Lost In You - Chapter 16
Chapter 16 Preview: Impulsive and insecure Cooper Jackson accompanies her cousin to a wedding where she meets Sound Wave, a famous boy band.

The sound of the fax machine filled Tommy and Joyce Burke’s house.  Joyce sighed as she stared at a stack of invoices on the desk in her office.  She forgot how much work it was to run her business alone.  Joyce thought of JT and Cooper, and wondered how the past week and a half had been.  She only heard from the couple once since Cooper arrived.

Deciding to take a break, Joyce picked up her phone and dialed the international cellular number Jamie had given her.  The phone kept ringing, and Joyce looked at the time.  It would have been after that night’s concert already.  She figured they went to a club and couldn’t hear over the music.  Though Joyce wasn’t sure why, there was a bowl full of worry in the pit of her stomach.

 

d

 

The house music pumped through the veins of everybody inside the Parisian club.  The air was smoky, and Cooper felt as if she couldn’t breathe.  She tried to keep up with JT, but was losing the battle.  He gripped her hips, and she stumbled back a little.  She only had two drinks, but she quickly realized this particular club didn’t go easy on their alcoholic beverages.  It didn’t help that she drank both beverages down in a matter of five minutes through a straw.

JT held onto Cooper as if he didn’t want to lose her.  He looked over at Matt and Laura, who were making out, their drinks in hand.  He sighed to himself.  It never became easier being around alcohol.  Though he avoided clubs for a while because of the many temptations, JT simply loved the atmosphere and to dance.  Still, he would watch all of his friends get smashed while he sipped Diet Coke.  It seemed unfair and cruel, but JT felt it was his rightful punishment.

Lucky for him, Ryan was usually his sober buddy.  Ryan wasn’t much into alcohol, despite what his bachelor party portrayed, and JT was grateful for that.  Tonight Ryan wasn’t at the club, not surprisingly; he wasn’t much for that kind of atmosphere.  Somehow JT knew Ryan would have wanted to go that night, though.  JT made the initial plans, and purposely didn’t invite him.  He didn’t really invite Matt or Mike either, but he mentioned it to them at least.  It was getting harder for JT to see Ryan and Cooper around each other, especially after their last night in Germany.  JT hadn’t told anyone what he saw that night.

Thunder booming outside had awoken JT from a sound sleep.  He was surprised to find Cooper wasn’t in the room.  He became slightly worried, and walked out into the hallway in a sleepy stupor.  After knocking on Matt’s door and receiving a confused response from Laura, JT continued down to the lobby.  He tried his best asking the concierge and doormen if they had seen Cooper, but he wasn’t very successful at getting any responses.

          Finally, JT walked down to the bar, and then to the café.  He stopped dead in his tracks when he saw Cooper with Ryan.  She was sitting and Ryan was kneeling in front of her.  They were speaking quietly and softly to one another.  JT was furious, but mostly hurt.  He had no idea what Ryan was saying to Cooper, but her eyes were glassy, and there was a look in them that said what he knew all along.

          JT debated whether he should walk over or not.  He would have enjoyed squashing their moment, but his head was filled with too many emotions that he turned quickly, and made his way back up to his room.  When Cooper finally joined him in bed again, JT wrapped his arms around her, and after a moment said the three magic words he hoped made her feel guilty.

          “I love you.”

The dance floor seemed to become more packed, with more people gravitating toward Matt and JT.  Cooper was losing her balance, and finally just supported herself on JT.

“Why’d you have to drink?” he sighed.

He was hoping she would be his sober buddy that night.

“I didn’t think I drank that much.”

The crowd grew denser, and Cooper was feeling claustrophobic now as she was pressed so tightly against JT, his belt buckle dug into her stomach.

“I need air.”

Before JT could react, Cooper disappeared into the crowd.  He tried to spot her in the sea of people, but it was no use.  A couple of girls started dancing with JT as his eyes still scanned the room.  A dark haired, dark eyed woman brought his eyes toward her as she danced in front of him, more for him than with him.  She looked like a model with long legs and a boney frame.  Her body didn’t offer many curves, but she revealed more than the average girl did, with a plunging neckline and a skirt that looked more like a belt.  JT allowed her to put her arms around him as he fell into a groove with her, forgetting all about Cooper.

 

d

 

The night air was thick, not offering any relief to Cooper.  She started to feel the chill of the weather, and wrapped her arms around herself.  Feeling as if she wanted to throw up, Cooper quickly made her way back into the club.  She ran into the bathroom, pushing people out of the way as she did.  The bathroom was unisex, and Cooper could see silhouettes of two people making out through the frosted door of one stall.  She squatted down next to the toilet and waited for her release.  After a minute, Cooper was still waiting, now listening to the giggling of the couple in the next stall.

“Matt?  Laura?  Is that you?”

“Cooper?” Laura responded.

