Behind the scenes…Cassidy's point of view…

When Don came into my dressing room, I was expecting to hear that he had run those guys out of town. I mean, can you believe the nerve of them? Trying to crash my concert.

I faced the mirror again. Like always, Don would have fixed it. It would cease to be anything more than an unpleasant memory, and I could go on with my life.

It was bad enough that a group of strangers had gotten in past the security, and performed in front of my fans, but it wasn't just that. It was the front man of the group, the guy who decided to wear hot pink spandex, the one with the ridiculously long scraggly hair that bore the remains of several bad dye jobs.

He annoyed the hell out of me.

He felt absolutely no shame in what he did, strutting around like that, and as Don told me later, even tried to wheedle a recording contract out of him. If you wanted to be famous, buddy, there were more tasteful ways of doing it.

I was embarrassed for him, having no class, no sense, and no propriety. Who would intentionally look so sloppy? I was disgusted for my fans for having to watch him strut around stage dressed like that—the outfit left virtually nothing to the imagination and I got to see it firsthand for myself.

I seemed to excite him especially.

Ugh!

I would need to shower for days in order to cleanse myself, see a therapist for weeks to get that mental image out of my head. Maybe even take a break from my tour altogether, for "mental health purposes" and head down to Palm Beach.

I hoped my fans had enough decency as to not record his performance. Otherwise, videos of that guy terrorizing my audience and exposing his genitals to the world would be all over YouTube. I did not want to see those again, him again.

Forget what I said about wanting them run out of town. After a run-in like that, they had better be boarding a plane out of the country.

I pulled a brush through my hair, but kept my eyes fixed on the mirror. Not on myself, but on the reflection of Don behind me. I waited for a reply from him, but nothing came. He seemed to be talking to himself, like he was trying to word something correctly.

Something important.

Still not a word about hog-tying those guys, throwing them in the trunk of his car and driving them to the border. And then running them over.

My suspicions became aroused. "Don," I said in a dangerously sweet voice, setting the brush down, "you did get rid of them, didn't you?"

"Cass, maybe you should go perform?" he suggested tentatively, trying to tread carefully around me and not unwillingly spill any information. "Your fans after all, are waiting. And after having to endure such a performance, you kind of owe it to them."

They could wait. My problems came first and since this was a huge problem, it was the equivalent of the apocalypse.

"That wasn't the answer to my question," I said still in a velvety smooth tone, shifting round to face him. "Where are they?" I eyed him suspiciously, like he may be trying to shepherd them in behind his back. "What happened out there?"

While Don was one the best managers in the industry, he would've lead a doomed life of frustration and failure as a poker player. The guilty expression on his face gave his game away.

I knew at once that he hadn't done what I told him, but instead formed a coalition with them.

I almost felt hurt. We had been partners in this industry these last few years and yet he felt the need to involve himself in a new project?

And what was he willing to invest his time and effort in? Well, just look at the motor-mouthed ringleader of it all.

That was so Don. In spite of being on the very top, he always had a pitiful interest in the little guys. If he ever got his way, the respective music industry would be filled with trash that didn't belong. That's what American Idol was for, combing through the masses of people, trying to separate the diamonds from the coal.

Very well. If Don felt like a raggedy bunch like that could replace me, I could replace him just as easily. Thanks for the jumpstart. Now I could handle myself.

I went back to the mirror, carefully fixing my lip gloss.

"Could you hand me my phone?" I asked Don. "I need to make a call."

Number one on my speed dial, my agent, Gloria. Whenever something didn't suit me, all I needed to do was call her. Get her on the line and I could rule worlds. Within the hour, she would hook me up with a new manager and Don could be left with the motley crew he chose for himself.

He moved silently across the dressing room, obligingly placing the glossy phone in my hand.

Glancing meaningfully over my shoulder at him, I dialed Gloria and propped the phone against my ear.

"I wouldn't be trying to replace me if I was you, Cassidy," Don said warningly.

Warningly?

