Unexpected fate, p.12
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       Unexpected Fate, p.12
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         Part #1 of Hope Town series by Harper Sloan
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  “I don’t want to sit down,” he argues.

  Page 44

  “Now who is acting like they’re a child,” I tease.

  His face softens for a second before he remembers why he’s upset.

  “Okay. So it’s probably best if I just rip it off like a Band-Aid, right?” No one speaks. “So . . . Cohen and I talked before he left and we decided that, when he comes home, we’re going to see where we stand. ”

  Daddy looks at me, his eyes blinking a few times as my words float around in his mind. I can see him trying to figure out what I just said, and then I watch when it finally sinks in. His tan face turns beet red and his nostrils start to flare. His eyes go even harder before he explodes.


  Oh boy.

  “Axel, baby, calm down. ”

  “I won’t calm down. ”

  “She’s an adult. You know Cohen, and I know that he would never do anything to hurt her. Ever. So your normal excuses of them being up to no good aren’t going to work. Not with him. You’ve known that boy since he was three years old. If there is anyone you shouldn’t have to worry about, it would be Cohen Cage. ”

  “I also remember all that boy would talk about was his dick, too!”

  “I think you’re twisting those memories slightly. Plus, it was his father’s dick. ” Mom burst out laughing when Lee and Nate start choking on their popcorn.

  Serves those little shits right for trying to enjoy this clusterfuck.

  “Izzy,” my fathers warns.

  “Good lord, Ax. You were never this over the top when we were their age. ” She laughs and then walks over to where I’m standing. Her arms come around me and her mouth goes to my ear. “He’ll get over it, but don’t back down. ”

  I get a big squeeze before she walks over to Nate and slaps him over the head.

  “Don’t laugh at your sister. ”

  “Where are the girls?” Daddy asks when no one makes a move to further the conversation.

  “Maddi is spending time with her sister. She said she’s been missing her lately. The twins are out. And before you even think about it, yes, they know and they’re completely okay with it. ”

  “I don’t like this,” he grumbles.

  “And you don’t have to. But it won’t change anything, Daddy. I think it’s time to let me live my own life and stop acting like I’m a little girl. ”

  “That’s not going to happen. I’ll work on it, but I won’t make any promises that I won’t be having words with him when he gets his ass home. Long words, Dani. Words that may or may not involve me showing him my gun collection. Now sit down and tell me the rest. ”

  “Actually . . . I think YOU might want to sit down for this part. ”

  TWO NIGHTS AGO, I HAD to vaguely tell my father that I would be dating when Cohen came home. I think that, if had it been any other person, he wouldn’t have accepted it as well as he did. Well, I say, “accepted it,” but I heard him when he stepped in the kitchen to “get a beer” and boom into his phone at who I can only imagine was Cohen’s dad that his son was “going to violate my daughter and that shit better not happen. ”

  That conversation went a lot better than the flowers and cameras one went. To say that my father lost his shit would be a vast understatement. It took my mom offering him God knows what for him to finally leave. I try to tune them out when she starts whispering in his ear to get her way.

  Not something I want to think about.



  So here I am, two days later, and I feel like I’m about to climb out of my skin.

  Daddy has decided to appoint himself as my personal bodyguard. And if that isn’t enough, the lingering exhaustion I’ve been feeling for weeks has hit an all-time high. Or I guess it would be low. I’ve been falling asleep at work. In the shower. You name it. I was eating dinner, which was cooked by Maddi and delicious, the other night with the girls and fell asleep in my bowl! In. My. Bowl! Who does that?

  I’m over it.

  At least he agreed to let Chance accompany the girls and me to the Loaded Replay concert tonight in Atlanta. God, I would have killed him if he had shown up. He pulled whatever strings he has and our shit tickets have been swapped out with V. I. P. , front-row tickets. Of course, his stipulation was that our group of five—me, Lyn, Lila, Maddi, and Stella—turn into a party of six. Chance was going or we weren’t.

  For tonight, Chance will be an honorary chick because I am not missing this show.