“I think I’m going to throw up.”

Cooper pointed her head toward the toilet and began vomiting.  Matt and Laura made their way out of the stall.  Laura pulled Cooper’s hair back for her, which was once straight, but now wavy due to sweat.

“What did you drink?” Matt asked.

“I think she had some kind of liquor mixture,” Laura answered for Cooper.

“Oooh, probably not good on the stomach,” Matt laughed.

“Ya think?” Cooper managed to ask before vomiting some more.

“I think that bartender’s goal is to make the entire club wind up in the bathroom,” Laura sighed.

She and Matt stuck to beer after taking one sip of the bar’s signature mixed drink.

“I’m going to find JT.”

Matt walked out of the bathroom and scoured the club for him.  He didn’t see JT anywhere.  Meanwhile, Laura helped clean Cooper up.

“You want to go back to the hotel?”

Cooper offered a nod, and they walked out of the bathroom.  Matt met back up with the girls.

“I can’t find him,” he sighed.

“He has to be here somewhere,” Laura said, giving the room a look around.

Cooper focused her eyes, finally starting to feel better.  She looked toward the far corner of the club and saw a tall woman, in skimpy clothing, dancing with someone.  They looked as if they were having sex with clothes on.

“French bimbos,” Cooper mumbled.

Suddenly, the “bimbo” slid her body lower on the man, and that man was JT.  Cooper’s eyes nearly fell out of her head, and she wasn’t sure what to do.  JT looked like he was thoroughly enjoying what the girl was doing as his hands came dangerously close to touching her inappropriately.  Cooper felt sick all over again as tears came to her eyes.

“I’m just going to go.  I’ll take a cab.  Tell JT I’ll see him at the hotel.”

Cooper was already walking away as Matt and Laura protested.

“She shouldn’t leave alone,” Laura huffed.

“Where the fuck is JT?” Matt asked annoyed.

Then, Matt also spotted JT with the girl.  He groaned loudly, and grabbed Laura’s hand.  Matt pulled her through the crowd, and over to JT.

“What the fuck is wrong with you!?” Matt yelled in JT’s ear.

“I’m just dancing,” JT said, trying to be more G-rated with his movements suddenly.

“Your girlfriend has been throwing up,” Laura told him.

The French girl just watched on and pouted her lips at Matt seductively.  He in turn pulled Laura closer to him, knowing that girl was nothing but trouble.

“Is Cooper okay?” JT asked, concern returning to his face.

“She just left,” Matt sighed.

“By herself?”

“Well, she took off, man, and gee, I wonder why.”

“I can’t believe you let her leave by herself!” JT roared.

“She ran off on us!” Matt defended himself.

“She said she was getting in a cab,” Laura told him.  “We’re going to go after her,” she patted Matt’s back.  “Don’t let us ruin your night,” she tossed at him before they walked away.

JT sighed, and almost immediately the girl threw her arms around him, and began her dance again.  JT thought to go back to the hotel, but he knew Cooper would be okay.  He also knew what would happen if he stayed at the club.  It made sense in his head, just like it had in the past.  It definitely made sense as the brunette pressed her lips to his, and now their tongues danced along with their bodies.

“My name is Juliette,” she whispered; her French accent thick and low.  “My place is around the corner.”

JT didn’t introduce himself, Juliette knew exactly who he was, and she didn’t care if he had a girlfriend or if he was taking advantage of her.  She knew the game, and all she wanted was to be wanted by him, for even one night.

 

d

 

The cab pulled up to the hotel.  Cooper paid the driver, and slammed the door after she stepped out.  She walked into the building, wrapping her jacket around herself, cursing the city of love.

She felt terrible and looked the part as well.  Her hair was frizzing up, and her make-up was smeared.  Her denim skirt stretched throughout the evening, as denim often does, and now hung loosely around her hips.

Cooper’s feet ached as she limped to the elevator.  She stepped onto the apparatus, pushed the button to her floor, and just as the doors were about to close, someone put their hand in between them.

“Cooper,” John said surprised.

He looked at her, and knew it hadn’t been a good night.

“Come on guys,” John called to Ryan and Mike, and now Cooper felt worse, embarrassed by how she must look to them.

“Hey, where’s JT?” Mike asked getting into the elevator.

Cooper shrugged, “Fucking a bimbo.”

She mumbled the words, making them inaudible, and everyone looked at her not sure if they heard right.

“What?” John asked.

“Oh nothing.”

Cooper waved it off with a smile; a smile Ryan saw through.  Her eyes hadn’t met his the entire ride up to their floor, and he knew she was avoiding him.

“I’m not feeling well, so I just left,” she answered.

“They let you leave alone?” Mike asked.

“Well, I didn’t give them much choice.  I’m fine now, though,” Cooper answered, her voice sounding anything but fine.

The doors opened and Cooper quickly stepped off.

