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Ross 03 Leave Me Breathless(49)

By:Cherrie Lynn

Now she guessed his not being there when it happened was her fault too. Candace and Brian had driven up for the funeral. Macy hadn’t dared, hadn’t thought she was wanted. They’d told her it was a nightmare; Seth and his brother had exchanged words after the service, and Brian had to come between them once. Nothing like a funeral to bring all the family drama to the forefront.

She should’ve been able to be there for him through all that. She would’ve been, if he’d let her. He was still in Oklahoma, helping to pack up his grandmother’s house.

After work, she couldn’t face the idea of staring mindlessly at the wall or the TV. Her life had become like a country song—now all those mournful lyrics made more sense than ever before. She found herself driving to Dermamania, where at least her best friend would be there to cheer her up. Maybe Candace could leave early, they could collect Sam and have a girls’ pity-party night.

A chorus of greetings went up as she walked in, and she tried not to let her eyes be instantly drawn to Seth’s sadly empty station. Candace came forward and gave her the usual hug, holding on a little longer than she normally did.

“How’s it going?” Brian asked, tilting his chin up at her from behind the counter. They seemed to be having a lull in business, but then, it was Monday night. Probably not the most hopping night of the week at a tattoo parlor. Starla had a client she was chattering with as she inked the girl’s shoulder blade, but that was it.

“Fine,” Macy said, hearing the lie in that one word. “Can I talk to you guys for a minute?”

“Sure.” Brian motioned her back. Macy and Candace followed him to his office. He closed the door behind them and leaned back against his desk, crossing his arms and sharing a little grin with Candace.

Wow, flashback. Only, when the three of them had come to this very room to discuss what Macy knew about the parlor’s vandalism almost a year ago, Candace and Brian had been the heartbroken ones staring sorrowfully at each other.

Macy hadn’t wanted to fix that, not really. She’d thought they were no good together, that her best friend was really screwing up by getting mixed up with this guy. She and Seth had hung out one time at that point, shared some laughs, but she’d generally had the same feeling about him, despite her raging hormones. She’d thought he was much like Brian: hot, funny, very bad news.

Showed how adept she was at standing by her convictions.

“How is he?” she blurted, interrupting the minor flirtation going on before her eyes and knowing she didn’t need to identify who she meant.

“He’s in pretty bad shape,” Brian said, face going solemn. “But the stupid son of a bitch is driving down to Austin tonight to play his band’s gig.”

Was he insane? “What—are you serious? What is he thinking?”

“I tried my damnedest to talk him out of it. In fact, I was thinking of driving over myself, just to make sure he’s all right.”

Candace suddenly sat ramrod straight in her chair, looking earnestly into Macy’s eyes. “Go with him.”

“Oh, I couldn’t. I have work tomorrow.”

“Hey, that’s the perk of being the boss, right?” Brian grinned at her. “Really, I hadn’t made up my mind whether to go or not. But I will if you want to.”

Her stomach practically churned with indecision. After the way he’d behaved, she shouldn’t give a crap what happened to him. The fact remained that she did, though, and she couldn’t deny it.

First instincts were usually correct, right? Her first instinct was screaming at her to go. “It would probably be a wasted trip. I doubt he wants to see me.”

“I kinda swore this was off the record at the time of disclosure, but…I can pretty much guarantee that he does. He knows he was out of line.”

Well, that was the first step. Candace was grinning like a goon. “What about you?” Macy asked her. “You’d be coming too, right?”

“Can’t. I have an exam tomorrow. A sadistic one.”

Brian scoffed. “You know you’ll ace it.”

“Yeah, but it’s an eight a.m. class. What the hell was I thinking taking an eight a.m. class?”

“I asked you that when you signed up,” he chided.

“Oh well, it’s almost over anyway. But if not for that, I’d go.”

Macy shifted from one foot to the other. God, would the craziness and the drama and the road trips ever stop? “Are you really okay with this?” she asked her friend.

