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Lost In You: Chapter One

Finding their way toward the altar, Dave and Cooper’s goal was to go in unnoticed. That goal was simply not accomplished as Cooper’s ankle twisted yet again. She grabbed onto Dave with a small yelp, which sounded much louder with the echo in the church; it seemed to be piercing as a collective stare was sent their way from both sides of the church. Cooper flushed with embarrassment as Dave pulled her along to a pew, which creaked with age when they sat. The space barely seated them both. Never before has Cooper seen a church so crowded. Not that she can remember the last time she’s been to church.

Growing up, Cooper and her baby brother, Zac, were raised in the Roman Catholic Church. They went to Sunday school and made their Communion and Confirmation. Cooper’s mother, Allison, was devout in her religion, always wearing a cross around her neck. Despite her upbringing, Cooper disregarded her faith as an adult; she felt religion was just a way to take people’s money.

Cooper smoothed her hands over her periwinkle dress, hoping it was fancy enough before folding her hands in her lap. She looked up at the altar and noticed some of the groomsmen snickering at her stunt on the way in. She sighed and turned her attention to the bridesmaids walking in. It was then she actually remembered the last time she’d been to church.

About three years ago, she was a bridesmaid in her brother, Zac’s wedding. His wife, Marcela reminded Cooper of the groom’s sister. She had just walked down the aisle, as Dave gave commentary on each of the bridesmaids. Zac’s wedding was in a Catholic church also, and the bride’s side was all Spanish while her side was mostly Irish. Cooper was the only girl in her family after her aunt, Mary, died two years ago. Since her brother’s wedding, Cooper has felt the pressure of tying the knot herself. She was far from walking down the aisle though, far from anything really.

Cooper was only twenty-five, but her father abandoning the family when she was twelve was one of the many circumstances that forced her to grow up quickly. Afterwards, her mother moved them around so often; nothing ever felt like home, especially since money was tight, leaving their apartment somewhat bare, and their mother at work more often than not. Cooper was left to take care of Zac and had dinner ready every night.

From Kentucky to Louisiana to Georgia to New Jersey and just about everywhere in between, Cooper was used to change and expected it every day, but she didn’t expect it when her mother was killed in a car crash six years ago. Since then, change didn’t find Cooper; she found it…in school, in her job, in her love life. When Dave moved to Orlando a few years ago, she agreed to move with him but quickly backed out and moved to Boston instead. She changed her mind faster than she could change her life most of the time.

Cooper watched Kelly walk down the aisle as flashes went off. A camera crew from In-Style videotaped, and Cooper wondered how Kelly could deal with her boyfriend, soon-to-be husband constantly in the spotlight. Kelly’s fiancé; Mike Bailey, better known as Mikie or B. to his friends, is a musician; a singer mostly. He wasn’t a cheesy wedding singer, either. Mike was in one of the most successful bands of all time: Sound Wave. They were a group of five guys who made it big in the late 1990’s with the swarm of pop music that hit big then. Sound Wave had been considered a phenomenon in music, and still has a strong following in the industry.

Today was the most important day of Kelly and Mike’s life and yet it was being filmed for the world to see just to boost ratings. Cooper decided she never wanted to date a celebrity, not even if he was Adam Sandler. Though he wasn’t the best-looking guy, he was always someone she could see herself being with. She liked to laugh and she liked a guy who didn’t take himself too seriously.

As the priest began, Cooper studied the bridal party at the altar. Mike Bailey was on the short side with broad shoulders. He had dark features and a sweet smile. The best man had to be Mike’s brother, Cooper decided. There was a strong family resemblance. She then looked at the six ushers, knowing some of them had to be Mike’s four band mates. So these guys are Sound Wave? she thought. They were part of the whole boy band craze that hit when Cooper was a teenager. Just standing there, they looked fairly normal, well, except for maybe the one with the sculpted sideburns and goatee. JT, she thought, remembering his name. She was never really a fan of the boy band, though she knew they probably hated that term. She wasn’t fond of it, either.

Cooper wasn’t big on music, but didn’t criticize. To her, no one had an identity on the radio. She has her favorite songs, but that’s as far as it goes. Most of the time, she didn’t know who sang what. All she knew about Sound Wave is what she could remember the girls talking about in high school, which was mostly just their stereotyped personas; everyone knew in groups like the Backstreet Boys and ’N Sync there was the rebel, the heartthrob, the sweet one, the serious one, and the
funny one. Sound Wave was no different.

Cooper was definitely more of a movie buff. She could spend weekend upon weekend watching movies. She liked to feel lost in them. Romantic comedies were her passion and she often cried, even if they weren’t that sappy. Her friend and roommate, Casey, who’s more of a bookworm suggested reading as a great escape, but Cooper liked to see the story in front of her since she was never very good with imagination. She was too realistic for that.

