I woke up to the sound of rain drops spattering against the windows with some force, and turned into the warmth of Teddy's arms. He stroked my hair in his sleep and pulled me closer, murmuring something comforting. I managed to look at my watch. Nearly noon. Wow. The Manhattan forecasters had gotten it exactly right, the nice weather had finally broken.
We had come rolling in to our suite at the Plaza well after four in the morning, happily drunk from the party, pulling our clothes off as we fell on the bed for a really, really, laugh-filled lovemaking session that I barely remembered. I must have gotten up at some point to go to the bathroom or something, because I was wearing a flannel shirt, and my face was clean.
I looked at Teddy, his features in super duper close up, amazed that, even this kind of minute detail, I could find no flaw in his face. Dense brown lashes lay against his skin, curling slightly at the ends. Nice cheekbones, almost feminine, defined his face. A strong, straight, jawline cut neatly up to just under his ears. A chin, with just the slightest hint of a cleft, framed his mouth, where the most beautiful voice in the world lived, with gorgeous, full, red lips, which were slightly parted as he slept. His eyes, his most beautiful feature, were hidden in sleep, but even without them, anyone could see the obvious loveliness of his face. He'd been called the handsomest man in the world on more than one occasion, and it still sometimes amazed me that he belonged to me.
We wore matching rings, the only difference being the presence on mine of a two and half carat solitaire, quite a huge difference, even I was willing to admit. But they signified, to us and the world, that we were engaged, affianced, that we were promised to each other.
I leaned forward and kissed him, and even though he was sleeping, he kissed me back, and I felt him stirring against my leg, making me smile. I pushed my hips against him gently, and felt him push back, again, while remaining asleep, a purely sensitized response. I wondered if it was possible to have, not "sleepy sex", which we had all the time, but actual "sleeping sex"? I kissed him again, wanting to get busy, but feeling guilty about waking him up. He kissed me back, but remained peacefully, almost obstinately, asleep. I sighed.
I put my hand on him, feeling more than a stirring this time, and on a whim, went under the covers, head first, pulling the blanket up from the bottom first to make sure I could breathe (I'd gotten caught in that situation before, and nearly suffocated from a lack of oxygen).
I took care of business, so to speak, knowing he was definitely awake by the time I finished. And he finished. I crawled out from under the covers, blinked in the bright light of day and smiled at him.
He smiled back at me.
"Good morning, tiger," he said in his gravelly morning voice, pulling me up to kiss me. "What was that for, hmm?" He squeezed me.
"You said in the taxi, remember? The night we walked across the bridge into the city and took the cab here?" I looked up at him. He shook his head.
"You said that smiles and blow jobs were all the thanks you'd ever want from me for you making me so happy." I snuggled down into his arms. "So now I've given you both already for today."
He snickered. "So is this something that's supposed to have been occurring every day, then? Because if that's the case, I think we're a few days behind, love." He lifted the covers. "You'd better get down there and do a bit of catch up." He looked at me.
I looked at him. "Dude, I'm up for it if you are." I began to crawl back under the blankets. He looked horrified and pulled me back.
I smirked at him. "All bluster, I knew it."
He made his mouth into a round O of offended shock. "You're so rude. How can you impugn my manhood like that? Have I not kept you good and thoroughly fucked pretty much each and every day since we got together?"
"Yeah, yeah, yeah," I acknowledged. "The thing is that I don't know what other guys are like. Maybe any man out there could be doing what you're doing, you know? Or even more?" I looked up at him.
He pursed his lips and looked at me through narrowed eyes. "You take that back, right now, or I will make you suffer. I will tickle you until you wee. Never was a threat made more seriously."
"No!" I shrieked. "I take it back I take it back!" I turned to straddle him and leaned forward to hug him. "I love you I love you I love you, Theodore Shelley." By the last time I said it, all traces of humor had left my voice, and I was left looking into his smoke gray eyes, feeling emotional.
"Wow," he said softly. He took a deep breath. "You look enchanting, Ms. Foster."
I smiled. "I think that's just because you're looking through those eyes of yours, Teddy," I said with a little laugh, touching his nose with my finger.
