“Sign it with big smoochy kisses.”
I pause when I hear the footsteps approaching, silver Sharpie poised over the back of a T-shirt that Dane’s current squeeze is modelling. Officially, she’s running the merchandise table for tonight’s gig, but it’s hard to see how she’s going to shift much stuff while her lips are glued to those of my idiot younger brother.
I glance upward without raising my head, unsurprised by what I find. This showdown was scheduled the moment I saw Bitch Slap were on tonight’s billing. If I was a good brother, I’d give Dane a kick, but we’re not exactly seeing eye-to-eye at the moment. Not after the bastard blew me off and left me to talk to the music execs alone while he did the horizontal mambo with a girl he’d picked up in the taxi rank. Not this girl—the current one he’s playing throat hockey with—or one of the three rock chicks approaching. At least, I don’t think it was. With Dane, it’s hard to predict, especially of late.
“Hi, Jess,” he says, coming up for air right before she strikes.
Smack on the nose.
No one can accuse Jessie Lyn of hitting like a girl. There’s power enough in her skinny frame to lay most guys out cold.
Dane’s head snaps backward. The girl in between them yelps, then makes a sensible choice and ducks before Jessie decides on a follow up.
Instead, Ms. Lyn contents herself with a growl that sounds an awful lot like “Bastard, fuckwit, shit prick!”
I can’t honestly disagree with most of those.
“What the fuck?” Dane yells.
Dane only goes and wallops her right back. Fucking dickwad of a brother. I’m not saying he should stand around and take it, but striking a woman, even when provoked, is plain barbaric.
I’m going to have to friggin’ intervene.
Then again, given that it’s three against one, maybe just sitting tight exactly where I am, is a better plan.
Jessie recoils like a spring, fists raised ready to block anything else that’s coming. Her two band mates, girls I’ve never clapped eyes on before, but who look as if they’ll happily put his eyes out, and then stuff his dick down his own throat, circle in from the sides, velociraptor-style.
“Do you want to tell me what your fucking problem is?” Dane yells, while throwing me a side-eye.
Like I’m actually going to provide him with back-up.
Well, I might if things get serious. I do need him in full working order for the gig tonight given everything that’s at stake.
I dip my chin and pucker my lips into a kiss, letting him know I’m keeping Caitlyn safe. Not that I imagine Dane recalls her name. Apparently, it’s old-fashioned to want to know whose mouth you’re tasting. Guess I’m plain archaic.
Meanwhile, Caitlyn has wedged herself between my feet and the end of the merchandise table.
“Hypocritical Bitch,” Jessie yells.
It’s a storming song. Not one of our best, but definitely Dane’s best offering.
“What about it?”
Jessie’s eyebrow’s shoot up her forehead, because, yeah, we all know it’s about her. I know, Knox and Joel know, Jessie and her two pals, hell, even Caitlyn knows, and I’m not sure she’d heard anything by us prior to an hour ago. Anyone who’s ever heard the track knows, because while the lyrics stop short of actually mentioning Jessie by name. He only went and slapped her likeness on the goddamned cover sleeve.
“It’s just a song.” Dane smirks showing far too many teeth. It’ll be his own fault if she knocks a few of them out. “As if you meant enough for me to want to sing about your skinny arse every night.”
Jessie comes for him like a pinball. Lightning fast. She ignores his face this time, and aims low. Grabs hold of his tackle and squeezes so hard he’ll be singing soprano tonight. Let’s hope Knox is up to filling in on backing vocals, because we need this gig to be A-grade given who’s going to be out there watching.
Jessie’s two band mates grab his arms, slowing Dane’s retaliatory swings down to bullet time micro-movements. He’s getting his arse whooped, and he at least partially deserves it.
It’s only when they crash into the table, and buttons, pens and download codes go flying that I decide it’s time to send them all back to their respective corners. “Can’t we discuss this reasonably?”
“You expect him to be reasonable?” Jessie yaps.
Dane makes an unsavoury snorting noise. “I’m not the one who walked out because band practice was eating up all the time we could’ve had together, and then started my own fucking band.”
I didn’t actually know that bit. I’d kind of figured it from the lyrics, but Dane’s not exactly a man of many words, not when it comes to emotional shit. I put that down to us having weathered too bloody much of it. Talking it over never provided us with any sort of solution. Putting it down on paper as lyrics, that’s a whole other story. It was…is our ticket out of the shit, because while we currently have a foot on the rung, I’m not interested in hanging on, being half-way up or even at the top without a fucking enormous safety harness and a dozen karabiners holding me in place. We’re so close to that point, I can almost taste it in the air—a subtle metallic tang, with a dash of electric spice.
Tonight’s the night when we move out of the kiddie league and into the premiership.
“You are so fucking dead, Daniel Darke,” Jessie hollers, leaning right into Dane’s face.
Looking at them almost lip to lip, it’s a toss-up whether they’re going to kill one another, or fuck each other senseless. If there wasn’t an audience they could lose face in front of, I’d bet on the latter.
“Leave it, Jess. He’s not fucking worth it.” This from the red hot pixie with the bright gold hair. “We’re on in twenty minutes.”
I’m genuinely astonished, when this simple tap on the shoulder makes Jessie back right up.
“Yeah, you’re right, of course.” She brushes palms with her friend, like a match-point has just been scored.
Dane seems equally surprised when the three women link arms and head for the stands.
Perhaps he ought to be relieved he came off relatively unscathed, although he’s down anyone to face suck, because Caitlyn suddenly decides to show supreme dedication to restoring our merchandise to its rightful place on the table, and not scattered across the whole bloody front of house.
“You might have weighed in,” Dane bitches.
“You might consider keeping your fists to yourself.”
“She hit me first.”
I shake my head because that still doesn’t make it right. “You have at least 60 pounds on her. And you knew how she’d react once she got wind of that track.” The same way anyone who wasn’t simply going to curl up and die would react.
“It’s a good track,” he snarls defensively.
“Did I say otherwise?”
“We’re still opening with it, right?”
He’s a glutton for punishment, my brother. “Maybe it’d make more sense to end with it. If you want to cause a riot, at least do it when we’re about to walk off stage, not before we play our set. The point is to get our music heard.”
“Second to last,” he negotiates. “Then we can reprise it for the encore.”
If we get called back for an encore, he can play whatever the fucking hell he likes.
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