Chapter Eighteen
His Prelude
Her Prelude
Chapter One
Chapter Two
Chapter Three
Chapter Four
Chapter Five
Chapter Six
Chapter Seven
Chapter Eight
Chapter Nine
Chapter Ten
Chapter Eleven
Chapter Twelve
Chapter Thirteen
Chapter Fourteen
Chapter Fifteen
Chapter Sixteen
Chapter Seventeen
Chapter Eighteen

And I'm coming down
Hitting ground
Breaking open
Twisted around
The sweet sound
Of the lies you told when you were broken
'Cause they've gone away
And I'm so sorry
'Cause you're wide awake and planning parties
For all the fools who've gone and left you bare

"And that's it for today, ladies and gentlemen!  Let's have a round of applause for our fantastic guests--Nick Carter and his supporting act, Adia Chamberlain!"

The obnoxious DJ pressed a button on the sound board, and a burst of canned applause came tumbling through the headphones that Adia was still clutching tightly to her ears.

Beside her, Nick shot the DJ a mega-watt smile and leaned into the microphone.  "Thanks, man.  It's been a blast."  He paused for a moment and scanned the audience, arching a single eyebrow suggestively.  "Can we hear it for this amazing audience as well?"

Adia's eyes widened as the large crowd of girls in the studio began shrieking again.  They'd been screaming off and on during the entire show, but the shrill pitch of their cheers still shocked her.  My God, they've gotten louder.

If Nick was in any way taken aback by the reception, he didn't show it.  He merely chuckled lowly into the microphone.  "Dude, this is awesome," he marveled.  "I might have to take some of you ladies home with me."

"Maybe we could negotiate a trade," the DJ grinned.  "I'll spare some of my in-studio audience if you give me Adia."

Nick glanced over at her and pretended to consider it for a moment, his eyes sparkling with laughter in the bright light of the production room.  "Hmm..."

Adia knew she was supposed to say something witty, something coquettish and flirty and charming, but the words wouldn't come. She could easily work a crowd with a guitar in her hands, but the schmoozing game was new to her.   "You'll be fine," Ani had told her earlier.  "Just keep bringing it back to the music."  Inwardly, she sighed and tried to take her mentor's advice.

Thankfully, she didn't have to respond--Nick spoke for her.  "Nah, I don't think so.  I can't spare this one.  She sings a mean cover song, man.  I can't let that go. The tour needs her."

"I tell you what, though," Adia chimed in.  "I can leave you the first official copy of my single.  Does that serve as sufficient compensation?"

"I guess so," the DJ agreed reluctantly.  He paused to cackle maniacally.  "I'll just listen to it and think of you, baby."

Adia smiled politely and fought the urge to roll her eyes. She wasn't sure how Nick tolerated these people day-in and day-out. This guy's ridiculous.  He doesn't care about the music.  He just wants a bunch of gossip.

Nick grinned in return.  "Maybe, if you're really nice to her, she'll come back with the whole band and play a song or two for you."

"It's a deal!" the DJ cheered.  "Well, kids, thanks so much for joining us.  Nick, man, it's always a pleasure.  You bring more chicks to my studio than anyone."

"I do what I can," Nick joked modestly, winking at the audience and inciting another chorus of screams.

"Nick Carter, everyone!  And that's my show for today!  Next up, we've got Domino with your workday three-play..."

A Jive representative and Nick's bodyguard were waiting in the doorway to whisk both Nick and Adia away as soon as they'd shaken hands with the DJ.  Elena appeared out of nowhere, grabbing Adia by the hand as the group made its way down the studio hallway.

"Great job, kiddo.  Nick's got to go sign autographs for his adoring public, but you and the band have an interview with the local paper about the joys of being the tour support, so I'm going to take you out of here."

Adia nodded her understanding, her eyes wide.  She was overwhelmed by the pace of everything, from the frantic screams of the in-studio audience to the quickly-growing entourage surrounding her new friend Nick who, from the looks of things, was deep in conversation with Irving Asshole.

"Okay, chick, this is our exit," Elena prompted, wrapping an arm around Adia's shoulders.  With a shake of her head, Adia stopped staring at Nick and returned her attention to the task at hand. You're free now.  You're going back to your band.  Try to focus. It's like Ani said.  None of this stuff matters.

"Wait a second!" Nick snapped from behind her.  "I'll be right back."  He sounded angry, but Adia knew better than to turn around when Elena had a schedule.

