Snow Flakes (Burnt Ashes #0.5)

First published as a Ebook in the USA by Murder of Crows Publishers in 2014

First published as a Ebook in the United Kingdom by Murder of Crows Publishers in 2014

This edition was published in 2014

 

Snow Flakes

Copyright © 2014 K E Taylor

Artwork © 2014 3 Little Owls Cover Design & Formatting

Edited by Kim Young

Typography © 2014 3 Little Owls Cover Design & Formatting

All rights reserved

 

K E Taylor asserts the moral right to be identified as the Author of the Work

 

Conditions of Sale

 

This book is sold subject to the condition that it shall not, by way of trade or otherwise be lent, resold, hired out, or otherwise circulated without the publisher's prior consent in any form of binding or cover that that in which it is published and without a similar condition including being imposed on the subsequent purchaser.

 

 

This book is a work of fiction. Names and characters are the product of the author's imagination. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead is purely coincidental.

A record of the Liberty of Congress serial number can be acquired from the publisher.

 

Manufactured in the United States of America

 

This book is dedicated to all the lovely ladies in my street team,

Merry Christmas!

 

“‘Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house, not a creature was stirring, not even a…a…um…louse.”

“It’s a ‘mouse’, Trey. For the love of God, it’s a ‘mouse’,” I say, slapping him on the back. A moment later, he slowly flinches in apparent discomfort.

“What
?!
That
doesn’t make any sense!”

I roll my eyes as I take another swig of my beer bottle. I have to peel the coaster off from under it because of the condensation.

“Barkeep, I’ll have another, please,” Trey says, tapping the hard lacquered wood of the bar. He has a small pile of peanut shells surrounding his now empty beer bottle and shot glass.

The bartender looks up from where he has been leaning on some draught pumps, chatting to a girl who has been holding his attention all night. He narrows his eyes at Trey and shakes his head. I guess that means he is cutting us off. Or at least Trey, and I can’t fault him for it.

“What the fuck, man? Why isn’t he getting my drink?” Trey says. He looks around at me woozily, his cheeks flushed with colour.

“Trey, you’ve had enough now, buddy,” I groan, feeling weary.

“But then who’s going to buy this lovely lady a —” He looks around him and pauses. “Where’d she go?”

“The blonde?” I ask, and he nods. “She left about five minutes ago with Sam. It was on the third time you were reciting
A
Christmas Carol
…”

He pouts as he groggily stands up from his barstool. “I don’t get it. I serenade her, I say how pretty she is, I even show her—” He pauses while he expels a hearty belch, “—my sweet side, and she, like…she goes off with tow-bar?!”

“Yeah, I can’t imagine why, man…,” I say sarcastically. For a moment, Trey looks heartbroken, his bottom lip out in a pout.

“Let’s get going,” I say, standing up and stretching. I put my half-finished bottle back on the bar and start to pull my wallet out. I barely have a chance to blink before Trey has closed the distance between us and is finishing off my beer. Another burp soon follows. With his thirst settled for the moment, we head out for the next thing on the agenda…band practice.

 

 

I don’t know how anyone would ever imagine band practice with a group of delinquents would go. Perhaps people might think it would be all dick and fart jokes, or goofing around. But we leave that for the boy bands. Don’t get me wrong. I don’t dislike them. I mean, I like some vapid pretty girls, too. I just won’t write home about them, you know?
Anyway, practice is always business. We all pitch in, bounce around ideas, and discuss what we like and dislike about a piece. Then we all take turns recreating it in our own way, and decide from there. As for the lyrics, well…most of the time that is up to Braden and Logan. Logan’s okay at it, I suppose. I mean, he has an awesome voice, which is why he’s lead vocalist, as well as being on guitar, but Braden? He’s something else. Whenever he sings solo, we kind of just listen.

“Hey, Chace, what’re you doing with the camera, man?” Logan asks.

“I’m recording a documentary for when we’re famous,” I say, turning the camera on him.

Sam lets out a bark of laughter as he rests his base precariously on the bean bag chair beside him. “How are we going to be famous when we can’t even agree on a name for the band?” he says bitterly.

