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Metal Love Songs
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Ladies and Gentlemen…
 
We give you, the beautiful, the talented, the uncomparable...
 
Freedom Rose and FreeFall!
 
Stage fades to black. The epic music commences and her love song begins…
 
Metal Love Songs take you on the journey into a woman’s sexual
awaking in the arms of the up and coming Dymond’s front man, Chay Kim,
and the already iconic musical genius, Craven Summers.
Emotional betrayal and lost love drives Freedom Rose into becoming
the first African American woman to front FreeFall, one of today’s most
prolific Symphonic Metal bands.
Freedom, Chay, and Craven have all the trappings that success and
money can buy except the lost love they can’t forget. It takes an
unforeseen accident to bring them full circle to where they began.
Metal Love Song

Prologue

The doctor stared at her with expectation as if she recognized she would need her to repeat her statement.
“What?”
“Ms. Rose, it is my understanding your son collapsed on the sidelines during a pee wee football game.  We can’t be sure if the blood clot on his brain was always there growing or if perhaps it was due to an injury obtained while playing.”
“I wouldn’t let my son play at this age if it wasn’t for the fact it is touch football, Doctor.  Of course accidents can happen but you’re saying there is nothing to indicate one way or the other?”
“I didn’t see any trauma or bruising, so I’m leaning more towards the possibility the clot has been there undiagnosed until this happened.”
“Oh my God,” Freedom moaned in a dull and troubled voice.  “Um, what does this mean for my son, Doctor?  Where do we go from here?”
“As I said, the emergency surgery went well.  Still, the next twenty four hours are imperative in his healing.  We took measures to assure Daniel remains calm.”
“What kind of measures, Doctor?”  Alfred Rose asked.
“Daniel is in a medically induced coma.”
“Oh no, my poor baby,” Freedom sobbed and leaned against the comforting sturdiness of her father, Alfred’s chest as he wrapped his arms around her.  Her mother, Mavis, took her hand in hers and gave it a comforting squeeze.
“It’s not as bad as it sounds,” the doctor assured.  “I can’t stress enough the potential recovery for Daniel is hopeful, Ms. Rose.”
“I don’t understand why you would want to put him in a coma.  Isn’t Daniel being in a coma a bad thing?”  Mavis Rose asked.
 The doctor placed her hand on her shoulder.  “Mrs. Rose, our main concern right now is monitoring the brain swelling and assuring an infection doesn’t develop.”
“Do you foresee this being a problem?”  Alfred asked.
“By inducing a coma, it will keep Daniel immobile while we monitor the progress.  His chances of prevention are excellent.”
Before they could ask another question the doctor added, “Mind you, Daniel could still wake up on his own.  This is what we should hope for.” 
“What if he doesn’t wake up on his own?”  Freedom asked.
“I will evaluate the situation and we will go from there.  Let’s all think positive for now.”  The doctor gave them a reassuring grin.
“Please, I wish to remain here at the hospital.  Can he be moved to the Rose family wing that we donated to the hospital?”
“It is being done as we speak, Ms. Rose,” the doctor assured her.
“Doctor, I expect those who tend to my son to sign a privacy waiver,” Freedom said in clipped tones.  “I won’t have my son’s picture plastered on every media outlet in the world.  We wish for this to remain a private moment for me and my family for as long as possible.”
“You have my word that I will hand pick the care staff for Daniel myself,” she assured her.  “If you go ahead and wait in the Rose Wing waiting room, a nurse will come and take you to see Daniel.  No more than two at a time for now, okay?  The nurse will make sure you’re in good order before you go in.”
Everyone thanked the doctor before she left them alone to wait.  Waiting was always the hardest thing to do and Freedom was grateful she didn’t have to wait alone. 
She silently prayed Craven was there for Chay once he gets the news, she thought, knowing what her father was going to say from just looking at his face.
“Okay, baby girl, since Daniel came into this world, I’ve respected your wishes and kept your secret even if I didn’t like it.  Don’t you think it’s time to end this anger you have against the boy’s father?”
“Alfred, not now,” Mavis chastised.
“No Mom, Dad’s right.  I would never forgive myself if something more were to happen to Daniel before he has the chance to know his father.”  Freedom’s voice was full of weariness.
She’d been awake for twenty-four hours since she got the call.  Not wanting to wait on the entire band to take the private plane home, she personally chartered a flight to Dallas after she received the call from her parents. 
Freedom was in Atlanta, Georgia, the fourth stop on their twelve-city tour when she got the call and she’s never missed a concert until today.  She wasn’t sure what it would entail, but she wasn’t going anywhere until Daniel walked out of this hospital.
The remaining schedule will have to be cancelled and it would have to fall on the shoulders of her assistant and the music label’s expert management team. 
She would have no choice but to allow a press release on her son’s condition because she didn’t want her band FreeFall to suffer financial penalties for cancelling.  Emergencies are covered in their contract.
Oh God, the media would start the speculations about Daniel’s father and once the truth that the front man for Dymond is his father, things will get crazy.
Lies this big always had a way of revealing themselves.  This was all her fault. 
No matter how painful things had been with Chay back then, she should have endured it and continued going to see him until he finally spoke to her.
It wasn’t about her and Chay anymore.  From this point on, it was about Daniel’s needs.
Daniel and Chay should have the opportunity to know one another.  She will let her son decide if he wants his father to be an active part of his life.
“Baby girl, you go ahead and sit with Daniel first.  I will make the call.”  Her father pulled away, turning her over to her mother’s care.
“Daddy, you have his new number?”  Freedom asked in surprise.
“That boy has been close to this family most of his life, Freedom.  You wrote him off for making a mistake young men make before they realize what they might lose.  We all go through a bad decision period in our life so there was no reason for me to cut him off altogether.  He calls me from time to time and sometimes Daniel has done something that makes a grandfather so proud and I wanted to tell him so bad…”
“I’m sorry to ask you to keep my secret, Daddy.” Freedom reached out to squeeze his hand.  “Going through my pregnancy and raising Daniel without a father was the right thing to do at the time.  I never intended it to go on like this for so long.  It just never seems to be right time in our careers for the truth to come out,” Freedom explained. 
