Strung

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Chapter 11. - Rendezvous

I turned to the girl I thought of as my best friend for the last… oh I wasn’t sure! Like twenty-four years or so. “What have you done?!”

Callie rolled her eyes. “I was saving you from making a huge mistake.” She said calmly, her hand still clutched in mine as she pulled me towards the doors of the club.

“That back there was the man I’ve been dreaming about for eight years, Callie! And you know he was about to kiss me!”

“Yes, I know that, London.” One of the bouncers opened the doors for us, the cooler night air hit me hard, making the hair stand on my sweaty skin. “And then what?!” She asked, turning to face me. There was still a huge line outside, and now they were all staring at the show. “You would’ve kissed, and then he would’ve offered to take you back to his place.” She said swiftly, as our ride pulled up.

This time, we didn’t wait for the driver to open our doors. We jumped in to the back, and told him to take us back to our apartment.

“You would’ve had two options then.” Callie went on angrily, holding two fingers up. “Decline, and manage to completely push him away. Because, honey, men like Lukas LaBelle won’t chase a girl who doesn’t put out… Or,-“ She lowered a finger. “-you could’ve went back to his place and make him the second man you’ve ever slept with. Ever!”

I frowned.

Even if I wasn’t willing to admit it to her, she had a point. I wasn’t thinking that far ahead, because my mind was too busy with wanting to feel his lips on mine again.

“We saved you from having to make that choice!” She finished, throwing her hands in the air. “It would’ve been a lose-lose situation. Plus, Jesse thought it would make him more interested in you if we took away his chance.”

I sighed. Of course. I’ve made a deal with Jesse.

“I’m sorry I snapped on you.”

Callie shrugged. “I have to admit, Lukas looks much hotter in person than he ever did on your posters. I can definitely understand the appeal.” Then, she added quietly. “And so does Jesse.”

“Oh, no you don’t!” I warned. My life was complicated enough when it came to Hazmat and my friends. The very last thing I needed was to mix those two. “You are the most boy-crazy person I know.” I teased her, rolling my eyes in exasperation.

“You mean besides Ginger?” We laughed.

“You’re right. Can you imagine her in the same room with someone like Jesse?” I wondered out loud, and she gasped. “Or even better! With Ash!”

We fell silent, no doubt picturing the strange couple our sarcastic, down to Earth best friend would make with someone as unapologetically sexual as Asher Wolfhart. “I think he could learn a thing or two from her.” Callie said, finally.

“Ash is very intense in person.” That was the understatement of the century. All three times I’ve met Ash, he made me feel like there wasn’t enough air in the room – in an uncomfortable, sweaty palm type of way. “Anyway, why are we even talking about this?!”

Callie replied, without missing a beat. “Because we need to decide on the seating arrangement for you and Lukas’ wedding!”

I rolled my eyes. “You’re not forgiven yet, young lady. You still owe me one.”

Callie leaned in to give me a hug. “Anything for you, Londie!”


The next morning, I woke up to a bunch of texts. I grabbed my phone, scrolling through the messages suspiciously. It was unusual for me to be so popular – the only people who ever checked up on me were my parents and my two best friends. Even my own brother seldom used my cell to communicate with me.

I found a message from Arielle, asking about work. One from Jesse, asking to call him as soon as I received it. There were a few from old school friends I haven’t talked to in years. Ginger posted some articles in our group chat.

And the last message was from a number I didn’t recognize.

Unknown: Sorry last night was cut short. How about a re-do, Moscow?

My heart sped up at those words. He didn’t have to sign the message for me to know who it was from. The message came in at six in the morning, hours after we were so rudely interrupted. That would’ve meant he would most likely be sleeping right now.

With shaky fingers, I begun to type up a response.

Me: I’ll have to think about it. I’m pretty busy these days – big project coming up… Ps.: Nice to see you venturing out of Europe!

I set my phone on the bedside table, deciding on getting ready for the day ahead. Getting ready and working would distract me from continuously checking my phone for replies from-

-My phone went off.

Lukas L: I have to put my best geography forward to keep up with you. No afternoons off?