All of a sudden, another hand found her waist, and Nick Carter spun her around to smile shyly at her.  "Hey, um...good job out there.  I've got to go run the gauntlet, but I'll see you after the show...right?"

She couldn't believe it.  Not five minutes ago, the man had been smirking confidently into an audience of a hundred screaming girls.  Now, he was smiling a shy, modest smile at her, his eyes flitting down to the floor every few seconds in embarrassment.  She silently wondered where his cocky, flirtatious demeanor had gone.

"Umm...sure," she rambled nervously.  Two or three people from the cloud around him had started yelling his name, and she hated the thought that he was getting himself in trouble to be nice to her. Hell, who am I?  I'm his opening act.  He's a superstar.

She wasn't sure why, but that realization seemed infinitely more important now.

When she glanced back up at him, blue eyes locked brown, and he frowned.

"It...I..."  He paused to take a breath.  "Find me after the show?  Please?"

Adia sucked in a deep breath and nodded, trying to muster a smile.  It didn't matter, though.  By the time she finally managed to get her lips to curl, Nick's entourage had whisked him away again.

*      *      *      *      *


Adia expelled a breath of relief upon hearing Jason's voice.  The whole radio experience had shaken her more than she cared to admit, and the screams from in-studio audience members on the way to the bus had only served to further rattle her nerves. She'd never heard her name screamed at such a pitch before, but Jason's shout seemed to put everything back in perspective.

"Oh my God, it's the radio star," Shane deadpanned.  Adia looked up in surprise at the sarcastic tone, but she relaxed further when she saw that his eyes were smiling.

"Nah, she deserves a better title than that," Keelia argued, turning her attention from Shane to Adia.  "Girl, you've got more composure than fucking Abraham Lincoln.  The things that fucking obnoxious DJ was saying to you...I'd have popped him one.  Hell, even Shane was ready to hunt him down."

Adia cast an amused glance in Shane's direction, and the guitarist shrugged modestly.  "What can I say?  You're my little sister."

Adia smiled gratefully.

"You totally rocked it, though," Jason told her seriously.  "Despite the fact that that guy was a complete ass on air, you didn't give him anything more to work with.  You stuck to your guns and kept bringing it back to the music, just like Ani told you to."

Adia shrugged modestly.  "I tried," she admitted, turning her attention to Elena.  "He didn't seem interested in the music, though."

"He gets better ratings if he reveals a scandal," Elena muttered disdainfully, rolling her eyes.  "Even with Nick there, though, he didn't get a chance to spread rumors.  There was a lot of innuendo, but you two dodged it very gracefully."

Adia chuckled hollowly.  "I'm not sure 'graceful' is an accurate description," she belied quietly.  "I felt very out of my element."

"That's understandable, though," Shane argued protectively.  "You're a musician first, Adia, and you're on Ani fucking DiFranco's record label.  You're surrounded by people who put the music ahead of commercialism.  This is the first time the
situations have been reversed."

"Don't short-change yourself, though," Jason cautioned seriously.  "You did really well out there.  You came across as a confident young woman."

"I came across as a floundering young woman," Adia corrected with a small smile.  "Half of the innuendo...sure I tour with you guys, but you know me.  I still don't know how to respond to sex jokes.  I definitely don't know how to flirt."

"Not really," Jason agreed with a laugh, "but that's endearing, Dia.  You came across as confident, sure, but the shyness is appealing too."

"Amen," Keelia piped up.  "It shows that you're not just another busty blonde who's more temptress than talent.  You stood up to that asshole as an independent woman selling music and a message.  The rest of that over-commercialized bullshit doesn't matter, and you came across as someone who knows that.  As long as you keep presenting that kind of an image, you're going to kick all of those chauvinistic radio personalities in the metaphorical groin."

Both males winced visibly at Keelia's enthusiasm.

"What Keelia's trying to say," Elena interjected pointedly, "is that you bring a degree of innocence to the table, and your lack of charm and finesse appeals to people because it makes you real."  Having eloquently ousted the over-enthusiastic lesbian of the bunch, Elena fished into her pocket and retrieved Adia's new cell phone.  "You did well.  So much so that, from what I understand, a few people have called to congratulate you."

Adia's eyebrows rose in interest as she reached for the mobile.  "Really?"

"Ten bucks says Ani called," Jason grinned.  "Remember, babe, we come from the label that cares."