“Good night,” she called, not looking at anyone before she made her way around the corner.

Ryan just watched her walk away, wanting to go after her, but knowing he shouldn’t.  John put his hand on Ryan’s shoulder.

“Go.”

Ryan looked back at his brother surprised.

“What?”

“Talk to her,” John nodded.

That was all the encouragement Ryan needed.  He nodded as well and jogged off in Cooper’s direction.  John looked over at Mike, and they both had concern in their eyes.

“JT’s going to screw her over, I know it,” Mike sighed.

“Well, Cooper already screwed him over,” John shrugged his shoulders.  “She just didn’t do it on purpose.”

John finally understood Cooper in some way.  After his wife put things in perspective for him, and forced him to watch The Notebook again, John had grown to like Cooper.  She wasn’t vindictive like he originally thought.  She was honestly confused, and judging from the past week, John saw that JT and Cooper were forcing something that wasn’t natural to them anymore.

 

d

 

The hallway was deserted as Cooper searched her bag for her room key.  She cursed herself as she dumped the contents out on the floor.  Ryan caught up to her by this point.

“Ugh, where is it?”

She rummaged through her make-up, wallet, and a mini-photo album she usually carried with her.

“JT has the key,” she remembered.

She glanced up at Ryan before just sitting down on the floor.  Ryan sat down across from her.  The photo album had flipped open when it fell out of Cooper’s bag.

“Is this your mom?” Ryan asked, picking the album up.

She nodded.

“You look just like her.”

Cooper hugged her knees as she looked up at him.

“And I’m going down the same path she did, even though I promised I wouldn’t,” she sniffled.

“What path is that?” Ryan asked.

“Getting my heart broken.”

Slowly the tears started falling, and Ryan quickly hugged her.  She was curled up against her knees as he held her.  He felt like he was hugging a little girl as he rocked her back and forth.

“Come on, we’ll go to my room until JT comes back,” Ryan offered.

He helped put the items back in Cooper’s bag before helping her stand up.  She placed her head on his shoulder as they walked toward his room.

Once in his room, Ryan went into the bathroom.  Cooper heard the water running a moment later.  Ryan walked over to her and took her hand.

“Why don’t you take a bath and relax?”

Cooper nodded, “Okay.”

Ryan set up the bath with bubbles and the works.

“It’s all set.  Do you want anything else?  Coffee?  Tea?”

“Tea sounds good,” she smiled meekly at him.

“I’ll be right back.  Go ahead.  I’ll leave some clothes for you to change into,” he nodded toward the bathroom.

“Thank you.”

Cooper walked into the bathroom and closed the door.  She debated on locking it, but decided against it.  She knew Ryan was a gentleman, and she wanted her tea when it was still hot.  Cooper stripped out of her sticky clothes.  Slowly, she stepped into the tub and submerged her body.  The hot water surrounded her muscles, and felt like a million bucks.  Cooper relaxed a bit more, and put her head under water.  She rested her head on the back of the tub when she surfaced, and closed her eyes.

About ten minutes later, Ryan walked back into the room with a cup of tea from the Starbucks in the lobby of their hotel.  He set the tea down for a moment as he picked out sweatpants and a t-shirt from his suitcase.  He knocked softly on the bathroom door.

“Come in,” Cooper responded automatically, forgetting the situation.

“Are you sure?  I won’t look,” Ryan chuckled.

“Yeah.  It’s fine,” she decided.

Ryan slowly walked through the door.  He kept his back turned toward the tub, and set the clothes down on the sink.

“Thank you,” Cooper said, smiling to herself as she watched him trying to exit without looking.

“No problem,” he stepped out of the bathroom, grabbing the tea before coming back in with his eyes closed.

“Ryan, you’re going to burn me.  The bubbles are covering me anyway,” Cooper giggled.

Ryan opened his eyes and looked down at Cooper.  Her skin was glistening from the water.  Her knee peeked above the bubbles, and her neck looked longer than usually as Cooper rested it on the back of the tub.  Ryan’s mind flashed back to that night on the beach when they went swimming together.  Cooper smiled at him now just like she had then, and Ryan wanted to kiss her just like he did that night as well.  Her hand reached out for the tea, and Ryan caught a glimpse of her stomach as the water and bubbles shifted.  He gulped.

“Thank you,” Cooper smiled.  “You’re the sweetest.”

“I’m gonna…” Ryan pointed toward the other room.

She nodded and he closed the door behind him.  She laughed to herself, but also wished Ryan would have stayed.  She loved the way he looked at her, and she loved that she felt so safe whenever he was around.

The water started to turn cold a few minutes later; Cooper drained the tub and ran the shower.  She washed the suds off her body.  She turned the water off and reached for a towel.  As she dressed, she brought each item of clothing to her nose, taking in Ryan’s scent.  She imagined sleeping next to him that night, and knew it wouldn’t happen, but loved the thought of it.  Cooper combed her hair and tried her best to brush her teeth without a tooth brush.