“The matter of timing is out of both your hands,” Alfred pointed out.  “It’s in God’s hands now and he’s saying the time for the truth to be known is now.”
“I hope my son understands why I had to do it this way; even if his father doesn’t.”
“Chay is not the same man he was back then.  Even you’ve matured, honey,” Alfred voiced.  “I am the last to be telling you it’s time Chay knew about Daniel.  If he was anything like he was back then I would say he didn’t ever need to know.  But he’s proven these last few years that he can function like a responsible adult like the rest of us.”
Ashamed, Freedom nodded.  “I’ve cheated everyone and now I’m paying the price,” she cried.  “I don’t think I will survive losing my son, Daddy.”
“Aw, don’t cry, sweetie,” Freedom’s mother wrapped her arms around her.  Her father came in and hugged the both of them.
She welcomed her parents’ embrace as she crumbled in the depths of her despair.
 
***
 
A knock sounded on the bedroom door.  The downfall of being the frontman of Dymond is he had no privacy.  Everyone felt they had to come to him with all band issues. 
Before Chay could reply, the door pushed open and a blond head peeped in.
“What?” he snapped.
“We will be landing within the hour, Chay.  There will be a limousine waiting to take you to the hospital on the private airstrip.  I will try to keep the hound dog reporters off your scent for as long as I can once news of your indefinite cancellations spread.  The website is already crashing from the influx of upset fans curious to the personal emergency.”
“Thank you,” Chay Kim, front man of the metal band Dymond replied to the band’s assistant without removing the shades that hid his puffed bloodshot eyes.  Nor did he glance away from the darkness of the night sky beyond the private jet’s window.
“Are you sure you don’t want to tell me what’s going on so I can start on a press release?”
“I prefer to hold it to myself, for now,” Chay said in a gruff voice.
“Can I get you something?”
A bottle of Jim Beam he wanted to say; but he hadn’t touched hard liquor since he blamed it amongst other things for driving Freedom right out of his life.  He wanted to hate Freedom after he got the call from Alfred Rose, but he had no right to hate or to be angry.  It was his fault.  He wouldn’t have blamed her if she had moved on without him and had a child for another man years ago.  It was his fault Freedom was the one that got away; his first love.
How could he not suspect the boy was his?  It explains a lot about her behavior towards him back then and over the years.  That was why she couldn’t forgive him.  She had come to tell him about the baby and all he’d proven was he wasn’t father material.  Now he might not get the chance to acknowledge his son.
“I’m fine Pebbles,” he released a shaky sigh.  “Everyone should leave me alone right now.  If I wanted to talk to anyone, it would be Craven, not you.”
“You don’t have to keep being so mean to me,” she stated.  “Freedom has always been a selfish bitch.  I would never keep your child away from you.”
“I told you, I wish you wouldn’t say things like that.  It was a one-time thing, you and I, and that was years ago.  It was long before--”
“Stop, I’ve heard it before,” she interrupted.  “Still, you mean the world to me, Chay.”
He turned to glare at her from behind shaded eyes.  “I sure hope that’s a lie considering you and my band mate have been an item for two years now.  Pebbles, I don’t want Fitch’s head screwed up again.  He might get the wrong idea with you closed up in here with me.  Why don’t you go and be by his side right now?”
Without another word, Pebbles walked out of the suite pulling the door closed behind her and leaving him alone again with his thoughts.
Chay turned to look out into the darkness.  He caught his lone reflection in the airplane window and wondered if Freedom would see how much he’s matured since she left him.
God, they had been so young back then.  Of course they were no great age now, but the summer they fell in love felt like a lifetime ago.
Freedom had always had a place in his heart, but being a four year age difference in their age, there was a point he had to put distance between them. 
The day he realized Freedom wasn’t a little girl anymore, StoryBoard, his first band, received a contract offer to do a local big wedding gig.  However, they needed a female singer and they didn’t have one.  The money and notoriety they would receive was too big to ignore and it would be the extra push they needed to become famous.
Where it had been the worst morning of his life, it had been the worst school year for his next-door neighbor and baby sister’s best friend, Freedom Rose...
 
CHAPTER ONE
 
 
Suggested listening: “The Shadow of Uther” album by Kamelot
 
Spring 2003, Dallas, Texas
 
Chay Kim sputtered into the drive of the single-family two-story redbrick home located on Ash Grove Way and cut the engine on his band’s used van.  The van sputtered and released a couple of clickety-click noises before it settled with a sputter into an occasional pop.  Left with only the sweet clean sound playing out of the expensive stereo speakers, it allowed him to relax.
He accepted his vehicle isn’t flashy and so what if the rusted bodywork needed a professional paint job.  It was paid for and its aged battered exterior made potential thieves unaware of the expensive band equipment and stereo that was inside it.
As long as the van got them where they needed to go why fret over curb appeal?  The one thing he refused to do is play his most precious metal bands music on a piece of shit car stereo.
Chay’s head rocked out to a series of rips blasting outside the speakers. 
The music is the nineteen-ninety-nine release of The Fourth Legacy, track number six, The Shadow of Uther by Kamelot, a progressive power metal band out of Tampa, Florida.
He stopped and swallowed periodically hoping to keep the warm beer and leftover room temperature pizza he consumed for breakfast in his stomach.
With a belittling groan, Chay rested his head against the steering wheel.  He is an idiot.  He and his band had the partying rock stars to an art form considering they are an underappreciated Indie band.
Yup, idiots the entire lot of them to keep getting sloshed after a gig.  The dumbest thing is getting buck wild on a night he has a meeting for a lucrative gig.  To score this contract will prove to his father his career choice is a good way to make a living.
He’d wait and tell him the good news after he solved the one glitch he ran into during the contract signing. 
Setting out to get fucked up every night to help take the edge of is not cool.
He never learns.  Just because the booze and crap flowed freely didn’t mean he had to take a swim in it.  StoryBoard is one of the Dallas’s local sensations, but playing locally doesn’t bring in the money.  At this rate they’ll never finish their demo in time to send it in for Five Star’s yearly open auditions.
Chay rubbed the back of his neck.  He knocked low the round gold-trimmed wire-rimmed sunglasses to the tip of his nose to pinch the bridge of his nose.  When that didn’t help he pressed his tongue to the roof of his mouth to stifle the onset of a massive headache.
