Sunday, March 29, 2015 | By: Drotuno

Man Behind the Mask Chapter 11 & Pics

Chapter 11 – Let There Be Rock
And it came to pass
That rock 'n' roll was born
All across the land every rockin' band
Was blowin' up a storm
And the guitar man got famous
The business man got rich
And in every bar there was a superstar
With a seven year itch
There was fifteen million fingers
Learnin' how to play
And you could hear the fingers pickin'
And this is what they had to say
Let there be light
Sound
Drums
Guitar
Let there be rock
“Let There Be Rock” – AC/DC
BELLA
“He won’t be doing it!” Mom snapped, glaring my way. “I’m blaming you for this, Isabella!”
I grinned, shaking my head. “Fine, blame me, but you really can’t stop him, Mom.”
Mike looked like he was about to be split into two separate pieces. He wanted so badly to go back into the bar to be with Edward and the band, but he also looked like he was about to be sick because my mother was livid.
“He’s eighteen, Mom. He’s been a legal adult for a few weeks now. You could no more stop him from doing this than you could stop him from serving burgers through a drive-thru,” I told her, shrugging a shoulder. “It’s just a tryout. An audition. He may not even make it,” I said, shooting a wink my brother’s way. “Though, I doubt it. He’s damn good.”
Mike grinned, gazing to the floor. “Thanks, B,” he whispered.
The sound of drills, saws, and hammers, along with random guitar notes and singing, met my ears from the other side of my office door at the bar. I rarely used it, opting to do most of my paperwork upstairs in my apartment, but occasionally I needed a place for privacy at work. However, the bar needed some changes for the video Radiant Eclipse was going to be filming, so some production people were already hard at work. Some things were simply visual and temporary, though some of the additions would be staying when they were done.
“Both are lowly jobs; they’re beneath him!”
I laughed derisively. “Thanks. I’m sure bartender is in there, too, somewhere.”
“He still has school.”
“Yes, he does, so that means if he gets the spot, he’ll have to bust his ass,” I argued with a glare Mike’s way, finally sighing wearily. “Mother, I understand your…your disdain for the music industry, but Mike is really good. The band needs a drummer, and they’re good guys.”
“What happened to James, B?” Mike asked curiously. “I only know what the press said.”
I wrinkled my nose. “James broke his contract,” I told him honestly, though I kept the nasty details to myself. “Something about violating a non-disclosure agreement.”
Oh, and it had been ugly. The new album was finished, and Radiant Eclipse was about to film their concert video before leaving on tour. However, just as the band had celebrated the completion of their third album, word leaked that Masen’s father had checked himself into rehab.
The gossip mags and websites had worked the “like father, like son” angle on it, but there had been an “anonymous inside source” that had told them all about the possibility that Masen may not have been driving his father’s car the night of the accident, considering he’d been at a party that same night. Thankfully, no one important took that seriously, but Rose, Emmett, and Edward sure did, because the party mentioned had had a pretty suspicious guest list – specifically, two people who would’ve said something.
James and Heidi.
Apparently, as of several weeks back, the two of them were being watched by a private investigator hired by Radiant Eclipse’s lawyer. The timing of it all allowed James to finish recording before he’d been released. The boys in the band didn’t even say a word; it was the lawyers that took over. James was far from happy and was threatening to countersue, but he most likely had no leg to stand on.
“See, Michael?” my mother ranted, turning to my brother. “They’ll screw you over.”
“Actually, Mom, James screwed himself over.” Shaking my head, I said, “They aren’t the criminals or the deviants you’re making them out to be! I understand your concern should Mike do this, but I promise you, they won’t purposely put him in harm’s way.”
“You say that now, simply because you’re…you’re…sleeping with one of them.”
I raised a deadly eyebrow at my mother. “So did you once, Mother. I’m proof of it. Unless you consider me a mistake,” I challenged.
She sputtered, her mouth opening and then snapping shut. “No, dear…not at all. I just don’t want you getting your heart broken like I did.”