Excuse me, but who did he think he was, bossing me around? I let him at first, but that was when I was still a novice to the industry.

And then he came right out and said it. "Your time in this industry is just about up."

Instantly, I knew it was time to tighten up the reigns on my attitude for a few days.

Time for me to be the perfect celebrity: get to all my concerts on time, give a hell of a performance, and then go out among the people who weren't fit to breath the same air as I did, graciously pose for pictures and sign autographs.

I snapped the phone shut and beamed at Don.

"I would never replace you," I gushed. "You're the one who got me to where I am today."

"And I'm the one who wants to keep your image in a good light," Don added, his expression growing kinder. Whenever I flashed my puppy eyes at him, showered him with compliments, I could always change his mind. "Which is why I think you should resign gracefully."

I toppled over, off my chair. "Resign?" I repeated disbelievingly. "This is what I was born to do. Why on earth would I want to resign?!" Don offered me his hand, but I ignored it.

"Why are you doing this to me?" I demanded, growing angrier by second. Don was the one who brought me into this industry, convinced me that this was were I belonged, that the world would love me.

But all he really saw in me was a fat paycheck.

Traitor.

He had probably been planning my forced retirement for months now, but kept me on the outside. Hence why he was moving his feelers in on a new band. He wanted to have some insulation when he cut me.

"You had a good run, Cassidy," Don explained. "But I need to give the public what they want. And I'm sorry to say, but they don't want you anymore…"

I almost fell over again, but I caught myself by holding on to the edge of my make-up table. I could only stare at him, wide-eyed, shaking my head disbelievingly. A lump settled in my throat and my eyes swam with tears.

How could this happen? Why was this happening? What would happen to me?

"Don, this is my life!" I exclaimed, losing all my composure. "I can't do anything else. I've been a pain in the ass, sure, but I'll change. I'll give to charities, start a school like Oprah, sign autographs, whatever. Please. Please just give me one more chance."

For the years he lead me on, I believed Don and I were in this together. And now he was just abandoning me? Throwing me to the wind?

"…which is why we need to give your music a makeover," Don finished, speaking over my outburst.

Oh my God. That was close. That was too close. I never wanted to be scared like this again. I never wanted to think of my dream being snatched away from me again. This was my present, this was my future.

I went limp with relief, while the tears began to flow unrestrained and I clamped my hand over my mouth to keep the sobs from escaping, but the racked my body nonetheless.

"Thank you," I gasped, sounding just like a newly-crowned pageant queen. "Thank you so much for not giving up on me, Don."

"So you are willing to change your music?" Don asked me.

I nodded. "Of course."

"Completely willing? I'm trying to help you, remember that. So you better not give me any of that famous mental block or diva attitude of yours. Because any tantrums, Cass, and I will have no choice but to…"

"No attitude, no tantrums," I promised immediately. "I'll do whatever you ask me to."

"God," Don remarked, smiling to himself. "This went so much better than I expected it to. You meet your new band mates tomorrow."

New band mates? Don knew how I felt about sharing the spotlight. It should be all about me. That's why I had no back-up dancers, and went into the pop genre, where it could be all about one person.

I was about to start protesting, but I stopped myself just in time.

'Any tantrums, and I will have no choice but to…' Kick me to the curb.

I guessed shouting about how I only flew solo and did not want any new band mates would qualify as a tantrum. It would be weird being a in a band again, but it was a small sacrifice for my fame. And I was not giving him a reason to get rid of me.

Knowing Don, he probably had this preplanned, like he did everything. I was sure that the people he picked to form my new band would be fine. Even if they weren't, I'd be quick in laying down the law.

"You'll like them a lot," my manager assured me. "I just spoke with them. Their front man is a bit, um, eccentric, but he seems nice. They all seem like nice guys. They're extremely passionate about music and seem like they will do anything just for the opportunity to play it…"

Upon hearing this, I couldn't keep my mouth shut any longer. "Oh my God, you're talking about the creep in pink spandex, aren't you?!" I yelped. "And his band? Anyone but him. Anyone but them! Don't do this to me!"

