Strong Coffee and Cheap Bourbon – After a string of rambling men left her jaded, Bella's turned to a life of drifting, living like the western hippie outlaws she grew up romanticizing. Wild child Edward has settled down, leaving his rowdy tendencies back in undergrad and has since made a name for himself at a prestigious Dallas law firm. "You call yourself an outlaw, but you're just a broken mess in a knock off Stetson, living on strong coffee and cheap bourbon. And if you don't quit running, you're going to run out of places to hide."
Another gas station. Another bad coffee.
I paid the old woman at the cash register and trudged to the van where the rest of my band was waiting impatiently. We were getting close to Fort Worth, and they were getting antsy. That was home for them.
We had been traveling for over a month. Shreveport. Lake Charles. Biloxi. Gulf Shores. Austin. We didn't have a tour. We had gigs at old dive bars and honkytonks trying to bring in young crowds. We told ourselves that we weren't trying to make it big. That we liked the life and that the music was enough. That we just needed to make enough money to pay for gas, food, and a motel that we wouldn't get murdered at. We said it enough that we were starting to believe it. Almost.
I slid the door closed and squeezed in the van to sit next to our drummer.
"No more stops." Our guitarist, who was driving, grumbled.
"I'm sorry. Do you want me to fall asleep during our set?" I snapped.
He remained silent, but I could feel the tension in the van continue to rise. One month together had us all a little tired of each other.
"Don't worry about him. He's just cranky because he hasn't gotten laid in the past thirty days." Our drummer murmured to me.
I smirked. He wasn't wrong. Alec could be a real dick, but he was nothing if not a thousand percent faithful to his woman.
Our guitarist, Alec, had a wife in Forth Worth that he was ready to get back to. Marcus, our bassist, didn't have a wife but he had a Doberman and a warm meal waiting for him at his momma's when we got there. Our drummer was Tyler, and he was similar to me in that he didn't have much to look forward to when we got back to Fort Worth. But he did have his name on an apartment lease and a crappy day job.
And I had my brother's couch.
"Ready to get back home?" Tyler asked.
I shrugged. "It'll be nice to see my family." I said vaguely.
"You ever gonna settle down, Swan?"
"I like running the roads, Ty. I mean, could you see me barefoot in a kitchen making pastries?" I laughed.
He smiled sadly. "Guess not."
I looked out of the window as we drove north. I knew what was waiting for me at my brother's. He'd tell me I should think about getting a real job. He'd tell me that he would help me get on my feet. That I could stay with him until I had some money in the bank. I was tired of trying to be fixed.
He'd be there tonight with his wife, and while I was glad for the support, it made me more nervous than I should've been. He taught me everything I knew about music, so having him there was extra pressure. Especially when I knew that he didn't approve of my lifestyle.
The last twenty minutes of the drive felt like they lasted two hours, but eventually we made it to the bar we'd be playing at.
I freshened up as best I could in the bathroom after having spent nearly four hours in the van.
I chanced a glance in the mirror and cringed at my tired eyes. Just one more late night and I could sleep for the next 48 hours if I wanted to.
The mirror also told me that my hair could use a trim; it was long and brown and dull looking at the bottom as it cascaded down my shoulders to just above my lower back. I had four piercings in one ear and three in the other, and all of the earrings could go for a nice deep cleaning, not just a quick dip in soapy warm water like I normally did. I made a note to find a jewelry store while I was in town. I could ignore a lot of things, but jewelry that wasn't shiny wasn't one of them. I was wearing my signature black dress, knee high velvet boots, and a hat I had gotten steamed to look like the one Waylon Jennings had always worn. It was easier to give myself an "aesthetic" so I didn't have to worry about what I would wear every time we played. It was less to pack and less to worry about losing in a random motel.
The guys were setting up on stage when I came back out. I looked around the room and saw my brother, Emmett, sitting at the bar with his wife, Rosalie (or the beauty queen as I lovingly called her), each of them with a drink in hand and laughing with the bartender. It was nice to see him happy and not stressing out about my life choices. Though, as much as he hated my lifestyle, I couldn't be that mad at him because he always did whatever he could to support me. After all, the bar we were playing tonight was Rosalie's brother's, and if it hadn't been for Emmett being good friends with him, we probably wouldn't have gotten the gig in the first place.
I walked to the stage and started helping with the equipment, trying to calm my racing heart.
