The next two days merge together, morphing into one big web of confusion I couldn’t unravel if I gave it my best shot.
I managed to drag myself out of bed and go down to the gym in Mom’s building this morning. Now, I’m not saying I deserve a round of applause, but considering the fact that I haven’t been able to truly smile in over a week, I’d appreciate a pat on the back or, at the very least, a pity thumbs-up.
I dreamed about him last night.
Of course, the whole thing made no sense—someone had cast a spell on Kane and turned him into a talking alpaca—but I still woke up feeling shattered inside.
It’s embarrassing how much I miss him.
All I wanted to do when I dropped out of school to chase my dream was tell him about it. He’s the one who gave me the courage to open my online store in the first place. He bought me supplies when I didn’t have a dollar to my name.
I like to think that he’d be proud of me.
I enter the empty gym at around ten and hop on the treadmill to warm up. I’m not a fan of cardio, but I also can’t keep wasting away in bed the way I have been in the past month.
I put my earbuds in, starting with a light jog. A notification pops up on my screen just as I’m about to select an upbeat playlist.
It’s an email.
I frown at the sender, the name making no sense.
Unveiling Your Vision Contest.
The subject says, “You’ve won!”
I click the email and begin to read.
We are thrilled to inform you that your work has been selected to grace the album cover of Anaya’s next album! Your creativity and talent truly stood out amongst all the entries we received.
I nearly fall off the treadmill.
I heard about that contest.
It’s all Anaya talked about on her Instagram for the last two months. She thought it would be fun to have her fans create the artwork for her next album, which is coming out in two months. Last I heard, there were thousands of applicants.
I thought about entering, but in the end, I chickened out. Why am I receiving this?
My gaze drops to the third paragraph of the email.
We are so excited to work with you and bring your artwork to life. We will be sharing your store and announcing your win on Anaya’s Instagram tomorrow. Our team will also be reaching out to discuss your fees!
Oh my God.
I had a bunch of missed calls from an unknown number when I woke up.
I brushed it off, thinking it was a telemarketer. I scroll lower, landing on a section that reads, “Your entry.”
All the information of my application are listed under it. The email address of the person that submitted my work leaves me breathless.
My chest caves in on itself.
He did this.
He submitted my painting of a diamond heart but also linked my online store in the social media bar. He entered me into the contest months ago, long before we left Golden Cove, and the crazy part?
He did it anonymously.
He could’ve used his fame and friendship with Anaya to get me to win, but he didn’t.
Because he was trying to prove something to me.
The time he bought me art supplies, I went off on him and accused him of treating me like a charity case.
I also didn’t want him to give me a shout-out on social media because I wanted to make it on my own and not have to wonder if I owed it all to him.
And then he did this. To show me I could and would succeed on my own merits.
I must go over the email a dozen times, unable to fully grasp that my work is going to be shared with Anaya’s ten million followers tomorrow.
Not only that, but I’m also going to get paid for this. All because Kane saw my potential when I couldn’t.
Emotions overpower me, and I plop down onto the exercise bench nearby, my thoughts racing at a thousand miles per hour.
I dropped out of school to chase my dream.
And it turns out…
I just might be able to catch it.
I decide to take a quick shower before dinner, telling Mom that I’ll be out in time to watch Dancing with the Stars with her.
It was our thing for the longest time after Gray passed. We’d order takeout and watch it on the couch together. Everything may be different now, but my mom is the one constant in my life. In a way, grieving Gray has brought us closer than I ever thought possible.
I’ve just finished washing my hair when I hear my phone chime with a text on the bathroom vanity.
I don’t think much of it at first, continuing to rinse the conditioner out of my hair.
Until it goes off again.
Someone’s blowing up my phone
Must be important.
I quickly rinse my hair, grab a clean towel, and wrap it around me. I see that I have messages from Jamie, Drea, and Maggie when I check my screen.
DID YOU SEE IT?
Everybody’s freaking the fuck out.
What the hell is she talking about?
I can’t believe this is happening.
If I’d known he was going to say that, I would’ve given you a heads-up. He went completely off script.
I’m so sorry.
Fear scrapes at my insides.
Did I miss something?
I even have a message from Maggie.
CHECK KANE’S INSTAGRAM NOW!
I do just that, my fingers trembling as I open the app, preparing to type Kane’s name into the search bar.
Only, I don’t need to.
Because his latest post is the first thing that comes up.
The picture is all black.
Why is he posting a black picture?