Don's look of seraphic calm never wavered. "Strike one," he said cheerfully. "I'll leave you to get ready. Break a leg, Cassidy."

He left my dressing room and I was left fuming, the reflection in the mirror the only one to commiserate with me.

"Thanks a lot, Don. Making me have to work with a freak like that after he goes and crashes my concert. Rewarding him, that's what you're going. And ruining my life. God, bringing trash like that into the industry! Poisoning it, that's what you're doing. And how about me!? Sending my music, my image, everything we've worked for down the drain. Just because you're a pathetic sucker and can't deny a stray. Now, I'll have every wannabe band in the world pounding down my door…"

Don poked his head back into the dressing room. "Did you say something?" he asked.

Yes. "No," I lied automatically. "I was just going over my lyrics."

"Well, you should also think about preparing a speech for your fans. Tell them that you're going to be redesigning your music…" So now I had announce my misfortune to the world?

"Great," I groused, my brain and mouth becoming one. When Don gave me a stern look, I quickly repeated it, trying hard to sound like I meant it.

The minute I was alone, I moaned in anguish, collapsing back into my seat and burying my head in my arms.

"Oh my God!" I wailed. "I hate my life!"

We now return to our show already in progress…Ian's point of view.

I forced the back doors of the van shut with a satisfying bang. I pitied the next fool to open them again.

The equipment would most likely fall out on whoever opened the doors the very next time we went to take it out. I was planning ahead because the guys generously let me carry everything out of the building and then I was privileged enough to get to load it back in.

Okay, Mikey and Dean, like always had some sort of beef with me. They were the muscle of the group. No offense to Reg, but he was the puniest of the four of us. Even with his help, it was like I was on my own.

Currently (and extremely 'surprisingly') the guitarists weren't on civil speaking terms with me, so pissed off that I got them into this mess.

"I'm not happy about this either," I said, the back of my head beginning to burn where they had fixated their heated glares. "I got us a gig, didn't I? And what part of 'meeting us at the recording studio' did you thick-skulled idiots miss?"

"It's not for us," Dean said scathingly. "It's for the pop star. We're going to be working for her." He was leaning against the van, arms folded, not making an effort to help me.

"Because I'm a psychic, right, and I knew this was going to happen?" I answered, my usually easy-going nature just about at its end. I actually found a deep longing to punch him in the jaw arising.

Ungrateful, freeloading bastard. I was doing all the work here, just lugging his lazy ass along with me.

"Newsflash, Dean. I didn't give up every single damn thing in my life to work with a spoiled pop star. And I'm beginning to seriously regret ever collaborating with a brainless jock too."

Dean moved forward until we were standing just about eye-to-eye. We were the same height, I was maybe even a little taller, but he was larger and more powerfully-built, and damn if both of us didn't know that.

"Then why don't you go be famous by yourself, Ian?" he threatened. "Obviously you have the potential to be," he spat, "and we're just dragging you down."

I looked coldly back at him. He had better not go putting words in my mouth. I never said that I wanted Mikey—who wasn't as obnoxious—or Reggie—who I actually really liked—out of the picture. But I wasn't going to deny the fact that I wouldn't be tremendously upset if Dean 'walked' in front of a speeding car.

My eyes told him everything I wished I could say, but my lips were set in a tight line. If I fell prey to his mind games and said something to the effect of "Maybe I will", then I would be pegged as the bad guy—even in Reggie's eyes.

Reggie and Mikey exchanged a look. Here we go. The youngest of the group, they both learned early on to back out and leave the 'grown-ups' to deal with each other. Though Reg may occasionally mediate.

Mikey made it quite it obvious he thought I had the IQ of a goldfish, but there was still some shred of respect that he had enabling him to keep his mouth shut. At the right moments anyways.

Maybe it was the years of being told that I was trouble and my notorious bad boy rep that kept him off my ass. I mean I had to have gotten it for a reason.