“Yeah, well…it’s my heart to do with as I see fit. And Edward is not Daddy, not that you’d understand either one.”
I was getting a little pissed off at how this conversation had turned to me instead of focusing on whether Mike was going to audition for Radiant Eclipse. My heart, which my mother was so worried for, was off the market; it was sold to the man currently singing a test song over the mic in my bar, and he sounded like heaven and hell mixed together. He was temptation and comfort all blended into the sexiest voice I’d ever heard, but that may have been because I knew him…really knew him.
Sexy lead-singer, Masen, was on that stage out there, but it was the sweet Edward who would look at me from beneath long lashes as he practiced, with eyes that spoke silent yet endlessly naughty things, and with a smile just for me. In all reality, he was both men. He thought they were separate, but they weren’t. Masen was technically an exaggerated and animated version of Edward, all hyped up and pumped up for the fans. Alone with me he was just as sexy, just as deadly, but he was soft and sweet and funny. And sweet God, was he ever loving! We’d been sleeping together for a few weeks now, and despite how busy we all were, the two of us tended to end up in either my apartment or his almost every night, which scared me with his coming tour because I was a spoiled, satisfied, and happy girl with Edward. Not to mention, I was completely in love with him, so his impending leave was making me anxious.
“Mom, the difference is… I know who and what he is. I knew who my dad was. Music is something that flows through their veins, it makes their hearts beat, and it calls to them. Your son is the same way, which may end up a problem for you because you can’t seem to accept people for who they are. I’m not here to fight with you. I’m here to cheer for my little brother because I know he’s good enough to get the job, and I also know that those guys out there would watch over him…if only for me.”
Mom flared her nostrils in anger, but she really couldn’t stop Mike, just simply make him miserable. She turned to him, saying, “You’ll ruin your life, Michael.”
“So you keep saying,” Mike countered softly, “but it’s what I want.”
“Unfortunately, Mike, if you get this, you’ll be gone for the holidays. You’ll be on Christmas break from school, but…” I started, but he stopped me.
“Yeah, I know.” He nodded but shot a nervous glance to our mother. “I…I’m doing this, Mom. I’m sorry. It’s a huge opportunity for me, and I may never get another chance like it again.”
I fought my smirk but watched as Mom fought with herself not to say something derogatory, especially when she caught sight of my glare. I’d been witness to the discussion of the contract that Mike would have to sign should they like how the tryout went, and he would be set for life, even if he only toured with them for a year. However, that wasn’t something I was going to tell our mother. If Mike wanted to, then he was free to do it, but I rarely discussed my personal business with her.
Before Mom could say anything, there was a light knock on the door.
“Come in,” I stated, standing up from my desk and smiling at Rose when she poked her head in.
“They’re just about ready for Mike, but they need to talk to him before he plays. You know, what songs, reading music…that sort of thing.”
I held up a finger to Rose, and she grinned and nodded as I tugged my brother up out of his chair. Ignoring Mom for a second, I grabbed Mike’s face and squished it until he laughed and groaned at the same time.
“Go. Go be awesome, Mikey. The worst they can say is no, but that isn’t life-ending. It just means you try harder; you get better. Yeah?” I urged him, smiling when his answer came out all lispy and muffled since I still was squishing his baby face.
“Yeth, B-Beee.”
I nodded once, and he turned to Mom. “Will you at least stay and watch?”
A small piece of her seemed to melt at that question, and internally, I sagged in relief because she would’ve hurt him had she denied him. But her answer was a quick, nervous nod.
“Cool,” he said, looking to Rose. “I’m ready.”
“Good, then head on up to the stage, kiddo. They’re waiting for you.”
My mom and Mike left my office, but Rose stopped me. “Wait, I need to talk to you for a second.” She grinned when I shot a panicked look to the door. “No worries, Bella. It won’t take long. I’ll have you out there in time to see Mike play.”
