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 Six: Tell Me Where It Hurts
The silence that followed Abby's innocent questioning of Justin's
feelings was profound—and somewhat unnerving for the young star. He was
not used to that kind of question, especially coming from a child as young
as Abby, but seeing whom her mother was, somehow it didn't shock him. Out
of the mouths of babes, Justin thought wryly as he watched various emotions
play across Taylor's face as he awaited Justin's reply. He was
tempted to reach over and kiss the older man—if for no other reason than
to reassure him that he was there for him and of course that he had no intentions
of leaving him either—but he restrained himself only because he was afraid
that, sick or not, Taylor would bolt if he just kissed him out of the blue
like that—especially in front of Abby and Nina.
"How would you feel if I were?" Justin asked the little girl,
fighting a smile when she appeared to ponder her answer before she turned a
beautiful smile on him.
"I think I'd like that," she replied, grinning down at Taylor,
who was regarding the duo with some trepidation. "Unca Taylor need somebody
to help take care of him, and if you like him, then you can do that when Mommy
and I can't."
"Abby, you and Mommy do a wonderful job of taking care of me. There's
no need for Justin to go out of his way to help you guys care for me," Taylor
interrupted, trying to give the young man an out, but Abby was truly the
daughter of Cassie, and just like her mother, once she got an idea in her head,
she ran with it full steam ahead.
"But Unca Taylor, you need a boyfwiend that can be with you all
the time," she stated reasonably, almost making Taylor laugh at her very
accurate mimicry of her mother. "If Justin likes you, why can't he be
"Well Sugar, Justin and I just met, and we aren't really sure
if things are going to work out between us like that," Taylor tried explaining,
but Abby was looking at him like she thought he was mentally incapable of seeing
what was obvious even to her four year old mind.
"But he said he likes you Unca Taylor. All you gotta do is ask him to
be your boyfwiend just like the song... only he's a guy," Abby
explained as patiently as she could, frowning when it seemed Taylor was just
not getting the point. Justin sat as a silent witness to this exchange, fighting
a serious urge to fall out laughing at the serious way Abby was explaining
Justin's own feelings to her uncle. "Besides, Justin's cute,
and you need a nice lookin' boyfwiend Unca Taylor," Abby pressed,
not really understanding the problem with Taylor accepting Justin's proclamation.
"Oh my God... Welcome back little brother!" Cassie exclaimed
as she came sailing into the room followed closely by a blond haired man that
Taylor recognized as Justin's friend and band mate Lance Bass, preventing
either Taylor or Justin from responding to Abby's statement, and for
which Taylor for one was extremely grateful at this point.
She's entirely too smart for her own good, Taylor thought as
he endured one of Cassie's bear hugs, smiling as she pushed his hair
"You know, you really had us worried there for a minute. I thought I
was going to be a solo act from now on."
"Watch the ribs!" Taylor yelled, causing Cassie to jump back quickly,
nearly plowing into Justin in the process. "You know I'd never allow
that," Taylor said waspishly, his returning smile crooked as he regarded
his best friend. "You're already the biggest diva on daytime. There's
no way in hell I'd allow you to become the biggest diva in the
world unless we share the title, darling. You know how much of a publicity
whore I am!"
"Yeah right, you 'tard," Cassie said, laughing as she motioned
Justin out of the chair beside Taylor's bed, sat down, and held Taylor's
hand. "You know I would never be the same without my better half. Terrorizing
the cast of Temptations isn't nearly as fun without you around.
Oh, speaking of which, I guess I'd better go call Alex and share the
good news!" With that, Cassie grabbed her purse and headed for the elevators
so that she could call the show's producers to give them an update on
Taylor's condition. Just as the doors opened, Cassie looked back and
was stunned to see Lance watching her every move. When he caught her gaze,
something in his eyes touched Cassie and almost made her run from the building
screaming in horror.
There's no way he could be that enamored of me this quickly, Cassie
thought as she hurried outside, the haunted look in Lance's eyes dogging
her footsteps. He's just caught up in the whole 'Cassidy Saunders' trap. As
she walked into the small courtyard outside the hospital, she fought a sudden
desire to be anywhere other than there. Her mind began to replay everything
that Lance had done and said over the past few hours while she waited for Alex
to answer his phone, her frown deepening as she remembered all the times she
had caught him watching her, his gaze assessing her in a way that suddenly
made a lot of sense. He does like me, Cassie thought in astonishment,
her heart racing momentarily before reality brought her crashing back to Earth
with a resounding thud. But does he like 'Cassie,' the everyday
girl who's a single mom, albeit a one who's worth millions and
is famous no less, or does he like 'Cassidy,' the television star?
Cassie's concentration was broken when Alex finally answered, for which
she would be eternally grateful. Nina, Orlando, and Taylor had all told her
time and time again that obsessing about situations beyond her control was
one of her biggest shortcomings, so it shouldn't come as a shock to anyone
that she was busy yet again worrying herself to distraction about yet another,
what seemed to her ridiculous, situation. Cassie, mentally deriding herself,
brought her attention back to the situation at hand.
"Alex, he's awake!" she exclaimed happily, giggling like
crazy as relief flooded her heart and made her feel like she was flying. "Taylor
came back to us!"
"Thank God!" Alex practically cried as his fears of losing this
plush job were finally laid to rest. He began firing questions at Cassie with
lightening speed, something Cassie had always told him reminded her of Speedy
Gonzales from the Looney Toons©. "When did this happen and
why didn't you call me as soon as he woke up Cassidy? Never mind that... How
is he? Is he still able to talk? Have they found any internal damage?"
"He only woke up a few minutes ago, and he seems just like his old self," Cassie
replied, rolling her eyes and smiling as she answered Alex's questions
about Taylor's physical status. "Yes, he can talk, and I left to
call you so I haven't spoken to his doctor yet, so I have no idea if
he has internal damage beyond the concussion and his ribs or not."
"Well at least we have the Dynamic Duo back again," Alex stated,
relaxing now that the present crisis had been averted. "I'll send
your shooting scripts for the next few days to the house. Should I send Taylor's
there as well?"
