A/N – Hmm, very interesting reactions to the last chapter. I LOVE THE FEEDBACK, so please keep reviewing. Thank you seems almost inadequate, but it's all I've got so…thank you for your reviews, your favorites, and your follows. Love you all!
And, oh, our favorite Wolf is in for it now! Jumping to conclusions, losing his cool, insulting his little virgin! Let's see if he can pull himself out of this one.
As always, CAMSI.
Emmett followed me into the venue and we made our way down the hall to the dressing room.
"Dude, this sucks," lamented Emmett as we ambled along. "You know, I was really excited about these gotes. We were gonna have road wives, bring 'em on tour with us! You and me, dating hot cousins. It woulda been so great!"
"Look, Em," I said. "It's not gonna happen. She made her choice."
"Why don't you tell me exactly what happened? Seems to me she drank some tea with the guy, and that's it. And it sounds like she was just making good on a bet. Maybe she said something stupid about Masen, but damn. You could cut her a little slack."
Was Emmett McCarty trying to reason with me? This guy didn't have two brain cells to keep each other company. Why would I take advice from him?
I had no intention of cutting Bella any slack. It was because of me that she was singing backup for the Wolves – it didn't have anything to do with Edward. I'd been watching out for that little chick ever since I met her. And I kissed her onstage tonight! I…I think I actually cared about her. And she didn't care about me. This is what I got for all my trouble; she picked him.
"I'm not giving her any breaks, Em. He can have her." I turned and continued down the hall, Emmett dogging after me.
"J, I think you like this girl. I mean, really like her," Emmett said. He was silent for a minute and then he acted like inspiration just hit him. "Hey! Why don't I talk to Rose? Girls always tell each other about stuff, right? She's probably with her right now." I watched his face change somewhat. Something had just occurred to him – something he didn't like.
"Uh, Jake, seriously…you gotta make up with the virgin. I mean, if she's with Rose and she's upset, I'm not gonna get laid tonight."
Shit, this guy was all heart, wasn't he? I couldn't help cracking up. "Okay, Em, if she's with Blondie and there's a danger you might not get laid, then I'll talk to Bella."
We were almost to the dressing room now, and I didn't want to go in. I didn't want to face her. After that incident in the parking lot with the redhead, I felt bad, like I'd hurt her.
But she'd hurt me, too, and I could admit it to myself now. At least I'd paid her back a little. Maybe it was mean, but it made me feel just a tiny bit better. But somehow it also made me feel a whole lot worse. I didn't know why, but I didn't want to hurt this girl, even though she'd betrayed me with that nimrod Masen.
We didn't make it to the dressing room, though. There was a sound coming from that same little room, the one Emmett had parked the girls in last night. It was the sound of one girl crying, and another one trying to soothe her. Blondie and Bella were in there.
Emmett heard it too. He made an exaggerated pointing gesture, mouthing "They're in here," conspicuously. I rolled my eyes. Emmett would never win any prizes for being discreet. Before I knew what was going on, he'd knocked on the door.
"The fuck're you doing, McCarty?" I growled in a low voice.
"What," he asked. "They're in there. Don't you want me to talk to Rose?"
The door was opening now, so I didn't have time to explain that I'd've preferred that we made a plan before he banged on the door. Too late now. I skittered down the hall to the dressing room and ducked in before Blondie saw me.
The dressing room was a predictable mix of spent gotes and drunk/high band members. I was surprised to see the two skinny nerds I'd let in making out it a couple of average looking girls on the couches, and I wondered who'd let those chicks in. But there wasn't time to think about it very long, because I was only in there less than ten minutes before Emmett came busting through the door behind me.
"Yeah, so they're pretty pissed at you," he said by way of greeting.
I was getting tired of this whole thing. It was stupid and immature. "Why the fuck would they be pissed at me?" I demanded. "I'm the one who should be pissed. Bells goes off with Masen and I guess I'm just supposed to wish them well, huh?"
"Calm down, J. I'm on your side. I think the virgin is jealous because you were fucking the redhead."
"Jesus, Em, you didn't tell her that, did you?" Perfect, this was exactly what I needed now.
"I didn't have to tell her," he said. "She already knew."
"She didn't know anything except that she saw me with the redhead outside the bus," I argued.
"Yeah, with no shirt and no shoes on, and jamming your tongue down her throat with your hand on her ass," he added.
"Oh," I said.
