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Authors: Andrea Randall

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BOOK: Chasing Kane
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“Jesus,” I grumbled, slight panic rising in my chest. “Are you having a nervous breakdown now? People don’t usually come here for the breakdown. It’s usually to prevent or recover from …”

Thankfully, my humor in tone and timing was enough to crack Brian’s tough exterior. He growled, folding his arms across the book and resting his head on top of them. “Why is life so hard?” he roared into the table.

I sank back in to the booth, a sober realization dawning on me. “It is, isn’t it …” I trailed off.

This is a problem.

“What?” Brian looked up, reaching across the table to put a warm hand on my flour-covered arm.

I shook my head. “Nothing. And,
no
, I’m not trying to fish for anything … to make it about me. It’s … nothing.”

“That was a dick thing for me to say. We all pull that shit sometimes, and it wasn’t fair for me to take my bullshit out on you.”

I swallowed hard. “Be honest with me?”

He nodded. “Overly so, most of the time. Shoot.”

“Is Regan just freaking about trying to have a baby?” The words came out in a near-whisper, as if I was more afraid of the question than the answer. Because asking it revealed more about me than Regan.

Because I was freaking out.

Brian’s eyes bugged out. “A
what
?”

Shit.

Regan and I had said we weren’t going to broadcast our journey to family-hood because we’d seen struggles and heartbreak in friends of ours, and we wanted to protect ourselves from the expectations of others, since we certainly couldn’t help ourselves with ours. But, I guess I’d just screwed that up a little.

“G?” he questioned, a broad grin lighting up his entire face. “Seriously?”

I shrugged. Nodded. “But he’s worried about me now … he doesn’t think I can handle it.”

Brian shook his head. “He was worried about you resenting him, Georgia. That’s what that was about. Not what he said, but what he meant. I know these things.”

“I wouldn’t resent him. Not ever. And for what?”

Brian took a long deep sigh and I knew the totality of the truth was upon us. “He didn’t tell me you guys were starting a family. But he did say that he was worried that taking on this tour was going to signal to you that work was more important than anything else. And that’s not what it is. He was concerned you guys would … you know …”

“End up like you and Randy?” Brian had clearly told Regan of his situation.

Brian nodded. “Yeah.”

“But this is part of his work. Just like weddings and shit are a part of mine. He doesn’t resent the month of June,” I said of the busiest wedding month of the year.

“Now I have more information about his statement, what with this whole baby business. I know guys pretty well,” he said with a chuckle. “And if Regan is the kind of guy I think he is, I bet he’s worried about you taking this tour as a sign that he’s not on board with starting a family. It certainly makes more sense in that context.”

I threw up my hands, rocking my head back against the booth. “Well isn’t this all just assumptions and hurt feelings over nothing! Ugh.”

“Pack your bags,” Brian said calmly. “And get your ass to Oregon, show your man a fine time, and
communicate
. If you can do that now …” he trailed off as an obvious warning.

Leaning forward, I look him directly in the eye. “You do the same. Let your manager run the show for a night and go woo your husband back.”

He laughed. “You know, we never had these problems until we actually got married. I’m starting to wonder what the whole Prop-eight fuss was about,” he joked about his constitutional right to wedded bliss.

“It’s all a scam,” I joked back. “But, seriously … fight for him. Everyone needs to be fought for once in a while.”

I had to swallow a huge lump in my throat after I said it, remembering the tireless way Regan fought for me—for us—when I wanted nothing to do with him or anyone else. At least that was the lie I had been living in before he blew into town and taught me I was worth it all—fighting for, loving others, and being loved. That last one was the hardest, and one that I battled daily.

Brian held up the binder. “Can I take this to pore over while you’re away? Is there another one here in the store?”

I nodded, waving my hand. “Keep it. I expect you to be a frequent customer.”

He stood from the booth, kissing me on top of the head before he headed for the door. “Get that fiddler of yours, Georgia. Before we try to woo him to our side. He’d make a great addition to our team.”

I flipped him off, only causing him to blow me a kiss. And, as soon as he left, I locked up the bakery—closing it early for the first time since the doors of Sweet Forty-Two first opened— and packed my things for Oregon.

