Lost In You - Chapter 9
Chapter 9 Preview: Impulsive and insecure Cooper Jackson accompanies her cousin to a wedding where she meets Sound Wave, a famous boy band.

The plane landed in Orlando and Sound Wave walked off lethargically.  It was past three o’clock in the morning, and they were all exhausted.  Mike went to his house instead of a hotel like the rest of the band did.  It felt good to be home to get to spend some time with Kelly.  Mike was the only one who still lived in Orlando.

“Get some sleep guys.  Five am wake up call!”

Their manager, Roger shouted.  Matt groaned loudly, showing his disapproval before going into his room.

Five am rolled around all too quickly.  No one was in a good mood due to lack of sleep.  Sound Wave arrived at the radio station to be interviewed for their morning show.  Once JT had Starbucks in his system, he pepped right up and tried to rev the rest of the group.

“Could your coffee be any bigger?” Mike asked.

“It’s just one addiction to the next with me,” JT grinned, taking a sip of his six shot venti Americano.  “Not as good as the café in LA, but it’ll do since we’re on the East coast now.”

JT was well aware of his addictive personality.  From alcohol and pornography to now cigarettes and coffee, JT had to compensate somehow.  Sex was probably another addiction of his, but it was under control for the most part.  He just wanted a ton of it, and what guy didn’t?  Ryan laughed to himself at JT’s addiction comment.  JT was one of a kind.  Even though he made jokes about it, Ryan truly was proud of all his friend overcame.

“Where’d Matt go?” John asked taking a sip of his tall coffee.

“He said he was meeting someone?” Mike shrugged.  “I don’t pretend to listen to him anymore,” he laughed.

“Meeting someone?” JT asked.  “Joey’s not in town, right?” he asked, referring to Matt’s baby brother.

“There’s no way Joey would get up this early to watch Matt talk on the radio,” Ryan laughed.

Matt walked into the room a minute later, holding a young female’s hand.  She looked familiar to John and Ryan.

“Hey guys, you remember Laura, right?”

“Oh yeah, we met at the movies?” Ryan asked.

Laura smiled tucking a strand of her chestnut brown hair behind her ear.  “It’s nice to see you again,” she said shaking Ryan’s hand.

John eyed Matt.  He wasn’t happy with him bringing some fan into the studio just so he could score with her that night. He didn’t find it appropriate.

“Hi John,” Laura waved nervously.

“Hi,” he said to her before turning toward Matt.  “Um, can I talk to you for a minute?”

Matt stepped outside with him and John called one of their managers over.

“What’s up?” Josh asked.

“Matt brought a fan in here.”

“And the problem is?”

“Johnny, the station is bringing fans in anyway,” Matt shrugged.

“The problem is Matt is taking advantage of his fame to get laid.”

John grinded his teeth as he said that last sentence.  Matt rolled his eyes and turned away from John slightly to throw his hands in the air.

“What is the big deal, John?” Matt asked.  “I’m attracted to her.  I know she’s a fan, so I thought she might want to hang out here with us.  If I fuck her, great.  If not, no big deal.  If I get married to her and have ten kids, hallelujah!” Matt quietly shouted at him.  “Get the stick out of your ass and lighten up!” he yelled at a quieter level now before walking back into the room.

John looked over at Josh and he shrugged.

“You do have to lighten up.”

“Josh, you know I can’t stand immaturity.”

“Who are you kidding?” Josh laughed.  “Johnny, there was a time I remember you doing exactly what Matt is.”

“I was never as bad as Matt,” he defended himself.  “And Matt has been at it for how long now?”

“Well, that’s what happens when you’re a heartthrob from fourteen up,” Josh laughed.  “Would you rather he have married Anastasia Milos?  Or that porn star he dated?”

John sighed, “I just don’t think he’s happy.”

“Okay, but riding his ass about picking up girls is not going to help.  It’s not going to help him or you, and certainly not the band.  So do me a favor and leave him alone,” Josh warned before walking away.

John groaned and looked in at Laura sitting down with the guys.  She looked nervous to be around the band as she giggled about something Ryan was saying.  Matt sat down next to her and smiled at her.  Her face lit up when she looked at him.

Laura was a beautiful girl with big blue eyes and gorgeous thick, dark hair.  She wasn’t the type of girl Matt usually went for.  He liked a wide variety of blondes from ones looking like porn stars to pop stars to models.

Laura didn’t look like any of them.  She looked like the girl next door.  In fact, she reminded John of his first love in high school.  He didn’t know one thing about Laura, but he didn’t want Matt to screw her over.  She was young and naive, and probably had a crush on Matt since junior high.

“Johnny, we’re on air in five minutes,” Mike popped his head out to let him know.

“Thanks B.”

Sound Wave cleared out of the room and went into another one where a large wraparound table sat in the center.  Each of the guys sat down and put on a pair of headphones, ready for their interview.

 

d

 

Cooper woke up around nine and showered.  Pressing play on her stereo, she danced over to her closet in her towel.  She re-thought her original outfit she planned for the day.  If she wanted to blow JT away, the outfit would work.  A mini-skirt and halter top did the trick for most guys.

