Spirit of Steel -- 37


Dinner was set up on the side porch of the main dining area.  A set of wicker dividers had been placed along in the outside glass French doors, giving them almost a full fence of protection from either side.  On the garden side lush banana trees and ferns popped up high over the railing, only the steep stairs that led up to one corner of the porch could be seen from the outside.  The plants, while looking almost overgrown, blocked out about ninety percent of the view from the open path below the balcony.  There was a small space near the top of the balcony that was open leaving them with a view of the sky and the stars and leaving the people below to wonder who was on the candle-lit balcony.

His breath caught in his throat and for a moment he was jealous that she'd thought of all this first.  He could only imagine what he'd have to do to top something like this.  "This is amazing," Justin said as the turned the corner and finally got the full view of the ten foot by twenty foot balcony.

"Isn't it?" she asked.  "I wish I could take credit for this, but really it was the Chef Adam and the concierge that set this up.  They thought actually that you might set something up for me so I beat you to the punch and snuck out and asked them about this earlier to make your Christmas Eve great."

A small table for two had been set up on the end of the balcony and a bottle of white wine was chilling in a silver ice bucket next to one of the seats.  The place looked almost deserted, that was until one of the French doors swung open a bit and soon a person appeared from behind the divider.

"Hello there," the slim looking woman said with a smile, "I thought I saw you all coming around the edge of the garden.  I was going to go looking for you in a minute if you got lost."

Carolina smiled at the girl.

"If you'd like to take a seat I'll bring out your appetizers and take your drink orders.  Chef provided you with white wine for your meal, but I was told that you aren't the biggest fan of wine."

Justin touched Carolina's back to nudge her towards the table and looked at their waiter.  "Wine is fine for now."

Carolina turned and looked over her shoulder at him.  "Are you sure?"

"Yes," he said and held out Carolina's chair.  As he waited for her to sit he turned his attention towards their waitress.  "Appetizers sound great though."

"Ok then," she said, "I'll be back in a minute."  She walked towards a door at the far end of the balcony, next to the stairs.  "I've been assigned to the balcony for the evening, but if I'm gone too long there is a little doorbell here that rings in the kitchen if you need me."

"Thanks," Justin said and tucked Carolina underneath the table before he took his own seat.

"You didn't have to go to any trouble," he said feeling uncomfortable.  He knew that the bill for this wouldn't be sent to her.  It would be added to the bill that went along with their rooms and the tour meals and all of that, but having her step outside of her vacation to plan something for them was more than he'd expected.

She laughed at him softly, "You go to trouble over me all the time.  I just want to return the favor.  I didn't do much, just asked for dinner alone."

"Well it means a lot," he said reaching out to hold onto her hand.  It did mean a lot to him.  He knew his life was way more complicated than the normal person's and having her work around his stupid life so much really was something he'd been looking for in a woman.

"Well don't get all sappy about it," she said instantly.

He nodded to her to acknowledge her comment.  "Would you like some wine?" he asked reaching for the bottle and a glass to set closer to himself so that he wouldn't end up spilling the drink all over the table and himself.  It wouldn't have been as bad as red wine, but it still would have messed up their evening.

"So proper," she said with a slight laugh.

"Well I figure we're going to be not so formal with everyone tomorrow night and I've never gotten the chance to take you out on the town so I better not mess this up," he said.

"Except," she said reaching her hand over to touch his, "I'm taking you out."

"Yet another new experience with you--and even more reason for me to mind my p's and q's," he said.

"Your mother will be so proud when we tell her."

He smiled at her and let the tension dissolve from his shoulders.

The tension was gone only long enough for him to notice the two faces peering at them from the direction of the stairs.

"What?" Carolina immediately asked when he set the bottle down on the table and kept his eyes on the two faces that were now more fully visible around the corner.

Justin motioned over her shoulder and she turned and saw what he'd been staring at.  Before he could stop her she pushed her chair back and moved it out of the way so that she could walk over to the two teenage girls.  They looked startled as she came towards them.

"Excuse me," he listened to her hushed, but clearly angry voice.  "Where are your parents?"

"What?"

"Where are your parents?" she asked again,  "I'm sure they'd love to know that you're stalking someone this evening and I'm sure the local police would like to know what you're up to also."

"I'm-I'm sorry," the younger girl said.  Justin had seen enough cases like this to know that the girls really hadn't meant any harm by what they were doing.  He would have gone to Carolina's rescue, but he knew that his temper would probably get the best of him and he'd end up screwing things up so he stayed in his seat and sipped his wine.

