Authors: Jolyn Palliata
Tags: #Paranormal;Romance;Rock star;Rock band;novella;Twists of Fate;Souls
I can hear birds.
Her gaze shot to the window. She hadn’t been concentrating on the sound at all. “You can hear them?”
His voice lifted in wonder.
Yeah. Sure as shit, I can. And your eyes are fucking open?
“Uh…yeah.” Her stomach plummeted like a rock. By focusing on specific senses she’d been able to control what she transmitted. But she didn’t even have that restraint anymore? “What happened between us… It must have strengthened our connection.”
Looks like. But I can tell you’re not too thrilled about that. What the fuck’s up with that?
His tone was tight, almost accusatory.
“Look. Don’t get all pissy with me. I’m just trying to figure out how either one of us is going to get any privacy now. That was our problem before, remember?” She sighed as she sat up. “I’m already having trouble blocking my thoughts from you, and now this?”
Okay. Just take a step back. Have you really even tried to block me? Go ahead.
Concentrate. Give it your damnedest.
Without much faith it was going to work, Addison closed her eyes. She could feel Rhys next to her, which made her bristle in frustration, but she forced herself to relax as she realized she could use the contact to judge her progress. She felt out their now-familiar link and began to close it the way she used to. It was working. She could tell by the lack of intensity in Rhys’
touch, as if his physical presence was easing back with what she was doing.
“Yeah, but I can’t quite…” The link was still there no matter how tightly she held it. Maybe if she… With a mental twist, she cinched it closed. “There. I just had to shift my focus a little bit tighter.”
Silence met her explanation. She shook her head and released the hold.
“Did you feel how I did that?”
A pause, then,
I gotcha. I just tried it and you didn’t hear me, so yeah…we can still block
Her relief was palpable. “Thank God.”
She flopped back on her pillow, and thought about the hearing thing. It was pretty cool he could hear whatever she did if she was open to it. His world must get pretty lonely with only her thoughts to hear. Background noise would be nice for him…when appropriate, that is.
My thoughts exactly.
She laughed. Couldn’t help it. “Damn, Rhys. I’m getting far too comfortable with you in my head. It used to be second-nature to block all my thoughts from you. I gotta seriously work on that.”
Like hell you do. I like hearing everything. Keep going. It’s okay. I won’t use it against
He cleared his throat with the word “much” not-so-cleverly hidden in the sound.
She rolled her eyes and then closed them, braving his physical presence. “Aren’t you just the chivalrous gentleman?”
Oh, I’m all about treating a woman right.
She tensed as she felt a finger tracing up and down the length of her arm, and then he asked—a little too sweetly—the question she had already heard in his thoughts.
Are you gonna check your email this morning? Ya know, to see if Xavier hit us back.
Her entire body locked down. “Is that why you did that last night? To butter me up?” Please say no. Please say no.
She also prayed he didn’t pick up on her little mantra, hoping she was blocking it correctly.
Wait. Why the hell would she want him to say ‘no’?
Hell, no. I did that to meet a fucking challenge no man alive could’ve walked away from.
But you felt so good… I wasn’t expecting to be able to feel that.
Addison felt the heat rush into her cheeks and she mumbled, “Me either.” The phone rang, as if a guardian angel had swooped down, saving her from the rest of a sure-to-be-disastrous conversation. Rolling over, she grabbed the cordless off the bedside table.
An absent glace showed
on the caller ID.
A deep, rough voice responded. Actually, it was closer to a growl. "Addison Calomino?"
Rhys nearly choked on the name, having heard what she did.
Her spine shot ramrod-straight as she bolted into a sitting position, nearly fumbling the phone.
Her voice was breathless. "Xavier?" And then she silently cursed.
She hadn’t meant to say his name out loud.
The silence on the other end of the line was absolute, to the point where Addison half-thought Xavier had hung up on her. Not that she’d blame him if he had.
“Hello?” she said meekly, and then winced, telling herself to suck it up.
