The Regret is Book 2 of the Red Note Series. It can be read as a standalone.
You’ll love The Regret if you love:
- second chance
- pop star romance
- lovin’ in public places
- fan fiction
- crazy stalkers
“She is so pure, this version of you.
But I know the real you.”
International Popstar Charley Otto abides by two rules to protect his sanity while living in the spotlight.
1: Don’t believe anything you read online.
2: Leave the past behind.
But those rules fly out the window every time flowers arrive at his doorstep with lines from The Regret—a viral fan fiction story penned by a mystery woman that sounds a little too familiar.
“I want to be some version of the person she wrote, even in all his imperfections.”
Desperate to find the identity of his secret admirer, Charley hires a private investigator who finally gives him the name of the woman he deserted over a decade ago. And upon arrival at Scarlette Shannon’s book signing, the two artists realize the spark they felt that night never burnt out.
“Rewrite it any way you want. Fiction and reality rarely meet in the middle. And we were reality.”
As Charley and Scarlette’s second chance fractures under the microscope of fame, threats from a shadow in their past escalate—threatening to expose the secrets Scarlette hoped would stay buried.
And all love affairs have to face the truth eventually.
CHAPTER ONE: CHARLEY
I never feel like I’m truly home from tour until my dick is in my hand.
You could say it’s the same routine every time, the same flow of motions. I return to L.A. to my house—clean, white, and acoustic…empty. I yell out and my voice echoes as I beckon my dog, Parker, from the back of the house. Then I say hello to my housekeeper and my chef, welcoming them back to their jobs of taking care of me. I send texts to the people who manage my life, making sure all of my handlers know where I am before I escape—wind down, close the tabs in my brain.
Eventually, I head to my room to stare out the floor to ceiling windows beside my bed—you can see the Pacific from here, but that’s not what I want to see when I get home, so I adjust the blinds, turning on the shields that cover my windows, blocking out all traces of light. I shut my bedroom door, take off my watch, empty the change in my pocket, place my wallet on the nightstand, then fall into bed, relishing the silence as I pull out my phone.
Then I read. As always, I read her story. Our story, ignoring the rules I have in place for my sanity—don’t believe anything you read online, and leave the past behind.
I can’t sleep until I’ve gotten myself off to the picture she creates at least once—images of me, ten years ago, young in Hollywood, pressing a woman against a wall outside a party, feeling the sting of my mistakes. I can’t sleep until I relive it, until I read about this version of myself that both exists and doesn’t, and as I read, my hand inevitably always slips down into my boxer briefs.
Touring is sacred—the ritual essential. And this homecoming is like the rest. I settle into my routine and let out a deep breath.
I love performing. I love being in front of a crowd, drenched in sweat, letting my fingers bend the keyboard to my will.
But I can’t find this kind of silence on tour—and I need it. I need a break, a small crack in the wall. I need a cavern to dive into. Because when I’m not Charley Otto—twenty-nine-year-old pop star—I’m just a guy who wants someone to see beyond the image.
And this girl—this woman—who wrote fan fiction about me years ago, seems to be the only person who knows who I truly am.
I don’t know her name but I know her scent, the way she laughed, the color of her hair.
And the day after our…meeting…I got back together with my ex-girlfriend, Fallon. A public and messy affair that the gossip magazines loved to dissect. That toxic relationship was great for my songwriting, but it was shit for my mental health. I was a side piece, then a boyfriend, and last, a dirty secret. Fallon Farris and I were everything to each other and nothing to each other.
I’m not surprised the author of the Wordpad story sounded bitter when she wrote about the way I always went back to Fallon like an idiot.
Pop stars aren’t strangers to the fan fiction written about them. Most stay away from it, the Harrison Shaw’s and Sean das Dores’s of the world likely do.
But not me. I read some on a dare, after an interviewer brought up the existence of such stories to me. What I found shocked me. Most were filthy, which was fine by me. And some were silly. And some called me by name, but my personality was nowhere to be found; so I read them in a detached state.
But with this story, The Regret, I felt exposed. I told no one I devoured the story on Wordpad, that I analyzed it, studied the profile name of the author, and the fictional name she gave herself—Lettie.
Asking anyone other than a professional to help me find the author’s identity would force me to admit something about the story bothered me…or intrigued me.
Or was real.
