Authors: Fae Sutherland,Chelsea James
Tags: #erotic MM, #Romance MM
"Are you even sure this place is real?" Alli demanded. "I mean, I've never heard of it, so it could be a mirage or something, a figment of your imagination. What the heck kind of name is Haven, anyway? It sounds like some... some crackpot New Age mumbo-jumbo thing. Maybe it's a front for a cult."
Remey laughed as he changed lanes, glancing over at his phone where it perched in the hands-free device attached to the dashboard. Allison was his personal assistant/tour manager and had been for the last four years, but she was also his best friend and honorary little sister, and therefore, believed she had triple authority to boss him around and decide she knew what was best for him. Remey did his best not to argue with her. The last time he had argued, she'd scheduled him on a run of interviews and press and appearances so brutal he'd been begging for mercy three days in.
"I'm pretty sure it's not a figment of my imagination,
or a front for a cult. The pictures I saw of the town look totally normal. The house is fantastic. I signed papers on it two weeks ago and already had a bunch of furniture shipped in." The realtor had been a huge help, since Remey had been too busy finishing up the last leg of the tour to be there himself. He'd been on the road for almost two years straight since the release of his third album, and he thought if he got on another bus any time in the next year, he might go postal.
"You signed papers without showing them to me?"
"I'm not incompetent, you know. Besides, I had the lawyers look at them to make sure everything was in order. Don't you want to hear about the house? It's this great little restored Victorian--"
"Still, it could be some kind of scam," Allison interrupted, and Remey chuckled, shaking his head. "I'm going to Google, make sure it's legit. I'll never understand why you couldn't take a break somewhere else. You have a perfectly good house in L.A. Aren't you the one who's always scoffing at all those celebrities who have multiple houses all over the country?"
"Multiple mansions," Remey corrected, pressing a button to roll down his window a crack, just enough to get fresh air into the car. It even smelled like fall, he thought, nothing like California with its seasons that were all but indiscernible from each other. "This house isn't a mansion. It has two bedrooms upstairs, a living room, den, and kitchen downstairs, and a front porch. And, for the record, there is no such thing as a break in L.A. You'd be pestering me, or someone from the label would, before a week was out."
Allison snorted. "Because when I don't pester you, things like this happen. Don't make me call your mama. She'll make sure you don't go and do some hare-brained thing..."
"I already told her all about it and sent her the pictures of the house. She thinks it's a brilliant idea, and she said maybe she and Dad will come visit if I decide I'd like to have company."
While Alli sputtered on the other end of the phone, her trump card rendered useless, Remey pulled into a rest area along the side of the road, parking and digging into the cooler he'd put on the floor in front of the passenger seat, extracting a bottle of water. After unscrewing the top, he took a long sip, then set the bottle in the cup holder.
"And speaking of brilliant ideas... since I'm taking a break, I think you ought to do the same. Take a vacation somewhere ridiculous, go out and party, sleep until noon every day. All the stuff you can't do the rest of the time because you're too busy handling all my crap."
"A vacation? I haven't had one of those in--" Allison broke off, and Remey smiled, watching as a family wandered past his car, the kids skipping and half-running, obviously happy to be out of the car.
"Forever." He answered for her, taking another sip of water. "Neither of us have, and it's long past time. Take a month off if you want; go somewhere crazy and decadent."
"God knows you pay me enough," Allison agreed. She was starting to sound more enthusiastic now. He adored her, and he knew it was mutual, and they both needed a break after spending the majority of the last two years on the bus and on planes and in hotels and venues. "I could go somewhere totally awesome. Like... Australia."
"Or some tropical island like you're always talking about. Or both. You'll have plenty of time."
"Don't think I don't know you're trying to distract me. And failing miserably, I might add. What are you going to do with all this free time, Cajun?"
"Absolutely nothing I don't want to do," Remey answered, grinning. "Go to bed early and sleep late if I want to. Go hiking, sightseeing, and take lots of pictures. Lounge on the couch in my pajamas for days at a time. Maybe I'll take up a new hobby. Write because I want to, not because the label says I have to."
Remey loved his career, was thankful every day of his life he got to make music like he'd always wanted, that people liked it and bought his albums and tickets for his concerts. Winning a couple of Grammys had been a dream come true, but there was no feeling better than the rush he got from playing for a crowd who sang and danced and gave him back a hundred times what he put out. Two years of almost-constant touring was enough to burn anyone out, though, even someone who loved music and the music business as much as Remey did.
"Don't you go thinking you can disappear off the face of the earth completely, though," Allison warned. "If I don't hear from you in a month or so, I'm going to come out there myself and make sure you haven't been sucked into some wormhole of small town cutesy. Just, you know, behave yourself. You know the paparazzi are bound to figure out where you've gone. I can't have you becoming Perez Hilton's favorite scandal while I go sun myself on some white sand beach."
"I promise, no wormholes for me and no scandal, either. They can follow me all they want, but I guarantee they'll be bored out of their minds within the first week," Remey assured her, laughing. "Hey, I want to get there before dark, so I'm gonna get back on the road. Shoot me an e-mail and let me know where you're going, okay? And I'll want to see pictures when you get back."
