I clicked on the camera and quickly glanced at my notes.
Electricity shot through my veins and seeped through every pore, reminding me that this was it.
I took a sip of water and set it beside my laptop as I waited.
A flicker of doubt processed for mere seconds before I wiped it away.
I expelled a stressed breath, clicked Go Live, and addressed the camera.
“Womanizer, bully, genius, recluse, and the world’s greatest MC. Even with all those labels, Phillip Preston, also known as Titan, is still a bit of an enigma. Despite the universe he’s constructed with storytelling lyrics, he’s always left it up to us to decipher his truth from his fiction. He burst onto the music scene fifteen years ago, an underdog in the belly of rap, with chaotic and desperate rhymes that resonated and pushed him into an unexpected level of stardom. With one hundred and eighty million records sold, he still holds his title as heavyweight and remains a household staple for his die-hard fans, collecting an army of new followers over the past two decades. I must admit, I was a bit intimidated when I sat down with him this past weekend in his Chicago fortress. I, like millions of others, am a huge fan of his genius. The simplicity of our surroundings in his home studio was shocking, to say the least. The feeling was a bit clinical and there were no platinum records on his walls, no personal photos, and there was no hint of the history he’d made as the world’s most notorious rap star. He sat in a leather chair next to his soundboard, water bottle in hand, and spoke about his love of rap, while subtly redirecting questions about his personal life—though we know he recently broke up with his long-time girlfriend, Jordan Wilson.”
My eyes nearly watered as I watched the live view box tick to a hundred thousand. I had a hundred thousand people watching my podcast in a matter of minutes. I took a deep breath.
“But it seemed my reputation had preceded me because when I sat down with the rap mogul, Phillip appeared ready for the firing squad. We dueled well as I asked the hard questions—the questions of a fan. Questions I know so many of his loyal listeners want answers to, and I think you’ll be surprised to hear his answers. So, without further ado, take a look at my exclusive with the man behind the myths. Feel free to form your own opinions, but above all, remember it’s the music that matters most.”
I linked my pre-recorded interview and watched the ticks explode as soon as his face hit the screen.
That was the moment my career peaked.
With pride, I watched my interview with the white whale, the Moby Dick of the music industry. Gorgeous, brilliant, and highly elusive, Phillip Preston was the hardest artist to get personal with in an interview. And I was the woman he reached out to, to break his silence about his road to success, his parents, his ex-wife, and finally—after some careful eggshell coaxing—he spoke about his recent relationship. He had delivered to me, on a silver platter, highly personal details about his life where so many other journalists had failed, and it was nothing short of miraculous.
It was my greatest accomplishment as a music journalist. I was flying, soaring as my phone began to blow up with message after message. I hadn’t told a soul, not a single person about my exclusive. I was high on adrenaline when the notifications began to ping on my phone. A hundred, two hundred messages, and then I saw the viewer ticks had jumped drastically to half a million. Half a million! I laughed out nervously and checked Phillip’s social media. He had just posted my podcast link to our interview. My jaw dropped. He had over eighty million followers on one forum alone.
And the viewer counts just kept rising. I had done it. I gasped when the ticks went past a million.
A million people were watching my podcast.
A million people were watching my podcast!
“AHHHHHH!” I screamed to no one as I looked around the vacant room. I raised both hands in the air when the ticks rolled past two million. “Oh my GOD!” I shot up from the desk, my eyes full of incredulous water.
I’d never had more than a million views. Ever. And those took months to accrue. It was the greatest career high of my life. I looked back down at my phone, anxious to talk to someone, anyone. Lexi’s middle finger popped up on the screen, and I couldn’t resist answering her call.
“AHHHHHHHH!” I screamed into the phone..
“Yes! Is it good? You think I asked the right questions? I edited for like nine hours.”
“What do you mean, what? Titan’s interview.”
“You interviewed Titan?”
A small amount of my excitement dispersed. “Yours was the wrong call to answer.”
“You fucking interviewed Titan?”
“Yes. I wanted to surprise everyone.”
“And you didn’t bring me?”
“Sorry. I’ll feel guilty later.”
“Yeah.” Her voice dropped. I heard a toilet flush. “Yeah, Stella, that’s so cool.” Another toilet flushed.
“Where are you?”
“I’m in the bathroom at the Marquee.”
