I arrived back at our apartment feeling like crap. Exactly as I had predicted, I had not gotten any sleep. I had spent most of the night wide awake, trying not to toss and turn so I didn’t disturb anyone else.
And also, because JJ had held me for most of the night.
My heart hadn’t stopped pounding the whole time, and it had been hot.
When we got back to the apartment, I was desperate for a shower. I needed a nap too but seeing as though everyone else was heading down to the practice rooms, I figured that was out of the question.
I followed everyone into the basement, disappearing into Justin’s practice studio. The little red light on the camera was flashing away, indicating that it was filming. Trying to push it from my mind and not look at it every five minutes like I knew Justin wouldn’t, I sat down at the keyboard.
Someone from the company had left an itinerary on it, mainly repeating what the CEO had told us.
It had changed.
It was supposed to be recording the songs this weekend and then makeovers next week.
Makeovers and the recording had been switched. Makeovers were tomorrow.
I eyed the piece of paper suspiciously. It gave me more time to practice, but my brain was running every scenario as to why this could be bad and how it would catch me out.
Maybe it was the fact I was tired, but I couldn’t come up with anything.
I stuck the itinerary on the noticeboard which hung behind Justin’s desk and turned my attention back to learning the songs. Last night had been almost fun, if not completely nerve-wracking, but it had meant I had lost vital hours to practice.
After spending a few years focusing on studying and not music, I had forgotten how easy it was to lose track of time when playing. It was nighttime before I knew it. After stopping only for some ramen a few hours ago, I was ready for a break.
Although the practice room had air conditioning, I could still feel the sweat and grime from the night before and that desperate urge for a shower was back.
The bathroom didn’t have a camera in it.
Standing, I stretched and then stepped out into the corridor. The lights to all four other studios were on. Which meant all four members of Drako were currently occupied.
I jogged up the stairs to Justin’s room, grabbed some clean clothes, and then practically sprinted into the bathroom. Making sure the door was locked, I stripped and turned the shower on.
The bathroom was large with a walk-in shower. It didn’t have a shower curtain, but the wall curved around into the shape of a number six. It wasn’t my first time using it, but it was the first time showering since the cameras had been installed.
The one advantage to having short hair was that it didn’t take long to wash. I was busy rinsing the shampoo out when there was banging at the door.
“I’m in here!” I yelled.
Moments later, there was a click. “Only me,” Yeonwoo yelled.
I spun around so fast, I nearly slipped. “What the hell, Yeonwoo?”
“Chill. JJ’s using the bathroom downstairs.”
“I’m in here!” It took everything in me not to shriek.
“I’m only taking a piss. Calm down.”
And then I heard him relieving himself – over the water of the shower.
Frozen in horror, I just stood there, until the shampoo started to slide down my face and into my eyes.
Oh, it stung.
I turned back, angling my face up to the water, scrubbing away at my eyes, praying that Yeonwoo wasn’t about to walk around the corner.
He shouldn’t… he didn’t like Justin…
Why would he suddenly decide to start watching my brother shower?
“Will you just get out?” I yelled.
There was a moment’s pause, and then I heard the toilet flush.
Seconds later, the water turned red hot. “Yeonwoo!” I screeched as I slammed my hand down on the control, killing the water before I scalded myself.
The door slammed shut.
I reached out, using the cool tiled wall to support myself. Asshole.
JJ was using the bathroom downstairs?
I sucked in a breath, wiping some suds from around my eyes. Unless Yeonwoo had gone into Justin’s practice room to know I wasn’t there, he had no way of knowing it was me in here.
Which came to the more important question of, how the fuck did he get in? I had locked that door – I’d triple checked it!
Irritated, I wrapped myself in a towel and poked my head out. The bathroom was empty. Dripping water everywhere, I hurried over to the door and kicked my clothes up against it. If Yeonwoo – or any of the others – decided to use the bathroom, at least that would stop them getting in.
I returned to the shower, waiting for the cold water to reappear, and quickly washed the remaining suds from my hair.
