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Chapter 26

The next day was filled with packing and goofing around as Nick and Aj joined Camie, Sophie, Mollee and me in a huge packing party. There was a lot of joking around, some reliving of memories and so much laughter that my sides were hurting by the end of it. There was a huge dolly filled with boxes as the sun started to go down and by the time Aj and Nick left us to get ready for their sound check, we girls were completely packed and the bus was looking pretty clean.

“I can’t believe that there will be two months before I see this cramped bus again” Camie said with a sigh. We were all lying on our backs staring at the ceiling of the clothes room that was now filled with nothing but four empty dressers.

“I’m going to miss you guys!” Sophie said and we all giggled

“We have two more shows to get through. I refuse to say goodbye to anyone until they are over” Mollee said and I nodded in agreement

“Goodbyes suck. Let’s just have a kickass last two shows and part knowing that we have at least seven more months of this, if not more” I said sitting up

“Good plan. Let’s go get stretching” Camie agreed as I helped her up and the four of us made our way across the lot towards the arena. I hadn’t noticed that I’d been feeling off until I saw Aj stretching on stage and something inside me righted itself. The smile that I couldn’t wipe from my face returned in all its glory and I raced to Aj, tackling him from behind. In a tangle of limbs we both busted out into a serious giggle fest which didn’t end until Aj had righted me in his lap and could stare intensely into my eyes. The world blurred and I slowly brought my hand to his cheek bone, grazing it lightly and causing a low but sexy growl to come to Aj’s lips.

“Get a room” Mollee joked as a shoe came whizzing past my ear. I laughed on the outside along with everyone else but inside I was burning slowly, smoldering for the touch of this phenomenal man who was now mine. From the look Aj was giving me, I wasn’t alone.

“I cannot wait until tonight” Aj said softly so only I could hear

“Oh really, why is that?” I teased

“You’ll find out” Aj said nipping my ear playfully. My breath caught in my throat and I tried desperately to push this longing that was growing inside me to a manageable level. Even though we had only been officially together for just about 48 hours the need to have sex and completely reacquaint ourselves with each other’s bodies was fierce. The first night we had spent together had been so filled with relief that all our confusion and fighting was over that sex just didn’t factor in. Last night we had been so exhausted from packing all day that we had fallen asleep on top of the bus.

Tonight, however, it seemed Aj had a plan and while I was still a little weary from the whole abortion business, I was more than ready to give myself to Aj. There was still a little part of me that couldn’t believe this was real but maybe making love with this man would drive it home.

When we were called to hair and makeup I parted from Aj with a groan, needing so much more from him than he could possibly give me with our show schedule for the evening. He held onto my hand until the very last moment and the way he slid his fingers seductively from my grasp was really unfair. He gave me a blazing look and I had to remind myself to breathe.

“Spending the night on his bus?” Mollee asked with a knowing grin as she helped steer me to my place in wardrobe.

“You don’t mind do you?” I asked as my changer went through the motions of preparing my outfit while I stripped

“No, I don’t mind” Mollee said raising her eyebrows “Do you have everything you need?”

“I’ll get my stuff after the show” I said trying to brush off her innuendo. I didn’t need Mollee in my sex life. Gosh. I was about to have a sex life again!

“I mean, did you use everything… special… I left you in your overnight bag from last night? I have more-”

“Ok, that’s enough thank you” I said with color rising in my cheeks

“Kat you don’t have to be embarrassed. You and Aj are like sex craved monkeys. I just want to make sure you don’t complicate a good situation by making a careless decision” Mollee said and my stomach plummeted to my feet. Any good feeling I had suddenly vanished. Did she know? How could she?

“We’re not having sex Mollee” I said carefully, hoping not to betray myself

“What do you mean you’re not having sex?” Mollee asked incredulously

“I…um...” Well, the procedure I went through two weeks ago makes things complicated dear sister. I want him but I’m scared of making another monumental mistake “we’re just taking it slow”

“Well cut it out. You’re much nicer after you’ve gotten laid”

“Mollee!” I hissed looking around

“You’re such a prude. Fine. Do what you want. But across the lot, Nick and I will be-”

“I need to get to hair… like right now” I said quickly to drown Mollee out and then made a B line for hair and makeup. I didn’t think it was a big deal that Aj and I had abstained from much more than heavy petting since we’d gotten together. I mean it had only been two days! Two days after an excruciating three months of he loves me he loves me not… but still two days! It’s fine. Aj and I are fine. But what if we aren’t?