"You guys both know how long these Hollywood bands last," Reggie said. "Not long. We'll put up with it for a few months, and once everyone knows who we are, we can dump Cassidy on her ass and go do our own thing. In the mean time, why not just enjoy the opportunity and the eye candy?"

We both ripped our angry gazes from each other to gawk at Reggie.

We couldn't believe he said that. But knowing Reg, that was his plan. To say something so out there (for him), that we forget all about fighting and just kind of stare at him like "What?"

"Fine," Dean said dismissively, though this was more directed at Mikey because Reggie had done his job and contented himself to vanish again. He had climbed up into van, leaving us resolve things.

Our tempers were cooling down, but the expression on my good buddy Dean's face could easily be interpreted as 'if he starts anything, I swear I'll finish it' OR 'I'll start something with him just because I know I can finish it'.

"Fine," I replied, sending Dean a meaningful look that I hoped read, well, something intimidating. My weapons of choice were charm and cunning, not violence.

It was a long ride back to the apartment. Mikey decided that music was once again the antidote, so Cassidy's voice was the only noise among us. Mikey sang along badly

("What? If we're gonna be in a band with her, we might as well know what we're dealing with.")

When I gave him a half amused, half annoyed look, he pushed out his lip sulkily. "It's catchy," he pouted.

By the time we were back at the apartment, and I was comfortably back in my normal clothes, the would-be fist fight was in the past like all the rest of them. Dean and I didn't exactly apologize, but we were back on name terms, as in not referring to one another as "the singer" or the "bass guitarist".

And after a success like ours, it really was impossible not to be smiling. For our first public appearance, it went amazingly well, and regardless of how much it sucked to be paired with a bitchy pop diva, we had a gig—and a trip to a recording studio nonetheless.

And Carly wasn't horrible-looking. Speaking from experience, there were a lot worse girls out there. But don't worry, Chelsea, 'we' would remain thoroughly confidential.

There was even better news for me waiting in the kitchen—and that's what got my evening really going great.

I happily crumpled up the mountains of newspaper that had been serving as my office/pillow and threw them all in the trashcan. Wouldn't need those anymore.

Looking at the full-to-bursting trashcan, my pyromaniac tendencies kicked in and I longed to set the damn papers that had been the bane of my existence these last few months on fire. Hell, I topped the pile off with the hot pink spandex. Even more reason to set the thing ablaze. It would be killing two birds with one stone.

Of course, you couldn't really have a decent bonfire unless you were wasted.

And Reggie still had money we could put to good use. Hell if we were wasting it on bills—and rent.

Normally since I played the role of "Mom" and "Manager", I wouldn't hear of such a thing, but tonight, tonight was the start of the rest of our lives. Sure qualified as a special occasion to me.

They all went along with it. Even Reggie, though I suspected he'd be more of the designated driver than anything else.

After stocking up on even more newspapers—to make a bigger fire of course—and my trusty I.D. allowing me to buy a generous supply of booze—enough so that all of us could get trashed and then some—we headed out of the city.

Ironic how we swore to never go back into the country—where all our troubles first began and our lives were slowly ending—but yet here we were again. Just when our troubles were ending and our lives were beginning.

I didn't want to go too far down the Highway to Hell, so I made sure my security blanket, the bustling big city I adopted as home, was still in the background.

Past the rolling fields of tall grass, the winding road, not as meticulously paved as those in the city, the black silhouettes of the towering office buildings and skyscrapers stretching up into pink, red, and orange sky. If you could tune out the crickets chirping, there was still the faintest serenade of a siren.

We were right in between the two worlds: rural and urban.

Though we obviously belonged in the latter.

In no time we had yanked up enough tall grass to make a good-sized fire pit and had a huge fire blazing. Billowing clouds of smoke rising into the darkening sky, the heat so overwhelming that the less self-conscious band members removed his shirt and draped it around his neck.

Throughout the evening, we helped ourselves to the beer I got, fed our roaring fire the newspapers and then I sacrificed the hideous pink spandex. I got the biggest thrill watching that burn to ash.

