My body jerked awake when I heard the sound of a Chris Brown song blasting through the bedroom.
Me sleeping in Joe's room was only supposed to be for one night, but it had become such a habit that I had been dozing off in there for the past few nights. Truth was, I slept better in his arms. He kept the nightmares about Trevor at bay.
Joe, who was lying face down on his pillow beside me, groaned and slowly woke up.
I noticed his iPhone buzzing around on the bedside table and urged my boyfriend to wake up.
“Joe, your phone’s ringing!” I almost yelled as I pushed against his body.
“What?” he asked sleepily, rubbing his eyes with his hand. God, he was so adorable.
“Your phone!” I pointed at his bedside table and he sighed, picking up the device to answer.
“Hello?” he said groggily, sitting up straight in the bed.
He threw his legs over the edge as he picked his boxers up from the floor and slid into them.
“What? Dad what–” He turned around with wide eyes and I stared up at him, fear coming over me.
His dad was on the other side of the line and from the expression on Joe’s face I knew it wasn’t good.
“Dad where did you hear this? That’s impossible!”
Okay, when Joe Jonas is panicking while on the phone with his father, you know it’s not good.
“I’m turning it on right now.” He grabbed the remote to the flat screen TV hanging on the wall across from the bed and switched on the huge TV.
“What channel… okay. Okay.” Joe’s breathing had sped up, I could hear it in his voice and I quickly grabbed his shirt off the floor and slipped it on, not bothering to put something on to cover my legs.
I made my way over to him and grabbed his hand after taking the remote out to change the channel.
And then, we both froze.
“Oh my God,” I breathed, my eyes wide.
I could feel my heart throbbing in my throat as my breath hitched.
This wasn’t happening.
Not right now.
Joe almost dropped the phone out of his hand as he stared at the screen.
“…caught up in a sex scandal. The twenty-one-year-old former pop star might not be as innocent as we thought,” the lady on the TV said before it switched back to a commercial of a new series on the channel.
Joe quickly switched off the TV and looked at me, obviously forgetting his dad was still on the phone.
A sex tape.
There was a sex tape of me and Joe circulating the web.
“Dad can we, can we discuss this later I… yeah, yeah of course. Dad no, it’s…. Alright I’ll see you guys tomorrow.”
Joe hung up the phone and threw it on his bed before taking me into his arms.
Tears started to fall from my eyes, wetting his naked chest.
“I can’t believe this is happening,” I sobbed, holding on tightly to him.
“There’s no actual proof that it’s us.”
“Did you not see that, Joe? That was us! There’s a fucking sex tape of you and me and you’re just… God, how can you just let this pass you by?!” I yelled as I stepped out of his embrace.
Yeah, okay, the image shown on TV was blurry and you could only make out my face when you looked closely.
Joe was on top, so you could only see his profile, and even then it wasn’t easy to actually recognize him, but nevertheless, we both knew it was us.
And the only explanation I could come up with was that Trevor had gone around telling everyone it was us, just like he had when the pictures of Joe and I at Katsuya came out.
“Amber,” he said softly, reaching out for me again. “We’re gonna get through this.”
“I can’t believe Trevor would do this. Burning down my apartment isn’t enough? God! I fucking hate him. I just…I wanna fucking kill that douchebag. What–”
“Amber!” Joe yelled, grabbing both my hands and shaking me a little. “Please would you calm down? I know this isn’t good, okay. This is really not good but we can get through this. It’s not the end of the world!”
“Not the end of the world? Joe, didn’t you hear what they said? A sex tape! A fucking sex tape! Trevor isn’t even supposed to release these things!”
“Wait… you knew this existed?” Joe asked, eyeing me.
“Well I… I know that there’s cameras all over Club Coco but I… Look, Joe if- if we go talk to Trevor we can probably get him to pull back. He wants something from us, he’s not just doing this for revenge or anything anymore. If it was just revenge, he wouldn’t have burned down my apartment and possibly risked jail for murder.”
“What could he possibly want, Amber?” Joe said, crossing his arms in front of his chest.
“I think he wants me back,” I said softly.
“No. No, no, no. You are not going back there. I’d rather have a sex tape than have you go back there.”
“Joe, if this is the only way we can fix this then we have to consider it.” I said, feeling the tears come up again.
“No Amber. I’m not letting you go back there. Have you lost your fucking mind?! You are done with that club.” Joe walked away from me and grabbed his jeans off the floor.
