Waking up fifty years after fleeing a horrible prom date is the least of Sydney Archer’s problems. Through a scientific breakthrough made by her baby brother turned world-renowned scientist, Sydney has been brought back to life with the help of alien DNA. Now, not only is her sexy alien donor linked to her for life, but she also discovers she’s only half-human.
Ozu Qeth Haddoxian was one alien secret the government intended to keep hidden from society forever. Haddox has a different idea, and he’s willing to exchange his own secrets for sweet freedom. But once he allows the scientist to reincarnate Sydney using his DNA, he realizes their destiny is set, irrevocably intertwined. And no amount of fighting his attraction to Sydney will change that.
Now, the government has captured Sydney’s brother, leaving her with nobody but Haddox. As the only living aliens on Earth, they’re extremely valuable, and there are people who would love to unlock all of Haddox’s secrets. Sydney refuses to allow them to catch her. After all, how many times can a girl be reincarnated? To survive, she must learn to master her new-found alien abilities to outrun people who want her dead. With Haddox by her side, she just might be able to save her new species...but only if she ignores the undeniable magnetism drawing her to him because, if Haddox is to be believed, a relationship between them might just off them both.
Rock the Beginning
(Black Falcon Prequel to Rock the Heart)
So this is it?
Freshman year. I stand in the pristine hallway of CedarCreekHigh School next to my
best friend Cassandra Lutz as we survey the same faces we see year after year.
Nothing in this town ever changes. I was hoping that I would be wowed in high
school—dramatically swept off my feet on my first day by a dashing
upper-classmen—living the dream of going to the prom as a freshman. Well, at
least it’s a big dream of mine.
But sadly, I’m
disappointed yet again.
I sigh heavily and
lean my back against the red locker and squeeze my books tighter against my
chest. I can’t wait to get out of here and run off to a big city where I can
make something of myself. I’ve always thought a job in advertising sounded fun.
Maybe I’ll try that someday.
“Just once I’d
love to have some fresh meat in this place,” Cassandra says pulling her brown
hair into a loose bun on the top of her head. “I hate knowing everything about
these guys. There’s no mystery. None of them do anything surprising.”
I nod in total
agreement. “Where are all the guys I read about in books—the ones that know
exactly what to say? The first day of school is practically over and nothing
remotely exciting has happened yet.”
The moment the
words leave my mouth, a crash against the lockers a few feet to my right draws
my attention. I suddenly feel the urge to take back the last thing I said. This
is not exactly the kind of excitement I was hoping for.
All the kids in
the hallway stop dead in their tracks in unison and stare at the scene playing
out before us like a bad teen sitcom. Roger Robertson, the guy we all know as
the school bully, grips Wendell McFarland, a kid in my grade, by the collar of
his shirt. Roger’s large arms twist as he repositions his wrists in order to
get a better grip, while he wears a sickening smile on his red, pimple-covered
face. Roger isn’t the kind of guy you want to mess with. His temper is about as
red-hot as the flaming color of his hair and we all know he’s been held back to
the freshman level three times now. If Roger walks down the hallway, you get
out of his way or duck for cover. His reputation of assholism precedes him.
I instantly feel
sorry for Wendell. His tiny, pencil-like frame is no match for the likes of
Roger. “Give it up, you fucking pussy.” I flinch as Roger yanks Wendell forward
and slams him back even harder. “Don’t make me tell you again. I know your
parents are loaded. Cough up the dough.”
Wendell gasps for
air as Roger shoves his knuckles into his throat. “I don’t have any money.”
Another slam and
Wendell’s glasses slip down the bridge of his nose. “Cough it up you little
My mouth gapes
open and my eyes grow wide. It’s painfully hard to watch. Someone has to stop
I glance around. Several
of my classmates stand frozen. No one is making a move to stop this outright
appalling display of human behavior. This makes me sick. What’s wrong with
these people? A desperate need to make this stop fills me.
Before I even
realize what I’m doing I take a couple quick steps and open my mouth. “Stop it!
Leave him alone!”
It’s like a movie
when a hush falls over the crowd. I know this isn’t the smartest move, but I
just can’t stand by and do nothing to stop this. And, okay, I know the odds of
me being able to stop Roger physically are about as good as a one-legged man in
an ass-kicking contest, but I can’t idly sit by. I wasn’t raised that way.
Cassandra grabs my
arm and whispers harshly, “Are you crazy, Lanine? What are you doing?”
I pull my arm from
her grip and frown as I take in the fear from her brown eyes. I straighten my
stance. I have to appear brave. “Someone has to stop this, Cass.”
Roger’s gaze darts
from me to Wendell. His eyes are so brown they almost appear black and the pure
venom in them causes my legs to shake. A deep laugh bursts out of his mouth and
holds me in place. “What do we have here? Is this your little girlfriend,
four-eyes? Is she here to save you?”
No one should be
able to get away with treating people like this. “Stop it, Roger!”
Roger flings his
gaze at me. “Or what, Shirley Temple? You going to make me?”
I stare down at
the pink sun-dress I’m wearing. While very cute for my first day of school, it
doesn’t exactly scream badass, but this guy doesn’t know what I’m capable of,
so I can’t let him rattle my nerves. “I might. Now, leave him alone.”
Roger sneers while
opening his large hands and makes a show of letting Wendell go. As soon as
Wendell is free, he takes off running without looking back to make sure I’m not
the one getting pounded now.
Thanks for the
The bully turns to
me and taps his lip. “Happy now, Shirley? I let him go, but it seems we have a
small problem now.”
I lift my chin as Roger
stalks towards me with slow steps like a tiger stalking his prey. “What’s
“Someone is going
to have to pay me. You see, I need money for a new tire and since you chased my
little buddy off who was about to pay for it, I guess that leaves you.” He
grins at me in a way a serial killer would right before he murders his victim.
I grip my books
tighter and my hands turn clammy. If he comes at me this Geometry book is going
to make one hell of a weapon. “Fat chance. I’m not giving you any money.”
He shakes his head
as he steps in front of me. “That’s where you’re wrong. Guy, girl…doesn’t
matter to me. I’ll still beat you into submission in order to get what I need,
and what I need from you is money. You’re going to get that for me. A nice girl
like you seems good for it.”
I narrow my eyes.
“No, I’m not.”
Roger slaps the
books from my hands and leans into me like he’s about to attack, but a voice
stops him. “Listen, bitch—”
“Pick those up.”
My neighbor and childhood friend, Noel Falcon pushes his way through the crowd.
Once he’s through, he narrows his eyes at Roger, daring him to cross him. “Pick
those up, or I swear to God you’ll pay.”
The guy in front
of me takes a step back and smirks as Noel steps between us, using his body to
shield me from Roger. At first I’m scared for Noel’s safety, but I quickly
notice he’s nearly an even match for the guy that’s much older than him.
When did he get so
tall and buff?
I guess I never
noticed Noel’s muscles before. The way they stretch his black t-shirt and how
board his shoulders have actually gotten has somehow slipped past me all summer
long. Granted, I haven’t seen him as much as I normally do over the summer.
Noel magically became busy every time I asked him to come over and go fishing
off the dock behind my house like we always did, which was…strange considering
we use to spend all of our time together.
His hair grew too.
The shaggy hair he sported last school year as he got into rock music would probably
touch his shoulders now if he didn’t have it pulled back into a low-set
ponytail. I admit, he’s looking pretty good.
his shoulders and rocks his neck like a trained fighter before he sets his eyes
on Noel. “You’ll walk away if you know what’s good for you. This is between me
and Shirley here.”
Noels fingers fold
into fists at his side. “I think you got that backwards, fucker. It’s you that
needs to beat it. No one messes with
Lane. No one.”
You’re going to wish you’d walked away when I gave you the chance after I beat
your face in,” Roger sneers.
“I’ll never walk
away from Lane. You fuck with her. You fuck with me.” There’s a growl in Noel’s
voice I’ve never heard before. It’s low and threatening. I never knew Noel
could be so scary or bad-ass or…hot.
Oh my God. What am I thinking? Noel isn’t hot.
Noel is…Noel, my friend—best friend since kindergarten.
I can’t ponder on
that last thought too long because Roger’s laugh pulls me out of that bubble.
Without warning Roger draws his arm back, launching it full force towards Noel’s
face. Two things happen so quick the scream building in my throat doesn’t have
time to come out. The first is Noel dodges the blow with ease and blasts Roger
in the face first while simultaneously pushing me out of harms way.
I fall to the
floor in all the commotion just as Roger tackles Noel and they crash to the
ground. At first it appears that Roger has the upper-hand until Noel uses some
quick UFC style movements and turns
the tables. Noel flips Roger onto his back and straddles him before gripping a
handful of Roger’s shirt in his hand and blasts a right hook into the monster
My mouth gapes
open as the boy I’ve known most of my life defends me like no one else ever
A hand grips my
shoulder and pulls me up off the floor. “Jesus, Lanie. Are you all right?” Cass
asks. “Thank God Noel showed up when he did.”
I’m about to agree
with her just as the guys roll around in the hallway again and this time
Roger’s in control. Hell. No.
This weird urge to
protect Noel comes over me. I fling myself on Roger’s back without thinking
ahead any further what I would do next. I wrap my arms around his neck and hold
on tight. Not getting anywhere, I get desperate and grab a handful of red hair
and yank as hard as I can. “Get off him!”
I ignore the
distinct sound of tennis shoes scuffling on the tiled hallway as I tighten my
grip on his hair. There’s no way I’m letting anyone hurt Noel.
I’m pulled back
but I refuse to release my hold on Roger. “Young lady, let him go!”
My head snaps in
the direction of lanky man with thinning brown hair I recognize as being my
English teacher, Mr. Jones. Then it dawns on me. Oh crap! I’m in deep shit. Dad
isn’t going to the let the fact that I’m involved in a fight on the first day
of school go without some sort of punishment. There’s always the argument I was
helping someone else that was getting bullied, even though that someone ran off
and would probably be too scared to side with me against Roger. Surely one of
these witnesses would attest to the fact this all began over Wendell and Roger
isn’t the innocent victim here.
I loosen my white
knuckles and Roger’s hair falls free from my hands. “Crazy bitch,” Roger
mumbles under his breath. “Umph!”
I snicker as Noel
brings his knee back down from Roger’s groin, shutting him up completely. Roger
falls over cupping his crotch in the universal sign that a guy has been nailed
in the balls.
Noel stands and
kicks Roger in the stomach one time for good measure. “Don’t ever talk to her
that way again.”
Mr. Jones sets me
on my feet and turns to scolds the boys. “Knock it off and get to the
principals office.” I turn to head in the opposite direction, thinking I’m in
the clear because I’m a girl. “Not so fast. That means you too.”
I stop dead in my
tracks and turn slowly on my heel.
Damn. Can’t blame
me for trying.
Noel smoothes his
hair back, tucking the loose strands of hair behind his ear. He touches his
tongue to the corner of his mouth and I notice the small cut on his bottom lip.
I tilt my head as
I examine the rest of his face. “Are you okay?”
He shakes his
fingers like he’s trying to get rid of the pain from landing a couple punches
to Roger’s thick skull. “I’ll be okay. What about you? I can’t believe you had
that in you to attack a guy like that. I haven’t seen you go after someone
since the third grade over a Barbie.”
I shrug. “I
couldn’t let him hurt you.”
Noel’s eyes search
my face and he swallows hard just as he takes a step towards me, nearly bumping
his chest into mine. “I know exactly how you feel.”
“Y—you do?” Where is all this nervous energy
coming from? I’ve been in a closer proximity many times with Noel. Why does
this time feel different—like all the air around us is charged?
“I said get to the
office,” Mr. Jones raises his voice causing me to jump and Noel wraps his arms
around me. “You two need to get to the office while I finish helping Roger up.
Don’t make me tell you again.”
