on October 17, 2014
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In a town as small as Tyson, CA, everybody knew the four brothers with the four different fathers-- and their penchant for making good music when they weren't getting into trouble. For Mackey Sanders, playing in Outbreak Monkey with his brothers and their friends—especially Grant Adams--made Tyson bearable. But Grant has plans for getting Mackey and the Sanders boys out of Tyson, even if that means staying behind.
Between the heartbreak of leaving Grant and the terrifying, glamorous life of rock stardom, Mackey is adrift and sinking fast. When he's hit rock bottom, Trav Ford shows up, courtesy of their record company and a producer who wants to see what Mackey can do if he doesn't flame out first. But cleaning up his act means coming clean about Grant, and that's not easy to do or say. Mackey might make it with Trav's help--but Trav's not sure he's going to survive falling in love with Mackey.
Mackey James Sanders comes with a whole lot of messy, painful baggage, and law-and-order Trav doesn't do messy or painful. And just when Trav thinks they may have mastered every demon in Mackey's past, the biggest, baddest demon of all comes knocking.
This is an epic journey and story of Mackey James Sanders. I may struggle with the words to put this story until perspective as I do not want to ruin the plot or tell you how the story unfolds.
The story of Outbreak Monkey, the band, the boys and how they find their place in world is truly an epic journey. I will say sometimes happy is not what you think it is and often times the happy to find is better than anything you could have even imagined, and is so the case with this book.
As the boys find fame they also find the dark side of success and that is when their handler Trav Ford steps in; from the moment Trav enters the picture it is clear life is about to change. I truly enjoyed Trav, he was tough and endearing all at the same time.
I am not going to tell you how this happy plays out or how you go from a broken soul to truly accepting of yourself. I will say the past if often revisiting before you can move forward and that will that is when my heart truly broke.
This story made me smile, this story made my each ache, this story made me feel the power of love and this story will stuck with me for a long time to come!
MacKey spends much of his time in his own head; those thoughts are shown to the reader as song lyrics. I truly hope these lyrics get put to music some day. Ms Lane’s ability to put MacKey’s feeling his head space to words truly speaks to the depth of her talent.
Warning you will cry, warning your heart will touching, warning you may suffered a book hangover!
Two days after Grant Adams’s funeral
Briony had bailed on Disneyland the day before and finally slept the last of her illness away. Unfortunately she’d also gotten her body rhythms all screwed up, because now, at one in the morning, she couldn’t sleep.
The ginormous stuffed Stitch animal in her bed didn’t help.
Not that she didn’t love Stitch, but Kell had brought her the Stitch doll from Disneyland, and she was feeling both really happy and really unsettled by that. She’d awakened that morning, Stitch next to her head on the pillow, no note or anything, but she knew it was Kell.
Mackey had brought her a T-shirt and a satin jacket, because Mackey was fascinated with clothing when he didn’t have to wear it.
Kell brought her the Stitch doll because Kell…
Kell liked it when she hugged things.
They’d spent the whole day in San Francisco holding hands, but she’d fallen asleep on the plane on the way home. Kell had actually carried her into the house from the limo, and she could have sworn she wasn’t a small girl.
She remembered being tucked in, how he’d pulled her tennis shoes off and kissed her on the forehead, and she’d thought, No! We’re supposed to kiss now!
But they hadn’t. And she’d slept for the next two days and woken up with Stitch on her pillow, at ten o’clock at night, starving for something that wasn’t soup.
She brushed her teeth, showered (since it had been a while), and padded downstairs, wondering if anybody was up.
Kell was in the kitchen, wearing a tank top and basketball shorts, eating a sandwich thoughtfully, a glass of milk sitting on the counter beside him.
He looked so domestic, so lost in thought, she couldn’t stop the wide smile from stretching her cheeks—she didn’t even want to try.
She must have made a noise, a sputter of laughter, something, because he started and looked up. “What?” he asked, cheeks bulging.
She shook her head. “You read my mind. I’m starving.”
“Yeah?” He swallowed the rest of the bite and wiped his mouth sheepishly. “That’s outstanding. You ain’t… haven’t eaten in a dog’s age. Here, sit down, let me heat you something up.”
“No, no, I can—”
He stopped her with a begging look. “Please? Please, Briony? Let me wait on you a bit?”
“Yeah,” she said, taking pity on him. He was so earnest. “Sure. Astrid made some sort of potato dish this evening that smelled awesome. Can I have some of that?”
“Yeah, sure.” He smiled winningly at her and started moving around the kitchen. In no time at all, she had a plate of the potatoes/tomatoes au gratin (or whatever it was called), a glass of milk, and a small bowl of sliced fruit.
