Bed Of Roses

By:  Jessica

 

Chapter 1

 

“Lance,” Kelly said after setting her drink down. “I know you didn’t invite me out for coffee just to enjoy my company. What’s on your mind?”

 

Lance let out a sigh as he ran his finger over the rim of his cup. “It’s Jenna.”

 

“What about her?”

 

“Well, I told her I’d give her time and I meant that, but how long do I give her? I mean, I really want to see where things are going to go with us, but it’s like we should be at the starting line, ready for the gun to go off, but instead we’re still in the stables.” Lance shook his head. “And I know that a relationship isn’t a race. I’m…I’m not good at analogies.”

 

Kelly smiled at Lance. “I understand what you’re trying to say and that’s all that’s important. I honestly don’t know how long you should wait before you try to start things up. But, you know, it takes half the time you’re with someone to get over them and be ready to move on.”

 

Lance tilted his head questioningly. “Where’d you hear that?”

 

“Jenna.” Kelly let out a little laugh.

 

“Half the time, huh? Well, she was with David for what, six weeks. So three weeks should be enough, right?” Lance raised his voice. “It’s been two months.” He looked at Kelly and mouthed sorry. “Plus, she wasn’t in love with him or anything.”

 

“No, she wasn’t,” Kelly patted Lance’s hands, “but she did also lose people close to her and had to deal with those emotions at the same time. She may have needed longer.”

 

Lance let out another sigh. “So, do you think it’s still too soon to try to start things?”

 

Kelly shook her head. “That’s not a decision I can make. I think you need to read her signs and follow your heart.” Lance looked at Kelly discouraged. “But, she it coming with us to the Comedy Warehouse tonight, so if you two needed to escape for a little while to talk, I’m sure everyone would understand.”

 

Lance smiled at Kelly. “Thanks! I needed this.” Kelly just smiled and continued to sip her coffee.

 

“So, how’s Robin holding up?” Jenna asked as she adjusted the phone on her shoulder to continue painting her nails.

 

“Well, the doctor said she’s healing nicely and she had a job interview yesterday. They are supposed to call Friday to tell her if she got it or not.” Lane kicked her shoes off and curled up in her chair to relax as she talked to her friend. “She’s thinking about going back to her house. She’s been staying with her parents the past few weeks and they seem to be driving her crazy.”

 

“Is she ready for a job and living in the house…alone?” Jenna almost whispered her last word.

 

“I don’t know if she’s ready or not, but she’s trying to get back to normal and keep herself busy. I don’t think it can hurt the coping process any.” Lane took a deep breath. “What about you and Lance? Anything new?”

 

“Well,” Jenna sighed and recapped the polish bottle. “He said he would give me time, and he has. But, I’ve just been wondering how long I should make him wait. I think I’m ready to see where things could go with us. It’s like college, you know. You want it to start because it’s a new adventure, but it’s scary to make that first step and start that new chapter of your life.”

 

“Oh, Jenn. That was a good one. You should write it down and sell it to Hallmark. That’d make a great card.”

 

Jenna rolled her eyes. “Shut up!”

 

“I’m serious.” Lane scoffed. “But, I don’t know how long you should make him wait. You know, it takes half the time you’re with someone to get over them and be ready to move on.”

 

“Where’d you hear that?”

 

Lane laughed. “From you when Drew and I broke up. So by your standards, it’s been more than long enough. Plus, if you’re actually thinking about it, I think that’s a good sign you’re ready.”

 

“So,” Jenna scratched her head, “what do I need to do?”

 

“Let him know you’re ready. Body language. Comments. You know how to do this. In fact, you’re going to Pleasure Island with everyone tonight, right?”

 

Jenna nodded. “Yeah, we’re going to the comedy club out there.”

 

“Then tonight, send him some signals.” Lane smiled proudly.

 

“Or maybe I could just pull him aside and talk to him.”

 

Lane sighed. “If you want to be boring, yeah that’ll work. Oh, I got your birthday present in the mail the other day. Thank you!”

 

“You’re welcome. Thanks for listening, girl.” Jenna glanced down at her watch. “I hate to do this, but I’ve gotta finish getting ready. If I’m going to talk to him, I need to look fabulous.”

 

“Good luck and tell me how everything goes. I’ll talk to you later.”

 

Jenna smiled. “Bye Lane. Tell everyone I said hello.”

 

“Will do. Bye!” Jenna hung up the phone then started to fix the nails that got messed up when she scratched her head.

 

When Jenna, Kelly, and Joey arrived at the Comedy Warehouse, Lance and JC were already sitting at a table having a drink. When the guys caught Joey’s attention, the trio walked over to the table and took a seat. Kelly made sure that Jenna was forced to sit next to Lance. She may not have told Lance what she thought he should do, but she was going to try her hardest to make sure they had no reason to avoid each other. They ordered a round of drinks then chatted until the next comedian started their set.

 

“Where are Justin and Chris?” Kelly asked as the waiter brought their drinks.

 

“Joey doesn’t keep you informed, does he? Justin’s promoting in London right now and Chris is visiting family. He should be back on Wednesday.” JC answered. “I’m surprised Johnny didn’t send you with Justin, Jenna.”

 

Jenna shook her head. “Yeah, he wanted to, but I’m not ready to be at that boy’s beckon call. Plus, I work for Johnny, not technically you guys, so going to London would be showing favoritism.” Jenna joked.

 

“So, you’re saying you wouldn’t come with me when I do my solo album?” JC smiled.

 

Jenna rolled her eyes. “You actually do an album and I’ll think about it. I like you better than Justin anyway. But, all I’ve seen so far is a lot of talk and no recording, so I don’t think I have to worry about it.”

 

“Harsh Jenn.” Joey laughed.

 

“Hey, I’ve done like four songs so far.” JC crossed his arms, but couldn’t keep from smiling.

 

“Yeah, and you think that they are all crap. I agree with Jenna, I’ll believe it when I see it.” Lance looked over at Jenna. “I’m glad you came tonight.”

 

Jenna smiled as she blushed. “Thanks. I’ve wanted to get out of that house and back into the real world and this seemed like a good opportunity. Plus,” Jenna patted Lance’s knee, “everyone can use a good laugh sometimes.” Lance nodded in agreement and placed his hand on Jenna’s. Then the lights lowered and the next comedian come up on the stage.

 

After two more comedians and an hour had passes, Lance stood up and stretched his back. “I need some fresh air. Anyone want to join me?”

 

JC started to stand up, but when he saw Jenna get up, he made it look like he was just shifting. “I’ll join you, if you don’t mind.” Jenna smiled up at Lance.

 

“Okay. We’ll be back in a few.” Lance waved at everyone then put a hand on Jenna’s back to help navigate her through the crowd. When they got outside, Jenna leaned up against the railing that went around the club and breathed in the smell of barbeque cooking from a few stores down. “It’s a beautiful night tonight.” Lance said as he leaned on the rail next to Jenna.

 

She nodded. “Yeah. It’s almost a shame we’re indoors.”

 

“Yeah.” Lance turned around to lean his back on one of the support beams. “So, Jenna, how have you been? How’s Robin?”

 

“She’s doing better, considering. And me, I’m fine.” Jenna looked out into the night sky. “How have you been?”

 

“I’ve been good. You know, just relaxing.” Lance closed his eyes to gather his thoughts. “I’ve been wondering, though, if maybe we could start talking…about us?”

 

Jenna batted her eyes as innocently as possible. “What about us?”

 

Lance shook his head. “You know what about us.” He reached for Jenna’s arm to move her where she was facing him. “I was wondering if, you know, you wanted to, or was ready to, or even still wanted to…”

 

“Lance,” Jenna interrupted, “just ask.” She gave him a reassuring smile.

 

“Well, I was wondering if you were ready to try to start things up, or be us instead of us, or…shit, I suck at this.” Lance looked down at his feet.

 

Jenna tilted his head up so he was looking in her eyes. “If you’re asking if I’m ready to try this dating thing with you, then my answer is yes. I’m a little nervous, but ready.”

 

Lance let out a relieved sigh. “Well then, would you like to go out with me on Saturday?”

 

“You mean,” Jenna laughed, “you’re going to make me wait five whole days before we can actually have our first date? That’s a long time to wait, but I guess Saturday’s all right. I’ll have to check my planner, though.” Jenna giggled.

 

Lance laughed as he pulled her into a hug. “Saturday it is then. Now, we better get back inside before everyone thinks we’ve abandoned them.” Jenna nodded and the two reentered the comedy club.

 

“So, you two are finally going out Saturday. Congrats. Was it because of the charm Lane told you to turn on?” Melissa asked.

 

“No, I think we were just both thinking the same thing. He’s the one that brought it up.” Jenna said as she continued to type a report for Johnny.

 

“Well, I’m really happy for you. I hope this all works out for you both.”

 

“It better.” Jenna laughed. “I’m not willing to spend the rest of my life fighting with him like I did before. Oh, hang on a minute. The other line’s ringing.” Jenna put Melissa on hold and picked up line two. “Wright Entertainment Group. Jenna Sutherland speaking.”

 

“Hey Jenn. Can you talk for a minute?”

 

“Sure Lane. Johnny’s not here today anyway. Just let me say goodbye to Melissa. She’s on the other line.”

 

“Tell her I said hello.” Lane laughed thinking that at that very moment she and Melissa were only a few miles apart.

 

“Will do. Hang on.” Jenna put Lane on hold and picked back up Melissa’s line. “Hey Mel. It’s Lane on the other line and she needs to talk, so I’ll call you later, okay?”

 

“Do you ever do work at work?” Melissa joked.

 

“Hey, I’m typing as we speak.”

 

“Yeah, yeah. I’m sure. Well, I’ll tell Robin about you and Lance and I’ll talk to you later.” Melissa smiled.

 

Jenna scratched her head. “Only tell Robin if you think she’ll be okay with it all. I really don’t know what is okay to tell her or not since…” Jenna trailed off.

 

“She loves you and asks about Lance all the time, so don’t worry.”

 

“Okay…Well goodbye. Oh, and Lane says ‘hi’.”

 

Melissa laughed. “Crazy girl. Bye Jenn.”

 

Jenna switched back to Lane’s line and clicked save on her computer. “Okay. I’m back. What’s up?”

 

“You won’t believe who I got a call from today.” Before Jenna could even try to answer, Lane did for her. “WESH-NBC Channel 2 there in Orlando. In Orlando! They want me to come down for an interview. They saw some tapes of me and loved my reporting and want to give me an anchor job for the noon newscast. Marc Middleton is moving to Chicago and they need to fill his spot. One person gets the morning show and the other gets the noon news. It’s not the evening spot, but it’s an anchor position. Can you believe it?” Lane giggled in excitement.

 

“Wow! Congrats Lane. I knew you could do it.”

 

“The thing is, I don’t even know how they knew about me. I mean I didn’t send them anything.”

 

Jenna smiled and leaned back in her chair. “I’m sure they just saw some broadcast with you in it one time they were in Texas or something and they thought you were perfect. When’s your interview?”

 

“That’s part of the reason I called. It’s Friday and I need a place to stay. My plane comes in Thursday and leaves Saturday. They set all that up, but I told them I had people to stay with down there. So, will you be my people?” Lane tried to sound as sweet as possible.

 

“Of course I will. Just fax me your flight times and I’ll be there for you.”

 

“Thank you so much, Jenn. I owe you.”

 

“Well,” Jenna grinned. “I have a way for you to pay me back.”

 

“What?” Lane sounded surprised that Jenna would actually make her fulfill this promise.

 

“Saturday, before you leave, you have to help me get ready.”

 

“For what?”

 

Jenna giggled then cleared her throat. “My first date with Lance.”

