TAKE ME HOME is the 4th part in The Dream Catchers Series. This book focuses on Cami Woods, who was a supporting character throughout the series. You’ll be able to follow the story without reading the previous books, but it is recommended you read the other books to fully understand the history of the characters.
I grew up in Bedford Stuyvesant, Brooklyn. I didn’t live in a nice apartment like I own now. My mom and I were poor and I mean really poor. I began kicking in for food as soon as I was old enough to make lemonade. Mom put me to work in any way she could. Paper routes, babysitting, lemonade stands in the summer, and hot chocolate stands in the winter.
I was good at selling, too. I had that fast-talking New York attitude for a little girl. I was adorable to boot. Mom did her fair share. She worked two jobs, sometimes going weeks without a day off.
Mom was an Italian immigrant. She had left a poor neighborhood in Sicily for a better life. She hoped to marry an American, but instead fell in love with my father—a half-Filipino, half-Irish man from Manila, whom I never met. I saw all of two pictures of my dad and he was gorgeous. Mom always told me I looked just like him.
“Camilla,” she would hold my face in her hands. “Bellisima, just like your papa.”
I would smile proudly. I had my father’s olive skin tone, his big, almond shaped eyes and dark hair. I had my mother’s light blue eyes, though, which popped against my tan skin.
I knew I was uniquely pretty. I wasn’t short on people telling me that. Older women in Bed Sty would pinch my cheeks and tell me I was going to be a heartbreaker. As a pre-teen, grown men would stare at me. Mom would curse them out in Sicilian.
“Disgraziato!” she’d yell with a hand up as if she would slap them.
The men would practically run away. I loved Mama. She was the toughest woman I ever met. She was lonely, though. After my father abandoned her when I was just a baby, she focused on providing for me. Outside of me and work, she didn’t have much. She was always so tired. She worked jobs where she was on her feet for long hours.
By the time I was fourteen, Mama was sick at least once a month. In order to help more with the bills, I started home-schooling. I graduated high school at sixteen and went to a business school in Manhattan to get my associate’s degree.
A month after my seventeenth birthday, Mama passed away due to complications from pneumonia and bronchitis. Her immune system was weakened over the years from asthma and diabetes. She was in her forties. I remember feeling numb. I couldn’t stay in Brooklyn. Without Mama, my life in Bed Sty was nothing. I didn’t have many friends since I was home-schooled for so long and the kids in my schools weren’t exactly on the right path. Girls hated me because of the way I looked and boys looked at me like they wanted to attack me.
With whatever money Mama had saved, I used it to find a rundown apartment in downtown Manhattan. I got a job as a waitress in a diner nearby. I also interned for Mega Music Management while I finished school. I had a knack for selling things and knew how to negotiate. I figured management and marketing was right for me. I didn’t want to hate my job, though. I didn’t want to be a manager of some big retailer or in a restaurant. I wanted to be part of something bigger. Music was my therapy growing up and I knew that. I just wasn’t quite sure how or when I’d find my place in the industry.
After I finished school, I had to make some case for myself to Mega Music Management to allow me to continue a nonpaid internship, though I had hoped they would actually hire me. I mostly did tedious tasks and wished they would give me more responsibility. I predominantly worked with men, who didn’t take me seriously as a professional; to them I was just a pretty teenager.
Working at the diner sucked, but tips were pretty decent, especially from men. I would just bat my crystal blues and flash a smile.
One day, a group of four guys in their very early twenties came into the diner. They were the cocky type. I knew I would probably want to slap at least one of them by the end of their meal, but I marched over to their table anyway. I flashed my brightest smile as I greeted them.
“Hey guys, my name is Cami, what can I get you to drink?”
My eyes fell on the guy furthest from me. I didn’t realize just how good-looking he was from a distance. He had longish-brown hair, almost cinnamon in coloring and gorgeous green eyes with specks of gold around the pupil. For the first time in my life, I felt my knees buckle at the sight of a boy. Sure, I had celebrity crushes on guys like Rob Thomas and Dave Navarro. I was always into rock and alternative music—it helped get my frustrations out. Between not having much of a childhood, no friends or family, and losing my mother at seventeen, I had a ton of anger inside me.
Aside from a few celebrity crushes, I never found myself swooning over “real life” guys. I even wondered if I was a lesbian for a while, but then I realized girls irritated me, and I wanted to claw most of their eyes out!
After forcing myself to get into a short-lived relationship with a guy from one of my business classes—I even lost my virginity to him—I wondered if maybe there was something wrong with me. I had no emotional pull to anyone at all. I figured I was just asexual. But suddenly there I was, staring—and I do mean staring—at this beautiful man.
