Authors: Elizabeth Briggs
Tags: #new adult contemporary romance
MORE THAN EXES
A CHASING THE DREAM NOVELLA
Keyboardist Kyle Cross may look like a bad boy with his tattoos and piercings, but he’s really the good guy who’s always stuck fixing his band’s problems and never gets the girl. His band is competing in a college Battle of the Bands, but when their bassist doesn't show, Kyle must track her down with the help of the person he least expects: his ex-girlfriend Alexis Monroe.
Kyle hasn’t seen Alexis since she dumped him in high school, and she’s dropped her preppy image for fiery red hair and a bold new attitude to match. With only hours before his band goes on stage, Kyle has to be a little bad if he wants to win both the Battle and the girl he's never gotten over. But when their old problems resurface, the good guy might just get his heart broken all over again.
*** New Adult romance suitable for 17+ due to mature content. ***
For Gary, my favorite good guy.
Copyright © 2014 by Elizabeth Briggs
All rights reserved. This book or any portion thereof may not be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever without the express written permission of the publisher except for the use of brief quotations in a book review.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.
Where such permission is sufficient, the publisher grants the right to strip any DRM which may be applied to this work.
Cover Designed by Najla Qamber Designs
Model Photo by Lindee Robinson Photography
Models: Anthony Hamlin and Kelly Kirstein
ISBN (ebook) 9780991569618
ISBN (paperback) 1502473437
ISBN-13 (paperback) 978-1502473431
f there was one thing I’d learned, it was that good guys never got the girl. Even if the good guy was covered in tattoos and piercings and wore an old Joy Division shirt with the sleeves cut off. Nope, the ladies would still recognize him (or in this case, me) for what he was and ditch him for the guy who practically screamed,
I’ll break your heart
. Usually that guy was my brother, Jared.
My Saturday night had just begun, and I’d already had the lesson drilled into my head. We’d unloaded all our gear and stashed it backstage but had hours to spare before we were scheduled to go on. It seemed pointless to arrive at the club so early, but the organizers of the UCLA vs. USC Battle of the Bands had told us to show up at 6:30 PM, and Jared would sooner slit his wrists than be late.
With so much downtime before our 10:30 PM set, I headed for the bar to grab us a couple of beers. On the Rocks was a small club in Hollywood that held a few hundred people. The place was almost empty now, but we were the last band to perform and I figured it would fill up by then. The few who’d arrived early stood around in the big, dark room either at the bar along the back wall or in front of the small stage where the first band was setting up. I didn’t recognize them, so they must have been from USC.
At the bar, a girl with a red plastic cup in each hand nearly crashed into me. She took a quick step back, but one of the drinks slipped from her grasp. I managed to catch it without even a spill. Not bad, if I said so myself.
“Wow, great save,” she said, taking the drink from me. “Thanks.”
“No problem. Sorry I almost knocked you over.”
“Totally my fault.” She looked me up and down, checking out the ink on my arms. “Hey, you look familiar.”
The girl was hot, with bleached hair and a low-cut, black dress showing off a small butterfly tattoo between her breasts. Definitely my type. I didn’t want to get too excited, but damn, it had been way too long since I’d gotten laid. Or gone out with anyone. Tonight might finally be my lucky night.
“Do you go to UCLA?” I asked. I didn’t recognize her, but it was a pretty safe bet most people at the show either went to my school or to our rival. “Maybe we have a class together.”
“I do.” She cocked her head and studied me again. “Are you in Villain Complex?”
A fan of the band? This was getting better and better. “Yeah. I play keyboard.”
“That’s how I know you!” She laughed a little, and her chest bounced, making it look like the butterfly was flapping its wings.
Must not stare, must not stare.
“I saw you play last week at that parking lot show. You guys were amazing! I went home and bought all your songs from your website.”
“Thanks.” I offered her my hand and smiled. “My name’s Kyle, by the way.”
She juggled the drinks into one hand and slipped the other into mine. “Tiffany.”
She liked our band, she seemed interested in me, but now what? I couldn’t offer to buy her a drink since she had two already. Why did she have two? Was she going to meet someone? No, she was giving off that single vibe so probably here with a friend. I needed to make a move but had to keep it cool, too.
Think, think, think.
Man, I sucked at this pick-up-line stuff. Oh, I could ask her about her major. That was always a pretty safe bet.
Before I got the chance, she asked, “So I guess you know Jared Cross?”
And just like that, any hope I had of getting some action suffered a swift and violent death.
“Yeah. He’s my brother.”