Elena didn't even try to conceal the smile that surfaced.  "You certainly did get lucky in that respect.  Righteous Babe is much more music-centered than most of the labels out there."

"Yeah, well," Keelia snorted indignantly, "there's something to be said for going indie."

"Hey, Elena?"

Elena looked up expectantly at her charge's childlike voice and tried not to smile at Adia's expression of confusion.  "Yes ma'am."

Adia smiled sheepishly.  "How do I check my messages again?"

Elena bit her bottom lip to stifle her grin.  "Call your voicemail, honey.  It's programmed into your phone.  Just hold down the one key until it starts to ring."

Adia blushed as her male bandmates snickered around her.  "Right..."

"Leave her alone!" Keelia admonished angrily.  "Just because she's above the likes of newfangled technology doesn't mean you two have to be assholes..."

Shane covered his mouth with his hand to hide his laughter.  "I'm sorry, did you just say 'newfangled'?"

Jason burst into hearty laughter, and Keelia let out a small scream of frustration.

"I hate boys!"

Adia began trekking towards the back of the bus in order to hear more clearly, and Elena called after her to remind her that they had a full-band interview shortly.  Right.  Full-band interview.  How did we get so busy all of a sudden?  We haven't even chosen the cover song for tonight!

Adia had been thinking about the evening's cover song throughout the morning's interview, and all she knew was that she wanted it to have something to do with radio.  She'd planned to ask the others for suggestions, but she was beginning to wonder when they would have time.  Maybe we can do it during the interview...

Before she could think any further on the matter, an electronic voice interrupted her reverie to inform her that she had three unheard messages.

"First message."

"Adia, it's Ani.  I was just calling to wish you luck this morning with that obnoxious Karl guy.  I heard his show yesterday morning, and he's basically an asshole, but I know you'll find a way to keep him focused on the things that matter.  Remember, no matter what happens on the radio this morning, you're a musician first, and you've already got a number of fans that recognize and adore that in you.  Your real statement is onstage, and you make that one loud and proud night after night.  This is like icing, baby.  Sit back and enjoy it."

Adia smiled at her label manager's frankness and saved the message.  Ani was famous for saying the right thing at the right time, and Adia had the feeling that she might need to hear the wisdom of her mentor's words again and again in the near future.

"Next message."

"Adia!  We're on the bus, listening, and you rock.  Ian even said so.  Keelia's all femmed-out on your behalf, too.  It's kind of funny.  Hurry up and stick it to that guy so you can get back here and be adored by your amazing, wonderful band, ya hear?"

She rolled her eyes good-naturedly at Jason's voice and deleted the message.  If anything, he'll keep me sane while everything and everyone around us is going crazy.  He's so abnormal that he'll keep us all grounded.

"Next message."

"Hey, sis, it's me.  I just wanted to let you know that Shane was cool enough to hold the phone up to the radio so I could hear the majority of your radio thing this morning and...you were amazing, A.  Just like I knew you'd be.  I wanted to clean that asshole's clock for making all of those catty little remarks in your direction, but you handled it like a pro and kept bringing it right back to the music.  You've gotten to be such a lady, A, and I'm so glad you're finally letting people see all of the talent that I've seen for years.  You're going to change the world, sis, and I'm so fucking proud of you.  I'm a little worried about how flirty that Carter kid seems to be, but Shane assures me that he's a shy guy around the four of you.  Just know that I've got your back no matter what.  I'm always here for you...not that you need it, though.  You keep proving that you can stand just fine on your own."  He paused to laugh, and Adia's heart melted at the familiar chuckle.  "Love ya."

She saved the message and flipped the phone shut long enough to brush away the tears that had begun to pool in the corners of her eyes.  God, I miss him.

"You okay?"

She glanced up to see Jason hovering concernedly over her.  "Yeah, fine.  I just..."  She shook her head in an attempt to regain her bearings and held the phone up meekly.  "Ace called and left me a message."

Jason smiled knowingly.  "He's good like that."

"Yeah, he is," she agreed with an embarrassed laugh.  "I owe Shane a thank-you."

"Eh, he knows you appreciate him," Jason replied with a wink and a shrug.  "Besides, he's up front charming the rock reporter until you decide to make your entrance."

Adia nodded her understanding.  "Did they send you back here to retrieve me?"

