Authors: Andrea Randall
Yardley blushed, though her eyes grew dark as if she were silently cursing herself for being so easily taken by the obvious player in the room. I wanted to offer my condolences, to tell her it really wasn’t her fault— that I’d seen this play out for nearly twenty years and she really couldn’t help whatever supernatural pheromones he released—but I kept my mouth shut and decided to let it ride. Yardley was one hell of a businesswoman, and I knew she’d have him wrapped around her finger in no time. CJ would never see it coming.
“So,” she continued, gracefully shaking her hand free of CJ’s grasp, “your cousin tells me you’re something of a percussion prodigy?” She tilted her head, challenging him. I grinned.
CJ’s tongue ran across his lips as he flashed a charming grin. “If he says …” he challenged right back.
“All right then.” She rolled up the sleeves of her bright-pink shirt and folded her arms across her chest. “Prove it.”
I half expected Yardley to choose a song for the two of us to play together. Instead, she waved me into the sound booth with her. Normally a staunch boardroom type, Yardley had relaxed some over the previous couple of years. Working with a bunch of hippie musicians in California will do that to a girl, I guess. She’d traded in pantyhose and heels and skirts for jeans and T-shirts most days, relaxed and flowy dresses for performances on others. She still donned her boardroom wear from time to time, and I just prayed CJ was never around when she walked in in that uniform, or we’d all be in trouble. She has legs for days, and a chest that renders most men speechless.
Most girls with boyfriends, or even recent ex-boyfriends, often found themselves nervous around Yardley. She’s from Georgia—another point that annoyed my wife--and is traditionally stunning. Full, high cheekbones, a soft, rounded face, sunny blond hair, which she recently cut to just above her shoulders, and curves in all the right places. She’s taller than I personally go after in girls, but I haven’t gone after girls in years anyway.
So, maybe Georgia’s concerns weren’t invalid in a general sense, but they were as far as I was concerned. I was always a one-woman man, and it would take a hell of a lot more than a great set of stems and a nice rack to make me look twice.
Georgia used to lose her mind about Yardley, even for a while after we’d gotten married. Clearly her issue, and not mine, but as her wedded husband, I’d pledged to help her get over insecurities and bizarre, unreal fixations. I think those were in the vows, anyway. She was certain Yardley was hunting to get me in the bedroom, and I can’t ever say if that was true or not, because I never paid her any attention in anything other than a professional context. I’d asked Ember if Georgia had justification to be paranoid. She was little help, casting Yardley a suspicious sideways glance and growling toward her own husband, Bo. That was all a few years in the past though, and we’d all moved on from those insecure people—I’d hoped.
So, maybe having CJ around as the token label playboy would give all the women a rest from their Yardley Hysteria. As far as I knew, she’d never taken advantage of her professional standing with any of her artists. Maybe CJ could be the exception, at least for a while.
“Whatchya gonna have him play?” I asked with masked amusement as we shut ourselves into the tight sound booth.
Without a word, and only a slight grin, Yardley clicked on the mic that allowed her to talk to CJ on the other side of the window.
“All right, hot stuff. Feel like some Travis Barker?” She said it like she had all the authority in the world which, at least at GSE, she did. I immediately dropped my head, shaking it as I braced myself for CJ’s reaction.
Sure enough, it came. “That rusty son of a bitch, are you serious? Is Blink 182 the only damned band with an okay drummer anyone knows anymore?” He held his sticks out in epic offense. “People
have to stop comparing me to him.”
“Well,” Yardley grinned against the microphone, “guess you should stop getting tattoos like his and stop walking around like your shit doesn’t stink … like
I chuckled and took a cleansing breath.
This was going to be a
tapped that?” CJ asked as we saddled up to the dark, mahogany bar at Molly Molloy’s tavern.
by the locals, and
by drunk men reporting their whereabouts to their wives and girlfriends.
“CJ! I was with Georgia before I even met Yardley. You’d better hope I answer
“Damn straight.” He clinked his heavy mug into mine. “
better hope, you scrawny motherfucker.” He’d always been protective of Georgia.
I rolled my eyes. “Your
. Care to clean it up?”
He shook his head unapologetically. “Not really. Why? You entering the priesthood?”