By the time the ceremony was over, Cooper was crying. She hated that she cried so easily. She saw it as a weakness, and she rarely had control over her tears. The groomsmen and the bridesmaids made their way up the aisle and a tall blonde man, who Cooper knew had to be a band member judging from his good looks alone, laughed when he saw her. She blushed and the groomsman behind him, the man with the smiling eyes who was a little taller than Mike with dirty blonde
hair and a chiseled face, imitated her trip and patted her shoulder.
“It happens to the best of us.”

He flashed a cheeky grin and Cooper smiled back with a nod. Though she was embarrassed, she had a sense of humor about it and didn’t mind the teasing too much, even if it was from a boy band member and some attractive stranger. As Cooper and Dave made their way to the car, thunder boomed and lightning flashed as rain threatened to pour down any second.

“You better run if you don’t want to get soaked,” Dave warned.
“Ugh, you couldn’t have pulled the car up?” Cooper whined, hobbling along behind him. Just as they got into the car, the sky opened up and buckets of rain crashed down.

***

The bridal suite bustled with commotion. The short, dirty blonde haired usher stared out the window, watching the rain fall. His mind flashed to the woman at the church. She stood out to him for some reason and he couldn’t figure out why. Kelly was practically in tears as Mike tried to calm her down. He rubbed her arms affectionately and spoke softly to his new bride.

“We barely got any pictures at the church. Fucking rain!” Kelly cried angrily. Looking away from the window, Ryan was almost shocked by her outburst.
“Baby, it’ll be fine. The photographer’s setting up downstairs,” Mike said taking her hand. “They’re going to make everything really nice,” Kelly nodded, wiping her tears.
Mike pecked her lips, “Hey, we’re married.”
He smiled and so did Kelly before he pulled her into another kiss. Ryan smiled to himself, admiring their love.
“Yo Ryan,” Matt, the tall blonde called, “check this out.”
Ryan looked over at Matt and JT, who each had a basket of fake fruit on their heads and were dancing around.
“Mamae Eu Quero…” JT sang, causing Ryan to crack up laughing as he clapped his hands together.
“Guys, cut it out,” John warned, just as any father would.
Ryan laughed inwardly at his older brother.
After ten years in a music group together, John still felt the need to take charge, even at a wedding, which wasn’t even his own. Matt took pride in getting a rise out of the “old man” as he often referred to John as. Being twenty-three now, Matt was the eldest in his family, but the youngest band member, and enjoyed playing both brotherly roles.
“The photographer’s ready,” Mike’s brother announced.
“Great, more pictures,” JT said sarcastically, “like we don’t take enough.”
“Hey, this is our wedding day. Take the damn pictures or you don’t eat,” Mike winked.
“Whatever you say, B,” JT said patting his back.
“Hey, does that mean we can call Kelly ‘Mrs. B’?” Ryan asked. Kelly smiled and laughed.
“Sure Ry, but only you,” she said and Ryan put his fists in the air in victory.
“Woot! Woot!” He shouted in the goofy way only Ryan could get away with. Ryan was playful, but sweet, and somehow made anything seem funny.

***

Cooper touched up her make-up in the mirror as a familiar woman stood next to her. The woman smiled at her and it hit Cooper who she was. Leslie Sanders, a singer from her childhood.
“Oh my God!” Cooper exclaimed.
“What?” Leslie asked frightened.
“You’re Leslie Sanders!”
“I am,” she laughed, “I take it you’re not on the groom’s side?”
“I’m not on any side,” Cooper said, still star struck as she just stared. “My uncle had such a crush on you.”
“Well, don’t I feel old,” Leslie said. “I think they’re going to start announcing the bridal party. Maybe I’ll see you in there,”
Leslie walked out of the bathroom and Cooper stared at her reflection in the mirror.
“Wow…” She said to herself before walking out of the bathroom as well.
Sure enough the bridal party was lined up in the corridor and they all looked at her. Not wanting to ruin the introductions, Cooper didn’t know if it was okay to go into the reception. Instead, she just stood there.
“You can go in through here,” John said pointing to another door.
“Oh, thanks,” she smiled at him.
“Don’t trip on your way in!” Matt called out and Cooper laughed, but blushed before walking in. “She’s cute,” Matt concluded.
“Well, making fun of her every second really isn’t going to score you points,” Ryan laughed.
“Hey, she smiled at me, didn’t she?”
Ryan shrugged, “I smile at you, too, but really it’s because your hair is sticking up.”
“What?” Matt asked, putting his hands to his head. “Is it? Oh man, I have to find a mirror,” he said about to walk away.
“Matt, we’re about to start,” Carmella, Mike’s sister protested.
“Your hair’s fine. I’m just messin’,” Ryan laughed.

