Brody was bored. He stared up at the ceiling, wondering just how bored he could get. It was the middle of July and no one was around. Mark was gone for the summer, Bax and his family had returned to Boston and Ryan was on tour.
Last he'd talked to his parents, they'd suggested he come to Michigan for a while, but he'd said no. There was no reason, he told himself. He was not going to change his plans just because Ryan had left him hanging.
It wasn't like there was nothing to do. He could hit the museums in Washington, or tour the White House. He'd always meant to visit Arlington Cemetery. He could even go farther afield into Maryland or Virginia and visit historical sites. Which might have held some interest if he liked history, which he didn't.
With a groan, he sat up. He didn't care about any of that. He cared about Ryan, and it was killing him that they hadn't talked since before she'd left for the tour. How could they fix this if she wouldn’t talk to him?
Of course, he thought guiltily, she probably wouldn't talk to him if he didn't make an attempt to talk to her. But when to call? If he called and she was busy, he'd have to leave a message, and that defeated the goal of talking to her.
"Well, this is stupid. It's not like I can't find out." He went to his computer and opened his browser, then navigated to Imaginary Grace's website.
Brody let out a low whistle. "Impressive. They should get Trout to design the team's site." He scrolled down and checked out the information. There were links to the tour schedule, their songs and short bios for Ryan and the others. He skimmed the blog, smiling at the entries as well as the give-and-take between the band and the fans.
Next he went to the media gallery and was astonished by both the amount and organization of the pictures and videos. He clicked through some photos and then watched a video.
There was Ryan, on stage and happy. Brody watched her play the guitar on one song, keyboard on another. As Evan had said, and as Brody had told Bax, she looked like she was doing what she was meant to do. He sat back and huffed out a breath; how could he have begrudged her this? Yes, it had thrown his summer plans off but wasn't he the type of guy to roll with it, as Steve Winwood had put it?
"Well, Lang, looks like it's time to make new plans." He went back to the tour schedule.
A week after Lara's talk, Ryan thought she was ready to talk to Brody. She pulled out her phone and stared at it as though she thought it would bite her. It was stupid, really, to be nervous about a phone, no matter how many apps it had. It wasn't like she was going to activate Skynet. She just wanted to call her boyfriend—if he still was her boyfriend.
It didn't matter, she decided. Boyfriend or not, she couldn't leave things as they were between them. Before she could think about it anymore, she tapped the screen and dialed his number.
"Hi, Brody." She cleared her throat. "It's me. Ryan."
"I know." His voice was teasing and she relaxed a little.
"I hope this is an okay time." Now that she'd contacted him, she was drawing blanks on what to say.
"It's fine. I was just thinking about you. How's everything going?"
"Oh, um, really well. We have a couple of days off before the next show so I'm trying to chill out. I'm not very good at that."
He laughed. "No, you're not."
She struggled for a minute and then the words burst out. "Brody, I'm sorry. I shouldn't have left the way I did. You were upset and I should have understood. I'm . . . I'm just really bad at this stuff."
"It's okay," he assured her. "It's not always my strong point, either."
"I know it'll be a while before I'm done with this tour, but I'd like to see you when I am."
"I'd like that, too."
"What have you been doing?"
"Not much. They cleared me for skating so I've been trying to work out and skate and see how it goes. So far, so good."
"I'm glad." A wave of relief had her falling back on the hotel room bed. "I was—well, I was really worried."
"Yeah, me too. Although I think my mom worried enough for both of us."
"How's your family?"
"Pretty good, I think. Rick is doing a little better, and they've all been pressing me to go visit. I will, just haven't figured out when."
"Tell everyone I said hi. I might see Bax and his family when we play in Boston in a couple of weeks. They said they'll come to the show." She laughed. "I think they may be the only people in the audience there to see us and not Stone Fortress."
"That'll change, don't worry."
Ryan relaxed some more as they talked. Brody asked about the tour, about the headliners and the travel, and she was glad to have someone outside the band to talk to again. By the time they were done, she felt better about everything, if not exactly optimistic.
"I have to go," she said. "Lara's going to come chasing me down for dinner soon if I don't. She's been watching me like a hawk. She even orders for me!"
"Poor you. Having people who care enough to make you eat."
"Yeah, it's a real hassle." She was glad they could joke about things again. "I do eat, you know. Voluntarily even."
"I know, but I know you—ah—forget sometimes, shall we say. Like that time you went something like a day on a Snickers bar?"
"That doesn't happen. Much. And the peanuts were protein."
Brody laughed. "Okay, I give up. But the next time I see you, dinner will be more than a candy bar."
"That'd be great."
They said their goodbyes and Ryan stayed on the bed, staring at the ceiling. That had gone much better than she'd hoped, but it all served to make her more anxious to see him in person. The remaining weeks on the tour stretched out in front of her and she felt like she'd never get home.
In the stadium before the Boston show, Brody looked around. The arena wasn’t huge but it was a far cry from the 9:30 Club and other venues where he'd seen Imaginary Grace play. He wondered how long it would be before Ryan and the others were headlining a show at a place like this instead of opening.
He was there with Bax and his kids, who were so excited they could barely keep to their seats. Brody watched as they jumped up and took pictures on their phones and texted their friends.
Bax looked over at them and then back at Brody. "The show hasn't even started yet and look at them."
"Aw, come on. It's cool. How many concerts have you gone to where you knew the people up on stage?"
Bax thought. "My brother's wife's cousin was a roadie for somebody. We went to that show."
Brody laughed. "I don't think that counts."
"Yeah. I never liked that guy anyway."
"The cousin or the performer?"
They were quiet for a few minutes then Bax nudged Brody. "Does Ryan know you're here?"
"No. I couldn't decide whether to tell her, then I talked to Lara, and she said it would be better for me to find Ryan after. I don’t want to throw her off before her show."
"You guys get everything worked out?"
"We're working on it; I think we're making progress." They would if he had anything to say about it. He hadn't come to Boston to keep the status quo.
"About damn time." Bax scoffed. "I was getting tired of all that whining. I get enough of that from my own kids."
"Thanks, Dad," Brody said in a dry tone.
Brody settled back in his seat. The lights dimmed and he watched Ryan and the others come out on stage. Most of the crowd applauded politely, but Bax's kids were more enthusiastic. Tara whistled so loudly he thought they'd hear it in the next county and Adam let out a yell that belied the size of the boy's lungs.
Lara greeted the crowd, then Ryan turned to Mitch and he counted them in to the first song. Brody had almost forgotten how much fun they were and how good Ryan looked with her guitar. They'd improved, he thought; gotten more comfortable up on stage and they were more in sync with each other. And she looked just as sexy as ever.
The only problem with their set was that it was over too soon. The forty or so minutes felt like no time at all. He watched them leave the stage and couldn't wait until he could see her.
About fifteen minutes after the set ended, as they were waiting for the main act, his phone chirped.
"Jesus, you're as bad as the kids," Bax told him. "Can't you go anywhere without being connected?"
Before Brody could answer, Bax's phone beeped. The older man cleared his throat while Brody laughed.
"Shut up." Bax glowered at him.
Brody snickered as he checked his phone, and as he'd hoped, received a text from Lara. He hoped this worked; it had seemed like a good idea but now that it was here, he wasn't sure. Maybe Ryan wasn't up for surprises just now.
His phone chirped again and he read Lara's message. Don't say anything. She could use a surprise. Are you a mind reader?
he wrote back. Yes.
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