© 2005-2010 Julien Gregg
All Rights Reserved

Chapter 8

Tears were over, his shower was taken and Skyler was dressed and sitting on the couch in the "party room" as Carlos Marquez called it. He couldn't believe the show was over. He'd told Niki that it had seemed like they were only out there on the stage for a few minutes. His body told him that it had been longer, but Skyler was too excited to feel tired muscles.

"You're show was awesome, Skyler," said Carlos, sitting down beside him. "I can't believe how many people are here."

There were people everywhere. Actors, singers, dancers, producers and fans with backstage passes were circulating through the party room. Skyler couldn't believe they were all there either, but he was excited about them too. They'd come to see him and Utopia after all. Chad and Cassie were having a ball, and Madonna had told him that this was completely normal so he wasn't questioning it.

"I'm too pumped to go back to the hotel right now anyway," he told Carlos. "I can't believe how awesome it felt to be out there."

"Your first performance in front of a big audience too, huh?" asked Carlos, leaning back to rest his back on the back of the couch.

"Yours too?" he asked, doing the same. "I thought you guys had been around for a while."

"We have," Carlos admitted. "We just haven't been all that noticeable for some reason."

"Well your songs are great, and your show was amazing," said Skyler. "Maybe now they'll pay attention."

"That's what I'm hoping," he said. "If we don't get some attention soon, I don't think I'll want to do this anymore."

"It'll happen for you guys," assured Skyler. "Don't worry. If you keep putting on shows like tonight's everyone will notice."

"They came to see you, Skyler," sighed Carlos. "No one even knew who we were until the press announced that we were touring America with you."

"How long as your CD been out?" asked Skyler, wondering why no one had really noticed them when they sounded so good.

"Over a year," he replied. "We've sold about five hundred thousand copies, and we were excited when that happened in the beginning but then sales just stopped. Now though, we're selling again. I know that it's because of this tour though."

"Well maybe it started because of this tour," said Skyler. "But now that they're hearing and seeing you perform, I'm sure that you guys will get even more success. Didn't Barry send you guys out on a promotional tour?"

"He did," admitted Carlos. "It just didn't take. He didn't send us to the right places I guess."

They were silent after that. Skyler wondered just where Barry had sent them on their promotional tour that Carlos thought were the wrong places. Barry had practically shoved Skyler's music down the world's throats. Why hadn't he done the same for Utopia? He would have thought that Barry Graham would have treated all of his clients the same. After all wasn't Barry trying to promote all of his clients so he could make money? It didn't make sense that he would promote Skyler so aggressively and leave Utopia to flounder on their own like that. Skyler decided that if Barry wouldn't get them out there then he would.

"Hello, Skyler," said a voice, interrupting Skyler's thoughts. He looked up and smiled when he saw Jordan Knight standing in front of him. "Amazing show."

"Thanks," he said, getting to his feet. "Jordan, this is Carlos Marquez from Utopia." He watched as Carlos shook Jordan's hand. "Carlos, this is Jordan Knight."

"Nice to meet you, Carlos," said Jordan, retrieving his hand. "You've got a great voice."

"Thanks," said Carlos, smiling. "I like your work too."

"Well I haven't been doing much lately," laughed Jordan. "But I'm hoping to change that soon. Can I borrow Skyler for a little while?"

"Sure," said Carlos. "I'm going to grab something to eat."

Skyler watched as Carlos headed off to the food tables, and he thought about how he could bolster Utopia's recognition. There had to be something he could do. With all of the fame that he was enjoying there had to be a way to share it. He'd have to think about that for a while. He was sure that he would come up with something that would help Utopia get noticed by America. It would just take him a little while to come up with the strategy he needed.

"I'm surprised to see you here," he said to Jordan, pushing thoughts of Utopia aside for a moment. "What brought you to Seattle?"

"I wanted to see your first show," admitted Jordan. "It really was amazing."

"Thank you," said Skyler, smiling. "I had a lot of fun."

"I was surprised by Utopia's show," said Jordan, glancing at Carlos again. "I hadn't heard much about them until I heard that they were going to be touring with you."

