Richie rolled off the lopsided bed of the podunk nowheresville grade D hotel and twitched the blinds open. Al's deep snore didn't do anything to even out the restlessness. He closed the blinds again, of course the searing sunshine didn't help either. He'd plowed through a bottle of Smirnoff's last night and yakked up what was left of his guts a few minutes ago. It wasn't the first time, and it wouldn't be the last time he'd done it, but shit...he usually knew when to stop just before the puke-zone.

After pouring himself into the shower, Al still didn't move. Of course, when Alec finally went down, he was out for a full day most of the time. That's what happened when you only slept once every four days.  He shrugged into his leather fringe, stuffing his shades on his face. They were off today, and it was time to get the hell out and away from everyone. Now he just had to con someone out of a car.

Doc wasn’t an option, not after the last time he'd dumped one of the executive's Beemer's off the side of the highway. He didn't remember that one, but then again, he'd lost a few weeks on the first leg of the tour. Too many women, too many nights of blow, and a case of vodka had scared him straight for awhile now. He was all about the parties, but waking up with a girl he didn't know, in a ditch on the edge of town was even beyond his level of fun. Ruining the trainey and bending the chasse of a BMW...not his finest moment.

He opened the door, wincing when his sister was on the other side, a similar pair of shades covering half her face. Her hair was scraped back in a high ponytail. She was decidedly unrocker girl today with faded jeans with only a slash of knee showing, boots, and vest over a tanktop, her jacket over her arm. She looked like his kid sister for once. He couldn't stop himself from tugging on her hair. "What's up brat?"

She held up two sets of keys. "You and me in a convertible, or you and me in a truck."

He raised his eyebrow in question.

"C'mon, did you forget?"

"Uh." He spun his ring on his pinkie, giving himself a minute. Nope, nada...he couldn't remember a damn thing except how much he hated the taste of vodka on the back of his tongue the next morning. "Yeah, evidently I did."

She sighed. "We've been talking about it since we started getting close to California, you schmuck."

"Look, brat, as long as it includes a greasy breakfast and...which one's the truck?"

Jamie dangled the keys in her left hand. He snatched them. "Hey!"

"Truck, me driving, and grease. Then you can remind me what I am forgetting."

"I can't believe you forgot," she complained yet again.

He slid his glasses down, meeting his sister's similarly blurry gaze. "Evidently we aren't moving until you put me in my place. So please, Princess Jamison tell me what I forgot."

"I'm not some prissy princess, that's Steph."

At the name Steph, he jammed his glasses back up  his nose and steered her around and down the hallway. He was not thinking about the blue balls and frustration he'd been chasing with vodka last night. And he sure as shit wasn't going to think about Steph and her soul ripping performance he’d caught the night before. No friggin' way. This was a Steph free day, goddammit. "Okay, Queen Jamison."

"I think Duchess has a nice ring to it," she said and let him push her down the hall.

"You would."

She snickered. "You promised that we could go to Voltage Guitars. It's a bit of a drive, but we have all day off."

"Oh, no shit." Instantly perking up, he grinned. He'd found Voltage on his first trip out to LA. He'd been told about the little out of the way place on the outskirts of Los Angeles. And the guitars there were enough to make him promise to give up a few molecules of his soul to play them. He slung his arm around Jamie's shoulder. "I can't believe I forgot. Just wait until you see this place, baby girl."

His little sister positively vibrated under his arm. If he was a geek for guitars, then Jamie was professor geek. She loved every inch of the building from the wood to the glue, from the headstock to the strings. Nothing was boring to her when it came to guitars. It was the one thing they could talk about for hours. And when his kid sister got a look at the room full of guitars she was going to just dissolve into....well, she might actually dissolve into a girl.

Richie ducked his head into the open doorway down the hall. Sure enough, Jon was pacing back and forth the base of a telephone hanging off his fingertips. "Yeah, sure we're excited to play Irvine. You guys in Cali know how to do it up right," Jon said in his PR voice.

"Jamie and I are heading out to LA for the day."

