Page 22

 Jay Crownover

  • Background:
  • Text Font:
  • Text Size:
  • Line Height:
  • Line Break Height:
  • Frame:

Jorge pounded one of the cymbals with the edge of his fist. “Yeah, Ry, why don’t you tell him what’s going on? Why don’t you tell him how you took all the credit for all the songs I wrote and all the shows we played when that girl from Shred interviewed you? Why don’t you explain to Jet how this new album is a collaboration between you and him, and the rest of us are just the hired help?” He hit the cymbal again. “You don’t need us, right? Why don’t you go ahead and finish the album by yourself, because I’ve had it.”
I took a step back as Jorge rounded the massive drum kit. Ryan had turned a lovely shade of purple and was looking frantically between me and where his drummer had stormed off to. I rubbed my chin and made him meet my questioning gaze.
“Can you write songs? Do you know how to put together a melody and a chorus the way Jorge does?”
He frowned and gulped. “No.”
“Can you play guitar?”
“Can you play the drums?”
“I don’t see what that has to do with anything.”
I rocked back on my heels and crossed my arms over my chest. “Are you a solo artist, Ry? Because if you are, then we need to scrap the tracks we already laid down and start all over.”
He balked at me, and the microphone in his hand dropped to the ground. “No. No way. That stuff we recorded the other day was boss.”
“Right. It was boss, because Jorge wrote amazing songs and you have an amazing band to back you up. Without that, you’re just some little shit jumping around the stage and screaming worthless nonsense. I don’t collaborate with worthless nonsense. You better recognize what you can do for them, Ry, not the other way around, because I guarantee if Jorge walks away I can hook him up with another band in a heartbeat. You’ll just be a memory for some guy somewhere who saw you play that one time. You need to get over yourself, like yesterday, and stop wasting everyone’s time. And if you can’t do that, I, for sure, have more important stuff to do than babysit a wannabe rock star.”
He stared at me in silence, trying to judge how serious I was. I didn’t play around when it came to respecting the rest of your band. I knew that alone I was an all right singer, but that I couldn’t do what I did without the rest of the guys, and a talent like Jorge’s wasn’t to be taken lightly. Ryan and I were in the middle of a stare-down when I heard a low whistle and Jorge called out,
“Who’s the babe? On my god, I’m in love. She even has beer and pizza.”
I looked over my shoulder and saw Ayden setting the stuff down inside the control room. She had a big silk flower in her dark hair and her glasses perched on her nose. She was wearing a pair of skinny jeans that were tighter than mine, if that was possible, and some kind of flowy white top that hung entirely off one shoulder. Yep, she was a babe all right and now that she was here, inside the inner circle, it wasn’t nearly as freaky or as unsettling as I thought it would be. She wiggled her fingers at me in a tiny wave and flopped down in my chair. I lifted my chin at her and turned back to Ryan. On the inside I was wondering why it seemed so right for her to be here.
“Look, my advice to you is, don’t screw up a good thing. You guys sound good, but only when you play together. Get your ego in check and apologize to your band. I’m not putting my name on anything I’m not proud of, and right now it sounds like garbage. Let’s eat some pizza and have a couple beers and you go make nice. All right?”
He was quiet for a long moment but eventually nodded and begrudgingly walked to where Jorge was standing in front of the control booth watching Ayden as she messed around on her phone. I pushed the door open and almost missed a step when she grinned up at me.
“Hey, back. I missed you this morning.”
She winced a little and put her phone down. “I’m sorry about that, I just had to . . .” She trailed off with a shrug. “Run.”
I bent over her and put my hands on the back of the chair, so that I was looking down at her, and she had no other choice but to look up at me. There was something in those whiskey-tinted eyes, something potent and clear. This girl was dangerous. I wanted to do things to her, do things for her that I had never wanted before.
“I have to say, Ayd, I prefer it when you run toward me, not away from me.”
She tilted her head back a little and lifted her hands so that they were resting on my waist. A mixture of heat and something more serious coiled in my stomach. I wanted to imprint everything about her on my brain. I wanted to remember every look, every touch, and every taste. The more time I had with her, the more I couldn’t shake the feeling that it was like the melting clocks tattooed all over my forearm; that she was just an illusion, just a dream that I was trying to hold on to before she faded away .
“I wasn’t running away, Jet. I’m just not sure what this is all about and what to do with any of it.”
“Neither am I, but doesn’t it make more sense to try to figure it out together, rather than just muddling through it alone? Whatever it is, it’s working fine for right now, so let’s leave it alone.”
She wrinkled her nose at me, which was too cute with her sexy little glasses on, and I couldn’t resist bending down to kiss her. I meant to keep it professional because we had an audience, but she tasted like coffee, secrets, and a place where I really wanted to be. Not to mention, she got her fingers under the edge of my T-shirt and dug them into my sides. I could kiss her all day—forever—but she went to my head quicker than the booze her eyes reminded me of, and I was still a little pissed at her for ditching me this morning. I gave her a little nip with my teeth and pushed back off the chair, which sent her spinning around with a little squeal.
