The Glamorous Life
by Nicole & Rob
Standard Disclaimer: This story is a complete
work of fiction. The authors do not know any of the celebrities mentioned in
this story, their sexual preferences, or any other such things that are quite
frankly no one's business but their own. This story may contain descriptions
of sex between consenting adults of both genders, so if you are under the age
of eighteen, depictions of such acts are illegal in your area or are contrary
to your beliefs, this is as far as you go. Don't say you weren't warned. Now,
with that said, on with the show!
Chapter Five: Tempers Flare
Cassie arrived back home around quarter after eight. She let herself into
the house and collapsed on the couch. Within moments, Nina was behind her,
stroking her hair. "You doing okay, cariña?" she asked.
"Nina, please tell me that today is not happening," Cassie said
with a sigh as she covered her face with her hands.
"So what did the doctor say?" Nina asked quietly as she came around
the couch and sat next to Cassie.
Cassie glanced up at Nina and burst into tears. "He's in a coma," she
blubbered, "and they don't even know if he's going to wake
"Oh Cassie," Nina murmured as tears came to her eyes. "Taylor
is a fighter. He will wake up. You know he will."
"Nina, I'm so scared," Cassie wailed. "I haven't
been this terrified since that incident with the paparazzi years ago. I don't
know what I would do if I lost Taylor."
"We won't lose him," Nina said firmly, "and
that's all there is to say about that. Taylor will wake
up, he will get better, and life will continue as normal." Cassie
tried to smile at Nina, but it was barely a half-hearted attempt. "Besides,
you need to be strong for Abby. When you eventually tell her, you're
going to have to have ever ounce of composure you can muster, because you know
she is not going to take it well."
Cassie sniffled. "Yeah, I know. I'm dreading it, but sooner or
later I'm going to have to tell her something." Cassie looked around
the living room and listened for sounds in the house. "Speaking of Abby,
where is she?"
"Orlando picked her up fifteen minutes ago. He said something about
taking her riding."
"Oh, okay," Cassie said as she relaxed back into the couch. Suddenly,
a stray thought hit her. "Wait a minute. Today's Thursday! He's
not supposed to have Abby until tomorrow."
"I know Cassie. I thought it would be best if he took her today. That
would give you all day to compose yourself. You've had a very hard night
and have hardly had any sleep. The last thing you need is a rambunctious four
year old attached to your hip."
"Are you sure that's a good idea?" Cassie asked.
"Have I ever steered you wrong before?"
Cassie smiled. "Never. Sorry I doubted you."
"It's all right. Go upstairs and get some sleep," Nina said,
pulling Cassie to her feet and guiding her toward the stairs.
"I will. Thanks again Nina."
As Nina watched Cassie go upstairs, she thought about the mess she found herself
in. She was starting to suspect there was something going on with Orlando,
considering his incredibly nervous behavior the moment she mentioned Taylor's
name. What is he up to? Nina wondered as she climbed the stairs. Poking
her head into Cassie's room, she noted that Cassie was sound asleep,
not having even bothered to get undressed. Trudging on to her room, Nina lay
down on her bed and wrapped a blanket around her. Listening to the sounds of
the quiet house, she soon drifted off into a slumber plagued by terrible dreams.
The sun shone down on Orlando and Abby as they finished up their morning at
the riding stable. While his present dilemma was still weighing on his mind,
he was able to push it to the back while he focused on making sure Abby was
happy. She was definitely feeling much better that day, since her fever had
broken. Aside from a slight cough and a few sniffles, she was practically a
picture of perfect health.
Abby was in four year old heaven. An avid horse lover, she was ecstatic to
see all the horses in the stable. Orlando took her down to where they housed
the small ponies, and the smile on Abby's face could have lit up a small
city. Due to Abby's age, they stable wouldn't let her ride freely,
so she had to stay in an enclosed ring with her father and a riding coach.
Nonetheless, Abby was having the time of her life, and after two hours, Abby
was raring to go for more, but Orlando was absolutely exhausted. Where does
she get all this energy? He wondered. It must come from her mother's
"Come on honey. It's time to go," Orlando said as he pulled
his daughter off the pony.
"But Daddy!" Abby whined. "I wanna stay an' ride some
"Abby, the pony is tired. It wants to go take a nap."
"Oh. Okay Daddy," Abby said with a small pout. Turning to the
pony, she patted its head and whispered, "Is okay, pony. Sometimes Mommy
an' Nina make me take naps too."
"All right Abby. Let's go," Orlando said, grabbing Abby's
hand and steering her toward the parking lot.
Abby looked over her shoulder and called, "Bye pony! I come back soon!"
Orlando rolled his eyes and wondered how on earth he'd be able to stand
another riding day with Abby. "So honey," he said, "how about
some lunch and maybe a stop by the toy store?"
"Yay! Toy store! Toy store! Toy store!" Abby shouted, jumping
up and down.
"Well, I see that meets with your approval," Orlando said with
a small smile as they approached the car. After he buckled her into the back
seat, he closed the door and sighed. "Cassie, I don't know how
you do this every day," he muttered before getting inside. Closing the
door behind him, he buckled himself in and said, "Okay sweetheart. Let's
After lunch at McDonald's, where one would think Abby would have worn
herself out in the PlayPlace, a regretful Orlando traipsed behind an overly
enthusiastic Abby as she ran through the aisles at Toys 'Я Us,
pointing at all the things she would like. "An' I wan' a
Barbie, an' a Dream House, an' all her friends, an'..."
Orlando started to tune her out as she continued to request half the store.
After a fussy moment when Orlando told Abby she could only pick out two toys—which
led to a much prolonged stay in the store while Abby tried to make up her mind—the
two were finally able to leave and head back to his house.
The two were in the parking lot heading for the car when the media deluge
started. "Orlando! Orlando! What do you think about the attack on Taylor
Jeffries?" one reporter yelled.
"Mr. Bloom? Isn't it true that you've had it in for Mr.
Jeffries for some time?" another yelled.
"Hey!" Orlando hissed. "Not around my daughter, all right?"
However, it was far too late. Abby had heard what the reporters said. "Daddy?
What they talkin' about?"
"It's nothing sweetheart," Orlando said as he continued
to motion Abby toward the car. "It's just grown up stuff. Now,
let's go home."
"Mr. Bloom? Don't you want to comment on Taylor's injuries?
You didn't have anything do with it, did you?" a reporter called.
That was all it took. Abby burst into tears and began bawling at the top of
her lungs. "What wrong with Unca Taylor? I wanna see Unca Taylor!"
"Not now honey," Orlando said through gritted teeth as he arrived
at the car.
"Daddy! I wanna see Unca Taylor now!" Abby yelled, the panic in
her voice starting to rise.
"Yeah, Daddy! Why don't you tell your little girl what happened
to her mother's best friend?" a reporter yelled.