“Hey” Aj whispered in my ear and I jumped about a mile “Sorry, didn’t mean to sneak up on you”

“No, it’s fine, it was me, I’m sorry” I stuttered. Aj raised his eyebrows and gave me a searching look

“What’s wrong?” He asked carefully

“Nothing, I’m just nervous and excited and it’s our second to last show” I babbled but Aj silenced me with a kiss. My insides reacted and I found myself turning Aj’s sweet kiss into a very suggestive passionate kiss that involved the leverage of the makeup chair and more than a little groping. I heard cat calling and Aj reluctantly pulled back

“Damn it’s good to see you two back at it” Nick said with a smile

“Yeah but I’m pretty excited that you all will be in your own house in three days so I don’t have to see any more. I feel like I should call Leigh so she doesn’t think I cheated just by looking” Howie commented with a smirk before sitting in the chair next to mine

“Sorry guys” I said sheepishly hopping off my chair

“Kat, you haven’t had your makeup done” A stagehand said with a quizzical look

“Oh, right, sorry” I stammered getting back into the chair. Pull it together Kat, the world isn’t falling apart. You and Aj are not falling apart. But what if you are?

“Don’t mind her, she’s blinded by love” Brian joked giving me a nudge as he passed my chair to get to his

“Precious” Aj cooed, spinning my chair so I’d have to look at him once everyone had returned to their pre-show prep “What is going on in that beautiful mind of yours?”

“Nothing my love, I promise, it’s nothing” I said more to convince myself than him

“Alright” Aj said slowly, clearly full of doubt “I’ll see you at the prayer”

“Ok” I said with a quick smile. My makeup person moved in and I was a whirl of show preparation so I didn’t have long to contemplate my lack of sex or the doom of my most treasured relationship. The show itself was phenomenal, Aj and I dancing more in step and passionately than ever before and when it was done I hurried to my bus to grab my bag of stuff to last me until we got to the US and dragged it to Aj’s bus. I got there before he did so I sat on the front of his couch to wait. He ran in not two seconds later and I looked up at the out of breath man in front of me

“You didn’t go into the bedroom, did you?” Aj asked breathlessly and I had to smile in spite of my stress

“No why?” I asked and Aj breathed an audible sigh of relief

“Stay here for five more minutes, I’ll come and get you when I’m ready” Aj said before heading back to his bed and closing the door

“When you’re ready for what?” I yelled to his back but there was no answer. Back sitting alone my brain began to spin in circles. Aj and I hadn’t had sex. Did he want it? Was he regretting getting back together with me since I didn’t have sex with him? It’s not that I didn’t want to, it just hadn’t come up. I thought it was fine but what if it isn’t? I can’t lose him again, I just can’t. Just then, my phone rang and I picked it up without looking at the caller ID. Music blared into my ears.

One way or another, I'm gonna find ya'
I'm gonna get ya', get ya', get ya', get ya'
One way or another, I'm gonna win ya'
I'll get ya', I'll get ya'

One way or another, I'm gonna see ya'
I'm gonna meet ya', meet ya', meet ya', meet ya'
One day maybe next week ,I'm gonna meet ya'
I'll meet ya' ah

I'll walk down the mall, stand over by the wall
Where I can see it all, find out who ya' call
Lead you to the supermarket checkout, some specials and rat food
Get lost in the crowd

One way or another I'm gonna get ya' I'll get ya'
I'll get ya', get ya', get ya', get ya'
Where I can see it all, find out who ya' call

“Hello?” I asked but the music clicked off and then the phone line went dead. What?

“Ok, close your eyes” Aj said reappearing “Or, well, you don’t have to because I have a blindfold. So there”

“Aj I-” I started but Aj planted a kiss on my lips and wrapped a blindfold around my eyes

“No peeking. It’s a short walk but I want you to get the full effect” Aj said happily.

