The invading wasps in my dream slowly resolved themselves into the buzzing of my phone on my nightstand.
Rubbing my eyes, I first rolled over and squinted at the alarm clock I hadn't set once since I'd moved into this place. "Are you fucking kidding me?" I mumbled when I saw the time. 10:08 AM? Who the fuck was calling me so bloody early?
It buzzed again. In a rage, I grabbed it off the polished surface and considered throwing it against the wall but that would have been the fifth phone I'd broken this year and the lads were starting to give me shit. So I stabbed my finger on the answer button instead.
"Someone better be fucking dying," I snarled in greeting.
"Mr. Boyd?" an unfamiliar female voice said into my ear.
"Not to be rude, love," I sighed, pinching the bridge of my nose with my fingers. "But who the fuck are you and how did you get this number?"
"Your manager gave it to me," she replied crisply.
"Oh." I was going to murder August.
"My name is Scarlett Sawyer and I'm with Auteur magazine?" she went on. "I'm doing a story on the rise and fall of Killian Ness..."
"Not interested," I snapped. "Far as I'm concerned that wanker can rot in jail forever."
"Off the record sir? I agree."
I sat up in bed. "Sorry, love, what did you say your name was again?"
"Scarlett Sawyer, Mr. Boyd. And I'm not interested in getting your opinion of Killian Ness as I'm not trying to write any sort of redemption piece on him." Her voice was clipped and efficient. "I'm not in the business of writing apologies for abusers. No, the reason I called was that I wanted to find out what's happening next. Is it true you're putting the band back together?"
There was a piece of white cardboard on my bedside table that wasn't there before. I turned it over and my eyes nearly bugged out of my head to see that it was Celia's business card.
I pressed my finger to my forehead just over my right eye, but it was no use, the headache was already setting in. How much had I had to drink last night after CeCe left? Was I celebrating getting signed by Anthem or was I mourning how close I got to kissing her before I pussied out? At some point in the night, one emotion had slipped over into the other and I'd lost track of what I was drinking for. "Mr. Boyd, are you there?"
I snatched my hand away from the card as if I'd been caught with my hand in the candy dish. "Sorry. Scarlett you said your name was?"
"Yes, Mr. Boyd," she said, clearly patient, and clearly poised and ready for whenever I got my mind wrapped around her question.
"And you said that August called you to tell you this?"
"Yes, Mr. Boyd," she repeated. "Well not me per se. She left a message on the general voicemail box for the whole department."
I tried to suppress my laugh by jamming my lips together, but it leaked out of the side of my mouth anyway. "She's very...forceful," I said, aiming for tact and missing slightly.
"Normally we don't even listen to blind tips like that," Scarlett said. "But with the drama surrounding the court case..."
"Look," I interrupted. "You need your quote from me, right? Here it is." I paused for a second, licking my lips. It was one thing to talk about this amongst ourselves, it was quite another to have a reporter commit it to print. "We are putting a few things in motion," I said, picking my words carefully. "And we'll have more to share pretty soon."
"How soon will you have something else to share?"
"My God, you're like a dog with a bone, aren't you?" I exhaled. The card was in my hand again, somehow, and I twirled it around in my fingers, idly tracing the edge with my thumbnail. "I don't know. Why don't you ask August Waverly, our new manager? She's the one who's setting everything in motion."
"Forgive me, Mr. Boyd, but you don't sound all that enthusiastic about getting back into the game."
I took a deep breath and as I did, Celia's words last night echoed around in my head. What did she mean when she said I needed to change my look? What was she going to try to change about me? I'd already been subjected to serving someone else's vision. I wasn't about to go down that path again "Scarlett, love. You woke me up out of a sound sleep. Forgive me if I sound less than enthused to be awake. Though I will thank you for waking me from that awful dream. Fucking hate wasps."
"Ah, okay sir." After that little detour into lunacy, Scarlett seemed much more amenable to hanging up. "I think I have all I need for now. If anything else comes up, would you mind me calling again?"
"Sure, no problem," I gritted. "Just like, aim for after noon next time, okay? I was working late last night."
"I get it, my husband's in the business too," she said.
"Yeah? What's he do?"
"Singer. Band called Ruthless."
"Bloody hell, for real? You're married to Keir? Tell him I said hey, we toured a leg with them last winter. He's a good chap," I suddenly put two and two together. "Ah, so you're the lass he went on and on about."
