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The foundation series bo.., p.41
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       The Foundation Series Box Set, p.41

           Kira Adams
 

  I can’t help the chuckle that escapes my lips. Jace turns his gaze on me, burning me from the glare. “What’s so funny?” he asks dryly.

  “Oh, come on,” I say softly. “You have to find some humor in this.”

  His lips begin curling up into a smile, but I can tell he is working hard to suppress it. He turns his face away, giving himself a break from my stare.

  Jace begins tearing the sheets and comforter from the bed violently. Chenise exchanges a worried glance with me. I shrug and then turn my attention back on him. Once the bed is stripped, he turns back around, his attention on Chenise. “What is the status on the extra security?”

  “They are going to be here within the hour,” Chenise says, glancing at a paper in her hands. “Every station and their mother are calling for exclusives, and since we don’t have Justice dealing with it, it’s getting just a little bit overwhelming for me.”

  Jace rubs a hand over his face. “I know, I’m sorry. I didn’t think this through. Can you start looking for a new agent for me? And don’t worry, you’re getting a raise for all your hard work.”

  Chenise’s face lights up and it’s as if she’s gotten a second wind. “I’m going to deal with everything downstairs, you guys good here?”

  Jace’s eyes widen. “Downstairs? There’s more?” His voice cracks as he digests the information she is feeding him.

  “You know what, don’t even worry about it. I got it handled.” She seems so confident, so sure of herself. I have to give her props. She spins around, bouncing out of the room.

  “She’s good,” I say.

  Jace nods. “I know.”

  He grabs the pile of sheets and tosses them out of his room and into the hallway. “What now?” I ask.

  Jace opens up a cabinet at the far end of the room, grabbing an arm full of what look to be neatly folded bedsheets and pillow cases. “Well right now, you are going to help me make a bed.”

  Twelve: I Feel Like Someone is Clawing at My Brain, Their Fingernails Getting Stuck in the Flesh.

  Jace

  Hours later my house is cleared and Peyton is the only person remaining. There have been extra cameras installed and now we have two security guards posted on both sides of my house. I am finally beginning to feel comfortable in my home again. Thank God Chenise wasn’t here when the house was broken into, I don’t even know what would have happened.

  It’s selfish of me to keep Peyton from her real life any longer, but it feels so good to see her. My life has felt so hollow without her in it. I wish filming a movie wasn’t such a time commitment. I wish I could explore the possibility of us to its full potential this time around, but I know it’s not fair. I know that I need to let her go. Let her live her life.

  “You’re doing it again,” Peyton says from across the table, sipping on her water, the ice cubes clinking against the glass.

  “Doing what?” I ask, amused.

  Her cheeks begin to grow redder. “Staring.”

  I break my stare only for a second and then train my eyes back on her. “I’m sorry, I can’t help it. I’m just making up for lost time.” I take a drink of my own water. “How’s your dinner?”

  I had Chenise order us my favorite Chinese takeout, and I’ve been dying to hear her review, but it seems her mind is elsewhere. She is pushing her fork around the plate, but the food does not seem to be disappearing. “It’s really good, Jace,” she forces a smile on her lips.

  “What’s bothering you?” I ask, setting my water glass down on the table.

  She looks around sadly. “This…us.”

  “What about it?” I press.

  “Well, it feels nice. It feels real nice…almost as if we just fell right back into our old ways, but it’s not real. We’ve just been playing pretend. In a few hours I go back to my life in Ohio, and you stay here, like nothing ever happened.” She sighs, tossing her cloth napkin on the table.

  “But you know, and I know, and now every tabloid in America knows, that is not true.”

  “What do you really expect to happen when I go back?” Peyton asks. “Did you think that you would just go off to film your movie and we would just meet up afterward like no time has passed?”

  I shrug, frustrated. “I’m not sure what I thought, but I sure as hell am not ready to lose you for a second time. That is one thing I am not ready for.”

  Peyton’s face falls. “I’m kind of seeing someone. Well, I think we are. I guess I don’t know how to classify what we are.”

  It feels like someone just punched me in the gut. I guess I never really weighed the possibility that Peyton might not be available. “Does he make you happy?”

  Peyton shrugs, her expression sympathetic. “I don’t know yet. It’s new, and it kind of just happened.”

  “Well, he’s a lucky guy, I can tell you that much,” I reply, rubbing the back of my neck. I hear the chair she is in scoot across the floor, and then footsteps approaching. I look up and Peyton has closed the distance between us. As I attempt to stand, Peyton pushes me back down, instead planting herself directly on my lap.

  “Jace, you know that for me, it was always you, but you hurt me, and I’m not sure that is something I am going to be able to move past. I still think you are the most incredible man I have ever laid my eyes on. I still believe that you were meant to be in my life, for however short or long that will be.” She pauses, smiling at me. “You know how proud I am of you, right?”

  I nod slowly. “So where does this leave us?”

