© 2005-2010 Julien Gregg
All Rights Reserved

Chapter 81

"This place is nice, Sky," said Neve Campbell as they sat down at their table at Dundee's. The restaurant was busy but the back tables had been cleared when Skyler made the reservation. He was there to celebrate with Neve. The video for "Touch of Heaven" had aired and everyone was happy with the finished product.

"It is," he agreed. "Shannon told me about it when I got back from Atlanta."

"How is Jeff?" she asked, smiling at him.

Being as close to the cast as he was after two films he'd told just about everyone the truth. They each knew enough to keep the information to themselves so he wasn't worried about it. Neve had figured it out long before he'd told her though. She was getting to be a very good friend to Skyler and he cherished the friendship.

"He's doing fine," he laughed. "Probably pitching a fit about now though."

"Missing you already?" she asked.

"If he's missing me half as much as I miss him already he's in trouble," he replied, smiling.

"I saw the tabloids this morning," she said, changing the subject.

The Australian tabloids had been printing stories about his relationship with Neve since before the video aired. She'd been his love interest in the video so it was natural that they'd speculate. The fact that they lived in the same apartment building was something the tabloids were already talking about.

"Yeah," he sighed. "I hope you aren't upset about it."

"We just got photographed by about a dozen photographers," she laughed. "If I had a problem with it I wouldn't have come to dinner with you."

"Good point," he replied with a chuckle. "There's so much going on right now that I don't get to do things like this with friends much."

"You are the busiest celebrity I know," she said, looking at him evenly. "I thought you were supposed to be slowing down while we're on location."

"I tried," he admitted. "This thing with Chad is creating problems for me on the slowing down front."

"What's with him?" she asked. She'd seen him on MTV a few times and he'd snapped at both Carson Daly and Kurt Loder both times.

"I'm not really sure," he admitted. "I know my dancers are having fits right and left about the way he treats them. They're wanting to leave the tour. Cory's beside himself. He told me that he hates Chad."

"When we were filming the last movie he and Cassie seemed like great people," she said. "Something has to be going on to make him into someone like this, Sky."

"I know," he replied quickly. "I just don't know what it is. He won't even take my calls now. Laura left the tour and will be here in the morning. Clay is talking about resigning as his manager."

"That really sucks," she said. "I like Chad's music."

"Well even if Clay resigns as his manager, Chad will still record the albums outlined in his contract," replied Skyler.

"That's good to hear," she said. "Speaking of music, I heard your stuff for your uncle's movie yesterday. Very different."

"Yeah," he said with a smile. "I liked it though."

"Oh me too," she said quickly. "I just wasn't expecting that sound."

"Well I thought it was time to change things up a bit," he admitted. "It won't become the norm but it was nice to do something different."

"So when are you supposed to start filming that one?" she asked, cocking her head to the left and giving him a crooked smile.

"Oh I figured I'd wait until after we finish this one," he laughed. "The idea was to make sure I couldn't tour."

"Well filming three movies back to back is one way to ensure that you won't be able to tour," she said with a chuckle.

"So what about you?" he asked, playing with his pasta. "I heard your voice just this morning."

"Damned thin walls," she laughed. "I have no intention of doing anything musical. I'm an actress and I like it."

"Well we could . . ."

"We won't," she said quickly. "I'm not interested. Besides you have enough on your plate. Don't think I didn't hear about the deal you're working on."

"Christian's been talking?" he asked.

"Actually it was Devon," she replied. "He was telling us that you've had dinner with Rod Durundi twice since you got home."

"Devon should stop telling tales," he laughed. "Yes I have a deal in the works but it isn't for anything that would further my career the way you're thinking. I want to open offices for Sky High here in Australia."

"That's a great idea," she said with wide eyes. "We've been filming over here a lot. It would make sense to have offices here. What about a studio?"

"Well that would be a given," he replied with a chuckle. "Sky High is growing fast and I'm about ready to take the company completely private."

"That's great," she said with a huge grin on her face. "Have you talked to Laura and Clay about this?"

"That's part of the reason that Laura will be here tomorrow," he said, smiling. "Clay already knows my plans. He's been crunching numbers for me. The poor guy never thought he'd ever use that little CPA thingy he got in college."

"What about Maverick and Time Warner?" she asked.

"Well I haven't talked to them about it yet," he said. "But in the end it's all about money. I have enough to buy their shares in the company and separate it from the Time Warner family completely. That's the end of it. I own the company name so they can't take it away from me or claim ownership of any kind. Madonna helped me see to that when the company was founded."