Eight
Regan

“Do you ever notice that all drummers look the tiniest bit resentful? Like … all the time?” Nessa pointed to CJ, who was practicing with Moniker. They would be without their drummer for the next few shows due to a bar-fight induced broken wrist.

I laughed. CJ was perched behind the set—his favorite place in the entire universe—and he looked like he would sooner hang himself. His eyes were glazed over as he lightly thumped a steady beat on the base drum. Moniker was on the folksier end of the groups on the tour, as opposed to some of the bluegrass and fringe rock offered by the other acts. Alas, they didn’t have a ton of need for a drum set, so to speak, just someone to keep a beat and offer a cymbal roll once in a while.

“This … isn’t really his speed,” I admitted.

“Well at least he’s being a good sport?” Nessa suggested.

I shrugged, peering at my phone for the tenth time in what, unfortunately, had only been twenty minutes.

Nessa nudged my side. “She’ll be here soon.”

My cheeks heated.

“Come on,” she teased. “I see that grin on your face. I think you two are cute.”

I rolled my eyes. “Never use that word around Georgia.”

Nessa laughed. “I wouldn’t dream of it.”

She’d only met Georgia a couple of times, I think, but one thing about Georgia is she gave everyone all of her personality right away. Despite being
cute
, Georgia would rather cut someone than have that nickname applied to her. She was five foot two, with mouth-watering curves that could easily confuse onlookers into thinking she belonged on a 1950s pinup calendar. She switched her hair color from bleach-blonde to jet-black from time to time, but always had on bright red lipstick, which worked wonders against her milky skin.

Just thinking about her made my neck sweat.

This was just a practice session before our three-concert set this weekend in a revived opera house in Portland. Most of the members
not
practicing were scattered around the city sight-seeing, or sleeping on the busses, I liked to watch. Nessa did, too, and we often found ourselves commenting—constructive or in appreciation—about each band during their practice, sometimes making notes to take back to our own bands. And, since I was a few years removed from the hardcore partying scene, I found myself with a lot of time on my hands while on the road. I didn’t know Nessa’s “story,” per se, so I didn’t know why she wasn’t out with the rest of the small handful of women on the tour, but I was just as happy to not be alone—or with CJ—the entire time.

“Well,” Nessa yawned and stretched at the end of Moniker’s set, “I’m gonna go take a nap. See ya.” She gave me a quick slap on the shoulder and disappeared onto the streets as CJ leaped off the stage.

“Where’s she going?” he asked, sounding irritated.

I shrugged. “Not my turn to watch her. Why do you look like you want to slit your wrists up there? I know you’re doing them a favor, but don’t be a dick.”

He rolled his eyes. “Sorry,
Mom
, I’ll do better at the show tonight. But, seriously, where was she going?”

“I don’t fucking know … she said she was going to take a nap—”

“Ha!” CJ wrapped his sticks together before shoving them in his back pocket. “Thanks,” was all he said before he disappeared out the same door Nessa had, moving faster than I’d seen him move in a long while.

Whatever …

“Mind if I sit?” Yardley Honeywell’s voice swooped in from behind me.

I looked over my shoulder and nodded, gesturing to the seat. She climbed over the back, plunking herself down next to me, pointing to the stage.

“What do you think of them?” she asked of Moniker.

I nodded slowly, forming my answer.

“Come on,” she prodded. “You spend more time watching these bands than anyone else on this tour … including me. What do you think?”

I grinned, folding my arms across my chest as Yardley and I sat in the middle of the empty opera house, well out of hearing range of the group dismantling their set on stage. “They’re good.”

“Bummer. Just good?” She twisted her lips, rubbing her hand under her chin as if studying a medical chart.

“They’re like … hmm … how do I say this …”

“I don’t know,” Yardley said as she chuckled. “With words? What is it about them? There’s something …”

“Missing.”

“Yes.”

I took a deep breath, gesturing with my hands as if explaining a complicated math problem which, to be honest, music was. “Their girl—”

“Cheryl?”

I shrugged. “See? I didn’t even know. Anyway, yes. She’s got a good voice but she plays it safe. I’ve heard her just kicking around off-hours … even at karaoke. She can really let it fly. Like Christina Aguilera fly.”

