Rolling my head from shoulder to shoulder, I feel the tension in my neck release...well, slightly. It’s been interview after interview with Xayla and Andrew once again. It’s been a great ball of fucking fun. I mean....what better way to spend the entire day than to have the same fucking meaningless questions asked over and over again.
All in the name of promotion. To get the fans hyped up about the upcoming movie. Execs want as much noise as possible surrounding their films. Most want good, and there are the occasional who want the bad publicity. And that is when you can go all out on these interviews, say whatever the hell you want, and not have to worry about someone from the studio coming down on you. Or just throw a pre-release party and trash a hotel room.
But I don’t want to do any of that or this anymore. I’m finding it harder and harder to focus on the task at hand when my mind is consumed with other thoughts: my new project, what I want my life to be, and Ryann. My thoughts are always swimming of Ryann. Even more, after she was attacked.
It’s been three weeks since she, Xayla, and Val were attacked. It’s been an emotional three weeks of a rollercoaster. From Ryann seeking out her therapist more to Xayla going on a god damn bender. The press had a fucking field day with that, especially when I had to pick her sorry ass up from the bar. Ryann had me take both Travis and Samuel with me, leaving her at the house alone. It was the only time I broke the rule of her being left alone, and it will be the only time I ever break that rule.
If it weren’t for Ryann threatening to withhold sex, I wouldn’t have budged. I knew I could handle whatever tsunami of a press crowd that had formed, but Ryann was terrified, and there was no convincing her either wise.
And I was beyond pissed when I found Xayla dancing on the bar and stripping for the whole fucking crowd to see. Everyone’s cellphones were out recording the show she had put on, and off in the corner were the fucking leeches, Ralph, and Shelia. And I knew right then and there where the drugs came from, and I also knew the certainty of her being given what she was guaranteed was a whomping one percent.
I was ready to start a fight. My fists have been itching to punch something other than the damn bag hanging from the ceiling of my garage, and Ralph’s face almost won that right. But lucky for his sorry ass, Samuel and Travis forced me to keep on task. We had to literally pull Xayla from the fucking bar top, and I had to carry her over my shoulder as she protested. Yelling and hollering, everything incoherent and coherent came flying out of her mouth.
Words that were nothing new coming from a high Xayla.
Of course, Xayla being Xayla, either doesn’t remember what happened or is choosing to ignore the embarrassment altogether. I, however, am pissed beyond belief. That was my first time stepping into a nightclub since my sobriety, and my skin was crawling and itching for a drink. My nostril flared with the familiar potent smell of sweat and spilled alcohol, causing my mouth to water. It sent a new appreciation for Ryann’s control and hold that she has on her sobriety because I’m not sure how she does it, how she’s able to curb this craving. Some days it’s not there at all, and others, it’s stronger than ever. It feels like a hold that could easily drown me if I allowed it.
It’s fucking maddening.
All of the damn thoughts and voices running through my head are telling me just one. It won’t hurt. All you need is one drink; you can stop at one. It’s enough to practically bring you crumpling down to your knees.
My saving grace?
A gorgeous woman with the most expressive hazel eyes I’ve ever seen. I can take one look, just one fucking look after a shit day, and I know my world is finally right. She knows what to say to make those damn fucking voices shut up.
Voices that are loud today. Every little thing is pissing me off. These damn questions, Xayla’s annoyingly chipper behavior that everything is perfectly fine when it’s not. It’s still far from fine for me.
Andrew has been playing peacekeeper, but he isn’t here for this interview. It’s just Xayla and me.
“Mr. Copeland, we’re ready for you on set.”
Looking up from my phone, I see one of the stage managers peeking his scrawny little head around the corner of the open dressing room door. Just one last interview, and I can go home. Go home to Ryann, and start packing for Vancouver. Another trip and interview I don’t want to do. Hell, I’d rather just forgo any and all interviews left. Come up with some excuse and bail.
“Coming,” Getting to my feet, I follow the stage manager down the hall as I pull up a text message to send to Ryann.
Heading into the last interview for the day. I’ll be home soon, babydoll. I love you and try not to hurt Travis during your self-defense lesson.
Today, her and Val are being taught some self-defense moves courtesy of Heather with the assistance of Jonathan and Travis. A decision that came easily after what happened. Catching movement from the corner of my eye, I see Samuel moving from the wall he perched himself on after needing to take a personal call.
Something I shouldn’t have allowed, but his phone kept ringing, and he kept ignoring the call and sending it straight to voicemail. If I were the old Thomas, I wouldn’t have given two shits. But I could tell by the look of concern; it could be serious. “Everything okay?”
I watch Samuel pocket his phone as he follows behind. “Ya, Emily has a fever.”
“Yes, sir. She’s four. My wife took her to the doctors, just a little cold.”
