Authors: Maggi Craft
Swift Eleven Publishing
THE PRICE OF FAME
© 2015 Maggi Craft
All rights reserved. Published by Swift Eleven Publishing. No part of this publication may be reproduced or distributed in any form or by any means, or stored in a database or retrieval system, without the prior written permission of the publisher.
Editing by Laura Meehan and Kristin Theil
Cover design by Joseph Eastwood
Interior and ebook conversion by Vinnie Kinsella
I want to dedicate this book to my family.
I appreciate your support and patience with me.
I love you to the moon and back.
want to thank my wonderful assistant, Gladys Atwell, for putting up with me and keeping me from losing my mind; my sweet friends and readers Crissy Armenta, Nancy Bloom, Katie Blythe, Stephenee Carsten, Sher Lyn, and Shelly Wygant, who give of their time to keep my in check; and my amazing editor and friend, Laura Meehan, who always gives me honest and amazing advice.
hen Slayde was born, I fell instantly in love with him. He was that kind of baby, and he stayed that way into adulthood. He seemed to glow like sunshine, and his personality drew people in.
Watching him grow up was the joy of my life. He had always been my baby, and that was still true. He was always an overachiever in anything he wanted to do, whether it was school or sports or whatever else he was passionate about. He always gave it his whole heart.
I never realized how strong that trait was until he started dating Arden. He was immediately completely wrapped up in her. I had never seen him like that with any other girl he had dated. He usually did his own thing, and if they fit into that plan, fine. If not, that was fine too. That had worried me at times because his father was like that, and it wasn’t necessarily something I loved about his personality. It always made me feel like second best. I didn’t want Slayde to be that way, but when I saw him with Arden in Italy, I knew that definitely wasn’t the case with them.
He watched every move she made, as if he were taking her all in. Quite honestly, I envied their relationship at times. It was like they lived in their own little bubble. They had their own thing going on just between them. They had their own little love language. It was sweet.
But when she broke off their engagement, I saw a side of Slayde I had no idea existed. I guessed it was the extreme opposite of the happiness he had while with her.
Slayde was in the middle of filming the second film in a three-part movie deal when this happened. He didn’t have time to fall apart, but he did. He didn’t sleep. He didn’t eat. He just stayed in bed and cried all the time. He’d go days without leaving his house when he wasn’t at the studio. He was losing weight, and it was becoming a problem. I was worried about him. Not about his career, but about my son, my baby.
I was thinking about this as I was flipping through some gossip rag and getting some sun. As much as I loathed them, I still needed to look. Just in case.
Zac came outside, beer in hand, and studied me a second without saying anything. His dark brows pinched together, and his baby blues eyed me warily.
“Seriously, Lex, that’s what you were doing when I left.”
I looked at him with a raised brow. “So you’re saying you can play golf all day, but I can’t sit down and enjoy this beautiful day in the sun and read a little?”
He smiled and sat in the chair next to me. “Not when it’s that crap.” He pointed at the magazine. “Surely your brain cells are dying off as we speak.”
I leaned over and snatched his beer away as he was putting it to his lips. “As are yours.”
He grinned his beautiful boyish grin that hadn’t changed since we were kids. “Touché,” he said, nodding at me.
I handed him the beer and the open magazine. “Unfortunately, this is right. Look, Slayde looks terrible.” I pointed at the photo of our son.
He leaned back and took a deep breath. “I don’t know what to do, Lex. I don’t understand him. He’s not like me. I can’t talk to him without pissing him off.” He took a swig of beer and then looked back at me. “I tried to call him to go play golf today. Brady said that he called him yesterday and went by there this morning. Slayde didn’t answer the phone or the door. But Brady was sure that he was there. He saw all of his vehicles were in the garage.”
“So he and Brady are speaking again?” I asked.
Zac glared at me but didn’t say anything. He looked away and shrugged. He hated that the boys weren’t getting along. I did too but didn’t want to argue with him now. I was the only one who thought Brady was completely wrong.
“Well, I would have told him where the key was, had I known he was going by,” I added.
“He doesn’t want us butting in.”
“I don’t care what he wants. Lying around all day feeling sorry for himself isn’t helping him either.”
“I agree, but we both know that it’s up to him to decide when he’s ready. Has he said anything to you about it at all?”
Strangely he hadn’t. “No, he doesn’t want to talk to me either,” I admitted.
