The Bitter Side of Wynter

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Chapter 23

Heavy Metal Thunder was an experience for the band that night. The club’s capacity was nearly five times the size they were accustomed to, and it was filled to overflowing that night, as it usually was every night. The dressing room was bigger than any the girls had experienced. It was lined with four long vanity tables and lit up mirrors, reminiscent of backstage at a theater.

Lein came back to the dressing room with Ronnie and the rest of Hard Axe. Lein attempted to introduce the guys to the band until he caught sight of Perion. His voice died out and Ronnie had to take over. His eyes beheld the most gorgeous woman he had ever seen. She wore some type of white lace outfit that bared her midriff to an inch or so below her navel. Her hair was upswept into a loose French twist with a fluff of bangs hanging over one side of her forehead. Perion looked like some kind of exotic bride and Lein’s desire for her went up ten octaves. He felt drunk with it, sick, lusty, on fire. He felt as if he were on the verge of some kind of spontaneous combustion. The feeling was wonderful and horrible at the same time. So strong was his desire, he literally had to turn around and leave the room.

Lein sat at Hard Axe’s reserved table when the other guys joined him. Banter was heavy, as usual, but Lein didn’t banter back. He sat silently, staring into a full mug of beer.

Ronnie ordered a drink before turning to his brother. “She really looks amazing tonight, bro,” Ronnie told his brother under his breath.

Lein sighed. “Yeah,” he whispered, “she does. It’s getting hard being near her. So, how are you doing with Debi,” he asked, trying to change the subject.

Ronnie smiled a little. “Okay,” he told him.

Lein laughed. “I knew you’d go for her. She’s your type exactly.”

A few minutes later, the show began. The band hit the stage and a luminous blue light shined on the girls. They weren’t doing the song they had rehearsed as the opener. They did something totally different. It was hard driving and throaty, like most of their tunes, but it was more melodic and slow. It was not quite a ballad, nor was it exactly thrashy. The song held the audience hypnotically. Everyone was transfixed; they couldn’t quite move or speak at all. When the song ended, the mesmerized crowd roared. The band moved onto their normal, thrashy style, and the crowd jumped to their feet to cheer them on.

When the entire show was over, the crowd begged for more. But they’d have to wait, they’d have to come back the next night, because Lein knew Cochran would set up Bitter Wynter to play more shows. When Lein and the guys began to make their way backstage, they literally had to elbow through hundreds of people. Those people hardly recognized the guys at all. They were too excited about the band. Lein was pleased. It was exactly what should have been happening.

Backstage, Lein noticed Perion first, as always. Although she had worked through the band’s allotted set time, she looked as fresh as a daisy. She happily chatted away with some new fans of her band. He could also see David Cochran in the corner of the room with his little appointment book in his hand. The appointment book was a good sign; it meant he wanted the band to play more dates.

Lein watched as Perion finished speaking with the fans, and then she began to walk toward him. Her smile never left her face. “What did you think,” she asked him.

He couldn’t contain his own smile. “What did I think? Come on, you’ve got to be kidding. You know how I feel about your band’s music. You guys were incredible, as always,” he said, almost laughing.

“We never would’ve played here without you, your guidance, or your rehearsal studio. I don’t think we’ve ever played better,” she told him breathlessly.

“I might have provided the right guidance, but your talents got you here. I think it’s time you guys made a new demo,” he said.

“We’ve had our first hanging around for years, but you can give it a listen and tell us what to do with it.”

He nodded. “I’ll want to do that, in fact, I can’t wait to do that. I might be getting out of line by saying this, but Blaine is one lucky guy. You look absolutely beautiful.”

Perion’s face began to turn bright red. “I hate compliments like that, I never know how to respond to them. I’m really embarrassed about wearing this. It’s not me at all.”