When Cooper emerged from the bathroom, Ryan was watching a basketball game on TV.  She joined him on the couch, and he muted the game.

“I feel so much better.”

“Good,” Ryan smiled, and even in the dim lighting, Cooper swears she saw his eyes sparkle.  “You look much better.”

Cooper laughed, somewhat offended, and he was quick to apologize.

“I mean you don’t look like¾”

“A mess?  It’s okay.  I am a mess,” she smiled sadly.

“What happened tonight?”

Cooper reiterated the night’s events, ending with JT all over the French girl.

“Oh man.  Well, it was just dancing, I’m sure¾”

“That was not just dancing, Ryan,” Cooper sighed.

“What are you going to do?”

“We have to have a serous talk, that’s for sure.”

She knew it was going to be more than that though.  She was hurt by JT more than angry.  She was giving him the benefit of the doubt thinking the “dirty dancing” would be as far as it went for him and that bimbo.

“Cooper,” Ryan began.  “Do you really love him?”

She laughed, “How many times am I going to answer that question?”

“As many times as it takes for me to believe it,” Ryan said, and her eyes darted toward him.

“I love him, Ryan.”

“You’re not in love, though.”

“Who are you to say that?” Cooper asked annoyed.

“I know you and I know JT.  I love you both.”

“So back off.”

Ryan sighed, and nodded.

“I just don’t want you two to wind up where I am.”

Cooper looked at Ryan, and she saw the pain in his eyes, and even in the small smile that always remained on his face.

“I loved Danielle for three years.  I was even in love with her at some point.  I held on so tight to the thought of us getting married and having a family.”

Cooper watched him intently as he spoke, understanding his feelings.

“I couldn’t let that image go, and even after our relationship fizzled, it was the only thing I knew.  That’s why I almost made the biggest mistake of my life.  I was afraid to admit to myself my true feelings.  I was afraid to let go.”

Ryan took Cooper’s hand and entwined their fingers.  She looked into his eyes as a moment of silence passed.

“If it wasn’t for you,” he began, “the thought of you, the sight of you… the feeling I got when you walked into a room… I would have never realized I was making a mistake.  What I felt toward you was natural, what I was or who I was with Dani was not.”

Ryan continued to explain, and even though Cooper was beyond flattered, she didn’t like the past tense Ryan used on how he felt about her.

“Ryan…”

“Don’t Cooper.  Don’t tell me I’m wrong or that you’re flattered, but JT’s the one.  I don’t want to hear that.  JT’s not the one, and I’m not saying I am.  This isn’t about me,” Ryan’s tone was stern now.  “It’s about my two friends.  JT’s so set on finding that girl who he’s crazy in love with, that he finds it in almost every girl he dates.”

“Thanks,” she said sarcastically.

“Cooper, I’m not trying to hurt you.”

Even as Ryan explained how JT was with women, Cooper still felt the hurt creep back into her heart.  She became upset, and didn’t want to hear him anymore.

“Ryan, just stop,” she said.  “Stop doing this.  Are you trying to make me break up with JT?”

“Cooper, I’m not telling you what to do.  I’m just saying…you’re worried more about losing everything that’s based around JT than actually losing him.”

“What!?”

“Do you really think Joyce will kick you out and fire you?  She loves you.”

Cooper didn’t respond.  She just looked at him with sad eyes.  He was right.  That was her biggest fear if she and JT broke up—losing a sense of family and the better version of herself she was now.

“…And we’re all still your friends.  In fact, JT will still be your friend.  I don’t doubt that.”

“And you?”

“I’ll still be your friend,” he smiled.

That wasn’t what she meant though, and they both knew that.  It would be awkward for Ryan and Cooper to be a couple.  How would JT feel?  Cooper didn’t know if she could handle just being Ryan’s friend if there was nothing standing in their way, though.

 

d

 

Across town in a darkened flat, JT gathered his clothing as quietly as possible.  Juliette lie naked, still asleep.  He thought of Cooper immediately, and how he always teased her for covering up when she went to the bathroom.  Juliette had gone into the bathroom twice already, just as naked as she is now.  JT sighed, upset with himself.  He knew sex was just another one of his addictions, but it may hurt him the most in the long-run.

As long as JT could remember, he could barely stay loyal to one woman, especially on tour.  It didn’t mean he didn’t love his girlfriends, he just couldn’t control himself.  Or most of the time, he was too drunk to show any of the self-control he did have.

After rehab, Anna was one of the only people who stuck by him.  JT loved her with all that he had, and couldn’t wait to make her his wife.  After relapsing one night, the guilt and fear hit him like an earthquake, and caused him to worry about his relationship.  He didn’t want his fiancée to continuously deal with his problems.