She then thought of Ryan.  She didn’t want to look tawdry and spell out the nature of her relationship with JT to him.  She picked out a pair of black skinny-legged jeans and a long form-fitted pink shirt.  It was off the shoulder and hugged her in the right places.  She put on a black belt to add some flair.  Lastly, she slipped on some black heels that matched the belt and hoped she wouldn’t regret them later.

After she was finished getting ready, Cooper made her way up to Joyce’s door and rang the bell.  She was happy the travel agency was closed today.  Kelly wanted to be with Mike, and decided to close the office for the day.  Joyce’s husband, Tommy, answered the door and welcomed Cooper inside.

“There’s some coffee in the kitchen,” he informed her.  “Joyce is doing a phone session.  She should be done in a few minutes.”

“Thanks Tommy.”

“Are you coming to dinner tonight?” he asked.

“Oh, um…”

Cooper felt awkward.  She figured JT would want to have dinner alone with his mother.  Though she was becoming close to Joyce, it just didn’t feel right.

“No.  I think you guys should get JT to yourselves for dinner.”

“Are you sure?”

“Yeah, I’ll manage,” Cooper smiled.

Joyce walked out of her office and noticed how nice Cooper looked.  She never saw Cooper in heels before, and her hair was fussed with a tad more.

“You look nice.”

“Thank you.”

“Is this for my son?” Joyce wondered.

Cooper blushed, “I guess.”

Joyce just laughed.

“Well, let’s get started so we’re done by the time he gets here.”

Cooper agreed and followed Joyce into her office.  Joyce always made her feel at ease.  She welcomed her into her home and her family without knowing too much about Cooper.  She simply trusted JT’s judgment.  She saw something in Cooper that was in her son and maybe even herself when she was in her twenties.

By lunch time, Joyce decided to order take-out, figuring JT would be there by the time the food arrived.  She sensed Cooper’s nerves over seeing him again; it was endearing.

 

d

 

Mike drove home and smiled to himself.  He and Kelly were newlyweds still, and sometimes it was hard to believe he was really married.  He walked up to his new house and opened the door.

“Kell?” he called out, dropping his keys on the table by the door.

Walking up the stairs, Mike could hear soft music coming from the bathroom.  He knocked on the door and heard Kelly giggle.  He was such a gentleman, she thought.  Mike entered the bathroom, pleased at what he saw.

Several candles were lit.  Kelly was sprawled out in the oversized bathtub with bubbles surrounding her, making Mike wish he could see underneath them.  She had no make-up on, and her hair was up in a clip.  She never looked sexier, he thought.

“Care to join me?” Kelly asked.

“I was waiting to be invited.”

“You always have an open invitation,” she smiled.

Mike unbuttoned his shirt before taking it off.  He went for his belt and his pants next.  Once he settled down into the tub, he leaned over and kissed Kelly with desire.  She ran her fingers through his short curls making Mike never want to leave home again.  After taking things to the bedroom, they lie in bed, lazily, just talking about work.

“How’s Cooper working out?” Mike asked.  “JT’s been talking about her more lately.”

“She’s sweet, but I think she hates the job,” Kelly laughed.

“Really?”

“Well, I can’t blame her.  Until Trish transfers, we don’t really need her,” Kelly admitted.  “I might have to let her go and I feel bad.”

“Don’t,” Mike laughed.  “I think she’ll be okay.  She’s been helping Joyce out.  JT said Joyce really needs her.”

“Oh, what a relief!” Kelly smiled.

“You’re too nice.  You always feel bad firing people,” Mike said touching her lips lightly.

“I guess that’s why I married such a nice guy.”

“I can be naughty,” Mike raised his eyebrows before leaning in and biting her neck softly.

 

d

 

JT opened his mother’s front door with a loud voiced greeting.

“Mama, I’m home!”

The pugs barked and hurried to the door to greet him.  JT bent down to play with the dogs.

“Hi babies,” he cooed as he let them lick his face.  JT walked into the living room just as Tommy and Joyce walked in.  “Hey Mom.,” he pulled her into a hug and squeezed.

“My baby,” Joyce sang as she rocked him in her arms.  She held him for a second.

Cooper walked into the living room a bit timidly.  She didn’t want to intrude on family time.  She was instantly jealous watching them hug.  She could tell right away the kind of relationship Joyce and JT had.  It was the same type she had with her own mother; the one person who knew her inside-out.  She could tell her anything.

JT pulled out of his mother’s grasp.  He shook Tommy’s hand just as he noticed Cooper.  JT flashed her that devious smile, and Cooper returned it.  He made his way over to her, swooping her into his arms.  He pecked her lips and slung one arm over her shoulder; he put his other arm over his mother’s.

 

d

 

“Enough about this Sound Wave stuff, it’s boring…” JT joked after speaking about the details of the past month on the road over lunch.

“What’s been going on over here?” he asked glancing between Joyce and Cooper.

“You tell him,” Joyce said.

“Well, I don’t think it’s going to work out for me at Kelly’s company.”

“Oh,” JT sounded disappointed.  “Why not?”

