CHAPTER 2

Whiskey made me feisty. So, it was no surprise when my eyes narrowed, and I opened my mouth to tell Tanya where she could shove her opinions. I didn't get the chance. Rosalie quickly saw what was about to happen and changed the subject by complimenting Tanya's outfit.

"Oh, thank you so much. I got it at the cutest little designer boutique in Dallas."

Of course, she did. I took a sip of my drink and tried to hide my eye roll.

Alice took her seat next to me again and flashed me a knowing look before taking a deep gulp of her own drink.

Edward seemed to sense the uneasiness in the area around us and brought Tanya with him to greet Jasper and Emmett.

"Fucking bitch." I muttered, turning in my stool and facing the bar again.

"Try having Thanksgiving dinner with her. You know she had the audacity to tell my momma her pecan pie was great but could do well with a little extra vanilla." Alice said.

I gasped. "She didn't!"

"She did!" Alice insisted.

"Not the pecan pie!" I cried.

Alice nodded. "Yes! The fucking pecan pie."

"Bless her heart." Rosalie muttered, calling the bartender over to get another beer. "It can never just be a nice, drama free evening with her."

"My set was good, right?" I asked them.

"What? Yes! You were amazing. Don't listen to her. She's just bitter and wants to bring everyone else down. Daddy's money bought her everything but a heart." Alice said.

"Wow… That was actually really good, Alice." I complimented. "I think I have goosebumps."

She smiled. "Yeah, I might keep that one in the back for special occasions… You wanna use it in a song?"

"Ya know, I may actually—"

We were interrupted by someone's arm cutting between me and Alice as its owner leaned on the bar. "Could you be a little less obvious in your hatred of my girlfriend, please?" Edward seethed.

He was handsome and smelled good, but I wasn't about to let him lay into his sister when his girlfriend was obviously the problem. Rosalie wasn't quick enough to stop me this time.

"Could your girlfriend be a little less obvious in being a bitch?" I asked nonchalantly before taking a sip of my drink.

Edward slowly turned his head to me. "I'm sorry?"

I looked at him and raised an eyebrow. "Did I stutter?"

He looked back at Alice. "Now you have complete strangers in on it?"

Alice rolled her eyes. "Oh please, you know Tanya was out of line for what she said to Bella. That was a backhanded compliment if I've ever heard one, and it was completely uncalled for."

Edward sighed.

"I'm a nice person, Edward. You know I'm a nice person. I mean, I just met her tonight, and we're already besties." She continued, gesturing to me.

Edward glanced at me again, and I waved innocently.

He sighed again heavily, slowly stood up straight, and rested each of his hands on the back of Alice's and my chairs. "I am sorry about that. Why don't I buy a drink?" He asked me.

I smiled sweetly. "Whiskey coke and make it a double."

He nodded and walked around behind the bar.

I looked at Alice. "Can he do that?" I asked, pointing at him as he started making the drink.

She just shrugged. "That's above my paygrade, Bella."

I watched as he effortlessly worked behind the bar. I could tell he was showing off a little bit, flipping the bottle and smirking over at me as he poured the whiskey in the glass. He slid it over to me when he was finished, winked, and exited the bar area, walking back over to where Tanya was talking to a very annoyed looking Jasper.

I must have looked completely captivated because Alice laughed and shook her head. "Don't encourage him, honey. It only makes it worse."

But I continued to unapologetically ogle at him as he laughed with Jasper. He looked to be about Jasper and Rosalie's age, late twenties. His features were more mature, and he had slight lines forming at the corner of his eyes.

"I thought you weren't looking for a guy." Rosalie accused when she saw me still staring.

"I'm not." I replied quickly. "But I can still appreciate a handsome man."

"Mmhmm." She hummed smugly.

"What?" I snapped.

She only shrugged, looking all too innocent.

I huffed and took a sip from my drink. "My life isn't exactly conducive to a stable relationship, Rosalie. Besides, he has a girlfriend."

"How convenient." She mumbled.

Here we go.

I rolled my eyes but remained silent, too drunk and in too much of a good mood to deal with her snide remarks at the moment. I chanced one last glance at Edward and immediately made eye contact with his piercing green eyes. I quickly looked back down and let out a shaky breath.

Get it together, Swan. Those country boys are all the same.

The next morning, I woke up with an achy neck and a throbbing head. I rolled off the sofa and stumbled to the bathroom. When I emerged, Emmett was making his way out of his bedroom and into the kitchen. He looked as rough as I felt, possibly worse off.

"How are you already up? I thought you'd be sleeping until this afternoon with how trashed you were last night." He remarked, a hint of jealousy in his voice.

I shrugged.

Rosalie walked in then. "She's twenty-one, Emmett. We were the same way when we were her age. And now we're knocking on thirty's door complaining about our joints hurting when it gets cold outside… Well, I'm still knocking at least." She joked, poking Emmett's side. He was thirty-one and always the old man in the group.

