Once they arrived at the small bar, they found Brian and Leighanne waiting at a table in the back for them. As Brian’s wife stood up to greet them, Max felt herself take a nose dive in the confidence department. Here was this tall, blonde beauty dressed in a short skirt and tight white tank top. If the rest of the guys had wives that looked like that, she didn’t have a chance in hell of competing with them; she surprised herself with that odd thought since she wasn’t planning on staying long enough to have to compete with them.
“Hi Max.” Brian greeted her with his Southern drawl. “It’s nice to finally meet you.”
“It’s nice to meet you too.” she responded quietly and turned towards Leighanne. “Hi.”
“Hi Max.” Leighanne replied with a smile. “AJ didn’t tell us how pretty you were.”
Max’s heart sank. Maybe Leighanne was being genuine with the flattering remark but she really felt like the plain girl who gets complimented by the cheerleading squad. She looked over at AJ and he gave her a wide grin.
“See? I’m not the only one who thinks you’re beautiful.”
Brian was the first to sense Max’s discomfort and stepped in right away.
“So Max, can you sing?”
“Definitely not.” she replied with a laugh as she sat down. “I don’t think I could carry a tune in a bucket.”
Brian chuckled. “That’s ok, neither can AJ!”
“Hey!” his brother replied, throwing a napkin at him.
“Don’t let him fool you; he uses us to make him sound good!”
“I beg to differ! You guys need me to make you sound, and look, good!”
Max was grateful to be watching the banter between the two of them because it meant she wouldn’t have to talk about herself much. She got nervous when Leighanne leaned in towards her but she didn’t have to worry.
“They’re always like this and they enjoy it more when we’re watching. You’d better get used to it.”
I won’t have to, she thought; she wouldn’t be sticking around long enough to worry about it.
“Oh ok.” was all she said to Leighanne.
Their waitress came by and took their orders for drinks and appetizers. Max noticed that everyone had just ordered sodas. She didn’t know why she would assume that because they were celebrities that they had to drink but the thought popped into her head.
“Thanks.” AJ told the table. “I appreciate the sodas.”
“No sweat.” Brian replied.
“Why are you thanking everyone?” Max asked with confusion.
“I’m a recovering alcoholic.” he stated bluntly.
Max got quieter and turned her head towards him. “Um, aren’t you afraid that someone else will hear you? Someone could try to spin it…”
AJ stopped her by planting a kiss on her cheek. “Thank you for being concerned but I think the whole world already knows.”
“Oh.” she murmured. “Sorry.”
“There’s no need to be sorry, I’m used to it.”
Leighanne and Brian took the conversation on a new path as their food arrived and told Max about their son, Baylee, and how he opened up for the guys on their last tour. She made sure to ask a ton of questions about him to keep any and all attention off of herself. Leighanne was explaining how Baylee had been diagnosed with Atypical Kawasaki Disease and how it affected him when Max made a huge mistake.
“He must have needed an IVIG to get it under control.”
The comment left her mouth before she could stop it and she watched as all three heads turned towards her.
“How did you know that?”
Think of something you idiot, she thought as she tried to come up with some plausible reason for knowing that.
“Um, I did a project for a health and wellness class when I was in high school.”
She knew that none of them were buying that but they at least played along, not wanting to call her out on it.
“Well you picked an interesting topic.” Brian commented, finally breaking the silence.
“Thanks.” Max said and couldn’t thank the waitress enough for bringing their dinner over before any more conversation could happen.
The two couples chatted about simple topics like the weather and their families as well as their favorite places that they’d been through on tour. Max watched as AJ’s face lit up as he talked about his music; it was obvious to anyone how passionate he was about it.
“Do you have any favorite places Max?” Leighanne inquired.
“Not really. I’ve never been anywhere outside of the country.”
“Where’d you grow up?”
“Michigan.” Max answered quickly.
“Cold up there huh?” Brian asked.
“Freezing, especially in the winter.”
“I bet.” AJ chuckled.
The noise level rose as the karaoke began and she was thankful that it made any chance of more conversation difficult. AJ had put his name in earlier and he was one of the first to be called.
“Hope you like it.” he whispered in her ear as he proceeded to the stage.
AJ made himself comfortable in front of the mike and watched as his song began on the video.
“This song is for my favorite brown eyed girl!”
Max blushed deeply and listened as he began to belt out Van Morrison’s “Brown Eyed-Girl”. AJ made a point of keeping eye contact with her throughout the entire song and the only time she looked away was when Leighanne touched her arm.
“He really likes you, you know.” she told her. “AJ’s a terrific guy and I really hope you’ll give him a chance.”
Max felt awful, she didn’t want to lead anyone on and have them believe that she was planning on staying.
“AJ told you I was leaving right?”
Leighanne nodded. “But he said you’d think about it.”
“I did but my mind is pretty made up.”
“I don’t really know you Max but I think you’re the type of person who’ll follow through on what you told him. I believe you’ll give him the full week and that your mind isn’t completely made up.” she paused. “Even if you won’t admit it to yourself.”
AJ had just returned to the table and found her talking with Leighanne.
“Are you guys talking about me?”
“Of course honey.” Leighanne replied with a chuckle. “Aren’t we always?”
AJ laughed and they watched as a few more people sang. At about ten-thirty, Brian yawned and told them that he and Leighanne were going back to the hotel. She had an early flight out the next morning and wanted to get some sleep. The two couples said their goodbyes and headed in opposite directions.
“Did you have fun tonight?” AJ asked her as they were on their way back to her apartment.
“I did. They were both very nice.”
“Brian always is.” he paused. “So have I changed your mind yet?”
They were silent for the rest of the ride back. As they arrived back at her apartment, he told her what the plan was for the next night.
“Camping?” she asked stunned as he walked her to her door.
“Yup. On the beach behind the diner.”
“I don’t have a tent.”
“No worries. I’ll take care of everything; all you need to do is show up.”
AJ saw the doubt in her eyes.
“You promised you’d give me a week.”
Max wasn’t thrilled but she would never break a promise. “Ok.”
“Great! I’ll see you at five.”