“Um, I’m over here…”
One of the other guys snapped his fingers at me. He actually snapped his fingers! I was infuriated. I managed to tear my eyes off the gorgeous boy to look at another attractive—though slightly thuggish—guy. His blue eyes looked at me and I somehow decided to disregard his rude behavior. If I only knew then what I know now, I would have given him an earful!
“Sorry,” I shook my head out of the daze.
“Can I get a coke?” he laughed.
“Sure,” I forced my best smile before looking over at the next guy to take his order.
When I turned my eyes on the over-the-top gorgeous guy again, he was scribbling something down on a napkin. Something inside me hoped it was his number.
“Jordan,” the bald-headed guy next to him nudged his arm.
Jordan AKA Mr. Absolutely Irresistible stopped writing and looked up at me with a killer smile.
“Sorry. I’ll just have water.”
I finished taking the other drink order before I began to walk away. I heard the blue-eyed guy say something about my ass and I rolled my eyes to myself. By the time I had delivered the check, I overheard several conversations about music and a show.
Finally, my curiosity got the best of me.
“Are you guys in a band?”
Jordan smiled, “Do we look like rock stars?”
He laughed and I couldn’t help but laugh in return.
“You definitely do,” I nodded with a flirtatious smile.
The guys all made teasing noises.
“What was your name again?” he asked.
“I’m Jordan Walsh,” he said sticking his hand out.
I reached across the table to shake it. He winked and I thought I was going to fall flat on the table since I didn’t want to let go of his hand.
“I’m Danny DeSano,” the blue-eyed guy stuck his hand in my face.
I looked over at him and shrugged.
“I’m not impressed,” I smirked.
Again, a round of teasing noises were made. Jordan was laughing hard.
“Wow, I don’t think any girl has ever said that to D.,” he said.
“You’ve got to be kidding me,” I shook my head. “What do you do in the band?”
Danny smiled, “I’m the drummer and I co-write with Jordan.”
“Drummer,” I nodded. “Kept in the back a lot, huh?” I glanced over at the rest of the band. “Good thinking.”
They all cracked up laughing and Danny looked at me with an embarrassed smile.
“You’re a feisty little waitress,” he said, trying to belittle me.
“And you’re an asshole wannabe rock star.”
I flashed the coldest look possible and wondered if these guys were going to get me fired. I couldn’t afford to lose my job. Though I didn’t want to back down, I didn’t want to screw myself over because of some idiot either. I was about to walk away when Jordan called out to me.
“Cami, what are you doing tonight?”
I turned with a goofy smile.
“Well, we have a show tonight at Arlene’s Grocery and…”
“You want me to come to your show?”
I was trying to play it cool; like I would do this band the favor of my presence.
“Of course,” Jordan flashed a smile and added a wink, making sure he got me.
I would certainly subject myself to Danny’s jerkiness to see Jordan again.
“Would you mind selling some merchandise for us?” Jordan asked. “We’ll give you a percentage of everything you sell.”
I eyed him, “How much?”
“Five percent,” The bald-headed man, whom I was introduced to later as Sebastian, cut in.
“Ten,” I challenged.
“Forget her,” Danny said. “Who does this chick think she is?”
I leaned on the table toward Danny, knowing his eyes would go straight to my cleavage.
“A good business woman,” I said.
Jordan laughed, “Deal.”
“Jordan,” Danny huffed.
I stood up straight.
“See you boys tonight,” I said over my shoulder, looking at Jordan as I walked away.
That night, I sold all of Tortured’s band merchandise at Arlene’s Grocery—which is a small, somewhat underground music venue in the Lower East Side, and yes, it used to be a grocery store. Tortured was and still is the name of the alternative rock band I met at the diner that day. And they were truly talented. Their music spoke to me, and not just me, but the entire small crowd at Arlene’s Grocery that night. It wasn’t too hard to sell their stuff, especially to girls. They all wanted something with Jordan Walsh’s beautiful face on it.
I had to roll my eyes. Girls. It didn’t matter to them if a guy had talent or was a jerk. As long as he was hot, they’d sell their souls. If it were anyone else, I’d be sickened by it—but it was Jordan. It was hard for me to understand this feeling toward anyone, but he was just the total package. He had the looks, the personality and the talent. Maybe it was his easygoing personality that made me like him more than his overconfident best friend, Danny.
I don’t know, but all I do know is, from that day forward I began a two-year love affair with Jordan, well in my mind, anyway. Mostly it was just me loving him, but I like to believe a part of him loved me too.
“There’s nothing left?” Sebastian asked at the end of the night.
