Three days later Willa stepped off her United flight from Kennedy Airport into a rainy Orlando winter night, carrying two large shopping bags and a rolling suitcase. She had come down south from a snowy New York thinking she might get some sun while she was in Florida, but her luck really wasn't working her way. It was drizzling and cold and miserable outside and she shivered in the air-conditioned interior of the airport even though she wore a heavy snow jacket. The weather reflected her mood. She wasn't at all excited about being in Orlando, but she knew that it was for a good cause and she was going to try to make the best of things.
That was until she saw who was there to pick her up at the gate. Standing just past the check-in counter Willa saw the only other person in the world, besides Lance, that she didn't want to see at the moment. "Wes?" she said slowing approaching the bodyguard that had grabbed her in the hotel in New York. She looked around for a moment. "Where's Lance?"
"His flight from San Diego gets here in about an hour. I flew back about three hours ago," Wes said and cautiously reached for her rolling suitcase, which she gave up after he gave her a smile. He carried a huge bag of his own, but didn't at all seem put out by dragging hers along. "Don't worry, I'm buying dinner."
She leaned away from him and kept her eyes wide not sure how he was going to act to her. "So you aren't going to kill me?"
Wes smiled from under his baseball hat. "As long as you don't smack Lance again you and I are going to be friends." He stopped and ended up laughing. "Actually if you do smack him again we might be even better friends."
Willa looked around for a moment. She had never been to Orlando before, except for one swimsuit shoot that had lasted just over four hours. When she'd been in the airport last she hadn't even been able to turn her head to look around. She'd been whisked away like some precious cargo or something to the hotel for the shoot. It was a nice airport and she was glad that she was going to do a little touristy stuff while she was there. She always hated the fact that she got to travel as a model, but never really got to do all the activities that a place had to offer. Usually she flew in and flew out of a place as soon as she was done on the set.
"So you did some shopping?" Wes asked as he began to slowly walk away from her. He looked at the bags. "Get anything for me?"
"No." Letting a smile form on her face, she followed him from the gate into the main walkway area. The airport was fairly crowded, since it was just about commute time and she noticed people staring at her a little…or maybe they were staring at him. Either way she was feeling a little self conscious. She'd been followed a few times in New York in the last few days and hoped that no one would be following her that day. "I brought some things for the girls that Lance and I are going to be with tomorrow. Speedo let me pick out some clothes and one of the other companies I did some ads for sent along some make-up and perfume for the kids."
Wes smiled. "You and Lance must think alike. He's bringing FuMan gear from Chris and is going to give them tickets and stuff from the guys."
"Lance and I do nothing alike." The anger she felt when she thought of him was present in her voice.
"You even sound the same when you talk about each other."
Willa stared at him. She hadn't expected Wes to be at all the therapist type, but he seemed to be on a mission so she asked, "How's that?"
"You guys are both frustrated," Wes said. "And I don't mean that in a sexual way either." He looked at her for a moment, "Although maybe that's part of it."
They made their way down to a food court type area and then took a right into a hallway.
"Where are we going?" she asked pointing to the food places that they'd just passed. "Aren't we going to eat?"
"The VIP lounge has a restaurant. I'd rather eat in a normal place than fast food, since I'm paying. We've been on the road too long and that stuff can kill you." He smiled widely and she noticed the door at the end of the hallway.
"Oh," she said.
"I'm not going to attack you Willa," Wes said and took a few steps then pushed through a door to where a receptionist-type person sat.
They were seated in minutes at a table near the windows in the restaurant. Willa slid out of her jacket and made herself comfortable as Wes stared at the menu.
Willa watched him for a long time then couldn't help but to ask. "You said that he and I were frustrated…why do you think that?"
Wes laughed a little. "Besides the obvious reasons that you both have too many revenge plans?"
Willa blushed and said, "He's horrible to me!"
Wes glared at her. "Hey. I'm not taking sides here. Do you want to hear my opinion or not?"
The waitress came and they ordered drinks. Wes got a soda and Willa got an iced tea.
"Go ahead," she said when the waitress left.
Wes smiled, "Now are you going to be nice to me if I give you information?"
"Please," she said, "I'd love to hear what someone else thinks of him and me because for the life of me I don't understand any of it."
"Well…" Wes sat back and looked at her. "I sit and watch people a lot while we're on the road and I have this feeling about the two of you."
"And what might that be?"
"That you're perfect for each other."
Willa did not like the look on his face at all. He was serious, too serious. He didn't move a muscle in his jaw, or twitch and eyebrow, or even blink for that matter the whole time she stared at him.
"Perfect for what?" she asked.
Leaning forward, Wes rested his arms on the table and glared at her. "Love must really be blinding."
"Love?" she thought she might hyperventilate when she heard that. "Love? There may be a lot of things that I'm confused about, but there is no love between Lance and I."
"Would you like some examples?" Wes asked.
Willa stared out the window for a long time. She didn't want this. She never wanted any of this. She almost suspected that this was just another trick of Lance's. It would be just like him to have someone else step in to get at her.
When the waitress returned with their drinks, they ordered quickly. Wes got a steak and potato and Willa got a salad and a sandwich.
"You really are stubborn, you know?" Wes said when the waitress disappeared for the second time.
She hated this. It was like getting a lecture from her mother or something, which she hated, but having a complete stranger tell her all of this was even more humiliating and annoying. "Well so is he!"