“I know for a fact this number is unlisted, so tell me...how did you know who this was?” And how the hell was she supposed to answer that?!
Rhys demanded, his anxiety shooting straight into her veins.
I can’t! He’ll think I’m nuts!
she retorted, scrambling to find any suitable words to explain…well, anything. Everything. Dammit. It
Her panic kicked up a notch, jamming her throat closed.
Before he hangs up!
Cringing at his volume, she resisted his words. No, she couldn’t just—
Rhys started to yell, to
holler in her mind. His string of obscenities was so loud she only managed to catch a word here and there, and through it all, she felt his desperation and fear.
“He recognized your voice,” she blurted out, wanting to stop the onslaught in her head.
Her ears pulsed in the sudden silence, but then she heard Xavier’s response, his voice dark and controlled.
“Who, exactly, recognized my voice?”
Addison waited for Rhys’ coached-response, and was stunned to get nothing. He was there; she fell him. But…nothing.
Way to ditch me, asshat!
“Rhys. It was Rhys that recognized your voice. He… He’s here with me…basically. Yeah.” She shook her head, feeling like the total idiot she was.
“How do you know about
? Or about Rhys’ nickname?” Did he not just hear what she said?
“I told you, Xavier. Rhys is here with me. As in…I can talk to him…um…his spirit…in my head. He tells me stuff. He…ah…told me what to put in the email.” And still nothing from the Afterlife Leech in her head.
“Ms. Calomino, let me be clear. I just lost my brother. Don’t you even
about playing games with me here.”
Her brow creased as she reached out to Rhys.
Is he threatening me?
Finally, he answered, sounding more relaxed than what she knew he felt.
Naw, he’s all bark.
She wasn’t so sure.
I’ve seen pictures of the man. You can’t tell me there’s no bite there.
“Ms. Calomino,” Xavier snapped into the phone.
She prickled at his tone even as she felt empathy for the pain he must be feeling. “It’s
, and I have no intentions of playing head games. I wouldn’t do that to someone.” He was quiet a beat. “Perfect. Then you won’t mind answering a few questions.” Her sympathy dimmed in the face of his hard, cocky tone.
You with me, Rhys?
I got your back, sweetheart.
How reassuring. “All right. What’s your question?”
“Where did we grow up?” he asked.
She rolled her eyes, and she swore she felt Rhys roll his. Well…if he’d
eyes. “You want to ask me something I
be able to find on the internet? Ya know, something personal that only Rhys would know.”
“All right, I’ll cut the shit. How old was Rhys when he learned to ride a bike?”
Rhys replied in a tight voice.
“You were ten?” she asked aloud with a giggle. “Late bloomer, huh?”
Xavier cleared his throat, his voice cranking up a level. “What color was my first car?” Addison listened to Rhys’ reply, her lip curling in disgust. “Ugh. That’s repulsive. Not lime-green, or mint green, but baby-shit green? What the hell’s wrong with you?”
He was so proud of that piece-of-shit Charger. I had to knock it.
“What color was our mother’s minivan?” She read the discomfort in Xavier’s voice.
Addison listened to Rhys again, and then responded, “She never had a minivan. Who’s playing games now, Xavier?”
He sighed, the controlled anger slipping into exhaustion. Again she felt the burden of guilt rising to the surface.
My God, what the man must’ve been going through…
I bet he’s rubbing his hand on his leg.
Rhys flashed an image to accompany the comment.
She breathed in resignation as she followed Rhys’ lead. “You’re rubbing your palm on your thigh, aren’t you? Your left one.”
“How did you know that?” he asked, clearly stunned.
“Rhys says you do that when you’re frustrated, or stressed. I’d say this hits home on both counts.”
“Look, if you’re for real,” Xavier said, as if allowing for the possibility, “you’ll come do this face-to-face.”
She swallowed hard, the remorse she felt shifting to the background once again. “Come again.”
“I’ll pay for the ticket.” He paused. “I’m not taking
for an answer. If you’re for real, then meeting is unavoidable.”
Might as well do it. The bastard won’t let up until you do.
