Chapter 1 - Uncharted Territory
"I can't believe we have to do this shit," I muttered, pulling a cigarette out of my pocket, then putting it right back in as Marty, our manager, shot me a glare from across the room.
He didn't like me smoking in public. Ruined the wholesome image we'd worked so hard to foster.
"Relax Ed… just go with the flow." Jasper was always one to go with the flow. He scooted down the row of theater seats, making room for me. "It won't be so bad." He held out his silver flask, low enough so the seat back hid it from Marty, and wiggled it slightly. "You want?"
I grinned and pulled the lid off my cup of Coke so he could add a little Jack. I put the lid back on, using the straw to stir it before taking a sip.
I nodded at Emmett and Jake as they took their seats on the other side of Jasper and turned my gaze to the stage as I sipped my Jack and Coke. "What's the holdup?" I asked Jazz. "I've got shit to do. I don't want to be tied up all day watching a bunch of Timberlake wannabes."
Jasper just shrugged. That was pretty much his preferred method of communication. I sighed and looked over to where Marty was discussing something with our choreographer, Mike Newton – or Mikey Pops as he preferred to be called. He liked to pretend he was gangsta – even though he was whiter than any of us and had a face like the fucking Gerber baby.
I couldn't really criticize him, though. We all had nicknames. I'd gone from plain, old Edward Masen to E.C. Mazen (Marty thought the Z made it hipper). Jasper became Jazz, or Jazzy. Emmett was E-Dog (I thought that one was fucking stupid). Jake was "Whispers" because of his low, quiet voice and Ben… well, Ben was just Ben. Which didn't matter anymore anyway because he was out of the group.
Together, we are 5Point, a successful boy band – although personally, I hate that phrase. I'm twenty-three fucking years old, for Christ's sake.
As for the name, that was an ordeal in itself – we tried variations on our first initials, but EEJJB didn't really spell anything – and E2J2B sounded like a math problem. Ben suggested using the last letters of our names, kind of like NSYNC. BCZTN just looked stupid, and KNKYY spelled "kinky" – not exactly the message were trying to convey.
So instead, we became 5Point, both because there are five of us… and as an homage to the Five Point Café in Seattle where we played our first gigs. I didn't hate it. I didn't love it, but I didn't hate it.
Marty rushed over excitedly. "We've got more than five hundred lined up outside," he said, running his hand over his slicked-back black hair. His rings glinted in the overhead lights and his moustache twitched. Marty Mickelson looked more like an otter than anything else, but the guy did know his business. He'd launched six groups in the past ten years – and all had platinum albums and Grammys on their mantles.
Well, we didn't have a Grammy yet, but Marty said our time was coming.
I took another sip of my drink. "Tell me again why we're holding open auditions," I said grumpily. "Why couldn't we just get someone from the label? I know they had at least half a dozen guys that could replace Ben no problem."
Marty rolled his eyes in exasperation. "What do I have to do to get you boys to understand the importance of publicity!" he exclaimed. "Open auditions are the key… we've got MTV out there… CBS, NBC… Entertainment Fucking Tonight!" You can't buy that kind of press! And God knows after the Cheney fiasco we need to do a little damage control."
Ben Cheney was a problem. A little too much salt in Marty's recipe for the perfect boy band.
That's right, he had a recipe. It sounded stupid, but the results spoke for themselves.
Five guys. Me, I'm "The Heartthrob". I mean, I don't think I'm really anything special, but that's what Marty made me. I do all the interviews and say stuff like "I like walks on the beach" and "I'm still looking for that special someone" and the girls eat it up, or so I've been told.
Emmett, with his huge build and dimples is "The Big Brother". He's big, but unthreatening. The guy everybody wants to hang out with and play Xbox.
Jazz is "The Bad Boy". You know, tats and piercings and smashing up hotel rooms. In reality, Jasper's probably the nicest guy you'd ever hope to meet, but he's got a handle on the image. He even cut his hair into a Mohawk, much to Marty's irritation. Jasper's hair was beloved by many a swooning fangirl. There was even a fucking website dedicated to keeping track of how he was wearing his shoulder-length blond fucking curls on any given day.
OMG! Jazz has his hair in a pony tail today. *thud*
Marty thought the girls would hate the Mohawk. He was mistaken. When it came to the fangirls, Jazz could do no wrong.
Didja hear Jazz threw a couch out the Ritz window? Squee! He's so cute! I wanna lick his Mohawk!
Jake "Whispers" Black was "The Sensitive One"… soft spoken, sweet and innocent with his I've-never-had-a-drink-or-smoked-in-my-life-not-even-in-high-school-behind-the-gym-when-everybody-else-did (even though he totally did). Built like a linebacker, he worked out religiously, but was able to blush on cue when girls screamed at him to take his shirt off. He was the guy the moms wanted their daughters to bring home. Although I had a sneaking suspicion he'd rather be brought home by a son, if you know what I mean.
