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    C James
  • Author
  • 5,980 Words

Let the Music Play - 13. Love and Hate

Chapter 13: Love and Hate



Climbing out of the shower, Chase reached for a towel, only to be startled as he heard Brandon’s agitated voice yelling his name, the anger in his cry evident even through the walls. Still dripping, Chase dashed for the door to see what was wrong.


“Chase!” Brandon yelled towards the connecting door for a second time, before leaping to his feet to glare down at Eric and Jon.

“Dude, please calm down,” Jon begged, “it was just an idea...”

“Idea my ass,” growled Brandon, as Chase barreled into the room with a towel around his waist.

Brandon jabbed an accusing finger towards Eric and Jon as he said in Chase’s direction, “They, they...” he sputtered, shaking his head as if to clear it, before growling, “I’ll let them tell you, because I barely believe it myself.” He looked down at the two as they perceived danger in his eyes, “Spill it, every damn bit of it.”

Intimidated by the very clear threat they’d seen in Brandon’s eyes, Eric and Jon began speaking at the same time, until Eric decided to shut up and let Jon do the explaining.

Avoiding his brother’s eyes, Jon began to tell Chase exactly what he’d told Brandon. Chase stood, his mouth hanging open in shock. As Jon reached the point where he’d told Brandon his plan to get Chase out of the way, he began to skip over it, until Brandon snapped, “I said all of it.”

Jon glanced up at Brandon, finding fire in his eyes, clenched fists, and a clear intent to use them. Sagging in defeat, Jon told his brother the entire story, including the plan to deceive him.

Chase stood in silence for a few moments as the story ended, only to take a step forward, and then another, as he rushed forward cocking his arm back, intending to deliver one hell of a right cross to his oldest brother’s jaw. He swung, only to find his arm entangled with Brandon’s. “Whoa, save that for later and I’ll probably join ya,” Brandon said while easing his boyfriend back a step, “Right now we’ve got to deal with the mess they’ve made.”

Looking into Brandon’s eyes, Chase said, “What do you mean, deal with it? You’re not going to... please don’t...”

Shaking his head, Brandon replied, “No way in hell will I do what she wants, don’t worry about that. I just don’t know what the fuck we can do. I’ll call Helen and see if she has any ideas.”

“No,” Eric yelped, “If Helen finds out...”

“Tough shit,” Brandon snapped as he pulled out his cell and made the call.

Jon and Eric sat, sullenly staring at their feet, avoiding their brother’s furious glare as they listened to Brandon as he gave Helen the whole story. Pausing to listen for a moment after he’d finished, Brandon said into the phone, “Don’t tempt me... Okay, see you in a few.”

“Did she come up with anything?” Jon asked in a bare whisper, still staring intently at his feet.

“Yeah, she said if the girl shows up here and finds your dead bodies splattered all over the hallway, it might scare the bitch off. She said she’ll try and think up a better plan on her way over...”

“Right now I don’t think I’d much mind if she went with that one,” Eric said, meaning every word.

“Me either... I’m really sorry we did this to you guys,” Jon added.

Biting back his words until he calmed down slightly, Brandon said through partially clenched teeth, “The outing was bad enough; you were drunk and shit happens, but you aren’t drunk now and you tried to get me to lie to Chase and go screw a girl behind his back. Don’t you get it?”

Eric looked up to see two very angry faces as he said, “I see that now. I’m sorry; we were scared and didn’t know what else to do.”

“When in doubt, go do something fucking stupid,” grumbled Chase, taking a seat to glare at his brothers as the conversation ended.

The loud knocking that signaled Helen’s arrival ended the angry silence, as Chase got up to open the door. She stormed in to stare in disgust at Eric and Jon, “I don’t even have words...” she said to them, before turning to Brandon, “Unless you’ll reconsider the dead bodies idea, the only thing I can think of is you’ll have to go along with the blackmailing bitch when she gets here.”


When the Land Rover finally came to a welcome halt, enshrouded in a dissipating cloud of fine, reddish dust, Dimitri said simply, “We’re here.”