Noel salutes the
teacher and I giggle at his new found attitude of anti-authority. I pull away
from Noel and turn towards the office. His steps fall in-line with mine and he
reaches down, threading his fingers through mine.
He’s held my hand
before, but never like this. This moment feels like the beginning of something
One Week Later…
The air is cool for
a September night in Texas,
but my entire body is warm and alive with excitement. Sure, I’ve snuck out of
the house many nights before to meet Noel on this dock for a late night swim
before, but this is different. Things have certainly changed quite a bit over
the last week.
Somehow over the
summer we’ve gone from best friends to more. We’ve never really discussed this
new territory of hand holding and hugging that we’ve worked our way into or
what it means for us exactly. Maybe the subject will come up tonight.
People at school
aren’t surprised, I guess. Everyone knows Noel and I are close, so our new bouts
of P.D.A don’t raise too many eyebrows.
Doesn’t mean we’re
ready to make our parents aware that our long-time friendship has blossomed
into more. They’d never let us be along together again.
I tip-toe down the
hill to the dock behind my house and allow my eyes to adjust in the moonlight.
At the end of the dock Noel leans against the wood railing of the dock with his
arms crossed against his chest, waiting for me. I’m not sure what tonight will
hold for us, I just know I can’t wait to see what unfolds.
A wide grin
stretches across his face the moment our eyes meet. The features on his face
are well defined like the new physic he acquired over the summer. His blue eyes
shimmer with excitement the moment my feet hit the wood on the dock and my
breath catches. Every time I see him now it’s like my heart skips a beat.
I bite my lip and
shove my hair behind my ear as Noel reaches his hand out to me. I slide mine
into it without hesitation and my stomach flips.
He pulls me into
his side. “I wasn’t sure if you were coming.”
I tilt my head.
“Of course I was. Have I ever stood you up on this dock before?”
He swallows hard
and pinches a lock of my long, brown hair before twirling it around his finger.
“No, but things are a little different now, aren’t they?”
I nod and notice
my breathing picks up a notch. “About that…what are we doing?”
trembles a little as he releases my hair and touches my cheek with his
fingertips. “I think it’s pretty clear.”
I know exactly
what he’s getting at, but I want to hear him say it. “You think so?”
He stands a little
straighter and cups my face in his hands while staring into my eyes. “We’re
falling in love and finally giving into what fate has planned for us.”
My heart thuds
against my ribs. “Are you saying you love me?”
The grin on his
face lights up my entire world. “You know I do. I think I’ve loved you since we
were five. I’m just the idiot who didn’t realize how much in love I was until
this summer when I found myself getting jealous over any guy I caught looking
at you. The feeling that you’re meant to be mine won’t leave me, and I don’t
know what to do about it or if you even feel the same way.”
“Is that why you stayed
away all summer?” I ask.
“Yeah. I was
hoping it would go away and we could stay friends, but all that went to hell
that first day of school when I saw you and you needed me to help you. I knew
then I could never be just your friend. I’m always going to want more with you.
I feel like you’re my forever or something.”
within me take over and tears well-up in my eyes. “It might’ve taken me a
little longer to come to the same conclusion, but I feel exactly the same way.”
trace over my cheeks. “I love you, Lane.”
I smile as a tear
falls free from my eye. “I love you too.”
He leans in and
presses his lips to mine. My eyes drift shut and I fall into his kiss—fall into
him. This is everything I never knew I always wanted. His lips part and mine
move in sync with his until he finally slips his tongue in my mouth. This isn’t
my first kiss, but it is the first time I’ve ever felt something kissing a boy.
It’s like tasting my future and I can picture my entire life in my mind—a life
With more skill
than I knew we both possessed, we slide down to the floor of the dock without
breaking our kiss. I grip hands full of his shirt and he teases the skin on my
back just under the hem of my blouse. This is moving entirely too fast, but I
can’t find a logical reason in my brain to stop the madness. Being so close to
Noel feels incredible and I don’t want it to end.
Noel lies back,
pulling me on top of him, allowing me to feel the bulge in his jeans against my
I’m scared as
hell, but the way his lips move against the soft skin on my neck makes it a
little less intimidating. “We don’t have to go any further than you’re ready
for, Lane.” He says—his breath hot and tempting on my flesh.
I press a
feather-light kiss on his cheek. “I love you and I’m ready. We aren’t
strangers, and I can’t think of one other person I would rather experience all
my firsts with.”
Noel tucks my hair
behind my ear. “I want to be your only.”
fighting against that. That kind of magical romance is something all girls
dream about. I’m just lucky I’ve found my prince so soon.
“I want you to be
my forever,” I tell him before he crushes his mouth to mine and we head into
End of Junior Year…
The drums pound
out the last few beats of the song and I grin as I look at my band mates.
“Yeah! I think we finally nailed it!”
Sam, the drummer
taps the high-hat with his drumstick. “Finally! It only took us fifteen tries.
You have to stop being such a fucking perfectionist, Noel, or well never have
enough of our own songs to make a demo. We can’t keep spending more than a
month on one song.”
“We need to have
our shit together because after graduation next year we need to get on the road
and find paying gigs like we talked about,” I answer and then run my fingers
down the thread of the guitar.
“We need to play
more covers,” Leon
says, scratching the back of his shaggy head. “That’s what people want to
I stare at the two
other guys in the band dumfounded. Sam pushes his glasses up the bridge of his
nose and glances toward Leon
as they wait on me to say something. Don’t they see that originality is
everything in the music business? Labels want bands that are different. We have
to stand out and be the best.
I shake my head
and smooth my dark hair back into my pony tail. “We’re going to practice our
own shit until our fingers bleed. We have to be on point if we want a record
deal. Don’t you guys want that?”
Leon shrugs and
sets his bass in its case. “We do, but we aren’t obsessed with it the way you
I open my mouth to
protest, but Sam cuts me off. “Leon and I have been talking.”
I narrow my eyes.
Sam shoves his
fingers through his bright-red hair. “We aren’t going with you after
I shake my head.
Unbelievable. These two jackasses are supposed to be my best friends—the guys
who have the same goal as me. “We’ve talked about this!” I throw my head back
and growl. “What the fuck, guys? I thought we were taking Thunder Dome on the
road as soon as schools over?”
Leon sighs and
his scrawny shoulders slump a bit. “I’m a senior, dude. My mom had me fill out
some college applications, and I got into a few, some offered scholarships. I’m
heading to KentuckyUniversity next fall on
nearly a full ride. I can’t pass that up.”
“Who gives a shit
about college, man? We have a great thing going here with this band. We could
really be something one day. Don’t you want that?” I argue. Why would anyone
pass on the opportunity to become a rock star verses going to college. That’s
so fucking lame.
“I know you don’t
like it, Noel, but I’m applying to colleges as well. Music will always be
there. You should think about going too, and once we get done with school,
maybe we’ll try then.” I study the freckles on Sam’s face as he speaks and try
not to completely lose my shit while he’s talking.
College will never
be an option for me. Never. It takes me five times longer to read something
than the rest of the kids in my L.D. class. Having Dyslexia hasn’t been a
fucking picnic in high school. Things get so jumbled in my brain and I know
there’s no way in hell I can make it through college courses.
I’m so glad Lane
and I are on the same page about this.
guys do whatever you feel like you have to do. I’m going on the road as planned
as soon as we graduate next year. Lane will travel with me while I play solo
shows until I find a band to hook up with.” Both guys look at each other with
an expression on their face that almost looks like pity and it makes my blood
boil. “You know what, fuck you guys!”
“Noel…” Sam tries
to stop me as I unplug my guitar and flip it around to rest against my back.
“Don’t be like that, man. We’re just trying to be honest with you. Do you know
what the odds are of us actually making it in the music industry? Slim to none.
I’m just trying to be realistic. We need to go to college. It’s the sensible
thing to do.”
I throw my hands
on my hips. “"You know what's sensible? Following your dream when you have
the talent and the drive. I know I'm going to make it. It’s okay if you guys
don’t believe in me. Lane does, and she’s the only person I need to believe in
I turn to walk out
of the Sam’s garage just as Leon
says, “You don’t know Lanie as well as you think. Seems to me like you two have
different ideas about the future.”
I whirl around.
“What’s that suppose to mean? I know my girlfriend—better than she knows
indifferently. “Maybe you do, but that doesn’t explain why she was in the
guidance counselor’s office getting college applications today if she isn’t
planning on going.”
I shake my head
and storm out the door. “Whatever.”
I rub the back of
my neck as I walk towards my black Chevelle and pull the strap from around my
neck and lay the guitar along the backseat. Surely Lane would tell me if she
had doubts about the plan we’ve had in place since we became official our freshman
year. She wouldn’t just leave me hanging. We’re forever and there’s no way I
can spend years without her on the road.
I slam the door
once I’m inside and fire up the engine. It roars to life and the only thing on
my mind is finding out if Leon’s
claim has legs.
A few minutes
later I park in Lane’s driveway. This place has been like a second home to me
since I was a little kid. I love her parents as if they are my own—another
reason why we are perfect for each other.
The white cape
code with a red roof, shutters and door fits perfectly into the scenery next to
It looks happy, like Lane. I love living on the water, and someday when I’m a
famous rock star I’m going to buy a place on a lake for Lane and I to live in
and start a family. She’ll love that.
I knock on the
door and step back as Lane’s dad opens the door. He grins the moment he see’s
me. “Hi, Noel. How are you, son?”
I shove my hands
in the pockets of my jeans. “I’m fine, Jim. Is Lane here?”
Jim scratches his
dark bearded jaw-line and nods. “She’s down at the dock, fishing, I think.
You’re welcome to grab a pole from the garage if you like.”
“Thanks. I think
I’ll do that.”
Jim steps out of
the house, closing the door behind him, and pulls out a set of keys from his
pocket. “Let me unlock the man-door for you.”
I follow Jim
inside the garage. It’s funny as a kid I thought he was a huge man, but now at
seventeen my height nearly matches his six foot frame. Time really does change
He hands me a
black rod. “She should have bait down there.”
After I thank
Lane’s dad, I make my way down the hill to the dock. There’s always a certain
level of comfort that falls over me when I come out here. Most of the major
events in my life have taken place on this very dock—bonding with Lane, telling
her I loved her, and even our first time together has all happened out here.
This is most definitely our spot.
I lay my pole down
and sneak down to where Lane sits on the edge, dangling her feet over the end.
I place my hands over her eyes. “Guess who?”
She grins. “Um,
I laugh and kiss
her cheek. “Fuck Ryan Reynolds. You’ve got Noel Falcon, and I’m much better.
“I don’t know…”
she trails off in a sing-song voice.
“That’s it,” I
growl and tackle her down to the dock and straddle her.
Lane squeals as I
tickle her ribs and kiss her neck. “Stop! You’re going to make me pee.”
I laugh. “Never.
Not until you tell me I’m the best.”
She tries to catch
her breath. “A little conceited, aren’t we?”
“Only when it
comes to you—I know I’m the best man for you.”
She adjusts her
back against the wood and I smooth her hair back from her face. “You’ll get no
argument from me.”
I grin and lean in
and kiss her lips. “That’s good to know.”
As much as I want
to take this to the next level I know I can’t. Her parents could be watching us
out their back window and wouldn’t that be awkward for all of us. I pull back
and push myself up so I can sit next to her.
After helping her
back up to a sitting position, I grab my pole and begin to poke around in the
tackle box to find some plastic bait.
“How was band
practice?” Lane asks.
I stiffen a bit,
knowing the fact that this conversation will probably lead to an argument, and
I hate when we fight. “Not good. The guys are both punking-out on going on the
road after graduation. Looks like it’ll just be me and you.” I cast my line
into the water and I notice Lane fidgets a bit. The best thing to do is get
things in the open. “Leon
has this crazy idea that you don’t want to go either. He’s not right, is he?”
She doesn’t look
at me as she cranks her reel. “I want to go with you. You know that. But, I
think maybe going to college first is a pretty good idea.”
