Chapter 34. - Repercussions
“It was clearly the best song ever - the most romantic thing anyone has ever done for me-” I trailed off, aware of the raised eyebrow Ginger was giving me. “Okay, so it wasn’t like I’ve had a lot to compare it to… But still. It was straight out of a romance novel.”
Ginger snorted, but whatever sarcastic comment was threatening to burst to the surface, she held it in. and right now, I was thankful just for her silent support.
“And then I walked up to him, and he kissed me and took me backstage and-” I swallowed, and Ginger sighed.
“Did you sleep with him right then and there, London?” This time, her tone didn’t hold back her disapproval. “Sex in a public place - is that where this is going? You have to keep your head on, London. That’s the kind of reckless thing Callie would do, and we all know she doesn’t make the best decisions when it comes to men.”
“No, I didn’t have sex with him!” I objected. I was about to, but then… “I told him I loved him.”
Ginger blinked. Once. Twice. And just like Lukas LaBelle, snapped her lips shut.
“Actually, I said that I was in love with him,” I added when she just continued to stare at me.
Finally, she sighed. “Shit, London, that’s so much worse than public sex.” She took a generous swing of her wine, before lowering her glass to look at me over the rim of it. “So what did he say?”
I bit down on my lower lip. “I don’t know.”
Her red brows lifted, peaking over her retro glasses. “What do you mean, you don’t know? Did you pass out?”
I shook my head. “I ran.”
I cringed. “I know. But what was I supposed to do?! I mean, he just stared at me. He didn’t say anything!”
“Well, did you give him a chance to?” Ginger questioned, making me replay the exact moments the words have left my mouth.
“I-” I trailed off. “I suppose not.”
She rolled her eyes. “London, I love you, but you’re an idiot.”
“Hey!” I pouted. “I’m having a pretty rough night, in case you can’t tell. I don’t need your abuse on top of everything.”
“Then what did you come here for?” She asked, making a solid point as always. “Look, the man wrote you a damn song about the time when you were all snotty teenagers and he didn’t even know you. He basically told everyone your story - that is a love confession, London. He keeps dragging you to all these places and appears with you in public. He might as well have ‘taken as fuck’ tattooed on that golden pretty-boy forehead of his. Why the fuck would you run away?!”
“Because I got scared!” I yelled, my voice coming out much louder than I intended to. Tears clouded my vision as I stared at her, my mouth trembling as I forced the next words out. “I got scared, okay? I told him that I was in love with him - and I’ve never said that to anyone before. And instead of saying it back, or thanking me, or laughing in my face, he just looked at me in deafening silence. Much like you just did!”
She held her hands up in surrender. “I was shocked because I never thought you’d get a chance to admit it to him in person. And honestly, I didn’t think you’d have the balls. I wasn’t staring at you because I was questioning the integrity of your words, or because I thought it came out of nowhere.”
I swallowed. “What do you think I should do now?”
Ginger took a deep breath. “Realistically, I don’t know the first thing about love, so I might not be the best one to ask for advice. But I could tell you what I would do?” I nodded. “If I were you, I’d let him cool down. Sounds like tonight was an emotional rollercoaster for everyone. I’d give him a chance to think it through and sleep on it. And next time you talk - actually wait for his answer before you assume things.”
I sighed, the gut-wrenching anxiety I’ve been carrying around for the last couple of hours finally disintegrating with the breath I’ve let out. “I hate that you can be so logical about everything, Ginger.”
She shrugged. “I’m not in love, London. Love makes people do crazy shit and I never plan on losing my wits for a man.”
Her words stayed with me for a long time, even after she’s gone to bed. I thought about the night behind me - his golden eyes finding mine across the room, as if he has known all along that I would be there. I remembered our first meeting as adults, five weeks ago - how our eyes connected and a little zap of electricity shot down my spine. The same golden eyes that watched me eight years ago, so calm and confident, even after I’ve dumped my coffee all over him.
I tended to be a sentimental person - after all, I was an artist. But right now, I’ve had a hard time convincing myself that these were just coincidences. Somehow, all these little happenstances through time added up to a giant path that felt a lot like fate.
Despite having a hard time getting my mind under control last night, once I managed to fall asleep, I was out like a rock. I only woke up when my senses tingled with the delicious scent of coffee in Ginger’s kitchen.
I walked in, wearing one of her pajama shirts and propped myself up on a stool next to where she was reading. Instead of a textbook, I couldn’t understand if I lived up to be a hundred, this morning, she was reading something on her iPad.
“Morning.” She said, and I smiled when I remembered that if anything, my best friend only got crankier in the morning. “How did you sleep?”
“Very good. Thank you for letting me crash.”
Ginger nodded. “I let Callie know you slept here. She was worried about you.”
I had the urge to slap myself on the forehead. I’ve been so wrapped up in my own little world, feeling sorry for myself about what happened last night that I forgot that I wasn’t alone. The three of us have been best friends for so long that I tended to take them for granted.
“Ginger,” I spoke, then waited patiently until she set her tablet down and looked at me. “I really appreciate you being here for me last night. I know it may seem silly to you, but it meant everything to me to know that I could come here and you’d listen.”
Ginger sighed. “London, it’s not silly at all! I know how much he means to you - if you feel like I’ve handled your confession properly that’s on me, not on you.” She leaned closer, her big brown eyes shining clearly as she looked at me. “This love thing terrifies me. I’m rational and predictable, and the idea that someone out there could completely throw me scares me shitless!”