Cooper found her seat just as Mike’s parents were announced. It seemed as if each guest had a camera, but Dave also informed Cooper that Mike and Kelly allowed select press to photograph the first hour of the reception. After Kelly’s parents were introduced, Cooper shifted in her seat, not realizing her dress was caught on the side of the chair. As she turned, all she heard was a loud tearing sound and she stared down at her now exposed thigh. What was originally a small slit in her dress going up mid-calf now came provocatively high up her entire leg.

“Oh my God…” Cooper gasped, trying to hold the material of her dress together.
“What?” Dave asked.
“I ripped my dress. I need to find safety pins,” she said grabbing her purse.
“Cooper, it’s not a big deal,” Dave sighed, but she was already out of her seat, covering her thigh with her purse.
Ryan had his arm linked with one of the bridesmaids, waiting to be announced, when the side door opened and knocked him into her.
“Jesus!” he said shocked, only to see the clumsy girl from the church walk out of the door.
“I’m so sorry,” she apologized.
“Today’s not your day, huh?” Ryan asked smiling.
“No,” she sighed. “Does anyone have any safety pins?” she asked.
“No, sorry,” the girl on Ryan’s arm apologized.
“You ripped your dress?” Ryan asked, glancing at her trying to cover up her thigh.
“Yup,” Cooper sighed again.
“It looks fine, sweetheart,” JT assured her and Cooper pulled her hands away slowly.
“I think it’s too much,” she said.
“Naa, it’s a half Puerto Rican wedding. You can get away with it,” Ryan laughed, his southern drawl coming out slightly.
“I heard that, Rizz,” Carmella said from a few spots behind him.
Rizz was Ryan’s nickname from his high school basketball team. The name remained with him all these years.
“Sorry Carm,” he said before flashing Cooper an ‘oops’ expression.
Cooper laughed, “Well, I just hope it doesn’t rip anymore.”
“We’d enjoy the show,” Matt said with a cackle. “You’ve been the entertainment for us so far.”
“Gee, thanks,” Cooper laughed nervously.
“Here, I found one safety pin,” Carmella offered.
“Thanks,” she took the pin from her and quickly made her way into the bathroom. Cooper felt a little less exposed with the one safety pin in her dress, though it was still too much skin for her. She glanced at her up-do in the mirror, glad she decided to get the blonde highlights added to her natural reddish-brown hair.
“You missed the introductions,” Dave sighed when Cooper got back to her seat.
Cooper shrugged, “I met half the bridal party in the lobby.”
“Oh, so what did you think of Sound Wave?” he asked.
“Um, the one with the goatee,” she snapped her fingers, reminding herself of his name, “JT, and the heartthrob one, they were kind of making fun of me, but one of the other guys in the bridal party…I don‘t think he‘s in the band, he was pretty nice to me,” she shrugged, referring to Ryan unknowingly, before turning her attention to the dance floor where Mike and
Kelly were moving around in slow, rhythmic circles.
“At this time, Mike and Kelly would like all the couples to join them on the dance floor,” the DJ announced.
“Come on. I‘m not ashamed to dance with my cousin,” Dave laughed.
“Wait, these shoes are coming off,” Cooper insisted.
She unbuckled her shoes and kicked them under the table before following Dave out to the dance floor; immediately feeling relief in her ankle. As Ryan danced with Kelly’s cousin, he glanced over at Cooper. Her eyes met his, and he smiled at her sweetly. She returned his smile before looking away bashfully.
Cooper had the worst luck today. From their plane delay to waking up late from her nap to forgetting her favorite lip gloss back home to her clumsiness, she was almost fearful for the rest of the night. At the close of the dance, everyone clapped.
“I’m going to say hi to Kelly’s family,” Dave said.
“Okay, I’m going to get a drink.”
Cooper walked toward the bar and glanced around the elaborately decorated room. Large columns were strategically placed throughout the hall, not interfering with the dance floor. Beautiful, sparkling chandeliers hung from the ceiling and bushels of exotic lavender and pink flowers served as centerpieces for the tables.
“What would you like?” the bartender asked.
“A mudslide, please.”
