163 INSTANT KARMA

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INSTANT KARMA

I had just hung up the phone and was exploring the extra-large bathtub in the suite’s bathroom–it had some kind of jets–when I heard the door open. Ziggy came in and threw himself down on the king-size bed.

“Tired?” I asked as I paused in the doorway from the bathroom, my voice neutral.

He threw his arm over his eyes. “Yeah. But kind of wired, too. It’s this place. Talk about a party town.”

I sat next to him on the bed and crossed my legs. “I just got off the phone with Bizzy.”

“Oh, yeah?” His eyes were still hidden under his arm.

“Yeah. I told her I wanted her to come back.”

“I thought she had some kind of family emergency…”

I pulled his arm down and looked into his eyes, anger sudden and rough in my veins. “Don’t give me that bullshit. You know she left because of you.”

He furrowed his brows in mock disbelief. “Moi?”

“Why?” I held him down, my hands on his shoulders, my legs under me. “What possessed you to fuck with her head like that, huh?”

His lips pressed into a thin line. “Fucked with her head? She… that girl is insatiable! Come on, Daron, you know she flirted with me. It’s not like a forced her into anything.”

I let him go with a grunt of exasperation. Even Car’ had said that; I couldn’t argue with that. And I couldn’t bring myself to wave the safe sex issue in his face. “She was our road manager,” I said lamely, glossing over the fact, for the moment, that I’d slept with her, too.

“Is it my professionalism that’s at issue here?” He turned over onto his stomach, crossed his feet in the air. “Just who are we allowed to get to know biblically and who aren’t we, then, huh boss? I don’t remember anything in the contract about this.”

I stood up but did not pace, no matter how much I wanted to.

“I mean,” he continued, rolling onto his side and holding up his fingers to tick off items, “it would seem that fans and groupies should be allowable, right? And how about total strangers, that’s a nice option. Let’s see, who else do we ever see? Hmm, local sound engineers, club managers, bartenders? Are they on the list or off?”

“I didn’t say–”

“How about members of the press?” His eyes glittered black.

I was shoving my hands into my pockets again. “I did not sleep with Jonathan.”

“I don’t believe you.”

“What are you trying to say, that because I might have slept with a reporter it’s okay for you to sleep with our road manager?” I was breathing faster, and my words came out in a rush before I could really think about them. Danger, Will Robinson. I tried to breathe deep, but it was too late for that. If I’d been on edge before, now I was positively teetering.

“I didn’t say anything of the kind,” he said and I cursed myself for walking into another one of his traps. “I’m trying to point out that it’s useless to try to make a rule against sex with a person based on professional relations.” He looked down and blinked his thick black lashes a few times, then looked up at me through them. “Case in point…”

And I did it. I stepped off the edge. “I never should have slept with you.” I gritted my teeth against the word “never.” There was no stopping me, no rationalizing, no going back.

His mask crumbled and tears, possibly real ones, sprang into his eyes. “Oh that hurts,” he said, as if to himself, as if he hadn’t meant to speak aloud. “Oh-my-god.”

“Look at yourself,” I said. “Ziggy, you hurt people. You totally messed with Carynne’s head and made her fucking run away because she couldn’t trust being with you. And I’m supposed to trust you now?”

“Christ, I’m sorry,” he said, not looking at me. “But I was jealous, okay? I’m not used to that.” Tears ran down his face, leaving gray trails of eyeliner pencil. “I’m not used to caring one way or the other. But it was like… I mean, we were finally beginning to work again, and then he came along…”

“And you took it out on her…?”

“No! I like her. I was lonely. I had no idea she thought it was too much. It wasn’t meant to hurt anyone.”

“Anyone except me.” I had that urge again, to hit him across the face, like that would change anything. Could it change his feelings for me? Would it make him hate me? Of course, the last time I’d tried to really hit him I’d ended up with a sprained thumb.

Violence was no answer, not when words could do as much damage as they did.

I took another step backward to put some space between us anyway, before I asked, “So, why did you want me to be here when you got back?”

For a moment it looked like he was going to get up and walk out. Like he was going to leave me hanging, or chasing after him for the answer.

Instead, he clutched his head in his hands. “Things have been better, haven’t they? With you and me.” He was positively whining. “The shows have been pretty good…”

“Because we’ve been ignoring each other.”

“Do we have to keep doing that? Onstage and off?”

“I think it’s a good idea not to fuck with it.” Or each other, I didn’t add.

He blew air through his lips and turned full-on puppy dog eyes on me. “I’ve missed you, okay? I didn’t come here to fight with you.”

“You mean that now that you don’t have her around, you’ve decided to see if you can get some from me. Am I right?”

“It’s not like that,” he said, frowning. “It’s not like that at all.”

“Then what is it? It’s not as if you love me.” I shocked even myself by saying it.

His answer was immediate. “I never should have said that.”

So I stared at him, daring him to fill the silence.

“I don’t know why I said that. At the time, I thought…. Shit.” He was working out the puzzle in his head just as I was. If he meant it then, then he was being a manipulative shit now, and if he meant it now, he had been a manipulative shit then. “I mean, you were so gun shy…”

“And this is going to make me less gun shy, now? My neck is sore from you jerking my fucking chain so much…”

Things got worse from there. There was name calling. There were accusations. Once the fight got going, maybe we were fighting for the sake of fighting. I don’t know. Nothing we said mattered anymore. We were so far off the map of reality that there was no telling what was truth or lies from either of us.

It ended with me sitting on the rug hugging my knees and saying, “I don’t even know whose fault it is. I don’t even care anymore who loved who or when. I just want it to stop. I just want you out of my face. I’ve had it with you jerking me around and screwing with the others. Next time it won’t be Carynne who leaves the tour. It’ll be you or me, do you hear me? The bullshit stops now, Zig, or it’s all over.”

He didn’t say anything to that, just twisted his face into a wounded look, and walked out.

I had the feeling the evening with me had not gone as he had planned.

And I’d never felt so shitty after winning a fight.

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