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CLOSER (Taint Book 2) by Carmen Jenner (1)

PROLOGUE

THEN

LEVI

How does that song go again? One tequila, two tequila, three ... oh yeah—floor. I take another swig from the bottle and lean back against the headrest. I wish I had tequila, but I’m drinking vodka. Straight.

It’s how I know I truly hate myself at this moment.

I stare at the four walls of the tour bus bedroom. This isn’t the same one we toured the States with, and yet the interior isn’t all that different. The double bed is just as uncomfortable as all tour bus beds, because it’s a pull-out fucking sofa. I push my skull against the squeaky vinyl bedhead and resist the urge to chuck up my guts. My head spins, but it isn’t from the alcohol. It’s from what I’ve just done. I never thought myself capable of a truly selfless act, but I guess you do learn something new every motherfucking day.

“Hey.” Ash fills the doorway. Dwarfs it, actually. If he weren’t such a health nut these days, I’d be asking him where the hell he got his fucking ’roids from.

“Hey.” I raise my bottle of vodka to him.

“Can I come in?”

“I’m not gonna blow you, man.” I half smile, and Ash shakes his head. “Just ’cause I tag-teamed Red with Coop, doesn’t mean shit.”

He chuckles and pulls his knit cap further down on his head. “Well ... good. Where is Coop, anyway? Dave was asking for him.”

“He’s not coming.”

“What?” His face gets all pinched and screwed up, like he smelled something bad. “We have an eighteen-hour drive to Bucharest. We do another show in two days.”

“He went back.”

He enters the room and takes a seat on the bed beside me. “Went back where?”

“To her.”

“To Ali?” His brows knit together. He looks as confused as I feel. “Coop went back to Sydney?”

“Yep.” I take another swig of the shitty liquor. Times like this I wish Leif was still around so I could truly get fucked up, but then I remember the way he roofied and took naked pictures of my girl and sold them to the paparazzi. And now I want to beat the ever-living fuck out of him all over again. Shit. My girl. She’s not my girl. She never was.

The tortured musician in me can see what a boon this is. Having your heart broken means another hit record. It’s fucked up, but that’s how we are. That’s why Coop has been writing ever since the day Ali walked off the tour bus. Because we love to torture ourselves. Musos aren’t happy unless we’re suffering from internal bleeding—the kind that won’t show up on a CAT scan. It’s our lot in life for being fucking awesome. Regular people watch sad movies and cry it out; they go out drinking with their friends and fuck shit up. Rock stars? We open up a vein and watch the blood pour over our instruments. And then we sell it to the record company along with what’s left of our souls and make another million. We use the shit normal people try to avoid. Only, some of us haven’t written in months. Some of us can’t because our fucking muse ran out on us and took our ability to create with her. Not naming any names. Fucking Red.

“Is he ... is he coming back?”

“Yep.”

“What did he say?”

“Jesus, Ash. Enough of the fucking questions.” My agitation cuts through the air around us. A minor chord. Dissonance and teeth. “He went to her, okay?”

“I thought you made a—”

“I told him to go.”

He blinks at me. I roll my eyes. “There’s no sense in both of them being alone. She loves him. She always did. I was just ... I don’t know what I was, but I know she doesn’t love me. It didn’t destroy her to leave me. Not in the way it destroyed me to watch her go.” I take another swig of my vodka, wincing as it burns its way down my oesophagus and settles in my gut like acid. I offer it to Ash. He glances at the bottle and shakes his head. There’s judgement in his eyes. “She wants him, he wants her. There’s no reason they shouldn’t be together.”

After a long beat, Ash leans back, his head thudding against padded vinyl. “Dude, that takes some pretty big balls to just let her go like that.”

“Well, you know what they say. If you love something set it free.” I laugh without humour. “And if it doesn’t come back to you, find it, and lock it in the fucking basement until it learns its lesson.”

He chuckles and grabs the bottle of vodka from me, pulling a hearty swig. This is the first time in months I’ve seen Ash drink. So I stare at him, because it’s weird to see a bottle in his hands after the world’s longest health kick. He’s super buff these days, like Captain America, and about as fucking good too. I should quit drinking and join his little fitness cult, but beefcake has never been my thing. I prefer to remain lean. Mostly because I’m too drunk and too fucking lazy to work out on the bus since Ali left. The only exercise I’m interested in is the one with an s in front of it. Ash wheezes and smacks his chest. I laugh at the bastard because once upon a time, he used to put away a lot more liquor than me.