I know that, truth be told, he is only pissed because he wanted us to be called Diesel Charge. Although it’s not a terrible name, the fact it was after Vin Diesel and not compression ignition engines only means one thing…Sam’s group name could go take a walk. Diesel Charge

We might as well have given
Clooney Toons
a go…

“Well, you guys gonna join in or what?” Logan asks. He was getting all fired up, like he always does during practice. He can be a bit of a workhorse at times.

“Sammm…I’m bored. Why don’t we go somewhere else?” The blonde from the bar starts to whine. She is sitting against the workbench with her chest pushed out to try and snag his attention.

Sam looks back at her and, with a sultry grin, says, “Tell you what, darlin’. Give me ten minutes, then we can go and play as much as you—”

“What? You think this silly band is more important than me?” she says, defiantly. She parts her lips, then slowly and sensuously moves her hand down her body until it rests on her hip.  

“You should’ve picked me, sweetheart,” Trey says. He is slowly sobering up. His face is almost tinged green. The car ride over was hard on him with all that liquor sloshing around in his gut. “If you had, we would’ve left already.” The blonde, whose name has yet to be uttered, entirely ignores Trey, keeping her gaze on Sam.

“Sam, get her out of here,” Logan snaps. He flips his guitar over his shoulder, the strap the only thing stopping it from smashing into a heap on the floor.

“Why would I do that, man?” Sam says as Logan starts toward the blonde.

“One…”

“All right! All right! Sheesh!” Sam is up and off. It is never a good sign when Logan starts to count because something in the poor guy never lets him get to three. I think it’s because he was never hugged enough as a child or something.

“So, uh…what were you going to do to her?” I ask Logan, keeping the camera on him.

“Nothing she wouldn’t have wanted,” he says with a wink.

Of course. Logan Dale, slayer of panties.

“I don’t think she is into dudes with hair,” I counter, making Logan laugh.

“That’s fine. She wouldn’t have had to be looking at me to get what she wanted.”

“Logan…,” Braden chimes in.

Logan lets out a little laugh, and I join in. He is such a dog. Fucking terrible wingman, though. It never fails. When you’re out with him, you end up with the chick you like rubbing up against Logan; meanwhile, you’re stuck in the terrifying friend zone.

Oh, you want me to hold your handbag while Logan drives you into a mattress? Sure… Of course… That’s fine…

“Chace…?” Braden says. “Are you all right, man? You keep staring into space.” I blink a couple of times, then nod my head.

“He’s probably thinking of
Downtown Abbey
again,” Logan adds. Braden lets out an appreciative snort.

“I am not… Okay, well,
now
I am.” Logan shakes his head, as he opens a bottle of water and starts downing its contents. “I watch one episode, and suddenly I’m what? The world’s biggest fan?”

“Chace…,” Braden says again, letting out a bewildered sigh.

Sam comes back in, stomping his heavy boots across the hard concrete floor. “Well…,” Sam growls, “she won’t be back for a while.”

He turns to pick up a half-empty bottle, swills it twice, then downs the rest. It’s only when he puts the bottle down that I notice the red welt on his jawline. Looks like the blondie was a hitter. Poor Sam. He could never seem to attract anyone boring…or normal. Trey notices the mark and starts to laugh, pauses to burp, then clumsily walks over to Sam, puts one hand on his shoulder and says, “Blondes are always fun, eh?”

“All right, guys. That’s enough. We have a show at The Drake tomorrow night. If it goes well, the promoter says we could get a regular slot, so what do you say we sober up and concentrate?” Braden says.

“Aye, aye, Cap’n Ahab, sirrrrrr.” Trey, it seems, isn’t quite sober yet.

“Somebody put some coffee in him before I do it,” Logan says wryly.

“Come on, Trey,” I say. “Let’s get you sober before Logan makes you drink another bottle of mayo.” The memories of that night surface, and I try to push them down before my stomach turns. It was so rancid. I used to like eating fries with mayo, but after last time… I don’t even want to think about it.

Christmas meant a lot to me when I was younger. Memories of being in my pyjamas, hanging the decorations; loading the tree with threaded popcorn, which my brother and I would take turns sneaking bites of, spitting out the stale remnants that dried out our mouths. I remember the smell of my mom baking cookies in the oven, and I would help her decorate them for Santa and his reindeer. I remember it being a fun time. We didn’t have a fireplace, so we settled with hanging the stockings along a piece of twine on the wall beside the TV unit. I know now that as I think back to these things, I am romanticising about most of it. Good memories pave over the bad ones of the Christmases when my dad was out of work and we struggled to have any sort of Christmas at all.