“Oh, okay, then… Shoot.” I leaned against my desk as she set her briefcase down on a chair and opened it, pulling out a file folder.
“You’ve already signed the contract for the shoot and for the use of Chainsaw Charlie’s song, Bella, but I need your permission to heighten security the night of the show.”
“M’kay,” I said, taking the stack of pages from her. “Is there a problem?”
She sighed, studying my face. “James is stirring up trouble, but not as much as Aro.” My sneer couldn’t be stopped at the sound of those two men’s names, and she smirked my way with a nod. “I see Edward’s told you about them.”
“Yeah,” I sighed, holding up the papers. “What do you need from me?”
“I need your signature on that, giving permission to the security team to come in and set up the night of the show. It essentially gives them the go-ahead to access every inch of this place just to make sure there are no fuckups.”
Smiling, I turned to my desk and grabbed a pen in order to scrawl my signature on the bottom of the page. I liked Rose. I liked her simply because she was very real, very honest, but she was brutal at her job and in her protection of the boys. She looked at Emmett like he hung the moon, but she looked at Edward like he was her baby brother. There was something fierce about her that I found endearing.
She took the contract pages back, tucking them back into her case, and then looked back up at me like she was debating on saying something.
“What, Rose?” I asked, and she smiled.
“You… I promised Edward I would keep you posted on certain things, Bella. You know, certain events that are staged to look a specific way. However, I need to know if…”
I sat down next to her. “I’m not using Edward. I’m not that…” I sighed, shaking my head.
“No, no… I get that,” she urged, placing her hand over mine. “He’s… Edward is…” She huffed a light laugh. “Oh, Bella…you are very important to him, and I just… I need to know if you’re strong enough to handle the shit he’s going to have to do for the next several months, the concert included.” She grimaced a little. “I do my best to soften some of the shit, but sometimes, it’s out of my control and the boys have to suffer through it. They’re damned good at it, which is why I’m here.”
Smiling a little, I said, “I’m well aware of the difference between real and an act. My father was similar, though Masen is a little bit more…out there than he ever was. But I get it.”
Rose grinned. “Yeah…”
“He’s…very important to me, too,” I hedged, not wanting to blurt out my feelings to Edward’s sister-in-law before I told him. “I can handle a lot of things.”
She smirked, narrowing her eyes at me. “I’m pretty sure you can, and I promised him I’d keep you as protected from most of it as I could.” She took a deep breath, seemingly coming to some sort of decision. “You need to know that removing James from Radiant Eclipse pissed off Aro something fierce. You need to know that James and Edward’s ex, Heidi, have been talking for quite some time…like before she and Edward broke up.”
“I figured…on both of those things.”
“Right, so…when I say that some things are out of my control, I really damn well mean it. Aro may have conceded to the band on how this video would work, but he has other ways of making the boys pay, and this time, it’s specifically…Edward.”
“What did he do?” I asked, my hands balling up into fists.
“He’s bringing Heidi in as a spotlighted extra for the shoot,” she stated, and her lip curled in anger. “As you know, Edward and Heidi met on the set of a video from their last album, and they got together. The problem is, Aro wouldn’t get his hands dirty, but he would guide the director on which models to use. Bringing back Heidi for this shoot is retribution for denying Aro the idea that he wanted, not that it was a huge deal, but he doesn’t like to be told no. Ever.”
“That’s so fucking wrong.” I sneered, shaking my head again.
“It is. And I hate it, but I can’t do much about it. The director liked this concert video idea the boys came up with, but he’s sticking to his guns about the faces he wants to use. Though, I think that’s Aro’s doing. There’s probably threats and deals under the table that I can’t see or touch, so we’ve got to grin and bear it.”
“Does Edward know?” I whispered, my chest constricting a little.