Orlando whirled around and glared at the group of reporters. Rolling up his
sleeves, he said, "I suggest you leave me and my daughter alone before
I do something you'll regret."
"You mean like you did to Taylor Jeffries?" a reporter shouted
from the back.
"I had absolutely nothing to do with that," Orlando said evenly. "Now,
if you'll excuse me." Orlando scooped up a wailing Abby, quickly
put her in the car with their shopping bags, hopped in the car himself, and
made as quick a getaway as he possibly could. Great... Just great,
Orlando thought. Just my luck I get stuck with this mess.
In the back seat, the volume of Abby's cries continued to increase. "I
want Taylor!" Abby cried again.
"For the last time Abby, no!" Orlando shouted, his patience wearing
"Where's Mommy? I want my Mommy!" Abby screamed, the pitch
of her yells causing Orlando to cringe.
"You'll see Mommy later, Sugar," Orlando said. Since he was
trying to pay attention to the traffic in front of him, he didn't think
about what he had just said.
"NO!!!" Abby screamed again. "Only Unca Taylor call me
that. Not you!" Abby started kicking the back of Orlando's seat
in a fit of hysterics. "I want Mommy! I want Mommy now! NOW! NOW! NOW!"
Orlando sighed. He was absolutely at the end of his patience, so he decided
to give in and take Abby home. "All right Abby. We'll go find Mommy." Picking
up his cell phone, he began to dial Cassie's number. And she had better be
ready for this.
Justin was still a bit of a mess. After Cassie had left the hospital parking
lot, Justin quickly fell into a funk as his mind flashed back to Taylor's
condition. Lance literally had to drag him to his Mercedes in order to get
Justin to move. The ride back to Justin's house passed in complete silence.
Justin wasn't in much mood to talk, and Lance's thoughts were preoccupied
with the green-eyed vixen he had just encountered. It was a bit ironic that
both were thinking about the current objects of their affection, yet neither
was wiling to discuss their thoughts with the other man. Once the two had arrived
at Justin's, they trudged into the house and passed out on their beds,
neither bothering to get undressed.
It was sometime around two o'clock when Justin was prodded awake by
Lance. "Hey," Justin mumbled as he slowly stretched out the muscles
in his body. "What time is it?"
"A little after two," Lance replied. "Sorry to wake you
up, but I thought you might want to see this." Lance flipped on the wide
screen television in Justin's bedroom and flipped it to E!
"What am I supposed to be seeing?" Justin asked as he watched
a commercial for Coca-Cola.
"Hang on," Lance said. "Give it a minute."
Soon the commercials ended and whatever the show was came back on. "And
here we have an interesting encounter with Orlando Bloom that happened a little
earlier today. The man became defensive when questioned about his thoughts
on the attack of his ex-wife's best friend, Taylor Jeffries. The animosity
between the two stars is well known throughout Hollywood, which escalated when
Cassidy Saunders divorced Orlando, but when he was asked whether or not he
was involved in the attack, Orlando became extremely evasive. When asked again,
he had this to say."
The picture cut from the show's host to a shot of Orlando looking very
upset. "I suggest you leave me ... alone before I do something you'll
regret," Orlando had said.
The picture then cut back to the show's host who, with a smug grin on
his face, said, "Nice guy, isn't he? While at this time Orlando
continues to flatly deny any involvement in the beating of Taylor Jeffries,
many in Hollywood speculate that is much further from the truth than Orlando
will ever let on."
The television then showed quick interviews with a couple of daytime stars,
including some of the co-stars of Temptations, who each voiced an opinion
that while they hoped it wasn't true, they could see Orlando
doing something of this nature to Taylor.
Justin started to tune out the television. While this was hardly news to him—after
all, Cassie and Taylor had speculated something of this sort while Taylor was
still conscious—just the look in Orlando's eyes made Justin feel
like Orlando knew more than he was letting on.
"So what do you think of that?" Lance asked.
"He's guilty," Justin said adamantly.
"Huh?" Lance said, startled. "What do you mean?"
"Orlando knows something," Justin continued. "Don't
ask me how I know. It's a gut feeling, but I know he knows about what
happened to Taylor."
"Justin, you had better be careful making accusations like that when
you have no proof," Lance warned. "You don't want him to
sue you for slander."
"He can do whatever the hell he likes," Justin sneered. "No
one, and I mean no one, gets away with hurting my Taylor like
Lance tried hard to stifle his laughter, but he couldn't hold out very
long. He finally burst out laughing, earning him a nasty glare from Justin. "Your Taylor?" Lance
asked between giggles. "Possessive, aren't we? Especially considering
I don't think Taylor has consented to that yet, from what you and Cassie
Justin blushed heavily. "Well, he will be, if I have anything to say
about it. I just have to prove to him that I'm not out to hurt him. Besides,
if the roles were reversed, you'd probably have said the same thing about
Now it was Lance's turn to blush. "I..." Lance began,
but Justin cut him off.
"Dude, don't lie to me. Even without your stunning admission earlier
this morning, it was obvious to me that you like her. Good luck though. You've
got one heck of a hill to climb."
Getting uncomfortable with the subject, Lance decided to take the conversation
back to its original subject. "So, you think Orlando is guilty, huh?
What are you going to do about it then?"
Justin sighed and closed his eyes for a moment. "I don't know," he
said, opening his eyes and glancing back over to the television, "but
I have to do something, and I think my best place to start is with Cassie."
"Cassie?" Lance asked. "Why do you say that?"
"Who else knows him better than her, besides maybe Taylor, and since
he's not exactly up to answering questions at the moment..." Justin
trailed off as thoughts of Taylor flooded his mind. Tears started to well up
in his eyes as a powerful sadness overtook him. He turned away from Lance,
trying not to show his friend his momentary loss of control over his emotions,
but Lance was already sitting next to him, trying to console him.
"Hey," Lance said quietly. "It's okay. Shhhh... It'll
be okay Justin. It's like you said earlier. You're not going to
help Taylor by having a meltdown now."
Justin chuckled slightly. "My words coming back to haunt me," he
said with a sigh.
Lance was amazed at the amount of emotion Justin was showing. It was very
unlike him to get this worked up about anything or anyone. Taylor had somehow
managed to capture Justin's heart rather quickly, and to say that Lance
was astounded was putting it mildly. "So, are you going to head over
to Cassie's?" Lance asked tentatively.
Justin sniffled a little, trying to regain his composure. "Yeah," he
said with a nod. "I am. There's a mystery to be solved, and Detective
Justin is on the case."
Lance smiled. "I see. So, does Detective Justin want a partner to help
him solve this mystery?"
Justin eyed Lance carefully. "You just want an excuse to see Cassie
again, don't you?" When Lance started to turn red again, Justin
couldn't help but laugh. "All right, fine. You can come. You can
"Scooby-Doo?" Lance yelled. "What the..."
Justin burst out laughing. "Hey! You were a dog once. You can be one
again." Lance rolled his eyes, crossed his arms, and began tapping his
foot. "Okay, okay. Well, come on lover boy. Let's get going."