“And you, sir?” he asked and Cooper looked next to her to see Ryan standing there.
“A Corona,” Ryan said before smiling at her. “Are you sure you should be drinking?”
Cooper rolled her eyes, “I’m normally not this accident prone, honest.”
“I’ll take your word on that,” he laughed. “So, are you a friend of Kelly’s or somethin‘?”
“No, I just met her today actually. I’m here with my cousin, Dave,” she explained. “He used to date Kelly.”
“Ohh…interesting. Does Mikie know that?” Ryan asked.
“I’m pretty sure. I never met him, though,” Cooper shrugged. “I couldn’t even tell you what Sound Wave sings,” she
laughed. “I feel like an idiot.”
Ryan laughed and grabbed his beer from the bar, as Cooper took her mudslide.
“Cheers,” he smiled and they clanked glasses before each taking a sip.
“So the annoying one…” Cooper nodded toward the ushers’ table. “Is that Matt or Ryan?”
Ryan almost choked on his drink.
“Excuse me?”
“Sorry, are you friends with them? I just thought you were in Kelly’s family.”
Ryan laughed and decided to have a little fun with Cooper.
“Yeah, I‘m Kelly‘s cousin,” Ryan lied. “Which one is the annoying one?”
“The tall blonde one, the heartthrob I’m assuming.”
“That’s Matt,” Ryan confirmed.
“Oh, he used to date that supermodel, right?”
Cooper remembered Matt Porter and the “it” girl’s picture plastered on the cover of magazines, usually tabloids ripping the
couple, who lasted all of three months, to shreds.
“You don’t know what the band sings, but you know Matt dated Anastasia Milos?”
Cooper shrugged, “I watch Entertainment Tonight.”
Ryan nodded.
“I know JT’s the one with the goatee, and the one with the spiky hair is Ryan?” she questioned.
“No, John.”
“So who’s Ryan?” Cooper asked, looking at him.
He smiled at her, his eyes twinkling. Matt was right, he thought. She was definitely cute.
“That’s Ryan,” he pointed at one of Kelly’s actual cousins, who was in the bridal party.
“Oh…thanks,” she smiled.
“No problem. What’s your name?” Ryan asked as a rap song came on drowning out their conversation slightly.
“I’m Cooper.”
“No, I’m cooler,” he laughed confused, not hearing her correctly.
She’s a little strange, he thought.
“No…” she giggled. “Cooper. That’s my name,” she emphasized the “P”.
“First or last?” Ryan asked.
“First. After Cooperstown, New York,” she shrugged. “My mom was a big baseball fan.”
“Oh, that’s cool. Me too,” Ryan smiled.
Something about the way her eyes looked when Cooper mentioned her mother allowed Ryan to feel her pain, though he didn’t know why.
“Would you like to dance, Cooper?”
“Okay,” she paused. “Wait, what’s your name?”
“Uh…Tom,” he said flashing a cheeky grin.
She smiled back, pulling him toward the dance floor. His smile is so contagious, she thought as they started to dance.
“Do you like this song?” Ryan asked.
“Yeah. Is this Chingy?”
“Nelly,” he corrected.
“Oh, all rappers sound alike sometimes,” Cooper defended before rambling about different hip-hop artists.
“You talk a lot.”
“Excuse me?” She asked as her dancing came to a halt.
“I didn’t mean that as a bad thing. You just remind me of a buddy of mine.”
Ryan smiled, thinking of JT‘s ability to babble on and on. Cooper instantly smiled back and wished she had control of her
mouth; it was starting to get tired of meeting “Tom” grin for grin.
“Go Rizzle! Go Rizzle!” JT and Matt shouted.
Cooper looked over Ryan’s shoulder and JT winked at her.
“We have an audience,” she commented.
“Let them watch.”
Ryan laughed and their bodies moved closer until their arms were wrapped around each other, and they were dropping down to the floor; which the rap song referred to as “getting their eagle on”.
“Whoa Rizz!” JT yelled.
Ryan apologized to Cooper as he raised himself up from the floor and pulled her up with him. Ryan wasn’t the type of guy to dance provocatively, especially with a stranger.
“It’s okay. I’m not as shy as I appear to be,” Cooper laughed.
“Wanna meet the guys?” Ryan asked.
“The guys?” she questioned as he pulled her by the hand over to the table as the song ended.
“Hey, what is this? Support the cute klutz day?” Matt teased.
“Be nice. She already hates you,” Ryan laughed.
“How can you hate me?” Matt asked wide-eyed.
“Very easily, actually,” Cooper smiled.
“Make it up to her and ask her to dance,” John suggested, shooting a side glance at Ryan.
“Let’s get down,” JT grabbed Cooper’s hand before she or Matt could react.
