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Authors: Andrea Randall

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BOOK: Chasing Kane
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“Brian?” Georgia stood, hugging the guy who she’d said was the only person allowed to feed me besides her. I don’t think she was kidding, either. “You work here or something?”

Brian flashed me an appreciative glance for getting to tell her the news for himself. Georgia had often encouraged him to go out on his own.

“This is mine,” he said proudly, with a grin to match.

“Shut. Up!” Georgia jumped up and down, still hugging him and nearly knocking the champagne bottle from his hand. She let go, smacking his chest once for good measure. “You didn’t tell
me?!
I mean, I knew you had plans, but, God this is
great!

He shrugged. “Wanted to surprise you a little, so sue me. I want to talk to you later about maybe, I don’t know, collaborating with me on a dessert menu?” He arched an eyebrow at her and now it was my turn to be surprised. Pleasantly so.

Georgia was speechless for a few moments. A rare sight. “Absolutely,” she said almost breathlessly.

“Next week,” Brian nodded, eyeing me. “Once your man is out there tearing up the road. For tonight, enjoy each other. I’ll be back in a while with the appetizer.”

Just like that, Brian disappeared into the kitchen, and Georgia turned to me with a bright, exasperated expression. “Did you know about this?”

“The restaurant?” I teased. “Yes.” She shot me the look. “The dessert thing? No. I swear. That’d be killer, G.”

She nodded. “It would certainly add a layer of depth to my business.” Her eyes wandered out onto the sidewalk, silently considering.

Since the opening of her bakery a few years ago, Georgia constantly turned over new stones, bringing in fresh business and flexing her skills. She added new menu items all the time, expanded into catering fairly early on, is fluent in private orders big and small, and knows her niche—sweets. She never pretends to be something she’s not. She never talked about adding lunch options or soups or any of that. Georgia knows what she wants and how to get it. On this night, she was thoughtfully weighing the benefits of branching into restaurants.

“It would be big,” she finally said, taking a sip of her champagne. “Shoot! We need to toast.”

“To us,” I said simply. “To our dreams and successes individually, and as a couple. To the future.”

Georgia swallowed hard. “How can you always do things like that on the fly?”

“Because I mean it. You should go after this. Who knows what else it will open up for you?”

“We’re a pretty impressive couple, you know.” She grinned, but it was stained with the grey shadow of melancholy.

Tilting my head to the side, I spoke softly. “What’s wrong?”

“I love how successful we are. I do. I’m amazed every time I hear something of yours on the radio, or catch a mention of you on the Internet. When I come across press of the bakery?” She waved her hand and grinned. “I’m over the moon …”

“But,” I picked up where she trailed off.

“Are we leaving room for a family?” she asked, lowering her eyes. “Or are we kind of self-sabotaging? How would a baby fit in here?”

I took a deep breath, reaching across the table for her hand, swallowing the lump of emotion that rose in my throat. “Listen, I’m sorry if I haven’t seemed that enthusiastic …”

She waved her hand, cutting me off. “Oh it’s not that. I know even if you panic you’ll be on board. You’re a man.” She grinned, but it was cautious.

“Bo and Ember do it,” I answered. “Quite perfectly, if you ask me.”

Bo and Ember were not only my best friends and fellow GSE artists, but they were husband and wife at the head of a growing family. They’d met on stage and that truly set the tone for their relationship. Ember was the daughter of counterculture musicians, and Bo was a rather enigmatic entrepreneur who found his home in music. They married on tour, survived a miscarriage on the road, and got pregnant with their first son, Jackson, on the road. They spent most of their time at their New Hampshire residence, but maintained a solid touring and recording schedule. They slowed down a little after Jax was born, and again when Vivian Rae came along, but once she was toddling around the estate, they were back at it full swing.

“It’s part of their lives, the music,” I continue. “Part of their family, just like music and the bakery are part of ours. What kid wouldn’t love to have music and sugar as the backbone of their childhood?”

