I nodded, “He is the lucky one.”

His eyes glistened, “I’m so sorry for screaming at you.”

I shook my head and leapt into his arms, “I needed it.”

He hugged me, “You and Dean are the same. You’re so clean cut and straight-laced, and you don’t see how amazing you are.”

“He can’t live without you, Erin. He can’t. No one can live the star life all the time. They need the other half.” I wanted to choke him. I wanted my job to be as important, but we both knew the truth of it.

We raced from the room, to the car, and then to Gerry’s to drop my stuff off. Dean was still there. The only time I wasn’t having a stroke, was when Dean kissed Gerry goodbye. My heart melted when he ran his hand along his jaw and pulled him in. He took my bags and my report, and gave me a wave.

Gerry got back into the car, giving me a sideways glance, “Shut up.”

I gushed, “Oh my God, you guys are so cute.”

He put a hand up, “I don’t want to jinx this one, okay? So stop!.”

I zipped my lips and beamed. He rolled his eyes.

When we got to the airport, we ran as fast as we could to catch our fight. Even the ride on the plane, didn’t stop me from obsessing. We hit turbulence and I barely batted an eyelash at it. I didn’t do my usual paper-bag thing or anything.

Nothing was going to get in the way of my desperate fears. One side was a broken heart, and the other was a barren wasteland where I lived, trapped because I never stayed with him. I never let him love me or gave him a chance.

We had barely landed and I was on my feet. I wanted to pull the emergency hatch and run down the tarmac.

We finally deplaned, which resulted in me running as fast as I could, through the airport. Gerry was wheezing behind me when we got to the taxi stand. He paced, with his hands on his hips, and finally after a second, he pointed, “Loch’s right there. Whew… Erin, I’m naturally thin. I don’t really do the whole running thing.”

I ignored his sweaty sniveling. My eyes followed his pointed finger.

Lochlan was surrounded by a group of girls. He didn’t see me. He hadn’t made it into the airport to get me. He was swamped.

He passed the paper back to the girl jumping up and down and lifted his eyes. He stopped doing what he was doing and pushed his way through them. They followed but he ignored them. He walked as fast as he could to me, scooping me up in his arms. “Sorry, I got held up.”

I shook my head, “I don’t want to do this here.”

He grinned at me, “Stop making everything so hard.” He kissed my cheek and put me down. He grabbed my hand and patted Gerry on the shoulder, “Hey man. Thanks for getting her to come here.” My stomach sunk. I’d been played. Fuck, my brother I expected—but Gerry? I gave him an evil look, but he was swamped by screaming girls. He waded through them, finally making it to where we were. We ran to my dad’s truck. Lochlan jumped in, locking the doors as we got in.

He grinned at me, “You okay?”

I frowned, “I don’t know.”

He laughed and patted my leg, “You’ll get used to this.” He drove off like a bat out of hell. I was squished between him and Gerry. Gerry gave me a grin. I shook my head, “I can’t believe, I just got played.”

Lochlan laughed, “You were acting so crazy, so angry and weird. We figured this was better than you driving me insane, and me murdering someone for the sake of doing it. I figured you’d be better at home, more normal for us both.”

I sighed, “I have classes and I start work tomorrow.”

He shook his head, “No, you don’t. I phoned Brian and told him that if a single bar in Boston, even thought about hiring you, we would break the contract.”

My right eye twitched, “Are you insane? Did you seriously just make a decision for me, without asking me?” I shook my head, “You know I keep feeling bad for how crazy I’ve been, but it’s not me. It’s you. You’re making me crazy. You think you were the only normal one before we met?”

He wrapped an arm around my shoulders. I froze until we got back to my parents’. I didn’t want Gerry to be any more uncomfortable.

I looked at Loch as he turned onto the road to home. He knew the way to my dad’s house?

Danny was out in the yard raking leaves, that at least warmed my heart. He waved at me, but I hopped out of the truck and went straight to the back of the house. Our dad kept the house from when we were kids. He worked as a lawyer in the city, but the commute never bothered him. He loved the feel of the country, that the expensive golf course we lived on provided. We each had full-acre yards and fancy houses. Mom loved the cleanliness of the city. She liked tidy lines and pavement. When they divorced, she moved downtown into a condo. It was nice and clean. She ran a very successful real estate firm. Dad did all the legal work for it… still.