“Hey!” Matt yelled. “Man…” he whined and Ryan and John laughed at him.
“JT Madden,” he introduced himself while kissing Cooper’s hand before placing it on his shoulder.
“Cooper,” she smiled.
“Cool name.”
“Thanks. What‘s JT stand for?”
“James Taylor,” he rolled his eyes with a laugh.
“No, it does not,” Cooper laughed as well.
“Yeah, my mom is a huge fan. She loves Elvis, too, at least she didn’t go with that.” Cooper smiled and laughed again.
“Well, I’m grateful my mom went with Cooperstown and not one of the Yankees.”
“Ah, that’s where the name comes from,” JT smiled. “What player was she considering naming you after?”
“Reggie Jackson. My last name is Jackson, so…” Cooper laughed.
“Reggie is kind of cute, but I like Cooper,” JT winked.
They continued to dance for another minute or so before JT pulled Cooper dangerously close against his body, causing her to blush. She could feel his hand on her exposed thigh, and the smell of his cologne made her want to get even closer. JT smiled at her sexily, knowing there was definite chemistry between them. He loved the control he had over women. Though JT didn’t have a baby cute face like Matt or the tall, dark and handsome look of John, he did have plenty of sexuality and passion; it oozed, especially on the stage or in this case, the dance floor.
“JT, are you trying to compete with my dancing?” Ryan asked as Cooper and JT left the dance floor.
“Rizz, it’s no competition,” JT laughed.
“We weren’t properly introduced,” John butted in. “I’m John.”
“I’m Matt. Sorry for laughing at you,” he smirked, sticking his hand out.
“I’m Cooper and I don’t think you are,” she said, not bothering to accept his handshake.
“Pooper?” Matt questioned and everyone laughed as she rolled her eyes.
“Cccooopper,” she dragged out the name.
“Ohhh…” Matt nodded.
Just then, Kelly’s cousin came over to the table and was trying to get to his seat, but everyone else was in the way.
“Excuse me.”
“Hi, Ryan, right?” Cooper said excitedly.
Though she wasn’t a fan, meeting celebrities was still an exciting thing to her, even though she felt embarrassed from her previous incidents that night.
“Uh, no…George,” he said eyeing her before making his way to his seat.
The guys looked at her oddly.
“I thought you said he was Ryan,” Cooper said looking at “Tom”.
“Oops…my mistake,.” Ryan said immediately.
“Rizz…” JT started slowly.
“Ryan, would you leave this poor girl alone?” John sighed. “I’m sorry, sweetie.”
“You’re Ryan?” Cooper asked.
“Yeah, I’m sorry. I was just having a little fun with you,” he apologized.
Cooper just sighed and shook her head.
“I’ll get you a drink, what would you like?” Ryan asked, smiling sweetly.
“Another mudslide.”
“You got it.”
“…And you now have to be my bar wench for the rest of the night,” Cooper ordered.
“Yes, ma’am.”
Ryan saluted her as if he were a soldier in the army before walking away. JT laughed and slung his arm around Cooper‘s shoulders.
“There you are,” Dave said walking over. “I thought you tripped into a ditch or something.”
“I made some new enemies,” Cooper joked.
JT dropped his arm from around her shoulder quickly.
“Sorry man, I didn’t know she was with anyone.”
“She’s my cousin,” Dave laughed.
“Oh, cool,” JT smiled.
Kelly walked over a minute later with Mike.
“John, I asked the DJ to play some old school stuff for you,” Mike said.
“Thanks dawg,” John laughed.
“Hey, aren’t you the girl who tripped?” Mike asked looking at Cooper.
“Yes,” she sighed.
“Mikie, this is Dave’s cousin, Cooper,” Kelly introduced them.
“It’s nice to meet you. Are you having a good time?”
“Yeah, everything is so beautiful. Congratulations,” Cooper smiled.
“Aww, thank you, sweetheart,” Mike winked.
“Let’s dance,” Kelly suggested a moment later, pulling Mike toward the dance floor and JT joined them, sandwiching Kelly in between them.
“How do you know Dave and Cooper?” JT asked.
“Dave’s my ex.”
“Ah, watch out Mikie,” JT laughed.
“I’m perfectly secure, JT. Hey, get your hands off my wife,” He teased, pretending to slap JT‘s hands away from Kelly‘s waist.
She laughed, enjoying the title of wife.
“His cousin is some little piece…” JT smirked, eyeing Cooper.
“JT…Be nice,” Mike and Kelly said simultaneously.
JT looked at them and laughed.
“You two are one already. Don’t worry, I’ll be very nice,” he grinned.