This drew a smile from Georgia. “Are you sure? When I was growing up, my dad …”

“Don’t,” I whispered. “We’re nothing like your dad. Sure, he owned his own business, but … his priorities …”

I hesitated to recount her childhood to her as if she hadn’t been there. Her dad owned a great pub on Cape Cod, running it successfully for a long time, even as his alcoholism took a stronger hold on him year after year. Georgia was put in difficult situations at younger ages than appropriate. Tending bar before she was legally allowed to, breaking up bar fights when she should have been preparing for the SAT’s, and nursing her father’s hangovers when she should have been with friends.

“His priorities were shit,” she said, finally. She finally took a deep breath, and with the exhale, I swear I saw the resolve return to her eyes. “And we’re not shit.”

I shook my head. “Nope. Not at all.”

“So what do we do?”

I kissed her hand. “We take it a day at a time. We work hard and welcome a baby when it comes.”

Georgia swallowed the rest of her champagne, setting her glass down with a challenging smile. “Awfully sure of yourself, huh Kane?”

I summoned more confidence than I actually possessed. “Naturally,” I teased.

Georgia and I enjoyed the rest of our meal on cloud nine, eagerly anticipating the opportunities and plans before us.

Four
Regan

The HotGrass Festival, as Yardley coined the tour, wound leisurely down and back up the California coast over the span of two weeks. The gigs seemed to come and go in the blink of an eye, while the days in between stretched lazily on. Georgia made it to a couple of shows in Wine Country, but as expected, wedding season was dawning and her orders were piling up. She had some part time help from her mom and a couple of other employees she’d hired over the last two years—one of which was gaining experience toward her goal of becoming a professional pastry chef—but Georgia wasn’t one to relinquish much control, making her a
very
busy woman.

Our goodbye was short and sweet, as Georgia always liked to keep it. A hug, a slightly longer kiss, and promises to call and text whenever we could. While she said she might meet us for our show in Oregon, I honestly didn’t expect to see her until we were out on the east coast.

The tour was going to cover sixteen states in six months, mainly festivals that would have us performing two or three days at each site. We were to start in Nevada, wind up through Oregon and Washington, skimming the Northern US with Montana, Minnesota, a stretch in Chicago, then onto Ohio and New York City before anchoring in Massachusetts for a couple of weeks. Yardley had graciously put a two-week break at our Massachusetts stop, which would allow for a mild respite in the middle of a lengthy travel schedule.

Once we closed out summer with a second set of shows in Massachusetts, we were scheduled to head to D.C. and North Carolina before spending a few days in Georgia, another several in Tennessee, and two shows in Texas—one in Austin that I was
really
looking forward to. We’d finish with a set in Arizona, and a final show somewhere Yardley still hadn’t disclosed. I couldn’t tell if she hadn’t nailed down the details yet, or was simply holding in a surprise. The second seemed against her personality, but I’d learned over the years to assume little about women.

“You ready for this, bro?” I asked CJ as we stretched out in a room second to the back of one of four tour busses in our caravan. Three held band members, and the last was mainly equipment and supplies.

CJ didn’t look up from his phone. “Damn straight,” he said without conviction.

“You all right? Tired already?” I teased.

He shook his head, not speaking, but by the way his thumbs raced across the screen and the tension in his jaw, I gathered it was either Frankie he was texting with, or some other ticked-off girl he’d come across. Though, he’d gotten pretty adept at not giving out his phone number over the last couple of years. He used to give out fake numbers, but he found his life freer of hassle if he left his personal contact information out of the equation.

Letting him be for the moment, I picked up my own phone.

Me:
We’re in the desert now. Nevada awaits.

Georgia:
Don’t have too much fun ;)

Me:
You either. Is your mom staying with you at all?

While Georgia’s mom had been able to live on her own again for the last two years, after spending a couple of years living with her sister, Sue, Georgia often thought of creative ways to ask her mom to stay with her while I was on the road. Even though she’d spent many years one hundred and ten percent on her own, Georgia had come to find comfort in the emotional connective tissue between humans. And, now that her mom was healthy, they could enjoy each other’s company in a way that was less challenging than when Georgia was acting as Amanda’s caregiver.

Georgia:
In a couple days, crazy few weeks coming up.

