Authors: Jolyn Palliata
Tags: #Paranormal;Romance;Rock star;Rock band;novella;Twists of Fate;Souls
Again, she didn't respond as she turned on all the lights and settled into her office space.
I know you can sense how bad I feel. Cut a dead guy a break, huh?
His tone was light, teasing, and then he flashed an image into her head: Rhys on his knees pleading, strong hands clasped in front of him.
She couldn't help the smile.
Thata girl. Now tell Rhys you forgive him.
His voice turned back to the usual cocky tone.
“Ugh. You are such a—”
Now. Now. You know I don't have it in me to be a nice guy, so this is what you get.
She actually knew that
the case. A complete asshat wouldn’t care about her surgery, or sing her to sleep at night. But she also knew pointing it out would be another argument guaranteed to rage out of control.
“I forgive you.”
Thank you, Addison.
She felt a wave of warmth rush over her. “What was that?”
A mental hug. Copped a feel too, but you probably didn't feel that part, huh?
She grinned, laughed a little.
That’s better. Truce?
She felt a nudge against their barrier, and she correlated it to getting a light punch in the shoulder. That was sooo like a man.
What do you say? Friends?
“Yeah, Rhys. Friends.”
Great. Now that we’ve got that settled…
“I’m on it. Computer’s booting up now.” He had a one track mind. One. Track. Mind.
As she began their usual search, she unwrapped her sandwich and dug in. Holding her food with one hand, she navigated the various links with the other. “Nothing new so far.”
Did you check Xavier’s Twitter account yet?
“I didn’t get that far. Hold on a minute.” She typed in the address and hit enter. The screen got stuck during loading, so she refreshed it as she shook out her carton of fries. “I’m blocked from it. Only people he knows can see it.”
Paranoid sonofabitch. Shit. How about Facebook? Not his personal account, but the fan
“Do you know the address?”
“All right. Let me do a page search.” As Addison poked around Facebook, she accidentally hit her bag with an elbow, knocking it over and spilling foil packets of ketchup across the floor.
The label of one caught her attention as she shoved them in her garbage can, and it triggered a stray thought that rivaled one of Rhys’. “What makes ketchup fancy?”
What are you talking about, woman?
“Fancy ketchup,” she explained, glancing at the discarded packets. “What makes it fancy?
Better yet, what would unfancy ketchup taste like?”
He paused a beat.
Are you eating?
“Yeah.” She gestured with one hand, as if to say ‘duh’, while she clicked on the Facebook fan page for Black Codex.
What are you eating?
It was an innocent question, but the way he asked was sooo intense; like she was a covert operative he was asking to betray her government. “Ah…roast beef and fries.” Her answer felt anticlimactic, but his response relayed anything but.
He groaned, a deep guttural sound she felt all the way to her toes. Thank God he was blissfully unaware, totally distracted by the images of food he was shifting through her mind.
man, I miss food
, he moaned.
She gulped. “Big eater, were you?”
How does it taste? Is it good? I bet it’s good.
“It’s okay.” She considered what was left of her sandwich. Could she…? She took a bite and as she chewed, focusing every sensation into her connection with Rhys, willing him to taste what she did, smell what she did, to savor what she was.
Oh. My. Fucking. God. That tastes awesome! Jesus, Addison. How are you doing this?
She was so pleased with herself, she nearly lost the link. “Let me tell you, it’s not easy.”
Fries. Ooohh…you have to eat some fries. Give it to me, baby!
Her laughter came straight up from her gut and she nearly choked on her food. “Rhys, you are killing me. It’s just food.” She glanced at the computer screen, to the search she had abandoned while relaying her senses to Rhys.
What she saw snuffed out the humor she’d been feeling. And Rhys felt it.
What is it? What do you see?
She swallowed, then cleared her throat. He wasn’t going to like this. “The band issued a statement that they are delaying the recording of their next album…indefinitely.”