“Okay. Well, I’m buzzing right now, woman. Like, literally, my phone is exploding. Five million hits, Lexi. Five million!”
“I’m so happy for you, Stella.”
I frowned. “Yeah, with that amazing monotone, I can tell.”
“I’m so sorry.” And then her voice broke. My best friend doesn’t cry. Ever.
“Oh, shit. What’s up?”
“I’ll call you back, okay? I don’t want to ruin this.”
“You aren’t ruining anything. You couldn’t ruin this. I promise. I’ll be high for days. So, tell me. Why are you in the bathroom?”
“I’m on a blind date. He took me to a wedding.”
“Okay. You need an excuse? That’s not like you. You’re ballsy. Just give him your usual, it’s not me, it’s you.” I chuckled because she’d used it in front of me on a bass player with a cowlick and halitosis.
I knew that tone. That tone was the bearer of bad fucking news.
“What? Say it.”
“It’s his wedding.”
I eyed the clock while I zipped my suitcase. I had an hour and a half before my flight. I was cutting it close. “Whose wedding?”
“I know my name. Damn, who—” Realization struck and my heart met the floor. I stayed mute while she rambled on nervously.
“What are the odds? What are the goddamn odds? I don’t know what to do. Do you want me to leave? There’s no handbook for this. Did you even want to know this? That he’s married? I can’t believe I just watched him get married! Who in the hell ends up at their best friend’s ex-boyfriend’s wedding? I couldn’t not tell you.” She sniffed as the toilets repeatedly flushed around her.
“Stella, please say something.”
I pressed the sting back. “I’m alright, of course. I’m fine. Why are you crying?”
“I don’t know.” She sniffed. “Ben called me last night, and things are just so fucked up, and today this shit happens, and I know you’re happy. I know you are. But . . . I mean, this is—”
I put my hand up as if she could see it. “Don’t tell me anything else, okay? I’m good.” I looked at my reflection in the mirror from the bed into the adjacent bathroom. Nothing had changed. I wasn’t leaking. I was fine. “I’m okay. I’m glad you told me. I have to leave for the airport now, or I’ll miss my flight.” A slew of questions was on the tip of my tongue. Did he look happy? Was she beautiful? And more questions I hated myself for that Lexi would never be able to answer. Still, my head and heart refused to keep those questions bottled.
Was she prettier than me? Did he look at her the same way? Did he propose to her with half his heart? Did he think of me when he did it? Was any part of him thinking of me now? Was I in his dreams the way he drifted through mine sometimes?
All my thoughts were selfish. All of them. And of all the thoughts I could have had that day, self-loathing was not the one I expected to nudge its way front and center. I forced myself to speak.
“Yes, of course. I’m fine.”
“This freaky shit always happens. Always with you.”
“It’s like karma or God or someone hates you. It’s so fucked.”
I laughed ironically, though inside my heart was pounding.
Silence passed over the line as we both waited for some sort of solution that wasn’t coming.
“Stella, God, I’m so sorry.”
“About what? Stop. You know I would have told you if the situation were reversed. I should go. Love you.”
“Love y—” I hung up the phone before she could finish, frozen in the middle of the hotel room.
Kate Stewart lives in Charleston, S.C. with her husband, Nick, and her naughty beagle, Sadie. A native of Dallas, Kate moved to Charleston three weeks after her first visit, dropping her career of 8 years, and declaring it her creative muse. Kate pens messy, sexy, angst-filled contemporary romance as well as romantic comedy and erotic suspense because it’s what she loves as a reader. A lover of all things ’80s and ’90s, especially John Hughes films and rap, she dabbles a little in photography, can knit a simple stitch scarf for necessity only and does a horrible job of playing the ukulele. Aside from running a mile without collapsing, traveling is the only other must on her bucket list. On occasion, she does very well at vodka.
✮✮✮ ALL OF THE STARS ✮✮✮
Love doesn’t die, even when you stop feeding it. There is no expiration date on the ache of missing someone you shared your heart, life, and body with.
Kate Stewart’s star is rising. She is one of the most versatile writers I’ve had the pleasure to read so far and she always, ALWAYS delivers.
I have read a couple of love triangles in the past and I’m extremely picky about them because I usually don’t like them – one of the parties always has their heart broken. But since this is Kate Stewart, how can I refuse? And lordy, thank gaaaaahd I didn’t. So let’s have a look at the book, shall we?
