ontinued his tour in Europe and I went back to my regular life...without him.
When I came, there were tears in my eyes.
I knew she didn't think I was serious, but I was. We had soundcheck early today, but the second I got some free time, I had no problem with marching hand and hand with her down to the clinic.
That moment of connection when I was inside of her, no barrier between us, clinched it. I was gone for her. This challenging, feisty, gorgeous woman owned me completely and I wasn't sure I was ever going to be the same. Or that I wanted to be.
But when her last cries died away, there was a knock on the door. "Ah, sorry Tanner," Jimmy's voice was abashed. He knew what he was interrupting. Fifty bucks said the other guys ganged up on him and forced him to knock. "But they moved soundcheck up and all and er..."
Monique squirmed under me, grabbing the sheets and wrapping them around her lithe body, hiding her magnificent breasts, and I sighed. "Gotta head into the office, baby," I whispered, kissing her while the taste of her still lingered on my tongue.
She blinked rapidly. "Good. I'll get some shots of you guys playing." She slid to the edge of the bed, her shoulders weirdly tight. "I need to work today too." She bit the edge off the last part of her words.
I stood still for a moment. "You okay?"
She stood up, a casual smile plastered on her face. Too casual. Monique couldn't hide her feelings for shit, and right now something was bothering her. This time I was pretty sure it wasn't me, not while I still had the smell of her on my chin anyway. "I'm great," she said, pressing her hand to my cheek. "Time to go to work."
Any chance I would have had to press her was lost when Jimmy tapped on the door again. "All right, all right, I'm comin'," I grumbled, pulling on yesterday's jeans.
Tonight was the true kickoff to the tour. Last night's solo show was just a warmup, a way to work through a few lighting cues, while simultaneously making the label bigwigs feel special. Little silvery flashes of nerves sung through my veins. No matter how long I'd been living on the road, there was always that jittery feeling before a show. Excitement mixed with nervousness, mixed with more excitement. I considered taking a swig of bourbon to calm my nerves, but if I started now, I'd be completely soused by the time the show opened. Those days were passed.
I made good decisions now. Careful ones, with the future in mind. This tour was a means to an end, and at the end of it was Brock Ranch, fully operational and ready to be lived in full-time. With a wife and kids running around. Little kids with eyes like their mama.
Wait, what the fuck?
I jolted myself out of my little daydream just as Monique emerged from the bathroom with a towel knotted around her chest. Those eyes of hers...the eyes I had just seen on the different faces in my daydream....
"Why are you looking at me like that?" she asked warily.
I blushed, hard, certain that she could see right into my skull and all the plans my brain was making without my consent. "Because you're the prettiest thing in this room," I smiled, hoping it sounded smoother than it felt.
She shook her head, pulling on her shirt over a lacy little bra that was getting my blood all hot again. "Flattery will get you nowhere, cowboy, we gotta go to work." Her delectable ass disappeared into a pair of perfectly fitted jeans.
"You're enjoying this, aren't you?" I teased her as I buttoned my shirt. "Denying me and keeping things all business. That's kind of your thing."
She shot me a look and before I could react, she had that huge camera in her hands, wielding it like a weapon. "Strictly business, as you'll recall," she smiled, firing off that blinding flash before sauntering into the main suite.
I grinned and shook my head and followed her, humming a tune I couldn't identify yet. This girl was inspiring in all sorts of ways.
The band trouped into the backstage area like it was nothing at all. So I bit my lip and did the same, grateful that my camera could hide the wide-eyed awe.
The stadium was a cavernous space, and in the center of it all, the roadies scrambled around, assembling lighting towers the size of skyscrapers and giant screens four stories tall. Huge backdrops had been wheeled into place - dead white in the glarey houselights - giving the whole stage a hyperreal aura.
I fell back and checked my meter, then fired off a few test shots as the band found their marks. The technician up in the booth boomed something technical sounding over the house speakers and Tanner pursed his lips quizzically. I watched, fascinated, as he checked with each bandmember in turn, wielding a quiet authority as easily as he slung his guitar. With a few nods and a quick clap on the shoulder to Blake, he turned and raised two fingers in the air.
Then a crash of sound thundered through the air. In an instant, I recognized it as the song Tanner had closed with the night before, but the effect here was totally different. With the full band backing him, he strutted around, for a moment, riding the music to a crescendo. My camera fell to my lap and I watched raptly as the music paused and Tanner approached the mic, eyes closed.
"Wild hearts, wild nights..." he crooned into the mic...then stepped back, his face a storm cloud.
"Dale, my monitor...."
A fat roadie hustled from the side of the stage, an abashed look on his face. Quick as anything, he lifted the earpiece from Tanner's head and replaced it with a new one. The whole moment was like a well-oiled machine.
These guys were pros.
I sat through the rest of soundcheck, only occasionally remembering to take pictures. I spent most of the time just watching Tanner. Every single thing he did was fascinating to me, the little muscle that jumped at his jaw, the way he ran his fingers through his hair, front to back, back to front. The way he closed his eyes, his mouth so close to the mic he looked like he would kiss it, make love to it, his hips undulating...
I crossed my legs, leaning forward a little, pressing myself into the seat, glad that no one could see I was in serious trouble here.
And then at the worst possible moment, the video display kicked on, and I was treated to a four-story high version of Tanner Brock's beautiful face as his eyes snapped open, singing the words right to me. "And our love will be, ever wild...."
A funny tightening in my throat, an even funnier little skip to my heart. It was ludicrous, the words weren't for me, every intelligent part of me knew that. But his blue eyes never wavered from staring right into my soul.
Soundcheck had run later than I wanted. When the houselights came up, I could see Monique sitting there, her eyes blazing at me from clear across the stadium. It took a superhuman effort not to throw my guitar to the ground and rush right to her.
It was like everyone needed me at once. My guitar tech asking something stupid about the acoustic, Keith about an upcoming date change, Leo about security backstage. They all came at me, relentless and needy, the people who depended on me for their livelihood. The jackals who fed off my songs.
With one last, forlorn look at Monique, I allowed myself to be swept into their nonsense. With only time enough to wolf down a quick sandwich from the craft table, it was time for the show to begin.
Each of us had our own little warmup rituals. After a quick huddle, we went to separate corners to be alone with our thoughts before showtime. Blake always found a quiet corner and bent his head, his lips moving in silent prayer. Jimmy hopped up and down, boxing the air ferociously with muffled little grunts and whoops. Carter paced like a caged wildcat, six steps in one direction, then an about face and six steps in the other direction. Fitch always disappeared entirely, not emerging until the last possible second before we went on.
Me, I always listened to the opening band. I liked the young guys, scrappy and full of rock star dreams. Openi
ng for me was the biggest moment in their career and their excitement fueled my own. Sitting in the wings, I let myself get carried away by memory...to the nights spent in my van, the one I had paid for myself even though my father had offered to buy me a bus outright. The freedom I had felt being unshackled from my parents' money, while at the same time missing my family so badly it hurt. The loneliness that had seeped in...the people who were all to ready to exploit it...the women who were only to happy to relieve it....