"I never said that he wasn't."
Willa watched him for a long time. "Just spill out whatever you want to say because I know I'm not going to get through my dinner without hearing it so we might as well get it over with."
"Are you sure?" he asked.
"No, but you might as well," she said.
"Oh-Kay," Wes said with a sigh.
Putting up a finger he showed her the number one. "First, Lance hasn't dated in a long time. He really avoids it when he can. The man would walk across the street to avoid having to date someone."
"It means that he likes you."
Willa rolled her eyes. "It means that he's got me trapped and I can't get out of it without making one of us look bad and if he looks bad then that video looks bad and then I look bad."
Wes laughed and showed her the number two with his fingers. "If Lance hated you he wouldn't have been so upset about the whole kissing thing."
"He was embarrassed by what the guys said because he doesn't want to look bad in front of you."
"You've got to be kidding me."
"I'm serious." Wes drummed his hands on the table for a moment. He looked at her in the eyes for a moment, looked away, then looked back. "That was the same reason he was so pissed about the whole shower thing too."
"Give me a break," Willa said rolling her eyes again, "Did he tell you all this?"
"Look," Wes said, "I've known the kid since he was sixteen. I think I know him well enough to know when the guy has a crush on someone."
"A crush?" she said sitting back in her chair. "He has a funny way of showing his feelings."
Wes watched her for a moment. "You are the only woman I know who would actually smack the guy." He stopped to laugh. "The kid needs it. I've been telling him that for years. He needs some normal girl to come into his life and smack him around a little."
"Hey, I didn't mean to smack him--"
"Sure you didn't," Wes said drawing his hand back. He laughed. "And that wasn't a windup I saw?"
"I really didn't mean to, but at the time Lance deserved it. He still deserves it. Hell, Lance deserves anything that I throw at him."
"I deserve what?
Willa didn't have to turn around to know that Lance was behind her. She saw the look in Wes's eyes. He was finding this all way too amusing.
"So are you deaf now too?" Lance said in an overly sarcastic tone, mimicking the way that Willa had spoken to him all those months ago when she'd snuck up behind him in the hotel store in the middle of the night and he hadn't answered.
Willa turned all the way around in her seat and rolled her eyes at him. "How original."
He didn't think twice about what he did next. He smiled widely at her. He knew would annoy her. He could imagine the hairs on the back of her neck standing on end when he'd first spoken to her. She didn't seem nervous though, which he expected. He knew that even if she did happen to be nervous she wouldn't let him see it. She was still trying to keep up the tough act, but he knew that she wasn't that tough. She'd seen it the night she'd shown up at his hotel room. He still wasn't sure if all of that was just part of her act or if she'd really been upset that night, but there had been something he'd seen in her, while she'd slept next to him that he wanted to see again. He needed to see that again.
Saying something smart-ass right then would have been appropriate considering their relationship, but Wes glared at him and he stopped himself from speaking. They were in a public place of course and he didn't need to cause a scene. Instead he went around and pulled a chair up from another table and joined them while Loni pulled up a chair and sat down too. They'd been in the airport for just fifteen minutes, but Lance had planned to meet Wes there after he'd gotten Willa.
"Well isn't this cozy," Wes said with a laugh as tension settled over the group. He looked over at Loni for a moment and looked at his watch. "I thought you guys weren't getting in until seven."
"We caught an earlier flight," Lance said and scooted his chair closer to Willa. He wanted to see how she'd react to it, but found that she seemed bored with the whole situation and didn't even look back when he put a hand around the back of her chair. She was definitely in a bad mood. She had turned away from him as he'd sat down, which he had understood, but he figured that she would turn back, even it was to insult him. He wondered for a moment if she was watching everyone's reflections in the window, but didn't think she'd try to be that sly about watching him and the others.
"So Willa, how was the flight?"
Willa looked at him for a moment then pushed her chair back. "I'll be back."
"Where are you going?" he asked standing up when she got up to leave.
"To the restroom if you must know," she said as she slid by him and walked across the room towards where the restrooms were.
He noticed her clothes as she left. The jeans and long sleeved shirt were very casual for her. He'd never seen her except for when they'd been making appearances or had been doing press. He liked this more relaxed looking version of her, but wondered if she was really more relaxed than she had been the last time he'd seen her.
He watched her leave then looked at Wes and sat down again. "What'd you do?"
"Me?" Wes said and held up his hands as if surrendering to the onslaught of anger Lance was letting come out in his expression. "Why would you think that I did something?"
Lance turned and saw her disappearing around the corner. "Because she's not bitching at me."
"And that's a bad thing?" Wes said.
"The night's young," Loni said with a laugh. "You never know with that one."
"Shut it Loni." Lance snapped. He normally wasn't rude to the bodyguards, but the situation with Willa caused him to need to use a little different strategy for everything. He stared at Wes, not blinking. "WHAT…DID…YOU…DO?"
"WHAT DID YOU DO?"
"Hey," Loni said and put an arm out and gripped Lance's arm, "Unless you want to embarrass yourself keep it down."
Lance took a breath and counted to ten in his head. "I just want to know what's wrong with her. That isn't the Willa that smacked me two days ago and it isn't the one that has fought with me every time I've ever seen her."
"I just told her my opinion on some things. Maybe I offended her."
Lance watched him. The guy had been meddling and Lance knew it from the look on his face. He was looking way too innocent for his own good.
"What did you guys talk about?" Lance asked.
