Wes and Lance's lawyer Mr. Grant Jacobs. The guys were on alert, like normal, but now it seemed as if Willa had taken on their attitude. She was scanning the huge lobby like Spanky and Wes both were. She didn't know exactly what she was looking for. She just knew that she needed to keep an eye out. She wasn't at all comfortable being there and going to the meeting and she had a feeling as if this coincidence was too good to be true. She felt that this meeting was going to get them into more trouble instead of getting them out of trouble.

She looked over at Lance. Compared to him she was a complete mess. He was a pillar of strength. He had his shoulders back and was walking like he always walked. A normal smile graced his lips. That half smile with his eyes looking lazy as if he was completely relaxed. Completely secure with everything going on around him. She hated that. She squeezed his hand. If she was ever in need of a pep talk, it was now.

He turned to her slowly and looked at her as if was trying to make sure she really had wanted to get his attention. "Huh?"

"How come you don't look nervous?" she asked. She moved her hand so that their fingers were laced together; palm to palm. Somehow the action made her feel safer. She was standing with Wes and Spanky and him, but the touch of his hand did more for her than any bodyguards could do.

"Because I'm not," he said. He moved his arm and pulled her closer so that their shoulders touched as they made their way to the restaurant. "I know that this meeting is going to get rid of Brennan and Amy and that will be that."

"I hope so."

"You hope so?" He stopped and looked at her, "What's wrong?"

Spanky and Wes stopped and looked at the two of them with worried looks on their faces. The lobby was fairly crowded and the chance of being caught up in a fan frenzy was high considering that everyone knew that the guys were in the city.

"Nothing," she said with a sigh. She looked around the room just to make sure that no one was staring at them or anything. She'd felt eyes on her for most of that morning, even when she'd been alone. "I just don't like the feeling of someone being out to destroy me." Her sarcasm faded after that and was replaced by a more whining tone, "I mean what did I ever do to deserve this." She felt her eyes tear up and Lance pulled her into a hug.

"Nothing is going to happen to you," Lance said, "If it comes down to you leaving New York or leaving your job or whatever, I'm not going to let it ruin you."

"Leaving New York?" she asked, "I don't want to leave New York. I like New York. I love New York!"

"Calm down," he said.

Wes tapped him on the shoulder and they made the silent decision to head in the restaurant.

Once they were seated, with Wes and Spanky at a table close by, Lance looked at his watch, "We're a little early."

Willa sat in her chair and stared at him angrily.

"What?" he asked.

She leaned towards him across the table and spoke in a low angry voice. "What? What was all that about me leaving New York and my job?" she asked.

"Nothing," he said. His eyes went wide for a moment as if he was surprised she was angry with him. "I just wanted…want…you to know that if it comes down to something extreme I'm going to be there for you and make sure that you have everything you need or could ever want. I just don't want you to be worrying about how this is going to effect your life."

"How can I not?" she said, "They've accused me of something horrible, thrown my name all over the place. How can I not have it effect me?"

"Fred, calm down. I thought the comment would make you feel better but I guess its just stressing you out." Lance dropped back in his seat and frowned.

Willa was about to lean over to explain her feelings to him when a girl who looked to be about twelve rushed to the table. Wes got out of his seat and started to pull her away from the table.

"No," she said desperately looking at Lance. "I'm supposed to be here. My dad is late and I came to tell you."

"Wes, it's ok," Lance said, "It's Kenneth's daughter."

"Yep," she said with a smile, "I'm Jasmine."

"Well nice to meet you Jasmine," Willa said with a smile. She scooted over and the girl slid into the seat next to her.

Lance's eyes scanned the room quickly. "So where is your father?"

"He went to go meet up with his friend and got caught in traffic. I stayed here at the hotel so he called me and told me to come and tell you that he was going to be late."

"Well that was nice of you," Willa tired to focus on Jasmine and keep the rest of her worries away from the front of her brain.

Everything was going smoothly until Grant showed up at the table. Willa could tell that something was up due to the nervous state of the lawyer. When they'd parted ways only a few minutes before he'd been completely confident and not at all effected by the meeting, but now he looked like he was about to go to court of something. He leaned over and spoke into Lance's ear and Lance looked at Willa. "Are you sure?" Lance asked.

"Yep," Grant said softly. His eyes twitched and somehow Lance seemed to take some kind of hint from the action.

"Fred, you know what?" Lance began to slide out of his seat, "I forgot something in the room. Will you come with me?"

"Can't you go by yourself?" she asked.

