Straight Money
 
Hello!

I wanted to do a quick update on the next project i'm working on. If you haven't been keeping up with my author group, then i posted about a week ago that before my next CYOA, i'd be working on a contemp-romance. 

I don't want to give TOO much away yet, but here's the first chapter! 

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Chapter One

Fox 

“And my new brand of hair dye features no harmful chemicals, is never tested on animals and is one-hundred percent vegan friendly – which I am now, fyi. And let me tell you, I feel so much healthier,” Madison explained. 

Fox sat on the edge of the Italian designed sofa smack in the middle of the spacious penthouse suite the interview was being held in. He was last in line for the Millennials with Millions questionnaire and was growing ever more anxious with each passing second. Scratch that – his heart was thumping harder than the bass would be at the after party. 

It’s too hot. My hair is pulled too tight. This collar is suffocating me. He thought as he twiddled his thumbs. And I know what she’s going to ask when she gets to me… shit, I hope she never gets to me. Why am I here again?

Luckily for Fox, Madison May, daughter of a renowned Swedish director and former Russian supermodel, had been talking about her 2018 plans for so long Fox was almost certain she wouldn’t fit a single one of them in. It gave him just enough time to mentally prepare himself for the inevitable topic that these tactless tabloids loved to bring up. 

“That’s fantastic! You’re taking over the world!” The interviewer shook the room with an animated cackle, safe in the knowledge that the dozens of umbrella lights surrounding the chairs would mask whatever blemishes or dark circles she was hosting. “And how about you, Adalyn? I think everyone wants to know what’s next for the biggest breakout actress of 2017.” 

Fox turned his head down the row of three and watched the glint vanish from Madison’s eyes as her forty minutes of narcissism ended, shifting instead to Adalyn Swan, his childhood best friend and the daughter of two A-list movie stars. She was also the only reason he agreed to attend the interview. 

Oh yeah, that’s why. The pair exchanged a nod before Adalyn took the spotlight.  

“Please, call me Ady,” she replied with a shimmering smile that had most of the operating crew drooling. “And you’re being way too sweet to me. We both know that I only got that role because of my parents – but I will admit, it was a ton of fun to work with Leona-”

And the Oscar goes to. Fox thought, knowing full well how much Adalyn hated bringing up her parents but not wanting to lose her Hollywood Darling image she name-dropped them every chance she got. She was good at playing the game, unlike Fox - the only games he played were video. 

“And that’s when I just knew that I had to make a difference, so I-” Adalyn quickly broke out into a monologue; her brown bangs perfectly framing her face and her hair so glossy the light bounced off it. 

Soon enough, the chatter became white noise. Fox, looking to quell his nerves with a distraction, began to scour the room with his dull, baggy, up-at-six-to-make-it-to-hair-and-makeup-on-time brown eyes. He stared beyond the microphone guy waving his phallic object above Adalyn’s face, past Madison’s pedantic agent, who had pageant-mom’d her through her answers, and focused on the complimentary buffet table that nobody ever touched at these things. 

Are those red onion bagels? Do they have any… Yes! Cream cheese. 

He slyly rose from the plush yellow cushions, eliciting narrow eyes from the crew as his shadow was cast across Adalyn’s pristine face, and hastily made his way toward the food. 

“Sorry, sorry… Sorry,” he whispered, squeezing between the camera crew and nudging the sound guy. 

It felt like it took forever to walk a mere nine feet, but once his waist hit the linen, Fox let out the biggest sigh… 

He could finally breathe. 

Was this what it took? Was he forever condemned to a life of thoughtless interviews and trashy blogs just so he could sit on the same sofa as his best friend… His only friend? He knew that Adalyn was going places – places he could only enter because of who his parents were. However, he also knew that there’d come a time when he could no longer follow. After all, Fox Finley-Jones had absolutely no interest in being an actor like his father, a director like his mother, or taking on any other job that might thrust him into the clutches of the press on a daily basis. No, all he wanted was to spend his ludicrous amount of money on good food, travel, and a variety of media. He wanted to grow old in his penthouse apartment, meet someone special, and perhaps, one day, he’d whisk them off to a villa in the Italian countryside where they could raise their children away from the prying eyes of New York City.  