"Nah, I came of my own volition," Jason grinned.  "You looked a little shaken up.  I figured you might need a quick heart-to-heart before the critic starts firing questions your way."

Adia tipped her chin in concession.  "Yeah."

"Everything okay?"

Her brow furrowed in confusion.  "I guess.  This morning...it was weird, Jase.  The innuendo, the jokes, the charm...I know it's a common game, but I was quiet and asocial and I missed that part of college.  I don't know how to make small talk, and I definitely don't know how to flirt with people I've just met."

Jason's expression grew immediately serious.  "You don't have to, Dia.  It's like Elena told you--you don't have to resort to social tricks to intrigue people.  You've got enough talent that your music speaks for itself."

"Sure," Adia agreed absently, "but does it speak for me?"

"As much as it has to," Jason volleyed pointedly.  "You're not selling you, Dia.  You're selling the music.  You're just a vehicle by which the music is brought to the people.  The melodies will make their own impressions."

Adia paused for a moment to consider her friend's words.

"You know all this," Jason told her expectantly.  "What's really going on?"

She smiled amusedly.  He's definitely my best friend for a reason.  The smile faded just as quickly as she continued to ponder the morning's events, though.  "I don't know, Jase.  I think..."  She trailed off uncertainly and met his gaze with apprehension.  "I think I'm worried about Nick.  He...he really surprised me today."

Jason's features darkened immediately.  "Oh?  How so?"

"I don't know," Adia sighed.  "He was really different this morning.  It's not even all that important, really.  It's just that...ever since we met him, I've seen him as this quirky, insecure shy guy with a lot of reserve and a noticeable lack of self-confidence."  She paused to furrow her brow.  "Even onstage, he's very boyish in his performance.  I mean, he definitely knows how to keep an audience entertained, but he's very...genuine, I guess.  I believe him.  From his stuttering and his perpetual blushing to his hip thrusts and his adrenaline screams, I believe him.  I feel like, even though he seems a little afraid of himself sometimes, he doesn't try to be someone else.  He's openly imperfect, and there's very little that seems fake about him."

"That seems like an accurate assessment," Jason agreed uncertainly.   "What's your point?"

"He wasn't that quirky, insecure guy this morning.  He was...sleezy, almost, you know?  That flirtatious, charming, funny guy that made all the little girls scream this morning isn't the guy I'm used to sharing a stage with."  She heaved a sigh.  "It seems to me that there's a very specific kind of cocky, calculated conversation involved in things like the radio show, and Nick was very, very good at playing that game."  She glanced hesitantly up at Jason.  "He was too smooth.  He was too smooth to be believable, and he was definitely too smooth to be as shy and insecure as he seems when we're all hanging out on the bus together.  I'm having a really hard time wrapping my mind around the psychological dichotomy."

Jason arched his eyebrows expectantly.  "Are you saying that you think his 'shy guy' thing is an act?"

"I'm saying that I think my perception of things is skewed," Adia amended.  "I've been looking at him like he's a regular person, flaws and all, but...the schmoozing came almost too easily to him.  He said all the right things and cracked all the right jokes, and it became painfully obvious that he's a superstar."  She chuckled ironically.  "He conducts himself with way too much confidence to be anything else."

Jason cocked his head to the side in curiosity.  "I'm not sure that's fair, Dia.  He sounds confident on the radio, sure, but how many times have you seen him tripping over sentence construction in our dressing room after a show?"

Adia sighed heavily.  "I know.  I know.  I just don't understand the change.  I can't reconcile the two personalities. And...call me crazy, but I really didn't like the guy he morphed into whenever the on-air light started flashing."

Jason studied her for a moment, chewing on the edge of a pen he'd managed to scrounge up.  Finally, he pulled the pen away from his mouth and dipped his chin pointedly.  "So you've developed an aversion to your pop star pet project?"

Adia rolled her eyes pointedly.  "He's not a pet project, Jason.  I wanted to make him feel more comfortable around us.  He seemed alone and unsure, and I wanted to pull him out of that shell because I've been there and I know exactly how much it sucks to not be able to trust yourself."

"And now you don't want to do any of that anymore."

Adia laughed hollowly.  "I think I came to the belated realization that he doesn't need me to."

"What, he doesn't need you to befriend him?  Why?  Because he's good at schmoozing with a few radio DJs?"  Jason arched a skeptical eyebrow and tapped Adia lightly with his pen.  "That hardly seems fair, Dia."