Time’s running out.  They had to get it together or end up knocking out another year of weddings, local clubs, and house parties for the wealthy to make ends meet for everyone.
If they can’t pay their bills, they would have to give up long band rehearsal time to work full time jobs.
After his mom passed away after a short battle with cancer, his dad realized Chay needed a way to purge the aggression he experienced over his family’s loss.
His father made an agreement to allow him to start a band with his friends as long as he maintained a high average and continued taking his honors classes.   His father even cleared out the backyard garage for his band to have a place to practice. 
The band worked steadily until graduation and his father reconsidered his staying under his roof and not attending college. 
If he proved himself by scoring a recording contract by his twenty-second birthday, his father might be more supportive of his dreams.
Seeing how his father for the first time in his life appeared to be trying to see things his way, Chay had maintained his average until he graduated.
He’d work hard to earn the right to do what he wanted with his adult life. The year he graduated from Bryan Adams High School, his dad appeared to be fully on board with his music career.  He even offered to buy them a new van to carry around their gear as a graduation present.  Chay declined.
The guys ripped him a new asshole for not accepting his father’s help.  Chay knew his father never did anything without bargaining for something in return.  It was just a matter of time before he made it known.
A few months into the summer after graduating, his father told him he wanted him to do an internship program in South Korea for a year.  Chay refused and that is when their relationship dissolved completely.  
“Shit,” he cursed on a sigh sitting back in the bucket seat and releasing the seatbelt.  One of the things he hated worse than playing at a socialite’s wedding reception is lying to get the job.  The money being offered was more than they’ve taken home all year.
Chay wanted this gig so bad he would have done anything to make the rich ass fan-girl bride happy; even if he had to offer to lay the pole to her as a wedding present.
Okay he was desperate to get his hands on that five digit cashier’s check her dick of a father waved under his nose.    
Chay longed for the day making money didn’t matter more than making the music.  The business side of the music industry sucked, and the fellas had assigned him manager just because he was the front man.
Now he needs the female vocalist he claimed to have recently joined the band; one that was powerful enough to do the Whitney Houston and Celine Dion shit on the couple’s song list.
He thought the other members of the band would jump ship when he gave them the song list and told them they had to learn the songs.  Surprisingly, they wanted the money more than they wanted to kick his ass.
They left it to him to find the chick, and he had to promise to kick whatever female they find out of the group after the gig. 
Chay released his seatbelt and reached out a hand to remove the car key when he froze staring at the door of his house as it opened.  Out walked Alfred and Mavis Rose’s daughter, Freedom.
Chay took in her long dark-brown braids, her athletic frame and confident posture.  The next song that keyed up on the car stereo was the haunting melodic song, A Sailorman’s Hymn sung by Roy Khan’s.  His righteous vocals became this girl’s town crier to her fineness.
Freedom had become the girl who had blossomed into her womanhood and here she was in all her beauty standing here right before his burning tired ass eyes.  All he could think was…  Wow.
The lyrics playing over the speaker was as if Roy Khan wrote them for him to sing to her. 
Chay sat like a mesmerized dumbstruck ass wondering when Free Free got those feminine curves.  There was simply no way this young woman was little Freedom Poppy Rose.
Chay continue to stare as she stopped to pull the mobile phone from the back pocket of molding fitted blue jeans.  As her jacket parted, Chay saw she wore a vintage red t-shirt that read:  Death to Disco and Rock the F On in bold white letters on the front.
It is a sign that the rock metal lords had sent him an answer to his current problem.
He greedily took in the easy smile that came to her full lips as she spoke into the phone she held.  Her free hand moved about as she chatted.  It was as if she’s conducting the music he’s listening to in the van.
Taken with her, Chay found himself smiling at the sound of her laughter, as if they shared a private joke.  Unconsciously, he sang along with Kamelot, Roy Khan’s, rock-opera voice as it weaved in and out of his psyche.  The song devoured the soul and put music and words to what Chay would remember as a momentous moment in his life.
By the time the song ended, Freedom was sitting on her own front porch step still chatting on the phone.  A solution to Chay’s problem was resolved with his decision.
He opened the vehicle’s door, and it squeaked as loud as old Farmer Ford’s Petting Zoo pigs, causing him to frown.  Chay should have listened to the angry protest of the squeaking hinges warning him he should mind his own business and keep away from his neighbor’s daughter. 
Mr. Rose was the only buffer he had between him and his father since his mother died.  He was sure he wouldn’t like what Chay is thinking right now.
The day throbbed with the life of spring as a couple of wasps dive bombed at his head.  They were attracted to the overwhelming cloying smell of Mrs. Rose’s flowerbeds.  She loved her flowers.
The first time he met Freedom she was crying on her front porch with his sister sitting next to her holding her hand.  His little sister told him Freedom had been picked on at school because of her name.  They wondered if her parents named her that because of slavery.
Usually because mean spirited people couldn’t tell the difference between one Asian race and another he got his share of bullying, usually jokes about his eyes. 
Chay went out of his way to make Freedom smile that day.  He teased her by telling her that her mother married her father just so she could have the last name of a flower.  He told her that her mother loved flowers so much she was lucky her name wasn’t something stupid like, “Rose Poppy Rose.”
He reminded her that she was lucky to have the awesome name of Freedom Poppy Rose and those kids were jealous because her name was one to be remembered.  A rock star’s name or hey, even a groupie’s name.  Yeah, Freedom could be one of his groupies when he became a big time rock star.
He explained what a “groupie” was, a girl who followed around her rock star like he was a God and adored him because he was the coolest.
He felt like a shit for noticing her now after what, six years of seeing, but yet not seeing her until today.  Today, he was in desperate need of a favor and somewhere in his morning after beer soaked memory realized she was possibly the answer.
Chay never was good at listening to the warning bells others would see in this situation.  He was a man who listens to his heart and his heart was telling him he and Freedom would make beautiful music together.  That is if she could still sing as well as she looked.  Like the rock metal warrior he was, he dived recklessly in heart first.
“Freedom Fighting Prickly Rose, is that you?”  Chay called out in a teasing voice stepping over the sprouting monkey grass that divided their two property lines.