"I forgot my phone and Grant said that my mother was trying to get a hold of me."

"You already talked to your mom today," she said. She looked at Jasmine who seemed to be perplexed by the whole situation.

"Willa." His voice shook with emotion now. "I need you to come with me upstairs."

Willa watched his eyes. He looked worried so she waited until Jasmine moved out of the booth and Willa slid out and joined Lance as he slid out of the booth.

"We'll be back," Lance said, worry evident in his voice.

"What's going on?" she asked as she left Grant and Jasmine at the table and followed Lance, Spanky, and Wes across the lobby.

"I'll tell you upstairs," Lance said as they stepped into the elevator.


SEVENTEEN


"What was that all about?" she asked. She stopped herself from throwing a fit and pointed a hand out into the hallway as she followed him into the confines of their suite.

"Nothing," Lance said as if they were having a normal conversation and she hadn't asked him why he'd just practically run away from a meeting. She hated that he was so calm about all of this. It just made her even more jumpy about everything.

"Tell me," she demanded as he walked further into the room without looking back at her. She paused near the doorway and tried to keep her temper. She didn't want to fight with him. She needed him now more than she ever thought she would, but at the same time she needed to get some things out in the open. She felt, at that moment, that he was being too overprotective with her. Most of the time that was a good thing, but today she needed to be a part of the action. She needed to know what was going on so that she felt like she'd be able to take care of herself on her own if something were to keep Lance from being there with her.

"The guy was going to scam us and the lawyer told me to disappear," he said. He took off his pager and his cell phone and placed them on the long table behind the couch then paused for a moment to read a piece of paper there before moving into the living room area. "If I had taken the information the guy had for us it would have done more harm than good so I thought it would be best to disappear before the guy got there. The guy wasn't a lawyer and whatever information he had for the two of us, IF it were actual information, would have put us in the wrong. We would have been receiving stolen goods or whatever. The lawyer tried to explain it to me, but all I needed to hear was that it was stolen."

"What about that little girl?" she asked. She walked into the room and leaned against the table where Lance had left his pager and phone. She ran a finger over the numbers on the phone then looked up at him.

"Maybe he thought that we'd stay longer if she was there and it turns out he was right. I could see it in your eyes that you wanted to sit and talk with her. He would have used that against us I'm sure," Lance explained.

Willa turned away from him and stomped her foot. "When is this shit going to end?" she asked. She turned back around and wiped her face as tears began to fall. Lance had taken a seat on the couch in front of the television so she went and plopped down next to him. He gave her a sympathetic smile and hugged her close.

Trying to concentrate on something else, Willa's eyes went in search of the remote control. She hadn't seen it earlier; but then again, she wasn't really looking for it then either. "I think it's not going to end for a while honey. I know that you want it to, and of course I want it to too, but this is a big deal. If Amy and Brennan can keep this up long enough the bad press will do some damage like they want it to. We just need to stay strong and make sure that we stick together on this one."

Willa's stomach jumped at the thought of sticking together with Lance. She hadn't thought about it until then, but she tried to picture herself with him in the future. When she was younger it seemed as if she always tried to picture herself growing old and gray with her boyriends, but with Lance there was something different about him. She really could picture herself with him. She saw them sitting in Orlando as old folks chatting and talking, but at the same time she wasn't sure if she could sit back and wait for all the commotion to die down so that she could enjoy her later years.

"I don't feel good," she said and leaned against his shoulder. Her stomach growled and she leaned over a bit. She'd never had an ulcer, but she could feel the nervous energy eating away at her from the inside out.

"What's wrong Fred?" he asked.

"My stomach hurts and this whole thing is really starting to give me a headache." She stretched out then curled into a ball and snuggled closer to him.

Lance flipped on the television. "We don't have anything scheduled for an hour or so. Hang out for awhile and we'll see how things go. Once the guys get back we'll be busy again and then it'll be easier for you to keep your mind off of all this."

"Hmm," she said with droopy eyes.

Willa nodded and moved her head into a more comfortable position on his shoulder to sleep. Lance lifted a hand up to her head and patted her hair then pressed a kiss to her forehead. "Try an relax Willa."

With one arm curled around her stomach and one arm curled around him, across his chest, she fell asleep still worried about the court case that was looming over them.


"Elena, I need a favor," Willa said softly into the phone. She held the receiver of the phone with too hands. She'd been shaking ever since she'd left the other room and was now having a hard time getting the words out of her mouth that she wanted to say.