"That was sweet of her," she said. "I can't believe the way she looks out for you. You know she has a reputation around the business. She's supposedly pleasantly evil."

"That's about accurate most of the time," he laughed. "But she's a completely different person when real people are involved. She's an actress too, Neve. She puts on a show because that's what's expected of her. When no one expects anything she's just a woman from Michigan."

"Well that's good to know," she said. "Tell me though, why is it that you're always Skyler Thomas and never what anyone expects?"

"Because I couldn't keep up with what people expect," he laughed. "I am who I am and that's all there is to it. Take me or leave me."

"That's what I'm talking about," she said, sipping her wine. "You don't pretend to be anything other than what you are. It's nice."

"Thank you," he said, smiling at her in confusion. "How did this become about me again?"

"Don't know," she replied. "Just making an observation."

"Well thanks," he said, smiling wider.

"I think it's time for us to leave though," she said, looking over his shoulder at the crowd that was gathering at the windows. Cameras were flashing throughout the crowd and the restaurant staff looked worried.

"I'm beginning to wish I'd never met Milton Drake," sighed Skyler as he pushed his plate forward and waived a hand at the waitress.

"You do seem to gain more attention than any of us," she said as the waitress left the table with Skyler's credit card.

"It's only going to get worse when they hear about Sky High," he said. "I guess I just have to accept it."

"It isn't easy though," she replied.

"No," he laughed bitterly. "It's anything but easy."

They made their way through the crowd of people. Not all of them were fans. There were quite a few reporters in the crowd as well. Cameras flashed and Skyler pretended not to be annoyed by any of it. They smiled for everyone and Skyler even put his hand on Neve's back. He instantly knew what those photographs would do and he hoped that Neve would understand. He was shocked when they reached their cars. She turned and kissed him softly on the lips while the cameras flashed.

"Later," she said with a satisfied smile.

He stood there with a stunned grin on his face, camera flashing around him as she drove away.

* * *

Cory sat up and scrubbed the sleep out of his eyes with his balled fists, shaking as a yawn overtook him and gave him the shivers. He stretched and looked around the hotel room with a sigh. Even waking up to face a new day with Chad was getting to be too hard to put up with. He thought about his contract and groaned. Clay was working on getting him out of it. Cory was sure that Skyler wouldn't be too upset about it. They'd talked on the phone twice and both times Skyler had told him that he'd get him out of the contract if he couldn't take Chad.

He got out of bed and threw on his sweats. Making sure he had his room key he left the room and almost ran right into Lilly Olin. She was a pleasant girl with long dark hair that was currently pulled into a pony tail. She was dressed in a pink sweat suit and white running shoes. She smiled at him and her gray eyes sparkling.

"Going for a run?" she asked.

"Sure am," he replied, smiling at her.

"Mind if I join you?" she asked, surprising him. She'd usually stayed close to Chad. Cory was of half a mind to think she was just like him though she'd shown him nothing but kindness since they'd met.

"Sounds good," he said after a moment.

"Thanks," she said. "Chad isn't getting up."

"Something wrong?" he asked as they headed for the elevator.

"He says he's sick," she replied, shaking her head. The look in her eyes told him to let it go. He did.

"How far do you usually run?" he asked.

"Back home I run five miles," she said, smiling. "That's once around the lake."

"Well five miles sounds fine with me," said Cory with a smirk as he heard his security man groan.

They talked as they ran. Cory didn't mention Chad but he did talk about wanting to leave the tour. He told her he was unhappy with the way he was being treated. That was close to saying that he was unhappy with Chad but at least he hadn't actually said the man's name. Lilly wasn't stupid. Cory was sure she knew what he was talking about.

"There something wrong with Chad," she said when they stopped to catch their breath in front of the hotel. "I mean I know he was gruff when I got here but he's getting worse. He's always running off to be alone for hours at a time and then he comes back happy and carefree but hyper and ready to go. Now he's been sick almost every morning."

"Have you told Clay about this?" he asked, thinking that it wasn't something he needed to get involved in. Chad didn't exactly like him and having him step into his personal business wouldn't go over well."

"I'm planning on it," said Lilly as Chad came out of the hotel.

He stood there in front of the doors to look at them. He didn't look sick or upset for that matter. He looked completely cool and that worried Cory. Would there be a scene? He hoped not. If Chad wanted to have it out he could have it out all by himself. He didn't wait around to find out what Chad would do. He walked around the man and into the hotel.

