Page 16

Author: Tracy Wolff

That had never been her thing. Oh, she understood how melodies worked together. Understood how scores and operas and symphonies were built from both the simplest and most complex combinations of notes and chords. But she’d always been too busy trying to master the most difficult compositions she could to ever think about creating something on her own.

If nothing else came of this week here with Quinn, she would always have this moment. This new bit of knowledge about herself that she never would have imagined. It was more than enough.

Eventually all the pizza was gone—although how they’d managed to consume three extra large pizzas she didn’t know—and Quinn got up and headed over to the pantry. He came back with a box of Twinkies and a pack of Oreo cookies and set them in the middle of the table.

“Are you serious?” Jamison demanded. “Do you know how bad those things are for you?”

“From the woman who just brought us pizza, that sounds a little hypocritical.”

“Excuse me, but that was gourmet pizza with fresh, organic ingredients and whole wheat crust. The stuff you’re eating was created in a factory.”

“I don’t care,” Quinn told her as he stuffed a cookie in his mouth. “They taste good.”

“No,” she told him adamantly. “They don’t. They taste like chemicals. Because that’s what they are.”

“Sorry, Ms.-Soon-To-Be-A-Famous-Dessert-Maker. Some of us don’t have the time or talent to make everything from scratch.”

“Well, then, go to a bakery. Or call me—I’ll be happy to bring something over. But don’t eat that crap. Please. I implore you.”

“Separate corners, you guys.” Ryder broke up the fight with an air of amusement that said he’d done it many times before. Grabbing Jamison around the waist, he pulled her onto his lap. Nuzzled her neck. “You know you aren’t going to change him, babe.”

“Change him?” Quinn demanded, eyebrow raised. “I’m pretty sure it was you and Jared who had me hide your damn Oreos and cupcakes under my bed on the tour bus so Jamison wouldn’t find them.”

“Dude! What are you doing?” Ryder demanded with a scowl. But when he turned back to Jamison, his eyes were wide and pleading. “Darlin’, Quinn didn’t mean it. He’s just—”

“Are you kidding me?” Jamison shoved off his lap. “You’ve been eating this junk, too?”

“No. Of course not. I—”

She just stared at him with narrowed eyes until finally he sighed heavily. “Okay. Fine. I have been. But not very often and only because Jared made me.”

“What?” Jared gaped at him. “I’m not the one who used to sneak off the bus during three a.m. gas stops for my junk food fix. I’m pretty sure that was you and Quinn.”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about.” Ryder wrapped his arms around her shoulders and pulled her in for a kiss. She turned her face away, but then he just pressed kisses up the side of her neck until she giggled and shoved him away. After she’d given him the kiss he wanted.

“Well, then, if you’re so serious, you won’t mind if I take these with me when I head back to the house.” She reached into the center of the table and snagged the Twinkies and Oreos. “I’m sure I can find somewhere to throw them away between here and home.”

“What?” Quinn squawked indignantly. “I’m not related to you or going to marry you. I don’t have to follow your rules. Leave them here. I promise I won’t let either of them have any.”

“Yeah, ’cause I believe that. You’d be sneaking them Oreos before I got to the bottom of the driveway. Besides, you may not be related to me, but you’re family. And I want you to stick around for a while.” She leaned in to give him a quick hug, making sure to keep a firm grip on the Twinkies, which she was holding behind her back, the entire time.

Then she turned to Jared. “What time are you going out to visit Wyatt today?”

“I thought I’d leave here about two-thirty.”

“Give me a call before you go. Maybe I’ll ride back out with you—it was good to see him yesterday.”

Jared nodded, but he didn’t say anything. Neither did anyone else. Elise didn’t know who Wyatt was, but something about him had obviously upset the group of them. The lightheartedness that had been so much a part of lunch was gone, replaced by a concern that was nearly palpable.

Jamison left right after that. Quinn watched from the window as she drove away, then went into the pantry and pulled out another box of Twinkies. “I don’t have any more Oreos, so these will have to do.”

“Thank God. What the hell were you trying to do, outing me like that to my girl?” Ryder demanded as he tore the box open.

“Hey, you’re the one who threw me under the bus. I was just reciprocating.”

“Actually, I think Jared’s the one who threw us both under the bus.”

“And he didn’t even get yelled at.” Quinn snagged a couple Twinkies from the open box. He offered one to Elise, but she just shook her head. “How is that fair?”

“One of the perks of being a big brother,” Jared said smugly, reaching for a Twinkie of his own.

Ryder just looked at him. “You don’t actually think you’re getting one of these, do you?”

“Damn right, I am. You’ve had to live with her for less than a month. I’ve had to live with her almost my whole life. I deserve two Twinkies for that.”

Ryder raised a brow at Quinn, who nodded. “He does have a point.”

“I guess.” Ryder pouted as he handed the guitarist two of the small snack cakes. “Are you sure you don’t want one, Elise?”

“Positive. They’re not really my thing.”

“I don’t even know how that’s possible.” Quinn ripped off the clear wrapper. “They’re awesome.”

