She’s everything. The way the sunlight cascades down her skin, the gentle silk of her soul wraps around me, hugging me. Save me from this ground. This cold, bloody ground. What my eyes have seen, the horrors I’ve lived to become, the destiny I will break. Her eyes are glass, not like the mirrors of what I’ve seen.
If I’ve left for good, then I’m sorry.
I will return.
With a better soul.
My blood soaked back into my skin.
My life… complete.
Jessica Harpmae had read enough lyrics during her time as a writer for various online ‘zines, published magazines, and even newspapers, to know what was real and what was processed bullshit by those with a rhyming dictionary. So many attempted to understand the human psychology to put words together the right way to invoke enough emotion to make people believe something they really didn’t. Or worse yet, believe something the band playing and singing these lyrics didn’t even believe. It used to bother her, until she had to grow up. She then understood what it all meant. It was a means to survive, the purpose of life. Just like how Jessica spent her time taking any assignments she could get to keep her name relevant to get noticed by someone for something bigger.
But this latest assignment was a gift. After chasing a few small bands around southern California for a month or two, writing story after story, reviewing album after album, scrambling to get any kind of information, Jessica was told by Henry Plink – editor-in-chief for PL Sound – that she could have her chance at his magazine. Jessica worked for Mr. Plink already, but as an assistant. Not an executive assistant, which would have come with a decent wage and benefits, but more or less an intern with a meager paycheck. The pay allowed Jessica enough to pay her bills and travel to see bands. Without her roommate, Carrie, Jessica knew she’d be sleeping in her car.
She sat at her desk, clicking through MP3’s, listening to the music and matching the printed lyrics to really feel the purpose of the lyrics. This was an interesting band. Led by someone completely dangerous and eccentric, Ashes in Vain was the kind of band that would pop up every now and again with an album and a tour. They were never consistent. They weren’t loyal to fans – or media outlets. They were the true definition of being a band for the music. And it all came from their leader. He regularly fired and replaced band members, quoted once as saying, “I can play any instrument created in this world… if I need, I’ll do it all myself… I am Ashes in Vain…”
The quote gave Jessica chills the first time she read it. Typically, these kinds of lead singers were just plain assholes, wanting to hog the spotlight for their personal benefit. But the strange part about the man known as Alex Slader was that he came to the rock n’ roll scene with a fortune already created. The music made him richer, sure, but it wasn’t a means to survive… at least not in the financial sense.
And that’s how Jessica planned to capture him.
As a man with enough money to buy anything in the world – islands, small cities, literally anything – he still wrote, recorded, and played music with such despair, pain, and emotion that he seemed more of a man struggling to find a decent meal or a quick high.
Jessica had been warned the past week through various emails; some from people she knew, some she didn’t. Each one seemed to get darker, deeper, and each one made Jessica want the interview to happen sooner.
It started with her boss. Right after Mr. Plink told her of the potential assignment, he shut his door, loosened his tie, and turned his clock around.
“We’re off the clock, Jessica,” he said.
He never called Jessica by her first name. Mr. Plink was on a last name basis.
“Slader is intense,” Mr. Plink said. “He’s rich. Powerful. He does what he wants, when he wants.”
“He’s a rockstar,” Jessica had said. “Of course he does.”
“No, you don’t understand,” Mr. Plink said. “He does… anything… and whoever is going to get this story will have to comply to…”
Mr. Plink raised an eyebrow.
Jessica said, “Anything?”
“Perfect,” Mr. Plink said as he snapped his fingers.
But that was just the start.
Next came emails.
Emails from other people who tried to interview Slader. Emails that suggested he demanded favors before questions. Emails that said he wanted the person naked, blindfolded. Even one woman told Jessica in graphic detail how he brought out handcuffs and wanted to handcuff her so she couldn’t take notes… he told me he didn’t want me to write it. He wanted me to feel it. To live it. To understand the pain of losing something so important… I refused, and I left…
At first, the emails left Jessica in a state of shock. Could someone really pull this off? Could Slader really be that abrasive? That bold? That intense… and sexy?
For some reason the idea sort of turned Jessica on. She couldn’t picture anything actually happening, but rather Slader trying to intimidate people and nothing more.
She could handle it.
Even when she received an anonymous email from someone with an address made up of random letters and numbers telling her to stay away.
He’s perfect in his own world. He’s best left there. He feels he controls the world… and in a scary way, he does. He does. He always controls… everything.
Jessica read the emails again, letting the feelings sink into her. She always tried to go into an interview with a purpose. With a feeling of who she would be talking to. With Slader though, it was a wild mix of feelings. Feelings for the interview. Feelings for her career. And the feelings for Slader. Face it, he was a sexy rockstar and while Jessica always swore she’d never mix business and pleasure, something about Slader made it well worth it.