The guys all wished they brought theirs along.

And when we ran out of flammable material to toss into the flames, we relaxed, thoroughly content with life. Everything just seemed right with the world. We had our whole lives in front of us, a trip to a recording studio to perform for one of the best managers in the music industry, and plenty of beer.

Could life get any better?

We laid in the thick grass and star-gazed, draining one bottle of beer after the next (which took a few bottles to get over the bitter taste), talking compatibly for the first time in a long time (though the more bottles we threw back, the harder it got to form intelligent conversation), and recalling stories from our past—a majority of my stupider ideas. (Laughing a little too loudly at them or during inappropriate times).

After a while I stopped participating in 'circle time' and retargeted my focus on getting so drunk that I couldn't even form a simple thought. While most people gradually got slower and stupider as they drank, I seemed to become more philosophical. And unfortunately my mind strayed into forbidden regions.

Things I tried to block out. Like my parents; they still lurked in my subconscious mind. Inward doubt about my band's success, though I was the one who initiated the whole thing.

Secrets that I would take to my real grave.

If the guys asked me if I ever missed anything from 'home', I would throw my head back and laugh loudly. Me? Miss our rural prison? As if. But my careless attitude masked a lie.

I missed my parents. Being their only child, I was used to having them hovering, anticipating my every whim and trying to remove any stresses. Though such fussing stopped very early on, I wouldn't mind a little now.

Some part of me yearned to know that there was someone out there who actually cared about me and didn't just see me as a free ride to stardom.

I had a lot of pressure put on me and sometimes I just wished I could confide it to someone else, making it less for me to deal with. Get help. Reg was right. I tried to be a rock, but I couldn't completely do it alone.

I drew my knees to my chest and rested my chin on them, gazing into the fire. Somehow managing to tune out the guys' uproarious laughter. And them period. They were very amusing drunks. Bumbling around, slurring their speech, throwing back more beer but missing and getting more on their clothes than down their throats.

What a thing to aspire to be. A drunk. A drunk who banged on instruments for a living and called it music.

All my life I had wanted to break away and take over the music world, this, but now that it was so close, was I beginning to question my desire? Should I be doing something more important with my life like finishing college or getting a real job?

The rock star career would eventually fall through and then what would I do?

It took me years to get it, but now I was mentally quoting my former parents' speeches. Maybe, I should've paid a bit more attention? They had lived longer than I had, and consequently knew more.

Oh my God. What was wrong with me? Quoting my parents? That should never happen; we weren't programmed to see eye-to-eye.

If, God forbid, I started thinking about them, like them, I would become them, that which I hated most.

A close-minded, country bumpkin who feared change and the real world.

I would never, could never,be like them, and just for that, I would go as far out of my way to be as unlike them as I possibly could. Live the rock star life to the fullest; get maybe nine or ten more tattoos, a couple more piercings…

It was better that way. I was dead to them; they should be dead to me.

Besides, come morning, Ian Riesen, Dean Reeves, Michael "Mikey" Burns, and Reggie Ellis would be dead, buried in the ground where they belonged, and we would step into our new lives assuming new aliases.

Gradually I succeeded in washing away all of my forbidden thoughts—and then progressed to removing anything else going on in my head.

The rest of the evening was nothing more than a hazy blur.

I was only just aware of the fact that Mikey caught himself on fire…

…that Reg ran a red light, almost getting us hit—on my side!—by a truck…

…I had the suspicion that we were up on the roof, giving our neighbors a complimentary concert at two in the morning…

…the last thing of the night I remembered was the wonderful sensation of sinking onto an air mattress and falling into the first deep sleep I had enjoyed in a very long time.

…then the sounds of the guys getting ready. Being deliberately as loud as possible. I peeled open my eyelids, which felt like lead, to glare at them and my aching head dropped like a bowling ball back onto the pillow.

Just five more minutes…I was so tired…

But one of the guys had seen me stir because he hurled a pillow at me and yelled in a very loud voice to get up.