“Aj” I tried again but he hushed me

“Just wait, I promise you’ll like the surprise” He walked me through the door to his bedroom and it was pretty dark. I heard him shut off the lights in the entry way and then shut the door behind me. My pulse was racing. I felt like I was on the verge of a nervous breakdown between feeling like our relationship was over and getting weird voice mails.

“Aj” I whispered as I felt my knees go weak

“Ok, here it is” Aj said, clearly oblivious. He lifted the blindfold and what I saw took my breath away. He had moved his bed out of the room and had filled the floor with red and black pillows. The windows were draped in black lace and there were rose petals everywhere. Candles sat in elaborate gothic candelabras all around the room casting a flickering and romantic light over the whole scene and some incense must have been burning somewhere because the comforting aroma of cloves drifted to me. Soft music played and it was all so beautiful and I was so confused that I just burst into tears. “Woah, Kat, what is going on?”

“I’m sorry” I sobbed sinking to the floor. Aj caught me before I hit and pulled me into his chest, cradling me against him. “I don’t want to lose you”

“Lose me? What are you talking about precious? You just got me and I’m not going anywhere, not ever” Aj said clearly at a loss

“But we haven’t had sex yet and I want to but you didn’t know that” I sniffed

“Kat, you’re making no sense sweetheart. I know you want to have sex with me. I want to have sex with you. The timing just hasn’t been right quite yet. Did you feel like I was forcing you?” Aj asked slowly trying to figure out what was going on

“No but you like sex and I didn’t give it to you” I said quietly looking at my feet

“Kat” Aj said putting his finger under my chin and bringing my eyes up to meet his “I don’t know what all of this is about but you are way more important to me than just sex. Even if you said we could never have sex I’d still love you to pieces. Now what is this really all about?”

“I don’t know” I sniffed again and started to feel really stupid as a slow realization dawned on me “We’ve just been through so much. This relationship is the most important thing in my life and every time I get it, it gets messed up. I guess I’m just terrified of losing you again”

“Sweetheart” Aj cooed holding me close “I get scared about that too sometimes. But we’ve been through so much we aren’t going to be torn apart ever again. We have to trust that”

“I do. I trust that and I trust you. I’m sorry I just got crazy for a second. You do that to me, you know” I said drying my eyes

“In a good way I hope” Aj said kissing my forehead “Let’s just lay here tonight. There’s no pressure. There’s just you and me”

“Are you sure that’s ok? This is all so beautiful” I said looking at the room, letting its wonderful romantic atmosphere envelope me

“It’s ok. We’ll have all the time in the world to be adorable and romantic and sexy. Tonight, on our third night sleeping together as a reunited couple, let’s just relax and enjoy one another. We have nothing to prove to anyone. After months of craziness, let’s just be.” Aj said sweetly and I nodded. He laid me down carefully and then got behind me so we were spooning and he held me close against his chest “This is forever”

“It is. Forever”

The next morning we awoke for the last time on a moving bus. As we drove to Dubai Aj and I just cuddled and talked. We turned off our phones and focused on each other. We made plans for my room in his house, deciding on a color theme and some essential pieces of furniture. I tried to tell Aj that sharing his room would be just fine with me but he stubbornly insisted that I have my own space so if we fought I could have somewhere to go that was my own.

He told me all about his gothic inspired house, his neighborhood which was filled with the rich and famous, his favorite places to eat and the private beaches he was looking forward to taking me. It was a really wonderful and blissful day of planning for what we hoped would be two perfect months with just the two of us. We barely noticed when we arrived in Dubai and day had turned to night again. We heated up some microwave pizza for dinner and ate it off of paper towels on the floor in his empty games room on the second floor of his bus.

