Memphis Black is Available Now!
Chapter One Excerpt
Nick, or Nickie D as we call him, our manager, crosses his arms, the black ink on his dark skin peeking out from under his shirtsleeve. “Steel is used in everything now: the popularity of the tattoo shop, the business, the—”
“Not our fault no one else has an ounce of creativity.” Finn stands up, pulls his knit cap down to his eyebrows, pushes his dark hair to the side away from his eyes, and starts pacing. “I mean, really, what the fuck is wrong with people? Get your own shit.”
I back him up. “Steel is where it all began. It means something to us, Nick. And to Xavier, to—”
“His wife, Taelyn.” River wiggles his eyebrows.
River, our drummer, adores our boss’s wife. He should. She saved his ass from being kicked out at least ten times due to his inability to stay sober for more than ten damn minutes.
“Keep Steel, then.” Nick throws his hands up. “Just make it different.”
“Better,” Finn snarls. “Fuckers.”
Nick looks at his watch. “I have a meeting to get to. You guys put your creative minds together and come up with something. But don’t take too long. This tour is gonna happen. Hell, it is happening. We just need a strong name. Something Steel, but—”
River grabs his junk through his torn up jeans. “Deeper.”
“Much deeper.” Finn reaches over to give River a fist bump.
“Balls deep,” I join in, making it a three-way fist bump explosion.
Nick shakes his head, rolling his eyes. “Yeah, but ‘Balls Deep’ isn’t gonna fly, boys. Keep brainstorming and shoot me a text. Then I need to get T-shirts and merch’ rolling.”
“Do we get a cut of that?” River asks.
“River, the money is used to help cover the band’s expenses.” With that, Nick walks out the door without a backward glance.
Once he’s out of earshot, we all look at each other.
“We’re sticking with Steel,” I declare.
“Hell yes, we are,” Finn and River chime in together.
“Steel Rocks?” Finn suggests.
“Lame.” Even as I say it, I know River agrees.
“Steel Destruction,” I try, and we all look at each other, speculating. “Bad ass, right?”
“Yeah, but it needs to be totally bad ass, without question, man. Has to be totally fucking us, totally fucking hard, and hot. Just like our music.”
I laugh. “Steel Total Destruction?”
No one says a word; we all just stare at each other.
After a while, River nods. “That’s right. We’ll go so hard, we’ll make anything else look like shit.”
“Ruin it for all the other fucks out there,” Finn adds. “Tear shit up.”
I like where this is headed.
“So, we’re set. We are now ‘Steel Total Destruction’?” I wait for the vote to carry.
“Fuck yes, we are.”
“I’m sending Nick a text.”
I chuckle evilly to myself as I type: WE WILL BE ‘STEEL TOTAL DESTRUCTION,’ THE BADDEST ASSES OUT THERE, GIVING RESPECT TO THE MAN WHO FOUND US.
Not even five seconds later, Nick messages back that he loves it.
“He’s in.” I laugh out loud.
“What’s so funny, man?” River asks.
“Not a damn thing.” I shake my head, laughing inside. Killer fucking name.
I wake up to my phone squawking with last night’s audition grumbling, lying bare-assed next to me. Still half asleep, I grab my phone, read the message, and push her off me.
First things first. I stumble out of my room in search of some ibuprofen and a gallon of water to get rid of the hellish hangover I’m sporting. Finn is still awake, writing, and River is asleep in his room with the Bobbsey Twins. Not really twins, but Finn felt inspired. Apparently, the treat he brought home wasn’t as important as the lyrics running inside his head, so River got two for the price of one.
“You get a text, too?” I ask Finn after popping the pills.
“Yes.” He doesn’t even bother to look up. “I just need ten more minutes. This is coming together perfectly.” He reaches for the bottle of Firewater sitting next to him and takes a swig.
“Finn, your liver’s gonna be pissed at you, man,” I say over my shoulder as I head toward the bathroom.