“I was offered another job.”

“Really?” he smiled, relieved.  “You work fast.  Is it anything good?”

“My boss is so nice.  You’d love her,” Cooper gushed and Joyce laughed.

“What?” JT asked confused, looking between them.

“I asked Cooper to be my assistant full-time.”

“You’re kidding!”

“Nope.”

“That’s awesome.”

They spoke some more after lunch.  Cooper helped Joyce clean up before JT asked her to go for a walk with him.

As soon as Cooper and JT stepped out of the house, he pulled her toward him and kissed her.  The kiss nearly took her breath away.  Cooper braced herself against the side of the house with her one hand; she wrapped her free arm around his shoulders.  She moaned into his mouth as he pulled away, trailing his kisses down her neck.  JT pulled away and looked into her eyes.  They both smiled at one another, happy to finally kiss one another.  He grabbed her hand and pulled her along as they continued to walk down the street.  They walked hand in hand making small talk until JT brought up Ryan’s wedding.

“It’s at the end of next month, the last Saturday,” JT explained.

Cooper waited for him to finish, but instantly felt uncomfortable hearing about Ryan’s upcoming wedding.

“I would like you to come with me as my date.”

Cooper wasn’t sure how she felt about the situation.  On one hand, she was curious about Ryan’s fiancée and wanted to torture herself by seeing him marry her.  On the other hand, Ryan would feel awkward by her presence, not to mention how discomfited she would feel about it all.

What would she tell JT though?  How could she tell him no?  He looked excited at the thought of her going with him.  She suddenly didn’t care about the situation.  Her feelings didn’t matter and neither did Ryan’s.  She cared only about JT’s feelings.  She owed him a lot.  His generosity and friendship is something to be admired and grateful for.  He was someone she’d always want in her life, even if he would eventually just be a friend.

“Of course, I’d be happy to go with you,” Cooper answered.

JT smiled and hugged her.  She kissed him before they joined hands again as they walked back to the house.

“Why don’t you come to dinner with us?” Joyce asked after they returned.

“Yeah,” JT agreed.

“No really, you guys should have family time.  I wouldn’t feel right about it,” Cooper insisted.  “I think I’ll head to the grocery store.  You guys need anything?”

“Actually, I left my shaving cream at the last hotel…” JT said, taking out his wallet.

“It’s on me,” Cooper insisted.

“Cooper, take my car,” Joyce tossed her the keys.

“Are you sure?”

“Yeah,” she nodded.

“I’ll walk you out.”

He wrapped his arm around her and walked her to the door.

“My mom must really love you,” he laughed, pointing to the car keys in her hand.

Cooper shrugged, “We work well together.”

“So do you and me,” JT smirked.  “Listen, I’ll stop by late tonight?”

He and Joyce mentioned visiting some other relatives while he was in town.

“Okay,” she smiled.

He leaned in and kissed her softly.  He flashed a sexy smile at her.  She was aroused by the thought of sleeping with JT again.

“I’ll leave the door unlocked.”

 

d

 

A waiter brought the check over to the table outside of the restaurant.  Matt glanced at the total and took out his credit card.

“I got it,” he offered.

“I’ll leave the tip,” Ryan said reaching into his pocket once he stopped sipping his water.  He dropped the money on the table before Matt started pleading with him.

“Please come with me tonight.”

“Matt, why do you need me to go?”

Laura had invited Matt to a party at her brother’s beach house.  Matt loved a good party, but he really wanted to go just to see Laura.  Ryan wasn’t exactly happy about going to some fan’s house, afraid it would just be an out of control meet & greet session.

“I don’t know what to expect,” Matt explained as he squinted at Ryan with one eye and glanced toward the ocean.  “I would feel more comfortable if you came with me.”

“Fine,” Ryan sighed.

Once they were back at the hotel, Ryan stepped into his room and grabbed his cell phone.  He hoped Cooper was alone and that she was free tonight, or else he would have to witness JT all over her if he were to come as well.  That was a chance he was willing to take.  He had to see Cooper.

“Hey,” Cooper answered.

“Hi.”

“How was your flight?”

“Exhausting,” Ryan said.

They made small talk for a couple of minutes.

“What are you doing tonight?”

“Um, nothing,” Cooper said nervously.  “Why?”

“You want to come to a party with Matt and me?”

“Oh, uh, sure.”

She expected Ryan to ask her to meet him at his hotel, or something that would feel wrong.  Hanging out at a crowded party with Matt tagging along sounded perfectly innocent.  She was relieved.

“Really?” Ryan was surprised she agreed.  “Matt is dragging me to this thing.  He likes the girl throwing the shindig, so I didn’t want to be ditched if they go off somewhere,” he explained.  “All the other guys are busy.”

“It’s cool.  I still don’t have any friends around here yet besides Kelly and Joyce, so…it’ll be good to get out.”

They made the arrangements before hanging up.  Cooper glanced at her outfit and wondered if she should change again, but decided it was good enough.

 

d

 

Sitting anxiously in the guesthouse, Cooper waited for Ryan and Matt.  She had told JT what her plans were, not wanting to lie to him; especially since she wasn’t doing anything wrong.  Deep down she felt a bit guilty though.

