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The foundation series bo.., p.37
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       The Foundation Series Box Set, p.37

           Kira Adams
 

  I let out the long breath of air I forgot I was holding. It’s a chilly November night, and I can see my breath.

  He breaks out into a grin, slapping his hand onto my shoulder. “You’re too hard on yourself.”

  I shrug. “I know.” I look down.

  He squeezes my shoulder lightly before letting go. “Can I ask you a question?”

  I look back up, locking my gaze onto his. “Sure.”

  His brown eyes shift around a bit before he speaks. “That song in there…that about who I think it is?”

  I nod, averting his gaze. Jace and Noah don’t have the greatest track record.

  He laughs awkwardly, rubbing his chin. “That’s what I thought. Listen, I know we haven’t spent a lot of time together recently, apart from the band, but I want you to know I’m always here if you need someone to talk to. We were friends before him and we will be friends long after.”

  I nod, smiling slightly. “Thanks.”

  He chuckles. “I’m boycotting his movie by the way.”

  I stifle a laugh. “You don’t have to do that.”

  He shrugs. “I know, but that’s what friends are for, right?”

  I smile. “Well if that’s the case, you’re a better friend than Harper.”

  His mouth drops open in shock. “Alyssa is dying to see it. I don’t know how much longer I can make up excuses.”

  I giggle. “Seriously, it’s not a big deal. He’s everywhere now. In every magazine I open, on every newsfeed on Facebook, and it’s not like he’s going anywhere. I’m really going to have to get used to it.”

  Noah leans against my car, his eyes lighting up. “I have an idea.”

  My eyebrows raise. “Uh-oh, should I be worried?” I joke.

  He shakes his head, grinning. “I’ll see it if you will.”

  “What?” I ask.

  “Let’s go see Valor.”

  My jaw drops open. “Seriously?”

  He nods. “Seriously.”

  “Right now?” It’s not as if I have anything I have to do or anywhere I have to be.

  Noah grins back at me. “Yeah, why not?”

  “Umm, maybe because Alyssa would kill you?” I adore Alyssa. If I were her, I’d be hurt if he took someone else to the movie I’d been begging him to take me to.

  “What she doesn’t know won’t kill her,” he replies. He is staring me down with his dark eyes. “So, what do you say?”

  For the longest time, I’ve been avoiding movie theatres in fear of seeing Jace’s face; in fear of being reminded of the pain he caused me, but Noah makes me feel safe, he always has. Suddenly, I feel empowered. “Sure, why not?”

  I’m confronting my fears, and I hope by doing so, I will be that much closer to moving on.

  * * *

  Noah and I haven’t said a word to one another since we got out of the movie.

  That was over twenty minutes ago.

  We’ve been driving in silence back to the studio, each gathering our thoughts.

  The movie was phenomenal. I’m talking top ten movies of my lifetime, hands down. Jace was no exception. I’ve always known how talented he was, but this was on another level. I feel so conflicted. On one hand, I’m so damn proud of him for accomplishing something so incredible. On the other hand, I’m kicking myself for pulling the plug on us. I feel like I’ve just gotten out of the boxing ring—more battered and broken than when I walked in. It had the complete opposite effect on me than I had hoped for, and it’s really messing with my head.

  When Noah pulls up to my car in the parking lot of the studio, he finally breaks the silence. “So, I’m not sure I can hate him anymore.”

  I look over at him. “I don’t expect you to.”

  He exhales sharply. “Good, because I have to take Alyssa to this movie.”

  I nod. “You should. She’d love it.”

  His expression softens. “Are you okay?”

  I nod. “I haven’t been for a very long time…but I will be.” I lean over kissing him on the cheek. “Thanks for being a good friend, Noah.”

  He grins back at me. “See you later?”

  I bob my head up and down. “See ya later.” I climb out of his car and begin making my way toward my own. When I’m within reach of my driver’s side door, I see something out of the corner of my eye. I turn my head, and sure enough, I can now see Luis locking up the studio. He is wearing long dark grey jeans with black vans, a bright orange sweatshirt and a black hat that is turned backwards. Although dressed down, he looks good. He turns around and immediately sees me. He raises his hand in the air as a wave.

  I return his wave before turning back around and unlocking the door to my car. He must be lightning fast because within seconds I hear him beside me. “I didn’t know you were still here.”

  I spin around, startled. “Are you a ninja?”

  He chuckles, amused by my question. “Am I a what?”

  “A ninja, because you’re stealthy and appear out of nowhere.” When he doesn’t respond for a long moment I wave my hands in front of my face dismissively. “Never mind.”

  He laughs, his dimples mocking me. “What are you doing here so late?” He motions with his head to the dark sky.

  “Actually, I just got back. Noah and I went to see a movie.”