When I went downstairs, I found Yeonwoo and Sungjae in the kitchen. They were both huddled over an iPad, looking at the menu on Yogiyo – a food delivery service.
Yeonwoo looked up and smirked at me. “Your screams are sounding girlier and girlier.”
“Go fuck yourself,” I muttered, heading straight for the door.
“Where are you going?” Sungjae asked.
“But the cameras—”
I slammed the door shut, cutting him off. Outside was humid and mosquitos were buzzing around under the lights. Truthfully, I’d planned on heading back down to practice, but suddenly, I needed to get out of there.
Had my intention been to go out, I would have grabbed my cap and mask. Instead I’d left with neither, and if I went back in, I was sure Sungjae would make sure I didn’t go back out.
Thankfully, it was late, dark, and the streets were deserted. In this part of the city, almost as soon as it went dark, foot traffic dropped to almost nothing. Keeping my head down, I walked away from the dorm, stopping at the CUs on the corner. While it didn’t sell caps, it did sell masks.
Feeling a little more protected, I continued walking the streets with no destination in mind.
The walk was little more than a loop around the block. Although I felt safe as a female walking by herself – or a guy walking by himself – I was an idol out, and it would only take one photograph.
I almost snorted at that.
I was just over three weeks away from being caught in the middle of Drako’s comeback where hundreds of cameras would be on me.
“Hey, pretty boy.”
Turning, I saw only one other person in the street – the one talking to me. You know when you look at a person and you can instantly tell they’re trouble?
That was this guy.
He was hidden in shadows and I couldn’t see much of him, other than his height, but there was something about him that made my blood run cold. “Me?” I asked, trying to make my feet keep walking towards the apartment.
“Don’t act like you don’t know me, Kang. You’ve spent too much money to do that.” He continued to walk toward me. “You must be due a refill.”
I shook my head before tapping the side of my knee. “Nope. All better. I won’t be needing anything anymore.”
“Fine.” The guy gave a nonchalant shrug, finally stepping out of the shadows.
Now I could see him, he honestly looked like an average guy. There was nothing remarkable about him. But I knew I wasn’t going to forget his face any time soon.
How the hell did Justin find people like this?
Then again, how did anyone find a drug dealer?
With my eyes on him, I wasn’t paying attention to where my feet were stepping, and the next thing I knew, I was on my ass, having tripped over a pothole. Before I could get to my feet, the guy was in front of me.
“I just said, I don’t need anything from you,” I told him, my heart pounding.
The guy leaned in. “Yeah, but I need something from you.”
I swallowed. “What?”
“The money you owe me.”
Sticking my hand in my pocket, I quickly pulled out everything I had on me. I offered it out to him.
He looked down at it and sneered. “What the fuck is that, Kang?”
Looking at the few notes, thirty thousand won - $25, give or take.
Leaning further in, he tilted his head, staring at me. “I don’t know if they’ve got you going on some variety show, but comedy isn’t your strong point. It’s a million, and you know it.”
Me and Justin’s drug dealer both turned at the sound of Sungjae’s shout. Never had I been so happy to see Drako’s leader.
“You owe me, Kang,” the guy said before disappearing into the shadows.
“Who was that?” Sungjae demanded as he got close.
I pushed myself off the ground and dusted off my leg. “Just a fan.”
“A fan? Him?”
“We have fanboys,” I said with a dismissive shrug.
I stepped around him, my hands in fists only to hide the fact that they were shaking, and started walking back to the apartment.
Sungjae grabbed my wrist, pulling me back. “That was not a fan, Justin. You know it and I know it. Why won’t you just talk to me—”
Jerking my hand free, I whirled back to face him. “Talk to you? I haven’t talked to you about any of this before, so why would I start now? Just keep your nose out of my business.”
It was official. I was a bitch.