Not knowing how to cope with these emotions, JT found solace in a young, attractive woman who worked for the record label.  He wound up sleeping with her, knowing it would get back to Anna.  When she found out, Anna immediately called off the wedding.  JT purposely sabotaged their engagement, simply because he wasn’t able to discuss his fears, or bring himself to break up with Anna.  Instead, JT was unfaithful, finding it an easier way out.

Two years later and JT was doing the same thing to Cooper.  He couldn’t quite understand it, and his mother had tried to talk to him about his self-destructive behavior a while ago.  JT told Joyce he wasn’t one of her clients, and that he didn’t need help.  He was sick and tired of always being the one with “problems”.

Everyone has problems.  Matt created a reality show out of his problems, and what about Cooper?  JT thought.  She had issues, and maybe that’s why JT was intrigued by her.  She covered up her insecurities and pain by moving her life around and pretending she was happy.  Cooper and JT were similar in that way as well.

Cursing himself silently, JT put his shoes on and quickly headed out of the flat.  It was after four am, and the tour would be heading to Italy next.  Everyone was looking forward to it, and JT hoped he would be, too.  All he could think about in the cab ride home was Cooper, though.  Is she feeling better?  Did she see me with Juliette?  Should I tell her I slept with Juliette?  The only thing JT knew for sure was he had to speak to her, and they either had to start anew, or end this once and for all.

 

d

 

The fireplace crackled as it cast shadows along the walls in Ryan’s hotel room.  He changed into a tank top and plaid pajama pants a little while ago.  Cooper watched Ryan’s bicep as it stretched across the top of the couch.  She had a thing for arms.  She wasn’t a huge fan of muscles, but she loved the shape of a man’s arms when they were toned and looked strong enough to hold her in.  The warmth of a hug was important to Cooper, especially in a man.  She was sure it had to do with unresolved father issues, since her Dad was never affectionate with her.

Cooper listened to Ryan speak about his family, and loved how his face lit up at the thought of his parents visiting soon.  He spoke about his nephew and the guilt he feels from not seeing him as much as he wants.

“Besides your family, what do you miss most about Georgia?”

She herself lived in the state, and she remembered the people being friendly, and the atmosphere being beautiful.

“Everything,” Ryan smiled.  “The people, the park, the mountains, my church…”

“How do you go to church on the road?”

“I still go.  I’m going tomorrow before we leave.  You want to come?”

Cooper looked at him and laughed.

“No thanks.”

“Why do you laugh at me?”

“I’m not laughing at you.”

“You’re not laughing with me, either.”

Cooper sighed, and put her hand on top of his.

“I’m sorry.  I just forget sometimes how you are about God.”

“It doesn’t make me weird,” he defended.  “I’m proud of my faith.”

“Good,” Cooper smiled.

“Come with me,” Ryan insisted.  “Please?”

Cooper looked at him for a long moment.  He seemed to really want her to go with him, and it being something so close to Ryan’s heart made Cooper want to be there.  This was Ryan’s way of showing Cooper how he cared for her, and they both realized that.  Ryan played with Cooper’s fingers as he waited for her answer.

“Okay,” she breathed.

Ryan’s smile grew wide, and Cooper changed the subject.

They spoke about many things as if the outside world didn’t matter.  Cooper forgot about JT.  Ryan forgot about his loneliness and even his sexual desire for Cooper.  Sitting across from her, he saw a person he was not only attracted to, but someone he loved being with.  She was pieces of every person Ryan loved.  Cooper was anal about her kitchen like his mother.  She was a huge baseball fan like his father, and she pouted when she didn’t get her way like Matt.

Most of all, Ryan noticed Cooper had many characteristics of JT.  It didn’t stop at their love for Adam Sandler.  Cooper was fickle like him, and she talked about Joyce the way he did.  Cooper was passionate and skeptical, and once she loved something, she didn’t want to let go.  She often lost people because she was so afraid to let go, she wound up pushing them away.

Ryan had to laugh to himself.  He was beyond smitten with Cooper, and for once in his life, he wasn’t sure how to handle it.  Everything his body told him involved touching or kissing Cooper in some way.  His mind said the exact opposite.  He knew even if Cooper was single, he couldn’t go after her.  JT would never forgive me.   Even still, Cooper came with baggage.  Ryan worried that she wasn’t ready emotionally for any kind of relationship, especially the intensity he imagined having with her.

Cooper pondered the same thoughts.  She knows now she wasn’t ready for love.  She thinks back over the past few months and the course her relationship with JT took.  She was accepting of being loved, and needed that love.  Unfortunately, Cooper wasn’t ready for the emotional insecurities, difficulties, and conflicts that came with a relationship.  She didn’t know if that was just with JT, or all men.

She looked at Ryan smiling at her with the ease of a child as he spoke, and wondered if things would be simple if she were with him.  She knew JT wasn’t completely at fault for the distance between them recently, and that brought her to the realization that maybe she would break Ryan’s heart as well.

