Authors: Lana Grayson
Copyright © 2014
by Lana Grayson
All rights reserved. This book or any portion thereof
may not be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever
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except for the use of brief quotations in a book review.
This is a work
of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events and incidents are
either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner.
Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely
This book is
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: Rebecca Berto
by Lana Grayson
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This story does
include some darker themes involving childhood abuse and forced situations.
Please be forewarned certain scenes and descriptions may be uncomfortable for
To My Husband
…He spells the
big words for me
“I swear, this
is the last time I’ll ever ask to borrow money.”
I hated saying
it, but I asked in such a caffeine-fueled rush maybe the plea sounded innocent.
More like a business venture and less like measured desperation.
I stared at the
chipped table, praying the other patrons in the diner couldn’t hear my begging
over their chewing. For once, Dominic’s rubbery chicken and crusty eggs
might’ve been a godsend. With my brothers shadowing the restaurant, our usual
crowd didn’t have the courage to approach me with complaints about the food. No
one came near us.
Or even looked
My coworkers cowered
in the kitchen. Only the bravest waitress snuck outside to snap a picture of
the Harleys parked under the glow of the street light.
But that didn’t
mean they weren’t listening. The grinding of our out-of-tune jukebox couldn’t
muffle the fading optimism in my voice. The garbled Bon Jovi song skipped into
me ask the leather-bound, tattooed, hulking men for money.
thought it was dangerous. They were right.
Keep and Brew
let me talk. I tongue-tied my way through the conversation, tripping over my
request and rambling through my shattered pride with wavering coherency. For
the first time, my brothers didn’t have a smart-ass response. They didn’t interject
with some charming, I-told-you-so smirk. For years I wanted them to just listen
And, now, when, I
finally had their attention, my life hit its lowest point.
They knew it too.
I had no other reason to invite them to the diner after six months of radio
silence. Six months of avoiding motorcycles. Tattoos. I even switched tables
when anyone wearing more leather than a wallet claimed a seat in the restaurant.
I asked for
help, and everything I worked so hard to create smote into road cinders only to
be brushed off their worn leather. The emblem stitched on the back of their
vests didn’t belong in my life. The scarred demon dual-wielding swords hadn’t
haunted me for months.
I knew a mistake
when I made one. Hopefully, this would be my last.
“So the hipster
coffee house was very trendy.” I sighed as my brothers shifted. I might have
invited them to the gig, but a vegan cafe was no place for the leather-bound
men. “And I met this sweetheart violinist and we played a gig at a fundraiser. Over
the weekend I signed on for
The jukebox screeched
into silence. Neither of my brothers spoke.
is a really good opportunity.” I twirled a fork without looking up, tapping a
quick beat against a shredded napkin. “It’s a nice music club. Like, they have
poetry readings and book signings and jazz sets. If I get the gig, I could do some
Brew frowned. Keep
exhaled. The same reactions Dad gave when I talked about breaking into music. I
hated that they looked so much like him, especially as they got older. Keep had
the decency to shave his head, but Brew let his hair grow long and welcomed the
gray around his temples. Each year silvered another couple hairs, but I was
just glad Brew still had a head to salt-and-pepper. Anathema took enough men
before they hit their late thirties.
“You need money
for this audition?” Keep’s voice edged hard, more Axl Rose than Eric Clapton. His
familiar baritone shadowed with impatience. “Bud, it ain’t a job if you got to
pay for it.”
The fork clattered
onto the table. I didn’t bother picking it up. “That was Dad’s nickname for
“So none of us can use it?”
“I don’t want a handle.”
I pointed to the tag on my little dress. “I’ve earned my real name.”
Tell me why we gotta front the money for you to get this gig.”
“My guitar broke.”
It was the first time I admitted it since the duct tape and superglue failed to
hold the boards together. “I can’t fix it. I need an instrument, and I can’t
lug a piano on the stage.”
“Well, hell.” Despite
the dark goatee and scar on his cheek, Brew grinned liked the teenager I
remembered when I was a child, before the tattoos and cut and gray. “Every
artist needs a tool. You think you can get this gig?”
“I hope so.”
Keep trained his
gaze on the diner’s front door and the plate-glass windows exposing us to the
street. His blue eyes only occasionally fell on me, but I expected that. My
brother never let his guard down. Keep said I heard songs other people
couldn’t, but he saw the dangers most people ignored. I only hoped the dangers
stayed far from the diner and my brothers. But that was a fool’s prayer. Especially
“Let’s say we get
this guitar for you…fuck, let’s say we get you three guitars.” Keep’s stare
pinned me to the seat. “Will you go back to college?”
The jukebox sang
sharper than ever, though no one else noticed. A broken speaker and a tweaked
wire added a half-step to Hendrix. I frowned. The conversation went easier in
my head, even if I had to imagine it for two weeks before I fostered the courage
to call my brothers.
“I’m trying,” I
said. “But school’s expensive, and you guys won’t let me apply to any colleges outside
“How far you
gotta go for a good education?” Keep swore. “Any degree is better than no
degree. Even from Cherrywood Valley College. You got me?”
“But you didn’t
even finish high school.”
“Didn’t need to.
You did. And you’re going back to college.”
“How? Dad’s legal
bills ate up the fund. I can’t afford to do it by myself, not without getting
these auditions and finding a decent job.”
“We’ll pay for
it,” Brew said. “You get your ass back in school, make friends with some
sorority, and smile pretty in the choir. Don’t worry about a thing.”
I remembered why
I had avoided my brothers for the better part of a year. The familiar twisting
in my stomach accompanied most of the times my family told me
not to worry
I knew not to ask dad where we got the new TV. Not to ask Brew why he had a new
patch designating him as going
above the call of duty
. And, most
importantly, I never, ever asked how my family earned the money to take care of
My voice lowered.
“I can’t explain to the bursar’s office why I’m paying for my education in cash.
Non-sequential bills? Think about it. I need to apply for student aid, get
fifty thousand dollars in debt, and pay it off when I’m old and gray.”
shook his head. “Dad doesn’t want any debt. He wants nothing to his name.”