He picked up the remote and turned the TV back on. We sat in silence. After a minute, I glanced at his face. Now that he'd stopped worrying about me, his expression was almost cheerful again as he watched the concert footage. I wanted to ask him more, to find out how he was really feeling about what had happened to him last night, but something in his face made me hesitate. It seemed like he was determined to not let the trauma of last night upset him. But how could he not be upset, when his own dad . . . I shuddered.
An image of Chewie bashing on the drums zoomed up on the TV. Jax stared at the screen intently, then jotted some words down in the notebook that he had balanced on the armrest of the couch.
"What are you writing?" I asked, wanting to say something, get him talking to me. Maybe I could find out something that way.
He finished scribbling his sentence, picked up the remote, and paused the TV. Excitement made his eyes glitter. "The filmmaker wants us to review the raw footage from last night, tell her what we love and hate. If I get this done quick she can start editing, blast out a film, and we capitalize on the goodwill from this tour."
He sounded so happy. "Oh," I said, "That's good for you guys then. Is it a lot of work?"
He grabbed my legs and swung them in his lap. "No, or I'd ask the rest of the band to help. But I got this."
He smiled at me, and began rubbing my bare feet. His strong hands squeezed my arches, and my toes curled with pleasure. He was being so sweet, so positive—I guess of all the ways I might have thought he'd be acting this morning, happy was the last that came to mind. But here he was, right before my eyes, smiling at me.
"It's nice to see you in a great mood today," I said carefully.
He nodded as he massaged each of my toes, one by one. "It's all coming together. With the band, with you—" he broke off to give me another kiss. "You know you're a kickass, beautiful girlfriend."
I hesitated for a moment before squeezing him back affectionately. Still no mention of Darrel, of any of it—maybe it was just too hard to talk about.
I ran a finger through his hair and tugged at the ends. "You sound like you've got it made." My voice was gently inquiring.
"Uh huh. Especially after I play the show tonight. It's gonna be wild."
"Oh." I blinked rapidly. That was right. They had one more show at the Roman.
Somehow, it didn't seem right that he would go on stage, not after all he'd been through. What if he made himself worse, by spending the massive amount of energy he needed to perform? And no matter what he said, he had to be in pain.
"For some reason I thought that might get rescheduled," I said, keeping my voice light.
Jax stopped rubbing my left foot and raised his eyebrows. "What? It's been sold out for I don't know how long."
"But theoretically it could be done though, right?" I asked. "No one loses out. The tickets just get automatically transferred to the new date."
"Yeah, and everyone's disappointed."
"But it happens all the time. I can't tell you how many shows I've had rescheduled on me."
He snorted and resumed his caresses, this time focusing on my calves. His inky hair partially hid his face, but I could see his lips curved wryly. "C'mon, I bet you weren't too thrilled when they did that."
"Yeah," I admitted, "But I'm just saying it could be done. With probably just a few phone calls."
He tucked his hair behind an ear and gave me a stubborn look. "You make it sound easy, but I don't think that's how it works."
I bit my lip. Even if he was well enough not to go the hospital, he still might not be ready for any taxing physical stuff. An image of Jax's violent beating flashed through my mind, and I repressed a shiver at the memory.
I traced a feather soft finger across his shoulder blade. "No one would blame you if you took some time off to heal."
He shook his head. "I'd blame me. I'm not gonna let down my fans, or my band, or you."
"Jax, you wouldn't let me down—"
"This is going to be the best show of the whole freakin' tour," he continued. "I'm not going to cancel." He gave me a piercing, haunted look. "I need this."
His warm, calloused hand gripped mine. I could sense wound up energy coiled deep inside his body, and somehow I knew this was about more than just being a dedicated musician. I placed my hand over his heart and gazed into his intense, dark eyes. He needed to play tonight—and let out all the emotion he'd been holding back.
I took a long slow breath. I was still worried about him, but Jax knew better than I what was good for him. If this was what he needed to heal, then I wasn't going to stand in the way.
"Alright, go get your rock on." I kissed him softly on the lips. "I know you'll be amazing."
He stroked my hair and smiled contentedly. "Pepper, you're one in a million."
We stayed cuddled up as he picked up the remote and restarted the footage. I kept my hand in his, enjoying the closeness of his touch.
It seemed odd, that after all that had happened to us the other night, we could just go back to our lives like we'd never been through hell. So far, it was all working out better than I could've expected—the Reapers were off our tail, no cops had hassled us, and the band hadn't even been upset by what happened, thanks to Jax's cover story.
Jax furrowed his brows in concentration as a new camera angle popped up on the TV, and a reddish scrape along his jaw shone in contrast with his olive skin. He'd been hurt so much in the past, but now everything seemed to be working in his favor, thank god. He deserved it more than anyone.
After the nightmare of last night, it seemed like everything was going to be all right after all.
THE SHOW MUST GO ON
Before I knew it, I was standing in the same sidestage spot I had watched from just the day before, waiting with trepidation as the venue finished filling up with fans hoping for the show of their lives. The energy in the building seemed to have its own pulse. Everyone wanted The Hitchcocks to come on stage and begin the show. Everyone wanted Jax. The Roman was rocking, and the show hadn't even started yet.
While the crowd was humming with anticipation, I was simply nervous. My mind buzzed with exhaustion as I tried to fight back my worries. Jax said he would be fine—and there was nothing left for me to do but just trust that he was right. Still, I repeated a mantra that contained every hope I'd had since I had gone to sleep the previous night.
It's going to be okay. Jax is going to be okay.