  Peyton shrugs. “We broke our own rules about the restart.”

  I pull my wrist up to eye level, glancing at my watch. “It looks like we still have a few more hours to really shake things up. What do you want to do?”

  “Let’s go out. What are some good clubs around here?” Peyton asks.

  In all actuality, us being seen out together is probably not the best idea in the world, and honestly will add more fuel to the fire for the tabloids, but I’m done being a passenger in my own life. I’m taking control once and for all. “I’m not so sure about clubs, but what about the Viper Room? Every time I’ve been there they’ve had killer live music.”

  Peyton’s eyes light up and I know I’ve made a good suggestion. Thirty minutes later, and we are on our way to the venue. Chenise set us up with a driver so we could have a good time and not worry about driving while under the influence, so we begin the night early. We are on our second shot when we pull up to the Viper Room. Unsurprisingly, there are paparazzi camped out, outside the venue, waiting to get that money shot. Peyton and I share a knowing glance. “You ready for this?” I ask.

  Peyton nods. “I guess I need to get used to it. Stripped is getting a lot of airplay right now, and I don’t know what is going to come from it.”

  “A lot of good.” It’s not ideal that a song about me ripping her heart to shreds is at the top of the charts, but I can’t help but be happy for her. She deserves this.

  As I climb out and come around to open her door, the flash of the cameras nearly blinds me. “Jace! Jace! Over here!” The photographers scream out at me simultaneously.

  I reach in and grab Peyton’s hand, leading her out. This sends our audience into a frenzy, the snapping loud and overpowering. I lead her into the venue and we are promptly seated in the VIP section. Not long after, a bottle of Dom Pérignon shows up to our table. “I didn’t order this,” I shout into the server’s ear.

  She nods smiling. “I know. It’s on the house. Thanks for choosing to spend your evening at the Viper Room, you are welcome back anytime.”

  I pull away nodding. “Thank you.” I turn back around, facing Peyton. “Looks like we’re in for a good night.”

  * * *

  I feel like someone is clawing at my brain, their fingernails getting stuck in the flesh. My stomach feels out of sorts and all I can smell is bacon and not the breakfast kind, the greasy cheeseburger kind. I open my eyes slowly, taking in my surroundings.

  It is obvious I am not at h
ome. The room is more rectangular than mine, and the bed firmer. I glance to my right and see Peyton sprawled out, face in the pillow, and her bare back exposed. My heart begins to beat quicker at the intimate sight. Did I? Did we? Did I seriously miss the entire thing? Suddenly I feel as though I am going to be sick, I spring out of the bed so fast, racing into the restroom. After I’ve hacked up what feels like my entire insides, I wash my mouth inside and out and make my way back out.

  Peyton is wide-eyed staring back at me when I exit the bathroom. “Well, good morning to you too,” I grumble.

  She has the sheet wrapped around her shoulders, and she is standing a few feet away. She grips her stomach with her hand, keeling over. “I think I am going to be sick.”

  I step out of the way just in time to allow her access, and then she closes the door behind her. My eyes scan the room and I notice a reoccurring theme. This is definitely a romantic suite, as everything in it—the pillow cases, the towels, all say His and Hers. I head over to the small table in the corner and pick up a card I notice on it.

  Congratulations, Mr. and Mrs. Austin. Thank you for allowing us to be a part of your big day. Please enjoy this suite on us! – Staff of Englewood Suites

  My stomach drops and I gulp, glancing at the closed bathroom door. All of a sudden the metal band around my left ring finger becomes glaringly obvious. I stare at it for a few seconds in disbelief.

  “Umm, Jace?” I hear from inside the bathroom. She sounds frantic. I open the door slowly, and Peyton is hovering over the bathroom sink. Her left hand is extended and she is staring at it through the large mirror. She too has a ring. A large diamond one, nonetheless.

  Holy shit. We really did this.

  Thirteen: Jace could say unicorns fart rainbows, and all the women and girls in the audience would still be in awe and fascinated with him.

  Hooked

  © 2015 DarienMae

  Hit me with everything you have

  Show me your moves

  I will run away with you

  Just ask me to

  I didn’t forget the pain you’ve caused

  Breaking my heart, breaking my heart

  Breaking my heart

  It’s been years, but I’m still here

  The love won’t disappear

  I’m hooked on you

  I’m hooked on you

  Hit me with everything you have

  Show me your moves

  I will run away with you

  Just ask me to

  I didn’t forget the pain you’ve caused

  Breaking my heart, breaking my heart

  Breaking my heart

  I’m hooked on you

  I’m hooked on you

  We’re burning up with passions and desires

  Hit me with everything you have

  Show me your moves

  I will run away with you

  Just ask me to

  I didn’t forget the pain you’ve caused

  Breaking my heart, breaking my heart

  Breaking my heart

  Peyton

  I think I am going to hyperventilate.

  I’ve made a lot of mistakes recently, but this one definitely takes the cake. “What do we do?” I ask, frantically.