"I'm not sure, but you could always send them to me and I can
get them to him," Cassie replied, not really sure of her best friends
plan's for when the time finally came when he would be released from
the hospital, but her mind was already busily planning his stay with her. "Knowing
my other half like I do, I can almost guarantee that he's going to oppose
spending too much time at my house while he heals."
Alex gave a very ungraceful snort when he heard that, laughing into the phone
loud and hard. "And knowing you like I do, Cassidy dear, it's not
like our mutual friend is going to have much of a say in the matter, let alone
if our favorite mother lioness is there with you when the pronouncement is
made. You know, you and Nina remind me of the Pharaoh in the Ten Commandments.
Your words are the law—so let it be written, so let it be done!"
"Gee, tell me what you really think of me, Alex darling," Cassie
said with a smirk, the sarcasm in her tone making Alex smile. "And here
I was thinking that you could see right through this façade to the sweet,
innocent girl next door underneath."
"Cassidy, I love you like you're my daughter, so please take these
words in the spirit in which they're intended," Alex began, the
sarcasm in his voice a perfect match for Cassie's, "but darling, 'sweet' and 'innocent' are
probably the last words I'd ever use to describe you. Don't
get me wrong, you have moments when you can be incredibly sweet and thoughtful,
but those moments are few and far between. I think I'd use words more
along the lines of 'hell raiser' and 'tough as nails,' but
no way, no how would 'sweet' and 'innocent' pass my
lips in description of you on a regular basis."
"Gee... thanks bunches, darling," Cassie said sourly, pacing
the small courtyard as she glanced up at the hospital again. She didn't
bother to tell Alex that her motives for having Taylor stay with them were
anything but altruistic—she knew better than to share anything of that
magnitude with anyone besides Tay and Nina—but her mind slipped almost
unwillingly back to Lance. This might work to my advantage in other ways, Cassie
thought, her mind beginning to formulate all kinds of scenarios involving Justin
having to spend extra time at her house—which would also require her
green-eyed suitor to spend time at her house. She was determined to get to
the bottom of the mystery of one Lance Bass, and if it happened to require
her to spend time listening to Taylor whine about not being able to take care
of himself, well then so be it. I'm gonna figure Lance out if it kills
me—or I happen to kill Taylor for whining like a baby first.
"Cassidy?" Alex said, his brow furrowed as he began biting his
thumbnail, a bad habit that he'd never been able to break himself of
when he was worrying, which was the case now since his star seemed about a
million miles away. He'd been calling her name for a good minute and
a half with no answer, and being the high-strung creature he was, he was engaged
in his favorite activity with a vengeance. Where Cassie and Taylor were concerned,
Alex was a very shrewd man—he certainly knew which side his bread was
buttered on, that's for sure—but he also was genuinely concerned
about their well being, both mental and physical. He knew better than most
just how deep the bond was between his stars, so he was happy that Cassie hadn't
had to go through losing yet another person she loved before their time. In
light of everything her ex had put her through, in Alex's mind, it was
a miracle Cassie was still standing, let alone still firmly entrenched atop
the daytime television mountain and showing absolutely no signs of slowing
"I'm sorry Alex," Cassie said apologetically, her mind getting
back to the task at hand. She looked down at her watch, sighing when she saw
that it was now moving close to five o'clock. "Well I really need
to get going now. Visiting hours are almost over, I need to get back upstairs
and spend some more time with Tay before they kick me out, and I need to go
grab Nina and Abby so we can go get the house ready for him too. Just have
the service deliver his scripts to my house. Even if he ends up at home, he's
at my house practically every day anyway, so it's not like he wouldn't
get them. I'll call you tomorrow once I know more about his release details.
Let everybody know the good news, and I'll see you all Monday bright
and early. Talk to you soon!"
"Wait Cassidy! Before you go, I just wanted to apologize for suggesting
we shoot footage of Taylor at the hospital the other day," Alex said
haltingly, not used to having to apologize for his brashness, but once his
wife heard what he'd suggested—and gave him an earful—he'd
realized just how callously he had to have come across to the distraught woman. "I
don't know what I was thinking. Sometimes I think I'm having regular
out of body experiences when I say stupid stuff like that."
"It's okay Alex. I'm used to you and your crazy suggestions
after all this time," Cassie said graciously, willing now to even put
Alex's monumental lack of tact aside now that Taylor was out of the woods. The
good Lord only knows he can be a complete idiot, but he is one of the
best directors on TV, so I guess I can forgive him for being totally moronic
at times, Cassie thought with a wicked grin. At least he does his job
well and cares about Taylor and me—I think. But all silliness went
out the window when she spoke again. "You're forgiven this time
Alex, but see that it doesn't happen again."
Once she'd closed her phone, Cassie stood, looking up at the hospital
building, a pensive frown marring her brow as her mind wandered back to Lance.
For a very brief moment she allowed herself the chance to wonder about what
her life might be like if she were to drop her guard completely and let Lance
into her heart, but that moment passed quickly as all of her doubts and self-esteem
issues came rushing to the forefront of her mind again, ruining her mood. From
the outside looking in to her so-called glamorous life, no one in their right
mind would ever in a million years guess that Cassidy Saunders had some serious issues
with self-esteem where men were concerned—well, no one except Nina and,
of course, her partner in crime that is. Ever since her father's death
when she was three, for which her mother had gone to her grave blaming her,
Cassie had labored under the false assumption that every man that she loved
would eventually abandon her. It was in part thanks to years of conditioning
by her mother that she'd been so reluctant to allow Orlando to be anything
more than a friend for the first six and a half months of their relationship,
and even once she was certain he loved her it had been a constant battle for
her not to give in to her demons. For a while after they'd gotten together
it seemed that things had calmed down, but with the dissolution of the marriage,
all her doubts about herself had come back full force. And it was times like
now, when she was alone and no one was watching that everything she feared
about her ability to love and be loved came rushing back with a vengeance.
I have got to stop this, Cassie thought in desperation as the
doubts, voiced by her mother no less, began taunting her again, telling her
over and over again that she would never be pretty enough or smart enough to
get Lance to like her. "Stop it!" she begged, her hands covering
her ears in an effort to drown out the sound of her inner demons badgering
her. "Please just leave me alone!"
"Cassie? Are you okay?" a voice asked, touching her shoulder gently.
She whipped around, collapsing into Nina's arms with tears streaming
down her cheeks.