She dug in gratefully, and after the first few bites remembered she was actually trying to impress this man. When had that started? Was it after she’d helped him pass college algebra and then moved on with him to geometry and Algebra II? Was it after Dublin, when he’d bailed her out of the soup and hauled her ass to safety?
Or maybe it had just been a day at a time of watching him try to be decent, try to be educated, try to be better. He’d had good, solid materials to start with, that was true, but watching him make the best of what he had….
Well, it didn’t matter how often he said he was a fuckup, she believed that less and less each day.
“So, thank you for Stitch,” she said shyly. “That was really nice of you.”
Kell flushed. “You… you’ve got, like, this whole collection here, you know? But you didn’t have anything in Tyson when you felt like hell. I… you know. Sort of wanted to make up for that.”
“Well, it was sweet.”
Kell grimaced, crumpling up his napkin. “Yeah, but Mackey got you clothes,” he muttered, and she took a risk and leaned forward and kissed his bare shoulder. He looked at her, startled, and she flushed and went back to her own meal.
“Mackey’s my friend,” she said quietly. “You’re… different.”
“Not your friend?” he asked, and she heard it—how hard he was trying not to be hurt.
“No, Kell, but you’re a different kind of friend. I hope.” She spoke looking at her plate, but she turned at the last minute, needing to see what he thought.
He was smiling, so gently it was like he was afraid he’d break something if he smiled any wider. “Yeah,” he said softly. “Yeah. We’re not the same kind of friend at all.”
She knew she blushed, and she turned toward the rest of her meal. Sometime before her last bite, he slid his hand along the small of her back, where her pajama tank rode up, and just left it there, rubbing her skin.
“Kell?” she said softly after washing down the last bit of apple with the last bit of milk.
She wiped her mouth and turned on her stool. He’d been sitting sideways, watching her, and now they were face to face. She hopped off the stool and moved into his space. “Do you think… maybe… you know. You’ll want to kiss me someday?”
He took a deep breath and leaned forward until their foreheads touched. “Every day, sweetheart. I want to kiss you every day.”
Briony had no experience kissing, so she was awfully glad that Kell’s mouth felt so firm and, well, directive on her own. She opened her mouth when he prodded with his tongue, and suddenly all of the disparate sensations, his hands on her hips, his hard chest under her hands, the kitchen tile under her feet, his breath on her face—all of it became one thing, and the thing was Kell’s mouth on hers, his tongue inside, his kiss, all of it.
She wanted more.
She groaned and pressed against him, a little frantic, a little embarrassed. They’d grown really comfortable in the past year, but her breasts were squashed up against him, and he knew—must have known—how badly she wanted him to touch her.
He moaned back and wrapped his arms around her hips, pulling her even tighter.
Oh, yes! This was what the storybooks talked about, and given that she’d mostly assumed those things were lying, this moment, crushed into his arms, was way better than she’d thought possible.
He pulled back and then kissed her again, and again, and again. She lost track of how long they stood in the kitchen, necking, her arms twined around his neck, her fingers carding through his growing hair.
He shoved his big, guitar-callused hands under her ribbed tank, and she shivered, especially when he brushed his thumbs against the undersides of her breasts.
He pulled back again, removing his hands from under her shirt running them shakily through her hair, which was all the way down her back tonight so it could dry.
They rested foreheads against each other, and when he spoke, his voice was broken and harsh. “Briony, baby, I’ve got condoms if that’s where you want to—”
“Don’t need ’em,” she said, and kissed the corner of his mouth, his stubbled chin, the stubborn line of his jaw. “I’m on the pill for cramps.”
“And,” she whispered into his ear, feeling a surge of confidence, “I happen to know your last STD screening came up totally clear. You know how I know?”
She felt the curve of his lips under hers.
“I told you,” he said.
She nodded. “You told me. ’Cause you trust me. And I trust you.” She swallowed and closed her eyes. “And we love each other, right?”
“Oh God yes,” he whispered. “I wouldn’t be doing this, not with Mackey’s friend, if I didn’t love you too much to walk away.”
And that sealed it. Kell loved his brothers. And he’d just told her he loved her more.
“No condoms,” she whispered. “We’re covered. It’ll be okay.”
Well, she was half-right. It was more than okay. It was wonderful, even the uncomfortable part that came with the first time, and with Kell figuring out that it was her first time, and with her reassuring Kell that he was worth it, she was glad it was him, and she loved him.
But about that being covered….
Two months later
Even though Walter had driven, Briony and Kell went to see Trav and Mackey off at the airport. Watching Mackey stress about meeting Trav’s parents would have been funny if Briony hadn’t just watched Kell go through the same thing with her parents.
He was still shitting his pants, and she didn’t blame him.
The door of the limo shut, and they watched Mackey and Trav wrestle their luggage into the terminal. Kell blew out a breath and threw his head against the back of the seat.
