As they drove back toward Dallas, Bane texted Tony.
What the fuck do you want?
The response was instant.
Where the fuck are you? We've got to leave for Baton Rouge in four hours!
I'm with Annabelle, dick! We're on our way back to Dallas now.
Back? Where the fuck did you spend the night? I know it wasn't in the hotel.
Bane grinned at that. No, not in the hotel. I stayed with Annabelle at her place. We'll be there in about an hour. Plenty of time to make it to the plane. Oh, and she's coming with us.
There was no response to that, and Bane was about to put his phone away when it rang. His grin grew knowing it was Tony and that he'd be pissed. He answered and said, "What do you want, Tony?"
"She's coming with us? How the hell did you manage that? I mean, all those women say you're great in bed, but what the fuck? I thought you didn't want anyone coming with us."
"No, I said I wanted something different, and that's exactly what she is." Bane reached over and laid his hand on Anna's thigh, giving it a small squeeze. She smiled at him and laid her hand on his. He turned his hand over and curled his fingers around her palm. "She's agreed to come to Baton Rouge with us."
"Does she even realize what it's like on tour, Bane? Will she be able to handle all those women drooling over you?"
"That's what we're going to find out. She's only agreed to this one show, Tony. After that, we'll see." Bane stared at Anna's profile. "If she can't, I'll pay for her to come back here."
"Damn, boy, you've got it bad, don't you?"
Bane chuckled. "You have no idea, brother. See you in a few."
"Whatever, Bane. Just don't break her heart. She seemed really sweet."
"I'll do my best," Bane said with a frown, and then he hung up.
Anna glanced at him. "What's wrong?"
Shaking his head silently, Bane picked up her hand, leaned over, and kissed her knuckles. Then he just stared out the side window, his thoughts consuming him. What would Anna do when someone in the audience fainted when he took his shirt off? Would she be disgusted? What about when several women screamed out that they loved him? Could she handle that? Would she still be waiting for him backstage after the show, or would all that nonsense drive her away? What about the paparazzi? How would she feel about not being able to go anywhere without bulbs flashing in her face all the time? His hand unconsciously tightened on hers, and she reciprocated.
"Bane? Talk to me, please. What are you thinking about right now?"
He sighed and looked at her. "I'm just wondering if you can do this, baby. Will the price of fame drive you away from me?" He turned back to the window. "God, I hope not, but I'm not very optimistic."
"You heard the audience last night. Can you stay with me when total strangers are calling out that they love me? What about when they faint at the sight of me? Can you deal with that, Anna?"
"I don't know, Bane. I've never had to before, but I want to try." She squeezed his hand. "I like you, Bane Raimond Scott. I like you a lot, and I want to be with you, so I'll try."
"Why?" Bane repeated her earlier question.
"Why do you want to be with me? You don't even know me."
"I know enough," she answered. "You are a sweet, kind, loving man, and I want to know more about you. The real you, not the you onstage. I want to get to know you better. I want to know things about you that your fans don't know, and that's why I'll try to deal with all the other stuff that surrounds Venom."
Bane smiled, but it didn't reach his eyes. "Thank you, Anna. I appreciate that."
They talked about minor things until they reached the hotel, but by that time, Bane knew that Anna's favorite color was purple, her favorite food was Chinese, and her favorite scent was mint. She found out that he loved the color yellow, Mexican food, and the smell of roses. They both loved chocolate and caramel, and they both loved reading, although Bane was a fan of mystery novels, and Anna liked fantasy best.
She pulled into the underground garage of the hotel and parked. "Wait," Bane said as he held up a finger. He got out of the car, walked around it, and opened her door for her. She smiled as she took his proffered hand and climbed out of the car. Then he pulled her suitcase from the backseat.
"What about my car?" she asked as he led her to the elevator.
"Don't worry. It'll be safe here, and, God forbid, you come back after tomorrow's show, it'll be here waiting for you." Bane scowled at the thought.
Anna pulled him to a stop well shy of the elevator. "Hey, don't write me off before I've even had a chance, Bane. Don't bring me into this thinking it won't work, or it won't. Be positive. I'm a pretty strong person, especially when I am going after something I want, and I want this to work for us."
Yanking her closer, Bane took her face in his hands. "Me too, baby, more than you could ever imagine." He kissed her softly and took her hand again. "Come on. Time to meet the others."
They rode the elevator to the top floor of the hotel, and Anna faltered when Bane took a step forward.
"Baby, you can't be afraid to meet my band if you think this is going to work. You're going to be surrounded by strangers if you stay with me, so if meeting five new people is hard, this won't work."
She took a deep breath and nodded. "You're right, of course. I'm just not used to meeting a lot of new people." She stepped out of the elevator after him, and he smiled at her.
"They're all really nice, I promise. I wouldn't have them with me if they weren't."
With another nod, she followed him down the hall to his suite. When he opened the door, she took a deep breath and walked in after him. As he had expected, everyone was there in his suite, and they were all looking at the door. He grinned at them and looked for Tony. His best friend came out of one of the bedrooms with a scowl on his face.