“Jesus fuck, that tastes like shit.”

“Yeah, Poland kinda sucks when it comes to vodka. Who knew?”

“So, what are you gonna do, man?”

“What else can I do?”

“I don’t know.” He shrugs. “Is she gonna join the tour again?”

Oh fuck. I hadn’t thought of that. I hadn’t thought much beyond watching Cooper Ryan, rock god extraordinaire, come off stage looking like a fucking broken little kid. I mean, we’ve both been complete pussies since she left, but Ryan hasn’t so much as uttered a word to a woman. He hasn’t even looked in another woman’s direction. I’ve fucked plenty, hoping to get her outta my head, outta my heart, but so far, it hasn’t worked. I’m just going through the motions, and every girl who’s dropped to her knees in front of me or taken a ride on the monster cock since has been filler. They couldn’t hold a fucking candle to Red. No one ever could.

I knew it was the same for Coop, and if I thought she wanted me even half as much as she wanted him, I’d be on the first flight back to Sydney. She’d never said out loud that she didn’t love me, but her body told me every time we were together. Every time he touched her, in all the ways I wasn’t allowed. And if that wasn’t proof enough, her words outside the tour bus when she’d said goodbye spoke volumes. She wanted Cooper, but she wouldn’t be the one to tear our band apart, and that stubborn prick was too dumb to see she needed one of us to step down. I love her, and it’s only because I love her that I’ve decided to let her go. I can’t make her happy the way he can, and like I said before, there’s no sense in us all being miserable.

“I don’t know,” I say in response to Ash’s question. “I don’t know a goddam thing.”

“That's altruistic of you, Levi. I’m proud of you.”

“Yeah, yeah, who wants to fuck one pussy forever though, right? Especially when I can have a girl in every motherfucking country?”

“Yeah,” Ash says, and grabs the bottle from me, taking another huge swig.

“We should go get fucked up and find some chicks to bang,” I state loudly. “Where the fuck is the geriatric giant anyway?”

“Zed? I don’t know, he said something about needing to score. He’s taking Leif’s betrayal pretty hard, and not just because he hurt Ali. I think if he doesn’t get a hit soon, Zed’s gonna have the DTs and that’s not going to help us as a band.”

“When did things get so fucked up?”

“When Red joined the tour,” Ash says without missing a beat. I glare at him. The douchebag shrugs. “I told you from the start, man, chicks on a tour bus are like the fucking kiss of death. You may as well invite Yoko Ono for dinner.”

“Deb tours with us.”

He screws up his nose as if just the mention of her name is unsavoury. “Deb is family. She’s not someone you want to bone.”

“I don't know, I’d probably try it, just once.” I absentmindedly slide my thumb over the screen on my iPhone. “It’d be like fucking a black widow. You’d never know when she was going to try and off you, but the anticipation might be fun.”

“Ryan already wants to kill you, don’t add Zed to that list, Quinn.”

“He tap that already or what?”

“I don’t know.” Ash shrugs. “But he’s gotta be fucking careful with the way he keeps looking at her. Coop already wants to beat down your arse. Zed’s gonna be next on Ryan’s list if he doesn’t keep his eyes and hands off Deb.

“Do you think she’d really go for him?” I squint at my best friend, seeing double through my vodka glasses. “I mean, meth monkey chic isn’t really her type.”

“Oh, she’d go for him.” He grins. I throw my phone at him. “Ow.”

“Out with it.”

“I walked in on them once.”

“What?”

He tosses my phone back, deliberately aiming for my nuts.

“That hurt, cunt rag.”

Ash chuckles. “They weren’t fucking, just ... I don’t know. There was definitely a vibe. He had his back to me, but I swear to God when he turned around, it was like he’d just been strung up by the balls and gutted from navel to nads. He didn’t even say a word. He just got up and walked back to his bunk. Deb had a few choice words, though.”

“When does she fucking not? I’d try gagging her with my cock if I didn’t think she’d bite it off,” I say, growing restless. I wanna hit something or fuck some shit up ... or just fuck the shit out of someone. “Seriously, man, let’s just go and find some pussy.”

“Nah, I’m not really in the mood.”

“Yeah, me neither,” I lie, checking my phone again.