"That's what Carlos and I were discussing a bit ago," said Skyler. "He's hoping that this tour will gain them more recognition with fans."

"Well from the reaction to the show they put on tonight," said Jordan, looking back at Skyler, "I don't think it'll be long before everyone is talking about them."

"I didn't get to see their show," said Skyler. "I was trying to calm myself down for my own show."

"Nerves?" asked Jordan.

"You have no idea," laughed Skyler. "I was a real mess before the show."

"Well you didn't seem to be too nervous out there," commented Jordan with a smile.

"Oh once I got out there and felt the power of the audience I was fine," he replied. "I just had to get out there. That was the hard part for me."

"Shouldn't be too hard tomorrow night," said Jordan. "I'm planning to come to the show tomorrow too."

"Really?" asked Skyler, wondering why Jordan was taking such an interest in his show. He'd met the man only one other time. He'd talked with him then, and he'd gotten some good advice. He liked Jordan, but he didn't understand why he was there. He could have caught the show later when it was closer to where he lived.

"It's a great show, Skyler," he laughed. "Some other people are coming in tomorrow morning. They'll be at the show too."

"Oh?" inquired Skyler.

"Just some friends of mine," explained Jordan. "A few people I've been collaborating with for a project I'm working on."

"Will you be bringing them backstage?" asked Skyler, curious about who these friends of Jordan's were.

"If I can manage it," replied Jordan with a chuckle. "It was harder to get back here than it would have been to breech Fort Knox."

"Call the hotel tomorrow," suggested Skyler. "I'll make sure you have no trouble getting back here."

"Thanks," said Jordan, smiling. "It's really great to see you again."

"It's nice to see you too," replied Skyler. "Unexpected, but nice."

"Well I like to surprise people," laughed Jordan as Niki walked up to them.

"It's time to head back to the hotel, Sky," she said, standing beside him. "Hello, Jordan."

"Hi there, Niki," replied Jordan. "Great show."

"Thanks, but Skyler deserves all the credit," she replied.

"Well you guys have a great night," he said. "Skyler, I'll call you tomorrow afternoon."

"Talk to you then," said Skyler. "I'll be back at the hotel around one."

"Good night," said Jordan. He nodded at Niki and then walked away from them.

"It was a surprise to see him here," said Niki after Jordan was out of ear shot.

"Yes it was," agreed Skyler.

He watched Jordan for a few minutes silently. Jordan was very attractive, and when he smiled at Skyler it was like Skyler's heart was on fire. He wondered what it would be like to kiss Jordan and touch him. He wondered what it would feel like to hold him in his arms. Would Jordan hold him back? Would he let him kiss him?

Skyler shook his head to rid the thoughts from his mind. He blushed as he watched Jordan talking and shaking hands with the members of Utopia. Maybe it was the excitement of the show, or maybe it was just the fact that Jordan had appeared so unexpectedly. Skyler didn't know, but he'd never thought that way about him before.

He rode back to the hotel with Niki and the twins, but even the twins' excited chatter couldn't distract him from thoughts of Jordan Knight. What was happening to him? He hadn't even thought this way about Mark, and he'd had it bad for Mark while they shared that tiny dorm room. What was so special about Jordan Knight that had him thinking about touching and kissing him?

He dreamt of Jordan that night while he slept. It was a great dream, but waking from it Skyler was embarrassed. He couldn't believe he was acting and feeling the way he was. Jordan was probably straight, and even if he wasn't how on Earth would they have a relationship with him on tour and Jordan trying to make an album?

He was quiet at breakfast, because he couldn't get his mind off of Jordan Knight. Niki and Tara watched him from time to time, but neither of them asked about his silence. He was thankful for that because he didn't want to lie to them, and he didn't want to tell them what he was thinking about either. They knew that he was gay, because he'd made sure that each of the dancers knew about him. They'd all signed a confidentiality agreement when they'd been hired for the tour, but he still wasn't ready to tell anyone about what he was thinking.