It was still early, but both of us were fully awake now.
He headed into his closet to get a clean shirt and threw a pair of his boxers at me to put on since I was still naked below.
“Amber, if you go back there, you can forget about me,” he cut me off, looking at me as I pulled his boxers up over my legs. “Look I don’t wanna fight with you, Amber it’s just… I know we can fight a way out of this. If it’s not obvious that it’s me, I can release a statement and–”
“And what about me, Joe?” I asked as I narrowed my eyes at him.
Yeah, this was easy for him to get out of since you couldn’t even tell it was him, but how would I get out of this?
“So far, there’s only pictures of the tape, according to my dad. So we can turn the story around, say it’s old footage or something. We could even sue Trevor for releasing this since he’s not supposed to do that.”
“It just doesn’t feel right,” I sighed.
“Come here, baby,” Joe said, opening his arms for me.
Slowly, I let my feet slide across the floor towards him and collapsed against his chest.
“We’re in this together and it’s gonna be okay. You know the media always blows things out of proportion, as long as you don’t let it get to you, we’re gonna be fine.”
I groaned, wondering how he could just go over this like it was nothing.
But then again, he had a lot of experience with bad publicity so I guess he knew exactly what to do.
“I love you, Amber. Don’t forget that, okay? It’s you and me..”
“Forever?” I asked, lifting my head up from his chest to look at him. He smiled and wiped away some of my tears.
“Forever,” he confirmed and kissed me sweetly.
After the scary phone call of Joe’s parents and the fight that followed up to it, Joe and I sat on the couch in the living room, my back resting against his chest as I lay sideways.
The newspaper was in my lap, spread open to the job section.
Both Joe and I held permanent markers in our hands to encircle interesting openings for me.
"How about this," Joe said after scanning the page I had just turned over. He drew a circle around a small offer in the middle of the page. "Di's Diner is looking for a waitress."
"I'm done with any place that requires serving, Joe," I said, shuddering in fear at the memory of everyone groping me in Club Coco.
"Baby, this is nothing like Club Coco. This is a civilized place."
"Still." Frowning, I brought my attention back to the paper and tried to find a nice job.
Most of them required a degree or a minimum of experience, neither which I had.
"This isn't gonna work," I sighed, throwing my marker to the ground. Penny, who sat on the floor in front of us saw the marker and reached over for it.
"Penny, let go of the marker, princess," Joe said.
I felt him move behind me, my body blocking him from getting up.
To my surprise, the girl did as she was told and focused back on the game she was playing.
"Baby wait." Joe stopped me from crumbling up the newspaper and pointed at another offer. I read it over and smiled. "Runway is looking for a shop assistant," he read softly, his lips right by my ear.
"I like that," I said, still smiling.
Back in Chicago, I had worked as a shop assistant in a shoe store on weekends and it was really fun.
"Here's a number. You should call, or drop by." Joe pointed at the digits printed out under the job description.
From what I read, it seemed like it was a small store with collections of designer clothing. I didn't really think it'd get a lot of customers, but then again, this was LA and you wouldn't get by if you didn't make at least two thousand dollars a month.
Well I mean, you could, but it would be tough since rent here is crazy and... Well then you're basically forced to go into the stripping business.
Unless you ended up finding a celebrity boyfriend, like me, who kept on throwing his money at you even though you don't want him to.
"I'll drop by tomorrow afternoon, after college."
To be honest, I wasn’t really looking forward to going back to college.
First of all because I’d have to ask Mr. Salvatore if Joe and I could get more time to work on the play because of the fire and second of all because of Raleigh.
I still hadn’t really gotten over the fact she bitch-slapped me for hanging out with Joe and now, with the news of a sex tape, she’d have a reason to knock me straight into the hospital.
"Perfect." Joe smiled down at me and turned his body so he could kiss me.
Just as we pulled away, Nick walked into the living room and stared at us with his arms crossed in front of his chest.
"Joe," Nick said, nodding his head in the direction of the door leading outside.
Sighing, Joe stood up from his seat beside me and followed his brother outside after a quick kiss on my jaw.
I looked at Penny who was sitting on the floor in front of me trying to build a tower with her big colorful blocks.
"Hey babygirl, you need some help?" I asked as I slid out of the couch and sat on the floor beside her, my arm wrapped loosely around her petite body.