Jon flipped him the bird, then waved him off. Richie backed up into the hallway again, feeling a twinge of regret. Okay, so it was shitty that Jon would probably spend most of his day off doing interviews, but he got himself into that situation. No one fucking cared what he had to say when Jon was in the room anyway. He needed to get away and play music again, not just what was on Jon's setlist. Jamie stood back, her arms crossed over her chest, hugging her jacket to herself her eyes distant. "You okay, brat?"

She blinked, a bright smile returning to her face. Maybe just a little too bright. "Great, can't wait to see this place."

They made it out of the hotel without incident, and he took it as a good omen for the rest of the day. When Jamie only sighed and went for the passenger's side, he smiled wider. Yeah, this was definitely going to be a good day. She snapped out a map and the crinkle of paper reminded him of the various family trips they'd taken as kids. Of course going to the Jersey shore was a bit different than heading into Los Angeles, but no less exciting as far as he was concerned.

"Head north here." Jamie pointed to an interstate sign and he merged.

The big black truck felt right under his hands. The bench seat gave him more than enough room for his long legs. Considering he and Jamie were both on the tall side, it was a better fit for the hour long ride. She snapped on the radio and cranked it as REM's End of the World came on. It was a happy song, the sun was bright and the California smog was whispy instead of malevolent. It was gonna be a damn good day.

"God, I needed this."

Richie smiled at his sister. "I did too, brat."

She leaned back, crossing her legs at the ankles. "I'm glad you didn't totally bail on me today."

Okay, so he hadn't completely remembered, but he'd been up and out of bed for some reason today. Maybe subconsciously he'd actually been ready to get out and away from everything for a day. "I wouldn't bail on you. Hell, Jamie, I don't know what day it is half the time."

"I know." She crossed her arms over her belly. "It's been an awesome few months, but I really need this day away."

He glanced at her, his finger tapping on the steering wheel. Guy troubles? His belly twisted. If she started talking about some guy, he was going to have to go kill him. She didn't seem to be seeing anyone on the crew, but he'd been pretty thorough with anyone that had ever looked at her. His sister was off limits. He wasn't going to have some scumbag roadie touching her and every other groupie that batted their eyelashes to get backstage. "Everything cool?"

"Yeah, yeah. Nothing's wrong," she said quickly. "I just needed a day away from all the fucking estrogen on the bus. If I have to share a room with the bedhopping Tazmanian Devil for three more nights, I'm going to need some guitar lust fortification."

"Ash?" Jamie's eyebrow went up in that you're-too-stoopid-to-live quirk and he laughed. "I mean, I know she's a bit of a handful, but I didn't realize she--"

"She's a nymphomaniac's nympho."

He winced. "That doesn't sound good."

"Depends on your point of view." She squinted at him. "You haven't bounced on her have you?"

"God, no!" When her eyebrows rose in surprise, he lifted a hand in surrender. "Look, she's hot in a pixie on acid kind of way, but she'd probably kill me and scramble my ashes when she was done. Not that it's a bad way to go, but no thanks."

"Man, Richie!"

"What? You asked." He laughed, when she blushed through her tan. "Hey, I don't ask you about who you sleep with, and you don't ask me. It works better that way."

"Well, I'm going to upset the balance, so sorry in advance."

"Crap." He squirmed in his seat. He knew what she was going to ask, and being trapped in a truck with his baby sister when she asked about him and Steph was not his idea of a good time. "Look--"

She tightened her ponytail and recrossed her arms. "You know I gotta ask."

"It's complicated."

"It's only complicated because you're an ass."

He frowned. "You want us together?"

"Don't sound so surprised. It's taken me a few weeks to get used to the idea, but she's perfect as a built in sister-in-law."

"Whoa, let's not go there." Shock, terror, and a ball of ice hit him square in the chest. He wanted Steph--probably wanted her more than any woman on this earth, but he wasn't looking for forever yet. For God's sake, he was still in his prime. It wasn't time for rings and...well, other things. He veered away from the thought of Steph with a diamond winking off a rounded belly. Hell, no. He wasn't ready for that. Sure, someday, but not now. There was another ten years of touring and creating inside him. He didn't want to settle down yet.

