Months had passed since that night at the hotel following the Starlight Accolade Gala, and those months had been nothing but head-spinning.
The tour was still ongoing, the first bookings sold out at lightning speed, received rave reviews, so the tour was extended and several months’ worth of dates added, keeping Stryker and the boys on the road for a lot longer than anticipated, which of course was great news for them professionally as a band, but bad news for their private lives as boyfriends and fiancés and in Nate’s case, expectant fathers. There would be a small break come Spring, so he could be home around the time his girlfriend Marciella would give birth to their first child.
Until then, the guys only would only ever come home intermittently for a few days at a time, hardly enough time to even call it a break. Life on the road was taking its toll on the boys, but also their significant others. It was definitely not easy for any of them.
Stryker and Sophie’s young relationship was a rollercoaster.
When the going was good, it was great. Amazing. Sophie felt like the luckiest girl on earth, Stryker always found ways to make her feel special and normal at the same time. She, in turn, kept him grounded, despite of the distance between them giving him a sense of stability he hadn’t felt before.
During his rare visits home they would spend most of their limited time alone being a couple, either at her place or his, reaching heights of romance when not spending time with their son Spencer like a true little family Sophie had always wanted, and in a way, so had Stryker, even though he had wanted to be the little boy loved so much by a mom and a dad who would do anything for him rather than being the dad, a role he still struggled with and wasn’t 100% convinced he was the right man for, but he tried his best, basically 50 % drawing from memories of his own youth – mostly what not to do – and 50 % mirroring what Sophie did.
All that stabilized him, helped him fight off his urges to give in to his demons.
But there were the times he was separated from Sophie, from Spencer, from the stability they provided him. Those times were when the lows were the lowest lows, Sophie could not recall ever crying as much as she had cried over and because of Stryker, usually related to news stories about him morally malfunctioning on stage or in public due to him being intoxicated by either alcohol or drugs – sometimes both. Some days he was completely out of control, reckless, ruthless, causing Sophie great concern and worry.
One day a terrible snapshot surfaced, clearly showing him in a chair in some dark club-like setting, bare-chested – some media outlets implied that he was probably completely naked – casually smoking a cigarette, while balancing some girl – without a single thread of fabric on her – in his lap who was clearly not just admiring his musical talent.
Sophie called him, sobbing uncontrollably on the phone and told him that she didn’t believe him that he loved her. She told him under tears that she wanted to break it off with him, then hung up before he could change her mind again and ignored all of his calls and texts after.
The next day he was at her door, begging on bended knee for another chance. As usual, Sophie melted and gave in. After some family time with Spencer, Stryker asked Sophie to go to lunch with him, as he had to fly out again that same afternoon to attend a show that night in a city clear across the country. By the time Sophie picked Spencer back up from her parents to take him home, while Stryker was already boarding his flight at the airport, she was wearing a new piece of jewelry.
Stryker had asked her to marry him.
And she had said yes. Claiming her parents and twin brother Silas were shocked would have been the understatement of the century, but they all kept their opinions to themselves.
Stryke 3 had to spend Thanksgiving on the road, which frustrated them and their girls to no avail, not to mention it was toxic to Stryker’s many issues, he would spiral out of control again and again, his best friend Drake did his best to keep a lid on it but had his own things to worry about and babysitting Stryker proved to be a full-time job. They did get two weeks off for Christmas and New Year. Much needed time to get reacquainted yet again and spend some quality time together, which was like medicine for all three boys, but especially Stryker. They spent time with each other at her home, at his apartment, with her family and even visiting his mother.
His mom was nice and very good with Spencer, she seemed to love being a grandma. Stryker had taken heed to Sophie’s request to try and stay calm around his mom, not start arguments all the time. He managed, for the most part. At least he put an effort in.
The engagement made little to no difference in their rocky relationship. Sophie couldn’t help loving him, and from the looks of it, Stryker reciprocated best he could. It was hard to really tell what he was thinking or feeling, probably even for himself, he had been hiding it all since he was a child. The only way he really knew how to express himself was though his music and even that couldn’t save him from his self-destructive behavior.
Sometimes he had writer’s block and nearly drank himself to death, other times he was so inspired and on some creative high that he wouldn’t sleep for days at a time.
Sometimes he would talk to Sophie about this, causing her even more concerns and worries. So, when during her catering another party at the Elysium, when the Cameron twins had their first birthdays, Hailey mentioned that they were all going to a benefit concert in Sulani, Hailey’s husband’s band 2Dark 2C was gonna do a few gigs for the cause, and Stryke 3 was going to be there as well. The idea for a surprise was born.
The day of the concert Sophie dropped off baby Spencer with her parents for a sleepover, as she was planning to surprise Stryker with a sleepover of their own. From Hailey and Maddie she knew the schedule. Since she had to work and couldn’t trade shifts with anyone, Sophie had to miss the concert itself, but with Hailey’s help, who came to get her as soon as she could change after work to port her to the island, she found Stryker’s bungalow right away.
She had resisted the urge to borrow her dad’s trench coat and just wear some sexy lingerie to greet Stryker in as soon as he would open the door but decided the chances that band members or tour crew could be in his room was not worth the humiliation. Instead, she chose a cute bikini – it was Sulani after all. She knocked and it took a while for him to answer.
When he finally did, he looked strangely out of it, his eyes glazed over by alcohol, maybe drugs, when he finally processed it was Sophie at his door his expression changed to shocked rather than surprised as he stared at her like a mirage, frozen in place, not inviting her in at all.
Sophie smiled up at him, anyway.
“Surprise!” she chirped with a flourish.
Stryker just opened his mouth to say something when a female voice sounded from inside.
“Is that room service? About damn time! Hope they brought enough champagne, we’re out. Hurry up, babe, I am so fucking hot …”
Sophie’s heart stopped for a moment, then she tried to look past him, but he blocked her view.
“Soph, this isn’t what you think … it’s a … “
“It’s EXACTLY what I think. You are a cruel asshole! I always knew this would happen. We’re done – for good this time! Don’t even try! No more! I hate you so much!” Sophie told him, barely holding on to her sanity now, she never had felt so betrayed in her entire life.
Finally, she was able to move, slipped the engagement ring off her finger and tossed it at Stryker’s feet, then turned around and just ran off, sobbing, barely able to see where she was running. When she had to stop, completely out of breath, she realized there was no need to run. He didn’t even attempt to follow her, which hurt even more. Not even that.
The bad news wouldn’t let up. The next morning Sophie got a call from her mom to tell her that her twin brother’s wife Jane had been in a tragic fatal accident.
After having twin toddlers already and living together as an engaged couple since before those were born, Silas and Jane had finally set a date for their wedding and started planning it for the following summer. Jane was 24 years old, same age as Silas when he became a quasi-widower and father to half-orphans. For a family as close-knit as Sophie’s this was absolutely devasting.
They all now rallied to be by Silas’ side to see him and his children through the loss of their mother. Sophie’s own heartbreak was pushed to the back burner, Stryker’s attempts to contact Sophie went ignored until he finally stopped trying.