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Intemperance VI - Circles Entwine

Al Steiner



Circles Entwine


Alan Steiner



This book, like those before, remains dedicated to all of my patrons over at Patreon, who supported me at a dollar a chapter (and sometimes more) as I composed the third, the fourth, fifth, and now the sixth books of this series.

You were my beta testers, and your encouragement, feedback, and error reporting were invaluable to me.



Intemperance VI, Copyright © 2022 by Alan G. Steiner. All Rights Reserved.


All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means including information storage and retrieval systems, without permission in writing from the author. The only exception is by a reviewer, who may quote short excerpts in a review.


Cover designed by Alan Steiner




This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.


Alan Steiner

Email me at alsteiner237@gmail.com


Printed in the United States of America


First Printing: December 2022

Amazon self-publishing







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Chapter 1

Decisions and Unforeseen Consequences






New York City, New York

October 23, 1998




Jim Ramos called Jake’s room just past 10:30 that night, which was 7:30 PM Seattle time. Jake was not in his room to take the call, however. Instead, he and Laura were in Celia’s room. The three of them were naked and in bed, and quite involved in a second round of sexual activity.

True, it seemed wrong for them to carry on in such a manner when Matt Tisdale was possibly dying or dead on the other side of the country, but it had been months since they had seen each other, and… well… they had to do something while they waited, didn’t they?

Meghan, the nanny, took the call and then, as instructed, gave Jim Celia’s room number and told him to call back and ask for Marie Vasquez. Jim, who understood the concept of the hotel name, undoubtedly raised his eyes a bit at Jake’s current location, but judiciously made no mention of it. He simply hung up and made the call.

When the phone started to ring, Celia was on her back on the bed, her bare legs spread widely, Laura’s face between them with her tongue licking the spend that Jake had deposited there a few minutes before. Laura’s butt was up in the air and Jake was thrusting in and out of her from behind, trying to drive her to one more orgasm. His manhood was, by this point, somewhat raw and sensitive, and Jake very much doubted that he was going to be able to produce another orgasm of his own—he had already had three in the past two and a half

hours—but his faithful erection hung in there, giving his wife pleasure.

“Fuck!” Celia barked as she heard the ringing. “Not now!”

This was an emotional outburst of frustration only. No one considered for a moment ignoring the phone so they could keep going. With a mutual sigh, all of them stopped their activities and separated from each other. Celia reached over and picked up the handset.

“Maria Vasquez’s room,” she said into it, her voice a bit breathless, her face a bit flushed.

She listened for a moment and then told the person on the other end to hang on. She handed the phone to Jake. “It’s Jim.”

He nodded and took the phone. “This is Jake,” he said into it.

“Jake. Jim Ramos. I’m here at the hospital with Matt. He just came out of the cath lab about half an hour ago and is in the recovery room now.”

Jake breathed a little sigh of relief at these words. At least the asshole was still alive. He was surprised to find that he had been worried about Matt, and not just because his heart attack was going to cause the cancellation of multiple shows that KVA had invested heavily in, but because he genuinely did not want the asshole to die. Matt had put Jake through a lot of shit over the years, but he was still, underneath all of that, a friend, a brother, someone that Jake shared a long and storied history with. “What’s the word?” he asked.

“They successfully removed the clot in his LAD with angioplasty,” Jim said.

“Angioplasty?” Jake asked.

“They threaded a wire from his femoral artery all the way up to the coronary artery in his heart,” Jim explained. “Once the wire was past the obstructed area, they inflated a balloon on it. This widened the artery itself and then let them drag the blood clot out of the heart and restore circulation to some degree.”

“Just like that?” Jake asked.

“Well, it’s not really a miracle cure by itself,” Jim said. “It got the blood flowing again and kept Matt from dying or having a big chunk of his left ventricle die, but he still has the underlying coronary artery disease, which, as the cardiologist told him, is ‘remarkably advanced for a man who is only thirty-nine years old’.”

“Okay,” Jake said slowly. “He’s going to live through the night then, right?”

“Right,” Jim said.

“But he’s still got some issues to deal with?”

“Right,” Jim said again. “Something needs to be done about those coronary arteries or this is just going to happen again in a few days or a few weeks or a few months.”

“What’s the next step then?” Jake asked.

“Well… when they had Matt in the lab, they asked him that question. The first choice was that they could put in a couple of stents to push those arteries open. The problem with that is that it’s only a stopgap measure. It would probably buy him four or five years before he is back in the same boat, especially if he doesn’t change his lifestyle, which I have no reason to think he is going to.”

“What’s the second choice?” Jake asked.

“Cardiac bypass surgery,” Jim said. “That’s what the cardiologist recommended. They go in, bypass those fucked up arteries with some venous grafts from his leg, and that lasts a lot longer—twenty years or more under favorable conditions.”

“It seems like that is the way to go then, right?” Jake asked.

“Yeah,” Jim said with a sigh. He sounded very tired. “And that’s what Matt chose when they put the question to him. ‘Bypass the motherfucker’ is what he is on record as saying. So, they didn’t put the stents in. They pulled their wire out and he’s going to be admitted and scheduled for surgery on Monday morning.”

“Okay,” Jake said, nodding. “That’s good.”

“Yeah…” Jim said slowly, “but… well… I just got out of the room with Matt before I called you and… uh… he’s starting to have second thoughts about going through with it.”

“Second thoughts?” Jake asked. “Why?”

“When they first had him make the decision, it was while he was in the cath lab,” Jim explained. “He was loaded up on Versed and Fentanyl and wasn’t really thinking things through the way he normally thinks things through.”

“Matt doesn’t really think things through,” Jake said. “He kind of operates on impulse most of the time.”

“Call it what you want,” Jim said. “But his impulse while he was loaded was to go ahead with the surgery and ‘fix this shit up’. But now the drugs are pretty much worn off and he’s in his normal state of mind—well… his sober state of mind anyway—and it occurred to him to ask how long the recovery period was for each of the two choices.”

“And the answer was?” Jake asked.

“Four weeks for the stents,” Jim said. “Three months if he has the bypass surgery.”

“Three months… wow,” Jake said. “Why so much longer with the surgery?”

“The stent placement is relatively non-invasive. They do it through the femoral artery.

With the bypass though… well… they have to chop your chest open at the sternum and open it up. It takes a lot longer to recover from having your chest chopped open with a fuckin’ axe.”

“I guess that makes sense,” Jake said. “And he doesn’t want to take three months to recover?”

“He’s worried about the tour,” Jim said. “If he does the stents, he figures they’ll only have to postpone a month’s worth of shows. If he does the bypass, he figures they’ll cancel the entire tour. No tour means no money. Even more important than that, though, it means the show won’t go on. Matt wants the show to go on.”

Jake sighed. Part of him admired Matt’s work ethic. But a bigger part of him thought the man was being an idiot. “I’d rather cancel the tour and reschedule the dates for the spring if it means Matt is reasonably healthy.”

“That was my advice to him as well,” Jim said. “But unfortunately, he doesn’t much listen to me. If he did, he probably wouldn’t have had this fuckin’ MI in the first place—at least not now, before his fortieth birthday.”

“I understand about trying to talk sense to Matt,” Jake reassured the paramedic. “It’s like trying to tell a fart not to stink. Has Gahn been in there?”

“Yeah,” Jim said. “He’s here now… and he’s part of the fuckin’ problem. He told Matt that getting the stents placed was a wonderful idea, that it would get him back to the tour in the soonest amount of time and he could have that bypass operation next year if he wanted.”

Jake frowned. That would be just the advice that Matt would want to hear. “That sounds like Gahn all right,” he said. “When does have to make this decision?”

“By the end of rounds tomorrow,” Jim said. “That’s generally between three and four o’clock in the afternoon. If he’s going to get the bypass, they need to get the preop shit rolling, get the surgeon familiar with the case, the whole nine yards. If he decides not to do it… well…

they can’t put the stents in right away. They need to wait for the wound in his groin to heal up before they poke into him again.”

“If he does that, will he stay in the hospital while he waits?”

“That’s the plan,” Jim said. “He still has unstable angina until they do something about it.

They don’t really want him walking around, drinking, snorting coke, and all that other shit until he’s fixed up one way or the other. Of course, we are talking about Matt here. There’s at least a fifty percent chance he will sign out AMA.”

“Yeah, that sounds about right,” Jake said, sighing again. “I’m thinking I need to get to Seattle so I can maybe offer a voice of reason in this thing.”

“I think that would be a great idea,” Jim said, relief clearly in his voice. “When can you get here?”

“Not tonight,” he said. “But I’ll head out in the morning one way or the other and be there before the docs make their rounds. Your job is to keep him in the hospital and without a firm decision made until I arrive.”

“I’ll give it my best,” Jim said doubtfully.

Jake said his goodbye to Jim and then handed the phone back to Celia. She hung it up. The two ladies looked at him expectantly. He gave them a briefing of the situation at hand.

“A heart attack at thirty-nine,” Celia said, shaking her head sadly. “You have to work hard to fuck up your heart that bad by that age.”