“Adulthood,” I shot back. He, in turn, gave me the finger for the second time today.
“Anyway,” he said, swallowing half the contents of his mug in a few sips, “I think today went pretty well.”
“Me too. Don’t get cocky,” I preemptively cautioned. “You’re not the only decent drummer to walk through those doors, and you won’t be the first one escorted out by the tip of Yardley’s shoe if you don’t pull your weight.”
His face turned serious. “Cut me some fucking slack, would you? God, you’ve been on my ass since I got here”
He was right, and I instantly felt bad. “I’m sorry, dude. Look, I just … ugh, it’s hard having my cousin and wife being best friends. Especially when they’re at war. And she likes Frankie, to top it all off, so you breaking things off with her really set Georgia on a warpath yesterday.”
“Why does she care so damn much?” He looked down, something he’d done a lot already today, and seemed like he was cursing himself. I don’t know … he just wasn’t truly himself. Not the self of the last few years, anyway.
“She cares about you,” I answered honestly. “We both do. She knows Frankie was and
good for you.” Finally, I was honest with him. “Why’d you really cut her loose? You’ve been on small tours while with her before and held it together with fidelity. Why break things off now?”
CJ held his hand up to the bartender, pointing to a front-and-center bottle of tequila before pointing back to us.
With shots in hand, CJ toasted our summer together, and didn’t say another word until we swallowed the smooth liquor.
“I’m freaked out,” he admitted, to my astonishment.
I kept my cool, pushing hopes of his impending growing-up down as far as they’d go. “About?”
“Settling down. All that.”
I proceeded with extreme caution. Talking to CJ about commitment to anything beyond his drum set was a risky maneuver. I reminded myself to take it slow. “Frankie puttin’ the pressure on for marriage, or something?”
He shrugged. “Maybe I’m putting the pressure on myself, I guess. Thirty isn’t too far off. I’ve got plenty of money and tons of options in front of me in computers and music … what am I stalling on?”
“I …” I was so shocked by his apparent candor, I didn’t know what I could possibly say to him. Luckily, I didn’t have to waver for long. Because he burst into hysterical laughter.
“I’m just screwin’ with you. I want to get
, brother!” He stood and slapped me hard on the shoulder, a smile on his face that didn’t quite reach his eyes. “I’ve gotta wiz. Where’s the pisser in this joint?”
I pointed him in the right direction, and watched as my burly cousin hit on every girl in his path between the bar and the bathroom door.
Moments later, a sultry voice spread a grin across my face.
“Hey handsome,” she said, wrapping her arms around my waist as her lips found my neck. “You waitin’ for someone special?”
I swiveled my stool around to face the five-foot-two-inch powerhouse I was lucky as hell to call my wife. “Just you,” I remarked, pulling her into a kiss. “Always you.”
“Hmm,” she purred, taking the seat next to me. “A few hours with the infidelity brigade and you’re extra happy to see your wife, huh? Monogamy looks pretty good, doesn’t it?”
At that, I pursed my lips. “Don’t start. Just because CJ and his insatiable libido roll into town doesn’t change my commitment to you or our marriage.” I’d been dreading this conversation for weeks, and if I had my way about it, it wouldn’t turn into a conversation. But, sometimes I can’t help myself. “I’ve never once given you a reason not to trust me, Georgia. I don’t know why you insist on playing the role of jealous wife. That’s not who you are. That’s not how
I braced for a verbal backlash from my take-no-prisoners partner, but was met with a sigh instead. “You’re right. I’m sorry.”
I looked up from the foamy head of my beer. “What?”
She grinned, smacking me. “Don’t look so surprised, Kane,” she teased. “I can have humility, too.”
,” I said slowly, egging her on.
She crinkled her nose and ran her hand over her shaggy-short blonde hair. Short in the back and long in the front, with a million layers in between. It was blonde today, anyway. No bets on what tomorrow would hold. But, as usual, she had a red bandana tying it back. A smudge of flour was evident on the side, from the bakery. I brushed it away with my thumb.
“Bringing your work out to play?” I teased.
“He just riles me up,” she said of CJ, ignoring my attempt at lightness. “He has no self-respect, and less for women.”
