Strung

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Chapter 19. - Homey

The date of the album release party was approaching by the minute, and with the permission of the building management, I started to set up two weeks earlier. Most of the decoration was not real - as I refused to cut so many trees and bushes down, just so they can be arched over a few celebrities for a couple of hours, and then be tossed to the side.

The fake trees and vines I’ve ordered online looked just like the real thing, and even felt, weighted, and behaved accordingly.

I was perched high on a ladder, trying to hang a chandelier above one of the tables, when Arielle walked in. I admired the confident way she strolled into the room, stealing the attention of all three men that were there to help me.

Which was rather unfortunate from where I was standing, because I nearly tumbled face first off the ladder when the guy holding it swirled around so vehemently to look at my friend.

“Good morning!” Arielle greeted us, and came to a stop next to me. “Need a helping hand?”

I glanced down at the heels she was wearing, coupled with a very nice and expensive looking pantsuit. She looked like she stepped straight out of Vogue, and she wanted to climb ladders and twist vines with me? I shook my head. “We’re doing okay, but thank you!”

She glanced around, her observant eyes noting everything in the room. “It’s coming along nicely.”

I finally managed to get the chandelier up, and came down, checking out my work from this angle. “I’d say so.” To be frank, I was fucking proud of this project. I thought the whole renaissance room was coming together perfectly, transforming into a magical, gothic forest worthy of a band like Hazmat.

“Do you have a second to talk?” Arielle asked, eyeing the men who were tinkering around the room, pretending that they weren’t checking her out when they thought she wasn’t looking.

“Sure. Lead the way.”

We walked into the manager’s office, off the front hallway. Arielle let me walk in first, and closed the door gently behind us. “How are you feeling?” She asked, unsurprisingly cutting right to the chase.

“I’m okay.” I lied, like we both didn’t see the security details – yes, plural – perched outside the entrance of the venue. “Considering.”

Arielle nodded, and I was cringing inwardly, waiting for her to tell me about how inappropriate and awful it was to sleep with the client. Not to mention unprofessional.

I’ve heard that she had a lengthy history of employees betraying her by hooking up with her customers, or talking to the press behind her back. In fact, her own right hand caused quite a scandal last year, when he outed her as a cheater, and first linked her with Maksim Mikhailov in the press.

It was a PR nightmare, and while Arielle came out on top and was doing better than ever, she had a long road of nasty press and comments to get through before getting where she was now. I understood that sleeping with a client was a soft spot for her. And after the pictures of Lukas LaBelle, Brian and Nikki coming out of my studio the day after the incident on every gossip blog on the internet, there was no doubt that something has happened between us.

But, to my surprise, Arielle looked more concerned rather than furious, as she held her hand out to me. “If you need any help… You know you can ask me.”

I snapped my mouth shut, realizing it was open. She chuckled.

“Don’t look at me like that – I know exactly what you’re going through, and how nasty people can be! I’m here if you need advice, or just someone to rant to.”

I nodded, trying to reign in my shock. “Thank you.” I managed to choke out, feeling overwhelmed by the support I’ve been receiving in the midst of all this from my family, friends, and now my employer.

Arielle smiled. “But as your contractor, I have to make sure that this won’t affect your work.”

I shook my head. “No, it’s-“ I wanted to tell her that I was a professional, but I realized that my actions have spoken otherwise. So instead, I stood up straighter, and said. “It won’t.”

“And I don’t just mean now. The event is still two weeks away. That’s a mighty long time for… Things to happen. I want to know that if whatever you have going on with Lukas-“ She held her hand up.” -and it’s none of my business! Whatever it is. I want to make sure that it wouldn’t affect the quality of your work, and the overall atmosphere of it.”

My heart squeezed painfully, realizing what she was referring to. Her words were carefully chosen, but the meaning was clear behind them. If Lukas LaBelle decided that he was tired of me, and were to toss me aside before the event, I was still to handle it professionally. Noted.

“Of course.”

Arielle’s observant gaze remained on me. “And before you think I’m being sexist, I’ve had the same talk with Lukas.”

I smiled, grateful. Of course she would.

“This is not just on you.” She continued. “Although, women are the more sensible sex, so I think you will understand my meaning, and the weight behind it better.”

I did. “Nothing will ruin this event. At least, not anything in my control.”

Her grey eyes stayed on me for another moment, before she nodded. “Great! Now that the unpleasant part is settled, tell me more about your vision.”

