Authors: Erika Trevathan
My Only Exception
By Erika Trevathan
Copyright © 2013 by Erika Trevathan
All rights reserved.
No part of this book may be reproduced in any form without permission in writing from the author. The only exception is by a reviewer, who may quote short excerpts in a review.
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, and places are fictitious. Any
Dedicated to all those who have loved and lost…
The music was pounding around me as I pushed my way through the densely packed crowd. If it hadn’t been that a friend’s band was playing tonight, I’d be home in my air-conditioned apartment reading a good book and eating a tomato sandwich.
Mmm, with a side of barbeque chips and a soda.
My mouth was watering just thinking about it. I sighed heavily. A thin layer of perspiration clung to my skin even though I’d put on a short denim skirt and lightweight white eyelet tank top before coming out. I had even pulled my straight blonde hair into a ponytail in an attempt to manage it in the humidity. Unfortunately, it had done little to help with the thick Southern heat that was typical for North Carolina. Even with the breeze coming off the sound, it was pretty miserable.
I looked around, realizing that I might be the only person not screaming in admiration as the band, Chronic Need, played onstage. Its lead singer, Braden Worthington, had most of the girl’s in the crowd making complete fools of themselves.
Not that I blamed them.
The guy was hot; incredibly sexy, gorgeous, with a voice to die for. What wasn’t to like? I glanced up at Braden onstage, where he was using his husky voice to captivate nearly everyone. He had the kind of stage presence that made you feel as if he were singing to you and you alone. I shook my head as one girl, who had definitely imbibed too much alcohol, lifted her shirt to flash the guys onstage.
I couldn’t stop myself from rolling my eyes. I tried. Really, I did. But, what in the world possessed some people to lose their inhibitions over a band? It had me at a complete loss. They were just regular guys...and I would know.
I met Braden over a year ago, and the other guys in the band soon after. That was before they’d hit it so big, when they were normal people, just trying to make their way in the world. In fact, Braden was still waiting tables with me at Luigi’s Italian Grill
,here in Wilmington. How much longer he’d be doing that, I wasn’t sure. The band had recently signed with a label and was working on their first album. They already had a huge indie following, but they were just now getting the attention of everyone else. From what Braden had told me, much of the advance they’d gotten from the record company had been eaten up by studio time, producers, their manager, and countless other things. That had left each of them with a very modest amount to live off of.
It was crazy, really. I’d always assumed that once a band signed with a label, they were automatically rich. Not the case, or so it seemed. Things would probably be changing pretty quickly for them, though. They’d be heading out on tour within the year and apparently that’s when the real money would start rolling in.
Not that I cared.
I’d be happy if they stayed in Wilmington and played locally like they’d been doing for the past four years. I’d really miss them when they left... especially Braden. We had become instant friends when I started working with him at the restaurant. Well, after he realized he wasn’t getting in my pants. (Not that he didn’t still try from time to time.) And it was getting harder and harder lately not to let myself fall for him. Maybe I already had a little bit. If I thought for a minute that he’d actually be able to maintain a monogamous relationship —things would probably be much different between us.
I made my way back to my place at the front of the stage, holding a red solo cup of beer in each hand. Seeing my best friend Bree’s vibrant red hair, I began pushing my way through the crowd to her, cursing as someone rammed into me, causing beer to slosh over the sides of both cups.
The brawny frat-type guy that had knocked into me turned around, giving me a long look from head to toe. The hairs on the tops of my arms literally stood on end.
there, honey.” His words were slurred and he was wearing the kind of arrogant grin that made me grit my teeth. I recoiled from the smell of alcohol on his breath.
Great, another drunk guy hitting on me
. That’s exactly why I usually avoided these types of things.
I was pretty sure the look I gave him was one of complete and utter disgust. My feelings usually showed all over my face, no matter how hard I tried to school them. I started to step around the drunk guy when he grabbed my wrist, causing more beer to slosh out of one of the cups and splash onto my foot.
Lovely, now I would reek of alcohol like this idiot
. I grimaced at the tight hold he had on my wrist and was just getting ready to let him have it, for all that was worth, when I heard Braden’s voice over the microphone. He had finished a song and had been talking to the crowd. Now he was looking directly at me and the asshole holding my wrist.
He paused for a second. I assumed he was trying to decipher if I wanted the random guy’s hand on me, which I obviously didn’t. Braden raised the microphone back up to his mouth. “Alright, guy wearing the white T-shirt with his hands on one of my favorite girls. You can let go now. It’s pretty obvious she doesn’t want you touching her.”