As Justin went to grab the keys to his car, Lance followed a few steps behind
him. Were things not such a disaster right now, I'd kick his ass for
that remark, Lance thought as he walked out the door.
Cassie awoke around half past one. She was feeling much better now that she'd
had some proper rest. She wandered out of her bedroom and down the hall. She
peeked into Nina's room and discovered she wasn't there. Shrugging
her shoulders, she ambled downstairs and into the kitchen. Her stomach grumbling,
she peeked through the refrigerator and cabinets and found nothing that suited
her. Giving up, she grabbed an apple out of the basket sitting on the counter
and took a bite. And the day starts all over again, Cassie thought as
she took another bite.
Cassie went into the living room and sat down on the couch. Her eyes were
drawn to the shooting script she had left there the night before. Picking it
up, she stared at it before throwing it across the room. She started to lie
back and fall into a moment of self-inflicted misery when a scolding voice
from behind spooked her.
"Cassie! What did you do that for?" Nina said as she came into
Cassie turned to face Nina, the anger on Cassie's face clearly evident. "I'm
such an idiot, Nina. Do you realize that if Taylor and I had stayed in yesterday
and studied our scripts like we always do that none of this would be happening?"
"Oh Cassie," Nina said gently as she sat down next to her. "You
don't know that. If someone were determined to hurt Taylor, they would
have found a way to do it. It would have just happened later instead of sooner."
"I suppose you're right," Cassie said, "but I just
feel so guilty. Taylor doesn't need this in his life right now."
"Cariña, no one needs this in their life," Nina
said, eliciting a small smile from Cassie.
"You always know how to make me feel better," Cassie said, giving
Nina a hug.
"It's a gift," Nina said with a grin. Changing the subject,
she asked, "So, when are you going to the hospital?"
"Sometime later this afternoon I guess. I should probably do it before
Orli comes back with Abby," she mused. Then, turning to Nina, she said, "Do
you want to come with me?"
"Of course," Nina replied with a grin. "Do you even have
"I know, I know," Cassie said, "but just keep in mind he
doesn't look very good right now. It might be difficult to see him this
"I'll be fine," Nina said. "Now, Orlando is supposed
to bring Abby back sometime between five and six. That should give us some
time to go visit Taylor."
"Agreed. Well, let me go take a shower and change into some different
clothes." Cassie got up and headed for the stairs. As she was about to
go up, she called out, "And if it's not too much trouble, could
you fix me something simple to eat? I'm starving!"
Nina laughed. "I think I can arrange something. Now, go get ready."
"Yes Mom!" Cassie said with a salute as she ran up the stairs.
Nina watched her go with a smile on her face. Life in the Saunders house was
Orlando was fit to be tied. Traffic in Los Angeles was normally impossible
to begin with, and that day was no exception. The cars on I-10 heading toward
Los Angeles weren't moving, and Abby was still hysterical in the backseat.
This was the first time Orlando had ever seen Abby holler and scream like she
was, and he was not at all impressed. Every method he tried to use to calm
her down was met with more screams.
"DADDY! I WANT MOMMY!" Abby shrieked.
"Abby, for the last time, we'll see Mommy as soon as we get home,
but right now, PLEASE BE QUIET!" Orlando yelled, losing his patience.
This just caused Abby to yell louder, and poor Orlando was at an absolute
loss. He had absolutely no idea what to do, and while he normally loved every
moment he spent with his daughter, at that moment he was more than ready to
hand her back off to Cassie.
As he inched the car forward, he noticed that Abby's whining was slowly
starting to subside. Staring at the overhead signs, he realized that they were
still at least thirty miles away. Whole lot of good these car pool lanes
are, Orlando thought miserably. He inched the car forward again, only to
have the person behind him blast their horn.
"Where the hell does he think I'm going to go?" Orlando
muttered as Abby started yelling again. "Great! This is just fucking
Justin and Lance arrived at Cassie's and knocked on the door. After
a few moments, Nina answered. "Oh, hello there. You're, um, Justin,
"Yes. Justin Timberlake," Justin said, shaking Nina's hand, "and
this is my friend, Lance Bass."
"It's a pleasure to meet you Justin. I'm Nina. Cassie's
daughter Abby has all of your albums, I think. Please, do come in," Nina
said, ushering the two gentlemen inside.
"Where's Cassie?" Justin asked.
"She's upstairs, getting ready. We were just about to head to
"Oh, okay. If you don't mind, we'd like to join you," Justin
"That's fine with me, although I think we should ask Cassie first.
Are you a friend of Taylor's?"
Justin's mouth immediately went dry. He didn't know what Cassie
had told Nina about the true nature of Justin's intentions toward Taylor,
and he was still incredibly hesitant to say anything to anyone.
"We are," Lance said, answering for Justin. "We were both
shocked to hear what had happened to him." Glancing over at Justin, he
said, "You'll have to forgive Justin. He's taken this kind
"Yes, it's a very horrible thing to have happen to someone as
wonderful as Taylor, but I know that in the end, everything will be okay. It's
nice to know that Taylor has such good friends, although I don't ever
recall him mentioning the two of you," Nina said with a slight frown.
While Justin was trying to come up with a quick answer, Nina said, "Then
again, I may have forgotten or wasn't paying attention when he said it.
No matter. Anyway, I did want to thank you for making sure Cassie got home
safely last night."
"Not a problem," Justin said, recovering from his momentary frozen
state. "I was glad to do it. It's just too bad that asshole was
here," he continued, the venom in his voice unmistakable.
"Don't forget that said asshole is still my daughter's father," Cassie
said, coming down the stairs. "However, right now, that's the only
thing he has in his favor. Otherwise, you are entirely correct."
"Well, good morning to you too," Justin said with a grin as he
gave Cassie a hug.
"So what brings you to my doorstep?" Cassie asked, heading for
the living room and taking a seat on the couch.
"You mean you don't know?" Justin asked in surprise.
"Don't know what?" Cassie asked, narrowing her eyes. Her
gaze shifted toward Lance, who was staring at her intently. "What? Is
something wrong with my hair?" Lance slowly shook his head, never breaking
eye contact with Cassie. "Well, what is it then? You can come
sit over here, you know. I've already had lunch, so it's not likely
I'll bite you."
Lance mumbled something inaudible as he took a seat as far away from Cassie
as he thought he could get away with. He desperately wanted to sweep her off
her feet and kiss those delicate lips, but he had to restrain himself. This
was certainly not the time, and besides, he had no idea how she felt about
him, and he was not about to embarrass himself like that. So, he just put his
emotions in check and tried to keep his eyes on Justin instead.
"You mean you really don't know?" Lance heard
Justin say as the real world came back into focus for him.
"Know what?!" Cassie exclaimed as a confused and somewhat annoyed
look appeared on her face.
"Oh my God, it's been all over the news!" Justin exclaimed.