***

“Here you go, darlin’.”
Ryan handed Cooper her drink.
“Thanks Tom,” she rolled her eyes. “I was a little curious as to why they were calling you Rizz,” she laughed. “It fits Ryan better than Tom.”
Ryan smiled as Matt stepped up to them.
“You wanna dance?” Matt asked.
“Sure,” Cooper said taking his hand.
JT eyed Matt as he led Cooper into a slow dance. JT danced with Carmella as he watched Matt and Cooper. Matt flashed him a playful half-smile as if he were challenging him.
“Owww…” Cooper whined as Matt stepped on her toes.
“Sorry,” he laughed. “So where are you from?”
“I live in Jersey. You?”
“I was living in LA for a little while, but I moved back to Miami now, which is where I grew up,” Matt explained.
“May I cut in?” JT asked.
“Sorry, dude.”
Matt held Cooper tighter, and JT swung his foot up and kicked him in the behind.
“Oww…turd,” Matt whined before stepping on Cooper’s toes again.
“Ouch…that’s it. I’m dancing with JT…” she went to walk away, but Matt pulled her back.
“Dance on my feet,” he suggested.
She laughed, “I’ll hurt you.”
“You will not.”
Cooper stepped up on Matt’s feet, and he grimaced instantly as he tried to dance still.
“You can’t tell me I’m not hurting you right now,” Cooper said.
“You are,” Matt laughed with a nod.
“Good,” she grinned.
“You’re mean,” he pouted.
“Me!?” Cooper laughed and so did Matt.
Ryan watched the dance floor and John sighed.
“Bro, what are you doing?” John asked.
“What am I doing?” Ryan wondered with a shrug.
“You’re flirting with that girl.”
“I am not. You got me confused with JT.”
“Right,” John eyed him, taking a sip of his wine.
“Lighten up, Johnny. It’s a party,” Ryan sighed.
An hour later, Cooper was still on the dance floor. Ryan and Matt had sat down to eat their pasta as if it would be their last meal, but JT had pulled Cooper into a slow dance that seemed to leave them the only two on the floor. Cooper was having a really good time and enjoyed the playful flirtations she shared with JT mostly, but sometimes with Ryan and even Matt in almost a joking manner. She couldn’t deny the sexual energy between her and JT, but she felt almost like a school girl every time Ryan smiled at her. She knew she was attracted to Ryan ever since she laid eyes on him at the church. Now, her mind flip-flopped back and forth on who she wanted. Her body moved with JT’s, but her eyes were on Ryan.
“Come to the bar with me?” Cooper asked. JT nodded and followed. “Can I have a Heineken?”
The bartender opened a bottle of beer and handed it to her. He looked at JT expectantly.
“Mountain Dew,” JT ordered before smiling at Cooper.
Suddenly, she remembered JT’s alcohol problem a few years back. It was all over the news, and she remembers her friends in high school distraught over it. JT had fallen off some sort of pedestal the public put him on, and Cooper remembers feeling sorry for the kind of pressure his fame must have put on him. He certainly wasn’t the first celebrity to become a victim to alcohol or drugs. Nowadays, it seemed everyone in Hollywood paid a trip to rehab, squeaky clean images or not.
“God, I’m so sorry,” Cooper sighed, feeling stupid.
“For what?” JT asked, grabbing his soda from the bar. “Thank you,” he told the bartender before they started walking away.
“Asking you to come to the bar with me.”
“Oh, come on,” he waved her off and put his arm around her. “It’s fine, but if you really feel bad, I know a way you can make it up to me,” JT winked as his hand slid down to her behind.
Cooper gasped, but really, it flattered her. JT slid his hand back up to rest on her back.
“Sorry, I couldn’t resist.”
“I should slap you for that,” Cooper huffed.
“But you won’t, right?” JT asked with a grin.
“Wrong.”
Cooper put her arm around his waist before pulling back and whacking his behind hard. JT yelped before looking at her surprised.
“That hurt,” he whined.
“That was the point,” she laughed.
Dinner was announced and everyone returned to their seats.
“Well, aren’t you the life of the party,” Dave said.
Cooper blushed, “They’re just being nice because they feel bad for making fun of me.”
“Yeah, that’s why JT and Ryan have hardly left your side all night,” Cooper just smiled. “Do you have a thing for any of them?”
“I don’t know,” she shrugged, “maybe.”
“Well, Kelly’s sister invited me back to her house. She’s having a little after party thing if you want to come or if you have other plans…” Dave said raising an eyebrow.
“Dave, you think¾“ she started, “I don’t have one-night stands,” Cooper sighed.
“God, no…that’s not what I meant. Gross, you’re my cousin. I don’t even want to think of you like that. I just meant if you want to hang out with any of them afterwards, you don’t have to worry about me tagging along,” he said.
Cooper laughed, “Oh! Okay.”
“Imagine if you married someone from Sound Wave?”
She rolled her eyes, “One, I wouldn’t even date a celebrity, and two, I don’t want to get married.”
“On the plane, you were going on and on about what you wanted your wedding to be like,” Dave pointed out.
“Yeah, if I had one.”
“You’re so fickle,” he shook his head with a laugh.

