Chapter One - Scarlett
From the moment I was born I was thrust into the limelight. My mother was a rock star in her prime, and my father was, and still is the CEO of the most prestigious talent agency. I would be lying if I said it had been easy. High school had been horrible for a multitude of reasons, but my inherited notoriety was what really did it for me. I couldn’t walk down the street without being harassed by strangers with cameras, but not only that, people I had trusted used me, abused me, and then spat me out like I was nothing. From a young age I had known I had to escape from the limelight if I wanted to feel at peace. High school cemented that notion. I lied about my passions and suppressed them so deep until even I believed it. I studied early childhood education, and found a job as a preschool teacher. Moved to the suburbs and pretended I wasn’t a Jackson. After a while, life seemed normal. Normal in that I’m 24 I live alone in a small 2 bedroom house with four cats, no prospective boyfriends, Oh and I’m still very much a virgin.
But still my past haunted me. Xavier was a ‘family friend’ we were same age, born only hours apart. Ever since we were 13, he had tormented me for no other reason, but his enjoyment. I had hated it, but yet he wasn’t worst thing about those torturous four years. The Use/Abuse/Spit team had done something so despicable, so morally corrupt, that it alone had forced me into a hermit like life, after graduation not only had I yearned to be normal, I had yearned to be invisible. Yet still, I had thought about it every day for the last 5 years.
Xavier’s return only magnified the feelings and memories of high school, even though his torment had been different, bearable even. I despised him, and what he represented, but I had never been able to bring myself to hate him.
This was supposed to be a celebratory dinner for him. A ‘Patchwork’ family member, returning from Business College to plunder my father’s life work into the ground.
There was a knock at the door, and the guest of honor was supposed to have arrived, but someone unexpected walked in. One look at our visitor and I wasn’t transported back to my high school years; rather to my college years, and it was like a real life poster stood in front of me. It wasn’t Xavier. He was tall, taller than I had expected. His arms were adorned with the beautiful art I’d spent hours admiring while watching music videos, he wore the same staple black jeans and t-shirt he always wore, and his long dark hair was down, half covering his face like it always did. I wasn’t about to argue, Vax was a considerable step up from Xavier, but it begged the question; why the hell was Vax from my favorite band ‘Going Nowhere’ in my parents kitchen with my family?
“Surprise.” He said with a shrug, pulling his hair back off his face. He looked directly at me and a smirk washed across his lips. His hazel eyes glinted with something I couldn’t decipher. I could feel my heart beginning to speed up, and my temperature felt like it was rising.
“Xavier,” Janie exclaimed her tone incredulous. She stepped forward and touched his cheek. “I don’t understand.”
Whoa, Xavier? I reeled back in shock. Why was I looking at Vax when Janie was calling the exact same person Xavier? The Xavier who had tormented me. I knew Xavier, and Xavier didn’t look like this. Yes he was moody, yes he only wore black… but…
The more I took him in, the more I realized he did look like this. It was Xavier. I wasn’t sure how had I missed the similarities in his almond shaped hazel eyes? Sure he was older now, his skin was decorated with ink and his face was covered with a light smattering of stubble, but it didn’t seem a reasonable enough excuse. It had been enough to trick me, and now as I looked at him I couldn’t help but feel foolish.
“I wanted to tell you Mom, but... well.” He looked at Marc and his eyes steeled. He was angry and I was mortified to find it sexy. I shook my head, still struggling to work out what the hell was going on. Xavier had made my life hell in high school. He’d called me fake and had tagged my locker, he’d played a video of me dancing badly at a Christmas party on the school website. He had been a jerk.
He wasn’t Vax. This was just a prank.
“Xavier... What’s going on?” Marc boomed, clearly not caring about audience he had. The room was filled with other patchwork family members, each and every one of them as shocked as the other.
“You wanted me to get educated, you wanted me to run your business! I didn’t want to. I wanted to play music!” Xavier pulled a rolling stones magazine from his back pocket and slammed it down on the bench. “You told me I was dreaming. A man in charge of finding new talent told me I was better off getting a 9 to 5 job. You were wrong! And this proves it.”
Marc didn’t say anything else. Janie hugged Xavier, he seemed surprised by the gesture, but returned the hug none the less.
After that everyone except Marc and I seemed to accept this new development, like their worlds hadn’t crumbled beneath them like chalk. How could I not have recognized him? I couldn’t accept this. I wouldn’t.