Which led to Ben Cheney, "The Cute One"… baby-faced and able to hit the high-notes, he rounded out our group perfectly. Until he turned eighteen, his voice changed, and his addiction to Big Macs caught up with him. He gained forty pounds and his face broke out like crazy. Marty was pissed, but sent him to fat camp and a dermatologist.
Then Ben was caught in bed with the dermatologist's fourteen-year old daughter.
Yeah. Not so cute.
So Ben was out and we were left a "Cute One" down. And Marty had the insane idea to hold open auditions for a replacement.
I watched as he took a seat a couple of rows down next to some of the label reps. They had a table set up in front of them so they could take notes, but we were really just there for decoration. It gave it credibility that the members of the group were at the auditions, but we knew the choice wasn't really up to us.
I propped my purple Nike high top-clad feet on the seat in front of me. I did love my Nikes. One good thing about doing interviews is you can say shit like, "I love my Nike high tops," and the next day you get a huge box of them in every color.
I'm not proud of it. But I'm not going to send them back. That would just be fucking crazy.
I took another drink, jiggling the ice in my cup as the first group of guys walked out onto the stage. Marty took one look and called out.
"Numbers three, seven, twenty-eight, forty-two, and fourteen, please step forward!" I noticed all the numbers he called were pinned on smaller guys… obviously young… innocent-looking. Marty was already culling them based on their cute-factor.
"If I called your name, you've made it through to the next round and we'll see you after lunch. If I haven't called your name, thank you for coming, but you're not what we're looking for today," He said loudly, but his eyes were focused on his clipboard.
A chorus of moans erupted from the guys who'd been cut without even a chance to sing. I couldn't say I blamed them.
"This is bullshit!" A tall gangly guy with dreadlocks and a pierced eyebrow and lip stepped to the front of the state. Obvious Bad Boy. "You guys suck!" he yelled. "We came all the way out here and you don't even give us a chance to perform?" He bent over and pulled off a well-worn Converse sneaker. "5Point is a bunch of fucking posers anyway!" He hucked his shoe at us. It bounced off Marty's shoulder and landed between Jazz and me on the floor.
"Fuck you all!" he screamed, as security grabbed him by the arms and led him limping off the stage.
Jazz pulled his flask out again. "I think we're gonna need more of this," he said with a smirk.
I laughed, opening my cup for another splash. "Keep pouring."
My boobs hurt. I mean, they really, really hurt. You'd think, since they aren't that big to begin with, that binding them up with an Ace bandage would be no problem. I should have known better, though. I mean, at the end of the day there was nothing better then taking your bra off, right? It's like a sigh of relief or something. And a bra was nothing compared to an Ace bandage taped tightly around your chest.
The wig was another problem. It itched, and my head was so hot all I could think of was ripping the wig off and dunking my head in a bucket of cold water. I didn't want to wear a wig. I wanted to just go ahead and cut my hair, but Alice had talked me out of it.
She thought this whole thing was crazy anyway.
"A boy band, Bella?" she'd ranted when I told her about my plan. "Are you insane? You can't audition for a boy band!"
"Why not?" I asked stubbornly.
Alice rolled her eyes. "Little obvious, hun… you're missing a key requirement." She waved a hand at my crotch.
I glared at her. "I think that's sexist," I replied, crossing my arms over my chest. "If I can sing and dance better than anyone else, why can't I be in the group?"
Alice laughed humorlessly. "They're never going to let you even audition!"
I smirked. "They will if they don't realize I'm a girl."
So my plan was hatched. One wig, one pair of saggy jeans, and a couple yards of Ace bandage later, I was standing in line at the Majestic Theater for the open auditions for 5Point.
But I wanted in to the music business, and so far, I'd been thwarted at every turn. My voice was too raspy. My look was too plain. I wasn't sexy enough or girly enough or sweet enough. My style was too boring… or boyish… or bland.
God, I sounded like a Dr. Seuss book.
So when I saw the ad for the auditions, I thought, "What the hell? I'll give it a shot." The worst that could happen is another no, right?
Well, the worst that could happen would be for my Ace bandage to break and my boobs to flop out all over the place.
Actually, they probably wouldn't flop… just kind of point.
Like I said, they weren't that big.
The line was long. The sun was hot. And the guys around me smelled like a mixture of old socks and dead fish. Some of us had been camping out for a few days, so that was to be expected, I guess. By mid-morning, I'd made my way to the front of the line, only to see a guy with dreadlocks being hauled out by Security.
"Fuck 5Point!" he screamed. "Fucking asshole posers wouldn't know talent if it hit you in the fucking mouth!"
I noticed he was only wearing one shoe.
I followed my group into the theater and stood with them backstage as we waited our turn. My number – 212 – crinkled on my shirt and I reached up to smooth it – surreptitiously massaging my aching boobs. I bent down to double-knot my red and yellow Nikes. The last thing I wanted to do was trip on my shoelaces.
"Okay…" a guy with a clipboard addressed us distractedly. "You'll go out onstage… two lines… no pushing… no talking," he rattled off. "It doesn't matter who's where… just make sure your numbers are clearly visible."
