Wednesday July 13, 2005 12:45AM
“Bottoms up,” Ryan says, and lifts a shot glass to his lips. Dillon and I follow his lead, and drink the round of whiskey shots someone bought for the band. I’m not sure who our whiskey benefactor is tonight. Not that it really matters—there’s always someone buying drinks for the bands.
Gigging musicians don’t make a whole lot of actual cash money in Austin, but if booze were currency, we’d all be fucking rich. This is our third round of free whiskey shots tonight, a pretty good haul for a Tuesday night show.
I glance at the time on my phone. It’s tomorrow already, and I have two guitar lessons to teach. I need to make it an early night. I might still look young and pretty, but at thirty-five, I’m getting too old for this shit. Plus, if I want to make it home safely, that needs to be my last drink of the night. With the whiskey warming its way down my throat, working its way into my bloodstream, I turn to Tom and ask for a water.
“Jake, what’d you think of the set?” Ryan asks.
I turn to look at the guy and almost squint at the sight of him. For a bass player, Ryan is very pretty. I’d argue that he’s the best looking guy in the band. He’d counter that I hold the title, and with my tall, dark, and handsome Indian warrior qualities, I’ll admit I’m certainly a contender, but he’s a Ken doll. Long, lean, and blonde—he rocks the sun-kissed, land-locked surfer look. And tonight, wearing his favorite leather pants, his bare biceps and bits of his naked chest peeking through the flaps of his leather vest still glistening with a sheen of stage sweat, he practically glows. For tonight at least, he’s clearly got a lock on the title of hottest Nebulous member.
I shrug. “Seemed off to me.”
With the music blaring from the stage, I see the question on Dillon’s lips more than hear it. “Off?” he asks, peeking at me from the far side of Ryan. Too busy nursing a beer with one hand and cupping a cute redhead’s pert ass with the other, Dillon’s only now paying attention to our post-mortem conversation about the show.
A dead ringer for the Muppet ‘Animal’, our drummer Dillon is definitely not in the running for prettiest member of Nebulous, and that’s a badge he wears with pride. Now he blinks at me, his dark eyes peering through a mess of curly reddish-yellow hair, his wide mouth hanging slack, and covered neck-to-toe in a colorful and confusing display of tattoos. When he speaks again, I imagine Frank Oz’s Muppet voice croaking, “Off how?”
“Not you two,” I shout to be heard. “Me. I felt off.”
Ryan and Dillon played great; they always do. We’ve been playing together for five years for a reason. They’re some of the best at what they do. But tonight, I sucked. I missed a key change on one of our oldest songs, and my vocals felt off throughout the set.
I know they noticed it, too, and they’re kind enough not to mention it. No one else in the room seems to have noticed, though.
I glance around the space; the packed crowd now headbanging to the headlining band, some outfit out of Baltimore, wrapping up their tour of the Southwest this week. It’s a crowded show for a Tuesday night, and the packed room reeks of sweat, booze, and the faintest whiff of skunk weed.
The stage in the far corner is lit up with red and yellow lights, and the bar is topped with tangled strands of Christmas lights, but in between is a darkened sea of people undulating and shifting to the sounds coming from the stage. When the band hits a particularly high-energy part of the song, a pit opens up in the center, all punching arms and kicking feet.
I look back at Ryan and Dillon, and yell to be heard over the din when I say, “I’d like to work on some new material.”
Ryan raises a brow and Dillon closes his mouth, giving me a slow nod. It’s Ryan who says, “We haven’t written anything new in almost a year. You getting bored or something?”
I don’t answer, at least not out loud. But I let the question sink in, and yeah, I suppose I am bored. Maybe that’s the problem with my performance. It’s certainly a convenient excuse for my poor showing tonight, anyway.