“He’s worked pretty hard at it,” Jake agreed.

“You don’t really think he’s going to take the easy way out, do you?” asked Laura. “I mean, the man has to have some common sense.”

“Well… he has some,” Jake said, “but not much when it comes to his own health and welfare. I think that the earlier I can get there, the better.”

“Not tonight though, right?” asked Laura.

“No, not tonight,” he said. “It’s too late to even get a charter this late, but I’ll get on the phone and book something for as early as I can get out in the morning.”

The two ladies nodded sadly.

“Sorry this had to happen on our reunion,” he said.

“That’s okay,” Celia said. “Things happen. And at least we got to get together tonight.”

“Yes, we did,” Jake said, looking at their nudity and smiling.

“Am I coming with you?” Laura asked.

“There’s no real need for you to come with me,” he said. “Stay here with C, catch her show, do some shopping with Meghan, do all the other things we were going to do and then you and Caydee and Meghan can fly back on Monday night, just like we planned. We already have the tickets. We’re already paying Meghan. No sense dragging you and Caydee and the nanny to the shitshow.”

“I guess that makes sense,” Laura said.

“And no matter what happens, I’ll be home by Monday night to pick you up in LA,” he said.

“Okay,” she said. She then looked down at his member, which had deflated back to its

normal state during the interruption. “Awww,” she said, pity in her voice. “He’s all worn out.”

“Hey,” Jake said, “I think Little Jake has more than risen to the occasion tonight. Cut him some fuckin’ slack.”

“I wasn’t quite done with him yet,” Laura pouted.

“And I wasn’t quite done with your mouth yet, Teach,” Celia added.

Laura smiled. “Well, why don’t we get back to work then?” she asked. “Is Little Jake going to wake up for this, sweetie?”

“He might,” Jake said, keeping the doubt out of his voice. “If he doesn’t, I’ll just initiate Plan B.”

“All right then,” she said happily. “Let’s get back to work.”

They went back to work. Little Jake refused to join in the fun and games this time, but Big Jake had a mouth of his own and he knew how to use it. He licked his wife to orgasm from behind while she licked Celia to orgasm from the front. They then collapsed in a heap on the bed.

The ladies were soon drifting off to sleep. Jake was tired and yearned to close his eyes as well, but there was business to take care of first. He left the room and walked into main room to start looking for how he was going to get to Seattle in the morning.

Had the Nerdlys been there (or had he thought to call them) his task might have been made easier by using the internet. But he had no computer with him in New York and Wi-Fi was not a term that had even been invented yet. He found what he needed the old-fashioned way: by looking through the yellow pages and calling every airline to see what was available.

Apparently there was not all that great a demand to get to Seattle from New York. The earliest commercial flight out of the area going nonstop to the rainy city left Newark at 10:30

AM and would arrive at Sea-Tac at 1:45 PM Seattle time. This was within the window for the close of hospital rounds for the day but, to Jake’s chagrin, there were no first-class tickets available for the flight, just coach. Even if the time of arrival was not cutting it a little too close to the deadline for comfort, Jake simply could not bring himself to fly coach for more than six hours. And so, he ended up calling Jorgensen Aviation Services, which had a twenty-four-hour booking service. He was able to charter a Gulfstream out of Teterboro Airport, just across the Hudson River from Manhattan, that would take off at 9:00 AM and land at Boeing Field at 12:05

PM, Seattle time. That would give him at least three hours to get to the University of Washington Medical Center, where Matt was currently stashed, before the end of rounds for the day. It was an expensive flight—almost twenty thousand dollars—but there would be no hassles with security checkpoints or baggage checks. He read off his credit card number to the dispatcher and was told to be at the airport by 8:45 AM if he wanted to take off on time.

He wrote down his flight information on a pad of hotel paper and then called the desk and arranged for a 7:15 AM wakeup call and a limousine to pick him up out front at 8:00 AM. Once these arrangements were made, he went back into the bedroom. Celia and Laura were cuddled together spoon fashion under the covers, Laura on the left side of the bed, Celia with her arms around her in the center of the bed, both of them sound asleep. Jake crawled into the bed on the right side and spooned his body up against Celia’s, putting his arms around her and stretching them out so he was touching Laura as well. He basked in the warmth and the smell and the feel of soft female flesh against him as he drifted off to sleep.

He was awakened later, not by the phone ringing to give him the wakeup call, but by a hand fondling his penis. He thought it was a pleasant dream at first but then gradually realized it was reality. He was now laying on his back, as was Celia, and she was stroking him softly and deliberately. Little Jake, despite the state of overwork he had been put through last night, was responding quite nicely to the sensation and stiffening up in her hand. He glanced over at the alarm clock on the nightstand and saw that it was 6:56 AM. So very early. And in nineteen minutes he would have to get up. His body desperately wanted to take advantage of that nineteen minutes and go back to sleep, but Little Jake was quite a powerful counter to that school of thought.

“Again?” Jake whispered.

“I want one more before you go,” she whispered back. “God only knows when I’ll get another chance to have some of your chorizo.”

“But Laura is still sleeping,” he said. The rule was that it was all for one or none for all when they were together.

“She told me it was okay,” Celia whispered.

“When did she tell you that?”

“Last night, while you were on the phone, before we went to sleep,” Celia said. “She said that as long as you are okay with she and I still having fun after you leave for Seattle, then I could fuck you one on one before you left.”

“Really?” Jake asked. Both of those scenarios were a blatant violation of the rules they had established.

“Really,” she said, a little exasperated. “Do you really think I would try to get away with fucking you in the same bed she is sleeping in and hope she wouldn’t wake up and catch us?”

“I’ve seen a lot of porno movies where they do just that,” Jake pointed out.

Celia chuckled a little. “Yes, those movies are quite realistic, aren’t they? Teach said that the touring clause we discussed applies to this situation.”

“But we never actually agreed to the touring clause,” Jake said.

“True,” Celia allowed. “But Teach and I both agreed to it last night. As long as you agree right now, it’s unanimous and therefore a binding amendment to the ground rules. So… do you agree?”

While a lawyer might argue that being asked to agree to such a thing while his penis was being fondled and his sex hormones being stimulated was not exactly a kosher way to enter into a binding contract for behavior, Jake was not a lawyer. “I agree,” he told her. “Let’s do this.”

They did it. By unspoken agreement they did not kiss each other, since both had morning breath and stale vaginal secretions covering their faces, but that did not detract much from the experience. She climbed atop him and mounted him in the female superior position, her wet vagina neatly engulfing his now rigid member. They then moved and thrust against each other for the better part of fifteen minutes, Jake frequently squeezing and suckling her breasts, until she shuddered her way through a powerful orgasm. Jake blasted off inside of her shortly after, his hands on her ass and pulling her tightly against him. Though the bed had shook and shimmied throughout the entire session, and though both of them had been panting and moaning as well, Laura did not even stir.

“Now that’s the way to say goodbye to someone,” Celia sighed contentedly after she collapsed back into the middle of the bed.

Before Jake could even settle back into a comfortable position, the phone began to ring. This woke Laura up. She blearily reached out and picked up the handset since she was closest to it.

“Maria Vasquez’s room,” she grumbled into it. She listened. “Okay. Thank you. I’ll make sure he’s up.” She turned to her left. “It’s your wakeup call, sweetie.”

“Thanks,” he said with a sigh, still breathing a little hard from the exertion.

Laura looked at the two of them knowingly. “It smells like fresh fucking in here,” she said.

“I take it you agreed to the touring clause, sweetie?”

“Uh… yeah,” he said. “I agreed.”

She smiled. “Cool. I’m going back to sleep now. Kiss me on your way out.”

“Will do,” Jake said. He then got up so he could get showered and make it to the airport on time. Laura and Celia were both asleep again before he even finished emptying his bladder.





Jake kissed both Laura and Celia goodbye before he left, though he only kissed them on their foreheads. He knew, after all, where those mouths of theirs had been. He told them each that he loved them and they mumbled that they loved him as well and then went back to sleep, Laura cuddled into Celia with her head on her chest.

He carried his travel bag out of the room and walked over to the other suite, where Meghan the nanny, dressed in jeans and a t-shirt and looking very cute, was watching television while Caydee played on her blanket on the floor of the sitting room.

“Hey, Jake,” Meghan greeted. She noted the travel bag in his hand. “Are you heading out?”

“Yeah, unfortunately I have to fly to Seattle,” he told her.

“What happened to Matt?” she asked timidly, as if wondering if she was breeching etiquette by enquiring.

“The asshole had himself a big heart attack,” Jake told her. “He needs to have bypass surgery but he’s thinking about not doing it.”

“Why would he not want to do it?” she asked.

“Because he’s Matt Tisdale,” Jake said tiredly. “He should have named his band Bad Decisions instead of Intemperance.”

“Aren’t they kind of the same thing?” she asked.

Jake chuckled a little. “Well… one tends to lead to the other, but they’re not exactly the same thing. Anyway, how’s my little girl doing?”

“Dada!” Caydee squealed happily. “Owe me!”