At that, Cooper decided to call it a night.  Ryan offered to walk her back to her room, but she refused politely.  He kissed her cheek and held the door open for her.  Cooper looked back at him with her things in her arms before walking down the hallway.  She knocked on the door to JT’s room.  The door opened immediately and before Cooper could say a word, JT had her in a hug.

“Are you okay?”

Cooper broke away from the hug and put her things down.  JT looked at the Georgia Bulldogs shirt she was wearing and he tensed.

“Why are you wearing Ryan’s shirt?”

“Why were you humping some slut?” Cooper turned the question.

“I asked you first.”

JT eyed her, thoughts running through his mind.  Had he underestimated Ryan?  Would he do something like this to him?  After all Ryan and Cooper had kissed while they were together.

“I was locked out because you had the key.  I took a shower at Ryan’s and he lent me clothes,” Cooper explained dryly.

“Did you fuck him?”

“Ugh, oh my God,” she sighed.  “Did you fuck her?”

JT looked away from Cooper, and she knew the answer.  She didn’t think he would be so cruel to cheat on her practically out in the open.

“You did?”

“Coop, I’m sorry…” he immediately walked toward Cooper, and she shoved him as hard as she could.

“You’re sorry?” she was now crying as she looked at JT in disbelief.  “I’m throwing up in the bathroom and you’re putting moves on other women?!”

“Maybe I wouldn’t need any other women if I had one!”

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

“It means that you are not mine.  You are Ryan’s.”

“JT, stop with Ryan already,” Cooper sighed.

Her body felt weak, and she just plopped down on the bed.

“Ryan and I haven’t done anything.”

“I saw you two in the hotel café in Germany.”

“And?”

Cooper waited for JT to finish.

“I’m not stupid.  You don’t look at me the way you look at him.”

She stared down at the carpet, and now JT was sitting next to her.

“I didn’t cheat on you,” she gulped.  “Why did¾why didn’t you talk to me instead of…”

“Because I’m an idiot.”

“You got that right.”

JT reached up and put his arm around her.  Cooper shrugged him away.

“Don’t.”

“I’m a coward, Cooper.  I was too afraid of you hurting me, so I wanted to hurt you first.”

Somehow that made sense to her.

“You’re just as screwed up as me.”

Cooper looked over at JT, and they had the same expression on.  Regret, pain, and need were evident.  The telephone rang breaking their gaze.  JT reached out and grabbed the phone off the nightstand.  After hearing who it was, he handed the phone to Cooper.

“It’s your brother.”

She took the phone from JT, and wasn’t sure what time it was home, but her nausea from earlier surfaced again.  Cooper greeted Zac and knew right away something horrible had happened.

“Is it Uncle Bill?  Did he relapse?”

“Cooper, he’s gone,” Zac said softly.

“Gone?”

She couldn’t believe the words.  She just spoke to Uncle Bill and he was fine.  How could he be gone?

“Dave couldn’t wake him up.”

“No…no…not him, too, Zac…” Cooper cried.

“Shh, Sissy, please calm down.”

JT wrapped his arms around Cooper as she cried.  This time, she welcomed his touch as she sobbed.  Zac could hear her cries and he asked to speak to JT.  He told him the funeral arrangements, and JT told him they’d fly out the next day.

 

d

 

The sun came up and Cooper was sound asleep.  JT was still holding her as his eyes opened.  His arm was underneath her head, and it had fallen asleep.  He felt horrible for what he did the night before, and now, Cooper’s uncle passed away.  He was worried about her.  JT wished he could take everything back.  He tried to slip away from Cooper without disturbing her, but it was no use.  She turned and looked at him, her eyes still stricken with grief.

“Morning.”

Cooper just put her head down on the pillow, still looking at him.  JT kissed the top of her head.

“I’m so sorry,” he whispered.

“What time is my flight?”

“Our flight,” JT corrected.

“You’re coming with me?” she looked up at him.

“Of course.  I’m still your boyfriend.”

Cooper wasn’t sure how she felt about that.  As for JT, he wasn’t sure if she could ever forgive him, but either way, he knew his place was by Cooper’s side during her loss.

 

d

 

The phone rang, and Matt reached over to the nightstand and felt around.  Finally feeling the phone, he picked it up and put it to his ear.  He and Laura were a jumble of arms and legs with the blanket weaving around their bodies.  Matt thanked the person for the wake-up call before resting his head back down on the pillow.  He felt something tickling his chest and looked down at Laura’s painted toenails.  He laughed aloud.

“How’d your feet get over here?”

Laura popped her head up, “I have no idea.”

“I have news for you,” Matt began, as he sat up and began crawling toward the foot of the bed.  “I’ll kiss any part of your body good morning, except your feet.”

His face was near hers now as he stretched out next to her.