"Yeah, I saw the world just flash in your eyes, buddy."

He tightened his fingers around the steering wheel. "Well, did you catch the terror in there too, Zoldana?"

Jamie's smile was wide and a little too knowing. "Yeah, I caught that, but I also saw just how easily you saw a future with Steph. You guys are meant. I know these things."

"Well, cut it out. I'm not even thirty yet.”

“Just because you guys are meant to be together doesn’t mean I’m shuffling you off down the altar, big guy. There’s those happy, fuck like bunnies and be crazy days you know.”

He did know, but the possessive streak that came out in him when he thought about Steph didn’t have anything close to pretty about it. In fact, it was scary as friggin’ shit and he wanted to avoid it. Period.

“Well then, tit for tat sister mine.”

The laughter left her eyes and she slid down in her seat. “You don’t want to know my details, remember?”

“Oh, but it’s okay to butt in on mine?” He turned down the radio and pulled off the interstate. He saw a sign for food and passed the regular chain restaurants hoping to find a diner.

“Yeah well, my guys aren’t important. I’m just having a good time.”

It sure as shit didn’t sound like it when she got all surly. In fact, she was damn moody lately. He reached over and dragged down her glasses.

“Hey!” She batted his hand away. “What gives?”

The only thing he saw there was blood shot eyes and circles. Typical hangover and sleep deprivation stuff. The light changed and he shot around a Sunday driver, catching a tiny trailer looking diner set back from the road and slammed on his brakes.

She slapped her hand on the dash. “What is your deal?”

Instead of getting into it with her, he shrugged. “Food.”

“Of course it’s food,” she muttered and hopped out of the cab as he parked.

Gravel crunched under their boots. It was beyond out of the way. He’d almost missed it, except for the bright pink paint glaring out of the trees. He held the door for her, following her into a time warp. 1950 screamed from the ocean colored booths and chrome. The same pink from the outside found its way into the interior on the cracked stools bolted along the breakfast bar and booth cushions along the windows.

“Where’s Flo?” Jamie cracked.

His mouth twitched but he shuffled her forward.

“Sit anywhere, folks,” came a chirping voice from the back.

They both collapsed into a booth in a corner, Richie with his back to the door. Jamie dug a notebook out of her jacket, the mangled black and white composition cover reminding him of school. “Is that your—“

She held a finger up to him, scribbling furiously then jotting a few slashing notes along the bottom of the page. She looked up, the faraway look in her eyes focusing until her eyes were a steady gold again. She slapped it shut and shoved it back into the inside pocket.

“I’m not going to steal it, brat.”

She blushed, looking down at the counter then back up. “I know-it’s just something I’ve been working on and this place is perfect for one of the verses.”

“Devotion stuff?”

She lifted one shoulder, picking at her nails. “Not sure. It’s different than what Steph and I write.”

“Different’s not a bad thing.” He tapped her hand with one long finger, then drew back. “And solo stuff isn’t a bad thing, so don’t feel guilty if it’s just yours, you know?”

She met his eyes. “Do you write your own stuff away from Jon?”

Richie laughed. “Hell, yes. You gotta have your own stuff, even if you never do anything with it. It’s the only way you grow as a writer. What happens if one day I didn’t have Jonny in my life? I have to be able to do things on my own.”

She drew her feet up on the booth seats until she was sitting Indian style. “You guys aren’t having trouble, are you?”

“God, no.” He waggled his fingers at his sister. “Gimme a cig.”

Digging into her pocket she frowned at him. “How do you know I’ve got a pack?”

“You always do. Crap habit, but I’ve been fiending for one for hours.”

She plugged one into her mouth and shook one out for him, lighting hers then sliding her Bic across the table. “There’s nothing else to do when you’re sitting around. If I ate all day, I’d be a fucking house.”

He laughed, blowing out a cloud of blue smoke above him. “Jesus, menthols?”

She shrugged. “Better high.”