“I’ll owe you for a minute, Caydee-girl, but then I gotta hit the highway.” He picked her up and she put her arms around him happily and gave him a big, sloppy kiss on his face. He kissed her back a few times and then held her up higher so he could put a big raspberry on her belly.

She laughed loudly as he did this.

“Is Laura still sleeping over there?” Meghan asked.

“She was when I left,” Jake said. “We were uh… up a little late last night.”

Meghan gave a knowing look but said nothing.

“Want me to get her ass up before I leave?” he asked. “Caydee is probably wanting some breakfast.”

“No, let her sleep,” Meghan said. “Caydee and I are having fun over here. And I gave her some of her Cheerios and some of her juice so she’ll be fine for another hour or so.”

“Okay, but don’t let her sleep past 8:30.”

“I won’t,” Meghan promised.

Jake kissed his daughter and told her that he loved her. She smiled broadly and told him that she loved him (“Uv eww, dada!” was how she said it in her language). He spent another minute or so just holding her and cuddling her and feeling love for her. Finally, he said his final goodbye and gave her to Meghan. He then left the room and headed for the elevator.

The limousine was waiting for him as promised. The driver took him through the moderately busy streets of weekend morning Manhattan and through the Lincoln Tunnel into New Jersey. He arrived at the general aviation terminal of Teterboro Airport at 8:40 AM and was aboard the Gulfstream IV by 8:50. The two pilots introduced themselves to him politely and the young, attractive female flight attendant made sure he was strapped into one of the chairs. He chose one of the seats behind the cockpit. The attendant—her name was Chelsea—

brought him a bloody Mary and he drank it while they went through the preflight and taxi. It was in his stomach and making him sleepy by the time they roared into the sky at 9:02 AM and headed west. He declined the offer of a second drink once they were above ten thousand feet.

Instead, he used the in-flight telephone service (which cost eighteen dollars a minute) to contact the FBO at Boeing Field and arrange for a limousine to pick him up when they landed.

He then called Pauline, forgetting about the whole time zone thing and the fact that it was only 6:18 in the morning in Los Angeles until her annoyed voice reminded him of this fact.

“Sorry,” he said, feeling embarrassed. “I usually remember shit like that.”

“You’re getting old, bro,” she told him. “Things are starting to slip your mind.”

“That’s not a nice thing to say,” he replied with a pout.

“And it’s not nice to call people before the fuckin’ sun is up either. Now what’s up?”

He gave her a quick update on the situation and then probed to see if she had any information that he did not. They then talked about some of the legalities of the situation. By the time this business was concluded, they were at forty-two thousand feet. He unbuckled from his seat and moved to the rear of the cabin, where two couches were located. He scored a pillow and a couple of blankets from Chelsea, had her turn down the cabin lighting and close the little sliders in the windows, and then laid down and went to sleep. He did not wake up again until they were passing over the Selkirk Mountains in northern Idaho.

The next limousine was waiting at Boeing Field. From there, it was a twenty-minute trip to the University of Washington Medical Center just adjacent to the campus itself. It was 12:50

PM, Seattle time, when Jake finally made it to the cardiac telemetry unit on the eighth floor of the main building. There, in room 8013, he found a very dejected Matt Tisdale in Bed 1 of the two-person room. Matt was wearing a powder blue hospital gown and a pair of yellow hospital socks. He was connected to a heart monitor that beeped and booped away on the wall behind

him. He had an IV line in his arm but it was not connected to anything currently. A table that contained a plastic water pitcher, a few packages of soda crackers, and the remains of Matt’s lunch tray sat next to the bed. The television was on, playing an episode of Judge Judy. He had no visitors currently. In Bed 2, on the other side of a curtain, was an elderly man with a couple of IV drips running into his arm. He was asleep and snoring at a moderate level. His television was showing a college football game.

“Matt,” Jake said simply when the guitarist noticed he was there.

“Jake,” Matt returned sourly, giving him a nod of greeting.

“How you doing?”

“This is fuckin’ hell, dude,” Matt told him. “This is karma being a fucking cunt, you know what I’m saying?”

“That bad, huh?”

“It’s the worst thing imaginable,” Matt said. “They won’t let me drink, they won’t let me go out and have a fuckin’ smoke, and Jim and even that Mormon freak Gahn won’t smuggle me in any coke to help pass the time.”

“Yeah…” Jake said slowly, “most people kind of think it’s a bad idea to bring cocaine to someone who is on the cardiac floor after having a heart attack. Even Gahn.”

“What fuckin’ difference does it make now?” Matt asked. “The shit already happened.”

Jake decided to pretend that that was rhetorical question. He nodded in the direction of the old man in Bed 2. “What’s up with the roommate?” he asked. “I would think they would give you a private room.”

“You would fuckin’ think, wouldn’t you?” Matt said sourly. “I got the best fuckin’ health insurance money can buy and I even offered to pay out of my own fuckin’ pocket for a private room, but they ain’t got any fuckin’ private rooms on the cardiac floor here. What kind of fuckin’ place is this, dude?”

“It’s supposed to be one of the best hospitals on the west coast,” Jake offered.

“That might be true,” Matt said, “but they need to work on their customer service a little bit. That geezer over there is a fuckin’ Medicaid patient and they’re treating him just like they’re treating me. Being rich and famous don’t mean shit here!”

Jake smiled a little, feeling his liberal bleeding heart poking up some. “There are some who would say that that’s the way healthcare should be administered,” he suggested.

“Who the fuck says that?” Matt asked, disgusted. “Is this fuckin’ America or is it not fucking America?” He shook his head at the tragedy of it all.

Jake decided that now was maybe not the best time to discuss the inherent inequities in modern American healthcare. Instead, he sat down in the chair next to Matt’s bed. “Seriously though,” he said, “no cocaine or smokes or booze aside, how are you doing?”

“Well… I had a big-ass fuckin’ heart attack and that’s kind of tripping me out a little.” He looked at Jake meaningfully. “Heart attacks fuckin’ hurt, dude. That ain’t no shit.”

“Yeah?” Jake asked.

“Yeah,” Matt said sincerely. “I thought it was heartburn at first, had been having episodes like that for a few days, usually after I… you know… blasted a few rails. And then, during the soundcheck yesterday… the pain came back, but this time it didn’t go away when I chugged some Maalox, it just kept getting worse, until it felt like there was a fat chick sitting on my

chest. It got hard to breathe and I started sweating. I knew something was wrong. I started feeling like I was about to die; and that ain’t a good way to fuckin’ feel.”

“Sounds kind of scary,” Jake said.

“It was,” Matt said. “And you know I don’t fuckin’ scare easily, but that was some terrifying shit. And then Jimbo hooked me up to the heart machine he carries and I saw his face go all pale and shit. He tells me, ‘Matt, I’m pretty sure you’re having a heart attack right now’.

Usually, you can’t pick one up with that machine he has—it isn’t sensitive enough or some shit like that—but this one was so big it did show up. And when I heard that shit, the sense of impending fuckin’ doom got even worse. I swear to god, Jake, I didn’t think I was gonna make it to the hospital.”

“A good thing you had Jim there,” Jake said.

“Fuckin’ A,” Matt agreed. “He saved my ass. He gave me some aspirin, some fuckin’

nitroglycerin, and some morphine all before the Seattle paramedics were able to get to us. By the time they got there and took over, the pain was down to almost fuckin’ reasonable and that sense that I was living the last few minutes of my life had chilled out a little. I was still having a fuckin’ heart attack, but all the shit that Jimbo gave me helped get the blood circulating again and helped chill my shit out. The docs here said I might not have made it if Jim hadn’t did what he did.”

“I guess he deserves a bonus then,” Jake suggested.

Matt looked at him, confused. “A bonus?” he asked. “What the fuck for? He was doing what I pay him to do.”

Jake blinked slowly and then decided not to debate the matter. “Right, of course,” he said.

“Anyway, I’m glad you made it through.”

“Yeah, me too,” Matt said. “Now if I could just have a fuckin’ smoke and a double Jack and coke.”

“I think you’re gonna have to wait a while for that,” Jake said.

“I know,” Matt said with a sigh. “And you know, at this point, a fuckin’ bacon cheeseburger with onion rings on it sounds almost as good as a few lines. But I can’t have that either. You should see the swill they feed me here. Breakfast was a fuckin’ egg patty that is perfectly square and looks like it came out of a machine. They won’t even give me salt to put on it. And lunch was a goddamn salad with a few pieces of chicken in it and the only dressing they would let me have is that vinaigrette shit. No ranch, no blue cheese. And again, no fuckin’ salt. I asked if I could order a pizza up here and they wouldn’t let me do that shit either.”

“Barbarians,” Jake said lightly.

“That ain’t no shit,” Matt agreed. “And you know what else? None of these nurses up here want to fuck. They won’t even give me a blowjob! Some of them are pretty fuckin’ hot too, the kind of bitches that should want to slurp my schlong just because I’m Matt fucking Tisdale. But they won’t! Won’t even think about it! What’s up with that shit?”

“So… anyway,” Jake said, really not wanting to delve into that subject, “what happens next? Jim told me they want to do the bypass surgery on you.”

