Downtown Indianapolis. A small downtown trying to go for the large feel. I mean, we’re called Naptown for a reason. It’s not my favorite place to come, but it’s peaceful, and people tend to keep to themselves. We smile in passing. Some people will wave if they think you’re staring, while others glare. It’s a mix of emotions and socialized people. And me, well, I’m trying to keep to myself. Walking. Moving. I don’t want to engage in any type of conversation. Especially since the city is crawling with girls/teens/women. Everyone of all ages trying to meet Thomas Copeland. Trying to steal a peek of Mr. Hollywood or are auditioning for whatever casting call they’re holding today.
I agreed to drive Jen and Claudia downtown. Only because I’m trying to rebuild my relationship with my sister. I’m not perfect, and I’m not afraid to admit it. And I have. Enough times to grow a new hand. I’m twenty-one, and I’ve already had hardships most couldn’t imagine. Went to rehab when I was nineteen. Got clean, and so far, I’ve stayed clean. Two years this year.
It’s been difficult. It’s been hard. There has been more than one occasion where I’ve almost relapsed. Ready to surrender to the cravings. Ready to go back to my ex and my drug dealer. At times, I was ready to just give up. It also doesn’t help my dad has been trying to push my ex back into my life. No amount of persuading will ever convince my father Jamie was my drug dealer.
I guess it’s hard to believe the golden boy, the all-star state champion quarterback could have such a dark hidden secret. It’s easier to blame the scapegoat instead of excepting the truth. It’s also easier to allow the town and my dad and sister to keep blaming the scapegoat. Me. Instead of trying to force them to see the truth.
What’s the point? I know they’ll go on the attack with the first syllable I speak. And to move on with my life, this is easier.
But it doesn’t stop me from trying to rebuild the relationship I once had with my sister. We were once close. Thick as thieves. We were always getting into trouble, and we always had each other’s backs. I can’t blame her for wanting to put the distance between us. She had to do what she felt was best for her. To separate herself from the reputation of Easy Anderson. A nickname refusing to die.
I guess a perk of a small town. Most aren’t willing to forgive after you’ve attempted to have charges pressed against the golden boy. To have him expelled, kicked off the football team, and cost the town and school the championships. The glory would have been gone if I followed through, but like a coward, I chickened out.
I was threatened. I was blackmail. I ultimately dropped the charges and admitted to lying when I’d swear on my grandmother’s bible I was and am telling the truth. Jamie had me under his control. He knew how to control me, and he did. Well. He had the town convinced he was helping me. He had my dad and sister convinced he was attempting to get my life back on the straight and narrow. Ha, the idea alone should have been a cruel and funny-ironic joke.
I find myself walking up the steps of Monument Circle. The limestone structure beautiful and magnificent as I make my way onto the terrace. Stone tablets rest above the bronze entrance with inscriptions in honor of Indiana soldiers who fought. My favorite part of the monument are the fountains and pools on the east and west side of the structure. It’s normally calm and relaxing. You can sit on the benches and listen to the water running or prop yourself against the railing and watch the water flowing. Well, not today. There are too many kids running and screaming and a multitude of groups of women. Most of ’em are lost in the camera of their phones as they rehearse what they would say if they ran into Thomas. Ha! I know exactly what they would say. The only words leaving their mouths are uhhhhh or a long line of drool.
Feeling a little defeated, I climb down the south side steps and head back towards downtown. This time, going through the maze of alleyways. A terrible idea, but something I’ve always done when I didn’t want to be found. But it feels like there is a force guiding me to where I need to go. I’m just turning left and right, going straight, allowing my feet to guide me. I have no clue where I’m going. No idea where I am. What buildings or restaurants I’m going between. I’m following a force pulling me to a specific place.
Until I collide with another human being, sending me flying backwards and onto my ass into....god, I hope this is a puddle of dirty-mucky water. Looking up, I’m fully prepared to cuss off whoever ran into me and the lack of empathy as the asshat just stands in front of me. But I freeze mid-words, realizing the person I’ve run into is the one and only Thomas Copeland, and he is the last person I wanted to see.
He’s dressed in blue Levi’s and a black t-shirt that defines his biceps. It not like he’s bulging out of his shirt; he has enough muscle to notice and to make you want to drool.
Do you remember the character from Criminal Minds, Reid? He kind of looks like him. But Thomas has shorter, slightly blonder hair. It’s like a short combed-over. The sides are buzzed as it tappers into longer strands up top, and I find myself wanting to run my hand through his hair. To feel the silk strands.
Ohh, what the hell is wrong with me? I can’t stand this asshole. Why do I want to run my fingers through his delicious hair? Argh, why did I just call his hair delicious?
“Watch where the fuck you’re going,” He barks at me as I’m still sitting in a puddle of god knows what.
“Gee, thanks for your concern. Anything else you’d like? Maybe I should clear a path for you.” I state dryly as I fling the dirty-groundwater, god I hope this is water. Please let this be water.
Slowly, I get to my feet, craning my neck over my shoulder to see the damage down my backside. My ass is soaked, my hands are sore and there’s pea gravel embedded into my palms.
Ya, coming downtown was a brilliant idea. I should have just stayed home.
“Do you have any idea who I am?” He demands. Clearly, he’s not amused by my smart remarks.
Looking up at him again, I take notice of a ball cap on his head. A Patriots football ballcap, and I can’t help but laugh as I brush my hands down the front of my pants. “Oh, I know who you are,” I tell him. “And I don’t care. By the way, that ballcap is just gonna draw more attention to you.”