"Yeah. Idiot. Now she thinks you're not interested because she's a virgin. And she says she doesn't even want to finish out the tour."
I sighed long and loud. "Christ, if this is what having a girlfriend is like, count me out," I said, only partly joking.
"Think about this, J. She quits the tour, Rose'll leave too. And what's Edward supposed to tell the promoters then? I can guarantee you that something about Made of Win and the fact that you're singing lead on it will be in the papers tomorrow. And in the same blurb, there'll be the stuff about the backups. Now what're you gonna tell Edward? You pissed off the virgin and she left, took her cousin with her? Yeah, that should get you in solid with the boss."
Shit. He was right. "Em, she was with Masen. I'm sure he could talk her back into staying."
"She doesn't even like him!" Emmett insisted. "She wasn't with him, they were having tea! She said he gives her the skeeves. Reminds her of someone she used to date."
How Emmett had found all this out in the few minutes he'd been with the girls was beyond me, but for some reason I believed him. One thing about Emmett, he wasn't a liar.
"So…so what do I do?" I asked. Yeah, I was asking Emmett for advice, which shows you what my mental state was at that moment. Emmett scrunched up his face in a half-assed attempt at thinking.
"Well, damage control, I guess. She thinks you were on the prowl because she's a virgin."
"So what am I supposed to do? Tell her it was only because I needed a revenge fuck?" I realized then that I was talking a little too loud. The skinny kids were looking at me, their mouths open in awe. Great. I smiled weakly in their direction and they looked away, embarrassed at being caught.
"I dunno, Jake. But you better think of something. Because we only have until tomorrow. They live in Chicago. That means they're going home tomorrow unless we talk them out of it."
"Shit. I need another drink," I announced, and made for the bar to down the fourth or fifth Ketel of the night. Emmett stood by the door and watched me go.
Seth - who, last time I checked, was finishing up on the couch with his gote - suddenly appeared at my side. "You dumbass," he greeted me.
"Thanks, Seth!" I said heartily. "Great to see you, too!"
"Listen, idiot," he said. "What the hell is wrong with you? You fuck more gotes than anyone here except Paul, and you can even beat him when we're off tour. But you don't know shit about women."
"What's that supposed to mean, kid? I don't see you with a steady date." I took a swallow of the Ketel and it made me cringe. Maybe I'd had enough.
"You apologize to her," he said, ignoring my remark and talking to me like I was five. "You tell her you're sorry. You don't make excuses. You just say you're sorry you hurt her."
"I'm supposed to apologize to her?" I asked incredulously. Still seemed to me like it should be the other way around.
Seth actually laughed. "Shit, you're worse at this than I thought! Of course you're the one who's supposed to apologize! She's the girl – it's never her fault."
"But she was with Masen in a locked room. Who the fuck knows what might have happened if I didn't show? She'd probably be blowing him right now." The thought alone made me wanna puke.
"Why do you torture yourself like that, Black? All this could be over in a few minutes. You just need to go to her and show her you're sorry. That's it. It takes a second and it makes everything all better."
"Bullshit. I'll go apologize and then what if, say, she doesn't forgive me? Or she does and then she has all the power and I've got zip?"
Seth laughed. "Power?" he demanded. "We don't have no power, son! She's got the golden pussy. That means she's got the power. You might as well figure it out now."
I snorted. Nice. Seth continued. "Look at it from her view, Jake. She's got a thing for you; that's obvious. Then she has to spend time with Masen, because she thinks she needs to in order to keep her job – which she wants because it keeps her close to you. She comes out to explain it to you and catches you with some gote out in the bus." Hm. He'd heard more than I thought. "Now her heart's broken. If you went to her and apologized, you'd be her hero."
"Is that so?" I asked, cocky as ever.
"Black, your problem is you're a smartass all the time, even when you're not talking. Y'know, it doesn't cost anything to be nice to someone." He turned away, shaking his head.
I let his words sink in, getting more and more pissed off. Son of a bitch. I wanted to shatter my glass of Ketel against the wall, but it was a keg cup and wouldn't shatter. Leaning my head back with a tremendous sigh, I put the cup down and went back to where Emmett stood by the door, talking to Jasper.
"They're still in there?" I asked him. He knew exactly what I meant.
"Far as I know," he answered.
I pushed past him and went the couple of steps down the hall to the other door. I closed my eyes, sighed, shook my head. I couldn't believe Jake Black was about to eat crow for some virgin that only came on the scene a few days ago. But I was doing it. Oh yes I was.
