Rock 'n Roll Boots & White Collar Roots @bitterharpy
Chapter 19

So many reviews last chapter from people who were getting the popcorn out to watch the fireworks.

Hold off on that for now...

**B**

"He should be here already, Ali. Where is he?"

Ali bites her lip as she shrugs her shoulders.

"You are in charge of his calendar, right?"

"His business calendar, not his music calendar. That's your job."

"Yeah, well I wonder if he makes it this difficult on you as he does me."

"No." Ali admits. "But there is still time. You said he is always late, right? And he still manages to pull it off everytime. Just relax. The show doesn't start for another hour."

"Yeah, okay. It's just this gig is so important. Breaking into this side of the state, ya know?"

"I know, Bella." She rubs my arm, trying to give me some comfort. "Look, why don't I introduce you to some people? Take your mind off Masen for a few minutes."

She leads me around introducing me to the people of Tacoma. They all seem nice and welcoming which I appreciate especially as a blatant outsider.

We stop and chat with the Cullens who all came despite all of Mr. C's grumbling. I excuse myself and go to the bar and ask Mac for the phone thinking he might answer if it's a different number.

He hands it to me and I dial. And wait… and wait… and wait some more. It clicks over to the robotic voice message saying the party I am trying to reach is not available. I look at the clock. Twenty minutes until showtime.

I ask the band if they have heard from him and they all tell me no.

'What are you doing to me, Masen?' I whisper to myself.

"Still no sign of him?" Ali comes up behind me and asks.

"No." My answer is as short as my tone. "I knew he didn't want to do this but I just thought it was stage fright. I never once thought he wouldn't show."

"He could still show." But her voice sounds weak.

"Yeah? We are less than ten minutes to showtime. He's not coming. And I have to be the one to go tell Mac."

I square my shoulders and walk up to the bar. Mac has his eyebrow raised so I am sure he knows what's coming.

"Mac… I don't know what to say. I don't conduct business this way but I don't know where he is and…"

"Can't one of the guys step in as lead?"

I look back at Peter and back at Mac. "Depends on if you want people to walk out or not, though they still might. I'm sorry."

"I can help."

Mac and I look at Jasper.

"I don't mean to be rude but how can you help?" I throw him a confused look.

"I can take over for your singer."

"You can sing?"

"It's been a while but yeah."

I look at him then think about my options. I don't have any and although I love Peter, he just can't cut it.

"Mac, is that okay with you? I mean I'd be stealing your bartender."

He looks out to the expectant crowd and nods.

"Go ahead. I'll grab Phil out of the kitchen."

Jasper comes around the bar and walks with me to the guys. I introduce them to each other and inform them Jasper will be helping us out tonight.

"Now, how do we do this? You haven't rehearsed and we are supposed to go on now."

"Let's go huddle up in Mac's office and you announce a twenty minute delay. We got this, Bella. We won't let you down." Brady assures me.

"Okay." I take a breath. "Okay, go. I'll do this." They walk to the back and I already hear the murmurs of confusion.

"Hello and good evening everybody. There will be a slight delay. My lead singer was detained…" The groans start and I immediately start shushing them. "Come on, now, don't get ugly with me. But have I got a treat for you. Your very own Jasper Hale will be stepping in and we will get started in about twenty minutes. So keep your pants on."

I step down and join Ali.

"Do you think this will work?" She asks.

"I sure hope so."

The guys file out a few minutes later and I jump up on the stage to join them. "So, what are we doing?"

"There's a few songs we all know and we're going with them so the set list is out the window, Bella." Peter tells me.

"That's fine. I'll take anything at this point."

I move to the mic once again. "Thank you for your patience. Please welcome Jasper Hale and The Idle Rich!"

I jump off the stage amid the applause and sit on a stool next to Ali.

I have no idea how this is going to go and I have no control over any of this. I start chewing the side of my thumb. Ali gently pulls my finger away from my mouth. I smile at her gratefully.

Peter starts the melody on his guitar and the familiar tune makes me smile.

Jasper steps closer to the mic, closes his eyes and out flows one of the most beautiful voices I've ever heard only second to Masen.

Going back to the corner where I first saw you

Gonna camp in my sleeping bag I'm not gonna move

Got some words on cardboard, got your picture in my hand

Saying, If you see this girl can you tell her where I am?

I grab Ali's arm to keep from falling off my stool. We share a look of awe before turning back to the stage. The room is quiet except for the band, everyone instinctively knowing that they are witnessing something amazing. Just from observing his interactions with everyone, Jasper is well liked. I imagine this is a side of him they haven't seen.

He finishes to a rousing round of applause and his adorable self blushes. He turns to speak to the band and then back to the mic.

Peter once again kicks it off before Jasper joins in.

I'm still alive but I'm barely breathing

Just prayed to a God that I don't believe in

'Cause I got time while she got freedom

'Cause when a heart breaks, no, it don't break even

Her best days were some of my worst

She finally met a man that's gonna put her first

While I'm wide awake she's no trouble sleeping

'Cause when a heart breaks no it don't break even... even... no

I turn to see Ali's reaction and I notice she is still enthralled but something is different in her eyes. Her interest goes beyond his voice and is now encompassing the entire man. It could work. She is bouncy and exuberant. He is shy and calm. I ship it.

