Authors: Katheryn Kiden,Kathy Krick,Melissa Gill,Kelsey Keeton
Nine years later
Holy shit... This was actually happening. Over the past week the things that have raced through my head were ranging from holy shit I got the gig, to fuck I can't do this, to fuck I need to learn that riff. One morning I even woke up and called Ben Masters, a record label executive from Ironsound Records that offered me the job, just to make sure it wasn’t a dream. He just laughed and told me he would see me Friday to introduce me to the band and hung up.
Now, I’m standing here in front of a tour bus that’s housing the rest of the members of the band Thirty Ought Six, waiting for Ben to show up to introduce me to everyone. I was their replacement guitar player.
Derek, the guy I was taking over for was headed for a stint in rehab for his addiction to coke. He, personally, chose me. Out of the two hundred people that showed up to try out, he chose me. If I’m being totally honest here, it wasn’t even my idea to try out. My older brother Evan forced it on me. Well... He didn’t force me, I am my own person, but he’s my older brother. He knows I’d do anything he asked of me, and now I totally owe him… big time.
I’ve been out of the Marines for two years and haven’t done much of anything since. I floated from odd job to odd job. I didn’t know what I wanted to do so when he told me about this audition, I said fuck it and went for it.
When I first found out who I was auditioning for I almost threw up. Straight up scared fucking shitless. The first thing Evan made me do when heard I got it was to promise him I wouldn’t end up in the same situation as Derek did. I think that’s what scared us both.
Our dad died when I was twenty because he overdosed on a mix of drugs and alcohol. Hell, I’ve never even smoked pot before. I drink every now and again, but nothing major. Now, being part of one of the number one bands in the US right now, I’m scared of everything falling apart. I’m scared of becoming like him. Evan and my mom are the only two people in the world that care about me. When I told my mom about this, she was excited, and I was more than happy that I was finally making her proud.
Finally, after waiting about ten minutes outside the bus with my bag, Ben showed up. After the usual greetings of shaking hands, asking me how I was, and if I was ready for this and laughing at me when I told him about being scared shitless, he led me on to the bus.
“Alright so I’m going to introduce you around before you have to head out and I have to get home to my girls.” Ben clapped his hands together. “First of all, this is AJ Masterson. He plays drums. Don’t let his skin color and hair fool you... He’s whiter than all of us combined, but that doesn’t keep the girls away.” AJ set down the drumsticks and stepped away from the electric drum set he was on and shook my hand with a smile on his face. He stood a few inches shorter than me and had dreadlocks halfway down his back. “AJ, this is Jameson Williams.”
“Jameson, like the whiskey?” His deep voice took me by surprise.
“Yeah,” I nodded. “Like the whiskey. Nice to meet you.”
“You too, man. I hear you made quite an impression on Derek.”
“He had to for him to be standing here, now didn’t he?” I turned to find myself face to face with Jason Jackson. Holy shit. He was one of the best bass players I’ve ever heard and he is only twenty three. Mohawk and all. He clapped me on the shoulder and congratulated me before sticking his hand out for me to shake. “Jason Jackson, Jameson right?”
“Yeah,” I croaked. Not gunna lie I was a little star struck, but I recovered quickly. He just laughed it off and walked down the hall. My eyes followed him until they landed on probably the sweetest ass I’ve ever seen.
She was kneeling on a turned around chair up against the counter. Her red hair was pulled over her shoulder as she twisted a piece between her fingers and smiled at the phone in front of her face as she chatted away.
Ben followed my gaze and started towards her until AJ stopped him. “Ben, she’s skyping with Alex and Izzy. Give her a minute.” He nodded and motioned for me to have a seat and took the one next to AJ while she finished her call.
We talked softly so we wouldn’t disturb her call. Everything from tour stops and what was expected of me to the families of the guys and how they were scared for Derek. The one thing they didn’t discuss was the redhead in skin tight jeans bent over the counter.
