I woke up to a pounding head. I looked at the sun streaming through the slight gap in the curtains and winced. I looked around and didn’t recognize anything. I decided now wasn’t a good time to stress about it and I snuggled back into the blankets. When I realized it wasn’t just a blanket I sat bolt upright. I wasn’t alone in the bed. Quite the contrary, in fact. There were three other people in bed with me.
I looked at my bed mates and saw Fiore, Xavier and Hewitt. What happened last night?
I shook Fiore lightly and she didn’t budge, so I shook her violently until she groaned.
“Fiore!” I hissed.
“What?” she groaned again.
“Because we’re in a bed, I don’t remember how we got here.”
Fiore groaned as she opened one bleary eye at me. “Fine, but I need a cigarette if we’re going to be doing this. Actually, I really do need to get up. I have business to attend to.”
“What? Why can’t I remember last night?”
Fiore sighed and gave me a sympathetic look as she got out of bed, careful not to disturb the boys and she pulled me with her. “First caffeine then answers. Now go through my wardrobe, anything you like, it’s yours.”
“So, we’re in your house?”
“One of them. Now, I need to fetch Kenneth and I have places to be.”
“Fiore, why can’t I remember last night?”
Fiore thought for a moment. “You shared a few drinks with me, didn’t you?”
“Um, I don’t know? Probably?”
Fiore nodded. “Right, bad trip. I was a naughty girl last night and had all sorts of fun. If it was your first trip, that would explain it.”
“What did I take?”
“There’s no telling, Hewitt finds the best stuff though. Now, let’s get a move on.”
In no time I was wearing a pair of black dress slacks with heels and turquoise halter top.
“Oh my god! I love that!”
I looked over my shoulder and remembered my tattoo. “Oh right, I keep forgetting. I have to keep it covered. James still doesn’t know I have it.”
“That’s awesome!” Fiore showed me her wrist. “I had a little one here, just a little one, but no, as soon as my father found out he made me get it removed.” Fiore gave me a sideways glance. “But he doesn’t know about this one.” Fiore pulled down the lining of her pants to reveal a small zebra print tattoo on her hip bone. “And I have no intention of him ever finding out.
I laughed. “Of course.”
“Here.” She handed me a flared out cream colored blazer. “Now, I have places to be. We have duties to perform. That boy giving you trouble, what is his name?”
I froze. I’d almost forgotten about Chase and his threat. I took a deep breath and tried to focus. I had to figure out what I was going to do.
Chase had a video of…us and I had to figure out a way to deal with this.
The more I thought about it, the more I realized I really only had one option. Chase could be pacified, but if things didn’t go his way, things would get ugly and fast. I knew what I was going to do.
I shook my head. “Let’s think about it later.” I dismissed.
“If you prefer. I’m famished. How about you?”
I nodded. “Sure.”
Fiore called for Kenneth and told him to have lunch prepared. It wasn’t long before Xavier and Hewitt joined us downstairs.
Hewitt smiled as soon as he saw Fiore. He walked up and gave her a kiss on the cheek and she tensed. “Good morning, beautiful.”
“Um Hewitt, we’re going to have to have a little talk.” Fiore warned.
Hewitt’s eyes were suddenly guarded. “Okay.”
Fiore looked between Xavier and myself and sighed. “Now’s as good a time as any, I suppose. Hewitt, let’s go take a nice long ride. I haven’t gotten to ride Gorgon yet. You are welcome to anything you like, just ask the servants.” Fiore cooed. “Come along, Hewitt.”
I watched as Fiore sauntered out of the room with Hewitt trailing behind her like an obedient puppy. I sighed and looked over at Xavier. “How are you feeling?”
“Well enough, I suppose. And you? You were a bit out of sorts last night.”
“Yeah, I’m sorry about that.” I felt myself flush. “I don’t really remember last night, at least not after most of the guests left.”
Xavier was thoughtful for a moment and pursed his lips. “I see. What do you remember?”
“Basically up until I accidentally drugged myself sipping Fiore’s drink.”
“Ah.” Xavier nodded. “Not to worry. You didn’t do anything wrong or embarrassing.”
“I just don’t like having gaps in my memory.”
“Not many people do.”
I nodded. “Do you remember all of last night?”
Xavier gave a snort of laughter. “Yes Juliet, I do. Unlike you, I didn’t partake in the same festivities you did.”
“So you remember what happened with the whole, well, the whole Chase thing?” Xavier’s jaw clenched and a fierce tension was visible through his shoulder as soon as I mentioned Chase’s name. “So, I’ll take that as a yes? I’ve made my decision.” Xavier looked at me quiet puzzlement on his face. “I’m going to play his game, at least for now.”
“You’re what?” Xavier hissed, disbelief on his face.
“I don’t want to embarrass anyone. He’s not bluffing. I don’t see a way around it. Besides, he doesn’t want me, he just wants the fame. It shouldn’t be long before he’s found something new to amuse himself with. It won’t be long before he’s just a really bad memory.”
“Juliet, let’s be reasonable.”
“I am being reasonable. If I don’t play along, he will release that tape. He’s right. Regardless of whether or not it’s illegal or if I agreed to it or not, it will still be out there. The paparazzi will eat that up. There’s nothing that will stop it once it’s released. This is just the sort of thing they want. If I play his game until he gets bored, he won’t release the tape.”
“Do you honestly believe someone like this is trustworthy?”
I shook my head. “No, I’m not that stupid. He’ll totally throw my under the bus if it suits his fancy. I already know this. But I also know Chase.”