“No, not yet. I wanted to let them get through this drummer audition first, and then I’ll tell them. I also wanted you to know, because…if Edward has to interact with Heidi, you need to know that it means nothing. I know him, Bella. He’s gonna flip the fuck out, and then he’ll worry about you because he’ll have no choice but to act. Aro’s got the boys by the balls. And believe me, I can’t wait for this contract to be up, if only because I don’t want to deal with that slimy asshole anymore.”
I snorted, looking down at my hands. “You want me there when you tell him?”
“Please?” she asked, chuckling a little. “I know it’s asking—”
“No, no, it’s… I’d rather be there.”
“Thank you.” She stood up, picking up her case. “Last thing… James.” She sighed, shaking her head. “The way he was let go was…ugly. He blew up and threw threats toward everyone in the band or anyone who works for them. He’s possible trouble, Bella, so if he shows up here or whatever, just have him escorted out. And even though he’s in deep shit with legal trouble, I don’t trust him. None of us do. It’s quite possible that he’ll use Heidi, or they’ll use each other, or whatever, to make things difficult. So if you hear something, come to me or Edward first to verify it, especially once we leave to start the tour.”
“You mean…rumors?”
“Oh yeah,” she replied, wrinkling her nose. “They’re both mad at Edward, which is why they leaked out the info about his dad. If either Heidi or James…or both…figure out just how much you mean to Edward and the rest of the band, they’ll target you, Bella. And I don’t know if I can stop Edward or Emmett at that point.”
“I think James knows, Rose…about Edward and me.”
She chuckled. “Well, if the look on Edward’s face didn’t give it away, then Alec’s big mouth did, but Emmett’s threats sealed the deal. He just about broke James’s neck telling him to stay away from his ‘brother’s girl.’”
“Ah,” I said with a laugh.
“You’ve got my cell, Bella. So if you need me, call.”
I nodded, but we both smiled at Emmett’s heavy knock on the door. “Rosie, Bella… it’s time.”
We opened the door to see his tall form standing there with a grin.
“Edward wants you front and center,” he said with a smile, taking my hand, “so come on. I’ll get you up there. The construction crew is taking a break for this so the guys can really hear your brother.” He bent to my ear when we stepped into the bar. “By the way, this shit is only a formality. They loved him the last time they were just fucking around. Mikey’s so got this.”
My eyes widened and I gasped, covering my mouth with my hand. “Seriously?”
“Oh, yeah,” he answered, nodding and grinning. “Your mom isn’t looking too cheerful, but…”
I sighed, rolling my eyes to where my mother was sitting off to the side. She looked rather out of place and uncomfortable, but at least she was staying.
“Mike’s eighteen. She can’t stop him, and I’m kinda glad about that,” I whispered back to Emmett as he sat me down next to Alice, who was working on a laptop. On my other side was Tanya, who wrapped an arm around my shoulders.
“Good to see you again, Bella,” she whispered in my ear, and Kate nodded from her other side. “If Edward isn’t behaving, you let us know. He’s right scared of us, really.”
“Tanya!” I heard from the stage, and I laughed at Edward’s deadly raised eyebrow to the scoffing girl at my side as he adjusted the strap of his guitar. “I don’t care what you’re saying. Stop it!”
“You think we know too much?” Kate asked innocently.
“You, too, Kate.”
“We know every-fucking-thing,” Tanya sang, completely ignoring Edward’s glare, until she blew him a kiss, which made him roll his eyes.
“Relax, Edward,” I told him.
He still looked a little grumpy, but he turned back around toward my brother, who was making some adjustments to his drum kit. Edward was dressed to absolute distraction up there. He looked like every bad boy who ever lived, with faded and ripped black jeans that were sitting low on his hips, a tight black T-shirt that showed off his ink and biceps, and his sexy Doc Martens that he wore all the damn time. His hair, though, was hidden away behind a black-and-white bandana and black baseball cap.
Turning to Tanya, I said, “He’s behaving fine, by the way.”
“That’s what I like to hear,” she huffed, nodding once, but smirked when Alice’s giggle erupted out of her from behind her laptop screen. “Don’t let him use the Masen charm on you. Make Edward earn shit…you know?”