JT was happy his friends were including Cooper in their plans.  He had suspected Ryan occasionally spoke to her, and it really didn’t bother him.  Ryan was jusy that kind of guy.  He kept in touch with Kelly outside of Mike, and Ryan was always close to JT’s ex-fiancée as well.

Ryan called Cooper, asking her to come to the gate.  Cooper shut the lights, locked the door and made her way to the front of the property.

“There she is,” Matt looked her over.

Ryan didn’t say a word.  He just gulped.  He had almost forgotten how beautiful she was.

“Man, JT’s a lucky guy,” Matt laughed to himself.

Ryan didn’t like the comment.

“I wish a girl like that lived with my mom; I’d visit her a hell of a lot more.”

Ryan was now aggravated, and groaned.  Matt looked at him.

“What?”

“Nothing.”

Ryan stepped out of the car and held the door open for Cooper.  She smiled at him and once he smiled at her, she was reminded why she was so enthralled with him.  They hugged, and they could both feel the other’s heartbeat quickening.  Matt just watched them suspiciously.  Ryan let Cooper sit in the front.  She kissed Matt’s cheek once she got into the car.

“You look nice,” Matt said.

Cooper smiled, not used to being around men who flattered her with compliments.

“Thank you.  Where’s JT tonight?”

“He went to dinner with his mom and Tommy.”

“You didn’t want to go?” Matt prodded.

“It was a family thing,” Cooper shrugged.

“Well, you are JT’s girl.”

Matt quickly glanced at Ryan in the rearview mirror to see his reaction.  Ryan looked back at him before glancing out the window.

“I don’t know about that…” Cooper laughed nervously.  “We’re just dating.  It’s nothing serious.”

She brushed the thought off, hoping it didn’t sound like she was heartless.  Her natural instinct was to stay aloof and not get too attached in relationships.

“But you never know where things will lead…” Matt smirked, again, checking to see Ryan’s reaction.

 

d

 

The party was in full swing, and Laura was trying to have a good time with the friends she made from college.  She couldn’t help but wonder if Matt would actually show up though.  She was extremely surprised when he called her the week before, and even a bit surprised when he followed through with his promise of calling her yesterday.

It was just difficult to believe that Matt Porter was that accessible.  Laura was a small town girl from Iowa and this kind of thing just didn’t happen in reality.  Maybe he was simply keeping up good fan relations by inviting her to the radio station this morning.  Maybe he was just trying to get laid by a naïve girl.  She wasn’t sure what to think.

The only thing Laura was sure of was she liked him.  A lot.  She loved Matt Porter, the pop star.  On TV, he was ditzy and adorable, and at the same time cool and confident.  In person, however, Matt Porter was easy to talk to and hang out with, though.  He was a normal fun-loving guy, and that’s what she needed.

Laura just turned nineteen and had transferred to the University of Central Florida earlier in the year.  She needed to get out of Iowa for many reasons.  Her parents were going through an ugly divorce placing her directly in the middle.  They used her against one another, and she couldn’t take it anymore.

At the same time, her high school sweetheart broke her heart.  He fell in love with one of her sorority sisters, and she never felt more betrayed.  When her older brother suggested she move in with him, she took him up on his offer in a heartbeat.  And here she was.

Glancing at the door, Laura checked the time.  Matt was only a couple of minutes late; she didn’t want to get her hopes up.  She decided it easier to think Matt wasn’t coming, and went over to the food table to console herself.  She grabbed a plate and placed a sandwich on it.  Just as she took a huge bite, she heard commotion by the door.

“Oh my God,” a girl shouted.  “I’m such a fan!”

Laura was mortified and didn’t want her brother’s friend to scare Matt off.  She dropped her sandwich and quickly made her way over to the door.  She saw Matt and Ryan standing in the doorway with a girl in between them.  She knew what Ryan’s fiancée looked like, and that girl was definitely not her.  Laura wondered if maybe she was Matt’s date.  Her heart sank, and she knew it was silly.  It was silly to believe he was interested in her when he could have anyone he wanted!  She mentally consoled herself with being happy he came at all.

“Hey Laura!” Matt said cheerily.

Laura smiled widely and Matt snickered to himself.  Cooper gestured to Laura’s mouth where a small glob of mustard formed in the corner.  Mortified, Laura quickly wiped the corners of her mouth with her fingers.  She felt her cheeks burn in embarrassment.  Matt walked closer to her.

“Did I get it all?”

Though there wasn’t anything left on her face, Matt inspected anyway, and brushed the edge of her lips; to touch her in some way.  He flashed one of his signature swoony smiles.

“That happens to me all the time.  You look great by the way.”

Laura didn’t feel so embarrassed anymore and thanked him, blushing for other reasons than embarrassment.  Ryan greeted the girl and introduced Cooper as a friend.

“Hi, it’s nice to meet you,” Cooper shook her hand.

“You too.  I love your outfit.”

“Thank you,” Cooper grinned.  “Your shoes are adorable.”

