Out of Tune (Wynter Wild #2)

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Stampede

Caleb was in such a funk that Jesse thought he’d have trouble persuading him to come to Indio’s gig. Turned out Caleb was eager to go. It wasn’t until they were parked at the venue, sitting in the car, that Jesse discovered why.

“You need to help me out, Jess. I need to get Indio over there to see Wynter afterward, before he leaves town. I’ll drive him myself. Surely she’ll listen to him.”

“I don’t think she wants to see him.”

“Well, don’t tell him that, or he won’t come.”

“You’re asking me to lie now? He already knows. He asks me about her six times a day.”

“At this point I’ll try anything to get him in the car. She may change her mind once he’s on the doorstep.”

“Why don’t you get it? It’s simple. She won’t eat until she comes home.”

Caleb whirled on him. “Why don’t you get it? Do you see where this ends up? If she’s hospitalized she becomes a problem case, a mental health case, a suicide risk, and god knows what other label gets slapped on her. Her file triples in size overnight, and we have a dozen doctors and caseworkers and therapists and other professionals to deal with, instead of one, and we will never bring her home.” Caleb pressed his forehead against his hands on the wheel. “She has to eat. She has to get healthy and then we can start over.”

Caleb always got his way, didn’t he? Lately it didn’t seem like it. Jesse didn’t think Indio would be getting in the car with them.

They gave their names at the door and were given backstage passes for after the show. Wages and Gifts came on at two—this was an all-ages show, billed as family friendly, home in time for supper.

For the first three songs Jesse found himself looking at Caleb more than at the stage. Caleb stood with his hands pushed deep into his pockets and watched Indio so intently that Jesse got choked up. His two brothers rarely spoke a kind word to each other, but Jesse was perfectly aware that Caleb admired Indio’s dedication to music as surely as Indio admired Caleb’s many talents—his demanding career, his study of karate, his devotion to Wynter. One day, perhaps, Indio would even learn to admire their eldest brother for sacrificing his childhood to raise them.

“I’m going up front,” Jesse yelled. He worked his way forward, held up his phone, and took a bunch of photos. He sent the best ones to Wynter, although she wouldn’t see them yet because Rosa hadn’t returned her phone. He didn’t want to think about what she was doing right now—too depressing. He didn’t know if she’d even want a picture of Indio, rock god, but that was her problem. He was here to enjoy the show.

He was standing behind a group of girls gathered right in front of Indio. They spent the entire show screaming at him. Indio was used to that from college, but these girls were about twelve years old and Jesse became concerned about a fainting epidemic. He was also bitterly disappointed that Wynter wasn’t among them

During the final song, he went to find Caleb. As the band walked off, Indio tossed his pick into the girls’ midst, although he’d barely acknowledged them all night, and another hysterical scream went up.

There would be a half-hour break before Charity came on. Jesse wouldn’t mind seeing her performance, but Caleb was eager to get backstage. Their supercharged VIP passes sent them in a straight line to the Wages and Gifts dressing room. Inside, the band was in a huddle doing some kind of post-show prayer—and there was Indio, dammit, in the circle with them, head bowed, although Jesse noticed he didn’t say amen at the end.

Indio saw them and came over, shook Caleb’s hand perfunctorily, and slapped Jesse on the back.

“What was that?” Jesse indicated the dispersing prayer circle.

“Just being respectful.” Indio looked at Caleb. “Proud of me?”

“Very.”

Jesse didn’t think Caleb was talking about the prayer, and even Indio did a double take.

Caleb got straight to the point. “Do you need to hang around here? I want to drive you to Richland.”

“Right now?” Indio’s expression turned to alarm. “Has something happened?”

“No. No change. I want you to talk to her. To see… if it makes a difference.”

Indio glanced at Jesse, searching for clues. “Jesse told me she’s never asked to see me. I don’t want to screw things up.”

“I think she’ll change her mind once you’re there,” Caleb said. “Will you—?”

A sultry southern accent wafted above the noise of conversation and laughing and background music. Jesse turned to see none other than Charity Thorne coming into the room.

“Wow, does she hang out with you guys?” Jesse said under his breath.

“Sometimes.” Indio didn’t meet his eye. “Her band’s been real friendly.”

“Indio!” She came over and put a hand on his shoulder. Her other hand went flat on his chest as she practically draped herself on him. The pose was pretty suggestive, if you wanted to look at it that way. Or maybe she was real friendly, too. She gave Caleb and Jesse the once over. “Who are these handsome boys?”

Indio had tensed up, which didn’t bode well for Jesse’s theory that she was this friendly to just anyone. “My brothers—Caleb, Jesse, this is Charity.”

“Do you also play?” she asked them.

“A little.” Caleb was looking at Indio like he’d like to chew him out, had they been in private.

“Isn’t he fantastic?” Charity gushed. “Every third show our managers let me sing on stage with them, but not today. You’re staying for my show, I hope?”

“We need to get going,” Indio said. “Our little sister’s ill.”

Jesse saw the relief in Caleb’s eyes—Indio had made his decision.

“Oh! The poor darling. You think she’d like one of my signed prayer cards?” Charity raised her false-lashed eyes to Indio. “Or is she a little heathen, like you?”

“She is,” Jesse said, before either of his brothers had time to say something polite.

Charity gave Jesse a dazzling smile. “Well, I will surely pray for her anyway. What’s her name?”

“Wynter.”

“That’s beautiful.” She undraped herself from Indio, her hand lingering on his chest a fraction too long, and delicately shook Caleb’s and Jesse’s hands. “I won’t keep you a minute longer.”

Indio found someone to tell he was leaving, went to wash up and change his shirt, and they headed out to the car.

Indio didn’t answer, which kind of confirmed the wandering hands were an Indio thing, as suspected. Jesse waited for Caleb to have a shot at it. Nothing.

“Oh, dude, don’t flick your pick at the chicks like that,” he added. “You caused a stampede.”

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