Alice snorted, nudging me with her elbow. “Don’t listen to them. They love to ruffle his feathers, simply because he has them pose as tweaked-out groupies. Edward’s a good guy. Always has been.”
I caught sight of her screen, my eyes widening.
“For the tour,” she answered with a smile. “Wanna help dress Edward? I was thinking a bit Goth for him, but…he’ll probably freak out. Maybe something in leather…”
Laughing, I shook my head, trying not to think of Edward in leather as she continued to click away, but my attention shot to the stage as the guys got into place.
“Rose,” Alec said over the mic, “we’re gonna run through a few songs, just to test this kid out. Ours and a few covers.”
“Whatever you need,” she sang back, waving them on as she barely looked up from her phone.
Mike got himself ready, rolling his head a little, but his focus was on Jasper. Edward, however, walked to his mic stand and started a song from another band. It was heavy, fast, with time changes all over the place, but it put Mike to the test and gave him a chance to warm up.
They sounded amazing, and my brother was nervous as he finished the first song, but the second one was a Radiant Eclipse song, and it seemed to make everyone relax. The guys started to shoot grins to each other as they sang and walked around the stage.
As much as I wanted to keep an eye on my baby brother, my gaze kept drifting to Edward. It was the first time I’d seen him perform after getting to know him, aside from watching him play his guitar or piano alone or with his arms wrapped around me as he sang song after song into my skin. Despite the very small audience of friends and construction workers, there was a burning green fire in Edward’s eyes as he commanded my dad’s old stage. It was a fire that was always there, though, when he wasn’t performing, it was a deeper, slower heat, simmering beneath the surface of his skin, which burned a little brighter when he was alone with me. On the stage, he was an inferno of talent, sex, and fierce lyrics. There were no issues with James, Heidi, or worries about his parents. There wasn’t a concern about leaving on tour, the paparazzi, or whether I could deal with what he did for a living. Up on that stage…Edward was free.
He was also the leader. The rest of the band looked to him after they’d finished the third song, waiting for his response. They were all a little winded and sweaty but grinned and took silly dramatic bows when the construction guys whistled and cheered.
Edward, however, turned to my brother. “Take five, Mike. We’re gonna talk for a moment.”
“Guys, you can use my office,” I said, walking up on the stage toward my brother.
“Thanks, Bella,” they all chanted, and I chuckled at them as they walked through the bar toward the back.
I rushed to Mike, wrapping my arms around his middle. “You were awesome!”
He was practically vibrating with the adrenaline that was still coursing through him, but he laughed, kissing my cheek. “Thanks, B… And thanks for setting this up.”
I pulled back and shook my head. “I didn’t do anything. They asked to see you.”
His eyebrows shot up, but he didn’t say anything to that. He glanced up behind me and then muttered, “She’s gonna disown me or something if I get this.”
Laughing, I shook my head. “No, she won’t. She’ll just complain…a lot.” Snorting a little, I added, “Though if you get this job, you won’t hear it; I will.”
He laughed, but it turned into a groan. “Aw, B… I’m sorry.”
I waved it away. “At least I don’t live with her. You’re her baby, so…some of it is a little justified. Okay?”
“Sure, B.”
Turning to look off the stage and over the bar, I saw that our mother was still there, though she was talking softly into her phone, to whom I could only imagine was Phil. The construction guys got back to work on the façade they were adding to the edge of the stage and the details they were hanging on my walls. Rose, Alice, Tanya, and Kate were all talking softly as Emmett stood by the door. The latter shot me a wink and a jerk of his chin when the boys emerged from behind the bar.
I spun to my brother. “Make me some promises.”
“As in more than one?”
“Yes.” I laughed lightly, poking his stomach. “If they say no, then promise me that you’ll keep playing, if only because you love it.”
“Easy. Promise.”