“Then let it alone, Lex. He won’t die from this. I promise you.”
“I don’t know. He looks seriously unhealthy,” I said, taking the magazine back and staring at the picture.
He shook his head. “Again with the believing that crap.” I pointed at the picture, but he continued. “You saw him yesterday. Was he near starvation?”
“How would I know? He didn’t get out of the bed.”
“The boy will eat before he starves. Don’t panic.”
“Why don’t you call him to see if he will come eat steaks with you tonight? When have you known him to turn down free steaks?”
“I’ll text him, but I highly doubt he’ll even respond. So don’t get your hopes up.”
“Well, I’m going to the store. I’m cooking him something that I know he loves and taking it over and making him get up,” I said as I stood up to go inside to shower.
“Good luck,” he said under his breath before finishing off his beer and following me in.
Weeks later, I thought he’d be better, but he seemed worse. I started going to his house every day to check on him, to bring him food, and to make him move around. I was past concerned at this point.
“Slayde, you have to get up. You can’t stay in bed for the rest of your life, baby. I know you don’t want to hear this, but the world hasn’t stopped. Your life isn’t over.” It was two thirty in the afternoon, and he was still in bed. I hated seeing him like this, but I didn’t really know what to do. I rubbed his head as he lay there half-asleep, and he pulled away from my touch.
“Please go home, Mom,” he whispered, rolling over and turning away from me.
“Baby, what if she doesn’t come back?” I hated to say that, but he needed to know it was a possibility.
“She’s gonna come back. I know she is,” he mumbled into his pillow.
This broke my heart. I had gone to see Arden a few weeks earlier, and she was as devastated as he was. I’d really thought they would have straightened this out by now, but he hadn’t heard from her since she gave him back the ring. He spoke to her roommate every few days, apparently, but not Arden.
I really believed she was in love with him, but I also knew that she was scared. Being with Slayde in public was overwhelming. Even for me, and I was his mother. Once the first movie came out, he was all of a sudden the new fresh meat in Hollywood. The press couldn’t get enough, and it was out of control.
One day Taylor and I met him for lunch, and it got so crazy that his bodyguards had to take us out the back door. Taylor pretty much refused to go anywhere with him anymore. You’d think a teenage girl would enjoy having a super famous big brother, but she hated it. And I understood. It was scary sometimes.
So I could only imagine what toll this took on his relationships with other people. Especially Arden—she was under constant and relentless scrutiny because of her romantic involvement with him. The press would compare her to his movie love interest or some hot young actress who might have admitted in an interview that she had a thing for him. It was terrible, and it would make any woman insecure.
One day when I stopped to check on him, I found several magazines lying on the counter. Slayde never bought those magazines, and Arden had never lived here. I thought that their presence was odd. They were old. They all had pictures of Slayde and Arden together, at some awards shows and a premiere, and one of them leaving a store.
Slayde walked into the kitchen and caught me looking at the photo of the premiere. I held it up, and he shook his head, meaning he didn’t want to talk about it, but I didn’t care. “Since when do you buy tabloids?” I asked.
He turned around abruptly and snapped at me, “Since my fiancée ditched me because of what she saw in one.”
“But these are old.”
“Yeah, they are. But they all have one thing in common,” he said.
“What?” I looked down and quickly figured it out. “She looks unhappy,” I said in a whisper, barely audible.
But he heard me and nodded. “In every one.” He let out a deep breath and mumbled. “She’s not coming back, Mom. Why would she? She was never happy with me. That just proves it.”
Tossing them in the recycling bin, I said, “That proves no such thing. That proves that she was uncomfortable in that world.”
“Exactly, my world. The world in which I live now. Had I not taken that role, she and I would be happily engaged right now.”
“You don’t know that,” I reminded him.
He nodded. “Yes, I do. I know I screwed this all up, and I can’t go back now. I couldn’t change it no matter how much I wanted.”
“Well, then, Slayde, you don’t have to be an actor.” I placed my hand on his arm. “If you want to go work with your dad, you know you can. Or you can go to college. Enjoy being young.”
He shook his head and pulled away from me. “They aren’t gonna just leave me alone.” I knew he meant the paparazzi.
“Honey, y’all will get through this. It’s a bump in the road. She loves you. I know she does.”
“Maybe, but it’s not enough.” He started to walk away.
“Have you even tried to call her?”