I grinned, and took the seat opposite of hers, getting lost in the details of my art I couldn’t wait to bring to life. Lukas LaBelle or not, I was determined to make this party the most talked about event of the year - and not because of my affair with the guitarist of the band, but for all of our combined hard work. Hazmat’s incredible new music - which I was yet to hear -, Arielle’s impeccable organizational skills, and my artistic abilities.

I wanted this release party to be a front liner for all the right reasons, and I would be damned if my personal feelings got in the middle of it!


After a long day at the venue, I rushed home, showered, changed into jeans and a simple, black shirt, applied some light makeup, and headed out the door.

Lukas’ car was already idling by the curb, waiting to pick me up by the time I jogged out of the house. I opened the door, and hopped into the passenger seat, giving him a quick kiss before he peeled off.

From the rearview mirror, I noted a couple men with cameras jogging behind us, trying to snap a few photos. But I was in too good of a mood to care about that. “What’s on the agenda tonight?” I asked, unable to help the ear splitting smile on my face.

Lukas looked so handsome, in a tight, white v-neck shirt that showcased the new tattoo he just got done on his chest. It was an intricate and realistic piece of a lion, covering an entire pack, and I was dying to discover every little detail of it - from up close.

He gave me a sideways smile, keeping his eyes on the road and we sped through the city in a vintage Porsche. “I thought we could hang out at my place, have some dinner, maybe watch a movie.” I opened my mouth to reply, but he was quicker to cut me off. “And before you think I’m taking there to have sex with you - I’m not! I mean, if you want, I’m obviously very open to the idea… But I just don’t want to be dodging paparazzi all night. I’d rather just hang out and get to know you better.”

I chuckled. “I’m not complaining.” And I really wasn’t. I’ve had just about enough pictures taken of me walking in and out of the renaissance building Hazmat’s release party was going to be in, while I was assisting the movers, to last me a lifetime. I couldn’t imagine going through that again - and tenfold, now that I was with him.

Lukas glanced at me from the corner of his eye. “Does that mean that sex is on the table?”

He was teasing of course, and I rolled my eyes. “No!” I lied, turning my head the other way so he couldn’t see me blinking away furiously. “How was your day?”

I noted the way his fingers seemed to be drumming away a rhythm on the wheel again, but decided not to comment on it. If anything, I found it ridiculously cute - a little tick the gossip sites never talked about that I got to witness firsthand.

“You know, it’s been a while since anyone has asked me that.” Lukas replied dreamily. “It was great! I went on a run this morning, then just relaxed on the beach with Ash. These last few weeks before a tour are always the calmest – surprisingly.” His right hand moved from the wheel and came to rest on the console between us. “How was yours, Montenegro?”

I decided not to comment on him graduating to a whole country, and shifted my left hand closer to his, but didn’t take it. “The venue is coming along really nice. I’m just working on the trees and wines around the room right now, but once I’ll add the fairy lights and candles – it’ll be out of this world.”

Lukas grinned. “I don’t doubt it.”

He reached out, and linked his fingers with mine, bringing my hand up to his mouth for a quick peck. I just about melted into his expensive beige leather seat. “Can I hear the new songs?”

Lukas chuckled. “Nice try!” He said, his golden eyes glinting in the city lights passing around us. “But no. You’ll have to wait until the release party.”

I let out an overly dramatic sigh. “What’s the point of sleeping with someone in the band if I can’t even get a teaser?!”

He laughed. “Oh, I can give you a teaser…” Lukas winked at me, his words dripping with promises. “I can tease you all night long, if that’s what you’re after.”

I felt the familiar blush spread across my cheek as I did my best to keep my head down. I was out of words, and out of my depth here, flirting with a rock star who had a dozen supermodels hanging off of every finger of his. I’ve had my moments of bravery, sure, but then reality started to set in.

Lukas squeezed my hand, bringing my attention to his. “Hey, what’s wrong?” He asked, alternating between looking at the road and me, shifting his gaze back and forth. “Did I say something?”

I shook my head. “You’re great.” I said, meaning it, because he was. Lukas was kind and funny, and quick witted. It really wasn’t his fault that he was way out of my league.

“But?” He pressed, sensing that there’s more to it.

I shrugged. “There’s no but. I just-“ I trailed off, taking a deep breath. “-sometimes I feel out of my depth with you. Like, everything is going well, and then I remember that you’re you, and I’m just plain old me, and I just…” Now I was really doing it. Way to make a wonderful impression on him, London! Hope he enjoyed the Looney Tunes.

“What are you talking about? Plain old you?!” His forehead creased as a frown took over his lovely features. “I hope you’re just joking right now.”

