Feeling the Rhythm

an excerpt

Brad rested his hand on the cool glass. Night covered L.A. spread out beyond the hotel room window. One more unfamiliar city, but at least this would be the last one for a while. Tomorrow, he and the guys would be on their way back to Chicago to play the finale show of the No Fear World Tour.

He was glad to be going home. Chicago might not be all that familiar to him, he'd only lived there a few months before hitting the road with the guys, but it'd become a good home and he was ready to go back.

Actually, he was ready before this. All the guys were. Evan had arranged the tour so they'd have breaks and could get a taste of home, but sometimes that was more of a tease. And this had been a damn long tour, starting in September and now it was March. They'd traveled the world, played more shows than he knew, and it was time for it to end.

If only the end of the tour would bring the end of his regrets rather than increasing them.

Brad glanced behind him to the empty bed, the covers kicked aside in his frustration at not being able to sleep. This was just one of many nights on this tour where he'd been plagued with that problem. He figured it was because of trying to sleep somewhere strange night after night, and hoped once he got back in his own familiar space, the insomnia fits would stop. Even if during their breaks, sleep still remained elusive at his home.

He turned back to the window, bracing his hands on either side on it. He let out a hard sigh, but it did little to loosen the tightness in his chest. Resting his forehead on the glass, he closed his eyes tight. Fuck. Here it came again, the rolling in his gut, churned by his regrets, his doubts, his confusion...

Having an empty bed wasn't initially usual for him on this tour, but it'd become more so in the past few months, from his own personal choice. One thing he learned back when he played for Evan, getting sex as a rock star was as easy as breathing. Even better, the groupie girls didn't care much about anything he said or did so long as he fucked them, and with getting to that last part, they were all willing to take control. All he had to do was get hard.

That's pretty much what sex had become for him. Get hard and get off. But then, that's how it'd been for a long time. It was one of the reasons his old girlfriend dumped him before he hooked up with Conquest, besides also saying she didn't think he was going anywhere in his life. She'd been right on that. If Evan hadn't called and lifted him out of the gutter, that's where he'd still be sitting. He didn't have the strength to try crawling out of it, he'd lost so much hope of ever knowing success again.

With sex, she said she was tired of always being the one to initiate things. She felt like she was more into it than he was. When they did do it, she didn't think he was focused enough on her needs. Then she'd tell him it wasn't natural for a man to not want it more. He should see a doctor because he probably had low testosterone or something. Really, the list of things she said about it and him was longer than he cared to remember. It wasn't exactly good for his ego to be told he sucked in bed.

But, that's not how he used to be...

A pained groan escaped him. Why was he doing this? Dredging up this crap. It seemed like he was doing it more and more lately. He was really beginning to wonder if he was nothing but a self-masochist. He was sure he'd become one years ago when he pushed, shoved, and beat himself down, locking part of himself away in chains of hurt, betrayal, and humiliation.

He thought he had it contained, controlled, conquered. And he had, until Evan Arden came back into his life.

Damn Evan. He'd thrown him out of whack the moment he'd met him nearly eight years ago. He was only twenty years-old at the time, and it was long before Evan met Jesse. Looking back, it felt like someone else's life. He hardly recognized it as his own.

At the time, his heart, mind, and confidence were broken and bruised, but he hid it under drumbeats, throwing himself into music, because when he played, all that existed for him was sound. Nothing could break the rhythms. They surrounded him, comforted him, and blocked him from his pain. He would play with his eyes closed, his body knowing what to do, and he'd let himself fall into the music.

Evan happened to visit a club he was playing at and approached him after the set. He still remembered staring at Evan, star-struck and in total disbelief as Evan threw out the offer to have him play on his next album.

A world famous, chart topping singer asking him to play on his album. It was like a fantasy too big to dream. He managed to find enough of his senses to say “yes,” and the next day, he got a call from Phoenix Records looking to sign him on as part of Evan's studio and road band. Two weeks later, Evan went into the studio to start work on his third album, Allegro, and he walked in, too.