"I'll never be good enough for him," she babbled, sobbing
uncontrollably as Nina guided her down onto a bench in the secluded corner
of the courtyard. "He... can't stand... me. Why... do
I... even bother?"
"Cassie, stop this!" Nina commanded sternly, shaking Cassie gently
before embracing the distraught woman again. She'd seen Cassie like this
enough to know that her mind was being pulled into an abyss of despair by her
memories of her mother's harsh words and treatment. "You are more than
good enough for any man who's lucky enough to win your love and your
trust! Just because Orlando was too foolish to see what a gem he had does not mean
someone else won't come along and make all your dreams come true."
"No! I can't get involved with anyone again. It's too soon,
and I—I just can't," Cassie stated, standing up and letting
her professional mask slip back into place, but it was a wasted effort since
Nina was not so easily fooled. "I guess I should get back upstairs before
Taylor starts thinking I've abandoned him or..."
"Taylor's with Justin and his doctor, so he's fine. Cassie,
you can't run from what could develop between you and Lance just because
you're afraid," Nina stated, her gaze unflinching as she watched
Cassie digest her words. "I believe he truly cares about you and I think
he would make a good friend at the very least. He's even gained Abby's
trust, so he can't be all bad, not to mention she thinks he's really
"Abby's just a child Nina. She has no idea about who she should
or shouldn't trust yet!" Cassie exclaimed, frustration giving her
voice a sharp edge that Nina either didn't hear or simply chose to ignore,
given Cassie's current state of mind. "I can't base who I
date on whether or not my daughter likes him and thinks he's cute!"
"Cassie, you have to let go of the things your mother filled your head
with. I know she was hurting when your father died, but she had absolutely
no right to blame you for his death just because you survived that accident!
If you continue to allow her ghost to rule how and who you love, you'll
live your entire life too afraid to reach out to people who might genuinely
love and care for you because you'll be too afraid they're only
after you because of what you can do for them," Nina said patiently,
sighing deeply as she stood and looked down into Cassie's eyes, her hands
cupping Cassie's face much like she did Abby's as she continued
speaking. "Lance is a good person and he's never asked you
for anything except for your friendship. I think those things should speak
for themselves. I'm not saying you should marry him tomorrow—hell,
I'm not even saying you should be more than friends. You're an
adult and I can't choose your friends for you, but you can at least give
the man a chance. If he ends up hurting you, he catches a Big Nina beat down—but
if he doesn't, well then mija, you've made a new friend, and maybe
you've met the one man who'll put that sparkle back in your eyes.
Think about it, cariña. I'll see you upstairs."
Cassie stared after Nina's retreating figure with a pensive frown once
again, her brain battling with her heart as it tried to overcome years of the
mental abuse that her mother had subjected her to. She could feel the change
in her mood as gradually her heart won out over a mind conditioned by years
of being told in no uncertain terms that she would never be good enough to
find lasting love. Suddenly she stood, shaking off the depressing thoughts
without a backward glance. As she walked back inside the hospital, she cast
off her mother's shadow once and for all. I am good enough
Mamá! Nothing you say or do will ever change that!
Upstairs, Taylor was fit to be tied. Ever since Justin's admission—after
Abby's none too subtle probing, that is—he'd had the singularly
uncomfortable pleasure of being almost alone in a room with a man who had all
but admitted that he was interested in more than just a friendship with him.
Cassie's departure and Lance's odd behavior since she'd left
in such a hurry had not been lost on him, but he figured that Cassie would
explain that when she was ready. Ever since Cassie had run out of the room,
the blond bass singer had been looking like he'd lost his best friend,
and Taylor was praying that nothing bad had gone on between his volatile best
friend and the younger man, but knowing Cassie as well as he did, he was willing
to bet his house that either one or the other was sporting a serious crush
and was feeling rejected in some way. I just hope she hasn't gotten
herself into something that could potentially blow up in her face, he thought
as he turned his attention back to what Justin and Lance were talking, or rather
"Curly, I'm not going to discuss my nonexistent love life with
you now!" Lance snapped, his skin mottled with barely suppressed rage
with Justin's constant harping on the subject. "My non-relationship
with Cassie is none of your business, so just leave it alone!"
"Scoop, I'm just trying to help you man. I know she likes you;
you just have to be patient with her and..." Justin began, but that
was as far as he got before Lance lost it.
"God damn it Justin, why can't you just leave well enough alone!" he
yelled, standing up suddenly and frightening Abby, who scampered back up onto
the bed and buried her face in Taylor's side. Abby's fearful reaction
shocked Lance, who looked at the little girl and smiled in spite of his inner
turmoil. "I- I'm sorry I scared you Abby. I didn't mean to
yell like that. Do you forgive me?"
"I guess so," Abby said reluctantly as she got off the bed and
came to stand in front of Lance. She reached out and touched his cheek, her
smile beaming bright. "My mommy said that you have the bestest voice
in *NSync—well, when we can hear you sing anyway. Right, Unca Taylor?"
"That's right Sugar," Taylor replied with a slight groan
as he shifted, not quite sure about what the little girl was up to, but knowing
that Cassie and Lance were in serious trouble if Abby had set her mind on getting
the two of them together. At least that would take the heat off of me, Taylor
thought with a smug grin, determined to help the little girl if it kept her
and everyone else from meddling in his business. But with my luck, I'd
have Cassie, Nina, and Abby involved in this, and that's the last thing
I need right now!
"Taylor? Are you awake?" Justin asked, concerned for the man he
was starting to believe would eventually be his boyfriend. Justin had been
a little nervous about letting Taylor fall asleep, all things considered, but
Dr. Carter had insisted that the only way Taylor would get better was with
lots of rest. Fortunately for Justin, Taylor's answering smile made his
heart skip a beat, and even Taylor had to admit that deep down, he was hoping
that Justin's words to Abby were more than just talk.
"Yeah, I'm here—just wondering what on Earth is taking Cassie
so long to come back," Taylor said with a worried frown as he glanced
at his watch. "She's been gone for over twenty minutes and I know
it wouldn't have taken her that long to get in contact with Alex. I just
hope she's okay and nothing bad happened to her on the way back up here."