  Loaded Replay hit the scene huge a few years ago. They’re a mix of old-school classic rock and new-school flare. There isn’t a single band out there currently that has what they have. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that their lead singer is a chick who is smoking hot and she’s backed up by three damn fine men.

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  Maddi has been in love with their drummer, Jameson Clark, since the first day she saw a picture of him. Tall, built, blond Adonis. He really does look like a rock god. Lead guitarist Weston Davenport, brother of lead singer Wrenlee Davenport, is the fan favorite though. He looks like a rock-n-roll version of Liam Hemsworth, right down to that killer smile. I’ve always thought that their bassist, Luke Madden, was fun to watch. He has that boy-next-door look to him, but his eyes just scream trouble and mischief. Bottom line—you can tell there is something about Loaded Replay that just screams badass.

  To say we’re excited would be the understatement of the year.

  “Thanks for agreeing to this,” I tell Chance when we load into his Expedition to head over to the arena.

  The girls are in the back, going on and on about how they’re going to get the attention of one of the band members. I tune them out and focus on picking at the frayed holes in my jeans.

  Where Lyn, Lila, Maddi, and Stella decided to go with their Slut Barbie looks, I kept it simple with skinny jeans, a flowing chiffon shirt, and my favorite knee-high, leather boots. I looked good, but I also looked like I wanted to be comfortable and not pick up potential bed-warming friends.

  “Yup,” he rumbles.

  “You don’t talk much, do you?”

  He looks over briefly before returning his attention back to the road. “I don’t think you’ve been around me enough to make that assumption. ”

  “True. But so far tonight, I’ve said hello and gotten one of those man chin-lift greeting thingies. I asked you how you were and you grunted. I asked if you liked Loaded Replay and I got another grunt, and when you were ready to leave, all you said was, ‘Truck,’ and walked away. So you’re right—I don’t know you that well, but I think I actually can safely make that assumption correctly. ”

  He looks over again. This time, his stoic face is grinning. “I can see what the attraction is now. ”

  What an odd thing to say. “Excuse me?”

  “I never could understand why Cohen would go on and on about you—no offense—but I get it now. You’ve got some fire under all of that innocence. ”

  Oh. “Wait. Cohen would go on and on about me?”

  “Clueless,” he laughs. “You’re right about one thing: I don’t talk much. But that doesn’t mean I don’t watch. That guy has been watching you for as long as I’ve been around. And I don’t just mean looking at you a few times when you walk in a room—the second that you walk in, his eyes never leave you. Always thought he was crazy, but I get it. ”

  “Uh, I’m glad?” What am I supposed to say here? Thanks for understanding why he is attracted to me?

  He shakes his head and continues to drive with his smirk in place. Such a weird man.

  Since we were a little late to leave, when we finally get to the arena, they have already started letting people in. Every inch, from the ticket-holders at the entry to the ushers standing at the seating doorways, is crawling with fans. No, crawling would be a bad word for it. There literally isn’t an extra inch to move. Everyone is yelling, beers are s
pilling, and the air around us is full of excitement to see one of, if not the, hottest bands in the country. Most of the chicks are in various stages of slut. Because Wrenlee Davenport, with her undeniable beauty, which is matched with one hell of a set of pipes, there seems to be an even mix of both men and woman milling around. A group of teenage shits almost cause me to drop to the ground when they go running through the crowd. If it weren’t for Chance catching me at the last second of my stumble, I would have been on the ground.

  No one even bothers to talk. It wouldn’t do any good. Chance grabs my hand, I turn and grab Lyn, and I watch until we’re all connected. This should be fun. Lyn gives me a look that tells me that she won’t be letting go even if we go down. She wouldn’t, either. If she goes down, the heifer will take everyone down with her.

  Ten minutes later, we finally make it to our seats—best freaking seats in the house—and that’s only because Chance finally had enough and started shouldering his way through the crowd. He isn’t a bulky guy like my brother, but he is tall, and what he lacks in bulk, he makes up for with his general attitude. I probably would have gotten out of the way, too.