Oh, it’s you, all right. You just don’t know how much so, he thought. If I knew you wouldn’t slap me, I’d kiss you. “You know, you shouldn’t be as embarrassed about your body as you seem to be.” By the look on her face, he realized he had gotten a bit too personal. “I suppose I shouldn’t be saying these things to you. Sorry, I got just a little out of line there. I do want you guys to bring your demo to me tomorrow at rehearsal.”

Before the close of the night, David Cochran offered Bitter Wynter the opening slot at Heavy Metal Thunder. The stunned young women accepted the offer without much hesitation at all. It seemed as if things were finally beginning to happen for them.

Lein listened to the rough demo the next day. The four songs on the tape were definitely recorded in an amateur manner and were a little bad sound-wise, but they were musically fantastic. The raw energy on each song was exactly what Bitter Wynter had been playing for weeks. After a little cleaning up of the jagged edges, the band would have a new demo passable enough to send out to any interested label. He definitely hoped Saturn, his own band’s label, would want them. Lein decided to let the girls come back the next morning to begin cleaning up the demo and replacing a couple of songs that weren’t quite as attention getting.

That night, Perion went to bed earlier than usual. She wasn’t exactly tired, but a bit disturbed. Going to bed was about the only private time she had, until Blaine joined her, and that night she needed a bit of privacy. Ever since the debut at Heavy Metal Thunder, Perion could not get Lein Blake off her mind. Actually, it had been a lot longer than that, but that night had really set her off. She was aware of the desire he felt for her that everyone else had known. She had begun as of late to have a bit of desire for him, too.

Don’t kid yourself, her little voice scolded, it’s more than a bit. It was true; she had more desire for him than she could admit. Their interaction backstage that evening had made her keenly aware of his feelings for her, and it was shocking, scary, and thrilling all at once. She had sensed that he wanted to kiss her. If he had, she probably would have allowed him to do so, and she would have definitely kissed him back. However, she was engaged, and the little ring on her left hand reminded her of that every time she thought about Lein. She couldn’t even begin to explain to herself why she accepted Blaine’s marriage proposal. She became less blind about Blaine as each day passed. She never thought she would, but it was happening.

Blaine came into the bedroom right in the middle of her stormy thoughts. He sat down on the bedside, his back facing her. He turned his head to look at her huddled form wrapped in covers. He knew she was awake, but she was avoiding him. It was one of her best defense mechanisms. If she couldn’t face anything head on, she hid.

“You know, he’s overworking you,” Blaine told her.

“It takes a lot of practice to get good, you know that,” she said, muffled under the covers.

“Perion, I want to tell you something and hope it doesn’t piss you off. I think you should dump Lein now while you can, and let me solicit for another manager,” he said.

She sat up. “You’d solicit yourself right back in, I know how you work. What’s Lein done wrong this time?”

“Perion, he wants you, that’s the only reason he’s managing the band. If you weren’t in it, he’d dump the band in a flash.”

She groaned. “Oh God, not again. Blaine, please get over it, okay? I’m wearing your ring, I said I’d marry you, why are you so worried about this?”

“How do you feel about him, Perion?”

“Give me a break, Blaine,” she said. “This is an old argument, baby. Remember what happened the last time we had this little fight?”

“You’re avoiding the question, baby,” he mocked, “how do you feel about him?”

“I don’t feel anything about him,” she lied.

He read her mind easily. However, the chore was not that difficult. She had always worn her heart on her sleeve, so to speak. What she actually felt was all over her face, in her voice, and dead-bang in her eyes. “You’re sitting there, facing me, and fucking lying through your teeth,” he whispered. “But that’s really okay, as long as you understand that I’ll never let you go, because I’m the one who loves you. Just remember that, regardless of what Lein decides to do with you.” He moved away from her and into the bathroom where she heard him turn on the shower.

The words I’ll never let you go reverberated in her mind like a persistent woodpecker. Maybe it was the best thing that could happen, after all, Blaine might possibly be correct in his assumption. Perhaps Lein only wanted her for one thing and one thing only. She didn’t know what to think any longer.

