Annabella When you lose someone you love, you want to scream as you fall to your knees, begging for anything to release the pain. People say, once you let it all out, you’re finally able to accept the fact that the person you love is gone and you can proceed with the funeral and the grieving. They say time heals everything and makes us remember those we lost only with smiles and good memories, and all the bad things fade away. Well, you know what? It’s all fucking bullshit. Time doesn’t heal shit; it just makes you deal with the painful reality that they’re never coming back. There is no scream. The minute you get the news, all you hear is a deep buzzing sound in your ears and everything around you is just quiet, as if you were in a vacuum. Funerals and seeing the body? Makes you loathe it even more and get angry at all those people who think they know better, who give you that pitiful stare and tell you someday everything will be all right. They promise to be there for you and always offer their support. That was a fucking lie, too. No one’s here with me right now. I lie in bed all alone and the pain doesn’t go away. That, I guess, is the whole point to being in rehab. “Bella, you are fucking using, and you want me to let you go on with it?” “Take her to a center. She is a fucking druggie.” “Have you thought for a second how Nick would react to this?” I hear all those voices in my head every time I try to relax. There is no getting away from them, or from those people who think they understand. They think they’re allowed to judge. Well, they fucking aren’t. They don’t know what it’s like to be me and deal with the pain when you have to smile for the press or perform on stage. No, they fucking don’t, and I hate them for judging me. Drugs, they were my friends. For just a moment, they allowed me to see him, to imagine and talk to him. I was able to laugh and experience a slight joy because he was here every time I took another dose. They took it away from me and thought I would deal with the grief. How can I ever deal with it? The person I loved most, the one who always believed in me, who was there for me when I wanted to explore my talent and go big, who saved me from the blows of our father, he’s gone. He is never coming back. He can never hug me and tell me it’s going to be okay, because nothing can be okay for me anymore. I want him here with me, but at the same time, I know he would have been disappointed in me. He would never take drugs or approve of me doing something so bad either. He hated them because they destroyed our parents, and he helped kids like us make a different choice. There is one vivid memory of him and me, when I was five and he was ten, and we walked around the park with just our sweaters and coats as protection against the biting wind, even though our coats were old and didn’t do much to keep us warm. I had wanted to see the park and he showed me. My teeth chattered from the cold, so he removed his coat with the intention of placing it on me. “No, Nick! It’s freezing!” He held me close as I tried to get away, because as cold as I was, I didn’t want him to suffer. And if he became sick, there was no medicine to heal him. Our parents spent what little money they had on the alcohol and didn’t give a thought to their kids. Nick ignored my arguments and placed his jacket on me. “It’s okay. I feel better knowing you are protected.” It made me cry, but he just smiled and hugged me. He was my hero. There wasn’t a time in my life when he didn’t put me and my needs first. He’d attended every one of my concerts and even arranged my music deal. He will always be my hero. But he’s gone. He is gone forever. How can I live in a world where he no longer exists? How is it possible to breathe in a world where my big brother, the only family I’ve ever had, doesn’t exist? He is gone, and sometimes, I wish like hell I could have gone with him, that it would have been me who’d died in that car accident all those months ago. It should have been me who laid on the table, my body cold and lifeless. They say atonement comes one way or another, or the guilt eventually vanishes. That’s fucking bullshit, too. I’m a coward; I don’t want to live with the guilt. I want to live in my small fantasy-reality, where he’s alive. I know I’m probably as good as done with the band. There is no way the girls and Jeremy will let me stay after all this; plus, how can they ever trust me? They shouldn’t, because as much as I love what I do—what we do—if I had the choice again between them and that life, and drugs and my brother, I would choose Nick in a heartbeat. My name is Annabella Katherine Hastings. I’m the lead singer of one of the most famous girl rock bands in the world, a fan favorite of many—supposedly with the voice of an angel—and I’ve recently become a druggie. Welcome to my world.