  “I’m so fucking pumped!” Maddi screams, waving her fist in the air.

  “Me too! Oh my God. Do you think we can get the guys attention? I’ll probably piss myself if Weston looks my way. Like, legit piss myself. ” Lyn starts to fan herself with her hand, and her eyes roam around the stage just feet in front of us.

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  “That’s disgusting,” I laugh.

  “Nope. I wouldn’t piss myself. I would probably come in my pants though!” she exclaims.

  “Jesus Christ,” Chance grumbles.

  I laugh and continue to look around the packed venue. Everyone around us is vibrating with the same crazy energy I’ve felt since we pulled into the parking garage. It’s hard to contain the excitement you feel when you know you’re about to see a group so huge perform. I tune out the girls, ignore an uncomfortable Chance, and just soak it all in. My earlier exhaustion is long forgotten.

  The lights dim thirty minutes later, and the opening act, an all-female rock band called Carnage, is now working the stage. I’m not a huge fan, but the girls are, so while they jump and scream, I join in the fun. Honestly, I just can’t wait to see Loaded Replay.

  “Holy shit! Here they come!” screams Maddi and Lyn.

  As if they heard them scream, all the lights go off, and after a small pause, there is a heavy drum beat that fills the air. Just thump, thump, thump fills the space and takes the excitement in the crowd to explosive levels. It doesn’t last long as a solo beat until I hear and feel the bass line that makes my skin breakout in goose bumps. And seconds later, the electric guitar rift that lights the air around us has the girls next to me acting like they’re hormonally challenged. The second the lights stream onto the stage, lighting up the four members of LR, Lyn and Maddi have tears streaming down their faces—the freaks. Stella is bobbing her head in tune with the beats, her long, brown hair swishing around her angelic face. Lila is laughing at her sister’s and Maddi’s antics, but she keeps peeking at the stage.

  Elbowing Chance, I try to get his attention to let him know I need to use the restroom, but his eyes are transfixed on the stage. Well, not the stage. He’s looking dead on at the stunning lead singer. The same lead singer who is holding his gaze with a wicked gleam in her bright eyes.

  I must be the only one in the whole damn place who isn’t acting like a bitch in heat.

  Whatever. I don’t want to miss more of the show than I have to, but if I don’t pee now, I’ll be pulling a Maddi and really embarrass myself. Chance doesn’t even notice that I’m leaving until I’m already through the row of screaming fans and turning to walk up the ramp. I look back and catch his pissed eyes before I give him a sassy wave and walk off. Hey, when a girl has to go, she doesn’t wait around.

  Okay, so leaving the man who is supposed to be watching me for the evening wasn’t my brightest move. I’m sure I’ll have to deal with him being pissed when I get back—or worse, I’ll have to deal with my father if he tells him. I’ve always been an independent person, so having to rely on someone else to babysit me isn’t my favorite pastime.

  I make it back to the seat, having only missed one song, but predictably, Chance is fuming.

  “Don’t pull that shit again, Dani. I like my balls right the fuck where they are. Your father wants me here for a reason, so don’t act like a child and ignore that. ”

  He’s right. I know he is.

  Wisely, I nod my head before turning my attention back to the show.

  But I also don’t mention the weird feeling I got when I was walking alone through the arena.


  I hate every day I’m away from home and stuck in this fucking sandbox.

  Every day I’m here, I feel like I lose a part of my soul.

  My worry for things at home have hit an all-time high, and if it weren’t for my training, I would have been dead days ago when we hit an ambush of gunfire and bombs.

  The only thing that is keeping me going is the knowledge that it might be over soon. We got word a few hours ago that, if things start to turn around, we could be home as early as two months from now. Two months is a whole hell of a lot better than the seven months this mission was projected at.

  God, I can’t wait to get home.

  I’ve felt this pit in my gut since Dani told me about the flowers that have been showing up at her place. This feeling I’m helpless to correct. A feeling that has been screaming at me to get my ass home as quickly as I can because something is wrong.

  My girl needs me and I’m completely fucking helpless.