"Come here, Anna," Bane said softly as he set the suitcase down, put his arm around her waist and pulled her to his side. Then he spoke to the others. "Everyone, this is Annabelle Fortelli. She's coming to Baton Rouge with us. Annabelle, this is Cass Thompson..." He introduced her to his band and to Sharon. "And you've already met Tony," he said with a grin, and his friend managed to smile at Anna as he held out his hand. She took it with a return smile.
"Nice to see you again, Annabelle. Can I talk to you for a minute?"
Anna looked at Bane who shrugged. Then she kissed him on the cheek and walked into the bedroom with Tony. The door was shut behind them, and then the questions came.
"What the hell, Bane?" Cass said quietly. "She's coming with us on tour? What the fuck happened last night?"
Bane dropped into a chair and laced his fingers behind his head with a grin. "I spent the night with a beautiful girl who wants to get to know me better. For the first time in God knows how long, I made love to someone instead of fucking and forgetting them. I drank no alcohol last night and slept better than I have in years. I talked to an old man who warned me about breaking her heart and said I'd be hunted down if I did."
David laughed. "Did he? And what did you say to that?"
Bane shrugged, his grin faltering. "That I wouldn't hurt her intentionally, but that I might do it unintentionally." He sat up straight and ran his hands through his hair. "Fuck, I don't want to do that, but I'm so afraid I will."
Sharon knelt by his chair and put her arm around his shoulders. "Then don't, Bane. Make sure of it. Keep it in your pants and keep her close. She seems sweet."
"She is, Sharon. So fucking sweet and kind and willing to try to put up with the bullshit in this business just to be with me." He stared at the bedroom door. "She's known me for one day, and she's willing to do that for me."
"Then be what she needs you to be when she needs you to be it. Do your show, sell albums, be Venom onstage, but be Bane Scott with her."
"I know that," Bane sighed, "but I've been Venom for so long onstage and off that I'm scared I'll fuck this up, and she'll leave." He dropped his head in his hands. "I don't think I'd survive that." Sharon gave him a squeeze, and he laid his head on her shoulder. "I'm so fucking lonely," he whispered, and Sharon gasped when his breath caught, and she held him tighter.
His head came up when the bedroom door opened, and Anna came out frowning. Tony came out after her, took one look at Bane, and went back into the room, shutting the door behind him. Bane stood up and walked to Anna.
"What's the matter, baby?"
She shook her head, and Bane scowled. He grabbed Anna's hand and pulled her into the second bedroom, slamming the door.
"What the fuck did he say to you?"
Tears welled in Anna's eyes, and Bane's scowl darkened.
"He told me what it was like on tour, Bane. I'm not so sure I can do this now."
"God damn it!" Bane shouted, fisting his hands in his hair and pacing back and forth before flinging the door open and storming into his room. "What the hell, Tony? Why are you trying to scare her off? Do you not realize how much I want this?"
"Of course I do, but she has a right to know what she's getting herself into, Bane!"
"What did you tell her?"
Tony sighed from his seat on the bed. "I told her about your fans swarming you, about the paparazzi, and about how little privacy you have. I told her about how many hours this life takes from you and that you wouldn't be with her much until the tour is over in five months."
"That is complete bullshit, and you know it, Tony! I'll be with her as much as I possibly can! I want her backstage or in the wings at the show tomorrow night." When Tony opened his mouth, Bane held up a finger in warning. "Shut the fuck up, Tony. Not a single fucking word! This is going to happen, and you have no say in it! I am Venom! Me! Without me, this band wouldn't exist! Cass and David and Trenton would be playing with someone else, and who knows what the fuck you and Sharon would be doing."
"That's pure arrogance, Bane! Don't be such an ass! If you left, we'd just find another lead singer."
"Really? Shall I leak to the press that I'm thinking of leaving Venom and see what happens to our sales? I can always recant later."
Tony's eyes went wide. "You wouldn't."
Bane clenched his teeth and his fists. "No, I wouldn't. That would not be fair to the others, but I swear to God that if you try to get Anna to leave, I'll find myself another manager. One who wants me to be happy!"
"Fuck, Bane, I want you to be happy, but she needs to know what she's getting herself into. She needs to know it won't be easy to be with Venom."
"She already knows that, Tony. I talked to her about it, but she still agreed to try. For me, brother! Do you understand what that means? She wants to try just to be with me! Not Venom! Me! Bane Raimond Scott from Slaughters, Kentucky who just happens to be able to sing and play guitar." Bane sank down on the bed next to his friend. "She wants me, Tony. Little old me."
Tony put his arm around his friend. "It's not so surprising, Bane. You're not a bad guy. In fact, you're a really decent person, and I truly hope this works out for you, but she needed to know."
Bane heaved a sigh and stood up. "She'd better still be here, Tony, or I'll kick the shit out of you."
Bane walked out of the room and was pleasantly surprised to see Sharon and Anna in the kitchen talking. The rest of his band was gone, and he assumed they were in their own rooms packing. He watched the two women for a moment, and then he stepped closer. Both women looked at him, and he asked, "Anna, are you staying?"
She smiled at him and nodded. "Yes, Bane. You or Tony won't get rid of me that easily."
He broke out in a grin. "Good. We need to leave soon for the airport. That'll be your first test."