Addison’s brain actually hurt from Rhys’ rampage. He’d been going at it for a good twenty minutes.
And the man sure loved the F-word.
Son-of-a-fucking-bitch! After everything we went through; every goddamn month, day, hour,
minute of fighting for every fucking ounce of success we’ve got, and he just tosses it aside.
Washes his hands of it all and bolts. And the rest of the guys…? How the hell are they letting
him?! Grow a fucking backbone you bunch of spineless shitheads! They’ve got just as much to
lose as he does and they just step aside? Fuck. That. He can’t do this! Don’t you understand?
Are you hearing me?! He’s fucking everything up!
His voice resonated within as his words finally cut off.
Laying her head down on folded arms, she reveled in the ensuing silence. For a moment she half-wondered if he had raged himself into oblivion, but the underlying vibration of tension told her otherwise; he was holding their connection closed. But barely. It seemed high emotions made it more difficult.
She didn’t know how long it was before she felt a reprieve; as if Rhys had had a death grip on her brain and was slowly peeling back his fingers. Until that moment, she hadn’t been aware of just how much pressure she’d felt in her head. Now that it was gone, a fresh wave of relief hit her.
You have to email him.
Keeping her head down, eyes closed, she mumbled, “Email who, exactly?” She knew the answer, but wanted to know if he’d have the nerve to say it.
And apparently he did.
“Are you on crack?”
No. But if I had been, I bet I’d be going through helluva withdrawal right now. And
wouldn’t that just suck ass for you? Ha!
“Uh uh. You are
humoring or charming me into this one. We already talked about this and you agreed.”
Addison, listen to me. Black Codex is his life. He’s already lost me. Don’t make him lose
“Oh, no you don’t, you asshat!” The roar from her headache forced her to lower her voice, but her insistence remained. “You are
putting this on me. I didn’t do one damn thing to you
I know. You’re right. But hear me out, okay? If the band doesn’t fucking exist anymore, then
neither will he. It would kill him. Shit, it would be worse than death; he would be in the middle of
a fucking living, breathing non-existence. His own goddamned purgatory.
He was already in his own purgatory. She knew that for certain. A black chasm that would take him years to claw his way out of, just like she had to do after her parents died. And the hell if she was going to be the one to screw with the man when he was already down.
The mere thought of someone sending her an email like this when she’d been suffocating under all that grief… Not only would she have
believed them (thusly doing them no good), it would have sent her flying over the edge. Permanently.
She finally lifted her head and shut her computer off. As she gathered her things—ditching the idea of paperwork—she contemplated her response.
“You need to think of another way.”
There is no other way.
“There has to be. Pick anyone else to email. Any other form of communication. There’s no way you’ve considered all the options. This can’t be the only one.”
Like I said
, Rhys stated, his voice tight with control,
there is no other way.
The next morning Addison dragged her sorry ass out of bed and stumbled towards the computer. She stubbed her toe along the way, and cursed Rhys instead of the end table she’d kicked. It was The Voice’s fault she hadn’t slept a wink, The Voice’s fault her little toe felt broken.
So I’m back to that moniker, am I?
“You deserve it,” she retorted, a nasty bite to her tone.
, he allowed,
but it had to be done.
“Sleep deprivation to get what you want is low, Rhys. Even for you.” She
had the damned song he’d been singing all night stuck in her head. Would she ever get it out?!
As effective as they were, I am sorry for my methods.
His tone was contrite, but she read the underlying satisfaction.
“You could at least be honest,” she grumbled, throwing her hair up in a tangled ponytail.
“What makes you think he’s even going to respond to this email, Rhys? Would you respond to an email from someone claiming to have your dead brother in her head? Of course not! You know, the second I send this, he’s going to have the cops or the nut wagon pounding my door down to haul me away, and then where would you be? You’d be on the other side of crazy with me!”
She hoped exaggerating the possible ramifications would sway his opinion. She knew his brother would ignore it and nothing more, but the damage would be done. How could she explain the pain that could be inflicted by simply hitting a ‘send’ button?