He sat up, hugging me. "Shower?" he whispered.
"Shower," I responded with a smile.
So we took a nice shower and climbed back into bed in our most comfortable clothes, ordering lunch from room service. We killed time on his iPad, first checking on my Hamilton audition.
The views had climbed to close to one million, with quite a few negative comments and thumbs down. Most were obviously from Teddy's fans, young girls who knew nothing about classical piano.
"What does he see in her?”
“Just a cheap life support system for a pair of tits.”
Things like that went on and on. Some were a bit frightening, making statements about wanting to kill me, or hoping I would die in some horrible way. There were some, however, which were negative in authentic ways, which were critical of my playing, saying I didn't have enough discipline, that I took too maudlin an approach, I was too sentimental, that I obviously had skill, but no real talent, things that kind of hurt.
Some were critical of my dress, saying that I had no respect for the instrument or the activity, that I had no business touching a piano, that if this was the future of classical piano then everyone should weep, stuff like that.
But some were positive, some said that I was a breath of fresh air in a dying institution, that I was a bright spot in a bleak landscape, that I made them look forward to the future of classical music.
We still had no idea who had posted the video in the first place.
Next we started checking news sites for announcements of our engagement, and they were jumping. People from the party had told people what they knew, and in the eight hours or so since it had ended, the news had spread; now the world knew that we planned to be married in two and a half years in England, and that Geth's sister would be designing my gown. That was pretty much all there was to know, yet there was already so much more out there. Speculation was rife about whether or not I was pregnant (apparently I was, who knew?), who would be the best man (Geth was the odds on favorite), maid of honor (Janelle!), and the wedding was apparently to be at Teddy's parents' house in Hertfordshire.
And the picture of Teddy and Jennifer Jordan kissing was everywhere. The Neverland website, started by fans who called themselves Wendies and denied that Teddy and I were even a couple, had it right on their home page, blown up so much you could see the darkened centers of her breasts through her dress.
“Yeah, he must REALLY be into the fat music student,” read one sarcastic comment.
“He’s practically dry humping JenniJ. She is so obviously his gf—they need to get the chubster offstage already.”
Teddy was ominously silent while we looked at that, nostrils flaring, and he clicked away from the site before I could even read the article.
Last, we looked at social media, which was in a frenzy. Some of the comments were positive, with fans wishing us well, but so much was very, very bad, with girls threatening everything from boycotts of the boys' music to self harm to harming me if we didn't call off our engagement immediately.
I looked at Teddy with concern. "Have you ever seen anything like this?" I asked.
He put a comforting arm around me. "Um, I've seen it pretty bad before. When Matthew was dating Kimmy Taylor? And when Geth was dating Caroline Salinger? It got really crazy.” Both of the young women he mentioned were pretty famous themselves, a singer and a model.
"But like this? Girls saying they were going to kill themselves? Or hurt themselves? I mean, this girl here says she'll kill me, Teddy."
He ran his hand through his hair. "Yeah, that's pretty bad." He looked at me. "That kind of worries me, to be honest. And those Wendies are really frightening.”
“Why?” I asked, trying to make him feel better. “They wouldn’t bother to hurt me; according to them I’m nothing to you. What reason would they have?”
I clicked on a video of the Plaza that showed a crowd of people in front of the hotel. It looked like a madhouse, hundreds of people in the rain. I sat up.
"I think this is live,” I said, surprised.
I got out of bed and walked quickly to the window, looking out without moving the sheer curtain.
There was a sea of people out front, a seething mass of humanity.
"Jesus, that can't be for us!" This from Teddy.
I picked up my phone and called the front desk.
"Hi, I'm calling from one of your suites, about the crowd out front. Yeah, what's that about? We were planning to leave soon, and I'm a bit concerned about all the people. Um hmm? Oh? I see. So will they be dispersing soon? Have the police been called or anything? Yes, I see. Thank you very much for the information. Yes. Yes. Thank you very much. I'm sure they are. Thank you. Goodbye."
I turned to Teddy.