I went right for the swing set and sat on the big swing. Lochlan followed me. He went behind me and gave me a big push. He spoke just loud enough, that the others couldn’t hear from the front yard, “Everyone knows you’re my girl. I can’t have you out in the public, especially in a bar like that. I have to keep you safe from all that. I don’t want you in the act with me. I want you to be the home I have in the real world.”

My eyes started to water, “Loch, this started so normally and it’s snowballed too fast. You’re not the guy I thought you were. I didn’t know you were about to skyrocket to fame, when I met you.”

“I was already there when you met me. I’m still the guy you love, Erin.” He rarely said my name. He grabbed the swing, stopping me and walked around the front. He knelt in the leaves, “That’s right, I know you love me. You don’t say it, but I know it. I was singing and I watched you fall in love with me. The difference between you and the fans, is that you know the person I am. You’ve seen it all.”

I gulped.

He shook his head, “Don’t be scared, I won’t ever be Lochlan Barlow with you. I’ll just always be your Loch.”

I couldn’t see him clearly through the tears; I grabbed either side of his scruffy face. He kissed my palm, “I need you. I need you with me to be the success, I want to be. You are the music for me.”

My lip trembled, “I’m sorry I said that about the show and you getting kicked off.”

His face came closer. He kissed my cheek, “Stop pushing me away. I’m not going anywhere. And stop running away.”

I sniffled and nodded. He wrapped my legs around his waist and pulled me into his arms. He lifted me and carried me to the back of the house. He pinned me against the siding, “I love you.”

I nodded, leaning in for the kiss. His lips didn’t brush softly, like I expected them to. They laid claim. He kissed me like he was starving for it.

Dad called from the window above us, as I was sliding my hands down the back if Loch’s shirt, probably choking him but I didn’t care. I wanted to touch his skin.

“Erin, get in this house.”

I looked up smiling, “Hey, Daddy.” He slammed he window shut.

Chapter Twelve

Cougar hunting

Mom scooped the fruit salad into bowls with the ice cream, “James, why do you insist on keeping these ugly bowls? Look at them. This one has chip in it.” She shook her head and passed out the dessert.

He gave her a grin, “One of the benefits of being divorced, Jane, is I don’t have to give a shit about those silly things. Hell, I might not even do the dishes tonight.”

She gave him a look and sat with her dessert.

He beamed. I frowned and Danny ignored it the best he could.

Mom gave Gerry a sly smile. “So Gerry, you’re the drummer?” I almost threw up.

He smiled sweetly, “I am, Mrs. Benson.”

She twirled her long, brown hair, “Jane, please. That must be quite the workout then hmmm?”

Danny winked at him, “He has strong hands.” Gerry blushed and tried to swallow his bite. Lochlan fought his laugh, pretending to be chewing, when I knew he was long done. No one chewed fruit and ice cream that long.

I needed it to end. I leaned forward to my mom, “Gerry’s dating my professor.”

She giggled like a fucking schoolgirl, “Oh, you like older women, Gerry?”

I gagged. Danny coughed on his fruit. Loch smacked him on the back, fully laughing, “Erin’s prof is a man, Mrs. Benson.”

Her face flushed, “Oh, wow. Good for you.”

I cringed and gave Gerry a look. He laughed, “Thanks, he’s quite the score I will admit.”

My dad gave me a quizzical look. I shook my head, “So, I guess we won’t be coming for Thanksgiving, since we’re here this week.”

Danny looked like he might cry, “Mom and Dad are coming to Boston.” I could kill him. He started this. He had to bring Lochlan here to lure me from my hiding place. Fucking fuck. I took a deep breath, downed my entire glass of wine and looked at my father with desperation.

Dad lifted his eyebrows, “You know I love that city. And we really want to see Thin Ice live in a small and intimate setting, before they only play places like Madison Square Gardens and The Fargodome.”

Gerry gave me a look, “Oh my God, I love Fargo. I knew your accent sounded familiar.”

I sighed, “I don’t have an accent.”

He laughed, “Oh man, Fargo is in North Dakota?” He smacked his head, “Wait, what was that line they always said?” His eyes opened wide, “The heck do ya mean?” He looked like he might pounce on Danny, “Say it.”

Danny snorted and did it perfectly, “The heckdoya mean?” He grinned and spooned the last of the ice cream into his mouth.

I covered my eyes. Dad instantly did it, “The heckdoya mean?”

I nodded and glanced at Lochlan. He smiled wide, “So many things explained in one meal.” I swatted him. He caught my hand and kissed it.

My mom turned it on thick, seeing Dad and Danny getting attention, “Oh jeeze.”

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