“I missed you too, Miles.”
“Derek says you’re to mooch off his account here for the next several days. Did he set you up with any cash?”
“No,” I said, suddenly embarrassed. I wondered how much my ‘boyfriend’ had told his manager – and the rest of the band.
“Here,” Miles said, whipping out a roll of bills and peeling off 10 hundreds. “That should keep you for a bit.”
“I can’t take that,” I said, aghast.
“Of course you can, it’s that stupid git’s money, not mine,” he barked as he crushed the bills into my palm. Then he turned to Killian. “Alright, you Rastafarian bastard, out to the car with you.”
For the first time in weeks, Killian took both of his hands off his guitar and embraced me. I hugged him back, though it was a little awkward with a Fender Stratocaster in the way.
“You’re a lovely bird, Kaitlyn. I hope I get to see you when I get back.”
Despite the slightly ominous meaning behind his words, I teared up. “Thanks, Killian… me, too.”
He smiled, then went back to playing his guitar with one hand as he waved at Ryan with the other. “Later, mate.”
“See you, Killian,” Ryan called out.
“Tell the Holy Terror I said goodbye, as well.”
(By that I assumed he meant Riley.)
And then Killian and Miles walked out of the penthouse.
I went over and sat down next to Ryan. He set his laptop on the coffee table in front of him and looked at me sympathetically. “You okay?”
I exhaled loudly. “You know, don’t you.”
He nodded. “He stopped by earlier.”
All the feelings of sadness I had successfully stuffed down for the last hour began to well up. I tried to choke them back, but they still came out in a half-sob. “Am I being an idiot?”
“No. No, not at all. He just needs some time.”
I looked at him dubiously.
“He gets like that sometimes,” Ryan assured me. “Yeah, he’s usually Mr. Extroverted, but sometimes he gets really moody and just takes off without telling anybody.”
“He didn’t seem moody when he left.”
“He was probably hiding it pretty well. Or he knew that it was going to hurt you, so he didn’t let it show. He never really cared how I took it, so I always got a full blast. Don’t worry, it’ll be fine.”
I looked at him desperately. “You promise?”
“Yeah. It’s fine. He just needs some time on his own. Like ‘Cold November Rain.’”
I stared at him in confusion.
“…Guns ‘N Roses? …off of Use Your Illusion?” Ryan saw I had no idea what he was talking about. “Well, it was a good allusion. Ha – ‘allusion’… ‘illusion’…”
“You’re such a dork,” I teased him.
“And you’re functionally rock ‘n roll illiterate,” he kidded me back.
“I know all the important songs.”
“Yeah. Like yours,” I said in a playfully saccharine voice.
“Awwww… you’re so sweet, I’ll ignore how full of crap you are.”
“I’m not full of crap!” I protested, mock-outraged.
“Okay… just a quarter full, then.”
“Be careful, your mother wouldn’t approve of you saying ‘crap.’”
He grinned. “Well, as long as you don’t rat me out, I’ll be fine.”
I had a weird reaction to that last statement.
Like, I don’t WANT you to think of me as your sister.
But I just let it go and moved on to something else.
“What are you working on?” I asked.
“Oh, just our social media accounts.” He shifted the screen so I could look. A single program with windows for Twitter and Facebook took up the entire page. Tweets were appearing one by one and slowly scrolling up the screen. “Just keeping in contact with the fans. I’m going to write some stuff about the end of the tour, post a few photos. Thought now would be a good time to wrap up some things before I take off.”
“Oh yeah – what was that about South Dakota?”
“My dad’s originally from there, and my grandparents owned a ranch out in the Black Hills. Nothing spectacular – some land, some cattle, some horses. Anyway, my grandmother died a few years ago, and my grandfather died last year – ”
“I’m sorry to hear that.”
He gave me a gentle smile. “Thanks. When they passed on, my parents and aunts and uncles weren’t really sure what to do with the ranch. They finally decided they were going to sell it – but I’d spent at least a month every summer there since I was four years old, and I didn’t want to lose it. It would have been like losing a part of my grandparents. So I bought it instead.”
“Wow, that’s great.”
“Yeah. So I pay the ranch hand who takes care of it, and I try to go there whenever I can.”
“That’s really cool, Ryan.”
“You know what? You should come out and visit for a while.”
I couldn’t help but think back to that first night I joined the band on tour.
It means that Derek wasn’t the only one who fell for you years ago.
Oddly enough, it didn’t make me uncomfortable anymore so much as wary.
Ryan seemed to sense what was going on with me, and course-corrected so smoothly I wondered whether I had misread him in the first place. “It’ll probably take some convincing to get Derek out there – he’s not exactly big on wide open spaces and horses. I’ve been trying to get the band out there for a year, but unless there’s bud for Killian, and booze and women for Riley, it’s a hard sell.”
“Well, at least you know what you need to bribe them,” I joked lamely.
I felt bad. He had made me a really nice offer, and I had treated it with suspicion. And now flippancy.
“That sounds wonderful,” I said. “I’d like that. I’ll try to work on Derek about it… when things improve.”
He smiled and nodded. “Okay. When he gets over his snit.”
I raised my eyebrows.
“Ryan Miller,” I teased, “I thought you almost said another dirty word.”
“Nope. Don’t want to give you more blackmail material for my mother,” he grinned.
Just then his cell buzzed. He looked down at the screen, then glanced up at me. “Sorry, I need to take this.”
“You need me to leave?”
“No, no – hang out,” he said as he stood. Then he answered the phone. “Hey, Sammy. Yeah, man, everything looked great in the contracts – but I want to add a few clauses before we sign it.”
As he walked off through the penthouse, I sat there numbly with my own words ringing in my ears:
When things improve.
When was that going to be? I wondered. Two days? Two weeks? Two months?
I felt a growing sense of desperation rise up slowly inside me.
What if things didn’t improve?
Was there anything I could do to make them improve?
As I sat there stewing in my sadness and unease, my eyes drifted over to Ryan’s laptop, which was still open and facing me.
And a pretty wild coincidence happened. Something right out of a movie.
It didn’t happen immediately, mind you. In fact, I was probably sitting there for a good five minutes, just wrapped up in my own angst, my eyes dully watching the computer screen. My brain was on autopilot as I listened to Ryan’s murmuring voice in the background, only vaguely registering the parade of new tweets about Bigger:
Noooo! Missed their tour this SUCKS need petition to get another one NOW