Treat me, p.3
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       Treat Me, p.3

         Part #8 of One Night with Sole Regret series by Olivia Cunning
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  And now for the band’s other major issue . . .

  “So are you going to tell Lindsey she’s getting that paternity test as soon as fucking possible, or do you want me to do it?”

  Owen released a long sigh and returned his attention to the scenery outside. The gnarled trees had already given way to city sprawl. The drive back to civilization seemed a lot shorter than the one that had taken them to the food truck. Of course, they hadn’t stopped to harass cows on this leg of their journey.

  “I’ll tell her,” Owen said.

  “I’m not sure why you voluntarily interact with her. Do you get off on her attention or what?” Shade would probably never understand the dynamic between that particular groupie and his bass player.

  “I don’t know.” Owen shrugged. “It’s kind of nice to be one who’s sought after for a change.”

  Shade released a bark of laughter and slapped Owen on the shoulder. “Trust me, dude, you do not want her kind of attention.”

  Back at the venue, Owen took the large foil trays of crawdads to the crew while Shade followed Adam and Madison onto the bus. Madison disappeared into the bathroom to change out of her riding leathers—which she looked fantastic in, Shade couldn’t help but notice. Shade took the opportunity to ask Adam how his supposed songwriting session had gone that afternoon.

  “Fine.” Adam said, his body stiffening defensively.

  Fucking liar.

  “So you wrote something?” Shade asked.

  Adam refused to meet his eyes. “Yeah.”

  Liar, liar, uninspired.

  “Is it good?” Shade asked.

  “Of course it’s good.”

  “I’d like to hear it.”

  Just admit you’re fucking lying. Admit it, Adam.

  “I’d rather surprise you,” Adam said.

  Shade’s jaw tightened. Why couldn’t Adam just say that he hadn’t written anything? Shade fought the urge to grab him and shake sense into him. Shade supposed he’d have to play the asshole—again—and force Adam to tell him the truth.

  “Is it in your notebook under your mattress? Let’s see it.” I know it’s still fucking blank, because you didn’t write shit. Shade headed toward Adam’s bunk, and Adam raced after him.

  Adam darted between Shade and his bunk, bodily preventing Shade from going after the notebook. “You’ll see it when I’m ready for you to see it.”

  Which will be never, because you haven’t written anything! Shade wanted to yell, but he managed to keep his shit together. At least a little.

  “Just be straight with me, Adam,” Shade said calmly. “You’re not as good a liar as you think you are.” Shade had no problem telling when Adam was lying because junkie-Adam had lied to him innumerable times in the past. It was hard to believe someone who always let you down.

  Adam glared at him for a long moment and when Shade refused to give him an out, he lowered his gaze and for once, his guard. “I didn’t write much,” he said and took a deep breath. “Or anything,” he whispered.

  At least he was owning up to it. That was a start. Shade figured a guy with a year of rehab under his belt would realize the first step in solving a problem was admitting there was one.

  “I kind of figured that,” Shade said. “So what’s the problem?”

  “I don’t know.” Adam shook his head, a scowl crumpling his dark brows. “I think . . .”

  Shade waited not so patiently for him to confess what was on his mind.

  “I think maybe I’m too happy.”

  That had not been what Shade had expected him to say at all. “Huh?”

  “The music always came from the darkest part of me,” Adam said.

  And that was what made it awesome.

  “It was a balm to my miserable soul,” he continued, his eyes haunted. Worried? Was Adam actually worried about this? “And now that I’m not miserable . . .” He held Shade’s gaze, shrugged, and shook his head.

  If he needed assistance, why didn’t he just ask? “Do you want me to make you miserable?” Shade joked. “I’m probably up for the task.”

  “I don’t know. If it would help.”

  Shade didn’t want to make him miserable. He wanted to help him through this. He offered a couple of suggestions—asking Kellen’s composer girlfriend for opinions or letting the rest of the band try their hand at writing music—but Adam refused to take Shade’s advice. Shade could tell he was struggling. Adam probably felt like a failure, so Shade backed down. Still, he wasn’t going to let the issue rest for long. They needed new material, but he’d give Adam a little more time to sort himself out.

  “I’ll work on some stuff this weekend,” Adam promised.

  Shade opened his mouth to remind him that Madison would be making him happy all weekend, so he probably wouldn’t write a single word, but he thought better of it. He was glad that Adam was happy. There had to be a way to keep him that way and off drugs and writing music. There just had to be. Shade would give it more thought and in the meantime try to be supportive. “I can’t wait to see what you come up with.”

  Madison came out of the bathroom having changed into her typical country girl attire. Adam looked ready to jump her bones, which was Shade’s cue to leave, though he couldn’t resist offering Adam one more little push on his way out the door.

  “I still think you should talk to what’s her face.” Kellen’s woman.

  “Dawn?” Adam said.

