by Rachel Van Dyken
This is a work of fiction. Names, places, characters, and events are fictitious in every regard. Any similarities to actual events and persons, living or dead, are purely coincidental. Any trademarks, service marks, product names, or named features are assumed to be the property of their respective owners, and are used only for reference. There is no implied endorsement if any of these terms are used. Except for review purposes, the reproduction of this book in whole or part, electronically or mechanically, constitutes a copyright violation.
Copyright © 2013 RACHEL VAN DYKEN
Cover Art Designed by P.S. Cover Design
To all the wonderful readers out there that have cried and laughed with me during this series. AD2 FOREVER ;)
The first time I shot up heroin, I was fourteen. We were on tour and I’d been partying with the band for the past few weeks, but they’d never given me any hard drugs. They said I was too young. To hell with that, I had thought as I grabbed the needle and asked what I needed to do. They had laughed for a few minutes, but they ended up showing me when I didn’t back down.
Drug addicts don’t forget.
The human body is incredible in the way it stores memories, the way it stores feelings. People who lose limbs often have phantom feelings in their extremities even though the limb is no longer present. Doctors can’t really explain it — I guess it’s just another one of those things we simply accept. You lose a hand… you’ll still feel pain even though it’s not there.
If you ask me, that’s pretty screwed up. I mean, how bad does it suck, that the one thing causing you pain is gone? Yet the pain remains?
The same thing happens with drugs. Even when you’re not on them anymore, you can still feel the effects of them. You still crave them. The most dangerous part about any drug isn’t the physical addiction, though some may argue that, it’s the mental dependency. Every damn thing could be going to hell in your life and your brain, amazing machine that it is, will choose that exact moment to remind you what it felt like to be high.
And all of a sudden, the craving appears out of nowhere. Your body flares to life, nerve-endings turn into live wires as blood pounds in your ears, your brain tells you, just this once, and the sick part is, you believe you have control over it.
But you don’t. I thought I could control it, and even then as I was clenching and unclenching my fists — my body was trying to persuade me that just one hit would do me some good, cause me to relax, all that shit.
Nat would kill me.
I’d been in therapy for weeks leading up to our wedding. What type of guy did that make me? That I’d actually needed therapy in order to be whole enough to marry the girl I loved?
Whatever. I’d go every day of my life if that meant I could be with her. I just hated when I felt weak. And I felt weak when my body craved drugs. I felt weak when it craved her. So basically any addiction made me feel like I was one step away from losing it.
Nat said I needed to learn how to let go.
If you looked up OCD in the dictionary my name would be next to the definition.
I breathed in and out for a few seconds as I waited at the end of the aisle. It felt like I was standing overlooking the edge of a cliff, and the minute I saw my future wife, I was going to freefall.
The music started.
Shit, I was seriously going to pass out.
People stood, Demetri nodded his head and patted me on the back.
And then I saw her.
It was like seeing her for the first time all over again. Memories of meeting her that first day of school had me grinning from ear to ear. The local girl, who didn’t even know who I was the first time she saw me, fell for me. And in return, gave me her heart for safekeeping. I ached to touch her as she walked slowly down the aisle. Her brown eyes met mine. And I lost it. Every single fear that I was holding on to snapped.
Forget needing to calm down.
I couldn’t stop my heart from beating out of my chest, and I didn’t want to. I just wanted to touch her, to tell her how pretty she was in her white dress. I wanted to promise her forever, I wanted to be her eternity.
The Day Before
“You ready?” Demetri ran down the stairs, stopped at the bottom. “You look like hell.”
“Thanks.” I swore and began to pace the floor. “Just give me a hint.”
Demetri grinned. “Nope, but it looks good.”
He slapped me on the back. “Think of it this way, in less than twenty-four hours you get to see her in the dress and… you get to be the one to take her out of it.”
“Right.” I snorted. “Still not comfortable with you talking about Nat taking off her clothes, but points for trying to make me feel better.”
Demetri took his hands off me and smirked. “No worries. Alyssa and I will just be having our own little—”
“If you value your parts you won’t finish that sentence.” Alyssa bounded down the stairs. “I won’t be taking anything off, not until you put a ring on my finger, remember?”
“Conveniently forgot,” Demetri offered hopefully.
“Ring.” Alyssa held out her left hand. “Right here, and then you may play all you like.”
“Why did I agree to this again?” Demetri asked.
I laughed. “She wants to make sure you’re hers before you go on tour and have women throwing themselves at you.”
“This is true.” Demetri winked. “The women do love me.”
“Way ta make it better, bro.” I slapped him on the back and turned to Alyssa. “How’s it look?”
“Like a dream.” She sighed. “I swear, Nat just keeps getting prettier with this pregnancy. Kinda makes me want to slap her.”
“I know.” Warmth spread through my body. “She looks amazing.”
A throat cleared at the top of the stairs. Nat rolled her eyes and made her way down the stairs slowly, carefully, as per my instructions. I’d officially turned into the guy that wanted to take her to the ER over a cough, or an eyelash in her eye. The first two months of her pregnancy she had been violently ill, and now that she was on month three, she just looked — incredible. It was the only way to describe her.