Figures. These boys were like two stubborn peas in a pod. Crap. “Fine.”
“I’ll email you the details.” And then he hung up.
Addison yanked the phone from her ear and stared at it a minute before hanging up. “Jerk.” She flopped back on the bed and rubbed at her eyes. “Why does he have to see me in person for this?”
He wants to look you in the eye,
Rhys murmured absently, his thoughts spiraling in a distant direction.
”And why’s that?”
Xavier’s got a foolproof bullshit detector, but he has to stare your ass down to do its magic.
“Come on,” she groaned. “Seriously?”
Hey. The guy’s never wrong. He can spot a lie from fucking Albuquerque. He claims
everyone’s got a tell.
“Great. So what if he reads my nerves as a
and thinks I’m lying?”
Doesn’t work that way. Look, don’t worry about it. You’re not lying so just put it out of your
head, okay? In the meantime, let me tell you about this brother of mine.
Addison sat in the stiff, vinyl chair at the gate, one hand discretely pressed to her belly as she tried not to look as sick as she felt. The nausea roiled inside her like a gathering storm, building and stacking until she was sure she was going to lose it.
She whimpered a groan behind her clenched fist.
Rhys, you’ve got to knock it off, buddy.
You’re making me sick.
You try dying in a fucking plane crash and see how comfortable you are getting back on
Though his logic was flawed, she knew what he meant. Hell, she
it. There was nothing she could do for him though. Her best recourse was to block as much of her surroundings from him as possible. As far as she knew, he wasn’t even aware of just how close they were to getting on that plane. But he knew it was inevitable.
Another wave of anxiety slammed through her and all she wanted to do in return was find a nice, quiet corner and curl up in the fetal position.
Oh God, how was she going to get to Chicago like this?
Rhys must have known he let the most recent surge of emotion slip free, and was quick to mumble an apology before concentrating harder to hold the link closed. Addison could feel his focus as he tried to protect her from his mental state, but the tension behind their barrier made it clear how much he suffered.
As her flight was called for boarding, she did the only thing she could: blocked her thoughts and what she could hear as she lurched her way onto the plane. Settling into her seat, she closed her eyes and wished she could reach out to him—to soothe his nerves in some way, to assure him everything would be fine—but she had no clue as how to go about it.
You’re blocking me again,
Rhys said in a muted tone.
You do that more often now.
It dawned on her that he wasn’t just talking about right then and there. He was talking about since they…well…sort of made love.
There’s so much more to block now,
she retorted, a bit more defensively than she had intended.
Her response could’ve meant she now had to filter out what she was hearing on top of the usual emotions and thoughts, but she knew he’d catch the underlying meaning. She had been careful to block all thoughts she’d had about their night together. And there had been a lot to block. It was too risky to expose what she was feeling. It made her too vulnerable.
she huffed, feeling more than a little agitated,
you’ve been blocking me too.
Rhys’ nerves shifted into apprehension.
You’re thinking about our night together, aren’t
The question was probing, gentle, not snide or accusatory.
Resigned, she figured the truth couldn’t hurt. Much.
I want you to… Will you let me hear you, Addison? I want to know what you’re…feeling.
The admission was awkward at best, showing how much he was reaching out to her. But it did nothing to assuage her fears.
I don’t even understand what I’m feeling yet.
Are you afraid to show me?
Close your eyes, sweetheart.
Her eyes narrowed and she stared out the window next to her while the plane took off.
Just do it,
he barked, then softened his tone.
Please. For me. Trust me.
With a great deal of reluctance, she closed her eyes. The second she did, she felt him take her hand, and then nudged his thoughts and emotions towards her.
He felt a noble appreciation for the other night, wonder and desire, and a bunch of others too jumbled to pinpoint. But one sensation stood apart from the others: trepidation about her reaction as to what had happened…and fear of her rejection.
I feel the same way, Rhys.
And then she opened herself to him, for once fully trusting him with her feelings, but hoping he didn’t have the insight to decipher the depths of her emotions.