Isla, her sister Grace and their parents Amelia and Josh arrived shortly after the awkward encounter. Isla and I grew close when I started college. She was studying photography and saw me under a tree alone. We’d hung out before because our families were close, but she went to a different high school, so we didn’t really talk much.
College was different however, and with her I felt free to be whoever I was. I told her about high school, she knew most of it anyway because her parents had filled her in and she quickly became my best friend. One I knew I could trust. But she knew about Xavier too, the only person I’d ever told. So while her parents Amelia and Josh spent the next five minutes gushing over Xavier and how surprised and impressed they were, Isla walked over to me and slung her arm over my shoulder.
“This is actually happening isn’t it?” Isla gasped, her tone was amused, she knew about my gigantic crush on Vax, and my gigantic dislike of Xavier.
“Kill me. Please.” I groaned, wishing I’d said no to this stupid dinner after all. It was hopeless though, I was stuck here.
“Maybe he’s changed.” Isla suggested shrugging her shoulders. “He sure looks different.”
He did look different, but now I couldn’t understand how I hadn’t seen that Vax was Xavier before. When his hair was off his face all I could see was Xavier. Even I couldn’t deny that Xavier had always been good looking, but he’d spent so much of his youth scowling that I’d barely even noticed it.
He wasn’t scowling now, he was smiling as he spoke to my Dad about his last tour of the country. My stomach flipped as I watched him speak, and butterflies began flitting through me. I shook my head, realizing what was happening and just how absurd it was. It was how I’d felt when I’d looked at posters of Vax or music videos, how I’d felt when I’d fantasized about him. My face blushed. I could feel the heat radiating from my face. I couldn’t feel this way about him now that it was clear Vax was Xavier. I had to kill it.
I cleared my throat and shrugged Isla’s arm from my shoulder. “I uh… I need a moment.” I said excusing myself.
I ran up the wooden staircase like I had many times before, usually because of Xavier, but never because he made me flustered. I walked into the pristine white bathroom, the minimalist décor combined with the brightness of white on white forced me to wake up ever so slightly. I closed the door behind me and leaned up against the white and light grey streaked marble vanity. I looked at myself in the mirror, my blue eyes glistened with want, my lips sat slightly opened, because under the current pressure just breathing through my nose wasn’t enough. The blush of my realization was still very evident on my face. I was a hot mess, turned inside out by a boy who I didn’t like, and a rock star who I did.
“Get a hold of yourself Jackson.” I groaned as I turned on the cold tap. I splashed the water on my face and felt the inappropriate thoughts drain away.
My attempts at cooling myself down were short lived. When I turned around to leave, the door opened and Vax... Xavier walked in. He closed the door behind him and leaned against it.
“Could you knock next time?” I scathed, annoyed.
“Enjoying the view, Scarab.” He teased me and ignored my question, but at least he wasn’t scowling, in fact his lips looked entirely kissable. What was I thinking! I frowned, he’d called me Scarab. My Dad’s nickname for me.
It was a step up from Dung Beetle., the name he’d given me when we were growing up, so I chose to let it go. I stepped toward the door hoping Xavier would move, but he didn’t.
“Come on Xavier. Let me out.” I pleaded, the temperature was beginning to rise again, and I had to escape before I did something stupid. Something I’d regret.
Xavier shook his head, he took advantage of our closeness and grabbed me by the hips. My breathing hitched in my throat and I wondered how on earth I was going to get out of here without looking like a complete idiot.
“Your Mom said you used to blast ‘Going Nowhere’.” He murmured, his voice was low and seductive. I couldn’t compute what was happening. Why was he touching me and why wasn’t I stopping him. I nodded, I still blasted the band’s music, although maybe this new development would change that. All the lyrics had suddenly lost meaning to me. At least that was what I was telling myself.
“I bet you liked me.” He crooned, trailing a hand up my stomach, then over the curve of my breast. I shook my head, afraid to speak in case the lie revealed itself. “I bet you thought about me when you made love to your bookish boyfriends.”
I shook my head again, but I was being honest now. I hadn’t. Mainly because I hadn’t had a boyfriend since Ryan, and I hadn’t made love. Ever.
I had thought of him… of Vax, as I taken myself to the brink and back, but he didn’t need to know that. Hell… I didn’t even want to know that anymore.
His eyes narrowed and he let out a small chuckle then put both hands back on my hips, and before I could react he spun me around until I was the one against the door.