I roll my eyes.
“Not you too. Come on, Lane. We’ve talked about this a million times. Don’t you
want freedom? The chance to go on the open road together before we have to face
all that grown-up shit, like bills that people always bitch about.”
Lane sighs. “It’s
not that easy, Noel.”
“Yes it is, Lane.
Do you want to be with me or not?”
Her head snaps in
my direction. “Of course I do. Why would you even say something like that?”
“Because if you
want to be with me, then we have to be together.”
“Then why don’t
you enroll in a college with me.”
I shake my head.
“You of all people know I can’t do that.”
“I’ll help you.”
She places her hand on my thigh. “We can get through school together just like
we do everything else.”
“Not college. I’m
not cut out for it and I can’t go. Not even for you.” The moment the words
leave my mouth I instantly regret them.
twists. “You’re an asshole.”
She shoves herself
up from the dock and takes off, sprinting towards her house.
“Fuck,” I curse
myself as I break into a full run to chase her down. She makes it half-way up
the hill before I grab her from behind and spin her around in my arms. Her
breaths are ragged and her olive skin flushes. “I’m an idiot. I’m sorry. You
know I didn’t mean it the way it sounded.”
A tear streams
down her cheek. “I don’t get you, Noel. Is music so important to you that’d
you’d throw everything we have away to get it?”
I shake my head,
but I know it would be a difficult choice. “No. You’re all that matters to me.”
“Then show me,”
I wipe away her
tears with my thumbs before I press my lips to hers. “I will.”
One Year Later—Graduation Night…
There are at least
ten parties going on tonight, and we’re going to make our rounds, but first,
Lane wants me to meet her on the dock for a private celebration. I grin to
myself knowing this will be the last night we have to hide in order to have
sex. This time tomorrow Lane and I will be out on the open road, making our way
with no solid plan, going in whatever direction the music takes us.
I know she has her
doubts. She expresses them nearly everyday, but I know she doesn’t really mean them.
Once I get her out on the road everything will be fine. I just have to prove it
to her that I can make it as a musician. I want her to be proud of me.
waiting for me at the end of the dock. Her long brown hair falls in waves
around her shoulders. The loose strands blow idly in the light breeze coming in
off the lake. A tight jean skirt and cream color shirt accentuates the deep tan
she’s already gotten even though it’s only the beginning of summer. My girl is
so damn beautiful. I’m a very lucky guy.
overtakes me and I rush down and scoop her up in my arms, lifting her off the
ground. “We did it, babe. Can you believe it?”
She laughs in my
arms. “I’m so proud of you, Noel.”
I nuzzle my nose
into her hair. “Not as proud as I am of you. You aced every single test they
threw at you. You’re a fucking geniuses. When I become a famous rock star, I’ll
pay for your tuition—anywhere you want to go.”
I cut her off, not
allowing her a chance to argue with me. “Anywhere. I won’t take no for an
Lane frowns. “I
can’t let you do that.”
I furrow my brow.
“Of course you can. You’ll deserve it. It’ll make the little bit of struggle we
have to go through at first totally worth it.”
“Noel—” I cut her
off again while I go on about the fancy house and cars I’m going to buy her,
and she pushes on my chest.
I frown and set
her on her feet. “What’s wrong?”
fingers rub her forehead before running through her hair. “I don’t know how to
tell you this.”
I trail my hand up
the bare skin on her arm and then stop when it reaches a strand of her hair. I
wrap it around of my finger suddenly nervous about what she has to say. There’s
a slight quiver in her voice, and that’s never a good sign. That only happens
to her when she’s nervous, and there’s not one thing she should be nervous to
I lick my lips.
“Whatever it is, just tell me. We’ll get through it together.”
Lane shakes her
head. “This time we won’t.”
I take her face in
my hands and force her to look into my eyes. “Lane, you’re not making any
She closes her
eyes. “This is so hard.”
I feel her tense
under my touch as a tear falls down her face and my heart falls to the pit of
my stomach. Lane never cries and it’s something I can’t stand to see. “Please
don’t cry. Baby, I’ll fix it. Whatever it is, I’ll fix it.”
She opens her
green eyes and stares at me, her eyes searching my face for answers. “Don’t
I flinch. “The way
you just said that makes it sound like I’ll be leaving by my self.”
“You will be if
you go,” she whispers.
I shake my head.
“No. You promised you were going with me.”
“I can’t go with
I drop my hands
from her face. “What do you mean, you can’t? We talked about this since
cries. “We had no clue what we were talking about back then. Things change,
Noel. I don’t know why this is such a huge shock to you. I’ve been telling you
for the last year that I want to go to college.”
“I didn’t think
you were serious. Damn, Lane. Why are you waiting until just now to tell me
this? We had a plan.”
“You had a plan. Not me. Not one time
have you asked me what I wanted!”
I close my eyes
and pinch the bridge of my nose. “Yes I have.”
“No. No you
haven’t. Have you heard anything I said about going to college and living in a
“I heard you. I
just didn’t think you were serious.” I sigh. “I can’t believe you’d pick going
to college over being with me.”
“That’s the same
way I feel every time you pick music over me.”
“I never pick
music over you!”
“No? If I won’t go
with you, are you going to go anyway?” she challenges.
that’s been our plan,” I raise my voice, completely frustrated by this
blindside. “Music is my fucking life. You know that. It’s all I have.”
“You had me.” Lane
bites her plump, bottom lip as forces a cry back. “Then this is the end for
My heart squeezes
so hard in my chest that panic starts setting in. “Please, Lane. Don’t do
She kisses my
cheek. “Goodbye, Noel.”
My body turns
completely numb as she turns and runs away from me. I should pull it together
and go after her and force her to understand and try harder at convincing her
to come with me, but I can’t move. The idea that Lanie Vance is no longer mine
hits me hard and I drop to my knees, shaking uncontrollably. I grab my hair in
my hands and allow myself to cry for the loss of the only girl I’ll ever really
This New Year’s we have a lot to be thankful for. As 2014
comes to a close, I want to celebrate with you by offering you a special secret
giveaway as part of this epic Author Hop with 50 bestselling authors! It’s a
total surprise, and I won’t tell you until I pick a winner. Plus, it is so easy
I’m so happy to announce that on New Year’s Eve I have partnered up
with 50 bestselling authors for an epic New Year’s Author Hop Giveaway!
On Wednesday, December 31st watch out for my page and a
large group of your favorites to post a huge secret giveaway! All 50 of the
authors are going to be giving away something special, and we have set it up so
that it is so easy to click from one author’s page to the next to enter!
We all wanted to end the year on a high note by giving back to you!
Thank you all so much for a great year and remember to look out for the
giveaway on Wednesday! XOXO Michelle
NAUGHTY KING (A Sexy Manhattan Fairytale: Part One) The King Always Gets His Way. Women, business, pleasure: When I want it, I get it. I’m never denied. Including her. I will break her. I will show her who the king of this city really is. The Feisty Princess of Manhattan will learn I am not a man that can be tempted. No matter how fucking bad I want her in my bed.
**Book One in a Three Part Erotic Romance Series.**
Super Naughty New Series From NEW YORK TIMES and USA TODAY Bestselling Author Michelle A. Valentine (Rock the Heart, Phenomenal X, Demon at My Door).
“Rage, rage against the
dying of the light” – Dylan Thomas
Down” – Five Finger Death Punch
I nod my head to
the beat, glad that, for once, we are in our element in playing to a sold-out
I’m not exactly
sure where everything started falling apart. Wait...that’s a lie. I know exactly when my blissful happiness began
to deteriorate. It was the day Riff brought a woman on our bus for a long-term
stay. A woman who fucked everything up and started Black Falcon on our downward
One day things
were great—every guy in the band practically floating on cloud nine and all
that shit—but somehow in the midst of our happiness and living out our
life-long dream, things turned to shit. Sophie, Riff’s temporary
fuck-of-the-month, single handedly drove a wedge into our foundation and rocked
our ship by claiming she one-nighted Noel and was knocked up by him. For a
while, I wasn’t even sure if the band would make it, but we did, ironically,
with the help of two women, Lanie Vance and Aubrey Jenson. They were all right
chicks at first, but eventually became thorns in my side too. Noel and Riff are
so lovesick; they can’t see that their constant need to “take a break” for “family
time” is destroying us.
My twin brother,
Trip, used to look at the situation like I do. He wasn’t happy about the
disappearing acts that both Noel and Riff insisted on pulling all the damn
time. That was until my baby brother took it upon himself to seek out other
interests besides the band. He not only found a dirt bike track to invest his
money into, he also found a chick to invest his time into. He had to go and
fall for the fucking track owner’s daughter, Holly. After that, he had a change
of heart, and started empathizing with my other bandmates.
All of them.
Black Falcon might
as well be a label-made band like those Embrace the Darkness douchebags who are
always trying to upstage us and ride our coattails. Like them, we don’t really
give a fuck about each other anymore. Seems like this band is nothing more than
a paycheck, which is sad. When we all vibe well together, magic truly happens.
Trip pounds out
the last few beats of the song and the crowd explodes, instantly begging for
This is what I
love. There isn’t any other feeling like it in the world. Nothing can ever top
this rush, but because our performances are so few and far between, I’ve been
forced to find other things that really get my blood pumping.
When my eyes lock
with my twin’s green ones, we both have the biggest grins on our face, I know
he loves this, too—the euphoric energy from the crowd.
How can he not
How can he put
anything above this? How can any of them?
Our band’s front
man, Noel Falcon, chuckles into the mic as he stares out into the crowd. “Damn.
You fuckers are insane. We’ve got one more song left for you.” He pauses,
running his hand through his dark hair, giving the twenty thousand bodies here
to see us perform time to respond, their screaming getting louder and louder.
“I feel the love.” He readjusts his mic stand. “Since we’re all friends here,
I’m gonna tell you all a little story about a girl who shredded my heart back
in high school without any hesitation. It’s called ‘Ball Busting Bitch’. If
you’ve ever had your heart fucked over by a woman, sing along.”
Noel smirks and
the laughter in his eyes is evident. Ever since he married Lanie Vance, it’s
pretty funny to see him keep up appearances with this song—even though he’s
madly in love with that ball buster.
Trip kicks up the
beat, and I thump away on the strings of my bass, creating our signature dark
and dirty beat while we wait on Riff to join us, who makes the lead guitar
scream like a woman in heat.
I close my eyes as
the rhythm of our biggest hit pulses through my body. Music is the one thing I
can completely lose myself in. When I’m in the moment, feeling the beat, I’m
untouchable; nothing else matters but the way each note engulfs my soul,
scorching itself onto me permanently, reminding me that music is what I live
for. It’s what I was born to do.
I slide my fingers
down the thick strings, finding the sweet spot, and slap them hard with the
thumb on the opposite hand. My head rocks back and forth as I play the hell out
of the song. I can’t remember a time that we’ve ever sounded better.
want to celebrate like old times after this show—the four of us together,
cracking open a few cold ones and just being together.
That’s what I miss
The final notes in
the song play out, ending our forty-five minute set, and Noel shouts, “You’ve
all been a fucking beautiful crowd. Thank you!”
As soon as my eyes
snap open, they land on my brother, tossing his drumsticks into the crowd while
Noel and Riff exit the stage. And just like that, the song disappears, taking
my euphoria along with it, and the warmth I was just feeling is completely gone
from my heart, replaced by an arctic chill.
What’s their big
I set my bass down
on the stand and follow Trip off the stage. The remnants of the crowd’s energy
still linger in my veins, and I’m ready to burn it off and party with my
I throw my arm
around my twin’s neck as we make our way backstage. “Where are we partying
tonight, baby brother?”
Trip shakes his
head and smiles as his eyes drift off like he’s thinking of something else.
“Can’t, man. Holly just flew in, and she’s waiting for me at the hotel.”