"Cassie is fine, cariño. She was talking to Alex when I came
upstairs," Nina said from the door, her expression neutral. Something
in the way she spoke must have meant something to Taylor because his gaze went
to Nina's, searching for answers to something. The silent communication
between the two of them not lost on either of the room's two other adult
occupants. Justin glanced over at Lance who simply shrugged, as clueless as
his best friend about what was not being said about Cassie's whereabouts,
but determined to get to the bottom of this mystery too.
I guess I will have to be Scooby Doo to his Shaggy, Lance thought
with a sardonic grin in Justin's direction, his earlier ire about Justin's
constant meddling dissipating as he began to worry about Cassie's welfare
when another five minutes went by and she was still nowhere to be found. It
took all his self-control not to go running all over the hospital looking for
her since he was well aware of his part in her sudden disappearance. I never
should have made her think I didn't care about her. She's everything
I could ever hope for in a woman, but realistically, do I even have a chance
when I know she's still at least a little in love with her ex?
Lance's lingering glances at the door were not lost on Taylor either,
and as much as Taylor was dying to get Cassie alone to ask what was going on,
he knew that it was not really his place to interfere in his best friend's
love life, or her lack thereof—not that it ever stopped him before. I
just hope she's not slipping back into one of her funks because of her
mother, Taylor thought, his heart hurting for his friend, but something
about the way Nina had spoken put his heart at ease. He was certain that Nina
had found her before she'd gotten too far-gone for anyone to reach, and
hopefully Nina's pep talk had done the trick. Whatever else was going
to be said was interrupted by the arrival of Dr. Carter, who was beaming broadly
"Welcome back to the land of the living," she said with a smile,
greeting the adults in the room before turning her attention to Abby. "And
just who might this little beauty be?"
"I'm Abby. Pleased to make your aquian—acquaintance," Abby
replied formally, curtseying and then climbing back onto the bed with Taylor. "Is
my Unca Taylor gonna be okay?"
"Well Miss Bloom, I need to run a few tests to be sure, but I think
your Uncle Taylor is well on his way to being as good as new," Dr. Carter
replied as she helped Taylor lean forward and listened to his heart through
her stethoscope. She glanced at Abby, smiling as she removed the earpieces
from her ears and offered them to the little girl. "Would you like to
"Yes please!" Abby said as she placed the earpiece in her ears
and listened for a few seconds before beaming at the doctor. "I can hear
"And what's your prognosis, doctor?" Dr. Carter asked with
a grin at the little girl who was the spitting image of her mother. "Is
the patient healthy enough to be discharged tomorrow?"
"I think we need to run some tests to make sure," Abby replied,
making Taylor, Justin, and Nina snicker at the appropriateness of her answer.
Even Dr. Carter seemed impressed with the little girl's answer, but given
who her mother was, it didn't really come as any great surprise to her
that Abby would know the correct procedure for her to follow—especially
since Cassie's character on Temptations worked as a doctor.
"I'll see to it right away doctor," Dr. Carter said with
appropriate, at least in Abby's mind, seriousness. She turned to the
nurse who had followed her into the room and began firing off a series of tests
to be run on Taylor. "I want an EEG, CAT scan, and an MRI as well as
a level one neurological assessment done as soon as possible. Let me know when
those tests have been scheduled. That will be all for now."
"Yes Dr. Carter," the young nurse said, scribbling notes on the
chart in her hands. When she was done she looked up, and her eyes became owlishly
large when she spotted Taylor, and then grew even larger when she saw Lance
and Justin sitting there regarding her. She struggled to regain her professional
detachment, but all hopes of her not turning into a total fan were shot to
hell when Cassie came sashaying back into the room with a flourish. "Oh
my God! You're Cassidy Saunders! I'm such a huge fan of your work!"
"Why thank you!" Cassie said graciously, winking over the obviously
star struck young woman's shoulder at Taylor, who sat watching the interaction
with more than a little amusement. "It's great to run into someone
in your profession who enjoys what I do every day. How long have you have watched Temptations?"
"Oh my gosh, since the very first episode," the nurse replied,
slowly calming down as she and Cassie talked about the show and what it was
like to work in the soap opera industry. She was over the moon when Cassie
autographed several 8x10" photos and then convinced the men to do the
same, as well as take a few photos with her. Once they were done, she was still
saying her 'Thank Yous' as she hurried back to the nurse's
station to make the arrangements for Taylor's tests.
"That was fun," Cassie said to no one in particular, sitting on
the side of Taylor's bed. "So Dr. Carter, when can we expect this
big lug to be getting out of the hospital? I need to know so I'll be
able to come pick him up..."
"There's no need for you to pick him up," Justin interrupted,
his hand covering Taylor's possessively. "I'll pick him up
and take him home."
"That's nice of you to offer Justin, but I wouldn't want
to put you out like that," Taylor said hastily, heading off the inevitable
showdown between the strong-willed duo staring daggers at each other across
the bed. When Cassie grabbed his other hand, he had a quick glimpse into how
torn the child in the biblical story of King Solomon and the two harlots felt.
Luckily for him, Nina read his desperation and jumped in to help him before
things got too out of hand—but as it turned out, her solution would not
sit very well with him either.
"Justin, it's nice of you to volunteer to come pick Taylor up,
but he's going to be staying at the house with us while he convalesces—and
I don't want to hear a word out of you about it Taylor," Nina said
resolutely when it seemed that he was about to protest. "You know that
you won't be able to do very much for yourself, and it would help both
Cassie and I, and probably Justin too, to rest easier if you were somewhere
where at least one of us could be there to keep an eye on you all the time." When
Taylor began muttering under his breath, Nina's normally placid expression
morphed into one of indignation. "I said I don't want to hear it
Taylor! You're staying with us, and that's final!"
"Oh, all right," Taylor snapped huffily, rolling his eyes at both
of the women in his life. He held Abby close to him and whispered, "Your
mommy and Nina are stubborn and pigheaded when they think they're right."
"It's okay Unca Taylor, they do the same thing to me when I'm
sick too," the little girl said soothingly, patting his cheek like just
like Nina and Cassie had done her a million times in the past.
