© 2005-2010 Julien Gregg
All Rights Reserved
"So you've heard about Chad and Clay?" Cassie asked when she and Kaleb arrived in Melbourne.
"Clay called to tell me he'll be here in three days," said Skyler. "Eric sent someone to watch over Chad but I don't know how long it'll last."
"I can't believe it's drugs, Sky," she said. "He won't talk to me though."
"He won't talk to me either," sighed Skyler. "I've tried several times but the last time I called the hotel I was told that my calls weren't to be put through to anyone connected to the tour at all."
"He told Mom that he won't be coming home," she said. "He's getting an apartment in New York."
"Clay told me about that," replied Skyler. "He has the money and he's old enough. I just hope he comes out of whatever this is soon."
"Well are you ready for some good news for a change?" she asked, smiling from ear to ear. Skyler noticed that Kaleb's hand was covering hers and he was smiling just as big as she was.
"Tell me," he said, hoping that it was what he thought it was.
"Kaleb proposed," she cried, thrusting the hand that Kaleb had been covering out so that he could see the ring on her finger.
"Oh my God!" he cried jumping to his feet and wrapping his arms around her. "That's great news!"
"We've been dying to tell you but we wanted to do it in person," she said.
"We had to wait till now because of my school," said Kaleb.
"Get over here, you," Skyler said when he let go of Cassie. He gripped Kaleb in a tight embrace. "Welcome to the family."
"Well I'm not family yet," said Kaleb as he hugged him back. "We're waiting at least a year before we even set a date."
"We have to celebrate this," said Skyler when he let go of Kaleb and stepped back. "We'll go to a restaurant."
"I wish Jeff could be here for this," said Cassie. "We just couldn't wait for him before we told you."
"He'll be here tomorrow with the kids," replied Skyler. "Let me call and see if I can get us a table."
Two hours later they were posing for the cameras outside the Sydney Tower. They were all smiles this time and they didn't try to hide from the press at all. They let them take pictures but answered no questions and Cassie was careful to keep her hand out of sight.
"I think that's the first time I actually let them take pictures of me since I first got to Australia," laughed Skyler when they were seated at their table.
"Well they sure haven't been kind to you while you've been in this country," said Kaleb.
"The press is never kind to me in any country," he replied.
"Well maybe you'll get a break when the shooting is finished," said Cassie.
"Well maybe not," he said. "With the Sydney branch of Sky High opening and my buying out Time Warner's share of the company and taking it over I'm sure the press will hound me for quite a while."
"When does the new branch open officially?" Cassie asked.
"Well opening day is the first," he replied. "We're scheduled for a radio interview and press conference on the thirteenth."
"And you're nearly finished filming?" she asked.
"Oh we're finished filming," he said. "We're doing voice overs now. Most of the remaining stuff is in the hands of the computer guys and the editors."
"When will they be releasing the first one?" Kaleb asked.
"I'm not sure about that," admitted Skyler. "Renny said something about August but he wasn't sure either."
"Well I can't wait to see the movie," said Cassie. "The video was amazing."
"Thank you," he replied, smiling.
"When we get back to your apartment I want some time with Preston," said Cassie. "I miss him like crazy."
"Helen will bring him back to the apartment as soon as I call her and let her know that we're on our way," he said. "That way he'll be there when we get there."
"And tomorrow I'll get to spend some time with Junior and Alyssa," she said, smiling. "God I miss all of them."
"I miss them too," Skyler said. "Tomorrow my little family will be together again. Now if I could just get us back to Orlando everything would be great."
"Your present for Jeff is in the garage," she said, smiling. "I can't wait to see the look on his face."
"You and me both," he laughed. "He's been talking about wanting one for so long. I don't know why he never bought one for himself."
"Well I've seen your present as well," she said. "I'm not going to tell you what it is but I will say that it's amazing."
"Jeff calls to check on it almost every day," laughed Skyler. "He keeps trying to give me hints but I won't let him."
"Why spoil the fun and surprise?" Kaleb asked. "You haven't given him any hints about his present have you?"
"None," replied Skyler. "That's killing him but it will be a surprise."
"He's like a big kid when it comes to surprises," laughed Cassie.
"I sure love him though," Skyler said with a grin and far away look in his eyes.
"That's obvious when you look at him," said Kaleb. "It's also obvious that he loves you when he's looking at you."
"Thanks," Skyler said. "You know I could say the same for you and Cassie. All that's needed to know how the two of you feel is to look at either of you when you're looked at each other."
