Strung

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Chapter 33. - Left

*London*

*Now*

Holy. Shit.

Holyshitholyshitholyshit! Fucking hell, London! What. Were. You. Thinking?!

I pushed through the crowd, and unlike the first time around, now every eye in the room seemed to be trained on me. I practically felt the heads turn as I passed by, and the gossip that began as soon as I was out of earshot.

“Excuse me!” I murmured under my breath as I weaved between the groups of people, having a good time and enjoying the party that I was damn proud of. I didn’t stick around to see if my dinner decorations would be enjoyed by the famous crowd, or to hear the rest of the album that still played over the loudspeakers.

In fact, I didn’t look back at all.

I heard a couple people calling my name and I realized it a heartbeat too late that they were paparazzi. “Shit!” I cursed, holding up my little clutch to cover my face from the flashing cameras.

‘You and Lukas go years back then?’ ‘How long have you known about the songs?’ ‘Have you been hiding your relationship all this time?’ ’London, how did you manage to orchestrate this coincidental reunion?!’

That one made me turn my head - and as soon as I did, I knew I’ve made a terrible mistake.

The guy behind the camera came alive, fueled by my reaction. He continued to throw unfair questions at me as he stepped into my personal space, pushing his device right up my nostrils. “Please step away…” I breathed, suddenly feeling overwhelmed.

There were too many of them and only one of me.

My head swam, my heartbeat picking up as my fight or flight instincts kicked in. Except, I was unable to do either. I was surrounded, seeing no way out. At least a dozen men were taking pictures of me from all angles, the flashes of the cameras blinding me to the point where I completely lost my sense of direction.

I began to sweat and hyperventilate.

“Please!” I thought I said, but the sound came from too far away. I couldn’t breathe. I couldn’t see. I couldn’t move.

Tears stained my cheeks, coming out faster when I realized that my meltdown would be documented by all these cameras - and that there was absolutely nothing I could do about it.

“Back the fuck off!” A deep, booming voice came from behind me. He only had to say it once, and it had the effect of a bomb dropped in the middle of the group. The men surrounding me disintegrated, scattering in twenty different directions.

The flashes stopped, and I blinked back my tears until my vision cleared a bit to look up at the mountain of a man in front of me.

Ash Wolfhart stood there, in all his intimidating glory, eyeing me curiously. “For fuck’s sake…” He groaned, and grabbed a hold of my wrist, before beginning to pull me away.

“Wait, I-” I snapped my mouth shut when I noticed the sleek, black sports car waiting at the corner. Ash walked us right up to it before releasing me. He rounded the car, and without waiting for me to fully get in and shut the door, he sped away.

“Give me an address.” He ordered, his voice sounding dangerously low as he spoke. I’ve heard enough rumors about him to make me want to cross my arms in front of my chest and ball up in his front seat. I hoped to take up as little room as possible and make myself unnoticeable, without looking insane.

Musically speaking, I was a huge fan of the band, and thus Ash Wolfhart. But on a personal note, he was definitely my least favorite of the members.

“You better come up with an address soon, or I’m taking you home!” He snapped, and I chuckled humorlessly, hoping to God that his threat was innocent. He was Lukas’ best friend after all and therefore had to be aware of the fact that we were dating. Or something very close to it… “Girl, I’m not asking you again.”

I scrambled to get my phone and gave him the address of the only person who I knew would still be awake right now, and not judge me for my incredible failures - of which, there was no shortage tonight.

“Why are you doing this?” I asked in a small voice after we’ve been driving for a while.

Ash shrugged and turned the booming rock music down a few decibels. “I hate paps.” He said simply.

I snorted. “So I heard.” One corner of his lips twitched into something that could almost be considered a smile. “Either way, thank you for coming out to save me.” When Lukas LaBelle didn’t… I added in my head, my heart squeezing painfully at the thought. “I guess you’re not as bad as everyone makes you out to be.”

It was Ash’s turn to let out a noise of disbelief. “Don’t ever say that again. I have a reputation to maintain.” He glanced down at the map on the screen and frowned. “Where the fuck am I taking you anyways?”

“To Ginger’s.” I said in a low voice. “Red hair, glasses, brilliant? You’ve met her a couple times.”