In that instant, Ryan’s girlfriend returns from her visit to the lady’s room. She sidles up to him and gives him a sweet grin and a kiss on the tip of his nose. Ryan’s focus shifts entirely to her. She’s gorgeous, just as blonde and bronzed as he is, and he’s completely, faithfully in love with her. Seeing them should be inspiring, the embodiment of relationship goals. But relationships have never been on my list of goals, and I’m in no mood to watch the contented lovebirds chirp and peck at each other. Nor do I want to watch Dillon work his “Animal” magnetism on the little redhead.
With another shrug, I tilt my head back and suck down what’s left of my water. As I swallow the last drops, Ryan elbows me in the gut. “Incoming, dude.”
I know what he’s talking about in an instant. Rebecca has entered the building. My shoulders tense up and my stomach tangles in knots. I turn slowly—anxious, but not excited to see her.
In all her beautiful, blonde, and curvy glory, I find the vixen leaning against the bar to my left. She’s in a scrap of a little black dress that perfectly hugs her hips, and pulls taut across those tantalizing tits. She’s gorgeous, and as much as I hate to admit it, she holds power over me. We’re polar opposites, so of course there’s some sort of magnetic pull deep down inside me, an undeniable attraction to this woman—this body, those lips, that wicked little tongue.
There was a time when I thought I could love her, but now, for the life of me, I can’t remember why. We’d given it a try, only to find out that we couldn’t actually tolerate each other for more than about a week. Sadly, it took us almost three months to come to that stunning revelation—the worst three months of my adult life.
Rebecca had been angry when I broke things off. She’d thrown a fit in my apartment, broken a couple of the records in my collection. I’d hated her for a while. Then, one night, I bumped into her at a show and fucked her in the bathroom. I’d thought it was a final goodbye, a farewell fuck. But if that was the case, why have I fucked her half a dozen times since then?
As I stand here staring at her, something in my posture must shift. I don’t feel the change myself, but I see the recognition of it in Rebecca’s eyes. She sees my gaze drift up and down her body, drinking in the sight of her, and she knows I’m under her thumb.
Behind me, the boys must recognize the change as well. They groan with irritation. They’ve never liked Rebecca. Not that they’ve ever said a word about it. We’re not that kind of friends.
Unless you’ve been playing music together since grade school, bandmates inhabit a weird non-space on the friendship spectrum, somewhere around coworker or neighbor—except that we’ve all seen each other naked at least once during our various tours. Despite the nudity aspect, we generally stay out of each other’s business. We see everything, but say nothing; it’s one of the unspoken rules of band life. Hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil… even when one of us is dating a succubus and could really use an intervention.
Ignoring the rest of the band completely, as usual, Rebecca focuses her clear blue gaze on me. She licks her lips and says, “You were good tonight,” a purr in her voice.
Liar. I ignore the compliment and give her a half grin as I lean into the bar, gesturing for Tom to bring me more water.
“Water? Really?” Rebecca scoffs. “Don’t you want a shot? I’m buying.”
“I have to drive home,” I grumble.
Rebecca leans toward me, presumably to hear me better. This close, I catch a whiff of her perfume. I never liked the stuff. It overwhelms my senses and burns my nostrils. Yet the familiar scent triggers some sort of cruel sense-memory stimulant and sends a rush of blood from my brain to my cock.
“Then maybe we should have shots at your place.” Never one to beat around the bush, her frankness is one of the things that first attracted me to Rebecca. Looking back, though, I’m at a loss to remember the other things.
Well, the sex. Definitely the sex. The sex was great. The sex is still great.
But aside from the dubious desire to fill the space between her legs, there was never much more to us. In all honesty, I never really liked her that much.
My hands shaking, I twist the cap off my second bottle of water and guzzle a good portion of the contents, trying to cool off and reclaim my faculties. With a refreshed gasp, I wipe my mouth dry on my arm, which is still a little slick with stage sweat, and frown at Rebecca. “I’ve got an early day tomorrow. I should head out.”
If she’s disappointed or angered by my rejection, she doesn’t show it. With a smirk and a shrug, she gives me a “your loss” expression and turns her attention to Tom behind the bar, who can’t seem to take his eyes off her tits. She orders a whiskey shot. Tom pours two and drinks with her. Poor bastard. Good luck, dude.
