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Chapter Nine

Sometimes God has a funny sense of humor. I don't mean 'haha' funny, more like 'God doesn't like a liar so I'm gonna make you squirm' humor. I had managed to successfully steer Lauren right into the venue after my faux-faint. I had apologized for being a drunk asshole, promised to spend less time around Wahlberg, and swore to her I didn't sex up any of the Coyote Ugly girls. And, to my credit, that was the truth. I didn't sex up any Coyote Ugly babes.

But I had sexed up a Starbucks barista a year and a half ago. I couldn't bring myself to tell Lauren about that. And since I couldn't tell her about it, I couldn't tell her about Ben.

So back to the reason why I'm all up on God's humor. I was on the shaft of the penis stage staring out at all the cute, giggling girls and Brian was asking if anyone had a song request. A few of the girly goobers shouted out songs we were going to perform that night. Over the ding of those requests rose a louder voice.


"Weird world!" Brian said. He gave me a look. "Perfect!"

My mouth dropped open. Yes, I had just thought about the song earlier. But I had thought about it by song title only.

The lyrics were a little harder to swallow - er - sing.

Sent a message to a G.I. in the desert
Said thank you man for bringin’ another dawn
Back here it's her and me
And we're having our first --

I choked. Bri gave me a little fingertip wave. Damn him.

baby. And he's out there takin' em on.

"That was dirty," I hissed under my breath as the line of girls waiting to take a picture continued to dwindle.

"Dirty? Don't even talk about dirty," Bri hissed back.


I wrapped my arm around Brian's neck, smashed him close and grinned like Freddy Krueger. Bri's elbow connected with my side.

I would have killed him had it not been for the next fan walking up. She was all sparkle-eyed for Brian.

"Leighanne just walked by with a baby. Did you guys adopt?"

The five other girls waiting got deadly quiet. My neck prickled. Bri's eyes bore into the side of my head. I got cotton mouth again.

"No," Bri said smoothly. "She's just watching him for a friend who's too busy today."

Ouch. To make matters worse, AJ had caught onto the conversation.

"Yeah, Bri's friend is too busy with his cantaloupe plantation. Do you think it's planting season again, Nick?"

My face flamed. I needed a distraction. I grabbed the bottom of my shirt. The lingering girls squealed.

"Who else thinks it's hot in here?"


"He ripped his shirt off," I said, throwing my jacket against the wall.

"Shhhh," Leighanne hissed. She was sitting on the bed in the glow of the TV set, Ben sprawled across her chest fast asleep. He had an almost worried expression on his face, and he clutched at her shirt's neckline with his chubby fingers. "I just got him to go to sleep," she whispered, barely above a breath.

I crawled across the bed and laid on my back next to her. An episode of Barney was on the TV set. I stared at the dancing purple dinosaur before glancing back at Leighanne. "They think he's ours," I said quietly.


"The fans."

Leighanne looked at me, a wild expression on her face. "The fans know?"

"Some girls saw you with him outside the bus earlier," I explained, "They asked at soundcheck if we'd adopted."

Leighanne looked down at Bentley. She looked up at me. "Do you think Nick would consider..."

I sighed. "He would if we asked," I answered. "He'd give him up in a heartbeat if I asked him." Leighanne's eyes went hopeful and mushy. I shook my head, "I'm not asking him, Leigh-Leigh," I said quietly.

"Why?" She sounded like Baylee when he asked why we weren't going to McDonald's for dinner.

I waved my hand at Bentley. "Look at his face," I whispered. She looked, her eyes softened. "When Nick ditched him in the car earlier... he watched Nick walk away. He watched him walk all the way across the parking lot. When Nick touches him, no matter how much he's screaming, he stops. Instantly stops. Nick's not experienced, and he might be reluctant to start a family. Especially like this. But..." I smiled at Bentley's sparsely haired head. "This lil guy loves and adores his father, by instinct alone." I looked at Leighanne. "There's a really special connection there and... I don't want to be the one to break it."

Her eyes had filled with tears.

"What if he decides to give him up anyway?" Leighanne asked, "What if he decides he can't do it and --"

"Then I'll ask him," I answered.

Bentley wriggled a little bit and I leaned over and kissed his forehead softly. Leighanne stared down at him and sighed. "She would've been four," she said.

I swallowed.

Leighanne looked up at me. "I'm sorry I couldn't give you more babies," her voice cracked.

I pulled Leighanne and Bentley closer to me, pressing my cheek into her hair.

I woke up an hour later. Leighanne was still fast asleep but Bentley was making the beginning of crying noises. I reached over and slid him out of her arms gently and rolled off the bed. Nick was supposed to have come by for him already. I hugged Ben close to my chest as the whimpering began to increase. He needed a diaper. He needed a bottle. He needed his crib.

I kicked my feet into my sneakers and snuck across the parking lot where the buses were parked to Nick's bus, clutching Bentley close. I knocked on the door of Nick's bus, but no response came from within. I glanced at Donnie's bus. It was lit up like a disco ball and music was pounding out the doors. Cries for booze rang out from the open slider windows. Nick was probably over there.

I pulled the bus door open, cooing quietly to Ben as I staggered up the steps and turned on the light.

But Nick's bus was not deserted.

Danny Wood was standing in the doorway to the bedroom, and, as someone caught in the act of doing something of questionable intent, he was staring at me, wide-eyed... like a deer in the headlights of an 18-wheeler.

"Brian," he chuckled in that thick, woody voice of his. His awkwardly shaped face flushed. "I was just -er-"

I raised an eyebrow.