Player Got Played: 03

Uncle was still on the phone when I reluctantly entered his office, so I took a moment to admire his walls. With the exception of a few ornate and obviously expensive art pieces, all of the frames showcased various awards and record sale accomplishments earned by his power pop group and main cash cow of the moment, Backstreet Boys.

Five All-American, good looking, white guys from different parts of the country who had auditioned and been picked specifically to form the next New Kids on the Block. Kevin Richardson, AJ McLean, Howie Dorough, Brian Littrell, and Nick Carter had been rushed through what I thought of as ‘boyband training camp’, polished up a bit, and then sent to test their newly earned skills on hapless European ‘tweens.

I smiled fondly as I stopped in front of their debut album. The guys and I had become…not necessarily friends, but compatriots over the course of their career. Uncle had a habit of throwing elaborate parties, mostly so ‘his boys’ could meet, greet, and mingle with the beautiful people (aka potential sponsors). I was young, fit, curvy, and business savvy enough to be able to act as an extra set of eyes and ears for Trans Continental to help protect their assets from their own innocence and naivety. Plus, socializing with me meant that the boys wouldn’t be seduced away by some ‘harlot groupie’ and get into some trouble that would tarnish their vanilla, boys next door image the public had of them. Teenage girls do not like it when “their boys” have relationships other than that with their fans.

Not that I was the only one set on bodyguard duty; Uncle had four other girls on retainer specifically for events like this. That left me mostly to keep Nick, the youngest, company and out of trouble. He was twelve, I was fourteen. Like most guys at that age, Nick fluctuated from being an obnoxious pain in the ass boy, to charming and interesting and almost cute. Well, he was entertaining either way at least, and I didn’t realize it until much later, but running after him kept me both out of trouble and out from under the radar of one of Uncle’s sleazy business associates, who had a fondness for young girls he could turn into ‘instant stars’–for a price. Uncle Lou was a lot of things, but I’d like to believe that it was a deliberate attempt to protect me, as well as avoid the possibility of a scandal that would force him to choose between his business and his blood. I’ll never know for sure, although not long after my thirteenth birthday, the Boys went to Europe, and my presence was no longer required or requested at the parties.

There were some new plaques on the wall since I had been there last. They looked good, although they needed to ease up on the teeth whitener a bit. Nick, now sixteen, was starting to lengthen out, losing some of that baby fat to gangly limbs and harder angles in his face and body. His hair cut was a bit too preppy for me, but I had to admit, the kid looked good. The other four, I just rolled my eyes at. Howie, with his pouty lips and those smoldering dark eyes as he attempted to seduce the camera. Kevin, with his shaggy black hair and pale skin, definitely not helped by the dark clothes. AJ, the ‘rebel’ of the group, who I noticed was sporting two new gold hoops in his ears, but had shaved his little mustache and beard, which he was so proud of. Sacrifices must be made to maintain the clean cut image, apparently. And last but not least, Brian. Although I spent the most time with Nick, Brian was my personal favorite ‘Boy’–although if asked by my friends at school, I’d vehemently deny having any favorites, and extol the talents and hotness of Tupac instead. The boys weren’t the only ones who had a reputation to maintain. Brian was your quintessential good ‘ole boy from Kentucky–complete with the manners and accent. What can I say? I was a sucker for the accent.

“Rylee!” Uncle’s voice boomed out, breaking me out of my thoughts.

I managed a stiff smile and allowed him to pull me into an embrace, doing my best to ignore the fleeting pass of his hand on my ass before he returned to his desk. Promising myself a long, hot shower once I escaped, took a seat in the expensive looking, yet extremely uncomfortable chair across from him, and waited.

“So. Rylee. You’re probably wondering why exactly I summoned you here.” He stated.

I nodded cautiously.

“I’ve been your legal guardian for the past three years, and it’s worked out quite well for you, hasn’t it? I supplied you with an apartment, and a car, and a monthly budget for food and clothing.”

“Yes, Uncle. And I’m grateful for your generosity.” I replied, not seeing the trap.

“Well, you didn’t think that was all for free, did you?”

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