 

Lane smiled. “You two are finally going out! Tell me everything.” Jenna pulled her feet up into the chair and began to tell Lane what all had happened the night before.

 

Chapter 2

“So, how was the flight?” Jenna asked as she popped her trunk for Lane to put her bags in.

 

“It was nice, although I’m sure I forgot to pack things. I hate having to get ready on short notice.” Lane shut the trunk and got in the passengers seat of Jenna’s car.

 

“Well, if you need anything you can either borrow it from me or we can go pick it up. There’s a Wal-Mart about two miles from the house.” Jenna cranked the car and turned down the radio so they didn’t have to yell over it.

 

“Thanks again for picking me up today and letting me stay with you. I guess you’ll be dropping me off then going back to the compound.”

 

Jenna shook her head. “Nope, I worked a half day today so I could take you out for a day of beauty. Did you think I was going to let you go to this interview looking anything other than perfect?”

 

Lane looked over at Jenna surprised. “A day a beauty? Wow! Thank you! But I don’t know if it will help me get the job.”

 

“It can’t hurt.” Jenna laughed as she turned onto the highway. “We have hair and nail appointments. Then massages. Then tonight we are going out to dinner with a few of the guys.”

 

“Dinner?”

 

“Yeah. It’ll be you, me, Lance, JC, and Chris.” Jenna couldn’t help but look over at her friend and smile as she let out a little sigh. “Yeah, I figured you’d prefer dinner out with the guys that, once you get this job, you’ll be around all the time.”

 

“Cool.” Lane then got a devilish look on her face. “And the day of beauty, it’s all about me and my job interview and has nothing to do with your big date?” Jenna blushed. “Yeah, that’s what I thought. That’s okay. I’ll take a massage no matter what ulterior motives you have.”

 

The two girls enjoyed their hours of pampering. They both had beautifully painted fingers and toes. Lane had gotten her mid-length hair trimmed and Jenna, after much persuasion from Lane, got highlights. They loved their massages and had trouble getting enough energy gathered up to get off the tables when it was over. Then, they went to Jenna’s to get ready for their dinner that night. In typical style, the girls were late getting to the restaurant, but it wasn’t a big deal since the only one who had arrived so far was Lance. Once the guys got there and everyone had a minute to look over the menus, they ordered. The group took their time eating the meal and getting to know Lane better. Jenna had informed them of her interview and the guys seemed genuinely interested.

 

“So, you’re saying that ‘No Action’ Jackson will be doing her hard hitting school skipping stories here in lovely Orlando?” Chris joked.

 

Lane pointed her finger at Chris. “Don’t make me kick my number one fan out of the club.”

 

“Are you a new anchor or replacing someone?” JC asked as he sipped his merlot.

 

“Well,” Lane took a sip of her water. “Marc Middleton is moving to Chicago and they want two new people to fill his spot.”

 

“So, you’ll be sitting at a desk looking pretty. Will you do the news with no pants on? I hear that’s how Jimmy Fallon does Weekend Update.” Chris smiled at Lane.

 

“Is this guy ever serious?” Lane leaned over to Jenna and asked. She shook her head. “I didn’t think so. No Chris.” Lane sighed. “I’m sure I have to wear pants or a skirt or something. I don’t think my co-anchor would appreciate me going commando.”

 

“Man, I was just thinking no pants. But completely bottomless, I…”

 

Lance interrupted. “I don’t think that this is proper dinner conversations, Chris.”

 

Lane laughed. “Thanks. Plus, I don’t even know if I’ll get the job. For all I know they may think I’m too southern or too inexperienced.”

 

Jenna shook her head. “That’s impossible. They wouldn’t pay to have you flown out on short notice if they weren’t very interested.”

 

“I hope.”

 

When dinner was over, Lance, Jenna, and Lane went to a cocktail lounge for drinks. Chris and JC decided to not go with them because Chris was still pretty tired from his flight in late the night before and JC actually had an early studio time with Dallas Austin the next morning. They had barely been in the lounge long enough to order their drinks when Jenna was summoned to a table full of Disney promoters.

 

“I’m sorry, guys. If ya’ll could excuse me for about five minutes, I have to go schmooze. These are the people that are trying to get Justin, Britney, or all you guys to be in their Christmas parade. They don’t seem to be taking my hints very well that everyone is busy or on break. I’ll be right back.” Jenna grabbed her drink and put her best fake smile on.

 

“And then there were two.” Lane said softly.

 

“Actually, I’m kinda glad we have a moment to ourselves.” Lance said. “I’m sure Jenna’s told you about Saturday.”

 

Lane smiled. “Yeah, she’s mentioned it. Why?”

 

“Well,” Lance took a sip of his Jack and Coke. “I’m getting to know her and I think I know what she likes and dislikes, but I want to hear from someone who’s been around her longer. What should I do for the date?”

 

“Are you serious? You’ve spent every minute with her for like the past five months and you still aren’t sure what she likes?” Lane looked at Lance confused.

 

“I just want to make sure it’s perfect. I really like her and I don’t want to screw this up.” Lance looked at Lane, begging for answers.

 

“Well, I’m sure you’ll know some of this but,” Lane sighed, “here we go. She doesn’t eat beef. Doesn’t like real flowers unless they are roses or daisies and thinks first date flowers are thoughtless. She doesn’t like to eat Mexican or Italian on the first date. What else?” Lane thought for a moment.“ She completely believes in chivalry, but she’s still going to offer to pay. If she seems adamant, let her leave the tip.” Lane watched Lance take in every word like she had the answers to why humans exist. “Since you two are already past the ‘get-to-know-you’ phase, things should be really easy and comfortable. Just enjoy yourself and she’ll have to enjoy herself.” Lance nodded in understanding.

 

“Who’ll have to enjoy themselves?” Jenna asked as she slung an arm around Lane’s shoulder.

 

“Oh,” Lane looked from Lance to Jenna, trying to think up something to say. “Um…”

 

“Barbara Walters.” Lance blurted out. “We were talking about the interview Justin’s going to have with her. You know, no holds barred, and how she’ll have to enjoy herself.”

 

Jenna looked confused, but smiled at Lance. “Oh.” Lane shook her head and mouthed to Lance ‘Barbara Walters?’ He just shrugged his shoulders and smiled.

 

Lane stepped through the front doors of WESH and was greeted by a smiling receptionist talking on her headset. Lane looked very professional with her hair pulled back, perfectly done make-up, and her pin stripe power suit on. She walked up to the receptionist’s counter and when she could tell she wasn’t on the phone, said “I’m Lane Jackson. I have a ten o’clock interview with Bill Bauman.”

 

The receptionist nodded. “Go down the hall and take a right. The third door on your left is the conference room. Go in there and Mr. Bauman will be with you shortly.” Lane nodded and smiled at the receptionist then followed her directions. When she entered the conference room she saw name plates that read Bill Bauman, Ed Trauschke, and Claire Metz, and a stack of papers sitting in front of a seat across from the nameplate. She assumed the papers were for the interviewee to read, so she sat down and began looking through them. After about five minutes, the conference room door opened and three people walked in and greeted Lane with smiles and handshakes.

 

“Good morning Miss Jackson. I’m glad you could get down here on such short notice. I’m Bill Bauman, the general manager here at WESH. This is Ed Trauschke our news director and Claire Metz our senior morning anchor. We want this to be a very comfortable and informal meeting. We just want to get to know you to see if you will be right for our news team.”

 

“So Lane, may I call you Lane?” Ed asked. Lane nodded. “Why don’t you tell us about your previous experience with reporting.”

 

Lane nodded and smiled. “Well, I am currently with KTVT Channel 11 out of Dallas, Texas. I have been working there for the past six months as a field reporter and the previous year as an intern. All throughout college I worked as a reporter for the campus newspaper and the campus radio station. In high school I was the editor of the school newspaper and co-anchored the morning announcements.”

 

“Yes, we read that all in your résumé. Thank you for faxing it to us.” Bill said.

 

“Which do you prefer? On air or print?” Claire asked as all three took notes.

 

“Until I did the radio reporting, it was print. I love writing, but after the first time on air I was hooked. It was exciting doing it then and it never loses its excitement.”

 

“Well, we love to have fresh blood that is still excited to come to work.” Ed smiled at Lane. “If you worked here, you would be going from a CBS affiliate to a NBC affiliate. How do you feel about that?”

 

Lane let out a little laugh. “Well, if I was David Letterman and CBS paid my bills, then it would matter. News coverage is supposed to be an unbiased party. It doesn’t matter what company you are with as long as you are getting the information out to the people.”

 

All three nodded in agreement. “One last question.” Bill said. Lane looked at him surprised that the interview was so short. “How comfortable do you feel going from field reporter to co-anchor?”

 

“Honestly, I’m a little nervous. But,” Lane smiled, “I’m ready for the challenge and the opportunity. I think I could become a real asset to your station.”

 

“Well then, Miss Jackson, welcome to the WESH team. You are going to be our new noon co-anchor. You will be working with Ron Kendrick and meteorologist Mike O’Lenick.”

 

Lane looked at the three interviewers surprised. “Thank you. I didn’t expect to know today if I got the job or not.”

 

“Well, honestly we were very impressed with your potential from your tapes and just considered this interview a formality.” Bill said.

 

“I’m a little confused. I didn’t send in any tapes, so how did you hear about me?” Lane asked.

 

“Well, if it wasn’t for someone watchful at the WEG camp, we wouldn’t have seen your tapes at all.” Ed answered.

 

Lane scrunched her eyebrows. “Wright Entertainment Group?”

 

“Yes.”

 

“Who there sent you the tapes?”

 

Ed answered, “It was Mr. Wright’s new PA, Jenna Sutherland. Wonderful girl. She’s built up a great rapport with us very quickly. She said she knew of a girl that would be great for our station and sent us your tapes.”

 

“I’m gonna kill her.” Lane mumbled.

 

Ed cocked his head. “What?”

 

“Oh nothing.” Lane answered. “Thank you again for this opportunity. I won’t let you down.” Lane shook all their hands then got a tour of the station and filled out some paperwork before she headed back to Jenna’s house. When Jenna got in from work, Lane had dinner ready and was setting the table. Jenna put down her stuff and began helping Lane by opening a bottle of wine and pouring them both a glass.

 

“So, how’d the interview go?” Jenna asked as she put the glasses on the table.

 

Unexcitedly Lane answered, “Good.”

 

Jenna looked at Lane confused. “So do you know if you got it or not?”

 

“I did.” Lane set the girls plates of food down on the table. “I found out how they knew about me.”

 

Jenna sheepishly smiled. “I’m guessing you’re mad at me.”

 

Lane sighed. “You know, I’m glad I got the job and all, but I thought I had gotten it on my own.”

 

“I’m sorry.”

 

“I had actually thought about trying for one of the stations down here. But when I was ready and thought I had done good enough work to send in a tape.” Lane continued.

 

“I really am sorry. It’s just the tapes mom had been sending me of your reports were getting better and better and when I heard there was going to be a position at Channel 2, I thought of you.” Jenna looked down at her lap. “I didn’t mean to step over the line.”

 

Lane sighed. “Just let me take care of my career from now on, okay Jenn?” Jenna nodded. “I guess I should say thanks for sending the tapes in. I wouldn’t have an anchor job right now if it wasn’t for you.” Jenna smiled. “And, I have a favor to ask. I’m going back to Texas for a few weeks to resign and pack up, but then I have nowhere to live when I move up here. Can I stay with you for a little while? Just until I can get my own place.”

 

Jenna raised an eyebrow. “You mean, you get mad at me for interfering then you want to live with me, no questions asked?” Lane sheepishly nodded. Jenna let out a little laugh then said, “Well, I guess. But you better find a place quick because I like my big old house all to myself.”