His words sounded like gunshots in my ears, making my head pound even worse.

I groaned pitifully, but forced myself upright, dragging a hand back through my hair and securing it in my customary ponytail.

"Ian, get up!" Dean, who looked completely sober and awake, repeated. "We're going to be late."

My brain was still numb and working much slower than it usually did.

Late for what? It's not like any of us actually held down jobs. I was good and ready to tell Dean that he could go fuck himself and go back to sleep for the rest of the day.

"We're…meeting…the…manager…and…the…pop…star…at…the…recording…studio…so…we…can…our…big…break," Dean explained in a such a painfully slow voice you'd think I was stupid, not ridiculously hung over.

"And we have to be there in twenty minutes," he added.

…In spite of the fact I was hung over, and moving at negative two miles an hour, we got to the recording studio in time. It was Cassie who, in true diva fashion, showed up almost an hour later than our designated meeting time.

We had been hanging around outside the studio waiting with the manager, who introduced himself as Don Castillo, though we by now had a vague idea who he was.

We in turn introduced ourselves using our new aliases. There were millions of cool-sounding names we could've used, but I was terrible with names, so the guys stuck with similar-sounding names to avoid any screw-ups.

I had rechristened myself "Damian". Just a few syllables off from my real name. How in the world could I forget that?

Dean and Reggie rearranged the letters in their names to become "Dane" and "Greg". These names, I found, both had a lot of forgiveness should I accidentally say their real ones.

But Mikey had the most difficult name to rearrange/disguise. He hadn't come prepared with a name, so he panicked when Don moved to shake his hand and quickly blurted that his name was "Brad".

I shot him a look. Brad? No way in hell was I going to remember that. Was he just trying to blow our cover?

Mikey/Brad shrugged apologetically. "First name I could think of." Fortunately, Don didn't see this because his eyes were fixed on a silver-blue Lexus cruising down the street.

It was Cassidy behind the wheel of the Lexus—not in a limousine with a driver and at least fifty security guards. She seemed thoroughly unconcerned with the fact that she kept us waiting for so long, what with her giant latte in one hand and cell phone in the other.

"Nice of you to join us, Cassidy," Don said in a stiff voice once the Lexus coasted smoothly into a nearby parking space.

The driver was making minute touches to her lip gloss in the rear view mirror.

"Car troubles," she said lightly.

Don looked annoyed; while I couldn't mask a snort of disgust.

Car troubles? Judging by the impeccable looks of that thing, she had only just rolled it off the dealer lot. (And yet at the same time I wished I could hide my battered old van behind a nearby building).

"I was having trouble picking one out," explained the pop star.

Of all the spoiled little…Like she didn't already have ten cars and the driveway of a ridiculously huge mansion to park them in front of. I was absolutely disgusted that I would have to work for someone like this.

I looked over at Don and knew he was thinking the same thing. And apparently knowing she was on thin ice, Cassie quickly got over herself. She smiled pleasantly and even humbled herself enough to shake the guys' hands.

"Hi," she said obediently to each. Or "Nice to meet you."

But then it was my turn. I tried my hardest to wipe the dazed expression off my face. She was wearing a very low-cut top and a pair of tight skinny jeans. She was a personal trainer's gift to the world.

She didn't feel the same when she saw me though. Her green eyes, lined thinly with black eyeliner, narrowed. The Hollywood grin vanished and her lips were set in a tight forbidding line.

For having a pretty face it was amazing just how much she could scrunch it up in disgust and how ugly she could turn it.

"Oh, good," she sneered. "You're wearing pants today."

I heaved a huge fake sigh. "I have to," I answered gloomily. "My kilt's at the Laundromat."

"Ugh," scoffed Cassidy, not even trying to mask her disgust. She marched towards the door, a long, whip-like braid switching me across the face. "Can we get this day over with?" she begged Don. "Please?"

And how much does my life suck right now? Cassidy's perspective…

The guys followed us like lost puppies into the recording studio. I was too aware that that creepy Damian guy's remained firmly attached to my ass because he walked into two doors and a wall. This may have been also partially because he was hung over, which I found extremely unprofessional of him.