He finishes again and announces a twenty minute break before heading back to Mac's office. This time I followed him.

"What was that?" I ask before I even cross the threshold. I shut the door in case he tries to escape my enthusiasm. It's been known to happen.

"You didn't like it?" His dismay is obvious.

"I. Loved. It." I reply succinctly. "I'm afraid you will be frightened of how much I liked it." I admit.

"Thank you. I'm just glad I could help."

"You did. You are. Thank you. I owe you one."

The rest of the band joins us and I hug them all. "You all are doing great. Thank you all for being so steadfast."

They wave away my thanks and I go back out to introduce them. I can barely talk from all the commotion. "Now that's a welcome! You want some more?"

The cheers are a resounding yes. "Well, I won't make any of you wait any longer. Welcome back Jasper and The Idle Rich!"

And I'd give up forever to touch you

'Cause I know that you feel me somehow

You're the closest to heaven that I'll ever be

And I don't want to go home right now

And all I can taste is this moment

And all I can breathe is your life

And sooner or later it's over

I just don't wanna miss you tonight

"He's perfect, Bella. Just… wow."

"He's single." I inform her.

"Oh really?" She tries for casual but fails miserably. "How do you know?"

"He asked me out."

Ali's head swiveled away from Jasper to gape at me. "When?" Her tone is accusatory.

"When I booked the gig that went south. Or I guess it's a success now."

"Does Masen know?"

"No, what's to tell? I turned him down. Besides, Masen has no right to question anything right now."

"Bella…"

"Don't Bella me. Now drop it, I want to enjoy the show."

"This is the last song of the night." He smiles good naturedly at the groans. "I do have a job to get back to, y'all."

"It can wait." Mac yells, which garners much laughter and cheers.

"Bella, he says y'all." Ali grabs my arm again.

"Well, he's from Texas, sooo…"

The music starts so I elbow her to be quiet.

Girl you got me tripping on sunshine

God knows you just made my day

Since you came around, no

I just can't slow down, no

I wanna see you walk in my way

He descends from the stage and starts interacting with the crowd much to their obvious enjoyment though I wish they would shut up so I could hear better. The manager side of my brain is going a mile a minute and I can't think with all this noise.

If I thought Ali was excited before, she is absolutely apoplectic when he approaches her.

Girl you got me tripping on sunshine

God knows you just made my day

Since you came around, no

I just can't slow down, no

I wanna see you walk in my way

Girl you got me thinking about diamonds

And get down on one knee, maybe two

People may stop and stare, but

I don't even care, no

Just as long as I'm with you

He kisses her hand, winks at me and continues on. He quickly makes the rounds and then makes his way back to the stage to finish.

No doubt, no doubt about it

And there ain't no clouds in my sky

No doubt, no doubt about it

And there ain't no clouds in my sky

Instant. Standing. Ovation.

Ali and I are jumping up and down and hugging. We stop, look at each other and do it some more.

We attack Jasper when he approaches and he reluctantly joins our jumping and hugging though he stands still so it's all kinds of awkward. But he gets a double cheek kiss for his trouble.

"You are amazing. Thank you. *kiss* Thank you. *kiss* Thank you.*kiss*"

He laughs and extracts himself and separates us with the bar. Mac claps him on the back. There are several words of praise shouted at him and he waves them all away and is determined to resume work with little to no fanfare.

What is with all the reluctant singers in my life?

My phone rings. I roll my eyes as I flip it open. Speaking of reluctant singers…

"You'd better be dead in a ditch somewhere." I warn.

"Excuse me?"

"You're not Masen." I state the obvious.

"No, this is Dr. Alistair and I work at PeaceHealth St. John's Medical Center in Longview. Mr. Whitlock came in a few hours ago and…"

"Oh no! Is he okay? I really didn't mean I wanted him dead in a ditch. Is it bad? Is he going to die?"

"Ma'am! Ms. Swan? He's fine." The doctor interrupts me.

"He is? Thank God. Then why isn't he calling?"

"He can't."

"You just said he's fine!"

"What's wrong?" Ali asks and I wave her off.

"He is. He has laryngitis."

"What?" My tone is deadly.

"He has…"

"No, I heard you Doctor but I'm just a little bit disbelieving. What are his symptoms?"

"He can't talk, his throat is sore, there is some swelling, a low grade fever… he's asking for you."

"Thought he couldn't talk." I snap.

"But he can still write so should I tell him you're coming?"

I sigh and pinch my nose. "Yes. I'll be there as soon as I can." I hang up.

"What's wrong with Masen?"

"Apparently, laryngitis. Lucky for him."

"Why is that lucky for him?"

"At least he'll already be in the hospital when I kill him."

I grab my coat from behind the bar where I stashed it and storm out the door.

I fume for the hour and a half it takes to arrive at the hospital. I locate the emergency room entrance and park, take a deep breath and go inside. I approach the front desk.