I couldn’t help it, I grinned. “Ginger, I never thought I’d see you be scared of anything!”
She laughed. “Where, there you go. You’re welcome!”
“I think I should call Lukas now.”
I was halfway off the stool when she caught my hand. “Before you do that-” Her eyes were no longer playful, and I could sense a gigantic ‘but’ coming. “-perhaps you should see this.”
She slid her iPad in front of me, and I nearly fell on the ground.
My name was in every magazine I’ve ever heard of, and about a thousand more. They had pictures of last night, of Lukas and I kissing, of me storming out. Of me crying… The album was released to the public at midnight, and the song was now on the radio. Hashtag ‘coffeegirl’ was trending on Twitter…
I clicked on a random article to see what it said about me - and I regretted that the moment the first couple of words registered. They hated me.
The song was a hit - Hazmat’s new album was already number one and out there breaking all kinds of records, but the fans and public hated me. They called me money-hungry, an attention whore, talentless, a social climber… The pictures that showed in the articles were the most unflattering photos I’ve ever seen last night - my face looking mad, then scared, then crying. I’ve had mascara running down my cheeks while I appeared to be shoving a man with a camera.
They made me look awful.
“Ginger, this is-”
“-temporary.” She finished the sentence for me, sounding confident.
But even her strength couldn’t overshine the fact that I was now the most talked about person in the celebrity world. “That’s what you all said the first time. And it’s only gotten worse…”
Ginger ignored my comment and continued. “The security your parents hired are waiting in the parking lot. There is no sign of paparazzi!” She held her hands up when she saw the panic flash across my face. “No one knows that you’re here, except for me and Callie, and that asshole that brought you over. And as much of a douchebag as he shows himself to be, I don’t think even Ash Wolfhart would say anything.”
I nodded. “No, he helped me. When they surrounded me… Ginger, it was awful!”
“I can only imagine.” She agreed. “I called Arielle, who spoke to that one member’s wife, uhm…”
“Nikki.” I supplied helpfully.
“Yes. As soon as she has something, she’ll call you. Until then, you can wait here.” She pushed a plate in front of me, containing fruits and oats. “Eat and take a shower. Everything will seem better, you’ll see.”
I highly doubted that.
I stepped out of the shower, feeling like I got ran over by a pack of rhinos. Everything in my body felt sore and tight, and for the first time in a while, I felt like my life was completely out of my control.
I didn’t know how to fix what the media thought of me, because I didn’t even know how to fix my relationship with the man who I was putting myself through all this for. Everything I have worked hard for was slipping through my fingers - no one seemed to have cared about the event and the decorations, or my work.
They were out to tear my character apart - something I’ve never questioned because the possibility of people who have never met me would hate me has never occured to me.
Ginger let me borrow a tank top that probably looked tight and sexy on her, but hung loose and low on my small chest, and a pair of sweatpants I had to tie in around my waist to keep from falling down. Although she was a tad shorter, she was much curvier than me, and I felt like a little girl wearing her mother’s clothes when I tried on her stuff.
I walked out of the bathroom, feeling worse for wear when I spotted the golden figure on her couch. I froze, just as he looked up as if he could sense my presence.
“Holland.” He said in greeting and rose to his feet.
“That’s not a city.” I objected.
His lips quirked into a small smile. He was teasing me, and that knowledge made the corners of my mouth turn upwards too.
Lukas LaBelle’s golden eyes skimmed down my body, from my still wet locks to my bare feet. He took a step closer, gauging my reaction, and when I didn’t move away he cupped the back of my neck and brought my lips to his.
The kiss was quick but soft, and his touch was gentle enough to tug on the strings of my heart. “You shouldn’t be here,” I whispered when he pulled back slightly, resting his forehead against mine.
“On the contrary.” Lukas’ velvet voice replied, and I was tempted to just let my eyes close and soak in the moment. But that would’ve meant that I’d miss the look in his beautiful eyes. “I should’ve been here last night.”
I shivered at his words, my soul aching for him.
“Ash told me how he found you. I am so sorry, London. That should never have happened to you.” He continued, my pain reflecting in his gaze. “Please tell me you’ll forgive me, baby.”
I gasped at his words, my hands fisting the front of his shirt as we continued looking at each other. From this close, our breaths mingled, and I felt so damn close to him. The air he exhaled was now inside me, and I wanted nothing more than to crawl even closer into him. “It’s not your fault, Lukas. You didn’t know.”
“I should’ve. After that first time… I should’ve known they wouldn’t just drop it.” He sighed and took a step back, pulling me with him until he was seated on the couch with me in his lap. “Nikki and the label are working on it. They’re going to come up with a way to fix this. We’re going to get through this, I promise.”
I nodded. I wanted to believe him. I so desperately wanted to believe him.
“There’s something else…” He trailed off, adjusting me on his lap so that my torso faced his. I wrapped my arms around his neck, enjoying the way his blonde curls ticked my wrists. “London, I l-”
“Is it safe to come out, now?!” Ginger’s voice sounded from behind her closed bedroom door. “I really don’t want to walk in on you two going at it on my couch… I just recently ran out of bleach, you see.”
I grinned. “Sure! Come on out.” I turned back to Lukas LaBelle, whose golden eyes were on my face. “What was it you wanted to tell me?” I asked, softer this time.
He smiled, the gesture not reaching his eyes this time. “Another time.”