  “Yeah, her.” Shade left on that note, hoping the suggestion would stick in Adam’s craw and irritate him into seeking Dawn’s advice. She might be invaluable to him or not, but Adam wouldn’t know unless he asked.

  As Shade walked away from the bus, he checked his phone for the time. Occasionally, he could catch Julie between appointments in the late afternoon. He wasn’t sure why her mother thought it was necessary to schedule every hour of their four-year-old’s life with activity. Whatever happened to just being a kid? Discovering that it was almost five, he decided to risk a phone call. He dialed Tina’s number and leaned against a wall for moral support. He hated calling her. She was always busting his balls.

  “What do you want?” Tina asked in greeting.

  “Just called to talk to Julie. Is she there?” Hearing his daughter’s sweet voice was exactly what he needed at the moment.

  “She’s busy.”

  Too busy to talk to her father on the phone for a couple of minutes? “Doing what?”

  “She’s on a very important play date with Riley Callahan.”

  Shade rubbed at one eye under his sunglasses. There was no use arguing with Tina. He was sure she actually thought Julie’s playdate with Riley Callahan was important. “What time do you want me to pick her up in the morning?”

  “I’ll just have her dropped off.”

  “I don’t mind pick—”

  “I said I’d have her dropped off. Why is everything an argument with you, Jacob?”

  He hadn’t been arguing. He was just trying to be helpful.

  “We’re going to the zoo tomorrow,” he told her, “so make sure she wears something comfortable.”

  “I know how to dress our child, Jacob,” she snapped.

  His ire was starting to rise. This woman knew exactly how to push his buttons and she so enjoyed poking at them all.

  “I didn’t say you didn’t know how to dress her. Jesus Christ, Tina, I can’t say more than two words to you without you jumping down my throat.”

  The line went dead. He pulled his phone away from his face and stared down at it in disbelief. She’d fucking hung up on him. That figured.

  “What a bitch,” he grumbled under his breath, before taking a deep, steadying breath and shoving his phone back into his pocket. Thank god that personality trait wasn’t genetic. Julie was a perfect angel. No one would ever convince him otherwise. And Amanda was fun and cheerful and level-headed. Hard to believe the two were sisters. Maybe Amanda was adopted, he thought as he headed toward the building.

  Shade stalked
through the backstage door into the venue. Here he was in his element. But as he ventured further down the corridor, he recognized someone who shouldn’t be in his element at all. He’d already told the woman that he wasn’t interested in seeing her again when they’d parted ways in Tulsa. What in the hell was Nikki doing backstage? And with Gabe?

  “Why is she here?” Shade asked Gabe, not sure why he cared so much.

  Gabe immediately bristled, standing to his full impressive height, his bright red mohawk making him look even larger and more intimidating. But Shade wasn’t the least bit frightened.

  “If Amanda can come to our shows, then so can Melanie.”

  Shade shook his head. “Not Melanie. If you have a thing for her, of course she’s welcome.” He reached behind Melanie and pulled Nikki out from hiding. “Her! What is she doing here?”

  Nikki tightened her hands into fists and glared at Shade. “What, did you forget my name already, asshole?”

  Why did women always call him that? Because he refused to let them walk all over him? Because he knew what he wanted or didn’t want and made no apologies for either? Did that make him an asshole? Shade shook his head. “No, darling Nikki, I didn’t forget your name, but you can’t be here. I don’t want you here.” And why did it bother him so much that Nikki was there? Was it because she was the last woman he’d slept with before losing himself to Amanda? Her presence made him uneasy. He didn’t think he’d fall to her seductive charms again, but he didn’t want to compromise his growing relationship with Amanda. If Nikki wasn’t around to test his resolve, he’d have nothing to worry about. He knew the chick was still interested in him. Why wouldn’t she be?

  Nikki’s lower lip quivered, all the fight going out of her in an instant. She totally wanted him—and he’d probably hurt her feelings—but he had a long history of interacting with women he wasn’t interested in and he knew from experience that if he showed them kindness and respect, they thought it meant he liked them and then he couldn’t shake them. Maybe that was why he’d been labeled an asshole. Better an asshole than a dude with dozens of crazy stalkers.

  “I invited her,” Gabe said. “I invited both of them, okay? It’s none of your concern.”

  Shade’s eyebrows shot up. Gabe had invited Nikki? Really? There was only one reason he could think of to invite a girl like Nikki along on a romantic weekend with your new girlfriend.

  “So they’ll double up on your dick, but not mine?” Shade was teasing because Gabe was being entirely too serious about the situation. Unfortunately, Gabe’s girlfriend took his jest at face value.

  “You are the biggest pig I’ve ever met in my life!” Melanie screamed at him.

  Hmm . . . pig is a step up from asshole. Maybe she hates me less than I thought.

  Melanie continued her tirade while Nikki smirked at him. “I don’t know why anyone would do anything with you other than kick you in the nuts.”

  Or not . . .