Jessica turned up the music a little and closed her eyes. She took deep breaths, relaxing, almost going into a meditated trance. This allowed her body to focus more on her ears than anything else. So she could hear and feel and enjoy the anticipation of actually seeing Alex Slader in person.
The knock at Jessica’s bedroom took her attention off the music. She turned it down, frowned, and walked to her door. She opened it, knowing it was Carrie. Carrie never barged in. She always knocked and waited, like some kind of trained person. Which she basically was, something Jessica couldn’t think about at that moment.
“Hey Carrie,” Jessica said.
If there was one person even more innocent than Jessica, it was Carrie. That’s what bonded the two together. Their innocence. Their vices. Jessica’s vice was a love and dedication to music. Carrie’s vice was a love and dedication to her boyfriend, John.
“It’s a little loud,” Carrie whispered.
Jessica looked beyond Carrie. She could see into Carrie’s partially opened bedroom and saw John’s long, skinny legs on the bed, one bent. She sighed and looked at Jessica.
“He’s here again?”
“Stop it,” Carrie said. “He worked all night and came over. It’s kind of romantic.”
“I’m sure you’ll be cooking for him,” Jessica said. “Taking care of his laundry too. Don’t worry, I won’t be home. I have a big assignment tonight.”
“Cool,” Carrie said. “Is it paying?”
“It’ll pay,” Jessica said. “Are you worried about money?”
“No,” Carrie said. “I’m not…”
Her lips looked shaky. Nervous.
John sat up and when Jessica met eyes with him, she felt a shiver in her body. A bad shiver. She didn’t like that guy at all.
“Hey,” Jessica whispered. “He worked all night, he’s tired. Come to the show with me tonight. We can hang out in the crowd. Go backstage. Meet some rockstars. Have a few drinks. I’ll call a cab for us. Come on. Ladies night.”
Carrie bit her lip. The nervousness on her face was battled by the excitement in her eyes. Jessica knew that if she could just get Carrie out of the apartment for a night or two and experience something exciting in life, it would maybe help break the hold John had on her.
“I don’t know,” Carrie whispered. “John came over.”
Jessica shrugged. “He’s tired. Let him sleep. You two can have all day tomorrow to spend the day in bed.”
“Tempting,” Carrie said.
John’s voice boomed from the bedroom. Carrie stiffened.
“He told me to tell you to turn the music down,” Carrie said. “I’m supposed to be back in bed now.”
“Supposed to be? He orders you?”
“It’s sometimes sexy to be ordered around,” Carrie. “In the bedroom…”
Jessica thought about it and could understand the attraction to it. But not from John. He didn’t seem the type to command sexually and leave it at that. All Jessica knew about John Pooling was that he worked as some kind of investor, putting in crazy hours because of international deals. He made a ton of money but certainly didn’t share it with Carrie. That part didn’t upset Jessica so much because if John wanted to, he could move Carrie out of the apartment in a heartbeat.
“Come on,” Jessica said. “This band is pretty good. Well, it’s the lead singer and musicians he hand picks. He writes everything. The music, the lyrics. I mean… just everything. You should see it…”
“See what?” John’s voice asked.
Carrie’s bedroom door flew open and John walked out. He looked tired, pissed, and just two steps away from unleashing hell in the apartment.
“A band,” Jessica said. She wasn’t afraid of John.
“Not tonight,” John said.
“No?” Carrie asked, looking back at him.
“Babe, I’ve got tickets to that movie you want to see.”
“A movie?” Carrie asked.
“Little surprise. Now you ruined it. Shame.”
John looked at Jessica and she wasn’t buying it for a second. He shook his head and walked back into the bedroom. He slammed the door. Carrie looked hurt and terrified.
“He’s full of shit,” Jessica said. “He’s going to buy those movie tickets right now.”
“He wants to go to the movies,” Carrie said.
“I guess I’m traveling alone tonight.”
“You like being alone, you told me that before.”
“That’s right,” Jessica said. “I’ll try to keep the music down.”
She shut the bedroom door and swallowed.
You like being alone.
Does anyone really like being alone? Probably not. But it was something to say. Something to keep an image going.
Jessica heard Carrie knock on her own bedroom door and ask for permission to come in. Jessica retreated back to her desk and grabbed her headphones. She had a few more songs she wanted to hear again. And the last thing she needed to hear was Carrie and John talk, yell, fight, or fuck.
Jessica had one thing in mind.
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Genre – New Adult Romance
Rating – PG13