I did not feel good about what I was saying, but Justin’s drug dealer had just scared the shit out of me. To make things worse, he’d seen Sungjae. Not that that mattered considering my brother was a damn idol and it wouldn’t have taken longer than ten seconds to find out that piece of information…
Not only did I have to worry about the world not finding out about me, about Justin, about the drugs – but what if something happened to Sungjae or the rest of Drako?
I took off at a run, heading back to the apartment. Inside, I didn’t stop until I was in my room.
JJ was sprawled out on his bed wearing nothing put a pair of shorts. The moment I burst through the door, he grabbed his covers, yanking them up to cover his body.
My attention went straight to the camera.
The little red light was off.
“Justin?” JJ sat up, shaking his head. “Sophie? Are you OK?”
I looked over at him and promptly burst into tears.
The look on JJ’s face was nothing short of alarm, but he jumped off the bed and was in front of me in seconds. “Sophie?”
“No, I’m not OK.” Tears were streaming down my cheeks. “I’m insane.”
“Um, you want to tell me what happened?” JJ glanced at the door before looking back to me. “Did something happen with Yeonwoo again?”
“This,” I cried, pulling at the T-shirt. “I am pretending to be my brother. My brother the drug addict idol. I never even considered his dealer turning up.” I rubbed at my cheeks, not really talking to JJ, so much as venting to the person who happened to be there. “Why wouldn’t his dealer pay him a visit. No one knows he’s in rehab apart from me.”
“His dealer?” JJ repeated. “Sophie, what happened?” He reached for my hand, turning it over and looking at the palms. “Did he hurt you?”
I stared down at the scuffs on my palms. “I fell. He didn’t actually hurt me. He just turned up to give me more drugs. And then point out Justin owes him a million won.” I looked up at JJ. He was blurry. “That’s like, a thousand dollars. How much do you earn to be able to drop a grand on drugs? How can someone spend that much money on drugs, and be so addicted to them he checks into rehab that none of you notice?” I pulled my hand free and shoved JJ. “How do you let things get this bad?”
JJ rubbed at the back of his neck. “It didn’t happen overnight. He’s had mood swings for forever. I just thought it was his personality. He could go from being a decent person to being a complete dick in minutes. But I never suspected drugs.” Closing my eyes, I sucked in a deep breath and wiped my eyes. “I’m sorry. This is not your fault.”
When I opened my eyes again, JJ was staring at me, head cocked. “Speaking of weird mood swings … did you take anything that dealer offered?”
With a sigh, I sank onto the edge of my bed. “I did this because I wanted to help Justin.” I ran a hand through my hair, something between a snort and a huff escaping me.
Tentatively, JJ sat down beside me. “He’s your brother.”
“I thought it was just going to be four weeks hiding in this room watching Netflix. Not television shows and comebacks. Not a group that hates me, for reasons I totally understand, but actually aren’t my fault – and there’s nothing I can do about it. And certainly not drug dealers.” I looked at JJ and raised a shoulder. “I thought I was pretty intelligent. Obviously not. This was a stupid idea. I should just go back home before this gets worse.”
“Maybe it was a little stupid, but it was also brave.” JJ ran a thumb back and forth under his lip before turning to me. “And I know what I said before, but you can’t stop doing this now. For two reasons. The first being, if you leave, it screws things over for all of us. If it takes a million won for that guy to go away, I can get the money.”
My mouth dropped open. “You’d do that for Justin?”
JJ shook his head. “I’ll do it for you.”
“I don’t have a thousand dollars lying around, JJ.”
“It’s not about the money.” He leaned over and wiped at my cheeks. “Just do me a favor and don’t leave the apartment unless I’m with you. That dealer thinks you’re Justin too, and I don’t want to think about what he’d do to you.”
“It’s not just the drugs. I don’t think I can keep up being Justin,” I admitted. “He’s not who I remember him to be. I can’t stand the fact everyone hates me, and I don’t like lying to everyone. I thought I could be him and mend things between all of you, and what’s going to happen when he comes back? But I can’t keep up with being an ass like he has been. I’ve been doing this a week, and I’m exhausted.”
“You want to tell the others?”