I sigh and pull my
arm away. “You suck. Can’t you see her after we go out for a while? I need my
“Wish I could, but
I can’t let my girl down. Besides, it’s been two weeks since I’ve seen her.” He
gives me a quick jab to the ribs. “Stop frowning, Sunshine. We’ll do something
I roll my eyes.
“That’s what you always say, but it never fucking happens. Just go the fuck
back to your girl and forget about me.”
furrows. “What the fuck’s with the attitude? Are you pissed that I’m happy.”
My lip rises as my
face contorts with disgust. “No, I’m not pissed
that you’re happy.”
“Then what the
fuck is the problem? You’ve been nothing but a drunken asshole most of the time
I’m around lately, so why in the hell do you even care that I want to spend
some time with my girl? It’s obvious that you’re perfectly capable of partying
on your own. You don’t need me for that.”
I blow out a rush
of air through my nose. Starting a fight with him wasn’t my intention. But
doesn’t he see what spending all his time with his woman is doing to the band?
Do any of them
Jesus, it’s like
we have three fucking Yoko Onos, yet no one sees the problem here except me.
These women are dictating the future of this band. It’s all going to fall
apart, but it’s like all of them are too fucking pussy-whipped to see it
happening right before their own eyes.
Noel and Riff walk
over toward us, both wearing perplexed expressions.
“What are you two
dipshits fighting over now?” Riff mocks. “Can’t you assholes just kiss and make
up. The tension between you two lately has been fucking ridiculous. What’s up?”
Trip shakes his
head. “Nothing’s wrong. My brother is just acting like a chick here, crying
about how I never spend time with him anymore.”
I scrub my hand
down my face, not wanting to waste any more of my time. “Fuck it. I’m out of
I can’t get into
this with them. None of them will ever see things like I do, so there’s no
point in even trying to reason with them.
I turn toward the
exit, and I hear the guys calling my name but don’t bother to turn around. If
none of them care what happens to Black Falcon then why should I?
I’m done being the
goddamn babysitter of the group: keeping everyone on task and writing eighty
percent of the music. It’s time I start living my life and forget I give a fuck, too.
The pounding in my
skull is relentless. Holy fuck. What in the hell did I get myself into last
night? The last thing I remember is being at the club that Lou, one of the
roadies, dragged me to. Everything else is fuzzy as shit.
I rub my eyes as I
try to remember, but a loud buzz echoes around the room and keeps me from
focusing on anything but the God-awful sound.
What the fuck?
I peel my eyes
open and blink hard as my gaze lands first, on a brick wall, then, a small
window with bars on it. I push myself up slowly, studying the unusual window as
I try to get my bearings. After my eyes slide around every inch of the room and
find nothing but bars surrounding me, blocking my freedom, my heart rate kicks
up a notch, and the panic sets in.
How in the hell
did I wind up in jail?
I push myself to
my feet and wobble a split second before I regain my balance. Whatever I drank
last night is still obviously in my system. My feet shuffle toward the bars,
and I wrap my fingers around the cold steel. I strain my neck to look down the
long hall, but all I hear is the sound of other prisoners talking. I need some
I press my head
against the bars. “Guards? Hey? Guards!”
fall down the concrete hallway, each step coming closer to the small cell I’m
guard dressed in a dark blue uniform that’s a size too small wears a scowl on
his plump face as he sets his stern eyes on me. “You need something?”
stiffen, and I’m instantly riled by his tone, especially considering I don’t
have the foggiest idea why I’m here. “Yeah. What in the hell am I in here for?”
The guard sighs
heavily. “DUI. We picked you up last night on I-95 swerving all over the
My shoulders slack
and I push back from the bars but still hang on and drop my head. “Fuck. Does
my brother know to come and get me?”
were too toasted to make your phone call last night. You kept fighting us off
you, so we tossed you in here to sleep it off. You’re welcome to that call any
time. Call anyone you’d like.”
I take a deep
breath. When Trip finds out about this, he’s going to flip his shit. Usually,
I’m the one thinking about how things like this will affect the band, not
him—hell, not any of the others. Riff is known for giving out golden tickets to
chicks who hang out backstage to sleep with him. Trip never gives two shits
about anything, and Noel…well, he’s no angel either. Back in the day, me
getting this DUI would’ve just been something we laughed off, but now that
they’re all on the straight and narrow, I imagine they’ll give me the third
degree over this.
But what choice do
I have? Who else can I call?
After a long
moment, I push away from the bars and look the guard in the eye. “I think I’ll
make that call now.”
A few hours later,
I’m finally at the front desk, gathering all the personal items I had on me
when I was booked.
“One wallet, a set
of keys, two hundred and fifteen dollars in cash, four guitar picks, a sheet of
folded up paper, and one cell phone,” the middle-aged brunette clerk says as
she hands me all the items. “Sign here and here, and you’ll be on your way.”
I scribble my name
in the sections she’s marked and gather my things. Before I can even turn
around, I feel Trip’s eyes, judging me.
I head toward the
door, Trip close on my heels. Once we’re outside, my brother clears his throat.
“I called the rental car company to come pick up their car from the impound
lot. Kyle is waiting around the side with the Escalade to take us to the
I raise my
eyebrows. “That’s it? No big lecture?”
Trip sighs. “What
do you want me to say, Tyke? Do you really need me to tell you how much you
fucked up? How bad this is going to look for the band? You know better than
anyone this isn’t good fucking PR, so why voice it? As long as I can remember,
you’ve been the stable one. I’m sure this isn’t going to happen again. You
always do what’s best for the band. It was a one-time mistake. We all make
“Glad to hear you
actually still care about the band.”
“What the fuck is that supposed to mean? When have I ever not cared?”
I shake my head.
“Come on, brother. Don’t act like you don’t know what I’m talking about. No one
has cared for a while now, including you. You guys spend all of your time with
your women and leave all the work to me. I’m the one writing all the songs while
Noel and Riff are off being husbands and fathers and you’re out there playing
house. Do you think that’s fair? You guys get to fuck around and not give a
shit about the future of this band?”
He licks the
corner of his mouth as he huffs. “Fuck you, Tyke. Just because we settled down
and found other interests, don’t think for one goddamn minute that we don’t
care about the band anymore. Nothing with the band has changed. You’re the one who’s changed.”
Anger boils inside
me. Is he really that blind? Can he not see how so much has changed in the year
since Noel and Riff got married, and he got with Holly? I love my brother. I
don’t want to lose him, but I’m not going to stand here attempting to make him
see my side when I know it’s a lost cause. I’d be better off beating my head
against a brick wall.
Trip. Things are most definitely different and are going to change even fucking
word, I turn on my heel and walk away from my baby brother. It’s not the best
option, but it’s the only one I’ve got. Whatever it takes, I’m going show the
rest of these guys that they’re letting this band die. And despite what they
think, I’m the only one fighting to keep us together.
“Evil Twin” – Arctic Monkeys
I’ve done it
I turn my head and
survey my surroundings. Four white hotel walls and a horrible painting of a man
fishing in a pond are the first things that come into my hazy line of sight.
The second thing is the blonde knocked out cold next to me, her tits hanging
half out her shirt.
Damn. What in the
hell did I do last night?
I squeeze my eyes
shut while the pounding in my skull beats continuously. Raising my hand,
desperate to pinch the bridge of my nose to ease the pain, my arm stops far
short of my face. My gaze snaps down to my wrists, bound at my sides with a
thin rope, and I yank my arm, attempting to move my feet as well without much
What in the hell?
My heart thunders
in my chest as my foggy brain quickly pulls together that someone has no
intentions of allowing me to leave this bed. Panic rolls over me when I can’t
recall whom I came here with, or even how I got here. As much as I hate to
admit it, Trip was right—some chick has finally gone all Misery on my ass.
I survey the knot
tied in the rope. It doesn’t look like it’ll be that difficult to loosen, if I
can just figure out a way to get my hands on it. Twisting my wrist side to
side, I attempt to wiggle out, but it’s no use. It’s tied too tight.
I shift beneath
the sheet that’s draped over me, and realize I’m completely fucking naked.
Shit. Being naked
and tied to a bed is never a good thing. This isn’t going to end well.
The bathroom door
opens and I freeze, unsure of what the hell might be walking toward me. A
slender brunette in a black mask with a great set of tits struts into the room
wearing a tight leather outfit that wraps her body like a glove. As if the
outfit wasn’t over-the-top enough, she’s also toting a black whip in her left
hand, alongside an expression that screams she’s ready to inflict some major
pain. I tense at the sight of her.
What in the holy fuck have I gotten myself
I yank my wrists,
attempting to free myself, and the woman cusses at me in Spanish, clearly
unhappy with my change of heart. “Hijo de puta!”
It only takes a
split second for me to recognize the voice before I burst out laughing,
instantly relaxing against the stark-white sheets. “Gabby, what the fuck?”
Her lip pokes out
in a distinct pout as she pulls the mask off, revealing her smooth, tan
complexion. Her big brown eyes complement her perfectly round face and button
nose, reminding me of just how attractive she is. “Aww, come on, Tyke. I’m not
done playing yet. Don’t you want to have some more fun with her? She was a good
The woman next to
me continues to breathe softly, and while I’m positive that this woman provided
great entertainment for Gabby and I last night, I can’t remember a damn thing
There’s no time to
try to remember it though, because the moment I sit up a little straighter, the
sun’s harsh rays poke through the thick drapes, letting me know I’m already
late. “Can’t. I have a band meeting at one.”
laugh cuts across the room as her lithe fingers work at the knots in the rope.
“Hate to break it to you, slick, but that ship has sailed. It’s nearly three.”
I sit up once I’m
free and rub my wrists. “Fuck. The guys are going to be pissed. I’ve blown off
the last three or four band meetings. Doing it again isn't going to sit well
Gabby sits at the
small desk in the room and fixes a line on the mirror for herself before
snorting it up her nose. “Fuck ’em. Those douchebags need to learn to fend for
“Don’t, Gabby,” I
warn, not liking her putting the guys down. It’s one thing for me to do it, but
someone else baggin’ on them pisses me off. They’re my brothers.
I roll out of bed
and grab my jeans off the floor, quickly yanking them up on my hips. There’s no
sign of my underwear, but whatever; I’m not about to waste my time looking for
them. I have to get the fuck out.
The blonde rolls
over onto her back, and I freeze just as I pull my black T-shirt over my head.
When she doesn’t wake, I turn to Gabby. “You taking care of this one?”
She nods and wipes
her nose, but a small dusting of white powder still remains. “Yeah. I’ll check
her phone for any pictures and videos and then call her a cab.”
I fasten my belt
and then slip my feet into my boots. “Good. No more groupies with sex tapes of
us. That shit didn’t go well last time.”
She laughs. “Speak
for yourself. That fucking tape got my band noticed and put on tour with Black
I roll my eyes.
“Just check her shit before she leaves. Trip and Noel will blow their fucking
tops if I keep bringing the band down with negative publicity.”
This time she
rolls her eyes at me. “Whatever. I forgot what a Debbie fucking Downer you are
when you sober up. You want a bump before you go?”
My nose twitches
in anticipation, and while I know I should say no, I can’t help myself. Gabby
puts a small amount of coke between her index finger and thumb and raises her
hand to me. “You know you want to.”
I pull her hand up
to my face and quickly snort every last bit of nose candy; the white powder
stinging as it coats the warm, moist skin inside my nasal passages, sending me
on a near-instant high in the process.
I close my eyes as
every nerve in me comes alive, making me forget why the fuck I felt so anxious
a few moments ago. I lean against the desk next to Gabby and she looks up at me
and smiles, nodding over to the chick still sleeping in the king-size bed. “You
Gabby runs her
hand down my torso, my toned abs flexing beneath my shirt in response to her
touch. She pauses at my belt and yanks it open before allowing the tips of her
fingers to rub against the growing erection inside my jeans.