Between playing gigs at Heavy Metal Thunder and Perion’s dancing at The Rose Bush, the band managed to work through their demo and corrected what needed to be corrected. They accomplished the recording work at the rehearsal studio with a four-track recorder Hard Axe had set up years ago while they used the place as headbangers in training. Per request by Lein, the band had even had some promotional pictures made to add to their demo package. The girls had also begun to spend more time rehearsing, and polishing up their musical skills.

Perion tended to stay longer than the others to vocalize without any music backing her. She vocalized and rehearsed longer than the rest, doing so since the band first started. But with the excellent soundproof acoustics of the studio, it was impossible to resist singing and/or vocalizing for hours on end. She didn’t mind the solitary time. It gave her an opportunity to think and clear out her head. One particular evening when Perion stayed, she’d decided not to sing. Instead, she did something she didn’t do very often. She danced for herself, to please herself for the first time in ages. She didn’t realize she had an audience, an audience of one, at least.

Lein had come back to the studio to pick up something insignificant he had forgotten, and had forgotten a second time the instant he saw Perion dancing. Music was blaring from a small portable cassette player. He leaned in the opened doorway between the actual studio and the tiny reception area, watching her dance as if the demons of Hell were on her heels to take her back to Satan with them. Unlike her routines at the club, it wasn’t sexual at all, but it was passionate. She could have been a Broadway stepper if she hadn’t fallen in love with singing. When the song ended, Lein clapped his hands loudly.

Perion, startled, spun around to face him. Her face was quickly turning a wonderful shade of scarlet red. “Oh my God, you scared the holy shit out of me.”

A new song began as he walked toward her. “You were terrific,” he shouted. The volume on her cassette player was up high.

She leaned toward the cassette player and turned down the volume. “I still don’t like dancing in front of people, especially you,” she told him.

“Why me in particular,” he asked.

She smiled a little. “Well, you’ve been sort of like an idol for me. I’ve been a fan of your band for ages. When you walked into the club that night, I wanted to bury my head. Then when I came into the back room and saw you, the feeling worsened. I thought you’d demand your money back because I had danced so badly.”

He smiled, shaking his head in doubt. ”You thought you’d danced badly? No way, Perion, you were incredible then, and even more so now. I hope you’ve gotten over your idolatry of me by now, though. I don’t feel comfortable being an idol.”

Her smile grew wider. “Well, maybe a little.”

“If you’re finished, we could go back into the reception area and sit down. Today would be a good day to hear some of the history of your band, if you got time.”

“You don’t really want to hear that stuff, do you?”

“Of course I do, why would I have asked?”

She sighed. “Okay, let’s go. But I’ll warn you, it’s kind of long and boring.”

Perion grabbed the cassette player and followed Lein back into the reception area. There was a huge overstuffed sofa dominating one entire wall, and they both sat down facing each other. Being alone with Lein made Perion nervous, and with slightly shaking hands, she fiddled with her stereo. She turned the sound down again so they’d be able to hear each other without shouting. She had almost turned it completely off, but had changed her mind at the last second. She didn’t want to be in the room with him in total silence.

After a moment, she stopped fidgeting around and looked at him. “I don’t know how to start,” she finally said.

“Start wherever you want,” he told her.

She sighed. “If you haven’t guessed yet, I hate talking about me, so some of this stuff will sound confusing, because I’d much rather talk about someone else. I can say for myself that I’ve always loved to sing; as far back as I can remember. I’ve known Debi, Randi, and Syndi all my life. I didn’t meet Blaine until I was sixteen. We sort of started a band when Debi and Syndi were sixteen, and Randi and me were fourteen. There was no money, so at first, we used our school’s band equipment. We had jobs that helped us make some money, but most of it came from a small trust fund that was supposed to send me to college. We then bought our own equipment at a secondhand music store, and it was and still is old. After that, we played any place that would take us and saved every penny so we could eventually leave. On a whim, Randi and I quit school and we moved out here.” There was no way she would tell him the only reason they had left home was because she thought she’d gotten pregnant.

