Wes had been watching me the whole time. “You didn’t know any of this, did you?”
I couldn’t answer. I didn’t want to.
He took a deep breath. “I’m sorry, Bri. I thought you knew. Hell, I thought you would’ve been proud. They have a website for their band, too. There’s not much on there, just their future shows and pictures, but there are lots of comments. A lot of girls go on there. They’re nuts for Luke and Braden.”
“When do we go on again?” Please, shut up.
“Um,” he hesitated.
“Wes,” I snapped, glaring at him. “I’m going to go outside and drink. I need to know when to come back in.”
“I can come get you. We don’t have a set time, probably a half hour or so.”
“You’ll come get me?”
“You’ll be okay to play?”
I rolled my eyes and shoved through the crowd again. Snagging a case of beer, I went out the back door and inhaled. I needed the crisp air since the air inside was stifling. My lungs had started to constrict. Veering to a few vacant seats I had spotted at the edge of the yard, I passed a large group of people hanging out on the patio. Grateful for the trees surrounding me and blocking me from view, I plopped down, set the case beside me, and opened my first beer of the night.
I hadn’t made it a habit of playing while I was drunk, but I knew I could do it. I could handle Callen; they weren’t as good as my old band—I stopped thinking and downed the beer.
“Don’t do that.”
My hand clenched around the beer can, and I gritted my teeth. Of course, he would be here. Twisting around, I glimpsed Elijah emerging from the trees surrounding me. He dropped to the chair beside me. Pointing his lit cigarette to the beer, he said, “Give me one.”
I did, but scowled. “‘Don’t do’ what?”
He leaned back, finished his cigarette, and opened his beer. “You look ready to drown your sorrows or whatever cliché shit that is.”
“What are you doing here?”
He laughed and shoved his free hand into his sweatshirt, then took a long pull from his beer. “I’m at a party. What do you think?”
He shrugged. “Who cares if I am? Pretty Boy’s gone. From my viewpoint, it looks like you need a friend. So,” he angled his chin up with a wicked gleam in his eyes, “do you need a friend, Bria?”
“It’s still not Bria.”
“But you need a friend, don’t you?”
He scoffed, finishing his beer. He held out his hand, and I put another beer in it. Then he shrugged again, slumping down in his chair and getting even more comfortable. “Get the stick out of your ass. Pretty Boy isn’t here anymore. I am and you need someone around you that you trust. I know you don’t trust that new band you joined. They look like a bunch of pussies.”
“I don’t trust yo—”
“Yes, you do,” he cut me off, and it was true. I did trust Elijah. I didn’t approve of some of the things he did, but I trusted him. He asked, “Are you okay? No bullshit. Are you okay?”
He laughed, the sound bitter and short. “Stop moping. It’s not the end of the world.”
“You shut up,” he shot back. “What’s your problem? Your boy’s on tour. Who cares? He’ll be back.”
I finished my beer and threw the empty can at him. He deflected it, and I rolled my eyes. “You just asked if I was okay, and now you’re telling me I’m okay. Make up your mind.”
“I did. I changed my mind. You’re back here getting drunk, waiting for your band to play, and sulking because you’re not with Pretty Boy. Get over yourself, Bria.” He had first been amused, but all humor slid away. He was frustrated now. I saw it simmering in the depths of his eyes. “You don’t have problems, Bria. You told your guy the truth, and he left, but he’ll be back. He’ll always come back to you. Your life isn’t over. Me,” his eyes fell flat as he finished, “I have problems. Things you don’t want to hear about.”
I glared at him, but there wasn’t much heat to it. He didn’t know. He didn’t know Luke like I—
“Your boy came to see me.” He finished his second beer and pulled out his cigarettes to light another one. As he touched the cigarette to his lip, breathing in and taking a drag, I waited until he let it back out. Smoke filled the air, covering the space between us before he added, “The morning before they left.”
After we had made love.
Elijah added, “I’m supposed to watch over you. I’m supposed to stay away from you, but watch over you at the same time. If you can figure that out.”
I had to laugh at that. “You’re asking me to believe that Luke would ask you to watch over me?”
He shrugged, letting out more smoke. “I’m supposed to keep my distance from you, except, you know,” he waved his cigarette around, “in case I find you like this or in some other jam.” The somber mask faded, and the corner of his lip formed a crooked grin. “So, are you?”
“Am I what?”
“Are you okay?”
I growled, exasperated by this conversation. “You’re giving me whiplash. Stop it. Am I okay? I’m okay. I don’t have any problems, and now you’re asking me again if I’m okay?”
He laughed, finishing his second cigarette and then his beer. The finished cigarette was dropped into his empty can. He handed it over. “You’re not thinking ‘poor me’ shit anymore, are you?”