“I am so sorry,” he said, and she let out the same breath.
“I couldn’t do it either.”
“He was so worried.”
“I just couldn’t think of the right words.”
“He’s so gonna fuckin’ kill me.”
“Yup, those are the right words.”
Kell turned his head sideways and grabbed her hand. “We have to tell them first. We have to. If we tell your folks, Jefferson and Stevie will know, and Mom, and Mackey will be pissed.”
“Yeah, I know,” she sighed. She leaned back against the seat and looked at him, liking his hair longer and the inexpressibly dear way he seemed to wear his heart in his eyes whenever he looked at her. “What are we going to say to him?”
He smiled then, looking like a schoolboy with good grades, which was funny because she knew for a fact he’d never been any such thing. “I’m gonna marry you,” he said, sounding positive.
“It would be nice to be asked first,” she told him, surprised.
He shook his head and cupped her cheek. “Nope. Asking means you could come to your senses and turn me down. This way you’ll marry me and I won’t get my heart broke.”
Oh, for a guy who claimed to be stupid, he did know the smart stuff to say, didn’t he? She turned her head and kissed the palm of his hand. “That’s genius, you know that? So when are we going to tell your brother?” Because that wasn’t going away.
Kell grinned, half mischief, half worry, all evil. “When he’s three thousand miles across the country. Whole lot safer that way.”
She laughed and checked her phone. “Excellent. We have time, then—you can feed me on the way home. I’m starving!”
He leaned forward and captured her mouth. “Your wish is my command,” he said gallantly, and she smiled stupidly into his eyes. He was the kind of man who would make a girl stupid, that was for sure, but he didn’t seem to be taking advantage of that, so she could forgive him.
Suddenly she sobered. “What do you think he’ll say?”
Kell grimaced. “Mackey? I can’t tell you for certain, but I can tell you one thing.”
“Most of the words are gonna be bad.”
She sighed. Oh yeah. Kell knew his little brother really fuckin’ well.
3,000 miles away
Trav was waiting for the real Mackey to come out and play.
It wasn’t like he had a daily expectation of Mackey being a foul-mouthed little deviant—he actually had a lot more respect for Mackey than that. But one of the things that had always attracted him to Mackey was his potential to surprise.
But after literally chewing his nails until this fingers were bloody in anticipation of meeting Trav’s parents, Mackey had cleaned his hands in the restroom, given Trav a brief, distracted kiss, and then gone to meet Trav’s brother, Heywood, and his parents like the model of suburban perfection.
Although Mackey refused to admit it, Trav could have sworn he’d even gotten his hair cut shorter and dyed a little closer to brown that week, just to look closer to normal.
And since being greeted at the airport, he had spoken exactly five words: “Nice to meet you all.”
And then had sat silently in the back of the car with Trav as Trav’s mother chattered excitedly about, well, everything. First it was about how Heywood’s wife and Trav’s sister were still Christmas shopping with Heywood’s kids in tow. Next, she told them that she’d redecorated Trav’s old room as a guest room, so they could stay in there because it had a queen-size bed, and now she was talking about how Trav’s dad was slated for early retirement but he really hated to leave teaching without one more shot at teaching AP US History.
Heywood injected sly commentary about how Ian was probably screeching on Santa’s lap and how Trav and Mackey could stay in the “pink room” (which made Trav think Linda Ford and Heather Sanders really needed to meet) and how maybe Dad should get his doctorate and write his damned thesis and stop putting high school juniors to sleep.
Trav’s dad just listened and smiled occasionally. He only really got rolling when the conversation was about politics.
And Mackey didn’t say a word.
They’d landed at La Guardia, which was about a two-hour drive from their suburb in New Jersey. After the first hour, Trav was about a heartbeat away from screaming for Heywood to stop the car because they’d left the real Mackey back at the airport.
It felt like sitting next to a replicant, Mackey was so still, and it was starting to give Trav the heebie-jeebies.
When Mackey shifted his attention from a sort of morbid fixation on Trav’s silent father and chattering mother, Trav was almost relieved. God, Mackey—they were just people! Trav had known he was nervous, but Jesus.
Quietly, like he was sneaking his phone out in the middle of school, Mackey reached into his pocket and checked a text.
“What?” he mumbled. “Kell, what in the….”
“Mackey? Is everything okay?” Trav asked underneath his mother’s excited monologue.
“Son of a fucking bitch!” Mackey burst out and then started texting madly. “Kell, you stupid motherfucker, how could you? She was a virgin—them things are like fucking unicorns!”
Uh-oh. Trav had realized that Kell and Briony’s relationship had progressed beyond hand-holding. He could have sworn Mackey was on board with that, but apparently it was one thing to encourage your friend to do something and another to find out she’d actually done it.