I’ve seen some of their videos, but damn, she is crazy pretty in person, and I can only see half her face. I’ve only known one other girl with hair that color in my life, but she didn’t look anything like that. I picked up on what she was saying to her phone when the guys were quiet enough. She had the cutest southern drawl as she giggled for a minute before getting totally serious.
“Ok baby, sleep tight. Keep an eye on daddy. Yeah Izzy... Yeah, Te quiero baby.” Keep an eye on daddy? Did she have a kid and manage to keep it out of the press. And what the hell is Te quiero? I’ve heard it once before I think.
She kept her head down as she walked towards us, flicking some stuff on her phone. “Sorry guys, I didn’t mean to ignore you but you know how it is right now... Every second counts.” When she lifted her head and her eyes met mine, I felt like I had been punched in the gut. Her green eyes sparkled against her pale skin, there was no mistaking those eyes. They’ve haunted me since I was eighteen. When I stood to shake her hand, I was surprised to have to look so far down. She was just a tiny thing, barely reaching the middle of my chest. I doubt she’s grown any since high school. But damn she was just as beautiful as she was back then.
“Jameson Williams, I’d like to introduce you to the final member of your new life. Miss Abigail Irons. Abigail this is Jameson your new guitar player.” If looks could kill, I think Ben would be six feet under right now. Her hand flew to her hip as she glared at him. For a second, I thought the glare was because she recognized who I was, until she started talking again.
“I swear to Christ
, if you call me that one more time I’m going to kick the shit out of you. Or fire you. I don’t know which one you would hate more.” She turned back towards me and smiled. “I’m Abby... It’s nice to meet you Jameson. Please don’t call me Abigail... Ever. I don’t want to have to kill you too.”
I forced a laugh through my lips. She was still just as feisty as she was when we were teenagers. She sat down next to me and drew her legs up, wrapping her arms around them before chatting with me as Ben said his goodbyes and AJ headed to make a phone call.
“So, you ready for the big leagues, Jameson?”
I cleared my throat. “About as ready as I’ll ever be I suppose.” Does she really not remember me?
“Honestly?” I looked up at her from where I was fumbling with the bottom of my shirt. I was trying hard not to blurt out what was really on my mind. She nodded. “Yeah, I’m scared to death.” And not just about playing in front of thousands of people every day.
“Good.” I was confused and she could obviously tell by my face, which made her laugh. God I missed that sound. “It really is a good thing that you’re scared. It means you’ll try harder. I’ve been doing this for a few years and I’m still terrified every time I step foot on a stage. And hell... Smaller venues make me want to cry I’m so scared. The intimacy of it is intimidating and you’re gunna know the reactions of everyone because it’s so small.” I nodded along as she talked, pushing her hair back off her face every few minutes. “So... What’s your story?”
“Hmm. My story. It’s not much I mean I grew up in the outskirts of Nashville. I have a brother who’s two years older than me. I’m a total momma’s boy. I’ve never done drugs, and I’d love to own a farm someday. Country music is top on my list but I love everything. I’ve been playing and singing since I was eight. It got me through some tough times. And I’m scared shitless about this... I’m not sure I’m good enough. What about you?” I rambled off a generic list of things, nothing that would tie me to her past. The longer I kept that at bay the longer I would keep my job.
“Ha!” She laughed and slapped her knee. “Welcome to the club. I wasn’t sure I was good enough either, but they seemed to have welcomed me with open arms. I love a little twang in my music. I already own a farm. Horses. We breed ‘em out in Sumner County. My brother keeps it going while I’m gone... For now...” Her mood faltered for a minute as she spaced out. “So, you know the music?”
“Yeah, I’ve got it. I’ve been totally focused on it since I found out I’d be doing this. I think I’m more prepared than I’ll ever need to be.”
“Good, because our careers now lay in your hands. I certainly hope you know how to work your fingers.” She slapped her hand over her mouth when I burst out laughing. The blush on her face was about the sexiest thing ever. At least now I know I’m not going to be the only one that lets things like that fall out of my mouth. “Sorry,” she squeaked. “Totally not what I meant.”