"I haven't had the television on at all today," Cassie said,
panic starting to creep into her voice. "What happened? Did something
happen to Taylor?"
"Ummm, it's not about Taylor," Justin said slowly, trying
to think of the best way to tell Cassie what he knew.
"Damn it Justin! Tell me what the hell is going on or else I'll... I
don't know what I'll do, but it won't be fun for you unless
you spit it out!"
"Well, Lance was watching television, and he saw this report was about
to come on, so he came and got me, and when it came on, it showed Orlando and
"WHAT!!! MY BABY WAS ON TELEVISION?!" Cassie shrieked,
jumping to her feet. "WHY?!"
"From what I understand..." Justin began, but he was cut
off by the sound of a door slamming outside followed by a high-pitched yell.
"MOMMY!!!" came Abby's voice from outside.
"Abby?" Cassie said, running for the front door. Throwing it open,
Cassie was nearly knocked down as Abby flung herself into her mother's
arms. "Abby? Are you okay, Cookie?"
Abby looked away from her mother for a moment, and then looked back at her
with a smile on her face. "I'm okay Mommy, but Daddy kinda mad."
Cassie frowned at her daughter, momentarily forgetting about what Justin was
telling her. "Why is Daddy mad? Were you a naughty girl while you were
Abby shook her head. "I'm a good girl, I am."
"Okay Cookie. Why don't you go in and see Nina? We have a couple
of visitors you might like to meet, so be polite," Cassie said as she
put Abby on the floor.
"Yes Mommy," Abby said as she ran into the house. Cassie stood
there counting silently—waiting patiently until moments later there was
an ear-piercing scream. "Justin Timberlake!!! Mommy, Justin Timberlake
Cassie couldn't help laughing since she'd known exactly how
her daughter was going to react. Justin and Lance had now been unknowingly
roped into momentary babysitting duty with Nina while Cassie had a little conversation
with her ex-husband as Justin's words suddenly came back to the front
of her mind.
"Would you care to explain to me why in God's name you allowed
those bastards to put Abby on TV?" Cassie shrieked, not
really caring at this point who might have overheard her as she advanced on
her hapless ex-husband. "Us on TV is one thing, but Abby?!
What the hell were you thinking?"
"In case you were wondering, I just spent an hour stuck in traffic with
our daughter screaming her head off, so excuse me if I'm not exactly
in the mood to answer any of your fucking questions!" Orlando snapped,
the last of his control slipping as the stress of the past few hours caught
up with him. He stomped around to the trunk of the car, grabbed Abby's
bags, and set them on the ground in front of Cassidy before slamming the trunk
closed hard enough to make the car rock before turning his attention to Cassie
again. "I didn't let anything happen, Cassidy. Those assholes ambushed
us outside the Toys 'Я US and started asking me a bunch of questions,
and before I could stop them, they started asking me about what happened to
Taylor. Needless to say, when Abby heard Taylor was hurt she went ballistic
and began screaming that she wanted to see Taylor, and when I wouldn't
take her to see him, she wouldn't stop screaming that she wanted you,
no matter what I did. I finally gave up and brought her home."
"Oh, my poor baby," Cassie said as she finally calmed down enough
to think rationally about the situation, but her anger toward the reporters
was still boiling beneath the surface. "How fucking dare those sleazy
bastards do that to my baby! Damn all of them anyway!"
"I couldn't agree with you more, but we have a bigger problem
to deal with," Orlando stated as he stared at the door his daughter had
disappeared through morosely. "What are we going to tell her about Taylor?"
"I honestly don't know what we should say to her, but I do believe
that it would be best for both of us to be there when we explain what's
happened. That way, if she has any questions one of us isn't comfortable
answering, the other can just step in and try to answer as honestly as possible.
I would have preferred to wait until Tay was here with us to help explain this,
but under the circumstances, I don't see how that's going to happen
anytime soon," Cassie stated gravely, averting her eyes quickly so Orlando
wouldn't see the misery in them. "I don't think we should
give her any specifics, but I do think we need to tell her the truth as easily
"How about we just explain as much or as little as she wants to know?" Orlando
suggested, his mind flashing back to Nina's words of the previous evening. "We
could even take her to see Taylor so that she could see for herself that he's
going to be okay."
"Orli, there are no guarantees that Taylor will make it through this,
and even if he does, how will we explain to our little girl that someone did
this to him just because he's gay?" Cassie asked with eyes swimming
with tears as Orlando stared at her, his mind spinning at the possibility of
something worse happening to Taylor.
"What do you mean 'there are no guarantees that Taylor will make
it through this?' What's happened to Taylor?" Orlando asked
with his heart racing at the thought that the mess he was in might turn into
something much more serious than just a simple case of beating Taylor up. Cassie's
next words confirmed his worst fears—and drove home the reality of the
situation in which he was currently embroiled with startling clarity.
"Taylor slipped into a coma last night—and the doctor's
aren't sure when, or even if, he's going to wake up," Cassie
replied, finally giving in to the tears that she had been battling for the
past several hours and almost collapsing into Orlando's arms.
"What?! How... I mean, when did this happen?" Orlando asked
his mind racing as he thought of his own involvement, albeit unknowingly, in
the current nightmare that was Taylor's attack. He was keenly aware of
the clock ticking down on his blackmailer's deadline for the seventy-five
thousand dollar payment to be made, but there was nothing he could do about
that until he could get to a phone and call his accountant. That bitch had
better not think this is going to be an ongoing thing either, he thought
sullenly. She has just as much to lose as I do if the truth ever came out
about what happened to Taylor—if not more. Cassie's voice snapped
him out of his uncomfortable thoughts with a stark reminder of the gravity
of the situation in which he now found himself.
"Th-they called me last n-night, and when I got to the h-hospital, they
said he was hurt worse than they thought. The doctor told us that he might
not wake up and... Oh God! Why is this happening?!" Cassie cried
in anguish, so distraught that she didn't see the door open and Nina
glance out, her expression troubled as she hurried to shut the door before
she was noticed. If Orlando noticed, which was highly unlikely since his mind
was about a million miles away, he didn't mention it to Cassie, who was
busy battling her own burst of hysterics.
"I never should have pressured him to go on that date," she said
miserably, shaking herself when it seemed Orlando was paying more attention
to the grass than to her. "Orli?" she said softly, watching the
parade of emotions crossing his face at warp speed with a thoughtful frown.
When he continued to ignore her, Cassie finally lost patience with him and
grabbed his arm and shook him gently.
"Orlando!" she shouted, looking at him with a mix of exasperation,
irritation, and if he wasn't mistaken, amusement in her eyes when he
finally seemed to snap out of his funk and focus on her again. God, she's
beautiful, he thought as he watched the sun play though some stray strands
of her hair, a soft smile lighting his face as he turned his attention back
to the situation at hand.