Alec walked over with some beers and handed me one. I took it with a grateful smile and started the mic checks. I glanced over at Emmett again, and he started talking with Rosalie's brother, Jasper, and another girl I didn't recognize. She was a tiny little thing with short, dark hair. She seemed like she was on Rosalie's level of luxury: her clothes looked high end and her makeup was flawless. Both women looked out of place in this old honkytonk bar with its scuffed wooden floors and ancient bar.
Five minutes before we were supposed to start, Jasper walked over and officially introduced himself to the guys, thanking us for playing and welcoming us to his bar. He gave me a hug and asked me how I was. Typical small talk stuff. I hadn't seen him since Emmett and Rosalie's wedding over four years ago.
After Jasper introduced us to the crowd, I was able to push my nerves away and focus on our set. On a typical night, our songs were about eighty percent covers and about twenty percent originals. It was easier to gauge how an audience was taking us when they knew the music and could sing along. We tried our best to stay away from mainstream, pop country. A lot of our covers ranged from outlaw, southern gothic, to red dirt country as well as artists from different genres with a similar sound. Every once in a while, we'd get a wild hair and play something that sounded more along the lines of rock, but that was more typical on a night when the boys had started their drinks long before they started our set.
I was having a hard time getting my head in the game tonight, and I hoped that it didn't show in my voice or presence.
Midway through the set, Marcus got my attention and told me to switch it up a bit with something more upbeat. I wasn't sure if the audience could tell how bored I was, but the guys definitely could.
"Maybe something classic?" I asked. "CCR or Skynyrd?"
He nodded and thought for a minute, not looking like he loved the idea. "I'm thinking a little more wild. How about Fuss and Fight?"
I raised an eyebrow. "A bit of a brave choice for a chick in velvet boots, huh?"
He shrugged. "It'll get ya lit."
I sighed. He wasn't lying. "Yeah, that'll work." I conceded and walked back up to the mic. I adjusted the strings on my guitar slightly and smiled at the crowd. "Sorry y'all. The ole girl gets ornery after a while on the road." I joked as I continued to adjust the strings. There were a couple cheers, which I was thankful for. It helped me get a little more excited about the rest of the night.
I nodded to the guys, and they started the opening chords to Fuss and Fight. More cheers. I laughed.
"Hope y'all don't mind us going off brand for a minute." I said as the band continued the intro.
And then I started belting the lyrics. I got through the song easily, and the guys transitioned into the next song on the planned setlist. The rest of the night was easier. I got more into my normal headspace and started to enjoy myself.
When we finished, Alec rushed us to get everything picked up so he could go home to his wife. We loaded everything up in the van, and Alec headed out before the rest of us walked over to the bar for some drinks.
"Flawless, as always, honey." Rosalie beamed as she pulled me in for a tight hug.
I hugged her back and smiled. "Thanks, Ro. It was a fun one."
"Your E chords were a little off." Emmett interjected playfully.
I rolled my eyes. "Well, it sounds like someone failed as a teacher."
He laughed and pulled me in for one of his bear hugs. "You sounded great." He said in my ear.
Emmett and Rosalie were the walking epitome of the all-American power couple. He was tall and burly with dark eyes and dark, curly hair. She was blonde with blue eyes and curves for days. He was a little rough around the edges, and she was put together always. The doctor and the engineer. It didn't seem possible, but they were storybook perfect together. Annoyingly so.
I grabbed my drink and didn't have long to socialize at the bar before Rosalie and Emmett pulled me toward the dance floor when Copperhead Road started playing. I forgot how much fun I used to have coming out with them, but I didn't dare tell them that because I already knew the ending of that conversation.
Stop traveling, Bella. Then we could hang out all the time. You're missing out on everything here. We miss you.
I'd heard it all at least a time or two.
The truth was that just the thought of settling down made me more restless. I didn't want roots. I didn't want ties. I wanted the road to be my home. It was easier that way. There was less heartbreak that way. Less attachment. Less guilt. Less feelings.
I had a slight problem with commitment.
When the line dance ended, we went back to the bar. Rosalie and Emmett walked over to Jasper and the short girl from earlier, and I followed behind them, ready for another drink.
"Oh, Bella, I want to introduce you to my other sister-in-law!" Rosalie said excitedly, motioning to the short, dark haired girl. "This is Alice."
I smiled and held out my hand. "Nice to meet you."