Everything was already set up for them, but they stood there like the mindless idiots they were.

"Just do what comes naturally," Don said kindly, gesturing them towards the live room.

"And by that, he means play your music," I added, stalking off in the direction of the control room. I didn't even want to think about what might come naturally to these guys. God knows the lead singer didn't have an ounce of propriety in him.

Don and I both put on headphones and Don gave them the thumbs-up sign to start playing. I subtly went for my phone. At least I could keep myself amused while they banged like small children on pots and pans.

Presently Don noticed that while I had my headphones on, they were around my neck and I wasn't paying a bit of attention. And that was saying something; the noise they were creating was earsplitting. Thank God that Alex wasn't on set at the moment. I had him to keep me entertained.

He was away, on set of his upcoming new movie. I was on tour. Consequently, we hadn't seen each other in a few months, so we were sending raunchy text messages.

"You do remember that this is for you, don't you?" Don asked. "Your career, not mine, Cass. I suggest you pretend to be a bit more interested."

I jumped when he addressed me, snapping my phone shut so I didn't get a chance to read Alex's latest reply. But thankfully, Don wouldn't get to see it either.

"It's giving me a headache," I protested, my fingers straying to the button that allowed for two-way communication between rooms. "It's nothing but noise."

The singer rapped sharply on the glass with his knuckles, yelling at me. I of course took my finger off the button so he could've yelled himself hoarse and I wouldn't hear a word. But I watched his lips move, and gave him my best doe-eyes and shrugged.

Which made him yell it again. He either said something about not knowing good music, or Louis Vuitton shoes. One or the other. I flipped him off.

"I don't know when you acquired this attitude, Cassidy," Don said, growing more annoyed with me by the second, "but if you don't stop acting like a spoiled brat right this second, I am personally feeding your contract into the paper shredder and you can go back to busing tables…"

To the band of Merry Men, he said, "Can you guys take it down just a notch? You are kind of loud."

They momentarily discussed their next song and then relaxed into a steadier, slower beat. More like rock and less like that screamo, death metal they had been playing before. To make Don happy, I put the headphones back on and made a pretense of listening.

But then my phone rang. An actor, Alex didn't like anybody ignoring him, so he decided to call me and see why he lost my interest. Don sent me a look warning me not to touch it, but instinctively my hand flashed to my phone and I whipped it open.

"Why didn't you answer me back?" Not even a hello.

"I'm at the studio, baby," I explained, looking tentatively at Don, who stared pointedly at the band. Hoping I might take a hint. "It's Alex," I said to him in a beseeching whisper. "Can I take this?"

Don shrugged. "Go ahead," he offered. "It's not like this is your career or anything."

"But he's my boyfriend."

Alex (still finding himself being ignored): "Who was that?"

Me: (sigh)

That was my boyfriend for you. I couldn't even think about another guy without him going ballistic.

It was kind of cute how jealous he got—it was nice knowing that there was another guy out there who cared so deeply about me—but it could also be more than a little annoying at the same time.

Reminding me inwardly how I enjoyed the peace when we were apart. I loved him, but Alex could really be stifling sometimes. I often felt like I couldn't even take a breath without first informing him.

The guidelines of being one of America's hottest actors' girlfriend: I couldn't breathe unsupervised, I couldn't associate with Male Hollywood, and I couldn't ever let loose because I had to keep his image in a positive light.

Be the poster girlfriend.

"Don."

The voice on the other line relaxed a little. "Oh." And then it picked right back up with: "The studio? Aren't you on tour?" Because of course if I wasn't where he thought I was it meant I was off cheating on him.

I surprised myself how calm I sounded when I spoke again. Hours before, I was fuming about it myself. "Alex, relax. Don is just breaking in my new band mates. No big deal…"

He thought it was. "Band mates? You didn't tell me that you were getting band mates." I always had to keep him posted on every little thing I did.

