There was a spark that was missing from the performance, and I couldn’t put my finger on it. I needed to tap into it, though, if I’d ever be able to figure out the next steps of the Wreckage’s career. Something was missing, and I was going to do whatever it took to pinpoint that missing piece.

“That was fucking amazing!” Marcus exclaimed, tapping his drumsticks against his thigh after we finished our final song for the night. Eric checked and rechecked all our social media accounts with a huge smile on his face, showing he was also pleased.

James was already mingling to thank everyone for showing up, and still, I felt off.

It was a good show, but it wasn’t great.

Why wasn’t it great?

“Ian, oh my gosh, you were sooo good,” a girl said, wandering over to me with her best friend’s arm looped through hers.

“Yeah, like, you are sooo good and sooo hot,” the other girl giggled.

I gave them a half smile, somewhat living in the moment, somewhat overthinking the performance that’d taken place. “Thanks, girls. Means a lot that you came out to see us.”

“We’d love to see a little bit more of you on a one-on-one basis,” the first girl said.

“Or even two on one,” the other added, giggling.

On a regular night, I would’ve taken them up on the offer, but my mind was a bit more on the show than it was on the women. I wouldn’t be able to think about anything else until I pinpointed what had gone wrong. Unfortunately, that meant a sexless night for me.

The girls huffed and puffed but finally headed off to get more drinks. The party in the barn would keep going on for a few more hours until Big Paw shooed everyone away. People would get drunk, hook up, and make bad decisions that felt good.

A typical Eres Saturday night.

I wandered the ranch with a notebook and pen in my hand. I kept scribbling down lyrics and crossing them out before trying again to create something better, stronger—realer. I ached to unlock the pieces that I was missing. As I paced back and forth, a voice broke me away from my mind.

“It’s the words.”

I looked up to see Hazel sitting in the rocking chair that Big Paw built for my mother years ago. I used to sit in Mom’s lap as she read me stories before bedtime all those years back.

There’d been times I’d thought about getting rid of the chair in order to forget that memory, but I hadn’t found the strength to let go just yet.

“What do you mean, it’s the words?” I asked, walking up the steps of the porch. I leaned against the railing facing her.

She blinked and tilted her head in my direction. “Your words are trash.”


“The lyrics to your songs. They are complete garbage, filled with clichés and bubble gum. Don’t get me wrong, the music style and tempos are brilliant. And even though it pains me to admit, your voice is so solid and soulful that you could be a star in a heartbeat. But your lyrics? They are pig shit.”

“I think the saying is horseshit.”

“After spending weeks in a pigpen, pig shit seems to truly sum up my feelings about your music. But my gosh, your voice. It’s a good voice.”

I tried to push off her insult and tried to ignore her compliment too. But it was hard. I had an ego that was easy to bruise, and Hazel was swinging her punches while also speaking words of praise. It was as if every bruise she made, she quickly covered with a soothing cream.

Insult, compliment, insult, compliment. Wash, rinse, repeat.

“Everyone else seemed to enjoy the performance,” I replied, tense with my words.

“Yeah, well, ‘everyone else’ are morons who are drunk off their minds.”

“Oh? And you think you could do better?”

She laughed. “Without a doubt.”

“Okay, Hazel Stone, master of lyrics, give me something to go with.”

She gestured toward the other rocker beside her—the one Dad used to sit in.

I sat down.

She pressed her lips together. “Okay. Give me one of your songs. One that you know is crap but are pretending isn’t crap.”

“They aren’t—”

“Lying isn’t going to get us far tonight, Ian.”

I narrowed my eyes and murmured a curse word before I began flipping through my notebook to find a song for Hazel to magically make better. “Fine. We can do ‘Possibilities.’”

“Hmm . . . what is it about?”

“A new relationship forming. I want to showcase those beginning feelings, you know? The fears and excitements. The nerves. The unknown. The—”

“First chapters of love,” she finished my thoughts.

“Yes, that.”

She took the pencil from behind my ear and took the notebook from my grip. “May I?”

“Please. Go for it.”

She began scribbling, crossing things out, adding things in, doing whatever came to her mind. She worked like a madwoman, falling into a world of creativity that I hadn’t thought she held inside of her. The only thing I knew about Hazel Stone was where she came from and the clothes she wore. I hadn’t known anything else, but now she was pouring herself out on the page, and I couldn’t wait to see what the hell she was scribbling.

She took a breath and handed the notebook back to me. “If you hate it, no harm, no foul,” she said.