“Oh, thanks.  I got them on sale,” Laura said, easily falling into a friendly manner with the older young woman.

As the girls talked, other guests came up to Matt and Ryan for pictures and autographs; just what they were afraid of.  After a while, Matt groaned and whispered to Ryan.

“This isn’t what I had in mind for tonight,” he nodded toward the girls chatting away oblivious to the swarm of fans.

Ryan laughed, “I’ll distract Cooper.”

To Matt, it looked like Ryan was helping him be alone with Laura.  In actuality, Ryan was happy to leave the crowd and have some time to talk to Cooper.  He hugged one more fan before going over to Cooper.

“You want to get a drink with me?”

“Sure,” Cooper smiled.  “Excuse me,” she said to Laura.

Ryan and Cooper walked over to the bar in the house.

“I don’t really feel like drinking,” Cooper realized with a laugh.

“Me neither.”

The house was filled with college kids drinking beer.  Ryan and Cooper were a little too old for the crowd and neither one were heavy drinkers.  Ryan handed her a bottle of water and took one for himself.  They both glanced around, feeling somewhat out of place.

“Wanna go for a walk?” Ryan asked her.

“Yeah.”

They made their way out of the beach house, both placing their waters down after a few sips.  Cooper sat down on the steps and started taking her shoes off.

“Wait,” Cooper said.  “These cannot come with me.”

Ryan laughed, “I’m surprised you didn’t break your neck in them already.”

“Shut up,” she pouted.

Ryan decided to take his socks and shoes off as well.  They treaded through the sand together, walking a good distance apart.

“Did I ruin Matt’s date by rambling on to Laura?”

“Nah, we know how you girls get,” Ryan waved her off.

“It’s really nice out here,” she said, breathing in the ocean air and looking up at the stars.

“Yeah, I miss the beach,” Ryan nodded.

They stopped walking for a second and admired the ocean.  Ryan glanced back at the house and smiled to himself.

“Look up at the balcony.”

Cooper turned around and saw Matt and Laura kissing.

“Aw, that’s cute,” she smiled.

“See, you didn’t ruin it,” Ryan winked.

She looked into his eyes before looking away.  Suddenly, Ryan grabbed her arm and yanked her away from the water.

“Jellyfish!” he shouted.

She screamed, “Where?!?”

Cooper practically knocked Ryan down, trying to get further away from the water.  She wrapped her arms around his neck as Ryan walked backward with her holding onto him.  She looked back at the water and sighed.

“That’s not a jellyfish.  It’s a plastic bag, goofball!”

Cooper laughed before looking back at Ryan.

He laughed, too, embarrassed with himself.

“I’m an idiot.  Sorry.”

She was still holding onto him as her laughter continued.  Once it faded, she realized Ryan was staring into her eyes.  She got lost in his gaze for a moment before they both looked away and dropped their arms from around one another.

Ryan sighed to himself before reaching for Cooper’s hand.  She smiled at him as she eyed his hand.  They continued to walk down the beach together, hand in hand.  They hardly spoke, but the gesture said so much.  Their fingers wove together so perfectly; the contact felt like something they both had longed for.

A little while later, Cooper stopped walking and sat down in the sand.  Her hand was still holding onto Ryan’s as he looked down at her.  She looked up at him, her eyes inviting him to take the spot next to her.  Ryan sat down and their hands finally broke away from one another.  They missed the physical contact.  Instinctively, Ryan wrapped an arm around Cooper.

“JT asked me to be his date to your wedding,” Cooper broke the silence.

Ryan nodded, “Yeah, I know.  Wha’d you say?”

“Yes,” Cooper searched his eyes for a reaction, but he looked away immediately.  “Ryan, if you don’t want me there…”

“I didn’t say that,” he looked back at her.  “JT wants you there.”

“He’s a great guy,” she smiled.

“But?”

“He’s not you.”

As soon as she said the words, Cooper regretted them.  She looked away from Ryan and felt tears form in her eyes.  Ryan rubbed her shoulder and pulled her near.  He kissed the top of her head and welcomed her scent.  Cooper pulled away from Ryan and stood up.  He looked up at her from his spot in the sand.

“Am I really this lost?”

Ryan went to speak, but she continued.

“Here I am feeling things I never allow myself to feel,” she sniffled, “And I’m feeling them for the wrong person.”

Cooper played with her fingers as she spoke.  She glanced at Ryan and he was still silently looking at her.

“Ryan, you’re engaged and I’m infatuated.  I can’t let this go any further, and I can’t let you betray your fiancée.”

“Or JT,” Ryan interrupted.

Shouldn’t the man she was sleeping with be her first concern? He thought.  Shouldn’t JT be my first concern? He was so frustrated with the situation and himself.

Cooper looked over at him once again.

“I’m just another girl to JT,” she laughed.

“You’re wrong.  I’ve been denying it to myself for the past couple of months,” Ryan explained.  “He’s falling for you, and I hate him for it.”
“Why?”

“Why do I hate him?”  Ryan stared at her with his jaw clenched.  “He has you!  He’s going to be the one to hold you in his arms tonight.”

