Triple Beat-nook
Author:Mari Carr

“Did you live with them for long?”

Aiden was inquisitive by nature. And while he was keeping the conversation light and breezy, she knew he was hurt that she’d lied to him…that she was still lying to him.

As far as Bryson and Aiden knew, Stella had raised Dani after her parents died in a car crash. She’d never mentioned the Lewis family or New Orleans to them. Not once.

She cleared her throat uncomfortably. “Two years.”

He nodded slowly, his gaze intent on her face. “And before that?”

Dani couldn’t do this. Couldn’t give them the answers she wanted. Exhaustion mixed with fear and shame. She had been so determined to find her father, to call the man a bastard to his face, to tell him he hadn’t broken her and he meant nothing to her. To say all those things she’d longed to say when she’d been fifteen.

It had been a much easier prospect in Nashville. However, her courage had begun to waver the second she saw the sign welcoming her to New Orleans.

“I was somewhere else.” The vague response had the desired effect, even if it gutted Dani to do it. Aiden looked hurt. And then he looked away.

Bryson wasn’t as easy to shake. He cupped her cheek, forcing her to face him. His jaw, covered by that permanent five o’clock shadow he never seemed able to shave away, was tight. “We’re not strangers, Dani. I don’t know what’s going on inside that head of yours, but we’re not the enemy and we’re not going to hurt you. Why are you shutting us out?”

Dani blinked rapidly, desperate not to cry. Everything he said was true. Neither of them deserved the way she was treating them. They were her friends. The three of them had shared a lifetime of adventures in the past six years as they’d spent hours rehearsing, traveling from one small town to the next, and as they’d written songs that became big hits for one superstar after another to pay the bills.

Then they’d made their own huge breakthrough six months earlier when they had recorded a song they’d written and uploaded it on iTunes. The thing had gone viral and made them a shit ton of money. It had put their little trio, Closing Time, on the map, and from that had come the big record deal.

As far as Dani could see, there was only one thing standing in their way. Her.

Dani wanted to look away, unable to face the hurt on Bryson’s face, but he wouldn’t let her go, refused to let her escape. “I just need some time to sort things out here. It’s nothing you need to worry about. Honest.”

“This Lewis family…they’re good people?”

Dani smiled. “The best.”

“When are you going to see them?” Bryson asked.

“Tomorrow. Sunday dinner. Jett knows I’m coming and he’s promised to get the rest of the family there. My arrival is going to be a surprise.”

“We’re going with you.” Bryson’s tone told her to save her breath if she was planning to argue. When he made a proclamation like that, it was going to happen, no matter what.

She didn’t reject the idea. She wanted them to meet Mama Lewis and Jett and her brothers and sister. There was a large part of her that liked the idea of her two families meeting at last.

The only problem was Jett. He knew what else she intended to do while in town. He wasn’t crazy about the idea of her confronting her dad and had insisted on coming with her…as if she’d go by herself. However, even with that concession, he was worried.

She was afraid he’d take one look at her big strong bandmates and decide to recruit them to help.

She’d have to call him later and swear him to secrecy. Then she had to hope that the subject of her father didn’t come up during dinner. It was all a long shot, but Dani didn’t have enough energy right now to worry about it.

“Okay,” she said at last. “You can come with me.”

Bryson gently touched her cheek. “Why don’t you get some sleep, Dani? You look beat.”

She glanced at her watch. It was nearly noon. She’d pulled out of Nashville at three a.m. She had intended to wait until dawn to start the trek, but she’d been too restless, too keyed up to sleep, so she’d just thrown her stuff in the car and hit the road. Once she’d crossed the city limits of New Orleans, she had called Jett, grabbed a quick breakfast then came here.

She looked around. “Where am I sleeping?”

Bryson grasped her hand and they rose from the couch together. He led her to a door on the right as Aiden picked up her suitcase and followed them. “This one. It’s got a king-sized bed in it.” He pointed across the living room to another door. “That room is a double, two queens. Aiden and I will sleep there.”

She smiled appreciatively. “My own room? With a real bed? Wow. A girl could get spoiled by this.”

Aiden chuckled. “I think our days of sharing crappy hotel rooms are over, but I have to admit I’m kind of sad about that.”

She smirked. “That’s because you guys always got the beds while I was relegated to the rollaway.”