Butterfly (A Public Enemy Standalone) by Cambria Hebert
Publication Date: November 3, 2017
Genres: New Adult, Contemporary Romance
Drunken brawls. One-night stands.
No-show interviews. Toilet-papering my hoity-toity neighbor’s house.
Insulting my fans. Trashing hotel rooms.
What’s it take to become public enemy number one?
I just told you.
I’ve done all that and more.
My poor conduct got me on the Celebs Behaving Badly list
and ultimately ruined my career.
From the world’s number-one popstar to world’s most hated.
That’s me. Ten Stark.
Go underground, they said. Stay out of the spotlight.
Most importantly, stay out of trouble.
Everyone loves a good comeback story.
For once, I listened.
I met someone who didn’t know my name,
my face, or the bad behavior that defined me.
She taught me I wasn’t who everyone thought I was—everyone including me.
Then someone whispered my name and things got messy, as they always do.
Now I want her back.
I’m not a caterpillar, but a butterfly.
My wings are in full color, not just black and white.
But first, I have to shed my cocoon and fly.
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Five countries. Thirteen cities. Four weeks.
A show in each city, interviews, press… people. Masses of people.
This was my life. A never-ending cycle of shows and appearances and, as of late, an ever-growing list of bad behavior.
I lifted the silver flask up to my lips, then screwed my face into a snarl when my lips and tongue stayed dry. “Why is this empty?” I said to everyone and anyone.
“Because you drank it all?” someone to my left offered.
I gave them a withering look. “You don’t get paid for sarcasm. Fill it.” Thrusting the flask toward the minion, I dismissed him and gazed out the window. My knee bounced rapidly. The nervous energy coiling in my system was never satiated. Not even when my veins had more alcohol in them than blood.
Seconds later, the flask appeared under my nose, and I swiped it up and tipped it back. The familiar burn of vodka slid down my throat. After two long draws, I pulled it back, tucking it into my chest to sigh.
“Where are we again?” I asked as the limo slid to a stop. Even through the heavily tinted windows, the flashbulbs from all the press and fans were blinding. I slid the Versace sunglasses down off my head, over my eyes.
“It’s nighttime,” the person sitting beside me intoned.
I glanced over, not bothering to remove the glasses. “Do you value your job?”
People were banging on the windows, trying to peer in. Their hot breath left clouds on the outside of the glass, and security shouted at everyone to get back.
My assistant shrank. “Well, yes.”
“Then shut up.” I turned away, back to the window and the chaos that reigned beyond it. I took another long swig of the top-shelf vodka.
“We’re in Amsterdam,” my manager said from across the limo.
Beside her, my bodyguard pressed a finger to the black piece in his ear. “All clear,” he told me.
As the door opened, I stuffed the flask into my tailored, leather designer jacket. It wasn’t available to the public yet, not for anyone who wasn’t me.
Screams and shrill cries cut through the night, drowning out all my own thoughts, making me feel numb.
The second my foot stretched out of the ride, the noise level went up about twenty notches. Unfolding from the backseat, I felt the familiar weight of the flask in my pocket.
The second the car door slammed behind me, I threw up my arms and grinned. “What’s up, Amsterdam?”
Everyone went crazy. Women were crying, even some dudes. A plethora of hands and arms reached out over the guardrails, straining to touch me, as everyone screamed my name.
I gave a couple high-fives as flashbulbs burst around me, making my eyes strain.
“C’mon,” my bodyguard said, ushering me toward the entrance.
As we went, I would pause for a couple photos and stop to sign a few posters featuring my face.
“Please, Ten!” Girls were begging, trying to get my attention.
Just before the entrance to the venue, I stopped and went to the rail again, posing to take a selfie with a few fans.
“Oh my God, I love you!” someone screamed.
“You and everybody else,” I muttered.
I moved toward the door, but a dark shape darted out in front of us. I blinked.
A man with a camera and a bag of white shit clutched in his hands jumped in front of us. “You suck!” he spat and lifted the bag, no doubt to bomb me with whatever that shit was.
“Whoa!” My bodyguards pushed me out of the way as the powder disbursed all over the ground instead of all over me, as was intended.
The asshole lunged to the side, managing to get out of the clutches of my guard. He sprang toward me. I didn’t think. I just reacted and threw out my fist, nailing him right in the face.
He went down, falling right in the center of the mess he created. His body writhed as he screamed and yelled. “My nose!” he wailed. “You broke my nose.”
Men ushered me away, stepping in front of the spectacle, and whisked me into the building.
“I’m going to sue you!” the man roared. “I’ll see you in court!”
That was the last thing I heard before the doors cut off the circus.
“You shouldn’t have done that.”
I turned around, the flask clutched in my hand, to face the door my manager was filling.
“That asshole had it coming.”
“Probably.” She amended, no give in her voice. “But it doesn’t matter. You know this is going to be yet another PR nightmare. One you can’t afford.”
I drained the contents of the flask and then dropped it on the table beside me. My assistant was nearby, and I motioned for him to fill it up again.
“You’ve had enough.”
“You’re my manager, not my mother.”
“Seems to me you could use some mothering,” she snapped. “You have a show to perform.”
I spread out my arms. “I’m here, aren’t I?”
“You can’t perform if you can’t stand up.”
A stage tech stuck their head in my dressing room. “We need you backstage.”
I moved across the room, swiping the flask out of the minion’s hand to take a lengthy, healthy swig before thrusting it back. Wiping my mouth with the back of my hand, I belched.