"Looks like we both got lucky," Cassie said smiling at Skyler and giving Kaleb's hand a squeeze.
"Now hopefully Chad will get this lucky," Skyler said. It took only three seconds for him to realize what he'd said and the smiles melted of his and Cassie's faces.
"He'll come back to us, won't he?" she asked. The look in her eyes was desperate and Skyler so hoped that Chad actually would come out of this and come back to them.
After that they ate their meal in relative silence. Occasionally one of them would say something attempting to change the mood but it was pointless. Skyler only needed to be in Cassie's presence to realize just how upset he was about what was going on with Chad. Seeing one without the other was never the best thing for him but this time it just drove the point home that Chad was lost to them.
When they got back to the apartment Cassie brightened as she hugged Preston. She sat on the floor with him and played with his toys. Preston was excited to see her and happily showed her one toy after another. Skyler and Kaleb left them to play and went to the kitchen.
"So what have you heard about Chad?" Kaleb asked after Skyler handed him a bottle of water.
"Lately? I've heard that he barks at the press, he's fired Clay, Laura refuses to deal with him and Lilly left him," replied Skyler. "I have so many people telling me that he disappears for twenty minutes to a half an hour each day only to come back peppy and happy but it doesn't last. In a matter of an hour or two his mood backslides into hatred and darkness."
"That's pretty much what we've heard," sighed Kaleb. "It's killing Cassie that he won't even talk to her. She cried for hours when he called to tell Tabitha that he won't be coming back to the house. When she asked about his stuff he informed her that he'd buy more and she could burn what was there."
"Shit," sighed Skyler. "There has to be a way to get him to see reason."
"Well if you have any ideas I'm all ears," replied Kaleb. "I don't like seeing Cassie upset like this."
"I don't either," agreed Skyler. "But I have no ideas."
"Neither do I," sighed Kaleb.
"One way or another that boy is going to talk to me," Skyler said. "If I could just get him to tell me what's really wrong . . ."
"Cassie says it's everything they've been through," interjected Kaleb. "She says that he never dealt with it and didn't talk to anyone about it."
"Well that's true but I think there's more to this," said Skyler. "I mean if it's drugs then we'll force him into rehab but if it's all him . . ."
"I see what you're saying," sighed Kaleb. "This is a mess no matter which one it is."
"Exactly," agreed Skyler. "And we're all going to get our feelings hurt in the end."
"So how long will you be in Sydney?" Kaleb asked, changing the subject and making Skyler smile.
"I'll be here for a little while actually," he replied. "Jeff and the kids will be here tomorrow. Christian and Chip will be here tonight some time and I have a video to shoot as soon as Bob can get here."
"He's filming in Tampa right?"
"The last I heard," informed Skyler. "He called me in Melbourne to tell me he was about to wrap all of that up. But I haven't heard anything from him since."
"When do you have to be back on set?"
"Well that's the interesting part," laughed Skyler. "As I said the work I'm doing now is mostly voice over. The rest is editing and computer gen."
"And you can do the voice over work here in Sydney in your top secret studio?" Kaleb asked with a smirk.
"Now you're getting it," laughed Skyler. "We'll announce the Sydney branch as soon as I get the video shot."
Shooting didn't happen for a while though. There were problems on the set in Tampa that kept Bob Shae stuck at New Line and Skyler had meetings with the Sydney staff of Sky High almost every day. Cassie and Kaleb left three days later because Kaleb couldn't neglect his students for too long.
Skyler didn't know how much longer they could keep the new branch a secret though. He was doing voice over work in the sound booths and Jase was filming a movie on the back lots. Anyone who came near the place knew what it was and what was happening. Crowds gathered almost every day to watch the filming and people were talking all over Sydney.
Clay arrived the day before Cassie and Kaleb returned to Orlando. Eric had sent David Buckley, a manager that Skyler hadn't met before, to Chad in Europe. So far everything seemed to be going all right. The reports said that Chad was cranky but agreeable most of the time. The press stories were still circulating about Chad's bad behavior but there were no new reports so Skyler was happy about that.
Chip was happy to see Justy so excited about filming and Skyler had to admit the kid looked cute in the wardrobe. Seeing him suspended by cables over the set made them all a little uneasy but he was having fun. From the looks of it everyone connected to the film was having a blast. Skyler wished filming could be that fun for him as well. Then Jase cornered Skyler in the apartment with an excited grin on his face.
"I've got the script," he said, looking at Skyler expectantly.