We all have these songs, the ones that catapult us back into the past and let us re-live it. We remember the people we were with when we listened to them, the places we connect with them, the feelings that were prominent at that time. We remember details like smells and tastes. Some of them are so bittersweet that we feel regret – regret that it’s in the past, regret how we handled a situation, regret that things happened as they did or that we did let them happen.
After a phone call that throws her off her game and makes her missing her flight Stella decides to rent a car and hit the road the soundtrack of her life playing on the drive, consciously letting herself slip back into the life she has moved on from. That road was stony, full of obstacles and pain but also love, so much true, unfettered love and passion.
Torn. In love with two worthy kings, and I was queen of the damned. – Stella
Stella is a firecracker with so much spunk I gave her mental high-fives all the time. Her personality is scintillating, sparkly, beautiful yet flawed. She wants to do right by the people she loves but more often than not her emotions rule her and that leads to decisions that, although not necessarily wrong, hurt people and mostly herself.
I loved that looking back at the men in her life she didn’t feel regret, she isn’t bitter from the sweet. She realizes that they had their time and place in her life and shaped her into the strong woman she is today. Her capacity to feel deeply is never toned down but re-directed. The passion she feels as a young woman is still there when you close the book but so much more mature and refined.
“Because I want to talk to you every day. I want to look at you every day. Because I can’t fucking wait to see what completely inappropriate T-shirt you wear to work next.”
“You like me a lot.” I grinned.
“Enough to risk a nut,” he mused as he poured cheap shampoo into his hand. – Reid
Both men in Stella’s life are beautiful in their own way. Reid is the broken guy, the quiet one and loner who suffers alone and is immensely private. Yet in his love for Stella he is so transparent, it is so obvious that his love for her knows no bounds. I loved Reid. LOVED.
…and that last second . . . that last second when his lips devoured mine was the second I lost a piece of myself I could never get back. – Stella
Nate is the guy who lights up a room when he enters. He’s as gorgeous outside as he is inside. His love for Stella feels different but is just as strong. It’s lighter, brighter, not as desperate and this is the way her love for him feels too. He gives her the freedom to explore, never pushes. I loved Nate. LOVED.
“Because I’ll be goddamned if I let you forget that I’m waiting. I want you to get used to these hands, these arms, this lap. We’ll be around a while. If it happens, it will happen naturally, and we’ll make our own story. If it doesn’t, I’ve got you with me now, and I’m good with that.” – Nate
Yet there comes a point when Stella has to decide which road she takes because sometimes love just isn’t enough. For me it would have been impossible to make a choice – Nate and Reid were perfect. Ultimately she chooses herself though and it’s everything you can hope for.
I love music, like Stella my taste covers a lot of variety and having links to the songs for every chapter and being able to listen to them right away is awesome and unique. It makes the reading experience interactive and will pull you right into Stella’s head and heart.
The story is told solely from Stella’s point of view – in many cases that’s a problem for me. I need the hero’s thoughts, his feelings. Leave it to Kate Stewart to make Nate’s and Reid’s love shine through Stella. I had no issues at all to believe the depth of their feelings and connection with her.
This story gutted me, wrecked me. My heart is bruised and I hope Kate covers my therapy sessions, it’s her fault after all. I have the worst book hangover – how am I supposed to just move on from this epic love story? Seriously, how evil is Kate Stewart to give us two perfect men while she watches our hearts getting punched and battered? I cried. I ugly-cried and I don’t do that very often nowadays. I thought I’d given away the book of the year award 2017 prematurely but Drive tied A Charm Of Finches. Guess I’ll have to give away two books with my end-of-year giveaway.
I know many of us are ambivalent about love triangles. Ultimately this is a story about growth and deciding who you want to be, that love comes in all shapes and forms. That you can give a piece of your heart to more than one man but they will never own the same piece. Give this story a chance – you will drown in the emotions and it will make you hurt for the characters but at the end of the day the road is more important than the destination and the road not taken will always leave you wondering. This story will stay with me for a long time and I’ll definitely re-read. Thinking about these extraordinary characters still takes my breath away.
Note to the author: We need Lexi and Ben, Kate, and we need a third story and you know which one I mean – I need to know that he is happy.