“It’s already too late.”
The green room was larger than most with several rooms where the performers could rest before going on stage. This one had several couches and plush chairs that would fit all the members of the band with a table placed against the wall for all of Genny’s cooking.
“How does it look?” Genny asked apprehensively.
“It looks fantastic. You did a great job.” Penni pushed several of the bottled waters into the ice bowl.
“I’m getting better.”
That’s an understatement, Penni thought. The young woman had successfully made sushi that would give the finest restaurant a run for their money.
“Take a break. You and your crew can break it down when the band gets back on the bus after the show.”
“Thanks. Where are we heading this time?”
“New Jersey.” It was a stop that was halfway through their tour. It would be another two weeks before they made it back to Queen City.
“I’ve never been to New Jersey. I’m excited.”
“Me, too.” Penni remembered when she had first toured with Mouth2Mouth. Each new city had held something new to discover. Now, they just ran together.
Genny yawned. “If you need anything, just call.”
Penni sat down on one of the chairs when Genny left, listening to the music coming from the stage. She closed her eyes, seeing Jackal’s face, and her hand went to her heart.
The ache had grown each day since he had told her he never wanted to see her again. She was dying inside, and it wasn’t anything a doctor could fix. She knew it because she had tried that. The doctor’s answer had been to prescribe anxiety medication, which she hadn’t filled.
She hadn’t believed a broken heart could affect her so badly. She knew better now. She had known it would be heartbreaking if Jackal had grown tired her. The reality, though, was killing her.
“What’s up, butterfly?”
The voice from the doorway had her lifting her head.
“Shade?” Penni used her hand to raise herself from the chair.
Her brother’s penetrating gaze bore into her. He didn’t say anything, just held out his arms for her.
Penni took faltering steps until she found her enclosed in his arms, laying her head on his chest.
“What … are … you doing here?” she managed to get out.
“You didn’t sound like yourself when you called me.”
Penni gave him a slight smile. “I’m just tired from being on the road.”
“Is that all? It doesn’t have anything to do with Jackal?”
She dropped her arms, turning toward the food table. “Are you hungry?”
“No, I’m not hungry. You should eat some food yourself, though. You look like you’ve lost weight.”
“Not really. I just took off the weight I gained from Lily’s cooking.”
“If you keep losing weight, I’m going to tell her, and she’ll come and put it back on.”
Penni shrugged. “That might not be necessary. I’m thinking about coming for a visit when the tour ends. I’m missing you, Lily, and John.”
“Really? That would be good. It would be better than what you have planned for when you get back to Queen City.”
“How do you know what I have planned?”
“Grace said you’re planning on tasering Jackal’s ass to make him listen to you.”
“I might have been exaggerating,” Penni lied, glad she had left her purse on the bus. “I said that because, when I tried to call him, he wouldn’t answer my calls. I’ve texted him, but he won’t even answer those, and I’ve sent over a hundred. I begged Grace to ask him to call me. I even took a flight back to Queen City to talk to him, hoping that giving him a week alone after the bombing would make him ready to talk to me again. Casey told me he was living in a hotel room, but they wouldn’t give me the room number. The hotel manager called the police on me.” Penni shook her head wearily. “I almost called you to come down and help me knock some sense into him,” she admitted ruefully.
“Why didn’t you?” Shade’s unemotional voice didn’t hint how he would have responded to her request.
“I didn’t want you to think I was chasing after Jackal the way I did Train.”
“Penni, I can see the difference between the way you feel about them. You love Jackal. You never loved Train.”
“I know.” She choked back a sob. “Has Ice told you how Jackal is doing? He won’t say anything to Grace because he knows she’ll tell me.”
“Sit down, Penni.”
She wanted to remain standing, but she walked across the room, sitting on the couch.
Shade waited until she was seated before he sat down next to her, taking her hand and holding it tightly.
“I’ve seen Jackal. Physically, he’s fine. He’s actually why I’m here.” Shade’s face became closed off. “He wants you to stop calling and texting him.” When Penni tried to jerk her hand away, Shade held it more tightly. “I know this isn’t easy, but what you’re doing is distracting him, and he can’t deal with that right now.