My heart was beating out of control. He really did want to hang out with me. Perhaps, Callie was right…

Me: Not for like… four more weeks.

Instantly, my phone buzzed.

Lukas L: Too bad.

I thought he would’ve left it at that, but three dots continued dancing on the bottom of my screen. Finally, his message came through.

Lukas L: I would’ve loved to take you on an adventure.

A picture loaded right below his message. I almost didn’t recognize it at first, but there it was! A picture of three girls, screaming their lungs out on a roller coaster ride. And one of them – the one with braces and pigtails – was me!

Just put a fucking fork in me already…

Me: How. Did. You. Find. That?!

I waited impatiently for the dots. Thankfully, he didn’t torture me long this time.

Lukas L: Your friend accepted my friend request. I had to dig pretty deep for this one…

To say that I was mortified would have been an understatement. Not only did Lukas LaBelle decide to give me heart palpitations first thing in the morning, but he also went ahead and befriended one of my friends on social media – on social media! Since when do celebrities really use that shit?! I thought it was only their managers, trying to scam the public into thinking they have an imaginary connection with their favorites.

Me: Delete that photo! Right. Now.

Lukas L: Make me!

I read and reread those two words multiple times. They were taunting me, teasing me into thinking he could’ve been flirting with me. But surely, he wasn’t! He was a hot, rich, rock god, and I was a mere mortal, who used to wear braces and screamed on roller coasters!

So I did what any other hot blooded female would’ve done in my shoes.

I told him I had to get back to work…

Ugh. I really was my own worst enemy sometimes.


I pulled up at my studio, ready for another long day ahead. I was making good progress with the art pieces for Hazmat’s album release party, but that didn’t mean that I could start slacking off now. This was, by far, the biggest project I’ve gotten in my short career, and I intended to do the best job – not only to impress Arielle and the management, but selfishly, I also wanted to impress Lukas LaBelle.

I pushed the key in, trying to turn it to the side… Only to find that it was already unlocked.

A sane, single girl probably owned a pepper spray and would’ve proceeded forward with that. An even more sane girl would’ve ran back to the car to wait inside of it while the cops came.

I didn’t own any protection devices, and I was too stunned to run. Instead, I turned the knob, and pushed the door open.

My heart nearly jumped out of my throat when I saw movement from the far corner of my studio. Then, he stepped out into the light, his blonde curls looking like a halo framing his handsome face. “It’s you!” I breathed, clutching my chest. “You nearly gave me a heart attack!” For, like, the fifth time today…

He smiled, with one corner of his lips quirking up higher than the other. It was charming, heart stopping, and undeniably Lukas LaBelle.

“You wouldn’t be the first fan to faint at the sight of me.” He shrugged, then went back to whatever the hell he’s been doing before I showed up.

I moved closer, setting my purse on one of the stools. I followed him where he disappeared, standing between shelves full of paintings. “Are you going to explain what you’re doing here?” His hand tightened on one I knew to be of him.

Quickly, I smacked him away, placing by body between Lukas and the shelf.

One brow of his shot up higher in his forehead in question, his golden eyes slowly lowering to me. His gaze lingered on my neck, my chest, my waist. I found myself holding my breath. And by the time he was done examining me, I was a shaking, unsure mess, who long forgot about what had upset her.

“Compromising position?” He asked, a hint of amusement in his voice. “Don’t worry, Johannesburg, I already know what’s on this canvas.”

I frowned. “Have you been snooping? Is that why you’re here?!” My chest was rising and falling rapidly, my breaths coming out in little puffs. I needed to move away and put a few feet between us… But my legs stayed cemented where they were.

“I came because I wanted to see you.”

He said it so simply, like it was completely normal for a multi-millionaire rock star to show up unannounced at a lowly fan’s art studio. “So you broke in?!”

Lukas returned my frown, his head tilting to the side adorably as he regarded me. “You make it sound so bad.”

“Is is bad! Like, illegal bad!”

But Lukas wasn’t paying attention to me anymore. He was shuffling through a shelf I had full of sketchbooks. Randomly, he grabbed one, and started going through it.

