Home > Midnight Blue(8)

Midnight Blue(8)
Author: L.J. Shen


A tingle ran down my spine when I remembered the first time I saw Alex Winslow’s eyes up close. Whiskey brown. Bottomless and tawny like rich wood, full, expressive, and misleadingly warm. Straight nose, square jaw seemingly made of stone, and too-full lips that softened his appearance, despite his best efforts. His tousled hair was dirty brown, silk and cashmere, and he smelled of old leather and a new obsession. He may have looked beautiful, but it was important to remember that Alex Winslow was not, in fact, boyfriend material. Or anything-material. What he definitely was was: rude, impatient, a bully, and a recovering drug addict.

I pedaled faster, a mist of sweat forming on my brow. Winslow had worn army boots—unlaced—a pair of cheap-looking torn jeans, and a black tank top with raw-edge armholes, exposing his lean torso and tatted ribs. He was skinny—lithe but strong—and had several wristbands and rings on his hands, and was the very definition of sex on legs.

And I hated him.

Hated the way he walked, the way he talked, the way he’d undermined me. Hated that he held so much power over me, and the way he was going to use that power against me.

I rode my bike for almost two hours before making a U-turn and heading back home, then decided to skip the shower because I didn’t want to wake anyone up. I tossed and turned until dawn, thankful when Ziggy woke up twice and cried for his sippy cup. And when the sun emerged and the clouds hung low and fat over my city, I stood up, grabbed the suitcase, and walked over to his cradle.

“I’m getting us out of this mess,” I swore, leaning to kiss his forehead, reminding myself this temporary goodbye would later on grant us a steady future. He murmured to himself and waved his chubby little fist goodbye, blowing me kisses like I’d taught him.

That’s when I knew this was a promise I was going to keep.

 

 

“Dafuq?”

I jolted awake at a sharp elbow slamming into my ribs. It dug through my black hoodie and my leather jacket, so it had to be that long-limbed tosser, Alfie.

I sat up, growling. The dead hum of industrial engines buzzed in my ears. You’d think I would’ve gotten used to it by now. Spoiler alert: I hadn’t.

Alfie pouted like a groupie and slapped his forehead with the back of his hand. “Oh, Alexander, why don’t you love me?”

“Because you have a cock, no tits, fart like you’ve consumed every rotten egg in America, and think Russell Brand is funny. The latter, by the way, is borderline criminal.”

Alfie laughed and threw something at me—a blue guitar pick.

I picked it up from my crotch and slid it in my back pocket. “What do you want?”

“We’re almost at the airport.”

“I thought we were on the plane.”

“Are you still using? We’re in a traffic jam from hell moving at a snail’s pace to LAX.”

“So what’s that annoying noise?” My head swiveled toward the window.

“That would be L.A., Lord McCuntson,” Blake quipped, his eyes hard on his phone, always in work mode.

Forty minutes later, we were at the airport. Blake scrolled through our schedule on his iPad. We always started at the farthest point and worked our way back up to the States. Australia first—Sydney and Melbourne—then we’d do Asia, then Europe before we hit the land of the free—with a week-long break in England, to see our families.

“Letters from the Dead” was supposed to be a piece of cake. Best of. Songs I knew by heart. I had no new product to push. I was going to kiss my fans’ arses and hope to fuck the sights, smells, and cultures were going to get my creative juices flowing.

This time, the record company had asked for, “catchy, fun, bubbly, with a hint of rock ‘n’ roll.” So of course my inner rebel wanted to dump a bunch of fourteen-minute tracks about politics and global warming onto their table. I didn’t even like politics, but I hated my record company more.

At the airport, we breezed past security and into the VIP lounge. The private jet was ready, and this was the part I despised the least about being Alex Winslow. I had access to the most ridiculous shite ever to be invented. Seven years ago, I’d drooled from the prospect of getting on a plane—any plane, fuck the destination or class—and now I was literally grousing about having one all to myself.

“Well, if it isn’t the mother of dragons.” Blake oomphed as I unloaded Tania, resting her guitar case against one of the tables. Blake often claimed Jenna had the ability to burn people alive if they disobeyed.

I wormed out of my leather jacket, looking around me to make sure my few valuable possessions—mobile, Tania, and wallet—were with me. “And you’re telling me this because…?”

“Because she ain’t alone.”

I looked up, watching my agent striding in her snug three-grand dress toward me. She’d brought sitter number eleven. New Girl was now standing in front of me, wearing a Mad Men type yellow dress. Tight and completely ridiculous for a daylong plane ride. Her blue hair was braided into an embellished chignon, and she looked like a color-blind fairy.

“New Girl,” I exclaimed with false enthusiasm, so that Jenna would think I at least tried before I gave her the boot. I refused to call her Indie because A) her name was silly, and B) that would be acknowledging she was a person and not an obstacle. I opened my arms and walked toward her, all swagger and easy smirk. “We’re thrilled to have you on board.”

New Girl’s smile transformed from timid to irritated. When my arms wrapped around her shoulders, I heard her wheezing out the remainder of her hope that this was going to resemble something civilized. Jenna was standing beside us, and I took the opportunity—again—to loom over New Girl and whisper into her ear, “Run, darlin’. One last chance to do so.”

Her body turned to ice, but she didn’t cower, and for that, I sort of didn’t hate her all the way. At least she had some backbone. So far, I’d treated her even worse than the rest. Because—unlike the rest—she hadn’t budged.

“Glad you guys are getting along.” Jenna eyed me, suspicion leaking from every syllable rolling between her lips. She knew something was fishy. But, like the majority of people around me, she didn’t want to open that can of worms.

I leaned back and threw an arm over New Girl’s shoulders, squeezing her into an embrace.

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