Authors: Eden Summers
Copyright © 2015 by Eden Summers
Content Editing by Rachel Firasek
Copy Editing by Lori Whitwam
Cover Art by Willsin Rowe
This book is a work of fiction. The names, characters, places, and incidents are products of the writer’s imagination or have been used fictitiously and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to persons, living or dead, actual events, locales or organizations is entirely coincidental.
All rights reserved. With the exception of quotes used in reviews, this book may not be reproduced or used in whole or in part by any means existing without written permission from the author.
The author acknowledges the trademarked status and trademark owners of various products referenced in this work of fiction, which have been used without permission. The publication/use of these trademarks is not authorized, associated with, or sponsored by the trademark owners.
Many people have helped to get Reckless Beat to book number four. My assistant, Tracy Arnett, who cracks the whip like nobody’s business. My editor, Rachel Firasek, always fills me with confidence and helps to make my babies shine. My copy editor, Lori Whitman, and proofreaders Tina McAwesome Reiter, Bianca Bootylicious Sarble, and the newbie to the team, Gillian Leonard—who tagged into the game at late notice but came home swinging—you are all a blessing to have by my side.
Nikki Condron – thank you for helping me see inside the mind of Melody. I’ll never forget the tears over coffee or how much hearing your story meant to me.
To my husband, who I adore beyond words.
And last but not least, I’d like to acknowledge all the awesome readers who continue to follow me on this journey. Your emails and reviews mean so much.
Now get readin’. You don’t want to keep Sean waiting.
“I’d like everyone
to raise their glass…” Sean groaned as Mason’s mother prepared the slew of guests for another sappy, ear-bleeding speech. “…and toast the happy couple. To Mason and Sidney, may your future be brighter than the stars.”
“Hear, hear,” Sean muttered under the cheer of voices surrounding him and narrowed his gaze to scan the crowd. Where the hell were the waitresses? The beer in his hand was no longer strong enough to kill the ache in his chest. He needed the hard stuff—bourbon, vodka…ethanol.
If losing his chance with Sidney wasn’t hard enough, now he had to grin and act like the caring best man while the two people he cherished most went through the highly publicized road to marriage—slowly killing him one mile at a time.
Their engagement party was a world-class extravaganza of nauseating proportions. Numerous silk-lined marquees were constructed in the back of Mason’s Goochland property, protecting guests from prying eyes. Tiny twinkling lights were strung from every pole and roof beam like Tinkerbell had been on an acid trip. There was a band, a DJ, a massive dance floor, a photo booth, over-the-top flower arrangements on the few available tables, and a fucking partridge in a pear tree.
During the two hours Sean had already endured, wait staff strolled through the crowd, offering a continuous array of tiny pieces of overly fancy food, along with champagne flutes and any alcoholic beverage you cared to imagine.
, up until the moment Sean needed them most. Now, they were nowhere to be seen. Through it all, he had to pretend he didn’t have a boner for his best friend’s girl.
“Would the best man like to say a few words?”
. He froze and contemplated slinking into the dark of night before someone spotted him.
He cringed at Mrs. Lynch’s questioning tone echoing loud and clear through the speakers in every corner of the outdoor structure. Too late to run.
. He dragged his feet toward the platform at the front of the marquee and pasted a blow-me smile across his face. Sidney and Mason were huddled close beside Mrs. Lynch, the picture of perfection on the makeshift stage. The woman who’d stolen his heart was breathtaking in her shimmering silver cocktail dress, her dark hair contrasting with the light material clinging to her body. She glowed beside Mason. Sean couldn’t deny the two of them were meant for each other. Happiness emanated from them, choking his airways. He needed to get over it and stop nursing his bruised ego.
Sidney didn’t make it easy for him. Every glimpse of her smile, every time his name left her lips, or she greeted him with a gentle hug, his chest threatened to explode. He couldn’t rationalize his attraction for her. At one point, he was certain Mother Nature had fucked up somewhere along the line, and given his woman to the wrong guy.
For too damn long, he’d been wallowing in his shitty perception of life. His career, although surrounded by limelight, was bathed in the shadow of his best friend. Reckless fans had no clue who Sean was, and didn’t care to find out. Then there were the bachelors of the band—Blake and Mitch, who never spoke of marriage and kids but were now both balls deep in matrimony.