“When we first got out here, Blaine convinced his cousin Brett to let us play at the ′Lane. The other girls got jobs waiting tables at restaurants around town, but I didn’t get one right off. Blaine heard about an opening for a dancer at The Rose Bush. I refused at first because I didn’t believe I had what it took. But we were really hurting for money, and that persuaded me to audition. I ended up thinking, ‘what the hell,’ I’d had some training, I couldn’t stink that much. I figured Newsome would take one look at me and laugh me off stage. But he didn’t, I became one of his Lefties, as you know.” She also didn’t want to go into the story of her cocaine use, so she intentionally skipped it.

“Blaine took charge of publicity for the shows, and made up thousands of flyers. For a while, we all pounded the pavement, handing these things out to anybody we came across. He tried club after club to get other gigs for us, but he always got doors slammed in his face. Not many clubs out there are interested in an all-girl band, especially an all-girl band like us. I guess some club owners believe chicks can’t rock like guys.

“After about six months of the ′Lane and The Rose Bush, Brett had a friend with some recording equipment. He convinced this guy to let us use his stuff to make a demo. It was an awful piece of work because the equipment kept malfunctioning. But it got put together, and that’s what we gave you. It was the only thing we had with any of our stuff recorded on it. We also bugged the shit out of a lot of independent labels to get them down to hear us. Apparently, no one came out. If anyone did, we didn’t find out about it or they hated us.

“I guess we collectively and silently decided to stop seeking deals and gigs, because we kept up at the ′Lane, and I kept dancing. I think you know where we are now. Hopefully, we’ll live happily ever after,” she said smiling a little.

“It’s a good story,” he told her honestly.

Perion shrugged. “A lot of people have better stories.”

“What did your parents think when you left town and school,” he asked.

She smiled a bit ruefully. “My dad’s been dead for about eighteen years. My mom would’ve probably been dead set against it if I’d have talked to her about it, but I didn’t. We left without asking anybody’s opinion. I haven’t seen my mother since we left. I just wouldn’t have the guts to tell her I’m a part-time stripper. She’d really freak.”

“You won’t be a stripper for long. Besides, there’s nothing wrong with it. My credo is simple: if you got it, flaunt it.”

Her rueful smile remained. “Yeah, well, I’ve never been good at flaunting. I’ve told you my story, what’s yours,” she brought up, changing the subject.

“It’s similar to yours. I, too, have loved music and been singing all my life. Ronnie was a musician all his. He can’t sing a note, but he can play to rival any guitarist I know. My whole family is either closet musicians or professionals, and we were raised with it.

“Like you and your friends, Ronnie and me met the guys in school and we started playing. We did a lot of clubs around town, and hit pay dirt after David Cochran and his wife Francesca saw us play.

“It was really funny how they found us. Frankie and Dave were tooling around in a limo celebrating an anniversary or something, and Frankie was a bit drunk on champagne. She convinced Dave to stop and get out with her at this club we were headlining at the time. It just so happened that the club had a nickel special on strawberry margaritas, her favorite drink. While they downed the drinks, we hit the stage and started our show. Dave said he was drunk by then, but got stone cold sober when we started playing. He left Frankie standing, and got backstage where he waited for us. Our manager wasn’t there that night, but we worked out our own gig deal without him. I do believe that if we hadn’t gotten the gig at ′Thunder, we’d still be doing the club circuit.

“Fast forward some years to my twenty-third birthday. On that night, my brother took me down to a club where I saw an incredible dancer. She was the most desirable woman I had ever seen, and I would have given everything I had to...”

His voice died out the moment he heard his own words. He’d overstepped the theoretical boundary he had specifically set up to avoid a situation like the one unfolding before them. After he’d shut his mouth, her face began to whiten. She turned away from him and sat up straight. He felt as if an invisible wall had suddenly been constructed between them. Lein didn’t know if his relationship with her would ever be the same again. But he couldn’t prevent his thoughts from spilling out even if his tongue had been cut out. He knew it stemmed from being around her so much. He felt logy, as if he’d fallen asleep in the sun and awakened five or six hours later.