"Apparently the band UK Crush is staying here, and the most popular one just got engaged yesterday on the Brooklyn Bridge, and their fans have gone a bit crazy with their support. The police are doing what they can, and the streets have been closed down in both directions for a couple blocks until they can get the people under control, but they don't know how long the band and the fiancée are staying, so they don't know how long the crowds will be there. Until the situation is controlled, cars can only get in and out on the Central Park South side of the hotel."
"Jesus." Teddy ran his hands through his hair again. He came and put his arms around my waist from behind, pulling me against his chest. "I had no idea it would be such a circus. Let me see if the boys are up, get them in here to talk." He texted them, and arranged for them to meet in our room in an hour.
Our breakfast arrived, and we ate as we talked and looked at his iPad. Teddy also talked to his "people", asking what would be the best way to approach the situation. We ate while peeking out the window, and the crowd didn’t seem to be dissipating; if anything, it looked bigger than before.
The boys showed up, red-headed Gethin and blond Ronan looking hungover, while Matthew, who had the gorgeous ringlets he’d inherited from his Mozambican mother, looked perfect, as usual. And hangovers notwithstanding, they all looked completely adorable. I looked at them, my new family. These three, along with Teddy, made up UK Crush, arguably the most popular boyband in the world. Though they weren’t really boys anymore. Geth, Ronan, and Teddy were all twenty-four, while Matthew, the baby, was already twenty-two. Wow. I’d only just met them the previous summer when I’d been hired as their interpreter while they were filming a movie in Japan, but I already couldn’t remember what my life had been like before.
I’d been raised in Los Angeles by my Japanese mother, spending my days either in a swimming pool or at a piano, very alone, and, though I hadn’t known it, very lonely. Having them become part of my life had been like getting tossed into a benevolent, beautiful hurricane.
I was snapped out of my reverie with the sound of Ronan’s lovely, lively, laughter, as the five of us relaxed together. After spending most of the afternoon in our suite, it was decided that the best thing to do was to hang together and treat the it like a tour situation.
"Really?" I asked. I was seated in the window seat with Matty, looking out at the crowd. He had his arm around me, more for comfort than anything. They scared me, frankly. The people online didn’t seem real, but this crowd was almost a mob. ”Wouldn’t it be better for the four of you to separate? It always seems like they're less interested in you guys when you're apart, you know, when you're just Ronan, Matty, Geth, and Theo, when you're not UK Crush?"
"Maybe under normal circumstances, but now it's not UK Crush that's the draw, it's Theo Shelley and his fiancée Tinker Bell, so if we were to separate, you'd be more noticeable and easier to find," said Ronan with a smile from his place on the sofa.
"We're going to have to get in a car out front, all together, go to the airport, and get a private jet to London, guys," said Teddy. "I mean, you guys don't have to if you don't want to, but Birdie and I have to, so you might as well come along for the ride, unless you just want to travel separately?" He looked around.
"Wait," I interrupted. "What about apartment hunting?" They all looked at me with sympathy, and I realized how stupid I sounded. "Oh. I guess that's out, huh?"
“This weather is rubbish for apartment hunting, anyway, lass," Matty offered, giving my shoulder a squeeze.
Teddy motioned me over, and I rose, walking to him. He hugged me. I accepted the hug, but said, "No, I'm okay, really. I don't need sympathy." I hugged him back. "But please feel free to hug me anyway," I laughed, trying to lighten the moment. He laughed, kissing my nose.
"There was no way to know there would be this kind of response to our engagement, Birdie," he said to me. "We can't move around the city and look at properties with this kind of crowd around us, and Matthew's right, it wouldn't be much fun with this weather. We should go home and come back later in the year, when things have calmed down a bit, yeah?"
"But who pays for the private jet? I mean, maybe it won't be so bad at the airport," I suggested. "Maybe we can just get on a plane." I looked around, but the boys were shaking their heads.
"When it's like this on the ground, it's ten times worse at the airport and in the air, little one," said Gethin. "We'd be mauled at the airport. And since this isn't part of any official band or tour activity, I'm afraid the expense is to be borne by us, privately."
"By me, actually," said Teddy with a smile.
"Oh no," I said. I was beside myself. "I'm so sorry," I said to him.