She smiled brightly back and grabbed my hand, shaking it excitedly. "You were so good."
I ended up somehow sitting between Alice and Rosalie at the bar for the next hour. Alice seemed really nice, albeit a little perky. It was hard to match her energy, but I liked her. She was practically overflowing with a genuine happiness and kindness that not many people had, so I was a little shocked when out of nowhere, I heard her groan and mutter the words, "Not this bitch."
"What's wrong?" Rosalie asked her.
"My brother brought his girlfriend." She grumbled. "I fucking hate her."
I giggled uncontrollably. I was really feeling the drinks. "Oh my God, you curse? But you're so sweet and cute."
Alice smiled at me, amused at my drunken compliment. "I'm only nice to the people that deserve it."
"Awwww." I clutched my heart, pouting. "You think I deserve it?"
She nodded happily and then looked over at Rosalie. "Is she always this much of a drunk?"
Rosalie smirked. "Yup."
"I resent that." I stated. "Wholeheartedly."
Just then, I noticed a couple walking over in our direction, and I found myself completely speechless at how handsome the guy was. He was tall with messy bronze hair, gorgeous forest green eyes, and a jawline that could cut glass. He wasn't bulky like Emmett, but his muscles were practically begging to be released from the sleeves of his flannel shirt. I continued to study him as I sipped my drink. His jeans hugged his legs and body in all the right places, and that stack on top of those boots…
"Bella!" I got pulled from my daydreaming from Alice screaming my name.
"I said, do you want another drink? I'm going to need one if I have to deal with her." She said.
"Oh, um, yeah."
She nodded and got the bartender's attention.
I looked back at the couple and saw that they weren't just walking in our direction. They were walking towards us.
A drink appeared in front of me, and I gratefully started sipping on it.
"Here we go." Alice muttered.
Oh, no. At that point, I was about 90% sure the Greek god in boots was Alice's brother, which meant…
I looked over at the girl he was with. She seemed nice enough from afar, but it's hard to make that kind of judgment based on looks alone. She was tall and slender with pretty strawberry blonde hair and bangs that were styled perfectly. She definitely seemed high maintenance, but so were Alice and Rosalie. Her smile seemed genuine as she walked over, and I was a little conflicted. Alice hated her, so I hated her, too, obviously. I just wanted to know why we hated her so much.
"Edward!" Alice greeted sweetly, bounding up to Handsome Man and giving him a hug. "Hey, Tanya." She greeted, slightly less enthused.
Her brother hugged her back and passed her off to Tanya. Their hug was quick and awkward, but mainly because Alice seemed to be the one that was uncomfortable.
Why do we hate her?
"Edward, I wanted you to meet Emmett's little sister, Bella." Alice said as she pulled him towards us. "Bella, this is my brother, Edward Cullen… and his… Tanya."
I waved politely.
"Nice to meet you." He told me. His voice was deep and smooth like velvet. "Good set, by the way. Y'all sounded great."
"Thank you." I answered, slightly dazed that the embodiment of human perfection was complimenting me.
Tanya interjected then. "Yeah, it was so good."
I smiled and was about to thank her as well, but then her mouth opened again to continue saying something.
"Not really my type of music, but everyone else seemed to really enjoy it."
My mouth fell open.
A/NHi, I guess I'm back? it's been quite a while. (This is gonna be a long one, so fix yourself a whiskey drink a settle in.) If you're wondering if I'll finished my unfinished stories... no, in fact, they've already been removed. It was years ago when I wrote those, and I couldn't even begin to tell you where I was planning on going with any of those plot lines. I DO fully intend on rewriting Silent Sweetheart as I've tried to reread it recently, and I couldn't even get through the first couple of chapters. She'll be up, all new and improved soon.
On to Coffee & Bourbon: this story was very much inspired by my husband, a good ol' boy ready to find his wife but fucked up and fell in love with an over dramatic commitment phob. A disclaimer: my brand has very much changed since meeting the man of my dreams, and my hell raising tendencies have increased quite a bit. With that being said, this story will include cussing, country folk shenanigans, and consuming copious amounts of coffee and alcohol. If that's not your thing... you should probably duck out now, darlin'. What has not changed about me at all is that I hate angst and drama. This won't be straight fluff, but it'll be edgy Hallmark at best.
So without further ado... I do hope you enjoy this story, and I'll see y'all at the next chapter, bebs.