Ash climbs to his feet and heads to the door. “I know it probably doesn’t feel like it, but you did good.”

“Remind me of this conversation when I have to watch Ryan suck face with my woman.”

“I hate to break it to you, but she wasn’t really your woman in the first place,” he says, echoing my earlier thoughts.

“Yeah, I know.”

“Get some sleep, man, and put away the fucking vodka. You’re gonna be messy as fuck tomorrow, and I have some lyrics I want to go over with you.”

“Thanks, Dad, but I think I’d rather just stay fucked up and never return to sobriety again.”

“Suit yourself, but if you puke, you clean it up.”

Ash closes the door behind him, and I glance at the bottle. He’s right. I’m going to be fucked in the morning, but I’d rather numb the pain right now than be forced to feel it.

We don’t have much in the way of paps in Sydney. Sure, they find us all the time, and several hounded Ali when she first returned home—I know because I subscribed to Google Alerts—but aside from a handful of pictures at the airport, I doubt anyone will follow Ryan. No one would expect him to be in Sydney when we’re in the middle of a world tour.

And thank fuck there won’t be any evidence of their reunion splashed across the papers tomorrow. I might have told him to go to her, but that doesn’t mean I want it thrown in my face. I’d rather shove Zed’s sticks in my fucking eyes.

Still, as much as I hate her, I miss that feisty ginger. I pull up Google on my phone and search “Taint threesome”. Sure enough, pictures of the three of us in various stages of undress fill my screen. Some of the shots show us fully clothed, and then there are images of Ali drugged to the eyeballs and sprawled naked on our tour bus. Leif’s doing. I’d never wanted to murder someone so much in my goddam life. He’d been lucky his big brother Zed stopped me from beating his motherfucking head in.

I scroll through the images, one after the other, and then my chest tightens as my gaze lands on the paparazzi’s pictures of Ali, Cooper, and me exiting the hospital the day after she was drugged. Desperate to feel anything other than this aching in my chest—or maybe it’s because I need more of it, because I don’t know how to function now without my best buddy misery—I continue scrolling and come across a candid snap of her and me at a roadhouse just outside Atlanta. The night everything turned to shit.

I’d wanted to take Ali to my bunk that night, just the two of us. I wanted to fuck her, hold her, and whisper all the sweet and dirty things I’d wanted to do since I first laid eyes on her, and I wanted all that without another man being present in the room. I’d wanted her to myself. Just once. I should have seen her hesitance for what it was. She didn’t want me the way she wanted Coop. I was just ... I don’t know what the hell I was, and that hurt, but not as much as losing her altogether.

I swipe my thumb over the side of her face and pull the picture up on my screen. She’s laughing, my arm is slung around her waist and she’s wearing a long-sleeve V-neck shirt that makes her boobs look huge. My lips are pressed to her neck. I remember sneaking that kiss, and how I thought Coop was going to try and beat my head in from two tables away. We’d climbed back on the bus, I’d invited her to my bunk, and all hell broke loose. Ali had of course gone to soothe Coop’s temper tantrum, and I’d waited for her to come to me, but she hadn’t. So like a fucking creeper, I’d snuck in when he was asleep and gone down on her. I’d told her I was fighting just as hard as he was. In the end it had been our demise.

I zoom in on her face, scroll down to her tits. My cock lengthens in my jeans. I don’t know why I haven’t got whisky dick yet—I’ve been through a six-pack of beer and a half bottle of vodka. I free my man meat and start stroking the shaft. Then I set the bottle down, spit on my palm and use two hands ... because I’m fucking huge. I look at her picture and I pull my dick for so long it begins to burn, but it’s clear I’m not getting off tonight. I can’t. For the first time in my life I feel something, and it fucking sucks.

I hate this.

I hate her.

I hate him.

But mostly, I hate myself because if I’d never touched her in the first place, if I hadn’t taken her to that party at Josh Holme’s place, and I hadn’t kept coming back like a kicked dog just begging for more, I wouldn’t be in this fucking situation. I wouldn’t have given her my heart only to have it ripped to shreds, and I wouldn’t be crying into a fucking bottle of vodka with a dick that no longer works.

Fucker. Fuck her. Fuck him, and fuck doing the right goddam thing. I’d just made the biggest mistake of my life telling him to go to her. For once in my miserable existence, I decided selflessness was next to godliness, and it was going to bite me in the arse. I could feel it.