“They are. I mean, sure, Jamison’s desserts are way better, but sometimes a guy just needs a Twinkie.”

“Absolutely.” Ryder shoved the whole cake in his mouth, started to chew and the other guys followed suit.

Elise watched them, figuring it wouldn’t take very—

“What the hell!” Quinn yelped around a mouthful of cake. He ran to the sink, spit it out. “Shit, these are rancid or something.”

“Ugh. Gross.” Ryder ran to the trash and spit out his mouthful as well.

Jared didn’t say anything, but the fact that he was turning green was a pretty good clue that he’d actually managed to swallow his. And was regretting it. A lot.

Quinn rinsed his mouth out, gagging the whole time. “I can’t get the taste out of my mouth!”

“Don’t hog the water, man!” Ryder shoved him out of the way and shoved his head under the tap. Then came up sputtering when he nearly drowned himself.

Jared, in the meantime, went straight for another beer. He downed the thing in two long gulps, making disgusted faces the entire time.

Never had she wished for a video camera more. She could get serious play on YouTube with this. Especially considering the whining. She bet their fans would pay a lot for a video of Shaken Dirty crying like little babies.

After much bitching and moaning, Quinn and Ryder eventually made their way back to the table. “What’s the expiration date on those things?” Ryder demanded, reaching for the box. “How long have you had then? Since before tour started or some such shit?”

“That shouldn’t matter. Twinkies are supposed to withstand nuclear war, aren’t they?” Jared popped the top on another beer.

“Obviously not.” Quinn shook his head. “But this makes no sense. They aren’t supposed to expire for two weeks.”

“Then you need to write a complaint letter, man. Because whatever that was, was not okay.”

Quinn reached into the box and pulled out a second Twinkie.

“Dude, you aren’t seriously going to try another one, are you?” Ryder demanded in horror.

“Really? Does that sound like something I’d do?” But he opened the package and pulled out the small snack cake. Sniffed at it. “It smells fine.”

“I’m pretty sure whatever was wrong with it had to do with the cream.” Jared grabbed it from him, broke it in half. Took a whiff. “Oh, yeah. Definitely the cream.”

“That’s weird,” Quinn said, reaching for it. Then he sniffed at the center of the Twinkie too. “The color’s not right. And it almost smells like—”

“Like what?” Ryder demanded, a half-frightened, half-disgusted look on his face.

“Like mayonnaise.”

“Mayonnaise? Why would there be mayonnaise in a Twinkie?”

“I don’t know. But—” Quinn froze mid-sentence, his gaze shooting to Elise’s.

So far she hadn’t said anything, just sat back and silently watched as the whole Twinkie drama unfolded. But now she couldn’t resist asking, “Do they deal with products that have mayonnaise in the same plant? Maybe there was some confusion or—”

“You did it.”

“What?” She tried her best to look innocent. “Did what?”

“You sabotaged my Twinkies.” He stormed over to the pantry, pulled out the remaining two boxes. “Did you get them all?”

“Quinn, man, I think the bad Twinkie cream went to your head,” Jared looked baffled. “Why the hell would Elise sabotage your Twinkies?”

Quinn was too busy ripping into the other boxes to notice. After checking one from each box, he said, “You did. You poisoned them all.”

“Really?” It took every ounce of willpower Elise had to keep a straight face, but somehow she managed it. “You think I poisoned you?”

“I think you did something.”

“Again,” Jared asked, “Why would she do that?”

“Why don’t you tell him, Elise? Why would you f**k with my Twinkies?”

She raised her brows at him. “Believe me, Quinn, I have no desire to f**k with your Twinkie.”

Ryder cracked up, followed seconds later by Jared. Even Quinn was grinning at her when he said, “But you did.”

“Oh, I don’t know,” she said with a deliberately careless shrug. “Maybe it was you who did it. You are the one with the obsession with phallic shaped objects, after all.” She waved at him as she said it, making sure to use the arm with the cast on it. “Now, if you don’t mind, I’m going to go take a nap. I find I’m a little tired after all the exertion of the day.”

“Yeah, emptying out and then refilling forty-eight Twinkies must have been exhausting.”

“I wouldn’t know.” She smiled at Jared and Ryder as she headed out of the kitchen. “Bye, guys. It was nice to meet you.”

“You don’t really think you’re going to get away with this, do you?” Quinn called.

She turned back, gave him the sweetest smile in her repertoire. “But Quinn, honey, I already did.”

The last thing she heard as she disappeared down the hallway was the sound of Ryder and Jared cracking up all over again.

“Dude,” Ryder said in between peals of laughter. “You are in so much trouble with that one.”

She nearly laughed herself. She’d never been called trouble before. She had to admit, she kind of liked it.

Chapter Ten

Elise hadn’t actually planned on taking a nap, but when she got to her room, she realized she really was exhausted. Plus her hand was hurting—using that kitchen syringe to suck the cream out of all those Twinkies before filling them back up again had required a lot of repetitive motion. While most of it had been with her good hand, her injured hand had done a lot of holding and squeezing. Enough so that it ached quite a bit more now than it had that morning.