Sometimes life throws you a slider. Other times it throws you a heater, the ol’ number one, the fast pitch. Right now I’d give anything for those two instead of the curveball thrown my way.
We got back from the tour, Lucy had the quadruplets—yeah, quads. Can you believe that shit? Little Lucy Russo with four babies in her belly. I shake my head remembering how big she was. Crazy.
It was the night before Christmas Eve when I got the telegram. I didn’t even know they sent those things anymore. It was from Sydney. I thought it might have been some sort of a joke at first, but it wasn’t—unfortunately.
Sydney Julius was my high school girlfriend and the only girl I ever allowed myself to love. We’d been together since freshman year—steady and solid—until Senior year. When she told me she was pregnant.
When she told me, I was scared. I’m not gonna lie, that’s some heavy shit right there. I mean—a baby. A child. My child. But it turned out to be a false alarm. Six weeks late, six negative pregnancy tests later—that’s what she said with a smile. I took a huge breath of relief. It’s not like I don’t want kids. I do. I just wasn’t ready at seventeen.
Then the unthinkable happened. One day out of the blue she told me her family was moving to Tennessee. While that’s not too far from Chicago, there was no way in hell my junker of a car was gonna make it there.
When the time for goodbyes came, we didn’t say them. We said, ‘see you soon’, or I did anyway. I think I always knew for her it was goodbye. I felt it when their car pulled off down the road and she didn’t look back and wave out the back window like she’d done for the past four years when she’d go on vacation.
We called. We texted. We Skyped. Eventually the contact became less and less—not from me, but from Syd. The first few months she was stressed out to the point she was sick all the time. When she started feeling better, she’d joined some clubs at school so her free time got less and less. I didn’t want to be resentful or jealous, so I did the one thing I never wanted to do.
I let her go.
I told her if she needed space to live her life, I would give it to her. I loved her and I only wanted her to be happy—and she was. Within seven months we barely spoke and that’s when I let her go completely, wishing her nothing but the best—not with words, but with my heart.
She sent me a Christmas card that year. That was the last time I heard from her—until now.
Cage rang the bell and when I got called down to the foyer and saw him standing there, I thought maybe it was something to do with the band—or my parents. But it wasn’t.
It was from Sydney asking me to come home as soon as possible, that she’d been trying to reach me for the past four months while I was on tour but couldn’t.
Now as I sit on Cage’s plane, flying from LAX to Chicago, I wonder why she didn’t try calling my parents. They may not have been great to her if she’d have called since I got into a lot of trouble after Syd left. I’d missed her, my heart was broken, and I couldn’t find a way to deal with it—not even music helped. They blamed her.
Then I got busted for underage drinking and my dad told me to straighten up or he’d leave me sit. He told me how it was going to go. I’d go to school, go to work for him at the accounting firm, and I’d clean up my shit.
So that’s what I did.
Then came the call from one of my high school bandmates and best friends, Lucy Russo. They’d formed a band and wanted me to play bass. I was stunned to say the least, but, hell yeah, I joined. We formed Blush with Lucy on lead vocals, Sera Manzini-Nichols on lead guitar, Megan Melody on rhythm guitar, and Trace Styx on drums—and we kicked total ass.
I haven’t talked to my parents since I left. They don’t approve.
We went out on tour with Falling Down, one of the biggest bands out there, also repped by Nichols Records. Lucy married Jesse Kingston, the lead singer from Falling Down. She’s had a huge crush on the guy since high school and when they saw one another on the set of one of FDs music videos, that was that. Instant love, marriage, and happily ever after.
Lucy had a Blush Baby campaign and Ben, Jesse’s brother and the lead guitarist for Falling Down lost his heart to that sweetheart of a girl, Nicole Harper-Kingston. Yep, they’re married, too.
And Sera married Cage Nichols. She sure didn’t make it easy for him, but he seems to like that from her. Can’t blame him there. She’s model beautiful, full of fire, and has a huge heart.
“Sir, we’ll be landing soon,” the flight attendant tells me.
I just nod. What’s there to say? I have no fucking idea what’s going on, but I know one thing for sure—it’s not gonna be good.
Sometimes you find family where you least expect it…
When bass guitarist Jace Warner receives an urgent message from his high school sweetheart to come home, the rocker drops what he’s doing to get there. Finding out that his first love, the girl that stole his heart, is dying isn’t the biggest shock he receives. The bad boy rocker has a child, and now, he’s about to be her only living parent.
After bonding with Kadence, his 6-year-old daughter, Jace knows there’s only one thing he wants to be–a father. But that’s not going to be as easy as it seems. Social worker, Summer Stephens doesn’t deem Jace’s lifestyle fit for parenting. She believes the stereotypes about rockers–that their lives are all about sex, drugs, and rock & roll.
Now it’s up to Jace to convince Summer that Kadence is right where she belongs–at home with him at CFD. He’s facing a fierce battle trying to prove there’s room in his life for music and the daughter he wants to share it all with.
Will Summer realize that home is where you make it, and if she looks close enough, she just might see a family for herself?
I head toward reception when a nurse pulls me off to the side.
“Jace Warner?” she inquires.
I nod hesitantly, “Yeah.” God, I hope she’s not gonna go all fangirl on me right now. I’m not in the mood. All I want is to find Sydney’s room and see what the fuck is going on.
“I’m Sydney’s nurse. She informed me you’d be coming and about what time. I’ll escort you up—the back way,” she tells me.
I thank her, more than grateful to not have to deal with the public.
“What’s going on?” I ask.
