Dead Serious(3)

By: C.M. Stunich



“You get your ass back here, you spoiled rotten little cunt,” America growls at my back. I should leave. I should just walk out this door, pack a bag and go. But what about Turner? What about Dax? What about the music? I could start over. Maybe. I could use the fame we've built with this crap and get a leg up. But then I'd have to leave this room knowing she got the last damn word in. I put my hand gently on the doorknob.

“Spoiled?” I ask quietly because, really, that's the first time anybody's ever had the audacity to call me that. I let my fingers slide off the metal and turn around. “You sure have an interesting way with words, America, because that is the last fucking insult I would've ever assigned to myself. Nothing in this life has come easy for me. Nothing. So don't you dare, don't you Goddamn dare.” America's angry face turns wicked cruel as she rises to her feet, perfectly balanced on those suede black pumps of hers.

“Yes. Spoiled. I said it, Naomi. I have pampered you throughout this entire tour. I have made you famous. All of this,” She gestures at the room around us, indicating what? I don't know. The murders? The mystery? The constant fucking danger we're wading through? “Has made you famous. When we're through, you'll never have to work again, did you know that? Do you even care? I've made you more money than a Goddamn sultan. So this is what you're going to do. You're going to walk your ass back here and sit on this bed. You're going to listen to what I have to say, and then you're going to woman up, and get your shit together.” I open my mouth to protest, hands curling into fists at my sides, but she keeps going, voice rising like a crazy person. “You are going to take over as lead singer of this band, Naomi. This is where you were always meant to be anyway, so step up, shut up, and fucking deal with it.”

“If you think I'm singing at that concert on Friday, that I'm even going to be there, then you've got another thing coming. How much is too much, America? Are you so blinded by the past that you can't even see the present anymore? We're done. This is done. It's all fucking done.”

“NO!” she screeches, turning around and slamming her fists into the wall. “This is not DONE! It isn't even close to fucking DONE!” I watch in shocked silence as she pummels the wall with her perfect fists, her delicately manicured nails, her baby soft skin, until she's bruised and bloody. “You'll play at the concert, and you'll fucking smile while you're doing it.” America takes a step back, raising her hands like she can't even believe what she's just done.

“Maybe we should all take a minute and step out for awhile?” Wren suggests, backing towards the door. For once, I actually agree with him. Besides, I don't know when Dax is coming back, if he's even coming back tonight, and I really, really think he should be a part of this conversation.

“Nobody's going fucking anywhere!” America screams, spinning around and gesturing at Brayden. He nods at her and reaches into his coat, pulling out a semi-automatic and pointing it at us, at me specifically. I feel the color drain from my face. Aw, man. You have got to be motherfucking shitting with me.

America sniffles and runs her hand over her forehead and across her hair, smoothing the few escaped tendrils back into place. She either doesn't notice or doesn't care that there's a smear of blood across her face. I watch from the corner of my eye as she takes a long, slow blink. My main focus right now is on the freaking gun that's pointed at my midsection. To his credit, Brayden looks almost sorry about it.

“Now. That was uncalled for.” America raises her hands, takes a breath, and then straightens out her navy blue suit jacket. “My apologies. Brayden, the gun.” She nods at him again, and in the blink of an eye, the pistol disappears inside the dark folds of his wool coat. “We're all civilized people here, right? We understand each other, don't we?” Nobody speaks. I don't think anybody wants to. Not even me. See, here's the thing: do I think America wants me dead? No. But do I think Brayden would shoot me if she wanted him to? Yes, I do. And it might not kill me, but it would hurt. I grit my teeth and force myself to take slow breaths. My fight or flight instinct is on fire right now, and it's killing me that I'm not ripping that bitch's hair out. “We have a conundrum here, a big one. See, damned if we do, damned if we don't. We play the concert and something could happen, but if we don't, something will. That is the nature of our situation, folks.” America clacks her teeth, snapping off that last word. “This doesn't end until it ends, do you get me? You don't walk away from something like this. If you try, I will have you killed. See? How easy is that? You don't have to make a decision because I just made one for you.”

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