Author: Tracy Wolff

“I guess you didn’t get the memo,” he told Wyatt. “It’s family weekend.”

“I think that’s supposed to be for real families.”

“Yeah, well, I won’t tell if you don’t.” After all, they’d been each other’s family for eight years—ever since Quinn had been absorbed into the band Wyatt had started with three other guys back when they were still in high school.

Quinn didn’t point that out either. The look in Wyatt’s eyes said he didn’t have to, that despite his words he knew exactly why Quinn was there. So that he didn’t have to be alone on the one weekend a month rehab patients were actually allowed visitors.

“Ryder and Jamison will be here tomorrow. And Jared plans on coming Sunday.”

Something flickered in Wyatt’s blank eyes. “You didn’t have to do that.”

“I didn’t do anything.”

“Yeah, right.” Wyatt jerked his head toward the sliding glass doors that led outside. “Wanna sit?”


Quinn silently followed his friend onto the shaded patio, watched as Wyatt grabbed a spot on one of the loungers next to the metal railing before doing the same. While there were a few people on the patio with them, most of the guests were lounging by the pool or trying their hands at what was, indeed, a putting green.

He shook his head. Rehab or five star luxury resort? He didn’t know, and frankly didn’t care as long as it helped Wyatt. His last two rehab stints had been done at places that would give even the most stringent boot camp a run for its money, and they hadn’t worked. Who was he to say that this place, with its tennis courts and acres of hiking trails, wouldn’t do the job?

Silence stretched between them, taut as a guitar string. There were a million things Quinn wanted to say and none that he was certain he should say, so for long minutes he just sat there, watching and waiting. Eventually Wyatt would speak. They’d been friends long enough for him to know that the only thing the drummer was more afraid of than sobriety was quiet.

Sure enough, Wyatt was the first to crack. “How’s Jared?

Quinn’s laugh was anything but humorous. “Completely fucked.”

“Yeah. That’s what I figured.” He swiped a weary hand over his face. “What the hell was Micah even thinking?”

“When does Micah ever think? He wanted to sleep with Victoria, so he did. He didn’t give a shit that she was Jared’s fiancée any more than he cared about what would happen when he got caught.”

“God, he’s such a dick.”

“That’s an understatement.”

Wyatt drummed his fingers on his thighs for long seconds, then—before the silence could get any more oppressive, asked, “So where does that leave Shaken Dirty?”

Completely fucked. Those two words were becoming a refrain, one that was killing him. He’d spent the last eight years of his life doing everything he could to make this band a success, to prove to himself that they had what it took. And now that they were finally on the edge of breaking huge, of entering the elusive world of superstardom, everything that could go wrong was.

But again, he didn’t say that. When their current predicament was at least partially due to Wyatt’s inability to kick heroin, it seemed like a bad idea to lay out right now just how completely screwed they were.

After all, they’d just pulled out of a four-month tour that they were co-headlining—a tour that had been exactly what they needed to move from popular band to superstardom—so that he could get the rehab he needed. Tens of millions of dollars, countless disappointed fans, tons of bad publicity, and hundreds of man-hours of work all down the tubes because Wyatt couldn’t stay clean. Add to that the stress of the lead guitarist and bass player being at each other’s throats and it seemed impossible to think that Shaken Dirty would ever find their way through the mess.

But it also seemed impossible that they wouldn’t.

Quinn hadn’t been around for the beginning of the band, but when they’d picked him up, it had been the best thing that had ever happened to him. Wyatt might say that they weren’t family, but that was bullshit. For Quinn, Wyatt, and Ryder particularly, Shaken Dirty was the only real family they’d ever had. And while Ryder had his fiancée, Jamison, now, his loyalty to the band—and his band mates—was as powerful as ever.

Which was only one of the reasons Micah’s betrayal had cut at all of them, not just Jared.

“We’ll get through it,” he said, because he couldn’t let himself believe anything else. “We always do.”

Wyatt reached into his pocket, pulled out a pack of cigarettes. Fumbled one out and then lit it up, taking a long, steady drag. Quinn bit back an instinctive protest. One addiction at a time, he told himself. Or two, considering Wyatt was currently trying to kick smack and booze. They could deal with the cigarettes later.

“You know that Micah needs to go,” Wyatt told him.

Quinn nodded. “That’s not even a question. But Ryder and I’ve already talked to the label, management, and our lawyers. If Micah is willing to leave, it’ll be easy to get him out of the contract. But if he wants to stay…it could mean a fight. Being an as**ole isn’t legal grounds for getting dropped from the band. Not when he’s one of the founding members.”

And not like, say, a recurring drug problem that was currently costing the label millions of dollars—and endangering their chance of ever getting tour insurance again—would be. It was one of the reasons they had to walk lightly around Micah. If the label let him go under code of conduct stuff and hung on to Wyatt, despite all the trouble his addiction had caused, there could be definite grounds for a lawsuit.

Quinn didn’t see any reason to get into any of that thought, at least not right then. But again, Wyatt read between the lines. It didn’t take much for him to figure out exactly what Quinn had tried so hard not to say.

