Ryan's still in a bit of shock at discovering that the band he's just started working for is led by none other than the stepbrother he hasn't seen in ten years. Guess they have some catching up to do. See what's going on in this week's chapter of In Pieces. Don't forget to visit the other Briefers and see what they're up to. Their links follow my tale! Enjoy!
In Pieces #7 (3.2)
They joined a short line of passengers waiting at a taxi booth just outside the terminal. When it was their turn, they slid into the backseat of a bright orange cab. The driver was a matronly woman who looked to be about fifty. She wore her grayish-brown hair in a long plait that hung down her back and swung back and forth with every move she made. Turning in her seat, she offered them a professionally courteous smile. “Welcome to New Orleans. Where can I take you?”
When Ben gave her the address, her eye brows raised slightly. “Mandeville? That’ll be a hundred dollars…” She paused, as if expecting an argument, or perhaps some attempt at negotiation. Ryan wondered why the fare was so outrageous, but he didn’t say anything. This wasn’t his business, and he wasn’t about to butt in.
“That’s fine,” Ben said.
“Not today,” Ben replied.
“Then let’s go.” The cabbie turned back around and adjusted her seat belt.
Ryan could see the driver’s curious eyes regarding them in the rearview mirror. A crucifix dangled there, as well as a strand of what he assumed to be Mardi Gras beads. She merged the cab into the steadily increasing airport traffic and turned on the radio. Jazz played soft and low in the background. Loud enough to be heard, but not too loud to be intrusive. Ryan wasn’t surprised. This was New Orleans, after all. When Ben relaxed back into the seat. Ryan tried to follow suit, although he was suddenly nervous for no reason he could put his finger on. Maybe it was because everything was happening so fast. He glanced up to find Ben regarding him with those amazing crystal blue eyes.
“Mandeville. I guess that’s where we’re going?” Ryan asked for the sake of saying something, although that was far from the first question on his mind.
How have you been? Where have you been? What happened to you?
“Yeah, that’s where Cameron’s digs are. We just arrived here yesterday ourselves. We’ve been checking out the city, waiting for you to come. Mandeville seems pretty nice, but it’s way out in the suburbs. The house is about a forty-five minute ride from here.”
That explained why it cost so much then.
“It’s nice of Cameron to let us stay there. Aiden said he’s one of your biggest fans. Will he be coming on the tour with us?” Ryan envisioned this Cameron as being something of a groupie. Wasn’t that considered a sign of success when a band began to accrue groupies?
“Cameron’s more than just a fan, he’s our angel,” Ben said. He took one of Ryan’s hands, holding it between both of his as he stroked it softly. Ryan thought he could feel his pulse rate rise dramatically at Ben’s touch. He cleared his throat, attempting to focus.
“Think investor,” Ben explained. “Money man, if you like. I prefer angel. It has such beautiful connotations.” Damn, but Ben’s smile was dazzling. He’d only grown sexier over the years.
Ryan realized he had to get himself in hand or he’d never survive the experience. And that would be a shame, now that they’d finally been reunited.
“I’m sure Cameron will show up for at least some of our concerts. He’s more than welcome to travel with us, too, seeing as he’s footing the bills. I guess it depends on his schedule.” Ben placed two fingers lightly on Ryan’s wrist, right at the pulse point. Ryan struggled to even out his breathing, but that wasn’t happening. The effect Ben had on him had only grown stronger in the decade they’d been apart. If there had been an undeniable attraction between them then, there was an irresistible force sweeping through Ryan’s body now, one he fought to control.
Ben peeped seductively up at Ryan from beneath incredibly long purple-tinted lashes. “I see some things never change,” he said softly, just before he laid their conjoined hands over Ryan’s heart. “Ka-thump, ka-thump, ka-thump… Does it still beat just for me, Ryan?”
A flustered Ryan tried to frame a coherent response, but the words refused to come. Ben laughed. He dropped their hands onto Ryan’s thigh, his lips curled up into a self-satisfied smirk.
“You don’t have to speak, I can see the answer in your eyes,” Ben said.
“No… that is… I mean….” Ryan took a deep breath and started again. “A lot’s happened in ten years, Ben. You have no idea. What ha—” Before he could get out the question he longed to ask, Ryan became all too aware of their surroundings. More importantly, he saw what lay ahead of them, and in which direction they were going. Sure, he’d known there was a lake, but he assumed the highway would skirt the water. “Is that a… are we going on a bridge?”
“It’s the only way to cross the lake,” Ryan said. “Don’t tell me you’re still afraid of bridges?” Despite his words, his voice held a note of compassion.
“I’m not afraid of bridges,” Ryan protested, the trembling of his voice proclaiming otherwise. “I just wasn’t prepared, that’s all.”
“Ma’am”—he pitched his voice toward the cab driver—“can we go around the lake instead of over it?”
Her gaze met his in the mirror. “Sorry, hon, it’s the only way to get to Mandeville. Don’t worry, it only takes about twenty minutes. Then it’ll be all over.”
That’s what I’m afraid of.
“How long is it?”
“About twenty-four miles.”
Without warning, he swooped in and claimed Ryan’s lips in a soul-searing kiss. Every thought Ryan had had exploded at the contact.
In his mind, ten years fell away in an instant. Back to the way it had been and should have remained…
to be continued
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