I could make out voices coming from the auditorium, but not what was being said. A couple of the guys on stage jumped in excitement, high-fiving and fist-bumping… the rest looked dejected as they walked off the stage on the opposite side.
"Okay… you're on," Clipboard Man told us, waving a hand to indicate we should head onstage. We lined up and I found myself close to the middle in the front row. I squinted in the stage lights, then as my eyes adjusted, saw the half-dozen people sitting in the seats about half-way back in the auditorium.
Oh. Wow. There he was.
I gulped, my mouth suddenly dry. I knew the band would be there for the auditions, but I hadn't really been prepared to see him in person. I mean, I wasn't like a fangirl or anything, but E.C. Mazen was not an ordinary person. He was beautiful… talented… absolutely perfect. I'd spent hours listening to him croon I Don't Wanna Lose Ya and I Need to Have Ya and Don't Leave Me Baby, I Want Ya and his velvet voice just wrapped around me, pulling me close.
Seriously. The man was a genius.
I had no idea how I would get a single word out, let along a song.
Fortunately, I got a bit of a reprieve.
"Numbers fifty-six, one-hundred-three, thirty, and two-hundred-twelve, please step forward," a slimy-looking guy I recognized as 5Point's manager called out.
I stepped forward. Was this good? Or bad?
"If I called your name, you've made it through to the next round and we'll see you after lunch. If I haven't called your name, thank you for coming, but you're not what we're looking for today," he continued in a bored voice.
I'd made it through… boobs intact.
So far, so good.
I was pretty fucking smashed by the time the second round of auditions started. Jazz and I had sucked down the last of the Jack, then had a few beers with lunch.
Okay, maybe not just a few.
Jazz refilled his flask before we headed back to the auditorium and the two of us sat snickering in our seats as we waited for shit to start up again. Up next was the singing. We needed someone who could hit Ben's high notes… in that respect he left some pretty big shoes to fill. Those who made it through the next round would then learn some choreography from Mikey – probably something from our latest video. If all went well, we'd have the fifth member of 5Point signed within twenty-four hours.
"So what do you think?" Emmett walked in, and leaned against a seat back in the row in front of us. "Any good prospects?"
I shrugged. "They all look the same to me. Gotta see if any of 'em can sing."
Emmett laughed. "Hell, that doesn't even matter anymore. We can Auto-Tune the son of a bitch. I just don't want some asshole."
I shook my head. "Emmett, we need someone who can actually sing." Auto-Tune was all fine and good, but I didn't want 5Point to rely on voice correction technology. What were we? The fucking Backstreet Boys?
"And dance," Jake added quietly, taking a seat next to Jazz. "I'm the one who has to stand next to him… and I don't want some…" He leaned in, lowering his voice to a whisper – he always whispered when he cussed. "…shithead stepping on my feet."
"Well, whatever," Emmett said agreeably, before knocking my feet off the seatback so he could sit down in front of me. "We just need someone soon, so we can start rehearsals. We only have a month before the tour starts, and whoever is picked needs to get up to speed."
Nobody responded to that, because there really wasn't any need. We all knew time was running short. Which meant that no matter who Marty and the others chose, we'd have to make it work.
Even if he was an asshole.
"Okay, let's get started," Marty called out. "Number twenty-eight?"
A tall, blonde kid in baggy jeans and a red button-up shirt walked out onto the stage.
"Yo," he said into the mike.
Marty cleared his throat. "What's your name, kid?"
The kid slouched lower and waved his hands. "Yo, it's Mickey-Dee."
Marty choked on a laugh. "Like the fast-food joint?"
"Whatever." The kid looked away like he was bored with the conversation.
"Okay, Mickey," Marty continued. "What are you going to sing for us today?"
He grabbed the mike and spoke directly into it. "Baby, Please."
The music started and the kid closed his eyes.
You're standin' there all pretty in pink
Blinkin' those baby blues
Don't know what I'm supposed to think
But what have I got to lose?
You've got me on my knees
Don't be a tease…
The kid was good… most of them were. And every single fucking one of them sang Baby, Please. It wasn't a big surprise, since it was one of our biggest hits and one of the few songs Ben sang lead on. But Jesus, after the fourteenth audition, I was getting more than a little sick of it.
"Next!" Marty bellowed.
I yawned. My buzz was starting to wear off, so I mumbled to Jazz to give me a hit off his flask. I took a big swig and turned back to the stage to find a short guy standing at the mike. He wore baggy clothes, but nice Nikes – red with a yellow swoosh. I didn't have a pair of those and made a mental note to track some down.
"Name?" Marty asked.
"Ummm… Billy… Billy Swan," the kid said. He was okay looking, I guess. Kind of scrawny and his hair was kind of weird, but the girls might go for that. He seemed nervous and kind of squirmed around on the stage.
"Okay, Billy, and what are you going to sing for us?" Marty asked, stifling a yawn.