“I got to go.   I’ll call you later,” he heard her say into the phone before standing and stuffing the cell phone into the denim blue jacket pocket she wore.  Slowly she sauntered towards him with a familiar saucy smile minus the silver hardware that used to be on her teeth.
“Well, look, it’s the freshman girls of Bryan Adam’s High School walking wet dream, Chay Hung Kim,” she playfully teased back.
“Chay Hun Kim, brat,” he laughingly corrected embarrassed that she had heard what the other girls that didn’t know him were saying.
Of course he could argue the point, and then wonder why bother?  The ones that he had truly had sex with knew the truth and the story behind the rumor. 
This ongoing joke about his “family’s future” was started by his first girlfriend and their clumsy first experience with sex.
They both were virgins and his girlfriend hadn’t liked it at all.  First time humping remorse he supposes.  It wasn’t that great for him either but at least he was polite enough to not talk about it to his friends.
Before he knew it, he was called by a select few, “Chay Hung Kim” until it got downright obscene sometimes.  The actual truth went something like this...
“Did your first time with Chay Kim hurt?”  One of his ex’s friends had asked her.
Her reply had been, “Hell yeah, it was like a horse’s dick being threaded through a key hole.”  That was it.  The end or beginning to his torrid reputation.
Now his name was forever linked with this “God-like” penis.  He had his share of awkward unveilings during the typical make out sessions all because of crazy high expectations.
Freedom’s father had assured him as long as he makes love with “cock” confidence, there wasn’t a woman born who wouldn’t be pleased by his efforts.
After that understanding, Chay had no complaints afterwards.  Well he did; but those were from the girls that found him lacking without giving him a ride first.  He suggested they go to Farmer Ford’s Petting Zoo to see if they had a horse for sale.
Silly rumors got him more tail back in high school than his rock star potential status.  Now he would like to think it’s his music that made him swoon worthy.
 
Chapter Two
Suggested listening: “Angel” by Judas Priest
 
His tall lean figure strolled towards her.  He wore black leather pants with bondage straps and a black t-shirt with “STORYBOARD” across his chest semblance to a splatter of white paint.
He wore a sleeveless shredded blue jean jacket over the t-shirt and on his feet, black thick sole “shit-kickers” with gleaming steel toes.  His mid-length ponytail resting over one shoulder reminded her of the color of wild blackberries.
Freedom’s heart beat so hard she swore it would leap from her throat.
It amazed her how his nearness still did this to her.  He walked up to her as if he hadn’t ignored her existence for the past six years.
The sad part is he still looked damn good doing it.  Who else but Chay looked this good considering he’s just getting home from last night’s show?
His blood shot dark Siamese cat-like kohl-lined eyes blinked at her like glittering slits as he tipped down the dark tinted shades to look at her over the rim.  He needed to shave, and he reeked of spicy cologne.  Ugh, also some bimbo’s flowery perfume?  No, that is her mother’s floral jungle. 
“From what I can smell, you’re well on your way to becoming one of those drunk washed out rock stars, huh?”  Pulling a distasteful face, her finger curved beneath her nose.  Her brown eyes twinkled with mirth.
“Damn, if you ain’t as thorny as ever,” Chay snorted on a chuckle.  “What happened to that sweet brown-skinned baby faced girl that hung on my every word?”
“She got lost like you asked her to and never looked back,” Freedom cracked.
“Don’t be like that Freedom,” he urged.  His slender long fingers pushed the shades back up on the bridge of his straight nose.
“What brings you over Chay?”
“Saw you come out of the house.  I guess you stopped in to see Nara, huh?”
“Mom baked a pound cake for your dad,” she replied.
“Shit, is it my dad’s birthday?” Chay asked.  “Have I missed it again?”
“You’re asking me?”  She snickered.  “Shame on you for not remembering your father’s birthday since it’s in January, the same month as yours.”
“Well damn, I did forget it then,” he grumbled with a shake of his head.  “I’ve been busy, but then again, so has he.”  He shrugged.
“I bet your dad didn’t forget to give you a birthday gift,” she chastised.
“A check and a birthday card signed by his secretary, which means she didn’t forget; not that he remembered,” he announced with a smirk.  His eyes swept her from head to toe and back up again.  He asked, “So why Nara need the cake?”
“I suppose I’ll tell you.  Though you should make some time for your sister or does she fit in the same category as I do?” Freedom asked with a shrug of her shoulders.  She returned his stare with a boldness he doesn’t remembering her having a year ago.  Seems more than her looks have changed.
“You’re never going to forgive me for hurting your feelings all those years ago, are you?”  Chay asked, crossing his arms over his chest.
She released a long sigh.  “Sorry,” she half-smiled up at him.  “Like, duh, I’m-so-over-that,” she declared with a roll of her brown eyes. 
She saw him kick at her mother’s well-maintained lawn placing a gash in the soil with his thick sole steel-toed boot.  “What’s tonight?”
“A party for visiting alumnus at her dance class.”
“Yeah right, I’m sure a bunch of emaciated dancers are going to love breathing in that cake because they sure aren’t going to eat it,” Chay smiled.  Freedom giggled. “Nara will take all the credit for the cake,” he added with a laugh.
“Yeah, she will.”  Freedom stated.  “What happened to your new housekeeper?  Why didn’t she bake a cake?”
“She quit.”  Chay shifted and looked at the ground.
“Already?”  Freedom squeaked.  “She spied on you for your dad like the last one?”
“Nara talks too much,” he grunted.
“What else is new?  So tell me what happened this time?”
“Turns out she’s a fan of the band,” Chay quickly explained.
His face heated up under her unflinching stare.  Nara had filled her in about the last housekeeper being found waiting in his bed, but his dad returned home first. 
“Nara told you, didn’t she?”
“What are you talking about?”   Her lashes fluttered.  “You know, if she’s a fan, she wouldn’t tell your dad about you driving yourself home after drinking all night with your friends.”
“I’m old enough and I call it networking.  Also I stayed put until I sobered up enough to drive,” he ripped off back at her with a pointed stare.  “So are you trying to be my freaking mother now, Freedom?”