“Better way to shred your lungs is more like it.” But he took another drag, the flood of nicotine easing the constant knot between his shoulder blades. “So, tell me, what’s going on with you and the girls. Everything cool?”

She looked away from him, picking at the worn Formica. “We’re cool. Just looking forward to some time off at the end of July. I need to get away from everyone.”

The efficient waitress slid an ashtray on their table with a hello, breaking the first good talk they’d had in a long time. “Hey, I’m Flo. What can I get you?”

Richie and Jamie looked at each other, a laugh springing up between them. He stubbed out his cigarette and leaned back, stretching out his legs. “Well, Flo, I want the greasiest breakfast you can come up with.”

And indeterminate forty or fifty, the trim woman with blonde hair bigger than Jon’s on a good day, smiled down at him, snapping a piece of gum. “I’ll take care of you big boy, don’t you worry.” She turned to Jamie. “And you, darlin’?”

“The biggest OJ you’ve got, pancakes and plenty of butter. Throw in some bacon, nice and crispy too.”

“Healthy appetites, that’s what me and George love to hear. Be back in a jiff.”

Jamie leaned forward “Oh my God, we really are on Alice.”

Richie’s head fell back with a laugh. Man, it was nice to get away from everyone. Half an hour later, they rolled out of the diner with a backwards wave and a doggie bag with fruit for lunch to make up for their gluttony. They climbed back into the truck, both of them groaning with full bellies.

“Oh my God, why did you let me eat like that?”

Jamie snickered. “Like I can stop you when it comes to shoveling in food?”

“Okay, you’re right, but man, nothing’s better than diner grease.” Especially when it soaked up the last dregs of vodka that had tried to eat his stomach lining.

Not exactly Los Angeles, more like one of the surrounding cities, they picked their way down a few side streets, only having to turn around twice, before they found the tiny sign for Voltage.

“This is the almighty Voltage Guitars?” Jamie sounded disappointed.

“Hey, don’t let the outside fool you. Inside is magic.”

Finding a parking spot a few buildings down, he muscled his way around a woman with an inventive spray of Spanish that had been eyeing the spot. Richie flashed her a smile and watched her jaw drop open. Did it make it better if he was famous and he snagged the spot she wanted? He waved to the woman.

She woman scrambled out of her car, but not before he and Jamie got inside. The slap of air conditioning against the heaviness outside was welcome and just like that he dropped all his worries. Walls yawned wide with guitars hanging from every spare inch.

Some were high end, some were middle of the road, but all of them were well used, well loved, and called to him.

“Holy shit,” Jamie whispered with reverence.

He pushed her inside, leaving her to drool as a tall man came out from the back. A forgotten pair of glasses clung to the tip of his long nose. His hair was pulled back, the beginnings of time creeping away from his forehead to leave wispy graying temples tufting around the ear stems. Recognition flared in his sharp dark eyes. “Richie Sambora, you son of a bitch.”
“Hey Lloyd, it’s been a long time.” Richie held his hand out to shake.

Lloyd Chiate was a legend in guitar circles, and while there were other guitar places in the area, his shop was by far the best. Not all of the guitars were even in his price range, but the lust was more than enough to compensate.

Lloyd pumped his hand. “I swear you have ESP, boy. I just got something in this morning that practically screamed your name.”

Richie’s mouth watered. “Yeah?”

Lloyd whipped off his glasses, stuffing them in the pocket of his work shirt. “Ah yah.” He opened a side door where all the high end guitars were held. “You might need to rob a bank when I show it to you though.”

He groaned. He already maxed out two of his credit cards buying gear for the tour. He wasn’t even close to paying any of it off. Rubbing his hand against his jeans, he followed Lloyd. The room was small and showcased maybe half a dozen guitars from Fenders to Gibsons, but it was the single guitar taking up center stage that called to him. The bright cast of gold perfection encompassed the entire body all the way through the neck. It nearly glowed off the wall mount.

“One of Les’ beauties. Not too many of these around.”