"Nothing," Wes said.
Lance leaned across the table and stared at the bodyguard who had been his friend since he'd gotten into the business. "Spit it out Wes. I wanna know why she's so quiet."
"I don't know that," Wes said, "You know women. They do what they're gonna do."
"Elena!" Willa said loudly into the payphone just outside the bathroom when she heard Elena's voice on the other end.
"Jesus Willa you don't have to yell."
Willa put her hand to her forhead and let out a deep breath. "I'm sorry."
"What's wrong? Did the jerk not pick you up?"
"No, well yes but that's not why I called." She began to pace as far as the phone cord would let her go.
"So what is it?"
"You love this one," Willa laughed. She stopped and drummed her fingers agains the top of the payphone. "I think he's in love with me."
"What?" She hoped that Elena wasn't eating or something because she knew that she would choke on this one.
Willa leaned against the wall and stared at herself in the glass of the framed picture across from her. "I was talking to his bodyguard and he said that he thinks that Lance is in love with me."
Elena started to laugh.
"Hey? You don't have to laugh too hard about that."
"Honey I'm not laughing at you."
"You better not be."
"I just think it's funny. He must be smoking something because that boy has done nothing to show you anything other than pure hatred." Elena took a breath. "I mean first he insults you then he gets all spoiled brat on you at the video shoot, then he announced on national television--"
"Thanks." She sighed again. "I know what he's done to me."
"Jesus woman you sound like my grandmother. You shouldn't be sighing like this. You know what I mean when I talk about Lance. He's been rude to you since you first met and he's caused you all this trouble. How can anyone in their right mind see that as love?"
Willa sighed. The trouble was that she did see what Wes had said. Lance had been the one to keep their contact. He'd called her for the charity event and had forced them together with the announcement, but there was still part of her that thought that this was all some plan to get her back for the comments she'd made to him when they'd first met.
"That was my argument."
"Honey, ignore this guy and tell that bodyguard to mind his own business." There was a pause. "I bet Lance set this up. It would be just like him to plan something outrageous like that."
"I know," she sighed. "I know."
"You don't sound too sure of that," Elena said.
Willa hung up the phone and peaked around the corner. She could see Lance, Loni and Wes at the table and they looked like they were arguing about something. She watched Lance slam his fist on the table and Wes stood up. Willa had no clue what was going on, but she knew she had to stop it. Some of the other customers were watching them.
She rushed back over to the table and slid her arm through Lance's. "You wanna take this outside boys?"
Lance stopped and stared at her with an open. She didn't like the look in his eyes. He seemed really angry, which she'd seen thrown in her direction before, but he'd never been that way with anyone else. It scared her. It was one thing for him to be mad at her, she provoked it out of him most of the time, but she couldn't think of any reason that he would be mad at someone that worked with him.
"Now, what were you boys arguing about?" she asked pulling Lance back into his chair. He was still staring at her and for a moment she reveled in the confusion she saw on his face. It was nice, for a change to yet again have an upperhand on the exchange between the two of them. He'd been winning of a while and she wanted to get back in the driver's seat for a change.
"Nothing," Lance said.
"Well, it sure didn't look like nothing and I can tell you it didn't sound like nothing."
Lance pushed her arm off of him and stood up. "I'm gonna go make a phone call."
When Loni got up to go with him he stared at him. "Stay here," Lance said with a tense jaw.
Loni was about to say something when Willa pointed to where she'd been. "There's a phone just over there. He won't even have to leave the restaurant."
Loni stared at her for a moment then sat back down. "Don't leave Lance. You know--"
Lance didn't let him finish. Willa watched him stalk away towards where she'd been on the phone with a heavy heart. Part of her wanted to run after him and comfort him in whatever he was going through, but the other half of her, the part that remembered the scene in the hotel and the marks on her arm thought about how he deserved whatever was coming his way.
"Ah, another nice relaxing evening with Mr. Bass," Willa said with a laugh. She stared at Wes. "What got him so pissed off?"
Wes put his arms up again surrendering. "He wanted to know why you were so quiet. I told you--"
"You don't know what you're talking about. Really." She nodded her head for effect then turned and noticed that Loni was looking in the direction of the restroom with a worried frown on his face. She tapped the man on the shoulder and pushed her chair back. "This goes against everything that my mother ever taught me, but I'll go check on him."
Willa slid away from the table and made her way back to the phone. She was about to round the corner when she saw legs sticking out in the walkway. She leaned around the corner and found Lance sitting on the floor staring at his phone with wide eyes. He still looked upset, but there was a sadness there in his eyes now instead of the anger he'd been showing back at the table.
Lance's eyes began to dry out as he stared at the phone in his hands. He needed a drink or something. The tension was getting to him. He'd felt it coming on since he'd gotten up that morning. He'd woken up with a headache. He'd been temperamental at the radio interview that they'd done that morning. When they asked him about Willa he'd left the room and the bad mood had lasted when he'd gotten on the airplane. He'd been uncomfortable the whole time. He couldn't get into his seat just the right way and hadn't been able to sleep. This antsy nature was a sure sign that he needed a break. Not just a few days, but maybe a few weeks.
He shifted the small device from hand to hand, but never let his eyes wander from staring straight ahead. He would have called someone to talk to them, like he'd said to everyone at the table, but really there was no one that he could call that would understand.