I stood proudly behind the empty merchandise table.
“Well, I do have this one crappy sticker,” I frowned, holding it up.
The graphics on it were awful. I knew I could do better. In fact, I had a few marketing tips in the back of my mind.
“I’m impressed,” Jordan grinned.
“Me too,” I said, nodding toward the stage. “So, why am I not selling your music to these Tortured fans?”
“Demos cost money,” Darren, the bass player chimed in.
I picked up the tackle box with all the cash in it and handed it to Jordan.
“Done,” I smirked. “I already took my cut.”
Jordan laughed and Danny spoke up.
“Who the hell is this chick?”
“Cami Woods, your manager.”
The band went silent and looked at me questionably. I knew it was crazy to think I could manage some fairly unknown band at just seventeen-years-old with no real experience. They didn’t know me yet, but I knew who I was. I knew when it came to making deals and selling something, I could do it. And Tortured was an easy sell.
“Manager?” Danny laughed. “Right. Nice try little girl.”
“What do you know about managing a band?” Jordan asked. “How old are you, anyway?”
He turned quite serious with the question. It made me swallow since I only saw a carefree attitude from him so far.
“Well, I have a degree in business and marketing,” I said, trying to keep my confidence. Who cares that it was only an Associate’s and not a Bachelor’s Degree? I figured it was best I left my age out of things for the time being.
“…And I’m interning at Mega Music Management. I’m learning a lot and…you just have to trust me,” I said, smiling and making my eyes pierce.
I knew no one could say no to me, but I was wondering if there really was a first time for everything. Instead of saying yes or no, no one said anything.
“We’ll get back to you, Cami,” Jordan said. “Great job tonight.”
Just like that, I was dismissed. I didn’t leave with a job or a date with Jordan, which is what I was hoping for. I went home that night and stared at my rundown apartment with very little furniture.
Before I knew it, I was crying. Sobbing was more like it. My heart hurt. I missed my mother. I wanted to make her proud and live the life she should have. Even though I didn’t think I liked anyone very much, I wanted to have friends or even a husband someday. The husband dream was definitely my mother’s dream for me, and maybe not so much mine. I wanted a great, empowering job. I didn’t want to be some weak woman who had to depend on a man. That didn’t get my mother very far. She wound up pregnant with me and broke!
In my apartment that night, I felt especially weak and alone. And I didn’t feel quite as beautiful as everyone always told me I was. Jordan didn’t seem to be phased by my beauty. I shouldn’t have been surprised—he was the first person I met that had me beat looks-wise. Yes, I was extremely conceited about my beauty. I needed something in life to feel good about!
Two weeks had passed and I hadn’t heard from Tortured. My internship had ended with Mega Music Management in that time after I had tried to secure a job with them. They basically told me I was too young and to contact them in a couple of years. The president of the company gave me his cell phone number and told me to call him when I was twenty-one. He had the nerve to wink at me in a creepy way. I had enough. I accepted all of the inappropriate comments while I interned there at the hopes that I would prove myself as more than teenage eye candy to the company.
I found myself crumpling the president’s number up and throwing it at him.
“I’ll just start my own company then,” I said with a smug smile.
I stormed out of the office, not saying goodbye to anyone as I gathered my things and headed to the elevator. I was shaking. I was angry and upset and scared. I crossed myself and prayed to my mother. We weren’t really practicing Catholics, but we still believed in the core of it.
That night, after my shift at the diner I went home and looked through my contacts I had made at Mega Music Management. The next day, I sat at an internet café and contacted everyone I knew. I invited them all to Tortured’s show at the Bowery Ballroom. I promised free tickets to everyone. I made enough in tips that week to cover it.
I still didn’t have friends, but I was the intern that went the extra mile for clients, press, and booking agencies. Most of them thought more of me than the people in my office did. They wanted to help me out. Besides, I talked Tortured up to the point where I had people wondering, how anyone could be that good.
I’ll never forget the look on Tortured’s face when I walked into The Bowery Ballroom with a photographer from The Village Voice, a big time booking agent and Matt Porter, teen heartthrob from the boy band Sound Wave. Of course, no one recognized the other guys, but they did recognize Matt Porter, even if they hated his music, or would never admit to finding some Sound Wave songs catchy.
Matt had been hitting on me for weeks. He was in New York to record his solo album and was represented by Mega Music Management. I thought he was cute and all, but I wasn’t into him. Maybe I didn’t like blondes, or maybe there was something wrong with me since every teenage girl in the world had been drooling over him. I had allowed Matt to take me to lunch a couple of times, but I have warded off his attempts at kissing me. I knew most girls would think I was crazy for turning Matt down. I probably was crazy.