  Jace looks pale, whiter than a ghost. I exit the bathroom and join him on the edge of the bed. “Hey, don’t you think you should call Chenise?”

  Jace’s eyes slowly drift up to meet mine as he nods. “Okay, what is her number?” I ask, reaching for his phone.

  He doesn’t bother answering me, but once I’ve managed to unlock it, I find her in his recent call log. She answers on the second ring. “Jace? Where are you? I’ve been worried sick. Have you seen the tabloids?”

  I take a deep breath. “Hey, Chenise, this is Peyton…Jace is processing what happened last night.”

  “Oh, hey Peyton,” Chenise says seemingly startled.

  “How bad is it?” I ask, unsure if I even want the answer.

  “Turn on the TV.”

  I do as she instructs and not surprisingly the first station is an entertainment news show with Jace and me front and center. The headlines read, Undercover Affair, Surprise Wedding, and more. I feel sick to my stomach. “You just became a household name.”

  I take a few deep breaths, attempting to center myself. “So what now?”

  “Now we do damage control,” Chenise responds. “But I can’t do anything without you two here.”

  I nod, not even thinking she can’t see it. “We’re on our way.”

  Not surprisingly, I’m being blown up. If it wasn’t for my phone being dead all night, I might drive myself insane reading the responses. I have unread texts from Colton, Luis, Noah, Brooklyn, Madison, Harper, not to mention the missed calls from my parents and Kayleigh. The pressure is overwhelming. It doesn’t seem real. I know I am going to have to face the music soon, but I choose to remain naïve for a wee bit longer.

  “So, the smartest thing would be to have Chenise get us information on an annulment,” Jace says. I can’t help my mouth dropping open in response.

  Jace sees my reaction and immediately begins to back pedal. “I mean, unless that’s not what you want to do.”

  I shrug. “I didn’t plan on marrying anyone anytime soon…but I am also old fashioned when it comes to marriage and I don’t believe in divorce. If I marry someone, I want them to be my forever.”

  Jace nods. “I don’t like the idea of divorce any more than you do, but when I get married, I want to make sure it’s for the right reasons…not because I’m black-out drunk and with my ex-girlfriend who I still have feelings for.”

  My face falls and I shift my eyes out the window, avoiding his.

  “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean that,” Jace says softly, reaching for my hand. I oblige and he squeezes it reassuringly. “Whatever we choose to do, we are in this together, okay?”

  I nod. “Okay.”

  * * *

  Our time is running out, and only hours stand between Jace and his flight to Georgia for the filming of Duel. We’re no closer to coming up with a resolution to our dilemma since we began brainstorming with Chenise over six hours ago. The sun is coming up and we are all running on fumes.

  “Maybe we should just look into an annulment,” I say, semi-delirious.

  Jace’s eyes widen. “I thought that you didn’t believe in that?”

  I shrug. “I don’t, but if it’s the best thing for us, then I’ll do it.”

  “No,” Jace says firmly. “I don’t want you to have to compromise your beliefs.”

  “Then what do you propose, Jace? Because we’re just about out of options and time,” I snap unintentionally. To which I immediately follow up with an apology. My exhaustion is getting the best of me.

  Jace shifts his attention to Chenise who is no more awake than I am. “I know it’s last minute, and it’s going to require a lot from you, but do you think you might be able to get us on Kelley tomorrow?”

  Chenise stares back at him dumbfounded. “You’re a genius.”

  “Do you think you can do it or not?” Jace asks, eagerly awaiting her answer.

  She nods. “Let me work my magic.” She hops up and bounces out of the room, headed for the kitchen.

  “And then what?” I ask, genuinely interested.

  “And then we tell our story,” Jace replies, scooting toward me on the couch. He wraps his arm around me, giving my head a pillow of sorts. I sigh, feeling the familiarity in the embrace.

  “And what do you expect me to tell them?” I ask.

  “The truth.”

  * * *

  “Boy, do I have a surprise for you guys,” Kelley Lacey says excitedly to her packed studio audience. “I don’t know any other way to say it, except I have both Jace Austin and Peyton Lane here to talk about the pictures that rocked the entertainment world this week.”

  We are watching the audience’s shocked expressions, when it turns into a barrel of cheers, louder than I’ve ever heard in
my life. I understand, they’re getting a once in a lifetime exclusive. I feel Jace grab my hand and then squeeze reassuringly. “You ready?” he asks.

  I nod. “As ready as I’ll ever be.”

  We walk out onto the stage, hand in hand, a united front. The expressions on the audience members’ faces are a mixture of shock, happiness, anger, confusion. They don’t look like they know how to feel.

  There is a couch set up for us, adjacent to Kelley, but we both go in for hugs before settling in. “You know, I gotta tell ya, after the first time you were both on my show, I never knew what was in store for you two…but I definitely didn’t expect to have you both back here…together. Not that I’m complaining or anything,” Kelley says.

 
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