Hell, he didn't even understand what was going on half the time. Even when he thought he might have a clue about what was going on Willa would change on him. Like that day, she'd been quiet, really quiet. He wished that there wasn't that tension between them. It was standing in the way of everything, but he couldn't help himself. Every time he got near her he found himself wanting to push her buttons, get her to react to him the only way she'd ever seen her react.
His eyes stayed trained on his phone as he heard his voice. He knew he should look up, but the calm of the moment was addicting. It was rare during the day that he just got to sit by himself. Sure it happened. Every once in a while on the bus, but usually there was at least one other person or more with him at all times of the day. Even when he was home he had more than a few people over at the house or he went to visit them. He didn't want to end it too soon. It was the first time he'd been alone in a week. He felt so bad at the moment that he almost thought about faking sick and staying home the next day, but he knew that the Make A Wish people would be upset and the little girl would hate him forever if he bailed out now.
"Yeah?" he said lazily. He recognized that it was Willa and didn't see the harm in not looking up right away.
His eyes flew up to the sound of her voice and he squeezed his eyes shut after he recognized the figure standing above him as Willa. This wasn't going to be good.
"What?" he asked in a harsh tone. It was the same tone he'd used with the guys that morning when they'd wanted to know why he'd left the interview. He hadn't meant to snap at her really, but it was better than him bursting into tears or something crazy like that. He hadn't cried since he and Danielle had split ways and he wasn't about to start again.
He heard her sigh heavily and he opened his eyes. The look on her face said it all, before the words came out of her mouth. "You really are an asshole."
He didn't even flinch at the sound of the insult. He was too amazed by the look in her eyes. That sparkle was back in her eyes again. He loved it, but at the same time he didn't know how he could handle her being pissed at him all the time. At first it had all been a game, but now he wasn't sure that he wanted to play it anymore. There had to be a better way.
Hearing her words he pushed himself off the ground and scrambled after her, grabbing her arm and pulling her towards him before she could go around the corner again. He knew he shouldn't grab her again since he knew how much she'd taken offense to his hand on her in the hotel in New York.
This time she must have expected him to grab for her because she swung around and twisted out of his grip before he could really hold her back. "Leave me alone."
"Willa wait." He grabbed again and pulled. She came around and almost smacked him again.
"Damn it!" Lance yelled.
Willa did the one thing that he never thought she'd ever do. She came full force against him and pushed him up against the wall. His shoulder blades hit the wall with a thud and he looked around for a moment to see if anyone was watching them. It was a force of habit to look around, but thank God no one was there. His breath almost got knocked out with the force of her push, but he'd taken a big breath when her body had pressed against his and he luckily still could breathe.
"Kiss me." She looked into his eyes with a completely honest and innocent look on her face. It was the first time he'd seen that from her. She looked vulnerable, which was surprising. She hadn't even looked that way when she'd come to him in the middle of the night. He hadn't thought she could even have that emotion.
"Kiss you?" he asked. His voice caught in his throat as he felt her hands squeezing their way around him. They came around his waist and slid up his back, resting near his shoulders to pull him closer.
Willa nodded her head a little, never taking her eyes from his. She licked her lips and looked at his mouth for a moment. He didn't even think she blinked. He knew that he hadn't. He had been too caught up in it all.
"There is a man with a camera that is taking our picture right now. Kiss me or you're going to have to explain this little fight to the press."
Lance leaned his head back against the wall and let his eyes wander a little. He didn't see anyone with a camera. They were alone in the alcove, but he wasn't about to back down from a situation like this. She felt too good in his arms not to kiss her. He cautiously tasted her lips, capturing her bottom lip in his, then pulled back and looked into her eyes.
That sparkle was back, but this time he knew that it wasn't at all from her anger so he leaned again and kissed her again. She had made the excuse to kiss him and he was going to take advantage of her poor planning.
His hands slid from around her waist up between them and cupped her face firmly holding her against his lips. He felt her arms around him, pulling him closer and he kept up the kiss until he thought he'd pass out from lack of oxygen.
Pulling back he watched her for a moment then gave her a short kiss. "Anytime you want to kiss me you don't have to make up excuses," he said and kissed her again.
"Excuses?" Willa pushed away from him. She stepped back and stared at him, breathing hard, as if she'd lost control a little herself and was now trying to regain her composure.
"Yeah excuses," he said with a smile. He didn't mean to ruin the moment, but he wanted her to know that she'd been caught lying. He looked around again to make sure that he was still there alone with her. "There wasn't anyone there."
"What?" she asked. She looked around and pointed to the corner that led to the main dining room. "He was right there." She looked back at Lance.
"Where?" he asked.
Willa looked around again. "I saw him.
"I think you're getting a little paranoid. There wasn't anyone watching us," Lance said and reached out to her. He pulled her back into his arms and kissed her again.
For the first few moments of the kiss she answered the kiss back just as feverishly as he gave it to her, then all of a sudden he could feel her resisting him and when she placed her hands on his chest and pushed back he let her get away.
"What was that?" she asked.
Lance smiled, "You said to kiss you."
"That wasn't a kiss. You were mauling me like a bear."
"You weren't complaining."
She stepped back even more when he reached out his hand. "I couldn't breath thanks to you."
"You didn't seem to mind at the time."
"Well I mind now!" Willa turned and walked away from Lance. He took a breath and followed her back to the table.
When they got to the table Wes handed Willa a bag that had the restaurant logo on it.
