Authors: Cari Quinn,Taryn Elliott
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This book is a work of fiction. The names, characters, places, and incidents are products of the writer’s imagination or have been used fictitiously and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to persons, living or dead, actual events, locales or organizations is entirely coincidental.
© 2015 Taryn Elliott & Cari Quinn
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irst ebook edition
: December 2015
LOST IN OBLIVION NEWSLETTER
for special updates.
the readers of the Lost in Oblivion series: thank you for giving us faith and making our rock and roll dreams come true.
Christmas has always been that one season that you can put aside your differences and reach out to friends and loved ones. Regardless of religion, the spirit of Christmas remains an important one. Even in battle, there are often soldiers from warring countries that will put up the white flag for that one single day or night.
It’s a special night.
And one that we thought would be perfect to share with you, the loyal readers of our Lost in Oblivion series. Technically this little story falls in between SHATTERED and FUSED, but it can be read as a stand alone book.
We just wanted to say thank you for making our guys and girls—and babies, a part of your lives.
look like fucking Scrooge
Nick Crandall stared at himself in the mirror and rubbed his unusually scruffy jaw. His fine blondish-brown hair didn’t lend itself well to a beard. It was growing in, but the chin pubes look in the meantime wasn’t really cutting it. Especially on anyone past puberty.
Which he was. He was firmly in his mid-twenties, with all of the forthcoming mid-life crises and shit to look forward to.
Not that he was looking forward to much at the moment. He was officially in a holding pattern in more ways than one.
But he wasn’t thinking about any of that tonight. Or tomorrow. He wasn’t naïve enough to think that Christmas was going to grant him some kind of miracle and heal the fucked up mess that was his life. He hadn’t been a child for a long time. Still, he wasn’t going to spend another holiday sulking in a cloud of cigarette smoke. He’d had too many days like that in recent years, and it had gotten old.
He’d actually begun to hope that this year might be different. That perhaps he’d get to spend the holidays with his family—part of it anyway—and maybe even a girl.
girl. Even if she really wasn’t, he was good at pretending.
Then everything had imploded, and he still hadn’t begun to pick up all the pieces. He wasn’t sure he’d ever be able to.
He picked up the can of shaving cream and the straight razor and blew out a breath. Hipster lumberjack types might rock the bearded wonder deal, but he was a currently under-employed rock star.
Clean-shaven it was.
Half an hour later, newly de-bearded and clean in body if not mind, he climbed out of the shower. He quickly dried off and slung a towel around his waist, then opened the bathroom door and leaned out of the doorway. “Jazz, you around?”
She popped out of a bedroom at the other end of the hall, a dark-haired, chubby-faced baby swaddled in a blanket in her arms. He swore she never put that kid down for a second. “Shh. Baby’s sleeping.”
“He’s always sleeping. Damn kid’s a narcoleptic.”
She rolled her eyes. “He’s not even three months yet. Of course he sleeps a lot.”
“Just not at night.”
“Four letters for you. B-a-b-y.”
In spite of himself, he grinned. Jazz never let him give her—or her offspring—any shit. “I have four letters for you too. M-a-l-l.”
Jazz made a face. “What about the mall? It’s Christmas Eve. Only a lunatic would go shopping today.”
Nick cleared his throat. “What if said lunatic hasn’t done any shopping yet and really hasn’t shopped in years so has no clue how to buy gifts?” He cleared his throat again. “Especially for chicks.”
“Chicks, huh? I have a feeling you’re not angsting over buying me a gift.”
“I’ll get you something too, if you come with me and pick it out. Don’t you females like bling?”
“I can buy my own bling, thank you very much. And oh no. Ohhhhh no.” She shook her head hard enough to send her twin ponytails flapping. “Do I look dumb enough to voluntarily go shopping on the worst day of the year with someone as clueless as you?”
“Hey.” He couldn’t keep the affront out of his voice. “I’m not that bad.”
“Oh really? Do you have a list?”
She gusted out a sigh. “Exactly my point. Clueless and pathetic and dripping all over the floor.” Without sparing a glance at his naked torso, she waved a hand at him and turned back to the bedroom. “Get some clothes on, make a list and I’ll meet you downstairs. You better be ready to get in and out fast.”
“First time a woman’s ever said that to me.”
“Doubt that.” Jazz and Gray’s bedroom door thunked shut.
Nick shook his head and headed into his bedroom. He was generally cool with most of his exes, but he and Jazz had a different vibe. Their thing had lasted a nanosecond, and they’d fallen into friendship pretty damn fast. Not that he hadn’t gotten some speedbumps on his ass during the descent, but being in the same band had helped them move past the awkwards into a semblance of an amicable relationship. Living together with her and Gray and the kid hadn’t hurt either. It was hard to see Gray and Jazz together and argue that they were anything but perfect for each other.
