Ignite: A clean rock star romance (The Band Book 2), page 1
The Band Book 2
© 2018 Lara Carter. All rights reserved.
No portion of this book may be reproduced in any form without permission from the publisher, except as permitted by Australian copyright law. For permissions contact:
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Cover design by L. Carter © 2017.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, businesses, companies, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
About the Author
I am a fraud.
An impostor, fake, pretender, hoodwinker, masquerader, charlatan, quack, mountebank… Okay, so I don’t even really know what that last one is, but you get the idea. To the outside world, I look pretty great, I guess. I’m a father to my little sister. I’m part of one of the biggest rock bands in America. I’ve even been named as one of the most eligible bachelors… Little do they all know that I’m just trying to get through the next day, the next hour, the next minute.
For so long, I’ve been the person people lean on when they’re in trouble. Since I was ten years old, I’ve been trying to be that person. My sister needed me when our parents lost it. Finn needed me, first when his abusive father beat the crap out of him and later when he couldn’t cope with the fame and the pressures placed upon him as the band’s front man. When our mother became sick and died, I had to take over full-time custody of Sophie. Not to say she isn’t my whole world, I love her more than anything on the planet. But it’s a lot for me to cope with at twenty-two. And then there’s Autumn. I had to take care of Autumn when Finn couldn’t. Even now that they’re doing great and happily married… I can never reveal to anyone the way Autumn got under my skin and into my heart.
So yeah, I’m also the douche who fell for his best friend’s wife.
Someone yanks the covers from my bed, and I roll over and rub the stubble on my cheeks.
“C’mon, Wes, get up. You said you’d make pancakes.”
I groan. “Soph, it’s only 7:30 am.”
“No, it isn’t, you idiot. It’s ten o’clock!”
Looking across at my cluttered bedside table, I realize I must have dozed off…again. “Alright, I’m getting up. At least put the bedspread back.”
Sophie responds by dumping it onto the floor. “Nuh-uh, you’ll just go back to sleep.”
Groaning, I roll out of the bed. My feet protest as I pick my way across the cold wooden boards and into the adjoining bathroom. The bedroom door slams closed. What did I do to deserve teenage-girl hormones? I’m sure a brother would be happy to lie in bed ‘till midday.
Turning on the fancy shower, I step under the hot water jets and shake my head. Water drops fling everywhere—probably time for a haircut. It’s time to shake off the negativity and be grateful for what I do have—A luxurious house in a beautiful area. More money than I know what to do with. A sister I usually adore and great friends I get to work with every day.
I don’t know why I feel so bad when my life seems perfect. Sure, I’ve had some tough times, but why am I feeling like this when life is good? It doesn’t make any sense and I need to snap out of it somehow. No one wants to listen to me whine about my problems when there are people out there struggling to put food on the table.
After stepping out of the shower, I dry myself off and wrap the towel around my waist. Putting my hands on the vanity, I gaze into the mirror. I look tired. I roll my shoulders back. My body is fit and toned rather than bulked up. More time spent in the garden than the gym. I smile remembering the first time Finn saw me gardening. He thought it was the weirdest thing he’d ever seen. Why would anyone want to dig in the dirt? He and Autumn have three gardeners to take care of their two-acre lot. I only hire someone when we go on tour. It’s one of the few things that still makes me feel…something more.
Downstairs, Sophie is mixing up the pancake batter herself. Her eyebrows are scrunched slightly as she beats the batter to death.
“Hey, Soph, sorry about before.” I reach for the bowl. “Here, let me take that before you murder the poor eggs and flour.”
She hands it over, her smile returning. “Sorry, I know I’m a pain sometimes. I just get impatient. I can’t seem to help it.”
I set the batter down on the marble bench-top and pull Sophie close. “Hey, it’s just us now. As long as we never stay mad at each other, we’ll be alright.”
She squeezes me tightly, more like a boa constrictor than a friendly hug. I return the favor until she yelps. “Hey, no fair, you’re bigger than me.”
“Yep.” I smirk. “Always will be little sis.”
“Is everyone coming over today?”
By everyone, she means Autumn and the band. “Probably, we have those new songs we need to practice before the next tour.”
Sophie pouts. “I still can’t believe you won’t let me come. What happened to us sticking together?”
“You know what happened. Autumn could have been hurt or killed. I’m not willing to risk something happening to you.”
Her eyes fill with tears. “But she’s going! How can Finn think it’s safe for her to go when she was the one that almost got hurt?”