“My feet are cute,” Laura pouted.

“They are, but they’re feet.”

Matt smirked as he brushed her hair out of her face.  He pecked her lips, and she smiled at him.

“I love you, even your big, old feet.”

“Prove it!”

Matt brought his foot in the air.  He maneuvered himself so that his foot was in Laura’s face.  She scrunched her nose in disgust and moved away.

“No way.  I don’t love you that much.”

“Hey!” Matt shouted offended.

Laura giggled and he pounced on her.  He held her down and looked at her as if he never wanted to live without her.

He couldn’t quite understand how he went on twenty-three years without ever knowing her.  She breathed life into everything he knew, even the simple things like watching TV.  It was somehow special doing anything with Laura.  She was youthful and fun, which is exactly how Laura would describe Matt.

“I’m going to miss you.”

Matt placed his head down on her chest, and she tousled his hair between her fingers.  He loved that.

“I’ll miss you too, but come on, no sad stuff,” she said, moving her fingers to his back, lightly caressing his skin.

Matt placed feather kisses along her collarbone, and knew Laura was the best thing that has ever happened to him.

 

d

 

As Cooper showered, JT talked to Sound Wave’s management.  He explained to them about Cooper’s uncle, and though they weren’t too happy about JT missing a couple of shows, they understood.  On his way back to his room, he spotted Mike.

“B!  Wait up.”

JT jogged down the hall to him.  He told him about the funeral, and Mike felt horrible for Cooper.

“She’s pretty close to her uncle, right?”

“Yeah.  I’m going to the funeral with her.”

“You should.  I would go too, but…”

“Management would flip,” JT sighed.

“I’m sure Kelly’s would want to go.”

Mike looked at JT and remembered the night before.  He knew Cooper’s emotional state at that time had nothing to do with her uncle and most likely everything to do with JT.

“What happened last night anyway?”

“I’m an idiot.”

“You’re purposely trying to ruin this, aren’t you?” Mike asked.

“I don’t know…”

“JT, didn’t you learn anything from Anna?”

“I guess not,” he sighed.  “I never forgave myself for losing her.”

“You’re just lucky she’s still your friend.”

“Yeah, and is happily in love with another guy for a year now,” JT said bitterly.

“So what are you going to do about Cooper?”

“Right now, be there for her,” he answered.

 

d

 

The oldest church in Paris was frightening to Cooper.  She told JT she needed to go to mass that morning.  She also told him she wanted him to stay behind.  Cooper didn’t give a reason why, and JT didn’t want a reason.

When he saw Ryan and Cooper getting into a cab from the window, he wasn’t surprised.  He felt his jealousy rise, but he knew Ryan could probably give Cooper the peace she needed right now.

JT walked around the room with tons of nervous energy.  He picked up the phone and called his mother.  After telling her briefly about Cooper’s uncle, JT was silent.

“You don’t sound so good,” Joyce stated concerned.

“Mom, you were right.”

“About?”

“Me.”

“I’m always right about you,” Joyce laughed.

“I cheated on Cooper.”

Joyce held her breath.  Her heart ached for Cooper.

“Why am I not surprised?”

JT was silent.

“You know, don’t you?”

“Know what?” JT asked, confused.

“That Cooper loves Ryan.  That‘s why you did it.”

“What?”

JT wondered how his mother even knew about Cooper and Ryan.  He hadn’t told her, and he’s pretty sure Cooper hadn’t either.

“It’s pretty obvious.”

“Huh, I guess I’m the only fool who didn’t want to believe it.”

“No, you’re not a fool, but cheating on Cooper?  What did that solve?”

“I feel like shit and Cooper’s with Ryan right now.”

“Really?” Joyce asked surprised.

“Should I be jealous that they went to church together?”

She laughed, “Only Ryan would somehow steal a girl from his friend by taking her to church.”

“Mom, it’s not funny.  And Ryan didn’t steal her from me, we’re still together.”

“Are you really?”

JT thought about that, and knew the answer.

His conversation with Joyce continued with her lecturing him about loyalty and how he needed to go to therapy.  JT listened, and though he was annoyed with his mother, he knew she was right.  He knew he had to do something if he ever wanted to experience true, long-lasting love.  He believed it existed out there despite the increasing divorce rate.  He chalked that up to people not waiting for the “right one”.

 

d

 

The Christian church was elaborately accented with large ceilings, windows, and religious statues.  Cooper was intimidated when she walked through the doors.  Ryan reached for her hand and squeezed it.  They sat down, and Ryan still held her hand.  Cooper looked over at him with an unsure expression.  He could see her inner struggle with faith through her swollen eyes.  She had cried when she told him about Uncle Bill, and Ryan felt the impact of her pain when he hugged her.  He knew her uncle’s death renewed the hurt of her aunt and mother’s deaths as well.