"I got them to go," Wes said.
"Why?" Lance asked.
"We need to get you guys home."
"Why?" He repeated his question and looked around. Normally they were rushed away from places if there was a crowd that security couldn't handle.
"Because there was a reporter here looking for the two of you."
"See I told you," Willa said throwing him a glare.
Lance felt like sticking out his tongue at her.
"Come on we have to get you guys home."
"Home?" Willa asked and looked at Lance.
"Willa are you almost ready?" Lance yelled as he came to the bottom step of the front staircase. He was dressed for a nice sunny day. He'd been excited about seeing the sun after coming home to the rain the night before. He wanted the day to go well, not only for the Make a Wish thing, but he wanted things to be ok between him and Willa for once. He knew that if they could get along for the day that the Make a Wish girl would get her wish.
"I'm almost ready!" she yelled to him. He heard her voice coming from the direction of the downstairs guest bathroom so he went to go see how ready "almost ready" was. He hadn't dated in a while and couldn't remember if "almost ready" meant really ready or was just a phrase to stall him.
He found her in front of the mirror in the bathroom putting on mascara and eyeliner. She wore jeans and a long sleeved T-shirt that looked dressy, but not formal. It was a good look for her and she actually seemed relaxed, a little quiet like the night before, but she had a smile on her face this morning instead of a frown.
"Don't stare," she said, "I'm nervous enough about this as it is."
"Why are you nervous?" he asked. "It's just a little girl and her sister."
"Yeah and a camera crew and a few photographers and the news people and everyone," she rambled out.
"Whatever. Just smile and be nice," he said.
"Easy for you to say. The only fan of mine I've ever actually met was that girl Veronica at the Ritz."
"Well it's not like you're going to be alone today. How do you think I feel? I usually have the other guys to be with."
"And what am I? Chopped liver?"
"No," he said.
"Please don't stare."
Lance leaned against the door. "It's not every day that a guy gets to see a supermodel put on her make up in their guest bathroom."
"And what a bathroom this is," she said looking around. "I take it you like Dr Sues?"
"Yeah," he said looking at the huge Grinch logo on the wall behind her. "We did a sound for the new soundtrack."
"Not as interesting as watching you put on make up," he said then leaned and looked at her closely. "Why are you pulling your eyes like that?"
"This is how you put on mascara and liner," she said and stopped to look at him. "Want some?"
"No, it's not my color," he said with a smile.
Willa laughed at his comment then went back to her make-up. "I'm sure that this is all entertaining," she said rolling her eyes. She was sarcastic about it, but it wasn't a mean sarcasm. It was a funny sarcasm for once.
"You'd be surprised," Lance said and looked at his watch.
"Ok, I know I'm setting myself up for an insult, but does it look ok?" she asked, "Not that you'd really…"
"It looks good, except…" He scooted closer to her and touched her cheek. "You have an eyelash."
She held her breath as he stood closely to her. When he looked up from her cheek he found her watching him with wide eyes.
"Was that a compliment from you Lance?" she asked, "That sleep last night must have been really needed. You sound like a different person."
"Don't look too surprised," Lance laughed. "Whatever. I'm just trying to act nice and sweet so I don't ruin that little girl's day."
"So this is all an act?" she asked.
"I have to keep up my asshole status with you," he said with a wink in her direction and left the bathroom to go to the kitchen. "You want anything to eat before we go?"
"No," she said, "I made myself some toast this morning."
"You did?" he called back looking around the kitchen. It didn't look like anything had been touched, until he saw the plate and knife in the dish rack. He didn't even know that he had a dish rack. It must have been something that his mother must have gotten him while he was on the road.
"Yeah," she said. She came out from the hallway wearing her bag over her shoulder. "You ready?"
"Hold up a second," he said. He went and grabbed an apple out of the refrigerator. "Let's hit it."
Willa followed Lance out to the garage. They entered from the door that led into the house. There were a small sports car and an SUV and watched in amazement as he opened the passenger door of the SUV for her. "Hop in,"
"You're driving us there?" she asked.
"Yeah. We have to pick up Wes and Loni then we're going to go and meet with everyone. I think we're going to have the girls come with us in the car when we drive over to the park," he said. "Why? You don't think I can drive?"
Willa sighed and got in the car. He took her backpack. "I just didn't expect it."
"That's what I like to hear. I love keeping women on their toes," he said.
He closed the door and she watched him walk around to the other side of the car. He stopped on the far side to throw their backpacks into the back seat then Lance jumped in the driver side and turned on the ignition. Country music filled the car. He turned it down then buckled his seatbelt and hit the button of the garage door opener. A moment later they backed out of the garage and drove around the small u-shaped driveway that led to the street.
A laugh filled the car when they got outside the security gate.
"What's that for?"
"This is the first time in a long time that people haven't been waiting for me on the street. This was an unscheduled trip so no one knows I'm home."
"That's kinda why I'm glad I'm not a pop star," she said, "I can always go home without worrying about having people there waiting for me."
"Must be nice," he said.
"You really hate that?" she asked.
"Nah, it gets annoying for my parents. They have people in Mississippi that pick the grass on the front lawn. Also my sister and brother-in-law get harassed a little."
"When they go shopping or something they get followed."
"Sounds like me. I've had some reporters following me."
Lance pulled the car over, parking in front of someone's house. "You've been followed?"
"Yeah, I think its some tabloid reporter or something."
