Treat me, p.25
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       Treat Me, p.25

         Part #8 of One Night with Sole Regret series by Olivia Cunning
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  don’t care either way, I just want Adam gone. And not temporarily. For good.”

  Owen shook his head. “What’s wrong with you? I’m sure he’ll explain everything when he gets back. He deserves a second chance.”

  “A second chance?” Shade asked, finding it difficult to draw air. Were these guys really so clueless to what had been going on with Adam for years?

  Owen nodded. As did Kellen. Gabe had his gaze trained on the floor.

  “He’s already had a hundred second chances,” Shade said. “Or more! He’s gone too far this time. I’m not putting up with his shit anymore. So if you won’t get rid of him, then I’m out of here.”

  “What?” Gabe’s head snapped up, his disbelieving stare forcing Shade to look away.

  “There’s the door,” Owen said, pointing toward the front of the bus with his thumb.

  Shade gaped at Owen. He supposed Owen was still pissed that he’d called him a spineless wuss, but Owen shouldn’t push. Not right now. Shade wasn’t fucking around. He was through with Adam, and if these guys wanted to side with a train-wreck of a recovering junkie, then Shade was through with the band entirely. He would not back down this time. Enough was enough.

  “So Owen chooses Adam over me,” Shade said. “What about you, Kellen? I’m sure you’ll go along with whatever Owen says since you can’t live without each other.”

  “Fuck you, Jacob,” Kellen said.

  Well, there was his answer to that question. He turned to Gabe. Of all of his bandmates, Gabe was the most sensible. He had to see reason. Either Adam had to go or Shade was going. Shade was beyond trying to fix this matter; he refused to compromise. He’d drawn a line on the stage and so far he was the only one willing to cross it. But he had crossed it and for him there was no turning back.

  “Don’t do this, Jacob. It isn’t worth it,” Gabe said.

  Shade bit his lip and nodded. Gabe wasn’t siding with him either; he’d lost his gamble. Not one of his bandmates was willing to back his decision. So be it. He could find another band to front. Perhaps Adam was the soul of Sole Regret, but Shade was its heart. They might survive without a soul, but without a heart? Good luck with that, traitors.

  “I guess this is goodbye then,” Shade said. “Good luck with Adam. He’s only going to drag you down with him. I guess you’ll just have to see it for yourself. I’m through being his buffer. None of you have any idea how bad he can get—you have absolutely no clue. But you’ll figure it out soon enough, and I might have already moved on.”

  Shade had struggled alone for years to lift Adam out of the gutter he seemed to prefer, but he wasn’t going to be there to help cover up Adam’s dark reality from the rest of the band any longer. Or from the public. It wouldn’t take long for them to realize Shade was right. He just had to wait this out and they’d be begging him to come back. And Sole Regret could have its future success without Adam. It was the only way they’d survive.

  Shade grabbed the overnight bag he’d yet to unpack and headed to the front of the bus. He tapped Tex on the arm. “Stop the bus,” he said.

  Tex looked up at him eyes wide. “Here? Are you fucking nuts? We’re miles from the next town,” he said in his heavy Texas twang.

  And the walk would do Shade some good. “I said stop the bus,” he said more firmly.

  Tex eased the bus over onto the highway’s shoulder. It shuddered to a stop, idling loudly as a semi zipped past with a loud blare from its horn.

  “What do you think you’re doing?” Gabe asked.

  “I’m leaving.”

  “Be reasonable, Jacob.” Gabe laid a hand on Shade’s shoulder, but Shade shrugged it off. “We can work through this. Stay. Let’s talk about it.”

  “Open the door,” Shade said to Tex.

  The door creaked as it swung open, and Shade took the steps to the roadside before he could change his mind. He didn’t want to leave, he had to leave. If he didn’t, his bandmates wouldn’t think he was serious. They’d think he’d get over Adam’s massive fuck-up after he cooled down. But Shade was serious, and he wasn’t going to get over it. He was through with Adam, and if the rest of them weren’t, then it was time for him to move on.

  “Great fucking plan, Jacob,” Gabe called down to him as he flicked a hand toward the seemingly endless road to nowhere. “This doesn’t solve a goddamned thing.”

  Shade ignored him and started walking. He didn’t know if the closest town was ahead or behind, but as far as he was concerned, he could only move forward.

  “Jacob!” Gabe called.

  “Let him go if that’s what he wants,” Shade heard Kellen say. “God knows he’s a stubborn son of a bitch.”

  “He might get hit by a car,” Owen said. Even pissed off, he was still worried about Shade’s safety. Shade shook his head and chuckled under his breath. Some things never changed.

  When the bus pulled back onto the highway and drove past him slowly, Shade refused to look at it. A huge chunk of his life was on that bus along with most of his self-worth. Part of him wanted to bend, to admit he was wrong, to beg them to let him back on the bus, but if he did that, nothing would change. And things had to change.

  “Fucking Adam,” he grumbled when the taillights disappeared over a hill.

  Jacob didn’t find any answers along the deserted roadway. He did find a few blisters on his toes and a seedy motel with a vacancy. He was pretty sure the only occupants of the decrepit rooms had more than two legs and scurried close to the floor. The place was a shithole—a fitting place to reevaluate his life.