“Let’s do this.”
On my way out the door, my manager, Becca, grabbed my wrist. “You know the deal.”
“I know. Say nothing. Even when the fans act like entitled little assholes.”
“Don’t mention what happened outside either.”
“You smell like a fucking brewery,” she said, disgusted.
Snatching my arm back, I strode out and went down the long hallway toward the stage. People parted as I walked, making room for me.
The wail of the crowd could be heard even back here. The act who warmed them up must have done their job. I couldn’t even remember who it was.
I didn’t care.
“Suit up!” someone yelled, and I was gestured toward the back. A few minutes later, I was strapped into some kind of harness with cables, and the crowd began to chant my name.
Anger rose up inside me. Anger at everything and everyone. Energy from the crowd, the music, everything in this entire building pressed in, fighting for room inside my body, pushing out who I was as a person, and dominating.
I was just a guest here. A guest in my own skin.
The air was thick with heat, even the A/C pouring through the large vents was no match for the way it suffocated everything around me. The crush of bodies, the lights, equipment—all created a barrier. The heat would only grow more intense as the show went on.
“You good?” one of the stagehands asked beside me.
“Just like rehearsals.” He reminded me.
I nodded again. I’d done this so much sometimes I dreamed about flying. Some nights it was a nightmare, falling into a dark, bottomless abyss. Just me falling, rapidly plummeting farther into nothing.
Other nights, it wasn’t so scary. It was a tease. I started out here, backstage, hooked up and ready to fly high. Only when my feet finally left the stage, everyone and everything fell away. I flew off, suddenly unbound by a harness and able to go anywhere I pleased. Away from here. Away from it all.
Music started up. Lights dimmed. People went wild. Adrenaline flooded my veins, and my stomach tilted a little. I blinked back the woozy feeling and shook my head slightly. When I opened my eyes, the world wasn’t tilted like my stomach and my feet were hovering over ground.
My voice filled the arena as it did every concert night. The fans couldn’t see me yet, but my words were everywhere.
“Perfection can be found between the rhythm and the beat.”
The familiar whooshing sound of fog machines pumping out mist filled the stage, and I stared down, watching it fill the space like fog on the set of a horror movie.
I kept going higher and higher above the thousands of people in attendance. Some had glow-sticks, waiving them around. Others had lighters. Some people just screamed.
The crush of bodies made me instantly tired. The anger I felt warred with the exhaustion. All these people claimed to love me… but I knew better.
Maybe some did, sure. But most? They were here to watch me fail. Hoping to see some bad behavior. Hoping I’d give them yet another reason to hate me.
I’d be front page news tomorrow, regardless of how well this concert went tonight. Regardless of how successful this entire tour had been.
I’d be the lead headline because I decked a “fan.” Never mind he was trying to fucking flour-bomb me, then attack me when that was thwarted.
All of them.
Up here above it all, I got some sudden clarity. Like I was finally blissfully alone in a crowded arena.
The familiar beat of a song written just for me obliterated all other sounds. Below me, the crowd roared and bounced around, looking like a giant mosh pit.
A spotlight clicked on, illuminating me.
I went through the motions, the carefully choreographed movements.
“Who’s ready for the best night of your life?” I asked the crowd, and the harness swung me down closer.
Everyone seemed ready.
Everyone but me.
Maybe it was the vodka.
Maybe I was bat-shit crazy.
Maybe I just didn’t fucking care anymore.
Maybe it was the catalyst that saved my life.
Right there as I soared overhead all the adoring fans, something snapped inside me.
Since I was basically tied up, flying high, my options for getting away, for getting the hell out of there, were limited.
I did the first thing that popped into my mind.
Nimbly, my fingers reached for the zipper on my jeans. As the crew swung me toward the stage, I opened up. I released all the vodka that had been filling up my bladder and making me uncomfortable as hell.
I let it rain.
People started shrieking.
I heard my manager screaming in my earpiece. I ripped it out and threw it into the crowd.
“He’s pissing all over us!” someone shouted.
Complete chaos reigned.
I finished up and gave it a little shake. My feet hit the stage. The cords holding me snapped free. My band, everyone on stage with me, was gaping in shock.
I tucked myself back into my jeans, feeling much lighter than before. Everyone was still losing their minds. I held up my hands, and the place went silent.
I could have heard a freaking pin drop. Instead, I actually heard my own thoughts.
What the fuck are you doing? You just pissed on your fans. Literal piss.
Everyone waited for me to say something. Apologize. Claim I was sick.
Rotating my hands so my palms faced the crowd, I gave them the finger.
With both hands.
Now you know. The culmination of events.
How I became Public Enemy Number One.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Cambria Hebert is an award winning, bestselling novelist of more than twenty books. She went to college for a bachelor’s degree, couldn’t pick a major, and ended up with a degree in cosmetology. So rest assured her characters will always have good hair.
Besides writing, Cambria loves a caramel latte, staying up late, sleeping in, and watching movies. She considers math human torture and has an irrational fear of chickens (yes, chickens). You can often find her running on the treadmill (she’d rather be eating a donut), painting her toenails (because she bites her fingernails), or walking her chorkie (the real boss of the house).
Cambria has written within the young adult and new adult genres, penning many paranormal and contemporary titles. Her favorite genre to read and write is romantic suspense. A few of her most recognized titles are: The Hashtag Series, Text, Torch, and Tattoo.
Cambria Hebert owns and operates Cambria Hebert Books, LLC.
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