After breakfast he went to his photo shoot. Not even the fact that he was made to stand outside in the cold for two hours while a photographer took pictures of him holding an American Flag could stop him from thinking about Jordan. He thought about his eyes and how they sparkled when he smiled. His smile was gorgeous. It lit up his entire face, and it made Skyler's stomach queasy. He had it bad for the guy all right. He just didn't know what to do about it.

He had lunch with Debbie Lull, his tour manager after the photo shoot, and he tried to listen to everything she was telling him about schedules in Portland and upcoming events that he was expected to at least attend for a few minutes. It was hard,though, because he couldn't get Jordan's smile out of his mind. He had to get Jordan off of his mind some how.

When Jordan called promptly at one as Skyler was just getting back to the hotel, Skyler invited him to the hotel. He figured that the easiest way to get him out of his mind was to spend a little time with him. He just hoped that he didn't make a fool out of himself while Jordan was there. That kind of embarrassment he would never get over.

"I'm glad you invited me over today," Jordan told him when they were sitting by the pool an hour later. "I've been thinking about you a lot since last night."

Skyler didn't know what to make of that statement. He'd been thinking of Jordan since last night too, but he wasn't about to tell him that. What if Jordan was only thinking of working with him or something. If he admitted that he thought about him all of the time and Jordan wasn't gay that could be disastrous.

"I'm glad you came over," he finally said. "I was afraid I wouldn't have a chance to hang out with anyone who wasn't connected to the show."

"Where are Cassie and Chad?" asked Jordan.

"With Madonna on a tour of the city," he replied. "They should be upstairs working on their school work. Madonna had other plans. She's leaving this evening, so I let her have some time with the twins."

"What's it like to be friends with her?" asked Jordan, looking at him intently.

"Madonna?" he asked. "She's the best. We have a blast together most of the time."

"I'd be intimidated by her," laughed Jordan. "I've heard about how bold she can be."

"She is bold," agreed Skyler. "But I like that about her."

"You like outspoken woman huh?" asked Jordan, and Skyler thought that he was paying extra attention as he waited for Skyler's answer.

"I like everyone to be outspoken," he replied, giving nothing away. "You never get anywhere in life by keeping things inside."

"That's very true," said Jordan.

"So how are your friends doing?" asked Skyler, changing the subject to a safer one.

"They're off somewhere in the city too," replied Jordan. "I stayed in to call you while they went out to have fun."

"I cleared the way for you and a few guests tonight," said Skyler. "I didn't know how many, so I told them no more than four."

"There'll be three of us tonight," replied Jordan. "Mark Wahlberg and Max Beesley."

"Mark I've heard of," said Skyler. "I don't know who Max Beesley is though."

"Max is cool," said Jordan. "He's done some back up work for a few people. He loves his music, and he likes to act too."

"They're collaborating with you on your new album?" asked Skyler.

"They're trying to," he laughed. "I'm not really liking most of what Mark comes up with though. Max is just going to play on the album. That is if I ever get enough material together to record one."

"Having trouble writing?" asked Skyler, thinking about the three songs he'd written for his next album.

"Not really trouble writing," he said slowly. "My trouble is with concentration lately."

"Something distracting you?" asked Skyler.

"Yeah you could say that," chuckled Jordan. "But let's not get into that right now."

They talked about writing a song together, and Skyler was sure that was the only reason that Jordan had even come to Seattle. He really had been being silly, thinking about him in the way he had been. He made up his mind that he wouldn't think of him like that ever again. He just hoped that it was that simple.

Later the twins told him all about their trip through the city. They'd bought souvenirs from all over the city. Skyler wondered how they would fit everything on the bus if the twins kept buying things at every stop on the tour. He loved to see them excited though. He thought that maybe letting them have as much fun on the tour as possible would make up for leaving them behind when he went to college.

He busied himself with the twins until dinner, consciously avoiding thoughts of Jordan. He helped the twins with their school work, watched a video with them and talked to them some more about their shopping trip. By dinner time Skyler knew all there was to know about Seattle that would excite a teenager. He chuckled as he thought about it on the drive over to the theatre.

After the show Jordan came back with Mark Wahlberg and Max Beesley. All three of them congratulated him on a great show, and Skyler thanked them. They talked to him about different things they liked about the show and the dance moves. Skyler noticed that Jordan's eyes never left him the entire time the trio was talking with him. He wondered about that, but he decided that wondering would only start him to thinking about Jordan all of the time again and he didn't want that.

