Jaded Hearts (Loaded Replay #1), Page 1Harper Sloan
Copyright © 2016 by E.S. Harper
All rights reserved.
No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system without the written permission of the author, except for the use of brief quotations in a book review.
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locations is entirely coincidental.
All rights reserved. Except as permitted under the U.S. Copyright Act of 1976, no part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, or stored in a database or retrieval system, without the prior express, written consent of the author.
This book is intended for mature adults only.
Mentions of Shaft and Evil Wiener Productions used with permission by Cat Mason, author of the Shaft on Tour series.
Cover Design by Sommer Stein with Perfect Pear Creative Covers
Cover Photography by Perrywinkle Photography
Editing by Jenny Sims with Editing4Indies
Formatting by Champagne Formats
Table of Contents
Loaded Replay Playlist
To Contact Harper
Loaded Replay PLAYLIST
“Speakers” by Sam Hunt
“Wake Me Up” by Avicii
“Addicted” by Saving Abel
“Trumpets” by Jason Derulo
“Jealous” by Nick Jonas
“Free Bird” by Lynyrd Skynyrd
“In Your Arms” by Nico & Vinz
“Steal My Girl” by One Direction
“First in Line” by Matthew Mayfield
“Done” by The Band Perry
“Love Me Like You Do” by Ellie Goulding
Listen to the Jaded Hearts playlist here: Jaded Hearts
TO THE READERS.
This is for you.
For your patience and understanding.
Your love for my work and unwavering support fuel my dreams.
Thank you for believing in me and making each new world we journey through together even more memorable than the last.
To Contact Harper
Email: [email protected]
Other Books by Harper Sloan:
Corps Security Series:
Hope Town Series:
When I’m with You
Coming Home Series:
Lost Rider – Coming April 25, 2017
Kiss My Boots – Coming August 29, 2017
This book is not suitable for younger readers due to strong language and adult situations.
Signing with the record company of our dreams should have been the best thing that ever happened to us.
And it was … for a short while anyway.
While the glitz and glamour of fame’s promise was shining as brightly as our stage lights, we could forget where we came from and live in the glory. The money bought us every happiness we ever craved. Those false securities that you think will make your life better. The instant friends, lovers—you name it—would do whatever we asked just to spend a second in our presence.
We had it all.
The only problem was those quiet moments between the insanity. When reality slapped us in the face that all we really had—all we could count on—were each other.
My brother, Weston, is the only constant I’ve ever had in my life. I know he will never let me down and will always be my biggest supporter. We grew up with parents who hated us. Really … it sounds ridiculous; the notion that parents could hate their children, but ours did … no, do. They made no secret of it when we were younger, and they continue to attempt to pick at our very souls like the vultures they are.
My earliest memory of them is somewhere around third or fourth grade. That was the year that they seemed hell-bent on reminding us that we had ruined it all for them. Constant screams and verbal lashings.
According to them, they were on the edge of fame. Then we came along, and it all went downhill. Even now, I still don’t understand how they came up with that logic. How we were to blame for their reckless behavior. The same reckless behavior that, in reality, had ruined whatever path they might have traveled. It had nothing to do with us, but to them, we were essentially their bad luck.
When we hit middle school, it got worse, but only because they knew that they could leave us for long periods and we wouldn’t die.
Our parents, like us, were born to be stars … or at least, they assumed they were, and they had no qualms about reminding us of that fact daily. Unfortunately, they lacked the drive and ambition needed to strive for everything they ever wanted. At the first challenge thrown in their path, they decided to take the low road full of scavengers and sinners.
Like I said, vultures through and through.
Our dad knocked up Mom in the early eighties when big hair rock bands were all the rage, and theirs was seconds away from signing the record deal that would make their careers.
Then they found out about us.
The twins who ruined it all.
And all those long nights, performing in whatever local hole they could find and bouncing from town to town, just waiting for their big break, were washed away.
Mom was no longer the singer who men lusted over. Not when we ruined her body. And our dad was so deep in the bottle I’m sure he didn’t realize he was swimming in it. Again, something else blamed on us.
When their band fell apart, they decided hating us was almost easier than hating each other. They had a common goal in their blame, and right or wrong, we would never be anything other than a reminder of why they weren’t living their dream.