“Judging from the way you’re looking at me, you think that’s a crazy idea,” I muttered, raking my hand through my hair. “I’m the queen of them.”
“It’s not that. It’s…”
JJ swung his leg around and suddenly I was distracted by the chest in front of me. “Say that again.”
“Sungjae. Let’s start by telling Sungjae…” he suggested.
I sucked in a deep breath as I nodded. “Less lying would be nice.”
A chuckle had me looking up. “How could I have ever mistaken you for Justin?” JJ asked.
“Because I look like him?” I offered. “It sometimes happens with twins.”
“Not really.” JJ leaned over, sweeping my hair out of my face. “You’re much prettier.” He continued leaning in.
“What was the other reason?” I blurted out.
JJ paused, cocking his head. Then he smirked. “Justin might be a dick, but I get the feeling I could like you if I got to know you. And I want to get to know you.”
The gap between us vanished as JJ’s lips met mine.
My eyes fluttered closed, and almost instinctively, I was kissing him back.
And then the door opened.
JJ jerked his head back and we both turned to find Sungjae, standing in the doorway, his mouth hanging open.
“Shit,” JJ muttered.
“I guess this explains a lot,” Sungjae said. He blinked, shook his head, and then backed out of the room. The door shut with a soft click.
“Shit,” JJ muttered, again. He rubbed at his face with his hand.
My fingers drifted up to my lips. My mind had gone blank and all I could think about was how my lips were tingling.
JJ kissed me?
“Oh, shit.” JJ got to his feet and walked to the desk. And then he walked out of the room.
Was that an oh shit, I kissed Sophie, or an oh shit, I kissed Justin and Sungjae saw it?
Scrambling to my feet, I ran to the door, yanking it open. The hallway was empty.
My gaze landed on Sungjae’s door and I darted over, knocking before opening.
Without even making sure it was shut behind me, I ran down the stairs, sliding as I took the corner and almost stumbled into the living room.
Sungjae was in there with JJ…
And Yeonwoo, Chan, Manager Choi, and a small camera crew.
“Ah, Justin. What took you?” Manager Choi asked.
Blinking, I looked around the room, my gaze settling on JJ. He quickly, but subtly, shook his head. I looked back at Manager Choi and shrugged. “What’s going on?”
“Didn’t you look at the updated schedule?” Yeonwoo asked, his tone scathing.
I scowled at him. “Yes. Makeovers are tomorrow, filming has been pushed back to next week.”
“It’s tomorrow now,” Chan said, gently.
“It’s barely past midnight!” I exclaimed.
The look everyone was giving me had me clamping my mouth closed. Apparently going to a hair salon in the middle of the night was completely normal.
Fine. If there was one thing I was experienced with, it was going to a hair salon. Maybe some time to sit in a chair and get my hair styled would be enough to make me relax.
We filed out to the minibus waiting outside. I took my time, lingering back, trying to speak to JJ before we got on and I wouldn’t have the opportunity. “JJ,” I hissed.
“He’s not going to say anything,” JJ said before jumping on.
Not going to say anything?
The fact Sungjae thought he saw Justin and JJ making out, or the fact JJ had told him who I was?
I climbed in and slid into my usual seat. Was that what was important to JJ? Because what I wanted to know was why he had kissed me.
We were halfway to our destination before I realized I’d spent most of the journey running my finger over my lips. At least I wasn’t having a freak out – the good kind girls liked to have after kissing a guy.
Because regardless of the situation I was in, a cute guy had kissed me. And damn, could he kiss. OK, calm down Sophie. You didn’t come here to crush on a guy.
I turned, glancing over my shoulder as casually as I could.
JJ was asleep.
As I started to turn back, I caught Sungjae staring at me. Instead of a poker expression, his face seemed to be saying a multitude of things – so many, I couldn’t work out what they all were. The only thing I could say for certain was that he wasn’t looking at me with outright hate.
Which still begged the question of what had JJ told him?
