Chapter Fourteen

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Bzzzzz. Bzzzzz.

Emily pried one of her eyes open and groped around in her darkened bedroom until her fingers wrapped around her phone.

"Hello?" she croaked.

"Did I wake you up?" Jesse sounded wide-awake.

"No, I always sound this sleepy and sexy." She looked over at her clock and saw it was just after two a.m.

"You do always sound sexy."

"Fab. Do you mind if I call you back in about five hours when I've finished sleeping?"

"I think you'll want to know about this first." He sounded serious. Jesse rarely ever sounded serious.

"Is something wrong? Are you okay?"

"That depends on your definition of wrong."

She rubbed her eyes. "I'd like to go back to sleep some time tonight, if that's okay with you. Spit it out, please."

"We're the top news story right now on Wally Hood Goes Hollywood. And it looks like we're also trending on Twitter."

"Um, Jesse? I've been a top news story on Wally Hood's site for a while, and from what friends have told me, I haven't been doing too badly on Twitter before now, either."

"Yes, you have been a top news story. You and Cory."

"I'm not following," she said.

"I said 'we.' As in there are pictures of you and me from earlier tonight plastered all over the Internet."

"What?" She was definitely awake now. "What pictures? What did we do?"

"Kissed goodnight."

Unless Emily's memory was somehow failing her, photos and reports of her and Jesse kissing goodnight seemed pretty impossible.

"That wasn't a goodnight kiss," she said, confused. "You gave me an innocent peck on the cheek that lasted for two seconds. "

She heard Jesse exhale loudly on the other end of the line, as though he was preparing to deliver news he knew she wouldn't want to hear. Her fingers clenched together.

"Still shots don't really show how long or short a kiss is, and the angle doesn't make it look good. From the story, you'd think we were making out for hours."

"I need to see this," she muttered, rolling out of bed. "I'll call you back in a bit."

Without waiting for him to answer, she hung up and opened Wally Hood's site on her phone. As Jesse had promised, the headline was front and center.

The Em-Girl Goes For Another Rocker

There was a photo of her and Jesse below the headline, taken when they'd been outside of her apartment building just hours before. From the picture, it really did look like they were enjoying a romantic moment that involved a goodnight kiss. Her stomach lurched.

For a full minute she could only stare, her eyes glued to the image on her screen. From what she remembered, his lips had barely brushed her cheek, and they certainly hadn't touched her mouth. She wouldn't have classified that as anything resembling intimate, but by looking at the photo, anyone could think that's exactly what it had been. The way Jesse's head bent over hers, her own face mostly obscured, the photo made it appear as though they'd been smooching it up at her gate.

She tore her gaze away from the photo and began reading the article below it.

It's after midnight, C-Samp. Do you know where your girlfriend is? If not, Wally Hood can help you. It seems she had a date in Santa Monica with another rocker, who, sorry to tell you, has much better hair.

Little Ms. Emily Watts was spotted dining at Louise's Trattoria with Jesse Cinder, the guitar player for Ashes of Brooklyn, a band we hadn't heard of before now. After getting rather friendly-looking over dinner, the two wandered around the beach for a while and headed to the Santa Monica pier. There, they ate cotton candy and rode the ferris wheel. Aw, how cute, you guys. Almost as cute as ending the night with a sweet goodnight kiss.

One thing's for sure—Jesse lives up to his last name. The Flameboy is smokin' hot, and we're assuming the Em-Girl has also noticed while up close and personal. Has Little Miss Em been playing on both coasts until now? Did she get sick of C-Samp's undying love for Cady Sugarman and ditch him? Or is Emily's suspected more-than-friendship with Jesse what drove C-Samp to start hanging out with his ex again? We're dying to know!

Emily closed her eyes, feeling blood rush to her temples. While she'd known the tabloid media was interested in her relationship with Cory, she had assumed their interest stopped there. She had also assumed that any time she'd been caught on film with Cory, it was because of their interest in him. She'd never stopped to consider that she might now attract the same level of attention, even without him at her side. Or that the media would be this interested in why he wasn't at her side.

What bothered her more than that, though, was how anyone had gotten photos of her and Jesse in the first place. Not to mention how they'd had such perfect timing as to photograph what was not a goodnight kiss in a way that made it look like one. More curious still was how Wally Hood had even been able to identify Jesse. Ashes of Brooklyn had never been on the tabloid media's radar as far as she knew, and he'd just moved to town.

She walked over to her window and opened the blinds, looking down over the street in front of her building. Scanning each side of it, she observed the parked cars, trying to figure out where someone could have been so easily hidden from her and Jesse while taking photos of them saying goodnight.

She closed the blinds again and took a few steps back from the window. If someone in the shadows could turn something completely innocent into much more than it really was, what else could they do? And if she'd been tailed during a night out with a friend, with Cory nowhere in sight, she had to wonder where else she was being followed.

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