There’s no damn way I could do that shit: drink all night, get no sleep, eat no food, score no pussy, and still be awake in the morning, writing. He’s crazy.
Saturday morning, we walk into Forever Four, our label’s headquarters, for an impromptu meeting. None of us are feeling it. The whole way over, Finn and River were trying to figure out what the hell is going on.
As soon as the door opens and I hear Xavier Steel’s voice booming from the conference lounge, and I know what is up. But fuck if I’m gonna let them know that I know.
“He sounds pissed, man.” River’s eyebrows are sky high. “His wife is probably not giving it up since I’m sure she is just waiting to tell him she’s in love with me. She’s going to leave his ass for mine. Of course, I’d try to talk her out of it. Out of respect and shit.”
I chuckle. “You’d cream yourself if she ever gave you the time of day.” Taelyn Steel is hot, red-haired, tall, thin, and totally in love with her husband, exactly like he is with her. We just allow River this little, indulgent fantasy. It’s not hurting a damn thing… and it pisses X-man off, which is always funny.
“I would have brought her on board, let her feel my beat.” River cringes. “But she has a kid now.”
Whatever. Fucker loves that woman. I know damn well he would hit it and try to keep it.
“They’re kids,” Nick is saying. It sounds like he’s trying to calm the X-man down.
“That’s just stupid shit, Nick!” X sounds pissed, more pissed than I have ever heard him and I’ve heard him pissed. “Between you and Rico, neither of you thought I should know? How many thousands were spent on these fucking shirts and hats and—”
“Slow the fuck down, X. One damn question at a time.” Nick’s laugh is awkwardly placed. “First, you are the one who said the name needed more.”
“More, yes. But this shit?”
“Rico’s design is sick, man.” Nick’s tone is calm now. “And you got my text and said ‘sounds good,’ so your stamp of approval is on this shit, too. No time to change it. This starts tomorrow if they agree.”
“They’d better fucking agree. They’d better also realize that the way this company works is shit gets paid back before the royalties start getting doled out. Assuming they get a huge cut, they just completely fucked us all with this stunt.”
“I disagree.” I walk in, wearing my business face.
“What the hell is he talking about?” River follows me in and grabs one of the T-shirts off the table. “This is sick.”
He holds it up against himself as Finn and I sit, turning our attention to River like he’s working the center pole at a strip club. He takes the black tee with the grey, crackled circle enclosing the different shades of reds and oranges spelling out our band’s name as he dry humps the air and rubs it down his front.
“Sick is right!” Xavier doesn’t look or sound impressed. “You tell me, River, how well do you think you’re gonna do at the after parties with the ladies sporting one of those T-shirts?”
“I always do well with the ladies.” River drops the shirt and plops down next to Finn.
“Are you high?” Xavier scowls at him.
“Just a few hits this morning.” He shrugs. “Just pot, though. Not the other stuff.”
This is good considering River was shooting up when Xavier found him and then he had a coke habit for a while after that.
Exasperated, Xavier throws his hands up. “Nick, we aren’t ready for this shit in three days.” He points at the three of us. “You guys want this about as much as anyone wants”—he holds up the shirt—“a fucking STD.”
“People love rock, X.” River picks up the shirt again and looks at it, paying attention to the details for the first time, and his smile disappears. “That shit’s not funny, Memphis.”
“So, there we have it.” X scowls. “The fucking ‘normal’ one is behind the name?”
Finn pushes his sleeves up, exposing the ink that covers his arms before he folds his arms over his chest. “All three of us decided on it. It’s actually quite genius.”
“Nothing funny about a goddamned STD,” River growls, adjusting himself under the table.
“River obviously had no idea.” Xavier looks between Finn and me, like he’s trying to decide which one of us is gonna be sent to stand in the corner.
“River knew,” Finn says. “He was just too fucked up to—”
“Bullshit,” River sputters. “I haven’t smoked in three days… until this morning.”
Xavier is now pacing and sputtering under his breath.
