Spirit of Steel -- 32

Arena shows had their appeal, but club shows were his favorite.

Reaching all those people at once really was a high, but club shows let him feel a little more normal.  They brought him closer to the fans and closer to his music, forcing him to concentrate on the sound instead of the show.  It was also the only time where he could truly put away all the frustrations of his life.  He left all the phone interviews, all the contracts, all the business parts of the music business, everything that had made him fatigued that day or that week or that year off the stage.

It was something that happened instantly.  When he stepped up to the microphone at the front of the stage--his stage--all the tension in his shoulders relaxed and he found his toes tapping along to the beat that was coming from the rest of the band onstage.  It was a small stage compared to the regular tour stage, but he wouldn't have it any other way.

The first song seemed to go too quickly and soon he was talking to the crowd, welcoming them to the show and asking them if they were having a good time.  When he had a chance he took the microphone off the stand and walked to the side of the stage and grabbed a bottle of water from Trayce and that's when his mind clicked back into gear and he saw Carolina was standing there.  It was strange to have forgotten her through those few minutes of the show, but really his brain had kicked into it's own gear and he'd forgotten everything.

As he took a drink and kept his eyes on them half the time and on the crowd the other half of the time he told the same little story about how he loved playing to the smaller crowd and thanking everyone for buying the album and letting him be able to perform wherever he wanted to.  Most of it could be taken as an insincere story, but the feelings behind the story really were as sincere as they could get.  He knew that he was privileged and in the last few months he'd truly felt that he'd gotten an even better gift.  If he'd been on any other path in life he seriously wouldn't have ended up where he was now.  He wouldn't have met Carolina and he wouldn't be as happy as he was today.

With a wink to her he set his water bottle on the edge of the huge speaker that she was hiding behind before going back to the front of the stage.  He turned his head to the side of the stage and saw her putting up a video camera to her face.  He recognized it, even in the half dark, as one of the ones that Trayce normally carried around.  When he found Trayce had one also up to his face he wondered what the two of them were doing, but had to forget about them again when the band started into the next song.

The one thing that he always hated about club shows was that they seemed to go so quickly.  With no wardrobe changes or set changes he stayed on the stage for the whole hour and a half without interruption.  That night the only distraction he had from the show were the two or three times that he'd go and grab some of his water and see Carolina standing there smiling at him.  If he hadn't been worried about embarrassing her or putting her in the spotlight a little too soon in their relationship he would have pulled her along with him onstage, but he knew that NOT doing that was the right thing to do when they ended the show and he went to give her a hug on the side of the stage.

"I was afraid you were going to pull me out there," she openly admitted.

"Gotta save something for next time," he said with a wink and hugged her to him.

Todd soon appeared and motioned for the door.  Justin collected up his things and waved to the band and crew before slipping out the side door into a car with Carolina.

In the backseat, as soon as they pulled away from where fans had caught some pictures of them as they came outside, Justin put his arm across the back seat and pulled Carolina to his side.  He bent his head into her neck and kissed her.  "Have fun?"

"Yes," she said and seemed to not be able to sit still.  "I feel like partying.  Aren't rock stars supposed to go out partying after concerts?"

"We can go if you want to," he said hoping that there would be some other reason to keep them from partying.  He wanted to go back to their room and hang around without having to do it in public.  He'd waited long enough to be with her and he didn't want to have to wait through more hours of partying to be able to be normal around her.  "Hey Todd.  Did Mike check out that club for everyone?"

"Yeah," Todd said from the front seat.  Justin didn't like that.  For once he wish that his security crew wasn't as on the ball as they should have been.  "We're doing an after hours thing after everyone gets the stage cleaned up.  If you guys want to go out there we can go."

"Do you want to?" Justin asked with a sigh, suddenly feeling the fact that he'd been up since early that morning.

"If you want to," she said.

He looked at her in the dark car, able only to make out her features in the street lights that were whizzing by.  "I just want to be with you."

"We can go out and party with everyone another night if you want to go back to the room."

"You sure?"

"You don't seem like you're up to going out."

"Truthfully," he said, "I'm not all that hyped about going out."

She shrugged.  "Ok."

He didn't want to disappoint her since it was her vacation, but he really just wanted to lounge around for the next few days.  "I've got another show in a week.  We'll do a big party thing after that one."  He leaned his head back against the head rest of the seat he was in and closed his eyes for a moment.  "Plus we're going to be having a Christmas party so you'll get to party at least twice while you're here."

"That's fine," she said.

His eyes popped open.  She was disappointed.  He could hear it in her voice.  "Plus.  You've been up a long time--"

"Justin," she said, "It's ok.  With everyone assuming that we're going out tonight maybe we can hang out around the hotel without those girls running after us."

"I love you," he said with a sigh and a smile in her direction.  "Only you could think of getting away from fans."

She leaned towards him and put her mouth up to his ear.  "Well I'd like to start out your vacation without the complications of prying eyes."

"Really?"  He reached up and cupped her face towards him so that he could kiss her.

"Definitely," she said, "It started out that way back at your mom and dad's house so--"

"Good thinking," he said and kissed her again.

When the car pulled up to the hotel everyone piled out and they were driven out to the bungalow.  After Todd checked the room to make sure that no one was hiding in the closet or anywhere on the back porch he left them to themselves.

"Finally," Justin said with a sigh as he made sure the door was locked.  "I'm gonna go jump in the shower for a second."

She took a seat on the end of the bed and nodded.  "Ok."

He waved at her.  "The show was crazy tonight.  I'll just be a second."



When he returned from the shower dressed in only a towel she had opened up the back door.  With it being still in the 60s even this late at night, it was a treat to have the fresh air blowing through the room.  She'd taken a seat near the window after changing into sweatpants and a t-shirt.  She wasn't sure what they were going to do that night, but she figured if she dressed casually then maybe he'd take her for a walk out on the beach.