With hushed reverence, he lifted it up and off. It felt right and true in his hands. Even the smaller frets didn’t bother him. Looking around, he settled into a chair next to an amp. With deft fingers, he tuned it to his preference and strummed with his thumb. He fussed with a few dials, it had obviously been in storage for awhile.

“A 1954 Goldtop. I haven’t had a change to play with it too much, the sound is…” he trailed off when Richie tore through a few chords.

“Oh man, Lloyd, are ya trying to kill me?”

“I’ll arm wrestle you for it.”

Richie looked up to find his sister in the door. “Think again, brat.”

She slowly moved into the room, her eyes taking in every guitar. She was unusually quiet, which dragged his attention away from the guitar. Se slowly walked down the line of wall mounts, her reverence obvious. Richie grinned when Lloyd’s sharp eyes land on Jamie. He’d probably thought Jamie was one of his various girlfriends. “L, this is my sister, Jamison Sambora.”

One graying eyebrow rose and he stroke his goatee. “I should have known. She’s got the same predatory look about Gibson’s that you do, my friend.”

“A really high end one has been out of her price range, but she does love them.”

“It’s a Sunburst, 1954—“

“L4,” she finished, her fingers hovering over the neck.

“Go ahead, pick it up,” Lloyd encouraged.

“Really?” She looked over her shoulder, her eyes wide. She immediately wrapped her long fingers around the neck and lifted it off the mount. The deep coloring told Richie it was probably somewhere in the brown family, and the burst of color that radiated out from the center was as warm as the sun. “She’s gorgeous.”

Lloyed grinned approvingly and waved her over to the other leather chair in the room. “Plug in, love.”

Jamie didn’t hesitate this time, she dropped into the chair cradling it close as if it had been made for her. She dug a pick out of her pocket and strummed, instantly tuning as he had until the sweet sounds of something he’d never heard filled the room.

She closed her eyes, the sad song deep and full of longing. She played for herself, as it should be. And he realized that he’d never seen his sister like this. Oh sure, he’d seen her on stage, he’d seen her play the smaller venues when he got a chance, but he’d been gone for so many years now. All the years that she’d practiced and fallen in love with the instrument they shared.

Part of him had always wondered if it was a little bit of that competitive side of Jamie that had pushed her into the guitar. Hell, he hadn’t found the instrument until later in his life. But here in a room full of some of the oldest guitars he’d ever been around, she was one with this Gibson. And any guitar that became an extension of their living, breathing soul shouldn’t be denied.

“Wrap that one up, Lloyd.”

Jamie’s eyes popped open wide. “I can’t afford a ’54 Gibson!”

“I can.”

“You can not!” She stood up, handing the guitar to Lloyd, crossing her arms over her stomach.

Resolutely, he dug into his wallet. “I can, and I’m going to.” He looked at Lloyd. “You know I’m taking the Les too.”

Lloyd grinned. “Kismet, my old friend.” The older man held up his hand. “Look, your brother’s been one of my customers since I opened up, he’s got an account.”

Richie frowned. He sure as shit didn’t, but when his sister stopped sputtering, he kept his own mouth shut.

Jamie’s hands slid back down to her sides, and her voice evened out, hope flaring in her eyes. “I can pay for it on an account?”

Damn prideful, brat. He shoved his sunglasses on his face, so he could keep up the charade. Jamie knew him way too well.

“You were meant for the Sunburst, love. Take her. I couldn’t sell her to anyone else anyway.” Lloyd handed back the guitar. “In fact,” he held up one bony finger. “I’ll be right back.” He went back into the showroom.

Jamie’s golden eyes were earnest and filling with a happiness he hadn’t seen in a really long time. Damn, what was going on with his sister? “Richie, he’s not pulling my leg right?”

He just shrugged. “L knows these things, I’m not arguing with him.” There, not a lie.

Lloyd came back with a guitar strap in the same deep color as the body of the guitar. Again, with his colorblindness, he had to guess it was brown, but the hand tooled lettering was plain to see. The words: Love, Loyalty, Passion were etched into the leather. The leather was supple and well worked, and when he hooked it to the guitar, Lloyd immediately dropped it over her head. It fit perfectly across her shoulder, the scrolling letters that made up love, curved under the tail of her hair and disappeared behind her back.