"Now that that's settled, could we get back to discussing when
I'm getting sprung from this place?" Taylor asked petulantly, his
bottom lip threatening to slip out. Nina and Cassie stood side by side, each
leveling a look on Taylor that said in no uncertain terms that his whining
would not only not be appreciated, but might be cause for his continued stay
in the hospital. "I don't care if you don't like it! I'm
an adult and I'm perfectly capable of taking care of myself. I don't
always need you two to look after me like I'm a five year old!"
"Taylor, if you don't stop that whining Dr. Carter's going
to be treating you for a whole new set of bruises and contusions!" Cassie
snapped, her expression relaying to her best friend just how serious she was
about inflicting some serious bodily harm on him if his whining did not cease
and desist. "You're staying with us and that's really final!"
"Taylor, maybe Cassie's right," Justin interrupted, smiling
down at the man in the bed. He hurried to add, "It would help me a lot
if I didn't have to be worried about you being at home by yourself. I
mean, what if something happened and you couldn't get to a phone to call
for help? Would you please stay with Cassie—without complaining—until
you get better, for me?"
It was on the tip of Taylor's tongue to refuse even Justin's sweetly
worded begging, but something in the younger man's eyes stopped him.
Taylor could see just how much his safety meant to Justin, and just how badly
Justin had been shaken when he'd thought Taylor might not regain consciousness,
and it shocked and humbled him to know that his very presence in someone's
life who wasn't Nina, Cassie, or Abby could affect them so deeply. Looking
into Cassie's eyes, he could see that she was still frightened of losing
him, which was why she was so adamant about having him in her home while he
convalesced so that she and Nina could keep a close eye on him, Taylor decided
in that moment to throw his pride aside and accept Cassie's offer to
stay at Mayfair, if only for her peace of mind—that, and to shut Cassie
and Nina up for the time being—and if it meant that Justin would come
by to spend time with him every day, well, he would just have to reconcile
himself to seeing more of the sexy younger man. Not to mention that it would
give me a chance to see what the hell's going on with her and Lance,
and possibly help it along if I can, Taylor thought as he surveyed the
room's occupants, or put a stop to it if it's necessary.
"All right Justin, but only because you asked me so nicely," Taylor
acquiesced, grinning at his best friend and surrogate mother before turning
his attention to the one he hoped would be more than a friend soon. When Justin
turned on the full wattage of his smile, Taylor felt a jolt of something that
made him feel a combination of fright and exhilaration, but he decided to concentrate
on the exhilaration. Ever since his last boyfriend had cheated on him, he had
been afraid to allow anyone into his life and heart, but the one thing that
this episode had taught him was that life was too short to allow fear to override
the joy that was inherent in living. Starting today, I'm going to
just relax and see where this thing with Justin could take me, Taylor thought
as an answering smile bloomed on his face. I'm not going to be afraid
to let him in, and I'm no longer going to be afraid to love!
"Remind me again how I ever let you talk me into this?" Taylor
grumbled as trudged into Cassie's house the following day. After a battery
of tests, Dr. Carter had finally consented into releasing Taylor, and he, for
one, was never more pleased to leave somewhere in his life. While he would
rather be at home, he knew right now that was not an option. While he had to
admit that Cassie, Nina, and Justin did have a point—he really wasn't
in the best of shape and would have a difficult time taking care of himself—that
didn't mean he was going to make life any less difficult for Cassie.
After all, that was his job.
"Because if you had stuck your ground and said no, we'd be in
surgery right now," Cassie replied smugly as she held the door open for
"Surgery?" Taylor asked aloud as he stopped for a moment to look
Cassie in the eye. "What for? To remove your foot from my ass?"
Cassie, who was ready to jump in with the exact same smart remark, felt her
jaw drop as Taylor began to laugh. "Heh," Cassie uttered as she
rolled her eyes. "Aren't you the funny one today?"
"You're just mad because I beat you to the punch line," Taylor
said with a sly smile.
"Whatever," Cassie replied flippantly. "Take a seat while
I go get your bags."
"D'oh!" Taylor exclaimed. "I forgot about the bags.
No, Cassie. I'll get them. They're heavy."
"Don't even think about it. Dr. Carter would come down here and
tan my hide if she ever got wind that I let you lift something heavy. She said
you need to take it easy for the next couple weeks while those ribs heal."
"Just—be careful, all right? We don't need both of us down
with injuries, okay?" Taylor said, the concern in his voice clearly evident.
Cassie smiled. "No worries, bro. Besides," she continued as she
looked out the window, "I think some help has just arrived." Outside,
Lance and Justin pulled up in Lance's Mercedes, and Cassie watched the
two as they got out of the car. "Ooh, and Justin's bringing someone
Taylor groaned. "I'm not ready for this. I'm not ready for
"Who said they were for you?" Cassie said with a smirk. "Maybe
they're for me!"
"Maybe they are," Taylor replied dryly. While Taylor was considerably
more willing now than he was previously about letting Justin get closer to
him, he wasn't sure if right this second was quite the moment he was
ready to do it. "Or maybe he's just holding them for Lance."
Cassie's head snapped in Taylor's direction, a look of confusion
on her face. "What do you know about this?"
"Apparently not enough," Taylor said. "I was hoping you
could fill in some of the details I seem to be missing."
"Well, I..." Cassie began, but she stopped as Justin and
Lance entered timidly through the open front door.
"Hi Cassie," Lance said shyly, hiding behind Justin.
"Um, hi Lance," Cassie said, returning his awkward greeting. The
two locked eyes for a minute, neither willing to turn away as the atmosphere
began to get tenser by the second.
"Hello? Cassie? Cass-a-rino?" Justin piped in, waving his hands
in front of Cassie's face.
Cassie jumped back about a foot and a half. She had momentarily forgotten
that Justin was there, so his words and actions spooked her. "Justin!" Cassie
shrieked, her usual composure restored as she went over to give him a hug. "How
"Good. Better now that I've had some more rest."
"And who might these be for?" Cassie asked coyly as she took a
step back, pointing at the flowers.
"Um, uh..." Justin stammered as he stared at his feet while
his cheeks turned bright red.
"He's in the living room," Cassie said with a smile, and
then she bent over and whispered menacingly into his ear, "I'm
watching you. Hurt him, and you're dead." Cassie stepped back again,
breaking the embrace completely. "Lance, why don't you and Justin
go keep Taylor company in the living room while I go get the big baby's
bags out of the car."