  Nikki stepped forward, apparently thinking Melanie had compromised his armor. “Can I talk to you?” she asked, looking up at him with those bedroom eyes of hers.

  “No,” he said flatly. “I have nothing to say to you. If I had, I would have called you.”

  Melanie actually growled at him. “You have no problem fucking her in a public hallway . . .”

  He had to admit that he’d had a good time with Nikki. She was a fun party girl, but not someone he wanted to get close to. Not someone he wanted in his life. Not someone like Amanda.

  “Or a sauna,” Nikki supplied.

  Shade’s balls tightened at the memory of what wonderful things Nikki had done to them in that sauna. Yeah, Nikki needed to get lost as soon as possible. Not that he couldn’t control his libido, but he’d rather not have to worry about it.

  “Or a sauna,” Melanie spat. “But you don’t have the common decency to carry on a polite conversation with her?”

  Did Melanie have any idea what kind of woman her friend was? Nikki wasn’t interested in polite conversation. She wanted to fuck, and that was all she wanted to do. Which was fun for a weekend, but it didn’t amount to anything. The fact that she was here set off all sorts of warning bells in Shade’s head. His big head. The little one would consider a second go at her. She was exceptionally bendy.

  “That about sums it up,” he said and turned on his heel to stalk away. He didn’t want to hurt Nikki’s feelings by pointing out her loose transgressions to her best friend—who seemed to think she was Nikki’s guard dog—but at the same time he didn’t want Nikki to think she had a chance to be with him. So his best course of action was to walk away. He managed not to grin at the sound of rage Melanie bellowed at his back. That chick really hated him. What the fuck did Gabe see in her?

  Shade entered the band’s dressing room and was immediately wrapped in the arms of their tour manager. He couldn’t help but be aware of Sally’s large, soft breasts pressing into his chest, but she was like an older sister to him, and he knew how much she and her husband—a member of the crew—loved each other. Shade would never make a move on Sally, and he was pretty sure she’d refuse him if he tried. But he did enjoy her hugs and not only because she had a great rack.

  “I’ve been looking all over for you,” Sally said. She pulled away and looked up at him, her bright blue eyes set off by thick black eyeliner. She dressed like a groupie, but was entirely professional when it came to running Sole Regret’s tour.

  “Am I in trouble again?” he asked with a teasing grin.

  “I’m sure you are, but that’s not why I need to talk to you. There’s an opportunity for Sole Regret to play at Rock on the Range on the main stage. One of the scheduled bands had to cancel and the event coordinator called me—desperate and begging.”

  Shade shook his head. “I already told you we aren’t performing at Rock on the Range this year. It’s during Julie’s weekend—”

  “Jacob,” Sally interrupted. She only called him Jacob when she was flustered. “I know you want to see your daughter. I understand that. Bring her with you—”

  “No,” he said. “She doesn’t like the loud place”—which was what the four-year-old called concerts—“and I don’t want her exposed to that environment. She’s very impressionable.” He dropped his eyes, unable to stop himself from staring at Sally’s boobs. He swore that some women had eyeball magnets on their chests. Their tour manager was one of them.

  “I think the band should vote on whether or not to perform—”

  “They’re going to have a hard time performing without a vocalist. I’m not—”

  His words were cut off when Sally suddenly stumbled forward. She bumped into his chest before he could catch her. “You okay?” he asked, steadying her. But Sally didn’t answer because she was being screamed at by one very upset Nikki.

  “You fucking bitch, I saw him first.” Nikki grabbed Shade by the arm and tugged.

  What the fuck?

  “I already told you I’m not interested,” Shade said

  “Yeah, because you’ve moved on to this slut,” Nikki spat.

  “I’m married,” Sally said, shaking her head in disbelief.

  “This married slut,” Nikki said.

  Sally shoved Nikki, who stumbled back and then with an angry growl launched forward and took a swing at a stunned Sally. Luckily Shade’s reflexes kicked in. He managed to grab Nikki’s wrist and prevent the blow from connecting.

  “Not cool,” Shade said to Nikki, lifting an arm to block the blow she directed toward him. Her half-assed slap turned out to be a diversionary tactic so she could grab a handful of Sally’s thick black hair.

  Sally shoved Nikki again. “Back off!”

  Melanie was the one who pulled them apart. She didn’t say a word, just took Nikki by the arm—Nikki went inexplicably docile beneath her friend’s touch—and escorted her out of the dressing room and into the corridor.

  “What the hell just happened?” Sally said, smoothing her hair with both hands.

I fucked that chick last weekend. She seems to want a repeat performance.”

  Sally rolled her eyes at him. “Why don’t you try keeping it in your pants for a change?”

  Shade chuckled. “It doesn’t get off on dry humping. It prefers hot, slick orifices.”

  Sally shook her head. “You probably get what you deserve, stud. But I’m not sure why I was assaulted.”

  “She obviously thought you were her competition.”

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