“Spotlight” is the 6th book in the “Dream Catchers” Series and is from the perspective of photographer Haley Foster and rock star Jordan Walsh’s daughter, Aylin. “Spotlight” will be released March 1, 2017. PRE-ORDER SPOTLIGHT
Aylin Ashton always had a voracious heart and is fiercely loyal to the ones she loves. At twenty, she wants more than the celebrity lifestyle her family is known for—she wants an identity of her own with friends who care about who she is and not her last name.
Most of all, Aylin wants the love story her parents have. In a world full of divorce, and a society that has made it hard for her to be “normal”, she is not sure if true love can be her reality.
She finds herself struggling to grow romantically and keeps hitting a dead-end with men. From the egotistical pop-rocker Rad Trick to hipster music critic Mike, Aylin is not particularly gaga for either of them, and can’t help to pine for too-old-for-her Irishmen, Colin Houlihan, who happens to be her father’s tour manager!
The impetuous Aylin can’t help but make passes at the flirty, always doting on her Colin, and when he actually admits an attraction to her, the two are on dangerous ground.
The experience leaves Aylin wounded, but ultimately sends her on a journey to find out who she is and what she really wants, and maybe to the special someone she had hoped for.
“Aylin, you don’t have to decide your major right now,” my college advisor chuckled at me.
I am a sophomore at NYU and really want to figure out my career. I took a couple of semesters off to travel with my parents and be a nanny for my Aunt Cami and Uncle Drew. I thought it would give me time to figure out my life path.
My parents tell me I’m in too much of a rush to grow up, and maybe I am. I was surrounded by grown-ups my entire life. They were past this whole indecisive, career-choosing, love-seeking phase. I hate not knowing my future. I want answers. I want to know who I will be and who I will be with. I’ve always been a tad impulsive and impatient. Okay, maybe I am more than a tad of both those things.
“Mr. Vecchio,” I sighed. “I feel like I’ll just delay the time I’m spending in college. I mean, what if I decide to be a doctor and I haven’t taken any courses related to that?”
I ran my hand through my blonde hair and Mr. Vecchio looked at me, obviously amused. He has a graying goatee with one hair too long that seems to tickle his upper lip when he talks. It must bother him because he scratches the goatee every so often. I contemplated grabbing the pair of scissors on his desk and snipping it off for the past ten minutes.
“Do you want to be a doctor?”
“No way,” I shook my head, trying not to focus on the goatee. “Too much blood and pain and politics.”
I know doctors help people, but the medical industry is riddled with corruption and medication that cures shit—and by shit, I mean not much of anything.
“I’m more of a holistic type.”
“So, you want to study holistic medicine?” Mr. Vecchio asked, crossing his hands and placing them on the desk, with a mocking expression.
I shook my head, “No, I don’t want to go into medicine at all.”
He was totally missing my point!
“Aylin, are you wasting my time today?”
I pushed my hair behind my ears and groaned.
“You’re my guidance counselor. Help guide me!”
He rolled his eyes, “You’re a kid still. Go out and join a sorority. Stop worrying so much about your career. It’ll come to you. Make friends, date, party a little and next semester, we’ll talk.”
He stood up and made his way to the door cueing me to leave. I looked at him in disbelief.
“Join a sorority? Party a little? That is your guidance?”
Mr. Vecchio chuckled again, which really must have made his goatee tickle his lips. Immediately, he ran a hand over his mouth before giving me a condescending look.
“You need to lighten up, kid.”
Ugh, I hated people who called me kid!
“Why am I even in college then? I’ll just go party,” I shrugged, standing up, grabbing my bag and storming out of his office.
Okay, maybe I was a little high-strung lately, but I wasn’t always that way. I did whatever anyone else wanted to do, or wanted me to do.
Aylin, you want to come on tour with us instead of going to your prom? Sure, Dad.
Aylin, can you get us tickets to a Yankee game? Sure, friends who don’t give a damn about me.