“I really screwed everything up, didn’t I?”

“What are you talking about? The band’s mystique just grew about five hundred percent. You know how the fans like their rock stars on the f**ked up side.”

“I know how the record label likes its bottom line on the fat side.”

Yeah. After the last three weeks of down and dirty brawling with their label, so did Quinn. But that’s what their agents and management company were for. He’d spent a lot of time recently trying to figure out the best way to fix the mess he and his band mates found themselves in.

“It’s fine,” he said, because he refused to think any other way. “Ryder and I are going to talk to Drew next week. We’ll get this all sorted out. You just concentrate on—”

“If you say I need to concentrate on getting well, like I’m some ninety-year-old grandma trying to beat a bad case of pneumonia, I will kick your f**king ass.”

Funny. Wyatt and Elise couldn’t be more different, yet she had said pretty much the same thing to him before he’d left her hospital room. Maybe he was being a little too overprotective, but it was a flaw of his. He tended to be that way about people he cared about.

Not that he was going to tell Wyatt that. “I was going to say kicking heroin’s ass, but now I’m scared. You looked a little fierce there.”

“I feel fierce,” Wyatt said with a laugh, exactly as Quinn had intended. But then he got serious quickly. “I’m so f**king sick of this bullshit. So f**king sick of this addiction. I’m done with it this time, man. I swear it.”

“I know.”

“No, I mean it. I know how badly I messed things up, for everyone. And I know the three of you are working your asses off trying to fix my mistakes. But this is the last time you’ll ever have to do that.”

Quinn nodded. “I know. You’ve got this.” And if there was a part of him that doubted this time would be any different from the ones that had come before, well, he kept that to himself. Locked it away with everything else he refused to talk—or think—about and kept on sending positive vibes Wyatt’s way. The last thing his best friend needed from him right now was doubt.

“You’re going to kick this addiction,” he continued. “We’re going to figure out a way to get rid of Micah. We’ll find a new bass player, one who is just as talented but not such a pain in the ass. And in six months, Shaken Dirty will be stronger than ever.”

He would make sure of it. Because the alternative—losing the band and his best friends—wasn’t an option. Quinn wouldn’t let it be.

Four hours later, Quinn threw down his hand of cards and said, “I’m out.”

Wyatt grinned and swept the huge collection of licorice and miniature candy bars they’d been playing for into his already bulging pile. “Looks like your luck has finally run out, my friend.”

“Looks like.” He pushed back from the table. “I should probably get going, anyway. Visitor hours are almost up.”

“Fuck ‘em,” Wyatt said, but there was little heat in his tone. “Come on, I’ll walk you out.”

Quinn leaned over and snagged a couple of chocolate bars from Wyatt’s pile. “I’m pretty sure I can find my way.”

“Forgive me for not being as confident. Your sense of direction—or lack of it—is truly awe-inspiring.”

“That’s when I’m in a strange city. I can find my damn bike in the parking lot.”

Wyatt grinned. “Better safe than sorry. Besides,” he continued when Quinn would have protested, “it gives me an excuse to walk with you.”

“You need an excuse?”

“Not to walk, but to grill you. And I very definitely intend to do that.”

Figuring forewarned was forearmed, Quinn regarded him warily. “What am I about to get grilled on?”

“I’m not sure yet. But something is definitely up your ass, something that has nothing to do with the band.”

“Nothing is up my ass, as you so eloquently put it.”

“Dude, save that shit for Jared or Jamison, someone who actually believes the world is filled with unicorns and rainbows.”

Quinn burst out laughing at the image of their lead guitarist with stars in his eyes. Jared might be a decent guy from a decent home, but he was a long way from believing in unicorns. Especially these days. “I’ll be sure to mention your description to him.”

Wyatt shrugged. “And I’ll be sure to mention your preoccupation to him. I wonder how long it will take Jamison to get it out of you.”

Quinn didn’t even want to contemplate that—Jamison was sweet, but wily, and the last person he’d want to bare his soul to. She still thought he was a nice guy—an illusion he’d like to keep up if he could. “Look, it’s no big deal.”

“Excuse me, but I’ll say if it’s a big deal.” Wyatt sounded so prim and proper and obviously bent on busting his balls that Quinn cracked up all over again. It was one of the things he loved about being in this band. How through the years they’d all learned each other well enough to know when to call bullshit and when to just let stuff go. And while he’d prefer if this were one of the latter times, he recognized the look on Wyatt’s face well enough to know that he wasn’t going to bow out of the discussion. Not this time.

“Have you ever heard of Elise McKinney?” he finally asked

Wyatt’s brow furrowed. “Is she a singer?”

“No. She’s a world-class pianist.”

“Oh, right. She did that Phillip Glass album a while back. The one that got all kinds of press.”

He loved that album. There was something about Phillip Glass—and something about Elise playing his stuff—that always got to him. “She was in a car accident a couple days ago. On I-35. Her left hand is pretty much ruined.”