“I said I’m over it,” she snapped back at him.
“IT being me,” he scoffed.  “You telling me you don’t care about me at all anymore?”  Chay asked.
“Who said I ever did?”  Her eyes narrowed on his face.  “Nara tell you that?”
“I’m not blind.  I saw how you crushed on me big time back then.”
“You didn’t.”
“Of course I did,” Chay replied.  “As a matter-of-fact, it pleased me.”
“It did?” She squeaked.
“Yeah, until I turned sixteen and others teased me.  My father told me it was wrong because you were the same age as my sister.”  He licked his lips.  “Tell me Prickly Freedom Rose, am I too old to be brooding on how pretty you are?”
Freedom tugged at the corners of her jacket.  Her round eyes stared at the ground as if she was unable to stare at his face.
In fact, calling her pretty is an understatement.  Her dark beauty under the morning sun as it washed over her face almost stole away his breath.  He wondered what she’s imagining.
After hearing Chay’s confession, Freedom’s breathing became shallow.  There was a boiling pit of excitement in her stomach keeping her from inhaling.  Was she dreaming?  Did he just call her pretty?  It’s not like a guy has never said it to her before.  It’s just the guy has never been Chay Hun Kim, the object of her affections.
God, why does it have to be him?  Yes, he is killer gorgeous, but there are a lot of gorgeous guys in her school, not the ones that harassed her but sweet guys that didn’t smoke weed, drink liquor or screw around with all types of girls.  Nor would she have to compete with the female fans of StoryBoard for any other guys’ attention.
Yet, none bombarded her body with all this want and desire.  This is just too crazy for words.  Not her music, or hanging out and shopping with Nara just aren’t enough anymore.
Chay Kim’s commanding presence demanded attention.  When he walks into a room full of people, heads turn and all eyes remain on him until he leaves.  Girls flocked to him until he exits the room, and he seemed oblivious to the attention he garners.  He has a lazy ease about him that she envies.
She also envied how he could mesmerize a crowd.  There was no one like him when he was up on that stage.  His performance was always sheer perfection, with vocals powerful enough to light up the Texas Stadium on its energy alone. 
Freedom chanced a glance at him from beneath sweeping lashes.  No matter what, if Chay was in the same location she was in, he was the loadstone she longed to be near.
When she walked out of Chay’s house and saw the band’s beat up black van with Chay sitting inside, she pretended to take a cell call hoping to be still standing there when he got out of the van.
She hoped he would at the very least wish her a good morning before going inside.  Would he notice her growth spurt of breasts, hips, and behind?  She was filling out well her momma assured her. 
The boys at school noticed before she did.  She had been clueless to the whistle and stares.  Her bra cup and panty size went up two sizes. 
At first the drastic changes made her uncomfortable.  She’d wear baggy clothing to camouflage she was bigger in the bust than Nara and a few other girls.  When she grew confident again, she rejected the captain of the football team and the bullying started.  Her school life became hell.
Now that she was near Chay, the awkwardness was back.  There was something different about him today.  Perhaps he is still drunk regardless of his protest the way he was eyeing her from head to toe above the rim of the shades he wore.  If she wasn’t imagining things, she would say he was checking her out.
“You’re not much older than me,” she murmured, fidgeting from one foot to the other.   “You no longer have to worry about me annoying you anymore.” A wistful smile parted her lips.  “I gave up being your number one ‘groupie’ a long time ago.”
When he remained quiet, she forced herself to peer up at him.  Gazing at the boy she’s loved more than anything was like staring into the sun.  It’s beautiful to adore but too much of a good thing and you’re blinded by it’s light a few minutes afterwards.
She was going to overplay this moment with Chay in her head a thousand times before the day was over.  She would make this into more than it is.  Until his ignoring her again forced back to reality that Chay saw her as a sister.
Freedom gasped and her eyebrows shot upwards in surprise at the brilliant white smile that appeared on his face; a smile he saved for some big chesty fan girl or an adoring audience.  She became suspicious.
“I suppose I better start working on making you fall for me again,” he voiced.
“W...why?” she stuttered. 
“How else will I stand a chance getting you to join my band?”
Freedom’s butterflies in her tummy began to flit about and her mouth became bone dry.  Freedom quaffed down her spit until she found enough moisture to speak.
“What?”  She squeaked.
“We have a big wedding reception gig lined up for the summer and not having a female to do some of these requested shit songs is a problem I can’t afford.”
“And you’re asking me?”  Her hand came up to her rest palm side down on her chest.
Chay shifted from one foot to the other, his hands crossing over his crotch.
Freedom, like his sister, Nara, is sheltered for the most part.  She had no idea what her delicate hand resting on the beginning swell of her pert generous breasts did to a guy.
He was sure the move was innocent.  Like his sister, he was sure Freedom was unaware of her growing sex appeal to guys.  Chay wondered if he continued to group Freedom in with his sister would it help keep his head straight.
For the past eleven years of their lives he told himself she was like a sister.  His heart told him different.  Truth be told, Freedom deserved someone better than him.  He is fucked up in the head.  It is too much for the daughter of a family that had become his and Nara’s family too.  He didn’t want to ruin that.
Freedom had developed those feminine instincts that drew a man’s attention.  Like the way her tongue darted out to wet her full lips. Chay bit back his groan.
Chay’s eyes dropped back to her hand on her chest noting the way her delicate slender fingers rubbed at the gentle dip between her pronounced collarbones.  He wondered if her deep brown skin was as baby smooth as it looked.
What the hell?  This is Freedom Rose, his little sister’s best friend.  He needed her to sing with his band.  Anything other than that was asking for trouble.
Shit, her parents didn’t even allow her to date yet.  Wait.  Hmmm, Freedom was turning seventeen this summer.  She would be of consensual age.  She was old enough to be dating now. 
Oh damn, he was sure she would be blushing like a nitwit if she suspected what is going on in his head.  
“Chay?”
She was speaking to him.
“Huh?”  He blinked.  Blink.  Blink.
“You’re not sober,” she accused.  “I swear you just asked me to join your band,” Freedom said, moistening her lips with her tongue.
He stared at her mouth and that sweet tongue darted out again.