I sat up a little bit. Not just because someone finally picked a song other than Baby, Please, but because Uncharted Territory was a fucking hard song to sing. Ben could only hit the high notes half the time, and I think he had his hand in his pocket squeezing his balls to do it.
Billy ran his hand through his weird hair and began to sing.
And he was fucking amazing.
His voice was a little bit raspy, but still pure and clean… and he hit those high notes better than Ben ever did. I shot a look at Jazz, but he was watching in amazement, his mouth hanging open a little.
…and every time you let me touch you
Where I wanna touch you
Everywhere I wanna touch you
It's like I've found my way through
And I'll be damned if that kid didn't make a jazzy run on that last word soaring up to a note so high I thought he was going to fucking shatter the windows.
If the kid could dance, I think he was in.
I just about peed my pants.
I thought I had control over my nervousness, but when I walked out onto that stage and saw E.C. Mazen watching me with those intense green eyes I really thought I was going to pee my pants.
I knew it was too many Red Bulls, combined with the fact that I couldn't exactly walk into the ladies' room. As for the men's room? I got so desperate I pulled the door open, but I took one whiff and figured I'd just hold it.
Probably a mistake, but man, it was disgusting.
I knew all of 5Point's songs by heart, as any good fan should. I'd been driving Alice crazy, singing along to my iPod, trying to learn all of Ben Cheney's parts. I planned to sing Baby, Please, but while I was waiting backstage I heard everyone else sing that same song. So, I took a chance and switched to Uncharted Territory, hoping I could pull it off.
I must have done okay, because they told me to come back at two to learn the choreography. I ran backstage and took a chance on the ladies' room, scanning the area quickly before ducking inside.
The dancing worried me a little. Not because I couldn't dance – because I totally could – but because I had to dance like a guy. Again, I'd practiced like crazy, watching the videos and memorizing the steps, but I wasn't sure if I could pull off Bobby Brown (before Whitney), or if it would come off more like Beyonce.
I surreptitiously examined my ass in the mirror as I washed my hands.
Nope. Not Beyonce. But you get the idea.
I peeked out the bathroom door and quickly stepped out, walking down the hall, glancing behind me to make sure I wasn't being watched. I rounded a corner…
…and smacked flat into the rather impressive chest of one E.C. Mazen.
God, kill me now, please.
"Shit!" I exclaimed, before realizing I had spoken in my normal voice. I dropped it a few tones. "I… uh… sorry dude." I punched his shoulder and wiped at my upper lip. "Didn't see ya."
I must have punched him harder than I thought because he rubbed his shoulder absently. "No problem… it's Billy, right?" he asked.
He knew my name. Well, not really my name, but the name I was using instead of my name.
I mentally shook myself. I had to get over this crush if I had any hope of moving forward in the auditions. I was pretty sure tripping over my feet because I was making goo-goo eyes at the lead singer would not go over well.
I cleared my throat. "Yeah, that's right. You're E.C. Mazen." I tried… really tried to not let my voice crack when I said his name. I think I almost succeeded.
He didn't notice, or at least he pretended not to. He held out his hand and I looked at it blankly for a moment before realizing he wanted to shake mine. I took his hand and tried not to jump at the electric shock I felt from his palm.
"Whoa," he said, pulling his hand back. "You been rubbing your feet on carpet or something?" He laughed, shaking his hand a little.
I forced a laugh. "Guess I just have an electric personality!"
Really Bella? That's the best you could come up with?
E.C. smiled indulgently and made to continue on his way. "Well, I'll see you at the dance auditions, right?"
"Yeah… right… see you then," I said lamely.
He took a few steps past me, then turned back. "You really can sing," he said. "You kind of blew me away, man."
My eyes widened. "Really?"
He nodded. "Really. Can I offer you once piece of advice, though?"
"Sure… yeah… of course," I stammered.
"Well, the band's been through the shit lately, you know, with Ben and all," he began.
I'd heard the rumors. Everyone had heard the rumors. I didn't know what E.C. was getting at, though.
"So," he continued uncomfortably, "the band can't really afford any more bad press."
I nodded, confused.
"I'm just saying… if you want to be in the band, you might want to stay out of the girls' bathroom," he said with a shrug.
Oh. My. Freakin'. God.
My face flamed. My heart raced. My stomach fell. My voice disappeared.
"Okay," I squeaked.
And E.C. Mazen turned and walked away without another word.
We were down to ten guys for the dance auditions. Marty had them break up into groups of five to learn the choreography, and overall they did pretty well. Two of them were good, but not nearly good enough. The rest seemed like any of them would do.
"Do" wasn't what Marty was going for, though. He had some select criteria that apparently only he and the label reps were privy too. So by four o'clock, he'd narrowed the field of ten to three: Joey Johnson, B.J. Loving (a name I knew Marty would change if he made the group), and Billy Swan.
Swan was my personal preference. I didn't know what it was about him, but there was something that told me he was special.