She wasn’t really showing yet, her stomach looked as flat as ever, which again freaked me out. I’d even asked the doctor. He’d given me a look of pure hopelessness. Of course that was after I asked him for a sedative when he did a pelvic examine on my bride-to-be.
At any rate, he said it was normal for women to take up to four months to show with their first pregnancy. Was it weird that I was obsessing over the fact that she wasn’t gaining weight? I was going to sleep so much better at night when she was fat.
Something I also happened to tell her to her face.
That earned me the cold shoulder for an entire day.
“Babe?” Nat reached me and kissed my cheek. “You okay?”
“Perfect.” My lips found hers amidst Demetri’s gagging. Nat giggled and wrapped her arms around me.
“Twenty-four hours.” She sighed against my mouth. “And then I become Mrs. Daniels.”
“Mrs. Alec Daniels.” I growled, tugging at her lips with my teeth.
“If she wasn’t already pregnant, your proximity and kissing would have done it” Demetri laughed. “Now, seriously, go. It’s boy time.”
Nat fell into a pout. “Are you sure it’s a good idea?”
“Go.” I chuckled, pushing her away toward Alyssa. “I promise you’ll have fun. Go to the spa, hang out, have a girl’s day. We’ll see you at the rehearsal d
“PARTY!” Demetri echoed bouncing up and down.
Alyssa rolled her eyes. “You party animal. Tell me, you guys having juice boxes or iced tea at the big event?”
“Hilarious,” Demetri sang. “And if you must know, I’m having bottled water. But I have every intention to get this one wasted.” He pointed to me. I shook my head ’no’ in Nat’s direction.
I was never as bad as Demetri with the addictions, didn’t mean I wanted to get drunk out of my mind the night before I was getting married. I’d have water, and most likely turn in by midnight, dreaming of holding Nat in my arms.
A horn honked from outside the beach house. We all jogged out, just as Jaymeson got out of the car and threw the keys at my face. “They wreck the car, I wreck your face.”
“Missed you too, bro.” Demetri nodded. “Really. My heart had a gaping hole that only my British stepbrother could fill. I even had tea every morning during your absence in hopes that I could drown my sorrows in—”
Jaymeson flipped him off and turned back toward me. “Whose idea was this to let them drive my car? Seriously, I’m trusting the girls with this car. If it comes back with as much as a scratch, if Nat sneezes on it, or Alyssa gets girl perfume anywhere near the seats—”
“Girl perfume?” Alyssa scowled. “Really? The man-slut doesn’t even know any perfume brands? Wouldn’t that help you with the ladies?”
He grinned. “Does it look like I need help with the ladies?”
“Your fly’s open.” Alyssa pointed.
He looked down just as she walked by and punched him in the shoulder. “Thanks for the loaner.”
“It’s not even open!” Jaymeson yelled.
Alyssa shrugged, and went over to the driver’s side.
“Be careful!” Demetri called after her. “That’s an Audi R8, as in, I don’t want to have to replace it.”
“We’ll be fine!” Alyssa waved him off as Nat got into the car with her, the engine revved, and then the car jolted forward.
“Holy shit.” Jaymeson swore. “They’re going to kill Roxanne.”
“It makes me sad that the only female name you actually remember is that of your car,” Demetri said.
“Agreed.” I laughed.
“Whatever.” Jaymeson waved us off and pointed at the girls. “You break it you buy it!”
“That’s what insurance is for!” Nat called out the window just as Alyssa peeled out of the driveway and made her way down to Highway 101.
“Whose idea was this in the first place?” Jaymeson asked. “Because I’m pretty sure I’m going to kill them.”
I pointed to Demetri just as he pointed to me.
“Fine, I get it. You wanted them to have a nice car since all your shit is back in LA. Still pissed you bastards tricked me into leaving it here in the first place.” Jaymeson threw up his hands.
Laughing, I slapped him on the back. “Does it really matter? The girls deserve a nice, fancy car to drive to the spa, and we only have the Jeep here. Just happened to work out that you’d left your newest treasure behind when you flew out to your last movie.”
Jaymeson’s eyes narrowed as if he didn’t trust a word dripping from my mouth. “Let’s just get the party started. So, what’s it gonna be, boys? Strip clubs? Dance party? Shots?”
Demetri and I grinned at one another leading Jaymeson to the jeep.
“Wait…” Jaymeson’s eyes narrowed. “Am I going to hate you guys even more after this?”
I didn’t answer. I jumped in and started the engine. “Just think of it as a bonding experience.”
“I don’t bond with men.” Jaymeson shrugged. “So there better be strippers or—”
“Animals.” Demetri slapped his back. “Lots of female animals, take your pick.”
“And when you say animals…” Jaymeson grinned knowingly. “You mean, like crazy girls who jump around and—”
“He means animals,” I clarified. “No reading into it. Just sit back and relax, England. What could possibly go wrong when you’re with me and Demetri?”
“You really want me to answer that?” He leaned forward from the backseat.
The jeep fell silent.