"Of course you've got the script," Skyler said, missing the point entirely.
"Not this one," laughed Jase. "I've got the perfect script for the movie we'll shoot together."
"Jase, I'm not . . ."
"I'm not ready to shoot another myself," laughed Jase, cutting Skyler off. "Just know that the script I have in my bag is perfect for you."
"You have a script that is happy and light?" Skyler asked, trying hard to keep a straight face as he said it.
"I have a script about a rock star," Jase said, smiling wide. He had Skyler's attention.
"A rock star?" Skyler asked, thinking about the music involved in the film. "What kind of rock star?"
"Well when I get done with this and you're not running around trying to buy out the world we'll sit down and go over the script," laughed Jase. "You'll have complete freedom with the music of course."
"Oh of course," chuckled Skyler. "Tell you what. When I'm done buying out the world I'll take a look at your script and we'll discuss music and my possible acting involvement."
"Point taken," said Jase, putting a sheepish look on his face. "I'm just excited. You promised to work with me and I wanted the perfect script."
"And I'm sure it is perfect," replied Skyler. "I'm just a little too busy right now, we both are."
"I understand," said Jase. "We'll talk about it when the time is right. But you're mine when we're both done filming."
"Deal," laughed Skyler.
* * *
"So the interview," said Madonna as she sat across from Skyler and Jeff in Melbourne.
"Went well," Skyler replied with a smile. "They didn't even deviate from the list of questions."
"Well you're the talk of the industry right now," she said. "Everyone is talking about your new deal. I liked the video as well."
"Thanks," he replied. "Bob did a great job on it. I even like it."
"Oh you like it," laughed Madonna. "That's what counts."
"Absolutely," replied Skyler. "So what about you? What's up in Camp Madonna?"
"Oh all sorts of things," she said, rubbing her hands together. "Another album and probably a tour."
"A tour," sighed Skyler. "I'm going to have to do that eventually."
"But not right now," she said. "You're filming or something. What are you doing?"
"I'm getting ready to attend the wrap party for these two films and then I'm going to take my man and our children and go home so I can give him his present and collect mine," he replied.
"What no promotional stuff?" she asked with a smile.
"Well yeah, but it's all in the States so I can fly here and there and back again," he said. "Flying back and forth from Melbourne to Orlando is crazy."
"It sure is," she agreed. "But you're not planning to tour any time soon are you?"
"Hell no," he said seriously. "Jase wants me to do another movie that he's going to direct after his current project. I want to record another album, maybe two."
"Two?" she gasped. "Slow down!"
"Oh calm down," he laughed. "I have a bunch of songs written for an album of my own. Then there's Brody's album. He's going to do a song with me for mine so I'm going to do a song with him for his."
"That's one album," she said.
"Well, the movie Jase wants me to work on with him is about a rock star and he told me I'd have complete freedom with the music," he said. "Soundtrack, M."
"Well that's not so bad," she said with a sigh. "The videos from that will likely all come from the movie footage. So another movie, possibly two albums with work on someone else's and then what?"
"Then a tour of course," he replied. "A major one with lots of props, dancers and costumes."
"Ooh! Pretty!" she laughed. "Same dancers as before?"
"Probably," he replied with a nod. "I might hire a few new ones to go along with my collection though."
"Your collection?" she laughed. "What are they? Dolls?"
"They sure look like a collection," he said, raising his eyebrows. "Sexy guys."
"No girls this time either?"
"Nope," he said. "I'll give the rags something to speculate about again."
"Naughty costumes and all?"
"Maybe," he laughed.
"I've missed you, Toy," she said, smiling.
"I've missed you, too," he said. "So much has happened."
"I know about Chad," she said. "We've talked twice."
"You have?" he asked, sitting up in his chair. "What did he say?"
"Well, the first time he tried to make it sound like he was being picked on," she said with a sigh. "He said that your dancers didn't like his show and Cory was mad because he couldn't tour with you. You know the drill, I'm sure. The second time it was all to bitch about Lilly. Sky, he thinks you convinced her to leave him."
"What?" he cried. "I have never even spoken to Lilly Olin. Why would I even ask her to leave him to begin with?"
"I don't know," she said. "I tried to tell him that you didn't but he's convinced."
"I don't know what to even think about Chad anymore," he sighed. "I can't believe he's being like this at all. Do you know that he tried to beat Cory? Physically beat him, M. If Clay hadn't come in, he probably would have."
"I've heard," she said. "I've also talked to Cory and Cassie. She's upset because she wants to get married and her twin brother won't even talk to her."