“He doesn’t have me, Ryan,” she sighed.  “He should, but he doesn’t.  It started out…” she groaned.  “God, I couldn’t believe I let myself sleep with him so quickly.  I hated myself for it.  Don’t judge me, okay?” Cooper looked over at him once more.

“I never judged you.”

“Oh no?” she asked, wiping another tear.

She was referring to that first phone call they had.

“I was just mad when I said those things.  I didn’t know how to handle what I was feeling.”

“Join the club,” she shook her head.  “JT wasn’t who I expected.  He didn’t treat me like a one-night stand.  He helps me forget.”

“What are you trying so hard to forget?” Ryan asked.

“Life,” Cooper choked on the word.

She didn’t say anything more, not wanting to open up.

Ryan stood up, “What are you afraid of?”

“What are you afraid of, Ryan?” She turned the question on him.

“You,” he said bluntly.

Cooper turned toward him, looking at him incredulously.

“You scare the crap out of me, Cooper.  I barely know you and you’re in my head.  I wish I could do it.  I wish I could just take you to bed, move on, and marry Danielle,” he explained.  “But I can’t, okay?  I couldn’t keep something like that from Danielle.  I couldn’t get married with that on my conscience, and I would hate myself.  I would hate you, too,” Ryan said softly.

Cooper reached over and ran her hand through his hair.  She understood how he must felt.  She was feeling something very similar inside.  It was a struggle between right and wrong, but something worse was a burning inside of her.  Was it lust or something else?  Neither one of them knew.

“I would hate me, too,” Cooper whispered, wanting to wrap her arms around him, but resisted.  “I don’t want to come between you and Danielle, or you and JT.”

“You want to know what I’m really afraid of?” He asked.

“What?”

“That what I’m feeling is not about sex.  Yes, I’m attracted to you,” Ryan sighed.  “God, am I attracted to you, but you—I care about you,” he admitted.  “I know that sounds crazy…”

“No, it doesn’t.  I mean the whole thing is crazy,” Cooper breathed out.  “I care about you, too.”

She hugged him, giving in to the urge; he buried his head into her shoulder.  Cooper felt her heart become heavy.  She needed something to lighten the mood; wanting to escape as usual.

“Let’s go swimming.”

“What?” Ryan pulled away, looking at her strangely.

“I’ve never been in Florida waters,” Cooper admitted with a smile.  “I want my first time to be with you.”

Ryan laughed off Cooper’s flirty comment.

“You’re gonna swim in jeans?”

Cooper shook her head.  She stepped back and started unbuckling her belt.  Ryan just stared as she unbuttoned her jeans and pulled them down her legs.

“Coop…” he said, battling within himself whether to stop her or join her. She reached for her shirt and pulled it over her head.

Ryan took in every exposed inch of her smooth, milky skin.  Her body was lean, but curved in the right places.  She was absolutely beautiful.  He stared at the swell of her full breasts enclosed in her black, lacy bra.  He desperately wanted to pull her close to him, instead he continued to stare.

“You’re not going to let me swim alone, are you?” she asked, coyly before walking down toward the water.

Cooper was playing the part of the seductive vixen.  Inside, she was terrified of who she was becoming.  She knew her behavior was inappropriate.

Ryan quickly glanced around the beach to make sure no one was watching.  He then stripped down to his boxers; his resistance worn down.  He jogged to the water as Cooper went underneath the surface.  She popped back up, pushing her hair back.  Ryan swam over to her, and she smiled at him before splashing him.

“Hey!” he yelled, splashing back.

They played around, and Ryan splashed a little too hard.  Cooper started choking, and he was worried.  He grabbed onto her arm and started patting her back until she coughed up some water.

“Okay?”

“Yeah,” she laughed.

“So, you never told me what you were afraid of.”

“Time to go,” she said about to swim away.

Ryan wrapped his arms around her from behind and pulled her against him, relishing in the feel of her pressed against him.

“I told you my fears.  Now you tell me.”

He turned her around to face him.  Cooper looked down at where their chests were brushing together as he held her close.

“I’m afraid of letting people in,” she admitted.  “My mom—she was the best.  She trusted my dad, and he left us.  Every time some idiot broke her heart, we moved,” Cooper laughed, barely looking at Ryan as she spoke.  “Before she died, she told me something—I’ll never forget it.”

“What’d she say?” Ryan asked.

Cooper finally looked at him.

“She told me to follow my heart wherever it took me, and be careful who I give my heart to,” Cooper let out another laugh; this one sounding shaky.  “I guess I took it literally because I followed every whim I had, from switching careers to moving to another state, to what color I should change my hair to.  I took the last thing she told me a little too seriously, too,” she sighed.  “I never gave my heart to anyone.  I never let myself get too close, not even to my friends.”

“Do you think your mom wanted you to be that careful?” Ryan asked, placing his hand on the curve of her neck.

“I don’t know, but I saw how broken her heart was.  She made bad choice after bad choice in men.  I knew she didn’t want that for me,” Cooper sniffled.

“Come here,” he whispered, and pulled her against him.