Emmett grumbled something to himself as I laughed and waited anxiously for the coffee to finish dripping.

"So, Bella, how long will we be graced with your pretty face and wonderful company?" Rosalie asked after a few moments of silence.

"I'm not sure, Rose. I was thinking about maybe heading somewhere east for a while. I haven't decided where or when yet."

I heard Emmett sigh heavily, and I didn't say anything as an awkward silence fell around us. The coffee pot chimed that it was done brewing, but none of us made a move to get any. Eventually, Emmett spoke.

"How long are you going to keep doing this, Bella?" He sounded defeated.

This was different from the other times. He wasn't pushing. He wasn't blaming. It was more like pleading.

My heart felt heavy, and I tried to push the guilt away. I knew how much worrying about me affected him. He didn't like me being on the road or staying in bars until the early morning hours, especially if the band wasn't with me. He hated that my only income came from the gigs I played and the bars I tended in the random little towns that I decided to make my home for a couple weeks every few months.

"Emmett…" I trailed off, begging him not to have this conversation with me while we were both cranky and hungover.

"You had a full scholarship. And you threw it away for what? To be a self-made gypsy, hellbent on proving a point? I don't get it, Bella."

I hung my head down, avoiding his eyes.

"You could've played in college. You could've done everything you're doing now, and you'd have a degree at the end of it when you were ready to settle down. Now what are you going to do?"

I sighed angrily and looked up at him with narrowed eyes. "I don't know why everyone keeps trying to get me to settle down. I'm twenty-one. I have my whole life to settle down. If I ever do. Because why should I, Emmett? I like traveling. I like the nightlife. I love the people I meet. I don't want to give up the freedom I have."

He shook his head. "You're not free though, Bella. You're surviving."

I looked to the corner of the room, too angry to even look in his direction. "I'm going to go shower. Thanks for letting me crash here last night." I mumbled and trudged out of the room.

I didn't want to leave the warm water. I didn't want to leave the safety of the bathroom. I wasn't ready for what was waiting for me when I got out. I wasn't ready to admit that maybe Emmett was partially right. That maybe one day I would be ready to hang up my hat and all I'd be left with was nothing but a failed dream and an out of tune, beat up guitar.

When the water turned cold, I begrudgingly shut off the shower and wrapped the towel around me before walking to the living room to grab my bag. Rosalie was sitting on the recliner, sipping her coffee, waiting for me.

"He means well." She said softly.

"He has a funny way of showing it."

"He's worried about you, Bella. We both are. I mean we never know who you're with or what you're doing with them."

"You're not my parents, and I'm not fifteen. You don't need to know." I snapped as I bent down to my duffel bag. "It's bad enough that Emmett and dad make me share my location with them on my phone." I muttered.

"We need to know when it could get you arrested. Or killed." Her voice was angry, and tears stung at my eyes. I couldn't remember the last time Rosalie had lost her temper with me, and I looked up to her too much to not let it bother me.

I blinked the tears away and continued silently digging through my bag for clothes.

Rosalie sighed. "I know you're just after some good hearted fun, Bella, and a couple stolen road signs and getting cross faded on a back road isn't what I'm talking about here. You don't know these guys that you're going home with. You don't know anything about them."

I froze and turned to look at her wide eyes.

She arched a perfectly manicured brow. "Did you honestly expect me to believe that you were playing these gigs and not getting laid at least sixty percent of the time after? I saw you with Alice's brother last night."

I sighed and fell back onto the sofa. "It's honestly more like twenty percent of the time." I defended.

She looked like she didn't believe me.

"It's true. You're right. I don't know anything about them, and I don't have a death wish. I am careful."

I wasn't lying to her. The short moments I enjoyed during the night with those guys always paled in comparison to how awful and gross I felt the next morning. A couple of times, when I'd stay in one place for a couple of weeks, I'd meet someone that was genuine. Someone that honestly cared. But when they got too close, I'd get the hell out of town. I'd always warn them. I told them that you can't ever really fall in love with a drifter without getting your heart broken in the process. They knew what they were getting into.

So did you.

I pushed the voice away.

"Can you just humor us?" Rosalie asked softly. "Just one month. Stay in Fort Worth for one month. It doesn't even have to be here with me and Emmett. Jasper has a vacant apartment above the bar. I'm sure he'd let you bartend. Just stay put for a while. Come home."

I hated the idea. It made my stomach twist in knots, but it was hard not to oblige when I knew how much Emmett and Rosalie had done for me, regardless of how they really felt about my choices.

"Fine. One month."

What did she expect? That one month here would have me trading my bellbottoms for pencil skirts?

I snorted to myself. Please. As if.

A/NLet me know what you think. Until the next chapter, bebs.