"Yeah, it's nothing. He usually takes pictures of me when I'm going to and from the agency. He's never said anything to me."
"Are you serious?"
"It's not that bad."
"Yes it is."
Lance reached his arm around and pulled out his phone.
Willa watched him as he dialed a number then held the phone to his ear then pulled the car back onto the road.
"Wes," Lance said, "Yeah, we're on our way. I have to ask you a favor man."
Willa looked out the window. She didn't know what he was doing so she didn't want to listen to something that didn't concern her.
"Is Spanky still in the business?" Lance asked.
Willa laughed at the name.
"Yeah, I need to see if I can get him to work for me. Think he'll do it?" Lance said, "No, no, it's not for the group. I think that Willa needs someone around…no, nothing happened, but some reporters have been trying to take her picture. Just in case."
"I don't need a bodyguard!"
"Hold on," Lance said into the phone. He covered the receiver and looked at her. "Willa, it's not like he's going to baby-sit you. I just want him to be on call incase you need someone to…" He sighed. "Just let me do this ok? I got you into this mess and I don't want that to totally screw with your life."
Willa watched the look in his eyes. He was worried about her. It shocked her, but at the same time it was comforting to know that he cared about her. Maybe Wes was right. Maybe he did like her.
Lance turned and spoke into the phone again. "Yeah, I want him to meet Willa at the airport tomorrow when she gets back to Kennedy."
When he hung up a moment later he looked at Willa. "It's not that I expect that something to happen to you, but it'll be easier for me to sleep at night knowing that someone out there isn't stalking you."
Willa stared at him. "You stay up at night worrying about me?"
Lance glanced at her. "I…I…I know that the announcement caused you some trouble and I'm…" He took a breath. "Never mind."
"Jesus Lance, you were almost there…"
"What are you talking about?" he said.
Willa folded her arms across her chest. "Oh never mind. You'd never understand."
"Does this have anything to do with what Wes said with you yesterday?" Lance asked.
Willa looked out the window. "No...Never mind about it."
[Two hours later…The Magic Kingdom]
"Here we are," the woman who'd met up with them at the front gate said as they got to the special roped off area where they'd be starting their morning off.
Lance looked around. "Are Tracy and her family here yet?"
"They're still having breakfast with the characters. They should be done just about the time you get done with the interviews."
Willa looked around. She'd know that there would be reporters there, but she hadn't expected something so formal. There was a stage set up with a tiny table, some chairs, and a microphone. She wondered what the day was going to be like. She'd never done anything like this before. The closest charity event she'd done was to model in a World Aids Day Fundraiser the year before.
"First up will be a quick question and answer session with the press. Then there will be a photo-call with just the two of you. When Tracy and her family get here there will be a second photo-call then the MTV people are here to get a quick interview with you. Also the Entertainment Tonight people want an interview. Both of those interviews were set up by Melinda."
"Then we get to go into the park?" Lance asked.
"Yes. You will be let loose in the park. You have VIP passes so you all won't have to wait in line for anything. It's not supposed to be that crowded today, but we have some of our staff that will go with you and your security team and make sure that you all have a good time."
The woman in the Disney World polo shirt with the security headphones was trying to explain their schedule to them, but Willa wasn't interested in it. They'd talked about expecting more than a few reporters to be interested in the story of them taking Tracy to the park, but it seemed as if every Willa could think of was waiting to talk to them at their small press conference. Even MTV had a reporter there to cover the event.
Willa stared at the reporters waiting for them. She didn't want to talk to the press. She'd had enough phone calls come through for interviews that she didn't want to even think about talking anymore about her and Lance's so called relationship. She wanted to just enjoy her time in Orlando and the strange and actually sweet mood that Lance was in.
"Willa are you ok?"
Lance's voice finally filtered through her daze. Willa blinked and sucked in a breath of air. "Uh, yeah." She held her head for a moment. "I forgot the bags for the girls."
"We can get someone to go to the house and get them and have them waiting for the girls when we go to dinner tonight." Lance pulled out his phone and dialed a number and ten minutes later the plans were made. Willa didn't know exactly who wuold be bringing the bags for her, but the plans had been set which eased her mind a little.
"Now, are you ok?"
She nodded stiffly and took another deep breath.
Lance leaned close to her. He placed his lips near her ear after kissing her cheek. "Just breathe in and breathe out," he said softly, "It sounds complicated, but really it's just us hanging out."
She nodded and felt comforted when he slid his hand into hers. He gave her hand a squeeze then let go.
"If you're ready we'll get you two settled at the table then the questions will begin, if that's ok."
"Sure," Lance said and nudged Willa.
"Yeah, that sounds good," Willa said then looked around. "You wouldn't happen to have any water or anything would you?"
"There is a cooler up on the stage, feel free to take whatever drinks are in there."
"Thank you," Willa said.
"You ready?" Lance asked.
Willa looked around once more and with a shaky hand she went and fixed her hair again.
Lance looked at Loni and Wes for a moment then took Willa's hand and pulled her aside. He pulled her behind a little curtained off area and pulled her into a hug.
"Please tell me you are going to be ok."
Willa hugged Lance tightly for a moment. "It's not really all those people out there that are worrying me. Well they are, but they aren't."
"Then what's wrong?"
"I just hate lying to people," she said. "I'm not good at it."
"You've done well so far."
"I've been vague so far. That doesn't count."