He stopped but didn’t turn to look at me. “No, and I’m not going to. I can’t keep chasing her. No matter how badly I want to. No matter how badly I want to make her listen so that she understands how I feel about her. I can’t. Because now I know what she is running from.”
He turned to me and put his hand on his chest, his eyes hinting at tears and his voice tight. He patted his chest. “This, this shit feeling. This uncontrollable urge to hold my breath, hoping that it stops my chest from caving in. She didn’t want this. No one wants this. And I can’t make her feel like this anymore in order to give myself a few more months of peace. I love her too much to ask her to do that.”
I wiped at the silent tears that were beginning to spill down my cheeks. “Slayde.” My voice trembled. He didn’t answer. He just shook his head and disappeared into his room. And even though it was hard for me, I didn’t follow him.
I get it. I don’t blame her. She didn’t sign up for all of this. She didn’t fall in love with a celebrity. She fell in love with Slayde. Now she’s just along for the ride.
But I knew she was in love with him. I didn’t know how she was managing this breakup. Maybe she felt like this was easier than dealing with all that came with being his fiancée. Maybe she panicked. Maybe she was tired of it all—but I really wanted them to work it out. Slayde truly loved her, and so did I. The very last thing I wanted was for him to marry someone who didn’t have the right intentions. I knew Arden did.
Zac kept telling me to stay out of it, but I couldn’t. I had to help Slayde. Watching him suffer was not something I could do quietly.
As had become my routine on Slayde’s days off, I visited him again the next day. I entered his bedroom and found him lying in bed, as usual. “Slayde, you can’t just lie here and wait on her to come through that door. You have to take care of yourself. I brought you four cases of Ensure, and you need to drink it. You’re so skinny. You’re really beginning to worry your father and me.”
“Mom, OK! Just go!” he growled.
I knew he was annoyed with me, but I didn’t care. He was my child, and I was planning to annoy him for the rest of my life. “Baby, why don’t you call her?”
“I wish it was that easy,” he shouted as he rolled over, throwing an extra pillow across the room.
“It is. She’s number one on your speed dial. Just call her.” I grabbed his phone and noticed he still had the picture of them in Colorado last Christmas on his nightstand. He looked so happy in that picture. He looked like the son I had raised. This Slayde was a stranger to me.
“If I do that, and she comes back only because it’s the easiest thing to do, then next time something happens, she’s going to run again. She has to figure out what she really wants, and I hope that it’s me.” His voice cracked, and I knew he was about to cry, which made me tear up again.
“Well, you can’t just lie here and waste away in the meantime, baby. Get up and get out of this house. Go out with somebody.”
“Are you serious right now? I can’t even think about going out with any other girl,” he snarled.
“Well, I didn’t mean with a girl. I meant with friends. Do something you enjoy with your friends. Go to Kevin’s, go wakeboarding, go to the batting cages, go play pool. Do something besides lie in this bed in this dark room.” I stood up and opened the curtains. He pulled the covers over his head. I moved the covers back and made him look at me. He looked terrible. He had puffy dark circles under his eyes. He looked like he was sick or something.
“If you don’t get your butt out of this bed and do something outside of this house, I’m gonna come stay here with you. I’m serious. In the shower, now,” I said in a tone that he knew meant business.
I went in the kitchen. I made him chicken and dumplings because I thought he’d eat that. My grandmother was from Alabama, and she cooked it for me every Sunday night when I was a child. I had always cooked it for my kids, and they loved it.
I wasn’t surprised to find him still in bed when I finished. “I cooked you chicken and dumplings.” I pulled the covers off of his bed and pointed to the steaming-hot bowl on his nightstand.
“Thanks, but I’m really not hungry,” he grumbled.
“I don’t care. You’re going to eat, you’re going to shower, and you’re going to get out of this damn house. Do you hear me?”
“That’s what I thought you said. Now I’m going to the laundry room to wash your clothes while you eat and then shower.”
He nodded and reached for the bowl. I started a load of his clothes and then went into his bathroom, turning on the shower so the water would be warm for him. He never looked up from his food, which was fine. I knew my presence was annoying him, but the fact that I needed to be there every day was annoying me.
I went back in the kitchen to see what he needed in the refrigerator. If he hadn’t been eating, I knew he hadn’t been going to the store either.
I was typing out a grocery list in my phone when he walked in and put his bowl in the sink. He hadn’t eaten much, but at least he had eaten something.