“Perion, I’m sorry. I know I got way out of line, but...”

Lein’s words died in his throat. He no longer knew what he wanted to say to her. He wanted so badly to kick his own ass, but he couldn’t think straight enough to do it. I’ve really fucked up with her, he thought.

Bringing herself to her feet, she turned away from him. She then slipped a few steps away from the sofa. If she didn’t get out of the room right away, she knew she could not be held responsible for what would happen between them. After a few moments, he stood and approached her. He allowed his hands to fall onto her shoulders. A small shiver ran through her. She was visibly quaking.

A little stumped for words, Lein repeated: “Perion, I’m really sorry, I-”

She spun around to face him, to get his hands off her body. His touch alone unnerved her. “Lein, you don’t have to apologize,” she said quietly. “I know why you’ve been at the club every night, I know why you said what you did on our debut night at the club. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t feel about you what you feel about me, but the only thing we can do is let it die. I’ve made a commitment to somebody else and I have to stick to it. I can’t throw away a four-year relationship for someone I just met. I can’t, I won’t,” she said in an almost pleading tone of voice.

Her voice was shaky, convincing him she didn’t mean what she said at all. It was so obvious and clear. Lein felt as if he were moving in slow motion as his hand rose up from his side, taking minutes, then hours, then days to touch her cheek. He leaned toward her, slowly, giving her time to react and push him away. She did no such thing. Perion stood motionless, as if in shock. Lein’s slightly parted lips met hers for a kiss he had wanted since first setting eyes on her. He plunged his hands into her hair and held her against him for a long, breathtaking kiss. He didn’t want to let her go, or allow their moment to end any sooner than it would.

Almost reluctantly, Perion pulled away from him. “Oh my God, I can’t believe we did that. What are we doing,” she whispered. Her voice died down to a meek whisper as she uttered his name, as if expecting him to have the answer she sought. At that moment, she wanted him so badly she had almost completely forgotten about her ‘commitment’ to Blaine.

Lein regarded her dazed reaction for a brief moment. He knew she was deeply troubled; she had been harboring her own demons from the beginning as he had. Sighing, he said, “I did it because I couldn’t help it, and it’s something I’ve wanted to do since I first saw you. I wouldn’t have done it just then if I hadn’t seen in your eyes how much you wanted it, too,” he told her quietly.

“I have to go,” she told him, and tried to walk past him.

But of course, he wouldn’t let her go. “Damn it, Perion, we need to talk about this. Something is definitely happening between us, and I don’t think either of us should run away and act as if it isn’t. We both know what’s going on, and we have known about it for a long time. It’s more than obvious you’re not as committed to Blaine as you think. Still, I see you’re intent on going to him, to sleep in his bed, and make love to him even after-”

She interrupted him. “After what, Lein? A kiss? What’s a kiss? Do you know how innocent a kiss is? Do you?” “I do, but our kiss wasn’t innocent. There was heat, Perion, passion. It was a lover’s kiss, not a friendly peck between two old sisters after a game of gin rummy.”

She sighed, feeling tears just behind her eyes. “Lein, please, this...this can’t happen. I don’t take Blaine for granted-”

Lein interrupted her. “Why not? Since when does he not take you for granted?”

He had hit a little too closely to the truth for her. His words shamed her, and that feeling angered her. She jerked her arm free of his grasp and slapped his face as hard as she could. The blow forced his head to jerk to the side, and he kept his face averted toward his shoulder. He tried desperately to keep check on his temper. Oddly enough, he wanted her more than ever before.

When Lein decided to look at her again, she was startled to see a slanted smile framing his lips. He seemed very amused, and he was. He had never thought that pain from a hard driving slap would be a turn on. Incredibly, it was, and it was deliciously funny. He let out a low chuckle of incredulous disbelief and fixed a determined gaze on her face.

