“Myrna!” Eric said, wrapping an arm around her shoulders. He was stil wearing Brian’s hat. She bit her lip so she didn’t laugh. Her eyes moved to Sed’s face. He sat in a captain’s chair watching her. He was undeniably the leader of this band. His presence radiated from his body like a monarch’s. If he said no, she was certain the rest of the band would take his side. Sed was the one she’d have to convince.
“You smel like Brian,” Eric said in her ear.
Her face hot, she pushed him away. Eric squeezed around her and sat beside Jace on the beige leather sofa.
“So what’s this about?” Trey asked, setting his guitar on the floor at his feet. He sat next to Jace on the sofa across from Sed. Al the roadies watched her curiously. Brian wrapped an arm around her waist and she leaned against him for support. She grasped the letter tighter. Why was she so nervous? She didn’t want Sed to tel her no, that’s why. She wanted a reason to…
She glanced at Brian. He smiled gently, offering encouragement. Maybe it was better if they told her to get lost. She’d have a much easier time not fal ing for their lead guitarist.
She focused on Sed. “I have a favor to ask of you.”
“Anything, Myrna.” He seemed sincere.
“I need a mil ion dol ars to pay the ransom on my kidnapped poodle,” she said.
Sed’s jaw dropped.
She laughed. “Kidding.”
Brian burst out laughing. “Oh my God, did you see the look on his face?”
“Fuck you, Sinclair,” Sed said.
“Sorry, Sed, I couldn’t resist,” Myrna said. “You looked so serious sitting there.”
“I respect you, Myrna,” he said, “or I did.”
Every male occupant on the bus stared at Sed with his mouth hanging open. Myrna wasn’t sure why his statement shocked them so much, but she pressed on. “In truth, it’s for work. My research.”
“Which part of me would you like to study?” Sed asked, grinning.
She flushed once again, flustered. The man was al alpha male. She didn’t think a woman existed who wouldn’t react to him.
“I didn’t know you swung that way, Myr,” Eric said. “Can I watch?”
“You want to study my groupies?” Sed asked.
“Wel , not just yours.” She glanced at each member of the band in turn. “Trey’s, Jace’s, Eric’s.” She looked up at Brian. “Brian’s.”
“I don’t get it,” Jace said.
“That’s because you don’t have any groupies,” Eric said, punching him hard in the arm. Jace shoved him. Eric climbed to his feet, his hands bal ed into fists. Myrna flinched.
“Knock it off, Eric,” Sed demanded.
Eric hesitated, glanced at Sed, and then plopped down on the sofa, his jaw flexing as he clenched his teeth together.
“Myr, what are you asking for?” Brian asked. “Specifical y. I mean why do you need our permission to study our groupies? It’s not like they’re our property.”
They were, in a way, but that’s one of the things she planned to study. “Wel … I was hoping I could go on tour with you for the summer.” She forced her eyes from Brian to Sed. “I know I’l be a burden, but I’l try to stay out of your way. The grant includes a stipend for the band for al owing me to travel with you and to cover my expenses—ten thousand dol ars. You can have the entire sum.”
Sed laughed, his head thrown back, the deep sound rumbling through his broad chest. “You’ve got to be fucking kidding me.”
Her hopes plummeted. She bit her lip and lowered her gaze. Why did her heart feel like a big lump of ice in her chest? It wasn’t that big of a deal. She could find another band. A less famous one that could use the money. She turned to leave and ran into Brian’s chest.
He wrapped his arms around her and squeezed. “I say she comes with us.”
Sed’s laughter trailed off. “Wel , of course she’s coming with us. She’s your fucking muse, Brian. I just can’t believe this amazing stroke of luck. She’s offering to pay us to help you write songs.”
She turned her head to look at Sed. “No, you’ve got it al wrong. I’m not doing this to stay with Brian. This is for work.”
Sed grinned. “Like the reason matters. Yeah, I say you’re welcome to tour with us. What do the rest of you say?”
Trey blew a huff of air through his lips. “Have you seen these licks Brian’s been writing?” He swept a hand toward the stack of music on the table. “I was prepared to kidnap her and her little dog. Yeah, she stays. Of course she stays.”
“No objection,” Jace said.
“I have one condition,” Eric said. He lifted a finger into the air.
“Whatever you’re going to ask, the answer is no,” Brian said.
“Damn.” He scowled. “But—”
“Fine, since you insist, she’l sleep in my bunk with me. The sacrifices I make for this band.”
Myrna shook her head at Eric in disbelief.
Brian took her chin between his finger and thumb and lifted her face to look at him. He searched her eyes and then lowered his head to kiss her. The grant letter tumbled from her fingers as she clung to the skin of his bare chest. Three months with Brian? Yeah, she might be able to handle that.
“It’s just a few more days, Brian,” she said into her cel phone as she walked to her car after work. “I have a bunch of things to take care of here first. I do have a life, you know.”
“It’s just… I’m going crazy with missing you.”
She smiled. “I miss you, too. Thanks for the flowers, by the way.”