***

“So JT, you think you’re getting some tonight?” Matt asked, shoving a piece of filet mignon into his mouth.
“Maybe,” JT shrugged. “I mean I definitely could nail Cooper, but I don’t know if I wanna.”
“Oh, that’s real nice, JT,” John said.
“Why not, dude? She’s cute,” Matt said surprised.
“It’s not that I don’t want to. Just not tonight, I mean it’s tacky to leave with her, you know?”
Ryan sighed, “JT, she wouldn’t give into you anyway.”
“Thanks Rizz,” JT laughed.
“Maybe Cooper likes Tom,” Matt joked and Ryan laughed.
“…Or maybe Tom likes her,” John said and Ryan rolled his eyes.
“Who the hell is Tom?” JT asked confused.
The reception was still in full swing an hour later. The hall was packed with energy. Soon it was time for Kelly to throw the bouquet. Dave forced Cooper onto the dance floor with the help of Matt. Kelly turned her back and tossed the bouquet. It seemed to float straight to Cooper without her even having to try to catch it.
“Go Coop! Go Coop!” Matt and JT shouted.
Cooper hid her face in the bouquet before walking back over to Dave.
“Ah-ha!” he laughed and she stuck her tongue out at him.
“I’m getting that garter,” JT insisted and Cooper laughed.
Mike pulled the garter off Kelly’s leg with his teeth, and the male guests whistled.
“Yeah B!” Matt yelled.
Mike spun the garter around on his finger and soon, it was the guys’ turn to line up on the dance floor. Cooper shoved Dave out there as Ryan, JT, and Matt were goofing around and pushing each other.
“Hey, why aren’t you out there?” Cooper asked.
John held up his left hand, revealing a wedding band.
Cooper nodded, “Where‘s your wife?”
“She’s working on a movie in Europe. She’s a producer. Unfortunately, she couldn’t make it,” John explained. “Who are you rooting for?” he asked just before Mike threw the garter.
“Hmm, I’m not saying.”
She blushed as Ryan and JT practically knocked each other over fighting for the garter. Ryan finally won. He placed the garter on his head and started doing the cabbage patch dance. Cooper clapped and laughed hysterically.
“Well, I guess there’s my answer,” John said and Cooper just smiled at him.
“Okay Cooper, sit down in the chair,” the DJ instructed. “Now Ryan, put that garter on the pretty lady,” he said as some kind of striptease music began to play.
Ryan’s eyes locked with Cooper’s and they both grinned. He got down on his knees and lifted Cooper’s leg, placing it on his shoulder. The guests whistled, and Ryan put the garter around her ankle. He flashed an innocent smile before starting to pull the garter up her leg with his teeth. Cooper shuddered a bit as his teeth caught her skin lightly and his fingertips tickled her leg. They both laughed, realizing the garter could still be seen, even up her thigh due to the rip in her dress. Ryan stood with one knee still on the floor and pecked Cooper’s lips as everyone cheered.

It was then Cooper decided if she ever dated a celebrity, it would be Ryan. After all, she had originally assumed he wasn’t in Sound Wave. He just seemed so unaffected by fame, much like Mike, from what Dave had told her. Though Dave dated Kelly in the past, he considered Mike Bailey a good friend; they weren’t extremely close but enjoyed each other’s company. Dave always told Cooper what a nice guy Mike was. Not that the rest of the group was caught up in the lifestyle so much so that they lost themselves as people. They made sure each other’s feet stayed on the ground.

However, John was the type to sip Chardonnay at a fancy restaurant with exquisite food in some little town in Italy. Matt enjoyed being adored and loved the attention from girls. It gave his insecurities an ego once in a while. And JT, he just screamed celebrity from his style to his natural smoothness. There was just this aura about him. It was very charming, Cooper thought. Mike and Ryan seemed to enjoy everyday things most though, like the company of family and friends and having a bed to go home to at night. Cooper saw Ryan as the type of guy that would be satisfied with a nine to five routine as long as he had a good wife and kids to be around. There was such a pure and genuine quality about him that intrigued her. She had pretty good intuition and was a great judge of character; she wondered if she was right about Ryan.

***

At the end of the night, twenty different conversations went on as everyone decided what their plans were afterwards. Not trusting herself, Cooper decided to go to Kelly’s sister’s house with Dave and convinced the guys to go, too.
“I have to get my shoes,” Cooper said to a bunch of people she was talking to before running over to her table. She sat down and slid her shoes on. Dave sat down next to her.

“You get to drive,” he said, placing the valet ticket on the table.
“I don’t want to,” Cooper shrugged.
“I’m going to help bring some gifts back to Mikie and Kelly’s place,” Dave explained.
“You’re leaving me?” she pouted.
“Bring one of the guys with you,” he winked and Cooper groaned.

Being alone with “one of the guys” was exactly what Cooper was afraid of. She enjoyed spending time with Sound Wave, but JT was leading her to dangerous grounds. She wasn’t sure she wanted to go there with him or anyone right now. She was happy being single and didn’t want anything serious, but at the same time, she didn’t want a one-night stand, no matter how much her body craved it.

It had been about six months since Cooper had even kissed someone. Dating was not her focus, fighting stability was. She wasn’t happy in her stuffy office job for a law firm or the rather plain apartment she shared with Casey. She hated New Jersey mostly, though it was where she was born, and sometimes she wondered how she could deal with her roommate anymore. Casey is a great person and a loyal friend, but she is an absolute slob and too promiscuous for her taste. No matter how much Cooper tries not to judge Casey, she can’t help it. Casey is a borderline slut, and Cooper is having a hard time putting that into perspective for her. Though Cooper didn’t consider herself religious, she had strong moral opinions instilled in her from childhood. Although she stopped going to church after her mother died, her morals remained faithful.