Their bandmates obviously didn’t share the same bond that Weston and I have with Jamison and Luke. God forbid I ever found myself in a position like my parents had been in, but I know my boys would band together, and the show would go on.
Because for us, this is it.
This is our future’s promise of a better life, and even if it’s starting to look like more of a curse than a promise to me, we will die before we give it up.
Unfortunately for me, I’m pretty sure there are a few people who would love to make that happ
I’m getting ahead of myself. You’re probably wondering, who am I?
I’m no stranger to you. I’m on every magazine cover. You open social media, and I guarantee you a sponsored post exists about my group. Turn on the radio, and boom—there we are.
I’m Wrenlee Davenport, lead singer of Loaded Replay. I’ve learned the hard way that plenty of people in the world would love to have a piece of me, but they don’t give one shit about the person behind the voice.
They see the persona. The record label loves to market the fake me as the sexy singer with the body of a sinner and the voice of a saint. But for me—I’m probably always going to be that stupid little girl who believes my prince charming will come riding in on his black horse—because really, black horses are so much more badass than white ones—and prove to me that every little jaded piece of my heart is worth loving.
And he will love me for me.
Not the Wrenlee who, more times than I care to admit, has had to drink myself stupid just to face my fucking life.
Yeah … fame and fortune are nowhere near anything I ever dreamed it would be like.
It’s my own personal hell, and I pray that something or someone is out there who can prove to me that the world isn’t screwed because the majority of humanity is too busy licking the windows on the outside to see the beauty behind it. All they care about is what’s at face value when what matters is skin-deep.
I should feel bad for Prince Charming. My knight in tarnished armor. Because he’ll have one giant battle on his hands to make me believe that someone might be left out there who doesn’t just want a piece of me.
“Good morning, LA! This is Alice—you know, the better half of Brice and Alice in the morning—and today, we have a special treat for you all.” The overly chipper voice of the female radio personality coming through my laptop’s speakers instantly causes me to cringe. That could be more from the hangover I’m struggling with than the fact that she’s all happy and preppy, but it’s more likely because I’ve always suspected deliriously happy people hid something evil under all that pep.
“That’s right, Alice; this morning, we finally get to share the much-anticipated single from Loaded Replay’s new album, Black Lace. For months now, we’ve been waiting for this one, and I have to say it doesn’t disappoint.”
“Of course, fans are still going nuts over their last single when guitarist Weston Davenport stepped out of the shadows to perform. Who knew that man could seduce a woman with just his voice!” I look over at Wes and roll my eyes. He just shakes his head as his shoulders move with silent laughter.
“I think you’re getting a little carried away there.” Her partner in crime chuckles through the speakers. “Maybe wipe some of that drool? Let’s get back to the big news, and that is all about their new album.”
Yes … let us get back to that. I just barely resist the urge to roll my eyes. I’m sure this is when they’ll start their normal gushing bullshit session. Just like every other radio show. It’s almost as if they follow some sort of manual when it comes to this PR bullshit.
“For the listeners who have been living under a rock, Loaded Replay is arguably the first band of its time that has successfully created a new genre of music. Sure, many have tried, but they lacked the staying power and raw talent that these four have in spades. They managed to marry sounds that are eerie to the late seventies classic rock and eighties rock and roll, while at the same time adding their own unique twist. Of course, a lot of that is attributed to the unique sound of the one and only Wrenlee Davenport, lead singer of Loaded Replay. That voice of hers has a gritty rasp that will give you chills. Of course, she’s so hot I’m sure she could get away with sounding terrible outside of the recording studio, and people would still flock to them. And just in case you’re wondering, she doesn’t sound terrible. I’ve seen them live five times now, and I’m still blown away each time at the pure perfection of that girl.”
And cue the eye roll. I’m pretty sure if they roll any more than they are right now, they might just pop right out of my damn head and out of the room. It’s the same old song and dance. They talk more about how I look and pair that with our success than they do about the fact we really are just that talented.
“I don’t think just having her pretty face at the forefront is the reason that they’ve won numerous Grammys, AMAs, and so on, though, Brice.”
Point one for the annoying tool.
“Yeah, well, with a face like that, do you really think it isn’t part of their charm, Alice?”
A tan, thickly muscled forearm reaches forward and snaps my laptop shut, cutting off the morning show banter before they can piss me off even more. I close my eyes and count to ten, so I don’t give Weston a bitchy attitude he doesn’t need, deserve, or want.