Jane, 21 years old “Come on, Jane. Live a little!” Ariel shouted in my ear and gave me yet another shot of tequila, and I just rolled my eyes. The girl was crazy, but she probably didn’t give a shit. That made me smile, especially when I thought about all the things she did in life. I shook my head and moved the shot to the side. I didn’t feeling like drinking, and maybe I just wasn’t in the mood. We were in a crowded Las Vegas nightclub, where the music was so loud you had to shout to be heard, and the booze was flowing. This club was one of the most exclusive places in the city. We paid a lot of money to get into the VIP lounge, and even I had to admit the design was fabulous. The lounge’s golds and reds were mesmerizing as they glittered vividly from the colorful club light. A big chandelier with crystals sparkled, emphasizing its beauty. On the huge dance floor with fog and lights, people danced and brushed against each other, drunk and out of control. The DJ above, wearing headphones, his eyes closed, moved his arms to the beat of the song. He appeared to be unaware he was in the crowded room. The bar was filled with eager, slightly tipsy people who wore designer clothes. Comfortable couches were scattered around the space. The friendly staff consisted of long-legged sexy waitresses in short black uniforms, black stockings, and high heels. The bartenders were seriously hot guys with cocky smiles and flirty winks. They wore leather pants and tight shirts, which gave the women customers a good look at their amazing chests, and probably contributed to very good tips from the horny ladies. The club had some of the best dancers in the world. A few cages hovering above the floor were filled with graceful, hot women who alluringly danced to the songs and did wonders with the ropes. I found it hard not to be jealous of their flexibility. The club, Resisting Me, opened a few months back, and quickly became a hit. No one knew much about the owners, but a rumor hinted at twin brothers who liked to get their kinks behind closed doors. We’d been dying to go for ages, so I had no clue why I felt out of sorts. Sam, Bella, and Megan danced wildly. Their arms waved above their heads while they shook their asses to the music. Several guys moved in closer, but my friends didn’t pay any attention to them. They were too into girls’ night to mess with the guys, and besides, they promised Nick to behave. Nick was Bella’s brother, or rather the brother of the whole band, and long-time boyfriend of Megan. He was crazy about his girl, and it took us some time and bribes to convince him to let her go unwind a little with us. I was glad she was enjoying herself. However, that meant no sex for the girls. Well, at least not in the club. I knew the girls would find a way to sneak some guys into the hotel rooms. None of them wanted anything serious, but they loved to unwind sometimes, and who could blame them? I would have done it too, if only I could. Ariel sighed in frustration, pinned her hair in a knot on top of her head, and moved closer. She took a sip of her drink and then pointed a finger at me. “You aren’t having fun at all. This is our night out, and for the first time since we became famous, we don’t have to hide. It took us ages to convince everyone to let us go out, and here you are making me mad.” Her finger jabbed into my arm. Vicious creature. Nonetheless, her words were filled with truth. We became famous three years ago. The minute the world heard our group, Hard World, we became an overnight sensation. Millions of likes on YouTube, platinum albums, tours, multi-million dollar contracts, everything a successful rock band wanted, which also included wild wrap parties, exclusive hotels, and vacations. We enjoyed luxury life at its best. That, however, had two sides, because it meant we had to be extremely careful what we did and where we did it. We couldn’t exactly go to regular places and have fun all the time. Especially because Jeremy, our manager, had a hissy fit about it. He hated all those parties. By the way, he was usually clenching his fists, drinking himself into oblivion, and giving the stink eye to all of Sam’s bed partners; you didn’t have to be a genius to figure out why. “How am I making you mad?” I asked. Her beautiful emerald eyes held disbelief. She just shook her head and threw back another shot. Ariel was a thing of beauty, an hourglass body with curves that made men turn their heads, long, red curly hair, which shined like fire on a bright sunny day, and those eyes of hers. No wonder men all over the world went crazy for our little mermaid. “Because you’re grumpy and refuse to drink or dance,” she pouted. “I’m not. I’m just a bit tired; that’s all.” It was a flat out lie, and she probably knew it, but after a long hard stare, she let it go. It was for the best too. I wasn’t about to share everything, because there was no point in doing it. Although the four of us were the closest friends possible, we sort of had two camps inside the group. Sam and Bella shared a special bond, while Ariel and I shared another. That’s why we were always attuned to each other’s mood swings and everything else. “Fine. Are you gonna go then?” “Yep. I need some good sleep.” I leaned closer and kissed her on her soft cheek. “I’ll buy your favorite cookies.” “Carbs for more curves? No, thanks,” she snorted, gulping one more shot and flashing me a picture of her in workout clothes on her Instagram page. “After all, I have a fitness blog going on for curvy women. I can’t eat them.” “Chocolate chip cookies, babe.” She narrowed her eyes, raised her chin slightly, and looked at me suspiciously. “How many?” Ah, I knew it would be easy to bribe her. I moved closer to her, and whispered in her ear, “Five.” She glanced around, nodded, and we shook hands. “It’s a deal. But keep it quiet. The walls have ears.” I swear if people heard what my friends and I talked about, they would think we needed to be locked up. “Pinky swear.” She rolled her eyes, and said, “Just go.” Then she blew me a kiss. “Yeah, just don’t be mad,” I replied. Her attention was already on the hot-looking guy on the dance floor, who was making his way toward her. She flashed him a cocky smile and licked her red, lipstick-covered lips. Looked like she had found her prey for the night. I made my way through sweaty bodies, people who were kissing, and several drunks who wanted to play grab ass, but were quickly shut down by the security guys who removed them. Near the exit, the wall was made of several small mirrors, which created some kind of weird art composition. It was hard not to notice myself in the reflection, not that there was much to look at. There wasn’t a lot to admire about me. I was skinny, but my firm ass was often noticed. My dull brown eyes were framed by black hair cut in a bob. I wore biker-chick clothes, because I loved bikes. My body sported several tattoos. I was plain, just like my name implied. Every damn magazine in the world made it their mission to point out how funny and out of place I was among all the beauties in my band. It hurt the first time, and—who was I kidding?