‹ Prequel: Even Lovers Drown
Status: Paused for now

Happily Ever After

Chapter 12

“I can’t believe you really play in those,” Reese said, eyeing Cadeau’s bright pink stiletto heels.

She glanced at her feet, attractively arched in her scuffed stilettos. The uncomfortable pang that once accompanied the awkward position of her feet, one poised over the altered pedal and the other stationed on the hardwood floor, no longer affected her. Years of playing in stilettos made her immune to the pain, just as years of wearing them had done. Perhaps, becoming accustomed to pain wasn’t something she should have been proud of. But she was.

She didn’t know many other drummers who played in stilettos.

She shrugged. “Only sometimes.” Most other days, she wore normal shoes, let her feet rest for the sake of getting some easy emotional release. Or to learn new rhythms or techniques. Like she had been for practices with Say Goodbye. She shook a foot at Reese. “I’m planning on busting these bad boys out at practice Wednesday.”

Something she hadn’t gotten up the nerve to do yet. She’d had a reason in the beginning, a desire to be taken seriously. Now, she didn’t know how they’d react. If they’d even noticed at all.

Reese snorted. “Shame I’m not going to be there.”

“Loser.” Without looking at her daughter, who she knew was sitting on the ground near her feet, who she could sense was messing with wires, she said, “Don’t touch that, honey.”

“Oh,” Jolie mumbled.

Mother’s intuition.

She smiled at her daughter, taking note of the amp cord lying useless near her leg and the tiny pout on Jolie’s face. She was bored. After coloring, eating cookies, and helping tell Mommy’s students what to do, Jolie was bored. And the day wasn’t close to being over yet.

Maybe bringing her to Monday lessons wasn’t the best idea.

But she wanted to spend time with her during the day. She didn’t get much time during the week, just evenings after work most days. This was an important time in Jolie’s life, Cadeau needed to spend time with her.

“Want your apple juice?”


She grabbed the Sippy cup from the bag she’d prepared that morning, when she’d decided on a whim to bring her daughter to lessons, and handed it to Jolie.

“Danks,” Jolie chirped.

That would keep her busy for a little while.

And pump her with sugar.

What did Cadeau just do? Jolie didn’t need more energy. Damn. She’d be bouncing off the walls soon.

“Why don’t you let me take her home?” Reese asked. “She and Grayson can flirt.”

Cadeau sighed. “I should, huh?”

She didn’t want to. She wanted Jolie to stay with her. She wanted to give her all the attention she could. While she could. If she got the spot in Say Goodbye, she’d be away from Jolie for months at a time, missing her life. For the sake of making their lives better.

She was doing the right thing. Right?

A reassuring hand rested on her shoulder, drawing her blue eyes to Reese’s concerned hazel ones. “Stop worrying. Everything’s going to be okay.”

He was right. Everything would be okay. Cadeau would do the best she could with the cards she had been dealt, the way she always had. At least what she would make as a drummer was better than she made at Charlie’s. And she’d get long periods of time with Jolie to balance out the time away. And they could get a nicer house and she could help her parents. And she’d be doing what she loved.

Yeah, Reese was right. They’d be okay.


Sage tapped the sofa arm in impatient tempo, glanced at the clock on the wall, let her eyes drag over each lounging band member, glanced at the clock again, ran a hand through her bright blue hair, resumed tapping the couch, looked at the clock. Late. She was late. Wednesday practice started at the same time every week, yet here they were, five minutes into what was supposed to be practice time, and they hadn’t started. Because Cadeau wasn’t there.

How inconsiderate. Sage spent the few days she had to herself thinking of ways to broach the topic of Cadeau’s, well, attempted death, and she was late. She should have been there on time, early even. So they could get this out of the way, so Sage wouldn’t have to worry about the conversation all practice.

“Where is she?” Sage asked.

“Beats me.” Blake shrugged. “She’ll get here.”

“She’s probably still in Sage’s bed, recovering,” Hunter mumbled to his twin.

“I heard that,” Sage snapped.

Would he stop insisting she was sleeping with Cadeau? It wasn’t going to happen no matter how many times he said it. Yes, Cadeau was pretty. Yes, Sage was attempting to be nicer to her, both in thoughts and in interaction. But she wasn’t going to have sex with her.

