Jett snorted. “You’ve got to be kidding me.” She glanced at Koty. He eyed Perry like an exterminator staring down a cockroach. She tapped her lip, considering her limited options. She needed a bassist, immediately. Even if Perry wasn’t being dramatic, going head to head with King Riley would keep her motivated. It would be a fun challenge. She turned back to Perry. “We’re going to be at Malden Street Studios tonight. Meet us there.” Giving him the address, she marched through the front door.
“Whoa,” Koty called after her as she jogged down the front steps. “Hold on.” He caught up with her and shot her a perplexed look. “Why did you invite him?”
Pausing, she flipped open her notebook. “Why not?” She scanned the list of names. She still didn’t know Boston well enough to tell who was closest to Perry’s neighborhood. Pulling her phone out of the pocket of her leather jacket, she typed the address into her GPS.
“He’s trouble.” Koty touched her arm.
She tilted her head at him. “What do you mean?”
“He was cocked.” His eyes bore into hers. “Do you really want to be around him?”
Frowning, she pocketed her phone. “He’s an experienced bassist.” She crossed her arms. “Why wouldn’t I want him around?”
Koty took a deep breath. “Didn’t you see his apartment?”
She sighed. “It was a real hole in the wall. What does that have to do with anything?”
“There were empty whiskey bottles all over the place.” Koty ran a hand through his hair. “He’s an alcoholic, Jett.”
“How do you know that?” She narrowed her eyes. “You heard him. He got kicked out of his band.”
Koty sighed. “He’s living in a shit hole with no furniture, yet he can afford all of that booze. The place reeked of it.”
Following the prompts from Jett’s phone, they headed away from Perry’s apartment. “What’s your point?”
“My point is,” he said, jogging to keep up with her, “being around him might trigger you.”
She halted. Whirling on her heels, she nearly crashed into him. “Trigger me to do what?”
“I don’t want you to start drinking again. You’ve been doing so well.” He smiled.
She glared at him. “I’m not an idiot, Koty.”
He lifted his hands. “I didn’t say you were. I’m just trying to look out for you.”
“I don’t need you to babysit me.” She pulled her cigarettes out of her pocket, plucked one from the pack with her teeth, and lit it.
His shoulders slumped. “I didn’t say you did.”
“How about you don’t say anything at all?” She blinked away tears. “I know what I’m doing.” She walked faster.
“That’s not what I meant.” He dropped behind. “Can you slow down?”
Ignoring him, she surged forward.
“Fine,” he called. “I’ll just see you at the studio later.”
Swallowing the lump in her throat, Jett walked faster. She forced herself to keep moving without looking over her shoulder. What he thought shouldn’t matter. She had been sober for months. She wasn’t going to fall off the wagon. She was stronger than that. She was a Costa. Her father had taught her better.
The thought of her father made her eyes sting even more. She hadn’t seen him in almost a year. Guilt gnawed at her stomach. She hadn’t so much as bothered to call him—not even when Simon 1056 dropped Perpetual Smile. She would catch up with him the second she got her life together, she decided. It had been too long.
She was striking out with all the men in her life, lately.
She moved through the Boston streets, immersed in her thoughts, replaying her argument with Koty. Her fists curled even as her chest tightened and tears sprang to her eyes. She wished he could just trust her. When they’d been hooking up, his faith in her had been unwavering. She had screwed up majorly with him, over and over again. It was a miracle that he still stuck around.
Frowning, she turned onto Adams Street. Glancing around, she slowed her gait.
A sign welcomed her to Adams Village in Dorchester, a neighborhood of the city of Boston. Raising an eyebrow, she stared at the sign. It seemed that she would never understand Boston. In many ways, it was like a whole state of its own.
The apartment complex where her potential keyboardist lived sat across from a funeral home and next to a gas station. Still, it was a far cry from Perry’s neighborhood. Concrete islands filled with mulch and bushes that would flower as the weather warmed decorated the complex. Boots clicking on the pavement, she walked toward the building, the parking lot free of debris.
Still, she felt out of place in her leather jacket and boots—designer items that she had bought with her first royalty payments at a store that she would have never been able to afford otherwise. While Koty looked good in his jeans and T-shirt, he also looked more down to earth. She wished that he had come with her.
She sighed, thinking of the way his jeans hugged his body.
Heat exploded through her. “Focus, Costa,” she told herself. She stepped into the lobby. Rather than waiting for the elevator, she took the stairs. Some sort of air freshener released the fresh scent of linen, and she sneezed.
Emerging onto Max’s floor, she stalked the hallway until she found his apartment. She wondered if Koty would actually meet her at the studio. She didn’t think he would just leave her in Boston. Their argument hadn’t been that bad. They’d had worse fights while on tour with Perpetual Smile. She shook her head, thinking of the time they had almost been caught making out on the tour bus. She had wanted to end the whole affair before her other bandmates caught on. Something about Koty kept her from completely breaking things off, though. Something about Koty always kept her from walking away.
She hoped that he felt the same. Raising a fist, she knocked.
The door to Max’s apartment creaked open. A young woman stood in the doorway. She held a little girl’s hand. The girl’s fingers tugged at the woman’s long black hair. Raising an eyebrow at Jett, the woman tilted her head. “Can I help you?”
Jett hesitated. She might have the wrong address or, even worse, her keyboardist might have moved. She gave the other woman a bright smile. “I’m Jett Costa.” She held out her hand.
The other woman glanced at her hand, then narrowed her eyes. “Yeah?”