“Really?”

I nodded. “Yes. And I’m not saying she should do
that
, because I believe she likes the music her group does and that would totally blow their sound, but she needs to open up. They need to write more of that into their music. Their guitar guy … Luke? He can bring it up a bit, too. All that to say, their vocals are weak, and not for lack of talent.”

Yardley nodded, still looking pensively at a now-empty stage. “You’re absolutely right.”

“I feel like they could use something more … instrumentally. Like a fiddle, because I’m partial—or some more keys. I just feel like the two guitars and occasional percussion is a little too Peter, Paul, and Mary … or something. And their drummer, too—before he broke his wrist—he’s good. CJ hates him, so I know he’s good. I think they’re just trying to be someone they’re not, if you want my fully-disclosed opinion. They need to let their hair down a bit.”

A wide, pearly-white smile broke Yardley’s tight-lipped stare onto the stage. “Let their hair down … you’re good.”

“Who writes for them?”

She shook her head. “No one at the moment. They wrote all the stuff they’re singing now, but new stuff is kind of up in the air. You wanna do it?”

I threw my head back and laughed, loud. “Yeah, I have no time for that.”

“On this tour you do,” she challenged.

“Holy shit,” I looked at her wide-eyed, “you’re serious.”

She arched an eyebrow at me, the smile fading slightly. “I’m trying to decide if I want to renew their contract. They were with some tiny label, Blue Mountain, that we swallowed a couple of months ago.”

The casual way Yardley talks business was always fascinating. “I didn’t know GSE
swallowed
anyone.”

She offered a shrug. “It just became final, and some of their artists we took with the deal. These guys … this is kind of an audition for them … sort of.”

I puffed out my cheeks with a long exhale, stretching my arms overhead. “Do they know this?”

“They’re not dumb,” was how she answered that it hadn’t been explicitly discussed, rather implied.

“Doesn’t GSE have some people who could throw original music their way?”

“No one as classically trained as you.” She faced me now, crossing her legs. “No one with your ear. I agree with everything you said about them, and I want to give them a good shot. It doesn’t have to be a lot—two or three pieces maybe.”

I laughed, shrugging exaggeratedly. “Just two or three original pieces, that’s all. On instruments I don’t even play.”

She waved her hand, unfazed by my anxiety. “You can play the piano, first of all. I’ve heard you. Secondly, your education is top notch. You know how to score music. Teach, too, if my research and your resume line up correctly.”

“Stalker,” I muttered.

“How’d you get two master’s degrees at the same time?”

“I was intense. Lived, breathed, ate, slept music. And, mostly didn’t sleep. The first break I’d had since high school was the summer I met Bo and Ember.”

I leaned forward, pressing my elbows into my knees as I bowed my head. She was right, of course. I was at that time the only classically trained musician under contract at GSE. That did not make me a better musician by any stretch of the imagination. GSE had some
talented
artists, not the least of which were Bo and Ember, who were representing the label on the east coast. But what it
did
mean was exactly what Yardley had said—I could score music in my sleep. My undergraduate degree was in classical studies, but my master’s was in composition, and I got another in education. All that was fancy talk for me being a workaholic whose passion and paycheck happened to align.

After a long pause, during which Yardley didn’t flinch once, I sighed. “I’ll do two songs. One slow, one fast. If you like them, you pay someone to write you more.”

She cheered, giving me a quick hug. “Regan you’ll be compensated handsomely for all of this. Don’t worry about that part.”

I waved my hand. “I’ll do this as a favor.”

She shook her head. “I’d rather not. I might need another favor from you at some point.”

“What’s the deadline? I need one.” I grinned, feeling like this was more mafia than music.

“Sunday?”

My face fell. I could feel it. I knew I’d never have the all-the-time poker face like Yardley had, and I didn’t care. “Georgia’s coming today for the weekend.”

“Oh …” Yardley’s face stayed still as her eyes wandered widely around the room as she tried to work out the problem.

“You know what?” I cut in. “It’ll be good. Sunday will be fine. I’ve got some mostly-finished stuff I’ve been toying with that I can shuffle around and add some other instruments to anyway.”

BOOK: Chasing Kane
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