He’d just been an unfortunate detour on their road to connubial bliss, but hey, he’d gotten a couple of great friends out of the deal, so he couldn’t bitch. Much.
He tossed aside the towel and grabbed a pair of jeans and tugged them on sans underwear. A quick dig through his drawers netted a worn gray Oblivion T-shirt from their first tour, the one where they’d opened for Rebel Rage, and he pulled it on. He tugged on a hoodie over it and grabbed his wallet and phone, stopping short by the door. The glass dish on the end table held a bunch of shit—paper clips, spare picks, buttons from who the fuck knows what. Matches. Lint. And one perfect pearl drop earring, discovered under his bed during a reckless attempt to vacuum last week.
His fingers closed around the pearl, and he rolled it into his palm. He should give it back. It wasn’t like he didn’t know whom the earring belonged to. Keeping it would screw up her matched pair, and God knows Lila Shawcross wasn’t a fan of anything disrupting her orderly existence.
But he couldn’t return it. Not when he had so little else that belonged to her. She’d been his for a moment, less than, and he was a greedy fucker. He’d give her a million earrings to make up for this one, but this…
He slipped it in his pocket and headed downstairs to meet Jazz. She was giving instructions to Gray, who’d braced one foot on the handle of the rocking bassinette to keep it moving while he cradled his latest acquisition, an acoustic Gibson, like a girl he wanted to get naked. He also appeared to be ignoring his wife, though he peppered her endless speech with the requisite replies of “yes, honey,” and “no, sweetheart, I won’t set the baby on fire.”
That was probably a little embellishment on Nick’s part, but close enough.
“The kid will be fine. We won’t be gone long. This’ll take like what, twenty minutes?” Nick glanced at his phone. It was barely midday. “Maybe half an hour?”
Jazz stopped talking long enough to shoot him a pitying glance. “It’s Christmas Eve.”
“How many people do you have to buy for?”
He started counting them off on his fingers then gave up. “The band, their offspring and significant others, my sister—” He huffed out a breath. “Basically everyone.”
“You forgot Lila.”
Jazz glanced at Gray. “Trust me, he hasn’t forgotten Lila for a second. He’s just trying to play it cool around someone similarly endowed.”
Nick smirked. “He wishes he was similarly endowed.”
“Yet my wife likes me just fine.” Gray grabbed Jazz’s hand and pulled her in for a quick kiss. “Go on, we’re good. You’ll need every minute until closing to help this moron find stuff.”
“She’s just coming along to help with the females of the species. I’ve got the guys down.”
“Oh yeah? What’re you buying Simon?”
“Alcohol,” Nick replied, before remembering Simon wasn’t supposed to be drinking. Ah fuck. “Picture frames? So he can admire all those dopey modeling shots he’s been doing?”
“Sure sounds like the Christmas spirit is in full force with you.” Shaking her head, Jazz bent down to kiss her snoozing son goodbye. “See you later, Dyl. Be good for your daddy.”
“Yeah, you two don’t have any ragers for the half hour we’re at the mall.” Rolling his eyes, Nick followed Jazz outside to her compact sedan.
Once they’d both belted in, he cleared his throat again. “He really doesn’t have a problem with us going shopping?”
Jazz grabbed a tasseled hat from where she’d stuffed it in the visor and pulled it on her head. “No way. He knows you’re in love with Lila.”
“Hang on a second—”
“Don’t even bother arguing it. You don’t have to admit it to us, but we all have eyes. Besides, my husband trusts me.”
“What’s that like?” Nick muttered. “The whole being trusted thing, and being able to be trust in return.”
He supposed he shouldn’t be surprised there was little trust between him and Lila. He was in a famous rock band, and he hadn’t exactly been celibate in the past, though he hadn’t been nearly the manwhore Simon had been either. But he’d definitely enjoyed some of the benefits of being in a new town every night.
And Lila was married. From what he could tell, it was in name only as the marriage had been dead for years, but the fact remained.
No one smart would bet on them. Evidently, not even each other.
“It’s nice. And it’s necessary. You can’t build anything real if your partner doesn’t think you’re as all in as they are. But Gray knows we’re on the same page. Especially since we’re intending to try again later next year, depending how stuff goes with the band.”
Jazz sighed. “To have another baby.”
Nick shook his head to clear it. Obviously he couldn’t escape into his thoughts very often around Jazz. “What happened to the first one?”