"I'm sorry Cass... I sorta went wonky there for a minute," he
said by way of apology, facing her and watching her expression morph from mild
irritation to long suffering tolerance of his many idiosyncrasies. "I'm
here now. What were you saying?"
"I said that if you wanted to talk to Abby, now would be as good a time
as any unless you want to wait until Taylor wakes up to do it," Cassie
repeated slowly, her underlying amusement reminiscent of how she had always
spoken to him during the best times of their marriage, when they had still
been madly in love and convinced that nothing could, or would, change that.
And yet something did change that, Cassie thought sadly as she watched
Orlando mentally processing his available options. Somehow we both just
stopped loving and caring about each other. Suddenly, Cassie remembered
a quote that her mother always used, and which had always intrigued her as
a young girl growing up in various places all over the world. "No sadder
words of tongue or pen, than the ones, 'it could have been.'" I
can see why Mamà always says that should be the epitaph of my marriage
and life with Orlando, Cassie thought as the quote played itself in her
mind over and over again. Until that moment, she had never been able to see
the beautiful irony in those words, and for the first time in many years, it
finally made perfect sense, and she understood her mother's comments
"I guess we should probably go ahead and get this over with now," Orlando
finally said, snapping Cassie out of the melancholic reverie she had slipped
into. "I don't think we should put this off any longer than necessary,
so let's go do it now."
"Okay," Cassie said softly, following him up to the door, but
stopping suddenly when she remembered something important. She caught Orlando's
sleeve, stopping him just before he entered the foyer. "Before we go
inside, you should know that Justin Timberlake and his friend Lance Bass are
in there, so could you please try to behave yourself? If not for me, then at
least do it for your daughter. You know how much she idolizes Justin, so try
not to antagonize him in front of her."
"Of course," Orlando said, smiling outwardly, but inwardly seething
that Justin seemed to be spending so much time around his wife and now Abby.
He remembered the previous evening's encounter, and while he did believe
Cassie when she said that there was nothing going on between the two of them,
there was just something about the situation that niggled him—and he
intended to find out what it was, even if it meant going behind Cassie's
back to do it.
Something's going on between those two—and I intend to find
out what, he thought with a grim frown as he followed Cassie inside to
face their daughter together.
After her initial outburst, Abby became the shy little girl that she normally
was around strangers, standing beside Nina and watching Justin in awe now that
the initial shock of him actually being in the house had worn off. She was
dying to talk and ask him about a million questions, but she had no idea of
how to begin, or what she could—or should—say to him. Sensing her
discomfort, Justin and Lance decided to take pity on her and tried to put her
"So you're the little lady that Taylor was telling me so much
about?" Justin said by way of introduction. Jackpot! At
the mention of Taylor, Abby became animated again, her smile a carbon copy
of her mother's, which caused more than a little consternation on Lance's
"Unca Taylor tole you 'bout me?" she asked, her face full of curiosity.
Justin nodded, smiling at her as she began to relax and come from behind her
nanny. "Unca Taylor says that I'm the prettiest and smartest 'lil
girl he knows. Mommy says that Unca Taylor is, um, biased... D'you think
Unca Taylor is biased?"
"Well if he is, it's only because he loves you so much," Justin
replied with a grin, slightly amazed that a girl of Abby's age not only understood
the word 'biased,' but was able to use it correctly. Sure enough, Abby was getting
bolder as the minutes went on, telling him all about her life as a preschooler
and how much she loved horses, as well as giving him a blow-by-blow account of
her day spent riding with her father. Pretty soon, they were talking about *NSync
and Abby was racing upstairs to her room to bring down her collection of memorabilia.
"You're really good with children, Justin," Nina said as
she watched Abby run to get her storage case with the *NSync scrapbook in it. "Abby
is usually very shy around strangers, but I must admit, you and Mr. Bass got
her to open up faster than anyone else I've ever seen."
"It's the trusty Timberlake charm at work again," Lance
quipped, laughing when Justin casually flipped him off. Watching them, Nina
could see shades of Cassie and Taylor, which amused her more than she would ever admit.
"Abby reminds me of my little brother Jonathan. Since I don't
get to see him that often, I tend to make up for that by spoiling other people's
kids," Justin explained as Abby came running back into the room much
slower this time since she was dragging a backpack behind her now. "Wow!
What's all this, Abby?"
"This is my *NSync stuff," Abby said proudly as she sat the bag
on the floor and began rummaging through it. "It was Mommy's before
I was born, but when I got big enough, she gave it to me cuz I like *NSync
so much. Mommy says that cuz I take such good care of my stuff that she's
gonna take me to see your concert when you come to Los Angeles."
"Well, we'll have to make sure Mommy gets tickets before everybody
else," Justin said as Abby settled between him and Lance on the couch
and opened her scrapbook. As they thumbed through it, they were amazed at the
amount of clippings that Abby, and probably Cassie and Nina by proxy, had been
able to save over the years. It covered every phase of their career as a group,
and also had some pretty extensive coverage of their various post-group career
"Man, we were so young back then," Justin mused as he looked through
the book, laughing at some of the pictures of the guys in crazy poses. Each
of the pictures had a story behind it, something that only four other men in
the world could relate to. There were times since the beginning of his solo
career that Justin had regretted his decision, and now, looking through Abby's
scrapbook, it brought home the sense of loss that looking back on his memories
of that time inevitably invoked.
If I'd only known then what I know now, Justin thought as he
continued to turn pages. It wasn't that he disliked his solo career—far
from it actually. No, what he missed was the sense of camaraderie and closeness
that they'd all shared—that sense of unity and brotherhood that
had sadly been lacking from his life for some time, and which he'd give
almost anything to get back to with his friends.
When this crisis with Taylor is over, I'll be mending some fences, Justin
thought with a smile over Abby's head at Lance. Lance returned the smile—glad
to see the haunted look gone from Justin's eyes at last, but he was more
concerned that Cassie hadn't returned from talking to her ex-husband
yet and was unsure how to broach the subject with her housekeeper. When Nina
had excused herself and came back a few moments later looking pensive, his
desire to know as much as he could about Cassie won out over his usually reserved
nature, and so the questions began.
"So Nina, how long have you been with Cassie?" he asked, mostly
out of curiosity, but primarily because he was looking for as much information
about the woman who had bewitched him as he could get.
"Since a little after Abby was born," Nina replied, watching the
pale eyed young man carefully. If I didn't know better, I'd
say that he had a crush on her, she thought in amusement as she refocused
on him. "I was hired as the nanny, but I'm sort of a Jill of all
trades around here."
"Okay. So does Cassie have any brothers or sisters?" he
asked, curiosity getting the better of him as he got to know Cassie without
actually having to fight his better nature while around her.