“I see that look in your eye.” He whispered, as he moved closer to me. “I know you want me.”
God, I hated that he was right. I did want him, or maybe I just wanted Vax. But I hated how sure of himself he was. He pressed his lips to my neck, and I bit back a moan. I forced myself to see clarity through the insanity, to watch what was happening from a bird’s eye view. Xavier was treating me like a groupie. He had me in a bathroom, melting beneath his hands, and if I’d given him half a chance he would have taken me on the vanity.
I wasn’t anyone’s groupie, and I certainly wasn’t about to give it up to Xavier Smith in a bathroom. I wanted my first time to be special, and preferably with someone I actually liked. Not with Xavier.
I pushed him away, then slapped him hard in the face.
“Stay away from me.” I warned. “I’m not fooled by this.” I said pointing to his get up.
“This?” He laughed. “You mean me.”
I nodded and opened the door. “I haven’t forgotten how you treated me Xavier, and I won’t. Touch me again and I’ll have you castrated.”
I walked out of the bathroom and back downstairs. I stayed quiet through dinner, and I kept eye contact with anyone to a bare minimum, even Isla. I could feel him watching me though, and it was unnerving. Every time I did stop to speak to someone I could see him out the corner of my eyes. Just a fleeting glance had me melting in my seat.
“You okay?” Isla whispered finally.
I nodded and took a sip of my wine, while I wished it was whiskey or bourbon or vodka or some other kind of hard liquor.
“You sure. You’ve been weird since I got here, or maybe I should say since Vax got here…”
“It’s Xavier.” I replied. Vax wasn’t real. “And I’m not being weird.”
“He keeps looking at you, you know; like he wants to devour you.” She leaned in and whispered. “What the heck is that about?”
I just shrugged, and pretended I had no idea what she was talking about.
“Dad! Look, I am sorry. I am sorry I was such a fucking disappointment to you.” Xavier exclaimed somewhat suddenly. My head shot up in Xavier’s direction, as did everyone else’s in the large dining room. Xavier stood up and pulled a small piece of paper from his jeans pocket. He threw it down in front of Marc.
“I never wanted to go in to business. I told you that. You didn’t want to listen. But because the bottom line is so important to you, here is the tuition money.”
Marc took the check and ripped it up. He looked around the table at all the eyes on him, then up at Xavier, then finally he dipped his head.
“No, I’m sorry.” He said. “I should have listened.”
Xavier looked taken aback. His face softened, which surprised me. Softness wasn’t something I’d expected from either Xavier or Vax. Even when I thought they were two different people, I’d considered them both to be rough around the edges.
“Really?” He mumbled.
Marc nodded and stood up. He held his arms open and Xavier, who was still standing up walked into the hug. An unexpected ball of emotion caught in my throat. I felt warm and fuzzy. Why did I care, what hold did Xavier have on me. I took a deep breath and told myself that I really only cared about Marc and Janie. They’d been like my own Aunt and Uncle after all.
Xavier and Marc pulled back from their father son embrace, then they both sat back down.
I didn’t realize I was still watching Xavier until our eyes met across the table. His soft kissable lips curved into a slight smirk, I wanted to feel them, taste them, and have them taste me. I closed my eyes for a second, imagined what might have happened had I not left that bathroom.
“Scarlett.” Isla whispered, interrupting me from my thoughts. “You’re making girly sighing sounds... are you okay?”
My eyes shot opened. Xavier was still watching me, but his smirk was gone. His eyes were hungry though, and I knew he wanted me. I just didn’t know why. I was nerdy, and shy and he’d hated me in high school.
I tore my eyes from his and straightened my shirt. I looked sideways at Isla and shrugged.
“I’m not feeling well. I might go home.” I replied, coughing to help my case become even a little believable.
Mom, who was sitting to my right placed her hand to my forehead and clicked her tongue
“You’re feeling hot. Maybe you should stay here tonight.” She suggested.
I shook my head, not wanting to tell her that the only reason I felt hot was the sex on legs boy staring at me from the other end of the table.
“I’m okay. It’s just a cold. I’ll uh, slip out quietly.” I murmured.
I stood up and walked out the back door without another word.
I hoped no one else had realized, I hoped he hadn’t realized.
I needed to get home, have a long cold shower, curl up with my four cats and some trashy reality TV and forget that tonight had ever happened.