“Next… If you do get it, then promise me you’ll finish school. I’ll even pay for the private tutor. Promise me that you don’t let it all go to your head, but you savor it.”
He laughed. “Done.”
Edward paused at the table next to Rose, and she smirked and nodded at whatever he was whispering in her ear. When he stepped away, she was immediately on her phone talking quietly.
The guys joined us on the stage. Alec gave Mike’s shoulder a squeeze on the way to his keyboards. Jacob shot me a silly, flirty wink, offering my brother his fist to bump it. Jasper and Edward came to stand in front of us. The former looked relax and cool, but I got the impression not much rattled Jasper. He was the perfect partner to Edward’s more intense personality.
Edward, however, looked worriedly my way and a glance over his shoulder to my mother as he shoved his hands into the front pockets of his jeans. He took a deep breath before saying, “You’re good, Mike. You’re really fucking good. The job is yours if you want it.” Mike started to nod, but Edward held up a hand. “But… You’ll be under contract, with us. Rose will go over it with you in a second. You’ll also have to commit to some practice sessions over the next few days because we’ll need you sharp as hell by the night of the show here. It’s—”
“No, no… I get it,” Mike answered him. “It’s being filmed. I know.”
Jasper smirked but spoke softly. “You’ll also be committing to the tour, which will take you away from home.” He shot a glance at my mother, who was closing in on the stage. “We are aware of your age, that you still have school. You will finish, kid. Not even an option. We busted our asses. You’ll bust yours.”
Mike grinned. “Yeah, B said the same thing.”
Edward chuckled, shooting me a wink. “I have no doubt. Your sister may be your biggest fan.” He stepped closer, his smile falling. “Look, Mike, this won’t be easy. You’ll be in the spotlight a bit, simply because you’re taking James’s place after a bit of a scandal. You’ll catch a lot of heat from the press, and probably the fans. Your age and your talent may soften that shit a little, but you’ll still have people looking to you. We’ll all guide you through it. It won’t last long, but it’ll come on fast. Are you ready for that?”
“I… I…” Mike sputtered, looking to me and then back to Edward. “Yeah, man. I’ll do my best.”
Edward studied his face and shot a look to Jasper, who nodded once. “Okay… Welcome to Radiant Eclipse, Mike.”
Rough, one-armed guy hugs were passed around, but my mother’s scoff brought us up short, and I turned to face her, preparing to take the heat from Mike as best I could.
“So just like that? You’re gonna take my son?!”
“Mom,” I started, stepping forward and shaking my head. “He’s been offered a job. Did you even see how good he is?”
“He’s really good, but…” She paused, her chin quivering a little. “He’s just a boy! You’ll turn in him into…into…”
“Careful,” I warned her, but a strong, warm hand landed on my shoulder.
“Into what, Mrs. Dwyer?” Edward asked slowly with an edge to his voice.
“I know this business!” she yelled.
The construction workers came to a standstill. The girls at the table stiffened but stayed quiet.
“It’s sex and drugs and parties and drinking. Michael will end up in…rehab!”
I started forward, but Edward’s grip on me tightened, pulling me back to his chest. “Easy, angel,” he whispered in my ear. “She’s your mom and only knows what she’s supposed to see.” He brushed a kiss across my cheek before addressing my mother. “I realize that your past experience with the music industry was not a good one, but I assure you the only person who took hardcore drugs is the person who Mike is replacing. As for drinking and parties…those things do happen, but Mike isn’t of age. As for the sex… Is that something you really want to know? He’s eighteen, with raging hormones and a girlfriend, so I’m fairly certain that happened under your watch.”
I snorted at Mike’s laugh and my mother’s narrowed gaze, but he was right. I felt Edward’s squeeze to my shoulder and another kiss to my head.