An explosion in the movie in the other room made a loud noise and she found herself jumping. She'd been on edge most of the afternoon and evening. When the guys had returned to the hotel for the night she had planned to hang out with them, but now, as they all were sucked into a movie, she found herself wanting to be alone.

"What was that?" Elena asked with a lazy tone. She seemed concerned, but not at all surprised to hear that something crazy was going on behind Willa.

"The guys are watching a movie in the other room…some beat them up and kick them in the balls or something kind of movie," Willa said in a whisper and looked around the bedroom. She let her eyes linger on the suitcases on the dresser and the bags on the floor.

Side by side. It seemed perfect, her stuff lined up next to Lance's, all neat and orderly as if they were made to be together that way, but somehow today she'd gotten discouraged and felt that they would never fit together like other couples did. No matter how hard she tried she knew that there would always be something holding them back. Whether it be her career or his or the whole thing with Brennan or the press, something seemed to be keeping them apart.

"What's wrong honey?" Elena asked.

"I need to go shopping tomorrow, you know, get away from Lance for a bit, but I need you to go with me," she said. She picked at her fingernail a little as she tried to keep her nerve. She had to do this. She'd been feeling a little overwhelmed by everything the last few days and she needed an escape. In the old days she would go hide out with Amy, but now that her friendship with her was no longer something that she had to lean on she found herself dialing Elena instead.

"Why are you whispering?" she asked.

"Please Elena, don't ask," she said. Tears came to her eyes and she wondered again if she was right about her guess. Being over emotional usually wasn't something that she suffered from, but since the meeting that morning she'd found herself feeling a little more than emotional about stupid thing. "I'll explain it to you tomorrow. Can you meet me for lunch at the hotel?"

"Sure," Elena said, "How about noon?"

"Sounds good," Willa sighed.

"What are we going shopping for?" Elena asked, "I need to stop by and pick up some film I had developed and I need to shop for a new outfit for the summer kick off party."

"Summer kick off?" she asked, "It's still snowing outside you doof."

"I know," Elena said, "But I have to be prepared."

Willa heard her shuffling papers and wondered if Elena was still working. It was just after eight at night, but Elena had been known to work most of the evening from her home. Willa had caught her on more than a few occasions wheeling and dealing into the night. "If it's lingerie I'm not the one to ask honey. Besides I feel kind of like your mother and I don't want to know what you are or aren't showing your man."

"No," Willa said and took a deep breath as her stomach flip-flopped for the twentieth time that hour. "I have to go to the drug store."

"I'm not buying you and your man condoms," Elena rambled off, "You're old enough to do that on your own. Didn't you ever hear that speech in school about abstinence being the best way to keep from getting--"

"No," Willa said with a whine, "I'm not buying condoms. Actually it's probably too late for those to be effective anyway." She turned and stared at the door praying that it wouldn't open and Lance wouldn't hear the conversation.

There was a pause in the conversation. "Are you saying that I think you're saying?" Elena asked.

"Yes," Willa said with a sigh. There was going to be no easy way around this. Elena wanted to hear the news and wasn't going to stop until she got what she wanted. "I need to go get a pregnancy test."

"What makes you think you need one? Other than the obvious." She chuckled. "Excuse me for asking this, but how is that guy in bed? I imagine that Justin and the other one, what's his name? JC would be good, but Lance seems a little shy in that department."

"My sex life is just fine," Willa said with a smile thinking of the last few nights she'd spent with Lance. They didn't have sex every night, but Willa thought she got just as much joy out of just being there with him than anything else. "Thank you very much. I've felt sick since this morning and I've done all my tricks to get my stomach to settle and they aren't working so I figured I better do a check just in case."

Elena changed the tone of her voice into one of concern and half "I-told-you-so" tone. "Your mother is going to kill me you know?"

"My mother?" she asked, "Lance is going to kill me if he finds out about this."

There was a noise behind her and soon Lance appeared in the doorway.

"Hey," he said softly poking his head into the room. "I thought you might have gone to sleep so I came in to check on you."

"Nope," she said holding the phone away from her mouth, "I was just making plans to go shopping with Elena tomorrow. I would have called out there, but the movie was kind of loud."

"Oh," he said. He rubbed his forehead and spoke loudly, "Hey Elena."

Willa could hear Elena laugh.

"Are you going to come back out or are you going to go to bed?" he asked.

"I think I'm going to hit the sheets," she held up a hand up to him to pause their conversation then spoke into the phone, "Noon tomorrow and we'll go shopping, right Elena?"

