Triple Beat-nook
Author:Mari Carr

Bryson’s smug smile had her fist clenching again.

She’d been a fool to accept Marco’s offer of a place to stay in New Orleans. She hadn’t meant to tell anyone she was leaving town, but the record producer had called to set up a planning meeting during the time she’d intended to be away. She had asked if they could postpone it a week, as she needed to make a quick trip to Louisiana. Marco had been more than happy to offer her the use of the record company’s penthouse apartment for her visit.

She had been tempted to ask Marco to keep her trip a secret, but hadn’t wanted to rouse her new boss’ suspicions. The ink was still wet on Closing Time’s contract. She didn’t want the CEO to freak out with news that she had a skeleton in her closet that had decided to poke its head out and wreak havoc.

“What’s up, Dani?” Aiden asked. “You’ve been acting strangely for a few weeks. At first we thought maybe you were just fighting some nerves about the deal and the new album. But it’s more than that, isn’t it?”

Bryson huffed out a hard, frustrated breath. “You left town without telling us. You never do that. If something is bothering you, just tell us and we’ll fix it. I can’t stand how you’re acting all distant and secretive these days. And now there’s this sneaking around crap. What’s wrong?”

She smiled sadly. Bryson and Aiden had been her best friends for six years. During that time, she’d gotten closer to them than anyone in a very, very long time.

But Dani hadn’t told anyone in Nashville about her past. Not even Stella. She’d walked away from it all and had genuinely believed if she didn’t talk about it, it didn’t exist.

Then Jett and her dad had found her and doors she’d thought were locked forever flew open.

“It’s nothing I can’t handle.”

Bryson took a quick step toward her, angry at her response. She stiffened her spine. It wouldn’t be the first time Bryson had tried to play knight to her damsel. The only problem was she never let him see her distress. “Goddammit, Dani. I thought we were past this.”

She knew what he referred to. When they’d first started writing music together, she’d held both men at bay, working hard to remain aloof. It had taken the better part of a year before she’d trusted them enough to share little bits of her life with them. Meanwhile, Bryson and Aiden had been open books from day one. How many times had she wished she could be more like them?

Aiden put a hand on his best friend’s shoulder, holding him back. “We didn’t come here to fight, Dani.”

Dani wasn’t sure if Aiden’s quiet comment was to reassure her or to remind Bryson. Either way, it worked. Bryson visibly relaxed. She walked over to a couch in the sitting area and sank down tiredly. Then she took a few moments to study her surroundings.

“Swanky place. Awfully nice of the label to let us use it.”

Aiden ran his finger along the top of a baby grand that stood in the corner. “I think this is going to be the norm for the next little while. We’re their rising stars and as long as we don’t blow it, it looks like we get to live the good life.”

The idea of the “good life” would have sent her soaring a month ago. Now all she could hear was the “if we don’t blow it” part. How would MC Records react if the details of her past came out? She wasn’t sure they’d be pleased to hear words like “sexual molestation”, “incest” and “runaway” hitting the media about one of their newest artists.

Her chest tightened as she tried to recall if there was something in the contract that would allow them to dissolve it. She was fairly certain there was. What if her father went public, made some sort of big stink, and MCR dumped them? It wasn’t just her future success she’d be destroying. It was Aiden and Bryson’s as well. And the worst part was…they’d be completely blindsided by it.

Bryson sat next to her on the couch, leaning against the soft cushions, his arm resting along the back. She giggled when he tickled the back of her neck. “I could definitely get used to this. Which is why it’s upsetting when the third member of our trio splits without saying a word.”

“I was going to email you as soon as I got here,” she said.

Bryson scowled. “Gee. That’s big of you.”

Dani rested her head against the cushions, Bryson absent-mindedly playing with her hair. “How did you get here so quickly?”

“We knew you were leaving before you left, so we booked flights,” Aiden replied.

She frowned. “When did you find out?”

Bryson stretched out his long legs and crossed his ankles, looking far too pleased with himself. “Marco called about an hour after you picked that damn fight.”