 

Lane scoffed. “Selfish! No, I was just thinking a few months. You know until I can find that perfect place. I wouldn’t be here more than a year or two.” Lane joked.

 

“You got two months, girl. Then I’m kicking your ass out.” The girls laughed then ate their dinner.

 

Chapter 3

Jenna looked at herself in the mirror once more. She was a little uncomfortable in what Lane had picked out for her to wear, but at least she knew she looked good. The Florida sun had been good to Jenna and the simple navy dress she had on looked perfect on her tan skin. Lane had done Jenna’s hair and makeup so she looked like Jennifer Aniston and against her typical feelings Jenna had gotten a French manicure instead of her trademark red polish at their day of beauty.

 

The clock read 7:52pm. She had just a few minutes left to get her stuff together before Lance would be there to pick her up. As she reached for her cell phone to put in her purse, she saw her hands shaking. That sight made her laugh. She had been around this boy for months doing everything under the sun. She couldn’t believe she was nervous over a little date. The thought almost made her laugh out loud. Then she thought that if this date didn’t go well then all the months of feelings and fights were for naught. Jenna pushed that thought out of her mind as she grabbed for her white sweater.

 

As Jenna finished getting ready, Lance paced in front of her door. He hadn’t bought any flowers and he picked a German restaurant for dinner, trying to follow Lane’s advice. His palms were sweaty and he thought he was overdressed, but when he looked down at his watch and saw it was 8:02pm, he decided to ring Jenna’s doorbell. Jenna quickly opened the door and smiled at Lance after seeing she wasn’t too overdressed for their date. “Hi…you look great.”

 

Jenna blushed. “Thanks. You clean up nice too, Mr. Bass.” She smoothed Lance’s shirt collar.

 

“Don’t call me that.” Lance rolled his eyes. “It always sounds like you’re mad at me when you call me Mr. Bass.”

 

“Sorry!”

 

Lance shrugged. “It’s not a big deal. You ready to go?” Jenna nodded as she grabbed her purse and turned off the lights. “Good, cause I’m famished.”

 

“Famished? Did you just say famished? I didn’t know southern boys knew big words.” Jenna joked.

 

“Oh shut up and get in the car.” Lance said as she pushed her out her front door.

 

When they arrived at the restaurant, they were seated at a private, candlelit table in the back of the restaurant. Lance ordered a bottle of wine and after they ordered their food asked Jenna about her day. “Well, it was pretty boring. Wake up, chill with Lane, start getting pretty, chunked my best friend on a plane back to Plano, finished getting pretty, then went on a date with a pop superstar. You know, the usual.”

 

Lance rolled his eyes. “Are you always this sarcastic on a date or is this just for me?”

 

Jenna thought, ‘It’s a defense mechanism.’ but opted to say, “No, I’m normally quiet. At least on a first date I am, if you can believe that.” Jenna took a sip of her wine. “What about your day? Did you have a more exciting Saturday than me?”

 

“Eh, about the same. I just took a little longer on the getting pretty part.”

 

Jenna smiled. “It shows. Good job. So, you put Joey on a plane to Plano…think that’s a good idea? He could get lost.”

 

“Well, I guess I didn’t do that part either. I haven’t heard yet, did Lane get the job?” Lance asked as their food was set on the table for them.

 

Jenna nodded. “Yeah, she got it. She moves up here in like two weeks. She seems really happy about the job, but she wasn’t thrilled that I was the one that sent in her tapes.”

 

“Kelly told you that would probably happen, but screw her. Once she’s working, she’ll be so happy that she’ll thank you. WESH has great people. She’s going to be in heaven.”

 

“See,” Jenna pointed with her fork, “that’s what I was thinking. I only interfere because I want her to have everything she can. Sometimes she’s just not confident enough in herself. I didn’t let her be pissed for long.”

 

“You mean she gave up being pissed on her own.” Jenna blushed. Lance just shook his head. “Where’s she going to live?” He asked as he cut some more bread for Jenna and himself and handed her a piece.

 

“Thank you! Well, she’s going to live with me until she can get her own place. The roommate thing will be weird to do again, but at least we know we can do it. Four years of college was good for something.” Jenna took a bite of her dinner then asked, “Have you heard from boy wonder lately?”

 

“Um,” Lance swallowed. “Yeah, he called today. Having a blast. He’s still partying up in London. Having a good time.”

 

“When’s he planning on coming back?”

 

“Well, he won’t be back in the states until about a week before the album drops. Then he won’t be back here until the beginning of December.”

 

“That’s around your first album meeting, right?” Jenna asked.

 

“Yeah, that’s when we do final song submissions and get the information on the songs. First cuts are that day.”

 

Jenna wiped her mouth with her napkin then replaced it on her lap. “Are you going to submit anything?”

 

Lance’s eyes got big. “Uh, I don’t know. I don’t think I’ve written anything good enough.”

 

Jenna gave Lance a disbelieving look. “I’m sure you have stuff as good as the rest of the guys. Kelly said you and Joey have written before and it was good. You should just submit something and get the guys’ opinion on them.”

 

Lance shook his head. “I don’t think so.”

 

“Why not? I mean…”

 

“I said, because I don’t think they’re good enough.” Lance said sternly. “Can we just drop it?”

 

Jenna leaned back in her seat and looked down at her lap. “Sorry.” She quickly said.

 

They both sat motionless for a few moments until Lance broke the silence. “I’m sorry Jenn. I overreacted.”

 

Jenna shook her head, but didn’t look up. “It’s alright. I was out of bounds.”

 

Lance reached across the table and tilted Jenna’s head up to look in her eyes. “I’m sorry. Can we just go back about five minutes and forget that happened?” Jenna smiled and nodded. Lance pinched her nose and said, “Good.”

 

Jenna smacked lightly as his retreating hand. “You do that again and I’ll bite it off.”

 

“Feisty, feisty.” Lance joked then quietly added “I bet I’m the first guy you’ve ever dated that yelled at you on the first date.”

 

Jenna laughed lightly. “It’s not like I’ve dated that many guys.”

 

“How many?”

 

“How many what?” Jenna looked at Lance confused.

 

“How many guys have you dated?” Lance took a sip of his wine.

 

“Including high school…four guys. I had a serious boyfriend that was my high school sweetheart and David then there were two guys I just kinda dated my junior year of college.” Jenna blushed. “What about you?”

 

Lance fidgeted in his seat. “Only two. Danielle Fishel, from Boy Meets…”

 

“World.” Jenna interrupted. “I loved that show and you forget, I’m a fan. I knew about that one.”

 

Lance chuckled. “Yeah, well then you know the other one too. Laura…a few months of last year.”

 

Jenna sat quiet for a moment then looked at Lance questioningly. “That’s all? Nothing small in-between? No groupies or mothers of groupies?” Lance shook his head ‘no’. Jenna nodded in understanding and took another bite of her dinner.

 

Jenna and Lance continued eating and talking. When they finished, Lance took her to a park nearby. They went to sit on the swings and continue talking. As a cop car passed by, Jenna let out a little laugh. “What’s so funny?”

 

“Oh, that cop just reminded me of a story my grandfather used to tell me.” Lance raised his eyebrows in interest. “Well, when my parents were dating, my dad took mom to a school to hang out and talk until mom’s curfew. Well, a cop drove by and asked the dispatcher to run the tags. When it came up as Greg Sutherland, my grandfather radioed into the station. He was on duty that night and asked why they were running his daughter’s boyfriend’s tags. He said that he was just wondering who was swinging at the elementary school.”

 

Lance laughed. “That must have been hard to date when your dad’s a cop.”

 

“Mom said he ran background checks on all her boyfriends. Dad was the only one with a clean record.” Lance smiled at the thought. They both swung in silence for a moment then Jenna broke it. “I have a question for you.”

 

“What?”

 

Jenna took a deep breath in. “Why hasn’t the great Lance Bass found that perfect person for him yet? You seem so…so ready to be settled. I figured that you would have found her by now. That perfect girl. You know, a humble celebrity, an old friend…”

 

“A coworker.” Lance interrupted.

 

“That’s not where I was going.” Jenna frowned at Lance.

 

“So, is this your ‘round about way of asking why Laura and I didn’t work?”

 

Jenna smiled and looked away. “Maybe.”

 

“Only if you tell me about your last boyfriend. The one before Mr. Noodle Man.” Lance stopped swinging.

 

“You’re so juvenile.” Jenna also stopped swinging then laughed at the irony in that statement. “Are you sure you really want to know about my ex?”

 

“Hey, if I’m going to be in a relationship with you, it’s going to be with all of you. That includes your past.” Lance looked deep into Jenna’s eyes and softly added, “That way I won’t make the same mistakes.”

 

Jenna raised an eyebrow. “Just remember you asked for this.” Jenna took a deep breath. “The only other boyfriend I’ve ever had, other than David, was Deagan Ames. We started dating in like the 10th grade and stayed together until Christmas of my freshman year of college. He was the all American boy type. Played football, was captain of the baseball team, which matched my dance captain and Student Council president roles very well. He graduated like number six in our class.”

 

“What were you?” Lance asked. He then got a small grin on his face. “And you dance?”

 

Jenna blushed, but proudly answered, “Number 3. Lane was number 2 and yes, I danced for 5 years.”

 

Lance raised his eyebrows in interest, but asked, “Who was number 1?”

 

Jenna rolled her eyes. “Some kiss ass nerd whose dad was on the school board.” Jenna sighed. “But anyway, Deagan and I were the ‘school couple’. Everyone seemed to have a vested interest in us. We even got engaged on the senior trip. Colorado. Good times. He was my first everything. First kiss. First love.” Jenna blushed. “I even lost my virginity to him. He’s the only one I’ve ever…”Jenna looked at Lance who was giving her a questioning look. “You’re wondering what went wrong, aren’t you? Well, when we started college he joined a frat and began drinking heavily. He became abusive. I put up with it until Christmas Eve. We were having a party at Lane’s and he,” Jenna stopped talking for a moment. “He hit me in front of everyone. He then pushed Lane and threw her dog out the second story window. The fall broke all four of its legs.” Lance looked at Jenna shocked. She let out a little laugh, but her eyes seemed distant. “I couldn’t seem to find an excuse to tell everyone to apologize and that’s when I realized that the Deagan I loved was left back in high school. I broke up with him the next day and haven’t talked to him since.” They both sat quiet for a minute to let Lance soak in the story. “So…what’s yours and Laura’s story?”

 

“It’s not as dramatic as that.” Lance kicked at a rock.

 

“Doesn’t matter. I still wanna know.”

 

Lance shrugged. “It was an accident we got together. Thought there was a spark and maybe there was, but it fizzled fast and we just hung on because we didn’t want to ruin the friendship.”

 

“Did it?”

 

“No,” Lance shook his head. “We finally sat down after the Atlantis concert and talked about how things had changed and we were just going through the motions. It was a mutual decision to end it and after a few weeks, we were back to the way it was before.” Lance was quiet for a moment than asked, “What about David? Do you still talk to him?”

 

Jenna shook her head. “Nope. Haven’t talked to him since we broke up. And it sucks because I’ve been craving some shrimp Alfredo and no one has any as good as Noodles, but I don’t want to go there and things be weird, you know.”

 

“Yeah.” Lance replied as he looked down at his watch. “Damn.”

 

“What?”

 

“I just didn’t realize how late it was.”

 

Jenna looked down at her watch. “Wow! It’s been a long times since we’ve stayed up ‘til one talking.”

 

“Yeah. It’s been nice.” Both Lance and Jenna blushed. “I better get you home.” Jenna nodded.

 

Ten minutes later, Lance pulled into Jenna’s driveway and walked her to the front door. Jenna unlocked her door then turned to face Lance. “I had a good time tonight.”