The engineer looked around askance at his surroundings; A few large barns, a bunkhouse, some decrepit sheep pens, and a tumbledown house. “This is it?” he asked, the displeasure plain in his voice.

Climbing out, stretching his sore muscles in the shimmering heat, Dimitri swept his eyes around the empty horizon, taking in the rolling, arid land, “Yes, Vladimir, this is it. The large work buildings have heavy cement floors, perfect for the milling equipment. This location is quite isolated, yet it has all you shall need; accommodations for the workers, and plenty of power supplied by a diesel generator in the far building. Don’t let the exteriors of the buildings fool you; we have taken great care to repair and upgrade the interiors, even those of the house. We left the exteriors in a state of disrepair, for obvious security reasons.”

It wasn’t the appearance of the buildings that concerned the engineer, eyeing the coating of fine, red dust on their vehicle, he swept his index finger along the fender before holding the reddened digit up in Dimitri’s direction, “Have you noticed the dust? It is everywhere! It is very fine dust, and judging from its color it is very high in iron oxide. Do you have any idea what this means?”

Taking care to control his temper, reminding himself again that the annoying little man was irreplaceable, Dimitri admitted the truth, “No, I have no idea what you are talking about.”

“Fine particulate dust is invasive; it gets into everything. Iron oxide is particularly bad because we must do the casting and metallurgy here; it would act as a contaminant. Even worse yet, it is called ‘oxide’ because it contains oxygen; when we cast the plutonium, it must be in an oxygen-free atmosphere because Plutonium is quite flammable. If iron oxide is present, it will release its oxygen when molten, causing a very volatile reaction with the plutonium. There is also the risk of component contamination at our assembly facility. This is a major issue, Dimitri.”

Pacing back and forth for a few moments, his head beginning to ache, Dimitri asked, “Is there any way to deal with this problem?”

The engineer considered for several seconds, “Perhaps. We would need air filtration along with a magnetic scrubber. There are also some handling procedures we can use to minimize the problem. It will be a battle, but one I think we can win.”

Sighing with relief, Dimitri assured the engineer, “We will get you whatever you need.”


Promptly at eight, a pert knock on the door sounded through Eric’s suite. Jon, shuffling and downcast, walked over to let the decidedly unwelcome guest in. “Well?” asked Charity as she breezed past him into the suite.

“He’s in his room, the one next to Jon’s; he’s expecting you,” Eric said from his seat on the couch, “I hope you know he’s going to hate us forever for this.”

“Cry me a fucking river,” snapped Charity, savoring her victory as she entered Jon’s via the connecting door.

Finding the bedroom door closed, she barged in without knocking, to find Brandon, wearing just an old pair of jogging shorts, leaning back against his headboard, writing in a yellow notepad that was propped against his single raised knee.

“Hello, Charity,” Brandon said flatly, his attention not wavering from his task.

Closing the door behind her, Charity stalked over to the bed, tugging her belt off as she said, “That’s no way to welcome your date.”

Looking up from his notepad, pen still held at the ready, Brandon replied, “Date? This isn’t a date, its blackmail; I don’t want to have sex with you.”

“Tough. You’re going to do it, and do a good job, or I’ll tell everyone who’ll listen about you and your boyfriend. Now strip off, stud-boy, you’ve got a job to do,” she said while pulling off her tube-top.

Through clenched teeth, Brandon gave it one last try, “I can’t believe your father would let you do that. He’d never approve of something like this.”

“You think you’re the first famous guy I’ve done this too? As for daddy-o, that senile old bastard doesn’t know his ass from a hole in the ground; he’s never suspected a thing. He wouldn’t give a rat’s ass anyway, as long as it didn’t interfere with his precious public image. Now, unless you want to come out of the closet permanently, strip off,” she said, unhooking her bra and tossing it on the floor.

