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Loud Rowdy Hearts: A Kings of Crown Creek prequel by Lux, Vivian (1)

Chapter One

Gabe

Some people drink to forget.

But I always remember.

Even in the blissful oblivion of my worst blackout, I still know who I am.

I'm a King.

There's no running away from that. But I wasn't running away right now.

I was just walking. Walking very fast.

"Fuck," I hissed. The door to the green room was locked. I darted a look over my shoulder at the sound of an unseen door slamming closed. Sound was weird down here, so I couldn't tell if it was close by or far away, but the noise was enough to send me rushing to the next door.

Also locked.

"Son of a - " I caught myself before the echo of my curse betrayed my location. Down here in the tunnels, there were always crewmembers wandering around, searching for a bathroom or a place to sneak a covert smoke break before the show.

Or sent on a mission to find me.

I was almost praying by the time I reached the third door. Dear God, just a moment, just one moment of escape...

It swung open easily, without even a squeak of hinges to betray me.

I exhaled a sharp, relieved breath. Reaching into the darkness, I felt around until I located a light switch and flicked it on, then checked quickly behind me to make sure none of the crew had chosen this moment to appear. The last thing I needed was someone wondering what the fuck I was doing. I wasn't even really sure myself.

I just knew I needed to do it alone.

I shut the door behind me. Finally, everything was quiet.

The lights took their time flickering on, like they were reluctant to show me where I'd ended up. When they finally did hum to life, I smiled.

I had stumbled into the room where they were storing our band equipment before the show. All along the wall, neatly stacked - because our crew was as professional as anything - were the cases for guitars, amps and pedals just waiting for load out. Every one of them stenciled with the King Brothers logo, the little crown above the K that we thought was so cool when we first started out.

Of course we'd thought it was cool, we were kids.

Now it just looked embarrassing.

But the boxes and crates were silent, and that's what I needed right now. Silence. They'd sit here hidden in this room until the show was over.

Sounded like a good idea to me.

"Fuck," I breathed, letting my head fall back against the door. Somewhere on the other side, my brothers were probably looking for me.

I just needed a moment. I walked over and hefted myself on to the big padded box that stored the drum kit.

And pulled the flask from my pocket.

One shot, two shots. I didn't have a glass so I just poured the whiskey right down my throat and estimated. When I got to four shots worth burning in my belly, I stopped.

Because I still had control, you see.

I wasn't looking to get drunk. I was just...

Happy.

Yeah, that's it. A little something to make it all more fun, because it sure didn't feel fun sober any more.

I leaned over onto one of the stacked boxes, resting my head on my elbow. Let the whiskey do its work.

The soft sighing sound of the door swinging open didn't rouse me but soft hands shaking me gently awake did. "Hey baby," Noelle whispered softly.

I lifted my head. With the fluorescent lights shining behind her head, she looked just like she was wearing a halo. "Hey there angel," I murmured, already smiling.

"Been looking for you."

"You found me," I said, opening my arms.

She giggled a little and then climbed up on to the box next to me. I shimmied over, making room for her to fold herself into the small space. She fit just right.

She was quiet for a moment, and I felt my eyes closing again. "Gabriel?" she said softly, after a moment.

"Hmm?"

"Babe, did you forget you have a show to play?"

I hadn't. But it didn't seem nearly as important as staying here on top of this box with my best girl in my arms. "I do?" I stalled.

She giggled again, snuggling closer so that strands of her white-blond hair went up my nose. I sniffed and pulled my head back before I sneezed. "Gabriel," she said. "Come on. You're going to be great."

I swallowed. For some reason, I always believed her when she said that.

Bennett had set us up, laughing about how he was a full-service manager. And yeah, maybe it was a calculated move at first, two pop stars with the same manager dating each other for the publicity. But it was so much more than that now. I needed Noelle St. Lucia more than I needed air itself. "Did my brothers send you?" I sighed.

This time her giggle was louder. "Your brothers hate me."

I felt the heat in my blood even as I chuckled, "They do not."

"Jonah despises me, I can see it all over his face."

The pleasant whiskey haze wore off immediately at the mention of my older brother and his opinions. Especially those that concerned my girl. "If he even says a word to you, even looks at you the wrong way," I reminded her for maybe the millionth time. "You let me know."

She rolled over to face me, her big blue eyes the whole entirety of what made sense right now. "Yeah right," she said, bopping me lightly on the nose. "I'm not about to be wedge that drives apart the King Brothers. Your fans would crucify me."

"Don't care," I sighed, leaning in for a kiss.

But she ducked away. "And your fans are gonna crucify you if you don't get up there and play right now. Come on big boy," she said, patting me before sliding off the box and reaching out a hand. "Up and at 'em."

I groaned only once as she tugged me to my feet. I let her fuss over me a minute, smoothing my shirt collar and re-spiking my smashed hair. "You look good," she finally said, stepping back.

"You look good," I said, lunging for her.

She stepped lightly to the side, those years of competitive dancing kicking in to evade my grabby hands. "Your brothers are all upstairs in the green room, waiting. Show time is five minutes, I think." She pulled out her rose gold phone case. "Four," she corrected.

"I love you," I said.

She smiled and went up on her tiptoes, kissing me with those lush, pouty lips. Then she patted my ass firmly. "Go."

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