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Ross 03 Leave Me Breathless(11)

By:Cherrie Lynn

“I saw you and Brian last night. He didn’t look like a guy who was being suffocated, at least not in a way he doesn’t enjoy.”

“Yeah, I know that’s not it. He’s just thinking of what’s best for me.”

“I do see his point, and if you keep working here, your parents will all but die. He might be thinking about that too.”

Candace waved her hand almost angrily. “They’ll get over it. I’m not even worried about them.”

“Yes you are. And he knows it. And he doesn’t want them to hate him because he loves you, and he knows it’s important to you that they don’t.”

She knew she’d struck a nerve when a fresh stream of tears trickled from Candace’s eyes. Dammit, why wouldn’t those people just leave them alone and let their only daughter be happy?

Macy sighed. “But there I go again, telling you what’s what.”

“No, you’re fine. And I see his point too. But I’m also thinking of what’s good for him, and he needs the help. Business is picking up, and he’s got clients from all the surrounding areas coming in. He wants to open another studio. Why should he have to hire someone else when I can do it and I want to do it?”

“You’ll get it worked out.”

“I think he’s smoking again.”


“He’d just quit smoking when we got together. Since all this has started and Ghost left and Connor moved away, I swear I smell cigarette smoke on him sometimes.”

“Did you ask him?”

Candace nodded. “He said it must be from contact. I want to believe him, but I know how he is when he gets stressed out. It’s not even that big a deal if he needs one every now and then—but he should trust me enough to not lie to me about it, right?”

“If that’s really going on, then he’s probably too embarrassed to admit he slipped up.”

“I’m sure he is. I want him to know I won’t judge him, but to tell him that, I’d be straight up accusing him of doing it and lying to me about it. So…damn, it sounds so petty, doesn’t it? We could have worse problems.”

Macy shrugged. “That guy is crazy about you. Whatever is going on between you, you’ll get through it.”

Candace’s eyes rounded. “Oh, I know that. There’s no question. But seeing him upset, or even thinking he’s upset, tears me up.” She looked down and doodled absently on the desk pad. “When he hurts, I hurt.”

The words seemed to lodge in Macy’s head and reverberate. When he hurts, I hurt. What wouldn’t she give to find a love like that? An image of Seth’s troubled face as they talked about his grandmother last night floated through her mind. For the second day in a row, an unaccustomed sting pricked behind her eyes. She quickly shoved it back. “Brian’s lucky to have you. You’re both lucky to have each other. I think you guys need to take some time to sit down together, try to relax, and have a heart-to-heart. Get everything out there.”

Candace smiled at her. “I need to talk him into a getaway for a couple days during spring break. I know he’ll protest, but we’re both here so much it’s been a while since it felt like just the two of us.”

“You definitely should. Get him to take you to his parents’ condo in Destin.”

“Ooh, I didn’t think of that. That’s a great idea.”

“And let me borrow it this summer as thanks for making the suggestion.”

Through her friend’s laughter, Macy heard her cell phone chime with a new text message. A jolt of adrenaline shot through her, ratcheting up her heart rate and sending her stomach into a somersaulting free fall. Candace watched with a little too much interest as Macy clumsily drew her phone out of her purse. The display was still lit with the message.


A ridiculous-sounding giggle escaped her. Did he even have to ask?

Well…maybe he thought he did. She should have contacted him first—all along he’d been afraid her actions last night had been because she was drunk. Poor guy, she might’ve made him suffer needlessly.

Everything within her wanted to reply When, where, what do I wear and what should I bring? but that might have sounded desperately…desperate. Maybe she was, but she had to keep some shred of dignity, for God’s sake.

So she sent back one word. Absolutely. He replied with a winky face and Call u ltr.

“Okay, what’s up? Because you’re grinning like a goon,” Candace said. She tapped a pen impatiently on the desktop calendar. “Hot date? Please say yes.”

“No comment.”