“Jason is back in prison, so there’s no reason to think that Autumn will be in any danger.”
“Then why would I be? You just don’t want me to come because I’ll cramp your style or something.”
I laugh. “Do you have any idea how long it’s been since I…ugh…never mind. We are not discussing this.”
“So you’d rather I lived with some creepy stranger than come along on tour with my whole family.”
The band is our family. Doubts about the plan tug at the corners of my mind. But no, on tour is not the place for a thirteen-year-old girl. “Jemma is not a stranger, not really. She’s one of Autumn’s best friends, and I’m sure you’ll have a wonderful time together.”
“But what if I can’t stop staring at her face?”
“I’m sure you won’t even notice the scars after a while. Besides, from what Autumn says about her, that’s the last thing you’ll need to worry about. You know, I’m almost jealous I won’t be able to stay and do all the fun stuff she has planned.”
Sophie brightens slightly. “Well, some of it does sound kind of fun. I’d still rather be coming with you though.”
At two o'clock, the rest of the band finally arrives. They let themselves in, and
Finn steps back and looks at me oddly, probably wondering about the extended hug I just gave him. Before I can blink, Autumn hugs me tightly.
“Hey, Wes, is everything alright?” She whispers in my ear, always aware of not making other people uncomfortable.
For a moment I wish I could talk to her, not about my feelings for her, but the other stuff. How I’ve been feeling down when my life is going so well. But I can’t…I won’t do that to her. She's had her own demons to battle, and I won’t bring her down after everything she's fought through.
I smile and try to relax the tension in my body. “I’m fine. It’s just been a long week.”
She steps back, still looking concerned, but doesn’t push for details. Zane comes up next, his red hair shining in the light.
“Hey, Wes.” He grips my left hand and slaps my shoulder with his right. We aren’t as close as I am with Finn, only having known each other from our last tour together and recording the new album.
“Hey, Zane, where’s Jade?”
“Ah, she had some grading to do for school.”
I let him slide past. I get the feeling things aren’t going well between him and his wife. She didn’t come on the last tour, and she hardly ever comes when we get together at the house. Being on the road with the band and having a wife who’s a schoolteacher doesn’t seem to be a great fit, and for a moment I’m actually pleased that’s one thing I don’t have to worry about.
Ryan is last, but as usual his exuberance makes up for it. “Wes, hey man, it’s been too long.” My feet actually leave the ground briefly as he hugs me and leans back. “Where’s my girl?”
“Here I am, Uncle Ryan,” Sophie squeals, jumping up into Ryan's outstretched arms. He spins her around and around until I feel dizzy myself. Ryan has a plethora of siblings and cousins and seems to have a way with kids.
Ryan sets her on the floor. “Have you been growing again?” He makes a big show of measuring where she comes up to on his chest.
Sophie giggles. “Yes, I’m one of the tallest girls in my class.”
“I bet all the boys are falling all over themselves to ask you out.”
I glare at Ryan, but Autumn beats me to it. “Ryan Deveau, Sophie is way too young to even be thinking about stuff like that.”
Ryan hangs his head, but he’s still smiling and I’m almost sure he winks at Sophie.
Sophie glares at me even though I haven’t said anything. “Yeah, with Wes and Finn around I’ll be twenty before I’ve even gone on my first date.”
“Nothing wrong with that,” Autumn says, gently looking toward Finn, who’s staring out the window into the backyard.
Sophie's cheeks turn pink. “Autumn, I didn’t mean it like that…”
“Hey, don’t worry about me. I don’t think you need to wait as long as I did. Besides, I’d do it all over again if it meant ending up with Finn.” Her skin flushes, and Finn turns toward her as if he can somehow sense her feelings from across the room.
I watch, held captive as they move toward each other. Their hands slide together, and Finn whispers something in her ear. She smiles at him and I have to look away. The love and adoration are more than I can bear today.
I head downstairs to the music room, with Zane right behind me. After walking straight over to the Steinway, I run my fingers over the keys before slipping into Coldplay’s Clocks. The music helps calm the inner turmoil I'm feeling. I sing the lyrics. Normally I only sing back up for the band. It’s not because I can’t sing, it’s just no one can compete with Finn when he performs, and I’m fine with that. I love concentrating on my playing anyway. But for now, I sing and silence the doubt and the fear inside. Zane and Ryan soon join in and we play through a random assortment of songs, some of them ours, some of them just from bands we admire.