“Yeah, uh, I did.”  Chay swallowed the lump rising to his throat.  “And I’m too hung over to still be buzzed.”
“Why?”
“Why I’m hung over?”
“Chay?!”
“Yeah, I’m listening.”  He frowned.  “What?”
“That’s what I’m asking you!”
Her voice became pitchy and irritating like girls get sometimes when you’re not talking as much as they do.
“Oh, forget it.  Go inside Chay and get some sleep.  Call me when you wake up.”
His eyes dropped to her ass in those tight blue jeans.  Lord, have mercy for a country Korean boy.  He was going to hell in a blaze of glory.  Snap out of it Chay; she’s getting away.  You need to line Freedom up so you can tell the guys today at rehearsal.
“Freedom, hey wait up,” he called.  She paused on the top step and turned to peer at him.  “I’m serious about the band gig.”
“Tell me more.”  Her eyes lit up.
“It will just be for the summer, so it won’t interfere with your last year of school.  I...we...the guys...err...the band, shit.”
He stopped, scratched his head and drew in a deep breath before blowing it out with his nervousness.  “What I’m trying to say is we hope if we do well this will get us more high paying wedding and party gigs.  That is until we make enough money to finish our independent album so we can send it to Five Star Music.”
“Wow, Five Star would be all you need to make it,” Freedom said.
“Yeah, they are the best in metal music so far,” Chay nodded.  “So how about it Free?  Will you do it?”
“I don’t know if I can, Chay.  Dad, sort of has other plans for me this summer,” she reasoned, worrying her bottom lip.
“Wow, when did your mouth become so damn kissable?” he murmured.
“What?”  A light frown puckered between her eyebrows.  “Don’t play with me that way Chay.  You don’t have to flirt with me to get me to join the band.”
Damn he spoke his thoughts aloud.  Maybe he is still sloshed.  Flushing, he forged ahead, changing the subject back to band business.  “Freedom, I saw you at the school talent show last fall.”
“You attended a ‘high school’ thing,” she smiled.  “I remember on your graduation you swearing off ever going back.”
“Hey, I’m a Glee Club alumnus,” he reminded.  “I was protesting going to college to rile my dad at graduation.  He’d been riding my back about it.   Besides, Nara was performing too. Of course I wouldn’t miss it.”
She nodded and asked, “Speaking of, Nara.  Why don’t you get her to sing with you guys?”
“Nara is a dancer who sings backup and I need a singer who can sing lead,” he answered.  “I want you.”
She grew still and thoughtful.  He could tell she wanted to do it.
“Some of the stuff you play sounds like shit; not to mention rupturing an eardrum or two,” she said.
Chay liked that; she still had a sense of humor.  At the moment her expression was serious as hell.  Maybe she wasn’t kidding.  He smiled.  That was the first time he ever heard her say a cuss word.
“Did you say shit, Miss Polly Puritan?”
“You heard me.”  She grinned.
“My band is still coming into our own, thank you.”
“You hate doing weddings and mundane cover band crap,” Freedom charged.  “Why are you going to start doing it this summer?”
“I told you we need the money.”
“Why not ask my dad to help you out.  He could get the studio...”
“I need to do this on my own.”  He shook his head. 
She snorted a laugh.
“What’s so funny?”
“Always got something to prove to your dad,” she snorted again. 
“What the hell do you know?”  He snapped at her.
“You’re wasting your time using that guitar of yours for weddings,” she shot back at him.
Again surprising him, he wondered what happened to the shy girl he knew.  “What you saying?”
“That piece of crap you’re playing isn’t going to cut it doing the pop stuff they want to hear at weddings.”
“Yeah?  Well, what do you know about guitars anyway?”
“More than you do.”  She crossed her arms over chest and gave him a ‘now what glare’ he found adorable.
“You’re telling me you play the guitar now?”
“Yes,” Freedom replied.  “I do.”
“What happened to the piano?”
“I dropped it for guitar.”
He saw Freedom’s pretty features become almost mutinous.  He imagined quitting her mother’s favorite instrument to play guitar hadn’t made Mrs. R. happy.  She was the piano teacher for all neighborhood kids, including himself and Nara.
If it hadn’t been for Freedom’s mother, he would have never learned to read and write music.  He was fortunate to play everything he heard.
Mrs. R. told him reading music separated the professionals from the rest.  It would allow him to play anything from rock to classical and open doors for him to sit in and play with others.
“What kind do you like playing best?”
“Something better than your piece of shit guitar,” she teased.
He flipped up his middle finger at her.
She matched his finger and added another finger with her other hand.  He snorted on a laugh.  Look at little Freedom upping him one. 
“Well, you’re just talking out of your ass, gorgeous.  Speak guitar if you want me to believe you.”
That shit-eating grin that came to her lips should have warned him.
“I play a Steve Vai Signature Ibanez Jem 7V WH.”
“What about the play-neck?”
“It can handle anything you throw at it,” she answered. 
“What type of body?”
“Curves.  Like mine, in case you haven’t noticed,” she said licking her tongue out at him.
Oh I noticed.  When had she become so saucy?  He liked it.  Dumb ass, she’s still a kid; your little sister’s best friend.  Forget it.
His thoughts made him more agitated than he already was, so pissed he said, “I’m serious when it comes to music, Free, so don’t joke about this.  Just tell me what’s what.  If you go in there and choke in front of the guys, they won’t want you in the band, period.”
“Hey lighten-up.  I got this.”  For a moment she looked subversive before her expression turned serious. “The Ibanez Jem 7V WH body is solid, but it has flexibility like nothing I played before.  You get what I mean?’
Chay nodded.
“I tried out several before I favored this one in particular.  This is the one that felt like it breathes with me.  It’s like an extension of myself; but more wicked and primal.  I know if no one else gets what I’m talking about, you do.”
He nodded again.  “I do.”
“When I first played it wasn’t perfect, but my father knew a guy and he did me a few custom tweaks and now its sheer perfection.”  She winked at him playing air guitar with her fingers and posing from one side to another.  “Now it’s all styling and profiling, baby.”
Chay got a hard-on.  There was nothing sexier than a babe who could ride a guitar hot and heavy.  He couldn’t wait to see her pound the strings.