“That’s what they want to do,” Matt said. “And if you flew all the way up here from LA just to try to talk me into going with the stents instead, you shouldn’t have bothered. I already decided to let them do the stents so I can get back on the road in a reasonable fucking amount

of time.”

“Well… in the first place, I didn’t fly up here from LA,” Jake told him. “I was in New York City. That’s why it took me so long to get here.”

“New York City?” Matt asked. “What the fuck were you doing there?”

“Celia is playing three shows at MSG,” he said. “Laura and I flew over to see her and hang out with her for a few days.”

Understanding appeared on Matt’s face. “Ahhh yes,” he said knowingly. “The rumor back in Oregon was that you and your old lady are plowin’ that Mexican bitch. Is that shit true?”

Jake sighed. “Well… in the first place, she’s Venezuelan, not Mexican.”

“Yeah, yeah,” Matt said. “Whatever. She’s hot and she’s Latin. So, are you and your spinner wife nailing her, or what?”

Jake debated giving the standard reply and just lying to Matt, but, in the end, he could not quite bring himself to do it. Matt knew him well and would probably pick up on the lie, thus putting a dent in the trust that had developed between the two of them. And, though Matt was rude, crude, socially inacceptable, and even dangerous under certain circumstances, he was not a gossip and he understood the code of the road very well. “Yeah,” Jake said softly, after glancing at Matt’s roommate to make sure he was still asleep. “It’s true. Laura and I are in a kind of mutual relationship with Celia.”

Matt grinned widely. “I fuckin’ knew it!” he said excitedly. “Goddamn, that’s hot shit there, brother! Your old lady actually goes down and munches her muff too?”

“Uh… yeah,” Jake said. “She’s into that sort of thing.”

“Damn, brother,” Matt said. “And you’re allowed to plow the Valdez bitch right in front of your old lady?”

“That’s the only way I am allowed to plow her,” Jake said. “There’s a rather complex set of rules to this thing.”

“Rules, huh?” Matt said, frowning a bit. “That’s a little bit square, I gotta be honest, but at least you’re getting regular non-groupie threesomes, right?”

“Uh… right,” Jake said.

“Does Meghan the nanny ever get in on this shit too?” Matt asked.

“She does not,” Jake said. “As I’ve told you before, I am not doing the nanny. Neither is Laura. Neither is Celia for that matter.”

“Oh, come on, bro,” Matt nearly pleaded. “You just told me about the Mexican bitch. You can tell me about the nanny too.”

“There’s nothing to tell,” Jake insisted. “Meghan is cute and nice to look at—especially when she’s walking around in her long t-shirt and no bra—but she is very young, very naïve, and all that she does in our house is watch Caydee when we’re not there.”

“You know I don’t believe that shit for a minute, right?”

“It’s true,” Jake said.

Matt shook his head. “The Jake Kingsley I know does not hire a twenty-one-year-old nanny named Meghan and not bone her. That’s like a law of fuckin’ physics, brother.”

“I’m not the same Jake Kingsley you knew back in the Intemp days, Matt,” Jake told him.

“I’ve grown up since then.”

“Nobody grows up that much,” Matt insisted. “But that’s cool. You don’t want to cop to

boning the nanny, that’s your business.”

“Very good,” Jake said, exasperated now. “And I trust that the business with me and Laura and Celia is my business too.”

“Of course it is,” Matt said, seemingly wounded at the very implication that he might be indiscrete with this information. “What do you take me for? I ain’t like that motherfucker that ratted to the media about the Mexican bitch and the pilot or your old lady and those lesbo groupies. Did you ever find out who broke the code on that one? It wasn’t Freakboy, was it?”

“No,” Jake said. “It wasn’t Charlie. It was the copilot on Celia and the band’s plane. C and Laura both shot him down multiple times and he was butthurt over that. He blabbed to a reporter somewhere.”

“What a fuckin’ asshole,” Matt said, appalled.

“Yep,” Jake said. “He got what was coming to him though. He got fired and will likely never fly passengers again. Oh… and Coop beat his ass.”

“Coop?” Matt asked. “No shit?”

“No shit,” Jake said. “Went to his hotel room right after the story broke and punched the shit out of him for breaking the code. Broke his jaw and a couple of teeth. Gave him a concussion. Coop got arrested for assault but they ended up dropping the charges.”

“Damn,” Matt whispered, once again visibly impressed. “Maybe Coop’s not such a sellout after all.”

“He broke his hand beating the guy’s ass,” Jake added. “He had to do the next five weeks’

worth of shows in Canada drumming with a splint on his hand. He pulled it off though.”

“Really?” Matt asked.

“Really,” Jake assured him.

“Hmm,” Matt said, pondering this information carefully, wondering if maybe he had misjudged Coop all these years.

“Anyway,” Jake said, “I did not come here to try to talk you into getting the stents so you could get back on the road faster.”

“You didn’t?” Matt asked.

“No,” Jake said. “Quite the opposite. I think you should get the bypass surgery.”

Matt looked at him suspiciously. “Why do you think that?” he asked. “It’ll take me three fuckin’ months to recover from that shit before I can even start rehearsing again. It’ll take another month or two after that before I’m in shape enough to step up on the fuckin’ stage night after night again. That means we’ll have to cancel the rest of the dates for this tour and reschedule next spring or next summer even.”

“I understand the implications,” Jake said. “I still think you should do it.”

“Why?” Matt wanted to know. “We’ll both lose an assload of money if I don’t take the easy way here.”

“Why? Because I give a fuck about you, Matt,” Jake said plainly. “Have you talked to Kim about all this?”

“Yeah,” he said slowly, carefully. “I talked to her earlier today—she’s flying up here from LAX in a few hours, matter of fact.”

“And what does she think you should do?” he asked.

“She thinks I should do the bypass surgery too.”

“And what does Jim, your paramedic, think?”

“He thinks I should do the bypass surgery.”

“You see?” Jake said. “Kim and Jim both give a fuck about you and they both want you to do the thing that will cost a bit in the short term but will likely extend your life in the long term. I give a fuck about you too; God only knows why after all the shit you’ve put me through over the years. The people who give a fuck want you to do the right thing here even though it will cost money. And what does Gahn, who represents National fucking Records, want you to do?”

“He thinks I should get the stents and get back to work,” Matt said slowly.

“That’s right,” Jake said. “He is the mouthpiece of National in this situation and National wants you back out on the road as soon as feasible. They don’t give a fuck about you. They just want to keep exploiting you until you die. And if you do what they want you to do, you’re likely going to die a lot sooner than if you do the right thing.”

Matt nodded thoughtfully. Jake had certainly struck a nerve there. He decided to twist the knife a little, to advance an argument that had once worked very well on him. “Has it ever occurred to you, Matt,” he asked, “that National would like nothing more than for you to have an untimely death at some point in the near future?”

“What do you mean?” he asked, a little alarmed by this notion.

“Well, they would prefer you finish the tour first,” Jake said, “because you’re making them a lot of money right now. But once the tour is over… they would love it if you were to drop dead of some cardiac issue because you didn’t get the bypass surgery. They would make a shitload off of your name posthumously. In the first place, sales of all of your CDs would go through the roof simply because you’re dead. But it wouldn’t end there. There would be Matt Tisdale tribute CDs where they repackage your tunes into Greatest Hits collections or some shit like that. They would find any unreleased material they have possession of, mix and master it a bit, and then release it for sale. They would take Next Phase and remix and remaster that, having hacker guitarists doing the overdubs and studio vocalists throwing in double-tracking. Then they would release that and it would probably sell just like a brand-new release. And then, after a few years of exploiting all of this, they would start authorizing tribute bands to go on tour and perform your material—well, everything but what’s on the current CD, since you own those rights yourself. True, they wouldn’t be able to charge a hundred dollars for the nosebleeds, but they would still pull in decent money and likely sell out the venues.”

This speech was having a definite effect on Matt. His fists clenched up as he pondered the information and Jake saw that his heart rate—which was displayed in bright green up on the cardiac monitor—went from 76 to 108. “Those motherfuckers,” he whispered.

“Exactly,” Jake said. “That is why Gahn is in here trying to pressure you to take the stents and get back on the road. They don’t give a fuck if you die as long as you can finish the tour.

And they would actually be happy if you died, would fuckin’ high-five each other in the meeting room before they came out and generated some fake tears for the press conference.”

“That’s some fucked-up shit you’re talking,” Matt said.

“It is,” Jake agreed. “But you understand that it’s true fucked-up shit, right?”

“Yeah,” Matt said. “You speak the truth. But what about the cancelled tour dates? I won’t be making any money if I don’t play. And you will probably be losing an assload of money, right?”

“It won’t be that bad,” Jake said. “In the first place, this will not hurt CD sales, which are fuckin’ phenomenal right now. And, not to sound like a heartless record company suit—

because I’m not one—once word gets out about what happened to you, the CD sales will probably increase in the short term. National is still obligated to promote you as I see fit. Both of us will still be getting those quarterly deposits for the CDs.”