It seemed like everyone in Reckless Beat had what they wanted—Blake had Gabi, Mitch had Alana, Ryan was still married—albeit not happily—and now Mason scored the woman of his dreams plus a new album that was set to top the charts.
Sidney should’ve been Sean’s saving grace. She should’ve been his shining light and all the fuzzy, wuzzy, fucked-up-picket-fence shit. When she came back into their lives, he’d seriously thought it was a sign his luck was turning around. Even after she hooked up with his best friend, he held onto hope, as deceitful as it was, that she’d change her mind and pick Sean instead. He stopped holding his breath when Mason dropped his proposal bombshell.
“Come up here, little drummer boy,” Mason spoke into the microphone.
Sean’s groan died under the heavy chatter filling the marquee. He didn’t want to do this. Toasting the two of them went above and beyond the call of brotherhood. Yet, he still couldn’t say no. He loved them both, heartbreak or not.
Reaching the platform, he took the two steps to stand above the crowd and raised his beer in greeting. Mason strode toward him, holding out the microphone which Sean reluctantly took.
“What do you want me to say?” His fake smile turned to a glower as he smothered the head of the mic with his hand. He hadn’t prepared a speech. Well, not one that didn’t try to convince the soon-to-be bride to run away with the best man.
Mason shrugged. “I think they’re all too smashed to give a shit what you say.”
Sean eyed the crowd. Yeah, he supposed most of them had the glazed look of intoxication. Still, he wasn’t used to being the center of attention and didn’t want to fuck up the situation any more than it already was.
On instinct, he glanced at Sidney for guidance, meeting her full smile, dimples and all. Big mistake. Jesus fucking Christ she was happy. Deliriously so.
He was an asshole for wishing her life was any different. She deserved this moment. She deserved Mason. If Sean didn’t quit the obsession, he’d lose more than her friendship. He’d lose his best friend, too. The three of them couldn’t tiptoe around the awkwardness forever.
He dragged his gaze away, focusing on something more important. Where the fuck were all the waitresses? As soon as he was off this platform, he would roll the first one he found.
“Wish me luck,” he muttered, raising the microphone to hover in front of his mouth. “Thank you all for coming to celebrate Mason and Sidney’s engagement. It’s an honor for me to be a part of their bridal party.”
No task could be more bittersweet.
He cleared his throat, trying to ignore the sharp sting of irony. “I believe fate brought these two together. They were made for one another, and in the past months have become inseparable.”
Lips and genitalia, especially
. “Like my other three brothers in Reckless Beat, Mason has now found the one woman who he would die without.”
A gruff scoff sounded from the front of the crowd, causing guests to glance around to find the culprit. Sean ignored it, knowing with certainty the protest came from their drunken rhythm guitarist. Ryan’s wife, Julie, hadn’t been putting out lately. She hadn’t been doing much of anything apart from turning their normally jovial band member into an angst-riddled alcoholic with blue balls.
“Quite literally, Mason nearly did give his life for Sidney.” The memory of that night still haunted him. Sidney’s stricken face. The blood. The pain. It was a haunting nightmare he couldn’t forget. “I don’t think anyone here tonight deserves the happiness these two have earned in one another.”
I sure as shit don’t.
“I wish them the peaceful future they deser—” His voice wavered.
He coughed to smother a curse and glared at the crowd, more determined than ever to find a damn drink. “I wish them all that mushy crap that I’m too flustered to name at the moment.”
Laughter erupted, and Sidney chuckled from behind him. The sweet sound of her voice was like a balm on his nerves and a stab through the heart all at the same time. He couldn’t take any more torture. Couldn’t withstand the pain. He was done.
Raising his empty beer bottle, he encouraged the guests to do the same. “To Sidney and Mason.”
The mass of people echoed his pledge, a sea of glasses and bottles entering the air, making it easier for him to spot the lone waitress weaving her way through the crowd.
Back the hell up, woman.