Musicians talked smack all the time, but no one was able to lie about skills when it came down to playing the guitar.  She was going to have to do more than talk the talk.
“Why don’t you run and get your guitar so I can see you holding and stroking it?”  Chay urged.  He licked his bottom lip in anticipation.  His imagination was already getting the best of him.
“Can’t right now,” she looked over his shoulder as a car drove by.  “I have a date to get ready for this afternoon,” she said.
His fantasy crashed to an abrupt halt.  A fucking date, she said?  His hard-on grew semi.  Does that mean she already has guy she’s interested in?  The bastard would most likely distract her from band rehearsals.
Damn, why was he so angry?  “Aren’t you too young to be dating?”  He asked in clipped tones.
“I’m almost seventeen,” she huffed.  “Don’t you date?”
“Not much. I’m too busy for that stuff.  I just hook up.  But you―”
“What?  You’re saying I’m not pretty enough that someone would want to date or hook up with me?”
“Yeah,” he argued.  “You’re not just pretty,” he agreed. “Freedom, you’re freaking gorgeous and I’m sure he’s not good enough for you.”
Even though she was looking down at the ground he could see the close-lipped smile she was trying to hide.  She was pleased he was acting like an idiot.
“Wow, another compliment coming from you.  You must be desperate to have me in that band.”  She shook her head.  “Weren’t you the one who called me a ‘funny-looking-kid’ in front of your friends?”
“Nah, that wasn’t me.”  He chuckled.
“Oh okay,” Freedom snorted.  “Liar,” she muttered.
“All right, I’m guilty.  But hey, you were seven with braces.  You have to admit you didn’t look like you do now.”
“Whatever.”
“You don’t have to worry about any guys callin’ you that now,” Chay said reaching out to pinch her chin between his fingertips.  “I’m sure I will have to promise your dad I will keep all the guys away before he’ll let you join.”  He dropped his hand.  Her skin was as soft as it looked.
“Probably,” she shrugged her shoulders.  “But I can take care of myself.”  She waved her hand and shook her head.  “I just don’t like guys assuming some things about me that aren’t true.”
“I can understand that, but you also need to watch who you date.  Some guys can be jerks and if you don’t put out, they will say you did to save their own rep,” Chay said bluntly.
She rolled her eyes at him.  The sarcasm was heavy when she stated more than asked, “Like you did when you dated Carrie Burgess when you were my age?”
“I was younger, but that was okay.”  He would kill his sister.  She was such a blabbermouth.
“Why was it okay for you to do that to her?”
“Because I―”
“Don’t you dare say it’s because you’re a boy.”
Chay cleared his throat saying, “For one, Freedom, Carrie is not you.  Number two, at the time I hooked up with her, she was a junior who didn’t mind putting out to a freshman.  So I didn’t have to lie.”
“You’re not my father.  So don’t try to tell me whom to date,” she snapped.
“No, I’m more like a big brother.”
“Not even,” she snapped at him.
“Whatever.”
“Whatever,” she mimicked
“See you’re too childish to be dating,” he smirked.
“He doesn’t think so.”
Damn.   Chay rubbed at the sharp pang in his gut.  “So is this a real date or are you going to hang with a group of friends or something like that?”
“It’s a date,” she said followed by a deep sighing, “date.”
“Nara didn’t tell me you have boyfriend,” Chay fished.
“Why would she?”
“What’s his name?”
“You won’t know him,” Freedom answered in clipped tones. 
“Why are you being evasive?”
“Because he isn’t my boyfriend,” she admitted.  “I’m looking for a boyfriend.”
Chay’s brow bunched up in a frown.  Why was she looking for a boyfriend?  He wondered.  She has plenty of time for that once she graduated from high school.  Oh crap, I’m beginning to sound like her father for real.  Chay cringed. 
“Why are you looking like that?”  Freedom interrupted his thoughts.
“Like what?”
“Like you’re going to be sick?”
Because I’m acting like your father when I’d rather be your boyfriend!  Chay screamed out in his head.   Aloud he muttered, “Hangover.”
“Didn’t you use to say getting wasted is so lame?”  Freedom asked shaking her head.
“That was before I got wasted.”
“Damn shame.”
Well, hell she sounds like her mother and she’s younger than I am.  I don’t feel so bad after all.
“I still think getting wasted is lame if you did it and you were still only thirteen,” he reminded.
“Nara and I were curious,” she defended.
“Yeah, well if our parents ever find out that happened and I covered for you,” he shook his head and grimaced.  “I don’t even want to ponder what our dads would do to me, considering it was my hooch you two stole from me.”
“It’s nasty stuff.”  Freedom sneered up her nose, “I don’t see how you can drink it.”
“I took to drinking amongst other things like a fish to water.  I hope to have learned my lesson after last night.”  He rubbed the back of his head with a frown.
“Let’s hope so.”
“So Free Free, where are you going on this date with the guy you hope to be your boyfriend?”
“Oh. My. God,” she snorted.  “I haven’t heard you call me that since I was six.”
“Yeah,” Chay snickered.  “You hated it.”  He bent over in laughter.  Straightening, he put a hand on his hip and turned to the side placing most his weight on his back leg.  “My name is F-R-E-E-D-O-M, Freedom.  Use it,” he mimicked in a high-pitched voice with lots of attitude, not forgetting to work his neck from side to side in the process.
“Oh no, you didn’t go there,” Freedom laughed out.  She closed the space between them to hit him in the chest. 
He grabbed her wrists and held her palms, flat against his chest to keep her from doing any damage with her clipped nails.
She swayed into him, looking too endearing with laughter on her face and in her eyes.  His breath caught somewhere in the back of his throat as his heart felt like it was going to kaput right out of his chest.
Damn if Free Free didn’t grow up to be a real babe.
The generous breasts that grazed his arms as he lightheartedly wrestled with her were pleasing as hell.  That explained why she was wearing the jean jacket on a nice spring day.  She felt self-conscious going from nothing to doubled-sized knockers in a little over a year.
“Let me go, Chay Hung Kim,” she giggled.
Each time her gaze met his, his heart turned over in response to the eager affection coming from her.  His gaze dropped from her eyes to her shoulders to her breasts.