"He's not moving back to Orlando," he said. "After the tour he's getting an apartment in New York."
"He told me that too," she said. "He wanted to know if I would call a realtor."
"That's what his agent and manager are for," he said. "He snapped at Laura so much that she quit and then he fired Clay. I've heard nothing but bad things out of David about what's going on with Chad. His tour has one more show and then David says he wants nothing to do with him. Mara says she'll never work with him again. I don't know what to think anymore."
"Sky, he's an adult now," she said. "There isn't anything you can do. If it's drugs, then someone will have to step in eventually. But if he won't talk to you . . ."
"I know," he sighed. "I just wish we'd seen the signs early. We could have stopped it all before it got out of hand."
"There's no point in beating yourself up about it now," she said. "He's still talking to me so I'll see what I can do as far as intervention goes. I know he's keeping in touch with Niki and Kristy as well. I've talked to both of them and they see that there's a problem. Trust me, Sky, we'll get this."
* * *
"So are you guys all packed?" Devon asked as the group sat together at the wrap party for the two films. Sharky's was one of the only clubs that could hold everyone and it was close to the set so it had worked out perfectly.
"Sure," laughed Skyler. "We have clothes for tomorrow morning but our flight leaves early."
"So you won't be here with us long tonight?" Neve asked.
"Oh, I'll stay for a while," he said. "I'm used to late nights and early wake up calls."
"So you have a busy schedule once you return to Orlando?" Leo asked.
"Well we all have busy schedules once we get back," replied Skyler. "Talk shows, MTV and so much more. I've already been told that when I go to Burbank to film 'Tonight' almost everyone will have already been there."
"They're going to do a big thing about The Great Hunt on 'Today'," said Shannon. "I'm supposed to be there for that but my agent hasn't let me know exactly when it is."
"It's good that they're doing so much for promotion though," said Toby. "After the last one I thought we'd never hear the end of it."
"It was far more successful than I thought it would be," agreed Skyler. "Let's just hope that these two live up to it."
"Yeah," said Neve. "Has Renny talked to anyone about the next one?"
"He said the script is being polished," said Skyler. "He also promised that we won't do two back to back next time."
"Well that's a relief," said Leo.
"How's Jase's movie going?" asked Neve. "I haven't heard anything about it lately."
"Jase called last night," said Skyler. "He says it's going really good and they're almost finished. They'll have computer stuff to do but he says he'll be wrapped up in a week or so."
"That's crazy," said Leo.
"Not really," replied Skyler. "They don't have near the amount of effects as we did and a lot of what they're doing is computer generated. Ours was a healthy split."
"He's also not having the problems with the press that we had," said Shannon.
They mingled with everyone and talked to producers who wanted them in this project or that one. Skyler tried to steer clear of all of that. He had no intention of lining up another project. He had a few in the works already and what he wanted more than anything was down time with Jeff and the kids.
The next morning they were up and ready on time. Helen had hugged them and told them she'd be waiting for them when Skyler returned for the Olympics. Christian was in Sydney with Chip and Justy and would be back in Orlando as soon as they were done filming. Skyler missed him like crazy.
They slept on the plane and the flight was over before they knew it. Ben and Tabitha were waiting for them at the airport with a score of security. The press was there as well but Skyler and Jeff were too tired to bother with them. They did take steps to ensure that the children weren't photographed as they made their way to the waiting SUV.
They rested for the entire first day they were home. Calls came in but nothing really heavy happened. Skyler refused to meet with anyone from Sky High for the day. He knew that everyone was itching to get details worked out on one thing or another but he needed that day to recharge.
"We won't be here long," said Jeff as they lounged by the pool and watched the kids play on the patio.
"No," sighed Skyler. "I have talk shows and interviews. Then we'll be back in Australia for the Olympics. We'll take some time off after that though. I'll work on my album but I won't get into anything really big. I promise."
"I'm sure they'll want me in the studio again before long too," said Jeff.
"Well, we'll figure it all out," said Skyler. "It's about time to get the kids ready for supper."
"Yeah," sighed Jeff. "We'd better get on it."
They got all three children in the house and into the bathroom to wash faces and hands. They weren't that dirty so they decided not to change their clothes. Supper wasn't going to be a big event anyway. They ate on the patio and talked about nothing important. When Cassie took the children in the house after the meal Skyler took Jeff's hand and lead him to the garage.
"We going somewhere?" Jeff asked as they walked.