“Closets can be handy things,” announced Helen as she pushed the slightly ajar closet door the rest of the way open, stepping out and keeping the camcorder pointing squarely at Charity. “That pen Brandon has is a recorder, and just to be sure, I filmed the whole thing, sound and all. I think your father is going to just love this tape, and so will the tabloids; they just adore a big juicy sex scandal in a politician’s family.”

Yanking her tube-top back on, Charity gasped, “You wouldn’t dare...”

With a wicked smile, Helen, with the camera still rolling, replied, “Try me, you skanky little bitch. I saved the best for last; you’re going to jail. What you tried here tonight is extortion, which is a felony in this state.”

Turning a ghostly white as the color drained from her face, Charity squeaked, “You can’t... I’ll do anything, please...”

Clicking off the camera, Helen replied after a thoughtful pause, “You’re lucky you caught me on a good day. I’ll make this short and sweet; if I hear any malicious rumors about Brandon, I don’t give a damn if they come from you or somebody else, I’ll air this tape on national TV as proof that people are out to extort Brandon through vicious lies. Same goes if you ever try a stunt like this with anyone else. Now get the fuck out.

Snatching up her bra and belt, Charity dashed out of the room, running through the connecting door into Eric’s suite as she anxiously sought the door through which she’d entered the lion’s den. Looking up from the couch as she bolted past, her distraught expression proof enough that Helen’s plan had worked, Jon hollered at her retreating back, “Was it good for you too?” before laughing and exchanging a high-five with Eric.

“You can come out of the closet now Chase,” Helen said, laughing at her pun as Chase strolled out, grinning from ear to ear, wearing a pair of Brandon’s old boardies, diving onto the bed to wrap his boyfriend up in a big hug, “Dude, you were great!”

After giving Chase a quick but deep kiss, Brandon stood up, returning the recorder-pen to Helen, “Damn, you’re good. I just hope it works.”

“It’ll work, because I wasn’t bluffing; I’ll air this in a heartbeat if we have any need of it. I’ll even happily use it if we have any trouble in Phoenix, it could come in real handy if your parents try anything, and I sure wouldn’t mind seeing that evil little bitch go down, whether she does anything or not,” Helen said with a grim laugh as she lead Brandon and Chase out the door.


Eric high-fived Jon again as he laughed, “Man, that bitch cleared out like her ass was on fire...” seeing the others enter through the connecting door he turned to say, “That was great... She took off like a...” he stopped in mid-sentence, as the three angry glares reminded him that he and Jon were still very much on the shit-list.

Helen tucked the camcorder and pen-recorder back in her purse before crossing her arms and glaring at the two suddenly crestfallen brothers, “I don’t even know what to say to you. You nearly wrecked everything we’ve worked for, again. I’ll be back tomorrow and I’ll be out for blood... or body parts.” With that, Helen stalked towards the door. As she opened the door, she said to Brandon and Chase, “If you decide to settle this with cold-blooded murder, you can count on me for an alibi.”

Brandon watched her slam the door, before turning to give Eric and Jon his own broadside, but words failed him. Looking around, he spied the door to Chase’s suite and walked away after giving the two brothers an angry glare. As soon as Brandon was out of the room, Chase said to his brothers in an emotionless tone, “I can’t deal with you either right now. I finally found somebody I care about, then you try and get him to lie to me and screw a girl behind my back to get us out of a mess you caused? You fucking assholes...”

Entering his suite and slamming the door behind him, Chase found Brandon pacing back and forth. Looking up at his boyfriend, Brandon asked, “I really don’t want to be around those two right now. Can I crash on your couch tonight?”

Walking up to Brandon, Chase replied, “You don’t ever need to ask, but the answer is no.” Smiling at the puzzled look he received, he added with a coy look, “I’d just end up sleeping out here with you, and my bed’s a hell of a lot more comfortable than the sofa; come on,” taking Brandon’s hand in his own, he lead him towards the bedroom.

Entering the room, seeing his own image on the poster stuck to the far wall, Brandon eyed the inviting bed, wrapping his arms around Chase, pulling him close as he asked, “Are you sure about this? After all the drama tonight, do you really want to?”