I stormed up to him, and took that out of his hand, just to have him turn to inspect some other beloved possession. “Didn’t your mom ever teach you not to snoop? It’s impolite!”

Lukas shrugged. “My mother didn’t teach me much. She was a drunk.” He said simply, making the thought freeze on my tongue.

Of course, I knew that. I knew that Lukas’ relationship was strained with his single mom early on in his life, and he was basically brought up by Ash and Jesse’s parents. And while they were never close, after his mom passed away – from liver failure, predictably – he wrote ‘Black Heart’ about her, which was a heartbreaking ballad about regrets.

“I’m sorry.” I whispered, feeling like a first-class asshole for saying that to him.

Lukas flashed me one of his signature smiles, but his eyes weren’t shinning like they usually did whenever he meant it. “It’s okay – it happened a long time ago.”

Still feeling horrible about it, I handed him back the sketchbook I was holding. “You can look at this.” Then, I added. “I would just appreciate asking for permission first.”

“Noted.” His fingers brushed against mine, inevitably, as he took it from me. “Does that mean there are no nudes of me in this one?” And just like that, Lukas LaBelle was back.

I huffed. “Don’t flatter yourself, just because I sketched you here and there in the past…”

Lukas nodded behind me pointedly. I turned around, and to my absolute horror, the painting I did of him leaning down to kiss me stared back at me from the stand. Fuck. My. Life.

“So what are you doing here anyways?” I asked, hoping to distract him from the flush on my cheeks – which were ridiculously obvious now that I wasn’t wearing makeup.

Lukas turned back to the sketchbook. “I needed to get away from the craziness.” He replied, his tone even and simple, as if breaking into a person’s garage and going through their personal stuff was just everyday practice. “And I like being around you.” Then, to my dismay, he added. “That is, when you’re not fangirling over me.”

I gasped. “I do not fangirl!” I lied, feigning shock.

Again, his gaze pointedly moved over my head to the painting of him. “If you say so.” He replied, but his voice couldn’t have been more sarcastic. “So what’s on the agenda for today?”

I was at a loss of words, as it finally dawned of me. Lukas LaBelle from Haz-fucking-mat was standing in the middle of my studio, wanting to hang out with me. I discreetly pinched my wrist behind my back, just to make sure this wasn’t a figment of my overactive imagination.

But despite the bruise on my skin, he was still standing there.

“Unless, you were planning on spending the day sketching me naked again.” His statement had a question to it, his brow quirking as Lukas looked down at me with a mischievous glint in his eyes. “In which case I can pose for you so you can get my ass right this time.”

Inevitable, my gaze dropped to his behind, just in sight as he stood with his side to me. Oh my… My eyes darted back to his, my face flushing bright red when I realized he just totally caught me checking him out.

“Are you imagining me naked right now?” Lukas asked, his voice teasing.

“No!” I lied, swirling around so I wouldn’t have to look into those golden pools of wonder anymore.

I heard him chuckle from behind me. “Oh, but I think you were! In fact, I know this was not the first time you thought about me naked before.” I was frozen on the spot, my cheeks flaming, my hand shaking, and my body acutely aware that Lukas LaBelle stepped right behind me.

I felt his breath hot on my neck, the fine hairs standing on edge at his nearness.

“I would even bet that you’ve had some very rude thoughts about me in the past.” His voice was coming from right next to my ear. I shivered. “Are you thinking them right now?”

Was I ever… My thighs squeezed together at his words, my eyes shamelessly closing as I let his soothing, deep voice was over me.

“Whatever you’re imagining, it’s bigger.”

And just like that, my eyes flew open, and I swirled around, poking him in the chest. “You!” I accused, but nothing else came out. My mind was completely blank – no insult or hot comeback. “You have to leave if you can’t behave!” I stuttered, finally finding my brain.

Lukas grinned innocently. “You’re the one getting distracted, Huston. I was just offering you some insights on how to make your art more realistic.” When I continued staring him down – well, up, since he was much taller than me – he held his hands up in the air. “Fine! I’ll be good.”

And that was how I found myself in my art studio with one of the most famous musicians on the planet, carving wood and hanging out. At least, I hoped that’s what we would be doing.

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