“That is a good point,” Matt had to admit. “But aren’t you in breach of contract if I can’t tour? Won’t National sue your asses for lost income?”

Jake shook his head. “I already talked to Pauline about this. You having a heart attack and heart surgery falls under the ‘Catastrophic Circumstances’ clause in the contract we signed with them. That means that if something outside of our control is to occur and cause the cancellation of the entire tour or portions of it—and medical issues are specifically listed as one such circumstance—KVA is not considered to be in breach of contract. True, we’re going to have to refund all the tickets we’ve sold and pay a bunch of penalties for cancelled venue rentals, but we have insurance for that. So does National. The insurance companies will pay for most of those expenses. We’re still operating well in the black with you and will continue to operate that way no matter what happens. And you will still be getting your quarterly checks with all of your CD royalties on them.”

“You’re sure about this shit?” Matt asked.

“I am one hundred percent sure, Matt,” Jake told him. “Get the heart surgery, Matt. Live longer. Piss in the face of those assholes who would like to profit off of your dead body.”

Matt thought about this for a moment and then nodded his head, a little smile appearing on his face. “All right,” he said at last. “I’ll fuckin’ do it.”

Jake smiled. “Excellent,” he said with genuine happiness.





Matt let his cardiologist know his plan to go through with the bypass surgery when the good doctor made rounds at 3:15 PM. Dr. Jacoby was his name and he seemed genuinely happy to hear this as well. He told Matt that Dr. Anderson, the surgeon, already had his chart and was reviewing it and they would keep the OR they had booked for Monday morning, October 26th.

Jake, meanwhile, got on the phone and updated Pauline on the situation.

“He’s really going to go through with it?” she asked, knowing how fickle Matt’s mind was with situations such as this.

“He seems pretty serious to me,” Jake said. “I gave him the argument that you gave me once upon a time: the one about how National would like nothing better than for him to drop dead after the tour is done.”

“Oh yeah,” Pauline said. “That is a good argument, mostly because it true.”

“It had the same effect on Matt as it did on me,” Jake said. “And, just to keep National from trying to change his mind, I had Matt order that Greg Gahn is not welcome as a visitor any longer. He has already tried to get in here twice since my arrival and was quite insistent the

second time. My understanding is that hospital security had to become involved.”

“They’ll just try to send someone else,” Pauline said. “They have two whole days to try to change his mind. They’re going to give it their best shot.”

“Already dealt with,” Jake said. “No visitors or phone calls are allowed except for me, Jim, you, and Kim, who will be landing at Sea-Tac just after five tonight. Not even his band members are allowed up here until after the surgery because I’m afraid Gahn might have brainwashed them.”

“Probably a good idea,” Pauline said.

“I still wouldn’t put it past them to try to sneak somebody up through security,” Jake said.

“I’m even pondering the thought of hiring a private security firm to watch the door when I’m not here.”

“You’re going to stay until surgery?” she asked.

“Yeah,” he said. “I’ll see him through this thing and then go home once he’s recovering. I told Laura I would meet her at home on Monday, but that’s not going to happen now. I’ll give her a call in a little bit and update her.”

“Sounds good,” Pauline said. “I guess I had better get on the phone with the suits over at National and tell them the news. That way we can start working on a press release. After that, we’ll have to start getting everyone home and dealing with the insurance companies and all that.”

“I don’t envy you,” Jake said.

“I don’t envy me either,” she said. “Keep me updated.”

“Will do,” he said. “And you do the same.”

Jake called Laura next and gave her an update on the situation. She, Celia, Meghan, and Caydee were out shopping so he had to get her on her cellphone. She was a little bummed that she would have to stay an extra night or two in LA instead of going home, but she understood.

Jim showed up to visit just as he finished the phone call. He, like Jake and Dr. Jacoby, was quite happy to hear that Matt had agreed to go under the knife (and the rib spreader) after all.

“All right,” Jake told the paramedic, “here’s the deal. National is going to want to try to talk Matt out of the surgery and go for the stents instead.”

“They ain’t gonna fuckin’ do it,” Matt said firmly. “I’ve made up my mind.”

“That’s good,” Jake said. “They’re going to try anyway. We’ve already made it clear that no one but you, me, and Kim are allowed up here, but they’re likely going to try anyway. I’m going to pick up Kim at the airport and bring her here. Your job, Jim, is to keep unauthorized people the fuck out of here while I’m gone.”

“Will do,” Jim promised.

Jake left a few minutes later. He took a taxi to the Sea-Tac airport rental car building and rented a 1997 Toyota 4-Runner. He waited in the rental car parking lot and made a call on his cellphone to the Sheraton Hotel. He was able to book two suites by giving them his credit card number. One suite, which he would use, was booked through Wednesday. The other, which Kim and Jim would use together (Matt had assured Jake that Kim and the paramedic fucked each other regularly and he had no problem with them sharing a suite—Jake had simply raised his eyebrows a bit at this information and then carried on) was kept open-ended. They would be staying there until such time as Matt was discharged from the hospital and able to return to

southern California for his rehab.

Once the bookings were made, Jake sat and listened to one of the local hard rock stations on the radio. He heard Matt’s song Dethroned and Celia’s song When You’re Lonely played over two sets before his phone began to ring from within the cup holder between the seats. It was Kim Kowalski. Matt had called her cellphone while she had been waiting at LAX and told her that Jake would pick her up. She had just picked up her luggage and would be out in front of the Delta Airlines Departure area in five minutes.

“On my way,” Jake said. “I’m in a white 4-Runner.” He dropped the Toyota into gear and headed into the heart of the airport. He followed the signs to the terminal and squeezed his way into the loading area. A few minutes later, Kim appeared. It was the first time Jake had seen her in person since the Intemperance days. She looked no different, really. Time was being kind to her. She was a very attractive natural blonde with large breasts and a wholesome face.

Her body was tight and in very good shape. She was wearing a pair of jeans and a pullover sweater that did justice to those breasts of hers.

He stepped out of the car and waved to her, calling her by her given name and not Mary Ann Cummings, her screen name. She smiled when she saw him and walked over, meeting him at the rear of the vehicle. She held out her arms to him and they hugged warmly. She then kissed him on the cheek with a mouth that he had seen sucking twelve-inch cocks on various videos in the past.

“You look great!” she told him once the embrace was broken. “Seriously!”

“So do you,” Jake told her. “You don’t look a day older than when I saw you last.”

“You’re so sweet,” she said. “How long’s it been?”

“About eight years now, I think,” Jake said.

“That long?” she said, shaking her head in wonder. “Where does the time go?”

“Down the toilet, never to return,” Jake told her. “Here, let me get your bags in.”

He loaded her luggage into the back of the 4-Runner and they fought their way out of the airport and back to the freeway. The traffic was fairly thick at this time of night so they had a little time to reminisce. They talked mostly of the time that she, Matt, and Jake had watched Helen’s softball championship game in Ventura and then the four of them had flown to Bodega Bay. That had been quite the trip.

“How is Helen doing these days?” Kim asked. “Do you keep in touch with her at all?”

“I’ve only seen her one time since we broke up,” Jake said. “That was a few years back, when Greg Oldfellow was getting ready to film So Others May Live and wanted some publicity shots of him flying a plane. Helen took him up and I flew alongside so the camera guy could film it. We all had lunch together at Catalina after.”

“Was it awkward?” Kim asked.

“A little,” he said. “She propositioned me after we had lunch.”


Jake nodded. “I turned her down. Laura and I were a thing then.”

“That must have taken a lot of willpower,” Kim said. “She’s a hottie with those big titties and that whole squirting thing.”

“Yeah,” Jake agreed. “It was tempting, but I was good.”

She shrugged. “To each their own,” she said. “How’s Mattie doing? Is he still planning to

get the stents and go back to work as soon as possible?”

“No,” Jake said. “I managed to talk him into getting the surgery.”

“You did?” she asked, surprised.

“I did,” he said.

She smiled and reached over and squeezed his thigh affectionately. “Bless you, Jake,” she told him with all sincerity.





The next morning, at the Plaza Hotel in New York City, Celia Valdez was awakened at 7:20 AM

when Laura Kingsley, who had been cuddled up naked against her in the large bed, rolled over and put her feet on the floor. Celia, who was equally naked and laying on her back, opened her eyes slowly and looked around the room for a moment before settling her gaze on her bedmate.

“Sorry,” the redhead told her. “I gotta pee. And Caydee is probably awake by now.”

“No problem,” Celia muttered, wondering if she could just get another hour or so of sleep.

She and Teach had been up a little late last night, drinking wine, taking a few tokes on Laura’s pipe, and then engaging in a session of sapphic love that had lasted nearly two hours. It had been a little strange to not have Jake present for the activity, but it had been quite enjoyable nonetheless. She had forgotten how sexy it could be when it was just between the girls. And this had been the first time she and Laura had actually gone all the way without Jake being there. Yes, her mouth was kind of sore this morning, as were her nipples, as was her vagina, but she had orgasmed no less than eight times and was feeling quite satisfied and satiated.

She heard the sound of Laura peeing and that made her realize that she too needed to go.