I felt a little bad getting on him about going into the women's bathroom. I mean, he was just a kid and I'm sure he was just curious, but hell, it was for his own good. If Marty caught him doing that shit, there was no way he'd have a chance. Marty wasn't taking any more risks where shit like that was concerned.
The bad boy stuff was for Jazz… the rest of us had an image to uphold.
After a dinner break, Marty had us all meet on stage. He wanted each of the guys to perform a song with the group so he could see how we all interacted. After that, he said he'd… I mean we'd make the decision.
The potential replacements had all learned Ben's part and the choreography for Don't Leave Me Baby, I Want Ya, so we took our places and ran through the song a couple of times with each of them. I saw right away that Joey wasn't going to work out. He seemed more focused on grabbing the spotlight for himself than in working as part of a team. It was kind of a toss-up between B.J. and Billy, from what I could tell. Although, in my opinion, Billy had the better singing chops.
Marty excused them, telling them to wait backstage while we conferred. They walked away nervously, and I noticed Billy doing some strange thing with his hair. He had his hands on the top of his head, almost like he was holding it down.
I shrugged and flopped down in the front row with the other guys and waited for Marty's verdict. I could tell he'd already made up his mind.
"B.J.," he stated flatly.
I sighed. "Billy's better."
"B.J.'s better looking," Marty argued.
"Billy can sing."
"B.J. can sing."
"Not as well as Billy."
"That's your opinion."
"That's a fact."
Jazz cleared his throat. "Uh… Marty?"
Marty looked at him in irritation. "What?"
Jazz shifted uncomfortably. "I kinda saw B.J. getting a… well… a B.J. in the alley during the dinner break."
Marty stared at him for only a moment before slapping his clipboard down on the stage.
"Okay," he said, "Billy it is."
I did it.
I freakin' did it.
I was in. I was the fifth member of 5Point.
I couldn't believe it when Marty – my new manager, thank you very much – told me they'd chosen me over the two other guys. I'd signed some paperwork and was told to report for rehearsals two days later at a studio downtown.
I walked into the alley and let out a scream. And not a real throaty masculine scream, but a girly oh-my-god-I-can't-believe-it kind of scream. Fortunately, the alley was empty at that particular moment.
Of course, the first person I called was Alice. And the first thing on my to-do list was a haircut.
I'd fought with the stupid wig all through the auditions, and there was no way I was going to be able to deal with it once we began rehearsing for the tour.
Forty-two cities in three months… all around the world.
I couldn't believe it.
"Are you sure you want to go through with this?" Alice asked, holding the scissors poised above my head. I looked at my long brown hair one more time, said goodbye, and braced myself.
"No turning back now," I replied, closing my eyes. I kept them closed the whole time.
After a while, the combing and snipping stopped. "All done," Alice said brightly, and I opened my eyes slowly.
"How does it look?" I asked timidly.
"Go into the bathroom and see for yourself," Alice said with a smug smile.
It actually looked pretty good. Not too short, and Alice had styled it with some gel so it was tousled and natural looking. There were only two problems.
One. It looked nothing like the wig I'd worn for auditions.
Two. It looked exactly like E.C. Mazen's hair.
Different color, of course. Mine was just plain brown. His was this crazy mixture of copper, bronze, and gold. But the style was the same.
He was going to think I was some kind of crazy E.C. wannabee.
Terrific. As if he didn't already think I was a freak with the whole electric shock/bathroom encounter.
"Well," Alice bounced excitedly to the bathroom doorway. "What do you think?"
I took one look at her eager expression and said the only thing I could.
I was nervous as hell when I showed up at the studio for our first rehearsal, but actually things went more smoothly than I could have hoped. All my homework had paid off and I pretty much knew all the moves – and the words – to the songs on the latest album. After a week, I was feeling much more comfortable, both with the choreography, and with the other band members.
Jazz was not nearly as rebellious as the Internet would have you believe. He was actually pretty nice, and during rehearsals he was quietly focused. Emmett (I'd learned he actually hated the name E-Dog) was fun and friendly, always willing to give me what he called "pussy pointers." Actually they all talked about pussy – a lot.
Well, except Jake. He laughed at the jokes, but I had a feeling he wasn't all that interested in pussy. More than once I caught him looking longingly at Mikey, the choreographer. He and I seemed to have a quiet understanding though. I think he caught me giving an equally longing look at E.C. (who I found out prefers to be called Edward, by the way). Jake just caught my eye and nodded curtly before turning around.
He thought I was gay.
Well, it could have been worse. At least he didn't think I was a girl. That was what was so strange. None of them even seemed to suspect I was anything other than what they expected me to be: an eighteen-year-old boy. My age was a tough one. I'd had to lie because I was definitely not filled out enough to look my true age, twenty-one, but I couldn't say I was under eighteen, because then I'd need a parent to sign all the papers. Alice had a friend of a friend who supplied me with a fake I.D. and Social Security Card (I didn't ask). To be honest, pretending to be a guy was a lot more complicated that I thought it would be, but to my surprise, I seemed to be pulling it off.