 

Lance smiled at her. “Yeah, me too. We’ll have to do it again…soon.” Jenna nodded.

 

Lance tilted Jenna’s head up as he leaned down to kiss her. When she realized what was going on, she put a finger over his oncoming lips. “I don’t kiss on the first date.”

 

Lance leaned back and looked at her. “Since when?”

 

“Since always.”

 

Lance shook his head. “Nope…you kissed David. I heard you tell Kelly.”

 

“That was a mistake.” Jenna grabbed Lance’s hand and squeezed it. “I don’t want to doom this from the beginning. Other than that one time, I’ve never kissed on a first date before.”

 

Lance nodded and kissed Jenna’s forehead. “Next time, maybe?”

 

Jenna smiled. “If you’re lucky.” Lance chuckled and when they both said their goodnights, Jenna went inside and began to get ready for bed.

 

Chapter 4

“So, how long ‘til he’s here?” Lane yelled through the house.

 

“About thirty minutes.” Jenna replied as she brushed her hair. “I’m sure Chris will be with him. What’s up with that anyway? He’s been over here almost every night for the past few weeks.”

 

Lane shrugged. “Nothing. He just says it’s not fair for me to be stuck here all by myself while you and Lance go out.”

 

“I swear,” Jenna said as she grabbed her shoes and walked into the living room to join Lane, “sometimes I wonder if introducing ya’ll was a bad thing.”

 

“Why?”

 

Jenna tossed her shoes on the floor and sat on the couch. “That first night Lance and I went out after you moved in, I felt bad leaving you alone in a town you knew nobody. I thought inviting Chris over to hang out would be nice, but now it’s like two months later and he’s constantly over here, eating my food and being a bum. I swear if I didn’t know any better, I’d say you two have some secret fling going on.”

 

“Jenn,” Lane looked at her friend, “I like him, but I don’t like him. We just chill, you know. Talk, watch movies. I’m not interested in him like that, Jenn. I promise.” Lane then looked her up and down. “You’re wearing that on your date tonight?”

 

Jenna looked at her jeans and fitted green baby tee. “What? He’s cooking and we are just watching a movie. He told me to be comfortable and I think I look good.”

 

Lane nodded. “Oh, I thought you were going out to dinner. No, that does look fine then.” Lane propped her feet up on the coffee table. “When do we start picking out clothes for your trip?”

 

Jenna nervously twirled a piece of hair. “Next week. We leave for Mississippi next Thursday.”

 

“I can’t believe you agreed to go meet his parents so soon.”

 

“By that time we will have been together a few months.” Jenna shrugged her shoulders. “It’s been long enough. Plus, that is the next step, you know.”

 

Lane laughed lightly. “Yeah…after the big L word, parental interaction is a must.”

 

Jenna threw a pillow at Lane. “Don’t joke about that. Him telling me he loved me was a very special and important step. I sound like a dork, but you understand.” She then began to nervously bite her thumbnail. “Of course, that’s what started this whole meeting the parents idea.”

 

“You know, if you aren’t ready, he’d understand.” Lane said softly.

 

Jenna shook her head. “It’s not that I’m not ready. I am. I’m just nervous. I’ve never had to do the whole meet the parents thing before, so it’s just kinda weird.” Jenna and Lane sat silent for a moment. “Plus, I’ve never felt like this about a guy before. It’s scary.”

 

“What?” Lane questioned. “Did you think being in love wouldn’t be scary?”

 

“No, it’s not that.” Jenna swallowed. “Being in love is the scariest thing out there for me right now. It’s just…I’m just feeling so much, so quickly, so strongly for someone again. It’s just surreal. I don’t know. Let’s just change the topic, okay?”

 

“Just promise me you two won’t go get engaged tonight.” Lane joked.

 

Jenna smiled. “I promise. Plus, he knows now that you’re here, all big decisions go to you before they go to me.”

 

“Yeah, I know. He asked me about the parent thing first.”

 

Jenna looked at Lane shocked. “He what? No…no, I don’t want to talk about this anymore. New subject.”

 

Lane smiled at her friend. “Okay…oh, I know. What do you want to do for your birthday? That’s like two weeks away. Anything you want is yours.”

 

Jenna blushed. “Well, I kinda already have plans that night.”

 

“What?”

 

“Lance said he wanted to do something special. I can get out of it though.”

 

Lane shook her head. “No, we’ll just do something another night. You should spend your birthday with your boyfriend.”

 

“I’ll get out of it. What is it, bros before hoes? I’m sure it goes both ways. Lance and I can celebrate anytime.”

 

Lane shook her head again. “I’m not going to make you cancel. Maybe Chris and I can go with you and it can be like a double date.”

 

“Ah ha.” Jenna pointed at Lane. “I knew you two were having a thing.”

 

“No, I just said that so both Lance and I could celebrate with you and I don’t feel like I’m just tagging along.”

 

Jenna raised an eyebrow but before she could speak, her doorbell rang. She slipped her shoes on and answered the door. “Well, speak of the devil. Come on in guys.” Lance and Chris walked in. “You’re early.”

 

Lance glanced down at his watch. “Just a few minutes. He was driving me nuts. He was ready to get over here and start his movie marathon.” Lance leaned down and placed a soft kiss on Jenna’s lips. “She admit anything yet?”

 

“Nope.” Jenna took her thumb and wiped her lip-gloss off of Lance. “She says their just friends. I’m not sure I completely believe her, though.”

 

“Are you gonna come say goodnight or not?” Chris yelled from the living room. Jenna let out a sigh as Lance grabbed her hand and walked in to say goodnight. Chris had already gotten comfortable on the couch. “You kids have fun tonight. Don’t go do anything crazy!”

 

Jenna kissed the top of Chris’ head. “Goodnight old man. And please, don’t eat everything in the fridge tonight. I don’t want to waste my Saturday grocery shopping.”

 

Chris let out a loud laugh as Lane said, “Don’t stay out too late. Remember, we are going house hunting tomorrow.”

 

Jenna nodded then said goodnight to the pair. As Jenna and Lance got into his SUV, Chris grabbed the movies he brought with him. “So what first, my lady. Panic Room, Death to Smootchy, or Orange County?”

 

“Um…Panic Room first. I want to get you making fun of me for jumping out of the way.” Chris shook his head and went to put the DVD in Jenna’s player.

 

When Lance and Jenna got to his house, Lance did final touches to their dinner while Jenna set the table and made them some drinks. They enjoyed the lemon pepper chicken that was one of Kelly’s recipes and after some light dinner conversation, went into the den to get comfortable on the couch and watch a movie. Jenna kicked off her shoes and found her way to that perfect spot cuddled next to Lance as he pushed buttons on the remote.

 

“You know we could have done this with Chris and Lane.”

 

Lance kissed Jenna’s forehead. “I know. I just wanted it to be the two of us tonight. Plus,” he kissed her cheek, “when we hang out with them,” he kissed her other cheek, “they make funny faces.” He kissed her nose, “and gross noises when we kiss.” He finished his sentence with a soft kiss on Jenna’s lips.

 

Jenna pulled back and snuggled closer. “They’re so jealous.” She joked. “So what are we watching?”

 

“Well,” Lance softly ran his fingers up and down Jenna’s arm. “You said the other day you had been wanting to watch Sliding Doors again.”

 

Jenna looked up at him surprised. “But I thought you didn’t like Gwyneth’s acting?” Lance shushed Jenna, kissed her, and then started the movie.

 

Jenna watched the movie intently, but was soon distracted by Lance and his inquisitive kisses. Jenna tried to ignore him and hope he got the idea, but it was to no avail. Soon, she had her fingers entwined in his hair and was assaulting his neck as Lance lifted her onto his lap. She looked into his eyes, questioning his motives as he tucked some loose hair behind her ears and smiled. Jenna leaned down and softly kissed him. She slipped her tongue out and licked his bottom lip before putting it in her mouth and softly sucking on it. Lance let out a soft moan as he ran his hands up her tight denim covered legs and up her back. He pulled her deeper into their kiss and Jenna let out a little gasp when she felt how she was affecting him.

 

Lance pulled back with a concerned look on his face and quickly dropped his hands. “Are you okay?”

 

It took Jenna a moment to catch her breath. She held his head in her hands and smiled at him. “Yeah, I’m fine.”

 

He looked at her questioningly. “But you…” Jenna interrupted his sentence by sucking on his earlobe and when she pulled back they smiled at each other and picked up where they left off. When they finally broke free, Lance looked at Jenna and said, “I want to make love to you.” She blushed and looked away from him. Lance grabbed her chin and made her look him in the eyes. “I’m sorry. I don’t want to pressure you into anything.”

 

Jenna ran her thumb over his swollen bottom lip. “I do. I want to.” Lance placed both his hands flat on her back as he began to lay Jenna down on the couch. “Not in here.” Lance nodded and scooped Jenna up while she softly kissed his neck. When they entered his upstairs bedroom, she turned on his bedside lamps while he threw the pillows off and pulled the sheets down. When they stopped their busy work, they locked eyes. Jenna slowly walked over to Lance and put her hands on top of his, helping him unbutton his shirt. She ran her index finger down his happy trail, stopping at his belt. She undid it as she softly kissed his chest then removed it from his jeans. Once the belt was gone, his pants hung low on his hips. Jenna ran her hands up his chest and slipped his shirt off his muscular shoulders.

 

“What are you smiling at?” Lance asked as he pulled Jenna close and messed with the hem of her shirt.

 

“You’ve been working out.” Lance began to blush, but was distracted with Jenna’s nails running down his back. He stepped back and pulled her shirt off. Within a moment he had pulled Jenna close again and was kissing her collarbone, slowly pushing her bra strap aside. She ran her hands from the small of Lance’s back to the front of his jeans and before she could get the button undone, he was doing the same to her. Jenna unzipped his pants and they fell to his ankles. When Lance had hers unzipped, they just sat on her hips. “Let me help you with that.” Jenna slowly pulled her jeans off and tossed them towards her shirt as Lance kicked his off his legs.

 

“Damn girl. How do you get yourself into those?”

 

Jenna laughed softly and answered, “Magic.” She stood up on her tip toes and pulled Lance’s head down to kiss him and in a swift movement he had her back down on the bed and was again kissing her collarbone.

 

He reached behind her back and tried to undo her bra, but was having trouble. Jenna let him fight a moment longer, then sat up and undid it herself. “I can never do that.”

 

“You’re just out of practice.” Jenna smiled at Lance, and then took a sharp breath in as she felt his tongue run across her now bare breast. She couldn’t help but arch her back and pull lightly on the handful of Lance’s hair she had in her hands. He began to remove her panties as he kissed down her stomach. Jenna breathed out, “Lance…Lance.” He continued to kiss, taking a moment to dip his tongue in her navel. “No, Lance.”

 

He looked up at Jenna concerned. “Do you want to stop?”

 

Jenna shook her head. “No, it’s not that. I just don’t want you to go,” she blushed, “down there. I don’t want this to be dirty at all, you know.”

 

Lance laid down beside Jenna and ran a hand from her thigh up to her neck and back down. “Are you sure you’re okay with this?”

 

Jenna smiled and nodded as she grabbed his boxers and removed them then returned to her original position. “I’m okay.” She then gave him a questioning smile. “What are you looking at?”

 

He let out a soft sigh and leaned down to kiss Jenna. “You are so beautiful. You know that, right?”

 

Jenna shook her head and pulled Lance on top of her. They continued to kiss and as their passion rose Jenna broke their kiss. “Do you have anything?”

 

Lance glanced around his room. “Shit, no.”

 

Jenna thought for a minute then said, “Go get my purse. It’s in the kitchen.”