It was crazy to think how much I'd come to love this girl in only a couple of days – I loved her as if she were my own.
As I helped her with the tower, I couldn't help but listen in on the conversation going on outside.
The glass sliding doors were open and the boys were standing considerably close to them which made me wonder whether Joe had left the door open on purpose.
"Mom and dad are never going to approve," Nick said in what I made out to be a slightly disgusted tone. "She's a stripper for God's sake!"
"You don't know her, okay?" Joe fought back.
"God knows how many men she's screwed already! She's just a dirty whore looking for cash and fame. Don't you think it's too much of a coincidence that she attached herself to you, playing the poor stripper, when she's trying to get into acting? She's using you to launch herself into Hollywood."
The only difference between me and a fame whore was that I actually wanted to get the cash myself rather than from my super rich boyfriend.
Besides, if I really was going to use a celebrity to launch a career, I would've chosen someone who was still actively in the spotlight. And I definitely would've made sure he made good press, not bad press.
"Don't you fucking talk about her like that okay? She's a wonderful person and I love her. There's more to her than what you know – what you think you know. Don't fucking judge a book by its cover, Nick." Woohoo, go boyfriend. I was glad Joe was defending me, but I could tell that if they got in any deeper, I might ruin their family and I hadn’t even faced his parents yet.
"She's a stripper,” Nick said again.
"Not anymore. She quit her job!"
"Well that's satisfying." Shut up, Mr. Sarcastic. "I don't know if you've noticed, Joe, but ever since you started... Let's call it dating–"
"We are dating!" Joe threw his hands up out of frustration and turned away from his younger brother.
"Whatever. Ever since you started hanging out with her, all these bad things about you have been circling the web. First of all, the fact you're... Seeing a stripper and then a sex tape... What's next?!"
"Nick, bro, I love you but just shut the fuck up! I know you're looking out for me but I'm not gonna get hurt. Amber is a great person. And besides, it's your fault all this happened."
"My fault?" Nick asked, his voice rising to a high pitch that almost sounded like Penny's voice. I chuckled when I reached for the blue block that had fallen across the carpet.
"You and Kevin dragged me into that club that night and got her for me."
"That was Kevin's idea, man."
"The point is, if you guys hadn't taken me there that night I wouldn't be in this situation." Ouch. "But then she wouldn't be this happy. Give her a chance, Nick. She just lost her house and she has nowhere to go. She's completely broke and–"
"For reasons that you're not aware of, Nick. So please just, just get to know her. She's not a stripper. She's just Amber, the girl I have fallen in love with." Swoon.
"I just want you to be careful, Joe. After Nina–" Wasn't Nick like, three years younger than Joe? So why the fuck was he acting like his father?
"I'm fine, Nick. I'm finally happy again, can't you see?"
Nick looked through the glass and I quickly brought my attention back to Penny, handing her another block to add to her tower.
When she placed it on top of it, the entire tower collapsed and she looked up at me, her eyes wide with surprise and disappointment. I mirrored her expression and soon enough, she was laughing again.
"It's not gonna be easy to convince mom and dad of that when they get back from Dallas," Nick said softly – almost inaudible for me.
"I know but, I love her and that's all that matters." Joe's voice sounded closer and I looked up to see him walk back inside.
He smiled at me and Penny sat up on her knees, attempting to stand up.
Chuckling, I helped her up and watched her run over to her father who picked her up and kissed her tiny cheek. The little girl flung her arms around Joe's neck and squealed.
"I didn't mean to eavesdrop but–"
"You heard everything?"
"Pretty much." Sighing, I stood up and made my way over to my boyfriend. "Joe I love that you're defending me but... I don’t' wanna come between you and your family."
"Hey, baby, look at me," Joe said softly, wrapping his free arm around me and pulling me closer to his body.
We almost crushed Penny between us, but she didn’t seem to mind. I looked up into his brown eyes staring directly down at me.
"I love you," he said, sounding as genuine as anyone could, "and you're not ruining my family. It's just all this stuff that's happening, these... Things that Trevor's doing it's, it's not what my family wants to see. But we will get through it and though it may take some time, my family will accept you," he said softly, the steadiness of his voice reassuring me. "My parents might be a tough call but, it's gonna be alright. I promise you."
"I love you, too." I beamed up at him, a smile stretching from ear to ear.
Joe dipped down and captured my mouth with his own.