—it still did, but I had to accept it. I wasn’t about to show weakness to anyone, especially the paparazzi. Finally, outside, I breathed the fresh spring air and loved the way the breeze calmed and cooled my body. Las Vegas was beautiful in its own way: all those lights, casinos, and interesting buildings. Everywhere, people had fun, and it was a good change from our busy New York life. People smiled, waved, and took pictures. Some of them were seriously drunk, but still laughed their asses off. The tourists were dressed in colorful Hawaiian shirts, and the locals in suits or jeans. What made the majority of the people in this city different was the excitement that shone in their eyes and the aura of adventure around them. My attention was on my surroundings, so the push from behind that made me fall forward came out of nowhere. My heart racing, I was just about to land on the hard concre
te when strong, masculine hands caught me from the front and held me tight, saving me from a painful fall. “Sorry, hun, didn’t see you there.” I looked back at a young guy who wasn’t older than mid-twenties as he gave me an apologetic smile. The bump was an accident, not anything to get angry about. It could have been a lot worse had it not been for the guy who caught me. I gave him a reassuring smile and opened my mouth to speak, but I wasn’t given the chance as the chest under my palms vibrated from the stranger’s raspy voice. “Maybe next time, you’ll pay better attention to where you’re going.” His voice was deep, husky, and masculine, and surprisingly, it sent shivers down my spine all the way to my toes. The guy who accidently pushed me paled, mumbled something under his breath, and quickly took off running. Curious, my eyes moved up, and my breathing stopped for a second. He was tall; his wide shoulders blocked my view behind him, almost as though I was standing in front of a wall. He was rather bulky, his arms muscled, evident by the way his black shirt stretched over them. My hands moved of their own accord over his brick-hard chest. Instantly, my palms tingled; I moved them away quickly and stepped back. Somehow, the move was like losing my anchor. What the hell was that? I finally looked at his face. He had the deepest, most beautiful sapphire eyes I’d ever seen. Those glorious eyes were surrounded by long lashes and set into his perfect, handsome face. His shaggy blond hair fell to just below his ears but didn’t reach his shoulders. His kind smile brought attention to his full lips. He gazed down at me with an expression in his eyes I didn’t understand, because no one had ever looked at me that way. I’d never met a man like him, and I didn’t understand my body’s reaction to him. I had visions of his naked skin against mine, two bodies entwined in bed, making love for hours. I found it hard to breathe. “Thank you,” I whispered. I couldn’t keep my eyes off him. He gave me a half smile and moved forward. I fought the need to step back, because it seemed like he was a predator and I was his prey. His whole attention was focused on me, his eyes narrowed. “Don’t move back from me, sweetheart,” he growled. “I don’t know you. Don’t call me that.” He grabbed my hand and pulled me back on his chest, resurrecting that electrifying feeling of his presence. His body was as hot as summer in Texas, and his tanned skin made me want to run my fingers over it. “What do you want me to call you then?” he whispered against my lips, which were a hair’s breadth away. “I…I don’t know,” I gasped. What was this? What was I doing? He was a stranger on the street, and I was in his arms feeling like he was the only one who could give me oxygen. Before any of this could make sense to me, he lowered his head and covered my lips with his. It was like the world stopped. And I was left alone with him in it. He slowly nipped my lips then licked and sucked on the lower one, which made me moan, a perfect opening for him to deepen the kiss. This was our first kiss. All I knew about kisses was that they were gentle and tender. The few guys I let kiss me were shy, and they didn’t really make my toes curl, but their kisses were nice. They weren’t passionate, because I simply didn’t inspire those feelings in men. Those kisses seemed dull and uninteresting compared to the one from the stranger. His kiss was deep, passionate, hard, and painful. It seemed as though he wanted to devour my mouth and leave his imprint on me, like he was marking me for everyone to see and punishing me at the same time, but for what, I didn’t know. He guided his tongue into my mouth, making me shiver and shyly answer his kiss, which earned me another growl. Following his lead allowed me to learn those kind of kisses, and I never wanted them to stop. My whole body was on fire, and for the first time in my life, I felt heat between my thighs, and my nipples got hard from the contact with another person. When my lungs burned from lack of air, he released my lips. We were both breathing heavily, and our eyes were still locked on each other. “Beautiful.” The word was like cold water washing over me, and I was suddenly aware of everything happening around me. His compliment wasn’t the truth, and it broke the spell. I hated that he had kissed me, but it was hard not to want more. For one damn minute, I believed in magic again. But the real world and memories forced me back from my fantasy world to land on my ass. Hard. “I need to go.” I had to get out of there, from him and a situation I didn’t understand, which confused me. Everything was blurry, and I just wanted to run away. That wasn’t right. That wasn’t me. I’d never reacted to men like I did him; I just never liked guys, period. Except Jeremy, but thinking about him made my heart ache, so I didn’t. I’d already met the man of my dreams and knew he loved someone else, so I had to live with that. I wasn’t looking for love. I was done.
V.F.Mason always loved reading books and had quite a few fights with her momma over the genre she liked (romance, duh!) She studied filmmaking and thought that would feed her desire for stories, but that didn’t happen. Finally, when she was tired of all those voices in her head, she sat down and wrote a book. It was a huge decision to make and she thanks her friends and family for supporting her in it. When she is not writing, she can be found with her friends doing all sorts of crazy things or reading recent romance books that were written by her favorite authors.
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