A short while later, we pulled up in front of a small building, dwarfed by the surrounding skyscrapers. The place looked closed until the shutters rolled up and the light from inside illuminated the street. A door opened and a man stepped out. “Please come in.”
With Drako, our manager, a small film crew, and a handful of employees, the salon got full very quickly. “I’m Jae,” the man greeted us as the shutters rolled closed. “I’ve been talking with your stylist and agencies and all you need to do is sit down and make yourself comfortable.”
Before I could work out where the others were sitting, I was ushered to a chair on the far side of the room. The salon was big. The entrance was in the middle of the store and the front had large windows with the shutters now hiding the outside world.
Inside, the wall opposite the door had an entrance to the back where I could see sinks and other doors. The main room had mirrors down the remaining sides, each with three chairs in front of them.
I’d been ushered into the corner chair with Chan next to me and Yeonwoo beside him.
“Do we get any say in this?” I asked Chan.
“We did,” he said.
Of course ‘we’ did.
I sat back and closed my eyes. Statements like that had me wondering if Justin knew exactly what he was doing when he sent me out here, but I took a breath, stared at my reflection, and reminded myself that even high, there was no way he would have willingly sent me here to be in a comeback for him.
The question now was, how high had he been when they’d had a conversation about their next style, and what was I about to have done to my hair. If they came anywhere near me with a razor, I was vetoing it – regardless of how much trouble it was going to cause. Enough of my hair had been lost to this.
The stylist, who wasn’t Jae, didn’t come to me with a razor. She didn’t even get out scissors.
Albeit the stuff which went on your hair and not down the toilet, but my hair was getting colored.
Peering at Chan and Yeonwoo from the corner of my eyes, they too were getting a full head of bleach.
I sat back, resisting the urge to pull out my phone as the stylist worked behind me. There was also the guy with the camera wandering around…
It didn’t take long for my head to become a radio transmitter and my stylist was finished long before Chan and Yeonwoo’s. Needing the bathroom, I stood, stretching my legs, and wandered into the back.
When I stepped out, Sungjae was there waiting to use the bathroom. His hair looked like it was heading into the red spectrum. Color had been applied and it was all damp, flattened down on his head. “Sungjae.”
“Is that what you’ve been hiding all this time?” he asked me.
“It’s not what it looked like.”
Skepticism radiated from Sungjae as he arched an eyebrow. “It looked like you kissing JJ.”
“OK, it is what it looked like, but it’s not what you think.” I went to run my hand through my hair but stopped as soon as my fingers touched tinfoil. “Can we talk about this later?”
Sungjae shrugged. “What’s there to talk about? It was pretty self-explanatory. Like I told JJ, what you two get up to is your own business. I’m not going to say anything. I’m not stupid. But Justin?” He stepped up to me. “You have a bad habit of screwing up everything you touch – don’t you dare to anything to hurt him, or Drako.”
As my mouth dropped open, Sungjae stepped into the bathroom, closing the door behind him. I’m not Justin!
Internally, I was screaming it. Externally, I was giving the world my best poker face.
I stepped back into the salon. Jae was just finishing up with JJ, who, if his tinfoil was anything to go by, was getting highlights or streaks in his hair. I waited for Jae to clear the bowl of bleach away, made sure the camera guy was occupied with Chan, and then hurried over.
“What the hell did you tell Sungjae?” I hissed at him. “He thinks that you and I are a you and Justin.”
“I told him the truth: that I like you.”
“JJ, that’s not—” Realizing I was too loud, I took another step towards him and dropped to a crouch, clutching at the arm of his chair. “That’s not the truth. You told him you like Justin, not that you like…” I blinked.
“Yeah,” he said, softly. He moved his hand, placing it over mine.
“Probably not a great idea to be doing that here,” Sungjae muttered, sitting back down in his chair. He picked up his phone, refusing to look at us.
I pulled my hand free and closed my eyes. “We need to talk when we get back,” I whispered to JJ. “The three of us.”
Without waiting for a response, I got up and returned to my chair.
Was it possible for my life to get more complicated?