Then my parents died, and things got worse for a while. My grams, who had taken over the care of my brother and me, tried to get us into the spirit of the season, but I was filled with such anger and resentment. Braden would try and cheer me up, but I just didn’t want to listen.

I have been forced to do a lot of growing up since then, and I am now facing the prospect of a Christmas with a group of guys that make dick jokes a majority of the time, but I figure it’s almost childlike wonder in a way. Maybe I can bring back some of the old, good feelings for Christmas, instead of the bitter and lonely ones that have been plaguing me for the longest time. This year, I have decided I want to focus on my brother and the band. I want to give us all a “family” Christmas. Here’s to thinking of others, instead of myself for a change.
   

 

“Come on, Mac. We’re going to be late!” Lola says, moving past me in a blur to the dresser, looking for a missing earing.

“Can’t we wait five more minutes? I’m not at the end of the chapter,” I say, trying fervently not to be distracted by her manic rushing around.

“Nope. Come on. You know Braden hates when we’re late to a  performance,” she says again, trying to reason with me.

I can feel the pangs of guilt begin to rise within, and I let out a defeated sigh. I fold the edge of the page I am on, and set the book down on my pillow. “Okay, fine,” I groan, slowly walking over to the dresser, pulling open one of the pine drawers to look for some clothes I can wear out to the club.

“Attagirl,” Lola says with a triumphant grin.

“What club is it?”

“The Drake,” she answers. I let out a little disgusted grunt as I pull my top over my head.

“What? To
mainstream
for you?” she teases.

“No. It was where Jason, the creep kept taking me.” Jason, for all intents and purposes, was a fucking slimeball.

“Jason…?” Lola asked. Either she was only half listening, or she was playing, as she was the one who introduced him to me.

“Gates, Lola.
Jason, who sticks his tongue down waitress’ throats, Gates.”

“Oh… Well… It’s not like he is going to be there tonight, right?”

“I dunno. He might be.”

“This close to Christmas, I’m sure he is going to be prowling the mall, hitting on Santa’s helpers.”

“I don’t give a shit if he is!” I say defensively.

“Sure… You sound totally over him,” Lola says, rolling her eyes.

Before I have a chance to breathe fire, or throw a pillow at her at least, her phone vibrates in her pocket. She reaches in and answers. “Hey… Uh-huh… Yeah. We won’t be long… Yeah, she’s coming… Okay. No worries, babe.”

“Braden?” I ask dryly. Like she would be on the phone with anyone else. Hell, I am surprised she has found time for me in her busy stalker-esque relationship she has with my brother. No matter where he is or what he’s doing, she seems to know about it. It’s funny. He is
my
twin, so shouldn’t
I
be the one with the psychic connection?

“Of course!” Lola beams. “Bray wants to know if we’re coming.”

“From what I have heard, Lola, if it goes well for them tonight, they might get a regular slot at the club!”

Lola’s eyes widened. “Where’d you hear that?”

“Braden told me.”

“Oh…” She couldn’t hide the hint of pain in her voice. Something was upsetting her. The only thing I could figure was maybe she thought if the band took off, she’d be left behind.

“Lola, you okay?”

“I’m…I’m f-fine…”

“Bullshit you are!” I argue.

She shakes off whatever is bothering her, and turns on me, appraising my clothes. “You need to put on some different pants…,” she says wryly.

“My pants are fine,” I counter.

She shakes her head. “Nope.”

“What’s wrong with them?” I ask, looking down.

“For one thing, sweetie, they’re cotton. For another, they look like something MC Hammer would have worn when he was at the gym.”

“What’s your point? They’re comfy!” I groan.

“Comfy or not… I didn’t think I was ever going to say this, but I liked how you were before! The one that hated the world and just looked to get hammered. At least that version of you knew how to dress sexy!”

“I can still dress sexy! I was just being comfy while reading, is all,” I say, trying to defend my attire.

“Care to prove it?” she asks.

I snarl. “Sure. What do you have in mind?”

“Well, it
is
almost Christmas…”

 

 

I stand in front of my full-length mirror in my bedroom, a satisfied grin on my face.
Can’t do sexy? Ha!

