My throat was try as I stared into the icy blue eyes I had once loved. “How are you here?”
I saw that smile I knew all too well spread across his lips. “You know you missed me, Jules.”
I shook my head. “What are you doing here?”
“Come on, baby. Don’t act like you didn’t miss me.”
“I didn’t miss you, Chase. Why are you here?” I repeated. I felt my anger bubbling up. He knew how to press my buttons. If I wasn’t careful, he was going to make me do something stupid.
Chase smiled again. I knew that smile. I’d fallen for it when I was a stupid freshman. Back when I thought that smile was charming and genuine. Now I knew that smile meant he wanted something. “Jules, just admit you missed me.”
“I’m much happier without you in my life, thank you very much.”
“I find that hard to believe. You were only happy when I made time for you.”
“I don’t have time for losers in my life anymore. That means I don’t have time for you, Chase.”
“You will make time for me.” Chase replied, his tone confident but flat. Like when you’re telling a toddler what they’re going to do.
“Why would I do that?”
“Because I have something you don’t want the world to see.”
I narrowed my eyes. “What could you possibly have?”
Chase’s smile turned to a smirk. “You didn’t know this, but I like to keep things interesting in the bedroom. Sometimes I like to watch to improve my a-game.” I felt the color drain from my cheeks and the world started to feel off balanced.
“I recorded us, on video.” Chase grinned with a confident dare.
I wanted to throw up. “Without my permission?” I choked out. This felt like so much of a violation.
“Technicalities, besides, you would have said no.”
He was damn skippy about that! There is no way I would agree to that. Intimate moments should be kept intimate. How could he have done that?
“That’s illegal.” I pointed out.
“And? Not the first time either of us has broken the law, is it?”
“What are you planning on doing with that?”
“Depends on you. If you do what I want, I’ll give it to you. If you don’t, well then I’ll just go to the paparazzi. You’re everyone’s favorite topic right now. You’re basically America’s lost princess. And let’s face it, no one is going to care if you agreed or not. All they’ll care about is the fact that it be out there for the whole world to see. We both know that once it belongs to the internet, it’s never going away.”
I felt like I’d been punched in the gut and all the air had been knocked out of me. How could someone be so evil? What had I ever done to him? “What do you want?” I asked as I covered my face with my hand. I felt the tears coming, and I didn’t want him to see. This was bad. Very bad.
“I want to slingshot off your new found fame. See, my music career isn’t where I want it to be right now. I don’t have the fame I want. But…” Chase’s eyes met mind and he gave me a pointed look. “If the new found, illegitimate daughter of a duke and America’s little princess, her boyfriend’s band gets an awful lot of attention by default. I want that. This is a big decision. I’ll give you some time to think about it. You have seventy-two hours. I will get a hold of you. Good night, Jules, it’s always a pleasure.”
I felt my knees go weak as he sauntered off. I let myself fall to the ground feeling number. Oh dear god…What was I going to do?
“Juliet?” I heard Xavier calling for me from behind, but it felt like I was underwater. Hearing, but not. “Juliet? What’s going on ?”
I was staring at the spot where Chase had stood minutes ago. How had he found me? How could he do that to me? After all that he had already put me through? Now this too? He was…evil. There was no other word.
Someone touched my shoulder and I jumped. I looked up to see Xavier’s worried face.
“Juliet? What’s the matter?”
I wrapped my arms around myself and felt the tears come.
“Juliet? What’s happened?” Xavier
I couldn’t make an intelligent sound, I just threw myself at Xavier and sobbed into his shoulder. He caught me and shushed me. He rubbed my back and soothed me as I was borderline hysterical.
“Juliet? Xavier? What’s going on?”
“I’m not sure.” Xavier replied as he let me sob into his shoulder. “Something happened, but she hasn’t told me.”
“Juliet?” I felt someone pulling me from Xavier and I saw Raleigh. “What is it?”
I shook my head. “It’s stupid. I - I just need a minute.” I pushed away from both of them and started running.
“Juliet!” Xavier shouted. I knew he was coming after me. I stopped and yanked off my heels and started sprinting. The fear and adrenaline the only thing that kept my legs moving.
I ran until I didn’t have feeling in my legs anymore and I let myself slow down.
“Juliet!” Xavier panted as he caught up. “What is the meaning of this? What happened? What is going on?”
My chest felt like it was on fire and I let myself sink to the ground. I was fighting to breathe and I just stared up at him.
“Juliet, you can talk to me. Whatever it is, you can tell me.”
I shook my head. I couldn’t believe the mess I was in.
“Yes, you can.”
I shook my head again.
“Juliet,” Xavier soothed as he kneeled down beside me. “I’ve never seen you like this. It worries me. Talk to me. Say something.”
I pulled my knees up to my chest and wrapped my arms around them. Xavier sighed and sat next to me. He wrapped a tentative arm across my hunched shoulders.
“Whenever you’re ready I’m here.”
We sat there for I don’t know how long before I was able to find my voice, and even then, it sounded hollow. “I’m in trouble.”