Skyler got his first look at the tour bus the follow night. It was more like a larger version of a Winnebago with a small kicthen area, ten sleeping bunks and an entertainment section. Skyler had a room of his own at the back of the bus. It was large with a standard double bed that was bolted to the floor. A bathroom with a shower was in one corner of his room, and he learned that there was another one just like it on the other end of the sleeping compartments. He smiled when he sat that the entertainment area had a television and video equipment. Chad had brought along his video game system and games, and as they traveled to Portland, he and Cassie played games.

There were three other buses and four trucks that had left as soon as the sets were tore down and placed in the trucks. They would arrive in Portland ahead of them if everything went according to plan. They had four days until Skyler's group would arrive in Portland so that should have been plenty of time. Skyler'd had no idea that it would be so tight on the other buses. The bus he rode on was spacious, but he'd heard about the buses that the crew were on. They weren't half the size as the one he was on. Utopia had their own bus that was the same size as Skyler's.

They survived all the way to Arizona on the buses however. Skyler had met almost everyone on the crew by then, and he'd gotten to know the boys from Utopia pretty well too. He'd been the victim of two of Mickey's practical jokes, and Skyler still vowed to get him. It was clear however, that Carlos was the one that Skyler was the friendliest with. The two of them hung out with Niki all the time, and everyone in the crew called them "The Three Musketeers."

While the show was in Los Angeles Skyler had reconnected with all of his friends there. Carlos and Niki accompanied him to all of the gatherings he went to with his friends, and they were a huge hit. It was there that Carlos saw the first signs that the tour had made Utopia more popular. Everyone knew him by name, and a few asked for his autograph. He was told that there was a huge poster of the group in the music store, and the only thing that was selling faster than their CD was Skyler's.

That had made the boys from Utopia very happy. They'd hooted and hollered on the bus half way from LA to Arizona. Skyler was happy to see that the tour was paying off for them. He still didn't understand why Barry hadn't worked harder to promote them in the beginning, but sending them out on the tour had done the trick.

Right after arriving in Houston, Texas Skyler got his first call from Barbara Wilkes in Detroit. She told him that the judge had continued the case against his parents until March fourteenth. Skyler sighed with relief when he heard the news. The last date on the tour was two days before that in New York. He relayed the message to Debbie, who alerted Maverick and Barry that there would be no interruption of the tour for court.

Skyler and Utopia performed three sold out shows in Texas, and Skyler was told that he now held the record in Dallas for the fastest sell out after tickets sold out for his show in under two hours. He was very excited about that, and so was Utopia. The buzz of the tour followed them to New Orleans, and Skyler met with his first group of fans preventing him from getting off the bus and into the hotel when they arrived late on the night of the seventh.

As soon as his bus pulled into the hotel parking lot, Skyler could hear the screaming fans that had camped out in the parking lot for hours waiting for him to arrive. They were screaming his name as the bus came to a stop, and they rushed the bus. Skyler looked at Debbie when he saw all of the fans. She seemed irritated, but she acted like it wasn't completely unexpected.

"Some how they've learned that you're staying in the hotel," she explained to him. "We've been lucky so far. I guess our luck has run out. Now you can go out there with three of the security guys. They'll want autographs and pictures. Only stay with them for a half an hour, and then get inside the hotel. Security will clear the parking lot."

He didn't really want to go out there at all. He was very tired, and he wanted nothing more than to get into the hotel and take a long hot shower. The shower on the bus was small, and he had been looking forward to the bigger shower in the hotel room. He sighed as he walked toward the front of the bus. He had to wait for three of the security guys to come from the SUV that had been tailing them from Texas before the driver would even open the door to let him get off the bus.

Niki took the twins inside the hotel with the dancers as Skyler stood there and smiled while signing autographs, giving hugs and having his picture taken. He had no idea why anyone would want to have their picture taken with him after riding on the bus. He still hadn't showered that day, and he knew he must look like crap. Still he smiled and answered questions, signed autographs and posed for pictures for exactly thirty minutes. When Brent, one of the security men announced that it was time for him to go inside. Skyler even apologized to the fans and told them he couldn't wait to see them at the show.