This was followed by hundreds of heads turning to see what Braden was referring to. I could feel my face heating up by the minute. Me and attention did
get along. Never had.
I lifted my gaze from the drunk guy’s hand to Braden, who was standing onstage with a guitar slung across his shoulder. He looked utterly delicious and it was easy to see why girls threw themselves at him.
oh, was he mad.
The guy let go of my wrist and Braden’s eyes went to mine as if to question that I was okay. I gave him a slight nod and then, because the intensity of his eyes on me were making me breathless, I dropped my gaze and continued on my way to where Bree was standing with some of our friends. The way Braden had been looking at me, with almost a look of possession, had caused my stomach to do crazy things. I took a deep breath and tried to ignore the feeling.
Braden and I could never be.
relationships. He did one-night stands and short flings with random girls. And he was an expert at making a girl want him. I was sure the way he looked at me came as second nature. It didn’t
The music was playing in full force again by the time I stepped up to Bree and handed her what was left of the beer I’d brought her. Her eyes were saucers and the humidity had her dark red hair curling wildly around her face. Even though she looked adorable, I knew she would be ticked if she looked in the mirror. She’d spent nearly an hour straightening her hair before we had headed out.
“What in the world happened back there, Presley?” she gushed. “I couldn’t see you through the crowd, but Braden looked mad enough to hop off the stage and remove the guy’s hands from you himself.”
I shook my head in annoyance at the whole incident. “Just some drunk guy trying his luck. And that is exactly the reason I don’t frequent these kinds of things. If it wasn’t for the fact that Chronic Need is playing, there’s no way I’d be out here in this heat with all of these drunks.”
The air was so sticky that the front of my white tank top was plastered to me. I took a sip of my beer in an attempt to cool off and nearly spilt it down the front of my shirt when Bree tugged my hand, pulling me closer to the front of the stage. It was a virtual mosh pit of people singing and dancing to the music. I followed and guzzled what was left in my cup so I wouldn’t have to worry about it being spilt all over me again.
Yeah, that was my excuse and I was sticking to it.
* * *
Feeling a whole lot cooler and a little more relaxed, I found myself singing along with Bree and watching Braden and the guys do what they did best. The other members of the band were good-looking, but none of them could match the hotness that was Braden Worthington. Braden was six foot tall and slender with muscular arms and a perfectly ripped abdomen. His dark brown hair was cut short on the sides but left a little longer and spiked on top. I constantly fought the urge to run my fingers through it and even now they itched to do so. He was tan, as most of us in this city by the beach were, and had tattoos covering both of his arms. Usually, tattoos weren’t something I found attractive on a guy, but they only seemed to increase Braden’s sexy bad-boy appeal. And don’t even get me started on his smile. It could literally rock my world, and did on a regular basis. But his best feature was definitely his eyes. They were startlingly green and intense, and just as soulful as his music. As I watched him onstage, he moved with the confidence of a guy that knew his own appeal. And, damn, if his confidence wasn’t attractive in itself.
The drummer, Liam, had quite a reputation for being wild and spontaneous. There was never a dull moment while he was around and his carefree, live-in-the-moment attitude reminded me a lot of Bree’s. He was tall, extremely muscular, and covered with tattoos. He also had a pair of incredibly blue-green eyes with the kind of long, dark lashes most girls would kill for. He and Braden were roommates, and I think it went without saying that the foot traffic of ladies in and out of their apartment was pretty unbelievable. Unfortunately, I had a pretty good view of it from my apartment across the parking lot from them.
On bass guitar was Jack, who was shorter than the other members of the band and wore his dark hair in a crew cut. He was cute, but it was his personality that made him so attractive. The guy could put anyone at ease and made friends with practically everyone he met. He was also the only member that had a girlfriend. He’d been with Katie for over two years and I didn’t see that changing anytime soon, if ever. They were beyond adorable together and made me completely jealous whenever I was around them. I
wanted that kind of relationship one day.
And the last member, Ryan, also sang vocals and played guitar. He was probably my favorite band member next to Braden and was definitely the quietest one in the band. Until he stepped onstage, and then he had a killer voice that was anything but quiet. He was the kind of person that took a while to open up to you, but once he did, he was super-funny and a loyal friend. He had classic good looks, with curly dark-blond hair and amazing chocolate-brown eyes that drew girls to him in droves.
But, there was only one Chronic Need band member who made my heart race against its very will, and that was Braden.