Authors: Heidi McLaughlin
Tags: #Romance, #Music, #Contemporary, #Young Adult, #Adult
music sheet doesn’t make any sense. I’ve been over it a hundred times or more and it’s still all a blur. I know the lyrics and the beat, but everything I put down is a mess. Liam is expecting something from me by the time band practice starts in an hour, and I’m not going to be able to deliver. My mind is consumed with thoughts of love and lust and there isn’t jack shit I can do about it.
I rip my ears buds out and move away from my computer. I can’t do this, not today. Not after seeing her last night. I hate that I can’t tell her how I feel. I hate that when another man looks at her, I feel nothing but murderous rage. I want to be the
one looking at her.
I’m a fool to think she wants me, with my full-sleeved tattoos and rocker lifestyle. I know I can offer her more than those other men. A stable home, financial security and a man who will worship and kiss the ground that she walks on. But I’m not the one you can take home to mom or to the school PTA meetings without being stared at. I know she doesn’t want that. Enough people stare at her now.
I pull out a clean sheet of paper and write down more lyrics. More touchy-feely shit that I wish I could tell her. Instead, I show up almost daily with something to offer her; coffee, lunch, or a free lawn mowing job because I can’t, for the life of me, get it through my head that I’m nothing more than just a friend to her, and that’s all I’ll ever be.
I write down six words before tearing the paper up. I know why Liam tasked me with putting the music down for these songs, but they’re mine. I hadn’t planned on sharing them with the band. I think he’s trying to get back at me for all those things I said about him falling in love when he returned home for his buddy’s funeral. Now that it’s my turn, he’s sitting back and laughing his ass off. I ought to write some heavy shit. The head pounding scream-your-lungs-out shit that I sometimes think about. Either way, we need new songs and we’ve all been taxed with producing something.
But no, that isn’t who we are. We’ve skyrocketed with Liam’s heartfelt ballads and rocking personal stories that make women fall in love with us. They all think we’re tortured souls and in need of companionship. Little do they know that Liam has only written about one woman. Hell, even I didn’t know about it until he upped and left Los Angeles for the quiet, mundane life of Beaumont.
I can’t blame him. I’ve done the same thing. This is the best place to raise Quinn. He’ll go to school with Noah, and when Liam and I have a gig, Josie will take care of him. She’s really filled the role of mother for Quinn and for that, I will forever be thankful to her. That and she gave my best friend a whole new life and we’ve since had a string of number one hits, putting us back at the top of the charts.
Now, if I could just get the one I’m infatuated with to just look in my direction. I’m firmly stuck in the friend category, though, and I don’t know how to get out of it. I’m afraid to tell her how I feel because the look on her face will break me. I know she doesn’t want me the way I want her, and I’d rather be her friend then not have her in my life at all.
I put my ear buds back in to try this one more time. I picture the things I want to do to her. The way I want to hold her. How I want to be the one she comes home to at night. Be the one that she turns to when she needs consoling on the anniversary of her husband’s death. I want to be the one that the twins need when someone dares to break their hearts.
Imagining a life with her is as easy as breathing. I just have to find a way to make it happen without putting too much pressure on her. I hope that time is my friend and that someday she’ll look in my direction and realize I’m someone she can trust to take care of her. That she’ll know I’d never hurt her or the girls. That she will see me for me and know that Quinn and I would fit perfectly into her life.
I push away from the desk and head to my drums, bringing my laptop with me. I need to pound out some anger and frustration and maybe something will transpire that is usable. I close my eyes and let my sticks guide me. My beat starts off hard and steady. I’m beating the drums in front of me, releasing this pent up energy.
Her face flashes before my eyes, her voice inside my head. I instantly calm down and work out a rhythm. I hit record on my laptop and play the sound through. It’s slow, smooth. Definitely something Liam and I can work on.
Jimmy and Tyler knock on the window, alerting me that they’re here. Tyler is our new soundboard guru and he’s been spending time with Jimmy in Los Angeles for the past week getting to know him. I stop the recording and take off my headphones to open the door for them. When I do, she’s coming down the stairs talking on her cell phone. Her eyes meet mine briefly. I can’t tell you if I’m smiling or not showing any emotion whatsoever, her presence alone makes me turn into a fool. It’s times like this that I’m thankful she works for us. It gives me every conceivable excuse to be near her. It’s so easy to fake a conversation about music and what gig we have coming up or what our deadlines are. The funny thing is, I know all of this, but act as if I’ve forgotten or can’t find my phone to look it up.
Jimmy, or JD as we call him as he tells us it suits his ‘rock star’ lifestyle, slaps me on the shoulder as he passes. He’s chuckling and muttering something to himself. Liam is trudging down the stairs before I can shut the door and turn on the light to let Katelyn and Josie know we are working.