I turn back to Ryan and Dillon, who are both riveted by the drama playing out before them. “See you at practice Thursday.”
They both nod as I grab my guitar from against the bar and head out the back door to the alley where I’ve parked my truck. It takes me a few minutes to lug my amp out to the truck, lift it into the bed, and tie it down. Then I slide my guitar in beside it and climb into the cab.
I crank the ignition and toggle the headlights on, illuminating the end of the alley and the figure standing about twenty feet in front of my bumper.
Rebecca. She stands perfectly still, a statue of a goddess bathed in light. Though I’m sure she can’t see me from the blinding beams in her eyes, she’s staring right at me, practically right through me.
Fuck me. I stare at her a good long minute, weighing my options, then I do exactly what I know I shouldn’t do. I slide across the bench seat, unlock the passenger door, and swing it open, wide and inviting.
A corner of her mouth quirks up in a grin as she saunters toward the truck and silently slides into the seat beside me. Without a word, I squeeze my fists on my steering wheel as I wait for her to fasten her seatbelt, then accelerate toward the end of the alley to Red River street.
Rebecca leans closer to me as she fiddles with the buttons on the radio, and I get another nose full of that perfume. The scent fills the cab of the truck, and I’m tempted to roll down the window for some fresh air. I refrain, squeezing my grip tighter on the wheel as I turn onto Seventh street, aiming for the interstate.
There is a part of my brain still working, and that part nags me with questions like: why am I taking her home with me? Why do I continue to fuck this woman, even when I know there’s no future in it?
I glance over my shoulder before changing lanes and frown as I spot the bag of cocaine she’s pulled out of her purse. “What the fuck are you doing?”
“What does it look like I’m doing?” She smirks at me as she fishes a fingernail into the powder and brings it to her nose.
“Are you fucking kidding me?” I yell—too loudly for the close quarters of the truck. I tone it down a little and continue, “You’re snorting fucking cocaine in my fucking truck as we drive past the fucking police station?”
Rebecca answers my question with a hearty snort, sucking a second bump into her other nostril.
“Rebecca, put that fucking shit away right goddamn now, before you land us both in jail.”
“Relax,” she mumbles as she pinches her nose and sniffs again. Then, cheerily oblivious, she holds her stash toward me and offers, “Want some?”
For fuck’s sake. “Rebecca, I’m not asking, I’m telling. Put that shit away right now, or I’m dumping you by the side of the road, and you can walk your ass home.”
With a frown and an exasperated huff, Rebecca closes up the baggie of drugs and stows it in her purse. I drive the rest of the way home like I’ve got a stick up my ass—perfect lane position, signaling a good half block before turning corners, no racing through yellows or rolling through stops.
I hold my breath until I pull into a spot near the mailboxes at my apartment complex. Rebecca silently lets herself out of the truck and sways those hips as she makes her way to my unit, likely expecting me to follow like a dog. She’s forgotten I have a load to carry.
In a supremely passive-aggressive move, I make Rebecca wait for me to make the two trips up and down the stairs with my guitar and amp before I unlock the door to let her inside my apartment. When I finally slide my key home, she’s wilted by the heat and perturbed by the wait. I’m perversely pleased, and a little creeped out with myself for it.
Not waiting for me anymore, Rebecca leads the way into my space. I lug my gear to the corner of the living room where I’ve set up a weight bench and piled up my stack of books to read on the road.
Like she lives here, Rebecca makes her way to the kitchen, finds my whiskey stash in the place it’s always been and the shot glasses on the shelf below. She pours two generous shots and sets them on the bar that separates the kitchen from the living room.
In no rush to join Rebecca, I toss the contents of my pockets onto the coffee table, tug my shirt off over my head, and pull my hair out of its braids as I kick off my boots and tug off my socks.