She frowned.  "Jason...after what I saw this morning, I'm not sure I want to get any closer to him.  I don't do well with two-faced people.  I may be more tolerant than Keelia is, but ultimately, I don't like people that put on different masks for different occasions."  She wrinkled her nose in hindsight.  "Especially not when one of those masks involves a lot of charm and excessive flirting."

Jason chuckled.  "It's funny that you express such a dislike for those kinds of people, you know?"


"Well," Jason began pointedly, "you present the same dichotomy, you know."

Her brow furrowed in offense.  "I do not."

"Sure you do," Jason argued.  "Follow me here, okay?  You spent two years of college playing your guitar in the bathroom of your tiny apartment because you couldn't stand the thought of anyone but Ace hearing anything you had to say or sing.  You wouldn't talk to anyone because you were so painfully shy that you couldn't spit an articulate sentence out.  Furthermore, you spent every class huddled down over your desk, scribbling away in a notebook so you wouldn't have to make eye contact with anyone."

Adia breathed a measured sigh at the recounting of her early college years.  Jason's description was indeed painfully accurate.  "What's your point?"

"A lot changed whenever you and I met Shane and Keelia in that coffee shop," Jason sighed, "but you didn't do a full one-eighty.  You're still every bit as shy as you used to be.  You have a hell of a lot more confidence in your music, but you're still apprehensive around people you don't know, and I know that that radio show made you more uncomfortable than Pamela Anderson in a nun habit because you had so many people focused on you."

Adia knew better than to argue.

"How'd you do it, Dia?  How'd you get up in front of all of those people and sing that first open mic night?  How'd you muster enough confidence to pursue that reporter from the New Yorker?  Are you honestly telling me there weren't any masks involved in that?"

Adia sighed heavily.  "That's different, Jason."

"Really?" he prodded.  "I don't see how.  Hell, Dia, yours is a physical transformation.  You go from shy princess in PJs to sex goddess with a guitar--and don't you dare try to tell me that I don't know what I'm talking about."

Adia smiled shyly.  "That's performance, though.  That's just a stage persona.  I couldn't do my job if I allowed myself to succumb to my usual level of shyness all the time."

"Exactly," Jason agreed.  "You ever stop to think that Nick might have the same problem?"

Adia flinched.  "He's been doing this since he was a child, Jase."

"It doesn't change who he is, Dia.  That much experience has just given him that much more time to construct a persona."

She lifted her gaze and smiled at him gently.  "Okay, you have a point."

"Thank you!" he laughed.  "Look...I'm not saying he's in the clear, okay?  Just hear him out.  Hell, ask him about it tonight after the show.  See what he has to say."

Her smile bloomed to full capacity.  "He did ask me to find him..."

Jason rolled his eyes good-naturedly.  "Why were you worried again?"

Adia had the grace to blush.  "You know me," she mumbled.  "I worry about everything."

"I know, but for now...let's go rescue the others from that reporter before they give Elena a reason to worry, okay?  Heaven only knows what they'll tell her if we leave them alone for too long."

Adia acquiesced and followed Jason to the front of the bus.

*      *      *      *      *

Despite the crazy events of the day, the band's thirty-minute set went off without a hitch.  If anything, the tryst with radio had made Adia even more grateful for the return to the stage, and she reveled in the familiar feeling of performance throughout the concert.  She had originally intended to dedicate the cover to her crazy morning with the DJs by choosing a fun, hard rocking, radio-themed song, but after must post-interview deliberation, she and the other three had settled on a rendition of Robbie William's ironic "Radio."  The disco beat had gotten the crowd going in just the right way, and the satiric tongue-in-cheek lyrics were perfect for Adia's mood.

She had yet to decide how long to tease Keelia for suggesting a British pop song as a cover, but she was glad that her friend had chosen so wisely.

Now, however, the show was over and she was navigating through the maze of backstage corridors in a search for her blonde tourmate.  She'd decided to hang out with Jason and watch Nick's set from the audience, and she was having quite a bit of unnecessary trouble finding their dressing rooms again.  She was seconds away from calling Jason for help when she ran smack into the lithe, suit-clad form of Irving Azoff.

Oh, shit.

"Mr. Azoff.  Hi," she stammered nervously, wringing her hands.  "I'm really sorry..."

The man brushed himself off and shot her a tight smile.  "Ms. Chamberlain," he acknowledged with a curt nod.  "What are you doing running around backstage?"