“This is the last microwave meal we will have for two months” I said and Aj raised his eyebrow at me

“Are you planning on hiring a chef at my house because this is about the food quality I have stocked there” Aj joked

“Well then we’ll add to the plans my teaching you how to cook. No boyfriend of mine will be living off of microwave pizza” I said putting down my slice “That’s about all I can handle”

“I didn’t know you had such disdain towards my food, Miss Blackwell” Aj said putting his food down

“I’m still full of surprises Mr. McLean” I said leaning forward to give him a kiss

“The microwave pizza doesn’t taste too bad like this” Aj said once we parted

“You think microwave pizza tastes good on these lips, wait until you taste homemade chocolate strawberry mousse” I teased

“Hold on” Aj said with a smirk, running down the steps to the kitchen. I cleared away our plates and the rest of the pizza before he returned with a huge smile

“What have you got this time?” I asked with a smirk at his obvious pleasure

“My own very famous McLean chocolate pudding” He said holding out two Jello pudding snack packs with plastic spoons

“You spoil me with such decadence!” I joked as he peeled open the top and sat back beside me

“And I will continue to! Open your mouth!” He commanded and I obeyed. He took a small scoop of pudding on one of the spoons and fed it to me “Good?”

“Super good but I know a way to make it better” I said and I dipped my finger into the pudding, put a dot on his nose, and then made a show of licking it off

“My turn” Aj said mischievously. He got a bit of pudding on his finger and dotted it right at the nape of my neck and before I could say anything he was working his tongue on my sensitive spot “Delicious”

“My turn” I said breathlessly. Two could play at this game. I dipped his whole finger in the pudding and then very slowly and sensually placed his finger between my lips. I took his whole finger in my mouth and swirled my tongue seductively around it getting every last drop of pudding before releasing his finger. He looked at me with pure lust in his eyes and had to clear his throat before he could speak

“You’re trouble” He said huskily and I gave him my best innocent look back. He took my face gently in his hands and kissed me passionately before removing my shirt in one swift movement. Then he dipped his finger in the pudding and dragged it across the top of my ample cleavage, helped along by my red lace bra. He gave me a smoldering look and then laid me carefully down on the floor before straddling me and then bending over to teasingly lick the pudding off. From there he unhooked my bra and made a show out of decorating my chest with pudding before licking it off

“Aj” I breathed as he cupped my breasts to taunt me while he licked the last of the pudding. He slowly trailed kisses up my chest to my color bone and then across my jaw bone to my ear before whispering

“I think my pudding beats yours by a long shot” I groaned and writhed a little in response and he let out a sexy chuckle. Then he poured the last bit of pudding around my belly button. It was cold at first so I squirmed but Aj quickly took both of my hands in his and brought them above my head. Pinned by his straddling my legs and holding my hands above my head I was completely helpless as his tongue danced across my tummy, teasing the line of my pants.

“This is so unfair” I pouted once he had finished his assault. I was completely hot and bothered and Aj was totally dressed and in control

“Who said anything about fair?” Aj asked with a smirk but released my hands all the same. I quickly tore at his shirt until he was half naked as well and then reached for the button to his pants but he caught my hand “Kat, what are you doing?”

“I was thinking about making my boyfriend feel good. Is that ok with you?” I asked with a shy smile

“You don’t have to sweetheart. You’ve been through a lot and we’re so new-” He started but I cut him off

“I want to. Aj I want you” I said sexily and watched as Aj caught his breath in his throat

“Say that again” He said quietly

“I want you” I whispered and he closed his eyes with a sigh

“God I’ve been waiting so long to hear those words” Aj said and I smiled big as he launched himself onto me.

That night was without a doubt the best in my entire life. For the first time Aj and I weren’t just having sex, we were making love. There was no guilt, no drama, nothing to get in the way of our love. The whole thing was such a marathon that we slept late into the morning and only awoke when Nick and Mollee began yelling through our window that they were going to bang down our door if we didn’t show some sign of life. Apparently the guys and dancers were going to a late lunch before the show and everyone had been trying to call us but our phones had been off. Sore, groggy, but very content, we met up with everyone and had a fabulous meal.

When we were done we headed backstage to begin the final prepping process of this leg of the tour. As I was heading to stretch on stage with Aj I finally turned on my phone and scrolled through the many missed texts and calls trying to coordinate the earlier outing. I had two voicemails so I sent Aj in without me so I could check them in the semi calm of the lot outside the arena. As the first message began to play music hit my ears and my blood ran cold.