A wicked grin
crosses her face as she licks her lips. “I’ll take that as a yes.”
Unable to resist
her, I give in and grab the nape of her neck, pulling her a little more roughly
than I mean to out of the chair. I yank her slender body flush with mine. “Why
the fuck do I let you do this? You’re no good for me.”
She bats her long
lashes at me, attempting to look innocent. “Because you like getting crazy.
Because you were bored out of your fucking skull until I came around. Because,
deep down inside, you’re tired of being the scapegoat for the other guys in
Black Falcon, and you’re done being their bitch.”
I flinch at her
cold words. “Fuck you, Gabby. I’m no one’s bitch.”
“Except mine,” she
I shove her away.
“Especially not yours.”
I refasten my belt
as I turn and head for the door.
I don’t bother
turning around. Good time or not, there’s no way in hell I’m going to be talked
down to by a chick I’ve known for three months.
Who the fuck does
she think she is?
If it weren’t for
a groupie catching me drunk fucking Gabby after a show and blasting it all over
the web, she and her band, Sex Arsenal, would still be playing small dive bar
gigs with a weak-ass following. Now that bitch has the nerve to insinuate I’m a
pussy? Fuck her.
I don’t need her.
There are plenty of other people to party with. Her pussy isn’t made out of
gold, and I damn sure never made a fucking commitment to her.
She’s a chick I
like to get high with and fuck—that’s it. Nothing more. She better not have it
in her head that we are more than that.
When the elevator
opens up to the lobby, the full effect of the afternoon sun begins to assault
my eyes and I flinch, fishing my sunglasses from my pocket and slipping them on
my face. The moment I’m outside I pat my pockets, hoping to find some car keys,
but I have no such luck. I obviously didn’t drive myself over here last night.
Actually, I have no fucking clue where in the hell I am. Reaching into my back
pocket, I whip out my phone and use the GPS feature on it.
Thank God I’m
still in the right city. We play the AmwayCenter tonight to a sold
out crowd. At least I know I can still make it there on time.
The young valet
approaches me with a pen and paper in hand. The small cluster of pimples on his
forehead does nothing to conceal his youth, and the eager smile on his face
tells me one thing: he’s a fan.
“Excuse me? I hate
to bother you, but you’re in Black Falcon, aren’t you?” he asks in a voice
that’s just above a timid whisper.
I shove my glasses
a little further up my nose. “Yep. Sure am.”
He stretches his
arms toward me. “Can I have your autograph?”
I take the pen and
small notepad from him. “Sure, kid. Can you get me a cab?”
He nods vigorously
as he takes back the signed paper. “No problem!”
While he scurries
off, I check the messages on my phone.
Trip: Where the fuck are you?
Trip: Goddamn it. This shit is getting old.
It’s not cool to take off and not tell anyone where you are. I need to talk to
The final text
catches my attention.
Trip: I hope you at least show up tonight.
My brow furrows at
that comment. I’ve only ever missed a couple shows, and I felt like a total
piece of shit for doing it. I hadn’t realized we had a few early shows and may
have been sleeping off the previous night’s activities. It wasn’t like I missed
them on purpose, and yet that’s all Trip ever seems to remember lately. He’s
conveniently forgotten all the times I’ve saved their asses. I fuck up and I
never get to live it down.
I fire back a text
telling him I’ll be there and slip my phone back in my pocket, just in time to
hop in the cab that’s pulled up.
The ride over to
the arena is pretty quick, which sucks. It used to excite me to spend time with
my boys, but now I fucking dread it. None of us are on the same page anymore.
Everyone is going in different directions, and our communication is shit.
Pulling up to the
arena, I text Kyle to meet me out back and get me in through the crowd that’s
already building. I don’t have a scrap of proof that I’m with the band and
security can be real dicks if you don’t have a pass.
“How much longer?”
the cabbie asks after five minutes of me refusing to get out until I see Kyle.
“Chill, dude. I’m
good for it. Trust me.” He glances at me through the rearview mirror, and I can
tell he’s having some serious doubts about whether I can pay the fare.
I glance down at
my wrinkled clothes and the tats that cover most of my arms. Granted, I don’t
exactly give off the best first impression right now, but damn, I hate it when
people are judgmental.
from a group of fans surrounding the back gate catch my attention in time to
see Kyle pass through the crowd alone. I dig my wallet out from my back pocket
and pay the fare, along with a generous tip, before letting myself out of the
Fans swarm around
me, practically shoving pens and pieces of paper in front of my face begging
for autographs, while dozens of flashes go off simultaneously. Kyle does his
best to part the way for me as we push through to the gate.
locked away from the fans, Kyle turns to me and hands me a backstage pass.
“Where the hell were you? The guys are pissed.”
I pull the lanyard
over my head, adjust my sunglasses on my nose, and shrug. “What’s new? They’re
always pissed at me for one reason or another lately. They’ll get over me
missing the stupid meeting. They never talk about anything other than
scheduling more time off. It’s not like my vote ever gets taken into
Kyle opens the
door to the arena and motions me in. “I think they notice you being absent from
more things than you realize.”
I follow him
through the maze of roadies, instruments, and stage props until my brother and
the other guys come into view. The three of them stand there, talking quietly
amongst themselves, until Riff glances up and notices me walking in their
direction. He throws a swift elbow at Noel and nods toward me.
A strange vibe
washes over me, and I can tell by the expressions on their faces that none of
them are too happy with me right now.
Trip turns to look
at me, contempt written all over his face. “Nice of you to grace us with your
presence, asshole. Where were you?”
still covering my face shield the dramatic eye roll I’m giving him. “I was with
He narrows his
eyes at me. “I thought you said you were done with that shit?”
“Not that it’s any
of your fucking business, but I’m not using again.”
I hope Trip
doesn’t see through the lie and figure out I’ve been dabbling a little on the
white horse. I don’t need the headache that comes from dealing with him.
Besides, I don’t have to report what I’m doing to him.
A harsh laugh
rolls out of Trip’s mouth. “I suppose you just enjoy her fucking company. Come
on, man, this is me you’re talking to. Your identical twin. Girls like Gabby
Rodriguez are fast and easy; not exactly dating material. So don’t try and
bullshit this bullshitter—I know the kind of shit you do when you’re with her.”
tone in his voice makes my blood boil. I don’t see where he gets off. He’s not
our fucking father. I can do what I want, when I want. “Since when does what I
do and with who affect you?” I swing my gaze to Noel and Riff, who are both
watching our exchange intently. It’s time I let them all know how I feel.
“Since when does my business affect any of you? All of you have your own
fucking things going on. What does it matter if I’m out having a good time?”
Riff narrows his
eyes. “It fucking matters when you miss important shit because you’re too high
to remember your goddamn priorities. That’s the sixth band meeting you’ve blown
off. Do you even know what the fuck is going on with the new album?”
I stare at him,
the expression on my face blank. “What the fuck are you talking about? There’s
absolutely nothing going on with the new album because I haven’t finished any
of the fucking songs for it yet.”
“Jesus, fuck, he’s
out of it now,” Riff says as he shakes his head. “Do you even know what day of
the week it is?”
I hesitate and
swallow hard. I start to reach for my phone to check the date because,
honestly, I don’t have a fucking clue, but I stop short because doing that
would just prove Riff right.
Riff shakes his
head and turns to Noel with raised eyebrows. “I told you he didn’t have a
fucking clue. He’s bad for business.”
I flinch. “When
have I ever been bad for business? I’m the glue that holds this piece of shit
Riff replies coolly.
I shake my head,
not missing the disgust in Riff’s eyes. It’s a look I remember all too well.
It’s the same one he had a couple of years ago when Noel struggled with his
addiction. The same look he had when he wanted us to boot Noel from the band.
I narrow my eyes
at my childhood friend. “You got something to say to me, Riff, just go ahead
and fucking say it.”
Riff looks from
Noel to Trip and his Adam’s apple bobs as he swallows hard and then lifts his
chin. “You’re out, Tyke.”
My eyes widen as
every muscle inside me tenses. “What?!”
“You. Are. Out.
You’ve become a liability. Noel knows it, and so does your brother. You need
help. We won’t stand by and watch you destroy yourself and drag this band down
Rage rolls through
every inch of me. “You’re kicking me
out? I fucking started this band. You can’t kick me out.”
Trip lays his hand
on my shoulder. “Tyke—”
I shrug away from
his touch. “Fuck you, Trip. Don’t fucking touch me!” I level my heated gaze on
the other two guys. “Fuck all of you!”
I take a couple
steps back while my mouth hangs agape. I can’t fucking believe this. They’re
giving me the boot, just like that? No chance to explain myself? Just out—like
I’m a piece of fucking trash they can’t wait to get rid of.
They need me.
They’ll get over
I storm out of the
arena, needing time to clear my head and figure this shit out, but before I get
through the door, Kyle stops me. “Where you off to?”
“Hotel,” is all I
can manage to say.
The thick cords of
muscle work beneath Kyle’s skin as he pulls a set of keys out of his pocket.
“Come on, I’ll drive you over.”
I follow our
bodyguard to the Escalade. Kyle uses the key fob to unlock the SUV, and we both
As I pull the
heavy door closed behind me, I reconsider leaving. I should go back in there
and hammer things out with the guys now. After all, I don’t want tonight’s show
to be tense. But my head’s still a little foggy from the coke I snorted, and I
know I won’t be able to speak to them rationally about this until I’ve had time
to calm down.
I scrub my hand
over my face. Tension in the band always fucking sucks—it’s even worse to be
the cause of it. They blame me for it, I know, but they don’t see that all this
shit started with them not caring enough. Not being committed enough. Not
living for the band like they used to.
“Wanna talk about
it?” Kyle asks, killing the silence that has allowed me to go deeper into my
I sigh. “What’s
there to talk about? The guys just kicked me out. They’re pissed, I get it, but
it won’t last. We never stay mad at each other. We’re brothers.”
Kyle adjusts in
his seat as he stares out at the road ahead. “That would be great. Things were
going so good for a while, and I hate that there’s this underlying tension
between you guys. It makes things uncomfortable for us all when you guys aren’t
“Come on, Kyle.
Things haven’t been that bad. We’ve been through far worse.”
He sighs. “If you
say so. I would just hate to see this great thing you all have going fall
“We’re not going
to fall apart,” I say with a slight huff.
We’re quiet for
the rest of the ride. I don’t really feel like rehashing band issues with Kyle
when I’m not even sure what in the hell is going on myself. After I spend a few
hours sleeping and getting my head clear in my hotel room, I take a long hard
look at myself in the bathroom mirror. My sandy-blond hair is a bit shaggy, a
far cry from the short buzz cut I used to sport. Lately, I haven’t really felt
the need to be so clean-cut. The green of my eyes looks a little dingy, a little
lifeless, but that’s not completely my fault. Anyone in my shoes who’s losing
everything they’ve ever worked for would look the same way.
I rake my hair
back with both hands and sigh. We just have to get back on track. I’ll go to
the guys and promise to stay sober, as long as they agree to start taking this
band more serious. What we need is a heart-to-heart, as brothers. We need to
squash this beef between us so that we can get back to doing what we do
best—making great music.
I grab my
backstage pass and slide it around my neck and slip out the door. I call a cab
to take me back to the arena. It’s time to get this shit back on track.
With a clear head,
I set out to have a discussion with the guys about us all changing our ways,
mending what the last few years have broken.
The cabbie drops
me off near the back gate of the arena and with the help of my pass, I have no
problem slipping into the backstage area on my own.
I pull my phone
out of my pocket and check the time. It’s nearly nine, the time we are
scheduled to take the stage after Gabby’s band, Sex Arsenal, opens for us. A
few of the roadies nod at me as I pass by them on the way to the stage.
One roadie I’ve
been partying with quite a bit lately, Lou, stops in front of me the moment he
recognizes me. “Tyke? What are you doing here, man?”