"Good morning, Cory," said Clay as he came off the elevator and into the lobby. "Have a good run?"

"Good morning," he replied, smiling. "Yes I did. Lilly ran with me this morning."

"And how is Lilly this morning?"

"She's a little worried about Chad," he said, looking at his feet. "She's out in front of the hotel with him now."

"Why is she worried about Chad?" asked Clay as he looked over Cory's shoulder at the couple in front of the hotel entrance.

"I'll let you talk to her about that, Clay," he said. "I'm going to head upstairs and grab a shower."

He didn't wait for Clay to respond. He quickly left the lobby and got on the elevator. The last thing he wanted was another go around with Chad. He didn't think he could stand another one. Chad could get down right cruel when he wanted to. They'd promised that Chad was just as likeable as Skyler when he'd agreed to come on this tour. Had they been lying the whole time? He wasn't sure about that. Chad's attitude seemed to be a shock for both Laura and Clay. Laura had actually left the tour and headed back to New York.

He thought about all of it while he was in the shower. His mind was made up. If Chad jumped on him again he would just leave the tour. He was sure that Skyler wouldn't sue him. He didn't think that Chad could. He wasn't sure but he thought that Skyler had the upper hand where all of this was concerned. He owned Sky High after all. He was wrapping his towel around his waist when he heard someone pounding on the door to his suite. He sighed as he walked out of the bathroom and headed for the door. He didn't have to look through the peep hole to know that it was Chad on the other side. He'd just turned the knob when the door was thrust open, nearly knocking him over and Chad thundered into the room.

"Who the hell do you think you are, Cory?" demanded Chad as he stared at him. "First you run off with my girlfriend and then you start filling her head with lies. I just had a conversation with Clay about my supposed drug use. What exactly are you playing at?"

"I didn't say anything about drugs to Clay or Lilly," Cory replied. "Lilly did all of the talking on our run this morning. She'd know wouldn't she? She's the only one you let in your suite for any reason. Don't come screaming at me because she said something to Clay about drugs. It has nothing to do with me."

"You think you're so cool," snapped Chad, shoving Cory so hard the towel slipped off his waist and he fell into the sofa. "I should just kick your fucking ass for you. That'd teach you a lesson."

"Get out of my suite, Chad," screamed Cory. The door was still open and he hoped that someone would hear him before things got any more violent.

"Fuck you, Cory," spat Chad as he took a step toward him. "You think you're so cool because Skyler put you on this tour. Well I'm going to show you that Skyler isn't here to protect you. You can't get away with talking shit about me."

Then Clay was standing in the doorway and Cory was so happy to see him. This was it. He couldn't stay on the tour after this. There was no way. Clay grabbed Chad's arm and literally dragged him out of the room. Cory wasted no time getting dressed. Then he started throwing his clothes into his suitcases. He picked up the telephone and called the airport as he stepped into his shoes. Then he called for a car.

"Why are your bags packed?" Clay asked when Cory got off the elevator with his suitcases in his hands.

"I'm leaving, Clay," he said. "Chad can sue me or whatever, but I'm not staying here. Nothing on Earth could make me."

"Cory, just wait a minute . . ."

"No, Clay," he snapped. "I'm not staying here to be his punching bag. If he's on drugs that's his problem. I don't care. I want nothing to do with Chad Thomas or this damned tour. Like I said he can sue me or whatever but I'm leaving. I'll call Skyler when I get to Orlando."

* * *

"That was intense," said Devon Sawa as he, Leo and Skyler walked through the doors at Throb, the hottest club in Melbourne.

"Well there's a lot of stuff about me in the press lately," said Skyler. "Not to mention the tabloids."

"What was Shannon thinking?" Leonardo asked as they made their way to a table.

"She wasn't," replied Skyler as a waitress came to take their drink order. "She was pissed off."

"Throwing rocks at a tabloid photographer wasn't the best way to vent," said Devon.

"No it wasn't," laughed Skyler. "I'm not mad at her about it though."

"Oh we aren't either," chuckled Leo. "Just surprised."

"Why are we surprised?" Devon asked. He wasn't laughing. "We're talking about Shannon remember?"

"Enough about Shannon," said Skyler. "We're here to have fun."

"That's right," said Leo with a huge grin. "We've been photographed and everything. Now we're part of the Skyler Thomas Crazy Train."

"The what?" laughed Skyler.

"Oh that's just what we've been calling all of your tabloid lovers," said Devon. "Do they ever stop to think that if you actually slept with as many people as they say you do you'd never get out of bed?"

