Strung

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Chapter 56. - Things Unsaid

*Lukas*

I didn’t bother ringing the doorbell, or even knocking on the front door. I used the side entrance to get in, the one that my friend constantly left unlocked, despite the security team’s warnings. The glass door slid open, allowing me into the laundry room that had a view of my bushes.

Ash was in the kitchen, watching some old foreign movie on the TV as he chowed down an entire cow. His brow lifted as he looked at me. “You have a spare key, man. Would it kill you to use it once?”

“What’s the point when I can just walk right in?” I shrugged. “It’s very unsafe of you to make it so easy on the bad guys.”

“It’d be very unsafe of the bad guys to come in here. I have nothing to be worried about.” He said calmly, returning his gaze to the television.

I poured myself a cup of coffee and sat opposite him. “You’re not going to ask me what I’m doing here?”

“I don’t need to. I bet you’ve been sitting in front of your window with a pair of binoculars. And they’re calling me the insane one!”

I pretended that my coffee mug had some smudge on the edge, avoiding looking up at him. Ash wasn’t far off. I’ve known London was coming over because I paid the guard at the front gate off to let me know as soon as Ash put her on the visiting schedule.

It was pathetic.

“She found out about us leaving the label this morning.” Ash offered up the information, immediately capturing my attention. “It was all over the news this morning. Your old hag made quite the show of announcing it.”

I rolled my eyes. “That sounds like Erika alright. And she’s not my anything.”

But it didn’t matter. The worst was yet to come with her, but these outrageous stabs were a drowning woman’s last attempts at hurting us. Once we were out of these rough waters, it would be smooth sailing for the band and I. And we were going to stick together through it like we always had been.

“So what did you tell her?” I asked, not being able to stand the silence any longer. It was sad, the way I used my best friend, to get tiny pieces of information about the girl who wanted nothing to do with me.

“I didn’t tell her anything,” Ash said cooly, placing another bite of beef in his mouth, eyes locked on the screen above my head.

“Do you enjoy this?” The question slipped out before I could stop myself, finally earning a surprised glance from my best friend. “Do you enjoy toying with people?”

Slowly, a grin spread across his dark features. “I enjoy watching you squirm, fuck yes.” He chuckled. “I thought you were over this chick. You’ve done good while we were on tour.”

While his dark eyes returned to the TV, I could sense that he was waiting for a response. And at this time, I had two choices. I could either admit to my best friend that I was in fact, still hooked on this one girl who left me like yesterday’s trash and skipped to another continent to get away from me… Or I could lie and tell him that I was just making conversation.

Instead, I decided to go with a third option.

“You’ll get it one day. You’ll meet some girl that’ll make your fucking head spin as you do backflips around her just to win her favor… And when that day comes, I will be sitting here, smug as shit, ready to remind you of the way you teased me when I was in your shoes!”

Ash huffed. “That’s never going to happen, man. And bold of you to assume this situation of yours will resolve itself if you just sit in your glass castle and stare out at the world instead of grabbing it by the balls!”

I lifted a brow at him as I stood. “And what do you suggest I should do?”

He sighed. “I can’t even fucking believe we’re having this conversation…” He pushed his plate away, folding his hands in front of himself. “My mom always said that what made my father stand out to her from all the men who were trying to win her affections was that he actually talked to her. Fucking tell her how you feel already. Court her or some shit - I don’t know! I’ve never had to pedal to win a chick back, my trouble is trying to get rid of them!”

I shook my head. “If she wanted to talk, she’d know where to find me.”

Ash shrugged. “So keep gloating by yourself while you creep on her. Don’t think the security guard didn’t tell me you paid him!”

“That traitor…” I murmured under my nose, earning a chuckle from Ash.

“Anyways, I have to go. I have a training session with Damon in an hour.” He told me. “You’re welcome to my Xbox since your own house doesn’t seem to do anymore.”

“All that muscle and no shirtless promo coming up…”


*London*

“The vegetarian one, please,” Ginger told the waiter, who took our menus and retreated to the back, leaving the three of us alone. For the first time in months, we were out in public - all of us together. And for the first time ever, it was me the photographers wanted to get a shot of, not Callie.

“Switch seats with me!” She told Ginger, who lifted a brow at her.

“What for?”

“This is my good side!” She nodded toward the glass front of the restaurant, where a dozen or so paparazzo have gathered since we sat down. “This angle makes my nose look big!”

“Your nose is big.” Ginger snorted. Callie’s wide, blue eyes flashed at me and I shook my head encouragingly. “Now let’s talk about something relevant. I’ve been really getting into lasers in the medical field.”

“Can they help my nose?” Callie interjected.

“No. Only a psychiatrist can help you, Callie.” She snorted. “As I was saying, I think there’s a lot of improvement that can be made in that field. I’m going to be working with a special lab next semester to get up to date on the latest technology. It’s an incredible opportunity!”

I nodded, smiling at her. “That’s great, Ging!” While I didn’t understand much about what the smartest third of our trio did in school, I knew that she was set for great things. “What about you, Callie? What have you been up to?”

