Strung

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Chapter 14. - Saturday

By the time Saturday rolled around, I was in need of some time away from the city.

With Lukas LaBelle’s occasional text messages, unexpected visits, and Jesse’s tendency to basically move himself into our apartment, I needed some time to take a step back and think. Normally, ‘me time’ involved a canvas, paint, and some loud rock songs - mostly from Hazmat - in my studio, but even that sacred place turned into a hotspot for rockstars these days. Their ability to just show up - uninvited and out of the blue - was uncanny, and quickly becoming a habit.

Even Ash came to visit me last night, and wanted to see if I was booked after their album release party, because he was redecorating his newest villa! According to him, it needed a female’s gentle touch.

Ginger was having dinner with me at my studio, when Ash dropped by, and walked through the door without knocking, rock star style. She nearly choked on her carrot when he brought up his wood that needed handling.

“This guy has lost all his precious marbles!” Ginger observed, while Ash was still standing right in front of us - and very much within earshot. He cocked a brow at my best friend, silently challenging her to say it again. “You are completely out of touch with reality, my friend.” Ging informed him, clearly not picking up on her murderous vibes he was sending her way.

“And what makes you say that, red?” His voice was hoarse and impossibly deep - so utterly recognizable and iconic. But even his unique talents didn’t take away from the fact that he was a dick - and the worst kind possible.

Asher Wolfhart broke hearts just as readily as he broke noses. He was famous for chasing off paparazzi - literally -, and for being a drunk, restless, unpredictable psychopath.

But he was also Lukas’ best friend, and therefore someone I was hoping to get along with.

“I’m saying that, because you think a cheesy wood reference to your dick would work on a lady!” Ginger shot back, either oblivious to the dangerous ground she was threading on, or just braver than the rest of us.

Ash’s eyes flashed with frustration and a warning. “Trust me, baby. It works.”

“Maybe on the trashy groupies you normally have hang around!” Ginger pointed at me. “But my friend is a respectable, professional that you’re attempting to hire. You don’t have to try to get into panties to get her to take a job. That’s what your larger than life vallet is for!”

My mouth hung open at her words. I have never seen nor heard anyone - outside of Lukas, and maybe Jesse - stand up to Ash. Not even in interviews, or stories passed around in the fandom.

“Besides-” Ginger continued, looking ready to twist the dagger. “-she carries a ridiculous lady-boner for your best friend. Your efforts are futile.”

Ash shook his head, his long, black locks falling lusciously down his broad back, while a small smile played on his lips. “You shouldn’t sass men like me, Gianna.” He warned.

“And why is that?” Ginger asked, her voice heavy with sarcasm, while they both effectively ignored me, stuck in their own little fight. I suddenly wish I kept some popcorn in my studio…

Ash stepped closer to her, placing his hands on either sides of her, leaning all over Ginger’s private bubble and effectively forcing her back. “Because I know at least thirty different ways I would want to tame that mischievous mouth of yours, and half of them involves you on your knees-”

“Ash!” Thankfully, Lukas LaBelle chose that very moment to show up to the small party my work station has turned into. He got Ash to calm down and eventually leave - to my honest dismay. I would’ve loved to see the outcome of those two going at each other.

Ash may have had the advantage of years, experience, and strength, but Ginger was the toughest person I knew. And she was smart as a whip. Ash could never have gotten the best of her.

But between trying to keep my best friend from suffocating the most famous singer of our lives with her bare hands, convincing Lukas LaBelle that I was wife-material, and coming up ways to get Jesse out of my apartment, I needed a breather.

And this family breakfast turned out to be the exact opposite.

“Are we going to talk about you and blondie?” Fitz, my brother, asked, with a shit-eating grin on his face.

I nearly spit my freshly squeezed orange juice back in my glass, while my mother sat up excitedly. “How is Callie doing? You know, I saw her mother at the market the other day. Can you imagine my surprise when I found out that she fired their maid? Poor Glenda has been with the family since Callie was born, she will be devastated to-”

“Mom, I didn’t mean Callie.” Fitz added, striking the iron while it was still hot. His thick, black brows pulled together in ill-contained excitement. “I’m talking about Lukas LaBelle.”

Lukas has been a household name for us for the last decade. With my unhealthy obsession with the band, and my infamous crush on the guitarist, he was a frequent meal-conversation in our family. And my mother always seemed endlessly fascinated by the mind of a fangirl, and urged me to explore my feelings deeper, just so she could make her own book characters more realistic in the future.