“What do you mean?”
“I’m in trouble.”
“Juliet, I don’t understand.”
“There’s a video of me…” I gutted and lowered my face to my knees as I felt a fresh stream of tears start to flow.
“Of me and my ex.”
I heard Xavier intake a sharp breath. “Oh…”
“I didn’t agree to it!” I defended quickly.
I felt Xavier shaking beside me.
“He found me. He threatened to give it to the paparazzi.”
I finally looked at Xavier and the blatant rage on his face frightened me.
“Please don’t be mad at me.” I sounded pathetic and I hated myself in that moment.
Xavier’s face softened and he looked shocked by the statement. “Why would I be mad at you?”
“I don’t know…I just, kind of feel like it’s my fault, somehow.”
Xavier gave me a reassuring smile. “Don’t blame yourself, this is in no way, whatsoever, your fault. Are you ready to go back?”
I shook my head. “No, but if we’re gone too long there will be a problem.” I stood up and my legs felt like jelly. If Xavier hadn’t caught me, I would have fallen.
“Come here.” Xavier soothed as he scooped me up.
He carried me back through the brush back to the party and he set me down just inside the tree line.
“Let’s get these shoes back on. I’ll be right back, okay?”
I nodded and minutes later he returned back with Fiore by his side. She quickly fixed my makeup and kept making me laugh.
“Now darling, Xavier has explained some of the situation to me. Give me the name of the tosser who thinks he can do this and I will make sure no one will accept his tape. I control the media and if they want a job, they obey me.”
I gave her a weak smile. “We’ll figure it out later. Tonight there are more important things to worry about.”
“So you know about it too then?” Fiore asked with a wink.
I nodded. “I helped set it up.”
“Aww, I love weddings.” Fiore sang. “We’ll figure all of this out tomorrow.”
After Fiore made me look good as new, she and I returned to the party. It was a wonderful night full of dancing. We all watched as Ian led Lana out. I was so excited I couldn’t wait for them to come back in. I think Fiore and Christine were the loudest. Greg’s jovial laughter at Christine’s enthusiasm was enough to make everyone else smile. Once it started to quiet down I saw him steal quick kiss, which made her blush the shade of her dress. I started to laugh until an arm snaked its way around my waist. I turned to see Raleigh and I spun out of his arms.
“I don’t think so.” I shook my head.
“Why not?” He asked, a coy smile on his face.
“Because I said so. When a lady says no, a gentleman listens and respects it.”
Raleigh let out a charming laugh. “I can’t believe you just quoted etiquette to me.”
“And what, pray tell, is that supposed to mean?” I asked, trying to sound as offended and haughty as possible.
“That you are just full of surprises. I can’t wait to see what else you have in store for me.” Raleigh tried to kiss me on the cheek and I shoved him away.
“Stop it! I am not interested!” I snapped. I was getting real tired of his shit.
“Can we talk outside for a moment then?”
I sighed. “Depends. Are you going to try anything?”
“My word as a gentleman.”
“Mhmm.” I hummed as I rolled my eyes and pursed my lips.
“If no one is around and I do something inappropriate, no one can stop you from hitting me. And I already know what one of your punches feel like.”
I stared at him for a long moment as I debated whether I could deal with any more tonight and sighed as I realized he was probably being sincere. “Alright, give me ten minutes. I have a cousin and friend to congratulate.” I pushed away from Raleigh and made my way over to the happy couple.
“Congratulations.” Xavier beamed as he pulled Lana into a hug.
“Thank you, I can honestly say that I didn’t see any of this happening when I took the job.” Lana blushed and Xavier chuckled.
“Well, I’m sure it was a good surprise.”
“Congrats Lana. I knew you two would end up together.
“Oh really?” Xavier asked, as he gave me a pointed look.
“Of course.” I replied as I gave him my own look in return, daring him to call me a liar. I needed an argument right about now anyway.
“Thank you both. I’m just surprised everyone else knew before me.. I have no idea how this clown kept it from me.” Lana laughed as she pointed to Ian.
“Like I’ve said, I’m a ninja.” Ian grinned as his arms wrapped around Lana’s waist.
“I’ll treasure these moments the rest of my life.” She sighed. I couldn’t help by laugh.
I felt a tap on my should and turned to see Raleigh. Who else? He had to spoil the moment for me. “It’s been ten minutes.”
I rolled my eyes. “If you’ll excuse me.” I followed him out of the tent and crossed my arms. “Well? What do you want?”
Raleigh started at me for a long moment. “Something is different with you this time.”
“You seem genuinely angry with me. You were not happy with me the last time we saw each other, but you weren’t this way. So I feel like I need to ask the same question; who are you with?”
“No one has your heart?”
“No. I just don’t like the fact that you’re trying to bully me into liking you. In fact, that really pisses me off.”
“So it’s not someone else?” Raleigh asked, a skeptical look etched into his features.
“What? I just don’t like you.”
“I can see what’s going on.”
“Oh? Well then, please enlighten me.”
Raleigh gave me a sideways smirk. “There is someone, but you haven’t realized how you feel about them.”