I just laughed it off. “Can I ask you a personal question?” She straightened up in her chair, gorgeous green eyes wide as she nodded. “I didn’t mean to overhear your conversation, but, what the hell is Te quiero?” Now I remember where I have heard it. I never had the nerve to ask her when we were younger but now that I know it’s her, and she hasn’t figured me out yet, I’m going to find out before she kicks my ass to the curb.
“It’s ah... Well, it’s pretty much how I tell my niece Izzy I love her. She’s petrified of being forgotten so when she asks me if I love her that’s what I say. The only other person that says it to her is Alex. It’s something that started between Alex and myself when we were little. Our parents died in a car accident when we were eight. Alex heard it somewhere and the saying stuck. Neither one of us speaks Spanish. It kind of crossed over to Izzy. Her mom died giving birth to her. It’s a comfort thing. She’s afraid she’s going to lose everyone she loves.”
Niece. That explains a lot, but I never knew her parents had died. How the hell did I not know that? I racked my brain trying to figure out if she had ever told me that, but I draw a blank. I remember she had brother though. He used to threaten to kick my ass if I hurt his sister. He never got around to that promise. My heart kind of broke for her though as she told her story even though I think there might be more to it. “Alex is your brother?” I asked, already knowing the answer.
“Yeah, he’s my twin. I feel kind of lost without him some days, but these guys are like family now. It’s nice to have some extra family. I have a good feeling about you. You’ll do just fine.” She smiled and I tried to. Soon enough her good feeling was going to turn sour. If I had known who she was before I auditioned, I would have never done it. She didn’t deserve that.
“I hope she’s not going all rocker badass on you. Cause she’s more country than Conway some days.” AJ slid back into the chair next to us when he hung the phone up, effectively taking the attention away from me.
“Such a dick,” Abby mumbled.
“Hey, I’m just letting the new boy in on the secrets
“Well, I think I’ve told him plenty of secrets already. I’m going to go get changed for bed.”
She stood and turned, making it halfway down the bus before turning back to talk. “Hey Jameson, I expect a more personal backstory tomorrow since you know the Te quiero story. And AJ, Izzy says hello and that she loves you Uncle AJ.”
“I expect some face time with my baby girl tomorrow... Not funny that you kept her to yourself tonight.”
I just nodded, trying to figure out just how much to tell her. She just laughed and turned around, her red hair swinging and she disappeared behind the door.
Holy hell. That monstrous man sitting in the next room is going to be part of my life. I had a hard time keeping my eyes off him once I finally hung up with Izzy and Alex. He’s fucking beautiful, with his shaggy blonde hair and crystal clear blue eyes. Blue jeans that formed over his muscular thighs and left me wondering what else was under them. And that AC/DC tee he was rocking hugged over his chest and tattooed arms and made me want to drool. I’m pretty sure that boy is what dreams are made of. Or at least mine would be for a while.
I hadn’t felt like that in years. The only man who ever got me worked up like that was Jamie when I was fourteen. I was a freshman, and he was senior. The school’s bad boy who had me falling all over myself the second he even looked my way. I should have known better than to fall for him because he ended up leaving me with no explanation a year later. No goodbye. Nothing. He just up and left me… broken. Broken and pregnant. I found that out the day he left.
So, I did what any smart fifteen year old would do. I cried until I couldn’t breathe and then when I could breathe again I cried some more. Then I had a miscarriage and wanted to die. I broke some stuff, got drunk almost daily and pissed off my brother and got arrested a lot. Met another boy who broke me, except this time he broke my body instead of just my heart.
When I finally got control of myself, I folded my emotions into a neat little box and shoved them as far away as I could. Telling myself that I would never let myself feel that way again.
I did just that. I closed myself off to anyone who made me feel. Finding myself in the bottom of a bottle or someone’s bedroom wasn’t an odd thing for me. It’s not something I’m proud of, but it’s how I dealt. I was good with my life like that, covering my pain with drunken pleasure. I was arrested a few times for underage drinking or starting fights. But that was fine, I was good with that because it made me forget.