Chapter 4 - A Love Song For Liars (Triology)

You ever have a dream that's so real you can't tell it apart from the truth?

That's the kind I've been having.

Dark, seductive shapes.

Whispered promises of things I told myself I never wanted.

I never used to dream, but lately I can't stop, and every time I dream it's the same.

Tonight in the headmaster's office after school it's no dream. It's a nightmare.

"Mr. Carlton, there's been an incident." The headmaster's imperious tone has an apologetic edge, like he'd rather be getting a colonoscopy than delivering the news.

Most people don't like pissing off Eddie Carlton. I get it.

"What kind of incident?" My mentor's voice is whisky on the rocks. The guy could view you out without losing that smoky depth.

I wish I could shove out of this too-low leather chair and stalk the hell out this "look how rich we are" office. Instead, I force my gaze to the blotter in on the headmaster's desk.

"Mr. Adams assaulted another member of the senior class. Mr. Albright is a member of the lacrosse team." The headmaster drones as if that matters.

"What he do to you?" Eddie demands.

I don't answer, but my knuckles grip the arm of the chair.

Since moving to Dallas, I've gotten a read on everyone at school.

Chris Albright? The blond douche talks a big game, and we moved in the same parties the times I bothered to attend them, but he always seemed harmless.

Until this weekend.

"You tell him about Chris, I'll tell him I woke up in your bed."

I rub my good hand over my jaw. They're still waiting on an answer.


The headmaster sighs. "Mr. Carlton, we accommodated your... charge for his final semester. It's highly unorthodox to admit new students mid-year, particularly for seniors. We can't let this kind of behavior slide. It's for Mr. Adams benefit, but also for the other students and their parents."

"Then suspend him if you need to."

The headmaster's brows rise. "Fine. Thursday's a PA day, but you're suspended from school for the rest of the week."

That's less than Ideal. I'm not a stellar student, which means I'll need some extra studying time so I don't fall behind more than I have before exams.

I'm going to graduate high school if it kills me. Everyone else in my family did, and if they can, I sure as hell can.

The parking lot is almost empty at this hour, and Eddie doesn't say a word until he's at his car and I'm at my bike.

"You're not here to fuck around. You're here to work."

I hate that he's the one to remind me. "I know."

Most musicians would kill for the chance to work with Eddie Carton. Every time he picks up his guitar, or lays down a phrase, or picks up the headphones to listen with a critic's ear, I'm reminded.

Music's my path forward. It's how I'm gonna be independent, distance myself from my upbringing and my dad's reach.

After eighteen years of shitty luck, when I'd practically tossed in my chips and given up for good, life dealt me a straight flush: the biggest rock songwriter and performer of the last two decades not only invited me into his studio, he invited me into his home.

Eddie is more than a boss or a mentor. He's the father I could've had.

Except I couldn't have. He made sure of that.

I shake off the dark thoughts and flex my hand.

His gaze narrows. "You're a musician. You know better than to fuck up your hands." Eddie prods at my palm, and pain spikes up my arm. "Now you're home from school, and you can't even play. Was it worth it?"

I remember the look on Chris' face when I slammed my knuckles into his entitled jaw.

"It was my best work all week." I shift over my bike and reach for my helmet, but Eddie hasn't moved.

"Timothy, I care about your future, but I don't want this shit happening anywhere near my kid." I could laugh at the irony. "If anything else happens under my roof, you're out. We clear?"

I nod.

The world isn't a just place. Some people, like Eddie try to make it fair. They're only soothing their guilty consciences.

What about the ones who want to make the world better?

They're deluded. Admirable, beautiful, and deluded.

I take the long way home so Eddie's Bentley is parked when I pull into the garage and cut my engine.

I walk around the house and through the gardens.

Rose petals cover the ground in one spot, and I stop, thinking of what put them there Saturday night.

I pick up the rose that's broken off its bush and lying on the path. The petals are intact, the purple rich and royal and defiant in the twilight.

My hand squeezes into a fist, and I clench my jaw at the pain before setting the rose carefully on the flagstone wall bordering the garden and continuing on my way.

The hum from the pool drifts into my brain, and it takes me a second to notice the splashing as I emerge onto the open patio.

