Read Break It Up Online

Authors: E.M. Tippetts

Break It Up

Other Books by E.M. Tippetts

Someone Else’s Fairytale

Nobody’s Damsel (Fairytale 2)

Castles on the Sand

Love in Darkness (Castles 2)

Paint Me True

Science fiction and fantasy short stories, written as Emily Mah

Across the Sea

Root

Polar Shift

Avatar
(co-written with Ty Franck)

Under the Needle’s Eye
(an anthology edited by Emily Mah, containing a story by her and works by ten other science fiction and fantasy authors)

For my cousin, Leslie.

I’m blessed with a long list of favorite people. She’s been on it as far back as I can remember. We’re related via the Mah family tree, our branch of which immigrated to the U.S. from Shanghai in 1947. She’s the firstborn of our generation and is an accomplished musician (founder and lead performer of two pioneer queercore punk bands) and artist (specializing in tattoos), who has come to every family reunion throughout the years and taken the time to be a part of the lives of all of us cousins (even the nerdy Mormon one.)

She designed the tattoo that Kyra will be sporting by the end of this story, and at the time of this book’s release, she is hard at work as a warrior woman, beating cancer.

My name
is Kyra Armijo and I have two problems. One is that I have a crush on Zach Wechsler. Yes, the lead singer of Triple Cross, the guy idolized by millions of other girls. The other is that I just woke up next to him in his Albuquerque hotel room. For the record, I am fully clothed and we are on top of the covers on opposite sides of the bed. We didn’t even kiss or cuddle. Nobody who catches me sneaking out of his room will believe that, though, especially not if they dug into my background a little.

Zach doesn’t know about the almost two dozen sexual partners I’ve had in my eighteen years or the miscarriage I had when I was thirteen. If I can’t get out of here undetected, the media will no doubt tell him for me. I am so screwed right now.

The clock says it’s 4:30 a.m., and my cell phone is dead. Its battery ran out hours ago and now it won’t even switch on.

Breathe
, I think.
I’m nobody. I’ll get out of this room and off this floor and no one will look twice.
I go to the bedroom door and pull it open to find the living room empty. Not good. I came here with two friends. Neither of them is the type to talk, but if I made them jealous enough, there’s no telling what they might do.

I look back over my shoulder at Zach, who looks at peace, as wholesome and angelic as he did on his first ever album cover. His laptop is next to him on the bed, his hand draped over the keyboard. This’ll be the last time he’ll ever willingly be in the same room as me, so I take a moment to drink in the sight of him, his toned arms and chest; his muscular legs, one up on the bed, the other dangling off so that his foot touches the floor; his blond hair even more tousled than before.

“Bye,” I whisper before I make my getaway.

Rewind fifteen
hours.

“Hey, Kyra?” said an unfamiliar female voice on a call that had come from a number I didn’t recognize. “This is Amy? Zach Wechsler’s assistant?” Her voice lifted at the end of each sentence, as if she wasn’t sure whether or not it crossed some line to call me. I couldn’t imagine why she’d think it would. She and I had met on the set of
Insider
. I was working in craft services, a job I got thanks to my uncle, Jason Vanderholt, Mr. Mega-Famous Actor. Zach Wechsler had a small bit part that meant he was on set for two days. I never saw him, except from a distance, but Amy came to get his meals, and she and I had gotten to know each other a little.

Now, I was at home, seated on my couch, trying to get our new ginger tabby, Boots, to let me pet him. He’s way standoffish and has been ever since the day we took him in. It’s clear he still misses his previous owner. “Oh,
hi!”
I put all kinds of enthusiasm into that response.

“Listen, the band’s still in town. You know they played the Journal Pavilion last night?”

“Oh, uh-huh.” Of course I knew that. I’d been there, screaming my lungs out in the nose bleed section while they performed. My parents hadn’t let me use our famous connections to get better seats.

“So do you want to meet up with them for dinner tonight?” Amy asked.

