A Stand-Alone Short Story
“Once again, Dash Kingston has been photographed out with Peyton Jones, the twenty-two-year-old singer and opening act for his band, The Original Kings. The Kings are currently finishing up the final leg of their U.S. tour on the West Coast, and it looks like their lead singer is taking full advantage of being away from home.”
Cassidy Kingston glared at the television in the break room of K-Talent Productions’ New York City offices. Someone had left the TV on, the channel showing CGC. Celebrity Gossip Central was currently focusing on Cassidy’s husband and whatever dirt they could make up about him based on no evidence and innocent interactions.
She placed her laptop down on the table, just as the well-known host of the show continued to talk. “What does Dash’s producer-wife, Cassidy Kingston, think of all the intimate time the two stars are spending together, heads bent in deep conversation?”
“She thinks you’re full of crap,” Cassidy muttered.
“Or has Dash already broken up with his wife so he feels comfortable moving on in public?”
Despite knowing better, she glanced at the screen in time to see Dash, so sexy with his inky-black hair, long and falling over his face, as he leaned close to Peyton. The young, dark-haired, rock star was beautiful, a pink stripe on one side of her hair only adding to her funky appeal. Cassidy’s stomach twisted in agony at the sight.
“Shut this off now.” Cassidy’s sister-in-law picked up the remote and clicked off the television.
The silence was a blessing. “I didn’t hear you come into the room,” Cassidy said.
“Because you’re too busy watching trash TV.” Sasha, her dirty-blond hair tied into a messy bun, glared at the now blank screen.
Cassidy couldn’t argue the point made by the woman who wasn’t just Cassidy’s sister-in-law. She was also Cassidy’s former roommate, the world-famous actress who’d given Cassidy her start in Hollywood as her personal assistant, her boss, since Cassidy had begun working for K-Talent, and her best friend. It was the best friend role Cassidy valued most.
“Please don’t tell me you believe a word they’re saying.” Sasha closed the break room door, giving them privacy.
Cassidy shook her head. “No, of course not. But hearing the rumors and seeing the photos when Dash and I can barely connect for more than five minutes at a time makes the innuendo really hard to ignore.” The time difference between the East Coast, where she was, and the West Coast, where his shows were, had made their availability to talk difficult, to say the least. She felt emotionally distant from her husband, something she’d never experienced before. And it frightened her.
Cassidy pulled out one of the comfortable chairs around the table and settled in to talk to her friend.
Squeezing her shoulder in commiseration, Sasha sat down beside her. “How are things when you do speak?”
Cassidy shrugged. “Rushed. We don’t have enough time to catch up, let alone bond on any emotional level. It’s like two friends saying a quick hi before one or the other is called away.” She blinked back unnecessary tears, born more of frustration than fear.
She missed her husband. They’d had so much time together before the band went on tour, the separation had been more of a shock than she’d anticipated.
“Look, I get why the gossips are talking. I knew who and what Dash was when I married him.” After all, he’d all but ghosted her after a one-night stand and the next time Cassidy had seen him, he’d been dealing with a potential, thankfully mistaken, paternity scandal. “But he changed.” Even if the media and tabloids tried to make the world believe otherwise.
Sasha nodded, her blue eyes firm in her agreement. “He did. He changed for himself and for you. So hang on to that belief in him.” Reaching over, Sasha squeezed her hand. “I know better than most how damaging it can be to let yourself believe what you see or hear. Unless it’s from your husband himself.”
Cassidy nodded, aware Sasha and Xander had broken up for a long time when he believed he couldn’t trust her. As an A-List actress who’d risen to sudden fame, she’d been subjected to the same scrutiny Dash was now under while on tour. Thankfully, Sasha and Xander had had their second chance and were now happily married and working together in K-Talent. Xander, also a thriller bestseller and screenwriter, continued to author books.
“Good advice as always,” Cassidy said, doing her best to pull herself together and trust what she knew.
In the years she and Dash had been together, she didn’t believe he’d ever cheated. Not in their early days when they were both living near each other in the Hamptons, and not now when he was away on tour.
“Anyway, I saw you staring at the television and came to do damage control, but I need to make a few calls.” Sasha stood just as the break room door creaked, indicating someone was walking in.
“Guess who came to visit!” At the unexpected sound of her brother’s voice, Cassidy spun around.