"Sure it does," he said pulling back. He cupped her face in his hands and held her gaze for a moment before leaning and kissing her. "Don't lie to them. Tell them that you and I are seeing each other and that it's still in the beginning stages and we don't know where it will lead."
Willa stared at him. "OK, who are you and what did you do with the asshole that usually is in your place?"
"Just play along Willa," Lance said with a smile, "It won't hurt do just pretend for a day that we actually like each other."
The prediction that Wes had made in the airport was coming true in front of her eyes. Every time Lance opened his mouth that day he'd led her to believe that Wes was right. Lance might just be in love with her.
"Fine," she said.
"Now, if you get stuck just look at me and I'll take over. I know you haven't done very many press things so I'll try to take most of the questions, but they'll want to talk to you too."
"You ready now?" he asked.
Somehow she did feel a little more at ease. At least, if nothing else, Lance was on her side. Normally that would have upset her, but with his expertise in handling the media she knew that she wasn't going to die when she got up on that stage.
A few moments later, as Lance helped Willa into her seat he finally took a look at the crowd. It was going to be a bit strange to take the lead with this interview, but he knew he'd be able to handle it. Most of the questions would be either about why he'd agreed to do the Make A Wish visit and the other half would be about he and Willa.
Lance took his seat next to Willa and scooted closer to her, resting a hand on her leg under the table where no one could see it. He thought for a moment that she might smack him or something, but he found her giving him a nervous smile and placing her hand on his before they turned to the media and said in unison, "Hello everyone."
"Let's get started," the host, the Disney woman from before said from her spot just to the right of them.
A moment later, after a mad squirm from the media personnel to get a hand up in the air a reporter was chosen.
The older man stood up and read off of a notebook. "Yes, my name is Trevor Mattson from the Orlando Sentinal. I wanted to know what drew you both to help Tracy get her wish."
"Well," Lance said. "I think that it is the kind of thing that is easy to do to make someone's day. I mean I give a few hours of my day to a girl who wants to meet me and she has those memories for a lifetime. It was a bit of work to get back to Orlando from the tour, but it seemed like nothing at all when you consider what Tracy has gone through in her life just to keep living."
"Next question," the Disney woman said and picked another reporter.
"Yes, my name is Sara Evens with People Magazine. Our readers have been very interested in the two of you lately. After all the publicity that has gone around about Justin Timberlake's relationship to Britney Spears, I wondered if this relationship you two have going isn't just for publicity."
Lance started to speak, but Willa cut him off.
"I don't know who you think you are, but if you doubt that Lance and I are together for more than just to get our names into the papers then you're crazy. Do you know how much work it takes to keep a relationship going? It's hard work, almost a second job to keep track of his schedule and my schedule--" Willa squeezed Lance's hand.
It was the sign that made Lance cut her off before her temper got out of hand.
"Look, I think what Willa wants to get across is that we're in a relationship because we love each other…" He noticed Willa's eyes go wide with that comment, but he didn't stop. "…we came here today together because Tracy asked the two of us to come together. We didn't plan this as a media stunt. We're glad that we get to be here and maybe bring some more media attention to the Make A Wish Foundation, but we're not here for us today. Tracy made a wish and we knew that we should do everything we could to grant that wish."
"Everyone I think we should stick to the topic at hand. We are here because of the Make A Wish Foundation and that should be the main focus. So unless your question has to do with that please save the questions for another time," the Disney woman said.
Lance could see that all they wanted to do was ask about him and Willa. He pushed his chair back and helped Willa up. "We're out of here."
Lance pulled her off the stage, luckily she came willingly.
"That Disney lady is going to come in here and yell at me I'm sure, but I didn't want to stay up there. It just takes away from--" Lance rambled as they made their way to the roped off area behind the tiny stage.
"Did you really mean that?" Willa asked when they were off the stage. Her breathing was rapid as if she'd just been running. She still couldn't believe what he'd said up there on stage.
"Mean what?" he asked, "The part about the media stunt?"
Willa took a deep breath and made eye contact with Lance. For a moment she thought he might be acting difficult on purpose, but she could tell from the look in his eyes that he was getting a big of a rush as she had gotten from leaving the stage without finishing the press interaction. "No, the other part."
"What other part?" he asked.
"The part about us being--" She stared at him for a moment. It seemed like he had no clue about what she was talking about. "Oh never mind."
Lance shifted in his seat. "What did Wes say to you last night?"
"What does that have to do with anything?" she asked, "Why do you keep bringing that up?"
Lance leaned towards her and took her hand and held it. "Because I want to know why you are acting so strangely."
"Me acting strangely?" She drew her hand away from his hands. "What about you? All of a sudden you're full of compliments and you're kissing me whenever you seem to feel like it. What's that all about?"
"I'm trying to get through the day."
She got up and paced. "I never should have let things go this far. It seems like every time you open your mouth you're digging a hole for the two of us."
"What did you want me to say?" he asked, "That you and I are only together for the reasons the woman said? I don't think either of us are here today for those reasons that the woman out there was throwing out at--"
Willa started to talk when he paused to take in a breath of air. "What I understand is that you just totally lied to everyone out there when you said--"
"I didn't lie."
Her mouth came closed automatically and her eyes went wide when she saw the look on his face. He knew exactly what she'd been asking about a few moments before.
"You didn't lie about what?" she asked. Her heart was beating out of her chest now and she was feeling a little faint. He might just do the unthinkable. He might confirm what Wes had said the night before.