Except when it came to Edward. He never said anything, but every now and then I'd catch him looking at me in a strange way and I worried that he suspected something. I half expected him to give me a hard time about my hair, but he'd just looked at it, smirked, and said nothing.
Maybe he thought it was a compliment.
I'd moved into the house that Marty had rented for the group in the Hollywood Hills. It was huge and gorgeous and so beyond anything I'd ever seen, let alone lived in. The back yard had an infinity pool and a hot tub and the view of the city lights at night was amazing. I had a room to myself that was bigger than my old apartment, with an adjoining bathroom that reminded me of Richard Gere's in Pretty Woman.
I really wished Alice could see it. Maybe I could bring her by, saying she was my cousin or something.
I hadn't really anticipated all the problems that would arise by having to be a guy twenty-four hours a day. Well, I had my room to myself at night, so I could relax (Read: rub my aching boobs), but the rest of the time, it was Ace Bandages and scratching myself. I had to watch myself constantly to make sure I kept my posture right, my voice low, and didn't say anything to give myself away.
To be honest, it was kind of exhausting. And I'd slipped more than once.
The worst was about a week after I moved in. The guys had all gone out and I had the house to myself, or so I thought. I'd removed my bandage and stretched deliciously, then gone in to take a shower in my attached bathroom. When I came out, I was tired and relaxed. I pulled on my boxer briefs – which are surprisingly comfortable, by the way) and a big t-shirt and was just about to get in bed when my door flew open.
I whirled around, clutching my arms across my chest in reflex.
"Shit!" Edward was standing there, looking just as startled as I was. He held a baseball bat in his hand and was breathing heavily.
"Billy… man. I'm sorry to scare you. I thought you went with the others," he said, lowering the bat so the end tapped on the floor. "I heard noises in here and though someone broke in."
I tried to relax the arms across my chest without revealing anything. It was difficult, because Edward was not wearing a shirt… and let's just say my nipples were definitely interested in his nipples.
"No problem," I replied. "I didn't realize you were here, either."
"Yeah," he ran a hand through his hair. "I didn't really feel up to partying tonight, you know? I'm beat."
I nodded once, trying for casual. "Yeah."
"Okay, then," Edward said, "I guess I'll see you."
I nodded and turned around to flip my comforter down, reaching across the bed to grab the extra pillow. But when I turned around, Edward was still there, leaning against my door jamb. He had a strange look on his face. His jaw was tight. His face was red. And he seemed lost in thought.
"Edward? You okay?" I asked, holding the pillow against my chest.
He swallowed and shook his head slightly. "Yeah," he said in a gravelly voice. "Yeah, fine. I just zoned out for a second," he said, but he wouldn't meet my eyes.
"I'll see ya'," he said, turning quickly to go down the hall.
"See ya'," I called after him.
I'd been extra careful about leaving my bedroom door unlocked after that. Still, every now and then I'd get so relaxed I'd forget to slouch when I walked, or to laugh when Emmett made a pussy joke, and I'd get a curious look from either Edward or Jake.
On a Friday night after an especially long day of rehearsals, we arrived back at the house exhausted, but too hyped up to sleep. We had about a week before the tour was set to begin and we were all excited. I was more than a little nervous, of course. Not as much about performing, as for the week of press we were committed to before the tour. Marty had held a press conference when I was chosen to join the band, but I didn't have to actually say anything. With the round of interviews and appearances he had planned, I knew I was going to have to answer some questions.
I was not really looking forward to that.
So when Jazz suggested we all sit around the pool and have a drink, instead of begging off and saying I was tired, like I usually did, I sat down and let him fix me a Jack and Coke.
A few of them, actually.
I was feeling a little tipsy - which was so not a good thing when you were trying to hide the fact that you had boobs and a vagina – when Emmett decided to call up some girls they'd met at a bar the night before and invite them over.
Of course, the girls rushed right over – I only had time for one more Jack and Coke while we were waiting. A tall, gorgeous one named Rose plopped down in Emmett's lap, and the three others, Jessica, Lauren, and - I forgot the other one's name… something starting with an M - sat down in the extra lawn chairs. Jessica came over and tried to talk to me.
It kind of creeped me out, actually. She licked her lips and pushed her boobs out (I was a little jealous of that, to be honest) and said I was cute and tried to touch my hair.
Fortunately, Jake came to my rescue, leading Jessica over to the bar to pour her a drink.
Guess he figured we gay guys had to stick together.
I stood up, planning to go the bathroom, and swayed on my feet a little. I leaned on the wall by the French doors, trying to clear my head.
Then I saw Edward.
He was standing on the other side of the pool talking to… M… whatever… and he was smiling and laughing and looking so incredibly gorgeous and brilliant and lickable.
It was killing me.
Edward looked up and caught my eye. He looked surprised for a moment, then the strangest thing happened.
His eyes darkened… and his lips parted… and my boxer briefs grew immediately damp.
I turned and practically ran to the bathroom.
I was in trouble.
Deep fucking trouble.