"Albums full," Allison promised. "Love you, Cajun."
"Love you, too."
Remey waited until she'd hung up, then detached his phone and turned the ringer off, tossing it onto the passenger seat before he started the car again. All the people who needed to know where he'd be for the next several months had been filled in and he only had an hour left to go before he'd be in Haven and could have all the peace and quiet he could possibly want.
* * * *
There were paparazzi everywhere. Which might be the first time anyone had ever said that about the town of Haven, Massachusetts, population 11,649. Actually, make it 11,650 now. Their new resident was the reason for the crowd currently blocking the front entrance of Miss Haley's Preschool. And if they didn't move, Aleks Kelly might find some interesting places to store their giant-lens cameras.
Aleks scowled, shouldering his way through--maybe with a little more force than necessary--and finally made it through the door of the preschool. He let out a heavy sigh and raked his hair back out of his face. "What the hell--I mean, heck--is going on out there?" he asked no one in particular.
Carlee, the receptionist, beamed at him, her cheeks flushed with excitement. "I heard that singer is at the music shop next door. Remey Dufresne..." Her voice was an awed whisper. "If I wasn't working, I'd be out there jockeying for a glimpse myself!"
Aleks rolled his eyes. "He's just a person, Carlee." A very bothersome person from everything Aleks had seen so far. But he didn't want to talk about Remey Dufresne and the chaos he'd brought--and would continue to bring--to Aleks's town. Especially not with a nineteen-year-old girl who probably had posters of him on her bedroom walls. "Is Willow ready?"
Aleks turned, facing the three-year-old source of the squeal. "Willow Grace, what have I told you about using my name?" he asked with a laugh, crouching down to catch her as she barreled toward him as fast as her chubby legs could carry her.
Willow shoved her bright red curls out of her eyes and beamed at him as he rose with her on his hip. "Sorry, Daddy!"
Haley, the preschool owner, shook her head as she approached a couple steps behind Willow. "I see teenagers who want to call their parents by their first names, but she must be the only three-year-old I've ever met who does."
Aleks shrugged with a smile. "How was she today?" He glanced down at Willow. "Were you good for Miss Haley? No stealing Mikey Hastings' pudding cup?"
Willow wrinkled her nose. "Hims didn't has one today." She sounded terribly put out.
Aleks set her on her feet. "Well, I guess that's good. No stealing anyway. Go on and grab your coat for me, Squish." She ran off to the row of child-height hooks by the front door. Aleks turned to Haley with a smile. "I'll keep working with her on it, I promise."
"I'm sure you will, Aleksander. Tell your brother I said hello." She waved before turning and heading back to the classrooms.
"Stevan!" Willow chirped excitedly. "We go see?"
Aleks crouched down and began tugging on her winter coat, followed by scarf and mittens. "It's Thursday, isn't it?"
She nodded enthusiastically.
"Well, alright then. That means dinner at Uncle Stevan and Auntie Jess's, right?"
Aleks pushed to his feet and took Willow's hand. "Come on then and tell Carlee goodbye."
Willow waved over her shoulder at Carlee as Aleks led her outside. He'd barely gotten through the door before he realized it was a bad idea and scooped Willow up so the damned oblivious camera guys didn't trample her. He shouldered his way through the crowd again and, this time, caught a glimpse of a young man in the midst of the throng he assumed was their prey, Remey Dufresne, though Aleks couldn't see enough to be sure.
He didn't live under a rock. He knew who Remey Dufresne was, even if he'd never listened to any of the guy's music. His students at the high school, the girls especially, loved him. A group of them had road-tripped it to New York City a couple months earlier to see him in concert, and everyone had lost their damn minds when word had gotten around that the Grammy winner was going to be moving to Haven of all places.
Aleks knew all that, but he didn't care. What he cared about was the fact that the town he loved, where he'd grown up and returned to as an adult to raise a family and teach music to the next generation of this community, was being overrun by the Hollywood machine. Paparazzi. News trucks. Obsessed fans. All invading what had been, a few weeks earlier, the epitome of the idyllic New England small town.
He finished buckling Willow into the backseat of his Explorer and glanced back over at the crowd on the sidewalk as he shut the door. The mayor seemed to think this was going to be some kind of boon to the town, to the local economy. Maybe he was right.
But at what price?
Aleks wanted to know as he watched one of the reporters toss a coffee cup toward the trash can on the curb and miss, leaving the cup on the ground. He scowled and snatched it up, throwing it with a snap of his wrist into the can on the curb. If these people had their way, they'd do the same to the rest of his town... trash it.
Aleks climbed behind the wheel, determining one thing. He wasn't going to let it happen. Remey Dufresne and his entourage weren't going to ruin his home. Not a chance.
Aleks frowned down at the row of boxes of reeds. His immediate preference was, of course, the better quality ones. But he needed a
for the school instruments and the kids whose parents couldn't afford them, which meant the cheaper ones were probably a better idea. He sighed.
Fucking funding cuts.
He already knew which he'd choose, regardless of out of pocket costs, since it wasn't school money buying them, it was his. So he gestured to the box on the left.