Aylin, can we have sex? Sure, Rad.
Ugh, Rad Trick. Maybe he had a little more to do with my irritable, “help me, I’m lost” state than I’d like to admit. He was someone I thought was my friend. I should have known any guy with a name like Rad would be trouble. I was warned, too—by my parents and Cami—that Rad’s bad boy image in the tabloids wasn’t all publicity.
Rad Trick is a solo artist, who likes to think of himself as a rock star, but is more pop-rock that would be played on the Disney Channel in between those over-acted cheesy shows that I indulged in way more than I like to admit.
He is tall, kind of skinny with thick, dark hair, almost black eyes, and olive skin. His parents are from Greece and his full first name is Radamus.
He is managed by Out Of The Woods Entertainment, my aunt Cami’s company, which also manages my dad’s band, Tortured. I had met Rad a bunch of times in passing, but he asked me to lunch a while back and we began hanging out whenever he was in town.
I knew Rad’s image was tarnished. I knew about the stints in rehab and how frustrated Cami always seemed when talking about him. Like my mother taught me, though, I didn’t judge books by their cover.
Rad didn’t want to get to know me because I was Jordan Walsh’s daughter or Drew Ashton’s niece. That was a first for me. I felt special. Rad truly seemed interested in who I was as a person.
We listened to each other when it felt like no one else understood. He told me about his addictions. I told him about my inexperience with love. He talked about how strict his parents were. I told him how laid back mine were. We shared the same feelings toward our friends—that they were using us.
One thing we didn’t share was a mutual attraction. Sure, I thought Rad was good-looking, but I didn’t feel drawn to him in any physical way. I wanted to be, though. Wouldn’t that have made life easier? If I could just force myself to fall for someone who genuinely liked me? I enjoyed talking to Rad, though. He told me I was a good influence on him, and I believed him. It made me feel good about myself.
He also said something about my parents one night after too much alcohol—on my part—that struck a chord. I had never thought about it before, but it made me wonder.
“Your parents are a little selfish, huh?” he asked, as we sat in his Upper West Side penthouse on a super uncomfortable, modern couch.
“Selfish?” I gasped. “No,” I shook my head vehemently. “They’re great. They’ve given me everything I need and more. I’m lucky,” I smiled, but felt a twinge in my stomach of uncertainty.
Rad flashed a smile as he reached out and brushed my cheek. He always found little ways of touching me. I knew he wanted more with me, but I was grateful he hadn’t made a move… yet. I hoped I would return his affections eventually.
“It’s okay, Aylin. It doesn’t make them bad people. They both have busy careers and they did what worked for them, to keep you all together. But did it work for you?”
“Did what work for me?”
The alcohol and Rad’s accusations along with how close we were sitting were mixing me up.
“Traveling around the world? Being pulled out of school? Living in their shadow?”
I pulled back from him, “I’m going to go.”
Rad grabbed my hand and pulled me down.
“I’m sorry if I upset you.”
I looked at him and didn’t realize I was crying until he brushed back my tears. He pulled me into a hug and I couldn’t stop the tears from falling as he consoled me. When I finally looked at him, he made his move. He kissed me and I felt too overcome with emotions and confusion to do anything but kiss him back.
It was a nice kiss, but I didn’t feel any more for him than I had before it happened. I politely left and walked around aimlessly. I never spoke about my parents’ “selfishness” again.
Rad took that moment, and the vulnerability it evoked within me, and tried to recreate it whenever we were alone, which I tried to keep to a minimum. I missed our talks, but I was afraid of facing his affection and exposing anymore negative feelings.
Of course, I didn’t take Cami’s advice and try to cut off the friendship.
“It is impossible to get over someone you see all the time,” she explained when I told her about Rad’s one-sided attraction.
Cami knew that better than anyone. From what I understood, she harbored a crush on my dad for twenty years! I’m glad she and Uncle Drew are getting married in a week; they’re perfect together.