Suddenly Mackey’s eyes bulged out, and he hit a button and held the phone to his ear.
“Kell, you miserable fucktard, you could not keep your fucking thing in your pants?” he snarled. The chatter in the car ground to a halt. “You were using birth control? Well that’s a fucking plus, because in our family that counts for shit! You fucking know that! That girl was our sister! Okay, she was my sister, but you had to go knock up the only friend I’ve ever fucking had? You know we get pregnant when God fucking sneezes! You couldn’t have doubled up, used a fucking rubber for sweet Christ’s sake? Yes, I know it’s a pain in the ass, but I swear, if I didn’t know what a fucking condom was, I’da been having assbabies all over the goddamned world! Jesus fucking Christ, you asshole! What’s her mother gonna say? You get one chance to get to know decent people and you knock up their daughter? Oh, so you’re going to get married? And who says that girl is going to take us? I was lucky she wanted to be my friend, man, you think she wants to be your wife?”
Oh no—Mackey was near tears. This had gone far enough. Trav struggled to grab the phone while clapping his hand over Mackey’s mouth, but he got in one more sally before Trav won the wrestling match. “It’s like you were trying to break your fucking heart! You fucking ass-rags keep telling me I’m the fuckup, but holy fucking shitburgers, Kellog, you knocked up my best friend and now we’re gonna have to scrape you off the fucking floor!”
The noise stopped when Trav won the phone, and as he pulled it up to his ear, he took stock. His family was in hysterics. His mother was laughing so hard she couldn’t breathe. His father’s face was as red as a tomato, and he was holding his stomach in silent laughter. Heywood was biting the side of one hand and steering with the other. Trav wanted to tell him to pull over or he’d wreck the damned car.
But first, damage control.
“Yessir,” Kell said, sounding small and scared.
“Congratulations. You and Briony are getting married?”
“Well, I think that’s an awesome idea, and Mackey will too.”
“We… we knew he wouldn’t take it well.”
Trav let out a short bark of laughter. “Well, it was probably wise of you to wait until he was out of the state. By the time he gets back, he’ll be thrilled for you both.”
Mackey made some sounds of outrage, but Trav pinned him with a glare and he subsided. His eyes were red-rimmed, and Trav thought that maybe he was terrified for both of them. God, this did put a monkey wrench in the lives of two people he really loved.
But since they really loved each other, maybe it would be the best kind of monkey wrench.
“You think so?” Kell asked wistfully.
Trav’s voice softened, and Mackey relaxed just a tad under his body. “I know so,” he said with conviction. “Congratulations, Kellogg. I think you’re going to make a hell of a father.”
“Thank you, sir.”
“I’ll help you guys plan the wedding after Christmas.”
“God, Trav, that would so help. My mom’ll probably wanna say, and Briony’s too, but I’m so ass-fucking lost about it!”
“No worries. I promise. It’ll be a good thing.”
Mackey held his hand out imperiously, and Trav sighed. Well, he couldn’t do any more damage, right?
Mackey took the phone, and Trav took his hand back and watched warily as Mackey sighed and started talking. “Brother, I love you,” he said, shocking the hell out of Trav. “But man… I just want you guys to be happy.”
He listened for a minute and then smiled, that quiet, radiant smile that had sort of knocked the wind out of Trav from the very beginning.
“Yeah. We’ll have a baby in the house. Katy’ll have someone to play with when she visits. Hey—you’ll have to let Shelia design the nursery; she’ll be jealous as all hell. Yeah. Okay. You all might not suck. Yeah, fine. No, I’ll talk to her later, when I’m not all emotional and shit. Yeah, merry fucking Christmas to you too.”
He hung up the phone with a sigh that echoed through the now silent SUV, and then, a day late and a dollar short, he looked up at the audience he’d forgotten he had. His mouth dropped slowly and his face turned red, and he looked at Trav in utter panic.
“Oh fuck,” he said, his voice as small as a schoolboy’s.
“Assbabies?” Trav said, his voice as dry as toast. “Really?”
“That came out wrong,” he said, hiding his eyes.
“No, no, I think that came out just right.” Heywood chuckled. “Damn, Mackey—you just became my most interesting relative.”
“The rock star thing didn’t do it for you before?” Mackey retorted, and Trav’s mom and dad joined in the laughter.
“Congratulations, Mackey,” Linda Ford said. “I understand you’re going to be an uncle.”
“Yeah, well, I expect it’s going to happen a lot,” Mackey muttered. “But thank you, that’s kind.”
“Ladies and gentlemen,” Trav said, feeling at ease for the first time since they’d gotten on the plane, “I give you the real Mackey Sanders.”
Mackey slugged him softly in the arm, and Trav placed a gentle kiss on his forehead. Yeah, once his fingernails grew back, he’d be just fine.