“Seriously, Ayd. We’re both smart. Why can’t we do this, make sex and something a little more work for us?”
She put her foot down to stop the chair and shrugged a shoulder. “We can. I want to. I’m just trying to be careful about it. When I wasn’t very careful about things in the past, it really left a nasty mark.”
I reached out a hand, which she grasped as I pulled her to her feet. I tugged her into a hug and tucked her head under my chin. We fit together like that was just how it was supposed to be. She put her hands in the back pockets of my jeans and rested her forehead on my throat.
“If you can tell me how we avoid doing that, Ayd, I’m willing to listen. The only marks I want to leave on you are ones you enjoy being there.”
Her soft hair brushed against my neck and she pulled me a little closer. “One day, maybe, but for now let’s just try to enjoy what it is, without all the baggage weighing it down.”
I felt my eyebrows shoot up, but the guys in the band had made their way into the booth, and we were no longer alone. I ran my hand down her spine and tapped her ass with the flat of my hand. She jumped a little and pushed off me.
“I think the dude is normally supposed to try to sell that arrangement to the chick.”
Those amber eyes glimmered with humor, and all I wanted to do was get her naked and put my hands all over her. She was simply something else, and I wasn’t sure what to do with her or with the way she wound me up so fast. I didn’t have time to keep turning it over, because Jorge forcibly pushed his way between us and started pumping her arm up and down in a way that was comical to watch. I took a few steps back and got a beer, while Ryan tried his best to charm her. She looked at them all with big eyes and sat back down in the chair, while they all chattered at her.
I watched the entire scenario in amusement. She was a very pretty girl and could hold her own. I’d seen her handle drunks with years on these guys and not break a sweat, but maybe because I was watching and we had something as yet unnamed going on, she was watching them carefully and not being her usual laid-back self. They were rapidly firing questions at her; how did she know me, were we a thing, what was her favorite band, had she ever heard of them, what was her favorite song, was she going to stick around and watch them play? She just gaped at them until I guess she had enough, and then came to plant herself solidly next to my side. She put an arm around my waist and regarded them as if they were a pack of wolves and not a bunch of oversexed teenaged musicians.
“Are they always like that?”
“When a hot chick is around, they are. Don’t you know most guys start bands, or learn to play an instrument, to get laid?”
She looked up at me and I laughed at the incredulousness shining out of her bright gaze. I handed her the beer and motioned for everyone to get back to work. Now that she was here, all I wanted to do was finish up and get her home, or get her up against the wall, or get her in the back seat of my car. I wasn’t picky, but I was impatient. She was like music, something I craved, something that I felt deep in my blood and I wasn’t sure what to do with it.
“Why do I think that you didn’t need either of those things to get laid when you were their age?”
I looked at her out of the corner of my eye and went back to the mixing board. She followed me and continued to sip on the beer while she hovered over my shoulder. Now that they had such an attractive audience, the boys weren’t messing around and they ripped into the track that they had been screwing up royally with renewed vigor and enthusiasm.
“Because I didn’t. I learned to play guitar because I wanted to write songs. I joined a band because I had things I wanted to say, and jumping around screaming punk-rock lyrics suited me at the time.”
She put her hand on the back of my neck and I shivered a little at the chill, because they were cold from holding on to the beer can.
“And now, you scream and yell heavy-metal songs because you’re mad about your dad and your mom all the time, and it suits you.” She said it as a statement of fact and it made me shiver again, because she was so dead-on. “I can listen, too, Jet. Maybe you can tell me why you’re so angry, and I can help.”
I flicked a couple of switches and played with some of the dials to tone down the guitar. “Maybe when you’re ready to talk to me about those not-so-smart choices, we can have an all-out sharefest.”
My anger had been with me so long, lived in such a dark place inside me, that I didn’t know what would happen if I brought it out into the light. I was scared it was going to have the power to cover everything and burn my entire world to ash. Those cold fingers moved from the back of my neck to my shoulder and she gave it a squeeze.
We stood that way for the next three songs. She just watched as I gave the guys instruction and tried to build the best track of each song I could. At one point, she handed the beer back to me and before I realized it, we had the entire album cut and it was almost midnight. The guys were keyed up and wanted to go out. All earlier arguments had been put to rest because they knew, just like I did, that we had just produced a killer album that would no doubt lead them to getting signed.
I wanted to get Ayden alone and ask her to get naked—except for those glasses—so I declined the invite and tried to shoo them out the door. She stayed put and went about cleaning up the mess that five guys, beer, and pizza had made. I was about to shut the door and lock it when Jorge paused, and walked back to where I was standing. He stuck out his hand and shook it like he meant it.