"I didn't lie about why we were here today."
"Oh," Willa said with a sigh. Her heart broke in half when she knew that he was clueless and that he didn't even remember what he'd said about her to the press. They weren't really in love and he had none of the feelings that Wes had told her about.
"At least I don't think I lied. It's helpful that both of us are stars, but I thought that you and I were here to make this little girl's dream come true, not to get our names in the paper."
Willa was going to say something to him, but she saw the Disney woman approaching. She held her breath and looked at Lance hoping they'd be able to explain their way out of the situation they'd just placed themselves in.
The woman gave them both a hard look then plastered a smile on her face. "Mr. Bass, Miss Marviani, I'd like you to meet Tracy Underwood, her sister Jessica, and her parents Phil and Stephanie."
"Nice to meet you," Lance said and shook everyone's hand.
Willa watched as little Tracy smiled up at Lance, holding his hand as Willa shook everyone's hands also. Tracy seemed a bit frail, but didn't really look very sick at all. Lance had never explained what surgery that she would be having, but Willa wasn't sure if she wanted to know anyway.
"Well we have a quick photo session to do with you all. We just need everyone to pose on the couch and the photographers will come through and take some pictures."
Lance nodded and looked at Tracy. "You want to sit with me and Willa for a while before we go and play?"
Tracy nodded shy.
Willa turned to Jessica. "So I guess this means we get to hang out today."
"I'm so excited. I mean it's crazy and all that my sister is sick, but I think it's great--" Jessica started to say then she let her voice go quiet.
"Look, it's ok to be happy about this," Willa said and leaned towards her. "I mean that's what this is all about. Lance and I just want you all to have fun today."
Jessica nodded and hugged Willa. "Can we get copies of the pictures?"
"Of course," Willa said. "Didn't you bring a camera with you today?"
"We weren't sure if we were aloud to so my mom said we shouldn't."
Willa looked around for a moment. "Hey Lance?" she asked. He was settling himself on the couch with Tracy next to him as her parents found places on the back of the couch.
"What hon?" he asked with a smile.
Willa smiled back, not sure if it was playing or for real. "DO you have any money with you?"
Everyone around them burst into laughter, especially Loni and Wes, and Lance looked at her. "Why?"
"Jessica and I want to go get some disposible cameras."
Lance pushed himself up a little and pulled out some money. "Don't spend it all in one place."
Willa leaned over and kissed him as he looked up at her. It was going to catch him off guard, but she knew that it would seem appropriate for her to kiss him in that situation if things were real.
Lance grabbed her hand back while she was looking down at him. He smiled at her, a smile that she'd never seen from him before, then he leaned to kiss her again.
"We'll be right back," Willa said whipping her head up. She looked at Jessica, who didn't seemed to be shocked at all.
Lance watched her leave then heard Tracy giggling at his side. "You kissed her!"
Lance nodded. She kept giggling. "What's so funny?" he asked.
"You have lipstick on you!" She pointed and he wiped his face.
"Is it gone?" he asked.
She nodded then leaned out and wiped his face some more.
"Ok?" he asked. She nodded. "So what are we going to do today? What rides do you want to go on?"
"All of them," she said, "And I want to get those ear hats and I want to go and sing at the fake recording studios."
"I don't know about that," he said. He knew that he couldn't be recording things without permission. He could have his voice on tape speaking, but he couldn't sing. It was a sad thing to say, but it was the rules. He coughed for effect and made up an excuse which would be easier to explain than the rules. "I have a little bit of a cold so maybe I shouldn't sing."
"But you kissed Willa!" Tracy said, "You're gonna get her sick."
"I don't think she'll mind."
"Ewe! Gross!" Tracy said "I'm telling her you want to get her sick."
Lance laughed and looked at Tracy's mother who seemed to be shocked by the whole conversation. "Maybe we should talk about something else?"
Tracy nodded. "So where are the other guys?"
"Well they're all in California. Justin is going to record a song with Brian McKnight today, Joey is working on some stuff for a movie that he's going to be in. JC had to go into the studio with Wild Orchid and Chris is working on stuff for FuManskeeto," Lance said then remembered the things that he'd brought for her. "He sent you some t-shirts, but I think you'll get them later, maybe at lunch."
A few moments later Willa returned with a few cameras in her hand. She handed a camera to Lance and handed him the money back.
"You didn't need it?" he asked.
"She signed an autograph and took a picture with the guy at the counter and we got them for free!" Jessica said. "We need to hang out with you more often."
"Jessica!" her mother said with a shocked voice.
Willa laughed. "Those are just some of the perks that you get when you hang out with him," she said.
Lance's eyes widened at the tone of her voice.
"Yeah," Willa said, "When we went to the VMA's I got to meet a lot of famous people."
"Really?" Tracy asked, "Like who?"
"Well there was Janet Jackson, and Britney Spears was there and there was Christina Aguilara and just about anybody you could think of."
"Wow!" Tracy said.
"Yeah, it's actually really a great party when you hang out with this guy," Willa said, "Like today. We're going to have a blast."
Lance was glad to see that sparkle in her eyes as she spoke about hanging out with him and was even more shocked when Willa took her seat next to Lance and leaned over and kissed him just before the reporters were let into the area. When she saw all the cameras she moved over and let Tracy sit between them with Jessica on the other side.
(c) 2000-2002 Pit Pat Productions