The caption beneath his post sends my heart into my throat.
The truth comes out one way or another. Tune in to my final interview with Giana Sterling.
Back the fuck up.
He’s doing an interview with Giana Sterling?
The woman is a well-known TV host who conducts extra-personal interviews with “controversial” celebrities—that’s her whole brand. Every time a public figure is on the receiving end of criticism and bad publicity, her team comes calling.
Also, he said his final interview.
What on earth does that mean?
I click Kane’s profile, hoping another one of his posts will answer some of my questions.
I audibly gasp.
All of his posts are gone.
Photos from his world tours, late nights in the studio, pictures of his band. All deleted.
The only post that’s left is the one about the interview.
The comments are still on, to my surprise.
I click on the comments section to see what people are saying.
“Just watched the interview. I have no words.”
“I’m going to drown in my tears if Kane quits music. FUCK JOSHUA. Kane didn’t do anything wrong.”
“If Kane mysteriously disappears, we’ll know why.”
“JUSTICE FOR KANE. Bro did what he had to do. Not all heroes wear capes.”
What. The. Fuck.
I go online and type the words “Kane Wilder Interview” into the search bar. The first video that comes up is fifteen minutes long and only an excerpt of the forty-minute interview with Giana Sterling.
I plop down onto the corner of the bathtub and press Play, my pulse wilding out in my neck.
The interview starts with Giana introducing Kane as her guest and Kane walking onstage. So far, the whole thing looks like your typical celebrity interview.
Giana shakes his hand before gesturing for him to sit down on one of the two armchairs beside them. “I’m so glad to have you here today. We haven’t done a live interview like this in years.”
I immediately fast-forward the chitchat and pleasantries, skipping ahead a few minutes.
“In light of your recent controversy with Joshua Caldwell, you’ve decided to postpone your tour and focus on your sobriety. How’s that been going for you?”
“Honestly? Horrible,” Kane deadpans, causing the live audience to laugh. “Getting sober is hard enough without having to worry about your manager suing you for every penny you have.”
Giana’s face contorts with shock. It’s obvious she didn’t expect him to be willing to discuss the trial. I’m guessing Kane’s people had to approve a list of questions beforehand, and none of them were about the lawsuit.
“Have you had any contact with Joshua since the incident?” Giana jumps at the opportunity to pry more juicy details out of him.
“None whatsoever. We’re not exactly on good terms since I found out he and his buddies were drugging and molesting my young fans.”
My jaw nearly hits the floor.
And so does Giana’s.
Fucking hell, Kane.
Ever heard of easing into it?
“You see, I walked in on him abusing unconscious minors, and that’s why I lost my temper at the club. He was using my name to lure my fans to his house and drugging them to keep them compliant. He also wasn’t the only one I saw there. There were a handful of powerful men at that party, people you all know and love. Some even direct TV shows and movies with a cast that’s mainly child actors.”
Giana Sterling looks at him as though she’s unsure if she’s imagining the whole thing or if Kane Wilder is really outing a bunch of Hollywood predators on live TV.
“D-Do you have any evidence to back up your claims?” she stammers.
“I will. Soon.” That’s all he says, and Giana quickly understands she’s not going to get any more information out of him. At least, not on that particular topic.
“Do you have the names of the men who were allegedly at that party?” She’s very careful with her words, determined to remain neutral.
From there, he begins making a list of all the creeps he saw there that night, exposing countless men from the industry without batting an eye.
I don’t know what happened to him after I left, but he looks like he ran out of fucks to give, and he’s accepted his fate.
Like he’s made peace with the fact that his career is over.
“If Joshua did abuse these girls, why didn’t you just come forward? One would think you’d want to clear your name instead of hiding something so vile.”
Kane doesn’t speak for a few seconds, pondering his response.
“I didn’t come forward because Joshua held something over my head. He threatened to tell the world about my darkest moment. Which is why I’m going to do it myself. Right here. Right now.”
This isn’t happening.
I’m hallucinating, I know I am.
I only realize tears are coursing down my face when one of them slips between my parted lips. A sob rips from my throat, and I smack my hand against my mouth to muffle the next one.
A knock rattles the bathroom door the next second, knocking the wind out of me.
“Hadley, everything okay in there?” Mom asks, worry dripping from every word.
“I’ll be out in a minute,” I choke out, directing my focus back to the screen.
I hold my breath to the point of suffocating.
Then he says it.
“Three years ago, I was held at gunpoint and forced to be an accessory to my best friend’s murder.”