Upon landing in Florida, Cooper really regretted not moving there when she had the chance. Despite the rain, she liked the laid back vibe and warm weather as it was already a chilly autumn in New Jersey. Cooper’s spontaneity was coursing through her more and more as the day went on. As soon as Dave left, Ryan sat down in his seat next to Cooper as she buckled her heels.
“Can I ask a huge favor?” Ryan asked, his southern drawl coming out stronger than she had heard throughout the night.
“Where are you from?” Cooper asked and Ryan looked at her strangely.
“Georgia.”
“Really?” she smiled. “I lived there for a little while.”
“Which part?” Ryan asked.
“Savannah.”
“Cool,” he said.
It was the simplest of words, but for some reason, Ryan saying “cool” made Cooper want to pinch his cheeks.
“Can I ask my favor now?” he asked.
Cooper laughed, “Sorry, go on.”
She sat up, now done with her shoes.
“Well, we came in the limo,” Ryan started. “John and Matt went with Carmella. JT and I are kind of stranded,” he smiled.
Cooper returned his smile, “Are you asking me for a ride?”
“Well, since we’re going to the same place and all…”
“No problem,” Cooper agreed.
Part of her was nervous; the other part was excited. She felt like a silly thirteen-year-old crushing on two boys at once. She was afraid she’d do something she’d regret, and she wasn’t sure what she’d regret more: letting things progress into going to bed with someone or not doing anything at all.
“All right, Mom,” JT sighed walking over with his cell phone in hand. “I’m sorry. Well, you have to pick me up then,” he groaned. “No, I’m not mad at you. I’ll see you in a few minutes,” JT hung up and looked over at Cooper and Ryan. “My mom is bitching me out.”
“Why? Wha’d ya do now?” Ryan laughed.
“She’s mad because I’ve been in Orlando for two whole days and have yet to visit her,” JT imitated his mother in a high pitched tone.
Cooper laughed, “Bad son.”
“Hey, I’m a great son!” JT argued.
“He’s a Mama’s boy,” Ryan nodded.
“I wouldn’t talk.”
“I’m proud to love my Mama,” Ryan shrugged.
“Me too. I have the coolest Mom,” JT grinned. Cooper nodded with a sad smile.
“I did, too.”
Ryan and JT passed a look between them. Ryan sensed the same sadness from Cooper he had earlier in the night. JT noticed, too. Cooper had a way about her; those around her felt every emotion she experienced.
“Unfortunately, you will have to go on without me,” JT sighed.
“Aww, I’ll miss you,” Cooper said.
“Maybe we can hook up another time,” JT said. “Are you going to be in town long?”
“For the rest of the week,” she smiled.
JT handed her his cell phone.
“Put your number in there as ‘Sexy Coop’,” he winked.
Ryan rolled his eyes as Cooper laughed and did as he asked. JT hugged Cooper goodbye extra long, and Ryan was getting restless.
“JT, would you let her breathe already?” he asked.
“Bye Rizz,” JT mocked a cry and threw his arms around him.
“Say hi to Mama J for me,” Ryan said.
After JT walked away, Cooper and Ryan looked at each other awkwardly. The hall was practically bare now, as the guests and photographers scattered away.
“It’s falling down,” Ryan broke the silence.
“Huh?” Cooper asked confused.
“The garter.”
He pulled the lacy garment up her leg a little more. His fingers brushed her inner thigh unintentionally, though they both noticed. Ryan’s normal modesty diminished around this girl.
“I look so trashy,” she sighed.
“You do not.”
“Whatever,” she rolled her eyes.
“Even if you were in that blue sequined number that drunken woman was wearing, you couldn’t look trashy.”
Cooper laughed, “She looked like a Fourth of July firecracker.”
“I know and she pinched my butt at the bar!” Ryan said wide-eyed.
“She thought you were sexy,” Cooper winked with a laugh.
“I don’t care. It’s my booty, not hers,” Ryan huffed before breaking into a small chuckle.
“We should get going. People are going to think I kidnapped you,” Cooper suggested.
“That’s okay. George can fill in for me as a member of Sound Wave,” Ryan joked.
“George?”
“The guy I told you was me.”
“Oh, yeah, he looked at me like I was nuts all night,” Cooper groaned.
“Well, you are nuts. Who doesn’t know what Sound Wave looks like?”
“Conceited much?” Cooper teased.
“Me? Nah…that’s JT,” Ryan winked.
Cooper smiled at Ryan and wondered how the rest of the night would turn out. She was pretty nervous spending her night with celebrities, especially two of which were flirting with her. Maybe that was just their personalities, Cooper thought, downplaying her own charm.

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