Reaching up to run his fingers through Brandon’s hair, “You’re probably right; we’d always remember that bitch and my two asshole brothers when we looked back... I just know I don’t want to sleep alone tonight.”

Running his hand in lazy circles on Chase’s back, Brandon gave his neck a quick but tender nibble before whispering, “Then we can just sleep...”

Pulling Brandon into the waiting bed, Chase replied as he cuddled up next to him, “It won’t be easy, but yeah, I don’t want to remember the mess tonight. We’ve got that suite in Phoenix; let’s put it too good use, whether anything happens before then or not.”

Brandon replied the only way he could; he pulled Chase in for a long, slow kiss.

The next morning, Brandon awoke first, lying on his back, unsure of where he was, but only for a moment before he felt Chase’s arm draped across his chest. Turning his head to stare at the gorgeous face snuggling against his shoulder, he smiled, wondering how anyone could look so damn good.

Waking up to see a pair of green eyes gazing into his, Chase moved his arm slightly, tracing his fingertips on Brandon’s defined chest as he whispered, “Hi... been awake long?”

“Not long... I was just watching you sleep. Waking up like this is great,” Brandon replied softly, running his fingers through Chase’s ruffled blond hair.

“I like this, a lot,” Chase said, rolling on top of Brandon, lowering himself with his arms until their chests touched before saying softly in Brandon’s ear, “Let’s not sleep alone anymore.”

Feeling Chase grinding their hips together and nibbling at the nape of his neck, Brandon rolled his head back, trembling from the sensations as he gasped, “Yeah... this sure as hell beats waking up alone,” as he worked his hands down Chase’s sides.

Chase ground their hips together a little more, feeling Brandon’s raging response meeting his own through the fabric of their shorts as he began to suck on Brandon’s neck.

Brandon shuddered, his hands reaching Chase’s waist, aching to roam lower as he chewed on his lip, feeling the pressure begin to build, whispering in Chase’s ear, “If you don’t stop that, I’m going to lose it...”

With a last lick at Brandon’s skin, Chase raised up on his arms, easing their hips apart as he gazed down at Brandon’s flushed face and his handiwork on his neck, “We should have more time tonight...”

As Chase rolled away, Brandon lay back panting, aching for the contact to resume. Chase padded away, leaving the room with a sly over-the-shoulder grin.

Hearing the shower start, Brandon briefly considered taking care of a certain pressure by hand, but remembering Chase’s touch, taste, and feel, decided that waiting a few more hours for something far, far better couldn’t hurt... much.

Chase returned, heading for his closet wearing a towel, tossing Brandon a clean pair of blue running shorts, a color Brandon thought was quite appropriate, under the circumstances. After taking his turn in the shower, Brandon padded over to the mirror, still dripping, to use the wall-mounted hairdryer. As he dried his hair, the steam on the mirror slowly cleared, giving him a glimpse of his own neck.

Hanging up the phone after ordering their breakfasts, Chase saw Brandon, looking very tasty in the blue shorts, approaching with a bemused look on his face. Pointing at the red hickey on his neck he said, “Just how am I going to explain this?”

With a chuckle Chase replied, “Easy – you were attacked by a rabid vacuum cleaner.”

“A rabid something, that’s for sure,” Brandon said while pulling Chase into a kiss.

As they finished breakfast, Chase nibbled at a final piece of sausage as he broached the subject that had carefully been left unspoken so far that morning, “What are we going to do?”

Understanding exactly what, or more precisely who, Chase was referring to, Brandon shrugged, “I’m still mad, but not as bad I as was last night. They fucked up six ways from Sunday, no doubt about it, but they seemed sorry. I guess I can understand their feeling panicky after realizing what they’d done. They’re scared to death of Helen.”
“Yeah, when they’re wrong and they know it, they freak out about Helen. I don’t know if you noticed, but they were damn scared of you last night, too.”