“Do you need to take the rest of the week off?”
“No, sir. Lea knows I’m on the job.....”
I’m not sure what’s come over me, but the thought of a sick child calling out for her daddy pops into my head and creates a ping of guilt. Samuel should be home with his child, with his wife. Not looking over me. “After this interview, you’ll take me home, and then you’re to go home. Be with your family and take the rest of the week off.”
“Travis will be with us. Ryann will not be leaving my side. Where I go, she’ll go. Travis has protected the both of us before, and the media seems more focused on the latest stunts that Xayla is pulling.” Samuel gives me a disapproval and knowing look. “Listen, I’ll talk with Travis, but if I had your family, I would be ditching this interview to be with them right now. Go, and we will see you when we get back from New York.”
Samuel nods his head just as we pass through the doorway that leads onto the set. Leaving him standing off in the back as he stands guard. On guard for what? I have no idea. Maybe to keep Xayla and me from getting into a possible fight during this interview.
Walking onto the stage, I’m immediately set up with a damn mic set before taking my seat. Cameras are positioned in almost every single fucking angle imaginable for this one. Usually, one lone chair is sitting across with one camera stationed somewhere behind it for the perfect view. This one has three, at various angles like they’re preparing for an exclusive scoop causing that annoying gut-churning twist that is warning me to leave. To bolt. That nothing good will come from this interview.
Rolling my eyes as the rest of the studio goes into a dead silence, I’m stuck watching a fucking high Xayla come skipping onto set and flop down into the seat next to me, taking my hand into hers. “Are you fucking high?” I spit as low and quietly as possible as the crew starts to set Xayla up with her own mic set.
She beams at me, “I took a pill or two. Chill. It’s just for the interview, Tommy.”
Glaring at her, “Fucking hell, Xayla. You need to leave before you do something stupid.”
She frowns at me, almost pouting her lips out as if I insulted her, “I will not. I didn’t take that many. Just enough to take the edge off. Plus, I’m bored, and I’m ready to party. Do you want to come?”
“No,” I bite out. “Ask me again, and I’ll make sure you go through one hell of a withdraw.”
“You’re a fucking dick sober.”
Leaning against the armrest of my chair, “I’m a dick no matter what.” I watch Xayla’s hands reach down for her heel, and I immediately lean down, stopping her from even acting on her thoughts. “I swear to god, Xayla. I cannot deal with another media shit storm. If you do this, Ryann will be pissed and worry more than what she does now. So, I’m begging you, if not for me, for Ryann. Just please, stop.” My last stitched effort in getting through this interview in one damn piece and with some form of my sanity still intact.
I’m not proud of using Ryann as a playing card, but I knew Xayla was done listening to me and was ready to make any type of scene she could possibly make. But Ryann, Xayla loves Ryann like a sister and is one of the only people Xayla has apologized to and kept a secret for.
Xayla swats my hand away before sitting back up and surrendering, “That’s not fair.”
Shrugging my shoulder, I catch the host making his way towards us. “Maybe not, but neither is your behavior.”
“Thomas. Xayla. I’m Shane, and I’ll be doing this interview today.” Shane says as he extends a hand. Xayla takes his hand with hers in her typical eagerness and skillfully hiding her high.
Taking his hand with mine, I give it a firm and hard shake. “Well, let’s get this started, shall we?”
Shane laughs a throaty laugh that is filled with a cocky confidence I already hate, “I think I’m supposed to say that, but yes, let’s get this started.”
Shane takes his set, and I watch him closely as he reaches over to the flimsy little table to the side of his chair and picks up a tablet.
A red flag.
Even with the high-tech world we live in today, most of the time, questions are still written down on cards or the interviewer’s cellphone. Not on large, screened tablets. This has turned into more than a promotional interview.
“How are you two doing?”
“Doing great,” Xayla answers for the both of us. Something I allow her to do because she’s more eager to talk than I ever am. “How are you doing, Shane? I don’t think you’ve ever interviewed us before.”
Shane beams a white smile that could blind a room with the lights off. He needs to lay off the do-it-yourself teeth whiting kits. “I don’t believe I have either. This would be a first.”
Xayla lets out a flirtatious laugh, “Consider us lucky, now ask away.”
Shane smiles as I watch him start to swipe through the tablet, and it’s then that I notice his fingers are slightly shaking. ”Behind Closed Doors. What can we expect from this movie and the connection from your characters? Fans what to know if there will be a love scene between the two of you.”
“Oh, let me tell you, Shane....”
I hear Xayla’s voice begin to answer before I daze off into a trance as I watch Shane swipe his finger across his tablet. Almost as if he’s not even paying attention to the question he just asked.