Despite seeing my wife’s newfound emotional vulnerability for what it was, I kept my mouth shut. She kept up the pretense with me about needing her mom’s help as much as she did with her mom.

Me:
Maybe someday I can help with the weddings.

Georgia:
hahahah. Stick to music.

I knew it’d make her laugh. I could hand her items in the kitchen, and sometimes stir, but she rarely lets me measure or actually
bake
anything.

I’d planned to tuck my phone into my bag and close my eyes for a nap, since we had three hours left before we arrived at our destination for tonight’s show, but my attention was soon turned to the animated text conversation CJ seemed engaged in. Turning onto my side and propping myself up on one elbow, I watched his facial expressions with increasing interest.

His cheeks puffed out, frustrated, and growling noises permeated our small bunk room from the back of his throat.

“What the
fuck
,” he huffed, throwing his phone to the edge of the bed before laying back and rubbing his hands over his face.

I waited a few seconds before brightly asking, “Problem?”

“Screw you, Regan,” he snipped.

I pursed my lips. “Don’t be a dick. It’ll be a long six months with that shit attitude.”

“It’s not a shit attitude,” he said, still holding the gravel in his voice like he’d smoked a pack of cigarettes last night. Maybe he did. “It’s a bullshit relationship I never should have gotten into in the first place. Relationships can blow me, for all I care.”

Taking a few seconds before I spoke, I considered exactly
how
to respond. Despite CJ and Frankie having been together for the last few years, I didn’t get emotionally involved in their relationship the way Georgia did. The way all women seem to do. From what I knew through Georgia, and sometimes Ember, who lived close to CJ and sometimes worked with him, Frankie was a one-man woman the whole time. And, to the shock of everyone around, CJ seemed to be a one-woman man. I could still only recall one major fight roughly a year into their relationship when he seemed to have cold feet of some sort, but I supposed it was entirely possible more went on behind the scenes than I was privy to. But, then again, if it were anything like him having cheated on her, I would have certainly heard about it from Georgia.

It was unclear through the piecing together of my estrogen-laden sources if CJ ever actually cheated on Frankie while on that one brief break a year into the relationship because, as I’ve come to learn, men and women have different definitions of cheating. And different rules around behavior when a couple is on a “break.”

“Frankie?” I asked after about twenty seconds, as if he’d tell me anything. He was touchy with his personal life. Sometimes flagrantly, inappropriately open, and others … steel trap with barbed wire.

CJ planted his hands behind his head, elbows flayed to either side as he stared at the bunk above him. He shook his head as if he hadn’t even heard me and punched the inside of his cheek with his tongue. His classic move when he wanted to actually punch someone, or something, but also wanted to avoid an arrest.

I took that as a resounding “yes,” and decided to push no further, and text Georgia once more.

Me:
Gonna grab a nap while it’s quiet on this bus. I love you.
So
much.

Georgia:
I love you, too. CJ’s an ass, by the way. Tell him that for me. Wait. Don’t. He probably knows.

At that I sat up, intrigued, but wanting to be discreet enough so I wouldn’t alert CJ and his nosy ass.

Me:
He’s been quiet. What’s going on?

Georgia:
I just got a screen shot from Frankie. Texts he sent her all lusty and wanting to revisit things once you guys get out to Massachusetts.

My jaw dropped a little as I cast a sideways glance in CJ’s direction. He was still staring rather intently at the wood above him.

Me:
That’s … out of character, I guess. Right?

Georgia:
Have you seen him with anyone since he first came out to CA?

While I couldn’t report detailed statistics, I hadn’t seen CJ coming or going with anyone in particular, but we’re guys—we don’t talk about what we don’t see, and even less about what we do. CJ was usually more than willing to offer up play-by-plays of his sexual encounters, but I also hadn’t seen much of him until this week because I was cramming in quality time with Georgia before the tour.

Me:
Not that I know of, and I usually know far more than I’d like.

Then, Georgia proved to me once again the glorious horror of technology advancement by sending me a screenshot of the screenshot Frankie had sent
her.

My head hurt some days.

Georgia:

CJ: Looks like we’ll be in MA Aug/Sept.

BOOK: Chasing Kane
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