"We might be," laughed Skyler. "There's something in here that I want you to see."
"Did we get another dog?"
"You'll see," chuckled Skyler. He couldn't wait to see the look on Jeff's face when he saw the car. As soon as he opened the garage door, he got what he was waiting for.
"Oh my God!" cried Jeff as he let go of Skyler's hand and ran over to run his hands over the car. "Skyler!"
"It's all yours, baby," said Skyler with a satisfied smiled on his face. "Keys are in it."
It was a cherry red Ferrari Enzo with black leather interior. Skyler thought it was beautiful but it wasn't something he would want for himself. Seeing Jeff's excitement over the car was completely worth it. He'd known he was doing a good thing when he ordered the brand new sports car.
"Let's go for a drive," Jeff breathed as he opened the driver's side door and got inside the car.
They drove around for a little over an hour with Jeff gushing over the car. He played with all of the dials, wipers, lights and seat controls. He played with the radio going from station to station and had a ball. He was like a little kid with his favorite brand new toy. Skyler loved seeing him this excited.
They drove to Lake Butler and Jeff pulled up to a gate and told the security guard who he was. The gate opened and Jeff drove to a huge estate right on the lake and parked in the driveway right in front of the four car garage. He smiled at Skyler and got out of the car.
"Who lives here?" Skyler asked as they walked up to the front entry.
There was a beautiful stone fountain in the center of the front brick walk. The main entry way was a series of arches that lead to a glass paneled door. Skyler was shocked when Jeff produced a key from his pocket and opened the door.
"We do," he replied as he took Skyler's hand and walked him into the main hall.
A curved staircase went up to a landing that was the second floor. The floor in the main hall was marble that shined and reflected the chandelier. The first room they went to was the huge living room with a dark hardwood floor. There were floor to ceiling windows overlooking the lake. A fireplace was directly across from the door to the room.
Next was the library with more hardwood in deep reds this time. Shelves lined three of the walls while the same floor to ceiling windows lined the wall across from the door. There were intricate wall lights that almost blended right into the shelves. Skyler only noticed them because they were turned on.
A concealed door opened into a bar room with another fireplace. Everything about this room was stone. The floor, walls and ceiling were polished stone with a huge cherry wood bar with matching bar stools. There were two windows in the room. They weren't floor to ceiling but they looked out over the pool and a door that Skyler almost didn't see opened to the back patio.
They walked back through the living room and across the hall to the dining room. Floor to ceiling windows lined a wall in this room as well. The walls were paneled with deep mahogany and another chandelier hung from the ceiling, its crystal prisms reflecting light in dazzling colors all over the room.
Shutters opened in the panel to reveal a small bar. On the other side was the kitchen and they walked through the arched doorway into the completely marble tiled kitchen. The appliances looked brand new and the island in the center of the room had a cook surface at one end with a small sink at the other.
Sliding glass doors opened on the patio again. Jeff flipped a switch in the wall beside the sliding doors and the pool lit up. They stepped outside and Skyler saw the spa. It was huge with a tiled surface and more lighting. There was also a gazebo on the other side of the pool with benches along the walls.
Back inside they went upstairs and walked through the five bedrooms. Each had a walk-in closet. They were very spacious rooms with private bathrooms for each. At the end of the hall there was the master suite. There were two walk-in closets in the master bedroom. A huge master bath was connected to the room. They sat on the floor facing the sliding doors that went out to a balcony.
"Well what do you think?" Jeff asked, staring at Skyler's face.
"This is amazing," he breathed. "When did you buy this house?"
"I didn't buy it, Sky," said Jeff. "I paid to have it built. This house is brand new."
"It's gorgeous," he said, smiling at Jeff. "We have a house already, though."
"I know that," Jeff said, nodding. "But this is our house, Sky."
Skyler thought about that for a few minutes. He loved the house they currently lived in but Jeff was right. It wasn't their house. His family could stay in that house while he and Jeff moved into this one. It really was an amazing house and his stomach quivered when he thought of the fact that Jeff had paid to have it built.
He liked the gated community. He also liked the fact that there wasn't another house around for miles. It was like their own little piece of the world and that was a great thing for him. There would be privacy. The kids could play on this patio just as well as they played on the other. The pool was bigger here and the gazebo was awesome.
He liked the layout of the house and the feeling of it as well. The bedrooms were larger. The entire house was bigger. He thought it was funny to have a bigger house for fewer people but he didn't mention that. He just smiled at Jeff.
"I love it," he said finally.
The next chapter will be posted soon.