Through the pool's electric-blue water, her body is just visible. Her hair billows behind her like a cloud, her dark-blue bathing suit as me remembering the red one that made her legs look miles long Saturday night.

I pull out my phone and type out a text to the sophomore I met at UT Dallas back in January.

TIMOTHY: Come over tonight.

I moved through the pool house in the dark, dropping my phone on the bed. In the bathroom, I strip off my clothes and step into the shower. The spray washes away a day of frustration and anger.

Chris' lucky. He might not think so icing his face tonight, but he has no Idea what I'd have done if he'd hurt her.

When I moved to Dallas, I hadn't planned on being the rich kid's fascination, but it made everything easier catching up in school, blending in.

It's easy to stay on top when people don't know what you care about.

When they know how to hurt you...

You're weak.

Not when I'm so close to m

nto session gigs in Los Angeles, New York. I'll have enough to prov

someone wh

t. I'm never going to make the

nd everyone around them. When the prospect of six figures turns to seven turns

old, and I step o

, I don't accept kindness easily

me by bringing me he

yment on a

n I jerk open the bath

it a second before the sharp in

athing suit is painted on her slow curves. Her wet hair is the color

uddle she's leaving beneath h

ely betwee

d my hips, taking long

below my waist. "I needed a


e practically shouts, reddening. I

she's staring. I can't resist as

to mine as I swallow m

t while I dig out a pair of

r, the flush lingering on her face. "I didn't think


o music on her headphones on a bench outside school in Philly. Her eyes

know what it was like where she was bec

otes for. I learned she was compassionate, the kind of person whose heart aches for animals in shelter co

he was Eddie Car

only thing about her

." Emily wraps a towel around h

converted to a mobile studio, in t

Dad thinks you

too long before I look away. I tug on the

wn, and he'd just take her face in his hands and ask her who'd pissed her off so he cou

shoulder, ending at her breasts. She let out a little growl, and against my better

because my biggest pet peeves are celebrity couple names, people who can't

, but she huffs out a br

k when she was a naive fourtee

ery thought, her pink lips are full in every variation of smiling and frowning, and the slight shoulders that curv

tay there. The gi

try assignment?" Emily

the end that makes you do a second take. Like when a girl walks by in a long ski

ering for your craft is legit, but I'm

g but not getting anywhere. Miss N

admission s


in my head a

d on her. Her gaze lingers on my chest because it's at

. "Not because Carla wouldn't sabotage you, but

n. Most girls who see me play get dreamy-eyed

not with

task and not her flushed face.

yphus if his boulder were instead a tho

gician. A therapist. An artist. You have the privilege of an audience's attention. They trust you to make them

free, but my fin

he world like her. She's not afraid of its beauty and its darkness. She sees more, feels more, tha

hings are

less I can get over thi

lay it across her shoulder, the e

ood they can'

breath before she pins me in place with those amber eyes, the softness of her lips

-shirt because I've just realized there are

rotten bananas in rehearsal." she says



n't kn

e so b

'm suspended until the weekend. Saturday thr

he little indentation between her breasts too close to whe

ke my

steps, and I'm too surprised to stop

reddened knuckles before sighing. "So, when Chris hurts me

my neck and our gazes lock.

s to do

been waiting for

this is about me not answering your messages after

be intimidated. "Is that when y

sting. "Still don't

bout what happened when you came here and

to ask, but she's

hakes her head, the expression on her face shifting from anger to longing in a way that has my abs tightening.

res the next morning like we used to. I c

e I'm starting to see

't. "There was a UT lanyard on the hook

incredulity because of all the thoughts th

t, but I don't budge. "But I overhead


he goes on, her voice oddly hollow.

because it takes up residence in m

she blocked me the next day with her

riendship was over,

t I wanted,

e offered me this opportunity was to

t to take i

more something than ever

rt she wears on he sleeves

esperation in my words. Anything she a

lungs, my ears. "I want


rs a layer o

ehow I'm the one feeli

ed, and my stomach drops

tug on my hair hard enough my


t the door, and

very curse word I've heard and some I

why even before Tricia hangs her U

across the patio, the hair that was in my finge

a leak?" Tricia frowns at the

to be a fuck

ce I tugged my favorite T-shirt over her red bathing suit and felt her curl i

p dreaming