I knocked and every sound on the other side of the door stopped. "Bells?" I said.
Hissing. Whispers. A panicked, "No!" And then the door opened in and there she was, mascara running, face red and puffy from crying.
"Can we talk?" I asked.
Blondie came up behind her and grabbed her elbow. "Bella, think about this," she hissed in her ear. "Are you sure this is what you want?"
I gave her a dirty look over Bella's shoulder at the same time Bells turned and said, "Rose, shut up." She turned back to me and came out of the room, closing the door on Blondie.
We didn't touch and we didn't look at each other. We walked silently down the hall until we were out of earshot of the dressing room and all its bullshit. Then, when we were alone in the dark corridor, she turned to me.
"You wanted to talk?" she asked.
"Okay, Bells, look. I was pissed off and I was looking for…something. A way to…I don't know, blow off some steam or something. I'm sorry. I'm sorry if what I did hurt you." I couldn't believe what was coming out of my mouth, but I realized as I said it that I meant every word.
"Well, it did hurt me," she said. She covered her eyes with her hands and rubbed them. I heard a shaky breath. "Is that what you want, Jake? You want to go back to groupies? Because if that's what you want, just let me know. I'll stay away. I'll go home tomorrow."
"It's not what I want, Bells." I said.
"Do you…do you know what you want?"
"I know what I don't want," I said, leaning close to her. "I don't want you around Edward Masen."
She leaned toward me, too, even though I think she was doing it subconsciously. "Why not?" she whispered.
"Because," I said, my lips almost touching hers.
"Because why?" she asked.
"Because you're with me now." There. I said it. Like a pussy, I said it.
"Am I?" she asked.
I leaned my forehead on hers. "You are," I said. "Now are we staying in my room again tonight or what?"
She tiptoed up and kissed me, just a quick little peck on the cheek. "I have to tell Rose," she said. She started to turn away but I stopped her, grabbing her by the biceps.
"Text her," I said. "We're going."
"I don't have my phone," she said. "I just have to let her know."
"I'll call Emmett. He'll tell her." I really didn't want her going back to Blondie. I figured Blondie would talk her out of coming to the hotel with me, and definitely talk her out of spending the night in my room again. She looked reluctant, but I pulled her close and said softly, "It'll be okay, baby. Come on, haven't I proved you can trust me?"
"Okay," she said finally, but she didn't seem comfortable that I was holding her close. I kept my arm around her shoulders anyway, and called Emmett to get the car service number and tell him that Bells was coming with me. I was pleasantly surprised to learn that the cars were already waiting outside, due to the press camping out by the front door. Bells and I went out the same door we'd come in and found several Town Cars waiting. We hopped into the first one and were on our way to the hotel in minutes.
"Wow, are there always cars waiting for you?" Bella asked, all impressed.
"Uh…not really," I admitted. "Usually we have to call the service. Today, though, they're giving us a break because of the press."
She turned to me, scooting back a little so she could see me – or was it to get a little further away from me? I was getting a weird vibe from her, but I guess that was to be expected. I'd been fucking someone else. That had to be bothering her, apology or not. But now wasn't the time to discuss it.
I concentrated to get my mind back on our conversation. She said, "Yeah, about that press thing. What's going on anyway?"
I couldn't help but grin. Knowing the press was out looking for me was an incredible high. I'd only been a bit player in articles up until now – Paul was always the focus. That wasn't unusual; it's pretty well known that sometimes the fans only know one band member's name, and that's the lead singer's. Even though it wasn't Paul BelAire and the Difficult Wolves, you wouldn't know it from reading the trade rags like Billboard or Vibe or Spin. What sold copies was Paul's face on the cover. We'd be behind him in the shot, sure, but he was the frontman so he got the ink. But now they were looking for me. I might even get a cover of my own in one of the smaller mags. The thought made me smile even bigger.
"They like my sound," was all I said to Bells, though. I didn't want to get her hopes up, or look conceited in front of her. "I guess they want an interview. Edward or the marketing people will have to set that up, though. I can't give an interview on my own. That's why Masen needed us to get in the back door. I might say something wrong or give something away unless I get coached first. The marketers usually have a pretty specific game plan. If I gave an interview without permission, I might fuck it all up."
