“Kale told us you had a show not too far away,” Mason spits, and even though he confirms Kale didn’t say anything about me and Shawn, my twin is a dead man walking. I don’t even bother looking at him, because when I do look at him, I’m pretty sure his eyes are going to be bugging out of his head from how hard I’ll be strangling him.
“Nice of you to tell us you were on tour,” Bryce complains, reminding me that I had told my family I wouldn’t be able to make it to Sunday dinners because I’d started giving weekend guitar lessons, just like our mom always wanted. It was easier than telling them about the tour, about the band, about the hundred fibs I’d piled on top of each other.
“Nice of her to tell us she’s in a band with the clowns from her high school,” Mason snarls. Even without my brothers to back him, he’d still be this damn cocky. Big muscles, black tattoos, buzzed head. I cross my arms and stare him down.
“And you wonder why I didn’t tell you.”
“You didn’t tell them?” Joel asks, but it’s Adam’s voice that makes things go from bad to really fucking bad.
“These are the crazy brothers you told us about?”
“Who the fuck are you calling crazy?” Mason growls.
“Uh, probably the big crazy dude with the big crazy eyes?”
I throw myself in Mason’s path even before he takes his first step forward, knowing full well that he could knock Adam into next year and probably will if Adam doesn’t learn to keep his mouth shut. The club is getting packed, and it’s like every single light in the damn place is shining its bright heat on us—on the four giants at my back, the four giants at my front, and me in the middle, trying to control all eight of them like some insane miniature giant-tamer. “Look, guys,” I say in my biggest voice, “we’re about to go on. I’ll talk to you after the—”
“No fucking way.” Mason grabs my arm when I start to turn away from him, and then, the worst happens. Shawn pushes his shoulder to knock his arm off me. And he doesn’t back down.
In a blind panic, I push Shawn hard, so hard that he stumbles backward and nearly loses his balance. I’m so fucking pissed off, I don’t know who I’m angrier at—Shawn for breaking my heart, or Mason for being Mason. I slam my open palms into Shawn’s chest again, glaring at the way he looks at me—like I’m the one betraying him instead of the other way around.
I spin around when I can’t stand to look at him anymore, getting all up in my violent older brother’s face. “What the fuck are you so mad about?” I bark. “That I lied? I’m sorry! That I’m in a band with a bunch of players from high school? Not your fucking call!” He starts to interrupt, but I raise my voice even louder, like I’m screaming to the back of the fucking pit. “That I’m touring with them? I’m a grown fucking woman, and if you don’t calm down right the fuck now, I’m getting you thrown the fuck out of here!” F-bombs are detonating left and right, each one doing nothing to calm the explosive rage inside me. Today was so not the day for Mason to push my last button. It had a big red sign on it that said Do Not Push, and like an idiot, Kale dragged him straight to it.
“Do you hear me?” I continue, knowing damn well that everyone within a five-mile radius heard my every last word just fine. “You have two options. Wish me a good show and I’ll talk to you after, or keep pissing me off and go the fuck home.”
My tone is deadly serious, and by the way Mason considers my words, he knows it. If he pushes his luck again, I’ll call security, and it’ll take ten guys to throw him out, but they’ll do it.
Dark eyes stay pinned on me until they lift to Shawn over my shoulder, and I watch as they transform into deadly black diamonds, promising untold pain if Shawn ever touches him again.
“You have two seconds,” I warn.
Mason looks down at me, takes way longer than two seconds, and grunts. And when I see my opportunity, I lift onto my tiptoes and throw my arms around his neck like a snare, locking him in a strong-armed hug that I’m hoping cracks the shell he has up. I love my brother. I love my brother to death. And I won’t hesitate to love him to death right now if he continues acting like a silverback gorilla on crack.
Luckily, his rock-hard shoulders soften under my embrace, losing the rest of their tension when I say, “I’m glad you’re here. I missed you.”
His tree-trunk arms lift to hug me back. “You’re still in trouble.”
“No, I’m not.” I kiss him on the cheek and turn toward our other brothers. “If you can behave”—I lock eyes with every single one of them—“then you can watch from backstage. Can you behave?” When none of them answer, I sigh and say, “Fine, come with me.”
WITH MY BROTHERS standing just offstage, I put on the performance of my life—just like every other night we’ve been on tour. I should be nervous. I should feel insecure. But instead, all I can think about is why they’re here.
They’re here to take me home.
And I’m going to let them.
Tonight is the last show. As soon as it’s over, the band’s plan is to drive the three hours to get back home. Adam and Joel have missed Rowan and Dee so much, I doubt they’ll even spend much time with fans before climbing onto the bus. Instead, they’ll probably pack the trailer in record time and get home well before sunrise.
I don’t care when I get home. All I care about is that I don’t have to hold Shawn’s hand again tonight. I’ll figure out what to do about him tomorrow, or the next day, or never. I really don’t even care anymore. I just want to be home, in my own bed, in my own world. I want to be out of Shawn’s.