Sustain, p.18
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       Sustain, p.18

           Tijan
 
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  Yeah, I’m sure you are. You’re sick of having a life. That’s what you’re sick about.”

  I closed my eyes. This was going down a different road—one we hadn’t been down yet.

  I could sense Emerson’s fury coming back to him. He had a short fuse, and it never took much to light it, but Braden had just pushed the wrong button for him. He was about to pop off and then he did.

  “You shut up! You have no idea what you’re talking about—” He shot up.

  I shoved him back down. “Oh? You mean like with Bri and me?”

  He quieted, but kept his gaze locked on mine. He was still heated, and his chest was heaving up and down with each angry breath.

  After another hard poke, I asked, “Why don’t you do us a favor and keep your mouth shut for once?”

  Braden laughed from behind me. “Unreal.”

  Emerson continued to glare up at me, but did as I asked. After a moment, he hit my hand away and pushed up from the seat. Braden tensed. We all tensed, but he turned and went to the front of our section, right next to the curtain that separated us from our managers. He threw himself down into one of the seats and grabbed for his bag. When he took out his iPod and put in his earbuds, we all breathed easier.

  Braden was shaking his head. “I love him. He’s blood, but if they had extended this tour, I would’ve ended up killing him.”

  Gunn patted him on the chest. “I think a couple of us would’ve had shovels at the ready.”

  Braden paused, frowned at the big guy, and then barked out a laugh. “Em was right about one thing. You’re Mr. Chatty tonight.”

  “Going home to my girl.” He winked at Braden. “I’m doing all sorts of somersaults and have soft, pastel-looking butterflies on the inside. That’s what my girl does to me. Reduces me to a pile of dribble.” With those last words, he turned back to his seat.

  Braden laughed to me. “Still surprised about his girl. I had no clue until he mentioned her the other day.”

  “I didn’t either.”

  “Huh.”

  Braden cleared his throat, straightened his black shirt, and flicked some imaginary dirt from his black pants. Then he said, “So, about my sister…”

  “Yeah?” I closed off. I wasn’t ready to talk about her. Hell, I didn’t even know how I felt about her myself.

  “Is it going to be a problem?”

  “What do you mean?”

  “You and her. I know things didn’t end on a good note with you two.”

  I fixed him with a dark stare. “Your sister and I are…” I closed my eyes for a brief second. What the hell was I going to say here? “There’s nothing there, Braden. Not anymore.”

  “Oh. Okay…?”

  “What do you want from me?” Fuck it. Let’s be honest for once. “Look, I know you want her back in the band, but she and I haven’t talked since we left.”

  His eyes darted to his cousin.

  I added, “I know you want him out. We all do, but that’s a battle for another day. Let’s just enjoy that we’re getting home soon.”

  “But Bri’s the best drummer we know. I can switch back over—”

  “Let’s deal with it later. We’re almost home, Braden.”

  “Yeah. Okay.”

  Leaning back in my seat, I couldn’t deny he was right about one thing—Emerson was a loose cannon. He’d have to go, but the real question was when that would happen. Braden was a good drummer, but Brielle was the better drummer, and she knew us. We could trust her, well, my mouth twitched…for the most part.

  “Hello, hello, hello! This is Jack and Jill from KXJB 92.3 and guess what, folks? However good it might be out there, it’s not as good as it is in here. You want to know why? We have the boys from Sustaiiinnnn! That’s right, folks. For the next hour, Luke—”

  “Hello.”

  “—Braden—”

  “What’s up?”

  “—Emerson—”

  “Yo.”

  “—And the one they call Gunn—”

  “—Here—”

  “Jill here, and I know there are a lot of female listeners out there who want to know, drooling to know more about you guys. Ladies and gentlemen, if you have a question, call in to our station or tweet us at #kxjbsustain with your questions. For the next hour, we have these rock stars, semi-gods, with us live. Luke! I’m just going to jump in with the first question, get right down to business—”

  “Oh, no.”

  “Jill says she’s asking for the listeners, but we all know she’s asking for herself.”

  “Jack! Who’s doing this interview?”

  “I might have to. You’ve got some of your own drool there, right on the side, Jill.

  “I’m going to ignore my co-host and pretend to be the professional deejay they hired me for—not a word, Jack. So, Luke, here’s the first question. I have to know, and thousands of other women want to know, too…are you single?”

  “Ha! The right question is which girl is next? Right, buddy?!”

  “Yeah, what was it? For a while there, you were beating Braden and me with girls. Nah, man. The Skeet ain’t single.”

