Shoving the letter into her pocket, Maeve made up her mind. She had to talk to Duke. She had to know the truth. About the letter, about the pills, the secrecy… everything.
She peeked around the back of the van. Cooper was busy unloading the equipment with Sextus. He wouldn’t notice her and Duke talking. She felt a pang of guilt for breaking his promise not to confront their dysfunctional lead singer, but she ignored it. If making sure that said singer got the help he needed meant the loss of his trust in her, she would have to deal with it.
Duke was leaning against the hood of the van, hands jammed in his pockets as he stared intently at his shoes. He did not react at all to her presence until she spoke. “Duke?”
He slowly looked up at her. For a moment, it was like she was looking at a stranger with eyes that were lidded and dull. They were missing the gleam that she remembered them having, the captivating shine that could draw anyone in and convince them to listen to everything he said, no matter how inane.
As soon as she noticed, though, he seemed to realize that it was her. He perked up a bit, adjusting his slouched posture and crossing his arms across his chest. “What’s up?” he asked. The corners of his mouth were turned up, but it was obvious that it was a forced smile.
She resisted the urge to shuffle her feet. “Could I talk to you for a second?” she asked.
He stared at her. “About what?”
“Um, well…” She took a deep breath. She could always turn back now, wait until after the show to confront him. “I-It’s nothing,” she said without thinking.
He cocked his eyebrow. “Um, alright.” He started to turn away, but she grabbed his elbow, making him flinch. “What?”
Her mouth suddenly felt like cotton. “I…” She struggled to find her voice. “I, uh…”
“I need to tell you something,” she said.
He blinked. “Um, alright,” he said. “What’s up?”
Before she could say something stupid a second time, she yanked the piece of paper out of her pocket and shoved it against his chest. He caught it before it could fall to the ground and slowly unfolded it. She wrung her hands as he scanned it.
His entire demeanor changed before her very eyes. His posture stiffened and grew rigid, and he started to visibly shake. He looked up, and her stomach dropped.
“Where did you find this,” he stated. It was not a question, it was a demand.
“In the pill bottle in your room,” she said softly. She was starting to regret this already. “Look, I just want to talk about what the doctor said. I think–”
“Did Cooper tell you about the bottle?” There was pure, venomous rage in his voice.
“No–” She swallowed. “I mean, yes he did, but…”
“I told him not to tell anyone.”
“It’s not his fault! Please don’t be mad at him. I just wanted to know what was wrong with you.” She winced. That was a poor choice of words.
“There’s nothing wrong with me!” he snapped. He crumpled the paper into a ball and shoved in in his pocket.
“I never said there was anything wrong with you! I’m just worried about you.” She folded her arms across her stomach. “You’re my friend. I don’t like seeing you upset.”
He stared at her for a moment. Expressions of fury and pain flickered across his face, making it twitch and jump. Without another word, he slowly around and started walking to the back of the van, clenching and unclenching his fists as he went.
Realizing what he was going to do, Maeve followed. “Cooper has nothing to do with this,” she said.
“Cooper has everything to do with this! He’s got no right to go talking about my personal life behind my back like that. I never should have trusted him,” he muttered. “I knew I shouldn’t have trusted that bastard son of a–”
“Duke!” She grabbed his elbow and yanked hard enough that he stumbled backwards. “Coop only did it because he cares about you. You’re his friend. He doesn’t want to see you hurt.”
He barked a laugh devoid of humor. “Then he shouldn’t have went and shot his mouth off.”
She tried to stop him again before they rounded the corner, but it was futile. She could only watch as he stormed up to Sextus and tapped him on the shoulder. “Where’s your jackass boyfriend?” he asked.
“Already inside,” he said. He slammed the van doors shut and turned around, cocking an eyebrow as he saw the expression on his face. “What’d he do, kill your dog or something?” He watched as Duke ran for the doors. “What’s gotten into him?” he asked Maeve.
“It’s a long story,” she said. They ran after him.
They opened the doors just in time to see Duke punching Cooper hard enough for him to be knocked flat on his back, and for Joanna’s jaw to drop.
Sextus bristled. “Hey!” he barked.
Duke tried to jump out of the way, but Sextus was faster. He tackled Duke to the ground. They exchanged several blows before a bloodied Cooper and the bar’s bouncer were able to pry them apart.
They continued to thrash even as Joanna stormed over. “What the hell’s gotten into you two?!” she shrieked. “I can’t turn around for five minutes without you two getting into a brawl!”
“Duke hit Coop!” Sextus growled. “No one’s allowed to rough him up ‘cept me!”
“That tool deserved it!” Duke spat. “I told him not to tell anyone and he went and told Maeve everything!”
Maeve shrank back at the sound of her name. She should have known this was going to end badly.
“That doesn’t mean you go around punching people,” Joanna said. She rubbed her forehead. “God, I have no idea what’s going on here…”
“Ask Maeve, she knows everything,” Sextus said. “Go on, tell ‘em.”
“Don’t you go draggin’ her into this,” Cooper said. “ I know why I deserved it..”
Duke glowered at them both, then turned to her. She didn’t need to read minds to be able to know what he was thinking. Don’t say a damn word.
She swallowed dryly.
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