I tilted my head to the side. “I wasn’t going to say anything …” I started, then thought better of it.
“What?” she demanded. “Tell me.”
I sighed, blowing air out with puffed cheeks. “He mentioned his dad today.”
Her mouth dropped open, eyes almost as wide as they’d go. “What? Did he hear from him or something?”
I shook my head. “God no, are you kidding? He … he said he thought he was just going to end up like him.” I took another sip of beer.
Georgia’s face went from angry to anxious in a second. “Oh, no … He hasn’t been down this dark road in
. Like, high school years. Seriously? He said that?”
I nodded. “I swear to God if you tell him—”
She put up her hand. “I won’t. Promise,” she said as CJ emerged from the restroom and sauntered back to his seat on the other side of me.
“What are we talking about?” he asked after the bartender slid him his second frosty mug.
of women … as a whole,” she answered, trying to suppress a grin.
He leaned to the side and eyed Georgia with playful malice. “Not this again. G, give it a rest. I love women, am an equal-opportunity provider, and am just having fun. Just because you went ahead and grew up, doesn’t mean the rest of us have to.”
“Whatever you say, Heff,” she retorted, keeping it light and playful, like their usual selves.
“What, so you’re not pissed at me anymore?” CJ asked, catching on to Georgia’s drastic change in demeanor from earlier in the day.
She shrugged. “What do you want from me? I can’t stay mad at your dumb ass for long.”
“All right,” I cut in. “I gotta get home.” I reached for my keys and tossed them to CJ. “I’ll ride home with her and allow you to get your bearings. I trust you’ll drive sober, or call me if you’re drunk?”
He made the sign of the cross over his chest. “Scouts honor,” he answered half-convincingly.
Georgia leaned in and gave CJ a peck on the cheek. “Sorry for being a bitch earlier.”
He kissed her back, flicking her shoulder at the same time. “I’m not sorry for being a dick.”
She rolled her eyes, he grinned, and all seemed back on track with the two of them as Georgia and I left CJ on the loose and headed back home to enjoy some much needed quiet time.
With our work schedules, it was rare to be in the same bed for long. My late nights bled into her early mornings, and we often resorted to surprising each other at our places of employment to sneak kisses or the oh-so-sexy afternoon delight. So it’s no surprise to me that the first place we sought out when we unlocked our door was straight for the king-sized bed that took up nearly three quarters of our bedroom.
“When do you guys head out on tour?” Georgia asked, breathless as she sank to her knees on the bed and unbuttoned my shirt while I stood before her.
My eyes rolled back into my head as I savored the feel of her fingertips across my chest. “Some day other than today.” Her nails dug playfully into my shoulders, begging for a real answer. “A month,” I said, shaking my shirt to the ground and savoring her quick work on my belt.
“Six months?” she asked of how long we’d be gone.
I nodded, nudging her onto her back. “We’ll have at least a couple long weekends in there, like always. And, as always, you can fly to meet us whenever you want.”
Georgia’s gorgeous blues widened, taking me in as if she wasn’t entirely sure when she’d see me again, despite it being spelled out on the calendar. “June is prime wedding season, Regan. And the rest of the summer, for that matter. You know that. I’m booked nearly solid through early September.”
“It’s okay,” I whispered between kisses over her ample breasts. “We’ll make the most of tonight, tomorrow, and the next thirty days. And I’ll be home in between, hon. I’m not gone for six months straight.” My mouth worked its way down to her belly button, where I enjoyed the squirm of her hips before hooking my teeth around her lace panties.
She took a deep breath, the soft skin of her stomach heaving under me. “I can’t sync my ovulation schedule to GSE’s touring plans.”
Her panties snapped back against her stomach as I pulled my head up. “What?”
Georgia propped herself on her elbows and held up her hands defensively. “No need to panic, sailor, I was just saying …”
I shook my head. “I’m not panicking, I just thought it was weird to throw medical talk into the bedroom is all. Are you … keeping track of all that? Ovulation and stuff?”
She shrugged, which was a yes, but she said, “No.”
“Weren’t we going to just stop using condoms or whatever for a while to see how things go? Just let nature take its course?”