 

In a flash, Lance had gone from the bed to the kitchen, and back to the bedroom dumping the contents of Jenna’s purse on the floor. He grabbed a row of five condoms that were on the floor. “I’ll clean that up for you later. I’m glad you come prepared.” He then looked down at the condoms. “Why does this one have JC’s name on it?”

 

Jenna laughed. “Those were a gag gift from Robin. My last night in Plano we had a girls night and they got me gag gifts. Robin bought me a box of condoms and labeled them all with ya’lls names. She put those in my purse and told me to keep them there for just in case. I just never got around to taking them out.”

 

Lance laughed and tore one off. “Well, I’m gonna use the one with my name on it first.”

 

Jenna raised her eyebrows. “First?” Lance just smiled and placed himself on top of her again, picking up where he had left off.

 

When the activity in the room subsided, Lance lay on his back and held Jenna close as their breathing calmed. The peaceful quiet was broken when he heard Jenna suck in a sob. He looked down at her and saw Jenna wiping a tear away. “Jenna, honey…what’s wrong? Did I hurt you? Why are you crying?”

 

Jenna let out a nervous laugh. “I’m fine. It’s just…I…” Jenna propped up on her elbow and ran her hand across Lance’s cheek. “I love you and this…this was perfect.”

 

Lance continued to look at Jenna questioningly. “Are you sure you’re okay? No regrets?”

 

Jenna leaned into him and kissed him softly. “Never.”

 

Lance smiled at her then as he ran his hands up and down her sides said, “I guess I should get you home.”

 

Jenna sighed. “I wish I could just fall asleep here in your arms tonight.”

 

Lance nodded and pulled the sheets up over them. “Wish granted.”

 

As Jenna snuggled down she asked, “What about Chris?”

 

“He’ll find a way home.” Lance yawned then pulled Jenna closer to him as they both began to breath in time and start to fall asleep.

 

The next morning when Lance and Jenna woke up, they got dressed and drove over to Jenna’s house. Jenna just wanted to avoid Lane’s questions and get a shower, but when she saw Chris waking up on her couch and Lane carrying two cups of coffee, she couldn’t help but make herself known. “You slept here last night, Chris? Why didn’t you just take him home?”

 

“I’ll answer that when you tell me why you didn’t come home last night.” Lane gave Jenna a sly smile.

 

Jenna rubbed her forehead. “I’m going to go get cleaned up.” She turned to Lance and gave him a quick kiss. “I’ll talk to you later.”

 

“Okay sweetie. Enjoy your house hunting.” Lance nodded towards Chris. “Come on, sleeping beauty. Let’s take you home.” Chris nodded then hugged Lane and Jenna goodbye.

 

Jenna walked into her bedroom and started to run the water for a shower. “Are you going to tell me what happened last night?” Lane stood in the doorway of the bathroom so Jenna couldn’t get out.

 

“Nothing. I just fell asleep over there. No big deal.”

 

Lane shook her head. “You’ve fallen asleep before but always come home before the next morning. What happened?” Jenna looked at the floor and ran her hands through her hair. “Oh shit! You didn’t, did you? Did you two sleep together?” Jenna didn’t say anything, but a small smile crept across her lips. “You had sex with him! I can’t believe it. Are you okay? Tell me everything. Well, not all the dirty details, but the important stuff.”

 

Jenna laughed. “Yes, we did have sex, okay, but can I get a shower before we get into all this?”

 

Lane sighed, but moved out of the way. “You know, this changes everything.”

 

Jenna let out a nervous laugh. “Yeah, I know.”

 

Chapter 5

Kelly stood outside Jenna’s front door ringing the doorbell after she received a frantic phone call from Lane asking her to come over as soon as possible. Before the doorbell finished its song, Lane had opened the door and pulled Kelly inside. Lane and Kelly stood in the doorway of Jenna’s bedroom. The girls had never seen such a mess before. The room was covered in clothes and hangers. The only thing that was clean was Jenna’s empty suitcase sitting open on her bed. Kelly looked over at Lane questioningly. Lane mouthed, ‘She’s freaking out’. Kelly nodded and carefully stepped through the bedroom entering Jenna’s walk in closet. She was sitting on the floor with her shoes, holding in one hand her senior prom dress and in the other her college graduation gown staring off into space.

 

Kelly pushed a pile of clothes to the side and kneeled down in front of Jenna while Lane peeked in the closet. “Hey Jenn…what are you doing?”

 

Jenna blinked a few times then looked over at her prom dress. “Which do you think would make a better first impression on them?”

 

Kelly took both items from Jenna and hung them up on the empty rods. “Neither. Jenna, why are you freaking out? You just need to be yourself. That will make the best impression.”

 

“I just don’t want them to think he’s dating a…” Jenna seemed to lose her train of thought. She looked up at Kelly. “Tell me about them. You’ve met them. What are they like? What are they expecting?” Jenna ran her hands through her hair and let out a light laugh. “What should I pack?”

 

Kelly held her hands out to Jenna. “Well, first let’s get out of the closet.” Jenna took her hands and the three girls went to sit in the living room. “Are you really that scared about meeting Lance’s parents?”

 

Jenna let out a sigh and sunk in her seat. “I just don’t want them to hate me or think I’m not good enough for him.”

 

Lane put her hand on Jenna’s knee. “You are so good enough for him.” Jenna smiled up at her.

 

“Don’t be scared of Jim and Diane.” Kelly began. “I don’t think that woman has ever not liked someone. Hell, I don’t think she ever even said anything negative about Lou. Jim is really laid back. And you know that Lance had already told them all about you, so you just need to go be yourself. If Lance loves you, Jim and Diane will love you.”

 

Jenna shyly smiled. “You don’t think he’s told them everything, do you?”

 

Kelly shook her head. “Lance and Diane are close, but not that close. They aren’t Justin and Lynn.” Kelly stood up. “You ready to try this packing thing with a level head?”

 

“Do I have to?”

 

“Do you want to spend the whole trip in the nude?” Lane joked.

 

Jenna shook her head. “Let’s go pack.” When the girls stood up, Jenna pulled both girls into a hug. “Thank you. I couldn’t do this without you both.”

 

“Last call for first class passengers on Delta flight 3759 non-stop to Jackson, Mississippi.” The intercom blared as Jenna stepped out of the restroom and began walking towards Lance, who had his arms crossed and looked a little annoyed.

 

When she approached him, he handed Jenna her purse and magazine and pushed her towards the attendant taking the tickets. “Took you long enough.”

 

“Sorry,” Jenna smiled up at him, “there was a line and I hate using airplane restrooms.”

 

After the attendant ran their boarding passes and they started walking down the jet way, Lance leaned down and softly said, “So you don’t like airplane restrooms. I guess that means no ‘mile-high’ club for us, huh?”

 

“No!” Jenna said as she punched him in the arm. They stepped onto the plane and were shown to their seats. Jenna put her copy of Cosmo in the seat pocket in front of her and pulled out the Emergency Information pamphlet. “You know, I haven’t looked at these the same way since Fight Club.”

 

Lance glanced down at the pictures then took it out of her hands and put it back in the seat pocket. “You know I don’t like flying. Don’t make me think about it.”

 

“Since first class seats are bigger, do you think that our seat cushions are better or worse flotation devices?”

 

“Jenna!” Lance said sternly.

 

“I’m just kidding.” Jenna reached for his hand and kissed it. “I’ll leave you alone.”

 

He let out a sigh. “No baby. Let’s just talk about something else.”

 

Before Jenna could say anything, the flight attendant began her safety speech, so she sat back and listened, every once in a while glancing over to see Lance fidgeting nervously. He didn’t calm down and actually look out the window until they had been in flight for a few minutes. “So, are we both nervous about seeing your parents, or is this all plane phobia?”

 

“What?” Lance looked over at Jenna, with the magazine open in her lap. Once her question registered, he said, “No, I’m not nervous about you meeting my parents. They’re going to love you. Are you really that nervous?” Jenna nodded. “What exactly are you nervous about? Maybe I can calm some of those fears.”

 

Jenna let out a soft laugh. “Do you have enough time? My list is huge.”

 

Lance shifted to look at Jenna better. “Well, we have like a four hour flight. I’ll do my best.”

 

Jenna smiled at him, folded down the page of her Cosmo, put it in the seat back then shifted to look Lance in the eyes. “Where to begin?” She took a deep breath. “Well, where am I sleeping? I mean I’d love to stay in your room or whatever, but that would be strange and a big red flag to your mother that we’re sleeping together. And I don’t want them to think I’m a tramp or anything. I just really want them to like me and I think us sharing a room at your parents house wouldn’t be a good idea.” Jenna ranted.

 

Lance waited until she was done then tucked a loose hair behind her ear. “I’ve already taken care of all that. You’ll be in the guest bedroom across the hall from my room. Mom wouldn’t care if we shared a room, since we’re adults, but I figured you’d be more comfortable in your own room.”

 

Jenna let out a relieved sigh. “Thank you.”

 

“What’s next?”

 

“Um…I just…we, we haven’t been together that long, you know. I was just kinda wondering how your parents feel about meeting ‘the girlfriend’ so soon.” Jenna bit her bottom lip.

 

“Stacy came home from her second date with Ford and told Mom and Dad that she was going to marry him.” Lance recounted. “They like the idea of us having been together a few months before meeting you. They know I would never bring anyone home until I was serious about them.”

 

Jenna softly stated, “I just don’t want them to think I won’t be here tomorrow, you know. I just want to be accepted and liked.”

 

Lance took Jenna’s face in his hands and ran his thumbs softly over her cheeks. “They will love you because I love you.” Jenna let out a shaking breath, but nodded in understanding. “Do you have any other concerns?”

 

“Just one.” Jenna blushed. “How much do they know about us?” Lance gave her a look asking for more explanation. “Like, do they know everything or…?” Jenna trailed off.

 

Lance laughed loudly. “I’m close with my parents, but not that close. We aren’t like Justin and Lynn. They know everything but the physical.” Lance looked away from Jenna and played with the armrest of the seat. “They used to get called every time after we had a fight before we hooked up.”

 

“Shit.” Jenna rolled her eyes.

 

“It’s cool now. Don’t worry about it. They understand that was just a step we had to go through to get to where we are now. Hell, I can’t tell you how many times they sided with you.”

 

Jenna looked up surprised. “Really?”

 

“Yeah, and that’s even after I’d leave out half of the terrible things I said to you. They knew from the first time I told them about you that we’d end up together.” Jenna smiled and seemed to relax for the first time since the day had started. “So, any other worries or do you feel ready to met them?”

 

“As ready as I’ll ever get, I guess.” They sat quiet for a moment then Jenna asked, “Did you bring those tracks for your mother to listen to?” Lance nodded. “Well, if she likes them are you going to submit them? The final song submissions are due at that December 3rd meeting, you know.”

 

“Yeah, I know. I just don’t think they’re the right style for the group.”

 

Jenna shook her head. “I think they’re the perfect style. Ya’ll are always wanting to try different things. Those two songs are perfect.”

 

Lance shrugged his shoulders while he tried to hold back a yawn. “I don’t know. Let me think about it, okay?”

 

Jenna let out a defeated sigh. “Okay…you look tired, babe. Why don’t you take a nap?”

 

Lance smiled sweetly at Jenna. “Can I use you as a pillow?” Jenna patted her shoulder and Lance kissed her on the cheek then laid his head on her shoulder. “Thank you sweetie.”

 

Jenna opened her magazine back up and started to read an article about pleasing your man out of the bedroom. “Just don’t drool on me, okay. I don’t want to meet your parents with a wet spot on my shoulder.” Lance softly hit Jenna’s knee then left his hand there when she moved her knee to bump his. The rest of the flight Jenna and Lance either napped or had discussions about the relationship articles in Jenna’s Cosmo. They were both getting antsy and were very happy to hear the captain announce that they would be landing in ten minutes. Once the plane landed Jenna began to feel nervous again. They exited the plane and saw Lance’s parents standing and smiling.