I’ve been on edge for the past few weeks—something that my bandmates have unfortunately been on the receiving end of. I can’t pinpoint exactly what feels off, other than the fact we’re prisoners in our own life. Things I once found beautiful about our life are now just dull and lifeless. I crave normalcy, even though realistically, I know I will never feel that again. I just want a break. A break from it all where I can lock myself away at home and try to find what I lost in the last few years—the reason I eat, sleep, and breath. My love of the music.
“How long are you going to have a giant stick up your ass, Wren?” His lips curl up, and I can’t help but smile back at his handsome face.
Weston and I have always been close, and honestly, he’s probably the only one who could call me on my shit without getting a boot up his ass. It doesn’t hurt that, as my twin brother, he’s older by twelve minutes, and he never lets me forget it. Even if we didn’t have the twin bond, what we share is unbreakable and unconditional.
Only two other people could get away with that kind of crap with me.
“I’m just tired, Wes,” I lie, hoping he doesn’t press for more.
“Yeah, you’ve been tired for a while now, Wren. I get it; we all are. Just say the word. If you need a break, I’ll talk to Dix and make it happen.”
“You know just as well as I do that we don’t have a break coming for a while. Not with Black Lace about to release, the tour almost through, and the label negotiations to re-sign falling all at the same time. Not to mention, they’re already beginning to hound us to start recording the next album, assuming it’s a done deal that we’ll stay with them.” I stop talking because if anyone understands how crazy things have been lately, it’s Wes.
“Think you forgot one important item for that to-do list, little sister.” He leans back and pulls his neck from side to side; the disgusting sounds of his bones cracking fill the living room.
“Yeah? And what’s that?”
Once again, his lips tip up, but this time, I know it’s not in humor. It’s because he knows he has something hanging over my head. “Don’t think you’re getting out of it this time. Even Jamison agrees that it’s time to step up our security team. Getting his cocky ass to see how serious things are should be sign enough for you. That last asshole almost got you killed, Wren. No way am I playing games when it comes to your life. It’s time to get some security that’s worth a shit.” He’s silent for a beat, and then he whispers, low enough that I almost miss it, “You’re all I have left.”
He’s right, but he’s wrong too. We’re all we have left as far as blood family goes. Our parents might still be alive, but they lost the right to be called family a long time ago. The guys, Jamison and Luke, are our family, but no matter how close the four of us are, the bond that Wes and I have will always be the most solid—and most valuable.
“How about this … how about you and whoever else you feel is going to need to approve this next round of silent, broody, old men parading as security just sit down and pick someone? We both know that whoever the label sends over is never going to be worth a shit. I think the last group was just out of high
school, Wes. Plus, it’s not like they even talk to me anyway, so what’s the difference if I’m there or not? They know the deal and what they’re up against. That’s all that matters, right?”
Wes sighs deeply, stands from the couch, and walks over to the floor-to-ceiling windows of our hotel suite overlooking the busy streets of New York City. I reopen my laptop just in time to hear the end of our new single dance through the air. God, I’m so proud of that song. Finally, freaking finally, I talked Wes into stepping into the spotlight he never wanted to be in the middle of to sing with me. After he had got over his initial resistance to sing, and his first solo single was such a huge hit, added by how much our fans loved hearing him, our new single “Black Lace” was born. It’s a song that hits close to home for us—one about mourning the past you never had and a future you will never see.
“It worries me that you don’t take this seriously, Wren. After the last—”
“Enough.” He looks at me with a frustrated stare when I stop him. “You want me there? To pick out some men who I will never speak to, fine. Just tell me when and I’ll be there.”
I should have known. When he turned and gave me that crooked smile, one thick dimple flashing and his eyes looking guilty as hell.
Yeah. That’s when I should have known.
“Uh …” His smile deepens.
“Just tell me, you fool.” I smile back, kicking myself for never being able to stay mad at him for long.
“The guys will be here in an hour. Things are a little different this time. We all agree that the label’s number one concern is saving a buck with wanna-be, mall security style rent-a-cops, so we took the liberty of reaching out to a few reputable security firms. Ones with experience handling high-profile clients. The men we’re interviewing will all stagger in thirty-minute blocks …” He trails off when he notices the look of horror I’m wearing.