In The Regret, I’m twenty-four, wild, running through women and flashy drugs. I’m a nerd who wants to impress a girl he meets at a party—a guest no one knows, likely a party crasher. A girl with bright red hair, pale skin, freckles. Someone…innocent. Or so I thought.
In the story, the girl and I leave the party, crash other parties, skinny dip in the ocean, make out in the sand…fuck on the balcony. And when morning comes, the fictional me leaves, and for years fictional me leads this girl on, breaking her heart, treating her like someone he only wants to see at night.
None of that is true, not the years after, anyway,and the drama of the fictional me and the fictional she. But the initial night our fictional counterpartsmeet mirrors our real story, faded in the fringes of my mind.
I never got her name. I don’t remember her face. I was too drunk, too much of a young moron. And now I’m forever immortalized in her memory, in her words. And I can’t stop reading them, years after she stopped posting, years after I found them.
Because I want to be some version of the person she wrote, even in all of his imperfections.
And I want to know how she knows where I live, and why she keeps sending flowers to my studio with words from her story.
* * *
While on tour in Europe, I hired a lawyer friend who used to moonlight as a private investigator to discover the identity of the woman who seemed to know more about me from one night than people who have known me my entire life. I didn’t expect to get any results soon, or at all. But later in the afternoon, after my hands are clean and my mind is clear, I look at the text stating he has her identity. She doesn’t get to sit on the fringes of my life anymore, toying with me.
It’s been an hour since I responded, and Cal said he’d like to come by to give me the information in person. So I’m sitting in my living room, the windows open to the breeze and the ocean, watching the last remnants of summer slipping away, and trying to find something to do with my damn hands.
That overachieving voice in the back of my head tells me it’s time to head back to the studio. I’m long overdue for a record, but nothing is igniting a spark.
My writer’s block has been debilitating. I’ve been so immersed in my tour and uploading videos of myself creating melodies on the keyboard that I haven’t created anything usable for a record in the past year.
To write is to carve out a piece of yourself and lay it on the line. And in my case, the entire world gets to judge that vulnerable feeling. I’m terrified to go to that space again, and I’d rather focus on my mystery woman right now. A more terrifying alternative.
A knock on my door pulls me from my thoughts, and my housekeeper emerges from the dining area. “Melanie, it’s Cal Prentice. I’m expecting him,” I say, though no one makes it to my door unless they’re expected. My restless energy has me talking to talk, acting like Melanie doesn’t know my life better than I sometimes do.
I head to the kitchen, opening the fridge to grab two waters. When I turn, Cal is walking to the bar that’s separating me from him. “Charley,” he says my name like an old friend, and I don’t mind the charade. We don’t know each other that well. “You look good. Just get back from tour?”
“Yeah, man,” I answer, reaching across the island to shake his hand. “How are your kids?”
“Hilarie’s starting college this fall. East Coast. Braden.” He snaps his fingers. “Braden is a sophomore.”
I offer him a water bottle, placing my hands on the countertop as he opens it, taking a drink. “That’s great, man,” I say, eager to get down to business. Eager to stop calling Cal man like we’re buddies.
Cal places the lid back on his bottle. “I won’t take up much of your time.”
I bite the inside of my cheek. I’m finally going to know her name. “No problem. Should I sit?”
He smiles, bringing his briefcase up to the island surface, and opening it. “It’s interesting.” Cal pulls out a folder, opening it before sliding it to me.
I pull the folder toward me, staring into blue eyes, a button nose, and a wide smile. Hair like fire. The most mesmerizing freckles. It’s her.
“Her name is Scarlette Shannon. The It Girl in publishing at the moment. She’s wholesome as can be, or at least her online persona is. She posts a lot of videos interacting with fans on her social media platforms. She writes young adult high fantasy. Netflix is currently adapting one of her trilogies into a limited series, while Hulu has already released season one of a show based on her The Auburn Court trilogy. She’s thirty-three. Unmarried. No children. Her father lives here in L.A. Her mother is in Little Valley, New York, her brother is in Jersey City.”
I take in the information, scanning the words in front of me. “And she lives here still?”
“Yes. Still here in L.A. Though, I imagine she’s upgraded her living situation since then. How old were you when you met?”
“Nineteen,” I say, my voice cracking.
Cal laughs. “She was a little cradle robber, eh?”
I force a smile. “I don’t think four years counts for much.”
“Would you like to know where you can find her?” Cal asks.
I close the folder, then look him in the eye. “Yes. Yes, I would.”