Like the Wind Epilogue
The best part of living with a female was free food all day, every day. Sometimes, when I got really lucky, like today, I’d have my pick of an elaborate culinary spread. Going from tray to tray, Terrance and I popped appetizers into our mouths like dogs swiping food off the counter before our owners had a chance to swat us away.
“Maybe you two could leave something for the guests,” Betsy suggested.
Showing no mercy for the soon-to-be-arriving visitors, Terrance shoved a stuffed olive into his mouth. “I suppose we could.”
I grinned, high-fiving my mealtime buddy. It was always smart to surround yourself with like-minded people, and Terrance and I… we were beginning to morph into one.
“Besides, Betsy,” I said, “you need us.”
“Yeah? How do you figure?”
“Perhaps you two forgot what happened on Thanksgiving.”
“Oh, yeah.” Terrance grimaced, the memory now fresh in all our minds. “That was not a good day to be in my pants.”
“No,” Betsy confirmed. “It definitely was not.”
Breeze blew into the kitchen, her hair a gush of auburn curls and her skin highlighted in a sunny glow. I always admired the beauty in my girl, but today – oh, man, she had me awestruck. How was it I could fall deeper and deeper in love with her every day?
Gulping back my appreciation, I spoke between mouthfuls of crackers. “Damn, woman, you’re a smoke show.”
Her lashes fluttered ever so flirty-like, and when she stretched up in her slip-on Vans and planted a kiss on my willing lips, I was a goner. Everything about her was a cool, crisp wonder. God, I was so lucky.
“Are these jeans too tight?” she asked, rearranging them on her hips. “The struggle was real.”
“Babe, in my expert opinion, they’re not tight enough.”
“Good answer.” She laughed. “Of course, I’m not sure how much weight I can give your opinion. You did get turned on last night when I was wearing that green facemask.”
“Hey,” I countered. “You looked sexy… in a gangrene sort of way.”
“Ah, true love,” Terrance mused.
“They remind me of us when we were young,” Betsy sighed, before drawing her daughter into her arms. “Sweetie, you look like you’re smiling from the inside out.”
“I am,” Breeze replied, beaming as she settled her gaze on me. “I never thought I could be this happy.”
Nor had I. The past year with Breeze had surpassed expectations. After the end of AnyDayNow, life had taken one unexpected turn after another. Since I’d been coming from an environment where every last minute of my day had been accounted for, Breeze had been the sorely needed shock to my system. Being by her side was like living in a Technicolor movie. Everything was brighter and more in focus than ever before… and ours was a show I never wanted to end.
True to my word, Breeze and I traveled across country in a rented motorhome. Touring the world with the guys, I thought I knew everything it had to offer, but that was before I got to experience it through Breeze’s spirited eyes. Suddenly, the Banana Museum seemed as interesting a place to visit as Buckingham Palace.
“Oh, crap!” The meatball Terrance had been preparing to consume had taken an unexpected death plunge to the ground, and as he bent down to pick it up, he was met with snarling and snapping as a set of menacing two-millimeter teeth prepared to devour him whole.
Delivering hushed instructions, I bravely stepped between the two warring factions. “Terrance, do exactly as I say. Slowly back away from the dog. That’s it, nice and slow.”
As Breeze’s father retreated to safety, I narrowed in on my tiny nemesis – Satan’s cocksure Chihuahua himself – Little Dick Beckett.
“You really want to do this?” I asked him, more as a challenge than a question.
His demonic growling told me oh yes, he really did. To my archenemy, the tasty meatball was worth a bloody round of combat. But I’d learned a thing or two about dealing with His Furry Highness, and all of it included protective oven mitts.
“LD…” Breeze began to reason with the canine. “You’re on a strict diet…”
“No offense, Breeze, but it’s a meatball. Any chance you had of making a deal with the devil went away when it hit the floor. Now, step aside. Let the pro handle this.”
She laughed and waved her hand. “By all means. Please, handle as you see fit.”