My jaw dropped—literally. I’d always thought that was a figure of speech. Boots and his issues could wait. I grabbed the bribe I had waiting for him off the counter and dropped it on the floor. It was a cardboard box that landed with a hollow thunk, which made him stir immediately. He
loves
boxes.

“Meet with you for dinner?” I said, padding down the back hall to my room.

“Well, no. Just the guys from the band.”

I froze mid-step. “Wait, this is Triple Cross we’re talking about? Or are you working for another Zach Wechsler now?” That band is famous for being inaccessible, kept under lock and key. If you got backstage passes at one of their concerts, you got ten minutes and then security would escort you out. Sometimes they canceled all backstage access. You got your money refunded and no place to appeal the decision. People who’ve met the band members are like unicorns. Mythical. You never, ever see one.

“Yeah, well, Logan turned eighteen last week,” said Amy.

Logan Wechsler was Zach’s brother. The band was Zach, Logan, and their cousin, Ben. “So is this his birthday party?” I asked. Were they allowed guests at birthday parties?

“They’re under new management. So a word of advice? You don’t bring up their mother. Don’t even hint about her.”

“Oh.” Zach and Logan’s mother had managed the band since it began, and she’s the one who’d kept them shut away from the world.

“The rules have changed. They can have dinner guests, but this is all kinda new. I figured maybe you could bring a couple of friends? If you’re interested.”

“I’m interested,” I said waaaay too fast.

But fortunately, she laughed. “I figured you might be.”

“I’m that obvious, huh?”

“You’re young and female. Listen, I need to make sure. You’re over eighteen, right?”

Oh wait… Eighteen? If drinking were an issue, she’d have asked if I was twenty-one. Eighteen is the age of consent for something else.

I paused and took stock of the situation. Did she assume I’d be okay with some kind of arranged hookup because all she sees when she looks at me is a dark-skinned Hispanic girl?
No
, I thought,
don’t be paranoid, Kyra. Not everyone’s a racist who assumes you’re easy.
Did she know about my past, though? The fact that I spent middle school and high school putting as many notches into my bedpost as possible? My cheeks burned with embarrassment, but my rational mind dismissed that as well. It only
seemed
like the whole world knew about my past. The truth is, few people in the grander scheme of things care. “I’m eighteen, yeah. And I know the drill. It’s just dinner tonight, maybe hang out a little after. I won’t have any future contact with any of them. It’s cool.”

“Did they teach you that when you worked on
Insider?”

“My uncle’s Jason Vanderholt.”

“Oh really?”

“Yeah…” Now I was torn up in a different way. On one hand, I assumed I’d just gone down in her estimation. Rather than getting my job on the set of that movie the honest way, it was now obvious that I had connections.

On the other hand, I hoped this would dampen her expectations of me putting out that evening. I’m not a nobody. At least, I’m related to someone who isn’t a nobody. People can’t just use and forget me; I have the resources to be heard if anyone does anything I don’t like.

“Does your uncle not like you or something?” she asked. “Craft services is actual work. Couldn’t he have made you some kind of assistant to an assistant on set?”

“It was the job I was offered.” Now wasn’t the time to repeat my stepmom’s “if you give a man a fish” lecture. She’s a big believer in helping people up, not out.

“Okay,” said Amy, “well, if you’ve got friends who also know how this goes, bring them.”

“Okay.”

“Great. Meet me or whoever they end up sending in the lobby of the Hyatt Downtown at seven.”

“See you then.” We signed off and I stared at my phone with mixed feelings. I was going to be one of the first fangirls to hang out with Triple Cross
ever
, but I wouldn’t be hooking up with any of them. I’d been there and done that and it just wasn’t me anymore. I just hoped that didn’t make anyone too upset tonight. Celebrities having diva fits could wreak a lot of havoc.

I chose
two friends who, like me, are related to people in “the industry”—Marissa Miles, whose sister acts in a daytime soap opera, and Brandy Simmons, whose cousin is Kelli Manson, the singer. After making me swear on my mother’s grave that I was for real for five long minutes, each of them screamed their assent into the phone. My ears were still ringing by the time we made our entrance into the Hyatt lobby.