He hugged her as she cried on his shoulder.  He just let her cry, knowing that was exactly what she needed.  She was hugging him so tight, that Ryan pulled her legs around his waist just so he could support her completely.  He loved the way she fit in his arms.  He felt her shiver as she let out a sob.  He squeezed her, kissing the top of her head before leaning down to whisper in her ear.

“You should let someone in once in a while.”

Cooper pulled away and looked into Ryan’s eyes.  Her hazel eyes were pools of green.  Ryan seemed to be the only person she was letting in lately.  Without thinking, she pressed her lips to his.  He gave into the kiss and placed his hand on her face, caressing her cheek as their tongues met.  Cooper secured her legs around Ryan’s waist even tighter, as if she wanted to melt into him.  Ryan pulled away and kissed her neck as she ran her fingers through his hair.  Her hands felt incredible to him.  Her touch was so soft, yet effective.  He was aroused.  Ryan sucked on a sensitive spot on Cooper’s neck and she moaned softly.

Cooper pulled away suddenly and looked at Ryan.  She untangled herself from him and started swimming back to shore.  Ryan followed her.  She gathered her clothes and turned toward him.

“I should let someone in?” Cooper yelled.

Ryan looked at her blankly.

“You should be faithful,” she cried.  “You’re the first person I felt this way about, and you’re probably the worst person I should feel this for.  You’re getting married next month!” She yelled at him.

“I know!” Ryan yelled back.  “Do you know how confused I am?  I waited my whole life to get married, Cooper.  It means more to me than anything!  Not the band, or my solo album.  I want to get married and start a family!”

He was beyond frustrated, feeling like she was putting the blame on him.

“So do it!  Who’s stopping you?” Cooper shouted.

“You!” Ryan yelled.  “I don’t know why I met you now.  I don’t know what my feelings for you mean.  I don’t even know you!” Ryan shouted back before stepping closer to her.  “But it’s like…I do know you.  My heart knows you.  When I’m with you, I realize something about Danielle,” he admitted.

“What?”

“She’s not you.  She doesn’t make me feel this way.”

Ryan had tears in his eyes at the confession.

“You still want to marry her though, don’t you?” Cooper asked, afraid of the answer.

“What am I supposed to do?  Throw away a three year relationship over some girl I just met?”

Cooper looked down, hurt by the words somewhat, even though she understood completely.  Ryan touched her arms softly at the elbows.

“I wish I could think of you as some girl I’ll forget about.  I don’t think I can though.”

“…And I thought I had problems,” Cooper laughed as she wiped her eyes.

“Yeah,” Ryan laughed, too.  “I do love her.  Just with all the wedding plans and my career… Danielle has been distracted, and I miss her.”

Cooper thought about what Ryan was saying.  She entwined her fingers in his.

“Here’s what you do…” She forced a smile.  “You and Danielle take a pre-wedding honeymoon.  Go somewhere, stay home, but make it just the two of you.  Find the reason you fell in love with her, and then marry her, and make your dreams come true.”

Cooper knew, even if in some alternate universe where Ryan was single, she could give him what he wanted: stability.

Ryan looked into her eyes and knew she was hurting.

“And if I can’t find the reason?” Ryan swallowed.

Cooper shrugged, “I’ll be here.  I’m not keeping my hopes up.”

She never kept her hopes up when it concerned relationships, which is why deep down she knew JT would never be serious about her, and Ryan would get over her.

“Come here,” he sighed.

They hugged, and Ryan kissed her lips.

“You’re something special.  Don’t hold back.”

“Thanks,” she hugged him again.  “I’m freezing,” she laughed as they pulled apart.

“Gee, I wonder why,” Ryan poked her stomach.

They put their clothes on before taking their time walking back to the beach house.  As they walked into the house, people were greeting Ryan again as Cooper wrapped her arms around her chest; her wet bra was causing her shirt to cling to her body.

“There you two are!”

Matt strolled up to them with a beer in his hand.  He noticed their wet hair and wet spots on their clothes.  His mouth hung open slightly as he stared at them.

“I’m going to use the bathroom…” Cooper walked away quickly.

Matt turned his glare on Ryan.

“Where’s Laura?” Ryan asked looking around.  “We saw you two kissing,” he smiled, trying to distract Matt.

“She’s talking to her friends.  Do I even have to ask where you were?” He messed Ryan’s wet hair.

“It’s not what it looks like,” he sighed.

“Oh, you and Cooper didn’t go for a late night swim?”

“Nothing happened, man.”

“Look, I see the way you look at her,” Matt huffed, his hands on his hips.

It was an odd stance for Matt, who was usually the one in the band getting lectured.

“What are you doing, Ry?”

“We just kissed, that’s all.”

“And skinny-dipped?”

“We kept our underwear on.”

Matt laughed loudly, “Oh gee, well, then everything is okay.  I have to say, I’m surprised at you.  I never want to hear a lecture from you again, church boy.”

“Matt, nothing more is going to happen.”

“You’re getting married in a month!”

“It’s over.”

“When did it start?” Matt asked, raising an eyebrow.

“The day we met.”

“I knew it!” Matt pointed in his face.