“Don’t play coy. They were signed, See You Soon, so it had to be you. And how did you know gladiolas were my favorite flower?”
“I should have sent you flowers, but I can’t take credit. Who would send you flowers?”
“They weren’t from you?” She bit her lip. Who would send her flowers? Her parents maybe? Or one of her sisters?
“No, they weren’t from me. Is some bozo hitting on you?” He sounded more upset than he should be.
“Nah. Probably from my parents. So, where wil you be on Saturday? I should be able to get out of town by then.” She unlocked her car and slid her laptop case across the front seat.
“Saturday? That’s five days away!”
“Friday night? I might be able to swing that, but it doesn’t look good. I need to pack. Get al my obligations in order. The work week doesn’t end until Friday and final grades are due tomorrow. I’l be up al night grading.” She smiled to herself, knowing the reason for her being behind in her grading was on the other end of the line. Every minute spent with that reason was worth missing out on a night of sleep. “Be patient just a little longer. I promise I’l make it up to you.”
“I just miss you.”
“Brian, we’ve only been apart for one night.”
“I know. I know.” He sighed. “Let me check the schedule.”
She climbed into the Thunderbird and waited for Brian to speak.
“Friday. Um… We’l be in Nebraska. Looks like Lincoln.”
“That’s about four hours from here.”
“That’s not far,” he said, an excited edge to his voice.
“What time is your show?”
“We go on at ten. We have three bands opening for us. The actual show starts at six-thirty.”
“I’l probably miss it, but I’l try to get there. I wil see you afterwards. I promise.”
“Or we can skip the show, meet in Vegas and get married.”
“No, we cannot.”
“Are you sure there isn’t some guy making his move on you?”
He sighed. “I’l cal you later.”
She flipped her phone closed and tossed it into her purse. She backed the car out of her parking space and headed for her apartment on the north side of the city.
Brian was already getting too close. Too clingy. She didn’t do clingy. It made her nervous. And jealous? Jealous led to protective. And protective drove her nuts. She liked him, probably more than she should, but she wasn’t prepared to make a long-term commitment. And he kept bringing up this marriage thing. She knew he was joking, but stil …
Marriage? Myrna shuddered.
Myrna parked her car behind the Lied Center in Lincoln, Nebraska. The throbbing sounds of the concert rattled her dashboard. The drive had been long and uneventful, but she was tired. Driving four hours after a ful day at work and an insane amount of packing wasn’t advisable. She climbed from the car and headed for the end of the barrier fence. She’d just wait for the band on the bus and send a roadie after her luggage.
A security guard in a bright yel ow shirt stopped her from entering the area in front of the waiting buses.
“I’m with the band,” Myrna told the guard. He had a six-pack stomach. The kind produced by consuming a six-pack of beer every night.
“I’ve heard that before,” he said. “You can’t go past the barrier.”
“So I’m just supposed to wait here until the band comes out and validates my story.”
“That’s the only way you’re getting past me.”
She sighed loudly, too tired to be patient. “Are there any roadies around? They know me.”
“Promising roadies favors won’t get them to lie for you.”
“Ugh! I could strangle you. When does the show end?”
He checked his watch. “Forty minutes or so.”
She might as wel sit in her car. “When Brian or any of the other guys blow through here, tel him Myrna Evans is waiting in her car. And she’s not very happy about it after driving for four hours.”
She shuffled through her purse until she found her driver’s license. She handed it to him. He inspected it careful y as if she were some fifteen-year-old trying to sneak into a nightclub.
“Al right,” he said final y, handing her license back to her. “That guitarist guy kept coming out here asking if anyone had seen you before their show started.”
She smiled. Eager to see her, was he? The guard shoved the metal fence piece slightly so she could squeeze between two of the barriers. “Thanks for keeping my guys safe.” She patted him on the cheek and walked the inside of the barrier toward the building. Several fans mil ed near the back door, waiting for the band to come outside. Maybe now would be a good time to do a preliminary survey for her research.
Nothing formal. She didn’t have her survey questions set yet, but she could do a few informal interviews to get a better idea of how to ask questions. The hardest part about studying psychology was getting the questions worded properly to avoid leading the subject or introducing her personal bias.
She approached a young scantily clad woman.
“Hel o,” Myrna said to the woman. “Can I talk to you for a few minutes?”
“How did you get on that side?” she asked.
“I’m with the band.”
She glanced at the security guard and whispered to Myrna, “Can you get me backstage?”
“No. Sorry. Why do you want backstage?”
“So I can meet Trey Mil s. Why else?”
“He’s a great guy. Incredibly talented,” Myrna said. “What do you know about him?”
“Uh, everything. His birthday is June 9th. He has seventeen tats and twelve piercings. His real name is Terrance, which he hates, so he goes by Trey. His middle name is Charles. Trey was born and raised in Los Angeles. His best friend is Brian “Master” Sinclair, who he met when he was eleven and they started a band cal ed Crysys in 8th grade. He had a dog named Sparky when he was a kid. It got hit by a car. You know their song, “Good-bye Is Not Forever?” Trey wrote that about his dog. He—”
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