I mean, I was all for it when Marty put Billy in the band. He could sing and dance and seemed like a pretty decent guy, setting aside the whole women's bathroom thing. Billy fit in well with the group. Hell, he knew the choreography better than Ben, and God knows he had a better voice. He'd fixed his weird hair. He was pretty quiet. Did his own laundry and didn't leave shit all over the house.
I should have been happy.
Instead, I was… well, I wouldn't say miserable.
More like fucking panicked.
It started not long after Billy started rehearsals. Mikey was working with Emmett, Jake, and Jazz on some choreography for when they switched off singing lead, so I was helping Billy out with some steps. Suddenly, I just got this weird… feeling.
Like my stomach did this flip-floppy thing.
I didn't know what to make of it. At first I thought I might have an ulcer or something. I actually went to the doctor, but he said ulcers felt more like burning… not like flip-flopping.
I felt like an idiot, but how the fuck was I supposed to know that?
I started getting the feeling more and more often… when we were rehearsing… when we were hanging out at the house talking… even when we were out swimming in the pool.
It was really flip-floppy then.
The worst was when I busted in on him as he was getting ready for bed. I'd thought he'd gone out with the rest of the guys, and when I heard a thump in his room, I grabbed my bat, thinking maybe a crazy fan had snuck into the house.
I threw open his door, and Billy whirled around in surprise. I felt like such an ass.
But it was what happened next that really worried me.
Billy turned around, obviously thinking I was leaving, and he leaned over his bed, his shirt pulling up a little as he reached for a pillow.
And I couldn't look away.
I was looking at his ass. I was looking at a dude's ass.
And not only was my stomach flip-flopping again… but I was getting a certain telltale tightening in my pants that left no doubt as to what I was feeling.
I was getting turned on.
By a dude.
He turned back around and asked me if I was okay and I just got out of there as fast as I could. To say I was freaked out was putting it mildly.
I mean, it wasn't like I was a homophobe or anything. I had no problem with people being gay. After all, I was ninety-nine percent sure Jake was gay and he was one of my closest friends.
It's just I never thought I could be gay.
All my life, I'd been surrounded by girls. I didn't really get it, but I'd never had a problem getting dates or anything. When I joined 5Point, it got even easier. I mean, girls were coming out of the woodwork after that… for all of us, not just me.
Now, I'm not saying I was some kind of pussy fiend or anything. I didn't sleep with every groupie that came along. But I wasn't exactly a saint, either. And all my sex partners had one thing in common.
So when I found myself sporting a stiffie at the sight of Billy's boxer-brief-clad ass, I was, in a word, confused.
And when I lay down on my bed and found that stiffie gaining strength, it was even more worrisome.
Especially when I kept picturing Billy's ass… and his legs… and his smile.
I finally gave in and decided to try a cold shower, but it didn't seem to do much good. I glanced down and Little Ed just stared back at me accusingly.
You know you want to, he taunted.
No, I don't.
Yes… yes you do. I swear the little dick smiled. Well, not little. You know what I mean.
So, with no relief in sight, I rubbed one out… and pretended I wasn't thinking of Billy the whole time.
It became a pattern. I was living a secret and I didn't know how long I could keep it up.
We'd rehearse together…. I'd go home and jack off.
We'd go out to a bar… I'd go home and jack off.
We'd sit around the pool… I'd go into the bathroom and jack off.
You get the idea.
And the whole time I was fighting the idea that I was what I obviously was.
Then, the night of the pool party happened. Well, it wasn't really a pool party as much as a night when we were bored, drunk, and Emmett called up some groupies and invited them over. The girls were pretty enough, I guess. Emmett had immediately called dibs on the one called Rose. She was exactly his type – tall, built… bitchy.
The other three were giggly and pretty drunk when they arrived. I noticed the one called Jessica flirting with Billy and I felt a strange heat in my stomach. It took a minute for me to recognize it.
He blew her off, though, and I couldn't fight the smirk as she went over to the bar with Jake.
"Hi there," one of the girls approached me. I couldn't remember her name, but she was cute, with short hair – kind of red with some blonde streaks - and a friendly smile. She was wearing a white t-shirt with a picture of some cartoon characters on it. I didn't want to look closer, because she'd think I was checking out her tits. They were nice tits, I guess. My mom just raised a gentleman. I didn't look at tits until I was invited.
See, I was thinking of tits. Didn't that prove I wasn't gay?
"Hi," I smiled at the girl, trying to clear my confusing thoughts. Out of the corner of my eye I saw Billy get up from his lounge chair and kind of stagger to the door. He was pretty hammered, and his ass looked amazing in those jeans.
Okay… another point for gay, I guess.
"… you think?" T-shirt girl had asked me a question, but I wasn't really listening.
"I'm sorry, what?" I asked, grinning and turning the charm on full-force. I didn't want to hurt her feelings.
She blushed. "I was just wondering if you could get us tickets for opening night."
"Oh." I nodded, taking a sip of my beer. "Sure… sure… no problem."
