The last thing Alan Freemont is expecting when he finishes his latest makeup gig and heads to Oak Grove, Arkansas, for a long-deserved vacation is to discover a wrecked tour bus. No. The last thing he's expecting is for the tour bus to belong to part of Andrew Lyon's band. Wait. No, again. The LAST thing he's expecting is to meet Andrew Lyon and discover that the man is more than just pretty, but smart, too. And needy, because three of Andrew's closest friends were on that bus. Only two of them made it.
Andrew Lyon has been having a relatively good year. Sure there have been disagreements between him and his record label, but what else is new? Then he gets an early morning call that changes everything. One of his closest friends is dead and two others might be following soon after. Alan Freemont, the man who discovered the accident, turns out to be a Godsend.
Can the men -- one on the periphery of celebrity and the other a favorite media target -- find their way to something real when intense emotions, paparazzi and an abundance of fans descend on the small town? Andrew isn't sure. He's already suffered enough loss already, hasn't he?
Maybe. Maybe not. If Alan has his way, he'll see to it that Andrew doesn't lose anything more.
It was only when they'd all left the truck and were walking through the front doors of the hospital that Andrew realized he was relieved that the bleached blond, tattooed and pierced guy was a local, rather than Alan Freemont. He chalked that up to being so glad that he and the guys had made it to the hospital so quickly, even if there had been a helicopter involved. That and, this JB guy obviously knew people. Maybe he'd be able to find something out if the hospital wouldn't talk to them.
JB led them to the elevator and up to the ICU waiting room. Andrew met Dr. Tommy Paulson, who'd seen to his friends during their most vulnerable moments. He wasn't at all the middle-aged, aw-shucks-want-some-lemonade type Andrew had expected. In fact, Dr. Paulson was young and attractive, in addition to being well-spoken and obviously highly educated, just as JB had said. Even Tony seemed impressed after a few minutes of conversation.
Andrew didn't know how much time passed. It felt like forever but could have been as little as five minutes between meeting the doctor and the moment that had Andrew feeling even more shocked than he'd already been. He barely noticed it at first, really.
A door Andrew hadn't even seen opened at the far end of the ICU waiting room. The light pouring out of that small opening went out. A shape moved from the darkness into the light and Andrew… stared.
The man was tall, or at least taller than Andrew's own five foot nine. Not by more than a couple inches, but still.
He was slender but toned. Andrew suspected there was no six-pack under the man's shirt but there were probably hints of one.
Black hair, so dark and lustrous that Andrew thought he saw blue highlights -- the natural sort -- in the muted sunlight pouring through the tinted windows.
Pale skin, sharp cheekbones, arched brows that might possibly be sculpted slightly but Andrew couldn't fault the man for that… and big eyes. Big, wide, bluer-than-blue eyes.
Eyes that found his and speared into him, laid him bare. Eyes so full of shattered emotion that Andrew wanted to go to the man and hold him. Promise him that everything would be all right. That was when Andrew realized that there were two different kinds of shock racing through him. One was directly related to Caro and Kill-kill and oh, God, Pete. Pete was dead. Jesus Christ, Pete was dead and the twins were maybe dying. Christ, how was he supposed to even process that?
The other variety of shock coursing electric in his blood had nothing to do with anything but the man before him and it shouldn't feel good. Pete was fucking dead and Andrew was… what? Cruising the hospital? God, he was so fucked up. Always had been, even if no one else knew it, but that seemed to take a back seat, somehow.
The stranger said something to Dr. Paulson and the doctor frowned, then shook his head. "I swear, Alan. Only you," he said before turning back to finish whatever he'd been saying to Tony and Darian.
Andrew didn't know where the impulse came from, but he heard himself speaking. Felt himself stepping forward, one hand held out as he said, "You must be Alan Freemont."
The so-beautiful man with the brilliant but sorrowful eyes offered a muted smile while he accepted the hand Andrew had offered.
"Must I?" The man's lips, a deep pinkish-red, twitched at the corner, a very vague and slightly mocking tone to his voice as he spoke on. "Well, okay. If you insist. And you're Andrew Lyon. I'm glad you made it."
Andrew blinked, hoping the action would make him stop seeing Alan as being so damned perfect. It didn't, but he kept trying. He wasn't the sort to give up, and there was no way Alan Freemont could be so right. So gorgeous. Except he must be because when Andrew finally did manage to force his eyes away, he saw that Darian and Tony both looked almost as poleaxed as he felt. Well, maybe half as much. Possibly as little as a third. Whatever.
Andrew forced himself to swallow roughly in an attempt to clear the sudden sensation that his throat was blocked. "I wish I hadn't needed to," he admitted. "I'd be much happier if my whole band was in Dallas right now. Alive and not… God. Not messed up. Fuck, I can't do this. I really, really can't!" It was too much. Again. Or maybe it had never stopped being too much but Andrew had simply missed it with all the confusion and rushing around to get to this hospital in the middle of bum-fuck nowhere. Too fucking much. He couldn't… God, he couldn't breathe.
He turned. Tried to leave. Felt hands on him -- one on his shoulder, one on his hip.
He turned, ready to yell at Tony, but it wasn't Tony who'd followed him the four steps he'd managed.
"I can't do this," Andrew whispered to that bluer-than-blue gaze, though he'd planned to shout. "They're my…"
"Family," Alan finished for him when he trailed off. "I get it. They're not mine, but I get it. Everyone is somebody's family. I'm so sorry. I wish I could have driven faster. Found them sooner. I'm so sorry, Andrew."
Long, slender, surprisingly strong arms wrapped around him and Andrew resisted for about half a minute. Thirty seconds that felt like forever. Then he felt something like a sob leave his own mouth and his arms went around Alan's waist. The next thing Andrew knew, he was crying into the shoulder of Alan's shirt, getting it damp and gross. Not that Alan seemed to care because the man's face was pressed against the side of his head and unless Andrew was completely mistaken, there was a gathering dampness that could only be caused by more tears. Alan's tears.