Instead of listening to Cami, I continued to hang out with Rad. I even began initiating kisses with him. Why? Out of fear of losing the only real friend I had, and still hoping he would grow on me romantically, like Mom and Dad grew on each other.
One night Rad and I were making out—after too much alcohol again—and I was feeling turned on. It wasn’t necessarily an attraction, but my hormones took over. I had never even been to third base before and wanted to wait to find love, but I felt strongly for Rad as a friend. I had rather lose my virginity to him than any other guy in my life at that moment. I didn’t stop him when he put his hand up my dress and into my panties.
He pulled his hand away right when I was about to go over the edge and looked into my eyes.
“Can we move into the bedroom?”
I knew this was a grown-up decision. It could change everything. But right then, I wasn’t thinking clearly. Rad had worked me up just enough that I wanted to finish what we started. I wanted to become a woman; one who made decisions for herself and didn’t drift aimlessly and comfortably like I always had.
The walk of shame I took at three a.m. had me feeling awful. I felt bad for leaving, but I thought it would be worse if I stayed. Sneaking into my Riverside Drive brownstone made me feel even worse, like I did something wrong. Why did it feel wrong? I was twenty-one! I don’t have to ask permission to have sex or stay out late.
My dog, Tilly, came running to me and I pet her quickly, hoping the sound of her clicking paws on the wood floors didn’t wake Mom. Dad was somewhere in England on tour. I was grateful I wouldn’t have to look into his eyes for the next few days. Could fathers tell when their daughter’s innocence was gone? Although, I still felt pretty damn naive and like a little girl more than ever. It was a stupid move. It wasn’t a sign of maturity or taking control. I was anything but in control.
As I got changed for bed, I thought about Rad and wondered if I could ever love him, or even like him enough to date. That was why it felt so wrong; I knew he had feelings for me and they were not reciprocated. I cried myself to sleep with Tilly by my side.
Tilly had only been in my life for a year, but she was the best dog. Dad and I rescued her from an ASPCA event I was volunteering at. Mom was skeptical about having to take care of a dog with all the traveling we did, but it’s worked out.
The next morning, I worried what I would say to Rad or how he would feel about me sneaking out on him. He sent me a text that afternoon, but it wasn’t what I expected to see.
Had a great time last night. Thanks 😉
I guess I expected something along the lines of him asking why I left or that awkward “we need to talk” text. For the next few days, I kept waiting for something like that to come, but it never did. I didn’t receive any other communication from him until almost a week later. The text came in at night. Late at night.
Wanna come over? :-)~
It became clear to me I was a booty call. Maybe that’s all I ever was to Rad; a conquest.
That whole situation along with the need to find out who I am and what I want had me all sorts of screwy.
When I got home from school, the irritation from visiting with my guidance counselor and receiving a follow-up text from Rad had consumed me. This time, Rad’s text said something about missing my body and it made me cringe. I slammed down my bag and noisily searched through the freezer for vegan ice cream. Mom and I weren’t complete vegans, but just about.
I found the ice cream wedged in the back of the freezer covered by giant bags of frozen broccoli. We kept an emergency stash in case of PMS or particularly bad days. Today wasn’t an awful day and it was a little early for PMS, but after my “best” friend reduced me to friends with benefits and my guidance counselor told me to join a sorority, ice cream was called for.
I sat down on the couch with the carton of Turtle Trails and a spoon while flipping the Yankees game on. I glanced at my phone to see Rad sent me another text.
Are you ignoring me? I’m leaving tomorrow for L.A. I really want to see you before I go.
I shoveled a huge scoop of ice cream into my face before picking up my phone and responding.
Okay. Not at your place. We need to talk.
I have a meeting at Out Of The Woods in a few. Want to meet me there and we can go to Serendipity?