Rebecca pushes herself up onto my kitchen counter, slowly crossing her legs in a way that makes it abundantly clear there’s nothing under that dress. Is that supposed to be some sort of enticement?
When I don’t respond as she’d hoped, she huffs with boredom and leans across the counter to grab my favorite lighter, using it on a cigarette she’s pulled from a pack in her purse. With a long, slow exhale, she blows a stream of smoke through perfectly puckered lips.
It’s the lips, that mouth, which do the trick. Slowly, I cross the room to join her. Silently taking one of the two shots, I drink it down before she can come up with something to toast to. I watch as she drinks her shot. When she’s done, she pours another pair. We each drink again.
I don’t know why I’m letting her get me drunk. Maybe I’m just not in the mood to be sober. Maybe I’m tired of the running commentary in my brain urging me to stop this nonsense. Maybe I just want a little mindless fun, a brain haze while I have my cock sucked and fucked.
I reach for the cigarette in Rebecca’s hand, tugging it from her fingers to take a deep drag of it, then toss it over her shoulder and into the sink. It hisses as it extinguishes somewhere in the stack of dirty dishes.
Without a word or a moment of foreplay, I take Rebecca’s hand and tug her off the counter, leading her toward the bedroom.
“So beautiful,” Rebecca sighs. She smooths her fingertips across my forehead, down the long line of my nose, across the flat plains of my cheeks, and finally traces the rigid line of my jaw. “And so cruel.”
I frown up at her. She’s still sitting astride my hip, my cock still warm but wilting inside her. “What?”
“Beautifully cruel.” She sighs again, sounding far more melancholy than I’ve ever heard her before.
“You think I’m cruel?”
“Your eyes are cruel; deep and dark and hard. No one else can see it, though. Just me.” She rests her palms against my cheeks, her fingers tangling slightly in my long hair. She rubs her thumbs across the stark ridges of my cheekbones, just beneath my eyes, which are wide open with fear.
She’s making me nervous. This talk is too intimate. I don’t trust her to be this close. Her thumbs pause in their caress. She frowns at me as she asks, “Why did we break up?”
Suddenly, my discomfort ratchets up to terror, a bone-deep fear that Rebecca might poke my eyes out with her thumbnails.
I push myself up to sit. The movement effectively dumps Rebecca off of my chest and onto the tangle of sheets at my side. I move to my feet and walk to the kitchen, tossing the used condom in the trash as I make my way toward the fridge. I grab a beer, consider getting one for Rebecca, hesitate, then pull a second beer from the fridge before heading back to the bedroom. I find her digging through her purse and tugging that little baggy of coke out again.
“When did you start doing that shit?” I ask, nodding at her bag of blow as I hand her a beer.
She smirks at me. “When I was fifteen.”
My eyes go wide. Really? She’s been a cokehead this whole time? She was a cokehead while we dated? How did I not notice? “Well, see, there’s a good reason why we broke up. I obviously wasn’t paying any attention to you.”
Rebecca nods thoughtfully, agreeing, then snorts a bump of coke and washes it down with a slug of beer. “But we were good together—”
“We were awful together; all we ever did was fuck or fight.” I take a sip of my beer as I lean against the wall, in no rush to get back into bed with her.
I watch with disinterest as she snorts another bump and takes another sip of beer. She sets it all on the side table before turning onto her hands and knees and crawling toward me across the bed.
Her grin is mischievous, promising so much. My cock twitches at the sight of her ass wiggling, her breasts hanging heavy, swaying between her arms with every inch of progress she makes toward me.
“See?” Rebecca grins at my thickening, stiffening cock, and bites her bottom lip. “Little Jake misses me.”
I roll my eyes, take a chug of my beer, and set it on the dresser before I walk to the edge of the bed, my cock right at her eye level. “Little Jake is an idiot cyclops with a gluttony problem. And can we stop calling my dick little?”
Without another word, Rebecca slides Little Jake—worst dick name ever—into her mouth. She opens her throat, hollows out her cheeks, and sucks me so deep that I, too, forget why we ended things.