Ash nodded. “I remember.” His tone was icy as he spoke those words, and I couldn’t help the shiver that ran down my back. Perhaps, I should’ve found another ride from the party

But since I was shit out of options, I had no choice but to focus my gaze ahead. At least, in the throne of this spectacle with Ash, I forgot about-

“What’s her name, anyways?”

I blinked. “Excuse me?”

“Your friend.” Ash said slowly, spelling it out to me as if I’ve just missed the most obvious thing. “What’s her real name?”

“Gianna Walsh.” The words were out before I could bite my tongue. I had no idea why I just betrayed one of my best friends like that. Especially after I watched Ash and Ginger go at each other’s throats the few times they were in the same room. “Look, you can just pull over and-” I pointed absentmindedly to the side of the road.

“No fucking way.” Ash laughed. “You want the same thing to happen than back there?”

I swallowed, and shook my head.

“That’s what I thought.”

I took a deep breath, hoping it would give me the courage I needed to ask my next question. Instead, I decided to just blurt it out. “You don’t like me.” I spoke so quickly the words kind of jumbled together and formed a statement, rather than the question I was hoping to pose.

His black eyes looked at me from the corner before he moved them back onto the road. “Lukas was a lot more fun before you came around, that’s for sure.”

“But?” I urged him, making the most of the limited time we had alone before we reached Ginger’s apartment.

“But-” He started, and ran a hand through his long hair. “-my brother dotes on you. And Lukas seems a lot happier too.”

Despite the events of the night, I smiled. My heart did a little happy dance at his words - coming from Ash, they meant a lot, because I knew him to be the type of man who only spoke when he had something serious to say. He wasn’t sentimental or particularly caring about anyone besides his close circle, and I knew that it took a lot out of him to admit that Lukas looked happier since I came in the picture.

“We don’t have to like each other.” He said in a low, raspy voice and I turned my head to look at him. “If you end up sticking around, all we have to do is get along.”

I agreed.


Ten minutes later, we pulled up in front of Ginger’s apartment, and I was not surprised to see the lights on in her living room. It was just past midnight, but I knew that Ginger would most likely stay up until the wee hours of dawn.

“I’ll walk you to the door.” Ash surprised me by saying, and before I could protest, he already shut off the car and walked around to my side.

“Shit…” I cursed under my breath before getting out of the car and following him.

We walked up the stairs to Ginger’s door together, and I knocked while Ash stepped back, seemingly assessing our surroundings.

A male voice came from the other side, which made Ash stand up straighter and slip his phone back into his pocket. The door swung open, revealing a tall, light brown haired guy in circular glasses. “Albie!” I smiled, recognizing Ginger’s lab partner and friend with benefits. “I’m sorry to come in this late. Am I-”

His eyes traveled behind me, and grew into the size of saucers as he took in the giant that was Ash Wolfhart. “Aren’t you-” He trailed off, just when Ginger appeared behind him.

“London!” She frowned, pushing Albie to the side to make room for me to step in. “What the hell are you doing here?! What happened at the party?!”

Before I could answer any of her questions, Albie exploded. “You’re from Hazmat! Ashton or something…” He trailed off, stroking his chin so he missed the murderous stare Asher shot him before he looked over at us.

“Gianna.” Ash nodded at Ginger in greeting, his voice low as his black eyes assessed her.

“He gave me a ride.” I explained quickly. “I’ll tell you later, but he really-”

“Well, thanks for the service.” Ginger said, rather rudely, to the singer of the biggest rock band in the world. “Are you waiting for a tip, or…?” She lifted a red eyebrow at him, and Ash actually smiled - a full blown, genuine smile.

“Maybe I wanted to see you again.” Ash shot back, and Ginger let out a sarcastic snort. To that, his smile widened into a mischievous grin, but before I had to step in cut this trainwreck short, Ash directed his attention to Albie, who was still deep in thought. “Let the ladies talk.”

His voice was so stern, that combined with the movement of him stepping out of the way and motioning toward the stairs, Albie actually took a hesitant step. “But we-”

Ginger shook her head. “We’re done for the night. I need to make sure London is taken care of.” She bent down to retrieve his shoes and handed them to poor Albie, who stood no chance as he was basically ushered out of the apartment by Ash, before the door slammed in their faces.

“Harsh, Ging!” I whistled. “You never fail to impress me with the way you handle people.”