"A bunch of guys showed up at my concert last night and suddenly Don is convinced that fate brought us together," I explained, annoyed. "Apparently my music sucks and everybody is sick of me. Don thinks it's best if I start a new band with these guys and rise from the ashes. It's the only chance I have left…"

Alex only zeroed in on the word "guys". "'Band' as in living in the same tour bus as you do?" he asked angrily. "I don't think so. Tell Don to fuck off, Cass, because that is not happening."

As if he could see me, hundreds of miles away, I gawked incredulously at my phone.

For being in Hollywood as long as I had, if not even longer, he should be all too familiar with the rules.

Rule Number One in the industry, you simply don't tell the guy who made you into the sensation you are nowadays to fuck off. What the manager says goes, but you're allowed to tweak it to your liking. And yell at the little people so everything is done to your liking.

"You can find a better career," my boyfriend told me. "You'd make a killer model, babe."

Something to show off at all the Events. Just cling to his arm with a vacant expression and pose obligingly for pictures. Would that make me the perfect girlfriend or what?

"I don't want to be a model," I answered impatiently. Why couldn't he get that? While Alex thought music was a waste of time, music was in my blood and my soul. I may not always have been into pop, but music was always present in my life.

"Well, I don't want you around a bunch of strange men," Alex snapped. I scowled hard at the phone. Did he not hear a word about what I wanted? I was willing to bend a little for him, and I expected the same from him.

We both waited, expecting the other to give. Whether the considerable time difference had taken its toll on Alex's brain, or he finally stopped being so inflexible, he sighed ruefully.

"I don't trust them, babe," he said in a heavy voice. My heart went out to him. He really did care; all of the laws he laid down were just to protect me; he only acted like he was the boss of me so I wouldn't do anything stupid and tarnish my reputation.

It was a seesaw in the beginning, and it could easily revert back to how it was before.

"But you trust me," I pointed out. "This will be strictly business. I have you, I'm not interested in any other guy."

I could tell by the sound of Alex's voice he was smiling. "Love you," he said.

"You too," I answered affectionately. "I can't wait 'til you're back."

"Me neither. Maybe once your tour's wrapped up and we've finished filming, we can go on a romantic getaway," he returned suggestively. "White, sandy beaches…penthouse suite…built in Jacuzzi…king-size bed…"

"Tell you what," I seethed, "you can go fuck yourself."

Alex was horribly taken aback. "What?" he spluttered.

I couldn't believe I had just said that. "No, no, not you," I insisted urgently. "Someone else. Listen, I got to go. I have to strangle someone with his own microphone cord…"

I hung up before Alex could ask any questions, and glared hatefully at the singer.

He had been doing a horrendously swishy version of a girl talking on the phone. Twirling his hair—which wasn't too much shorter than mine. Appearing to giggle. Nuzzling up along an imaginary phone, staring lustfully at it and stroking the 'receiver'.

When he saw me, he fixed me with a pair of doe-eyes and shrugged.

I glared at Don, who seemed rather amused, and hunched back into my seat, feeling infuriated with the entire male race as of now. Aside from a select one.

But as pissed as I was I couldn't help but think that maybe this band thing might work out better than I anticipated. We could be a hardcore rock band, the kind who trashed hotel rooms and smashed their instruments to bits.

And I would send my guitar smashing directly over the head of the infuriating lead singer.

Author's Note: I can't think of much to say about this chapter, but I like it, and now you all have now met Cassidy. (Feel sorry for the guys yet? Lol). Is Cassidy too much of bitch? I do bitchy characters a bit too well. I also tried to drop hints of her past (I will later incorporate in her story). And does her relationship with Alex seem believable? I was really trying to get the feel of a Hollywood couple.

Throughout the rest of the story, I will probably switch back and forth between Cassidy and Ian. (Ian is considerably more fun to write).

Thanks to all my reviewers: superficial Sagacity and all my amigos down at the Roadhouse--The Screaming Goblin, Mrs. Stardust Ukitsu, and Selarose. XD