Brandon hadn’t noticed that, but he realized it fit, “It’s you they should have been scared of; that was one hell of a roundhouse you were throwing at Jon’s jaw.”

“Half of me wishes you’d let me connect, the other half is glad you didn’t. I’m mad, but I keep remembering how they took care of me when our family was ripped apart. I love ‘em, and I hate ‘em right now.”

Brandon nodded, “They’re good guys. They just really fucked up. They’ve been great to me, too. Even without what’s been happening between you and me, or the music, I’ve been happier since moving in here than I’ve ever been in my life; I’m an only child but I feel like I have brothers now. Think we’ve let then stew long enough?”

“Maybe,” Chase grumbled, glancing at the closed connecting door, “We do need to rehearse today, and I guess we’ve got to bury the hatchet sometime. Trouble is, I’d like to bury it in their damn heads.”

Brandon laughed, “I know the feeling. Maybe you’d better see them first. If we both go in, they might get defensive.”

Chase shoved himself back from the table, standing up to say, “Okay, I’ll go talk to ‘em.”

Entering Eric’s suite, Chase was surprised to find his brothers asleep on the couch. Resisting the urge to get his drum, he sat down on the opposite couch, and coughed.

To Chase’s surprise, Jon, who normally was nearly impossible to wake up, snapped his eyes open. Focusing on Chase, he said, “I’m sorry, bro.”

His anger fading, and noticing Eric waking up, Chase replied, “Yeah. What you guys did was majorly fucked up, but let’s try and work things out. Why are you two on the couch anyway?”

Eric sat up, rubbing his eyes, “After you guys left, we stayed here talking about what happened until we fell asleep. We were scared that neither of you would talk to us again. We’re really sorry.”

“Yeah, okay, I get that part,” Chase replied, his eyes fierce as he added, “If you guys ever, and I mean ever, pull a stunt like that again, I’m done, got it?”

Eric and Jon nodded meekly, deferring for the first time to their younger brother. The three reached out, hesitantly at first, and tapped fists, as they’d always done when an argument was resolved. With a guarded smile, Chase reminded them, “Now you get to deal with Brandon.”

“Does he still want to kill us?” Eric asked, in a failed attempt to lighten the mood, as he realized that Brandon very well might want to do exactly that.

Ignoring his brother’s failed attempt at levity, Chase got up to leave, saying, “I’ll send him in.”


Brandon looked up as Chase entered the suite and closed the connecting door behind him. Chase answered the unspoken question as he sat down at the table, “We patched things up, I guess. They’re really sorry, and I don’t think they’ll do it again. I told ‘em I was done if they ever do.”

Getting up and walking towards the door, Brandon said, “I guess it’s my turn,” as he glanced in a wall mirror, doing a double-take as he noticed how much darker the spot had become, and then turning around to ask as his hand rubbed the bite mark on his neck, “Can I borrow a shirt with a collar?”

Chase laughed, “Don’t worry about it. Normally they’d give you shit, but right now they won’t dare. I’ll bet they pretend it’s not there.”

With a smile and a shrug, Brandon opened the connecting door and walked through, finding Jon and Eric sitting on the couch looking miserable. “Hi,” he said flatly, taking a seat on the opposite couch. He watched with concealed amusement as Eric and Jon, in turn, each noticed the hickey just below the nape of his neck, both of them snapping their eyes away, ignoring it.

“What we did was wrong, on many levels,” Jon began, “We never wanted to screw things up between you and Chase. We’re really sorry.”

Deciding to make it easier on everyone, himself included, Brandon replied, “All right, what’s done is done. Let’s try and get back to where we were, but soon, I’m going to want to talk to you both, to make sure you understand, okay?”

Relieved, the two brothers nodded. Eric then asked, “We stayed up most of the night talking. I think we get it, but whenever you’re ready, we’re here. Anyway, one of the things that came up last night was Chase’s birthday. It’s just a few days away. Have you gotten him anything yet?”

“No, I haven’t had a chance, and I didn’t know how. I was going to ask Helen. Got any ideas?”