“Damn it! Not that boy again!” My father groaned, being a slightly less of a fan than me. I saw my mom move, and dad winced in response, signaling that she must’ve kicked him under the table. “You’re an adult now, London. That is all I’m saying. It’s time to get out to the real world and-”

“-be seen together with him not one, but two separate occasions this week!” Fitz grinned, as I shot him a murderous glare.

So he was going to play it like that.

My mother sat back, her gaze shifting back and forth between my brother and I. From years of experience with her, I knew she was assessing everything, and watching our body language closely to determine what we weren’t saying.

Dad was the first one to break the silence. “What is he talking about, sweetheart?”

I swallowed, my eyes meeting my mothers’. There was no surprise there. She already knew. “So I’ve met Lukas LaBelle.”

My father’s brows went up. He put his fork down, then slowly folded his hands on the table in front of him. “And?”

I shrugged. “They have a new album coming out in a few weeks, and hired Arielle Mikhailov to organize the release party. Arielle needed someone to design some unique pieces and do the decoration for the event, so she brought me on board.”

My father glanced over at mom, who wouldn’t break her stare.

Fitz spoke up next. “What else, Londie?”

I rolled my eyes, doing my best to play nonchalant. “We’ve hung out a few times since.”

Once again, dad looked at my mom, waiting for a reaction. When he got none, his hand slapped and flattened out on the table. “Adelaide, damn it! Say something!”

In our family, my mother was the one with the words. She handled emotional outbreaks, secrets, healed our souls, while my father was the quiet, awkward one, who didn’t know how to react when it came to my brother and I most of the time, until he asked for mom’s advice. It wasn’t to say that he wasn’t an amazing father! He was just a man of actions, while mom took sought after our emotional needs.

“Did he live up to your expectations?” Mom asked, her fingers drumming slightly on the table. With her, it was a tick. It didn’t mean that she was impatient, or uncaring. She was just itching to take notes on everything that was said, so she could use the deeper emotion behind it to build the characters in her latest novel.

“Not even close!” I huffed. “Although…” I paused, thinking about it. “Strangely, in other ways, he turned out to be so much better.” I admitted, thinking about his patient eyes as he watched me work, or his thoughtfulness when it came to ordering food or reigning his friend in.

“Is that all you’re going to ask her?” My dad snapped, eyeing mom, who continued ignoring him, focusing her whole attention on me.

“I know what you’re curious about!” Fitz grinned, chiming in. “Are you sleeping with a rock star, Londie-bug?” He asked, his voice sweetened as he brought up the childhood nickname.

I gasped. “Fitz!”

I, too, looked at mom expectantly, waiting for her to tell my brother off. Except, she was eyeing me with brows raised, absolutely waiting for a response.

“Mom!”

She shrugged lightly, a small smile playing on her lips. “I wouldn’t blame you if you did.”

“Adelaide!” Dad inhaled sharply.

But mom continued looking at me with her soft eyes, and her sweet, mischievous smile. “Don’t worry about it, baby. You can tell me later.” She winked. My mother actually winked at me.

“I am not sleeping with Lukas LaBelle!”

Fitz chuckled. “You know, I knew one of them had to be gay.” He exchanged glances with my dad, then continued. “I mean, I’ve heard rumors that in every boyband there’s at least one gay one. Not that there’s anything wrong with it…”

“He’s not gay, Fitz…” I trailed off, remembering the way Lukas felt under me as I sat in his lap. Yes, that was definitely not the reaction of someone who wasn’t attracted to me.

“Oh, please! If he was into girls, he would’ve made a pass on you the first time you met.” Fitz argued. “I mean, you’re hot for an annoying little girl. My friends always had crushes on you.” My cheeks flamed, as the people I loved most continued speculating about me and my love life like I wasn’t sitting right in front of them.

“Maybe-” My dad cleared his throat. “-London is just being smart about it. Maybe she is saving herself, like a responsible-”

It was my mother who interrupted him, her laughter ringing in the air around us, loud and infectious. “Oh, please, Richard!” She continued giggling, as she wiped a tear from her eye. “Our daughter is no innocent little girl. And there’s nothing irresponsible about the act of intercourse. She is smart about it, and always has been.”

My father opened his mouth to reply, but she held up a finger.

“And it’s not like you can talk! I was knocked up by a man I’ve met just weeks before when I was younger than she is now!” She looked at him pointedly, silencing whatever he was going to bring up. Then, her brown eyes turned back to me, and softened, as they always did. “Is he a good kisser, honey?”

My whole face was flaming, as I murmured. “Mom…”

She chuckled again. “That’s what I thought.”

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