The band was still doing sound check. I also knew some people at The Bowery Ballroom that allowed me inside early. Jordan stopped checking his microphone and hopped off the stage. Danny, Sebastian and Darren quickly followed.
“How’d you get in here?” Jordan asked curiously.
“I know people,” I shrugged. “This is Harold Armstrong from The Village Voice.”
“Cami’s said some great things about your band,” Harold said, holding his hand out to Jordan, who shook it looking dumbfounded.
“This is Jon Mason of Artist Mayhem Agency,” I continued introductions.
“And I’m sure you all recognize Matt Porter,” I finished with a smile.
Matt and Jordan shook hands, almost sizing each other up. I stifled a laugh. Danny was even worse. It looked like he tried to break Matt’s hand off when he shook it.
“Can we talk alone for a second?” Jordan asked, in a low voice.
I swallowed. His voice really was an extension of his looks. We walked away from everyone. I looked over my shoulder to see Danny’s eyes following me. I thought he hated me. Years later, he claimed he was baffled and intrigued by me. I wasn’t like other girls he knew. Sometimes, as much as Danny says he was in love me, I wondered if he was threatened by me; intimidated even. At times, even now, I wonder if he downright hates me.
Anyway, back to the private conversation Jordan and I had…
“What is all this?” Jordan asked, nodding toward Matt Porter and the other two guys that came in with me.
“I have five more industry people coming tonight,” I said matter-of-factly.
“To prove myself to you.”
Jordan sighed, “Maybe we don’t want a manager.”
“Maybe you don’t, but you need one.”
He laughed, “Says you? Listen, you’re impressive. I’ll give you that, but this is our band and we’re doing fine—“
“How much merch do you usually sell at shows?” I asked, interrupting him.
He sighed and shrugged.
“That’s what I thought. And that crowd that I saw, are they the same crowd that’ll be here tonight?”
“I’m sure there will be some new faces. Word of mouth is powerful,” Jordan said, trying to sound convincing.
“Yes, it is,” I agreed. “In the same city, at the same three venues, how fast do you think the word is going to spread?” I raised my eyebrow.
Jordan stared at me.
“The Voice is willing to run a piece on you guys—if you’re as good as I told them you were—which we both know you are.”
Jordan stared at me blankly. I was smugly smiling.
“What do I have to give you?”
Now, that was a loaded question! There was so much I wanted from Jordan at that moment. A job. His lips. His heart.
He broke into a smile.
“You’ve got a chance. I mean, how much money are we talking?”
“How about ten percent of every show I book you? If you guys book it yourselves, you owe me nothing. Once we get a record deal and sell a million albums, we’ll renegotiate,” I chuckled.
Jordan laughed and his smile blinded me.
“Is that a deal?” I asked, sticking my hand out.
Jordan shook it and Danny walked over to us.
“Why did you bring that douche bag to our show?” Danny asked.
I rolled my eyes, “He’s here to support you.”
Danny furrowed his eyebrows, a look I oddly found attractive.
“We don’t need him. Are you crazy or something?”
I smiled, “No, I’m your manager. And trust me, take a picture with Matt Porter for The Village Voice, and his fans become your fans,” I said patting his chest before walking away.
“Did she just say she was our manager?” I heard Danny ask Jordan as I headed back over to Matt.
“D, she can help us.”
“You didn’t even talk to us about it!” Danny hissed.
“Seb and Darren think it’s a good idea,” Jordan said with a sigh before walking away from him.
Matt nudged my arm.
“That Danny kid is a douche.”
I snickered at him and looked over at Jordan, who smiled at me. I smiled bigger and Matt sighed next to me.
“So, you brought me here to impress a guy?” he whispered.
I looked over at Matt and he looked offended and hurt.
“Matt, that’s not it. I brought you here to help me land a job.”
“Or land Jordan.”
“No,” I said through gritted teeth. “Stop with the bruised ego. I’m just not interested in dating right now. I want to be friends.”
Matt nodded, “Okay.”
Danny was staring at us as Jordan talked to the photographer. I decided if I was going to be the band’s manager, I better smooth things over with the drummer. I walked over to Danny and took his hand. I pulled him to the bar.
“I know you don’t like me, but I promise you I want to make Tortured a success.”
Danny sighed, “I’ll admit this is all kind of impressive.”
I smiled, “I’m the one impressed by you guys.”
Danny returned my smile. He really was handsome. There are times when he would look at me and I felt myself wanting to jump on him. Still, I found myself falling for Jordan long before I ever thought about Danny as anything more than pent up sexual tension.