Fox wanted a normal life, but above all else, he wanted people to share that life with him. He wanted friends. Family. A partner. 

He wanted to feel loved. 

“Fox?” the interviewer’s shrill voice yanked him from the depths of his inner turmoil. “We’re ready for you over here, if you’re finished with that… bagel?” 

Spoken like a true gluten-phobe. Fox thought as he crammed a mouthful of carbs down his gullet before spinning around and making his way back to the sofa. 

He sank into his spot, knee overlapping knee, and drew on a smile. “Thanks for having me.” It almost hurt him to be so fake.

“Not a problem, not a problem at all…” the interviewer responded, getting quieter with each word as she flicked through her notes on her lap. “Ah! Yes – here we go,” she added, throwing her head back up to stare directly at Fox.  

He could tell where she was going already; he could practically see the headlines in the reflection of her eager green eyes and knew exactly how many phone calls from ravenous publishers he would receive once the interview was printed. And yet, Fox continued to smile, choosing to take his frustration out on his outfit by ripping his blue hair out of the ridiculously tight man bun the stylist had forced upon him, and letting it cascade down to his shoulders in all its wavy glory. 

“So – Fox Finley-Jones, or as we named you last year, the prince of social media. I think it’s safe to say we all know who the prettiest one here is, am I right, girls?” the interviewer let out a howl, but was quick to clear her throat when met with Madison’s deadpan face. “Anyway, how are you doing today?” 

He didn’t like the title they’d given him, but he couldn’t deny it either. The long, lonely days often saw Fox take to his phone in a multitude of outfits, looking to generate thousands of likes, upvotes and comments just so he could feel like he was connected to someone – anyone. Plus, he could do it all from the comfort of his living room… 

But it was a fleeting sense of happiness. A momentary smile. Hollow. 

“I’m g-great! And thank you for that.” 

“Not a problem at all… So-”

Here it comes. Fox braced himself; his heartbeat thundering in his ears, a chill surging up his spine. 

“Last month marked the one-year anniversary of your parents passing. What – a – tragedy. Sophie and Shane were known throughout the world as one of Hollywood’s biggest power-couples. How are you holding up?” 

“I-I’m…” 

That question always took Fox aback. It always floored him, ripped the air from his lungs, made his throat close up and his eyes water. And it amazed him, too. To have the audacity to ask such a thing to someone, to expect a heartfelt response for the sake of countless strangers that relished peeking behind the curtain of his life, to be so nonchalant about something that tore his world in two… 

He really did hate interviews. 

Fox took a deep breath and placed his hand by his side. A second later, he felt Adalyn squeeze it. 

“Fox is doing great,” she chimed in chipperly, taking the weight off his shoulders. “Actually, he’s going to be attending the Blue and Black Masquerade this year in their place. I’ll be going too, of course. I think we all see the importance of giving back, especially Fox because of everything he’s been through, right, Fox?” 

Her knowing smile and that twinkle of pity in her hazel eyes soothed Fox, if only a little. 

“Y-yeah,” he nodded to Adalyn with a half-smile, then turned his attention back to the interviewer. “I’m going to double my parents’ donation this year. No orphan should go without the necessities in life or have the system fail them. I’ll make sure of that…if I can.” 

The interviewer leaned forward in her leather armchair, bending into her pad as she vigorously penned every word. “That’s amazing! I’m sure they’d be proud of you – and will you be attending the event alone, or?” 

Errm…” Fox stumbled again. 

