Page 4

Present Day

I woke up lying beside a woman I loved yet didn’t like very much anymore. It wasn’t always like that. There was a time in my life when Cam Jones wowed me. We inspired one another. We had deep, meaningful conversations. I adored her. I even thought that someday she’d be my wife. Over time, though, she was becoming more and more of a stranger to me.

Days after Alex passed away, rumors began to circulate that Cam had been cheating on me, yet she swore they weren’t true. That was the exact reason I never wanted our relationship to be publicized, because when the vultures got their claws in your life, they weren’t going to let go until they ripped you apart.

After she told me the rumors weren’t true, I didn’t dig deeper. It was the paparazzi’s job to spread lies. Besides, my mind wasn’t in a good place. My soul couldn’t even face the idea of having a fallout with Cam, because I needed her. Cam was there most evenings to lie beside me, and maybe I was a little bitch for needing that, but I hated the idea of being alone.

My thoughts were too heavy for loneliness.

Cam yawned beside me and stretched her arms out, smacking me in the face. I groaned from the movement and turned my back toward her chilled fingertips. It amazed me how someone could be so cold, even though they were wrapped in a million blankets.

As I shifted to my left, Cam yanked the comforter to the right, pulling it from me and wrapping herself into it. I grumbled to myself a bit and moved to sit up on the edge of my California king–size bed as my hands massaged my temples. Leaning forward to stand, I paused as the world began spinning faster and faster behind my eyes.


I needed coffee and about fifteen more years of sleep. I couldn’t remember the last time I’d had a good night’s sleep, outside of blacking out. I couldn’t sleep while I was sober; my thoughts were too loud.

“Rise and shine, princess,” a voice chirped, making me tilt my head up a bit in the direction of my bedroom door. My left eye slightly opened as the figure in front of me slowly came into focus.

Tyler stood there with a cup of coffee and a bottle of ibuprofen. Thank God for him and his ability to know what I needed before I even stated the fact. Tyler was a short, bald guy in his late thirties who was built like a superhero. He had a thick Bronx accent that he didn’t leave behind in New York when he moved to the West Coast.

He always dressed in the best designer outfits and ruined his look with the worst set of sunglasses in the world. Honestly, they looked like something someone from the seventies would wear. I was almost certain I saw the same set of glasses on reruns of Welcome Back, Kotter that I used to watch with my dad. If Tyler was a dog, he’d be a mix of a Chihuahua and a pit bull. Built strong with a hell of a lot of bark, and a look that was all kinds of ridiculous. Somehow, it worked for him.

I grumbled some more to him and kept kneading my fingers against my forehead.

Cam moved within the sheets and yawned loudly as she sat up and rubbed her hands over her face. “Is that coffee for me?” she questioned, turning in Tyler’s direction.

“Never,” he huffed, picking up her bra and tossing it her way.

“It’s good to see you, too, Tyler.”

“How about you piss off, Satan,” he replied, completely unentertained by my reoccurring mistake. It was no secret that the two of them hated one another. Even before the cheating rumors, Tyler deemed her unworthy of his attention. He and Alex had had the same viewpoint on her: she was using me to further her name.

I couldn’t bring myself to believe that. Somewhere inside of her was the kind soul I knew years before. At least those were the lies I’d told myself to get through each day.

“I’ll get my own coffee. I have to get going, anyway. I need to find a charity to donate to in order to get some good press,” Cam stated.

“You don’t give to charity for good press,” I muttered.

She rolled her eyes. “That’s the only reason we do charity work. Otherwise, what’s the point?”

Cam slithered her body around in my bed until she was placing her bare chest against my back. Her cold brown skin pressed up against the darkness of mine, and for a second we make-believed that our bodies connected, even though we both knew we were forcing the pieces together from two mismatched puzzles.

“Did you talk to your management about letting me perform during your show tonight?” she asked me, reminding me that I had a show that night.

“I am his management, and the answer is hell to the no,” Tyler remarked.

Cam released an annoyed huff. “When are you going to fire him?”

“Never,” I replied.

“You hear that? Never. I’m just waiting for the day that he fires you,” Tyler said.

She hissed in his direction, and he hissed right back at her.

She moved her lips to my ear, and my body slightly revolted from her simple touch. I was almost certain her eyes were locked on Tyler to prove some kind of point to him. That she had control over me, not him. “Last night was fun,” she commented, her voice smoky and dry. Fun? Was it? I’d drunk too much to truly recall. Her hair swayed back and forth, brushing against the nape of my neck. “I have to get to some meetings. I’ll see you tonight.”

I didn’t say anything to her. She didn’t expect any form of communication from me. Cam and I didn’t talk. Well, she talked, I didn’t, which was fine for her. All she ever wanted was to have someone sit and listen to everything she said. While she needed someone to listen, I needed someone to stay. At night she’d lie beside me, and for a few moments in my life, I’d pretend that the world wasn’t crashing around me and I’d feel less alone.

Crazy how loneliness led people to places they probably didn’t belong anymore.

Cam tossed on her dress with a smug expression and a look of control over me. “Bye, Ty,” she said, snatching the coffee from his hand and working her hips left and right as she exited the room.

Tyler looked disgusted from the sight of her leaving my room. “This is your daily reminder that you don’t need to share a bed with the devil,” he commented. “Anyway, get a move on. We got to get going. You should’ve already been showered.”

He moved over to my closet doors and swung them open, revealing a massive space filled with more designer clothes than any person should’ve ever possessed. There was a huge kitchen-style island in the middle of the closet with pullout drawers revealing expensive watches, designer socks, and jewelry that was worth more than most people’s house mortgage.

“I was thinking, maybe we should reschedule the concert.”

“You’re joking, right?” he asked, exiting my closet with an outfit for me. “You’re the one who agreed to this performance tonight.”

That wasn’t a lie. The concert was my idea. After reading so many articles about how I was falling apart and a complete mess, I felt as if I had to prove I was doing okay—even though I wasn’t. My career wasn’t simply my own—I had a team of people depending on me to keep making music. From my manager, to my PR team, to Kelly, to Ralph, who thankfully had survived the car crash with only minor injuries. People’s livelihoods depended on me. When my record label gave me the option to become a solo artist, it was a chance to make sure my team all stayed employed.

Still . . . I didn’t know how to be a solo artist.

Hell, I didn’t know how to exist without my brother.

“This is a good opportunity, Oliver,” Tyler said, as if he could read my troubled thoughts. “I know it’s not gonna be easy, and if I could take your place on that stage and perform, I would. But the best I can do is be backstage with you, cheering you on with Kelly—who, by the way, is getting you some breakfast as we speak. So, go shower and wash the seed of Chucky off your body.”

I headed to the en suite shower, which had three showerheads—rich people problems—and did as Tyler told me. I wanted to argue more about why the performance that night didn’t matter, because I honestly didn’t see the point. I was part of a duo, and ever since Alex had passed away, it was apparent to me that Alex & Oliver was over and out.

Like the many articles had stated, who would want Oliver without Alex?

As I stood in the shower, I hoped it would wash away my buzzing headache, but it didn’t. I thought it would wash away my loud thoughts, too, but it didn’t. I wasn’t lucky that way. I hadn’t found a way to quiet my mind without alcohol in a long time.

When I got out of the shower, I didn’t look in the mirror. Most of the mirrors in my house were covered with sheets. I hadn’t looked in mirrors in such a long time, because in every single one, Alex was staring back my way.