“With you gallivanting off with my boyfriend?” Candace laughed. “I know I don’t have anything to worry about.” She shared a sickeningly loving stare with said boyfriend. Macy was getting ready to step between them when Brian finally tore his gaze away and checked his watch.

“We’d better jet, then. I doubt we’ll even catch the set at this point.”

“I don’t…I don’t even know what to say. To him or you guys.”

“Aw, we love you, Macy, and we love him too,” Candace said. “You both are miserable. We’ve got to give it one more shot.”

“I don’t know when he’s coming back,” Brian put in. “This might be your only chance to catch him for who knows how long, unless you want to drive to Oklahoma again.”

“He was…so mad at me, and I don’t think he had a good reason to be. I mean, I should never speak to him again after…well, some really ugly things happened that I don’t feel like I deserved.”

“Hey, it’s up to you,” Brian said. “The offer’s there if you want it. If not, then I’ll go out front and get back to work.”

“Come on, Macy,” Candace urged, practically bouncing.

Maybe he would talk to her now; maybe he would listen. That’s all tonight would be about. They’d each get their grievances out there, and see where it went. She had a lot to say to him; the heaviness of those words had sat in her chest for weeks and more were added every day as she turned the situation over in her mind. If nothing else, she would be able to get them out, even if he stood there like a brick wall while she flung them.

She looked up at Brian. “Okay. Let’s do it.”

“You look like shit, bro!”

The shout rang out the moment Ghost trudged into the back hallway of Crossbones, and he shot Gus the finger for being so kind as to point it out. Yeah, that was the way everyone wanted to be greeted. “Look like shit, feel like shit, in a world of shit,” he grumbled.

Gus grinned. “I’ve got something for that.”

“Naw, man. Where’s my guitar?”

“C’mon, I’ll show ya. Gotta get warmed up myself.”

“Thanks for bringing it.” He always felt like a fucking giant walking next to the much-shorter Gus.

“No problem.” As the other guitarist prattled on about the drama going on in his life—and never once addressed the drama and loss overshadowing Ghost’s—there was a moment when he wanted to turn on his heel and go the hell back to where he’d come from. But what for? Nana’s business was handled, and he’d been a leech on Stephanie for long enough, even though she swore she loved him being there.

So he’d packed all his shit into his car before leaving the Oklahoma City suburb, resolving to go back home after tonight. Brian needed him. Of course, helping Brian carried a high probability of coming face-to-face with Macy at some point, and wasn’t that a grand clusterfuck. But it was one that needed to be sorted out, for his own sanity, if nothing else.

Even through all the grief over his grandmother, there had been no clearing his head of that girl. She was fully entrenched, and he’d come to terms with that.

Gus was in the middle of a cuss-binge about his ex-girlfriend when the unmistakable sound of Raina’s warm-up growls reached Ghost from some indeterminable point up ahead, stopping him in his tracks. Gus looked at him, cocking an eyebrow.

“What is it, man?”

“What the hell is she doing here?”

The other guy shrugged. “Mark told her to come.”

He was going to knock the son of a bitch out.

“Come on, dude. What’s the big deal? She’s just going to do a few songs with us.”

“It’s the fact that she’s here at all. I don’t want to be dodging her crazy ass all night.”

Gus scoffed. “So don’t. Maybe if you hit that a couple times for old times’ sake, you’d feel better. Hell, I would.”

“Shit, no.” On top of everything else, he didn’t need Raina in his face. He looked longingly back at the exit, sighed and ran a hand over his head. There was only one thing that would make this night tolerable. Oblivion. And knocking Mark out. “I changed my mind. Point me to the Jäger. And what else have you got?”

A grin lit up his so-called friend’s face. It wasn’t a pretty sight, more like the way the serpent might have smiled when Eve bit the apple. “Follow me.”

Hauling ass toward Austin for a heavy metal gig with her best friend’s boyfriend. While this was a place Macy could honestly say she never thought she’d be, it was every bit as awkward as she would’ve imagined.

“I can’t believe I’m doing this,” she said at last, realizing she had almost chewed her thumbnail to the quick.