She laughed and her voice sounded softer when she said, "He's a goof. I'll tell him you said hi." She lowered her voice. "And Ewan," she whispered. "You hang in there, okay? I know what happened with Killian and Jane must have thrown you guys for a loop, but you need to get back out there, okay? I'm like, a huge fan of yours, to the point where it makes my husband a little jealous. You're too fucking talented to let this mess with your head."
I blinked. "Thanks," I mumbled.
"Right," she said, suddenly all business. "I'll be in touch."
The line went dead and I let my hand fall down to my side. I felt like my brain had been turned into mashed potatoes. Of course I objectively understood that millions of people had heard my music as part of Wrecked. But it was too fucking strange to have a reporter — married to hands down the biggest rock singer out there — turn out to be a fan. It was too much of a coincidence to not be significant.
And then, as if it was rushing to add to the sense of unreality swirling around, my fucking phone rang again. "Seriously?" was all I said in greeting.
"Hi there!" August sounded bright and happy and way over-caffeinated. "Did you talk to Auteur yet?"
"Yes I did," I grumbled. "About that, yeah? Maybe give me a little head's up beforehand? I was still in my boxers when that reporter called."
"You still in them now?"
I looked down. "Matter of fact, yeah."
"Kinky," she said, with a dismissive sniff. "I hope you chatted her up good." She didn't even give me a chance to respond before she veered off into another topic entirely. "So what's on your schedule tonight?"
"Ah, my schedule?" I laughed. "The fuck is a schedule?"
"For tonight? I was actually looking forward to a quiet night in," I deadpanned. "Cup of tea, episode of The Bachelor, maybe give myself a pedicure."
"Tough shit," she said. "We're going to Queens. See you there!"
The line went dead. I stared at it, openmouthed. "Bloody hell," I muttered.
And then it rang again.
"She's a bloody nightmare, mate," Jules said.
"And good morning to you too," I sighed, reaching for my pants. Reporters and managers were one thing, but I actually had to be clothed when I was talking to Jules.
"She's called me three times already this morning!" Jules exploded. "I can't even let it go to voicemail because then she immediately starts texting."
"Really?" I laughed. "The way you were looking at her, I thought you'd like the attention."
Jules let out a deep sigh oh regret. "Yeah, I mean sure, she's fit as fuck," he clarified. "But she's crazier than a shithouse rat. Did she call you yet?"
"Yeah mate. Just hung up with her."
"Did she order you to show up at some undisclosed location in Queens tonight?"
"That she did."
"Christ," he groaned. "We hired her as our manager and I think she's already gone mental. That's gotta be a new record for us."
"Yeah," I said, trailing off. It didn't matter if I stopped listening now. He was still talking, complaining bitterly about August in a way that made it pretty fucking clear he wanted nothing more than to shag her silly. Jules hated and loved with equal passion, and sometime that passion was directed to the same damn person.
"She's pushing too hard," Jules was saying.
"You're right," I said, interrupting him. "This is all happening way too fast." I sat back down on my bed, my mind reeling. Just yesterday I thought we might just fade away into obscurity. Embraced it, actually. But now we had a gung-ho manager, a possible new label and if what I guessed from August's hurried instructions was true, we were going to go audition a new lead singer in Queens tonight. "This was how it happened," I said slowly, more to myself than Jules. "With Killian. The same fucking whirlwind started spinning around us and then it spun right out of control."
"Aye." Jules sighed. "I feel you mate, I do. But isn't this how these things happen? You wait forever with your thumb up your ass and then one day everything comes together?"
"I don't know," I muttered. "I have no idea how this is all supposed to work."
"Well good thing that's not our job," Jules quipped. "We hire people to figure out the career shit, mate. You and me and Niall, we just show up and play the music, innit?
I looked down at Celia's card, still in my hand. "Yeah, I guess you're right. For once in your life. How does that feel? You want me to mark it on my calendar? You wanna write it down in your diary? Dear Diary, for the first time in my life, I know what it feels like not to be a complete wanker."
"Fuck you, Boyd," Jules laughed. "I'm hanging up before your gloominess ruins my good mood."
I grinned. How quickly he forgot that he was the one to call me all freaked out. "Fine, go. I'll see you tonight in Queens."
Jules grumbled something profane and hung up. I glanced down at her card again.
Yeah she'd run away from me last night. But I had her number right here... She gave me her fucking card.
Without a second thought, I started dialing.