The two brothers exchanged a relieved grin before Jon said, “Kind of, but we can at least take you out to shop. We’ve got to get our cars to Helen’s today, so we were thinking you could drive Chase’s car and follow us in ours to her house, then we could get a cab and go shopping on the way back.”

“I’ve got a big problem with that; Chase...”

Eric interrupted to say, “No problem. We can just tell him we’re,” Eric snapped his mouth shut as he realized he’d just said the wrong thing, “I guess lying to him wouldn’t be a bright idea, huh?”

“Under the circumstances, no, it sure wouldn’t. Glad you saw that for yourself. I wouldn’t normally object to being a bit sneaky to go present-shopping, but not right now; I’ll just tell him. Anyway, what I was about to say was Chase’s car is a stick and I don’t know how to drive one.”

“And he won’t let either of us drive it,” Jon said, scratching his head.

Brandon got up to leave the room, “Be right back.”


Finding Chase watching TV, Brandon said, “We patched things up, I think, and they seem to get it. They even offered to take me shopping today, just me and them.” Brandon laughed at Chase’s unhappy look, “It’s for your birthday; that’s why you can’t come.”

“You don’t need to get me anything.”

“Oh yes I do,” replied Brandon with a laugh, “We won’t be long, and I promise I’ll keep them out of trouble. The problem is your car; we need to get it to Helen’s along with theirs. They say you won’t let them drive it, and I wouldn’t know how.”

“You’re darn right I won’t let them drive my car; the last time I did, one of ‘em, I never could find out who, dented the fender and didn’t tell me. They were together, so I just won’t let either one drive it again. Helen’s house isn’t that far,” Chase said, getting up and walking over to Brandon, “I’ll drive you over there, and show you how to handle a stick on the way. Then the cab or whatever can just drop me back off here. Pulling Brandon close, Chase slid his hand between them, giving Brandon’s crotch a couple of slow rubs, “I told you a long time ago that I’d teach you how to handle a stick, and today’s the day.”

Pulling Chase closer, Brandon trembled from the touch, “It’s your stick I want to handle, not mine,” he whispered.




After finishing their final set of rehearsals and grabbing some dinner, the four band mates, who had carefully dressed in nondescript old t-shirts and jeans along with a mix of baseball and painter’s caps, arrived in the parking garage. After walking back to the reserved spaces, Jon patted the side of his raised, over-sized Dodge 4x4 pickup truck, “This is my baby,” he said proudly, running a hand over an all-terrain tire.

“Chase pointed it out to me once. That’s some truck. I’ll bet it’s great off-road,” Brandon replied, growing puzzled at the odd expression that had appeared on Jon’s face.

With a laugh, Eric explained, “Jon wouldn’t take that truck within a mile of a dirt road, let alone off-road. Look under the hood sometime, he’s got the engine damn near chrome-plated. Now, if you really want to go off-road, I’ve got my Jeep.”

“And the last time that garage queen of yours saw dirt was when, exactly?” quipped Jon.

Eric shrugged, “There’s always a first time, but at least I don’t turn funny colors when someone mentions the possibility,” he said, while climbing into his hard-topped Jeep.

Jon opened his truck, heaving himself up into the high cab as he said, “There’s a car wash a few blocks from here, and it’s on the way. Just follow us and try not to get lost.”

“I know the way, you goof,” Chase laughed, opening up his Mercedes coupe and climbing in on the driver’s side.

Brandon slid into the passenger seat, running a finger on the rosewood dash panel, glancing around at the leather and wood that covered almost every interior surface as the engine purred to life.

After negotiating the heavy traffic, including a detour to the car wash, they arrived in convoy at the edge of Bel-Air, with Jon and Eric in the lead. Chase pulled over as they reached the quiet side streets, amused to see his brothers immediately pull over too, as he’d expected. “They don’t want to show up at Helen’s without us,” he snickered.