Are you done, woman? Just trust me on this. I’ve got this one covered.
“Why am I not reassured?”
She clicked the ‘compose mail’ button on her screen, and then started mumbling under her breath, panic mixing with trepidation. How could she let him talk her into this? How could she willingly be so damned cruel to another human being?
“I must be a damned idiot for doing this. I
be committed. Hell, they could name the institution after me—the craziest, most insensitive nutjob in the whole damned place. A soulless creature if there ever was one. There’ll be ground-breaking psychological studies, landmark articles in medical journals, grants received, notoriety abound, parades, confetti—” Rhys’ boisterous laugh interrupted her prelude into hysteria.
Jesus Christ, you can be real
fucking dramatic when you want to be, huh?
“Dramatic? Why you—”
Just shut it for a sec and listen to me. Now I realize lack of sleep has made you ornery, but—
“And whose damn fault is that?”
But I’m not going to hang you out to dry, got it? I wouldn’t do that to you. So enough
bitching and get typing.
She drummed her fingers on the keyboard.
Tipping her chin up, she pointedly closed their connection and looked away from the computer screen in defiance.
It was a clear warning, but what else could he possibly do to her?
You don’t want a repeat performance of last night do you? Because you know
Defeated, and seriously pissed about it, she opened the link back up.
“What’s his email address, asshat?”
That’s my girl.
“I’m most definitely
your girl,” she snarled, jabbing at the keyboard hard enough to make her fingertips sting.
Rhys spelled out Xavier’s email address, and then read it back to her…again and again.
After the fourth time, she assured him it was typed in correctly, but even that didn’t seem to assuage his concerns. Finally she focused on the screen, sending a clear image to him. That did it.
I just want to make sure he gets it.
“Yeah, yeah. What do you want in the subject line?”
Okay, just like this, word-for-word: ‘You have to record Scripted Lives’.
Addison’s brow creased with confusion, but she did as she was told. “And the body of the email?”
Address it to ‘Xavier,’ and say ‘You have to record it, my brother,’ then sign ‘Rhythm Rhys.’
“Oh, Jesus,” she muttered, appalled she was actually doing something so heartless, so insane. “Rhys, I don’t know what this means, but even I know this is going to break him.”
It’ll be okay. He’ll be okay.
“Are you trying to convince me, or yourself?”
“What does it mean, Rhys?” she whispered, staring at the black words glaring at her with sharp accusations.
is the name of our next album. Xavier and I came up with it a few days before
I died. No one else knew, not even the guys. We were gonna wait till we all met up in the studio.
That explained the title in the subject line; Xavier wouldn’t be able to ignore it. The fact she addressed it to Xavier rather than his stage name, Zander, added the personal connection, but she didn’t understand the signature.
“What about the rest of it?”
Rhys sounded a little choked up, but spoke through it.
Xavier always called me ‘my
brother,’ and he’d fuck with me, saying my stage name should’ve been Rhythm Rhys. He was
being a shit, obviously, but only the guys knew about it.
The words weren’t many in count alone, but add the weight of sentiment and the email spoke volumes.
“I can’t send this. Rhys, I can’t do it.”
You have to, Addison. Don’t you punk out on me now, goddammit.
She instinctively clamped her hands over her ears and lurched to her feet. “I can’t. I can’t.
It’s going to… Oh, my God.”
She paced around the room, wringing her fingers in front of her. She could still remember the misery and bleakness she had felt once, emotions Xavier was sure to be feeling now. She couldn’t add to that. Couldn’t inflict such harm upon another.
You have to send it, Addison. God. Please, send it. Just send it.
His desperation tangled with hers to where she couldn’t tell where his began and hers ended.
Shaking her head, she shied away from his words.
“Just give me a minute. I just can’t… Not now.”
She threw her hands into the air. “I just need time! I’ll do it, okay? I said I would, and I will.