  “Thanks, Braden and Emerson. You’re really making me look good.”

  “Anything for you, Luke.”

  “I’m surprised Gunn didn’t jump in there either—”

  “You were a man-whore for a while.”

  “Thanks, Gunn.”

  “Anything for you.”

  “Oh, man! So this is Sustain uncensored, huh? Give us more dirt. I’ll be honest here. I know Jill’s silently panting over there, but I have to admit that I’m interested, too. You guys blew up the charts. Who were you a year and a half ago? You guys are everywhere now, but before—where are you guys from? What were you guys doing? We want to know everything about you guys.”

  “Uh, first things first, Jack. Girlfriends. I want to know. Who has one, and who doesn’t?”

  “I’m going to tackle this one. This is Braden speaking, and that question can be directed to only one of us. Right, Gunn?”

  “My private life is private, Braden.”

  “Ha! No doubt. He dropped the bomb on us today that he’s got a girl back home waiting for him.”

  “Do tell, Gunn! And for the ladies at home listening, you should know that the other three members are not answering this question. In fact, they didn’t even look at me as I asked it. Come on, Braden, Emerson, Luke. Everyone wants to know. Anyone special back home for you, guys?”

  “Yes, I have to add to my co-anchor. They’re still not answering Jill’s question.”

  “So, does that mean there is someone special at home?”

  “We’re single. We just don’t want to admit to how many women there’ve been.”

  “Speak for yourself, Braden—”

  “Watch yourself, Emerson. I don’t think any one of us has done some of the dirty shit you’ve done.”

  “We are live and uncensored, ladies and gentlemen. What you just heard was a smackdown delivered by the front man and some who have labeled the brains behind the international and platinum-selling band, Sustain. Luke, all jokes aside, let’s talk real for a moment.”

  “Bring it, Jack. What do you have to throw at me?”

  We waited in the hallway after the interview while Priscilla remained inside. She was still talking with the deejays.

  Emerson watched her, leaning against the wall next to me. He grunted. “This is going to take forever. Where’s the bathroom? I need to take a dump.”

  As he went in search of the bathroom, Braden shook his head. “Better here than stinking up our bus.”

  “Van,” Peter added, still focused on his phone.

  “What?”

  “Van. You guys are taking a van.”

  “We’ve always taken a bus. Why a van now?”

  “Because.” Peter finished his last message and tucked the phone into his pocket. A bored expression that mingled with contempt gazed back at us. “You said you wanted to be inconspicuous.
Rolling into town in a big tour bus isn’t that. It’s the opposite.”

  Gunn, Braden, and I shared a look. We wouldn’t mind the van, but we knew someone who would. As one, all three of us turned to where Emerson had disappeared.

  Braden let out a quick laugh. “No way am I breaking that news to him.”

  “He will just have to deal with it, won’t he? Like a good little boy,” Peter murmured, typing a new message on his phone.

  I smirked. “I don’t think Emerson was ever a good little boy.”

  Gunn nodded beside me.

  Braden looked ready to say something new when Peter’s phone buzzed, and our manager hit a button, bringing it to his ear. “Hello?” Silence. “Oh, yes. Wonderful. We are ready and waiting.”

  “The van is here?”

  Peter held a finger to Braden and waited as the other person said more. He finished with, “Sounds great. We will be ready for you guys. See you in a few.” Putting his phone into his pocket, he knocked on the window and made a motioning gesture to his sister to hurry up.

  Priscilla came out and led the way to the back parking lot. A large white van was waiting for us. I asked, “What about all our stuff?”

  “Already sent ahead. Everything will be waiting for you at that bar you own.” Priscilla opened the door, and we were presented with stiff and awkward-looking seats.

  Gunn peered around me into the van. “I should take the middle.” He added, “For myself.”

  Braden laughed, but climbed inside. He headed to the very last row of seats. I slid in beside him, leaving Emerson his own row before us. There was one other row between Emerson and Gunn. I expected Peter and Priscilla to climb inside, but instead, Peter headed to the driver’s seat. It wasn’t long before Emerson strolled out the doors, hiking up his pants and then tugging them back down as his hand scratched his crotch. Priscilla was waiting beside the front passenger door. As he saw the van, he stopped and began shaking his head. “No, no, no, no. This won’t work. What happened to the tour bus?”

  She let out an impatient breath. “You guys didn’t want a big to-do. Sorry this isn’t ‘diva’ enough for you. This is it and hurry up. I made a couple of calls. You guys have some people waiting for you.”