  THE LAST THING I WANT to deal with on a Monday morning is camera crews and a manic Sway. No. That’s not right. I don’t want to deal with them any day, but today, I’m in bitch mode and I just can’t seem to shake myself out of it. Every look someone gives me, even if it’s just a smile, has me wanting to punch something. I can’t decide if I just need more sleep or if I should kill Maddi for keeping me up all night with the noises that were coming out of her room.

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  I had considered going over to Cohen and Chance’s place. I’ve escaped to Cohen’s bed more times than I care to admit since he’s been gone. More so since the Loaded Replay concert two weeks ago. I’m sure my family and my roommates are starting to notice my lack of attendance here lately. Chance isn’t exactly the best company either, but we’ve become good enough friends that, between the grunts and hard looks, he’s kind of fun to be around. Okay, fun isn’t exactly the right word for what he is. He fills the void of loneliness the girls just can’t. He talks to me about my concerns when it comes to Cohen and his “going dark,” and since he’s lived that life, it’s reassuring to hear from him that it just means Cohen is on mission and needs to stay focused.

  So here I am. After a night of no sleep, contemplating if I would be able to get away with murder.

  We’re on filming day two million seventy-five—okay, I kid—and I’m about to shove these cameras up Sway’s ass. Of course, it doesn’t help that Lyn decided to call out because she was partying all night long, causing me to have to spend almost an hour rescheduling all of her clients. The new chick, Samantha, was a no-show, and Sway has been doing fucking cartwheels around the salon because of some heels that went on sale at Saks.

  Yeah. I’m officially just having a crappy Monday.

  And Devon is still gone, so Don and Mark have been up my ass all day. Okay, I take that back. Don has. He doesn’t bother me as much as he did when we first met two months ago, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t annoy the ever-loving shit out of me.

  Mark, on the other hand, is silent and broody, and he generally makes it his life mission to let me know that I’m not working the camera like I should be and how the show all depends on us following the scripted points Devon wants us
to hit. That is usually followed up by me reminding the idiot that it’s a reality show, not a scripted sitcom.

  But together, they both give me the creepiest vibes ever. I can’t decide if Mark and his silent “I hate the world” vibes are worse than Don and his creepy little winks and smiles.

  Today freaking sucks. I look over at a scowling Mark and think, again, how many ways I could make his death look like an accident. His newest scowl is because I wouldn’t ask my last male client out on a date and make it look like I had been pining after him for months.

  As freaking if.

  “What has gotten into you, sweet girl?” Sway asks when he is finally able to stop dancing around.

  “Just feeling a little low today,” I mumble and continue to stock my station.

  “Do you need me to kick the cameras out today?”

  I look over at him, shocked, because Sway would never kick the cameras out. He loves every second of this reality show crap. His handsome, caramel skin is etched in concern. Dark, perfectly sculpted brows are pulled in, and his eyes show love and compassion. He runs one of his—manicured, of course—hands over his buzzed hair and waits for me to answer.

  “I’m okay. Promise. Just keep that one away from me,” I tell him and point over at Don.

  “You got it, darlin. ’ Just promise Uncle Sway that, if you start looking any more blue, you’ll take that skinny ass home. ” He wraps his arms around me, his silk blouse cool against my cheek.

  “Promise,” I sigh, soaking in the comfort I didn’t realize I wanted or needed.

  In all honesty, for the last two weeks, I’ve just started feeling . . . weird. I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that I miss Cohen and hold some resentment towards life because he was taken away from me right when we had finally gotten somewhere. Everyone seems to be doing just fine and I’m little miss broody. I hate feeling this way, but it’s almost like I’m helpless to stop those thoughts.

  I just want him home.

  “Well, hello, my sweet child. ”

  I smile to myself when my mother’s soft voice enters my brooding.

  “Hey,” I sigh and let all my stress drain from my body when she wraps her arms around me and gives me a tight hug. “What are you doing here? Did I miss an appointment?”

  “Since when do I need an appointment to come and take my only daughter out to lunch?” she smarts.

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