Brandon “Brand” Carmichael’s life was the stuff dreams were made of…too bad it was an illusion. As a guitarist for Inert Motion, Brand traveled the world, performing with his brothers in all but blood. He never stopped moving all the while his mind played in a never ending loop. Now outside influences have changed the band’s course, leaving Brand’s life void of the balance he craved. Once again, his dream had become a recurring nightmare. Brand coped the only way he knew how; retreat into solitude.
Magdalena “Layna” Delacroix had achieved the long sought goal of her Ph.D. in Psychology, but success came at a high cost: over one hundred thousand dollars in debt. After being presented with the opportunity to fulfill her desire to help someone in the aftermath of tragedy, along with earning enough money to clear her debt and start a psychology practice of her own, Layna had to balance the means against the outcome. Could she be the force to stop the downward spiral of someone who refused to seek help?
Neither Brand nor Layna expected the reaction they had to one another. It was the opposite of everything they sought.
Could Layna live a lie while pushing Brand to live in the truth?
Would Brand forgive her for committing one unforgivable sin?
Or was he branded by destiny to be…
“Sometimes I get in the zone and everything else gets tuned out. I forget to eat and sleep, or even what day it is. Things just blur together when I’m focusing. It’s like my mind can only devote itself to the creative. And I had a disagreement with my brother, which didn’t help matters.”
“Oh, do y’all fight a lot?” she asked while continuing to chow down on her syrup with a side of waffles. “My siblings and I fought all the time growing up, but now that we’re older, we get along much better, as long as we don’t have to share a room or a bathroom.”
“Not so much anymore. We did when we were younger. Then we didn’t talk for a long time.” My truth-telling danced a fine line. One conversation with my mom about Barrett and me having contact and everything would come crashing down. I loved my parents, but I couldn’t let go of Barrett again, not even for them.
“What made you, or him, get back in touch after not talking for such a long time?”
“Umm, well, uhh, I guess somewhere around the time Bow and Danelle got married, the dynamic of the band started changing. There was just a lot going on; Joker and Ruff stopped trying to kill each other and started fuc—dating each other, and then Touch met Kaitlyn and all of their shit went down, and I realized that even though my band had been my surrogate family for years, I needed my real family, my blood and my best friend since the beginning. So I began trying to reach out to Barrett, and one day, he responded.
“It’s been nice catching up with him and talking about all the things I’ve done with the band and stuff. He kept track of it all. We talk pretty much every day now, except when he’s pissed at me.”
“Does he ever come to visit? Maybe I’ll get a chance to meet him while I’m here. If he’s half as pushy as you are, I might like him,” she claimed with a smile, but panic rose inside me. Not because she thought I was pushy or she might like him better—Barrett and I had never been the type to compete or fight over a girl—but she wanted to meet him. Total no-go situation.
“Yeah, he probably won’t make it anytime soon. He’s got other obligations right now. But, uhh, but I need you to promise me you won’t tell my parents or your mom about Barrett.” My hands clinched the hard bench seat and my legs bounced up and down nervously. I didn’t know why I couldn’t keep my mouth shut around her, or just stay the fuck away from her.
“Why’s that?” By now, she’d stopped eating and was focusing on me, studying me, looking at me as if she could see the thoughts ripping through my head like a natural disaster in the making.
“They don’t talk to each other. My parents have, uhh, they have a different view of Barrett. He doesn’t want contact with them, and it’s just easier for everyone if they don’t know he’s talking to me. I don’t want to hurt them.”
“Do you think you could help them heal their rift before it’s too late and it can’t be fixed?”
“It’s already too late. The only thing I can do is try to salvage what I have left and not cause any more damage or harm or pain to anyone else.” I stopped and thought for a moment before I said anything else. “I shouldn’t have even told you; something about you makes you easy to talk to. But I need you to promise me that you aren’t going to repeat the things we talk about or that you see to my mom, your mom, or anyone else for that matter. If you can’t do that, we can’t be friends, or even friendly neighbors.”
Layna looked me directly in the eye. I’d always heard a person’s soul and true intentions show through the eyes, telling you if their intentions were good or bad. The look in Layna’s eyes told me her intentions were good.
“Brand, I promise I won’t repeat the things you tell me or that I see to your parents or mine.”
I took her promise at face value. What I should have remembered was the saying about good intentions and the road to hell being paved with them. I knew all about good intentions, and I knew all about hell. I’d lived in my own personal tormented version of hell for over a decade.
One day some words came to mind, so I wrote them down. Soon the words became sentences, which formed paragraphs, which, in turn, formed chapters. Before long, those words had become a book.
When I’m not reading or writing, I’m a wife, mother, and business owner. I’ve lived on the Gulf, East, and West Coasts, but as a born and raised Southern girl, my favorite will always be the Gulf Coast. There’s just no place like home…