"I heard that!" Taylor called from the living room.
"Damn him," Cassie muttered. "He hears everything. I swear
he has sonar."
"I heard that too!" Taylor called.
"If you don't knock it off, you'll be hearing something
else!" Cassie called back. "Now, go on," she prodded.
"Actually, why don't I go get the bags for you?" Lance asked,
desperate to find a way to get away from Cassie until he could find a way to
collect himself. Every time she got near him, it was like his body would completely
freeze up. He couldn't breathe; he couldn't think; he couldn't
do anything except stand there and stare at her.
"Why, that's very sweet of you," Cassie said, throwing in
a little southern drawl for added effect. "I do declare, you are a gentleman,
Lance blushed furiously. "I'm just, uh, going to, um, go get those
bags now," he said before scampering out the door.
"Boys," Cassie said, shaking her head. However, in a small way,
she was glad Lance was gone. While she found his obvious flirting with her
cute and a little exciting—and there were times where she found herself
flirting back without realizing it—there was much to this that still
scared her. After all, Orlando had poured on the charm in the beginning as
well, and, of course, the whole world saw how that turned out. No, the only
man she could trust her emotions to was Taylor, but she still wondered how
a relationship with Mr. Lance Bass might fare. Maybe I should put him through
the Taylor test, Cassie thought. If Taylor gives the green light, then
maybe I'll try this whole dating thing again.
Cassie turned around upon hearing someone call her name. "Huh?"
"Cassie, are you coming?" Justin asked as he motioned his hand
in the direction of the living room.
"Oh. Yeah. Come on in."
The two had barely made it to the entrance of the living room when a flying
blur appeared out of nowhere and tackled Justin's legs, sending him crashing
to the floor.
"Justin!" the blur shrieked. "Justin! Justin! Justin! Justin!"
"Good afternoon Abby," Justin said as he disentangled his legs
from the little girl's arms. "How's my favorite little girl
"I'm good," Abby said with a smile. "Did you see Unca
Taylor is here?"
"I did. I was just going in to say hello," Justin replied as he
"Are those for me?" Abby asked, pointing at the flowers.
"This one," Justin said as he pulled a yellow rose from the bouquet, "is
for you. The rest of these are for Taylor."
Over on the couch, Taylor's face was becoming more crimson by the second.
None of his previous boyfriends—bearing in mind that it was an incredibly
short list to begin with—had ever gone to quite this much effort to romance
him. Most of them were pushing to get him into bed as soon as they could, and
there was something about the fact that Justin was moving more slowly that
Taylor liked. Maybe this might not be so bad after all, he thought.
"Oooh. Look, Mommy. Justin gave me a flower," Abby said.
"I see that Cookie. It's very pretty. Let's go find a vase
and some water to put it in, okay?"
"No," Abby replied. "Put it in my hair so I look pretty."
Cassie smiled at her daughter. "Okay, Cookie. Let's go find some
scissors so we can cut the stem shorter and cut all the thorns off."
Abby stared at the flower, then at her mother, and then at the two men in
the room. "Okay Mommy. Justin an' Unca Taylor need to be alone." Cassie
started to grin, wondering how it was that her daughter happened to be so damn
smart when, as she should have known, Abby said something that caught them
all off-guard. It was times like these when Cassie wished she'd had a
camera. "Unca Taylor," Abby said, turning to the man, "Mommy
an' I are gonna go away for a minute so you an' Justin can talk,
but no smoochin' Justin until I get back."
The looks on the adults' faces were, to the outside viewer, absolutely
hysterical. Cassie was completely stunned. Out of the mouths of babes, she
thought. Taylor had turned a bright red while Justin was starting to turn a
rather unhealthy shade of purple.
"Breathe, Justin! Breathe!" Taylor hissed from the corner of his
"Remind me how to do that again?" Justin hissed back.
As soon as Cassie and Abby left the room, however, the crimson in Justin's
cheeks started to fade away, but it was only momentary, for once Cassie was
out of sight of the men, she burst into raucous laughter, which only made Justin
"You know the only person here who is worse than Cassie is that little
one," Taylor said, "and that's only because she hasn't
discovered sarcasm yet."
"She's definitely something," Justin replied, "although
what I find interesting is that while you're not Abby's father,
you can see quite a bit of your personality in her."
That remark had come out of nowhere, and it caught Taylor off guard. "Uh,
that's really her mother you're seeing," Taylor stammered. "It's
not like I had anything to do with..."
"Come off it Taylor. You and Cassie have a lot in common, but I've
watched Abby, and there's a part of her personality that has to come
from you, because I don't see it in Cassie and it's definitely
not in that twit Orlando."
Taylor noticed that Justin was starting to get upset. "I take it the
two of you have met?"
"You could say that," Justin said, the venom in his voice easily
noticed by Taylor. "To be honest, I don't trust that man as far
as I can throw him."
"Welcome to the club," Taylor muttered, rolling his eyes.
The two fell silent for a moment before Justin looked at the flowers he was
still holding in his hand. "Oh! Um, these are for you," he said,
holding out a bunch of yellow roses. "I wasn't sure if red would exactly
be appropriate, so I got these, but if you don't like them, or would
rather have red, I can always go get some more, unless of course you'd
like a different color, in which case..."
"Justin!" Taylor yelled, breaking Justin's babbling stride
as he took the flowers from the younger man. "They're lovely, quite
appropriate, and I thank you for not only bringing them to me, but giving one
to Abby as well. I guess you are right about her, by the way. I think I've
been a bigger part of her life than her father ever was, but I don't
think I would ever say that too loudly if I were you. That man has a nasty
temper, and it doesn't take much to get him started."
"You're telling me," Justin mumbled. "I ran into his
temper the night you were admitted. I followed Cassie home, just to make sure
she got there okay, and Orlando..."
"...assumed you were her new beau and was about ready to pound
you into mincemeat?" Taylor finished.
"Uh, yeah," Justin said, a little shocked at the way that Taylor
had finished his thought. He was about to same something else when Lance entered
"Good grief!" Lance said between deep breaths as he took a seat
on the loveseat. "What the heck did you pack in those bags? Weights?"