"What can I help you with?"

"Dr. Alistair called me about Masen Whitlock."

She checks her computer then nods. "I'll tell him you're here. It might be a few minutes so please have a seat."

I do as asked and sit between a worn out mother rocking an infant seat with her foot and a man who can't stop coughing. I hope he's not contagious.

"Ms. Swan?"

I jump up eager to get away from the gentlemen with the plague.

"Dr. Alistair?"

"Yes, follow me."

He leads me to a private room where Masen is sitting on an exam table looking all sad and morose.

"Do you have any idea how much trouble you're in, Mister?"

He croaks out a sound. "Don't talk, please." The doctor admonishes him.

"That's right. Shut up. If you can't sing, you can't talk. I want to hear exactly from the doc what's going on. Doc? Is Mr. Whitlock really in bad shape or is he faking it? The truth."

"Viral laryngitis. A day or two with no talking and rest should clear it up. I'll write you a script for a mild anaesthetic throat spray. That should hopefully relieve some of your discomfort." He smiles at his both then heads towards the door.

"Wait? That's it? Aren't you gonna do a throat culture, run some tests?"

"There's no test for viral laryngitis."

"Is that so? Well how do you know he's not faking it?"

"It never occured to me."

"Well, it occured to me, so maybe it occurred to him." I look at him pointedly.

"Mr. Whitlock was highly agitated when he arrived here. He begged for some spray or a shot to magically cure his voice. I explained that a cortisone shot to his vocal cords could have permanent damage. This was clearly devastating news to him."

Masen is nodding sadly the whole time, his puppy dog eyes begging me to believe him.

"Now, if all that was an act then he's one hell of a consummate actor."

"But say that someone was supposed to do something. Something they very clearly didn't want to do. Could their mind get them off the hook subconsciously?"

"That's not in my field, you'd have to ask someone up on Psych but I really think this is viral. Now, if you'll please excuse me."

He leaves and I turn my attention back to Masen who is all but cowering on the exam table.

"Masen, Masen, Masen, Masen. What am I gonna do with you, huh? I mean, you're either a head case or you're a liar." I put my hands on his cheeks to make him look at me and do a light pat for good measure. "Which is it? Hmmm? Or this is a virus. God help you, this should be a virus, you hear me?" He nods. "Do you have any idea what horrible things went through my mind tonight? Visions of you bleedin' all over a sidewalk, getting hit by a truck, runnin' off to the Bahamas with some cute little waitress."

He tries to protest. "Nope, not a peep. I'm tryin' to make sure you don't damage that golden voice of yours." I begin stroking his face. "But God help you, Masen, if I ever find out you were playin' me for a fool, I'll kill you myself. I mean it."

I'm satisfied when he gulps.

It's several minutes later and we're still waiting for a script. "How long does it take to write for some throat spray?" I throw my hands up.

Masen starts that croaking thing again but I hush him, again. He grabs a paper towel and a pen and starts writing. He holds it up when he's done.

'"I'll find a way to pay you and the band back for the money you lost." I read out loud.

"Don't bother. We didn't have to forfeit the gig." At his confused look, I continue. "There's this bartender by the name of Jasper, he filled in for you. And he was damn good. The audience loved him. He's cute, too. You should start worrying."

I turn away from him and he rushes up to me and touches me.

"Bella." He croaks.

"Hey, hey, hey." I shrug his hands off. "Don't bother explaining. We can have a real argument when you start sounding human and less like a frog." His sad eyes make me pause. "Don't look so sad. I know I said this could be a con but that was a knee jerk reaction. Worse case scenario, it's psychosomatic. I have a hard time believing you would do something like this to me on purpose. Would you?"

"Bella, no." He whispers as he puts his hands on my shoulders.

"Masen, don't confuse the issue, okay?" I shrug away from him. "I having enough trouble ignoring the little voice inside my head that keeps saying 'you dumb cluck, what do you expect after you practically begged him to break your heart. Give him a little more time and he will'."

"I won't. I swear." I cringe at his hoarseness.

I turn back around and my shoulders slump at the look in his eyes; the one begging me to forgive him. I throw my arms around him. "Oh babe, you sound awful."

The doctor comes in and gives Masen the prescription. "So no talking, no singing, rest?" I confirm.

"Yes, he should be better in a few days."

"Okay, you're sprung, so go get this filled at the pharmacy and then I think you should get a hotel. I don't think you should be driving to Tacoma this late."

He smiles. "Great idea." He whispers as he leans down to kiss me.

"No, you get a hotel. I'm going back to Port Angeles. The mood I'm in, you can't love me out of. Take care of that voice, Babe."

Then I leave him behind, hopefully as bitter and pissed off as he's made me tonight.

Playlist:

The Man Who Can't Be Moved- The Script.

Breakeven- The Script.

Iris- Goo Goo Dolls.

Running On Sunshine- Jesus Jackson.

Y'all actually thought he would show? Oh you sweet summer children... We have a ways to go.

Liarward strikes again.

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