Well, not yet, at least.

So she had thought a little about it during the couple of days spent locked up in her home. Of course, she tried to stifle the thoughts as soon as they surfaced, but they’d come up every now and then. Cadeau wasn’t who she assumed she was. She was talented. She had been hurt. She was real. Sage was intrigued.

And Cadeau still wasn’t there.

“What if she doesn’t show up?” Sage asked.

“Why wouldn’t she show up?” Blake returned.

Sage could think of a number of reasons.

She supposed Cadeau skipping practice would make her evening easier. She certainly wouldn’t have to corner her over revealing her issues to an online audience. And she wouldn’t have to struggle to get to know her between songs, the only time she’d have to attempt friendship.

But that felt like a copout, the easy way out of dealing with something difficult, even though she wasn’t the one doing the avoiding.

“Because Sage wasn’t good at eating her out,” Hayden answered.

“Get your shit together, Sage,” Hunter added.

She was going to kill them.

“Shut. Up,” Sage ground out.

“Give her ten minutes,” Blake cut in, before the twins could continue an onslaught of teasing. “If she’s not here, then we’ll call her. Would that make you happy?”

Sage opened her mouth to respond, to attempt to bargain with Blake over the number of minutes she would have to wait, but the front door opened.

“Sorry, I’m late,” Cadeau called.

And Sage’s heart dropped into her stomach.

Damn it, now she’d have to talk to her. It couldn’t be too late to ask Blake to take on the challenge. She’d handle it better. Or they could get Saylor to do it. Saylor could handle that. She was the kind of person who could talk to someone about their past traumas, no matter what they may be, and make them feel at ease. Sage could not.

Cadeau appeared in the living room entrance, and Sage’s depreciating thoughts stuttered to a halt and her heart beat quickly. She was pretty as always, though she hadn’t appeared to have put much thought into her clothing—a loose pair of jeans and a white undershirt—but her appearance wasn’t Sage’s concern.

Rested on her shoulder was Sage’s guitar case.

“I had to go by Charlie’s to grab this,” Cadeau said, lifting her shoulder to draw attention to the guitar.

“You play guitar?” Hayden asked.

“It’s not mine.”

She smiled at Sage, blue eyes sparkling. The corners of Sage’s lips twitched up in response, and her lungs constricted, her excitement so intense it overcame her brief stint of anxiety.

“You finished it?” Sage squeaked.

Cadeau nodded, walking to her. “I don’t make a habit of drop off customers’ instruments but I figured I’d make an exception.”

She slipped the guitar case of her shoulder and held it out to Sage. For a moment, Sage simply stared at it, this precious offering of musical bliss, then tentatively took the bag from Cadeau’s hands. She carefully unzipped it, let the fabric case fall on the couch, and gazed upon her new bridge. The Floyd Rose shone in the light, as sort of innocent halo created around the device, but Sage could see through the lie. The silly thing would wreak havoc on her time and energy, or, rather, her guitar techs time and energy.

She couldn’t wait.

“I tuned it before I left,” Cadeau said, pulling Sage’s gaze to her. “But it probably went out of tune on the way here.” She shrugged. “You know how Floyd Roses are.”

She fidgeted from one foot to the other, waiting on Sage to say something, to accept or deny the gift. But Sage was frozen, unsure of how exactly to go about thanking Cadeau properly for doing such a great job on her guitar. Her eyes drifted over her shoulder to where her band mates watched with unabridged fascination at the exchange. Blake flashed a thumbs up, smiled encouragingly.

“Thanks,” Sage said, “This is, uh…” She looked at her guitar again. Not a scratch marred her precious instrument’s surface, in fact it looked like it have been polished. Cadeau hadn’t harmed it, she took care of it. She changed her bridge, polished her guitar, tuned the strings, and delivered it to practice. She did that for Sage.

Sage placed her baby on the couch, turned, and enveloped Cadeau in a hug before she had time to move away.

“Thank you,” Sage murmured.

Gentle arms wrapped around her. “No problem.”
♠ ♠ ♠
Thank you to Fading-Away, SpencerG, animal_lover053, xoxoChristina, tru-love5, JGeo, and choliecole.
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I finally found time to update this.
It's been a busy couple of weeks.
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Dakota Ray