I turned then, and saw Billy leaning against the wall, watching me. No… no, he wasn't just watching me. His eyes were hot… scorching actually… dark, liquid heat pouring out in waves from their brown depths.
Billy wanted me. I felt the familiar tightening in my jeans and knew I couldn't deny the truth anymore.
I wanted him too.
But just as I came to that realization. Billy turned and stumbled into the house.
Shit! Shit! Shit! Shit! Shit! Shit!
What the hell was I thinking? I knew better than to drink around him. I knew it would make me complacent and make it easier for me to screw everything up.
God, I was so right.
Edward caught me looking at him. He saw me practically eye-fucking him right there on the patio. He knew how I felt about him. What was I going to do?
I ran into my bathroom and shut and locked the door, turning to sink to the floor with my back against it. I forced myself to take several deep breaths.
I had to think clearly.
Which was really tough when you had five or six Jack and Cokes swimming through your bloodstream.
Or maybe eight.
I rubbed the heels of my hands over my eyes. Okay. Maybe this wasn't so bad. So Edward knew I was attracted to him. So he thought I was gay. Jake was gay and there wasn't any problem. Maybe everything would be fine.
Sure. We could work through this. If he said something, I'd just tell him I was in the closet and that I was sorry and that it wouldn't happen again.
Yeah. That could work.
I'd almost convinced myself of that when someone knocked on my bathroom door.
"Billy? It's Edward," he called through the door.
Did I mention: Shit!
I froze, hoping maybe if he didn't hear me inside he'd go away.
"I know you're in there," he said. "Let me in, okay? I really think we need to talk."
I stood slowly, figuring it was better to get this over with anyway. He'd say, "Thanks, but no thanks dude." I'd say, "It's cool." We'd bump fists or slap shoulders, and maybe we could get beyond it.
I opened the bathroom door and let Edward in. He met my eyes only for a second before they dropped to the floor.
Great. It was going to be awkward.
I loved awkward.
"Look, Edward…" I began.
"Just… wait…" he interrupted, running his hands through his hair in agitation. "It's been tough for me to get here. I mean, I've been fighting this for weeks and I just kind of fucking understand some shit now and if I don't say it soon, I might lose my nerve, so can you just let me say what I've gotta say?"
Wow. That was a lot of words in one sentence.
"Okay," I said slowly, wondering where he was going with this.
"I just…" He started pacing from the tub to the toilet and back again, "I just couldn't understand what was happening, you know?"
I really didn't, but I didn't want to interrupt.
"I mean with the flip-flopping and the ulcer…" he continued, almost as if talking to himself, "Well, it wasn't really an ulcer after all, but I think really deep down, I knew that… I just didn't want to accept it. I was so confused and didn't know why I was feeling this way… and then I saw you out on the patio…" He looked up at me then and I was shocked at the intense look in his eyes.
What in the world was going on?
"Edward, what are you talking about?"
His hands were back in his hair. "I don't know what I'm saying," he growled. "I just know… I want… I need…"
And in a flash I was up against the door and Edward's mouth was on mine – hot and rough and demanding. His hands gripped my shoulders, pulling me away from the door and against his chest. The kiss was not soft… but I found I didn't want it soft. I gasped and his tongue plunged in, sliding against mine… then he sucked on it and my knees buckled.
He was relentless.
Edward's hands moved around to my back, pressing me more firmly against him, as he continued his assault on my mouth. I was burning up… lost in a frenzy of lust and irrational want. His hands slid down to grasp at my ass firmly and I moaned out loud… the sound echoed by Edward a moment later.
His lips fell to my neck, his five o'clock shadow scratching at my skin deliciously as he pulled my hips flush against his. I could feel his erection hard against my stomach and he began to thrust against me unconsciously. The motion set a surge of heat and moisture rushing to my center and I couldn't help pushing back against him, writhing against his hardness in a desperate search for friction.
Then he stopped. Just like that he stopped, frozen mid-thrust and with his tongue still on my neck. His hips moved forward once more tentatively and a light bulb clicked over my lust-filled head.
He realized something was missing.
Edward's right hand left my ass and swept slowly around to the fly on my jeans.
"Edward, I…" But I didn't finish. It was too late. He knew.
His hand dipped down between my legs and pressed lightly. Despite my embarrassment, I couldn't keep back a low whimper and I arched forward slightly into his hand.
His eyes met mine, but he didn't move his hand.
"It's not Billy, is it?" he asked quietly.
I swallowed. "Bella."
He nodded. "Bella," he repeated.
Billy was a girl.
He'd tricked us all. He was a fucking girl.
I knew I should have been pissed… and deep down, I probably was. And at some point in the future, Billy - I mean, Bella - and I were going to have it out about all the lies and what the fuck this could mean for the band, let alone for the two of us.
But at that moment only one thought went through my head. Well, two actually.
I'm not gay.
God, she really feels good.
So, instead of yelling at her, or shoving her out of the way in anger and stalking out of the room, I put aside all of the shit that I should have been feeling.
And I kissed her again.