I had opened my mouth to retort, but it clamped shut again. He was right. All the pain from before was gone. I sighed. “You’re right. I’m just annoyed now.”
“No, you aren’t.” He took my beer, finished it, and grabbed my hand. Pulling me up with him, he slapped my ass as soon as I was on my feet. “You got that fighting spirit back. That’s what I did for you.”
He was right. I shoved him away, though. “Whatever. You just like to mess with my mind.”
“Yeah, you know that’s what I do best.” He tugged me after him and we started back for the house. When it was time to go back on stage, I took my seat and looked out over the crowd. Luke and my brother had the same view, but it was bigger. They were making a name for themselves.
Well, fuck them.
I grabbed my drumstick and twirled it in my hand before slamming it down. I’d make my own name, with or without them.
We were flying back.
My gut was in knots, and I hated it. The year had been amazing. The label sent us on a mini-tour, wanting to test out some of our new music. The response had been great, so great that we were pulled back to finish the album and sent out again on a world tour. Everything happened so quickly. Our songs went to the top of the charts. We were asked for interviews. Girls tried to sneak into our rooms and onto our tour buses. Other musicians, bands, and celebrities reached out in congratulations.
It was a whirlwind. It was amazing. It was our dream come true, but the craziness was starting to die down a little bit, and we were on our way home for our first break.
I didn’t want a break. I wanted to keep going. I wanted to keep recording, keep playing, and keep being relevant. I didn’t want to go away and become forgotten. Our managers wanted us to write more music. I had more music. I had music coming out of my asshole, but our managers said this was needed. The band had to relax and replenish, whatever the fuck that meant. I just knew that I wasn’t happy to go back home. The guys were, though. Braden was ecstatic. Gunn dropped a bombshell and said he had a girl waiting for him back home, and then there was Emerson. He was a different type of bomb waiting to go off. He’d been a chore to deal with the whole time.
Emerson spent most of his time getting high. At first, concerts had to be rescheduled because he was sent to do a quick detox. He’d finish and come back in time to play. When this started happening too often and when he couldn’t play, they hired a guy to play as his replacement. His nickname was Em2.
Priscilla and Peter thought going home w
We hadn’t talked since I left. I thought she would’ve come out to visit. Braden flew out their mom multiple times, but Brielle never came with her. I didn’t know how to deal with her. Going back and seeing her made me feel like I was signing up to ride a tsunami as a carnival ride. Fun in theory, but dangerous from the get-go.
She gutted me. Three years. She had lied to me for that long.
“Yo, man.” Emerson plopped into the seat next to me. He leaned over, looking out the window of our jet. “Still nothing, huh?”
“We don’t land for another hour. There won’t be anything until we start to descend.”
I watched him closely. He was sweaty, and his speech was jerky. He was jonesing for a fix. “So, what’s the plan?” he asked, bouncing his knees and wringing his hands together. When he noticed I was watching them, he stuffed them inside his pockets. His leg picked up its speed. “We have that radio interview, right? Then what?”
Then he was going to get high. “Then we go home for a vacation.”
Priscilla came up the aisle and paused at our seats. She and her twin brother, Peter, had been managing us since we left Grant West. We weren’t their first band, but we were the first to hit it big. She’d been so giddy back then, but now there were worry lines around her eyes, and she pursed her lips together for a moment. Her gaze lingered on Emerson, and I knew what she was thinking. I was thinking the same thing. How long until the next disaster? “You guys need to take a month off and then head back into the studio. We can’t wait too long before your next album goes out. Time is money.”
He shot her a dark look. “Thanks for the reminder.”
“No problem.” She patted my seat twice. Her voice was high, and her smile was forced. “That’s why you guys have me.” Then she glanced at me. “We’ll be arriving in an hour, and a car will be there to pick you up. They’ll take you guys straight to the interview.”
Braden popped up from the seat in front of us. “Then home? After that, we go home, right?”
“Of course.” The forced smile looked etched in plastic. “You’re eager to see your family?”
He remarked, “No, I’m eager to get laid in my hometown.”
“You guys are so funny.”
As she moved forward and disappeared into the front section where her brother had set up their office, Emerson extended his middle finger in the air and muttered, “I hate that bitch. When can we fire them?”
Braden got up and took the seat across from us. “We can’t. We’re under contract.”
Emerson groaned, slumping further down in his seat. His hands covered his bald head. “I can’t handle another album with them.”
“Album and tour,” I corrected. The anger had been simmering in me. They weren’t the only ones tired of the ‘Peter and Priscilla Show.’ They agreed to anything for a buck, whether or not we wanted to. “My lawyer’s looking into the contract. They’ll get us out.”