 

Lance hugged his parents then introduced them to Jenna. “Mom, Dad…this is Jenna Sutherland.”

 

Jenna smiled and shook Jim’s hand. “Hi, Mr. Bass. Mrs. Bass. It’s nice to finally meet you.” Jenna extended her hand to Diane.

 

Diane gave Jenna a motherly look then pulled her into a hug. “It’s nice to meet you too, sweetie, but it’s Jim and Diane. You’re family now. No need to be formal.”

 

Jenna smiled then looked up at Lance. “Hurry, silly.” Jenna nodded and walked off. Diane gave her son a questioning look. Lance let out a little laugh. “Jenna doesn’t like to use airplane restrooms.” Diane nodded. The small group waited for a few minutes until Jenna joined back up then went to get their luggage.

 

Lance and his parents talked and caught up the rest of the time at the airport and the twenty-minute drive out to their house. Jenna listened and nodded when appropriate, but mostly watched the beautiful autumn leaves as they drove. When they reached the house, Jim grabbed Jenna’s bags and took them up to her room. “Why don’t you two go upstairs and get settled and freshened up. Dinner will be ready in about thirty minutes. Stacy and Ford should be here soon.” Diane said. She then looked over at Jenna. “I’m so sorry we’ve been talking so much. Jim and I really do want to get to know you.”

 

Jenna shook her head. “Oh, no. It’s no big deal. I understand that ya’ll needed to talk.” Diane smiled then ushered Jenna and Lance upstairs. Jenna saw Jim walk out of a room and guessed that it was where she was sleeping. She quietly walked in and set her purse and magazine on the dresser. The room was about the size of her living room and decorated in daisies. She walked over to the window and looked out at the huge front yard and gate.

 

Jenna was lost in thought until a set of arms wrapped around her waist. “Whatcha thinkin’?” Lance asked as he softly kissed her neck.

 

Jenna shook her head. “Nothing. Do you think your mom needs some help?”

 

“Probably not, but she’d appreciate it if you asked.” Lance set his chin on Jenna’s shoulder and looked out the window. “I’m really glad you came with me this week.”

 

“Well, thank you for inviting me. Are you all unpacked?”

 

“Naw.” Lance answered. “I’ll do that later.” They both stood there in silence for a moment until something caught Lance’s eye. “Stacy’s here. Let’s go downstairs.” Jenna nodded and followed Lance to the front door. He opened the door and greeted his sister and brother-in-law then introduced them to Jenna.

 

Jim entered the foyer and told everyone dinner was ready. The group walked into the dining room and sat down to pre-served plates. Jim said a quick prayer and the six of them were quiet for a few minutes while everyone ate. Jenna then broke the silence. “Diane, this chicken tetrazzini is wonderful.”

 

“Well thank you. Lance told us you weren’t a beef eater, so I tried to come up with some fun chicken meals for everyone while you were here.” Diane took a sip of her drink.

 

Jenna blushed. “I don’t want to put you to any trouble. You don’t have to do anything special because of me.”

 

“Don’t be silly.” Diane began. “We want you to feel comfortable, plus a week with no beef would be good for us. Maybe you can convert Jim here.”

 

Stacy laughed. “Dad not eating beef. It’ll never happen.”

 

“Uh…he’s doing it now, Stacy, but Dad’s steaks are the best.” Lance added.

 

“His hamburgers too.” Ford said.

 

Jim laughed. “The kids have spoken. Doesn’t look like you’re going to make a convert out of me, Miss Jenna, without a fight.” Jenna just smiled and shrugged her shoulders. She sat back and listened as the family talked and when dinner was over she offered to help clean. Diane thanked Jenna, but politely refused. Jim walked over and put an arm around Jenna’s shoulders. “We let the fans that want a piece of grass or a picture of Lance’s room do the dishes around here. She hasn’t washed a dish in years.”

 

Lance shook his head. “Don’t listen to my dad. He’s crazy.” Jenna just smiled at Jim as he winked at her.

 

About twenty minutes later, everybody reconvened in the living room. “Has Lance given you a tour of the house yet?” Jim asked.

 

“Yes, he did. You have a lovely home.”

 

Diane smiled. “Thank you. So, what are ya’lls plans for tonight?”

 

“We’re just going to hang around here and visit with you guys.” Lance said as he reached for Jenna’s hand.

 

“Well, you should take Jenna out to see Clinton tomorrow.” Diane suggested. “I know little towns aren’t exciting, but Clinton’s beautiful this time of year.”

 

Jenna looked up at Lance. “I’d like that.”

 

“Okay. Sounds like a plan.” Lance nodded. “Also, sometime this week I want to go into Jackson and take you out for a date.”

 

Stacy offered, “There’s a new Italian place off Asher that is really nice and romantic. Ford took me there a few weeks ago. Ya’ll should try it.”

 

“Well, Jenna…you’ve been very quiet tonight.” Diane smiled. “Why don’t you tell us about yourself.”

 

“Oh, well,” Jenna stammered. “I don’t know what all Lance had told you so far, but I’m 22…”

 

“She’ll be 23 next week.” Lance interrupted.

 

“Yeah, and I’m originally from Plano, Texas. Lived there my whole life. I’m an only child and I really just don’t know what all to tell ya’ll.”

 

“What do your parents do?” Diane asked then took a sip of her iced tea.

 

“Well, my mom’s a social worker and dad’s a lawyer. He has a private practice and does okay…mostly consulting.”

 

“Didn’t you go to the same college as your parents?” Lance asked.

 

Jenna looked up at him wondering why he was asking her questions he knew the answer to. “Um, yeah. We all went to Porter State there in Plano. That’s where about half my high school went. I majored in Public Relations and was in a sorority, Tri Pi. I was a legacy and I graduated this past May and have been in Orlando working with Johnny and loving it. He’s great. The guys are great. I’m having a blast and now my best friend lives down there. She just got a job at WESH, so I couldn’t be happier.”

 

“And how long have you and Lance been together again?” Diane asked.

 

Jenna began to open her mouth, not sure of what to say, but was saved by Lance. “We’ve been dating for a few months, but have been together, through the good and bad, since she moved down there.”

 

Diane could detect the defensive tone. “That’s what I thought you said. You two just look so comfortable and happy that it seems like longer.”

 

Jim added, “This one’s good for you. I can tell.” Jenna blushed as Jim’s comment made Lance unbristle. The rest of the evening the six talked and got to know each other better. The more Diane learned about Jenna, the more comfortable she became about the relationship.

 

The week went well. Jenna got to see where Lance had grown up and Lance took her to the Italian place his sister recommended. When time had come for them to go back to Orlando, Jenna was a little disappointed in having to leave. As Lance was putting their stuff into his parent’s car, Jenna went out on the back porch. She stood there, just enjoying the scenery.

 

“You don’t have to memorize how it looks. You can come back anytime. With or without Lance.” Jim said as he stood beside Jenna.

 

Jenna smiled. “Don’t offer…I might take you up on it.”

 

“Take him up on what?” Diane asked as she joined her husband.

 

“Coming back anytime. This place is so beautiful and peaceful. And you two have made me feel so welcome.” Jenna sighed. “Thank you.”

 

Diane smiled and hugged Jenna. “I’m just glad Lance found someone like you. All I ever want is for my children to be happy and now you’re one of my children.” Jenna blushed. “And, if you ever need anything, or need to escape, we’re both here for you.”

 

“Thank you!”

 

Lance walked out onto the back porch to join the group. “Everything’s in the car and ready to go.” He then saw his mother’s arm around Jenna’s shoulders. “Don’t tell me my two favorite girls aren’t wanting to say goodbye.” They both looked at each other then shook their heads ‘no’. “I’m sorry, but we have to go. Work calls.” Jenna nodded and hugged Diane again before the four got into the car and drove to the airport to send Jenna and Lance back to Orlando.

 

Chapter 6

“I swear, you never work.” Robin said into her cell phone.

 

Jenna looked appalled. “I work. I’m just great at multitasking. And anyway, aren’t you supposed to be working right now too?”

 

“I’m on a break. So what are you doing while you’re talking to me?”

 

“Well,” Jenna looked at her computer screen, confused as to why her computer said Marx was misspelled when she added it into the dictionary a few weeks ago. “I just finished updating both the NSync and Only Artists websites and now I’m typing up the song submission list for the meeting tomorrow…Marx is not spelled wrong you piece of shit!” Jenna yelled at the computer.

 

“Is it being cranky?”

 

Jenna rolled her eyes. “It has its moments.”

 

“Did Lance ever decide if he was going to submit those songs or not?” Robin asked. “And what were their styles? Melissa asked me but I couldn’t remember.”

 

“One has an 80s rock sound and the other is really like pop/country, but not the twangy kind. He has until tomorrow, but he’s all but said he wasn’t going to, so…”

 

“Jenna, what’d you do?”

 

“I kinda submitted them for him.”

 

Robin sighed. “Jenna, I thought you had learned not to meddle. He’s going to kill you.”

 

Jenna shook her head. “He’ll be mad, but once the guys hear them, they’ll want them on the album and he’ll thank me. He has a great, fresh style and the guys will see that whether he does or not.”

 

“Well, when he’s pissed off at you and ready to kick you to the curb, call me so I can say I told you so.”

 

Jenna laughed. “Will do. Well, I really need to finish this then get onto burning all the submissions on CD’s. I love you and tell Melissa I love her too. I’ll talk to you later.”

 

“Bye girl. Hug Lane for me.”

 

“I will. Bye.”

 

Johnny walked into the conference room of the compound that was filled with the guys, talking and making themselves cups of coffee. “Good morning. I know it’s early and I know we will be here late tonight, but thank you for being on time. Hopefully this will be a productive day and make final selections on Friday a breeze.” Johnny passed out packets that had a list of submitted songs and lyrics to each song. “Before we start listening, I just wanted to give you a run down of what all has been submitted.”

 

Lance raised his hand. “We can still submit today, right?” Johnny nodded. Lance slid a tape and a folded piece of paper across the table. “Well, I just finished this last night, so I don’t know how good it is.”

 

“Does anybody else have any last minute submissions?” Johnny asked. Everyone shook their heads ‘no’. “Okay, I’ll put this with the two Wade dropped by a little bit ago.”

 

“Wade submitted?” Justin asked angrily.

 

“Yeah and we aren’t going to let personal conflict decide how this submission process will run.” Johnny raised an eyebrow to Justin and he nodded in understanding. “Well, we had a large amount of submissions this time.” Johnny flipped to the second page of his packet, where he had written notes. “We had 44…47 as of today. I’m hoping we can pick and record about twenty and make a twelve to sixteen track album. Here’s the breakdown of who submitted. JC did ten and Justin eight, mostly leftovers from his album. There were five by Chris and Robin only submitted three this time. There are three songs by Max Martin that I think are all gold and Richard submitted four. Pharrell and Chad did four themselves. Then there are the two by Wade and now three from Lance. None from you this time, Joe. Then there are five other songs from various newcomers.”

 

“I was thinking maybe we should do a cover or two this album, also.” Chris said. “Maybe something a little more rock than…”

 

“Hang on.” Lance interrupted. “Did you say three by me? I only submitted that one today.”

 

Johnny flipped through his paperwork. “I have two songs on this list that were submitted before yesterday when Jenna got all this ready for me. Your tracks are on this CD. I haven’t listened to them yet.”

 

“Bitch! I can’t believe her.”

 

“What?” Joey asked, watching Lance get madder by the minute.

 

“I told her they weren’t good enough, but she did it anyway.” Lance fumed as he bounced his foot angrily.

 

“What are you talking about, man?” Chris asked.