With a sigh, she pushed the covers off of her and stood up beside the bed. She walked into the bathroom just as Laura was finishing her business. Laura was not bashful about peeing in front of her and had left the door wide open. She tried not to watch as her lover wiped herself with a wad of folded toilet paper and then flushed everything away.

“Your turn,” Teach said lightly as she vacated the room.

“Right,” Celia said. She entered the throne room and then shut the door behind her. She was a bit bashful about being seen peeing. She and Greg had been married for more than a year before she finally lost that particular shyness, and even then it had always felt a little shameful to be seen in the act. She was not sure she was ever going to be comfortable urinating in front of Laura, let alone Jake (who also had no shyness about performing the act in front of her when the situation came up).

She emptied her bladder into the toilet, her mind pondering the fact that she was now in an intimate enough relationship where thoughts of when it was appropriate to pee in front of each other came to the forefront, and she was in such a relationship with not just one, but two people simultaneously. And they were a married couple with a daughter. Yes, she loved both of them with all her heart, and they loved her, but how long could something like this realistically last?

No reason to think about this right now, a part of her brain whispered to her. Things are good now. You have love. You have sexual satisfaction beyond what you ever could have hoped for. Why start questioning it now? This was a good point. The relationship between the three of them was seemingly solid and based more on love than lust—as any long-term relationship should be.

The only true bickering they had ever done had been when they had tried to give her permission to engage with groupies out on the road.

She wiped herself and then flushed the toilet. She opened the door and stepped back out into the main bathroom. Teach now had the shower running and was brushing her teeth. She spit the toothpaste out and then looked at Celia and smiled. “Care to join me in the shower?”

she asked.

Celia giggled but shook her head. “If I get in there with you, God only knows how long we’ll be in there. Caydee would miss her breakfast.”

“Yeah… I suppose,” Laura said with a smile. She walked over and gave Celia a soft, affectionate, borderline sexy kiss on the mouth. She then turned and got in the shower, pulling the door closed behind her.

Celia picked up her dental floss container and pulled a piece off. She went to work on her teeth, methodically getting into each separation, starting from the top left and working her way around in a circle. Once that was complete, she squirted some Colgate on her toothbrush and brushed each tooth in the same methodical manner. She rinsed her mouth out and then took a shot of mint flavored Listerine and swished it around in her mouth for precisely thirty seconds, per the directions on the bottle. She gargled for a few seconds, spit out the mouthwash, and then rinsed her mouth once more with water from the tap. By the time she was done with all of this, Laura was finished with her shower.

“Want me to leave the water running?” Laura asked.

“Please,” Celia said. She then grabbed two of the towels and placed them within arm’s reach of the shower door. She picked up a washcloth and headed for the shower. She passed Laura on the way and could not resist giving her a long, sexy kiss on the lips that involved a little tongue play. She felt herself juicing up a bit at the feel of the girly kiss, at the smell of a freshly showered Teach. “Mmmm, you taste good,” she told her.

“Thank you,” Laura said, flushing a little, her nipples getting a little hard.

Celia stepped into the shower and closed the door behind her. She washed her hair first and then used the washcloth soaked in body wash to scrub her face and neck, her armpits, her chest and breasts, her legs, and then, finally, her groin and butt. She had just shaved her legs, armpits, and vaginal area the day before so things were still copacetic there. After rinsing thoroughly, she turned off the water and stepped out. She took one of the towels and dried her hair as much as she could and then wrapped it around her head. The other towel she used to dry her body off.

Laura was now wearing a pair of black, lacy panties and a matching bra. She was blow drying and combing out her shoulder length copper colored hair. Celia joined her at the second sink and began to work on her own hair, remaining naked while she did so.

They talked little as they put themselves together for the day. Laura put on a green button-up blouse with long sleeves, a red skirt that fell to just above her knees, and a pair of black boots. She tied her hair into a ponytail and put on a layer of lip gloss. Celia had a show tonight,

which meant music store autograph sessions and a few radio station interviews before reporting to Madison Square Garden, so she put on a pair of black dress slacks and a candy apple red blouse. She wore a pair of boots as well but she kept her hair down. Her only makeup was a coating of lip gloss too.

“You look beautiful,” Laura told her when she was fully dressed.

“Yeah?” Celia asked.

“Yeah,” Laura said, giving a naughty look. “Good enough to eat.”

Celia chuckled. “You didn’t get your fill last night?”

“I did,” Laura said, “but I’m getting hungry again.”

“It’ll have to wait until after the show,” Celia told her.

“I know,” Laura said with a sigh. She then gave another naughty look. “What are the chances that I can get you to not shower after the show?”

Celia looked at her. “Why would I not shower?” she asked.

“Because I want to put my mouth on you while you’re still sweaty from the show,” she told her.

“Really?” Celia said, immediately interested. That was so… kinky, so exciting, so arousing of a thought.

“Really,” Laura assured her, her eyes looking at her lustily.

“Well… I don’t want to wait until we get back to the hotel,” she said. “But maybe we can find a place to be alone for little while right after the show. You know, while the sweat is still fresh and wet.”

The shine in Laura’s eyes increased visibly. “Mmmm,” she said. “I like the way you think.”

“I like the way you think,” Celia returned. “I’ll talk to Dan and see if he can arrange a place for us.”

They shared another sexy kiss with a little tongue play. Laura even nibbled a little on Celia’s ear. She then reluctantly broke the embrace. “I’d better go check on Caydee,” she said.

“Okay,” Celia said, a little breathless, sorry to lose her lover’s touch.

“I’ll see you at breakfast,” Laura said. And with that, she left the room.

Celia let the flush clear from her face and her nipples retreat back into their corners. She then opened up the side zipper on her travel bag. In this small compartment were her pharmaceutical supplies. She had Ibuprofen and Tylenol for aches and pains (and hangovers), Imodium for when she was afflicted with traveler’s diarrhea (this occurred with despairing regularity, particularly in older cities with more primitive water systems), stool softeners for when her bowels turned on her in the other direction, Benadryl for when she had trouble sleeping, Pepcid for when the road food gave her heartburn, and four months worth of Progestiril, the name brand of her birth control pills.

She took the round Progestiril case she was currently working her way through and looked at it for a moment. Today was Sunday. The pill for Saturday had been taken and the pill for Sunday had not. She was on schedule. The Sunday pill was one of the pink ones, which meant it was one with the active ingredient in it and not a sugar pill with vitamins. She popped it out of the case and put it in her mouth, washing it down with water from the tap. She then returned the little round case to the side pocket of her travel bag.

Another day had begun.





The little round packets of Progestiril had been traveling with Celia since she left Los Angeles back in mid-August, more than two months before. The usual method of operation was that she would pick up one packet every twenty-eight days or so from her pharmacy in Malibu, take the pills until they were gone, and they would automatically be refilled about four days before the current pack ran out. But when she had to go on extended tours, things were different. It was difficult to impossible to pick up her prescription on the road in cities she did not live in and where often there was no branch of the Short’s drug store that she used. As such, she always asked for a four to five month supply of the pills before heading out and, since insurance refused to pay for them that far in advance, paid out of her own pocket for the extras.

That was what Celia had done at the start of this tour. On August 7th, just a few days before she left for Glacier Park with Jake and Laura, she had paid for six of the little packets, enough to last her through the end of the tour. Those packets had been riding in the side zipper pocket of her travel bag ever since. They had been bounced around on airport tarmacs and in aircraft flying through clear-air turbulence. They had been subjected to both extreme heat and extreme cold on a routine basis. The air pressure they lived in had ranged from sea level to eight thousand feet with every flight she took. And the pills themselves, though well inside their expiration date, were getting to be at the long end of their predicted shelf life under ideal conditions. With all these factors combined, the strength of the active ingredient—synthetic progesterone designed to fool Celia’s body into thinking she was already pregnant—had degraded by a considerable margin. For the past three weeks now she had been taking pills that were, more or less, only about sixty to sixty-five percent of their normal potency. Normally, this was still well within the safety margin and not a concern. But Celia’s body—unknown to her or to anyone else on the face of the Earth, really—was blessed with a particularly strong endocrine system, especially as it related to the female sex hormones. In other words, her body produced enough natural hormones to override the synthetic progesterone of the birth control pills when their strength dropped below seventy percent or so.

It was not enough to give her a full-blown cycle. On the contrary, her uterus and her gonads were more than a little confused about what exactly they were supposed to be doing as they were receiving a constant flood of mixed signals. The reason she had not experienced any period-like bleeding during her last run of inert white pills was because her body had overridden the weakened progesterone and allowed one of her ova to partially mature in her left ovary. It sent out just enough of the hormone to build up a weak, thin lining on the wall of her uterus. And then, with the cessation of the progesterone that came with taking the white pills, that lining grew just a little more and the ovum in question tried to migrate down. Alas, no sperm cell came along and fertilized it so her body did the normal thing it did under such circumstances: It released more hormones to shed the lining and send it through the cervix. In

other words, the spotting that Celia experienced on the day she arrived in Boston had been a period that had been too small for her to recognize for what it was.