  His eyebrows raise surprised. “Really?”

  I realize that he is misunderstanding me. “Oh, no, not like that. We went as friends.”

  He squints his eyes, still grinning. “Sure.”

  “I’m serious.”

  He nods. “What did you go see?”

  “Valor,” I reply, opening my door and throwing my purse inside.

  Luis’s eyes widen. “How was it?”

  I take a deep breath. “Difficult,” I reply before I realize just how honest I’ve been.

  He raises his eyebrows. “Difficult?”

  I realize I can either lie to him or I can be honest. I decide to go with the latter. “The movie itself was amazing. Incredible, actually. If you get a chance to see it, you should.”

  He watches me intently, not saying a word, but amused nonetheless.

  “Seeing my ex in the main role was the difficult part.”

  Luis looks at me like I have two heads and then a realization passes across his face. “Jerkface.”

  I fight back a laugh, nodding. “Jerkface.”

  He nods. “Everything is making so much more sense now.”

  I giggle. “Unfortunately, I think I need a stiff drink now.” I begin climbing into my car when Luis reaches for my door.

  “Need some company?”

  I’m surprised he’s offering himself up. I glance back at him, my eyes landing on his handsome face. “You know what, that sounds really nice.”

  He lets go of my door and stalks around my car to the passenger side, letting himself in. “Giorgio’s?”

  Six: It Felt Like Someone Reaching into My Chest and Squeezing the Life out of Me

  Jace

  It’s exactly a month away from the release of Fortitude, and the amount of press that goes into it is insane. Just this week, we traveled all over Europe promoting the brand and the message. I’ve barely had a minute to blink, let alone breathe.

  I’ve been home for less than twenty-four hours, and I am already scheduled for appearances on Jonah, Shawn Bruner, and Timothy Dalton, all huge nighttime talk shows.

  I look over at Chenise who is sucked into her phone. “What are you doing?” I ask.

  “I just confirmed six more appearances for you,” she says proudly, her eyes leaving the screen of her phone for a brief moment in time to lock with mine.

  “Six?” I ask, nearly choking on the question.

  “Is that a problem, Jace?” Chenise asks worriedly, setting her phone down.

  I feel like someone is sitting on my chest. Breathing is difficult for me, and I have a knot in the pit of my stomach. “Chenise, I start filming Duel in two months. I don’t get finished with this press run until next week. I n
eed a vacation. I’m running myself into the ground.”

  She listens earnestly, nodding her head. “That is the last appointment I am going to add to your calendar. After Friday of next week, you will be a free man.”

  I sigh, smiling slightly. “Thank you.”

  My ears perk up, and my heart begins to race. “Hey, man, can you turn that up?” I ask our driver.

  He nods in understanding and then the music is audible. It’s Peyton’s voice, I could have recognized that any day.

  “What is it?” Chenise asks, confused.

  I hold my finger up in front of my lips, hoping she will let me hear this.

  You really had me fooled

  All the right moves

  I never could have known

  Stripped me to the bone

  Stripped me to the bone

  You had me captivated

  I was under your spell

  You held my heart inside your hands

  And you crushed it with a force

  I thought what we had was real

  I thought what we felt was love

  I never saw it coming

  You’re a master of your craft

  You really had me fooled

  All the right moves

  I never could have known

  Stripped me to the bone

  Stripped me to the bone

  You let your circus team win

  You let them call the shots

  They said I wasn’t good for you

  And you fell right for the trap

  You really had me fooled

  All the right moves

  I never could have known

  Stripped me to the bone

  Stripped me to the bone

  You really had me fooled

  All the right moves

  I never could have known

  Stripped me to the bone

  Stripped me to the bone

  “That was the debut single from A Change in Time, called Stripped Me to the Bone,” the radio announcer says.

  I swallow digesting it all.

  “Holy shit,” Chenise breaks the unbearable silence. “Was that about you?”

  I lock eyes with her. “Yeah, I think it was.” I breathe in deeply, hoping to calm my nerves. By the time I get to my first appearance, my stomach is in knots. I can’t stop thinking about that song. About Peyton. My mind is anywhere other than the present.

  “Jace? Jace?” Chenise asks, waving her hand in front of my face.

  I shake my head and my vision returns to me. We are no longer in the car, and instead are in a long, narrow, cement hallway. What the hell? I spin around, my eyes scanning the walls. How did I get here? I can’t help the worried look that spreads across my face. Chenise’s expression softens. “Are you okay? You sure you are up for this?” she asks.

  I nod, swallowing my nerves. “Yeah, I’ll be fine.” I’m lying straight through my teeth, but I know we don’t have time for this. I need to focus because I know they are going to ask me the uncomfortable questions.

