Copyright 2008 Patricia Osmundsen
For those of you who so kindly asked for another story, here it is. Something new, in many ways. My first short story, my first story written specifically for you wonderful people, my first foray into anything other than simple sex. (Well, when is sex really simple? But you get my drift.) Also, my first try at creating some original lyrics within a story. I hope you enjoy this little piece.
Additional note: While working on a second Alex/Wade story, I re-read this one, and realized it needed a little more work. (I'm frequently guilty of tampering with intent to improve.) So I've added a scene or two, given a bit more information, and hopefully not ruined the whole dang thing in the process. My thanks to one brave reader who courageously pointed out that they caught the bad guy too easily. I've tried to fix that, as well. Hopefully, I succeeded. You be the judge.
Alex Nightingale sat at the triple keyboard setup, fingers spread and waiting to lower as the stage lights came up and the house lights dimmed. He shifted on the stool and adjusted the battery pack that powered his hands-free microphone. He looked out at the tables that filled the lounge. The large club was crowded, and he knew the owner would be pleased. He looked toward the center of the stage, and watched the shadowy female figure become clearer as a baby spotlight brightened slowly. She was the reason for the large turnout. She was gifted, in more ways than one.
She was dressed as he was, in black leather pants, a matching leather vest, and a white tee shirt. He grinned. The outfit sounded boring, and on him it was. On Alison, however, it was sinful. The pants hung low on her hips, and clung to soft curves and lithe muscles like a living being that worshipped her form. Her tee shirt couldn't possibly be any tighter, and the unbuttoned vest gaped enticingly, creating shadows that drew the eye and made you long for more light, so you could see what was hidden. Her long brown hair, straight and shining, hung to mid-back, thick and lustrous under the lights.
He played the opening bars to Evanescence's Bring Me To Life, the piano notes falling soft and clear into an expectant hush. Alison began to sing and Alex could feel the crowd's pleasure. Then the lead guitarist came in, Keith's instrument and voice adding to the song, and Alison soared. Next was the drummer, then the base guitarist, Caitlin, who also sang backup, and the music filled the room. Alex provided the lead male vocal, his baritone blending effortlessly with Alison's contralto. She prowled back and forth across the stage as the pace of the music picked up, and when they reached the bridge of the song, she moved toward him, leaned against him, and sang to him.
He felt the warmth of a blush creep up his neck. He didn't like the attention, would have been perfectly happy if the light never fell on him, but he sang his part without faltering. Thankfully, she didn't stay long. Once the refrain began, she was back at center stage, and he faded into comforting anonymity again.
They performed for two hours, the music ranging from current hits to tunes from the seventies, eighties, and nineties. They mixed in songs Alex had written. All were sung with Alison's unique blend of smoky sensuality and hauntingly clear vocals. Alex stayed in the background, provided harmony or counterpoint vocals as needed, and played, his fingers gliding over the keys. When she announced a short break, he was off the stage and into the dressing room behind it before the house lights came up.
"We've got two requests for the next set," Alison said, striding into the dressing room. She was glowing, her gray eyes sparkling and her lips curving in a wicked smile.
Alex leaned against the wall and sighed. "Why don't I like the way you're looking at me?"
"Probably because you're a smart man, and you already know what I'm going to say." She stopped in front of him, curled her fingers into his vest, and tipped her head to one side. At five-eight, she was only two inches shorter than her brother.
He frowned at her. "No way. I don't mind providing back-up, but I'm not doing a solo number."
"You can sit at the keyboard. I won't make you take center stage."
He shook his head. Keith and David started laughing, and he glared at them. Keith bent his head to needlessly tune his guitar, and David twirled a drum stick in his fingers. "I can't, I'll freeze up and ruin your show."
"No, you won't. You never do. Come on. I'll even have them keep the light real dim, if that'll help."
He sighed. "What songs?"
She grinned at him. "Lonely No More and Ever the Same. And thank you."
"A Rob Thomas fan. You've got the voice for it, Alex," Caitlin said. He knew she loved Rob Thomas.
Alex glared at her. "I didn't say yes, damn it."
Caitlin chuckled. "You will. You always do." The redhead looked over at Alison. "Who asked for those songs?"
Alison grinned. "The club owner."