“Right.“ Jaymeson held out his fingers. “Drugs, death, pregnancy scares, bribery, reality shows, getting stung by a bee in the face—”
“Can’t blame us for that one,” Demetri interrupted.
Jaymeson ignored him. “Hollywood producers that want me by the balls, Angelica Greene, sex scandals—”
“Fine, fine,” I admitted. “So we aren’t the squeakiest of clean.”
“You’re kidding?” Jaymeson laughed. “If we had met on a playground at age eight, my mother would have slapped me across the head for even looking at your sandbox.”
“What?” I asked.
“He said ‘looking at your sandbox’.”
We groaned in unison. Safe to say, it was going to be a long day.
“We totally lied to them.” I laughed.
“Go to the spa, girls,” Alyssa mimicked Demetri’s voice. “Relax, be girlie, while we go do man stuff.” She hit her chest like a cave man.
We fell into fits of laughter as Alyssa turned the corner and waited for the guys to drive off. After they had driven a safe distance down the road, we returned to the house and started getting things ready.
“You think he’s going to be mad?” I asked as I got out of the car and walked up to the beach house.
“Nah, he’ll love it.” Alyssa smirked knowingly. “I promise. It’s the best idea we’ve had… ever.”
“Ever huh?” I grinned. “I’m not so sure about that.” I stuffed my hands in my jean pockets. It was abnormally warm for August, especially by Seaside’s standards.
“The caterers should be here in a bit.” Alyssa looked at her cell phone. “And Jaymeson said that the rest of the crew would follow about an hour later.”
“Amazing.” I snorted.
“What?” Alyssa’s dark hair blew across her face as she made her way to the front of the house.
“That Jaymeson can actually keep a secret.”
“This is true,” Alyssa admitted. “But he’s all about pulling pranks on the guys, though this isn’t really a prank.”
“Surprise.” I cleared my throat. “It’s a surprise.”
“That may give your future husband a heart attack.”
“Everyone deserves a real bachelor party.” I winked. “And I’ll be sure to make this one Alec won’t forget.”
Laughing, I pushed through the door and said, “Admit it, those lessons totally paid off and toned our legs like crazy.”
“I lied for a month to Demetri. He thought I was at the library.”
“Wow, could you come up with a worse lie?” My eyebrows lifted.
Alyssa waved her hand at me. “Please, it’s Demetri.”
“So.” She set her phone on the counter. “Let’s start moving the furniture around.”
I pushed the couch out of the way just as my mom walked in, eyes narrowing. “What are you two girls up to?”
“Uh…” Yeah, I really didn’t want to tell my mom the truth. Sure I was already pregnant but—
“Feng Shui!” Alyssa half-shouted. “It’s good for the baby.”
“How so?” My mom squinted at the couch and looked back into my guilt-ridden face.
“It helps Nat relax, kind of like… nesting.” She nodded confidently. “I looked it up online.”
“Oh… hmm.” Mom shrugged then pulled her phone out. “Nat, I just had a question about—”
The doorbell rang. Crap. The caterers were there with our chocolate-covered strawberries, amongst other things. My eyes widened as I looked at Alyssa with what I hoped was a help me expression.
“Why don’t you two go talk on the back po
“Sounds great.” Mom sighed. “I’ve been on the phone all day with the wedding planner and I’m about ready to lose my mind, and don’t even get me started on that Jaymeson guy.”
“Crap.” I grabbed two glasses of ice tea and led my mom outside. “What did he do now?”
“Nothing.” Mom took her ice tea and sipped lightly. “Yet.”
“The pastor’s concerned about a man such as Jaymeson stepping onto holy ground. Something about ‘getting struck by lightning’ or ‘cursing himself if he’s anywhere near something holy while he’s still black as sin’.”
“He said that?” I winced.
“I may have embellished a bit.” Mom winked. “Just keep your eye on him, Nat. I know he’s your friend, but the last thing you want is drama during your wedding. It doesn’t help that security has had to be tripled because…”
“Because of Alec?”
“No, sweetie.” Mom grabbed my hand. “Because of Jaymeson.”
“Sorry.” I sighed, suddenly feeling exhausted. I just wanted everything to be perfect. It was hard to explain Jaymeson to my mom. I always felt like I was defending him or his actions, but he was just — Jaymeson. He did whatever he wanted and got away with it, but in the end he was a fiercely loyal friend. I always forgot how famous he actually was — maybe that was the problem. He put people at ease so much that they didn’t even realize they’d been had until it was too late.
I always pitied the constant stream of girls going in and out of his bed. The last time I said something about it, he shrugged and told me he would never force someone to be with him — that sleeping around was his way of making sure he never turned out like his messed up mom who had almost ruined all our lives with her crazy antics.
“Nat? Where’d you go, sweetie?” Mom pressed her cool hand to my forehead. “Are you okay?”
“Just thinking.” I gave her my brightest smile. “You know, pregnancy brain and all that.”
“Well…” Mom checked her watch. “Will you just do me a favor and talk to the boys about Jaymeson? I know you say not to worry, but I don’t have time to babysit him and neither do you. It’s a special day, and the last thing we want is his next escapade trumping my only daughter getting married.”