Grabbing the oven mitts, I advanced, ready to scoop him up and deposit him into the dog crate that had become his kingdom. But Little Dick wasn’t going down without a fight, and grabbing hold of the top of the gloves, he shook his head back and forth like a big cat violently shakes its prey to a bloody demise. Suddenly the idea of my severed fingers crammed inside his vindictive mouth wasn’t so appealing, and I scrambled backward. Little Dick took advantage of my hasty retreat to gobble up the meatball, and then casually walked away as if our confrontation had meant nothing to him.
“God, he sucks,” I complained. “Why can’t we get a normal Breeze-type dog? You know, like the ones that crawl out of manholes with a single eyeball dangling off their foreheads. Because, seriously, dealing with a mixed-breed Cyclops would be easier to handle than that shithead.”
Breeze gave me that look – the one that said I had no right to complain. It was, after all, my fault we were now Lucifer’s next of kin. Just before Breeze and I set out on our cross-country motorhome trip nearly a year ago, we’d received a frantic call from the Kufrin family, pleading for us to take their little menace in. Even though their home had not sustained fire damage, it would take months for the utilities to be restored to that area, so the family had been forced to move into a rental.
As expected, the arrogant Chihuahua, formally known as Sweetpea, immediately made the wrong impression on… well, every living soul he came in contact with, and suddenly, those teeth of his were sending him on a collision course with euthanasia.
There had been no question in our minds that we’d give the pup a home. Little Dick was a part of our story, and for better or worse, he’d always have a safe haven with us. Besides, at night, tuckered out after a day of diabolical plotting, Little Dick would always curl up on my lap just like he had the night of the fire and fall fast asleep. And then I loved him – more than I cared to admit.
Breeze knocked me in the leg for the twelfth time since Mason and Dane had started in on a conversation that looked like it might end with a visit to a Motel 6. That smug I-told-you-so expression on her face said it all. Since that first concert when I’d gathered Breeze, her parents, Mason and my newly resurrected family in Los Angeles for one of AnyDayNow’s last performances, she’d insisted the two were meant to be. And yes, they’d hit it off at the first concert, but Dane was busy with the tour and Mason was struggling through withdrawal. Both had gone their separate ways – until now.
Since finding love myself, I was all for spreading it around, and certainly there was no one more deserving than loyal Dane. But I wasn’t as excited about their connection as Breeze was, because even though I had nothing against Mason, he was a troubled dude, and I had a sinking suspicion it would be my friend on the losing end of this uneven pairing. Still, the chemistry between the two was electric enough that there was no way either one of them was getting off the train at the next stop.
Dane wasn’t the only Dayer in attendance. Hunter, married and with a baby on the way, had made the trip too. As had Shawn and his current baby mama. I only say that because the last one had proved to be a fraud, passing off her groupie baby to more than one potential pop star papa. And once the first round of DNA testing cleared him of paternity, Shawn celebrated with a fresh new round of women, only to find himself right back where he started.
RJ was the only former band mate not at my place, and that wasn’t for lack of trying. We’d originally planned our get-together for the following week, but we’d been forced to rearrange at the last minute due to unforeseen circumstances. And since RJ was back in the grind after launching a successful solo career, his schedule didn’t allow reshuffling.
Although RJ had been the first to break out on his own, the rest of us weren’t sitting around idly. The year I’d taken off from concerts and touring had been a crucial one. Little by little, I’d been working my way toward the goal of singing the songs that meant something to me. And now, without my father pushing his agenda and without the hitmakers shoving their fluff songs down my throat, I was finally in the position to choose.
Our cross-country trip had solidified my vision of a rock career. Stopping at open mic nights as often as we could, I’d hide under a disguise, strum my guitar, and often sing for twelve hammered assholes. And yeah, sometimes I was booed off the stage, but sometimes… sometimes magic happened. That was the feeling I was going for; the reason I loved music. And the reason I would never stop singing.
I turned toward my father, who was deep in a discussion with Betsy. What a difference a year made. Tucker was no longer the demanding dictator with a boner for world domination. Seeing the error of his ways, he’d gone to work not only fixing himself but also making amends for his earlier mistakes. Out of nowhere, the uptight man who’d raised me was learning to laugh again. The change in him was profound, and I wasn’t sure how much of it had to do with our heart-to-heart on Breeze’s patio or the counseling he was now receiving to deal with the unresolved feelings of his mother’s death.
