Grip (Grip #1)(7)

By: Kennedy Ryan

“So, how did you say you know my brother again?” I ask, deliberately nonchalant.

“I was wondering when you’d get around to asking some questions.” His expression loosens into a grin. “You keep looking at me like I might pull over at the next rest stop and stuff you in the trunk.”

“Who . . . what . . . me? Noooo.”

His breaks away from the traffic long enough to give me a knowing look, accompanied by a smirk.

“Okay, maybe a little.” A nervous laugh slips out. “I actually was thinking I should have asked for some proof or ID or something. Not just hopped in the car with a perfect stranger.”

“Perfect?” Cockiness curves his lips. “I get that a lot.”

“You’re so full of yourself, aren’t you?” I laugh.

“Oh, I shouldn’t be?” Even in profile, his grin is a little dazzling. “No, you’re right. I could have offered more than ‘I’m Grip. Let’s eat.’”

He tips his head toward the phone in my lap.

“Why don’t you call Rhys so you can breathe a little easier?”

I should have thought of that. What’s wrong with me? Maybe subconsciously there’s some part of me that’s hesitant to call, dreading those first awkward moments when Rhyson and I have no idea what to say to each other. When it becomes terribly apparent I no longer know my twin brother and he no longer knows me.

If he ever really did.

“It’s ringing,” I tell Grip, phone pressed to my ear.

“Bristol?” My brother’s deep voice rumbles from the other end. Even arranging this trip we talked very little, coordinating most of it by email and text. Hearing his voice, knowing I’ll see him, affects me more deeply than I thought it would. He has no idea how much I’ve missed him. Emotion blisters my throat. Even though we haven’t talked much the last few years, he sounds the way he always did when I would slip into his rehearsal room while he was playing. Exhausted and distracted.

“Yeah. It’s me.” I draw a deep breath and dive in. “So, you couldn’t break away long enough to meet your long lost sister at the airport, huh?”

“Lost sister?” Rhyson emits a disbelieving puff of air. “You? Lost? Never.”

He really has no idea. No one does.

“I would have been there,” Rhyson continues. “I made sure I’d be done with this by the time you landed, but this artist and her label are riding me hard about re-mastering—”

“Yeah, I heard,” I cut in. “It’s fine. I’ll see you when you’re done. You will be done soon, right?”

“Uh . . . soon? Sure. Relatively soon.”

That could mean anything from tonight to next year when Rhyson’s immersed in music. At least, that used to be the case, but I doubt much has changed.

“Then I guess I’ll see you when I see you.” I try to keep the disappointment and irritation out of my voice, but Rhyson’s sigh on the other end lets me know I fail.

“Bristol, I’m sorry. I’ll see you at Grady’s tonight, okay? And I promise we’ll catch up tomorrow.”

“So you’ll be done tomorrow?” My heart lifts the tiniest bit. I don’t want to sound needy, but he’s the whole reason I’m here. Against my parents’ advice, against my better judgment, I’m seeking him out. I’ve crossed the damn country to try. If I don’t try, who will in what’s left of our family?

“Not sure if everything will be wrapped today or not,” he says. “I’ll send them the tracks, but they may have more tweaks. We’ll see.”

“Sure.” I clip the word. “We’ll see.”

“In the meantime, you’re okay?” Rhyson sounds half in the conversation, like the music is already siren calling him.

I flick a glance Grip’s way. His expression is completely relaxed and impassive, and his eyes are set on the road like I’m not even there, but he doesn’t fool me. There’s this constant alertness that crackles around him, as if he’s been trained to be on guard but is wily enough to let you believe he isn’t. I think he’s always completely aware of everything around him, and this conversation between Rhyson and me is no exception.

“Yeah, we’re on our way to eat.” I fiddle with the strap on my bag. “Since apparently Grady isn’t home either.”

“Yeah.” Guilt drags Rhyson’s one-word reply out. “That was completely unexpected. He—”

“Grip explained,” I insert before he rehashes the story I’ve already heard. “The conference. I know. Things happen.”