 

“Jenna. She’s been bugging me to submit songs for this project,” Lance sighed and lowered his voice, “but I didn’t want to.” He ran his hands through his hair. “She must have done it anyway.”

 

“I’m sure she had good intentions.” JC offered.

 

“And since they are already of the list, why don’t you let the guys be the judges of how good they are.” Johnny said as Lance began to relax.

 

“I guess.” Lance flipped through his packet of submissions, looking calmer but still boiling towards Jenna.

 

“Who was that on the phone?” Jenna asked Lane as she stepped out of her bedroom in her pajamas.

 

“It was Chris. They just finished their meeting a little bit ago and he asked if I wanted to go out for a drink with him.” Lane walked into Jenna’s bathroom to borrow a hairbrush.

 

Jenna followed her in with a confused look on her face. “How’d he know you were here? Why didn’t he call your house?”

 

“He did first. He figured if I wasn’t there I was here. Plus, he wanted to warn you that Lance was in a bad mood and headed over here too.” Jenna nodded and took a deep breath. “You submitted those songs, didn’t you?” Jenna slyly grinned. “He’s so gonna kick your ass.”

 

“Yeah, I know, but no one seems to be grasping the idea that I was doing a good thing. Both songs are going to get picked. I know it.”

 

Both girls walked into the living room. “Jenn, I know you have good intentions and all, but you need to learn not to meddle. You like to push people before they’re ready.”

 

Jenna crossed her arms. “Well, look at you. I may have pushed too soon for your taste, but now you have a job you love and have thanked me for helping you get. You were pissed but you got over it. It’s the same thing with Lance.” The doorbell rang. As Jenna walked over to answer it, she continued talking. “He says he’s not ready, but I know his music is.” Jenna opened the door to see the two guys looking tired. “Hi Chris. Come on in.” He leaned down to kiss her cheek and walked over to Lane. “Hi sweetheart!” Jenna reached up to kiss Lance, but was pushed away.

 

“We need to talk.” Lance said as he turned his back to Jenna and walked into her living room.

 

“That’s our cue to leave.” Chris said as he ushered Lane out the door.

 

“I’ll be back later to get my car, Jenn.” Lane hugged her friend and whispered good luck. Jenna nodded and shut the door behind Chris and Lane. The pair got into Chris’ PT Cruiser. “So, how’d the meeting go?”

 

Chris let out a sigh. “Good. We narrowed it down to about half, I think. We had a lot of good songs this time. This could turn out to be our best album ever.”

 

“Jenna told me who all submitted. JC even played me a few of his. I wouldn’t be able to narrow it down. They all sounded like they’d be so good.” Chris pulled into a nearby bar and sat with Lane at a corner table. They were quickly waited on. Lane quietly asked, “So, how pissed is Lance?”

 

Chris let out a laugh and rolled his eyes. “He was pretty mad, but you know those two. He did submit this great love song ballad thing he wrote today. I’m pretty sure he wrote it for her.”

 

“How could you tell?”

 

Chris let out a small sigh. “You don’t write that passionately about being in love unless you’re head over heels in your real life.”

 

Lane nodded. “So, how many of yours made it passed the first round?”

 

“Only two of my five.” Chris shrugged. “But, we are really thinking about doing a cover. The guys are thinking Bon Jovi or Aerosmith. I’m trying to talk them into something by The Who.”

 

Lane smiled. “I’m looking forward to hearing what all ya’ll get to put on there.”

 

The waitress brought their drinks and Chris downed his then ordered another. “So Lane, I have a question for you.” Lane looked up at Chris questioningly. “Well, Justin’s going to have this big New Years Eve party in New York this year, and I don’t know your plans, but if you were free and wanted to, I’d think you’d have a good time and should come.”

 

Lane frowned. “Well, I barely know Justin. I don’t know why he’d want me to come.”

 

Chris interrupted her. “You’re a friend of Jenna’s and of mine. He said it would be cool. Plus, you two got along fine when you met.”

 

“It’s not that, it’s just…I don’t know if I could get time off and honestly, I can’t really afford it.”

 

“Oh, no no no.” Chris grabbed Lane’s hand. “I was asking you to be my date to the party, if you were free. I’d take care of everything. You just get the time off work.”

 

Lane blushed. “Um…yeah, I’d like to be your date.” Lane sat back and tried not to smile too big. “You know, we’re never going to hear the end of this. Jenna’s going to bug the hell out of me.” Chris got a gleam in his eye that made Lane laugh. “You don’t care, do you?” Chris shook his head. “Jerk!”

 

“Yeah, but I’m a jerk with a date for New Years.” Lane just smiled and finished her drink.

 

Jenna walked into her living room and sat on the couch next to Lance. “You look tired, sweetie. How’d the meeting go? Do ya’ll have it narrowed down yet?”

 

Lance rubbed his temples as he stared at Jenna’s coffee table. “Do you ever listen?”

 

“What?”

 

Lance closed his eyes and spoke slower. “Do you ever listen?”

 

“Yes, I do. Why?” Jenna’s voice hinted at annoyance that he was talking to her like a child.

 

“Did you submit those songs?” Jenna opened her mouth to explain. “NO! Just answer the question.”

 

Jenna dropped her eyes. “Yes I did,”

 

“Why?”

 

Jenna put her hand on his leg. “I thought they were wonderful. I’ve told you that a million times. Your mother thought they were great. I wanted you to give them a chance.”

 

Lance thought, ‘Now I know why Lane was so pissed at her.’ Lance turned to face Jenna, knocking her hand off. “I told you I didn’t want to submit them.” His voice grew louder and angrier. “I don’t think they’re good enough and what I think is what matters.”

 

Defensively, Jenna asked, “Then why did you ask for my opinion, if it doesn’t matter?” Lance didn’t answer, but glared at her. Jenna softened her tone and touched his leg again. “Lance, I’m sorry I didn’t do what you wanted me to, but I believe in you and I believe in your music. I was just hoping that if the guys heard them, they would say the same things and you might begin to believe it too.”

 

Lance let out a sigh and looked down. “I want you to stay out of my professional life, okay?”

 

“Your professional life is apart of my professional life. That is next to impossible to do.” Jenna tilted his chin so he was looking in her eyes. “I only interfered because I could see your potential and it just seems like you have blinders on. I love you and I just want the world to see all your talent.”

 

Quietly, Lance said, “I submitted a song today.”

 

Jenna smiled at him. “You did?” Lance nodded. “Can I maybe hear it later?”

 

Lance nodded again. “It’s a ballad I wrote for you. All three songs made it passed the first cut.”

 

“Really?” Jenna blushed at the thought that he wrote a song for her.

 

“Yeah, we had like fifty songs in total and we’re down to twenty-six.”

 

Jenna softly ran her thumbs across Lance’s cheeks. “You still mad at me?”

 

“Yes.” Lance lied. “A little.”

 

Jenna brought his hand up to her lips and kissed the tip of each finger. “What can I do to make it better?”

 

Lance sighed as he pulled Jenna into him. “Don’t meddle next time.”

 

Jenna smiled up at him. “I’ll try my best.” Lance put his hand behind Jenna’s neck and pulled her into a passionate kiss.

 

Lance ran up the stairs two at a time. He couldn’t get to Johnny’s office fast enough. He burst through the door and startled Jenna, who was doing some filing. He ran up and grabbed Jenna, planting a big kiss on her. Lance pulled back and before Jenna could say anything, kissed her again. She finally stepped back and asked, “What’s all this for?”

 

“Two made it through. Two made it through!” Lance then picked Jenna up and swung her around.

 

“Put me down and make some sense.” Jenna said as she hit him in the arm.

 

Lance set her down and put his hands on Jenna’s cheeks. “Two of my songs made the final cut. And the guys really want them both to be on the US release.”

 

Jenna smiled and hugged Lance. “Congratulations sweetie! Which two?”

 

“The 80s rock one and the ballad.” Lance beamed. “And don’t say ‘I told you so’.”

 

Jenna nodded. “I won’t and I’ll take you out for dinner to celebrate.” Lance smiled at Jenna, kissed her again, and then went back downstairs to talk to the guys.

 

Chapter 7

“What do you think about this outfit?” Lane asked as she stepped out of the hotel bathroom with shiny black pants and a red halter on.

 

“I think you’re crazy for packing this much clothing for a party.” Jenna said as she rubbed her temples.

 

Lane put her hands on her hips and glared at Jenna. “Hey, this is my first New Year’s Eve party hosted by a celebrity in New Your City I’ve ever been to. Hell, this is the first time I’ve ever been to New York. I want to look good. Now, what do you think?”

 

Jenna thought for a moment. “Those pants and that silver one shoulder top.” Lane nodded and walked back into the bathroom. Jenna yelled after her, “And its just Justin throwing the party. No big deal.”

 

“It may be just Justin to you, but I’ve only known him for a total of twenty minutes and that was months ago.” Lane walked out of the bathroom with a scowl on her face. “Are you sure about this? It’s not too flashy?”

 

Jenna cocked her head to one side. “Have you seen what I’m wearing? Have you seen what the guys wear to every public event? I don’t think you can ever be too flashy around them.”

 

“You’re not flashy. You’re just rhinestoned.”

 

Jenna sighed. “No…Lance and I are matching. I’ve never matched a guy before in my life. Well, except maybe prom.”

 

“I think you two matching is cute.” Lane sat down on the bed next to Jenna’s laid out outfit. “You’re just nervous about being put in the spotlight tonight.”

 

Jenna nodded. “You know, some people already recognized me from different events I’ve worked with them at or from the website. But after tonight, I’m no longer a recognized employee, I’m the newest NSync girlfriend.”

 

“Jenna…”

 

“I just…I just don’t like the idea of my personal life, or my life in general, to be the topic of tabloid fodder.”

 

Lane let out a little laugh. “Well then, you shouldn’t date a pop star.”

 

“I know.” Jenna ran her hands through her hair.

 

“Jenn,” Lane began, “Lance loves you. He made sure you two had plenty of time to get past that new phase before he let the world meet you. He’s had a million opportunities to put you out there. I think that tonight is a good time and you know he won’t let anyone say anything about you. So what if a few pictures end up in a tabloid. As long as you don’t let it ruin your life, it won’t.”

 

Jenna sighed. “Yeah, I know.”

 

“So,” Lane drawled out. “Why don’t we do something more fun…like you get dressed then do my hair?”

 

“Aye, aye captain!” Jenna smiled as she saluted.

 

Lane rolled her eyes. “I want you to do that poofy thing. You know, with the clippie and the little curling iron.”

 

Jenna shook her head as she laughed. “Okay, but let me get the rollers in first so I don’t make us late.”

 

“Are you really going to do it? Tonight?” Lance nodded with a small smile on his face. “Damn man, that’s great. I guess a lot has happened since I left.” Justin slapped Lance on the back.

 

“Are you sure she’s gong to be able to handle everything. I mean, outing your relationship is one thing, but asking her to move in…she may freak.” JC looked at Lance concerned.

 

Joey laughed. “Have you not been watching them lately. Hell, there are times I wonder why you two don’t just run off to Vegas and get married. Kelly was just saying the other day how you two are so perfect and blah blah blah.”

 

“Hey, where is Kel? Why didn’t she come?” Justin asked.

 

“Bri is sick and she didn’t want to leave her with a babysitter like that. And she said if I didn’t show up tonight, it would look bad or whatever.”

 

“Do you really think Jenna will freak on me?” Lance asked whoever would answer.

 

Chris looked over at Lance. “Well, Lane told me how bad she freaked when she met your parents. This is bigger than that. But Lane is also always saying that Jenna’s never been happier, so things could go really smooth.”