Getting a reluctant Brandon to change places with him, Chase said, “You watched me, it’s easy. Just push in the clutch, put it into first gear, and then slowly ease off the clutch. Doing as he was told, nervous to be at the controls of such an expensive vehicle, least of all one he didn’t know how to drive, Brandon waited until there was no traffic in sight.

Easing off the clutch a fraction of an inch at a time, Brandon pulled away from the curb with the Mercedes chugging slightly. “Give it a little gas,” Chase advised, smiling as Brandon saved the car from stalling. Passing Jon and Eric, who pulled in behind, Brandon eyed the tach as it neared four thousand RPM. Chewing his lip, he eased off the gas, depressed the clutch, and slipped the glass-smooth shifter down. With a little more confidence, he eased off the clutch, as the engine shuddered and died.

Slamming the clutch back in, Brandon looked at the dashboard as they rolled along at fifteen miles an hour.

“You put it into fourth instead of second,” Chase laughed, easing the gear selector into the correct position before turning the key to restart the engine.

Giving the car just a little too much gas, Brandon eased the clutch out, slowly driving the remaining winding streets to Helen’s house in second gear, with Chase telling him where to turn. When Chase pointed out her house, Brandon pulled over to the curb, “I don’t want to try maneuvering on a driveway where I could hit something,” he said.

They changed places, both laughing at Jon and Eric, who were waiting behind them. After Chase tapped in the code to open the gate, they parked the vehicles in a row along the outer edge of Helen’s semi-circular driveway. A series of chirps sounded as they locked up, and Brandon got his first look at Helen’s spectacular house. Every detail had been attended to; the hedges trimmed, every garden light straight as an arrow, the granite columns of the front portico gleaming as they ascended the marble stairs. Jon looked back, spotting an unfamiliar Chevy Suburban close to the entrance.

Eric and Jon made sure to stand well behind Brandon and Chase as Chase rang the doorbell. Brandon nearly jumped at the sound of the deep, bass gong as Chase observed, “I think she likes to intimidate visitors.”

Barbra opened the door, greeting Brandon and Chase each with a hug, saving a reserved, almost cold “hello” for Eric and Jon. “They’re here,” she hollered over her shoulder.

“You’ve got a beautiful house,” Brandon said, looking around as he entered the high-ceilinged foyer.

“Thanks, we like it,” Barbra replied as Helen stormed up.

While giving Jon and Eric a nasty glare, she said to Brandon and Chase, “I see you haven’t killed them – yet.”

“We worked it out,” Brandon replied, wondering if Helen was about to rip into the two brothers again.

“Fortunately for them, I have company and he might not appreciate violence,” Helen snapped, turning to lead them all to her great room, where Brandon was the first to recognize a familiar figure perusing Helen’s book collection.

Running his fingers once through his thick hair, carefully arranging it, Jerry turned to greet the band, “Thank you all very much for your very generous pledge from your Phoenix concert. You helped a great deal by attending my party and with your donation that evening, but this is wonderful.”

“Jerry just finished going over the shipping arrangements with me, so I gave him the three thousand you pledged, and then I gave him the good news about half the Phoenix proceeds.” Helen said sweetly, though Jon and Eric took immediate note of the look in her eyes that warned them, in no uncertain terms, to keep their mouths shut.

Forcing smiles that they didn’t feel, Jon and Eric nodded as Jerry proceeded to thank them all again.

Barbra’s eyes strayed to the hickey peeking out above Brandon’s t-shirt collar, and gave him a happy wink. Brandon began to blush until Helen interrupted to say, “You four will have an early morning tomorrow. Your opening act is based here in Los Angeles and they’re driving to Phoenix tomorrow night. I’d forgotten that they wanted to meet with you before the concert, but their manager reminded me and tomorrow morning looked like the best time as things will be so hectic once we arrive at the venue. You’re going to be working with them for several months, so it’s important to get off on the right foot.”

While Barbra engaged Jerry in a discussion of eighteenth-century literature as they walked back to the bookcase on the far side of the enormous room, Brandon asked, “Who are they? Our opening act, I mean.”