Deciding that I’m done waiting for whatever bombshell this guy thinks he’s gonna drop, “Is there a problem?” I cut in.
Shane looks startled by my question as he looks up from his tablet. The set around me goes even quieter. “No, no problem at all.”
Pointing at the device of distraction, “Because you seem more concerned with the device in your lap. Ask the question that you’re so nervously awaiting to ask.” I challenge.
The energy in the room is filled with a known tension, and I catch Xayla shift in her chair, readying herself for a fight. And Shane, well, his shit acting façade is now gone, and I can sense his ready need to strike.
“Ah, want me to just get to the point. Why would that be Mr. Copeland? Do you have somewhere else to be?”
Sitting straight in my chair. My shoulders tense as my hands grip the cheap wooden material armrests. “As a matter of fact, I do. I’m a busy man, and I can already tell this is a waste of my time.”
Shane lets out an amused laugh, “Busy is putting it lightly.” He says as he flips around his tablet. “Looks to me like your assistant is keeping you busy. You what? Comforting her in her time of healing and need?” He pauses, and I know he can sense he’s struck a nerve with the tick of my jaw. My teeth clenching and grinding together. “Ryann Anderson seems to be a very busy woman. I’m not sure what’s more troubling. Her past or....”
“This interview is over,” Xayla yells with the same vibrating rage that I’m feeling. “Alice, Samuel.” She commands as she pulls her microphone from her person.
“Oh, I’m sorry, Miss. Masterson. Do you and Ryann Anderson have a connection too? Is she the reason for your addiction?”
Xayla chucks her mic pack at Shane as he attempts to shield his face with the tablet in his hands. People on set are suddenly scrambling, and I hear someone yell for security. “Fuck you. You wanna talk about my addiction, fine. I pop pills. Congratulation, you cracked a story that all of fucking Hollywood already knows. Would you like your Daytime Emmy now?”
Reaching for Xayla’s arm, I attempt to pull her offset. I know the heels are about to come off, and I’m one second away from tackling this fucker. And if he doesn’t put his fucking tablet down and the photo of Ryann and me away, I’m going to start by shattering his tablet over his head. I’m not sure how he even nabbed this photo or where he got it. It’s a photo that was snapped of us when we were in New York walking back to our hotel. At times, we were careless as our fingers grazed one another, and this photo shows us holding hands. We have wistful and in love smiles across our faces, and we’re gazing longingly into each other’s eyes. If I had an ounce of what could be considered a typical job, we’d look like two ordinary people madly in love. But instead, we’re two people trying to hide their newfound relationship and fly under the radar.
“This photo was captured almost six months ago. How long have the two of you been a thing? Or is this an employee with benefits? A fuck buddy? Maybe even a side piece?”
Instead of me pulling Xayla out of this studio, it is her pulling me back as I take a step closer towards the pompous ass of an interviewer. I watch Shane fall backwards over his own two feet in a sad attempt to get away. I’m raging pissed. The need to protect Ryann from this fucking clown is drowning out any reasonable and rational thoughts of control.
“Mr. Copeland,” I feel Samuels hand at my arm, pulling me offset as a frantic Alice with Xayla’s team comes barreling to haul her offset too.
Everything is chaotic and loud as additional security shows up and ends up putting a much-needed distance between Shane and me. But that doesn’t stop him from getting nailed in the head by a bright red high-heeled shoe.
“Arrest her for assault,” Shane yells. “She just threw her fucking shoe at me.”
As I’m forcefully guided offset, and out of this fucking studio, I hear Xayla let out a menacing and challenging laugh. And she has every right to laugh because she knows that the studio will come down hard on Media Inc. for going off fucking script and diverting from the approved questions. Shane will be without a job soon, and Media Inc. will be without an interview.
“Get off me,” I bark as I shrug out of Samuel’s hold on my arm. My hands shot into my hair at the thought of Shane’s words. Is she a side piece, a fuck buddy....
I can barely contain my rage as I suddenly turn on my heels and attempt to barrel my way back onto set to finish what I never started. But I’m immediately turned back around and forced further down the hall. It’s like the strong man as I’m violently shoved and pushed down the hall. “Thomas, you can not go back in there and fight Shane.”
“I can and will. Now let go of me, or I’ll fire you.” I spit out with intimidation. I know my demand is empty. I’m not going to fire Samuel, and he knows it.
“Fine, I have other jobs waiting for me,” he tells me. His threat sends me back to the very first day Ryann started. She gave me the same threat, and it was a fiery and confident threat at that. The memory of Ryann standing tall and assured is enough to pull me from my ferocity and forces me to realize that I need to leave before I do something fucking stupid.
Shane may have provoked me today, but he’s not the source for this outlet that I need to release. That is being reserved for two very special people. The question left, which one will be the first lucky recipient?