“Says who?” He questions.
Straightening myself up, I meet his eyes. The brilliance of the green undeniable, but there is a hidden sadness to them that he’s masking. My head cocks to the side as I study him. The emotion he’s attempting to hide undeniable, and I find myself drawn to him more. The scary part? I’m not sure why I’m so drawn to him either. Thomas makes a gruff cough snapping me from my daze-like stare.
“And says a COLTS fan. They,” I say, pointing at his ballcap, “are rivals. The Hoosier state don’t like them there Patriots.” I state with so much sarcasm and causing myself to laugh. Especially with the look of disdain written all over his face from my fake southern accent.
“You’re a real charmer.” He says bluntly as he pulls the ball cap from his head. “Here.” He tosses me the hat, which in return, I let it fall to the ground and into the puddle.
Laughing and pointing. “Hey, right where it belongs. Now, if there is anything else I can assist you with today, Mr. Copeland?”
His pupils dilate at the sound of his last name coming from my lips. I watch his lips twist into a mischievous smile. One I’m all too familiar with, and one I have no interest in entertaining. I’m turning a new leaf. Not trying to revert back to old times.
“Anything?” He asks with a sly smile.
I smile back, “Ha, ya not happening, buddy.”
“What?” He coos. “Most would jump on this.”
“Ahh, and I, Mr. Copeland, am not most. Actually can’t stand you.” I tell him feeling so bold and confident. Standing in front of him brings out a side of me I didn’t know I had.
He chuckles, “But you don’t know me.”
“I think I know enough.”
“Then you’re judging a book by its cover.”
I burst out into a fit of laughter, side holding belly laughing. “Ohh, Woah. I’m sorry that was rude.” I say between my laughs. “But, oh my, that was rich. Coming from you.”
Judging a book by its cover is never a wise decision. Or, in this case, Thomas. I mean, I should know better. There is always more to a person than what meets the eye. But for some reason, Thomas ignites a fight response that I can’t ignore. Followed by an unfamiliar energy spreading through my veins. When I finally compose myself, he’s not the least bit amused. But I’m elated by the reaction I’m stirring.
“What you see on those damn entertainment....”
I hold a hand up, “Let me tell you something, Thomas. I don’t watch those gossip shiters. You’re right, I don’t know you, and I have no desire to get to know you either.”
Turning on my heels, I’m ready to get the hell out of the smelly alleyway I somehow found myself in. And I’m ready to flee from whatever intoxicating scent he’s casting my way. The longer we talk and do this dumb back and forth thing, my mind is starting to turn to mush, and I’m losing my wits. As I’m about to clear the entrance, I feel a large firm hand at my shoulder stopping me.
“Wait, don’t I get a name?” He asks me.
I turn around to face him. Giving him my famous fake it till you make it smile. “Ahh, Mr. Copeland, what kind of woman do you take me for?”
“One who will give me her name.”
“I’ll think about it,” I tell him as I turn back around, but he refuses to let me go. His fingers digging into my flesh around the strap of my tank top.
“Come on, babydoll.”
I furrow my brow at the nickname. A terrible one at that. “Don’t call me that.”
“What?” He asks, playing dumb and innocent. “I find babydoll fitting.”
Looking down the sidewalk, I find a large group of women. Some of them have papers in their hands, others have their phones out. I’m sure they’re stalking his social media accounts. Seeing if he’s posted anything about his stay in the Hoosier state. Giving them the hints they need to locate him. Unbeknownst to them, he’s under their noses.
Leaning closer into him, my eyes darting to his lips. I find my mind wondering what he would taste like. What those hands, his fingers could do to me. I quickly avert my eyes back to his piercing green eyes and find my regular train of thought. “You’d know what I would find fitting?”
“You and me back at my hotel. I can see you want to. I saw you studying my lips.” He whispers, drawing closer to me. My mouth dries as I attempt to move back. Only to have my feet fail me. “Let me tell you, babydoll, you won’t be disappointed.” He coos as he reaches up towards my face, brushing a lock of my faded blonde hair behind my ear. The tip of his finger graced the top of my ear. Hot energy pulsating across my body, and for a brief second, I thought against what I’m about to do.
But that fucking nickname, babydoll, had me reversing my lapse of judgment.
“I could think of fifty who’d want that,” I say with a roguish smile. He arches a questioning brow. The group of girls is close enough for me to yell. Allowing Thomas just enough time to turn and run and enough time for them to give chase. Stepping back and back onto the sidewalk into view, “OH. MY. GOD.” I scream with excitement. My acting worthy of an Emmy nomination. “It’s fucking Thomas Copeland. OH. MY. FUCKING. GOD.”
Thomas looks at me like he’s about to reach out and take hold of me. Taking me with him wherever he ran. A part of me wanted him to, but at the sound of screaming fans, he mumbled some choice words and took off running down the alleyway and back into the restaurant. The group of girls shoving past me as they run into the alley. Including my sister.
“Did you see him?” She asks me, jumping up and down trying to see over the sea of heads. I catch one of the bodyguards standing guard outside and preventing anyone from entering.
Rolling my eyes, I press my back against the wall of a building watching the chaos that I just created. “Ya. He went back into the restaurant.”
“And?” She demands.
She rolls her eyes with annoyance. “Why are you even here? God, it was useless to bring you here.”
“Well, I’m gonna go wait in the car for you and Claudia,” I tell her as I walk away.
The last thing I want to do is get into a verbal altercation with my sister. So, I do what I do best to avoid any type of conflict with her and dad. I walked away.