"No. Both she and Taylor are only children, but they love each other
so much that they might as well be siblings in real life," Nina stated
softly as she watched Lance transform in front of her eyes from a shy, wary
stranger to an almost love struck puppy—all in the blink of an eye. She
could barely suppress her amusement as the young blond man peppered her with
question after question about Cassidy. Oh yeah, he's got it bad, she
thought sardonically as she patiently answered everything he asked, careful
not to reveal any more than was already common knowledge. If he wants to
know more than this, he's going to have to ask Cassie himself, she
thought resolutely as Cassie and Orlando finally came back into the house and
made their way over to the couch where Abby sat chattering like a little magpie
about everything *NSync.
"Hi Daddy. I was showin' Justin and Lance all my *NSync
stuff. See?" Abby chirped happily from her seat next to Justin, turning
her favorite scrapbook around so that Orlando could see what she was showing
Justin. "Justin said that Mommy and me could come to his concert and
he would make sure we got weally, weally good seats. Right Justin?"
"I sure did say that Abby," Justin replied, smiling as he extended
a hand to Orlando to shake. I might not like the bastard, but Cassie's
right. He is Abby's father, so he can't be all bad, Justin
thought as he shook hands with the man. "It's nice to see you again
Orlando. Abby tells me you took her riding today."
"It's nice to see you as well Justin," Orlando stated graciously,
as determined as Justin to remain civil in front of his little girl. I'll
be nice to the pompous little bastard even if it kills me, Orlando thought,
grinning like a feral cat in Justin's direction briefly before turning
his attention back to Abby. "We had a wonderful time with the ponies
today, didn't we Abby?"
"Uh huh," Abby replied, oblivious to the tension in the room among
the adults. Cassie narrowed her eyes at her ex, leveling a look on him that
would have peeled the paint off the walls—and threatened him with grievous
bodily harm if he didn't behave himself. The smile Lance gave Cassie
from his seat next to Abby did not go unnoticed by Nina, her suspicions about
his feelings for Cassie now confirmed, and judging from the resultant anger
that flashed across Orlando's face when he noticed, Nina would bet her
next paycheck that Orlando was feeling the heat.
"Abby, could you come here please?" Cassie said softly, saying
a soft prayer for strength to go through this one last ordeal. Please, don't
let this upset her too much, she thought sadly as Abby came and stood in
front of her, her toffee colored eyes filled with curiosity but seemingly unconcerned
about whatever it was her mother wanted to discuss with her. When Cassie opened
her arms, she climbed onto her lap, snuggling into her mother and hugging her
"I love you Mommy," Abby whispered against her neck, kissing her
on the cheek. Cassie's eyes filled with tears and she couldn't
help saying a brief 'thank you' to whoever had seen fit to give
her such a beautiful child. I know I didn't deserve her, but thank
you for my own little piece of heaven, she prayed as she hugged Abby close
to her heart. When Abby finally pulled back, she touched Cassie's face
gently, wiping away tears she hadn't even realized she'd shed.
"No cry Mommy... Unca Taylor be home soon," Abby said, shocking
all of the adults present except for Nina, who was certain that while Abby
was comforting her mother, she probably didn't really comprehend the
gravity of the situation.
Cassie stared at her for a second in shock, and then she smiled down at Abby
as she kissed her cheek. "Abby, do you know what's wrong with Uncle
"The men said he hurt... Is he hurt Mommy?" she asked earnestly,
almost bringing on a fresh wave of tears as Cassie struggled to control her
voice to answer.
"Yes, he's hurt Cookie," Cassie replied just as earnestly.
When Abby's eyes began to fill with tears, Cassie hurried to add, "But
Uncle Taylor is strong and he's gonna come back to us."
"He pwomised to take me to the zoo," Abby sobbed as Cassie rocked,
her own tears falling as she tried to comfort her baby.
"And he will as soon as he gets better Abby," Justin interrupted,
earning a glare from Orlando, who sat with his arms around his ex-wife and
you want, I can go with you guys when you go."
"I wan' Unca Taylor!" Abby shrieked, flailing against Cassie
now, her infamous but seldom seen temper rearing its ugly head. Cassie held
her as she vented her fear and pain over Taylor's attack in the only
way she knew how, her own tears returning as she held Abby. By the time Abby
had finally calmed down, there wasn't a dry eye among the adults in the
room. Even Orlando was hurting to see his daughter in so much pain, and
that it was his fault—even though the fact that no physical harm was
done by his own hands—brought him no end of grief.
I'm sorry baby. I never meant for any of this to happen,
he thought miserably, unaware of the three sets of eyes watching him with varying
degrees of mistrust and uncertainty. When he finally met Justin's eyes,
the malevolence he found there threw him for a loop briefly, and looking first
into Nina's and then Lance's eyes, he saw the same combination
of emotions reflected back at him in varying levels of intensity. Orlando almost
shrugged it off, but something about the way Justin was regarding him with
such obvious anger piqued his curiosity. Why should he give a damn about
what happened to Taylor? He thought as he continued the silent battle of
wills with the younger man. I mean, it's not like he and Taylor are
even friends... One thought did occur to him, but it was so farfetched
that he dismissed it almost as soon as it came.
There's no way Timberlake's batting for the other team,
Orlando thought as he continued to help Cassie console their daughter, but
something wasn't right about this, and Justin's reactions to the
current situation just didn't jibe with what little information Orlando
had been able to glean from having shared the house with not one, but two crazed
*NSync fans for the better part of five years. Sure, there had been rumors
of infidelity during his relationship with Cameron Diaz, but nothing in Orlando's
knowledge of Justin Timberlake could even lead one to the conclusion that he
was gay. Whatever the hell is going on, it might pay for me to keep my eyes
opened— just in case, Orlando thought as he refocused on the conversation
"Mommy, can I go see Unca Taylor?" Abby asked, her eyes filling
again. Cassie shared a look with Orli, not sure of how to answer her, but certain
that a visit from Abby might be just the thing to help Taylor get better faster.
"Let me call and make sure it's okay first. If his doctor says
that it's okay, then I don't see why not," Cassie replied,
handing Abby over to her father and going to the phone to call Taylor's
doctor. After a brief conversation, it was decided that Abby could visit
as long as one of her parents were present. Turning to Abby, she said, "Cookie,
you run upstairs to get your jacket while Mommy talks with Nina and Daddy."
"Okay Mommy," Abby said as she hurried to put her scrapbook back
inside her backpack and made her way upstairs to her room. Cassie turned to
Orlando, already anticipating that he would rather have a root canal, sans
anesthetic, than be anywhere in the vicinity of Taylor's room, so she
was not surprised when he begged off, making up some flimsy excuse about having
to see his accountant about a new tax shelter. Cassie was so absorbed in making
preparations to leave that she totally missed the looks that were exchanged
between Nina, Lance, and Justin.