"I'm just good that way," laughed Skyler. "Let's dance or something."

"Isn't there a live performance here tonight?" Leo asked as they got up from the table and headed for the dance floor.

"Supposedly some group called Three Six Eight," said Devon as they got out on the dance floor. "They say they're really good."

"Well let's dance while we wait for them," said Skyler as the music changed.

They danced with everyone not picking favorites or discriminating. The crowd on the dance floor was having a great time. Skyler danced with girls and guys alike and had a great time doing it. When he looked at his friends he saw that they were doing the same thing. Everyone was just having fun and the fact that no cameras were flashing told Skyler that the only thing that he'd have to worry about was someone reporting his activities to the rags.

"We got something special for you tonight guys and girls," said the DJ over the music as the last song faded out. "This isn't the kind of music we usually play here at Throb but we've got special guests on the dance floor and to thank them for their patronage we've decided to do something different. Grab a partner this one's brand new with a slow beat."

As his words faded the music started and Skyler smiled. "In Dreams", the theme song for The Great Hunt played over the huge speakers at the four corners of the dance floor. Skyler paired off with a blond haired girl with far too much makeup and danced as he smiled. She was trembling against him and he held her tight. The song sounded great and he thought about the excitement of the fans as he'd signed autographs outside his apartment building the day the single was released. There was another single that would be coming but not for a while. The next one was for The Dragon Reborn and that film wouldn't be released for a year after the first.

When the song was over the crowd on the dance floor erupted in cheers and the girl he'd been dancing with was jumping up and down and screaming. He tried to thank her for the dance but she wouldn't stop screaming. Leo tugged the back of his shirt and they returned to their table to order another round of drinks. Skyler didn't like it when a fan just started screaming in his presence. It made him nervous.

Then it was time for the live entertainment. Skyler let thoughts of the screaming girl leave his head as Three Six Eight took the small stage at the other end of the dance floor. People started cheering but it was nothing like they had been when the single had been played. He hoped for their sake that this group was good. He cringed when he heard the opening beat of the first song though. They were a cover band it seemed and that night they'd decided to cover Skyler.

Skyler didn't mind that bands covered his music. It actually felt good to hear them when they did it. He just had been hoping for something really special out these guys. As it turned out he only paid half attention to them. It was only enough attention to recognize each of his songs that they covered. They weren't bad but the songs sounded a bit off.

He applauded after each one but as he looked at his friends he could see the disappointment in their eyes as well. When the group announced that they would be taking a break Skyler sighed. Then they introduced a special guest and Skyler started to pay attention again. The band began to play a different beat as a young blond haired guy took the stage. Skyler thought he was very attractive as he looked across the dance floor at him. The guy started calling to the crowd on the floor, making them respond to him and Skyler thought that maybe this was the something special he'd been looking for. When the guy, Brody Tanzek, started to sing Skyler was blown away.

"You! You're still a whisper on my lips. A feeling at my fingertips that's pulling at my skin," he sang and the crowd loved it.

"You leave me when I'm at my worst feeling as if I've been cursed. Bitter cold within," he sang, his voice throaty and amazing.

"Days go by and still I think about you, days when I couldn't live my life without you. Days go by and still I think about you, days when I couldn't live my life without you. Without you," he sang.

The band played on and Skyler watched with rapt attention. This guy was awesome and Skyler couldn't wait to talk with him. He hoped that he was looking at Sky High Australia's first client. He so hoped he was. He loved the lyrics and the voice the guy sang with was haunted and perfect.

"You're still a whisper on my lips, a feeling at my fingertips that's pulling at my skin. You leave me when I'm at my worst, feeling as if I've been cursed. Bitter cold within.

"Days go by and still I think about you, days when I couldn't live my life without you. Without you. Without you.

"Days go by and still I think about you, days when I couldn't live my life without you. Days go by and still I think about you, days when I couldn't live my life without you. Without you. Oh, without you!"

Skyler cheered with everyone else. One look at his friends and he saw that they were both blown away by Brody's singing as well. The quieted down to listen as the music started again and another original song was heard. Brody's voice was still haunted but a little higher this time as he sang about betrayal and revenge. Skyler liked the song just as much as he had the last. After three more songs Brody thanked the crowd and left the stage.

"He was great!" cried Devon as they watched him make his way through the crowd on the dance floor and around the stage to the left where a door opened and closed after he stepped through it.

"He sure was," said Skyler. "I want to find out everything I can about Brody Tanzek."