More likely, his sudden transformation had everything to do with Evan. In a bizarre turn of events, Tucker became Evan’s ‘Eddie’ after all. He’d stepped up for Marni’s second son just as he had for me, and with one look at Evan, it was clear the profound effect he’d had on my little brother. Evan was no longer an angry teen on a downward spiral. With Tucker’s support and guidance, he was thriving in school and learning to play the bass guitar. Music was something that flowed through our blood. After all, Marni had once been a beautiful and talented singer until addiction brought her to her knees.
But Tucker had seen to it that Marni’s life would not be mine, nor would it be Evan’s. He’d taken two boys who were not his own, and not only did he provide for us a safe haven, but he gave us a future. I thought about everything I had; everything he’d given me in life. Without him, I wouldn’t be here today. I wouldn’t have Breeze. I wouldn’t have…
Choking up, I called to him. “Hey, Dad.”
Tucker turned in his seat. “Yeah?”
His confusion was understandable. “For what?” he asked.
I swallowed back the lump forming in my throat. It had taken me time to fully grasp what Tucker had done for me, but now that I knew, I’d never forget. “For saving me.”
My words hit him hard, and his bottom lip quivered as tears flooded his eyes.
“Yeah,” Evan pitched in. “Ditto for me.”
Too touched to respond, Tucker rose from the couch. Evan and I did the same, and right there in the middle of the living room, the three of us sealed our bond. I only wished Jonah could have been there to share in the moment, but earlier commitments had kept him at home.
Feeling the emotions right alongside us, all our guests were dabbing at their eyes. Well, everyone but Shawn.
“Why are you crying, Bodhi?” he asked, nodding toward me in a knowing manner. “Is it because of your haircut?”
The room erupted, tears morphing into laughter, and I jumped onto Shawn and delivered a playful beatdown.
“So, Tucker, is Evan going to be your new superstar client?” Hunter asked.
Evan laughed. “Not unless I suddenly grow some talent.”
“Don’t listen to him. He’s a natural. But no. All I want is for Evan to focus on school and be a normal teenager.”
“Wow, such a novel concept,” I said, with no contempt attached to the jab.
“Right?” Tucker smiled. “Besides, I already signed my next star, and he’s going to be huge.”
Every Dayer in the room swiveled their head in Tucker’s direction. “Really? Who?”
“Well, it’s a band called Sketch Monsters, but it’s the lead singer who’s going to bring the house down.”
“That talented?” I asked, intrigued by this new information.
He nodded. “But it’s not just that. He’s also got a pedigree that’s just out of the frickin’ world.”
Barely able to contain himself, Dane abandoned Mason altogether to get the inside scoop. “Who?”
“You ever heard of Jake McKallister?”
I deflated. Tucker was just playing with us. “You’re so full of shit. Why would Jake join a band? He’s a superstar.”
“Not Jake… my new client is Quinn McKallister, his youngest brother. Mark my words, boys, that kid is going to put me back on the map.”
“God help him,” I replied.
A sudden commotion sounded from down the hall, and Breeze jumped to her feet.
“Finally,” she said.
“You want me to go?” I asked, as eager as she to get to the source of the escalating noise bouncing off the walls.
Braiding her fingers into mine, Breeze pulled me to her. “Together?”
And the glittery rock on her ring finger proved it. During a stop in Vegas, Breeze and I had impulsively tied the knot. One minute we were tooling down the interstate and the next, we were standing at the altar with a tuxedo-clad Little Dick standing in as my best man.
When you knew, you knew, and we saw no reason to wait. Of course, our impromptu decision hadn’t been a popular one in the parent circle, so we appeased them with a more traditional ceremony a few months later. But that didn’t change the fact that, two months after we met, Breeze and I were married.
And now, just eleven months after our Vegas nuptials, she and I were walking hand in hand down the hallway of the home we owned together. As we reached the door, I drew Breeze into my arms and kissed her.
My wife, and now… the mother of my child.
Walking into the room, we gazed down at our five-day-old baby boy.
“Hey, Alexander,” I said, stroking my finger over his smooth cheek. “We’ve got some people we want you to meet.”