"Of course," Taylor said with a grin. "I have to keep up
my appearance, you know. A body this good doesn't come from luck alone." When
Lance frowned at him, Taylor began to laugh. "No. It's actually
clothes, mostly, with some other things as well. Since I don't know how
long it will be before the warden lets me go home, it doesn't make much
sense to have to keep people running back and forth between the houses to fetch
things. I still have to figure out what to do with Calla and the cats though."
"Why don't you give me a key to the house, and I'll make
sure they're taken care of," Justin offered. When he noted the
surprised look on Taylor's face, Justin stammered, "Well, uh, that
is, if, uh, that's okay, um, with you, uh, that is, um, yeah."
"That's very kind of you Justin, but I'll make Cassie do
it, since she's holding me captive here anyway," Taylor replied
with a smirk. That's a good excuse Taylor! he thought. This
guy certainly does move fast. Although he was certain that Justin's
intentions in that statement were completely innocent, Taylor wasn't
sure he was quite ready to give Justin a key to his house, just yet. I am
getting better though, Taylor thought with a small bit of pride. Normally
I just would have said no. At least this gives some room for interpretation
that it could happen later on, right?
"So what were you guys talking about?" Lance asked.
"My favorite person," Taylor replied, rolling his eyes, even though
he was a bit thankful that Lance had changed the subject. "Orlando Bloom," Taylor
continued, qualifying his statement.
"I met him yesterday," Lance said. "He seems like an interesting
"And he's the devil himself if you get on his bad side," Taylor
said, staring Lance in the eyes. "I'm already on his permanent
bad list, so there's no hope for me, but I would tread lightly around
him if I were you, Lance, especially if you have your heart set on Cassie."
Lance gasped and felt like all the air in the room had been completely sucked
out. "I, um, don't know what you're talking about, Taylor," Lance
stammered in a quiet voice.
"First of all, Mr. Bass," Taylor said, narrowing his eyes at the
singer so harshly that it made the other man start to tremble out of sheer
nervousness, "if your goal is to date Cassie, lying to either of us,
especially me, is a very, VERY bad idea. Now, if you and Cassie
want to dance around each other and pretend that neither of you has feelings
for the other, then that's your choice, but I expect you to be completely
up front and direct with me, or I will make life incredibly unpleasant for
you. However, treat her properly, and you and I will get along fabulously.
My only interest is in making sure that her best interests are protected, not
yours. Do I make myself absolutely clear?"
"Crystal," Lance squeaked as he shrunk back into the loveseat
as far as it would allow.
Justin, who was sitting next to Lance, had seen quite a few sides to Taylor,
but this forceful, protective side both intrigued him and kind of turned him
on too. I wonder if that's a bad thing, considering his current state, Justin
"Good," Taylor said, the smile returning to his face. "And
now that my evil twin has had his moment for the day, let's hear what
the real story is between you and Cassie."
Lance swallowed hard as the lump in his throat seemed to swell. "But
she's in the next room!" When Taylor shrugged his shoulders and
motioned for Lance to continue, Lance took a deep breath and said in a low
voice, "Well, it's like this..."
Meanwhile, on the other side of town, Orlando was having one hell of a day.
As soon as the sun was up, he was out of bed and into the shower. He then got
dressed, down a shot of scotch to get him started, and then headed for downtown.
His destination was the bank, where he was about to make a rather sizable withdrawal.
After all, his connection—even though it was never his intent to be connected
in the first place—could never be found out, especially by Cassie. While
he knew that there were many things that Cassie would be willing to forgive,
albeit over time, this was one thing that would earn him a permanent spot on
her hit list, and that was a place he couldn't afford to be; after all,
it would be a bit difficult to win her heart if she hated his guts completely,
and even more difficult to do it from jail, since that's where he would
end up if anyone ever found out his role in this.
How do I get myself into these things? Orlando asked himself as he
navigated his way through the busy streets that Friday morning. Well, I'll
get that bitch her money and then they'll leave me alone. It will all
It was just then his cell phone rang. He flipped it open without thinking
to look at the number. "Hello?"
"Good morning, darlin'," said the voice on the other end
of the line. "Are we having a good day?"
"Fuck you," Orlando snarled. "No, we are not having a good
day," he mimicked in a nasty voice. "I'm on my way to the
bank so I can get you your damn money."
"Such a good boy," the voice cooed on the other end. "Who's
a good boy? Who's a good boy?"
"You are such a bitch," Orlando snapped as he wove through traffic.
"Excuse me?" the voice replied. "What did you call me?"
"You heard me."
"All right then. For that, the amount you owe has now doubled. Bring
me one hundred and fifty thousand instead."
"You can't do that!" Orlando shouted. "We had a deal!"
"So you admit to your part of the whole thing?" the voice replied.
"No! Yes! No! Wait!" Orlando took a second and tried to clear
his head. This lady was trying to confuse him. "You said it would take
seventy-five thousand to shut you up about this whole thing—some money
for you, and some money for what's-his-face. That was our agreement."
"You fail to realize, Orli, that I hold all of the cards here. If you
want this quiet from your precious Cassidy, then you'll need to cough
"I could turn you in," Orlando threatened, but he knew that it
was a feeble threat at best, and the other person recognized it for what it
"Yeah right. You try to bring me down, and I will destroy you."
"Fine. You win. I'll have your money. I'll bring it to your
house at noon."
"No. Not here. Let's meet somewhere a little more public. How
about Eduardo's on Sepulveda?"
"I don't have time for that, you rotten bitch," Orlando
said. "I'm just going to bring you your money and leave."
"Fine. Whatever, and I wouldn't go there if I were you," the
voice replied in a singsong voice. "You wouldn't want the price
to go up again, now would you?"
Orlando sighed. "No. I'll see you at noon," he said dejectedly
before hanging up. He took a right turn from where he was, drove a couple of
miles, and then pulled into the parking lot of the bank. As he stepped out
of his car and closed the door, he stared at the bank entrance with a depressed
look on his face. "I will get you somehow, you wench. I don't know
how, but I will make you pay for this. No one gets away with blackmailing me!"
"I don't know what else to say," Lance mumbled. "I
really like Cassie, but she'll never notice me."
"Oh I think she's noticed you," Justin said. "Like
Tay said, you two are just dancing around each other, trying to pretend that
neither of you has any attraction for the other."
