He nods and frowns slightly, but then smiles widely, in that naughty way and winks down at me. “I love you, Meredith Agatha.”
“I love you too. But Jax is gonna die.”
“Christ on a cracker, Jax, you’re trying to fucking kill me.” Starla growls before guzzling half a water bottle. I raise my brows at Jax and plant my hands on my hips.
“I told you.”
He glares at me and shakes his head. “Trust me, you’ll get it.”
“Oh, I’ll get it alright,” she agrees. “But it doesn’t change the fact that you’re a sadistic asshole.”
“I’ve missed you,” I say and wrap my arms around Starla’s shoulders. “I love that you can tell Jax he’s an asshole.”
“You tell me I’m an asshole all the time,” he reminds me.
“I’ve missed you guys too. This routine is stellar. Seriously perfect for the song. Thank you for doing this.”
“It’s all him.” I point to Jax and wink at him. “I’m just his puppet.”
“You’re a gorgeous puppet,” she says. “I want you guys to come back to my place tonight for dinner and to chat. It’s been too long.”
“I’m up for that,” I reply. “Thank you!”
Jax nods and then turns at the sound of his name. Brian Kellogg, the dancer who will be dancing Jax’s part in the routine just came in from taking a phone call.
“Let’s get back to it,” Starla says.
“God, I’m exhausted,” Starla says and exhales deeply. We’re settled in her family room, sprawled over couches and chaise lounges, stuffed with fresh fish and salad.
“You worked hard today, baby,” her fiancé, Rick, murmurs and kisses her temple. Rick is great. He’s not in the music business at all. He’s a racecar driver, of all things, and they met at a charity function about two years ago. He’s tall and thin and all tattooed up, even on his neck.
He looks like he could be a rocker.
“How do you know? You weren’t there.”
“You always work hard.”
“You guys are too cute,” I say and smile at them. “How are the wedding plans coming?”
“I hired a girl,” Starla replies and rolls her blue eyes. Starla is stunning, with chin-length platinum blond hair, smooth white skin and her signature bright red lips. She’s in fantastic shape. She always danced just as hard as the rest of us. Starla isn’t just a singer, she’s one of the top entertainers in the world, and she works her ass off. “I like her ideas and she’s great about checking in with me on stuff, so it’s working for us.”
“And you guys are coming,” she says while pointing at us.
“We wouldn’t miss it,” Jax assures her.
“How is Brian doing with the shows?” I ask and pick a hangnail on my right hand.
“He’s fine. He’s a damn good dancer, but he’s no Jax.”
“He’s a drama queen,” Rick says with a roll of the eyes.
“Yeah, he is that,” Starla agrees. “But he’s hot and the audience loves him, so as long as he doesn’t piss me off too bad, I’ll keep him around. Until I can talk Jax into coming back, that is.”
Jax laughs and shakes his head, but Starla isn’t laughing. She sits up straight and leans her elbows on her knees.
“Actually, I wanted to talk to you guys about something.”
Jax and I share a look and then watch her quietly.
“Mer, I’m so sorry about your mama. I’m sorry I couldn’t come to the funeral. I was stuck in a blizzard in New York and couldn’t get a flight out.”
“Oh, Star, it’s okay. Thank you for calling that day. I knew you were thinking of me.”
She nods and then sighs. “Geez, why am I nervous?”
“What’s up, little girl?” Jax asks. He always called her little girl because Starla is so petite.
“I miss you guys. We toured together for so many years, you’re just a part of this whole family that we have going here. I want you to come back on tour with me next year, and choreograph the whole tour too.”
“That would mean that I’d have to start working on that as soon as we get back to Seattle,” Jax says in surprise. Starla nods, watching us both.
“We have a studio now, Star, with clients and kids who depend on us.” I’m shaking my head slowly as the possibilities run through my head.
“You can hire people to take care of the studio while you’re gone,” she replies. Rick continues to watch us silently. “Think about it. I’ll give you both raises of course. And I’m now offering a benefits package too.”
“You’re so generous,” Jax says dryly.
“It’s tax deductible,” she says.
Do I want to go back on tour? Never knowing what time zone I’m in, not to mention what city. The long hours on planes and buses. The grueling, constant rehearsal. Late nights. Weird sleep patterns.
I shake my head and look Starla in the eye as I answer her honestly. “Thank you for this opportunity, Star. I’m going to pass. I’ve only got a year or two left in me before I start getting injured from the rigorous routines, and honestly, I’m happy with my life in Seattle.”
“You met someone,” Rick guesses.
“I’ve reconnected with someone,” I reply. “And I love him. I’m done touring. But I love that you thought enough of me to ask me back.”
“Keep in touch,” she says. “I’ll need regular updates on how it’s going with your man.”
“I’ll do that.”
“I’m going to pass too,” Jax says with a sigh. “I’m happy at the studio, and I have some choreography opportunities with the university dance team as well.”
“You met someone too, you bitch!” Starla cries and throws a pillow at him.
“He did,” I say and clap my hands. “And he’s hot.”
“Why did you all have to leave me and find sexy people to have sex with and not want to come back with me?” She sticks out her lower lip in a pout before burying her face in another pillow. “Moo haff me.”
“What was that?” I ask with a laugh.
“You hate me.”
“We love you.” I blow her a kiss and grin widely. “But I love Mark more.”