My eyes are closed; I don’t need to see the keys to play. Although I can read music, I play by ear most of the time. Finn's voice mingles with my own as we reach the chorus of the song. He doesn’t try to dominate, just melds his voice with mine so it sounds as if our two voices have merged into one. It’s all I can do to keep singing; we should definitely think of recording something like this, the sound is incredible. At the end of the song, my fingers lie still.
“Did you all hear that?” Ryan says.
Zane grins. “Why didn’t you guys do it like that for the album?
Ryan’s fingers adjust the tuning on his bass. “Too bad we’ve finalized the album already.”
Finn slips his guitar strap over his head and puts the guitar down on a stand. “We can still do something like it, but I think we need a new song, something we can make sure is the perfect fit. Wes should write it.”
“Me? You’re the songwriter. I just make adjustments to the stuff you write.”
“Make them work you mean.” He runs a hand through his hair. “And besides, we need to keep our edge. All the stuff I’ve written lately is decidedly sweet.” He ducks his head as if embarrassed by the fact that being in love has brought out his sentimental side.
“He’s right, you know.” Zane says. “We can’t put out an album of just love songs. We’d lose all credibility with the fans.”
I breathe in deeply. “Right, then why don’t we all have a crack? Write some new stuff over the next few months and see what we all come up with.”
“Sure, why not.” Ryan grins. “I’m not much of a songwriter, but I might be able to come up with something we can rework.”
“I’m in,” Zane says.
“I’ll see if I can write something with a bit of an edge,” Finn adds. “Who knows, maybe we can use a few of my new songs as long as we have something to balance them out.”
The rest of the band head upstairs, but I stay, staring out the window as the rain that began while we were practicing slowly obscures the landscape.
I pause, the makeup brush in my hand. Although the redness has faded, the ugly scars still cover the left side of my face. There is one big blotch on my forehead that my curls cover, but nothing can hide the path the oil took as it splashed over my cheek and down my arm. The doctors struggled to get some of the skin grafts to heal. It was a long and painful process and I’m grateful it’s over.
I like to think that I’m not a vain person, but I’d be lying if I said the scars don’t bother me. When I was a teenager, people used to tell me all the time how beautiful I was. I’d even get stopped on the street, or I’d overhear them talking about me and how pretty I was. Now people just look away quickly and shudder. Probably thinking how grateful they are this didn’t happen to them.
My ex-boyfriend, who did this in a fit of rage, is getting out of prison soon. I’ve forgiven him, but that doesn’t mean I want to come face-to-face with him ever again. So even though I’ve come to love the family I’m staying with and the church I’m a part of, when Autumn told me about the Nanny job all the way in Portland, I jumped at the chance. Autumn and I have spent a lot of time on the phone since I left the rehabilitation center, but I’m really looking forward to seeing her again. I’m so happy that she found love and acceptance, even if it is with a famous rock star. There’s no way I could ever fall for someone in the spotlight. All that attention, everyone feeling pity for the poor deformed girl. I’ll admit I had doubts about looking after Wes’s sister,
Looking away from the mirror, I drop the makeup brush back into the bag and put it down. Chances are, these rock stars are going to see me without my makeup sooner or later. May as well get it all out in the open right from the start. Returning to the bedroom, I place my makeup bag into the large suitcase and zip it closed. This is it. It’s time to start my new life.
The wheels of the plane shudder slightly as we touch down. I remain in my window seat as we come to a stop. Fighting my way out doesn’t interest me. I pretend I don’t need this time to compose myself and stop the trembling in my fingers. My eyes close as I pray for the strength to do this. That I won’t bring any prejudiced preconceived ideas about Wes Bowman, my new boss. That the awkward stage will pass quickly and they’ll all be able to see me as just a simple girl from Bloomington, Illinois. When I open my eyes again, the plane is nearly empty, and I feel much better. My bag is sitting by itself in the overhead locker, and I lift it out easily.
I smile goodbye to the flight attendant as she wishes me a pleasant stay in Portland, and then I walk through the terminal toward the baggage claim. I keep my head down slightly so my mass of blonde curls partially obscures my face. Some days I hold my head high but not today. Today I just want to get out of here. I can’t help smiling as I arrive. I’ve timed it perfectly; most of the bags have already been claimed, and I see my battered old red case coming towards me. Using all the strength in my 5-foot-3 petite frame, I yank it toward me and almost land on my butt as it slides off the sloped carousel more easily than I expected. At least no one is around to witness my clumsiness. I wipe the sweat off my palms and onto my jeans before setting off toward the exit.