He kept the kiss short and I groaned a little when he pulled away, but when I heard Penny giggle, squealing 'more' I knew it was actually inappropriate to get caught up in a make out session with his daughter right there on his hip.
Dinner that night was more awkward than ever. If there was any chance that Nick was going to accept me after the barbecue yesterday, the news about the sex tape had completely put me back to square one.
He still treated me like I was some kind of dumb stripper, even when I tried to be nice to him and show him that I was anything but a worthless whore.
“Nick?” I said as I watched him head out of the kitchen.
He turned to look at me and stopped walking.
“Can we… can you just stay a little?” Joe had gone upstairs with Penny to give her a bath and Nick and I were left by ourselves.
“What, you wanna make a sex tape with me too?” he bit back, crossing his arms in front of his chest as he stared at me.
“Nick, that’s… that’s not fair.”
“I’ll tell you what’s not fair, Amber, it’s the fact that you just waltz into our lives and try to bring my brother back down right after he picked up the pieces.”
“It’s not like that and you know it.”
He had no idea how bad his attitude towards me was affecting me, how much it hurt to know that he couldn’t look passed my status of ex-stripper.
“I love your brother, okay and all these things that are happening… that’s, that’s not my fault. It’s just my boss he, he didn’t exactly agree with the way I left and–”
“So it is your fault,” Nick pointed out.
“You don’t know anything that’s been going at that club, okay. You don’t know that your brother has been there to catch my every fall. You have no idea how much he means to me, how much his family means to me. I have no intention whatsoever of hurting your brother. For the first time in my life I have found someone who loves me more than anything. Do you think I asked him to buy me all those clothes? Do you think I begged for him to take me in after my apartment burned down? No, Nick. I didn’t ask for all this, he just did it. And he wouldn’t accept no for an answer. I’m not here to take his money or ruin whatever career he has left, okay. I wanted to protect him. I told him to stay away from that club.”
Nick looked at me and I saw something change, like he realized how wrong he had been about me all this time.
“Truth is, I’m… I’m scared to lose him. I know that ever since I came into the picture it’s been… really bad but, God, Nick you have no idea.”
“It’s not you I have a problem with, Amber,” Nick admitted. “It’s just this entire thing reminds me too much of how it was with Nina… With Joe willing to put everything on the line just to keep you safe. I just hate having this feeling that it’s gonna play out exactly like that.”
“I promise you, Nick, it’s not. I’m in love with your brother and nothing’s gonna change that. There’s just a lot of stuff you don’t know about me.”
“Then please, enlighten me.” Sighing, I closed my eyes and nodded.
I sat back down at the kitchen table, but Nick stayed where he was. I took a deep breath and started to tell him everything, starting at the very beginning with my parents’ disapproval of my career choice.
During my explanation, I could see understanding on his face and it made me feel better. If I could get Nick on my side, I was feeling a lot more confident I could get his parents to see things the way Joe does, too.
When I got to the part where Trevor raped me, I started crying softly. I had never really gotten over it and just thinking back about that night was enough for me to break down in tears.
To my surprise, Nick came over to me, bent down beside me and wrapped his arm around me as I cried.
“Amber, it’s okay. You don’t have to go on…” he trailed off, softly running his hand up and down my arm.
“No it’s… Nick, you have to understand though, I never wanted Joe to do all that… I never wanted him to put everything on the line just to save me. I wanted to stay there so I could keep all of these things from happening, but Joe insisted I leave. It was actually him who quit my job for me and that just, it set Trevor off and now all of this is happening to us and I just wish there was a way to make it all go away. It kills me inside, knowing that I’ve basically ruined every chance of Joe ever building up a new career. I mean, he wants to go into acting and now it’s… who would want him after all this?”
Nick sighed and stood up, taking the seat beside me.
“Amber, I’m sorry. I… I didn’t know about all of that. It’s… I’m really sorry. I feel terrible for giving you the cold shoulder when you were going through all that.”
“It’s alright. I probably would’ve done the same thing if I were in your shoes.”
“I feel terrible for giving you a hard time. It just–”
“It looked like I was really just after your brother’s money.” Nick nodded and looked away from me. “I get it. But sometimes, you really need to look beneath the surface.”
“Yeah,” he said softly. “Can you forgive me for the way I acted?”
I tapped my index finger against my skin as I thought about it. “I think I can,” I said with a smile. Nick let out a sigh of relief and then briefly hugged me.