"I guess I'd better go hurry Abby along before we miss visiting
hours," Cassie said to no one in particular as she made her way upstairs
to her daughter's room, her mind full of worries that, unfortunately
for all present, had everything to do with everyone currently involved in this
He's definitely up to something, Lance thought as he watched
Cassie leave the room to get Abby. He couldn't help staring at the gentle
sway of her hips as she climbed the stairs, and when she turned briefly to
smile at him, it was all he could do not to rush up those stairs, sweep her
off her feet, and kiss those full lips until she begged for mercy. She has
to see that I'd love to make her mine, and I'd do anything just
to see her smile, Lance thought with a wistful look on his face as he made
himself comfortable. I'd even love to be Abby's stepfather if
Cassie would have me. I have to show her somehow that I'd love to be
the one to be there for her and Abby...but how?
Justin and Nina sat watching the parade of emotions crossing Lance's
face with varying degrees of amusement, but their amusement was tempered by
what they both knew of Cassie's relationship with Orlando. Nina knew
better than anyone just how devoted Cassie still was to her ex-husband, and
even given how much he had put her through during the last year of her marriage,
Cassie's loyalty to and love for Orlando might prove to be too insurmountable
an obstacle for Lance to climb. Nina prided herself on being an excellent judge
of character, and even though she had only just met Lance, she had a gut instinct
that the young man would walk through fire for Cassie—but only if Cassie
could be gently persuaded to see just how taken with her he was.
Seeing as how 'gentle persuasion' is my forte, I guess I'd
better get busy, Nina thought just as Cassie and Abby returned to the
living room. Abby was carrying her favorite stuffed rabbit, one that Taylor
had won for her at a carnival in the Valley when she was still just a toddler.
Nina knew just how much that rabbit meant to Abby; she never went to bed
without it, so it intrigued her to see her small charge carrying it so determinedly.
"Where are you taking Bun-Bun, cariña?" she asked as Cassie
began herding them all out to her SUV. Abby grinned from her spot next to her
mother, who smiled down at her daughter, nodding to indicate she should answer.
"I takin' her to Unca Taylor," she replied proudly, clutching
her bunny like it was worth its weight in gold. "Bunny can watch over 'im 'til
he come home."
"I'll bet your Uncle Taylor will really appreciate you giving
him your bunny too," Lance stated, smiling down at the little girl. Abby
gave him a huge grin in return, her dimpled smile reminding him so much of
Cassie's that he had to shake himself before he said something to embarrass
himself. This is gonna be a long day, he thought as he got into the
back seat, his luck not holding out as he was almost forced by Justin to sit
behind Cassie, who was in the driver's seat. I think I'm gonna
need a drink.
Once all of the adults were settled into the truck and Abby was secured into
her booster seat, they set off to see Taylor, each lost in their own little
world as Cassie drove the miles to the hospital. Conversation consisted of
answering questions from Abby and Nina, which both Justin and Lance found odd
since most of Nina's questions were directed at Lance personally. She
seemed intent on finding out as much as she could about him, his family, his
upbringing, and everything else she could, and even though Cassie was ostensibly
supposed to be keeping her eyes on the road, she managed to slip in a few questions
of her own here and there.
It's almost like she's interested in getting to know me as
well, Lance thought as Cassie pulled into the parking lot and quickly
found a spot in a shaded area. Everybody climbed out of the truck and hurried
into the hospital, anxious to see Taylor and reassure Abby that he was indeed
going to be okay. Mindful of the doctor's admonition about seeing him
at the same time, Cassie and Justin decided amongst themselves that she should
go inside first since neither Abby nor Nina had seen Taylor yet.
"Come on Cookie. Let's go see Uncle Taylor," Cassie said,
taking Abby's hand in her own and leading her down the hall to where
Taylor lay sleeping. She stopped outside the door, squatting in front of an
obviously nervous Abby. "Now remember Cookie, Uncle Taylor looks like
he's sleeping, so you don't have to be afraid. And he can hear
you, so if you want to talk to him, you can."
"'Kay Mommy," Abby said as Cassie pushed open Taylor's
door and allowed Abby to precede her into the room. Taylor lay in much the
same position as he had the night before—his sandy brown hair almost
completely obscured by the snowy white bandage adorning his head and connected
to a myriad of medical gizmos that monitored everything going on inside his
Abby looked up at her mother, not certain of what she should do until Cassie
went to sit in the chair beside the bed, motioning to her to come sit on her
lap. Abby climbed onto her lap, staring at Taylor in rapt fascination. This
was the first time she had ever seen Taylor so still and quiet, minus the many
times he'd slept over at their house since she was a baby. But this...
this was something altogether different that her four-year-old mind was having
a difficult time processing.
"M-Mommy... I scared," she whispered, clinging to Cassie's
neck with a death grip. Cassie rubbed her back, allowing Abby the time she
seemed to need to get comfortable being inside the hospital room.
"I know Cookie... So am I," Cassie whispered, taking Taylor's
limp hand in her own and stroking it while Nina took up vigil on the other
side of the bed, her lips moving in silent prayer for Taylor's recovery.
Cassie watched Taylor breathe, smoothing his hair with her free hand. "Hey
little bro... I brought some people who wanted to see you. Abby's
here and so are Nina and Justin. You have to meet his friend
Lance. I think you'd like him. He's a really nice man... In
fact, if I thought he was gay, I'd hook you right up with him, but c'est
la vie. Anyway, I'm babbling again. I just want you to know that I miss
my partner in crime. You gotta get better Tay. Who else am I gonna terrorize
half of Hollywood with?"
"Hi Unca Taylor," Abby said shyly, emboldened by her mother's
one-sided conversation with her Uncle. "I brought you my Bun-Bun. She
take good care of you like she do for me, 'kay? But you wake up soon
so we can go to the zoo like you pwomised we would."
"He's coming back to us Cookie. I just know he is," Cassie
whispered fervently, hugging Abby tightly. "And when he does, we're
gonna have him the biggest, bestest party ever."
The three of them sat there, carrying on various one-sided conversations with
Taylor before Cassie looked at her watch, gasping when she saw that they'd
been in with Taylor for almost an hour while Justin and Lance sat waiting patiently
in the family room. She put Abby down in the chair, kissing her softly before
she headed out to make sure the two of them were okay. She found the two of
them in deep conversation, which instantly put her on high alert since she
could hear her own name popping up into what was becoming a rather spirited
"Scoop, I'm telling you, she digs you man," Justin stated,
his eyes shining with mischief when he saw Cassie come into the room, but not
letting on that he'd seen her to Lance. It was his sincere hope that
the two of them get together, not only because it would keep Cassie occupied,
but because he could sense just how much his friend cared about the green-eyed
vixen that it seemed held his heart fast. "You really should tell her
that you like her. She wouldn't bite you—well, she might if you
asked her nicely, but you get the idea."
"Justin, I just met this woman—and besides, it seems to me that
she's still at least a little bit in love with her husband," Lance
said, sounding dispirited. "Did you see how she hung on to him back at
the house when they were comforting Abby? I don't stand a chance against
that kind of emotion."