With an expression of surprise, Helen said, “Oh, that’s right, this was all set up quite a while before you joined. They’re a group called ‘The Shadows’, the boys have met them. They’re quite good.

Jon chimed in to add, “They’re also a little weird. We met them backstage after our gig in Berlin last year; they’re pretty dark; both their music, and the way they look. They always dress in black, kind of a Goth look, and they even wear makeup on stage. We’ve talked to ‘em and heard their stuff, they’re okay guys and pretty good at what they do.”

Letting out a big sigh, Brandon rolled his head back to look up at the ornate ceiling as he said, “Just fucking wonderful. Of all the damn groups, we had to end up with them. They aren’t from Los Angeles, at least one of them isn’t. His name’s Zeke and he’s their lead guitarist. He grew up in Phoenix; I’ve met him a couple of times,” Brandon looked at Helen as he continued; “His brother was one of my friends... one of the friends who turned on me when my parents outed me. I can pretty well guarantee that he knows about me, and he’ll recognize me, sure as hell.”

“I don’t think that’s anything to worry about,” Helen replied with a confident smile, “Think of it from their point of view; this tour, opening for a top group like Instinct, is their ticket to the big leagues. I rather doubt that they’d do anything to jeopardize the arrangement, and pissing off the lead singer of their headlining band would certainly qualify, as would any bad publicity that might arise should they get a little too talkative. Just meet with them tomorrow, and if you have even the slightest inkling of trouble, let me know and I’ll make sure their manager sorts them out, pronto.”

Somewhat relieved, Brandon nodded as Helen said, “You’d best make an early night of it. You’re meeting with them in your studio at eight, sharp.”



© 2007 C James

feedback.gifPlease let me know what you think; good, bad, or indifferent.

Please give me feedback, and please don’t be shy if you want to criticize! The feedback thread for this story is in my Forum. Please stop by and say "Hi!"



Many thanks to my editor EMoe for editing and for his support, encouragement, beta reading, and suggestions.

Thanks also to Shadowgod, for beta reading, support and advice, and for putting up with me.

A big "thank you" to to Bondwriter for final Zeta-reading and advice, and to Captain Rick for Beta-reading and advice.

To Graeme; thank you for your wonderful idea; and your wise council and input at a very critical stage.

Any remaining errors are mine alone.

© 2007 C James
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That was ingenious whoever thought of Helen videotaping Charity and her blackmail. lol Good riddance to bad rubbish. ;)


At least now the cat's out of the bag, so to speak, and Jon and Eric came clean so now there's nothing hanging over their heads.


I'm looking forward to the start of their tour. :)

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Is it just me or does this chapter feel like the closing of an Act 1 and beginning of Act 2? That's the vibe I get from this one.

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I’m glad Brandon didn’t give into peer pressure and I just love Helen. She was a genius in this chapter. You know I want to forgive those idiots but them balking over the money donation again when they made asses out of themselves just grates on my nerves. I don’t believe in the saying there’s no such thing as bad publicity and their actions had to be metigated in some way so considering they aren’t exactly poor at the moment Helen’s idea to use a donation to the charity as positive publicity to offset the negative publicity they drummed up isn’t something they should whine about. They both act so immature and so...ugh there aren’t appropriate words. I mean I love people who don’t take themselves too seriously but their attitudes are ridiculous. Then you’ve got them saying to Brandon that they think they get it after apparently having to stay up all night long talking just to remotely understand what they’d did wrong as far as Brandon & Chase are concerned which along with the money thing just makes them seem majorly self-centered. One issue is the drinking and the other is I think they didn’t see anything wrong with Brandon using sex as a solution to the blackmail because despite thinking someone promiscious wasn’t good for their brother they would have no issue using sex as a tool nor have any desire for an actual relationship so to them the option given seemed somewhat reasonable compared to the possible alternatives. I kinda wish their scheme was fully explained as I want to know what bullshit they had planned to get rid of Chase or distract him so Brandon could have sex with that....witch.

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