“Xavier, I’ve made my mind up. The last thing I need is another scandal. I won’t embarrass my father again, I won’t embarrass my family and more that I already have. I may be a laughing stock to the world, but at least they haven’t seen that.”
Xavier sighed and rubbed his eyes. “Juliet, we can fix this. I will find a way to fix this.”
I walked over and stared him in the eye. “Xavier, I am fixing this. Once I get that tape, this is over. All he wants is a taste of this so called game I’ve accumulated. Chase may be a complete asshole, but he’s easy to appease. It doesn’t take much to satisfy him. He’ll get bored soon.”
Xavier shook his head. “I don’t want to see you get hurt.”
“How will I get hurt?”
“He’s already hurt you.”
“Xavier, it’s not like I’m actually going to date him.”
“You’re so naive.” Xavier shook his head. “I would advise speaking first with your father - ”
“No!” I cut him off. “No, absolutely not!” There was zero chance I was going to tell my father there was a sex tape of me out there somewhere. He already questioned my morals and judgement enough as it is, there was no need to add fuel to the fire or add to my own embarrassment and humiliation. “There is no way in hell that is happened. Do I make myself clear? If James found out, I’ll know who told him, and you’ll deal with me.”
Xavier looked angry with my decision, and it almost frightened me, but there was no way I was backing down. This was my mess. I was going to fix it.
Xavier and I stared each other down for a long moment before he relented with a sigh. “Very well, Juliet. If this is how you feel you have to fight this, I will support you. I will help you.”
Relief washed over me. “Thank you, Xavier.”
“Juliet, if you’ll excuse me, I have some work to do.” Xavier bowed himself out and retreated to the room Fiore had allotted us. I watched him go. I didn’t know what else to say.
I knew what I was going to do, trouble was going to be in keeping it clean and quiet. I knew I just needed to bide my time. Sure enough, Chase called me on the third day.
“Hello Jules.” He purred in that voice that made me want to vomit.
“How did you get this number?”
“Same way I found you. I have resources.”
“Great. Get to the point.”
“Have you made your decision?”
“There will be ground rules if we agree to this.”
“The entire this is a charade, it’s an act, all of it. You understand that, right? I will play nice in public, especially if we know there’s cameras, but I have no intention of actually dating you.”
“Of course not.”
“So long as we’re clear. And there are limits. There are things that I simply will not allow.”
“And if anyone sees, finds out about, or gets a hold of that tape, you understand how fucked your world will be, right?”
“Come on, Jules. Aren’t I a man of my word?”
“Ouch.” I could hear the smirk in his voice. I really hated his arrogant ass.
“I mean it, Chase. I will fuck your world up. Got that?”
“Alright, Juliet. I hear you. Now, when are we going to start this?”
“I need a little time to get things sorted. Go back to the states, I’ll let you know when you can make it public. Got it?”
“Alright, but I want exact dates in a week, Jules. Sweet dreams”
I hung up as I shivered. I had no desire to ever see that piss-poor excuse of a human being again. I really did hate him. I shook my head as I put my phone away.
Xavier came and found me a few hours later. He’d arranged for us to discretely head back. Xavier hadn’t pressed the issue with me any more and I was about finished talking about it anyway. I didn’t really want to think about it, much less talk about it. It was going to be a miserable experience either way.
I managed to keep Chase waiting. He wouldn’t wait forever, but I told him if he wanted this to happen it would require a lot of work on my part. He was understanding for the most part, but after three weeks, he was getting impatient and I was back at Eastgate Estate. I had kept to myself and avoided Angelica and Millie as much as possible. When I couldn’t, I’d done my best to be as polite as I could be. They seemed to appreciate that I wasn’t ‘in their way’ and we’re almost cordial, almost. James was his usual self, he’d taken to going for a long ride with me at least every other day. It was pleasant enough and we were getting to know one another, but it didn’t change the fact that I still felt like I didn’t belong here.
I knew now what I was going to do and how I was going to do it.
I packed a bag with the essentials, just enough for a carry on and snuck out through the servants’ passageways. I hailed a cab and asked to be taken to the airport. The driver hadn’t noticed me. When I got there I changed into a blue sundress that I hoped my family would approve of if it got splashed across the tabloids. I then purchased my ticket and I waited. It was only a few hours before I was on a plane on its way to New York. Twenty-seven hours, three connecting flights, and four outfit changes later I was in my friend, Amanda’s car, with her son, Maverick sound asleep in his carseat. I was back.
I explained what had happened with Chase.
“Chase has what?” she whisper-yelled.
“Yeah, I know, right?”
“Oh just you wait! I’ll kill him.”
“There’s a line for that, you know.” I smiled. God I’d missed this girl. She was one of the only real friend that I had and could count on. She’d helped me more than I could ever help her.
“By the way, Loki has missed you like crazy. He’s been mopey the entire time you’ve been gone.”
“I missed him too.”
We chatted the whole way home. It felt like no time had passed between us. This is part of why I loved this girl. When we finally got home, I couldn’t sleep. I would have to readjust back to this timezone. I glanced at the clock and it was just after five am. I knew what that meant.
Within ten minutes I’d thrown on a swimsuit and rash guard loaded up my surfboard and Loki and we were on our way to the beach. Loki loved the beach as much as I did and it just felt natural to have the sand between my toes again. I took a long,deep breath of the salty air and felt the smile spread across my face.
This was home.
I was home.