“We promote safe sex,” I speak up, trying to put a spin on it.
“Yeah, that’ll go over like River at an NA meeting,” Xavier huffs.
“I should take offense to that,” River says, clearly not offended. “And I would if the last one I attended didn’t go so, so horribly wrong.”
“You know those T-shirt cannons they use at sporting events?” Xavier looks at me like I’m crazy, so I clarify. “I sent a message to a friend last night, and he’s building us a condom cannon—”
“Fucking genius.” Finn reaches out his fist for me to bump.
“We just need to get some condoms with this logo on it, and we’re golden. Every bitch in the world is gonna want Steel Total Destruction, the only STD that makes their panties as wet as the Jersey Shore.” I smirk, feeling proud.
“The one that makes them scream out in pleasure,” River adds while typing a note in his phone.
“The burn that doesn’t need medicated ointment.” Finn reaches out his fist again. This time he gets no bump.
“Nah, man.” Nick cringes. ”That’s just sick.”
Knowing Nick’s officially in, I smile to myself. Fucking perfect. Come on, X-man, I silently plead.
“If you fail, this is on you.” Xavier’s eyes narrow as they meet mine.
I shrug. “Ain’t gonna happen. You knew what we were when you handpicked us, so don’t start doubting us now.”
We all look up at the door when X’s wife Taelyn walks in, holding their baby. She looks up and pushes her long, auburn locks over her shoulder.
“Good morning!” She greets as she sways gently with the baby in her arms. Did I mention she’s hot? Yeah she is, and fucking smart, and I knew she would be on our side.
“Good morning, Taelyn.” River makes a beeline for her and the kid. “Hello, baby Patrick.”
Taelyn smiles. “He’s sleeping.”
“Perfect,” River says with a shit-eating smile. “Then may I hold him?”
“Taelyn,” Xavier growls, clearly annoyed.
“Xavier,” she mocks back at him, echoing his tone.
We all laugh except Xavier, of course.
“You sober?” she asks River. We all know that’s her deal with him. He’s sober, or its hands off the kid. As much as River adores older women, he adores kids even more.
I can’t help noticing the way River looks at her, like she’s the damn Mona Lisa. I expect him to bullshit her, but he doesn’t. He has mad respect for her.
He shakes his head, looking guilty, and shrugs. “Maybe next time.”
Taelyn gives him a sad look. “Okay.”
She goes over to Xavier and hands their son over. She kisses the baby’s cheek, then his.
“So, STD, huh?” After seeing the T-shirt, her eyes immediately go to me.
Xavier laughs at my shocked expression. “Seriously, Memphis, you’re like one of our kids.”
“Except for the fact that you would have been, like, two when you had him,” River interjects. “Hot, toddler loving.”
“You’d better watch it, drummer boy,” Xavier hisses while Taelyn nudges him with her elbow.
“I guess it could work.” She holds the shirt up to her chest, smirking. “If anyone can make a venereal disease sound cool, it’s the three of you.”
“Four,” I remind her. “Billy boy could rock an STD shirt like nobody’s business.”
“He could, right?” She laughs. “He’ll be back in a week, very excited.”
“Wait, about what?” I ask.
“You’re opening up for the Brody Hines band’s Burning Souls reunion show, you stupid shit.” Xavier speaks in a stern, yet soft I-don’t-want-to-wake-the-baby, voice.
River looks like someone just slapped him. “You’re fucking joking, right?”
“Nope.” Xavier smiles. “So, let me ask you a question.”
“Shoot, man.” I try to look calm, but shit. Fuck, fuckity, fucking shit!
“You ready to spread ‘your kind of rock’ around like an infectious disease?” The look on his face tells me everything I need to know—X is finally on board.
My laugh is evil and deep. “Hell yes, we are. Hell. Fucking. Yes.”
I feel tingly all over. What a fucking rush this business is. What a motherfucking rush.
MEMPHIS BLACK (ROCKERS OF STEEL, BOOK 1)
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