"You'll never know unless you try," Justin said simply,
winking as he stood up and approached a rather nonplussed looking Cassie. He
hugged her briefly, whispering, "He's a good man who would walk
through hell and back for you. You just need to give him a chance." With
those words, he kissed Cassie's cheek and then left the stunned woman
to her own devices, whistling as he walked down the hall to Taylor's
"Okay... what was that all about?" Cassie asked,
confusion and a teensy bit of amusement creeping into her eyes as she watched
Lance fumbling for a suitable answer to her question—and which, hopefully
would be one in which he did not tend to incriminate himself.
"Just Justin being Justin," he finally replied cryptically, sliding
away from Cassie when she sat down in the chair next to him. Cassie looked
even more confused by his actions, which hurt Lance probably more than it should
have, but he could not risk being close to her while he was battling
so hard to rein in his feelings for her since he didn't want to do something
that might really ruin his chances with her. "So, any change
in your friend's condition yet?"
"Not yet," Cassie replied, trying to hide her own hurt at Lance's
sudden dislike of her behind a sunny smile. "But I'm sure he'll
be waking up soon. We'll just have to continue waiting and praying for
him until he does." When the uncomfortable silence that had fallen between
the two of them had stretched on long enough, Cassie stood abruptly and made
her way to the door of the waiting room. "I'm going to get something
from the cafeteria. Would you like anything?"
"No thank you Cassie," Lance replied stiffly, studiously avoiding
the penetrating look she was leveling on him before she turned and sashayed
down the hall, her hips swaying to an unheard beat that begged every pair of
male eyes within a fifty-block radius to watch. Once she was out of earshot,
Lance heaved a frustrated sigh, running his hands through his hair as he tried
in vain to erase the look of hurt in Cassie's eyes from his mind's
eye. God how I wish I could just hold you and say "I'm sorry" until
you believe that I never meant to hurt you, he thought as he settled down
to wait for Cassie to come back, berating himself the entire time she was gone.
For Justin, it was the best of times, and it was the worst of times. While
he felt no remorse about what he'd said to Cassie about Lance, he was
having a hard time reconciling himself to the fact that he wouldn't get
the chance to be alone in Taylor's room since Nina and Abby were still
there spending time with him. All the while he sat holding Taylor's hand,
he could feel Nina's keen gaze on him, assessing his every move in such
a way that Justin was certain she knew his secret, but was allowing him the
chance to tell her in his own time.
"So how long have you known Taylor, Justin?" Nina asked casually,
when in reality the query was anything but. While she was almost certain that
Justin's interest in Taylor was more than just friendship, she had no
real proof, and as such, Nina considered it her duty to do what she could to
protect Taylor any way she could, even up to discouraging Justin's attention
if it were deemed inappropriate.
"Ummm, we've haven't really known each other for very long,
but it feels like I've known him forever," Justin answered as earnestly
as possible, not wanting to get on Nina's bad side by lying. Nina nodded
wordlessly, smoothing Abby's hair. Abby sat a rapt witness to this conversation,
not really understanding what Nina and Justin were talking about, but captivated
"Did you know Taylor's ex-boyfriend ran off with his lover?" Nina
pressed on, watching to see what kind of response this elicited. Justin remained
noncommittal, preferring to allow Nina to lead the conversation wherever it
seemed she was trying to go, even though inside he was dying to ask about what
had happened. "I would hate to see him get his heart broken again by
someone who is only using him for a quick screw. Taylor is one of the kindest
people I know, and he deserves to be loved by someone he can count on unconditionally.
If that someone isn't serious, then they need to just walk away now before
they hurt him. Hurting him could be hazardous to that person's health,
"Nina, trust me when I tell you that the 'someone' is very
serious about winning Taylor's love and trust," Justin stated soberly,
a small smile playing around the corners of his mouth as he battled the older
woman with the iron will. No wonder Cassie and Taylor respect her so much.
She loves and protects them like she would her own children, Justin thought
as their stare down continued. Suddenly Nina's eyes narrowed thoughtfully,
reading Justin in much the same way she did Cassie, Taylor, and Abby, which
soon had Justin squirming uncomfortably. Once she was satisfied that Justin
knew whom it was he was dealing with, Nina seemed to relax and enjoy her time
Justin exhaled the breath he hadn't known he'd been holding, not
only because he'd been properly put in his place, but also because he
could sense a friend in Nina who would protect his secret—but who would
also not be afraid to correct him if the need arose. I'd hate to face
those eyes in a dark alley, Justin thought wryly as he watched her continue
to interact with Abby and Taylor. I wouldn't put it past her to kick
my ass if I were to hurt him either. His attention was drawn back to the
present by Abby singing softly as she sat beside Taylor on his bed... and
he couldn't help smiling when he heard what she was singing.
Your love is like a river
Peaceful and deep (peaceful and deep)
Your soul is like a secret
That I could never keep
When I look into your eyes
I know that it's true
God must have spent...
A little more time
(on you, on you, on you, you..)
God must have spent...
A little more time
(on you, on you. you....you..oooh..yeah)
A little more time
Justin's eyes never left Taylor's face while Abby sang. He wanted
to commit that face, so serene in repose, to memory so that he could draw upon
that memory to keep him strong during this ordeal. He was staring so hard that
when Taylor's eyelids fluttered, he dismissed it as a combination of
his imagination and a desperate desire for it to be true, but when Taylor reached
out to touch Abby's cheek, it was then that he knew that his prayers
had been answered. Taylor had come back to him.
"Thank you, Sugar," Taylor whispered, his voice barely audible as he smiled
at the little girl who flung herself at him.
"Madre de Dios!" Nina exclaimed, reaching for Justin's hand
as he laid his head on the bed and let the tears come. "You're
awake mijo! Thank God you've come back to us!"
"W-where's C-Cassie?" he whispered as Abby clung to him
as tightly as the various machines would allow.
"I'll go get her. She's going to be so happy to see you
awake cariño," Nina said as she stood up, ready to go in search of
her employer to share the good news. Justin sat beside Taylor, holding his
hand as thought he would never let go of it again. Abby watched this in silence,
happy to have her "Unca" Taylor with her again, but also curious
about just what was going on between the two of them.
"Justin, are you in love with my Unca Taylor?" she asked innocently
enough, but Justin was sure he felt the room begin to spin as Nina and Taylor
both watched him raptly, awaiting his answer.
To be continued...
Oh, what will happen next? Out of the mouths of babes, Justin gets put
on the spot. What will his answer be? Taylor has awoken from the coma, but
is the danger over? Orlando, ever suspicious of Justin, has added a possible
new suspicion to his mind. Will he ever find out how close to the truth he
really is, and what bearing will that have on Justin's possible future with
Taylor? Will Lance find the strength to pursue Cassie, even with Orlando
not far in the background, and how receptive will Cassie be? Most of all,
will Nina be able to keep any semblance of order in the house once everything
starts to break loose? Drop Rob or Nicole a
line and let us know your thoughts.
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