Amy was parked near the elevators, her shoulder to the wall, a tablet computer in her hands. When I called out to her, she looked up and nodded in the direction of a middle-aged guy with graying hair, a five-o’clock shadow, and a very toned physique. Even seeing him in a button-down shirt and khakis, I could tell that he had a six pack.

He looked me and my newfound best friends over and nodded with approval. I could only assume it was my friends’ outfits he approved of.

They were in skirts that doubled as belts paired with knee boots and form-fitting tops with bras that pushed their boobs up so they had cleavage. Neither of them had gone for subtlety, and on the ride over, they’d acted like they’d done this sort of thing before, but I could tell by their giggles that they’d been bluffing.

Me? I have done this before. Or more to the point, I’ve done what they were trying to do. My parents and Jason never found out that I’d sneaked off with one of his costars and let him ravage me in his trailer when I was fourteen. That’s when I learned that sex with movie stars is pretty much like sex with anyone else. I’d hoped to leave that encounter feeling empowered and desirable, but I left feeling the same as I did after any hookup. The guy is now doing some reality TV show, so he isn’t even worth any real bragging rights.

And over the years, that whole hookup routine wore me down. It took me a while to connect the dots, to figure out that my promiscuity wasn’t me asserting control over my own body. I suppose for some people it might be, but there came a day when I had to wake up and face up to the fact that I was giving too many
other
people control over my body. It didn’t matter how good I got at making guys feel like they’d died and gone to heaven. In the end, they saw me as an object, not a person. They didn’t return my calls or take me on dates because they wanted to talk to me or be seen with me. They wanted one thing and I always delivered, and each time I did, I cheapened myself. By the time I hit bottom last summer, I felt I had nothing left. I was used up and worth nothing.

So when I’d gotten dressed last night, I’d just put on a simple skirt, flats, and a plain top. My makeup was minimal and I practiced walking tall. The only problem was, I didn’t feel any great sense of empowerment. I had to fake it.

As I stood next to my friends in the Hyatt lobby, the difference was obvious. I used to only be visible as an easy lay. Everything about how I dressed and acted said as much. Now, though, I was invisible altogether. I felt out of place, like a nine-year-old trying to drink at a bar with people more than twice my age. I half expected the guy who met us to look at me with pity, but he didn’t. He didn’t look at me at all.

He introduced himself as Aidan Greer—no job title to let us know whether he was gatekeeper to the band or just a lackey of some kind. I assumed he was their new manager.

We followed this Aidan guy out of the hotel, across the street, and a few doors down to a restaurant where Triple Cross had reserved a private room. All of this is pretty typical “dining with famous people” protocol, and Marissa and Brandy didn’t bat an eye either. Once we’d gone back to the private room, though, which had light fixtures made to look like candles in sconces along the walls, we saw that it was Triple Cross and only Triple Cross. No security guys even. This could have been a trap. We might have been their intended playthings for the evening.

My friends strode right in, backs arched and high heels clicking. I stayed back. Now I knew how it felt to be a nerd. I’d always pitied those people who were wallflowers at school dances.

The three guys of Triple Cross got to their feet. I made eye contact with Ben Roland first, and he looked me up and down. His gaze wasn’t lecherous, but it did convey interest. Our gazes locked and he raised an eyebrow. Some guys like a challenge.

Those eyes of his were dark green with thick lashes, and his body was perfectly toned, as he was wont to show all his fans by taking off his shirt at the end of concerts. His lips curled into a smile and he gave a slight nod. His whole demeanor said, “I bet I could get you if I tried.”

I looked away.

My friends were shaking hands with everyone, and Logan Wechsler moved on from them to me and held out his hand. “Heya. I’m Logan.” He was still skinny and lanky from his last growth spurt, which isn’t to say he was the least bit gawky or unattractive. He made long and lean look ultra hot. His hair was blond and a little spiky, and his smile was all warmth.

“Kyra,” I said, shaking his hand. “Nice to meet you.”

“Oh, Logan,” said Brandy, claiming him back from me, “let me show you something. I took pics of your concert last night on my phone.”

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