By now everyone was laughing, and Alex flung his arms up in exasperated surrender. "Okay, fine, two songs."
Alison nodded. "I want you to sing Cursed Gift tonight."
"Why? No one knows it, so it wasn't requested."
He rubbed the back of his neck. "What are you playing at?"
"Nothing. Just sing the song, okay?"
"Shit. All right."
Alison hugged him. "We'll do the Thomas songs first, and save Gift for last. You're the best, twin."
"And you're a terror. Tell the lighting guy to keep me in the shadows."
The stage was dark when they returned, and Alex was thankful for that. He settled onto the stool behind the keyboard, heard the rest of the band move around and get ready, and felt a slender hand on his shoulder.
"Want me to stand here until you get going?
He nodded. "Thanks."
"Can't have my bro going all nervy on me. Just pretend we're at home, rehearsing."
He relaxed a little, heard her chuckle, and felt her confidence flow into him. He began to play, swinging into the opening bars and waiting for the band to join him. Once he started singing, he forgot the audience, and his voice rose smooth and clear, carried to the entire room over the sound system. He sang with his eyes half-closed, never leaving the safety of his keyboards, and kept his head in the music.
He sat at the bar, nursing a drink and watching the keyboard player. Oh yes, what a wonderful choice those songs were. Perfectly suited for the smooth power of the masculine voice. He was a handsome devil, with thick, brown hair that dove off his forehead toward sleepy-looking gray eyes, full lips that formed each word with care, and a dimple that appeared when he smiled. The white tee shirt hugged wide shoulders and lightly muscled arms, the ends of the open vest dangled over a flat stomach, and pointed the way to the top of the low-slung pants. He wanted the man to come out from behind his equipment. He wanted to see if those pants were as tight on him as they were on the woman.
He wiped his upper lip clean of the sweat that had collected there. He shifted on the bar stool and tried to ease the pressure that was building in his groin. He kept his eyes on the man who'd captivated him. He looked so young and innocent. Just the way he liked them. I'll have so much fun with you.
The band continued playing two hour sets until the club closed, Alison taking the lead for everything except their final song. The crowd quieted when she took center stage and announced their final song. "This will wrap it up, folks. Let's send you home with a song my brother wrote."
The stage lights dimmed and Alex began the intro, joined by Keith and Caitlin, now playing acoustic guitars. For this song, Alison and the others provided backup vocals, letting Alex take the lead. Slow and melodic, David wove in and around the tune with a flute.
I'd give it all up in an instant,
the touch that brings knowledge and pain.
For one moment of silence, the warmth
of a kiss, things I'll never know again.
This cursed gift that rules me, secludes and precludes
me from reaching out.
Left here alone, the arms of another, something
that I live without.
Once the song ended, the stage lights went out. There was a long moment of silence, and then applause that grew and built. Alex returned to the here and now with a shock, dismantled his keyboards and carted them backstage. He had them packed in their cases and was ready to leave when Alison showed up.
"Come on, shy one. The owner wants to talk to us." She ignored the frown he sent her. "He already knows you don't like to shake hands, so relax." She latched onto his arm and dragged him out of the room and into the club proper.
The other band members were at the bar, grouped loosely around a tall, blond, and devastatingly handsome man, dressed in black jeans and a red tee shirt. The shirt strained over his muscular chest, hugged his arms tightly, and emphasized the strong abdomen. Alex felt a jolt that went straight to his dick, and wanted to turn around and leave. This gorgeous hunk was their boss-to-be? He'd noticed him while they were performing. Noticed? Couldn't keep my eyes off him.
The blond smiled as they approached, and leaned against the bar. "Wade Turner," he said, his blue eyes direct. "You left the audition before we could meet. Alison told me you're not used to singing lead. I wanted to thank you, personally, for making the opening week a success. And for singing for me."
Alex ducked his head and felt warmth stain his cheeks. "Oh, well, Alison and the band make me sound good." Turner was a walking wet dream. At least, my wet dream, Alex thought. Broad shoulders that arrowed down to trim hips. A deep tan that made his teeth whiter and eyes bluer. Topped with a chiseled jaw, strong face and thick, wheat-blond hair. Probably straight as a plumb line, too. Down boy. He felt a ripple of amusement in his mind, and gave a mental grin. What the hell, I can drool, can't I, twin?