"Look," Carolina said, "I won't tell on you if you leave now, next time if you want to see him, do it when he's clearly not trying to have a quiet moment."

"Yes ma'am," both the girls said and quickly slid down the steps and out of sight.

"Jesus," he sighed and rubbed his forehead.

This wasn't what he needed right now.  He needed a stress free life instead of everyone standing there watching him even in his own private moments.  "I hope I didn't just cause a whole bunch of trouble for you."

"No," he said with a half smile, "Actually I think even Todd and Mike wouldn't have been that calm and collected."

"Well thank you," she said with a nod taking her seat.  "I figured if I got pissed at them they couldn't be too mad about it."

"Well thank you for thinking of it," he said.

She sighed and sat back in her chair.

"Don't worry about it Carolina," he said, "I would have done worse if I'd gotten up and tried to talk to them."

"Are you sure?" she asked.

He nodded and sat back in his chair smiling at her.

*****

Two hours had gone by and they were already working on their second bottle of wine.  She'd been sipping hers, but Justin had been downing his.  She wasn't sure why he seemed so tense over their meal.  Just as he'd been able to calm down enough to enjoy the night, their waitress would appear and set him on edge again.  She wasn't sure if it was because of something that was going on his head or if it had been the girls sneaking up the stairs to stare at them, either way he was acting strangely.

"Justin?"

"What?" he asked immediately.

"What's going on up there in your head?" she asked tipping her head a little to watch him, "You're acting jumpy tonight."

"No reason," he said with a shrug.  His eyes darted around and he finally seemed so nervous that he grabbed up his napkin and started to wring it around in his hands.

She reached a hand over and put it on his to stop the nervous actions he seemed to be so intent on carrying out.  "Are you sure?"

"Well," he said, "I was thinking that we're almost done here and I think I need a walk on the beach."

She removed her hand.  "You don't want to go see your parents and the boys?"

"Oh," he said with a sigh, "We should do that."

"Justin, what the hell is wrong with you?" she said with an angry voice, "You're freaking me out."

"I'm sorry," he said, "I'm just nervous as hell about--"  He stopped and stared at her.

"Nervous about what?" she asked.

"Just about this," he said motioning around the porch.  "Christmas is one of those holidays that you just can't screw up.  I mean a normal date is one thing, but a Christmas date is another and tomorrow with everything going on I'm just-I just feel a little nervous about things."

"About what?" she asked trying to soften her expression so that he wouldn't be so nervous.

"I just want--"  He groaned.  "I just don't want to suffocate you."  He took a deep breath.  "I want to be with you all the time.  I don't want you to go back to Colorado."

When she saw tears in his eyes he moved from her seat and nudged his leg until he scooted back from the table.  She sat down on his knee and put her arms around him.  "Honey, what's wrong?"

"I don't want you to go back to Colorado.  I don't want you to stay in Memphis when I leave the states on tour.  I just--"  He sighed.  "I did the dumbest thing in the world and I know that if I go through with what I really want to do I'm going to ruin everything."

"What are you going to do?" she asked.

"I was going to propose," he said flatly and closed eyes His hand snaked into his pocket and he pulled out a Tiffany's box.  "I want to be with you.  Forever."  His eyes opened again.

Her breath caught in her throat and all she could do was stare at him.  She knew eventually down the road that he'd probably end up doing something like this, but for him to ask so soon into their relationship was just a little over the top.

"See," he said, "I totally just screwed this up."

"No," she said.

He couldn't screw it up.  If it was causing this much pain to even think about screwing up their relationship by wanting to take it farther than it already was he truly was the one for her.  For him to be that upset to even say a few words to her showed her his heart.

"I didn't?" he asked.

"No," she said and cupped his cheeks.  "I'm totally in shock right now that you'd be this upset and worried about screwing this up."

"I just don't know if you and I can last being away again.  I don't want to be away from you.  I won't be able to see you and I won't be able to talk to you and with the time change between here and Australia and Japan I'll be out of touch with you for almost three months."

"Honey," she said, "Justin look at me."

He looked up at her and took a deep breath.  "What?"

"I love you."  She leaned and kissed him.  "I can't promise you that I'll marry you tomorrow.  I can't just drop everything like that.  It's not realistic."

"I know," he said, "I just don't know if I can go two weeks without being in contact with you."

"You can call me twenty four seven," she said.

He nodded and leaned his forehead against her cheek.

"Better?" she asked.

He nodded and moved and kissed her again.  "Definitely."

She sat there for a long time before she finally giggled.  "Now show me my ring."


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