My brow furrows
instantly. “Why wouldn’t I be here?”
Lou’s mouth opens
like he wants to say something, but he quickly closes it and shakes his head.
“You’re right. Forget I said anything.”
I clap him on the back
as I pass by. “All right. Catch you later.”
I shove my hands
deep into my pockets as I keep pushing forward, thinking about how odd Lou’s
reaction to seeing me was. I mean, why wouldn’t I be here? We have a fucking
show to do. He’s obviously been smokin’ something.
The rumble of
Gabby’s voice blasts through the arena. “You guys have been an awesome fucking
crowd! Thanks for coming out early to hear our set. I need beer money, so make
sure you pick up our newest record and buy a goddamn T-shirt out front.”
There’s a roar of support from the fans. “Give it up for Black Falcon! They’re
about to come out and rock your faces off. You assholes will love that shit! We
are Sex Arsenal! Goodnight!”
After a couple
thumps on the bass drum, the only noise left is the hum of the buzzing crowd.
It won’t be long until we take the stage, so this little talk with the boys
will have to wait until our set is over.
I begin tapping
out the beat to “Ball Busting Bitch” with my thumbs which are still wedged in
my pockets. Even though that’s one song I didn’t write, I still love it. It’s
the song that put us over the top, and I’ll be forever grateful to it for our
I nod my head to
the melody repeating in my brain, but the moment I round the corner and my gaze
falls on the guys with Sergio Alvarez from Embrace the Darkness, the song drops
out of my mind.
ever-lovin’ fuck? We hate those douchebags. Since when did we decide to get
fucking chummy with their bass player? I don’t know the guy personally, but if
he’s in Embrace the Darkness, then he’s got to be just as big of an asshole as
Donovan and Striker.
I lift my chin and
head straight for them, determined to get to the bottom of this.
Noel elbows Riff,
who is busy explaining chords of some sort to Sergio while Trip looks on with a
frown on his face. After Noel spots me, he nods to Trip who finally notices me,
too. I hate this tension between us. I’ll be glad when we squash all this later
tonight and shit finally gets back to
“What’s up, guys?”
I meet each one of their stares a little longer than necessary, but I’m trying
to get a read on the situation.
“Sergio.” Even I
can hear the tension in my voice as I greet him with uncertainty, trying to
figure out why he’s here, since his band isn’t on this tour with us.
twists as his eyebrows shoot up like he’s surprised to see me. He looks to
Riff, who only shrugs at him, before he says, “I’ll give you guys a minute.”
Sergio rotates the
strap on his shoulder, sliding his bass onto his back before walking away. I
turn back to the guys and Noel runs his hand through his hair while Riff
pinches the bridge of his nose, drawing my attention to his crazy Mohawk. I
know these moves; both of them revert to their nervous tics when they are
frustrated and don’t know how to handle it. I swing my gaze over to my brother,
who grabs the bill of his baseball cap and adjusts it so it’s covering most of
his jet-black hair.
I fold my arms
over my chest. “All right, fucking out with it. What aren’t you telling me?”
Trip puffs his
cheeks and blows a rush of air out through pursed lips. “We just didn’t expect
you to show up, that’s all.”
I scrunch my brow.
“Where else would I be? We have a show—of course I’m going to be here.”
My twin licks his
lips carefully and then swallows. “The thing is, Tyke, we thought we were
pretty clear earlier—”
I don’t even give
him a chance to finish. “You mean about throwing me out of the band?” I wave
him off dismissively. “You guys were pissed, and I get why you said it, but we
can sort all that out after the show. I’ve already forgiven you guys.”
expressions bordering on surprise and sadness.
“Look, Tyke, we—”
My brother throws
a hand out to stop Riff from saying anything else.
“Let me,” Trip
says, turning to me. “Tyke, we love you, man, but you need help. I know you
believe you have a handle on all this partying you’re doing, that you’re in
complete control, but the truth is you don’t, and you aren’t. I’m not sure
what’s going on with you because you won’t talk to me—or any of us—but whatever
it is, you need to figure it out.”
I don’t know
whether to be excited that we’ve finally come to a point where a discussion
about this band and my issues with what’s happened to it is finally going to
happen, or to get pissed that my own brother can’t tell that I don’t have
addiction issues. I’m in complete fucking control.
“I’m so glad that
you’ve finally seen there’s a huge problem with the dynamics of the band and
are ready to fix them. After we play tonight, I’d love to sit down and talk
about adding more dates to the tour.”
“No, Tyke.” Trip
shakes his head. “We’ve tried talking with you before, and no matter what we
say to you, I know you aren’t going to stop partying.”
I roll my eyes. “I
can stop any time I want. I just choose not to. I don’t see what that has to do
with the band.”
“We can’t have you
with us while you’re using,” Noel chimes in. “I know more than anyone how easy
it is to get out of control. If it weren’t for you guys being by my side while
I went to rehab—”
“Jesus Christ, are
you fucking serious? Rehab? I don’t
need fucking rehab.” Just where in the fuck do they get off? I’ve never been as
bad as Noel was. Okay, so maybe I missed a few shows where he never did when he
was using, but it was only a few times.
I scrub my hands
down my face. This is so fucking stupid, but I know they won’t let me get out
of rehab if they’ve made up their minds that I need treatment, so I might as
well give in and get this over with.
“Fine. You want me
to go to rehab? I’ll go as soon as we wrap up the tour.”
Trip takes a step
toward me and starts to put his hand on my shoulder but hesitates, then shoves
it back into his pocket. “You can’t wait until after the tour, Tyke.”
“Of course I can.”
He shakes his
head. “No, you can’t. You can’t resist Gabby, and she’s on the rest of the tour
with us. We think it’s best if you went now.”
“Now?” I question.
“But, who will—” I stop myself because I don’t even need to ask the question.
I’ve already figured out the answer. “You assholes already replaced me? Before
I get a fucking say? Sergio Alvarez?
You’ve got to kidding me. He couldn’t hold a fucking candle to me on his best
“Come on, man.
Don’t be a dick,” Riff says. “Sergio’s a good dude.”
I lick the corner
of my mouth. “A good dude, huh?”
someone’s a nice person, it doesn’t mean they’ll work in the band. These
assholes will find out soon enough that I’m not replaceable. Hell, I’m going to
teach them a lesson. Leave them high and dry, not giving them the satisfaction
of kicking me out.
“You know what?
You don’t have to worry about me anymore because I fucking quit. Have fun
keeping this piece of shit band together without me because none of you will
put in the work like I do.”
I turn and head
away from them, listening for them to call my name and beg me to stay and work
things out, but it never comes. I sigh and shake my head. Before long, they’ll
be begging for me to come back. It’s only a matter of time.
The rest of the
night is a hazy blur…
Going to a bar
downtown with Lou…
Lots of women…
An assortment of
A bottle of Jim
Getting behind the
wheel of the Escalade I borrowed from Kyle. Driving down the road, drinking
straight from the bottle, wondering how my life got so fucked up. Feeling lost.
Unwanted, and unloved.
Seeing a concrete
wall blocking a housing development and thinking it would be better if I
weren’t around anymore. After all, who would fucking miss me?
The last thing I
remember is mashing the gas pedal to the floor.
World” –Gary Jules
People say there
can be no light without darkness. It’s a nice quote and all, but I’m convinced
it’s just a load of shit people love to hang onto so they feel better. There’s
been more darkness in my life than I care to admit, but light? There’s been no
trace of that in a long time.
I watch silently
as fat raindrops pound against the window of the train. This—starting over—is a
good thing, and has been my main goal since I started my journey to straighten
myself up. I’ve already completed the first two phases of my plan: admitting I
had a problem, and taking a stand to overcome it while getting my degree in
psychology. Now I’m moving on to the third stage: helping others conquer their
personal struggles, too.
It’s my new
My eyes drift away
from the window to the man standing in the aisle next to me, wearing what I
assume to be a very expensive tailored suit. He’s clean-shaven; his dark hair
is neatly styled. Stunning blue eyes and a perfectly white smile complete this
alluring package before me.
If I were still
the old me, I would give him my best flirty smile and, despite the gold band on
his left hand, I would’ve invited him to sit down. But I’m trying hard to
forget that woman. Absurdly handsome men who never really gave a damn about me
are my biggest weakness—a weakness I’m desperate to break away from. Messing
around with unavailable men with no hint of remorse was how I knew I had
problems: hurting people in order to get my fix is something I did for years.
The thought alone is shaming. It got to the point where sex was no longer just
a physical escape, but an addiction, too. Like I would die if I didn’t have it.
I blink a couple
of times, bringing myself out of my thoughts while I do my best to repress my
inner flirt. I notice the man’s still standing there wearing a mischievous
grin widens. “Is this seat taken?”
I lick my lips and
swallow hard as the temptation to invite him to snuggle now and fuck later in
the bathroom crosses my mind. But as I’ve learned through my own psychological
studies on resisting temptation, no matter how hard it may seem at the time,
it’s far better than dealing with the fallout of giving in.
I set my purse in
the seat. “It is.”
The man frowns and
takes one last look at my long legs and voluptuous chest before he nods and
continues down the aisle to find a seat.
As soon as he’s
out of sight, I breathe a sigh of relief and allow my head to fall back against
the seat. Annie would’ve been proud, although she wouldn’t have approved of how
I was living my life to begin with. If she would’ve been there, things might
not have gotten so out of control in the first place.
The train begins
pulling away from the station, and I pull out my phone, flipping through my
pictures until I find one of her. My fingers press against the screen as I
trace the features of her beautiful face. As identical twins, people always
said we looked alike, but other than that, there weren’t many similarities
Annie was so
vibrant; her blue eyes were always so alive with wonder and hope, while mine
were dull, filled with dread and despair. She was so optimistic about life,
while I was the queen of pessimism. Physically, our bodies were identical—long
legs with hour-glass figures like our mother, blue eyes like our father—but our
spirits were polar opposites, so I never got why people lumped us together as
the same person.
“I miss you,” I
whisper only loud enough for me to hear, before I kiss my two fingers and press
it to her smile.
I quickly lock the
screen and stuff my phone back into my purse, picking up the pamphlet for the
posh facility I’ll be working at. Serenity Hills: Recovery for the Mind, Body,
and Soul. When I interviewed last month, the director of the place, Dr. Wayne
Shepherd, had gotten me excited to be involved with their program and their
mission of helping individuals become the absolute best person they can be.
After nearly eight
hours, the train slows as it approaches Cincinnati,
the nearest town to Serenity Hills, I begin gathering my belongings and
stuffing the books and pamphlets I’d been reading into my handbag. The man who
approached me earlier on the train stands and turns toward me, offering a final
wink in my direction before heading out of the car. He’s leaving the door open
if I wanted to follow him, I guess.
I take a deep
breath and stand, straightening my shoulders and tilting my chin up as I walk
in the opposite direction of the handsome man. Every day that I fight against
giving into my addiction, it becomes a little easier to walk away from
Once off the
train, I search around in the crowd for my ride. It doesn’t take me long to
spot the doctor who interviewed me. He’s just as I remembered him; tall,
broad-shouldered, with neatly trimmed graying-hair and an athletic
build—probably from running. Dr. Shepherd has that whole “distinguished” thing
happening, and it totally works for him.
smiles as his gaze locks on mine. He extends his hand in greeting as I approach
him, and I set my bag down to shake his hand. “It’s good to see you again, Dr.
“Wayne, please, Ms. Mead.” His smile is
“In that case, you
can call me Frannie.” I want to roll my eyes at myself for sounding so much
like a lame-o.
Wayne picks up my bag and ushers me toward
the parking lot. “Did you have a good trip? I must say picking someone up from
the train station is a first for me. Most people travel by plane or car these
I shrug, not
wanting to reveal my issue with flying just yet, so I give the best excuse I
can come up with. “I prefer it. It’s relaxing and flying isn’t that much
shorter in the long run.”