"Why on earth are you sorry?" he asked me, honestly surprised. He pulled me back into his arms. "I'm the one who proposed, and in the middle of the Brooklyn fucking Bridge, no less," he said with a grin. "I mean, if anyone's to blame for all this publicity, it's me.
"Anyway, guys, looks like we're traveling private and first class, all the way to London, and it's on me, so are you in?" He looked around.
There were nods from everyone. "I'll take a private jet every time," said Geth with a grin.
“See how easy all this is?” Teddy said with a smile. “Now that we’re official, all this talk about money becomes irrelevant. You really didn’t even need to win this competition.”
I turned to him in disbelief. “Um, who would’ve paid my fees if I hadn’t won this competition?”
He looked at me and blinked. "Are you mental?" He stroked my hair. "I would.”
"What?" I stared at him.
Matty stood up from the window seat. "Erm, fellas? Maybe we ought to go?" He motioned toward the door with his head.
Geth and Ronan nodded and moved toward the door.
"Hold on, guys, it's okay, you don't have to go anywhere," Teddy said, holding up his hand. He turned to me. "Birdie, we already discussed this last night, remember? What’s mine is now yours.”
Again, the boys were moving toward the door, stealthily, like cats.
"Stop that," I commanded, and all stopped, guiltily.
I turned to them. "Sorry about that," I continued, trying to sound more civil. "I just meant that you didn't have to go, that this wouldn't take long, that's all."
I turned back to my betrothed.
"Be reasonable," Teddy said to me. "We're engaged. There is no 'my money' anymore. Everything is 'ours' now."
"'Be reasonable'?" I repeated.
"Ah fuck," said Gethin, sitting down on the bed. Matty ran his hand through his perfect hair and joined Geth. Ronan, looking from me to Teddy, sighed and resignedly joined them.
I sighed myself, walked over to the bed and hip-thumped myself some room between Matty and Ronan, squeezing between the two of them and holding their hands.
"Okay, I'm sorry, everyone, I know that I'm being the idiotic one, I'm being the stroppy bitch here." I looked around.
Teddy pulled out a chair from the desk and turned it backward, sitting astraddle it, facing the four of us.
"Look, this is the last little bit of my independence, okay? This is something I worked really hard for, for basically eight years. It would be hard to let go of it.
Ronan tentatively raised his hand.
I looked at him and smiled. "What, darling boy?" I asked, kissing his hand.
“Why does Tink have to give up her prize money?" he asked everyone, looking around.
We all laughed, the tension broken.
“I don’t,” I said, shaking my head.
“So what’s all the yelling about, then?” he asked.
“I don’t know,” I confessed. “Let’s stop, shall we?”
“The plane’s all arranged,” Teddy told me later. “I’ll let the boys know to be ready to leave tomorrow morning, yeah?"
"Hey," he called me.
I looked over at him, and he motioned me to him. I walked over, and he pulled me to him in a tight hug.
"I haven't touched you in, like, hours," he said softly. "Even though we've been in the same room together all day long. Now that's just all sorts of wrong, don't you think?"
"Yes, I do," I said with a smile, kissing him on the mouth. "We should never be in the same room that long without touching each other, fancy." He smiled at my use of his little cousin’s mispronunciation of “fiancée”, but my eyes filled up, and I looked around. "God, I love saying that word, who knew I was so old-fashioned?”
He held me close. "Cutie pie," he whispered. He kissed me, smoothing my hair away from my face, sliding his hand under my shirt to feel my waist.
I sighed into his mouth, kissing him back. "You put your hands on me and I just melt," I murmured, grabbing a fistful of his shirt and twisting it.
He put his strong hand on my throat and kissed me with more force, connecting us, joining us together, touching my tongue with his, tasting the inside of my mouth, moaning with pleasure at the contact.
"You want me to take you to the bed?" he asked. "Or to the shower? Hmm?" He kissed me again. "Or to the bath? You decide, love."
I jumped up onto him, wrapping my legs around him, locking them around his waist. "Oh god, I don't give a fuck," I said breathlessly, in between kissing him. "Take me to the shower, take me to the fucking closet, just take me, take me, please," I moaned in his ear. I rubbed my hips against him in case I hadn't made myself clear.
