“Holy balls. You are a telenovela,” she exclaimed, completely distressed. “Oh my gosh, Hazel. And you’ve been dealing with this all on your own?”
“I didn’t have anyone I could tell. I had to do it on my own; it was my only choice.”
“No,” she disagreed, shaking her head. “Maybe in the past you had to handle things by yourself, but you don’t have to do that anymore. You have a family now. People you can lean on for help or at least comfort.”
I gave her a half grin as I wiped the tears falling from my eyes. “Thank you, Leah.”
“Of course. It all makes sense now, too, why you pushed Ian away. If it makes you feel better, I would’ve done the same exact thing—especially if that psychopath threatened Rosie. You made the right choice. Even though I know it crushes you.”
“It really does, Leah. All I can do is think about Ian and hate myself for hurting him. I know he had abandonment issues, and for it to happen right after he crossed paths with his parents makes it even worse. I wish I could explain things to him, but that is too risky. I just hope he’s able to move on and find his happiness again.”
“I’m sure the guys will make sure to look after him. I have no doubt about that. But as far as you go, I’m here to make sure you find your happiness again. That’s what friends are for.”
I thanked her as she leaned in and gave me the tightest hug in history, and she promised me that everything would be okay someday.
I wished I could believe that to be true, but knowing that Charlie was out of prison was enough to leave me always on edge. What if he snapped and decided to harm Rosie and me, simply because he could? Charlie was a madman whose actions never truly made any sense whatsoever. At least he couldn’t get to Ian and harm him. There was some comfort in that knowledge.
Later that night, I awakened from a nightmare due to a crying Rosie. I scooped her up in my arms and tried to soothe her back to sleep; then I took her outside into the darkness of the night and rocked her in the chair on the porch. I looked up at the stars sparkling throughout the sky, and I made a few wishes.
I first wished for my sister to be safe from any harm. If anything ever happened to that little girl, the little girl who’d had a chance of being adopted by a family who wouldn’t have put her life in danger, I would never forgive myself.
Then I wished for Ian’s happiness, praying that someway, somehow, he’d find himself another muse. I wished for him to move on from me and for his battered heart to heal over time. I wished for him to not give up on love and close himself off once more. He’d worked so hard to tap into his feelings, and I’d hate for him to lose that connection to himself again.
Lastly, I made a wish for myself. I wished for the ability to stay strong even during the darkest of times and for my heart to keep beating every day, even though each beat hurt more and more as time passed without Ian by my side.
If those wishes could come true, I’d never have to wish upon another star in the sky.
“Are you kidding me?” Eric blurted out during our meeting with the record label. We all sat there in full disbelief as we spoke to the team of people in charge of our first album launch. “How does something like this even happen? I mean, you do have a solid team behind you making sure this doesn’t happen, right? I mean, you’re Mindset Records, for goodness’ sake. How did this even happen?”
Eric was angry, which didn’t happen often, but he had every damn reason to be pissed off.
Hell, we all did.
Our first album—the album we’d poured our blood, sweat, and tears into—had been leaked across the internet.
Max sat at the table, checking his two cell phones repeatedly, appearing to try to do damage control on the situation at hand. Donnie Schmitz, the head of Mindset Records, sat at the head of the table, with his hands clasped together. “We’ll be honest; this is a major mistake on our part. What’s worse is we are still two months out from the launch of the album. Which means we have to make some choices. We can’t push out an album that has already been leaked, so we must shift. We need new material, and we need to get you in the recording studio as soon as possible.”
“What?” I huffed out. “Are you kidding me? It took us months to nail those songs down! We can’t just pump out a new album out of nowhere.”
“Now, I know how this can sound daunting,” Donnie began.
“I think the words you’re looking for are fucking impossible,” Marcus corrected with a grimace.
Donnie continued, “But we have a list of tracks that are already fully developed. All you need to do is get in the studio and do your magic.”
“What do you mean, fully developed tracks?” James asked.
“We called in some of the best songwriters in the industry,” Max cut in, nodding my way. “It’s the greatest news. Warren Lee wrote the tracks.”
I raised an eyebrow. “Warren Lee?”
“Yes.” Max nodded. Warren was one of the best writers in the industry, if not the best. Working with him meant Grammys and money. Everything he touched turned to platinum records. But what did using his songs mean for us?
It wasn’t authentic. It wasn’t ours.
“We create our own music,” Marcus said, with his hands clasped together and a determined look on his face.