I raised an eyebrow. “If I liked someone, would I know that?”
Raleigh let out a low chuckle. “God, I wish it was me.”
“Raleigh, you’re crazy.”
“May I have a kiss on the cheek?”
“No. I told you no funny business.”
“I know now that someone else already has your heart, even if you don’t. It would be friendly, not romantic.”
“I don’t care. The answer is still no.”
“I’d like your friendship if nothing else.”
“Raleigh, I still don’t know what you’re going on about.”
“That’s okay.” Raleigh took my hand in both of his and laid a gentle kiss on the back of it. “You’re going to make someone one hell of a wife someday.”
“What? Can you get any weirder? How that subject just come up?”
Raleigh laughed and shook his head. “Let’s go back in there and have some fun.”
The first thing I did once I got inside was see Fiore out.
“Hello gorgeous.” She smiled as she spun off her dance partner’s arm. “How are you?”
“Raleigh. I don’t know if he’s crazy or what.”
“It’s possible. Then again, aren’t we all crazy people?”
“Don’t go all philosophical on me, Fiore. I need you.”
“What you need is another drink. Hewitt, darling, go fetch us several of whatever.” I saw a boy, who I could only imagine was Hewitt go off with a smile.
“Weren’t you listening? That’s Hewitt.”
“Who is he to you?”
“Not sure.” Fiore sighed. “He’s cute, a good kisser and all, but I’m not sure how I feel about him.” Fiore gave me a sideways glance. “Only time will tell. Now, come, tell me all about what’s troubling you.”
“Raleigh just confused the shit out of me.”
“How? He’s not that bright.”
“He said something about me liking someone and not knowing and wishing it was him, and then he said we’re just friends and there’s nothing romantic, and then he said something about me being one hell of a wife and now I’m just confused.” I blurted out.
Fiore stared for a moment then a coy smile played across her lips. “And?”
“What have we learned?”
Fiore’s smile widened. “I see…and here comes Hewitt. This is what you have to do. I want you to drink.” She handed me a glass. I took a sip and she shook her head. “Finish it.” I downed the drink and looked at her. She handed me another. “And repeat.” We did that for all three of the drink she ordered Hewitt to bring three more. “And you’ll finish those just the same and things will become clear by the end of the night.”
“Fiore, you want me to get drunk?”
“Very much so.”
“I need someone to cuddle with.” She teased with a smirk.
“Trust me, darling. Just do it. Now, dance with me.” Fiore spun round and round with me until Hewitt came back. Then she handed me the drinks and twirled off with Hewitt. I sighed but figured maybe Fiore just might know what she was doing. I downed the drinks and went to go sit. I was relieved when Xavier was the one sitting next to me.
“How are you feeling?”
“I’m dealing.” I sighed.
“You are truly extraordinary. Most people would have cracked under the pressure of what life has thrown at you, and yet, here you are, brilliant as ever.
“Really? You don’t think I’ve royally screwed up?”
“You’ve made mistakes, but who hasn’t?”
“Xavier spare me.”
“What do you mean, Juliet?”
“I don’t need a little pep talk. I know I’ve made everyone’s life more complicated by the simple fact that I exist. Don’t lie and say I haven’t.”
Xavier seemed to be fighting with himself. “Juliet, we’ll talk about this later.”
“What is there to talk about?”
“Your aunt and uncle are coming. It’s getting late, they’re probably about to leave. Say goodnight.”
He was right. Sure enough, my Aunt Cassie and Uncle Henry were coming this way.
“Juliet, you look lovely tonight. I’m sorry I wasn’t able to come see you sooner.”
“It’s alright, Aunt Cassie.” I smiled. “It’s nice to really meet you in person, um, I’m not quite sure what you call you. But I did want to apologize for how I acted when I first got here.”
I watched as my uncle’s lips pursed and annoyance darted across his features for a moment before he sighed. “That was unfortunate. There is not grudge, but I’m glad your more recent behavior shows a more flattering image of our family.”
“I’m trying. I don’t want to be an embarrassment.”
“You aren’t, child.” Aunt Cassie assured me. “Well. it’s getting late. Henry and I are going to retire for the evening. You enjoy yourself.” Cassie pulled me into a hug and Xavier shook Henry’s hand and we waved goodnight to them. I looked around and most of the guests were now gone.
“It’s time.” I heard Anise coo to Chad, who was looking quite pleased with her perched on his lap. Anise got up and ran over to Hewitt. “Baby brother, it’s time.”
I watched Anise run over to Fiore who beamed and followed her out. Minutes later they held armfuls of liquor. This was my kind of party now.
I walked over and Fiore handed me a bottle of my own. “A little birdie told me you like this.”
I felt a grin spreading across my face. “How did you-”
Fiore shook her head. “I know everything.”
Anise nodded. “She really does. It’s a little frightening. I have drinks to hand out. Hewitt, keep your shit out of everyone’s drinks unless they ask for it. Got it?”
“What? I’m just trying to have a little fun.”
Oh yes, now it was a party.