Ryan pushed his hand down, looking around worried someone will overhear.

“I could tell you were attracted to her.  You’re so bad at hiding it.”

“I must be if you noticed,” Ryan shot at him.

“Whatever,” Matt waved his hand at him.

“Look, don’t tell JT and Danielle.  Don’t tell anyone, actually,” Ryan warned.

“Why would I tell anyone?” Matt sighed.  “You’re my best friend.”

“Yeah, and you hate my fiancée.”

“I don’t hate Danielle.  I just don’t like her.”

Ryan laughed and Matt put his hand on his shoulder.

“I wouldn’t do that to you.  Just be careful,” Matt offered.

“I know.”

Matt didn’t give Ryan much grief about JT, considering he would move on from Cooper in no time.  Besides, Ryan wasn’t the type of guy to actually pursue Cooper when he was getting married!

“Can we leave?  My boxers are soaked,” Ryan grimaced.

Matt rolled his eyes, “Um, soon.  Let me just say goodbye to Laura.”

“Wait, you’re actually coming with me?”

“We came here together,” Matt said, confused.

“Oh, well, I thought you’d want to seal the deal,” he rolled his eyes.

Matt sighed, “That will come in time.”

 

A little while later, Matt pulled up to Joyce’s house.  Cooper looked at him and then Ryan.  There had been an awkward silence the entire ride.

“Will we see you again before we leave?” Matt asked.

“I hope so.”

Cooper looked back at Ryan and he smiled at her.

“Bye.”

She kissed Matt’s cheek before getting out of the car.  Ryan stepped out of the car as well.  They hugged, and he kissed her cheek close to her lips as he took her hand.

“I’ll see you at the wedding?” Cooper asked.

“Hopefully,” Ryan smiled and she laughed.

“It’ll happen,” she assured him before pulling away.

Their hands slowly let go of each other’s.  Ryan got back inside the car and Matt pulled away a moment later.  Cooper walked up to the guesthouse.  She walked inside, and couldn’t believe the night she had.  She knew she had to let Ryan go, for his sake, and maybe her own.  She knew relationships that started dishonestly were doomed.  She was ready to let her heart take a chance, but not that big of a chance.

Cooper was grateful to Ryan, though.  Tonight made her realize how much she needed to let people in, and how much she wanted to fall in love.  She kept her emotions bottled up so tight; she rarely knew what she truly wanted.

Cooper began to undress.  She took off her soaked bra and panties before stepping into the shower.  She washed the salt out of her hair and off her body.  She slipped into a pair of boy shorts and a tank top.

Afterwards, she dried her hair and threw it up in a clip.  She turned down her bed and got under the covers.  Just as her eyes closed, she heard the door open.  She remembered JT, and he turned on the light.

“I was wondering when you’d get back,” he smiled at her.  “Did you have fun?”

“Yeah,” she said eyeing him as he pulled his shirt over his head.

Cooper wasn’t sure what she wanted at that moment.  After the night she had, the last thing she needed was to jump into bed with JT again, though earlier in the day, she would have.  JT pulled down his pants before sliding into bed with her.

“Tired?” He asked.  She nodded.  “Me too.  Do you mind if I sleep with you?”

He brushed the hair out of her eyes.  She felt incredibly guilty with him looking at her so tenderly.  She usually saw JT as a lusty man, but is reminded of the great friend he has been to her; helping her find a job and a place to live.

“Of course I don’t mind,” she said, and he kissed her softly before pulling her close.

To Cooper’s surprise, JT turned out the light, kissed her shoulder, and laid his head down on the pillow.  He wasn’t going to push her for sex and that made her wonder about the nature of their relationship.  Cooper turned away from him, but pulled his arm around her, pulling him closer.  She squeezed his hand in hers before pressing them both against her chest.  They fell asleep just like that.

*** SPLIT PAGES? Or in 2 posts? ***

 

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*Legal Disclaimer: This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons, living or dead, is coincidental.

Copyright © 2009 by Sandy Lo.
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including information storage and retrieval systems, without permission in writing from the author, except by a reviewer who may quote brief passages in a review.

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About the Author

Sandy Lo ()

Sandy Lo’s personal story is inspiring. She started, StarShine Magazine, an online publication in 2001, at the age of 18. She wrote her first novel in 2009, “Lost In You,” followed by the “Dream Catchers” Series. She was the first person ever to professionally interview Taylor Swift and has received personal endorsements for her books from members of boy bands Backstreet Boys and 98 Degrees. Recently, she has been seeing some tremendous momentum in book sales on Kindle. She has been included on the “50 Writers You Should Be Reading” list by The Authors Show, and “Dream Catchers”, “Breaking The Moon” and “Indigo Waters” reached the Top 100 Best Selling Coming of Age novels in Amazon’s Kindle Store. What makes this even more unique, is that Sandy relocated from NY to Nashville in order to write “The Watch Dog,” which is set in a fictional town outside of Music City. “The Watch Dog” reached the Top 10 Ghost Stories on Amazon. Aside from her writing projects, Sandy is also a freelance digital strategist.

Website: http://sandylo.com

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