Eighteen months ago, drummer Jude Colburn made the biggest mistake of his life when he walked away from his band just as they were on the brink of success. Now, he’s got a second chance. The band’s bassist just quit, and Jude plays bass almost as well as he plays drums. The other band members aren’t thrilled, but they are desperate.
Running with Scissors needs him, but there’s one condition: no hooking up with bandmates. That’s what ruined things eighteen months ago, after all. Jude’s on board, but no one warned him about the drummer who replaced him. A.J. Palmer is shy and unassuming . . . until he hits the stage. He gets Jude’s attention from the first beat, and suddenly that “no hookups” rule isn’t so easy to follow.
Keeping secrets on a tour bus isn’t easy either, and it’s only a matter of time before the band catches on. When everything hits the fan, Jude has to choose: a second chance at the career he’s always regretted leaving, or a shot at the man of his dreams?
Jude looked up from a stack of invoices and turned to Steve, his cubicle mate. “Hmm?”
“You’re doing it again.”
Jude’s foot stopped moving, and he realized he’d been tapping it against the leg of his desk. Again. Tucking his feet beneath his chair, he muttered, “Sorry.”
No reply. At least Steve was more or less polite about it. Their other cubicle mate, Grant, was constantly on Jude’s case, and never even tried to hide his irritation.
Jude knew it annoyed them, and he tried his best not to do it, but telling a drummer not to tap his foot was like telling an eye not to see.
You’re not a drummer anymore.
He gritted his teeth. He’d always be a drummer. Always. Just because he wasn’t in a band at the moment didn’t mean—
Whatever helps you sleep at night, dude.
Cursing under his breath, he scrubbed a hand over his face. His leg itched with the need to mark time to the rhythm he had stuck in his head.
He couldn’t listen to the radio.
Couldn’t wear headphones.
Couldn’t tap his foot.
Couldn’t fucking concentrate.
“Jude?” Steve sounded concerned this time. “You okay?”
Grant muttered something. Jude didn’t catch it, but he recognized the tone and glanced at his own fingers.
Which were tapping beside his keyboard.
“I’ll be right back.” He snatched his phone off the desk and left. Head down, heart thumping, he hurried through the maze of cubicles. His cigarettes and lighter were already in his hand. He didn’t even remember pulling them out of his pocket, but whatever.
As the door to the communal patio came into view, he put a cigarette between his lips. He sensed one of the receptionists glaring at him—it’s not even lit, for God’s sake—but kept his gaze fixed on the door in front of him.
And finally, he was there.
He pushed it open with his hip, and before he’d even stepped all the way out into the SoCal heat, he’d cupped a hand around the end of his cigarette and flicked the lighter.
One drag brought his pulse back down. The second stilled his hands. Sort of. His fingers might as well have had a mind of their own, and were tapping out the bass line of a song he’d heard this morning on the radio. That tapping, much like the nicotine easing its way into his system, settled him. Centered him.
And naturally, drove his coworkers insane.
Holding his cigarette between two fingers, he rubbed his forehead with the heel of his hand. He’d long ago given up telling himself he was just having a bad day. If that were the case, he wouldn’t be out here every fucking afternoon, smoking two or three cigarettes in a row just to keep himself sane until five o’clock. And there wouldn’t be two more in the car. Three if traffic was exceptionally bad, even by Los Angeles standards.
At least in the car, he’d have music. The radio worked, and he had his iPod as backup. He’d be able to get the beat out of his system on the steering wheel because there’d be no one around to get on his case about it.
He lowered his hand and glared at the cigarette. His mom kept telling him these things would kill him sooner or later. After a year and a half behind a desk in a cramped cubicle, he was pretty sure the job would do him in well before the smokes did.
It’s your own fault you’re here.
Jude swore under his breath. Then he took another long drag and held it for a moment as he gazed out at the hazy LA skyline.
Every day, it was the same shit. He worked until he couldn’t anymore. Then he made his escape to this patio. And smoked. And kicked himself for being here in the first place.
This job was hell. The monotony and the buzz of fluorescent lights seemed to numb everyone else into some weird state where casual Friday and birthday potlucks were things to legitimately look forward to, but he had never adjusted. Day by day, he grew surer that he never would.
I could be on the road with them right now.
The thought didn’t even make him flinch anymore. Well, not much. Okay, not as bad as it had when he’d first found out the band was going on tour.
Six months. If he could’ve just hung on for six more goddamned months, he’d have been there when the record company offered them a deal. He’d have signed. He’d have been on tour right now. He’d have been onstage under the hot lights instead of dying inside under fluorescents while he crunched numbers he didn’t care about to make people he didn’t know rich. If he were onstage, he’d be whoring out albums to make record company execs rich, but at least he’d enjoy the work.
Well, he couldn’t go back and change the past, but he definitely needed to change his future. Maybe he’d give the job websites another look tonight. And of course, five minutes into that, he’d be all over Craigslist and any other place where someone might post that they were in search of a drummer. Even if it was just a part-time gig where they played twice a month in shithole bars for less than gas money, and he had to come into the office every morning with his ears ringing and his shoulders aching, that would be better than what he was doing now.
But nobody was looking for a drummer these days. Not many were looking for twitchy idiots to work in accounts receivable, either, but that was worth a look too unless he wanted to spend a decade or two trying not to disturb Steve and Grant.
All because he’d quit the band like a fucking idiot. Not that he’d had much choice by that point, especially since the circumstances that had driven him out of Running with Scissors were, at least in part, his own fucking fault.
Well, you made your bed. Now go back in there and lie in it.
He crushed his cigarette beneath his heel, tossed the butt into the ash can, and went back inside.
The Buy Links:
Meet the Author:
L.A. Witt is an abnormal M/M romance writer who has finally been released from the purgatorial corn maze of Omaha, Nebraska, and now spends her time on the southwestern coast of Spain. In between wondering how she didn’t lose her mind in Omaha, she explores the country with her husband, several clairvoyant hamsters, and an ever-growing herd of rabid plot bunnies. She also has substantially more time on her hands these days, as she has recruited a small army of mercenaries to search South America for her nemesis, romance author Lauren Gallagher, but don’t tell Lauren. And definitely don’t tell Lori A. Witt or Ann Gallagher. Neither of those twits can keep their mouths shut…