The voting came pretty close to 50/50 this week—but I think I’m getting an idea of the way you’d like the story to proceed.
However, I refuse to become overconfident, because you have a habit of throwing me to the wall with your voting when I least expect it. :-)
Enjoy this week’s chapter and—DON’T FORGET TO VOTE!
Love Toni xx
Something had changed.
It was a subtle change—but a change none-the-less.
No surprise that this adjustment in the way the four of us were behaving around each other had happened at the exact time Kat had arrived on the scene.
I could feel it in the subtle way the band interacted with each other over dinner and on the drive down to the gig.
The undercurrent of competitiveness had escalated since Jesse won the first game of cards. He took every opportunity to remind us that he had 34 points on the board and the rest of us had none.
I stood behind the curtains, on stage tuning my guitar.
Liam stretched as he sat behind the shield of his drums. Jesse tuned his bass, seemingly oblivious to the undercurrent of animosity coming from the assembled band members.
Or maybe he wasn’t and he simply chose to ignore us.
Thirty-four points wasn’t a lot.
We’d only played one hand of cards.
A lot could change in a short amount of time.
The hum of the excited crowd on the other side of the stage drapes infiltrated my thoughts.
You’re a professional, I reminded myself.
Time to do my job. Time to put the strange day we’d had on the road behind me and get on with giving the people what they’d paid for.
“All set?” Calvin asked from between the long, black curtains that hung in a herringbone pattern at each side of the stage.
“Okay?” I asked each of the guys.
When I’d gotten a nod of acknowledgment, or a thumbs-up from each of them, I turned back to Calvin and said, “Yeah, all set.”
It didn’t occur to me until the curtains opened and Liam counted us into the first song of the night that Calvin had approached me on behalf of the band.
Liam didn’t seem to care.
I guess Liam, like the rest of us, was busy caring about Kat right about now.
By the time we were half-way through the third song, things had settled.
As far as working with Kat was concerned, it may as well have been Jeff standing out the front behind the sound desk. The sound was outstanding.
My levels were great.
Kat was a pro behind the desk and I guess that’s why Calvin had hired her.
All competitiveness between the band had been put aside and we were playing like the tight unit that we’d become. If nothing else when we got on stage we did behave like professionals. No matter what was happening behind the scenes, the four of us still wanted exactly the same thing.
That’s what I loved about these guys.
I’d found my tribe and I’d be damned if I was going to let anyone—even the delightful, Kat—screw up our dream.
One song out from the final of the night, the crowd were all on their feet.
A little blonde thing had been making eyes at me from down in the mosh pit.
The unthinkable happened.
A pair of panties arrived at my feet.
I stumbled over my lyrics.
Looked around at Marty who gave me a huge grin from behind his keyboard.
A quick glance back and I could see that Jesse and Liam were in fits of laughter.
I didn’t know what the fuck to do.
Did I pick them up?
The little blonde thing at the front lifted her dress.
Yep! They were hers all right.
The scorching heat of a blush washed across my body. Hopefully in the lights, no-one would see.
Jesse sauntered over from his side of the stage, pressed his back against mine. We hammed it up for the crowd.
“You’re fucking on there mate,” he said as we wound down through the last few bars of the song. “Dedicate the next song to her.”
“I don’t even know her name,” I hissed.
As the song finished, Jesse stepped between the monitors at our feet and dropped his head towards the crowd.
He flashed a grin to the blonde then came back to me.
On his way, he picked up the panties from the stage and then tucked the edge of them into the top of my jeans.
The roar of approval from the crowd almost drowned out his words.
“Her name’s Stacy.”
“Hey, Stacy,” I said, “this is our final song of the night and it’s for you.”
A wall of sound unlike anything I’d ever heard before crashed over us.
Liam counted us in to Yellow Lady.
I gave it my all.
Pumped from the adrenaline of the crowd, we did three encores.
At the end of the last song, I pulled Stacy up on stage.
She took a selfie with the band in the background and one with the crowd behind us.
“You doing anything after the show?” she asked.
I hadn’t played too many shows, but I’d begun to recognise the look in Stacy’s eyes.
She was a complete stranger and she wanted me—she wanted me the same way Destiny had wanted me. But Destiny was different. I wanted Destiny too.
I didn’t want a stranger.
Terror coursed through me.
Out of nowhere, Liam appeared at my side.
“Have you given the gorgeous lady her panties back?” he asked, his mere appearance settled my frazzled nerves.
“I’m sorry we can’t send him home with you,” Liam purred as I handed the tiny scrap of cotton back to Stacy. “But we’ve got to get on the road first thing in the morning, you understand?”
“Yeah, of course,” Stacy said the disappointment thick in her voice.
“You want me to take a photo of you both?” Liam asked.
“Please,” Stacy said, as she handed Liam her phone.
Before I knew what was happening, Stacy had me in a vice-like grip. I felt the heat of her lips on my cheek and then she wrapped her hands around my damp torso and buried her face in my chest.
Liam wrapped his hands around himself.
I was supposed to hug her.
I did as Liam asked.
He took a couple more photos and then helped peel Stacy off me.