She squealed and ran for Axel, flinging her arms around his neck. “I missed you!” As The Original Kings’ drummer, he’d been traveling with Dash and the band. “What are you doing in New York?”
Axel set her down. “I grabbed a free twenty-four hours and came to see Tara,” he said of his veterinarian wife.
“Hi, Axel,” Sasha said with a smile. “Good to see you.”
He treated her to a grin. “Always nice to see you, too.”
Sasha tipped her head toward the door. “I was just going back to my office. You two catch up.” She waved and walked out of the room.
“I can’t believe you’re here! Was Dash able to get away too?” Cassidy asked, excitement filling her at the prospect, and she looked past Axel to the empty doorway.
Her brother shook his head as he slid his leather jacket off his broad shoulders and hung it over the back of a chair. “There’s a lot of backstage drama going on and Dash has been handling it.”
She narrowed her gaze. “What kind of drama? Because if the tabloids are to be believed, he’s busy with Peyton.” Cassidy despised the bitterness in her tone. It wasn’t like her and the only reason she was feeling insecure was the damned media hammering home Dash’s supposed infidelity.
Axel met her gaze. “No, Cass. Just no,” he said, obviously talking about her husband and the young rock star. “It’s ugly drama we’re trying to keep under the radar until the tour ends. Dash will explain when you two talk, I’m sure.”
She raised her eyebrows. “Make that if we talk. Neither one of us have had the time. He’s called away, I’m needed on set.” She sighed. “It’s hard to hear the gossip and see the photos, Ax.”
He pulled her into a hug. “Dash would rather be here with you. Trust me, if I thought otherwise, I’d rip out his vocal cords, the band and the money be damned.”
She grimaced at the visual, but she believed her overprotective brother and relaxed for the first time since hearing the gossip-based news.
Axel had been her rock since their parents passed away in a car accident when she’d been five and Axel, seven. They’d gone to live with their grandmother, who they’d lost to cancer when Axel had been eighteen. He’d taken over as sixteen-year-old Cassidy’s guardian. As a result, she and her brother were tight. If Dash was cheating, Axel would tell her and blow up the band, just as he’d said.
“Dash also has a photo shoot today he couldn’t get out or he’d be here. He tried,” Axel assured her.
Cassidy let out a rough breath.
“Feel better?” he asked.
“I do. Thank you.”
He held out his hand and she bumped his fist with hers. “You and me first,” he reminded her.
She nodded. “You bet.”
He changed the subject to Tara’s business and the new doctor she’d hired because the practice was growing. Whatever was happening on tour, Axel obviously didn’t want to talk about it. Cassidy would just have to push Dash to make the time so she could find out the details and support him in whatever was happening.
She turned her attention back to her brother. “Where are your constant companions?” she asked of the dogs, Walter, his and Tara’s shelter adoptee, and Dakota, their Samoyed. Axel had once borrowed Xander’s golden retriever, Bella, to win over Tara, and when he was in town, he never went anywhere without their pets.
“I flew in last night, surprised Tara and spent the night with her. She was called into emergency surgery and I spent the morning with the dogs. I’m here to see you before I leave for the airport again in a couple of hours. Can we grab a bite to eat?” he asked.
“We sure can.” Cassidy smiled. “You do realize, your wife is a lucky lady?” With one night free from a concert, he’d traveled across the country to see the woman he loved.
“Nah. I’m the lucky one. Now come on. Let’s go eat. Food makes everything better.” Axel picked up his jacket again and hooked it over a finger, wrapping his free arm around Cassidy’s waist and leading her out the door.
She spent a couple of hours with her brother, listened to the funny band stories, and ate away her worries. Axel settled her into her ride to the movie set where she was needed, and he left for the airport.
Hours passed and by the time evening rolled around, Cassidy’s feet hurt and she couldn’t wait to go home, eat dinner, take a hot bath, and crawl into bed. It was only once she’d settled in the back seat of the vehicle taking her home, that she had time to look at her phone.
Once again, she’d missed a call from Dash and though the message was sweet, a glance at her watch told her he was now on stage. She sighed in frustration. He never called her after a show, knowing she’d have been sleeping for hours. Sleep she needed since she had an early day on set. She shot off an I miss you, text, knowing there’d be no talking to Dash tonight, either.