“Lord, you are clueless. Nothing. I just want to be a young mother. We’re hoping to have the first couple close together, then we’ll wait a few years to add on.”
“This one’s just a few months old and you’re already planning more?”
“And Gray’s cool with this too?” he asked as she zipped into the mall parking lot.
“Sure is. He’d knock me up tomorrow if I said the word. Well, assuming all the cylinders fired correctly. It’s not just a matter of snapping your fingers and boom, embryo.”
“Thank God,” Nick said fervently.
“You just wait.” She craned her neck as she drove up and down the aisles, searching futilely for a space. Apparently all of Southern California had decided to hit the Galleria today. “One day, you’ll look down into your kid’s eyes, and you’ll be sunk just like we are.”
“Some of us aren’t meant to reproduce. Which is a good thing. The planet’s already overpopulated. Exhibit A, all these frigging jerks.” He motioned to the endless rows of cars. “Here I thought I was the only one who hadn’t shopped yet.”
“Hardly. You’ll soon see many men just like yourself, roaming the stores, looking dazed and picking up every piece of crap they can find to try to convince their significant others they actually shopped a while ago.”
“Truth. Wait and see.”
“You’re awfully smug. How do you know Gray won’t be sneaking out with the kid to do some last minute shopping?”
“Gray already told me about my gift. He’s having a hot tub installed in the new house.”
“Yeah, right, because that’s just for you.” Nick smirked. “Not like he’ll be getting any use out of it.”
But he was making a note for later. Apparently, it was okay to get a present that benefitted you too, as long as you told someone else it was for them.
Gray was a canny bastard, he had to give him that.
“That’s better than the multifunction keychain you’ll probably end up buying everyone.” She darted into a spot near the back of the lot after someone pulled out and yanked the key out of the ignition. “Skip the inflatable whoopee cushion. It doesn’t make anyone laugh. Just incites violence.”
“Duly noted.” Nick tugged out his phone and glanced at his notes app and the halfhearted list he’d made before giving up. “So, um, I don’t suppose you’re cool with inviting the others to the house tonight for you know, some holiday type stuff?”
“Dude, you need a wife.”
Heat crept up the back of his neck. The last thing he needed was a wife. He wasn’t even entirely sure what a guy did with one of those, besides them providing sex and possibly home-cooked meals. And even that was sketchy, from what he saw on Dr. Phil when he was channel surfing.
“You are a wife,” he said.
“I’m Gray’s wife, not a general catch-all one for the public’s use.” Jazz sighed and tugged her fuzzy purple gloves from the pocket of her quilted vest. It was a little chilly out, but he figured the gloves were some kind of fashion statement rather than actual cold weather gear. “But yes, the rest of the band is coming over for dinner. Harper took pity on all of us and is making Christmas Eve dinner for the horde rather than just for her and big D and baby Lexi.”
“Awesome.” Since he had approximately zero interest in visiting everyone’s place to dispense his likely shitty gifts, he was glad she’d thought ahead. He relaxed into his seat, then rubbed his suddenly damp palm down the thigh of his jeans. “Just the band?”
“I invited Lila too. Don’t worry.” She patted the back of his hand. “It would be mean to cut off your access to Christmas sex.”
“Ha. Yeah, right. Not sure if you noticed, but sex is off the table right now. She’s avoiding me.”
Ever since the night a supernova had blown up his life in more ways than one.
“She’s probably just in damage control mode. You know Lila. All work and more work. And Donovan runs a tight ship.”
He didn’t say anything. No one knew about their big blowup shortly after the crazy VIP show, and how she’d stormed off and barely said two words to him since. It wasn’t about Oblivion business. Not entirely. He would’ve staked everything that mattered to him on it.
But she’d vaulted up and he’d given her space. Mainly because he didn’t know if she’d gotten heat from her boss about their relationship or if the situation with her divorce had turned nasty. The last thing he wanted to do was pressure her or make her life more difficult.
His hope had been that if he stepped away, didn’t crowd her, she’d come to him on her own. Hadn’t happened yet, but he was still hoping.
Christmas was the perfect time for futile wishes, right?
“Come on,” Jazz said gently, diverting his attention from the flow of pedestrian traffic outside the window. “We have a lot to do and not much time to do it in.”
“Nah, this will be easy.”
“Sure it will, honey.” She rolled her eyes at him and slipped out of the car, giving him no choice but to follow.
Not that he wanted to. Shopping was right up there at the top of the list of stuff he hated most. Along with having tough conversations and trying to build some kind of bridge from the shit pile he’d stepped into back to the amazing weekend he’d shared with the woman he was…with.