When she caught him ogling her, he cursed under his breath as all humor flew out the window and his body tightened from the look of longing in her eyes.  Chay stepped back before he did something really stupid.
Freedom stepped away from him tugging her jacket closed and crossing her arms in front of her with her eyes avoiding his.
He should feel ashamed for his growing desires for her but he was a guy after all and she was right, he wasn’t that much older than she was.  He was just too old to do what he wanted to do to her and not get arrested.
“Where is this guy supposed to be taking you for your date?”  Chay asked.
“I don’t know,” she shrugged her shoulders.  “I guess the usual, a burger and a movie.”
“Which movie are you going to see?”
Freedom laughed out, “O-M-G! Why are you drilling me?  You are the big brother from hell.”  She shook her head.
“Yeah right,” he snorted on a chuckle.  “You wish I was your big brother.”
“No, I’ve never wished you were my big brother,” she quipped.
“What is that suppose to mean?”
Ignoring his question, she said, “I better go inside.”
He didn’t know why he would be annoyed that she is dating someone.  It was none of his business.  She was right.  She already had a father to watch her back and right now he wasn’t being brotherly at all.  He was acting like a jealous ex.
Even with that in mind, Chay said, “Freedom, if you join the band for the summer, you can’t be dating anybody,” Chay blurted.
“What?”  She exclaimed.  “You’re kidding right?”
“Look, dating would be a distraction.”  He shifted to the other foot linking his thumbs in the back pockets of his black leather pants.  “So...so...it’s best to not date while you’re in the band.”
“You saying you guys don’t date at all?”  Her head cocked to the side.
He could see the skepticism in her expression.
“Um, that’s right,” he cleared his throat.  A hand smoothed his hair behind his ear although it hadn’t come loose from the rubber band.  “You can hang out with the guy, but no serious stuff.”
“None of you are dating?”  She asked again and the sarcasm was heavy in her words.
“Yeah,” Chay confirmed.  His eyes narrowed.  “Why?  You know something I don’t?”
She shook her head looking away from him.  Was that her lie tell sign, he wondered.  Did she always look off over his shoulder like she was now when she wasn’t being honest?  Was the guy picking her up someone from his band?  Nah, he would know if that were happening.
This young adult Freedom was like getting to know someone new because she was so different than anything he remembered.
“Okay then,” she blurted.  “If I decided to be in the band, I will abide to the rules if everyone else does the same,” she murmured.  “That includes no late night rocking vans.”
He didn’t even address the van statement.  “What do you mean ‘if’ you decide to join the band?  I thought it would be a done deal if we get the okay from your dad, and the guys agree after giving you a listen.”
“I have to think if I want to be in your band or not, is all,” she replied.
“Freedom, if you don’t want to be in a band, why in the Sam-hell did you choose to play the electric guitar out of all the instruments out?”
Why do girls have to be so damn indecisive when a simple yes or no would do?  He wondered.
“I didn’t say I didn’t want to be in a band,” she corrected.  “I have to think if I want to be in your band.”
“Shit.”  He kicked up a wad of grass and cursed again as he went to get the wad and place it back in the place he kicked it from.
Mrs. Rose was a sweet woman except when it came to her perfect yard.  She could be vicious ever since her yard and roses had been on the cover of Better Homes and Gardens magazine. It seems as if she’d been trying to get on the magazine a second time over the years.
Freedom laughed.  “You better not point this out to your mom either,” he warned.  “Last time we played basketball and the ball rolled over here, you remember,  I crushed some of her roses and I had to do free yard work for a month to make up for it.”
“I remember.  She had you shoveling that funky horse manure out into flower beds,” Freedom continued to grin and giggle.
“I went home smelling like shit every night.  The stuff was up my nose for days.  I swore when I went to school, people could smell me so I kept sniffing.”  Chay remembered.  “People thought I was a freak who enjoyed sniffing my arm pits,” he laughed out.
They shared more laughter and puns before he became serious again.  He doesn’t remember the last time he laughed this much.  It made him hope she would be with him and the band for the summer.
“So Freedom, all joking aside, you’re joining the band, right?”
“Maybe,” she answered.
“Damn, girl, I thought you said you were over my being a prick to you in the past?”
“I would say you are more of a work in progress,” Freedom stated.  “I believe this is the first time I’ve held your attention since the day you hurt my feelings.  So just in case you go back to ignoring me again, I want to make you suffer for what you did last time.”
Chay found her honesty refreshing.  Since the band started to get statewide recognition, he rarely got honesty from a female anymore.  They would tell him what he wanted to hear either to get next to him, or to get close to another member of the band.  It surprises him how many groupies were willing to hump him just to get access to the free booze.
There were sides to the business he rather Freedom never was privy to, but he needed her.  If she had a dream to perform in a band he’d rather it was his band so he could keep his eyes on her.  He was counting on Mr. and Mrs. Rose thinking the same way.
“Okay, I get it.”  He nodded his head.  “I was an ass back then,” Chay conceded.  “Just tell me what I have to do for us to get pass this.”
Freedom’s dark eyebrows arched mischievously and she laughed shaking her head.  “You won’t like it.”  Her face grew ruddy with a blush.
Her close-lipped smile told him he was in trouble.
“Okay, now I’m curious.”  The beginning of a bemused smile tipped the corners of his mouth.  Her infectious grin set the tone.  “Tell me what you want and let me be the judge of if I like it or not.”
Resting her chin on her hand with a bemused smile still on her lips, she said, “You want to make things up to me?”
“It depends,” Chay replied.  He didn’t need her getting any grand ideas that she would become a permanent member of StoryBoard.  The guys would have a fit.  “StoryBoard is temporary, Free.”
“I got it.”
“Just a summer gig.”
“Whatever,” she sighed. “You finished?”
“As I said, it depends on what you want from me.  Spill it,” Chay ordered.
“I need you to pretend to be my boyfriend,” Freedom stated.  She smiled as if she was pleased with herself.
Her voice had grown so soft Chay thought he misheard her.  “Say that again.”
Freedom’s smile faded a little when she repeated, “I need you to pretend to be my boyfriend.”
Chay released an inward groan.  He understood what she said the first time.  He just needed her to repeat it to believe it.
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