"I see those wheels turning in your head, Skyler Thomas," said Leo, pointing a finger at him with a huge grin on his face. "Me thinks someone is about to become even more famous than his night club fame has already made him."

"You think right," laughed Skyler. "That is if I can get any information about the guy. I'd like to at least talk to him."

But he didn't get to talk to Brody Tanzek that day. He made his way to the little door to the left of the stage and found the members of Three Six Eight sitting in the room on black couches. Everything about the room was either black or grey. Skyler didn't like the decor but that wasn't what he was there for.

"Skyler Thomas," said the six foot tall dark haired young man who was the group's lead singer. He stood with a big grin on his face and Skyler had to admit that the guy was attractive. He didn't look a day over sixteen but he was in the club so he had to be at least twenty-one. Skyler thought it was his good looks that made it possible for them to be so popular.

The other three members of the group were just as attractive as their lead. They were all about the same height with dark hair and eyes. Skyler wondered as he looked at them if they were brothers. They certainly looked enough alike. Still that wasn't what he was there for.

"Hi guys," he said, smiling at them. "Great show. I was looking for Brody."

"You just missed him," said the lead. "He had to leave. Class in the morning."

"Class?" Skyler asked, praying it wasn't high school.

"He's the college student of the group," laughed the lead. "My name is Tim and these are my brothers, Dan, Rick and Alan."

"Nice to meet you all," said Skyler, shaking hands with each in turn. "Is there a way that I can get in touch with Brody?"

"I've got his cell number," said Dan, stepping forward to hand Skyler a card. The card was for Three Six Eight and printed on the back was Brody's name and a cell number.

"Thanks," Skyler said. "I've got to run but I'll come back to see you guys again."

"Cool," said Tim with a huge grin.

He put the card in his pocket as he left the little room and made his way across the dance floor to his friends. He wanted to call Brody right then and there but if the guy had to get some sleep before an early class in the morning he didn't think it would be a good idea to disturb him. He supposed he'd have to wait.

"What happened?" Devon asked when he'd gotten back to the table and sat down. "Did you talk to the guy?"

"No," he replied. "He's gone home to get some sleep. Seems he has an early class tomorrow."

"High school?" Leo asked with wide eyes.

"College," laughed Skyler. "You guys ready to get out of here?"

Christian was on the phone with Chip when Skyler let himself into the apartment a half hour later. He checked on his sleeping son, said hello to Helen and then went into the bathroom to grab a shower. Twenty minutes later he was back in the living room listening to Christian talk about how excited Justy was about the movie that Jase was shooting.

"He says that Jase wants him in one of his next movies," said Christian.

"That's great," said Skyler. "What does Chip have to say about all of this?"

"He's not so sure it's a great idea," laughed Christian. "I'll talk him into it though. Justy really wants this."

"Oh I'm sure he does," chuckled Skyler. "How was Preston tonight?"

"He was fine," said Christian. "Helen says he's teething again but he didn't cry."

"He rarely ever does," replied Skyler. "I'm glad I don't have a scene to shoot tomorrow. I'm planning to spend the day with him and try to get a hold of a guy that blew me away tonight."

He told them about Brody Tanzek and the songs he'd heard the boy sing. He was very excited about talking to him and he really hoped that they could strike a deal and get him under the Sky High banner as soon as possible. Sky High Sydney would be a real thing pretty soon and signing Australian talent would solidify things as far as Skyler was concerned. He was interrupted by the phone.

"Clay calm down," Skyler said when he picked up the phone and Clay started talking faster than Skyler could understand. "What about Cory?"

"Cory's gone, Skyler," Clay said. "He packed his stuff and left the tour. I came to his room to get him for some publicity stuff and Chad was in there. He'd knocked Cory down and was threatening to do more."

"What?" cried Skyler, making Christian and Helen jump. "What the hell is wrong with Chad? Where did Cory go?"

"He said that he'd call you when he gets to Orlando," said Clay. "Skyler I don't think Cory will come back."

"I'm not expecting him to," said Skyler. "Clay I want you to pull my dancers. Send them home. Chad can finish his tour with his own dancers."

"Are you sure . . ."

"Clay, if he was going to use violence on Cory what will stop him from going after one of them?" Skyler cut him off. "I want them out of there, Clay. I'll deal with Cory myself."

"I'll do this," said Clay. "Chad won't be easy to live with once this happens."

"Chad's already not easy to live with," sighed Skyler.

Days Go By is a song by Dirty Vegas.

The next chapter will be posted soon.