She just shakes her head. “It’s not my place to say. I’m just glad you came when you did. Time isn’t Sydney’s friend.”
What did that mean? Shit. Dread settles into the pit of my stomach. This is going to be more than bad. This is going to be epically fucked up.
When we reach her room, it’s dark. Only a few small slivers of light beam through where the curtains meet in the middle. One of those beams is resting over Sydney’s feet.
I step into the room and see the tubes and wires, and swallow hard. My gaze goes back to those feet and my eyes follow the shape of the body lying in the bed until I meet the violet eyes of the girl I’ve loved with every cell in my body.
No. No. No. No!
There’s one of those soft cloths tied around her head. Her face is pale, her cheekbones too prominent. Her lips chapped and cracked.
“Jace,” she whispers as tears begin to stream down her cheeks.
“God, Sydney,” I breathe and drop to my knees next to her bed, taking her frail hand into mine. “What’s wrong, sweetheart? Whatever it is, we can fix it.”
She smiles softly. “Not this time, sweet cheeks.”
I shake my head in denial. “No. I won’t to believe that. There’s got to be something…”
“There’s not,” she tells me quietly. “I’ve been through every treatment there is and none of them worked.”
“Cancer?” I ask.
She nods. “Breast. Just like my mom.”
I close my eyes, resting my forehead on her hand, and I let the tears fall. “Why didn’t you call me when you found out. We could have done more. Better doctors, whatever it took, no matter the cost,” I ramble.
“Oh, darling, even if I’d have gotten to you in time, I’d have the same outcome. It was already stage IV when I found the lump. One month there were no lumps that I could feel and the next it was there. By the time I got in for my appointment with the doctor, some of my nodes under my arm were infected. It spread so fast, there was no stopping it,” she tells me, her hand stroking my hair in comfort.
I look up at her, unashamed of my wet eyes and cheeks. “No. I can’t…” I shake my head.
“You have to. I’ve held on for you, Jace Warner, because I need you,” she breathes out heavily.
“What is it? Anything.”
“You’re going to be so angry with me,” she announces, her lip wobbling as she cries.
“Never. What is it? Whatever it is, it can’t be that bad. I’m here,” I tell her.
She sighs and nods to the nurse who steps out of the room. What the fuck is going on right now? I feel as if I’m in some alternate dimension.
That feeling gets stronger when the nurse walks in with a little girl—a little girl that looks exactly like me. Wait. What?
I look to Sydney. “I’m sorry, Jace. I wanted you to live your dream—and you are now.”
“Sydney, you were my dream.”
“I didn’t want to trap you. I saw how you panicked when I told you, and then how worried you were—trying to make impossible plans. I just couldn’t do that to you. I loved you too much,” she confesses.
“You’re right. I am angry. I’m angry you took that choice away from me. That was my choice. This is my daughter?” I calculate in my head. “She’s six?” I ask, watching as the nurse brings the little girl with pigtails and those gym shoes that blink with each step closer.
Sydney nods. I see the motion out of the corner of my eye. I can’t tear my gaze from—my daughter. God. I have a daughter. And she’s beautiful. She’s got my dark hair, Syd’s violet eyes, and a button nose. Right now that nose is wrinkled up and her eyes are leery. Who can blame her? I would be too.
“Kadence, come here sweets,” Sydney calls. The little girl goes over, clutching some sort of doll to her chest, the head of which covers half my baby girl’s face. Jesus. I want to drop to my knees and weep.
I swallow hard. Who knew a little pixie could scare the bejeezus out of a person?
“Kay Kay, this is…”
“My daddy,” she answers.
My face must show my surprise because she continues on with, “Mama shows me pictures of you all the time. She said I should be as proud of you as she is.”
I look down, fighting the tears threatening again. I gotta be strong for my girls.
Fuck you, Cancer! You vile fucking bitch!
I look at Syd. “How long?”
“Not long now that you’re here. I’ve been holding on for you, but Jace it’s too much. I can’t keep doing it. It hurts. I need you to care for Kay Kay. I don’t want my dad anywhere near her. I left you a letter and instructions. Please, I know I can trust you,” Sydney tells me.
“Why didn’t you call my parents? They had my cell—”
She squeezes my hand. “I did. They hung up each time I called. I never made it past, ‘Hello Mrs. Warner’ before I heard the click. Same deal with your brother. I don’t blame them one bit. I’d do the same. I heard what happened after I left. They had a right to want me to fuck off,” she whispers.
“That’s a naughty word, Mama,” Kadence scolds.
“Yes, baby, it is, but just this once it’s okay for mama to use it,” Sydney says.
Kadence nods. “Okay. But just this once.”
Damn if she isn’t the cutest thing I’ve ever seen.
Sydney gasps and the nurse walks over, checking machines and giving Syd a shot of what I’m hoping is pain medication.
“I only have a little time. Please listen, Jace,” she begs.
“Kay Kay only has you. I only trust you with her. Please,” she begs again.
“Baby, you don’t even have to ask. I’d have been here through it all if you’d have let me,” I tell her honestly, taking her frail hand in mine, lying next to her on the bed and pulling her emaciated body into mine. One thought keeps going through my mind and I want it more than anything. “Marry me, I blurt out.
She lifts her head, eyes wide. “What? Don’t be stupid.”
“I’m serious. I want us to be a family for whatever time we have left. I want it to end how it should have been all along. You’re the only girl I’ve ever loved, Syd, and I know you love me. Let me do this. Marry me,” I say, knowing in my heart it’s exactly right.
“Yes,” she whispers as she cries.