I shook my head. “Come on, Lukas! You’re a fucking legend already, and you’re not even thirty. You have permanently written your name into the history books, and you did it all by yourself.”

He nearly barked out a laugh. “That’s the silliest thing I’ve ever heard! I didn’t do it all by myself! I have three incredible bandmates, a whole village of managers, public representatives, and a large label behind me. All I ever did was write some lyrics and music.”

I huffed. We both knew that was a bowl of baloneys... Lukas LaBelle was one of the most talented guitar players of all times, doing combinations and unique patterns that not many people could replicate. Whether someone liked Hazmat’s music or not, their talent was something no one could question. They weren’t just a group of pretty faced guys, but four incredibly talented musicians.

“If you’re freaking out because of what I said about sex - I’m really, truly not expecting anything.” Lukas turned his head, so he could gauge my reaction. “And if you want to go somewhere else, we can. I’m not forcing you to do shit that you’re not comfortable with. I’m perfectly fine with going to a restaurant, or movies, or bowling, if you’d prefer.”

The tension in my chest subsided slightly at his sweet words. He really was too perfect to be true…

Aside from the fact that at the end of the day, he couldn’t promise anything - according to him. And he only wanted me to be ‘his girl’.

I sighed. “No. I’d love to see where you live, actually.”

I didn’t want to admit it out loud, but a person’s home told volumes about who they were. The furniture they choose, how they decorated it, what kind of pictures they had on the wall – if they had any-, whether or not they were messy, or kept it super clean… It all said more about someone’s true personality than any words ever could. And I wanted nothing more than to see who Lukas LaBelle was, when no one was looking.

“Okay, then.” He turned his attention back to the road. “Stop having a meltdown over this legendary shit! I’m just a regular guy, who likes to strum around on his guitar and scribble in notebooks.”

Pff. Right! And the world was flat, and this was all just a creation of someone’s mind. Oh, and I was a purple unicorn with rainbow wings!

Ordinary guy, my ass.


Lukas’ house was not what I expected.

Sure, the location was impeccable, right along the coast of a gated, guarded, private beach. However, his home was the smallest house on the block – if you could call the others houses. I’d rather describe them as mansions, or even castles. The neighborhood was very highly secured, and we’ve had to go through multiple gates and checkpoints to even get on his street.

It was clear from the expensive cars, and high bushes between the houses, that people with lots of money lived here. Most likely other celebrities, or business moguls - but I didn’t want to seem like a stalker, so I didn’t ask.

At the end of the road, located just off the roundabout, we pulled up to the smallest house in vicinity. Of course, the house wasn’t small compared to regular people’s standards - it was still very luxurious and state of the art - just not as over the top as the ones around it.

From the outside, it looked even tinier than my parents’ home – which, again, wouldn’t say a lot. I grew up with money. But still!

Lukas LaBelle was a rock star, I thought he lived in a gothic mansion with a never-ending frat party on the front yard, with bikini clad supermodels doing keg stands, and famous DJs spinning around the clock.

Instead, his home looked like a little vacation house – which Lukas confirmed that it actually was.

“I always meant to get a bigger house in the city, but never got around to it.” He explained as we rolled into the garage, and the door lowered behind us. “But I live alone, and I’m not even here most of the time. So I guess there wouldn’t really be a point to it.”

And there it was. Another little reminder of the awful fact that Lukas had no family who would come see him and stay over the weekend. No relative in between places who would need a place for a week or two. No visitors, or anyone else he expected might need some extra room.

Growing up with a family that was very tightly knit, I couldn’t imagine what that would feel like. In my fucked up mind, I already pictured Lukas LaBelle sitting at the breakfast table between my brother and I on a sunny Saturday morning, bickering over who got the last bacon, talking football with my father, while being psychoanalyzed by my curious mother who would then take Lukas and transform him into her next literary hero.

I shook my head. I needed to snap out of it.

Lukas exited the vehicle first, and I watched him walk around the front and open the door for me. He took my hand, and helped me up from the low sport car, and didn’t let go of me even when I’ve had both feet on the ground. We walked in through the garage door, which opened to a laundry room. The scent of his detergent filling my nostrils, and I inhaled deep. I highly doubted he washed his own clothes, but it still felt nice to be surrounded by things that smelled like him.

The laundry opened to a giant room – which combined his living room, kitchen and dining room, all in one. It was a large open space, which was made to look even bigger by the fact that one wall was made entirely of glass.