Candace practically howled with frustration. But Macy was sure she put the mystery to rest when she swallowed all pride and asked, “So is he, uh, not working at all today?”

“Nope. Brian told him not to worry about coming in tonight since he was here so late last night—I could’ve killed Brian for actually letting him volunteer to work, by the way. But I heard Ghost say he was going to call the guys in his band and see if they could throw together an extra practice.”

Interesting. She didn’t know much about his band—just that he was the guitarist and they often played gigs in surrounding cities but didn’t really have aspirations beyond that. He’d told her it was mostly a fun, blow-off-steam thing for him, and an outlet for any pent-up creativity he didn’t manage to exorcise through his art alone. But he obviously loved it.

She’d never heard any of his music. She doubted she could give an objective opinion. Her main concern at the moment was what went on during these band meetings, practices or whatever. Hopefully no drunken debauchery that might delay him…or keep him from showing up altogether.

Great. Something else to obsess over.

Chapter Seven

“Nice of you to finally show up, G.”

Ghost bit down on a retort that might not have been conducive to repairing some of the tension among the members of In the Slaughter. Then again, being confronted with assholic remarks from the much-maligned front man the second he walked in the door of Mark’s home studio wasn’t too conducive, either.

“Aw, I missed you too. All you worthless bastards.”

The guys scattered about the room chuckled, looking glum. Ghost set his guitar case down and sighed when he glanced around and saw one of their five-piece was missing. He dropped into an empty seat and assumed the same sullen position as most of the others, arms crossed, mouth turned down.

Yeah, so even when he wasn’t pulling a months’-long disappearing act, it was often hard for him to find time to devote to the band because of his work, and the guys gave him shit about it. But Brian needed him, and he didn’t like letting Brian down. Gus, the other guitarist and his musical counterpart affectionately known as Little G to his Big G, often found it difficult to find time to devote to the band because he was off somewhere getting high.

“I guess no one’s heard from him?”

No one had to ask who he meant. Heads shook in slow unison. “Couldn’t even reach him,” Randall said, rubbing his eyebrow ring the way he always did when he was worried. “I texted him earlier but didn’t get a reply.”

Ghost had received similar results. Mark bolted from his chair and paced a few steps away, a mass of nervous energy as he scrubbed his hands on his jeans. Onstage, that energy made the guy explode. Offstage, it sometimes made him hard to handle. “So fuckin’ sick of this bullshit.”

“What bullshit? So he wasn’t sitting on top of his phone today. We did kind of put this together last minute, you know.”

“Quit making excuses for him. It’s always this way with him, and you know it.”

“The guy’s got a problem, Mark.”

“That’s not my problem, is it? But I’ll tell you what is. The gig we have next month. The fact that one of our guitarists might be lying dead in a ditch for all we know, and the other has more important shit to do.” His narrowed gaze landed directly on Ghost.

Aw, hell no. “Yeah, I did have more important shit to do. Way more important than you even know. But I can always go do more of it, if all I’m going to do is sit here and listen to you bitch.”

“So that’s how it is?”

“Yeah, that’s how it is.”

“We can’t play without Gus, anyway,” Eddie said, slowly twirling the drumsticks he held in both hands. “What’s the point?”

“The point is we need to replace him.” It was the statement from Mark they’d all known was coming for a long time. Grim looks exchanged among the others.

Sighing, Ghost pulled his cell phone from his pocket. He dialed Gus, not expecting much and not getting it, either. His voice mailbox was full. “While all of you sit around moaning about what’s gonna happen to the band, has anyone thought about, you know, going to find him?”

“Why bother? Even if he’s home, he’s gonna be too messed up to play. He can’t function when he’s on that shit.”

“Yeah, well, glass houses and all that,” Ghost muttered. Mark sure wasn’t in any position to throw stones. The only difference between Mark and Gus was that Mark could function when he was high.

He stood and shoved his phone back in his pocket. “Not that I wouldn’t love to sit around and stare at y’all’s ugly mugs all night, but I’d rather do something productive. I’ll go find him.”