Not only was Cooper grieving, she was mourning the breaking of her own heart.  JT cracked hers when he told her he cheated, proving her insecurities right.  She loves JT, even if she knew it would come to an end soon anyway; it didn’t make it hurt any less.  Really she knew she broke her own heart all these years.  She shut herself out of relationships all together, and that hurt more than anything JT could have done to her.

The sermon began, and Cooper bounced her knee anxiously.  Ryan noticed and put his hand on her bare knee, where her dress just stopped short of when she sat.  His touch was warm, and Cooper slowed down the bouncing, but never stopped.  Ryan resumed holding her hand as he tried to understand the French priest.  He couldn’t tell if he was speaking French or badly broken English.  His accent was thick and after several minutes passed, Ryan and Cooper looked at each other.

“Do you understand a word he’s saying?” Ryan whispered.

“No, I thought you did.”

“No…”

They both smiled and held back laughter as they turned back to watch the mass.  Cooper moved closer to Ryan and he wrapped his arm around her.  She put her head down on his shoulder, and they remained like that for the length of the mass.  Cooper’s eyes closed, and she fell into a light sleep.  Ryan relished in the feeling of Cooper in his arms.

After the mass, Cooper and Ryan walked hand in hand lazily back to the hotel.  The streets were quiet since it was still fairly early on a Sunday.  Cooper loved the way Ryan held her hand.  It just felt natural; she swears her hand will automatically gravitate toward him at all times now.  JT wouldn’t like that, she snickered.

“What’s so funny?”

“Nothing.”

“Do you feel any differently about church?”

They both laughed.

“Oh yeah, it was a nice sleep,” Cooper winked.

“Sorry, we’ll go to an American church.”

“Ryan, I’m not going to church regularly,” she said honestly.

“Faith can change your whole life.”

“I stopped believing in God the minute my mother died.”

Ryan just looked at her.  He stopped walking and forced her to as well.  Cooper was crying again.  Ryan wanted to take her pain away as he pulled her into a hug.  She was surrounded by his warmth.

“I don’t know why God took your mother or Uncle Bill, but you have to believe it all happened for a reason.”

“I just don’t see what reason.”

“Your mom watching out for you.”

Cooper pulled away from Ryan.

“I don’t believe that, either.  I think my mom is just…gone,” she cried.

“You don’t really feel that way, do you?”

Ryan looked at her wide-eyed, knowing without the feeling that there’s something else out there, life and death just seems pointless.  He could never think that way.  He knew in his heart that there was more.  There had to be.

“Sometimes I talk to her, but I don’t know if she’s really listening.  Nothing ever happened to me to make me think she was,” Cooper explained.  “If she was watching out for me and Zac, why did all this crap happen?  Zac almost killed himself and if it wasn’t for Uncle Bill…he would have died.”

Cooper sniffled before continuing.  Ryan rubbed her shoulder as she did.

“And me… well, I never loved anyone before JT and one of my biggest fears came true.  He cheated on me.”

Ryan’s eyes bulged and anger arose; she hadn‘t told him that yet.

“How come my mom wasn’t looking out for us then?  How come she’s not looking out for me now?”

“JT cheated on you?”

Cooper just nodded.

“Come on…”

Ryan began to drag her.  His hold on her hand was not soft this time.

“Ryan, don’t get involved.”

Cooper yanked his arm back and he looked at her.

“Don’t get involved?  Cooper, I’ve seen him do this to girls in the past and I won’t let him do it to you.”

“He did it already, and JT is my problem, not yours.”

“I’m sorry that you have to deal with JT when you’re dealing with all this other crap, too,” he sighed.

“See why it’s hard for me to believe in God?”

“No,” Ryan admitted honestly.  “Your mom is watching, and I firmly believe that everything leads to somewhere.”

“So why did JT have to cheat on me?”

“It was for your own good,” Ryan answered simply.

“What?” Cooper looked appalled.

“Because now I won’t feel guilty.”

He smiled and Cooper laughed.  She shook her head, but Ryan took her by surprise as he pulled her toward him, and kissed her.  Cooper gave into his kiss, and it nearly took both their breaths away.  Their need, want, and longing came together as their tongues began to dance.

When Ryan finally broke away, Cooper had tears falling down her cheeks.  She leaned her forehead against his.

“Ryan…” she breathed.

“I lo¾” he began.

“JT is still my boyfriend.”

Ryan backed away from Cooper and looked at her oddly.

“You’re staying with him after he cheated on you?”

“I don’t know,” she shrugged.  “He’s coming with me to the funeral, and I guess we’ll take it from there.”

“Cooper, please don’t go back to him,” Ryan pleaded.

“I don’t know if I can, but until that day comes when I don’t call JT my boyfriend…I can’t be kissing you.  That may be JT’s style, but it’s not mine,” Cooper stepped over to Ryan and pecked his cheek.  “Or yours.”

***Break up into pages or separate 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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