  After entering his rented room, which smelled like a damp basement coated with stale cigarette smoke, he dropped his bag on the worn green quilt covering one of the beds and flopped back on the other bed to stare at a crack in the ceiling. A surge of emotions caught him so unaware that he gasped aloud.

  What have I done?

  He had nothing left that he cared about. Amanda hated him. His band hated him. He’d managed to destroy the career he loved. The fans would hate him for walking away, hate him for destroying Sole Regret. He knew they’d blame him since he’d taken the final step. In one shitty weekend, he’d lost everything.

  I have nothing to live for.

  Nothing to care about.

  Nothing.

  The image of his daughter’s sweet, smiling face flitted through his thoughts. Jacob tugged his cellphone out of his back pocket to thumb through all the pictures he’d taken of Julie. The most recent shredded his heart. Riding the train at Austin Zoo, Julie had her head cocked slightly and was smiling her cutest, but he couldn’t tear his gaze from Amanda. She looked delighted to be with them, fitting comfortably in their lives, making him think he could have everything he wanted just so she could rip it away less than a day later.

  “Fuck her.”

  He edited the photo, cropping Amanda out of the image so that just he and Julie were visible. Apparently, it was as easy for him to erase her from his life as it was for her to delete him. Or not. Even though she was no longer visible in the photo, he knew she was there. He could practically feel the skin of her bare arm beneath his fingertips.

  Swallowing the knot in his throat, Jacob flipped to the next image. It showed Julie with chocolate ice cream all over her face. He stared at the image for a long moment, his heart caught in a vice that tightened with each passing second. When he thought his heart would burst, he flicked to the next picture and started the process over again. At least he still had Julie’s devotion. Well, he did until her mother managed to destroy her unconditional love for him. Jacob covered his eyes with one hand and rubbed the ache from them.

  Fuck. How long would it be before his little girl hated him too?

  He could never let it happen. If he did, he really would be left with nothing. He would do whatever it took to make Julie the center of his universe and keep her in that position. And he knew of only one way he could make that a reality. He had to keep her mother close and make her happy.

  The delivery
of a new text vibrated his phone, interrupting his emotional journey through four years of pictures. It was from Gabe. When you remove your head from your ass, give me a call, we’ll work this out.

  He didn’t respond—let Gabe think about Shade’s proposition for a few days or weeks or however long it took for him to come to Shade’s side. Shade would not go crawling back and eat crow. His head wasn’t in his ass, it was firmly in reality.

  And the only part of his reality that didn’t suck was his little girl.

  Before Jacob could change his mind, he dialed Tina’s number. He took a deep breath and held the phone to his ear.

  When Tina answered, she said, “Julie’s asleep. I told you not to call after ten. Are you capable of reading a clock, or is that beyond your mental facilities?”

  Jacob closed his eyes, fighting the urge to tell her to fuck off. “Actually, I called to talk to you. I got your text messages.”

  “Oh,” Tina whispered in an oddly breathless sigh.

  “I’ve been thinking about what you said about making a real family for Julie.”

  “And?”

  Jacob rubbed a hand over his face. Was he really considering this? “I agree. She deserves a stable home and to be surrounded by love.”

  “You agree?”

  “Of course.” He licked his lips, finding the courage—yes, courage—to take the next step. “Are you free for dinner tomorrow night? We need to talk about this in person.”

  “I’m free.” Her voice was soft, full of hope.

  Jacob covered the anxious knot in his belly with one hand.

  “I’ll pick you up at seven,” he said.

  “Okay.”

  He hung up before he could change his mind, and then he dropped his phone onto the bed beside him. He rubbed his eyes, wondering if he’d done the right thing. Wondering if he ever did the right thing. Sometimes a man had to make sacrifices to protect those he loved. And he had to protect not only Julie, but Amanda. Tina would make them both miserable if he didn’t find a way to tame her wrath. His own misery was of little consequence.

  Keep your friends close and your enemies closer—he’d heard the saying a thousand times. How close was he willing to let Tina get?

  Could he make her believe that she was important to him? That he wanted not only Julie as a permanent fixture in his life, but her as well?

  He could. He had to. If he wanted to hold on to all he held dear and reclaim what he’d lost, he would have to endure Tina’s presence in his life. As he made reservations for two at Austin’s most exclusive restaurant and set the next step of his plan into motion, he figured he wasn’t as dumb as they all thought he was. His strategy was fucking brilliant.

  ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

  First, I’d like to thank those readers who didn’t throw their reading device across the room in frustration at the end of this book, because they know everything I left unfinished here will get resolved by the end of the series. For the rest of you—those reading these words from a traumatized reading device that suddenly learned to fly—have a little faith. I’ve got this. I make no apologies for the cliffhangers. I knew they were coming before I started writing this book. I know more are coming in the future. I hope you’re prepared for a thrilling ride, because things are bound to get rocky once the tour bus stops rolling. Speaking of thrills, up next is Owen’s second book, Thrill Me. Think you have our kind bassist’s storyline all figured out? Think again. Mwahaha! That’s my evil author laugh.

  In addition to my loyal fans, who wait ever so patiently for my muse to get her shit together, I’d like to thank my amazing editor, Beth Hill, my sensational beta reader/book-signing assistant, Cyndi McGowen, and my little group of rockin’ roadies: Jenna, Traci, Maureen, Annette and Karen. I appreciate all you do for me.

 
Thank you for reading books on series.bookfrom.net

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