"You ok?" he asked stopping for a moment to watch her.

"A little tired," she said.  She didn't want to tell him that she was nervous about being there with him.  She knew that it was just him and everything would be ok, but after not seeing him in so long the anticipation of their time together was really throwing her a curve.  "But I think it's the island air.  I've always heard that being here relaxes you twenty times faster than any other place on the earth.

Justin shrugged and reached for boxers and shorts to change into.  After pulling on a wife beater he came over and had her move over so he could sit down and hold her in his lap.  They were facing out onto the ocean.  It was dark out past the point where the light from the room reached.  There must have been a fairly full moon because they could see the white caps of the waves slamming into the beach wildly.  Even the smell of the flowers that were planted out along the porch seemed to be smelling extra sweet that night.  It seemed almost overly romantic.

Carolina snuggled into his arms, letting one of her hands rub along his forearm that was curled across his stomach.  To sit there and be able to touch him was a treat.  They'd had weeks of conversation, but it was another thing to be there with him physically.  "So what do you want to do with your vacation?"

"Absolutely nothing," he said.

She looked outside.  It was in the middle of the night and yet she didn't want to stay inside and go to sleep.  Being there meant that she and Justin would probably fall into bed together, which was something she was looking forward to, but at the same time she didn't want to waste a great evening like this just to get into bed with him.  "Want to take a walk on the beach?"

"Sure," he said with a sigh.  "I'm not tired enough to go to sleep just yet anyway."

They got to their feet and slipped out the back door, closing it behind them.

Why did she feel as if they were sneaking out after curfew.  Neither of them were young enough for a real curfew, but for some reason, leaving through the backdoor made it seem as if they were doing something naughty.  "Do we need to tell Todd?"

"No." Justin shook his head and took a deep breath.  He reached for her hand when they stepped off the porch into the sand.  "No eyes on us for a while."

She nodded and smiled at him.

"I missed you these last few weeks," he said as they walked down towards the water.  His hand squeezed hers a bit before he pulled her hand to kiss the back of it.

It was a perfect night.  The moon wasn't quite full, as she'd seen from the room and the waves were fairly high and noisy, but the warmth of the air made it pleasant enough to stay out in the dark.  A few spot lights up closer to the main buildings of the hotel gave them enough light to see where they were going, but to not ruin the romantic mood of the evening.

"Can I ask you something?" he finally said just as they got to the edge of the water where the sand was wet and packed down a bit by the waves.

"Sure," she said.  She had to admit that it had crossed her mind earlier about being in Hawaii and being on the beach in this honeymoon-type atmosphere that she might be in more romantic places with him over the next few days.  Realizing that and hearing the seriousness in his voice scared her.

He cleared his throat and seemed to be pausing a little too long before he spoke again.  "I'm leaving on more tour dates in a few weeks."  He sighed.

The tension in her left when she heard what he wanted to talk to her about.  It wasn't going to be a marriage proposal.  She shook her head a little to clear those thoughts away.

"What?" he asked looking at her.

"Nothing," she said, "My hair was in my face and you've taken my hand captive."

"Oh," he said.

He seemed to be very nervous.  She could feel the heat of his palm against hers.  "Come with me."

Come with him?  On tour?  The thought was insane.  She would love to get away from Tennessee in these next few cold months, but at the same time she knew she couldn't just drop everything and run away with him, even if it was a wildly romantic notion.  "I'd love to."  She hoped that the hesitation in her voice would get to him, but clearly it didn't.

"Great!"  He perked up immediately.

"Wait," she said, "Wait wait wait."  She squeezed his hand.  Even in the dark his thoughts were running a mile a minute.  She didn't have to see his eyes to see that.  There was something even in the way that he breathed that showed his excitement about her answer.  "--but I don't know if I can."

"I thought that you were retiring," he argued, "I mean--I thought that would give you a chance to travel with me for a few weeks, you know--take some time off and be with me."

"Retiring for me isn't just up and leaving Colorado.  I'd need to move out and back to Tennessee and I need to figure out a job for myself.  Maybe enroll in collage.  I was thinking that I'd go back to school for a while or something."

Justin dug his toes into the sand as they walked along causing them to walk slower.  "Can't you put that off for a few weeks though.  I mean moving yeah I can see you needing to do immediately, but--"

She didn't want him to be disappointed.  She knew for a fact that having him ask her meant a lot.  If Trayce was right about her and Todd too, having her come on tour with him was just another way he was trying to show his love for her.  He wanted her around A LOT and taking her along with him seemed to be the only solution at the moment because she didn't expect that he would just leave tour to be with her.  "How long are you going to be gone for?" she asked trying to think up some way of appeasing him.

"I don't know," he said turning his face towards the water.  He let go of her hand for a moment.  She was scared that he wouldn't take her hand again, but it seemed that he only wanted to wipe the clammy feel away because soon he replaced his hand to it's original place.  "Maybe a month or a month and a half.  It all depends on how many shows I book overseas."

If he was going to be gone that long it gave her a few options and as long as he could work with her schedule then she could try to work with his.  "Then how about I come out for two weeks or something.  Let me get all my things in order here and then I'll fly out to where you are when I'm done and then stay on tour with you until you come home."

He perked up again.  She couldn't really see his face when he turned away from the moon, but the tone of his voice told her everything she needed to know about his opinion of her decision.  "Really?"

"Yeah," she said, "It's not that I don't want to be with you because I'd love to just jump on a plane and be with you, but I'm making a HUGE change to my life and I need to get that settled before I can get involved in being your full time TRAVELING girlfriend."

"I can go for that," he said.

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