Perion did not expect such a unique reaction. Instead of uttering ‘fuck you, bitch,’ and leaving the room instantly, Lein remained with her and searched her face in an almost cold, but calculated fashion. Sensing exactly what he had in mind for her, She instinctively, but slowly, began backing away from him. He took not one step toward her. It didn’t matter, because she was heading in the wrong direction to get out. She realized she was trapped in the room with him as her back hit the wall. She took in a small, surprised gasp of air as his smile fell away. In three swift steps, Lein had closed the distance between them, and pinned her body to the wall with his.

He looked down into her upturned face and his slanted grin reappeared. “Do you think that’s going to stop how we feel? That only made it more intense for me. What about you?”

“You’re sick,” she whispered, but there was huskiness about her voice that had never been there before.

Lein quickly recognized the tone. He’d heard it plenty during such moments with past lovers. “No, I’m not sick, but I know that you want me just as much as I want you.”

He leaned down and took her lips once again. During the kiss, they moved away from the wall, and walked toward the sofa. He sat down first and she came down after, straddling his lap. His mouth moved down to her throat and she threw her head back, enjoying the feel of his warm lips on her flesh. She felt his hands sliding up from her waist to her breasts. His hand then worked its way inside her top and onto her breasts. She could clearly feel each stroke of his hand, and his touch was enough to drive her insane.

He lowered her to the sofa. After that, he ran his opened mouth along her hardened nipples, brushing them every now and then with his teeth. She wanted to reach out to him, to touch him, but she couldn’t move. She felt paralyzed by sensation. Lein began to slip his hands along and up her thighs, stopping just at the edge of her gauzy miniskirt. With one hand on the back of the sofa to support his weight, he lifted his body upward. His other hand slowly pushed up her skirt.

He began placing small kisses on her body as he slid his own downward. Once his mouth reached her thighs, she parted them willingly. He ran his tongue along the center of her, outside her panties. With a trembling sigh, she arched her back toward him. Slowly, he slid her delicate bikinis down and off her body. She kept her thighs parted as he hovered over her. He slid his body back up and took her lips once again.

During the kiss, he slipped his hand down her side, onto her thigh, and to her sex. She cried out a little against his lips. She took hold of his hand after a moment, and he pressed his lower body into hers. She could clearly feel him against her. She moved her hand down and opened his jeans. As he kissed her again, she reached inside his opened jeans and ran her finger delicately along his hardness.

Lein sat up, and brought Perion with him. Once again, she straddled his lap. Just before she was about to free him from the confines of his briefs, the phone at the reception desk rang. They totally ignored it as Perion freed him and began an excruciatingly wonderful caress.

After five rings, the answering machine blared on with a recording of Randi’s voice saying: ‘we’re either outta here or too busy.’ The beep sounded off, and Blaine’s voice barked, “Peri, where the fuck are you?”

Blaine’s voice immediately shattered the spell. Perion moved away from Lein abruptly. She stood, rearranged her clothing, and rushed toward the phone. By the time she got to it, she heard a distinctive click as Blaine hung up.

“Damn,” she whispered, hitting the phone with the flat opened palm of her hand.

Lein hadn’t made one move toward rearranging his clothes. Instead, in frustration, he placed his elbows on his knees and passed his hands over his face. Sighing, he asked, “What are we going to do?”

She couldn’t look at him, couldn’t even glance in his direction. She felt a lot like a prudish virgin manhandled for the very first time. His jeans were still open, and his arousal was quite obvious. Hers burned inside her as well, but she fought it. Perion shook her head and put her hand on the doorknob of the front exit door. “Absolutely nothing. As far as I’m concerned, what just happened never happened at all. You have to stay away from me. Please don’t ever come back to the club, I don’t want to see you again.” She opened the door and stepped out, leaving him where he sat, startled and more than confused.

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