Dead Serious(9)

By: C.M. Stunich

“Yeah, well. Fuck me. This isn't going to turn out well, is it?”

I shrug.

“Life often doesn't.”

After Sydney and Dax leave, I spend a good half hour searching around the lobby and the adjoining ballrooms looking for Naomi. I'm about to give up and head upstairs to wait when I run into Brayden Ryker.

Last dude I want to see right now. Motherfucker thinks he can threaten my woman with a gun and get away with it? If his biceps didn't have the same circumference as my waist, I'd whoop his ass right now. As things stand, I'm going to have to be a bit more diplomatic about it.

“Hey asshole,” I snarl, getting up in the dude's face. “What the fuck are you playing at?”

Brayden appears unconcerned, smiling down at me with that weird ass half-smile that gives me the fucking willies. Redheaded ginger son of a bitch. Like an oversize leprechaun or some shit. He's wearing a blue plaid button up over a white wife-beater with some raggedy ass blue jeans, like a good ol' boy. Totally innocent. One of the good guys.

“Are you lookin' for Naomi, by chance?” he asks in his weird ass little accent that makes all the girls swoon. I wrinkle my mouth and take a step back, looking him up and down with another scowl. Fuck.

“What the hell are you playing at? Pointing a gun at my fucking soul mate?”

Brayden sighs and shakes his head, stepping to the side and gesturing down a pink carpeted hallway that I thought I'd already been down. Shit if I know though. This place is like a maze.

“Naomi's in the practice room at the end of the hall. If you'll excuse me, my job's just gotten ten times more difficult.” Brayden sweeps past me, and I turn to follow his broad back with my eyes. My teeth hurt from clenching them so hard, the muscles in my jaw twitching angrily. My personal bodyguards keep their distance, staring at the walls around me like I'm not even there. Thing is, I think I was right earlier, when I said I felt like a prisoner. I have a sneaking suspicion that if I were to try and grab my bag, walk out the doors and hop in a cab, that they'd be right there, either following me or holding me back.

“Fucker.” I spin on my heel and stalk down the hallway, pausing when a familiar voice catches my ears and causes me to stumble, pausing in place with my heart beating fiercely inside my chest. Naomi. She's somewhere nearby and she's singing and holy fuck me, but if that isn't the most beautiful sound I've ever heard in my life.

I force myself to keep moving. When I come around the corner I find a set of double doors flanked by security guards. That's gotta be it. Ain't nowhere else she could be. I wave my own guys off and sneak up to the door, grabbing hold of the handle and opening it just enough that I can peek in and see the woman of my dreams with her head back and her guitar in her hands. All around her, unused equipment lies dormant and silent, dead without the hands of its gods to bring it to life.

Somebody – probably America – has had this place set up for practice, just like she did at the safe house. We could play a set in here if we wanted. I squeeze in the door and hope Naomi doesn't hear me enter, not yet. As soon as I'm inside, I flick the lock and slide to the floor with my back to the wall, just watching, listening, waiting.

Naomi's facing away from me, her muscles stiff, but her fingers relaxed. Her blonde hair hangs loosely across her shoulders as she rolls her head around on her neck and then steps forward to grab hold of the mic with her right hand. A soft sigh of breath breaks through the speakers, echoing around the empty room before she begins to sing.

“Dream … is just another word for disappointment.” She sighs again and my chest contracts painfully, like I can't breathe, like I'd never even fucking want to take a breath if her voice wasn't lighting up all the right electrical impulses in my brain. “Another chance for a star to get lost in an endless sky. A hope lost on the wind, flittering like a faraway lie.”

Naomi slams her fingers down on the strings of her guitar. It eats away the silence in the room, chopping up the empty space with sharpness that hurts my teeth. I almost want to cover my ears, but only so they don't get so used to that sound that I can't hear it for the first time over and over again.

“When I lose the light to believe, I hope you're there by my side. I can't deny that I need you, baby.” A few more notes leak into the air, cupping her voice in rough fingers before she pauses and moves both hands back to the mic. “I can't deny that I need you. I won't lie that I want you. Dreams are disappointments, but I can't stop hoping that mine will fly. Mine will fly. Mine will fly, oh oh.”

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