Despite feeling a little intimidated by Evan and his talent at first, by the end of the day, he and Evan were laughing and joking as if they'd been friends since grade school. And, even with all the pain still in his heart, his attraction toward Evan grew throughout the day. When Evan invited him out with the other musicians to celebrate the start of his album, he jumped at the chance to spend more time with him.

During the night as they drank and partied, he caught himself sending out signals, touching Evan on the arm, the shoulder, the thigh. Throwing him smiles at every chance. Holding his gaze a second or two longer than most guys would. He couldn't help himself. Evan's personality drew him in, and his eyes -bright, brilliant blue -they were so damn beautiful! But he also didn't think Evan would be down with it, and maybe that's why he did it. He felt he was safe from anything happening. He was wrong.

As the partying came to an end, he was tipsy, tired, and really didn't want to make his way back to Brooklyn from Manhattan. Evan invited him to crash at his penthouse, and before he knew it, he was in Evan's home. Evan told him to make himself at home, and as he went to get a bottle of water from the refrigerator, that's when Evan made his move, coming up close behind him, pressing their bodies together, kissing his neck while rubbing him on the abdomen with one hand, opening his jeans with the other.

And he completely freaked out.

He let out a startled yelp and dropped the water, spinning toward Evan and pushing him back. It wasn't that he didn't want Evan, but the moment Evan had touched him, so assertive, with such control, hurt burst from his heart. He said the only thing he could think of...he was sorry if it seemed like he'd been sending out signals, but he wasn't into guys. What he should have said was, he wasn't into guys anymore.

He still remembered Evan staring at him in complete confusion, but Evan shook it off, laughed, and chocked it up to alcohol screwing up his gaydar, then went to bed. The next morning, Evan joked about it, but he swore he could see in those azure eyes that Evan knew the truth about him.

More than once over the years he wondered what his life would've turned out like if he'd slept with Evan that night, then came to the realization, it probably wouldn't be much different. For who Evan was in those days, he really wasn't a commitment kind of guy. Just because they connected great as friends didn't mean it'd be the same as lovers. Besides, he was pretty sure no matter what path Evan would've taken in his life, eventually all of them would have led to Jesse. Somehow, someway, those two would've found each other.

He knew long ago Evan would never be happy until he found someone who equaled him, rivaled him, challenged him, on all levels. Jesse did that. Jesse was also the same way, and only Evan would ever be able to match him. Neither of them would've been able to settle for anyone less, and in their eyes, there was no one who could possibly be more.

He got a lot of happiness out of seeing them together, but at the same time, it hurt. Their interactions with each other resurrected those long buried feelings and gave life to old memories. That yearning returned with renewed strength, and he felt his resolve weakening under it. So much so that he'd finally slipped up on this tour.

Brad wet his lips, sucking the bottom one into his mouth and holding it lightly between his teeth before letting it slip free. He kept his eyes closed to see him better; mocha skin inked in tattoos, deep black eyes looking up at him, full lips wrapped around his dick. He'd gone back to the tattoo studio the day after Kenny and Julian got their nipples pierced -hardly thinking, only wanting.

He didn't go beyond a blowjob with the Latino tattoo artist, but just doing that told him one very clear thing; the desire inside him, the need, would never stay buried. It lived in him, patient, but also made him aware it was there. It came out in small ways; excitement at an admiring glance from another man, a flirtatious tone entering his voice when he talked to a hot guy, the need to feel the closeness of another male body next to his, even if it was just putting his arm around their shoulders.

But all of those actions were unconscious, things he did and caught himself doing. It was as if in a quick moment of not being alert, his true self surfaced. There were also times he let it come out, like in a quick click on a porn site taking him from a woman sprawled on the bed with her legs in the air, to a man in the same position, panting and groaning as he was fucked, with himself stroking his hard dick fast and rough while he watched.