"Is Edward setting one up for you?" she asked. I didn't like hearing his name come out of her mouth. It pissed me off for some reason. But instead of giving in to the anger like I usually did, I pushed it down and answered her.
"I don't know," I said. "I haven't talked to him." I left out the snide, "Maybe you could ask him at your next tea party," because it seemed asshole-ish.
We were at the hotel already, and the driver pulled up to the front door. But there was a crowd of press there too. Shit. Now what?
I decided that a call to Emmett was my best bet. I didn't want to call Masen, because he was probably almost as pissed at me as I was at him. "Hold on a sec," I said to the driver. "Lemme check on where I should get out. I don't want to go through these guys."
"I can bring you around back, sir," the driver said. Oh. Good. See, I wasn't used to taking the car service. I guess these guys were pretty professional.
He drove smoothly by without stopping and no one in the press throng was alert enough to check out the car. The driver called the concierge and told him where we were going to enter and made him promise to have a security guard there to let us in. We pulled around the back after taking a few turns just in case we were being tailed, and a big, burly dude let us in the back door and directed us to a service elevator. We took it to my room without any more press interference.
"Wow, this is really a big deal, huh?" Bella asked, her eyes wide and excited once again. In spite of herself, she seemed to be getting addicted to the thrill. And I had to admit, it was fun to be sneaking around all the time. I mean, sure, it would get old fast. But for right now, I was enjoying it.
I wanted to play it down for her, though. This wasn't going to last. The press was fickle. They'd write one story, if I was lucky, and that would be the end of it. Then all the clandestine sneaking around would be over, and I didn't want her to be disappointed. "Don't get used to it," I said. "Odds are good that this won't last. They'll forget about it by tomorrow."
She mulled this over for a second while I ran my keycard through the door slot and pushed the door to my room open. "It's still fun while it lasts," she said as we walked into the room.
"Yeah, it is," I agreed. I went immediately to the closet and got out one of the new t-shirts I'd bought today. I exchanged my vest for the t-shirt and slipped off my boots. When I was comfortable, I went over to the TV and switched it on. There was an old episode of Cops playing and I left that on. "You hungry?" I asked Bella.
"A little," she said. She passed by me and went in the closet as well, emerging with a pair of pajamas in her hand. We'd bought her a few things while we were out shopping today, since we figured she'd be on tour with us for awhile. She went in the bathroom and I heard the shower come on. I glanced at the room service menu, but I wanted to wait for her before I ordered, so instead I went over to the little fridge and pulled out the fifth of Ketel I'd asked them to stock for me. I didn't have any ice, though, so I figured I'd wait until we ordered room service and have them send some up.
It didn't take Bells very long in the bathroom. I heard the shower turn off and she came out less than a minute later, dressed in a little camisole and lounge pants. Her hair was wet and her face was completely free of makeup. Somehow, she was even sexier that way. She looked in-fucking-credible, and I thought again about Red and realized with surprise how much I regretted doing that.
"Here's the menu," I said, handing it to her. She took it but she kept looking at me.
"Are you having another drink?" she asked, eyeing the Ketel bottle.
"Thought I might," I said carefully.
She looked from the bottle to me. "You sure you haven't had enough?" she asked.
I didn't say anything at first. I wasn't sure how I felt about her telling me if I could or couldn't have another drink. Maybe I did have enough, but was that any of her business? Finally, I said, "I don't know. Do you think I have?"
She took the room service menu and walked to the bed, sitting on the edge. "I just thought maybe you'd want to talk, and that you might want to be sort of sober, that's all," she said nonchalantly.
Oh. I saw where this was going. We were gonna "talk" now. Great. I wanted to sigh like this was some kind of big trial, but I didn't. I didn't want to put her off. She was upset with me enough already.
I sat next to her on the bed. "Okay, let's talk," I said.
"I'm hungry," she said, paging slowly through the room service menu. She stopped on the "Late Night Snacks" page. "A bacon cheeseburger sounds good. And a piece of cheesecake. What do you want?"
"Uh, I'm not that hungry," I said. "So I guess I'll have the same."
I called and ordered the food, and told them to bring up some ice while they were at it. We talked about the show while we waited for the food, and she started to loosen up some. She really loved backup singing. I was actually surprised how excited she seemed to get over it. I mean, in reality, it was a tiny job that you couldn't really make a living at. But she really seemed to like it.