Wayne nods as he leads me to a black
Mercedes. “I can appreciate a woman who knows what she likes and doesn’t.
Flying is overrated, I suppose, with
its cramped seats and germ-filled cabins.” The amused tone in his voice doesn’t
go unnoticed, and I smile, glad that he’s accepted my rationale so easily.
Once Wayne places my bag in the
trunk, he escorts me to the passenger side where he proceeds to open my door
and help me inside. As I watch him walk around the car, I notice how attractive
he is, even though I know he’s quite a bit older than my twenty-eight years. I
can already tell working alongside him and keeping things completely platonic
might prove difficult if he decides to make a move on me, but I’m determined
not to sleep with anyone I work with. I’m confident I can keep things strictly
business. I have to. My professionalism means the world to me, and I can’t
allow my demons to influence me and cause problems with this new career that I
so desperately want. It will be a challenge, but at least Wayne is a far cry from my normal
type—irresistible tattooed, bad-boy man-candy. I just need to keep my distance
from him, and any other man who may pose a threat to my newfound vow of
It’s about an hour
drive through the hills of Kentucky
before we come to the entrance of Serenity Hills, tucked among a thick line of
trees that hide the rest of the property from sight. We turn down the paved
drive and wind our way up the gentle slope and through the woods.
The large white
Victorian-style home with a wraparound porch that’s featured on the cover of
the brochure comes into view. Wayne told me how
beautiful this place was when he interviewed me in my hometown of Chicago, but I never
expected this. It’s peaceful and serene—the perfect place for people to relax
and recover from whatever demons they’re struggling with away from the harsh
realities of the real world.
breathtaking, isn’t it?” Wayne
takes the words right out of my mouth.
“It is,” I agree.
“I can’t believe I’ll be staying here.”
“Actually…” Wayne pulls around the
circular driveway and then continues to drive around to the back of the house,
where a series of tiny white cottages sit spread out about fifty yards from the
main house. “You and the rest of the staff get your own cottages. They’re fully
equipped—sort of like an efficiency apartment. They’re quite nice.”
I like the idea of
having my own space to be alone with my thoughts and just read. I do have one
lingering question, though. “What about our clients? Where will they be
He parks the car
and cuts the ignition. “The clients stay in the main house, where myself and
our head nurse, Timothy, will be as well. We like to keep our eyes on them, and
Timothy is quite strong, which comes in handy if a client gets out of hand.”
“It’s good that
you have him.”
“It is, but I want
to assure you we take staff and client safety very seriously here at Serenity,
and have never had an issue with any of our clients behaving in a violent
manner. Most are affluent members of society—some are even celebrities.”
I raise my
eyebrows. Celebrities? I thought the secluded surroundings were just to provide
a tranquil atmosphere, but now it makes sense. The lush greenery also helps
keep the prying eyes of the paparazzi out. I wasn’t even allowed to know the
location of the treatment center until I formally accepted the position. The
physical address was never listed on any of the informational paperwork I
received. “Do many celebrities come here?”
Wayne pauses for a moment and then nods his
head. “From time to time.”
“Do they receive
any special privileges?”
“No. They are
treated just like everyone else. We hold group sessions as well as some private
ones to maintain a level of privacy for all our clients. Some of the issues
they may need our help working through are very private, so we don’t begrudge
them, or anyone else, of that confidentiality. We don’t want to hinder their
I nod. “That’s
Wayne smiles, his perfectly white teeth on
full display. “I think you’ll fit in nicely here, Ms. Mead.”
I insist, and thank you for that vote of confidence. I’m really excited to be a
part of the team here. I’m ready to help make an impact on people’s lives.”
“I’m glad to hear
After Wayne helps me from the
car and collects my bag from the trunk, I follow him down the cobblestone path
toward one of the cottages. Fresh spring flowers line the walkway, and I inhale
deeply taking in their floral scent along with the crisp air. I’ve never been
one to covet country living, but I can see how living among beauty like this would
be appealing to some.
The closer we get to the cottage, I notice how
close it is to a beautiful, lush garden. A huge fountain sits in the middle,
water spilling from a female statue’s bucket. Four benches surround it, each
spaced equally apart. It’s breathtaking—like something that belongs in some
grand park somewhere for the masses to enjoy, instead of just a few select
Wayne steps up onto the small concrete stoop
of the cottage and watches as I study the garden intently. “I thought you’d
enjoy that. I chose this cottage for you since it was right next door to it.”
Wayne smiles, clearly pleased that I’m so
ecstatic about his choice. “If you like that, wait until you have a look
Curious as to what
could be any better than this, I follow him inside, and my breath immediately
catches. This small little house must have been a decorator’s wet dream to
design. Everything in the places exudes softness and serenity, down to its
overstuffed cream colored couch and bedding, both with soft teal accents. It’s
very fitting considering the name of this facility.
I resist the urge
to jump on the bed and test its softness in front of Wayne, choosing instead to walk around the
room. A small kitchen area sits along the back wall, and a couch with an
entertainment area separates the living room from the bedroom. I push open one
of the doors next to the bed to reveal a decent size walk-in closet, and the
second door hides the full bathroom complete with claw-foot tub.
I think I’ve died
and gone to my own personal heaven.
Wayne clears his throat behind me, and I turn
to find him holding out a key. “Dinner is served promptly at seven in the main
house, and I would be delighted to show you around the grounds afterwards—while
we still have plenty of light.”
I pinch the small
piece of metal between my fingers, delighted. “That would be great. Thank you.”
A huge smile
face, even reaching his dark brown eyes. “I’ll leave you to unpack. See you at
The moment the
door shuts behind him, I do the thing I’ve been itching to do since I walked
in—I run and jump on the bed, immediately sinking into the thick down
I shove my loose
strands of brown hair out of my face and sigh. “What a start to a new life.”
Two years ago, I
would never have seen myself here, in this moment. Especially with both a
degree and a job that I’m excited
about. Annie would be proud; I know it.
all my things, I glance up at the clock that’s hanging on the wall. It’s only a
little after six, so I still have some time to poke around the place before
dinner. I move to grab my purse but decide to tuck it into the closet for safe
keeping instead. Since there’s not a pocket to be found anywhere on the
sundress I’m wearing, I slip the key into my bra for safekeeping.
I step out on the
small stoop and take care to lock my door carefully behind me before continuing
up the stone path toward the main house. The silence of the natural
surroundings is only disturbed when birds chirp in a gleeful chorus. I can’t
remember the last time I was, or even if I ever have been, in a place so away
from civilization that there’s absolutely no intrusion on the sounds of nature,
but it’s delightful.
When I finally
make it to the house, I step up onto the back porch. Its grand two-story
pillars really give a regal appeal to the place. As I turn to walk to the front
of the house, a door behind me opens.
A petite blonde,
wearing a white skirt and pale yellow polo shirt, comes bouncing out the door
with earbuds in her ears, humming along to a song on the radio.
The moment she
spots me, she yanks the cord on her earbuds, popping them out, and grins. “You
must be Dr. Mead. I’m Kimmy, the housekeeper. It’s so nice to finally have
another woman on the staff around here.”
I extend a hand
out to her. “Please, call me Frannie.”
“Oh my gracious,
that’s an adorable name,” she says, and her heavy country accent makes me
smile. “Well, Frannie, I hope you like your cottage. Dr. Shepherd allowed me to
decorate it for you.”
“Wow, I’m impressed. I love the design of the
place. Did you put the entire color scheme together?”
enthusiastically. “I did. It’s my dream to be an interior decorator one day.
I’ve been taking some online classes because there are no schools close by that
specialize in that. I can’t afford to make the drive every day to one of the
bigger cities, and I for damn sure can’t afford to live there, so online will
have to do until I can save enough money to move.”
I study the young
woman. She can’t be more than twenty, and yet, she clearly knows what she wants
to do with her life and is already on a serious path to getting it. I’m envious
of her, wishing I’d had her drive at that age.
“That sounds like
a terrific plan.” I strain my neck to peek around the side of the house. “Which
is the best way to get into the house? The back?”
Kimmy stuffs her
phone and earbuds into the pocket of her skirt. “Come on, I’ll show you around.
I bet you’re pretty anxious to meet everyone and get settled.”
“That would be
lovely.” I follow her back through the door she just came out of, and we enter
into a large library.
The grand ambiance
that encircles the outside of the place doesn’t shy away from the inside one
bit. Large wooden bookcases stretch along the back wall from floor to ceiling;
every spare inch of the shelves filled with books. I take a deep breath and
give myself another pep talk about maintaining my professionalism and not going
absolutely gah-gah in front of this young woman. She might not understand my
obsession with the written word.
Kimmy catches me
staring and laughs. “It’s a lot of books, right? I’d never seen so many in all
my life—not even in the libraries I’ve been in. Our towns around here can’t
afford anything so extreme. We’re lucky to have three bookcases for the whole
place—for every kind of book.”
“That’s a shame,”
I tsk. “There’s nothing like getting lost in a fantastic story. No one on earth
should be deprived of that.”
“I agree.” Wayne’s smooth voice coats
the room, jerking my attention to him. “Sorry, ladies, I didn’t mean to
intrude, but I was passing by and overheard your last statement, and I couldn’t
help but get excited right along with you. It’s a shame that small towns like
this get deprived of a decent library.” Wayne
turns to direct his attention to Kimmy. “Since I’ve caught you, do you mind
preparing a room in the men’s wing? I’ve just received an urgent request for
program enrollment, and our new client will be arriving tomorrow.”
She folds her
hands in front of her and nods, almost giving off the impression of a slight
curtsy, saying, “Right away, Dr. Shepherd,” before she hustles out of the room.
I stare after her,
catches my attention when he speaks. “Bright girl.”
“She is,” I
“You don’t find
many employees like her nowadays; smart, kind, and obedient. She follows every
rule I set here to a ‘T.’”
My mind drifts
back to all the previous jobs I’ve held and how many times I’d screwed
off—cutting corners and sneaking time off when I could. I was definitely not
the model employee that Kimmy appears to be. Wayne’s probably right. Finding someone like
her is very much like finding a diamond in the rough.
“I trust you found
your living quarters agreeable?” Wayne
walks over to the bookcase and rearranges a couple of books on the shelf, like
he couldn’t stand them being out of order. “If you have any additional
requirements, please let Kimmy know. She can arrange to get anything you may
“Really, Wayne, everything is
perfect,” I reassure him.
He turns to me and
extends his elbow to me, reminding me of an old movie, where the classic hero,
dressed in a perfectly tailored suit, escorts the heroine around. I’ve always
been infatuated with the idea of finding a classy man like that.
I hook my arm in
his and allow him to lead me through the door of the library into the main hall
of the house. Deep mahogany wood covers the floor, while the crisp white walls
lighten the entire space. Black and white portraits of different people are
spaced evenly apart and one photo of a young woman with long dark hair catches
my attention. Although I can’t see her face, the sag in her shoulders and the
slight tilt of her head as she stares at a vacant field tells me she’s
“That’s one of my
favorites. There’s just something about her body language that draws me in and
makes me wonder what she’s thinking.”
I nod in
“I believe hanging
photos that represent the possible feelings of our clients shows them that they
aren’t alone—that everyone feels sad from time to time. You’ll find that we
have them all over the main house.”
From there, Wayne continues the tour
through the front parlor and then on to the kitchen, where a heavy-set woman
with a deep tan and dark hair pulled up under a hairnet is buzzing around. Her
tiny button nose compliments her dark brown eyes which are currently fixed on
the cake she’s decorating. With a few swift motions of her hand, she creates a
tiny red rose and then attaches it to the cake.
I’ve always wanted to do that,” I say.
The woman glances
up and smiles. “Thank you. My mother taught me.”
“Dr. Mead, this is
Sue, our head chef here at Serenity, and the best baker I’ve ever had the
pleasure of meeting,” Wayne
I release my arm from
Wayne’s and begin to extend it toward her, but remember that she’s cooking and
think better of it. “It’s nice to meet you, Sue.”