 

“It’s just a risk you have to take.” JC said. “Well, I hate to be the girl of the group, but I need to go get ready.” The other guys mumbled that they did also and all left Justin’s room to go to their own.

 

Lance looked over at Chris, who was walking beside him. “I have a question for you.”

 

“Shoot.”

 

Lance gave Chris a cocky smile. “You and Lane keep claiming to just be friends, right? Well, why did you ask her to be your date tonight and why do you bring her up like Joey and I bring up our girls?”

 

Chris gave Lance an annoyed look. “We are just friends. I didn’t want to be dateless again this year and I brought her up earlier to make a point.”

 

“I’ve never paid for a girls flight and hotel room just because I didn’t want to be dateless before.” Lance stopped in front of his door.

 

“And you call yourself a southern gentleman.” Chris scoffed. “Lane and I just really get along and I knew that she’d enjoy this. Partying with celebrities…who would turn that down?”

 

Lance laughed, “Everyone thinks you two are already a couple. Why don’t you just admit you want that too and hook up with her?”

 

“Yeah…you with Jenna and me with her best friend. That would be like one of those stories that seem to be on every damn fan site out there. Next she’ll be hooking up Jayce and Justin with her other friends. What were their names…Robin and Melissa?”

 

“What about Joey?” Lance asked.

 

“He has Kelly.”

 

“Well, JC has a girl.” Lance said.

 

Chris rolled his eyes. “Yeah, his flavor of the week. I’ll be glad when he gets out of this phase.” Lance nodded in agreement. “You just focus on not scaring the shit out of Jenna tonight and I’ll deal with everyone thinking about me and Lane.”

 

“You know you love her.” Lance joked as he opened his room door.

 

“You know you’re an ass.” Chris waved as he walked off. Lance nodded and walked in his room to get ready.

 

Jenna nervously bounced her foot while she twirled a piece of hair. She watched the buildings pass as the limo slowly drove down the street. Lance put a hand on her leg to stop the constant motion. “There’s nothing to be nervous about. We’ll be inside and having fun in no time.”

 

“Ha!” Jenna began bouncing the other foot. “Nothing to be nervous about, my ass. There’s going to be 500 feet of red carpet covered in camera toting vultures that, by tomorrow, will know every detail of my life…and we match. I feel like Ken and Barbie going to their execution.”

 

“You’re being dramatic. Everything will turn out fine. The press will love you. You’re very photogenic. And I think we look cute.”

 

Jenna looked down at her white flowered top with pasly rhinestoned jeans that matched Lance’s white flowered and pasly shirt and dirty jeans. “We look like Justin and Britney at that one thing they wore those demin outfits to.”

 

Lance softly kissed Jenna’s forehead. “You’ll always look better than Britney.” Jenna blushed and looked away from Lance’s eyes, that with his added excitement for the night, looked emerald. “You wanna quickie? Take the edge off?” Lance joked.

 

Jenna disgusted, turned her back to Lance but couldn’t help but smile bigger. “You’re an animal.”

 

Lance pushed Jenna’s hair away from her neck and gave it a soft, quick kiss. “You still love me.” Jenna nodded and leaned back onto Lance’s chest. “It will be easy. Just smile and only answer as much as you feel comfortable to. I won’t give out a last name and you don’t have to say you work for us if you don’t want to.”

 

“So, just smile and be a pretty accessory?”

 

Lance wrapped his arms around her waist, hugging her closer to him. “No, just smile, have fun, and be yourself.” Jenna sighed and closed her eyes, trying to block out everything she was worried about and just focus on Lance’s even breathing.

 

“Mr. Bass. We’re here.” The driver’s voice woke them both from their trance.

 

“Thank you.” He then turned Jenna to look at him and tucked a curl behind her ear. “You ready for this?” Jenna sighed but nodded. Lance placed a quick kiss on her. “Okay, I’ll step out first, then help you out. Just smile and don’t let go of my hand.” Jenna nodded again and felt like she was about to pass out when he opened his door and stepped out. It felt like hours before he stuck his hand in the limo to help her out. She stepped onto the red carpet and put on her best smile as she laced her fingers in Lance’s. He shut the door and walked slowly, waving every once in a while to the millions of flashes. She watched and listened as Lance picked certain reporters to talk to and began to enjoy the fact he wouldn’t take a single pictures without pulling her into them. Everything sounded like a dull roar until Jenna heard her own name being called. She looked over to where the voice was coming from and noticed a tiny woman smiling and waving, still calling her name. Jenna pointed this out to Lance and he said they should go over.

 

The small lady smiled when Lance and Jenna walked over. “Thank you so much. Everyone’s been passing by me.”

 

Jenna smiled sweetly and asked, “How do you know me?”

 

“Oh, sorry.” The lady pulled her credentials out. “I’m Shelly. I’m the one who calls to have you proof read every time before anything about the guys or Britney goes up on MTV.com.”

 

“Oh, hi!” Jenna smiled and hugged Shelly. “It’s so nice to put a face with a name.”

 

“Do you think you could give me a few minutes to get an interview?” Lance nodded. “Great. Um, well…what have all you guys been up to since Justin started his solo album.”

 

Lance answered, “We’ve mostly been relaxing and writing. JC’s been working on his solo album and the rest of us have done a little acting.”

 

“When will the next album be coming out?”

 

“We already have been in the studio to start recording. We are going to hit it hard in a few weeks. We’re looking for a March or April date, but nothing’s in stone yet.” Lance began to push Jenna to start walking.

 

“One last question…Jenna, are you here as a friend tonight or are you working?” Shelly asked as she quickly wrote down Lance’s previous answer.

 

Jenna looked up at Lance, who smiled and nodded. “Well, actually neither. I’m Lance’s date tonight.”

 

“Date?” Shelly raised an eyebrow.

 

“She’s my girlfriend.” Lance answered. “Well, have a good time tonight and hopefully you’ll get some more interviews.” Lance began to push Jenna again.

 

“Can I get a quick picture?” Lance nodded and grabbed Jenna around the waist with a big smile on his face. Shelly took two pictures. “Thanks guys!” Lance nodded and waved as they walked the last of the carpet, only stopping for a few more interviews.

 

Once they got inside, Jenna let out a breath she felt like she had been holding since she stepped out of the limo. “You did a good job, baby.” Lance kissed Jenna. “Let’s go find the guys.” Lance and Jenna walked over to Justin and began talking, every once in a while introducing different people to Jenna. She smiled and made small talk until Lance said he needed to go talk to Nelly. Jenna decided to go to the bar, get a drink, and take in her surroundings. As she took the last sip of her Cape Cod, Lane walked up and sat next to her.

 

“I see your man ditched you for a rap guy.”

 

Jenna smiled. “I’m not alone. I see Chris over there too.”

 

“Yeah, well…I’m not getting debuted tonight.” Lane ordered her and Jenna another drink. “How’d the red carpet go?”

 

Jenna nodded and thanked the bartender. “Better than expected. I hope I don’t have to do that very often, though. I felt like a purse or a pretty pair of earrings instead of a person.”

 

Lane joked. “Are you calling Lance gay?”

 

Jenna ignored her comment. “How was it for you? Any girlfriend comments?”

 

“Naw.” Lane took a sip of her drink. “He just called me his date or a friend. Nothing controversial. Just the truth.” Both girls sipped their drinks in silence. “Have you ever seen this many celebrities in one room before?”

 

Jenna nodded. “Yeah Challenge for the Children. Most of these people were there for that.”

 

Lane raised an eyebrow. “You can’t tell me you aren’t a little star struck.”

 

Jenna smiled and nodded to one side of the room. “If I was, he’d be the reason.”

 

Lane looked over to where Jenna was staring. “Damn, I didn’t know he was here.”

 

“Didn’t know who was here?” Chris asked as he and Lance walked up.

 

Lance kissed Jenna on the cheek. “You finally saw Ed, didn’t you?”

 

“Edward Norton’s here?” Chris asked, looking to his right. “Justin invited everyone, didn’t he?”

 

“Hey, that’s the only way I got her to come.” Lance laughed then slid an arm around Jenna’s waist. “Will you quit staring at him?”

 

“Um hum.” Jenna said, not turning her eyes.

 

“I’ll let you meet him if you quit staring.” Lance sighed.

 

“Deal.” Jenna quickly kissed Lance then grabbed his hand and started walking in Edward’s direction.

 

“She’s a fan, huh?” Chris asked, watching them walk away.

 

Lane nodded. “Yeah, since she saw him all buff and tatted up in American History X, she’s been infatuated.”

 

Chris shrugged. “Isn’t he a little old for her?”

 

“He’s only two years older than you.”

 

Chris looked at Lane. “Shut up and dance with me.” Lane laughed, but took his hand and followed until they were in the middle of the pulsing dance floor.

 

Midnight was quickly approaching and everyone was coupling up. Lane and Chris had spent the rest of the night attached at the hip. Justin picked up a microphone and announced to the crowd, “One minute everyone. Let’s start counting down. 60…59…58…”

 

Lane nervously looked at Chris. “Are we supposed to kiss at midnight, or what?”

 

“54…53…52…”

 

Chris slyly smiled. “Why wait?” He then pulled her into him and placed a warm strong kiss on her.

 

“40…39…38…”

 

When Lane finally pulled back, she raised a hand to her lips and blushed. “What was that for?”

 

Chris grabbed Lane’s hand away from her face and rubbed his thumb across it. “I wanted to end and begin my year kissing you.”

 

“25…24…23…”

 

Lane blushed again. “Really?”

 

Chris kicked the ground like a little boy, trying to not look her in the eyes. “You didn’t think I asked you to be my date just for the hell of it, did you?”

 

“10…9…8…”

 

“I guess not.” Chris looked up into Lane’s eyes and they smiled at each other.

 

“5…4…3…2…1…Happy New Year!”

 

Chris pulled Lane back into him, sharing a more passionate kiss while everyone around them did the same or sang. When the kiss ended, they smiled at each other then looked over towards Lance and Jenna. They saw Lance’s mouth move then Jenna slap him and quickly walk away. Lane’s jaw dropped and she looked back at Chris. “We thought that might happen.”

 

“What might happen?”

 

Chris shrugged. “We thought she’d freak.”

 

Lane looked from Lance to Chris with a confused frown. “What’s gong on Chris? Answer me.”

 

Justin picked up a microphone and announced to the crowd, “One minute everyone. Let’s start counting down. 60…59…58…”

 

“You want a breath mint?” Lance joked. Jenna rolled her eyes as she playfully punched him. “Actually, I’ve got something I want to ask you.”

 

“42…41…40…”

 

Jenna looked over towards Chris and Lane’s directions. “What the hell? Are they doing what I think they’re doing?”

 

“35…34…33…”

 

Lance looked at his friend end a kiss and hold Lane’s hand. “I think they finally admitted they like each other.”

 

Jenna laughed. “They would do it in a public place wouldn’t they. Show offs.”

 

“19…18…17…”

 

Jenna turned her attention back to Lance. “So, what did you want to ask me?”

 

“10…9…8…”

 

Lance nervously looked around. “Well, let’s get this New Years kiss thing started, then I’ll ask.” Lance put an arm around Jenna’s waist and pulled her into a deep, passionate kiss.

 

“3…2…1…Happy New Year! Should auld acquaintance…”

 

Lance and Jenna pulled apart and she asked again, “What was your question, sweetie?”

 

Lance took a deep breath, pushed some loose hair behind Jenna’s ear then asked. “I was wondering…would you move in with me?” Jenna’s eyes got huge. She looked down at the floor then quickly back up at Lance as she hauled off and slapped him. She watched him blink, shocked, then she turned and quickly walked as far away as she could get. Lance watched her leave, not knowing if he should follow or not. “Fuck.” He muttered as he hung his head and disappeared into the crowd.

 

The End

 

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