Nash Bainbridge crashed on the cymbal, the heavy vibration ringing through his chest as it joined the voices filling the room. A guitar whined in the background, marking out the last phrase of the song before the music sharply faded. Nash clamped his fingers around the smooth metal, cutting off the sound, leaving an empty void in the air. Sweat beaded his forehead, raspy breaths mixing with the silence. He lowered his drumsticks. They'd been practicing for hours, but they'd finally nailed the damn song.
He looked at the other two men and smiled. "About fucking time. I thought we were going to be in here all night."
Landon nodded, easing the guitar strap off his shoulder as he placed it in the stand. "What can I say...perfection doesn't come easy, mate." He motioned to the drums. "Nice sequence at the end. Who knew you were so talented."
Nash sighed. Landon rarely said anything without sarcasm dripping down the edges.
Nash crossed his arms on his chest, trying to look serious. "Well, I figured one of us had to bring up the level." He laughed when Landon swatted at his head. "Just kidding. Besides, that falsetto thing you did at the end...brilliant, man."
Landon shrugged. "It's not that hard. You see, when you haven't had sex in nearly two years, your balls literally crawl up inside you, and voila, you're an altar boy again."
Nash chuckled, though the truth of the statement hit home harder than he'd anticipated. He glanced over at Mace. He hadn't said a damn thing, and Nash knew the casual comment wouldn't help the man's mood any.
He reached out and tugged on Mace's sleeve. "You okay? You haven't even tried to hit Landon, yet, for his dumbass comment."
Mace grunted, finally turning to face them. "Dumbass or not, it's true."
Nash speared a look at Landon before staring back at Mace. "It's only true because we let it. We never had trouble finding women before--"
"Before what? Before we stopped touring? Before the fucking accident that killed everyone else?" Mace huffed and shoved his hands in his pockets, looking as if he was praying the simple act would prevent him from hitting someone. "Before something inside us snapped and...and made us this way?"
Landon cursed and stepped into the fray. "There's nothing bloody wrong with the way we are, mate. We don't have to measure ourselves by what fucking society thinks is appropriate. Loving the way we do doesn't hurt anyone."
"Doesn't it?" Mace pulled back and stormed to the far wall, slamming a fist against the padding. "If there's nothing wrong with the way we love, then why the fuck can't we find a woman who shares your sentiment?" He turned, shaking out his hand. "You know as well as I do...finding three women was never the issue. It's finding one."
"It's hard to find any woman when we never leave the damn house." Nash moved forward and stopped between the two men. "Besides, arguing about this is pointless. We are what we are--"
Mace sneered at him. "Fucked up!"
"Different." Nash motioned to the door. "I think we should head back to the house and cool off before the two of you decide to go a few rounds. We'll never get this damn album made if Landon's out with a broken hand for six weeks."
"Hey, who says it'll be me with the broken hand?"
Nash chuckled at the insulted look on Landon's face. "Because he's built like a Neanderthal and you...well, you're much more of the pretty-boy type."
Landon smiled, swatting at his arm. "You know, I'd be mighty insulted if I didn't know how bloody sexy I am. Come on, Mace. I put a fresh case of Fuller's in the fridge."
Mace grunted but followed, patting Nash's arm as he walked by. "You know I hate that British malt. I want a beer I can drink, not chew."
"Relax, mate. I also bought some Bass Ale for you weaker lads."
Nash sighed as Mace rolled his eyes. At least, they were back to joking. Nash grabbed the handle and pulled the door to the studio shut behind him. He relaxed at the familiar sound of the lock tumbling into place and headed for the house. The moon already rose above the distant hills, casting a soft glow across the ground. The sweet scent of freshly mowed grass mixed with the heady fragrance of lilacs just starting to bloom. The aroma carried past him on a gentle breeze as the three men made their way toward the terrace. Thankfully, one of them had left a few lights on, though he couldn't remember who.
He quickened his pace. "Hey, which one of you guys left the lights on?"
