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Tease Me(3)

By´╝ÜOlivia Cunning

“He just likes to collect all the royalties!” Owen called from the front of the bus.

Adam gave him the finger. Jacob ignored him.

“Maybe if we put our heads together we can come up with something.”

“Something on par with my usual stuff?” Adam challenged.

Jacob shrugged. “We won’t know until we try.”

“Just give me the rest of the tour. If something doesn’t click by the end, we’ll try something different.”

“Maybe Kellen’s chick has some ideas on getting past your writer’s block. The woman is a composer, you know.”

Yeah, he knew. Of course he knew. Kellen had shared that tidbit of information several times over the past few hours. He was currently listening to her various compositions and making the attractive redhead blush as he pronounced her brilliant over and over again. But Dawn composed classical music, so Adam wasn’t sure how she was supposed to help him write the dark and disturbing lyrics he usually wrote.

Adam pulled his sketch pad from beneath the mattress and headed toward the bedroom at the back of the bus. “Actually, I think I have an idea.”

Jacob smiled. “Good. You know we all depend on you for our livelihood.” He winked at Adam to let him know he was only joking, but the pressure that weighed on Adam was beginning to crush him into the dirt.

“So keep it down out here,” he said, glancing around the bus at his bandmates who were all rather subdued this morning.

He closed the door, settled himself comfortably on the bed in a nest of pillows and stared at a blank page in his notebook, wishing he was high, but glad that he wasn’t.

“I’m fucked,” he said hours later when the bus pulled to a halt behind the venue in New Orleans. Besides the doodle of a spider on one corner, the page was still completely blank. “Completely fucked.”

Rubbing his face with both hands, he wondered if Madison had ever heard of a junkie losing his talent when he got clean. He would have to ask her about it this evening. Maybe she had some advice for him. She was good at helping him fix his problems. Everyone knew he sucked at fixing them on his own.

Unable to stand being stuck on the bus with his blank sketch pad mocking him, Adam shoved his trademark hair under a ball cap and headed outside. He wandered the streets of New Orleans alone, his mind clouded with doubt. He had no idea where he was but when a display in a store window caught his eye, he stopped short.

Madison needs that, he thought.

Adam pulled his baseball cap low over his forehead, tugged the collar of his leather jacket close to the back of his neck, and took a steadying breath. He checked over his shoulder to make sure no one was looking before he pushed open the swinging door of the shop. A bell jangled a greeting, sending his heart racing and making his palms damp. Was he really going to do this? He must be out of his mind.

He took another deep breath and eyed the nearest display case full of precious metals, colorful gems, and glittering diamonds.

Before he could take a step toward the sparkly wares, a timid voice from behind a counter asked, “Can I help you, sir?”

Adam lifted his head and found a petite brunette smiling weakly at him. Her hand was wrapped around the edge of the counter. Adam didn’t doubt that her finger was perched over the panic button in case he was there to rob the place. He wondered if it was his everyday thug look or his obvious nervousness that had the clerk on edge. Likely a combination of the two.

“I’m not sure,” he said. “I think I’ll just browse a bit.”

“Looking for anything in particular?”

“Nope,” he said. “Just looking.”

He gravitated toward a case of simple gold chains. Maybe he’d just buy another chain for his collection and pretend that was why he’d entered the jewelry store. He wasn’t sure if following through on his original impulse was a good idea or not. When he’d seen the engagement ring in the window, he’d thought immediately of Madison and had had a crazy notion to put it on her finger, but as the initial urge waned, he started to wonder if she’d even accept it. They’d been seeing each other for over a year, but the I love yous and the commitment were both brand new to their relationship. Perhaps he was rushing.

Perhaps he should rush. Only days ago, his father had insisted Madison would soon realize Adam wasn’t good enough for her. Nice girls didn’t end up with guys like him. Eventually they came to their senses and realized nothing would fix what was broken. And he was all sorts of broken. With Madison’s help, he’d only just begun to put himself back together.

Adam ran a hand over his face. Shit. Maybe the old man was right. Maybe Adam would never live up to Madison’s expectations. Maybe he’d never be her ideal man. But Adam wanted to be. Wanted to be good enough for her. An ideal man. Not the fuck-up he’d always been and would probably always be.