“Thanks for coming to the show,” I said. I know it sounded lame, but what the hell else would I say. I didn’t know this woman.
Hugging her had been an ordeal.
I couldn’t imagine what it would be like going back to the motel with her.
“So, you’re no longer a panty virgin,” Kat couldn’t keep the smirk off her face as she sat with a beer in front of her in our small motel room.
“Cheers for bailing me out,” I said to Liam. We’d been so busy packing down the gear I hadn’t had a chance to acknowledge the skilful way he’d managed the fan out front.
“You’ll know what to do next time,” Jesse said as he continued to deal the hand of cards.
We were determined that someone was going to get some points on the board beside Jesse and besides, we were all still too amped to sleep after the gig.
It took a while to wind down. A few beers helped, but a couple of hands of cards would help even more.
“I thought chucking your underwear on stage went out with those old dudes,” Marty said as he brought another round of beers to the table.
“Yeah, right,” Kat replied. “Women have been doing it for decades and they’ll keep doing it.”
“I wish you could’ve seen your face when she flashed you,” Marty said.
“Shut it,” I gave him the evil eye. He of all people should know how uncomfortable this made me feel.
I was all about the music.
Somehow, I’d forgotten about the fan shenanigans.
Blatant offers of sex with unfamiliar women terrified me more than turned me on.
Would that change in time, I wondered?
“If she’d have given me the eye, I’m damn sure I wouldn’t be sitting here playing cards with you lot,” Liam said.
The way he was looking at Kat, I wasn’t sure if I believed a single word coming out of his mouth.
“What about all that shit about being on the road early in the morning?” I asked as we began to play cards in earnest.
“I’m not driving,” Liam replied as he managed to discard three cards from the five he held in his hand. “Plenty of time to sleep in the van, or after sound check.”
Jesse gave the remaining cards in Liam’s hand the side-eye as he picked up another to add to his own. Clearly, the game wasn’t going his way tonight.
Another circuit of the table and Liam managed to call, “Uno,” before Jesse could get another card down on the discard pile.
“Looks like lady luck might be on my side tonight,” he said as he dug an elbow into the upper arm of our bass player.
Liam dropped his last card in the middle of the table and rubbed his hands together with glee. “Add ‘em up boys, how many going on my total?”
Kat pulled out her little notebook and began to add the face value of the cards left in our hands.
“Sixty-eight,” she announced before she wrote the number under Liam’s name.
“One short of my favourite,” Liam said, as he winked at Kat.
“You have absolutely no class,” she replied never taking her eyes off him.
“I can show you some class, baby,” Liam purred, “all you gotta do is ask.”
“Fuckin’ get a room,” Jesse said as he stood up and went to the fridge. He returned with another round of beers.
“Game getting a little too competitive for you?” Liam asked.
“Not at all,” Jesse said as he shuffled the cards and then placed them in front of Liam. “Deal.”
“What we playing for, boys?” Kat asked as she took a swig out of her bottle.
My throat went tight.
Liam stopped mid deal and without missing a beat said, “Why the chance to get to know you better, darlin’.”
“No fucking way!” Kat slammed her bottle down on the table and shook her head. Her pigtails did an adorable sweep of her face. I could feel the breeze from where I sat beside her. “I’m not some kind of prize that you oafs get to fight it out over.”
Liam leaned in towards Kat, resting the bulk of his upper body on his elbows. “But it’s obvious that you want to get to know us better.”
Kat cocked her head to one side and stared him down. “Really?” Then she looked at the rest of us. One by one. “That’s what you all think?”
I didn’t know where to look.
Marty took a swig of his beer and didn’t say a word.
If looks could kill, Liam would be dead the way Jesse was staring at him.
“Okay,” Kat said staring us all down in turn once again. “I’ll play your fucking stupid game. But we’re going to play by my rules.”
“What kind of rules, sweetheart?” Liam asked, easing back into his chair.
“And don’t fucking sweetheart me,” she said eyeballing us all again. “The four of you may have overlooked the fact that I could win this game.”
“And?” Liam asked. It was almost as if the rest of us had been struck dumb by the spectacle going on in front of us.
“You guys want to get to know me better, well then here’s the deal. If one of you win, then you’re taking me out on a date.”
“Sounds fair,” Jesse said his eyes flicking between Kat and Liam.
“But if I win, then I get to choose who I go out on a date with.”
“I have no problem with that,” Liam said as he crossed his arms across his broad chest.
“I mean I get the whole date experience,” Kat continued as she leaned in towards the four of us. “Flowers, chocolate, champagne, dinner. The whole shebang.”
“I don’t believe any of us would have an issue with those terms, would we?” Liam asked as he scanned the table.
“No worries here,” I said trying to sound cool. The idea of taking an amazing woman like Kat out on a date scared the shit out of me, but I wasn’t about to let Liam or anyone else know that.
“Fine with me,” Marty said as he eye-balled Kat across the table.
Marty never ceased to surprise me. What had happened to the terrified guy who wasn’t sure that he wanted to leave school and join a band?
“Let’s fucking get on with it then,” Kat said as she waited for her turn to play her hand.
* * *
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