“Maybe Bri can be our manager then?”
I stiffened, but made sure not to show any emotion. Feeling Braden’s gaze on me, studying me, I relented, “Yeah, maybe.”
Emerson grunted. “Fuck that. My cousin’s a bitch. No offense, Bray.”
Emerson ignored him. “Bri’s not exactly the friendly type, you know. Her personality sucks. My mom says she’s never at home; she’s probably whoring around.” As he said the last line, he was watching me, and when I didn’t react, a smug smirk appeared on his face. “You know how Bri can be.”
“Really?” Braden shot back at him. “’Cause from what I hear from my own sister is that she’s working two jobs, ass-wipe. She won’t let me help her out. She’s still helping at Rowdy’s and drumming for Callen.”
Emerson shrugged. “I’m just telling you how I hear it. Elijah’s my brother. He and Bri are still tight.”
Narrowing my eyes, I threw at him, “But not dating tight?”
“They’re not dating again?”
His jaw clenched, and he rolled his eyes. “Who cares? My cousin’s a slut. We’re all thinking it. Why can’t we just say it? Luke, you bought that old bar. Come on, you can’t tell me you bought it for any other reason than to get away from her? The place is a dump. I’ve seen the pictures. Be real. You got the place because you don’t want to go back and live so close to her again. Am I right?”
It was a spur-of-the-moment purchase and part of the reason I’d bought it had been to get away from Bri, but that was after our first big paycheck. When I was still angry with her. Hearing it now, having it thrown in my face—I started to get up from my seat. Emerson had overstepped one too many times, but Braden stopped me as he said, “Because we’re not all thinking it. Only you’re thinking it, so shut up.” He leaned over and punched his leg. “Would you just shut up, Emerson?”
I lowered myself back down.
Gunn grunted, moving back to his seat, “I can’t say a bad word about the girl. She’s a kick-ass drummer, and it’s because of her that I got to play with you guys.”
Emerson’s eyebrows furrowed together. A tendon stuck out from his neck, and he waited until Gunn had taken a seat in the back of the jet before muttering, “Our bass guitarist hardly says two words a night, and he’s suddenly giving speeches in Bri’s defense? What? Did she sleep with him, too?”
There was no warning.
As soon as the words left Emerson’s mouth, Braden was on him within a split second. He pinned his cousin to the chair and delivered one, two, three punches. Emerson tried twisting out from underneath him, but Braden had him trapped in a cement grip with nowhere to go.
The outburst was violent, but eerie at the same time. Both had fallen silent, and the only sound was of Braden’s fist hitting Emerson’s face. A hard smacking sound that was muffled by the plane.
I was the only one witnessing it. Gunn must’ve tuned out in the back.
After the third punch, Emerson twisted his face and choked out to me, “Help.”
“You can be a real bitch, you know,” I told him.
Braden hit him again. “You stop talking about my sister like that, you asshole.” He delivered a fifth hit.
When I saw blood, I knew it was time to intervene. Grabbing Braden’s raised hand, I tipped him backward so he fell into the aisle. Emerson jumped from his seat in a flash. He launched for his cousin, and I had flashbacks when Brielle had done the same thing. I twisted and caught him around the waist. Heaving him back, I threw him into his seat. “You stay.”
“So, he can hit me all he wants, but I can’t get a few hits in?” Emerson spat at me, wiping some of the blood from his mouth. “Are you kidding me?”
Braden had shot back to his feet. Gunn was coming back up the aisle, and at the sight of the big guy, Emerson let out a disgusted sound. “This isn’t fair! He attacked me. I should get one hit, at least.”
“Stop talking shit about my sister!” Braden yelled and started for him again.
Gunn moved forward. He grabbed Braden’s upper arm and said, “Hey, hey. None of that. You got him. It’s done.”
Braden stopped again, but twisted his arm free. No one argued when Gun talked. He was six-three and was a solid two fifty of muscle. He wasn’t security, but he could’ve been.
Emerson snarled. “I can’t believe this. Luke, of all people, you should’ve let me get a few hits in.”
He stopped short, registered the joke, and grew heated. His face got red. The color spread up, all over the top of his bald head, and he sat back up. “I was just looking out for you, and that’s how you treat me? Don’t tell me you’re going to go back to her?”
He quieted, held my gaze, and sighed as he shoved my hand off him. “Whatever. I’m so sick of this crap.”
Braden laughed at that. “You’re sick of this? Sick of being in a band? Sick of touring, doing what we love to do, being rich?
Sustain by Tijan / Romance & Love have rating 5 out of 5 / Based on40 votes