  The next few hours fly by in a blur and I can barely remember what even transpired. I hope I didn’t make too much of a fool of myself. Chenise gave me thumbs up throughout the entire taping, so I’m going to assume I pulled it off. When I finally make it home, I sit on my bed, staring at Peyton’s number on the screen of my phone. All I have to do is press one button, and I can hear her voice again. I wonder what she is doing. I wonder if she has moved on. Her song tells me otherwise. I could hear the pain in her voice. It felt like someone reaching into my chest and squeezing the life out of me.

  I never stopped to think about how my actions affected her. I think I chose to stay blissfully ignorant. The problem is, now that I’ve heard her thoughts and feelings poured out to the entire world, I feel like the biggest asshole. Everything happened so quickly, I’m starting to wonder when it all began to go downhill.

  I run my finger over the screen of my phone, closing my eyes. My heart is beating so ferociously, I’m gripping my chest. I press the green call button without another thought and take a deep breath in. Peyton doesn’t have this number, I had to get a new one about six months ago due to the influx of fans who somehow got ahold of my original information.

  “Hello?” I hear her answer, and I freeze. Even though we haven’t spoken in almost a year, it’s strange how comfortable it feels. How right she feels in my life.

  I open my mouth to say something, and then close it again. What am I even going to say? Sorry for being such a douchebag, I want you back? I swallow as she says hello again.

  “Must be a wrong number or something,” she mutters as she hangs up. Right before the click disconnects the line I hear a male’s voice.

  “Peyton, come check this out.”

  My stomach sinks. I don’t recognize the voice, but my mind begins racing. What if she has met someone else? I couldn’t possibly expect her to wait for me while I played along with my agent’s publicity stunt with Angelica. She didn’t deserve what I put her through. I don’t blame her if she hates my guts.

  I glance at the home screen of my phone. You don’t deserve her. You need to leave her alone, let her live her life without you. I breathe deeply, throwing my phone back against my pillows. I know that song was about me, and if her words are truthful, I hurt her a lot more than I ever expected to. I need to let her go. She needs to be able to experience and enjoy life amongst people who have her best interests at heart. Not someone who stripped her to the bone.

  Seven: Anything I Say Can and Will be Used Against Me

  On the Hunt

  © 2015 DarienMae

  Watch out, their coming

  Coming for ya

  Stars in the night

  We’re taking flight

  The enemy is on the hunt

  Training their guns

  Start the engine

  Pedal on the gas

  Be the hero

  Get out fast

  They’re coming at you

  They’re coming for you

  They’re coming at you and they’re coming for you

  Watch out, their coming

  Coming for ya

  Stars in the night

  We’re taking flight

  The enemy is on the hunt

  Training their guns

  Force field, Invisible

  We’re doomed to fail

  No matter the outcome

  We’re setting sail

  This planet or another

  We’re getting out

  No more wondering

  What this life’s about

  Stars in the night

  We’re taking flight

  The enemy is on the hunt

  Training their guns

  Peyton

  We finally finished our CD, and Luis went to work on mixing and mastering it. I think the best decision we made was to axe On Tour and replace it with Stripped Me to the Bone. It changed the entire dynamic of the CD. It’s stronger, more powerful.

  Luis has bought plenty of airplay for our hit single, and it’s not uncommon for me to hear it on the radio a few times a day now. It feels surreal. I’ve been dreaming of this moment my entire life, and suddenly it’s here. People are beginning to recognize us out in public now, and it’s becoming a part of my reality.

  Because of the new-found fame of our hit single and record deal, reporters have been digging into our pasts for the gossip magazines. I think I am finally beginning to understand what Jace goes through on a normal day-to-day basis. Because of the digging, there is now speculation that the song is about Jace, and old Kelley reruns of us together have begun to surface. People are in shock that I am the same girl from that day.

  Due to our notoriety, Luis has been scheduling us interviews almost back to back. He is trying to spread the word about our CD, Origins, and keep us riding this wave. As a band, we’ve already met with Rolling Stone, Alternative Press, and more. Individually, Luis has been scheduling us for interviews with the tee
n and girly magazines such as US or Cosmopolitan. Today is my Cosmopolitan interview. Luis did warn me that this particular interviewer is no holds barred. She is not afraid to go there, whether it’s right or not. I guess I’m hoping for the best, yet preparing myself for the worst.

  “Peyton Lane,” the interviewer throws out her hand when I approach the table she is seated at. She chose a chic little Italian restaurant on the west side of LA. I shake her hand, while taking in her appearance. She has short dark hair in a bob style, and is wearing a suit jacket and slacks. I glance down at my basic blouse and leggings and instantly feel underdressed. “I’m Catherine Tyrone, entertainment reporter with Cosmo. Please, take a seat.”

 
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