It happened to them again in Tampa, Florida, but that time Skyler was better prepared for it. He passed out new pictures that were already autographed, and he answered questions while asking them little things about themselves. He hugged and posed for other pictures as well, and they were all really happy with what he'd passed out to them. They would be staying on the bus for the rest of what was left of the night, so he just had to try to block them out when he tried to get a little more sleep before his interview.

In Orlando there were so many celebrities at the show, he didn't know who to talk to first. Jordan had appeared again and that was enough of a distraction, but Brian Littrell had brought friends with him too. Skyler was happy to see Brian again, and the two of them talked for a while before Brian introduced him to Howie Dorough and AJ McLean from Backstreet.

Skyler was approached by a woman and her son, and the boy looked vaguely familiar to Skyler. He was young, but probably no more than a year or two younger than Skyler with curly bleached hair and a bright smile. Skyler introduced himself to the pair, and was met with a chuckle from the mother as she put her arm around the boy's shoulders.

"It's nice to meet you, Skyler," she said. "We really enjoyed your show."

"Thank you," he said, smiling. Reaching to shake the younger boy's hand, Skyler said, "Have we met?"

"No we haven't," came the reply. "My name is Justin. You might have seen me on television though."

"Justin Timberlake," said Skyler, smiling. "Didn't I hear something about you recently?"

"Justin is in a group with four other young men," explained the woman, putting her hand out to Skyler. "Lynne Harless. I'm Justin's mom."

"Very nice to meet you," replied Skyler. "What kind of music?"

"We're not really that much different than Utopia," replied Justin, smiling. "Our sound is maybe a bit different, but the type of music is the same. We're about to release a CD."

"That's great," said Skyler, smiling again. "Is Barry your manager?"

"Barry?" asked Lynne.

"Graham," said Skyler.

"Oh no," she said. "The boys are working with Lou Pearlman."

"I've not heard of him," admitted Skyler. "But then I've not heard of many people in the industry. I pretty much just do my thing and keep a low profile in the technical and managerial side of things."

"Will you be in Orlando long?" asked Lynne. "I don't know your schedule."

"We're leaving pretty soon actually," replied Skyler. "I have a show in Miami tomorrow. You guys are welcome to come to that if you want. I think the show has sold out, but there are seats available with the twins."

"Your brother and sister?" asked Justin.

"Yeah," said Skyler, smiling. "Cassie and Chad are the only family that I have right now, so the family seats are still open. There are six of them, and Cassie and Chad usually sit with my tour manager."

"We'd like that," replied Lynne, smiling at him. "Your show is very involved and quite enjoyable."

"Thank you," he said. "I didn't have anything to do with the concept though. Maverick came up with it. I'm trying to get Madonna to help me come up with a concept for the next one though."

"You know Madonna?" asked Justin excitedly.

"She's a very good friend," admitted Skyler. "If not for her I don't know what would have happened in Detroit."

"I was sorry to hear about your trouble in Detroit, Skyler," said Lynne. "Is that finally over for you?"

"No, ma'am," he replied. "We have to return to Detroit two days after our last show to go to court again."

They talked about that for a while, and Skyler was just starting to get uncomfortable with the conversation when Niki came to get him. He smiled at her to show his gratitude for being rescued from the conversation, said goodbye to Lynne and Justin, making sure that they were coming to the Miami show, and then he made his way to the bus with Niki and the twins.

"Who was that?" asked Niki when they were on the bus.

"Her name is Lynne Harless," he replied, shrugging. "Her son is Justin Timberlake. He's a member of another group, but I don't think they told me which one."

"Nsync," said Cassie as she came back from putting her stuff away. "They're about to release a CD. They have a song and video on MTV already."

"That must be where I've seen Justin," said Skyler.

"He used to be on Mickey Mouse Club," said Cassie, and Niki shrugged.

"I never really watched that one," said Niki. "He didn't look familiar to me. I just thought he was a fan."