I hate the way Liam looks in the morning. No, I shouldn’t say that. I’m happy for him. He’s with the one woman he loves and they are happy. Sickeningly happy; he’s paid his dues and deserves this. The pride I see in his eyes when he looks at his son is the same way I am when I look at Quinn. They are the best of us, no matter how much we screw up.
“JD, my man,” Liam says as they man hug. “I didn’t hear you come in.”
“Linda let me in. Tell me, how much did you have to pay her to leave her cushy job at the hotel to come here to take care of your sorry arse?”
Liam laughs. He made it a few months before he started looking for a housekeeper. He didn’t want Josie having to take to care of the house by herself so he asked his former maid, Linda, to move to Beaumont. He’s in the process of building her a nice little house behind his and he bought her a car.
“Let’s get to work. Katelyn is working on booking some new bars that she heard about, so we need to work out the kinks.” Liam straps his guitar on and starts tuning.
“I worked this out before you guys got here.” I move over the laptop and press play, watching JD and Liam as they listen to the melody. Liam smiles and looks over to the lyrics we’ve been working on. JD moves to the keyboard and hits a few keys and I add in the beat from my drums. Liam signals to Tyler to start recording. He strums his guitar and sings into the microphone as JD and I play along with him.
When I look up, Katelyn is watching me. Not us, but me, before she turns and is out of sight. For one brief moment I have a sliver of hope that she might feel the same way.
set the phone down, resting my head in my hands. I know I can do this. I just have to convince myself that Liam didn’t make a mistake in hiring me. What was I thinking when I opened my mouth at Christmas, saying I could be their manager? I fear I’ve bitten off more than I can chew, but Liam has confidence in me, even if I’m only booking 4225 West in small bars.
They laugh – the bar owners – when I call to book a gig. They ask if I’m joking, and I assure them that I’m not. I tell them, repeatedly, that the band is trying a different angle, more family friendly and want to give back to the fans that have made them so popular. Still, I can hear the humor in their voices when they agree to a booking and the small fee is figured out. What they don’t understand is that with a bit of advertising, they will clean house at the end of the night. 4225 West isn’t asking for a large percentage; they just want to play and want to do it without the bright lights shining in their faces.
My phone rings, startling me. I almost spill my coffee when I reach for the handset. My hand steadies the cup before there’s a mess everywhere. I don’t know where all these jitters are coming from… okay, yes I do. I know exactly what or who is setting me on edge. I just choose to ignore it. I can’t focus on my children and career with the distractions that face me daily. I need to get through… I don’t know what. He’s my boss. That’s what I keep telling myself, whether he’s actually the one who signs my check or not. I work for him.
I pick up the phone on the fourth ring, clearing my throat and taking a deep breath before saying hello.
“Is this Katelyn Powell?”
“It is,” I say, pulling my pad of paper closer to me to take notes.
“This is Christa Johnson and I represent an artist known as DeVon. He’s an up-and-coming artist that we recently signed. His debut single releases next month and we’re interested in getting him some attention. I’m calling to see if 4225 West would be willing to work a small tour with him?”
“What type of music? He sounds more hip hop with a name like DeVon.” I write down his name and scribble
next to it. I haven’t heard of him, but that doesn’t mean anything. When it comes to music, I’m pretty much in the clouds.
“You’d think, right? DeVon is actually blues with a rock vibe. It’s very funky with a kick. We think that with the success of 4225 West, DeVon will not only gain some fans, but will learn from the veterans and how they run a tour.”
Veterans? I know I’m not a veteran when it comes to tours, but the guys are. Me? I’m just the person behind the desk trying to find places willing to pay them.
“Do you have venues set up?” This is important. How much work am I going to have to do?
“About fifteen, but we’d like thirty.”
I can arrange the remaining venues. This will be good experience for me. “Where are you looking to tour?”
“Ideally, we’d like to hit the younger crowds, so Miami, New York City, Seattle.”
“And when would you like to start?”
“We’re hoping for August.”
August? One month before school starts. Not that I need to be on tour with the guys, even though Liam will want me there. I’m sure Josie and Noah would go and Harrison would probably take Quinn as well. The band has a new CD coming out and this would probably be a huge benefit for them. Thirty stops, is that enough?
“August really doesn’t work for us. What about July and we’ll tour for forty-five days?” I throw that number out there, hoping I’m doing the right thing. Liam has given me full reign to do whatever I see fit, but I still question everything. He rolls his eyes most of the time or tells me to ask Harrison, and that’s really not going to happen.
“We can do that.”