They'll conquer your country
and make you all slaves,
they'll burn down your houses
and rave at your graves.
you'd better get ready,
you'd better beware.
banging at your windows,
barbarians are here

barbarians are coming,
heading your way.
the evil is rising,
kneel down and pray.
barbarians are coming,
heading your way.
whatever you took from them -
now you will pay

Tears sprung into my eyes as the message ended and the next one began. I thought it might be another threatening song but instead I heard a familiar voice.

“Kat. Hi. It’s Josh. Um. I just wanted to talk. Because you’re leaving tomorrow. And I just wanted to see you. Before you go. Meet me up in the grid while the guys do sound check? Please?” Josh’s awkwardness washed over me and dried my tears. I knew I needed to deal with the threatening messages and tell someone about them but the guys were starting sound check in five minutes and Josh sounded like he needed me. I called Josh back.

“Hi, I’m coming up now, where are you?” I asked quickly before he could be awkward and try to tell me not to come

“Center stage, use the scaffold stage right” He said quietly and something hardened inside me. My friend needed me so everything else would have to wait. I hung up and found the scaffold and began to climb it. I got to the top and found Josh in no time but he looked at me with horror that stopped me in my tracks

“What?” I asked nervously

“You didn’t hook into anything before you climbed up here?” He asked incredulously “What is wrong with you?!”

“Oh. Sorry” I said with a smirk. Josh looked at me and I looked back at him and then suddenly we were both laughing

“Come here, you’re hooking in with me. What were you thinking?” Josh asked through giggles as he looped his carabineer through my belt loop. Yeah, like that would help if I fell.

“You sounded so sad, I was worried. I wasn’t thinking about anything but making sure you were ok” I said giving him a big hug

“That’s sweet” Josh said quietly into my ear from our hug. We stayed like that for a moment and then pulled back

“So what can I do for you? Besides fall to my death?” I asked with a small laugh that Josh returned

“It just hit me that after tomorrow I may never see you again” He said and my heart sank

“But wouldn’t you work with the boys when we come back from the break?” I asked with panic

“I’m applying again but there is no guarantee. Thank you for the book and the letter you wrote. I’ve worn it all through by reading it so many times. It helped me understand” Josh said looking down at his shoes which was so unlike him it made my heart burn

“If you want to work for the guys I’m sure I can make it happen. I do happen to be one of the talent’s girlfriends” I joked and then stopped abruptly “Shit, Josh, I’m so sorry. That was an awful way to tell you. It just happened”

“So. You and Aj, huh? The two love birds are finally back together in the nest. A perfect match? I’m sure everyone was ecstatic.” Josh said bitterly

“Josh I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to tell you like that. But it’s only been about two days” I said and Josh sighed

“No, I’m sorry. I’m happy you’re happy, really I am. That guy just rubs me the wrong way. But I trust that you know what you are doing” He said with a shrug

“Oh Josh” I said going in for another hug that he leaned into but didn’t wrap his arms around me for

“Kat, can we be friends? Whether or not I’m on the tour I miss talking with you. I miss how you make me laugh. Could we find a way to get past all of this mess?” Josh asked and I smiled

“Come hell or high water Josh I will make sure that happens. I miss you too. I miss being up here in the grid. I’ll make sure you’re back on tour with us Josh”

“Even if it means sleeping with the boss?” He interrupted with a wince

“Please don’t do that to yourself” I whispered to him and he nodded

“It’ll take some time but I’ll be ok. Especially if you can find some space in your life for me” Josh said sadly and I took his hands so he’d meet my eyes

“You are already a big part of my life Josh. I don’t have to make any more room. I’ll be in LA for the break, where will you be?” I asked

“Back in Tampa” He said

“I’ll call you tomorrow when I get settled and you can update me on how Tampa has fared without us, ok?” I said giving his hands a squeeze

“That sounds good” He said with a small smile

“Love ya Josh” I said unhooking myself from his harness

“Back at you bright eyes” He said planting a quick kiss on my forehead “And please don’t fall off the scaffold on the way down”

“I promise I won’t” I said with a smile.

The show was beautiful, sad, wonderful and went far too quickly for any of our liking. We performed extra encores and bowed four times in an effort to keep the reality of us having to part at bay. It was to no avail as before we knew it everyone was piled into a van on the way to the airport. Sophie and Camie were on a flight to NYC so their flight left first and we all gave them hugs and wished them a nice relaxing break. Brian and Howie were on a later flight to Atlanta so they were the next to have to say goodbye.

