Taming the Storm

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Ten Months Ago—Backstage, Madison Square Garden, New York City

“Dex! Chad! Cale! Sonny! Where the hell are you?” I call out as I wander down the empty hallway, my voice echoing back at me.

I’ve been wandering around—actually, where in the hell am I? I’m somewhere backstage. It’s like a maze back here. I think I might be a bit lost.

Shrugging to myself, I lift the half-empty champagne bottle I snagged earlier to my lips and take a drink.

I also might be a tad drunk.

But I’m celebrating.

My band, Vintage, just opened for The Mighty Storm in Madison Square Garden! That’s where I am now, lost in this place. My band won a radio contest, and the prize was to be The Mighty Storm’s opening act. This was a huge thing for us! I’m not ashamed to admit that I nearly peed my pants the moment I found out we won the competition.

So, now, I’m celebrating—alone. I can’t seem to locate a single one of my band members or my boyfriend. In the excitement and crowd of people, I managed to lose them when we went offstage. I mean, seriously, I’d think my boyfriend or brother would have at least waited for me.

I bet Chad is getting shitfaced with Sonny and Cale, and Dex is probably hooking up and getting his rocks off as I speak.

I cup my hands around my mouth. “Dex, I know you’re probably on third base with a hot piece of ass, but come on! We just opened for The Mighty Storm! The. Mighty. Effing. Storm!” I punctuate the words, still unable to believe it.

I take another swig of champagne, stumbling in my heels. I steady myself on the wall with my hand before I resume walking.

“Dex, I want to celebrate with my big brother! Can’t you just leave your sexcapades until later…please?”

Dex is lead guitarist in our band, and he’s a total whore. When I say whore, I mean, he likes to whore around with men.

I love my brother more than anyone else in the world. I’m lucky to have him. He takes care of me, and I do the same for him. We’re a team, the best team.

Turning a corner, I spy a door off to my right. It looks like it could be a janitor’s closet.

Dex has a thing for having sex in closets. Hall, coat, janitor’s—any closet really will do. He’s not fussy.

“I bet you’re in here!” I sing. “Well, zip up your pants, bro, ’cause I’m coming in!” The champagne bottle clangs against the door as I grab the handle. “Oops.” I giggle.

I yank open the door, but the closet is empty. Just mops and buckets. No Dex. On a sigh, I close the door.

I’m never going to find anyone at this rate. I haven’t seen another person in quite a while. This is starting to get eerie, like bad-horror-movie eerie. It’s all very Freddy Krueger back here. Just endless hallways.

Resigned to my potential death by a fictional serial killer, I carry on down the hall, and I take a left at the end, hoping for some sign of human life. I clamp a hand over my mouth, stifling a giggle, when I see a couple of people going at it a little farther on. The lighting is bad, so I can’t see much, not that I want to, but from the sounds of things, it seems like they’re having a really good time.

Lucky bastards.

I’m about to turn and leave the sexy-time couple to it when one of them speaks.

“That’s it, baby. Take it all. You know you love my big fucking cock.”

My heart slams into my rib cage. The floor drops out from beneath me.

Chad.

No. It can’t be.

I’m moving toward them before I realize it. Then, he turns his head and—

Chad.

God, no.

I’m going to throw up.

I freeze to the spot the instant his eyes meet mine. I watch in abstract horror as the shock of my presence reverberates over his face. We stay locked in a suspension of time where neither of us does or says anything.

Then, it breaks, and Chad kicks into movement. He pushes away from the person he was screwing, yanks his pants up, and tries to fasten them before he advances toward me.

And that’s when I see exactly whom my boyfriend was screwing. The person turns, and our gazes meet.

I feel like I’ve been punched in the face. Hard.

I can’t breathe.

I stand there, my world shattering around me for the second time in my life. I’m helpless to do anything as I stare into the contrite eyes of my brother.

Two Weeks Ago—Hospital Waiting Room, Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, LA

Seeing Jake cry is not something I ever thought I would witness—let alone, be the one to hold him while he cried.

He never broke apart in front of me when Jonny died, and I didn’t with him either. None of us did.

I know why this has broken him. It’s Tru, the woman he’s loved his whole life. The fact it’s broken him as badly as it has is scaring the absolute shit out of me.

Jake isn’t as strong as he likes to make out he is. I get that. In the past, he relied on coke to get him through bad times. I could never berate him for it because we all have our ways of coping. I had—have mine, and he had his.

But he’s clean now. Tru is his everything. And if she goes, then I’m worried what will—

“What if she dies?”

The sound of Jake’s broken voice turns my head to him.

I look him in the eye before I attempt to say anything. And that’s when I see it—the look.

Fuck no.

I’ve seen that look only once before—moments before I lost everything that mattered to me.

It’s there in Jake’s eyes. A look of fear and pain and desperation and confusion are all banded together, creating a darkness so crippling that the person feeling it can’t see anything beyond it. The pain is so bad that the person gives himself over to it. And that’s when a person will do things that he wouldn’t normally do.

Irrational, desperate, terrible life-altering things.

That’s the look that Jake has in his eyes right now.

Fear kicks me hard in the gut. I haven’t felt a fear like this since that night.

I don’t look away from him. I stare hard into his eyes because I need him to hear me right now. “Tru’s a fighter, Jake. She kicks my ass daily. She’s going nowhere.”

“But what if…”

No, Jake. Listen. Hear me.

I shake my head, not breaking eye contact for one second. I can’t lose him right now. “Don’t what-if. Don’t do that to yourself.”

His eyes fill with tears, seeping from the blackness that’s owning him right now.

“I don’t know what to do”—his voice breaks—“what to think, what to say.” He buries his face in his hands.

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