The food came pretty quickly, and before I knew it we were eating our cheeseburgers. And even though I had my ice now, I didn't pour myself a drink like I wanted to. I figured maybe she was right – I should try to sober up a little for her. When we were both eating the cheesecake, I decided to start the big discussion.
"So," I said, "what's up, Bells?"
She finished her mouthful of cheesecake and looked at me, and I couldn't really figure out what her expression meant. She took a breath and said, "I really need to know, Jake. What is going on here? With us, I mean."
"Uhhhh…" I began, kind of at a loss. I didn't know what to say.
But she interrupted me. "I mean, maybe there is no 'us.' Maybe I think there's more to this than there is." Now I knew what her expression was – it was sadness. I didn't like that. At all.
"Baby, look," I said. "I told you. I'm sorry. Consider it a mistake, okay?"
She looked down at her lap. "Do you like that girl?" she asked quietly.
"Like her? Bella, please," I said. "You've got to be kidding."
"But you did have sex with her, right?" she asked.
"Ahhh." I leaned forward, scrubbing my hand over my face and resting my elbow on my knee. Why was she doing this to me? She knew what happened, didn't she? Why did she have to make me cop to it? "What do you want me to say, Bells?"
"Well, I would like it if you were straight with me, for one thing."
I took my hand off my face and looked her square in the eye. "You want me to be straight?" I asked. "Okay, I'll be straight. It killed me to see you alone in that room with Masen. I didn't know it would affect me that much, but it did. I was pissed."
"But it wasn't my fault!" she started to explain.
I held one hand out, stopping her. "I know, I know," I said. "But then you said that it was sweet. Sweet! What the fuck, Bells?"
"I'm sorry," she insisted. "I shouldn't have said that. After I thought about it, I realized there was nothing sweet about it. It was more stalkerish than sweet." She shuddered visibly. "He gives me the creeps."
"Well, you did say it," I said. I was being calm, but I also needed her to realize she'd pushed me to seek Red out. I mean, it wasn't all her fault, but it was partially her fault. "And it pissed me off. So yeah, I went out and found something to make me feel better."
"Some trampy girl?" she asked. "See, this is my problem, Jake. You get pissed, and then you take off and screw some stranger. Is that what you're going to do every time you get mad?"
"What?" I asked, more to buy time than anything else.
"Well, if we're kind of…I don't know, together or whatever…and you go off with somebody else when we have a fight or you get mad over something…well, I'm going to have an issue with that." She seemed uncomfortable even putting it into words. I stared at her like a moron, like I didn't know what she was saying, but really I was thinking, 'She's jealous.'
Because that's what this was – jealousy. I was jealous that she'd been with Masen, and she was jealous that I'd been with Red. Of course, I was the one committing the real crime here. She'd only had tea. I'd had carnal knowledge.
I thought for a second how I'd feel if Bells and Edward had been doing the nasty when I busted into the office, and realized that it made me ten times more pissed off than I'd been when I heard his bet was 'sweet.' Aw Bells. She liked me as much as I liked her.
My lame-ass brain scrambled to come up with something that would explain my stupidity and came up blank. "I'm…I'm sorry, baby," I stammered. "I didn't know you felt the same way about me as I do about you."
"Well…I do," she said. "Or I did, anyway. Maybe I should re-think it."
"Now, why would you go and do that?" I asked gently, pushing a strand of hair back behind her ear. She grabbed my wrist and I thought she was gonna push me away, but she held my hand there on her cheek and leaned into it.
"I don't want to…" she said, looking up at me. "But I can't have you cheating on me, Jake."
"Let's make a deal, then," I said, wanting really bad to just kiss the ever-lovin shit out of her. "You stay away from Masen and I'll stay away from groupies and other assorted skanky chicks, okay?" I smiled at her, and finally…finally she smiled back.
"You'll stay away from all chicks, skanky or not," she said smugly, and then she kissed me.
Wow. It was tentative at first but it got hot quick, and I realized that although this girl might be a virgin, she wasn't a hundred percent innocent either. She knew how to kiss, and she did a great job of it, too. She let out a little whimper as she lay back on the bed, pulling me along with her by the hair, her fist buried at the back of my neck. Again, just like in the hall during the first break, I got a boner just from kissing her. What was it about this chick? It made me want to fuck her more than ever.
And then she pulled back. "But Jake?" she said, her lips wet and pink and hotter than hell.
"What, baby?" I whispered against her mouth.
"I'm still not having sex with you, got it?" she answered. "I'm still saving myself."