And then that period ended. Celia mostly forgot about it in the stress of touring and the excitement at the coming reunion with Jake and Laura. She continued to take her pink pills faithfully every morning but they continued to be only sixty to sixty-five percent effective and her body, still confused, decided that it should start another one of her ova on its maturation cycle and get it ready for possible fertilization. This ovum came from her right ovary this time.

On the day she flew into New York City to meet her lovers and to perform at MSG for three nights, it was fully mature and the lining of her uterus was trying to build a nest for its possible implantation. The ovum was kicked loose and began to move into her right fallopian tube.

In the twelve hours that Jake was in New York with Celia and Laura, he deposited three separate ejaculations of healthy, happy, mobile sperm into Celia’s vagina. Though Laura licked a considerable portion of the first two deposits out of that vagina before the sperm could get anywhere near Celia’s cervix, almost half of them got through. It was the third ejaculation, however, the one Jake had given her just before leaving for Seattle while Laura slept beside them, that was likely the culprit. Jake had been clutching her body tightly against him as he came inside of her and most of the semen was shot directly through her cervix and into her uterus. They made their way along their instinctive path and, at about the time that Celia was sitting down for her first radio station interview of the day, these sperm cells entered the ampulla of her right fallopian tube and found a fertile ovum waiting.

They attacked the ovum, driven by hormonal release and capitation. And one of them made it inside.

Over the next few days—while Matt underwent quadruple bypass surgery at the University of Washington Medical Center, while Pauline held a press conference and explained that the Matt Tisdale tour dates would all be postponed until April at the earliest due to an unspecified

‘medical issue’ with the guitarist, while Doolittle met with Frowley and tried to figure out if there was some way they could take financial advantage of the Matt Tisdale situation—the egg and the sperm, now a zygote, began to divide and grow. It began to move down Celia’s right fallopian tube en route to the uterus for implantation.

But it did not make it very far. Something was wrong. The passage was too narrow to advance and it got stuck in place. It could not move forward to its destination, but it was also locked on a course of action as old as multicellular life itself.

It continued to divide and grow within her.






Chapter 2

Make My Way Back Home









Burbank, California

October 27, 1998




Jake had never flown on a low-cost airliner before, but he booked a $110 ticket on West Coast Airlines because of the convenience. WCA was the only carrier that flew nonstop into Burbank Airport from Sea-Tac on a daily basis. Flying into Burbank would be much more efficient and accessible for everyone involved. Though he had recently spent nearly twenty thousand dollars to charter a flight from Teterboro, New Jersey to Seattle just to avoid sitting in coach, he figured he could put up with the cattle call conditions aboard WCA for the short, two-hour hop.

It was a mistake he would never make again.

Since he had never flown such a carrier before, he had not realized that there was no assigned seating. One simply claimed an empty seat when one boarded the aircraft. The boarding was done by groups—A, B, C, and D groups—with each group consisting of thirty-six passengers on a full plane (and Jake’s flight was indeed full). The concept of charging extra money to be bumped up to an earlier group had yet to occur to anyone in WCA’s management, so one’s group was assigned by the order in which the tickets were purchased. Jake was one of the last to book, having done it the night before the flight, so he was in Group D and one of the last three passengers to go down the jetway. By the time he boarded the 737 every last aisle and window seat was already taken, leaving only three middle seats to choose from. He chose one near the very back of the plane, between an overweight guy in a Butthole Surfers sweater and a painfully skinny bleach blonde woman. He chose poorly, he soon found out.

The fat guy smelled really bad. He apparently believed that regular bathing was not

necessary as long as he had a steady supply of Old Spice to dump all over himself. As such, he exuded the odor of rancid BO combined with an overdose of cloyingly sweet cheap cologne. He also fell asleep before they even pushed back from the gate and snored loudly the entire trip.

The woman—who was obviously no stranger to methamphetamine based on her pockmarked skin, emaciated build, and several missing teeth—talked to him with an annoying, grating lisp the entire flight, jabbering on and on about how she was one day going to be a hairstylist for the rich and famous in Hollywood (though she was currently unemployed and did not actually possess a cosmetology license) and about all of the famous people she rubbed elbows with in LA (she claimed she went to church with Magic Johnson, had once had season tickets right behind Jack Nicholson, and had gone on a few dates with Johnny Depp) with no apparent inkling of just who she was sitting next to.

Never again, Jake vowed to himself when he finally managed to work his way down the aisle and escape onto the jetway some twenty-five minutes after the wheels had touched down on the runway. Call me an elitist fucking snob if you will, but I will never fly like that again, not even if I’m only going LA to Vegas or San Diego, not even if I need to go home in a hurry because my Mom or Dad is dying.

Since he only had his travel bag he did not have to visit the baggage carousel. He used his cellphone to call Laura as he made the hike to the terminal exit with the rest of the cattle from his and various other arrivals. He had to wait another five minutes or so at the curb before his F-150 appeared and pulled into an empty spot in the loading zone. Laura was behind the wheel.

Pauline was in the passenger seat. Caydee and Meghan were in the back seat. All of Laura’s, Meghan’s, and Caydee’s baggage was in the bed.

Laura stepped out of the cab and embraced him warmly, kissing him affectionately on the mouth. She then wrinkled her nose. “Oh my God,” she said. “What is that smell?”

“That would be my seatmate,” he said sourly.

“Gross,” she said. “You had to sit next to someone who smells like that for two hours?”

“Two hours was just the flight time,” Jake said. “Add another twenty minutes from boarding to takeoff and then another twenty from landing to escape.”

“Gross,” she said again. “Maybe you should ride in the back with the luggage.”

“I’ll roll the window down,” he promised.

He tossed his bag in the back of the truck and then climbed into the driver’s seat. Laura wedged herself into the back seat next to Caydee, who was strapped into the middle position in her car seat.

“Dada!” Caydee yelled happily when she saw him. “Dada dive!”

“That’s right, Caydee girl,” Jake told her, reaching back to caress her face. “Daddy’s gonna drive us to the airport so we can fly home.”

“Dada dive! Dada fye!”

“Dada kinda stinks,” Pauline said, getting a whiff of him.

“Dada tinks!” Caydee cried, thrilled that someone other than she was being accused of that for once.

“Yeah, sorry,” Jake apologized. “That’s what I get for flying Greyhound in the sky. Maybe Caydee can poop for us and improve the ambience a bit.”

“It’s worth a shot,” said Pauline.

“What are you doing here anyway?” Jake asked his sister. “Are you coming home with us?”

“Yeah, I hope you don’t mind,” she said. “Obie and Tabby are up in Oregon right now. I was supposed to be with them but having to deal with the Matt situation derailed me. Now that the worst of the crisis is past, I gotta get away from the shitshow for a little bit. And, since we have some things to discuss, it seemed like going to the cliff with you was the best thing.”

“Shitshow!” Caydee yelled and then giggled. “Shitshow, shitshow, shitshow!”

“That’s not a nice word, Caydee,” Meghan admonished.

“Shitshow, shitshow, shitshow!” Caydee responded.

“Cadence Elizabeth,” Meghan said sternly.

“Oh, fuck it,” Jake told the nanny dismissively. “She hears a lot worse than that hanging out with me.”

“Fuck it!” Caydee agreed. “Fuck it, fuck it, fuck it!”

Meghan gave a disapproving look to Jake. He ignored it. Laura just shook her head and rolled her window down a little bit.

“Anyway,” Jake told his sister (who was grinning at Caydee’s antics), “you’re always welcome at our home. You know that.” He turned to look over his shoulder at Laura. “Did you let Elsa know Paulie’s coming?”

“Yeah, a few hours ago,” Laura said. “She’s going to make spaghetti and garlic bread for dinner.”

“With her homemade sauce?” asked Meghan hopefully.

“Of course,” Jake told her. “Elsa would die before she would use jarred sauce. And I mean that quite literally.”

“Do you suppose, however,” asked Laura, “that we could swing by the Granada Hills house for a few minutes?”

“Drive past Whiteman and go all the way to the hills?” Jake asked. “Why would we do that?”

“So you can take a shower and change your clothes,” she said. “I don’t really want to be cooped up in an airplane with you smelling like you currently do.”

“Amen to that,” said Pauline.

And so, he did it. Caydee kept them entertained on the drive by singing her version of Do-Ra-Mi, which consisted of mostly the syllables of the opening verse, with heavy emphasis on the Do’s, Ra’s, and Mi’s. Though she could not say most of the words to the tune, she could sing the syllables mostly in key and only a little bit out of time.

Jake stripped off his clothes and put them in garbage bag that he tied up tightly. He then showered, making sure to drench himself in body wash and let it sit on his body for a bit before rinsing it off. He washed his hair and then conditioned it. By the time he dried off he felt and smelled human again.

They all climbed back in the truck and made the drive to Whiteman airport. It took about twenty-five minutes to get everything loaded up and to get a flight plan filed. Finally, they roared into the sky for home. Pauline sat in the copilot seat while Laura and Caydee sat in the seats behind them (both promptly fell asleep immediately after takeoff). Meghan sat in the back row of non-couch seats. She enjoyed flying in Jake’s plane but did not like facing backwards while she did it.