“Really?” She glanced around, like she hoped Jared would pop out from behind me. I could tell the second she saw him because her breath got fluttery and her cheeks turned pink. What was he doing? Serenading random strangers with his shirt off? It wouldn’t be the first time.
I turned and spotted him leaning against the wall, talking to our drummer, Hector. Not half-naked, thank god, but even fully clothed Jared had this crazy effect on women. As if to prove my point, he looked over and gave us that lazy smile that girls could never resist. And then, to top it off, he winked.
I hated it when he winked.
I rolled my eyes and turned back to Tiffany, but she was a goner already. She made a little sound like a gasp, and her eyes flitted back to me. “Could you introduce me?”
I should have seen this coming. Why would I think she would ever be interested in me when my stupid brother was only feet away? I didn’t get it. We shared a lot of the same DNA, but I must have been missing the “come-hither” gene. Even though Jared looked like a toned-down version of me—fewer tattoos, natural hair color, and no piercings—girls somehow had this radar that honed in on him. It’s like as soon as they heard him sing they decided,
Yes, this guy is trouble. I must go after him
. And they all thought they could fix him, like they’d be the one girl who could make him settle down and change his ways.
Keep dreaming, ladies
. I guaranteed that tomorrow morning I’d be patting Tiffany—or some other girl—on the back as I walked her to her car and wished her a nice life. Jared didn’t do relationships, and no girl was going to “fix” him because he wasn’t broken. He just liked women. Lots of women. All the time.
Like I said: good guys never got the girl.
I’d already lost Tiffany’s interest. No point in continuing with this. I led her over to Jared, who raised his eyebrows at us, and Hector, who shook his head like he knew where this was going already.
“Jared, this is Tiffany. She’s a fan of the band and wanted to meet you.” My voice sounded flat, but then, I’d given this speech quite a few times before.
My brother flashed that same annoying smile, the one he only used when he was on stage or flirting with someone. “Nice to meet you, Tiffany. Thanks for coming to the show.”
I turned away—I didn’t need to see or hear the next part—but I still caught Tiffany saying, “I love your band
much. Here, I got you a beer.”
So that’s why she had two drinks. I’d never stood a chance. Rejection always sucked, but being passed up for your older, better-looking, more talented brother every single time?
Yeah, that got old real fast.
Hector joined me as I made my way back to the bar. He was perpetually single, too, so at least we could stick together and roll our eyes at Jared and his harem of groupies.
“He’s starting early, I see,” Hector said.
“He probably figures he can hook up with this one now and then find a second girl for later.” I kicked at a plastic cup on the floor. Bitter? Me? No, definitely not.
“That must be it.” We ordered two beers, and then Hector turned to me. “Where’s Becca?”
“She was supposed to meet us here at 6:30.” I checked the time on my phone. 7:00 PM. “She must be running late. I’ll text her.”
“She better not bail on us,” Hector said, removing his Villain Complex baseball cap and then shoving it back over his dark mop of curly hair. He always did that when he was stressed or pissed about something. Hector had been Jared’s best friend since high school, and he’d become almost like a second brother to me over the years. It was usually my job to calm him down when he got like this.
“She wouldn’t do that,” I said. “Don’t worry. She’ll be here.”
“I don’t know, man. She’s been acting weird.”
Now that he mentioned it, Becca had been late to practice all week, and she’d seemed especially moody, too. But Becca was often like that. She’d never taken our practices as seriously as the rest of us did, so I figured she’d been having an especially bad week.
Becca was the latest in a long string of short-term bassists. She’d joined the band a couple months ago after Jared met her at a party. We’d lost our previous bassist when Jared had kicked him out of the band for stealing money from us to buy meth. So far we hadn’t had too many problems with Becca, and I’d hoped that our bad luck was over.
I sent her a text asking if she was almost here and took a sip of my beer. “I’m sure she’s on her way. There’s plenty of time before our set.”
The first USC band started playing, but the singer shrieked like a parrot being strangled and the rest of the band sounded like they’d learned how to play their instruments a week ago. The feedback blasting through the speakers was the best part of the song.
“My ears are bleeding,” I yelled at Hector over the noise. “Make it stop.”
“It’s not that bad,” Hector said, but he cringed when the drummer dropped one of his sticks and had to stop playing to pick it up. “Nope, I take that back.”
“I don’t know if I’ll be able to get through all fifteen minutes of their set without my head exploding.”
“Let’s pray the other USC bands are as bad as they are.” He gestured across the room with his beer. “I’m going to say hi to the guys from Twisted Regime. I’ll catch up with you later.”