"Fucking Jesus," he muttered, falling down on the bed with me under him. He began pulling at the buttons on my sweater, and with me helping, we got them undone in record time. I was wearing a long sleeved T-shirt underneath, and he groaned, a sound of pure frustration. I laughed.
"Sorry," I whispered. I pulled my arms out of the sweater and he pulled the T-shirt over my head. Then, of course, I was wearing a bra, one of the few that closed in the back.
"Are you fucking kidding me?" He was beyond frustrated. I laughed again as he pulled me up by my arms and popped the hooks at my back and pulled it off me.
"And now you," I breathed, pulling his sweat shirt over his head, yanking his T-shirt off at the same time.
He pulled me to him impatiently, grabbing the back of my head so he could kiss me, then moving down my body with his mouth, setting me on fire where he touched me. I held his head to me, breathing deeply, chest heaving as his hands and mouth touched my breasts, my skin tingling and alive.
He pulled my pants off, and then his own, and we both pulled off our own underwear, looking at each other. He stared at me as I knelt on the bed with my knees apart, biting his lip as he watched.
Very deliberately, I put my hand between my legs, watching for his reaction. I could see his pupils dilate very slightly. I felt my softness, my excitement, and closed my eyes, rubbing slowly. Knowing he was watching me was almost mind-blowingly sexy. I opened my eyes as I raised my hand to my breast, rubbing the wetness from my fingers onto it, closing my eyes again as I felt my nipple tightening, hardening. I arched my back into my hand, unable to control myself. I sighed, letting out a very small moan as I did the same thing with the other hand.
I looked into Teddy's eyes, which were almost black by now. I reached behind me without breaking eye contact to turn on the lamp, since the room was nearly dark. I slowly knee walked across the bed to where he sat, watching me.
He reached for me as I got close, grabbing me by my torso and putting his mouth on my still wet breasts. My head fell back as I felt his hot, swollen lips on me, the strength going out of my spine, once again, as if he'd pulled a cord.
"Oh god, so fucking beautiful," he breathed, looking into my eyes. He lifted me and set me on himself, his eyes nearly rolling all the way up as he felt my wet heat close around him.
We both breathed deep sighs as he buried himself me, and I plunged my hands in his hair, tangling my fingers in it. I held his head to me, turning my head to rest it on his shoulder as he rested his on mine. We stayed motionless that way for a little while, just breathing. Then we began our slow movements.
We lifted our heads to look at each other, leaning in to kiss, tongues touching, heat, moisture, sweat on his upper lip salty in my mouth. He put one hand on my throat, the other on my sex, and I flexed my body into his, pushing our hips even more tightly together.
His arms were around the small of my back, his hands pulling me into him. He groaned as he moved slowly up into me.
I kissed him, putting my hot, moist, mouth on his, licking into it as I clenched my muscles onto him, loosening and tightening in rhythm with him, causing him to come as I came again.
"Ah, going to come, ready for me?” he breathed into my mouth, moving his hands up to my shoulders, thrusting so strongly into me that I was lifted off the bed.
Fresh beads of perspiration dotted his hairline as he placed his head on my shoulder, his release spreading inside me as we both relaxed. He put me down and laid himself down on top of me, as I enjoyed that moment when we were finished but still joined.
We were on top of the bedclothes.
"We're going to get cold," he whispered before he kissed me.
"I'm not," I said with a small laugh. "You're on top of me, I'll be warm for quite a while yet. You're the one who's going to freeze your ‘bollocks’ off." I kissed him back, wiping his hairline with my hand.
"Bitch," he said with a smile.
"Yeah, but you love me anyway," I said comfortably, wrapping my legs around his back.
"Yeah, I do," he agreed, rubbing my leg. "And you have fucking awesome legs."
"Yeah, the boys tell me that all the time," I said with a grin.
"Bitchy bitch," he said, slapping my bottom, or as close as he could get.
"You going to withhold your favors while we're in the shower?" I asked.
"I just might," he said loftily.
"Oh, brother," I said, rubbing his backside with my hands.
"Mmm, I love when you do that, that's so not fair," he said plaintively.