I looked at the ice cream in my hand and knew a Frrrozen Hot Chocolate was not what I needed. I got sick the last time I had one. Serendipity and pizza were my two huge dairy exceptions, and I always paid for them later.
Sure. What time?
The T.V. announced Uncle Drew to the plate and I gave the game my attention for a moment. Tilly jumped up on the couch beside me and I welcomed her warmth as opposed to the cold container in my hands. I heard the front door open and Mom giggling on the phone with someone. She walked into the living room, holding a dress bag.
“I can’t wait to see Ben give you away. It’s going to be so cute,” Mom cooed.
It was obvious she was talking to Cami. Mom was almost as excited for the wedding as Uncle Drew and Cami were. If you knew Cami, you’d know getting excited and giddy about something didn’t always go hand-in-hand for her. That kind of changed when she and Uncle Drew began dating.
“Hey A,” Mom called to me.
I waved at her with the spoon in my hand and she must have figured out what kind of day I was having.
“Cami, I’ll talk to you later,” she said draping her dress over the arm chair just as the T.V. roared.
Uncle Drew hit a homerun. Before Mom could hang up, I could hear Cami cheer through the phone. She was obviously watching the game too, and I had to laugh. Mom sat on the other side of Tilly who acknowledged her with a wag of her tail.
“Emergency stash?” She asked, motioning to the carton and I nodded. “Bad day at school?”
“My guidance counselor is a jackass.”
“Aylin,” she smirked.
Mom secretly enjoyed when I cussed. She once told me I was adorable when I was mad, which frustrated me since I was trying to be serious—not adorable.
“Mom, he told me I need to lighten up and party more,” I sighed, handing her the ice cream.
She laughed and took a heaping scoop of Turtle Trails.
“What? I don’t think he’s supposed to advise that,” she said with her mouth full.
“Right?” I huffed.
“Forget him. How about we go out to dinner and make fun of his misshaped goatee?”
I laughed. I love my mom. Rad wasn’t my best friend. Mom is.
“I wish I could. I’m meeting Rad,” I said glumly.
“Oh,” she nodded.
She sounded disappointed and I wanted to tell her what’s been going on. I told my parents everything, but I didn’t want to upset them. I didn’t want to prove everyone right about Rad and reveal my stupidity.
“I love you, Mom,” I stood up.
She smiled, “I love you too. Are you okay?”
I shrugged, “I just want to find my place, you know?”
She tilted her head, “You’re right where you belong.”
Leave it to Mom to say something cheesy and perfect. It made me angry that Rad called my parents selfish when they care so much.
“You know what I mean,” I said. “I want to figure out my career and find my peeps.”
She laughed, “Your peeps?’
“I love you guys, but I don’t have friends—”
“Aylin, you have a ton of friends,” Mom said. “Everyone loves you.”
I sighed, “Mom, you know that I stopped hanging out with people from high school.”
“That was your choice, A.”
“Yeah, well, they just didn’t seem like good friends when they would ask for tickets to a Yankees game or concert all the freaking time. I mean, you saw how those girls would gawk at Dad when they’d come over.”
Mom stood up and pulled me into a hug.
“They’re kids and even adults are so wrapped up in putting celebrities on pedestals. Your dad hates it. That doesn’t mean they didn’t like you. Do you think if you were some stuck-up snob that they’d still be your friend even with the perks?”
I pulled away and looked at her. Mom’s grey eyes were determined to convince me my friends cared about me.
“Yes, I do.”
She didn’t know how to respond.
“Maybe your guidance counselor is right. You need to party a bit and make some new friends.”
I rolled my eyes and pushed her lightly.
“Right, like you were such a party animal in college,” I stuck my tongue out at her.
“You don’t want to be like me,” she laughed. “I had social claustrophobia! It was awful.”
“Being like you isn’t so bad, you know?” I smiled.
Mom shoved me this time and we laughed.
“You’ll find your way,” she said, as if she could promise that to me.
I nodded, wanting to believe her.