  Braden leaned close to me. “And here comes the temper tantrum.” Braden began to count backwards. He started from five and got to one when Emerson blew up. There were expletives, threats, demands, something about blackmail and an email was mentioned, and he kept waving his middle finger in the air. Priscilla remained silent the entire time. When he quieted down, enough to take a breath and embark on another tantrum, she said, “Get your ass in here, or I will drop you from the band. I can kick anyone out, and I can bring anyone in.”

  His head jerked back, and his gaze whipped to mine. I saw the question in his eyes. Could she do that? I didn’t think she could, but knowing them and knowing the contract they had us sign, I wouldn’t have been surprised if that was a loophole we hadn’t realized was there.

  “Shit,” Braden murmured beside me. He slumped down in his seat. “We have to get that crap looked at.”

  The threat worked. Emerson climbed inside, and the rest of the ride was in awkward silence. He was ready to explode. The rest of us were waiting for it, but when we got to the outskirts of Grant West, we were relieved. The explosion was postponed as Peter pulled the van into a gas station lot. A light was positioned at the far end of the lot where a line of cars were parked and he headed for them. As we got closer, some people were standing outside their vehicles, waiting for us, but one person drew my eye. There, sitting on the end of the van by herself and looking bored to death, was Brielle.

  I was gutted. I’d forgotten how beautiful she was.

  Braden saw Bri at the same time and exclaimed, “Hell, yeah!” He darted out of the van and flung his arms out. “Bri!” She had one second to react before he lifted her in his arms and whirled her around. He got to hug her. He got to say he loved her, brother or not, and it pissed me off that I was jealous of him.

  Braden set her down when I got out of the van.

  She looked up. Her eyes widened as she saw me before looking away. Shoving her hands into her pockets, she looked down and stepped back from her brother.

  I stopped before them. My hands itched to lift and touch her, but I kept them at my sides. She had lost weight. Her skin was a little paler than I remembered, and she had let her hair grow even longer. It swept down past the middle of her back.

  “Hey,” she murmured.

  “Hey,” I replied.

  She flinched at my voice.

  Braden cleared his throat. “You came to pick us up? Thank you.”

  She shook her head up and down in a short, clipping motion. “Yeah.” She bit down on her lip. “Uh, not to make you guys hurry, but I have a gig. Mom offered to come and get you, but I wanted to do it. I have enough time. Did you want to come?” She was asking her brother, her eyes focused squarely on him. She darted a sideways look at me, swallowed, and skirted back to focus on her brother.

  Braden’s head popped up. He stood straighter. “Where’s the gig? Of course, I want to come.”

  The corners of her mouth curved up, and her shoulders dropped, looking more relaxed. “We’re at Rowdy’s.” There was a small amount of pride in her voice.

  “Hell, yeah. Going our same route, huh? I can bartend,” Braden teased, throwing an arm around his sister’s shoulders. “Just like that one time when I covered for your ass.”

  “You mean that one time versus all the times I covered for your ass?”

  “Details, Bri. Who can remember that far back?” Braden was joking when a car pulled into the lot. It braked to a spot away from the rest of the vehicles and then took off again, spewing dirt from behind the wheels. It fishtailed in a tight circle until it was facing the road again, then it came to another complete stop.

  Emerson thrust a fist into the air. “My ride is here. Catch you later, fools.”

  “You’re not coming to watch the band?” Braden called after him.

  Emerson kept going, but turned and jogged backwards. He lifted a hand in a farewell wave and shrugged. “I’ve seen enough bands play, and I don’t give a shit about seeing Bri play anymore.”

  “Fuck you, too,” Bri called after him, giving him the middle finger.

  Emerson laughed and turned back around. When he opened the back door, heavy metal music poured out. Someone handed him a joint from the front seat, and Emerson shut the door. It wasn’t long before the car peeled out of there.

  Braden cursed, “That’s a record. Five minutes he’s back and that crap happens?”

  Bri was still biting her lip.

  I skimmed an eye over her and said to her brother, “It doesn’t matter. He’ll crash, and the Terrible Twins will sweep him back up.”

  Braden grunted. “True.”

  “Terrible Twins?”

  He answered her, “Our managers. They’re twins, too, remember? I told you.”

  “Oh, yeah.” She glanced at Priscilla who was conversing with the city official. “I’d forgotten.”

  She hadn’t. I knew that much, and when she cast me a glance under her eyelashes, I saw the question in them. She wanted to know if I had slept with Priscilla. Well, fuck that. My jaw clenched. It wasn’t her business anymore.

 
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