“It’s called assertive, London. And from the look of you right now, I think you could use some of it.” Despite her harsh words, her touch was gentle as she led me to her couch then disappeared into her kitchen. A moment later, she reappeared with a bottle of wine and two glasses. “Tell me everything.”


*Lukas*

“Lukas, I’m in love with you!” She breathed, her large chocolate eyes blinking up at me, widening as the realization of what she just told me registered.

I sucked in a breath, my heart pounding wildly in my ears.

Over the years, since the band took off, I’ve had countless women utter the very same words to me. But none of them meant it - there was no way they could! They didn’t know me, they knew the idea they had of me - that public figure they read about in magazines and gossip blogs, using their imagination to fill in the gaps of my character where even the media lacked.

But London Grey… She has seen me. And when she said those words, I knew that she meant them. She meant them with all her heart.

My mouth opened to respond, but she has already turned away and darted out the door. “London, wait!” I yelled after her, rounding the table and rushing out into the hallway. She already disappeared behind the curtains the separated the backstage area from the crowd. “Fuck!” I cursed under my breath, trying to catch up with her.

But as soon as I stepped out from the safety of the hidden corridor, I was bombarded. “Lukas, that set was just incredible!” One girl cooed, her hand wrapping around my bicep, while two of her friends joined.

“I love your guitar!” One said, and when I managed to excuse myself to follow after my girl, another little group walked up to me.

London was so deep in the crowd now, I couldn’t see the top of her head. “Excuse me!” I said, and very impolitely shouldered my way through the group of celebrities, actors and singers that came out to see us tonight.

I spotted Jesse to the right of me. “Where did she go?” I asked, breathing heavy from the effort it took to fight through the slow conversations and admiring touches of our fans.

“She walked out the door. Nikki saw her-” Jesse’s eyes searched for something between the people. “There she is!”

I moved my gaze over the people in front of us, hoping to see London’s dark brown bob appear. But instead, it was Nikki’s curls that came to a stop in front of us. “She left the party, Lukas. I’m sorry.”

“Nikki, I-”

She shook her head. “Out of the question! This is the biggest party of the year, Lukas. We need you to put on your best face and smile to the cameras. You can chase the girl tomorrow.”

“Nikki, you know who she is to me,” I said seriously, not caring that the three girls hanging off of Jesse’s arms were all listening in, along with the younger Wolfhart. “I can’t stay here.”

Nikki glanced at them, before she leaned closer, lowering her voice so only I could hear. “Lukas, everyone from the label is here tonight. You are my friend, and I understand your frustration. Please don’t make me have to remind you of your contract…” She sighed, her dark eyes pleading with mine.

Nikki was like a sister to all of us. After all the years we’ve spent together, she was the only constant woman in all of our lives. But as much as she felt like family when it came to business, there was no messing around with her.

And tonight, as much as I hated to admit it, she was right.

“I’m sorry, Lukas.” She breathed, squeezing my hand before turning on her heel, and rejoining the crowd.

“Fuck me.”

Jesse thrust a drink at me, and I took it without looking, throwing it back. “Another!” We waved a waiter down, who brought us each two more glasses of champagne.

“Wanna do shots?” Jesse grinned, nodding toward the bar. I followed him without stopping to talk to any of the eager fans of the band and ordered two of the strongest drinks the bartender had on hand. “That bad, huh? She didn’t like the song, I take it?”

“She loved it,” I growled, motioning for the bartender that we weren’t done with him just yet.

I had no idea how long we sat at the bar, but I was thankful for Jesse’s company. He not only managed to field of any female advances by flirting the pants off of them until they went away, but he also made sure I never had an empty glass in front of me.

“This is going to hurt like shit in the morning.” He observed when my phone vibrated in my pocket. I pulled it out, frowning at the screen until the little letters stopped dancing.

Ash: Dropped her off at the redhead’s.

Ginger. She was at Ginger’s.

Before I had a chance to reply, Jesse snatched the phone from me, and typed:

Me: Nikki is going to KILL YOU for leaving

Ash: Did anyone really expect me to stay?!

I huffed, suddenly wishing I could be as careless and free as Ash. He was an asshole, but at least he did it well.

“Loser.” Jesse slurred, referring to his brother. “Joke is on him because I’m going to get his girls too!” His laugh sounded delirious enough to make me question how he was going to get himself up, let alone his dick.

But at least that mental image entertained me enough to keep my thoughts away from my little Copenhagen for a few minutes.

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