“Great.” Christa and I spend the next hour on the phone hashing out the details. I take copious notes and she promises to email the contacts from the venues she’s already booked. We agree that I will take the lead, as 4225 West will be the headliner.
I look out my window to see if the red studio light is still on. It’s not. I gather my notepad and pen and head out to the studio. The guys are standing around Tyler, laughing. This is good. This means they’ve recorded something they like and are happy. I like happy.
Liam kisses me on the cheek when I walk up to him. He puts his arm around me, pulling me closer. He’s been like this since he moved back. I’m not complaining. I love him like a brother and he’s been there for us, helping out more than I could ever thank him for.
“Katelyn, did you meet Tyler?” Liam asks as he points to Tyler who nods.
“Yes, Jimmy brought him in to fill out his paperwork. Did you guys get something recorded?”
“No,” Harrison says sharply. I look at him and immediately wish I hadn’t. He’s staring at me, or Liam’s hand, which is still resting on my shoulder. I’m not quite sure. Either way, his piercing green eyes are looking at me. His expression is stoic, almost hard.
“Well listen,” I say. Liam drops his arms and moves so he’s standing in front of me, leaving just enough space for the other guys to hear what I’m saying. We’re talking business now; he’s being serious. This Liam sometimes scares me. “I just got off the phone with a manager whose client is releasing a CD. His name is DeVon—”
“Is he a rapper?” Harrison asks, interrupting my spiel. I don’t know why he does that, but it makes me want to slap my hand over his mouth.
I shake my head and continue. “DeVon is a blues artist with a bit of a rock kick. They’re looking to build his fanbase and asked if we’re interested in a tour. I figured with the CD about to come out, we could use the publicity, so we’re doing a forty-five city tour starting in July. You guys will be back in time for the kids to start school.”
“You guys?” Jimmy questions.
“Yes. I’ll stay here.”
“No, you’ll be coming with us.” Liam says. “Book a tour bus. Harrison can help. He has some connections and knows what we’ll want. This will be fun.”
Harrison and I stare at each other. The black beanie that he always wears is mocking my imagination of what his hair looks like. I’ve only seen him without his hat through pictures, never in person. I’m the first one to look away because I can’t take the intense way he looks at me. Or maybe it’s because I can’t understand the way I look at him. Or the way I want to know more about him.
Liam kisses me on the cheek before heading upstairs. He declares it’s lunchtime before I have a chance to say anything. Jimmy and Tyler move faster than I’ve ever seen them before, leaving me with Harrison.
“Should we go into your office?”
I look up quickly, expecting him to smile or change his expression, but he doesn’t. I remind myself that this is my job and he has the answers I need to get my job done; and as much as I don’t want to sit in my office with him while he leans over me, it has to be done.
I nod and lead the way. I count the steps to my office and then to my desk; twenty, twenty-one, twenty-two. He pulls out my chair. I make the mistake of looking at him as I sit down. The slight turn of his lip tells me that he’s happy to be here. He beat me into my office and I don’t know how. Was I really walking that slowly?
He pushes in my chair slightly and leans over me. I try not to breathe in his cologne. I don’t want to know what he wears, but he smells good. I lean away, closer to my screen, and he leans in too. I wonder if he knows what he’s doing to me. Doesn’t he know I’m trying to avoid him? That we can never be anything?
Harrison tells me what site to bring up and I do. Except my fingers aren’t working and I have to type the web address repeatedly. He moves his fingers over mine. I pull them back instantly, afraid for him to touch me. My hands rest in my lap.
“Sorry, I was just trying to help.”
I nod and realize how stupid I’m being. We can be friends, right?
He brings up the website and walks me through how to order a custom charter. He says that they’ve used this company before and to call and ask for Larry; he’ll make sure we get what we need and in time. I write down what he tells me and he laughs. I turn slightly, but think twice and focus on my paper.
“I think I can take it from here.”
The sound of his voice, the way he says my name, low and sweet with just enough mystery, makes me look up at him causing me to mentally kick myself.
“It’s lunchtime and Linda doesn’t like to leave out food for too long.”
He’s right. I slide my chair back. He moves one-step back giving me some space. I was hoping I could follow him upstairs, but he doesn’t move or lead the way. He waits for me.
I feel stupid for feeling like this, but it’s too soon after Mason. In fact, nothing will ever happen with Harrison. I know how he feels, but it just can’t. Not only because I love Mason, but because he’s not my type. I would never date a man who is covered in tattoos, wears a beanie and shorts all the time. He’s the quintessential rocker and doesn’t fit my life.
I don’t care that the way he looks at me makes me feel wanted.
I don’t care that the way he looks at me makes me feel desired.
I don’t care that the way he smells makes me want to crawl into his skin until I’m enveloped in his scent.
I don’t care because he’s not Mason.