"I listened carefully during your solos, and you're good. Your last song gave me chills."
Alex shrugged. "So would fingernails on a chalkboard."
"Are you always this self-effacing? Trust me, I've spent the last six months auditioning bands and singers, and you guys are great. I'm prepared to offer you a contract, if you'll answer one question."
"Why is the band named TFB Relativity? I've been trying to figure it out for two weeks."
Alison grinned. "My weird twin's idea. We're all trust fund babies, and sort of related. Keith and Caitlin are brother and sister, Keith and I are married, and Caitlin's married to David. See?"
Wade chuckled. "I thought it was some obscure musical reference." He gestured toward the bar. "I'm buying, if anyone wants a drink."
"I'll take a club soda with a twist." Alex chose a stool halfway down the bar, glanced around the table area as the last of the patrons left, and rubbed at the back of his neck. The hair there, which should have rested on his skin, was standing up. He lifted the glass the bartender set before him, took a swallow, and spotted an empty glass six inches down the bar. He watched his hand reach out to pick it up, and felt the room fade and fall away.
"Is your brother all right?" Wade tipped his head toward the other man. Alex was holding an empty glass, his face white and his hand shaking.
"Oh, shit." Alison reached him in three long strides. "Alex, what is it? Come on, come out. Alex, come out."
He turned his head slowly, and she saw his eyes. Pupils widely dilated, surrounded by a thin ring of steel gray. "Loverboy was here. Watching. He's already picked number seven." In the last nine months, the Loverboy Killer had struck six times, three in the last six weeks. The citizens of Phoenix were terrified. He was escalating, and the police were frantic to find him. Alex blinked, and his eyes slowly returned to normal. He set the glass down, but waved the bartender away from it. "Call Frank. Maybe he can lift prints from this." His hands trembled.
She nodded, used her cell phone, and hung up thirty seconds later. "He's on his way. Did you get anything else?"
"Maybe." He looked past her. "Wade's walking this way. Head him off."
She nodded and intercepted the blond before he could reach them.
Wade looked at her, a frown knotting his brows. "What the hell was that about?"
She looked over his shoulder to the other band members, and jerked her chin toward the back of the club. They took the hint and headed for the dressing room. Alison sat down and pointed at a barstool opposite her. Wade perched one hip on the stool, grimaced slightly, and waited.
"Listen, we'd like to work here, but you have to understand something first."
Wade raised an eyebrow. "I'm listening."
"Alex has a gift, and I'm not talking about music. He calls it a curse, and I can't say I blame him. It's certainly brought him nothing but grief." She shrugged. "What's your opinion of psychic abilities?"
Bright blue eyes studied her carefully. "I'm undecided."
She tilted her head. "It always comes down to show and tell. Okay." She curled her fingers around his wrist. "Ah, that's why you've been favoring your left leg. Sciatica. Okay, hold on." She closed her eyes, hummed an odd little tune, and then released him. "How's the hip?"
Wade stared at her. He'd felt a strange tingle as she'd hummed, and now the pain from the pinched nerve was gone. "How'd you do that?"
"Not a clue. This is my gift, and it's more or less benign. His isn't, and that's why he doesn't like to shake hands, or be touched, at all."
"His song. But why would he consider it a curse?"
"I told you, his gift is different. I tune in on hurts, and heal them. Alex tunes in on thoughts, and hears them. Mine is voluntary and under my control. His isn't."
"Which means ... what?"
"He's a touch telepath, and wide open all the time."
He sat in his car and watched the rest of the band leave. The twins were still inside, along with the owner and the bartender. Well, he could wait. His prey couldn't stay in there forever. Another car pulled up, a man got out, strode to the front door, and was admitted. The beefy, dark-haired man was so obviously a cop, the word could have been branded on his forehead. Shit, now he had to leave. Were they onto him? He'd done nothing to create suspicion. Unless the rumors he'd heard about his latest prey were true. If so, what did it mean to him? Should he go ahead, or find another?
He smiled. He'd just change the plan a little, alter the timetable. He was nothing if not flexible. He'd still get what he wanted. He drove around the parking lot to the back, where the employees parked. He kept his mind quiet, and waited. This could be fun.