“All right,” Jake said once they were up above ten thousand and the autopilot had the plane, “let’s compare notes and see where we stand.”

“Sounds good,” Pauline agreed. “How’s Matt doing? Let’s start with that.”

“As I told you on the phone, he went through with the surgery. It was a little touch and go right up to the morning of, but he sucked it up and went through with it.”

“Crow and Doolittle were very upset with you for not letting Gahn visit Matt before the surgery,” Pauline said. “They collectively called me at least six times trying to convince me to talk Matt into just doing the stents. They even had Frowley call and try to claim that the Catastrophic Circumstances clause of the contract did not apply in this situation and that we were in breach of contract if Matt had to cancel the rest of the tour because of heart surgery.”

“Really?” Jake asked, shaking his head. “What was his logic behind that opinion?”

“That since it was within Matt’s control to undergo a simpler treatment that would allow him to go back to work in four weeks but he was choosing the treatment that would result in cancellation of the tour, he was voluntarily waiving KVA’s rights under the provision.”

“That’s a bunch of bullshit,” Jake said. He then looked over at his sister. “Isn’t it?”

“Complete bullshit and a typical Frowley bluff,” she confirmed. “I don’t know why he keeps thinking he can pull one over on me like that. He’s like the fuckin’ coyote trying to catch the roadrunner.”

“Good analogy,” Jake said.

“I thought so,” she said. “Anyway, I told him that if he thought he could convince a judge and jury that putting off life-saving surgery just so Matt could keep touring was a reasonable course of action for National Records to demand, then go ahead and file for breach of contract.

‘It will be fun,’ I told him, ‘humiliating you in the courtroom and making you look like the heartless assholes that you are.’ He abandoned that line of suggestion after that.”

“That guy is such a sleazeball,” Jake said.

“Even other lawyers think he’s sleazy,” Pauline said. “How is Matt doing after the surgery?”

“He was kind of miserable when I talked to him last,” Jake said. “His chest hurt every time he took a breath or moved his shoulders. He had a huge surgical incision on his leg where they took out the graft. And he had one of those fuckin’ catheters in his schlong. That was what seemed to bother him the most. He kept telling the nurses to take it out but they wouldn’t do it.

Said it had to stay in for forty-eight hours post-surgery so they could monitor his kidney function or some shit like that.”

Pauline nodded. She had done a little time with a catheter inserted right after Tabitha had been born due to the lingering aftereffects of the spinal block. It was not one of her fond memories of the childbirth experience. “How long will he stay in the hospital?”

“Another five days at least,” Jake said. “Assuming he doesn’t sign out AMA—which is always a possibility when you’re talking about Matt.”

“True,” she agreed. “What happens after that? Is he coming home or going to stay in Seattle for a while?”

“He wants to get home as soon as he can. He wants to come back the same day he is discharged, but the doctor said he needs to wait at least two weeks before it’s safe to fly.”

“Two weeks? How come?”

“Apparently the change in air pressure from sea level to eight thousand feet is not a good idea until the vessels and his sternum have healed a bit.”

“Oh… I guess that makes sense. Well, Seattle is not such a bad place to be stuck in. It could have been worse.”

“Yeah,” Jake agreed. “This could’ve happened in Cincinnati or Salt Lake City. Now that would suck ass.”

“True that,” she agreed.

“I saw the news coverage on the tour cancellation,” he said. “Lots of wild-ass speculation going on.”

“Yeah,” she said sourly. She and National had not disclosed what had actually happened to Matt yet. Pauline had simply announced that he had ‘a medical issue that would prevent him from performing until mid to late spring’ and that the tour was cancelled until then. The entertainment media was reporting pretty much everything but what had actually happened.

The most common report was that Matt had overdosed on heroin like Darren and was on life support and was likely brain dead. The second most common was that he had overdosed on cocaine, had ruptured a blood vessel in his brain, and was most likely brain dead on a ventilator waiting for his family to decide whether or not to donate his organs. The third most common was that he had been shot and/or stabbed and was lingering on life support waiting for his family to decide whether or not to donate his organs.

“We’re going to have to release what actually happened at some point, right?” Jake asked.

“Yes, and soon,” she agreed. “Frankly, I’m quite amazed that the story hasn’t been broken yet. I know that patient privacy is a bigger thing these days then it was when Darren ended up in the hospital, but there are an awful lot of people in that hospital who know what is actually going on with Matt. Eventually one of them is going to be ‘an anonymous source’ and let it slip to some reporter in exchange for a couple pictures of Ben Franklin.”

“That might have already happened,” Jake suggested. “It could be that the truth is just boring and they’d rather talk about heroin overdoses and brain bleeds.”

She shrugged. “Maybe,” she said. “In any case, I want to talk to Matt tonight and feel him out about going public with this. There is no real reason not to.”

“Okay,” Jake said. “I’ll call him as soon as we get home and see what he thinks. What about the tour? Are they heading back in yet?”

“They broke everything down and put it back in the trucks yesterday,” Pauline said. “The band flew home on the charter plane this morning. The rest of the crew are on their way in the trucks and the buses.”

“Including Gahn?” Jake asked.

“He flew home with the band,” Pauline confirmed. “Once Matt went forth with the surgery there was no reason for him to stay.”

“At least there’s that,” Jake said.


“Are all the tour dates now officially cancelled?”

“As of yesterday, yes,” she confirmed. “Jill is still working on the final numbers, but KVA and National will be charged somewhere in the vicinity of two million dollars in cancellation fees from the venues. Tack onto that another two hundred and fifty grand or so in contract

penalties from TicketKing for having to refund multi-millions in ticket sales.”

“The insurance company is going to pick that up though, right?”

“Right,” she said, “minus the fifteen-thousand-dollar deductible, of course.”

“Of course,” he said sourly.

“And, since a fair portion of KVA’s profit for the third quarter—which was dropped into the account two days before this shit hit the fan—included ticket sales for shows that have now been cancelled, we’ll have to pay that money back to TicketKing. Of course, we’re going to audit TicketKing’s numbers to make sure they’re not playing games with the figures, but that audit will be at our expense. That will be somewhere in the vicinity of thirty grand.”

“What a shitshow,” Jake said sadly.

“Shitshow,” mumbled Caydee from within her slumber. “Fuck it.”

Jake smiled. “Couldn’t have said it better myself, little girl,” he told her.






Matt had been moved from the cardiac ICU to the Progressive Care Unit, which was a stepdown unit where they put people who did not need the full-on ICU services but were still a little too complex to go to the regular telemetry floor. At least he had a private room in the PCU. That was about all the good there was to be said about the experience.

He was sitting in his chair next to the bed at 5:05 PM, just twenty-seven hours after they had brought him out of anesthesia after chopping open his fucking chest and rewiring four of the arteries in his heart. He was not sitting in the chair because he wanted to sit in the chair. He wanted nothing more than to stay in that hideous hospital bed and lay as still as possible and take as shallow of breaths as possible. He hurt in multiple places all over his body, but every time he moved anything, one of the pains or the other would ratchet up like the needle on a mixing board.

The most painful part, and the easiest to aggravate, was his sternum. It had been chopped open and spread apart for the surgery and was now wired back together with the skin fused with some sort of adhesive. There was a blood-stained bandage covering it currently—a bandage that each nurse at the beginning of his or her shift insisted upon looking under. Every breath he took ground those bones together and sent pain radiating throughout his being. He instinctively tried to keep his breathing as shallow as possible but the nurses did not like him doing that and kept harassing him to breathe deeper. And if he coughed—which he did with fair frequency because his throat was irritated from the fucking tube they had put down to breathe for him during the surgery—the pain became exquisite; almost, but not quite as intense as the pain of being cardioverted while awake and un-sedated that time in Houston. He feared how much it was going to hurt if he had to sneeze and now lived in terror of that normal bodily function occurring.

But the incision was not the only thing going on with his chest. He had a pair of chest tubes

protruding from him just to the left of the fractured sternum and just below his left nipple.

They were connected to little plastic squeeze containers into which a nasty looking thin red gruel consistently drained and was emptied out two or three times each nursing shift. They were both sources of significant pain as well. And then there was the incision on the inside of his right leg where they had harvested the vein graft they used to rewire his heart. That incision—which was also covered with a bloody bandage that was checked and changed once a shift—ran from just above the knee to six inches below his groin. It constantly throbbed with a burning pain that got worse with any movement of the leg. And, of course, there was the fucking tube in his schlong that was draining the contents of his bladder into a big plastic bag that hung on a hook attached to the bed. Just having the fucking thing installed made it feel like he desperately had to piss all the time—a sensation that was far from a comfortable one.

But when it moved in any way, the piss sensation turned quickly to pain that manifested all along his urinary tract. Why, he wondered miserably, were there so many fucking nerve endings in a person’s urinary tract? What was the point of that shit?

And then there were the IV lines. Though he was not currently attached to any drips or fluids, he still had two regular IVs installed in his left arm, something called a “central line”


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