“You, too, Dr.
“What’s on the
menu tonight, Sue?” Wayne
“Steak with mashed
potatoes and green beans, and of course, chocolate cake for dessert,” Sue
I’m looking forward to it.” Wayne
turns to me and extends his elbow again. “Shall we?”
Wayne sweeps his arm toward the door on the
other side of the kitchen. Before I follow his direction.
“Aloha, Dr. Mead,”
Sue replies, alerting me to the fact that she’s of Hawaiian descent.
We move into an
elegant dining room with a table that appears big enough to seat twenty. A
grand fireplace sits off to the left side of the table, and it’s tall enough
for me to walk into, if I wanted. The place settings have been arranged like
something from a fine restaurant.
impressive,” I tell Wayne.
“I would never have pictured all this for…”
I don’t finish my
thought because I don’t want say the wrong thing and offend Wayne.
facility?” He lifts an eyebrow and grins.
I shrug. “Yes. I
mean, this setup could rival some of the best restaurants in the world.”
“Thank you. We
pride ourselves on making sure our clients are well taken care of. When they
come here to detox, it’s not the most pleasant thing to go through, but we try
to comfort them by making things nice, allowing them only positive things to
focus on while they are here.”
Wayne pulls out a chair to the right of the
head of the table. “Please, sit. The clients will all be here shortly, and we
can get started with introductions.”
A few moments
later, the sound of laughter comes rolling in from outside the room. It’s not
exactly the mood I expected from a group of people struggling from an array of
addiction issues. The first person through the door is a tall, statuesque
blonde, with a model face and legs to die for. Everything about her, from her
boobs to her eyebrows, couldn’t be more perfect if they were drawn on. Second
to arrive is a very handsome man with a broad frame and blond spiky hair. The
two of them are smiling, and it makes me think they are the ones I heard
laughing just moments ago. Behind them follows a short, balding man with a beer
belly who doesn’t appear quite as jovial as the two who preceded him. A few
more women and men follow in after that, and each and every one of their
curious eyes land on me; wondering who I am and what I’m doing here, I’m sure.
Wayne stands as the new group joins us at the
table, each taking a seat. “By the sounds of it, it appears you all enjoyed
your day out.”
“Oh, we did,” the
blonde says, and then directs her attention to the spiky haired man who came in
with her. “Randall ensured we all had a great time.”
his back and directs his gaze at Wayne.
“Everyone had fun at the fair and was on their best behavior. It was a nice
change of pace to get out of here for a while.”
“Good, good,” Wayne praises before
turning to me. “This is Randall, our activities director.”
I return the smile
that Randall shoots me with one of my own, as I’m ecstatic to meet another one
of my new co-workers.
Wayne clears his throat and addresses
everyone who is now seated at the table. “I’m sure you’re all curious as to the
new face in the room. This is Dr. Francine Mead. She’s the new addiction
therapist here at Serenity and will be meeting with some of you individually
and hopefully develop a relationship whereby she can assist you with your
recovery process. I’ll ask that each one of you show her the same respect that
you show me.”
the table listens to Wayne
intently and they nod in all the appropriate places.
The blonde is the
first to speak. I can already tell she is the type of woman who is used to
having all the attention in the room. “It’s nice to meet you, Dr. Mead. I’m
Josie Sullivan. You might’ve heard of me? I had a hit single called ‘Working on
a Star’ a couple of years ago.”
My lips pull into
a tight line as I root through the limited pop music catalog I have listed in
my head. I haven’t had time for much more than studying and spending my time
with men. Keeping up on the latest top forty hits hasn’t been exactly high on
my priority list. I primarily only listen to alternative music.
I grimace. “I’m
not much of a music lover, but I’m sure it’s a lovely song.”
borders on shock and confusion and then she turns to Randall. “Where did Dr.
Shepherd find this one? Under a rock?”
“Josie,” Wayne warns. “Please
refrain from insulting the staff. You, better than anyone else, know the rules
quickly, and I get the feeling this isn’t her first visit to Serenity. “I’m
sorry, Dr. Shepherd. It won’t happen again.”
“Good.” Wayne unfolds the pressed
cloth napkin at his place setting and uses it to cover his lap just as Sue
comes into the dining room, pushing a small metal cart with a huge bowl on it.
“What kind of soup do we have today?”
“It’s a chilled
strawberry. I think you’ll like it,” Sue replies as she begins to ladle a
portion into each person’s bowl.
The moment the
spoon touches my lips and I sip its contents, I fight back the urge to moan.
“This is spectacular, Sue.”
She smiles at me.
“Thank you, Dr. Mead.”
The rest of the
dinner goes on with small talk taking place between the clients while Wayne interjects every now
and then. I learn that most of them have been here for quite some time and were
very comfortable stating what they are addicted to, talking very candidly about
After it’s all
escorts me back to my cottage, and I’m still reeling at how open the clients
are. “They all seemed to have made wonderful progress. I’m simply amazed at how
open they are about their addictions. That’s always the first step, admitting
they have a problem, but then to be able to talk about it so freely and share
their struggles is above and beyond.”
Wayne nods. “They don’t come here that way,
let me assure you. Most come here headstrong and reluctant, adamant they don’t
have a problem, and that everyone else is just too uptight or meddling in their
business, so it takes time for them to come around. We hold a lot of group
sessions, encouraging that openness. Eventually, they become more comfortable
sharing with us and others around them. Unfortunately, most of their support
systems at home hinder more than help their recovery, and more often than not,
we end up seeing them back here.”
“That’s a shame—to
see all that progress wasted.”
He sighs. “It is.
I always have to remind myself that we can only do so much here. Ultimately,
it’s up to them to remain clean and sober with a positive outlook, and remain
open about their feelings and their struggles to those around them.”
We arrive at my
stoop and I pull the key from my bra. Wayne
raises his eyebrows and I merely shrug. “No pockets.”
He laughs. “I
Once I unlock the
door, I turn to him and say, “Thank you for walking me. What time do you want
me to start work tomorrow?”
“Eight sharp. We
have a new client coming in the morning, and I would like to go over his case
file with you before he arrives. Everything we have on the clients is
electronic. I’ll email your password to access the system so you can look over
it at your leisure. I would like for you to take the lead with this one, but
I’ll be here to help you in any way I can.”
I lift my chin,
proud that he trusts that I’m ready to jump right into the fire and counsel the
new client. “Sounds great. I’ll wait for your email.”
“I’ll send it over
as soon as I get back to my office. Goodnight, Frannie.”
The rest of the
evening, I wait on Wayne’s
email. When I hear the familiar ding of a new message while brushing my teeth,
I finish up and rush to the open laptop on my bed to check it.
It contains all
the proper passwords and links to access all the clients’ files, as well as the
information on the client we are expecting tomorrow.
Tyke Douglas, the
bass player for the rock band, Black Falcon, will be arriving via private
transportation tomorrow morning. Tyke has been enrolled by his twin brother,
Trip, with Tyke’s permission. The client has had two DUIs in the past year, and
reportedly has issues with prescription and recreational drugs as well.
I tap my bottom
lip, curious about the guy, wanting to know more than the small report on the
client tells me. I quickly minimize the screen and pull up Google, typing Mr.
Douglas’ name into the search engine along with his band’s name. Within
seconds, mug shots pop up on my screen, along with the tabloid reports on the
downward spiral of Black Falcon. I flip through more photos and come across one
where his eyes are closed as he strums a guitar while wearing a sleeveless
shirt, displaying his vast array of tattoos perfectly. While his body appears
to be absolutely banging, I’m stuck on the sadness on his face—like he’s
completely lost in the song he’s playing.
I click on the
biography link listed for Mr. Douglas, but it shows a combined history for both
him and his twin brother.
TRIP DOUGLAS BIO
■Character Name: Trip
■Birth Date: October 14th
■Place of Birth: Ashland, Kentucky
■Current Residence: Paintsville, Kentucky
■Hair Color: Black
■Hair Length: Short
■Eye Color: Green
■Tattoos: Sleeves on both arms, back, and chest
■Educational History: High School graduate
■Work History: Drummer of Black Falcon
■Quirks: Wears bandanna on his head, an identical twin
■Key Adult Experiences: Achieving musical fame
(born October 14th), is the drummer for the American heavy metal band Black
Falcon. Best known for being the crazier of the two Douglas Twins, Trip’s
triple-thumping foot pedal sound has become one of the band’s trademarks.
Alongside his twin brother, Tyke,
Trip began playing instruments under the guidance of his musician father, but
his interest in playing in a band grew once he discovered his love for hard
rock music. He joined a band called Dingy
while in high school with his brother Tyke and his best friend, Zachary ‘Riff’
Oliver. Later, the band was renamed to Black Falcon after the addition of the
band’s new front man, Noel Falcon. Trip also enjoys extreme spots,
such as dirt bike riding, rock climbing, and sky diving—making him the most
adventurous member of the band. His dream is to one day climb Mount
TYKE DOUGLAS BIO:
■Character Name: Tyke
■Birth Date: October 14th
■Place of Birth: Ashland, Kentucky
■Current Residence: Paintsville, Kentucky
■Hair Color: Blond
■Hair Length: Shaggy
■Eye Color: Green
■Tattoos: Sleeves on both arms, back, and chest
■Educational History: High School graduate
■Work History: Bassist of Black Falcon
■Quirks: Frequently wears sunglasses, loves organization, an identical twin
■Key Adult Experiences: Achieving musical fame
(born October 14th), is the bassist for the American heavy metal band Black
Falcon. Best known for being a key songwriter for the band, Tyke’s obsession
with detail always seems to push the songs to a level of perfection rarely
achieved by other bands.
Tyke also enjoys the arts,
attending gallery openings and poetry events whenever his schedule
allows—making him the most cultured member of the band. His dream to one day
branch out and share his other artistic abilities with the world is something
he hopes to accomplish in the very near future.
Combined Bios: Trip and Tyke began playing instruments under
the guidance of their musician father, but their interest in playing in a band
grew once they discovered a mutual love for hard rock music. They joined a band
called Dingy while in high school,
accompanied by their best friend, Zachary ‘Riff’ Oliver. Later the band was renamed
Black Falcon after the addition of the band’s new front man, Noel Falcon.
The band’s first record, Hell
in a Hand Basket, went double platinum, making Black Falcon a force to be
reckoned with. They’ve released two additional albums since then, and their
latest single, “Ball Busting Bitch” is currently on Billboard’s Top 40.
They currently reside in Kentucky, near their
other band mates.
As I read through his bio, I can’t help but notice how Tyke Douglas is
consistently lumped in with his brother, as opposed to giving him his own
identity. Being a twin myself, I can totally relate to this issue. It’s all too
easy for people to see you as the same person as your twin. It’s what happened
with Annie and me.
I flip through the rest of the links, studying more pictures of Tyke. He’s
very easy on the eyes with his tall frame, tan complexion, and light hair. Even
though he and Trip are twins, their hair sets them apart, making it very easy
to tell the difference between them. The more I stare at the man on my screen,
the more addicted I become to his profile. He’s devastatingly handsome, and the
thought of how attracted I am to just his mere picture scares the shit out of
How am I ever supposed to concentrate on helping this man when he’s my own
personal brand of tattooed man-flavored candy? This will prove to be a very
difficult task, for sure. The best I can hope for is to find that he’s simply
photogenic and absolutely hideous in person.
I close my laptop and set it on my nightstand before I tug my glasses from
my face and set them on top of it. I double-check my alarm clock and then
snuggle down in my bed after offering up a little prayer that I’ll be able to
contain myself tomorrow. If Tyke is the stereotypical bad-boy rocker that he
appears to be, I’ll need all the help I can get to keep from jumping his bones
and jeopardizing the job I’ve worked so hard to get.