Frank saw Alex at the bar, an empty glass sheltered within the circle of his forearms. He looks tired. Damn, let us catch this bastard soon. He sat down next to Alex, squeezed his shoulder in a brief hello, and gave him a smile. "What an opening night, huh?"
"Oh, yeah, I live for moments like this." One corner of his mouth lifted in a weary smile, and he drew his arms away from the glass. "You might get his prints. Which probably won't help you, because I don't think he has a record. He's too careful for that. Still, I had to call you."
"What did you get?"
"First, a promise. You have to keep this from Alison."
Frank leaned back. "I thought you two don't have secrets. That you're in each other's heads too much to hide things."
"She told you that, not me. I learned a long time ago to shield part of my mind from her. I had to." He ran his finger through the condensation on his glass and stared at the top of the bar. "The things I've seen ... no way she should share that. No one else should ever see the monsters that inhabit my mind." He looked up again. "So, give me your promise. Alison doesn't hear this from you."
Frank stared at the pale face, the shadowed flesh under steel gray eyes, and the determined mouth of the younger man he'd come to consider a friend. "All right. You have my word."
"He has a new target picked out." Alex rubbed the back of his neck. "He's focused on me. I'm his next victim. And I think he knows I'm onto him."
Wade drummed his fingers on the top of the bar. He'd seen the man touch Alex's shoulder, and had to suppress an unexpected surge of jealousy. "He's a telepath. You're not shitting me?"
"Believe it or don't, but see the guy sitting with him? He's a detective with homicide. Hard-nosed as you'll ever meet. He believes."
"Your brother helps the cops? How?"
"He's also clairvoyant. He picks up things about people from items they've handled. Sometimes the cops bring him things from cases they're working. Sometimes, like tonight, he calls them."
"So, Alex touched that empty drinking glass, and 'picked up' something that made him call the cops? What, is some guy gonna go home and shoot his wife? How the hell does that help?"
"If only it was something that simple." She watched Wade's blue eyes grow wide.
"He's working on the Loverboy Killer." So named by the media, the Loverboy Killer singled out gay men. Wade swallowed as news accounts of the atrocities committed by this beast flickered through his mind. "Jesus, Alison, every gay man in town is looking twice at people they've known all their lives because of this bastard. Big as I am, I haven't even dated in six months, wondering if some new guy might be him. Your brother's trying to help catch him?" He saw her eyes close briefly, noticed the sudden trembling of her hands. "Tell me Alex isn't gay, please."
"Well, I'd be lying. He isn't in the closet, either. Hasn't been for years." She looked down at her hands. "I tried to get him to take off with me, just cut and run. He wouldn't. I told him he could at least stay out of this one, keep his head down. He didn't."
"Hopefully his partner keeps an eye on him."
"He isn't involved with anyone. Not in a long time. It's ... difficult."
Wade rubbed his eyes. "That's what his song was about. That touch thing?"
She uttered a strangled laugh. "Yeah, that touch thing. After a few dates, most guys run. Too ... intrusive. It isn't like he can help it, but they don't see it that way. One guy stuck around long enough to ... shit, what the hell am I doing? I never talk this much."
Wade spread his hands, palms up. "I'm a good listener. And right now, you're worried. Anyone can see that." He looked over at the slender man and felt the urge to scoop him up and hide him somewhere safe. What the hell? I don't even know him. Maybe not, but he'd watched him all night. Alex had a beautiful body, the voice of an angel, and devilish eyes. And he didn't even know it. He was completely unaware of how captivating, sexy, and flat out gorgeous he was. Wade turned his head with an effort to find Alison's gray eyes on him.
"One guy stuck around long enough to what?"
She shook her head. "Not my place to say. Anyway, he's done talking and will be here soon." A tiny smile curved her lips upward. "Yeah, we have a stronger link than most twins. You'll get used to it. Or not."
Frank and Alex stood and shook hands. Frank had the glass tucked in an evidence bag, and headed for the front door. Alex walked toward them and paused at Alison's shoulder. "I'm going to load up my equipment and head home. I need a shower and sleep." He nodded at Wade. "Sorry to cut and run, but I'm beat."
Wade stood. "Need a hand?"
"No, thanks. I'm used to it." He waved a casual goodbye and walked toward the back of the club.