"Tay?" Taylor said in surprise. "When did I become Tay?"
"Uh, um, well, I heard Cassie call you that, and, well, I thought..."
"Does he always stutter like this?" Taylor asked Lance. "He
seems to do this often."
"Any time he gets embarrassed, then, yeah," Lance said with a
"It's okay Justin. I'm just not used to hearing people other
than Cassie calling me that."
"Well, if you'd rather I didn't, I won't."
"It's not that," Taylor said. "It just takes some
getting used to." Taylor turned to Lance, who had suddenly resumed a
melancholy state. "You okay, Lance?"
"I guess. I just wish I could find the nerve to tell Cassie..."
"Tell Cassie what?" Cassie asked as she entered the room.
"Uh, how beautiful your house is," Lance said suddenly, silently
congratulating himself on his great cover, but when he glanced over at Taylor,
the frown on the other man's face once again made him nervous. "So," Lance
continued, turning to look at Justin, "does anyone have any plans for
"I think I'm going to lie down for a while," Taylor said
as he slowly got to his feet.
"Here Taylor," Justin said, jumping to his feet. "Let me
"I'm not an invalid, Justin! I can do it myself!" Taylor
shot back before thinking better of it. "Wait. I'm sorry Justin," Taylor
said as he watched the younger man's eyes widen and then turn to look
at his feet. "I didn't mean to snap at you. I'm just not
used to this 'people wanting to do things for me' thing."
"Way to go, Tay," Cassie said sarcastically. "That's
the way to make friends."
"Shove it, Cassie," Taylor retorted with a roll of his eyes. Ambling
over to Justin, he put an arm around the smaller man's shoulder and said, "It
would be very nice for you to help me get my things upstairs Justin, as long
as it's okay with you."
Justin looked up and met Taylor's eyes. The soft, caring look in them
made Justin want to melt on the spot. "It's fine," Justin
said breathlessly, a goofy smile forming on his face.
"Oh yeah," Lance said under his breath. "He's a lost
"Unca Taylor!" Abby cried as she ran into the room. "You
wasn't supposed ta get mushy until I got back!" As usual, Abby
said the right thing to lighten the mood of the room, though that was not her
intent. "Unca Taylor, see how pretty I am wiv my flower?"
"You're gorgeous, Sugar. Now, why don't you come upstairs
with Justin and me, and after he puts my bags into my room, you can show him
your bedroom?" Taylor suggested.
"Really?" Abby squealed. "I can't wait to show you,
Justin!" she exclaimed as she took off for the stairs.
Turning to Justin, Taylor said, "Sorry man, but sometimes, sacrifices
have to be made, and today was your day."
"No sweat," Justin said. "She's a cute kid. How much
trouble could she be?"
Taylor glanced up at Cassie and the two exchanged a knowing look. Justin simply
had no idea.
"Well, Justin, let's get moving and leave these two to talk," Taylor
said as he started to make his way slowly to the stairs. "Ugh, these
are going to b a miserable few weeks with these broken ribs."
Cassie, who had been enjoying the exchange between the three men, suddenly
froze when Taylor suggested leaving her alone with Lance. "Uh, Taylor?
Maybe I should help Justin with some of those bags?"
"No worries, Cassie. I got them," Justin said as he started to
collect Taylor's bags.
"No, I really think..." Cassie began, but Justin cut her
"I got them just fine Cassie. Now sit down and play nice with Lancey-boy
"Uh..." both Lance and Cassie started to say, but the two
of them immediately fell quiet, trying their absolute hardest not to look at
"This should be interesting," Taylor whispered to Justin before
Justin took the bags ahead of him, making it easier for Taylor to take his
time coming up the stairs.
Once the two left the room, Cassie slowly turned her head to look at Lance,
who was staring at Cassie, yet trying not to stare at her.
"So," Lance said quietly.
"So," Cassie said back. Bunch of great conversationalists we
are, she thought. This is going to be a long afternoon.
Orlando pulled his car into the drive of a nice condominium on the south side
of Malibu. Pulling a large briefcase from his trunk, he slammed the trunk lid
hard before marching up the walk. He rang the doorbell and pounded on the door
repeatedly until the condo's occupant yanked it open.
"I see you had no trouble finding the place, sweetheart," the
woman said as she opened the door.
"Cut the charm crap Ashley," Orlando said as he stormed into the
house. "Here's your god damn money. Are you happy now?"
Ashley Tomlinson sauntered into the living room, taking a seat on her sofa. "Come
sit down with me, Orli. Would you like something to drink?"
"No. I don't want anything to do with you or this mess. Just take
your money so this can all be over with."
Ashley stood up and advanced upon Orlando. "Oh, I'll take the
money, but this isn't over. You're in just as deep as the rest
of us, but as long as you keep your mouth shut, so will we. After all, heaven
forbid Cassidy should find out that you ordered the attack on her best little
"I did no such thing," Orlando retorted. "I never told you
to do that."
"Orli, Orli, Orli," Ashley said condescendingly, "we've
had this conversation over and over, and quite frankly, it's starting
to bore me."
"You know what? I almost don't care anymore. You're determined
to screw me one way or another, no matter what I say or do. So just take your
money and leave me the fuck alone!"
"Oh, you're right," Ashley said. "In more ways than
"What do you mean by that?" Orlando asked, a confused look spreading
across his face.
"There's one more thing I want besides this money, which you were
so good to get for me in a timely fashion."
"What else could you possibly want?" Orlando boomed. "A
house? A car? A country? What?!"
Ashley sauntered up to Orlando, pulled him close, and planted a large kiss
right on his lips. "Why, you of course." When Orlando pulled back
from her in shock, Ashley smiled wickedly and said, "And that part of
the deal is non-negotiable."
To be continued...
Oh, what will happen next? What's the deal with Ashley and Orlando? Is
she really interested in him, or is this just another trick? Will Orlando
play along with Ashley's new plan, even if it means eventually losing Cassie
in the process? Will Taylor drive everyone crazy while he recuperates, and
will he finally drop his guard enough to see what everyone else sees: the
complete attraction Justin has for him? Will Cassie and Lance ever figure
each other out, and will one finally admit what neither is willing to say?
Drop Rob or Nicole a
line and let us know your thoughts.
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