“C’mon now!” The enthusiastic woman continued to dig for a story. “Your speech at the LGBTQ rally last year went viral! What a way to come out! But we don’t see much of you outside of your social media accounts these days. Give us something – everyone wants to know if you’re seeing anyone, and what about movies? You were quite the scene stealer as a child, will you do anymore? Are you going to follow in your father’s footsteps? In your mother’s? And what about-”

Everything became white noise again. 

***

“Bye, thank you so much – thank you.” Adalyn shut the hotel room door and pressed her back against the frame. “What a fucking shit show,” she huffed. 

“Thanks for the save,” Fox said, fixing his wavy blue threads in one of the many mirrors lining the wall and patting down his slim-fit leather jacket. “Are you going to that party they’re throwing tonight? It’s not really my thing anymore, but if you go-”

“Sorry, can’t,” Adalyn replied. “I’ve got to be in England tomorrow to start filming an Indie. The pay is absolute shit, but my agent thinks it’ll net me an Oscar nomination.” 

The pair began to walk down the hallway, shoulder-to-shoulder, arms linked and cellphones out. 

“Oh… What’s it about?” 

“Something about a lesbian nurse during World War 2, I think she’s Jewish. It’s pure Oscar fodder.” Adalyn shrugged off the question as she scrolled through her newsfeed. 

Fox nodded along, maintaining his supportive face as best he could. “That’s cool… and, when can we hang?” 

“I don’t know… We’re both going to that masquerade in a couple of months, right? And are you going to Sundance next year? I’ll definitely be there.” 

A few months? A year? As Fox reached out for the elevator button, he began to envision countless lonely nights in his lofty, cold penthouse, huddled up with his blanket, plushies and a warm cup of coffee. Sure enough, it made for a nice evening or twelve, but for the foreseeable future? For the rest of his life? No, he needed to make a change. 

“Really? Your best friend doesn’t even get to see you anymore?” his sharp words solidified the air around them, turning it thick, making it palpable.  

Adalyn unlinked Fox and put her phone in her jacket pocket. She crossed her arms and stared at him until the anger dissolved from his face. 

“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean-”

“Look, Fox,” Adalyn cut him off. “I love you like a brother and I will always be a part of your life. I can’t even imagine what the last twelve months have been like for you… But, my career is important to me and it has to come first right now, okay? You know I don’t like riding the tail-end of my parent’s success, but if that’s what it takes to claw my way to being somebody then that’s what I’m going to do. I’m sorry you’re on your own, really, but you decided that this industry isn’t for you and I’ve decided that it’s what I want to do with my life, and I won’t let you make me feel bad for that.” 

It was a conversation years in the making, and one that Fox knew might happen when he agreed to do the interview. 

He took a moment to wallow in Adalyn’s lingering words, letting reality wash over him as he fought back the urge to argue. He felt like utter crap for being so selfish, but it wasn’t like he could just walk into the world and form long lasting connections with people; it wasn’t like he had a job to go to, a class to attend, a place he needed to be, and it wasn’t like he had his parents around to introduce him to other famous families anymore. Adalyn was the only person he had. And sure, he knew his woes fell into the self-indulgent, first world problems category, but knowing that didn’t make him feel any less alone. 

He felt trapped by his own name. Stifled by his parent’s wealth. So utterly, irrevocably isolated… and it was tearing him up inside. 

A second later, Adalyn sighed and emitted her potential A-list smile, hastily chasing away the tension. “Honestly, you’re so loaded you should just buy yourself some people to hang out with anyway,” she added with a hint of sincerity. 

Suddenly, Fox’s interest was piqued. “W-what? You mean, like, hire staff or something?” 

“I don’t know,” Adalyn shrugged. “Whatever you want. How many followers do you have? Just post a status saying you’re having a party and let all the attractive ones in. It’s not like they can break anything you can’t replace – you know a good security firm, right?” 

Just as her final word hit Fox’s ears, the elevator dinged, and with it, a plan began to form in his mind…  

Was he really so desperate?