He pretended to drink the non-existent liquid in his bottle to mark the toast, and then turned and thrust the microphone in Mason’s chest. “Don’t ask me to do that ever again.” He strode for the side of the stage as guests dispersed, and the band in the corner began to play.
“What the fuck, man?” Mason chuckled, following behind him. “What the hell was that?”
A toast capable of ripping out the remaining vestiges of my pride.
Sean kept moving, jumping the two steps to the ground and nudging people as he continued on his mission for the numbing bliss of intoxication.
“You were meant to be comic relief after my mom’s tearjerker of a speech.” Mason continued, not taking the hint that Sean wanted to be left the fuck alone. “If I’d known you were going to make Sidney cry, I…”
Sean stopped dead. His stomach hollowed, and his throat threatened to close over as he swung around to find Sidney. She was still on the platform, her bright lipped smile wavering, tears glistening in her eyes. A pang of yearning hit him in the gut. Hard as hell. He wanted to double over and fall to his knees. He knew he couldn’t go to her and hug away the overwhelming tears. That was Mason’s job.
“That wasn’t my intent,” Sean grated, hating the detachment in his tone.
Sidney didn’t deserve to shed a single tear. She’d run the gauntlet of heartache, being pummeled at every turn. More than anyone, she deserved her time to shine. He just couldn’t stop wishing he was the one brightening her day, instead of his best friend.
Shake it off.
He broke eye contact and strode ahead, searching for the woman with the tray of liquid heaven. If he was going to get through the remainder of the night, he needed to see the bottom of a lot of empty bottles.
“Hold up.” Mason’s hand fell on Sean’s shoulder. “I need to introduce you to someone.”
“Not interested.” He continued walking, not wanting to be hooked up on a sympathy date. Fuck that. He was sick of pity. Sick of rejection and sulking in someone else’s shadow. Moving on was his only option.
Mason put an arm around Sean’s neck, pulling him up short. “You may be able to kick my ass, drummer boy, but it sure as shit don’t mean you can walk off when I’m trying to talk to you.”
Sean clenched his teeth tight enough to strain his jaw. Mason was mentally fucking challenged if he didn’t realize how hard this moment was. “Mace, you’re not setting me up on a pity date. I’m more than capable of sourcing my own snatch.”
The arm fell from Sean’s neck as Mason nudged around him to stand face to face. “I’ve told you before, I don’t have the time or energy to pity you. I wanted to introduce you to the choreographer for the
Fighting Against Attraction
project.” A.k.a., the pity music video.
“Yeah. Somewhere.” Mason raised his chin, the blonde waves of his hair framing his cheeks as he scanned the crowd. “I don’t know what she looks like, so we either need to find Leah or my sister.”
Although Sean’s main aim at the moment was to gain the attention and respect he deserved for all his hard work, he wasn’t convinced his agreement to be the main focus of the Reckless Beat music clip was a great idea. Being the drummer meant he was the only band member hidden at the back of the stage. There was little recognition of his talent. No screaming fans rushing him on the streets. He was nameless. Faceless. Utterly useless. And he was sick to fucking death of it. But a dance clip? To a song about Mason and Sidney? The irony kept compounding.
Sean closed his eyes briefly, letting the pain caused by Sidney’s voice sail through him.
Certainly am. I haven’t had this much fun since I was circumcised.
He turned, masking his self-loathing and smiled at the bride-to-be.
“Hey,” he offered. “The more important question is, are
She flashed him the cutest set of dimples, the gorgeous depths of her hazel eyes no longer glazed. “Yes. Your speech was lovely. Tonight has been perfect.”
“I’m glad,” he uttered, turning his gaze to the crowd of snorting and cackling guests to find the waitress holding his enjoyment hostage. “You both deserve it.”
“Have you met Melody yet?”
“No.” Mason answered for him. “I was just trying to find my sister to get the introductions out of the way.”
The three of them scanned the marquee, Sidney and Mason smiling at guests as they searched for Tina and Leah, while Sean’s heart rate increased with every second he couldn’t find one of those damn waitresses.
Who did he have to screw to get some alcohol?
Sidney raised her voice over the band as they began to play a heavier beat. “There she is.” She waved toward the open flap leading outside to the house. “