And then there was Julian.

A single mocking laugh slipped from his throat. He really was in a mood to kick his own ass if he was going to let his thoughts go down that well-worn road.

Jules...he gave up long ago denying to himself he'd crushed on him. Gave it up right about the same time Morgan came into Julian's life and swept him off his feet.

Things wouldn't have worked out between them even if he would've had the balls to make a move. He wasn't Jules's type of man, not being as articulate on classical music and the arts. Going to plays, symphony concerts, art museums, just wasn't his thing. And he knew Jules wouldn't have been a lifelong match for him, either. He wanted a guy he could kick back with, drink a beer and watch a game with, as well as take to the bedroom and get hot.

Brad's thoughts slammed to a halt. He wanted a guy...

It had passed so easily through his mind. He hadn't even realized it until the thought was finished. Once again, his true self snuck in when his guard was down. He didn't know how much longer he could hold back, and really, if he even should. How long could he keep thinking hurt was around the corner? Half the hurt from his past he'd brought on himself, so was it really right of him to hold that against other men?

Brad pushed off the window frame and turned around. He reclined on the glass, the coldness of it a shock to his bare back, but the sensation further sharpened his thoughts. His gaze went to the door leading out of the room. If he was going to allow himself these kinds of thoughts, then he might as well let them go all the way. If he could admit he wanted a guy, then he could admit there was one in particular he wanted...and that guy was here...in this hotel. He didn't know what room, but a phone call to the front desk could solve that.

Brad spun away from looking at the door, pacing a few steps to the side, turning and pacing back. And what the hell would he do if he did know the room? Go strolling down to it in his boxers, knock on the door at three o'clock in the morning, and invite himself to bed? If he had any shot with him, he felt damn confident that would blow it. Maybe.

Brad stopped pacing and lowered his head, squeezing his eyes shut. He lifted a hand, rubbing hard between his eyes as if the physical motion could soothe his thoughts. It wasn't the first time he'd thought like this about Remmy, but it was the first where he felt so damn close to following through. The desperation was probably because the tour was ending. When the last song was played, that'd be it. He wouldn't see Remmy again until the next tour.

He wasn't sure when the attraction started. When he first saw Remmy, he thought he was cute as hell, and over the past months of working with him, getting to know him, it shifted to thinking he was sexy as hell. Maybe it was Remmy's shyness and the way he'd fumble around him. He couldn't help but be charmed by him. And through that bashfulness, Remmy would give him the sweetest smiles, making his breath catch every single time.

He knew Remmy was twenty-four, coming up on twenty-five soon, just shy of three years younger. Remmy's slight build, pretty features, shaggy blond hair, and light blue eyes captured his attention whenever Remmy was in sight. When he was younger, he always used to go for older men, but with the attraction he felt toward Remmy he realized maybe he wasn't the same man as back then. In fact, he knew he wasn't. If he was, he would've made his move a long time ago.

But there were so many things that could go wrong. It wouldn't be like it was with the tattoo artist, a few fleeting moments of sweet pleasure, never having to face him again. No, with Remmy, he would have to see him, and even if they kept things casual, he wasn't ready for that. He could see how it could lead to attachment, Remmy wanting more, and all the disaster that would follow.

The final thought sobered him. The tour was almost over. If he wanted to make a move, the next few days while they headed back to Chicago and got ready for the last show would be best. That way, when all was said and done, they could go their separate ways.

But he wasn't going to start it tonight. Time might be running out, but he still had some. He'd see how things went over the next couple days. If an opportunity presented himself, he'd go for it. Probably. Maybe. Fuck, he didn't know.

Brad walked to the bed and dropped down on his back, gazing up at the ceiling in the moonlit room. He sighed and let his eyes fall shut. Way too much thinking for one night, and on things he knew he wasn't going to solve anytime soon. The only thing he had some understanding of was why when he closed his eyes, Remmy's image always appeared.