"You're so easy, Shelley," I said, laughing. "'An easy lay', as they say in my country."
"A what?" he demanded.
"You know, a pushover, a slutty boy," I explained, continuing to rub.
"Mmm, okay, as long as we're clear," he said, smiling. "Come on, beautiful girl, let's go take a shower.”
The rain had stopped, which was nice, anyway. We gathered in the lobby with our luggage, and were waiting for the car to pull up. We had hired security; not the boys' usual people, but they were beefy and seemed very competent and good at their jobs. As we sat and waited, complete strangers tried to approach us, guests of the hotel, but were stopped by our new bodyguards. They called out congratulations to us on our engagement, on my scholarship, and general good wishes. The atmosphere was charged with excitement and a good vibe, but I was still feeling stress, in a way that I hadn't felt in Japan, where we'd had similar situations.
"Okay?" Ronan smiled at me reassuringly. I nodded, smiling back.
"I'm fine, really, just antsy, wish we could get going." I replied.
"A bit of a circus today," he said, putting a comforting arm around my shoulder. I leaned on him.
"I just don't understand what they want," I admitted to him.
"Ah, they just want to catch a glimpse of you," he said with a grin.
"Of me?" I asked incredulously. "Why on earth would they want to see me?"
"Theo's been the most popular one in the band since the beginning," Ronan tried to explain. "Girls have been dreaming of being his girlfriend, of being married to him, since they were wee things. And now here you are, living their dream. That makes you special. Some of them love you for it. And, unfortunately, some of them hate you for it. Either way, they all want to see you, take your picture, touch you, talk to you, hear what you sound like, know about you, whatever, you know?
"And, even though they finally know your name and all that, you're still a mystery to them. You never said a word to the press until two days ago after your audition when you answered that question when we were walking out to the car. That's why your audition video has gotten so many hits on YouTube. There aren't really that many people interested in hearing that piece, you know? All of those girls who love the band, who love Theo, are just dyin' to know about you." He stopped talking and looked at me.
"You want to know what I think? I honestly think that if you were to have a bit of an online presence, like a Twitter account or something, put a bit of yourself out there, some of the hysteria surrounding you would go away." He smoothed some hair out of my eyes. "There's so much mystery about you now. You're this quiet music student who hadn't a friend or a penny in the world who blew in out of nowhere and swept all of us off our feet, knocked Theo for a fucking loop and convinced him he couldn't live without you in a matter of months." He smiled at me.
"Somehow, you, all by your lonesome, no glamorous good looks, so they say," he rolled his eyes at me, "no fancy modeling or acting career, managed to catch the most eligible bachelor in the world," and the way he raised his eyebrows on the word "world" made me laugh out loud, "and that's got the lot of them so bleedin’ curious, Tink, that's all." He pulled me in and kissed my temple.
"They just want to feel like they know you, the way they feel like they know us," he finished.
I sat up and looked at him. "You know, Ronan, you are the wisest one in the whole band."
He blushed, apples blooming in his cheeks. "Ah, everyone knows I'm the dunce of the group," he laughed.
I bumped him with my shoulder. "Don't sell yourself short. Everything comes straight from your honest heart, and that's what makes you beautiful.
"I don't know about 'putting myself out there', though. I'm not famous, there's no reason for me to be famous, and I feel like it would be presumptuous for me to act like I'm famous, just because I'm going to be married to someone famous. I don't want anyone to think that I can't tell the difference, you know?" I looked at him.
"Well, just think about it, petal, okay?" He gave my shoulder a last squeeze.
"I think the car's here," he said, holding his hand out to me. "Let's get this done."
Teddy came over. "Ronan, you got her on the other side, bro?"
Security approached, telling us everything was ready, and they formed a protective mass around us as we exited the front doors of the hotel which had been our home for the past two weeks.
The roar as we hit the cold air was deafening and immediate. The screaming was insane. This was nothing like Japan; it was so much more intense, like video I'd seen of some of the Beatles' concerts. We slowly made our way down the cordoned off area, first navigating the stairs. Because of the people, the car had to pull up on the far side of the fountain, which meant we had farther to walk. This made it safer for the crowd, but a bit dicier for us.