It might have been the sound system, but Shade’s voice sounded a little raw as he talked about the Ellie, a five-year-old girl who was fighting for her life in a local hospital. The town had come together several times to try to help her family out, but pancake breakfasts and silent auctions for afghans only raised so much money. A Sole Regret concert, on the other hand, brought in folks and their money for hundreds of miles.
“Her father is a big fan of ours,” Shade continued, “so when he asked us to come out and help them raise some money to help his little girl fight for her life, we couldn’t say no.”
“Be sure to buy a T-shirt on your way out,” Kellen Jamison said in the deepest, sexiest voice Lindsey had ever heard. How could she possibly think about anything but the sound of that voice in her ear when it echoed around her from every direction? “All of the profits from merch sales go to helping the Carlisle family too.”
Owen stepped up to his microphone. “You know what? Fuck cancer,” he bellowed, thrusting a fist in the air.
He soon had the entire auditorium chanting, “fuck cancer, fuck cancer, fuck cancer” over and over again. Even stick-up-her-ass Mrs. Weston was yelling it along with the others.
When the crowd settled again, Shade said, “Thanks for coming out tonight and supporting Ellie’s cause. Now we’re going to rock your faces off.”
Shade started the next song with a battle cry that caused a thrill to streak down Lindsey’s spine. Hard to believe this group of bad ass men would be willing to give up their Christmas Eve to help out a little girl they didn’t even know. Lindsey was surprised that tears were prickling at the backs of her eyes as she thought of their selfless act. Suddenly, the members of Sole Regret seemed more substantial to her than walking aphrodisiacs. She wondered what kind of men they were. Maybe she could find a way to get to know them. And not just so she could check two tasks off her fuck-it list. She had a powerful need to thank them for being awesome.
Owen glanced around the tour bus, looking from one grim face to another. You’d think his band mates had just come from a funeral, not from a kick-ass benefit concert that would likely save a little girl’s life. Owen shifted his Santa hat to the cocked and ready position and reached for the black garbage bag of decorations his mom had sent along with him when she’d learned he wouldn’t be able to attend their family’s annual Christmas Eve celebration. His brother wouldn’t be attending either—Chad had been deployed to Afghanistan in August—so Owen was somewhat glad that he wouldn’t have to sit across the table from an empty chair and wondered if his brother was dodging bullets while he was dodging Grandma Ginny’s questions about when he was going to settle down and make pretty babies for her to spoil. Though he missed his family as much as the next guy—yes, even Grandma Ginny—Owen wasn’t going to lounge here on the bus and sulk all the way from Wherever-the-hell-they-were, Idaho to Wherever-the-hell-they-were-going, Montana. He was going to make the best of their situation and not let his bummed out band mates ruin his perpetual good time.
Owen’s prime target was Kelly. Not because the rhythm guitarist was the most depressed—that honor went to their vocalist, Shade—but because Owen needed a partner in Christmas cheer and Kelly always had his back. He didn’t even have to ask Kelly for his assistance. They’d formed a pact of mutual mischief long ago.
Owen dug the snot-green, artificial Christmas tree out of the sack and set it on the end table between the pair of recliners where the band’s drummer, Gabe, sat reading of all things and Shade sat glowering at nothing.
Straightening the branches of the tree into something slightly more pine shaped, Owen hummed under his breath and then broke out into song. “O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree, how plastic are thy branches.”
Shade lifted his head and one dark eyebrow rose above the frame of his aviator sunglasses. “Do you have to be obnoxious right now?”
“Why,” Owen said, “is it interrupting your sulking?”
“As a matter of fact, it is.” Shade reached for one branch of the hideously fake tree and bent it into a wider angle.
“And why are you sulking? It’s Christmas Eve. Are you afraid you’ll get nothing but lumps of coal in your stocking?” Owen dove into the sack of decorations and pulled out several strands of lights. His family was of the opinion that it was not possible to have too many lights on a holiday tree. When fully lit, the Mitchell Family Christmas Tree could probably be seen from Mars.
“Julie only has one third Christmas,” Shade said. Arranging another branch, and then dropping his hand when Gabe turned his attention from his book to watch him try to perfect the unperfectable.