"Sure," Elena said, "Give Lance kisses for me."

"Of course," Willa said then turned back to Lance after hanging up the phone. "Are you going to go to sleep?" she asked.

"I think so. The guys are out watching the movie, but I need a shower and some extra sleep. After tomorrow I've got to fly out to Colorado, then to Orlando for a few days then back to Mississippi then back to wherever the hell this court case is going to be held."

Willa rubbed the palm of her hand across the back of her neck. "I guess I'll go stay at the house again after tonight," she said.

Lance watched her. "You could come with me if you wanted to."

Willa wished that she could. SHe'd been thinking about it for a while now and she wondered if she should take it easy for a while and take the summer off to travel with him. SHe knew that it would be career suicide, but she almost wanted all the fame to go away. Only a part o her still remained that liked the life that she lived.

"No," she said, "I should stay here. I need to stay in New York for a while." She held her stomach and prayed that she was going to be ok. All of a sudden she felt light-headed.

"Are you still feeling sick?" he asked.

"A little," she said, "Ever since that meeting this morning my stomach has been in knots."

"Why don't you go jump in the hot tub downstairs?" he asked, "You look a little stressed out Fred."

"I would," She sighed and leaned back against the mattress, "but I just don't want to leave the room. I feel drained all of a sudden."

"Want to jump in the shower or even the tub with me?" he asked. He looked at her sideways, almost with a laugh connected to the comment.

Willa smiled at the thought of being there with him. She had taken showers with him before, but this one would be taken at a little more leisurely pace, "What about the other guys?"

"They all can't fit in that tub. I think it's only made for two." He winked at her.

Willa blushed, "I meant what about them being here. I don't want them to be standing outside listening to us in the bathroom."

Lance put his hands up, "I was just going to shower. I don't know what you're going to do."

"You're too much," she said and got up and went over to him. She slid her arms around him, "What am I going to do with you?"

"Punish me?" he said with a low rumbling voice then covered his mouth and with a shocked voice responded to his own comment, "Did I say that out loud?"

"Yes you did my dear," she said and leaned in.

His arms slid nicely around her and pulled her close and for an instant she forgot everything. He was standing so close that she could easily lean and touch her lips to him, so instead of holding back, she let herself go and tried to remember what it was like before there was all the drama in their lives. She first kissed his chin then moved up and planted a big kiss on his lips before she leaned back from him to talk to him, "I need a little distraction today and I think you may be able to help me with that."

"You mean I'm just a distraction now?" he asked sounding as if he was seriously hurt by her comment. If she didn't know better she would have thought that he was being serious, but she knew that he was probably just kidding.

"Of course not honey," she said. Her hand moved up to his cheek. "You need to shave," she said with a soft voice then moved her hands around to massage his neck. "You know what I mean. I know that you'll get my mind off of some of the other crap that has been going on and I have a feeling you need some distraction too."

"Its not your mind I was hoping to seduce," he said.


EIGHTTEEN


"Tell me again why we're hiding this from Lance?" Elena asked. She touched Willa's back as they scanned the isle in the grocery store for the pregnancy test they'd come looking for.

"I'm not sure if I can tell him just like that." WIlla was distracted by all the boxes on the shelves and didn't try to hide her nervousness. "After everthing that has gone on, I still have a hard time just telling him things and this isn't just something you blurt out over dinner or say to someone before you go to sleep at night."

"He's leaving today isn't he?" Elena asked.

"No tomorrow...in the morning," she said, "He's going to be busy for the next month so its one of those now-or-never times for the two of us."

"What do you think he'll say?" she asked. Her tone was soft in the store as other patrons walked by.

"I don't know. I don't know." Willa faced Elena and tears welled up in her eyes.

Elena dug in her purse and retrieved a tissue for her. "Don't start falling apart on me now honey. You don't even know whether you are or you aren't yet."

"I know Elena." Willa wiped her face careful to leave her make up in place. If she was going to go back to the hotel and stay with Lance until the next morning when he left New York she was going to have to look at least half normal in front of him. "I can't explain it, but I know."

"Well, well, those little Bass spermies are really a lot more powerful that I would have thought. And I wasn't even sure that you and the guy were sleeping together."

"We were. We are," Willa said.

"Either way you know I'm here for you right?" Elena said. "I know the modeling thing may be messed up a little if you have a kid, but I'm sure you'll be a beautiful mother and hey...there are some good maternity magazines and fashion lines I'm sure you could work with."