“Oh, Mr—“

“If you call me Mr anything, the deal’s off, Jamie.”

She smiled up at him, her gold eyes bright with tears. “Lloyd, it’s the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen.”

Richie felt the sting in his own eyes in reaction. His baby sister didn’t cry about anything, but throw a near priceless guitar over her shoulder and there came the waterworks. Figured. He curled his arm around her shoulders and dragged her close kissing her forehead. “Thanks, man,” he said simply.

And as always Lloyd understood. One of the reasons his shop did so well, was because he could read owner and guitar before the client even knew himself…or in this case, herself. Jamie settled back into the chair and Richie let her play, following Lloyd out into the showroom to firm up payment.

“You made her whole damn, year L.”

“There’s magic in that girl. You make sure she keeps playing. I haven’t heard anyone play like that in a lot of years.” His dark eyes twinkled. “She might even be better than you, Sambo.”

Richie rolled his eyes. “She took lessons, I taught myself. I’ll always be better.”

Lloyed tipped his head back and his baritone laugh filled the showroom. “We’ll get you set up and then,” his eyes danced, “you’ll let this old man play a little with a pair of hothead, rock and roll stars, huh?”

He let the old comment slide and Richie nodded. “Damn right.”


Cari Quinn said...

Awesome chapter! I love the brother and sister dynamic and you write it so well. And all the details about the guitar shop were so vivid it felt like we were right there with them. Now I want a gold guitar and I don't even play, LOL. Really great stuff. :)

The Goddess Hathor said...

Oh Tara, I had tears in my eyes too. I love it when people are so NICE like that. And seeing Richie's love for his sister shining through was just beautiful.

I think James should tell her bro that she has a thing for Jon tho... It may be fun to see his head spin around a-la-linda-blair :)

~ Hath

Anonymous said...

Fantastic chapter ….. Loved the bother sister stuff


totallysambora said...

Great to get another chapter Tara. I really like the brother/sister stuff in it and had tears in my eyes at the guitar shop stuff. I can't play for shit but hell, now I want a guitar!


Super_Kiwi said...

I had tears too---aww! It was nice to see this side of them away from all the intensity of the tour and the sexual tension.

This was beautiful, I felt like I just looked into Jamison's and Richie's soul.

And Cari is right you do write the bro/sister relationship so well and after meeting you and your own brother I know why. ;)

I loved this chapter.

rutpop said...

Tara - Loved this chapter. So glad that brother and sister have each other and know that they can count on one another. How perfect Richie making sure that his sister was going to have that guitar. When Lloyd told Jamie she was meant for the Sunburst it reminded me wand buying process in Harry Potter. Kismet!!
Oh and now that Jamie has chimed in about Richie with Steph he just might be a bit more will to explore that option. Although doesnt seem as though he'd be willing to share and that may be problem if things didn;t work out. Seems as if that's part of what is holding him back.

TaraLeigh said...

Thanks everyone. ;)
I kinda thought we needed a little break from the eye-crossing ST to let a few of my characters actually show they loved each other. LOL
Novelty. hehe

And yes, Chris, Richie IS quite afraid of that fact. ;) I love when a plan comes together, and you guys see that. LOL

JBJBounce said...

Ah, brother/sister. You write it so well and I too think it would be great fun to see Richie's reaction to finding out about his sis & JBJ. LOL, it would be fun.

As for the guitar shop, what got me was the description of Jamie playing and Rich reminded that he had never seen that side of her. LOVED IT.

Looking forward to more of your incredible talent.

rutpop said...

Just so you know, I keep checking ;-)

TaraLeigh said...

I'm working on it. Just got sidetracked by a project.

The Music

I'm no songwriter, so I snag music through the ages. Reality has no business in this story, so if I like the tone of the song, the words, the fun--anything goes. You'll see songs from 80's, 90's & Today. click on the links above for vids and downloads.