Jett almost rolled her eyes. The woman was acting as warily as she would have, though, if they switched places. “I’m looking for Max Batista. Does he live here?”
Tossing long, inky hair over her shoulder, the woman’s eyes hardened. “Why?”
“He auditioned for my band a few weeks ago.” Jett jerked a thumb in the direction of Malden Street. “I tried calling but didn’t get an answer.”
“Our cell phone got shut off,” the woman said. Her arm tightened around the toddler. “What do you want?”
“Maybe I have the wrong place.” Jett took a step back. “Sorry to bother you.” She turned toward the stairwell.
A familiar young man with brown skin and spiky dark hair appeared over the woman’s shoulder. “Please come in,” he said.
“The house is a mess,” the woman said, eyes narrowed at him.
“Savannah, chill.” Max grinned at Jett. “Is this about my audition? Did I make it?”
Jett opened her mouth to tell him that she had the wrong address. When he had played at the studio, he hadn’t seemed so young. She had pegged him at maybe twenty-five. Studying him in the afternoon light, he looked closer to twenty-one. With the way he grinned at her, practically bouncing on the balls of his feet, he could still be in high school.
“Come on in,” he said, turning and going inside. Sighing, Savannah followed him.
Jett hesitated, then followed them inside. Toys littered the carpet. Bowls of half-eaten cereal sat on a banged up coffee table. A laptop sat on a desk in the corner, a cartoon paused. Savannah sat on a threadbare couch. The little girl climbed out of her arms and ran into the part of the apartment that Jett couldn’t see.
Max closed the door. Still smiling, he lifted a hand. “Sorry about the mess.” He jerked a thumb in the direction that the little girl had gone. “Chloe is a tornado these days.” He hooked his thumbs in the loops of his jeans. “So, when do I start?”
He reminded Savannah of a more hyper version of Koty—if that was even possible. She restrained herself from groaning out loud. The last thing that South of Forever needed was a second Dakota Jackson. He had forced his way into her old band and still drove her crazy. She doubted that she would ever sleep with Max—especially not with his territorial wife or girlfriend or whoever she was—but she definitely didn’t want to get stuck with another overeager kid who knew nothing about the music industry.
A painting hanging on the wall caught Jett’s eye. A younger version of Chloe smiled back at her. Jett took a step forward, eyes tracing the clean lines. “Who did that?”
“Savannah,” Max said, pride lifting his voice.
Jett studied a large abstract painting of sugar skulls. “Are any of these for sale?” She didn’t exactly have the money for a painting, but she could probably convince Koty to buy one for their condo. The place needed a little bit of color. He had brought all of his black and stainless steel furniture from his bachelor pad in New York; Jett had left behind most of her furniture at her New York apartment, except for a dresser that had been her mother’s.
“Sale?” Savannah’s eyebrows furrowed.
“You don’t sell your paintings?” Jett gaped at her. “You totally should. I bet you could get into galleries around here. The South End has a ton of places with wall space.”
Savannah’s lips twitched. “I guess I never thought about it before.” She glanced at the paintings on the walls and shrugged.
“I told you,” Max called from another corner of the living room.
Jett pivoted toward the sound of his voice. He sat at a keyboard, fingers poised. The second their eyes met, he launched into a Perpetual Smile song. Her jaw dropped. Her old band had never used keyboards. Neither she nor Phillip had written music for piano. Hearing their old song in a new light sent a shiver down her spine. She closed her eyes, letting the melody carry her away. She could almost feel Phillip’s shoulder under her head after a long night of songwriting. Those nights had been some of the best of her life.
The music faded. She opened her eyes.
Max grinned. “So, am I in?”
“You composed that?” Jett joined him at the beat up keyboard. It was hardly professional equipment. She bit her lower lip.
He nodded. “Does that mean yes?”
She sighed. She didn’t really have much of a choice. Running her fingers over the keys, she nodded.
“Yes!” Max jumped up from his seat. Racing toward Savannah, he lifted her from the couch. He spun her in a circle, peppering her cheeks with kisses.
Jett smiled. She wished that she and Koty could be that affectionate.
Max put Savannah down. “Thank you,” he said, extending his hand to Jett. “This means so much to us. You have no idea.”
“Yeah, well, our first show is in three weeks.” Jett clasped his hand. “Are you going to be able to play with us?”
“Are you kidding?” His grin widened. He pumped her arm up and down. “You can count on me. Thank you.”
She pulled her hand away. “You won’t be thanking me after tonight. Meet us at the studio later.” She gave him the address. “Be prepared to spend the night.” She tossed a glance at Savannah, whose eyes narrowed. Then, before either of them could say anything else, Jett saw herself out of the apartment.
Shoving her hands into her pockets, she stepped into the spring afternoon. She almost had a complete band. At least there was that. She could worry about getting them into shape later. A smile broke out across her face. Pulling her phone from her pocket, she redialed the phone number of the drummer she hoped to recruit, and began walking back the way she came.
The phone rang over and over. She frowned. She really didn’t want to make any more house calls. Besides, the clock was ticking. In just a couple of hours, she had to figure out how to write enough songs for a twenty-minute set with a group of people that she had never written with before. Even though she had performed with Koty in her old band, that hardly counted.
Chewing on her lip, she tried calling the drummer again. Still no answer.
Staring at her phone, she took a deep breath. Her heart slammed in her chest. She knew exactly who to call. The question was whether he would be willing to join her.
Throwing caution to the wind, she dialed Griff’s number.
Jett might be sober, but she can’t kick her addiction to Koty.
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