Mace stopped, frowning. "What the hell are you muttering about now?"
Nash pointed at the house. "The lights, Einstein. They're on and considering we headed for the studio around noon, I thought it was pretty fucking amazing that one of you had the forethought to even turn them on." He paused, scowling at their obvious confusion. "You guys don't even know what forethought means, do you."
Mace glared at him, glancing over at Landon. "I understood the question, smartass, I just assumed you'd done it. Landon prefers to stumble into things and I really don't give a fuck, so..."
Nash waited for him to finish, but his voice just trailed off. Nash snapped his fingers in front of the man. "Hello. Mace. You sure you didn't already crack into that case of Fuller's?"
Irritation crawled down his spine, and Nash had to clench his fists to keep from shouting in Mace's face. What the hell was wrong with him tonight? It was no secret their sex life was dead and buried with as much chance of being resurrected as disco, but shit, he didn't have to act like a complete asshole. Nash took a soothing breath, hoping it would have some kind of calming effect. Mace cut him off before he'd even had a chance to begin.
"Wait." Mace took a step closer. "Do you guys hear something?"
Nash turned to look behind him, certain Mace was finally taking that last step off the deep end, when a low hum drifted across the courtyard. He glanced at Landon, but the man's expression said it all.
He tried to shake off the cold shiver that beaded his skin. "It's probably just a couple of trucks out on the interstate. It's a clear night. The noise tends to travel."
Mace shook his head. "I don't think so. Sounds way too close." He stiffened when a low vibration joined the hum. "Fuck."
Nash felt Mace shove him sideways as a beam of light flashed to life beside the studio. Landon caught him, but only slowed his fall as Mace took them both to the ground. The impact knocked the wind out of him, and he gasped in a breath as the sound of tires roared past them.
"Move!" Mace grabbed him by the arm and pulled him up. "Head for the terrace. Run!"
Nash stumbled forward, half-carried by Mace as the smell of burnt rubber lit the air. Brakes screeched behind him as the dark SUV skidded sideways on the walkway, spraying gravel across the pavement. Nash heard the tiny stones bounce off a series of retaining walls before the lights illuminated them from behind, casting large, ghost-like shadows ahead of them. Tires squealed, piercing the momentary silence as the vehicle jumped forward. Chunks of grass pelted the ground as the driver revved the engine, spinning the tires on the wet lawn.
Nash found his balance and sprinted for the terrace, Mace keeping himself between the other two men and the vehicle bearing down on them. Nash cursed, knowing Mace would stay behind them, even though he was fast enough to dart past. The SUV picked up speed, the tires finally finding purchase on a narrow walkway. Nash dropped his head and pushed harder, vaulting over the small wall at a full run. The force of the leap sent him flying across the stone surface, and he rolled to a halt just shy of the sliding glass doors. Landon spun in behind him followed closely by Mace.
Nash looked up, but the driver swerved clear of the brick, careening across the grounds before fading out of sight beyond the garage. Pain prickled at the edge of his conscience, but he couldn't think past the thrumming of his heart.
"What the bloody hell was that about?" Landon pushed to his knees, cursing. "Shit. I cut my damn leg open."
"How the fuck did someone get past security and on the grounds in a SUV?" Mace turned to Nash. "I thought we had gates and shit to stop this kind of crap."
"We do!" Nash shook his head, shaking out his arm. Pain blazed up his shoulder, but it seemed distant compared to the tumbling feeling in his gut. "Maybe they cut through the fence or something. How the hell should I know?" He glanced behind them, bile cresting the back of his throat. He tapped Mace on the shoulder.
Mace turned to face him. "What?"
Nash pointed inside the house, watching as the color drained from Mace's face.
Mace's jaw clenched, his lips pulling tight as he stared at the words written in red across the far wall. Justice for all. He swallowed forcefully. "Damn. I think this goes beyond simple security." He gave them both a hardened look before glancing back at where the SUV had disappeared. "We might be in some serious trouble."