In the past, one of the guys would normally come over to chill on a day like today. Before a big tour, we’d play some pool, smoke a little weed, jam and have a few beers, but they were all otherwise occupied now.
Jason had always had a kid since forever, but with us about to leave on a three month tour, Cortney and Brianna were understandably demanding his attention.
I tried calling Gabe and he didn’t answer. Again. The man was MIA lately and no one had seen or heard from him like we used to.
Chris had a two-month-old at home and between that and both he and Reegan getting ready for the tour, I wasn’t bothering with that shit.
They were taking baby Ian with them, but as new parents, they were freaked.
I wasn’t jealous, trust me. I understood everyone was busy. They had lives of their own to live.
Growing up in foster homes helped me become used to the solitude of life. I had been on my own since I turned eighteen and I loved it. And hell, if I wanted to get laid there were plenty of chicks out there to occupy my time.
I did my workout, showered, then decided I would make my way to Asher’s. It was the hang out nowadays, since Bree was back in our lives and Declan was a fucking amazing ass kid.
I bet that if I were lucky enough, I’d even catch Olivia hanging around to visit with her mom.
She was always a sight to see, but since she became our manager I only saw her when she was working. The girl knew how to get the job done and wouldn’t rest until everything was perfect.
I couldn’t believe that she was the same little brace-faced kid that I'd met when she was a teen and Asher had her family move in to his place.
I entered my code and drove through when the gates opened. Asher had gotten a lockable-code gate in the last couple months and if he decided he didn't want certain company, he could block their individual code, so the gates of McGhee world didn't allow them in. He could even block us all, if he wanted to be alone with his family. He'd done it a couple times, when he wanted to be alone with Bree, but when she found out, she'd ripped him a new one.
Trust me though, we were all decking our houses out with this shit.
To be honest, I was surprised that it was unlocked now. We were leaving for tour tomorrow. Didn't they want to be alone now?
I pulled up to the front of the house and glanced at my watch before cutting the engine on my bike. It was noon on a Sunday.
When I walked into the vast entry of the house a feminine voice that was not Bree’s, assaulted my ears.
“Well, this is absolutely ridiculous!” A pause, before continuing on, “No! I told you! The bands have a total of two buses you either have the two Sixers that we put on hold two months ago or you don’t! I am not playing games here! We had a contract!”
Olivia was working again. She sounded hot when she was agitated. This was a huge tour for us and it was her first time putting something like this together.
I was helping her where I could, with the roadies and tour stops, but there was no getting around the bus issues. Asher had purchased a 41-footer for him, Bree and Declan and Chris and Reegan had purchased a smaller one to travel with Ian and Lou.
The remaining members, Jason, Gabe, me and the rest of Fallen Angels would be split between two smaller buses with the roadies.
“Oh, Mr. Osborne,” Claire, Asher’s housekeeper, met me with a surprised smile, “Asher is out in the pool with Bree and Declan. Were they expecting you?”
“Nah,” I shrugged with a smile, “You know he’s too busy to answer his phone now, so I didn't even try.”
“I wasn't the only one to notice then.” She laughed. This woman gave birth the fierce woman I’d heard just a moment ago. If Olivia wasn’t off limits as our PR, I would have kissed Claire for birthing such a beautiful young woman, although nine years my junior.
“I was about to bring the family lunch. Will you be sticking around?” She asked with a wink.
“Would it be any trouble?” I raised a brow in mock question, “I wouldn’t want to impose.”
“Not at all. Club sandwiches, Bree’s request.” The older woman gave an enthusiastic smile with a little eye roll.
She knew too well that if any of the guys showed up, she’d be feeding them too. She’d been a part of our fucked-up family for going on twelve years now.
“Sure, I’ll stick it out.” I chuckled, giving Claire a nod as I made my way through to the kitchen.
Leave it to Bree… Anything simple, she loved.
I watched Olivia’s back as I passed. I hadn’t seen her for a couple of weeks.
Where our previous manager had made everything that we did his business, she gave us space.
Today she wasn’t wearing her typical gray or black pantsuit though. She had a white sundress on, with large, red flowers embroidered into it. It was fitted on her form, accentuating her petite frame. She was also barefoot and her red hair was a mess. She looked… Disheveled.
She was always so put together that I normally teased her about being so pristine. I wondered what was up.
“Oh yes, I do understand your predicament, but apparently you don’t understand who you’re dealing with here,” Olivia’s voice raised, her anger building, “I am the manager of Black Heart and Fallen Angels. I didn’t get my job because I’m cute and I have perky tits, so let me inform you that I am one hell of a force to be reckoned with. I need these sixers for our Minor Infraction Tour that is sold out in 43 arenas. You get me those busses as promised in our contract or I will bring my bands and we will be speaking to the owner of your company personally tomorrow morning.”
She paused for a moment, looking to the ceiling.
“Oh, really?” Liv laughed dryly, “You found our busses? So quickly too? So, tell me something, Eugene… Did you pull these busses out of your ass or will they be exactly what I signed for?”
She paused for a moment, listening then spoke into the phone, “Now that we have that settled, I will be there on Wednesday to check that the busses are precisely to my specifications.”
She slammed her cellphone down on the marble countertop and lowered her head with a sigh.
“Hey, Beautiful.” I always called her beautiful, meaning every bit of it. Normally she would just narrow her cute little blue eyes at me and have a snarky comeback, but today was different. I’d startled her when I spoke.
Liv was never startled. She was quick witted and fast on her feet. This was not normal for her. Not any part of what I saw today.
When she jumped she glanced up at me, tears stinging her eyes before she looked away.
“You scared the shit out of me, Nick.” She swiped at a tear.