"Well he said he is a fan," laughed Skyler.

The following night, Ms. Harless and Justin did come to Skyler's Miami show. Skyler was true to his word and seated them with Cassie and Chad, which made Cassie's day. Skyler set them up with drinks and food as well. He couldn't see them from the stage with the lights blinding him, but he knew that they had very good seats to see him.

"Thank you for everything you did for us tonight, Skyler," said Lynne when she and Justin came backstage with Cassie and Chad after the show. "Justin had a great time."

"I sure did," said Justin. "Thanks a lot."

"Oh the pleasure is mine," he said, smiling at them. "I'll be looking for your CD, Justin. My little sister here told me that your group is called Nsync."

"That's us," laughed Justin. "I'll send you a copy of the CD. We have one already that was released in Europe."

"I'd like to hear it," said Skyler.

"We'll send you a copy of both," said Lynne. "I have a copy of your schedule, and we'll try to catch the show again. I think we're actually going to be in New York when your show gets there."

"Well just let me know," said Skyler, smiling. "I'll set you up with the same deal."

"Thank you," said Lynne, smiling. "You're quite a gentleman, Skyler Thomas."

"And you're a lady," he said, smiling.

"I think I read somewhere that your birthday is Valentine's Day," she said. "You have a show that night right?"

"Yes, ma'am," he said. "In Atlanta. We're headed there tonight."

"Well happy birthday, Skyler," she said, smiling. "I hope you have a wonderful day."

"Thank you," he said. "And you have a safe trip back to Orlando."

"We will," she said.

"Happy Birthday, Skyler," said Justin as they walked away.

He smiled as he watched them go. He really liked Lynne Harless, and her son was very cute. He wasn't Skyler's type, but he was definitely cute. He thought it would be nice to get to know them. Then he thought he just might surprise Justin when Nsync went on tour. The thought made him chuckle. It was a very good idea he decided as he headed for the bus.

In Atlanta it was clear that the fans remembered that Valentine's Day was Skyler's birthday. When the bus reached the hotel, there were no fans there waiting for him, but there was a huge hand painted banner over the entrance to the hotel that said, "Happy Birthday, Skyler!" When they got inside the hotel the manager told them that fans had done that earlier in the evening. Skyler smiled when he heard that. Evidently they had also decided not to hang around and wait for him. Maybe that was a birthday present too.

David and Frank were both from Atlanta, so their families were given backstage passes and front row seats for the show. The show was a whole day away, so Skyler slept in while David and Frank spent the day with their families. When he got up he was surprised at how long everyone had let him sleep. It was nearly noon, and he never slept that long. Since they'd started touring he was up at five every morning. He scrambled to take a shower and get dressed. When he came out of his room and made his way to the common room, everyone was sitting there waiting for him.

"Happy birthday, Skyler!" cried the entire gang, and Skyler stopped where he was and stared at them.

The room was all decked out with streamers and balloons. There was a huge cake on the coffee table right next to a bowl of punch and a stack of plates and cups. The small desk that Debbie used was over in one corner of the room and piled with presents. Skyler noticed that none of them were wrapped in red paper, and he smiled.

"My birthday is tomorrow," he said, smiling at Cassie as she beamed her radiant smile back at him.

"You have too much to do tomorrow for a party," said Debbie. "We decided to have a little party today instead."

"Well," said Madonna, who Skyler was very happy to see, "come on and let's do this."

Skyler walked into the room and looked around at all they had done while they let him sleep. There were so many people there, and he was surprised to see Brian Littrell and Howie Dorough sitting with Carlos and Damon. He smiled when he saw them. When he took the seat on the couch that had been left for him between the twins in front of the cake, he looked across the coffee table and found Jordan Knight sitting in a chair on the other side of the room.

"Happy birthday, Skyler," said Jordan, smiling at him. "When I heard that they were throwing you a party I called Niki and made sure I could come. I hope it's all right."

"All right?" laughed Skyler. "I'm thrilled that you could come, Jordan, and thank you."