I look at Lola, who is looking over my body. Her eyes are shining with satisfaction. “Holy shit, girl. You’re smokin’ hot! Every guy is going to go out of their way to buy you a drink tonight!” she says, coming to stand at my side. “I didn’t ever think I was going to be able to get you out of those jogging pants!”

Lola decided we should both dress up tonight, which resulted in our newly purchased sexy Santa outfits. A tight red, strapless dress hugged my body, enhancing my curves and breasts, stopping a few inches below my butt. On the front of the dress are printed black buttons and a printed black belt with a gold buckle. White over-the-knee socks with a single red bow encase my slender legs, which are accompanied by my red stilettos. My long blonde hair is hanging in loose waves down past my shoulders, and my makeup is in neutral shades apart from my lips, which are coated in ruby red lipstick. I giggle at her enthusiasm, reaching for my wine glass, which is atop my vanity unit.

“Wait!” she says, spinning around and walking into my en suite bathroom. A few seconds later, she reappears, holding our Santa hats, which are attached to a little black headband.

She walks over to me, and slides it into place on my head. “I guess you proved me wrong!” she says, checking me again. It feels a little uncomfortable but, dammit, I am making a point. My cheeks flush a little…part pride, part embarrassment, and part wine.

“Any ideas on how we’re going to get out of here, now that Braden and Logan are downstairs?” Lola asks. Braden will barricade me in my bedroom if he sees what I am wearing, but that’s nothing compared to what Logan will do. He’ll probably pay someone to sit on the other side of my door to make sure I didn’t escape. To say they were over-protective of me would be an understatement.

“I’ve got a plan.” I say, smiling deviously. I take her cell from her hand, and key in the local pizza delivery. “Get ready to be sneaky. I’m going to order pizza. As soon as they knock on the front door, we’re sneaking out the back!”

“Mackayla Smith, I do believe I’m rubbing off on you!” Lola says, her dark brown eyes sparkling. If there was a real life
Snow White,
it’d be Lola. She is stunningly beautiful with her slender figure and long ebony hair. I’ve been told that I’m pale, but Lola is as pale as ivory and has a bone structure any model would kill for.

 

A half-hour later, we hear a knock at the front door. Risking a quick peek out the window and seeing the delivery guy, we quietly make our way down the stairs and out the back door into the dark, cool night. We don’t speak until we are past the meadow at the side of my house.

“I feel like a criminal. It’s freezing!” Lola says, rubbing her arms. I never thought about the walk to the bar, and Lola was right. It was so cold, I could see my breath.

“We should call a ca—”

I’m interrupted as a car horn blares, and Chace pulls over in his old Chevy pickup. “Are you fucking crazy? It’s freezing out here. Get in,” he shouts through a small opening in his window.

We quickly jump into the back of truck, and he turns to look at us, a smile spreading over his face. “You sneaked out, didn’t you?” he asks, narrowing his eyes at me.

“Come on, Chace. Please, just —”

He interrupts me, “Oh, sweetheart, I’m not complaining, and I’m not going to tell your brother. I sure as shit ain’t telling Logan. You girls never got a lift with me, though, okay? I’d like to keep my face looking this good.”

I nod and glance at Lola, who looks just as amazed as I am. “Thanks, Chace!” she says, leaning forward, placing a kiss on his cheek.

“It wouldn’t be Christmas without a little drama, right? They’re gonna freak the fuck out when they see you dressed like that, Kayla. Logan might actually have a heart attack. I wouldn’t miss it for the world.”

I roll my eyes at his words, but the thought of Logan having a reaction to my outfit at all is thrilling. I’ve had a secret crush on him for years, but it is purely one-sided. It is one of those forbidden crushes that you’re not supposed to have on your best friend. I’ve yet to meet a woman that hasn’t had a crush on him…or slept with him, for that matter. The only reason he hasn’t slept with Lola is because I’d made him promise me that he’d never sleep with any of my friends. He may have loose morals, but he always keeps his word.

Other books

Loonglow by Helen Eisenbach
Tori Phillips by Lady of the Knight
Eye of the Storm by Emmie Mears
Bad Penny by John D. Brown
The Falcon's Malteser by Anthony Horowitz