“Whoa-You okay, Kid?” I paused in mid step, turning to walk to her side.
“I’m fine.” She ignored me stepping up to her and quickly walked out of the room with a speed I hadn’t ever seen from her. She headed to toward the back rooms; the area of the house that Asher had for Claire.
It wasn’t like her to cry. I’d known her since she was a kid… Hell, she was still a kid, but Liv was strong and snappy. She had been since she was young, when her mother started working here.
“You all worry too much. She’s just having a rough go, Sweetie. She’ll be fine soon enough and have her head in the game for the tour. It has nothing to do with any of you or her job.” Claire gave a nod to the back door where the sounds of splashing and laughter came from.
I hesitantly followed the squeals and sounds of water. I wanted to follow Liv. I wanted to make sure that she was okay, but as soon as my foot hit the patio wet arms encircled my waist.
“Uncle Nick!” Declan laughed, “It's so nice to see you.”
“Fricken brat!” I chuckled, hugging her in return. The sun was high and warm, so I wasn’t afraid of a little water from my fifteen-year-old niece, but she’d done that shit on purpose. It didn’t surprise me. Declan was Asher’s daughter through and through. She looked exactly like him, she had his personality too.
He and I weren’t related by blood, but he was my band brother. Which made his daughter my niece by default and she loved to take advantage of it and tease all of her band uncles any chance she got.
None of us had been there her first fifteen years, including Asher, but it was no fault of our own. We would have been there if we’d known about her, or even if we'd known Bree was alive.
Each and every one of us would have given up our careers in a heartbeat, to have been with them the past sixteen years. Which is why her mother had shut us out.
Bree had given up her dreams to sing and didn’t want to allow us to do the same.
I'd always had respect for Bree, but her disappearance had sent Asher’s life into a downward spiral, nearly killing him at one point.
Although I loved her, I still wasn’t sure that I could forgive her for leaving and shutting us all out. Especially now that we had Declan in our lives. She was such an amazing kid.
Asher and Bree were in the pool, his arms wrapped around her in a loving embrace from behind. Her giggle was a twinkle of sound as he whispered into her ear. When his gaze shot up to acknowledge me his smile didn’t falter.
He was in pure bliss, having Bree back in his life.
If he wasn’t covered in tatts, I would swear that this wasn’t the lead singer of Black Heart. There was a reason that our band had given ourselves the name.
Ash had been cold, ruthless and hollow, without the woman that was in the arms now, and this was the new norm for him. It wasn’t the old him, from before she left, but it was like he was the wounded warrior that came home to set up roots.
“Hey, man.” He hoisted Bree onto the side of the pool and climbed out next to her.
She looked thinner than normal. Her bikini bagged around her hips and she had to pull it up as she stood. I knew she wouldn't buy it like that.
“Hey, Nick.” She smiled and made her way to a deck chair to wrap herself in a towel. She hadn’t missed my assessment, but chose to ignore it.
She’d always been a very lean person, but now she was bordering an anorexic look, and it was somewhat unnerving.
“How’re you doing, Bree?” I managed to ask without sounding overly concerned.
“Good, Yourself?” She smiled, ignoring my concern.
“I’m decent,” I shrugged, glaring at Asher as he sat at the outdoor table and lit a cigarette. “Got bored hangin’ by myself. Thought I’d come by and chill.”
“Ah,” She gave a laugh then turned to Declan, “Dee, go get dressed, hun. We need to get ready to head out anyway, so now’s a better time than any.”
“Okay, Mom.” Declan gleefully sauntered off, “Bye, Uncle Nick.”
“Later kid.” I chuckled, sitting at the table, “Sorry to break up family time.”
“You didn’t. Declan was just asking to go shopping and Asher was complaining about not wanting another pedicure ever again.” Bree laughed, giving me a kiss on the cheek as she made her way past, “We’ll leave you guys to booze up and smoke.”
“You need to eat, Doll.” Asher gave her the death stare and pulled her into his lap when she moved to give him a kiss goodbye.
“Don’t give me that look, Asher McGhee.” She countered as she climbed off his lap, “I’ll stop in the kitchen to eat. Trust me. I’m starving.”
“Looks it.” I huffed, lighting a smoke and she slapped my arm before walking into the house.
“She feeling okay, man?” I asked Asher in a low voice, not to be overheard.
“She’s fine.” He shrugged, not meeting my gaze as he messed with a small piece of paper on the table. “Just overworking herself to make up for lost time.”
“Making herself sick again, like when we were kids?” I cocked a brow in question.
Bree used to do that shit when we were kids too. She’d be puking and stressing herself out all the time. Especially toward the time we graduated.
He gave a tight nod, but didn’t say another word as Claire came out with the food, placing it in front of us.
“Anything to drink, Gentlemen?” She asked with a smile.
“I’ll have a beer, thanks.” Asher told her.
“I’ll take one too, please.” I smiled and she made her way in the house to get our drinks.
“What’s up?” Asher raised a brow as he smoked his cigarette, “You so bored you gotta’ come see me of all people?”
“Everyone who’s not MIA has brats running around.” I joked. We loved the other guys kids, “Speaking of brats, it’s Sunday. Liv works on Sundays now?”
“She’s... in-between living situations right now.” He measured his words as he answered me.
“I thought she lived in that really nice hotel with that uppity boyfriend?” This was news.
“Kid came home one day.” Asher shrugged.
I knew it was no big deal for him to have her in his house. If she wanted to be here, he’d have her here. She was an extended part of his family, so it was no real biggie.
“No shit?” My eyebrows shot together in question.
“Yeah,” He shrugged, stamping out his smoke and trading it for the sandwich, “Offered her some money for a place, but she said no. Dude she was with was a total douchebag anyway.”