Madonna insisted that he sit through a group rendition of Happy Birthday, and then he cut his cake. Niki took charge of passing out pieces, and Skyler took his plate and circulated through the room. He was happy that Jordan had come, but he was still trying to keep his mind off of the guy. That wasn't easy with him popping up now and again on the tour.

"Happy birthday," said Brian Littrell, coming to stand beside Skyler. "It's cool that they did this for you. Birthdays on tour can be rough."

"Thanks," he said, smiling. "I don't mind being on the road on my birthday. I've got Cassie and Chad, so my family is here."

"Well I'm glad that I got invited," said Brian. "I was hoping that I'd find a way to catch up with you for your birthday."

"I'm glad you got invited too," said Skyler, smiling. "I didn't know they were doing this, or I'd have called you."

"I hope you don't mind that Howie came with me," said Brian, glancing at his friend who was sitting between Rusty Kirk and Mickey Splendt, talking.

"Of course I don't mind," replied Skyler. "How many people can say that members of Backstreet traveled to see them for their birthday?"

They both laughed about that one. Skyler really liked Brian. He was easy to talk to, and he always seemed to be able to commiserate with him when he needed it. Calling him to give his support after Detroit had really made an impression on Skyler. He rarely got to see Brian, but he already considered him a friend.

They talked through most of the party, and Skyler really enjoyed their conversation. With Brian it wasn't always talk about music or the industry. He would tell Skyler about his home life, growing up in Kentucky, his family and what he really wanted out of his life. Skyler found him so easy to talk to that he opened up to Brian in ways that he hadn't opened up to anyone in his life. He'd even come close to coming out to Brian, but he stopped himself before the words could get out of his mouth. It was one thing to feel close enough to a person to share secrets that would eventually find their way into the press on their own, and it was a completely different thing to trust too much and say something stupid.

Jordan was right there to talk to him as soon as Brian and Howie left to catch their flight back to Orlando. He talked about music and the industry more than anything else. From time to time, Jordan would talk to him in much the same way that Brian did, but he always reverted back to music in the end. He told Skyler that he'd booked a room in the hotel and would be staying for the show the following day. He left Skyler's floor however when the other guests went home.

Skyler was introduced to David and Frank's parents and David's younger brother just before they headed home for the night. He talked both men up to their families, expressing his pleasure to be touring with them and signed pictures for each one of them. They all complimented him on his music and expressed their excitement at seeing the show. Skyler thanked them and promised to make sure the show was extra special for them.

"Happy birthday, Sky," said Madonna when Skyler finally sat down again. "It's after midnight, so it really is your birthday."

"Thank you," he said, hugging her. "I'm so glad you could come. I thought you were going to be in New York."

"I'm flying back in the morning," she said. "I have a concert tomorrow night, and then I'm off to London."

"I love the CD," said Skyler. "Great sound."

"Thanks," she said. "I'm proud of it, and I thought it was time for a real change."

"I've been thinking of adding a little techno to my next album," he said. "I'm not sure about that though."

"Well let me know," she said. "I brought you a copy of my video, and I brought a copy of your latest."

"My latest?" he asked puzzled.

"Yes," she chuckled. "Remember the cameras in Orlando?"

"Yeah. What was that about?" he asked. He hated not being told what was going on all the time. He'd gotten two songs into the show when he noticed the cameras everywhere, blocking his view of the audience at times.

"They taped a few parts of the show for MTV, and you have a live video showing on MTV, VH1 and MuchMusic now," she explained. "'Over And Over' is being aired just about every other hour on MTV."

"Wow," he said, yawning. "I didn't know anything about that."

"That seems to be a universal problem in your staff," she sighed. "Barry was angry when they told him about it after the video aired on MTV for the first time. Laura knew nothing about it until I told her. Skyler, you've got to crack down on these people. I've already had my fit at Maverick about it, and I'm not your manager."

"Maybe you should be," he sighed, running his fingers through his hair.

"I've got my own career to look out for," she insisted. "But you need to have a long talk with Barry, Laura and Maverick when the tour is over. Do you know that they've decided to tape the final show in New York and release it on video?"

"I knew about that," he replied. "Barry set that up before I left New York to start the tour."

The next chapter will be posted soon.