"Looking for N...Mr. Carter, actually," she explained with a sigh.  "You...you wouldn't happen to know where he is, would you?"

Irving rolled his eyes and jerked his thumb over his shoulder.  "Back that way.  He's taking care of some business at the moment.  Try not to disturb him until he's finished."

Adia sucked in a deep breath for courage and began jogging lightly in the direction Irving had indicated.

"Oh, and Ms. Chamberlain?"

She whirled around expectantly.

"Walk.  Don't run."

Feeling strangely like a delinquent child, Adia slowed her pace and continued towards what she hoped would be Nick's dressing room.  I finally get an album of my own, and the hot shot Hollywood manager tells me that I can't run backstage.  Man...

At long last, she caught sight of a mess of people at the end of the corridor and heard the unmistakable sound of Keelia's voice ranting.  She exhaled in relief, and a small smile surfaced as she continued to close the distance between herself and the newfound dressing rooms.  I bet the others are still teasing her for picking
a Robbie Williams song.

She bypassed her own dressing room for Nick's--which was, as usual, blocked by a throng of people.  Adia wove her way to the front of the mass and put on her best polite smile for the benefit of Nick's burly bodyguard.

"Ron?" she began tentatively.  The man's intimidating gaze immediately dropped to her.

"Miss Adia," he nodded.

"Is Nick there?  He asked me to come find him once the show was over..."  She trailed off and smiled again for good measure.  The bodyguard didn't return her grin.

"He's busy with meet-and-greets.  You'd best save it for tomorrow at rehearsal."

Adia's eyebrows rose in surprise.  "Tomorrow?  Why tomorrow?  Isn't he going to be around this evening?"

The bodyguard arched a menacing eyebrow.  "Mr. Carter needs his sleep much more than he needs to be fraternizing with his fellow musicians, Miss Adia."

Adia's eyes widened at his cold tone of voice.  "Of course," she replied generously.  "I understand that.  I just didn't want him to think I'd forgotten his request," she finished, grappling for something purposeful to say.  "Could you tell him I came by?"

"Certainly.  I wouldn't wait up for him, though."  He wasn't even looking at her anymore.  Instead, he was surveying the throng of people with his usual face of stone.  Feeling slightly dejected, Adia turned and headed back to her dressing room.

Ron had treated her like he treated every single one of the women that dared to shower Nick with attention, and that fact hadn't escaped her.  In fact, she felt humiliated by his staff of professionals.  So I'm not a star.  So I have breasts.  Why does that deem me unworthy of Nick's time?  He asked me to come see him after the show!

As she shoved her door open, she began to wonder if Nick had purposefully reneged on following through with his request.

"Back so soon?" Jason teased.  "I thought you and the Backstreet Boy had a date."

"He's busy," Adia replied with a small smile.

"Busy?" Shane repeated doubtfully.  "He asked you to come find him.  He should be waiting for you."

"Yeah, well, he's not," Adia sighed.  "He's got a cloud of professionals swarming around his dressing room, and his bodyguard told me in no uncertain terms that he would be unavailable for the rest of the evening."

"Sounds suspiciously like Irving Asshole's work," Keelia remarked dryly.  "Isn't that kid doing two tons of press already?"

"Well, we know he's been making the radio circuit," Jason laughed.  "Don't worry, Dia--I'm sure he just got stuck."

"Either that, or maybe his new attitude got the best of him," Shane offered darkly.  Adia turned to her brother's best friend in curiosity.

"What's that supposed to mean?"

Shane heaved a sigh.  "Dia, I really don't like the way he was acting this morning.  That Nick..."

"Is obviously well-versed in handling obnoxious DJs," Jason finished warningly.  "Leave him alone, Shane."

"No!" Shane argued.  "I want to know why he thought it was okay for that asshole to say all of that shit to Adia!"

Adia rolled her eyes as the two boys continued to exchange words and turned her full attention to her belligerent bassist.  "They're in rare form tonight, aren't they?"

"They have a point," Keelia admitted with a pointed glance in Adia's direction.  "The Carter kid was like an entirely different person this morning.  And now he's blowing you off to take care of business?"

Adia flinched as Keelia voiced her suspicions.  "Keels, we've known him for more than a month now.  I feel like we should give him more credit than that."

"We did," Keelia pointed out, "and you know what?  Maybe we shouldn't have."

lyrics and music by Matt Nathanson