Willa burst into tears. "I never even thought about that. I'm going to have to move back in with my parents. This is going to suck. My parents are going to kill me."

"Oh honey, you don't have to do that." Elena pulled her into a hug and rubbed her back. "I wasn't saying I'd leave you to deal with this on your own. I know I may just be your agent and all, but really. I think of you as one of my kids and I wouldn't let anything happen to you."

Spanky moved towards them and WIlla looked at him. "Don't you dare tell Lance about this SPanky. It's one thing to tell him about the apartment getting trashed and the calls from Brennan, but you have to swear not to mention this to him."

"Yeah you big goon!" Elena said.

"Goon?" he asked, "What about you miss thing?"

"Stop it," Willa said, "I don't need you two fighting."

"Fine Willa," he said softly, the look of concern still in his eyes.


When the door opened Willa snatched up the tiny bag of things and slid them quickly behind her back. She didn't want him to find out the news about her condition by finding the box sitting on the counter. She had just gotten the news herself and was having a hard time processing it and she knew that she needed to figure out a good way to tell him the news.

"What are you hiding?" he asked trying to look around her to see what she seemed to be keeping from him.

"Nothing," she said and tried to counter his moves so that he wouldn't be able to see what she had.

Finally it seemed as if he'd given up. "How was your shopping trip with Elena?"

"Productive," she said.

"Did you get me anything?" he asked with a smile on his face.

"No." A laugh left her mouth. If only he knew what kind of present she was about to drop in his lap. She wasn't sure if he'd be so excited.

Lance moved his head again to see what was behind her and when she countered to hide it he finally stopped and looked at her. "Ok, I get it, you don't want me to see...I'll leave it alone."

"Let me go put this away ok?" she said.

He nodded.

She went and stuffed the pregnancy test back into the small paper bag then stuffed it under some of her clothes that were still in her bag. "How was your day?" she asked.

"Better than yesterday," he called to her from the living room of the suite. "You want to go get some dinner with me?"

Willa took a deep breath. She knew that she needed to eat dinner, but she wasn't at all really hungry. Her stomach was not only nervous now, but the other part of her stomach problems could now be placed on the fact that she was definitely pregnant and could be experiencing morning sickness, although it was late in the evening and she still felt sick.

"Willa?" he asked coming back into the room.

Willa turned and looked at him with sad eyes. She didn't know what to do. She thought when she was little that news like this would be something to celebrate, but the reality of the situation wasn't what she'd expected.

"Fred, what's wrong?" he asked. He crossed the room and pulled her into his arms. "Brennan and Amy didn't bother you again today did they?"

"No," she said and leaned her head against his shoulder as he hugged her. "I'm..." She took a breath and pressed herself against him knowing that she may lose him for good in a moment. She needed those last few moments with him before she prepared to let him go. "I got some news today...it could be good or it could be bad."

"What?" he asked, "Some new job in europe that's going to keep you away for a few months."

"Well its a new job," she said and pressed her cheek against him.

"Fred, honey, don't hide your face," he said, "Just tell me what's going on."

Willa leaned back, took a quick breath and spit out her news. "I'm pregnant."

Lance's eyes went wide and he stared at her. His arms fell from their places around her and he stepped back. "What?"

"It's all so blurry. I mean I thought that this would be a good thing then I thought it would be a bad thing. I don't know what to do and I don't know if--"

"Blurry?" he asked. He paced for a moment. "How long have you known?"

"Not long," she said.

"And you weren't going to tell me, were you?"

"I thought you'd be mad," she said.

"Of course I'm mad," he said. He walked towards the door, "My girlfriend is pregnant by another man. Why would I celebrate that."

"Wait, what?" she said, "I'm not--"

"Whatever Willa. Just leave it alone." He stared back at her for a moment then she saw him walk out of the room then heard the suite door slam.

Not really understanding what had just happened, Willa slid to the floor in a heap and began to cry. Only when Spanky came into the room did she pause her tears for a moment. "I don't know what I did wrong," she cried, "I thought it was going well then he just bugged out on me."

"Willa," Spanky began to pull her to her feet. He put his arms around her and hugged her, "Willa you need to focus honey. You're going to hyperventalate if you don't start breathing right."

"Focus?" she asked angrily and pushed away from him. "How can anything ever be in focus again? I just told the father of my baby that he's going to be a dad and he walked out on me. What do I do with that? What the hell do I do with that?"

Willa fell onto a heap on the bed and cried. "It's over," she mumbled, "This whole thing is over."



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