His furniture was modern, with low-sitting, sleek black leather couches, and glass tables in between. Everything was either black leather, steel, or glass – and kept surprisingly clean. Although, again, I highly doubted Lukas was the one responsible for that. One wall of his living room was a gigantic mirror, and the other a built-in stereo and technology system. He had a TV mounted on the wall, with multiple consoles under – xbox, ps4, and I wasn’t sure what the others were called.

Behind us, the kitchen was only separated by a high counter, with multiple stools in front of it – shining, silver steel, with black leather on top. Yup. He definitely had a theme.

I was sad to discover that he had no art on this floor. No paintings, no little statues.

And while I could appreciate a nice, minimalistic vibe, this room felt more like a museum showroom than a living room of a twenty-eight-year-old rock star. The only piece of this otherwise beautiful home that hinted that it was Lukas who owned it, was a light brown acoustic guitar, stood against the far end of the couch.

In front of the mirrored wall stood a tall staircase, the kind that spun to let you upstairs, and I was dying to see what he had there. Would there be more life? Perhaps something more personal, than the pristine space he shared with an occasional visitor?

“Would you like me to get a microscope? I think I have one in the kitchen somewhere.” Lukas teased, hinting at the fact that I’ve been inspecting every part of his home for the last five minutes, while we stood in silence.

I smiled timidly, nearly embarrassed that I’ve been caught. I was too fascinated with everything that had to do with Lukas LaBelle, and being in his home was like a five course meal to a starving woman.

“How long have you had this place?” I asked, turning to look up at him.

Lukas frowned. “Five years or so.”

I nodded. Perhaps, he kept his pictures upstairs, away from the public eye. Then again, from what I’ve seen, he hardly had to worry about people seeing who he really was here. He only had four chairs around his dining room table, which, coincidentally, is the exact number of guys in his band. If we counted the four stools, he had room to host eight people, and that was it.

But from the sterile condition of his kitchen, I would’ve bet that he didn’t entertain here very often. Either that, or he just had everything redone - and I wouldn’t have put my money on the later.

“Would you like something to drink?” Lukas walked toward the fridge, without waiting for an answer, as he rattled off the choices of alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages he had. I noticed that besides drinks of every kind, it was empty.

“White wine, please.”

“I wasn’t sure what you’d want for dinner, so I ordered pizza and a meal. It should be here in a few minutes.”

Of course, I thought. That was why he didn’t have food. He just ordered, whenever he had a craving.

“When was the last time you’ve had a home cooked meal?” I wondered, putting my elbows on his tall counter.

Lukas took his time pouring wine for me, and then another glass for himself. He slid one glass in my direction, before speaking. “Every time Natalie invites me over.” He replied, referring to Ash and Jesse’s mother. “Are you feeling sorry for me, Francisco?”

My lips quirked up in a small smile. “No. Just thinking of possible date ideas.”

He lifted a blonde brow. “You want to cook for me?”

I thought about it for a second. There was something strangely appealing about the idea of feeding Lukas LaBelle. About having him help set the table, and then enjoy a nice, home cooked dinner, with candles burning between us, before making love all night.

I waved that thought to the back of my mind - but didn’t dismiss it completely.

“It’s certainly an idea.” I smiled timidly, trying my damndest to suppress this weird urge I’ve had of taking care of him. Lukas LaBelle didn’t need taking care of – I reasoned with myself. “This is delicious, by the way.” I pointed to the sweet, fruity wine he chose for us.

His golden gaze was on me, observing every movement of my face. “Sometimes, I think that you’re having entire conversations in your head. And I’m dying to find out what it is you’re really thinking about.”

“The subject of you comes up a lot.” I kept my tone teasing, although the reality was far from that. If only he knew how much time I spent thinking about him, Lukas LaBelle would’ve ran for the hills already.

He leaned on the other side of the counter, his forearms resting just next to mine. With both of us facing forward, our noses nearly touched. “Let me start, then. I’m thinking about kissing you right now.”

I bit down on my lip, unable to hide my smile. “I’m thinking that would be nice.” I whispered, the mood quickly shifting between us from teasing to something much, much deeper.

Lukas chuckled. “Nice?” He questioned, holding a hand over his heart to feign the pain. “Might as well just put a bullet in me now. You’d describe my kissing as ‘nice’?!”

I giggled, leaning back as he rounded the corner.

“I’ll show you nice!” He threatened, reaching for me with both hands. I half heartedly twisted in his arms, hoping to at least give the illusion that I wasn’t dying to be caught.

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