“Howie, we are going to fly out to Florida to see you and Josh sometime after the holidays” I assured him as he gave me a big hug

“Good. I want to show you around and I know Leigh and James would love to see you” He said sweetly

“I can’t wait. I’m going to miss you Sweet D!” I said giving him another huge hug

“I will too but at least I know you and my boy are back in a good place again. It helps me rest easy knowing that all is right in the world and my friends are taken care of by people who love them” Howie said brushing the hair away from my face “Just stay happy and true to each other. And I’m just a phone call away”

“Well you won’t have time to miss me because I’ll be on the phone with you so often!” I said and Howie laughed

“I’ll see you Kat. Take care of Aj for me” Howie said turning to say goodbye to Mollee

“Princess!” Brian said loudly

“Noble steed!” I yelled back getting more than a few weird looks from around us

“I’m going to miss the heck out of you!” Brian said pulling me into a hug

“You will not. You’ve got that sexy wife and beautiful son of yours to keep you busy” I said and Brian smiled wide

“I miss them so much, I’m so happy to get to see them again!” He said hugging me tight “But I wish you were closer”

“We’ll visit, I promise” I said squeezing him back

“You better” He said pulling back and looking me up and down “You know, for a while there I thought the tour life was going to eat you alive. But look at you. You’re this strong, happy, brave woman. I do declare this tour life seems to be good for you”

“Oh Brian, I couldn’t have made it without you” I said fighting back tears

“Don’t you start crying, I’ll be a mess!” Brian said pulling me back in for one last hug. “I’ll see you soon, ok?”

“Ok” I said waving him off.

“And then there were four” Aj said taking my hand

“The hottest of them all” Nick said solemnly causing Mollee and I to crack up

“Come on, let’s find our gate” Mollee said with a big smile, taking Nick’s hand and leading the way.

The flight was overnight so I slept through most of it. By the time I woke up we were beginning our descent back into the United States and I was extremely excited at the prospect. Walking out of the plane into LAX was a surreal experience. It had been so long since I’d been in the states for any amount of time (the abortion whirlwind not withstanding) and it seemed like the air tasted sweeter and little more like home. It didn’t hurt that Aj and I had our plans set, that Mollee would only be fifteen minutes away from us and we were looking at two months to relax and just have time to ourselves. I was so looking forward to that time. More than anything Aj and I could use some time to heal.

“You are so pensive my love” Aj whispered as we led the charge towards our cars hand in hand

“I’m just happy to be here. I’m happy to be with you. Things seem to have worked themselves out. More than anything I’m happy to be able to get some sleep in a bed that doesn’t have wheels rolling under it” I joked

“That’s the number one thing you’re looking forward to involving a bed, huh?” Aj murmured and I blushed

“You have a one track mind” I said rolling my eyes at him to disguise my rush of excitement at the prospect of a bedroom and privacy

“I love you, what can I say?” Aj said with foe innocence

“You’re crazy, I have to pee” I said as he suppressed a small laugh and let go of my hand so he could grab my bag while I made my way to the bathroom. The damn airport was always so crowded that it took me a full five minutes to walk across the busy hall and I glanced back to see Aj leaning by a window, gazing out at the sun. I smiled at the vision of the man that was finally all mine and I was so lost in the view that I didn’t register when the normal shuffling from the people around me turned a little more violent. I felt a hand grab my wrist and before I could do anything I was yanked into a back corner and a cloth was over my mouth. I struggled and gasped for air and then my vision went sideways as the world drifted away from me.

It couldn’t have been too long before I was conscious again. My vision was blurry and I blinked a few times to try to focus. It wasn’t helping much so I tried to lift my hand to rub my eyes free of this cloud but I met with resistance. It seemed that my hands were somehow tied behind my back. A shot of panic streaked through my core and my vision responded by immediately sharpening. I was in a car and it was making good time. I glanced down and noticed with a shock that the handle to my door had been removed.

“You’re awake” I heard and it took everything in me not to scream. I turned my head slowly to the driver and saw my worst nightmare in the flesh. Rich was driving the car.