She sighed, tossing her blonde locks over her shoulder. “I’m trying to get in shape for Fashion Week. I’ve been seeing a trainer four times a week to slim down for the runway - there is no room for imperfections when you’re that close up to the biggest names in the industry!”

“So you’ve been in town?”

“Sure!” Callie said, too quickly, as she glanced away.

I frowned. “Is there somethi-”

“Hey, look! Our food is coming!” Ginger yelled, pointing in the direction of the waiter. When she caught me giving her a weird look, she did a little shrug. “What? I’ve been hungry all day!”

Our waiter set our plates down in front of us, before once again disappearing.

I turned back to the girls. “As I was saying… If you’re in town Callie, why don’t we-”

“I’ve just been so busy!” She gave me a tight-lipped smile. “Nothing personal, just had a lot going on. Not all of us are able to make our own schedules, Londie-bug! You have to be more understanding.”

I get that. But if you’re-”

“I can’t!”

I recoiled. “Okay. That’s fine, then.” I got the sense that the two of them knew something I didn’t. There was definitely something going on that they didn’t want me apart of, and while I had faith in our friendship, I couldn’t help the uneasy feeling in the pit of my stomach.

The rest of the lunch was uneventful in comparison. I didn’t question the girls about what they have been up to anymore, and they didn’t bring it up again. The conversation drifted to celebrity gossip and the usual drama around Callie’s profession. In the model world, someone was always secretly hooking up with someone else to get ahead.

It was only after the girls have left and I remained in the restaurant a little longer, dreading the walk to my car through the crowd of photographers still camped out outside, that I googled last night’s pictures again.

Just as I saw on TV this morning, Ash, Jesse and Lukas LaBelle were seated around a carefully positioned group of couches. In the middle of the arrangement stood a table, with more shots lined up than I cared to count, too many bottles of liquor for just their small group, and a couple of groupies.

Two were on either side of Ash, predictably draped over him. But my eyes zoned in on the third female, seated between Jesse and Lukas LaBelle. Her long, blonde hair fell all the way down to her slim waist, curling just above her perfect peach of an ass a special trainer has apparently been working on for Fashion Week.

I zoomed in on the photo - although, I knew that face like my own. After all, I spent the last decade and a half looking at it. Her lips were quirked up in a sly smile as she looked over the man I’ve been helplessly in love for most of my teenage and adult years.

I didn’t notice her on TV this morning. There was too much going on! The shock of seeing his face once more unexpectedly… The unexpected news of the label dropping the band… My brain didn’t even register that all along, there were more people in that club last night than the announcers made it sound.

And one of those people just sat across for me for nearly an entire hour, talking about meaningless gossip, while forgetting to mention the fact that she spent last night with Him!

Too invested in this now, I closed the article from last night. Instead, I searched for her name, along with the word ‘Hazmat’, and set the filter to reflect the last three months.

And boy, was there much to look at!

There were hundreds of articles. Thousands of pictures. All of Callie and some combination of the members of the most famous band on the planet. Some were just Callie and Jesse. Some showed her with all four. In most though, was the same combination as in the club last night.

I shut my phone off, my hands now shaking.

How could she look me in the eye, and omit to mention any of this?! How could she not bring this up?!

The rational part of me understood that Callie Sanders was an adult, who owed me no explanation. That what she did in her free time had nothing to do with me - friendship or not.

But…

But everything else inside me screamed in pain and betrayal.

I was tempted to call her right now. To demand that she came back to the restaurant and explained to me what the hell has been going on. But after how lunch went today, I knew I wouldn’t get a straight answer out of her. If anything, she was going to make me feel even worse for digging.

No. There was only one person who never lied. Who no matter how crass the truth was, had the balls to say it.

I grabbed my purse and rushed out of the restaurant. In this mood, the paparazzi had nothing on me. I strolled confidently between them and they parted for me like the red sea.

Half an hour and an awkward conversation with the security later I pulled up in front of the house I now knew like the back of my hand. Shutting down my car, I glanced at the front door, then decided to round the giant mansion and shoot for the side door. “He really should lock this…” I murmured to myself as I closed it behind me and set about searching for him.

I didn’t have to look for long.

After ten seconds, the unmistakable sound of shooting came from the second living room - the one that was designed for actual use, while the first one was just for show. I walked through the doorway, fully expecting long, straight, raven black hair and dark, tattooed skin.

But instead, the man sprawled out on the couch was golden in every way, as warm as a sunset over the Pacific ocean. His eyes were set on the television as the game went on, and for a moment, I wasn’t sure if he heard me come in.

It wasn’t too late to turn around and run the other way! The thought appealed to me for only a moment. A breath, until that golden gaze locked on me.

His thumbs froze over the controller, pink, full lips parting as he took me in. It has been a long time. Too long! And every rake of his gaze felt like tiny electric shocks on my skin. Finally, his eyes lifted back up to mine and my breath left me in a whoosh.

“What’s up, Beijing?”

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