“To be honest, Mrs. Dwyer,” Alec piped up, stepping forward, “it is a few parties and drinking, but usually it’s for promotional events.” He shrugged a shoulder. “Actually, it’s long damn hours, hard work, a shit-ton of travel, sleepless nights on a bus occasionally, and annoying press and photographers. But he’ll see the world, learn a whole lot, and the reward is the audience at every show we play. It’s the only thing that keeps us coming back. Honestly.”
Rose put her phone away, coming to stand next to my mother, and a part of me wanted to stop her, but maybe this was the only way to get her attention…or approval, really.
“Mrs. Dwyer, you can feel free to have your lawyer look these over and get back to us,” she said, handing over a stack of papers. “Radiant Eclipse is offering Mike a one-year contract, through the end of the tour, which will be renegotiated at that time should they want to continue. We added his requirement to complete his last year of school. There’s also a non-disclosure agreement, which is fairly standard. It simply means Mike can’t speak of the band’s business dealings or personal affairs of the band members to anyone.” Rose waited until my mother flipped through the contracts before adding, “As you can see, it’s a rather…lucrative offer.”
I knew the numbers. I was well aware of what they were offering him. Her expression changed from anger to worry in the blink of an eye as she glanced at the papers and then to Mike.
“You want this, Michael? ’Cause once you sign this, you’re committed.” She held up the papers.
“Yeah, Mom, I do.”
She shook her head slowly and sadly, her gaze landing on me but then moving to the person directly behind me with his arm wrapped around me. I have no idea what she was looking for or what she saw to cause her shoulders to sag a little.
“I guess I can’t stop you…either of you,” she stated, locking her gaze on me for a beat or two. “And if I tried, you’d hate me.”
“No, Mom…” I shook my head. “We wouldn’t hate you, but some things are out of your control.”
She nodded. “I see that. Okay.” She shrugged in a defeated manner. “Then let’s go talk about it, Michael.”
There was a collective sigh of relief around the room, even from the construction workers, which I found a little funny, but I sat down on the edge of the stage with my feet dangling off as Rose talked to my mother about the contract and the guys set up a practice schedule before the show before Mom and Mike left.
The thought of the show reminded me of my talk with Rose, which caused me to worry. Edward still didn’t know what he was going to be dealing with, that he was going to have to face his ex-girlfriend, maybe even interact with her during the filming.
Ink, black fabric, and strong hands appeared in my sightless gaze to the floor as Edward stepped between my legs from the bar floor. We were eye to eye when he tilted my gaze up, and I couldn’t help but reach up and touch his concerned face. The hat and bandana restricted my access to his hair, so I toyed with his T-shirt instead.
“You sounded amazing,” I complimented him in order to put off the talk about Heidi. His smile was adorable, but the light tinge of pink to his cheeks made me want to do truly naughty things to him. “I might be biased, but I think you sound better with my brother,” I teased him haughtily, and he laughed with such a sexy tenor, leaning in to kiss my cheek.
“I’m glad you liked it,” he said softly, reaching up to trail his fingers along the spot where he’d just pressed his lips. “I really liked having you in the front row. It made everyone else listening insignificant.”
My brow wrinkled at how sweet that was, and I cupped his face. I wanted to scream to him how I felt, but I knew it wasn’t the right time. I swallowed the words forcefully, opting to kiss his lips instead. Pulling back, I met green eyes, alight with everything he was feeling and innocent in what he’d have to endure, and I wanted to hide him away, protect him. My worry had to have been written all over my face, because Edward tilted his head at me.
“Angel?”
My eyes drifted to Rose, who looked nervous but determined, and she nodded my way.
Meeting his worry-filled face, I said, “Edward, we need to talk.” My heart broke at the hurt, the fear, the flinch of his hands on my thighs. “No, no… It’s…” I smiled at him. “Oh, baby…stop. Still here, remember?”
He nodded. “Yeah, okay, but…”
Rose’s hand landed on his shoulder. “We need a band meeting…away from prying ears,” she said, glancing to the construction workers. “Ladies, boys…let’s take this upstairs to Edward’s apartment.”





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