Brains and Paul
How many of you have met a rock star in person? How did you react? Did it meet your expectations?
I can tell you that it’s pretty insane meeting your idols and I’ve been fortunate enough to get to meet a few, and those incidents will stay with me.
Now, writing those meetings between my rock star characters and their potential love interests is SO MUCH FUN! I wrote the scene where Brains and Paul meet from both of their perspectives because…damn. Let me set the scene: Paul is a sexy as hell and doesn’t even know it single dad Navy corpsman who surprises his twenty-one-year-old son Bowie with tickets to Warped Tour for his birthday AND tickets to Brains’s workshop. Brains is Bowie’s favorite musician and his drumming idol. Paul’s heard the band and seen them perform, but nothing could have prepared him for this meet-cute. Let’s take a look:
Once Billy “Brains” Brennan started to speak, Paul didn’t take his eyes off the talented drummer. He’d seen him before because they’d seen Hush play a couple of times, but never up close. Never like this.
Brains’s look had changed over time, but he always sported black hair, probably dyed, and he’d never seen the guy without makeup. Today his hair was spiked about three inches off his head in a faux hawk, his makeup was less horror and more goth, and instead of the long-sleeved black spandex he’d worn previously—or like the first time they’d seen him, in a skeleton bodysuit—this time he was dressed in a sleeveless shirt that revealed his well-toned shoulders, his arms heavily tattooed in black and gray, and his lean frame. He had a long, slender neck with a pronounced Adam’s apple that bobbed as he spoke.
His deep, smooth voice gave Paul goose bumps. Actual goose bumps!
Paul shivered, and a jolt went through him. For a moment, the noise from the festival faded away and it was just Paul and this… kid? Younger guy for sure. And Paul couldn’t figure out for the life of him why his body was reacting like it had the first time he’d felt up a girl in the backseat of a car. Or the first time he’d gotten a hand job from a fellow drunken sailor in a bar after finishing A school.
Goose bumps? What the fuck?
But then the kids asked him how he learned to play and he went from quirky genius to vulnerable young man, and the change was alarming. Paul wasn’t sure how old Brains was, but he did know that Hush had been together for about ten years or so, and that he’d been in the band Sullen before that. He looked so young, but he could easily be in his thirties with that timeline. And he’d joined a band when he was seventeen? Damn.
“Can you show us how you do that cool breakdown in the beginning of ‘Faceless’?”
The vulnerability disappeared from Brains’s posture, and the confident professional was back. He demonstrated a pattern that involved a series of triplets and a complicated tempo that started out with one beat and morphed into something else. Paul knew enough about drumming to know how skilled Brains actually was, even though Bowie was the drummer in their family.
Paul stuck to bass and guitar whenever he fooled around. He and George had taught themselves to play their favorite songs over the years, but Paul had a lot to learn. He always thought that when he retired he’d maybe take some lessons, get a little more serious about it, but now he was a forty-two-year-old father. What the hell business did he have playing around in a young man’s game like music?
“A lot of my inspiration comes from Neil Peart of Rush. You guys know Rush, yeah? He did so much to influence rock drumming, and so many metal drummers owe their style to him—”
“Wouldn’t you say John Bonham was just as much of an influence on metal, if not more?”
Oh. Well. Paul hadn’t meant to speak out, but Brains had been looking right at him while discussing his influences, and that gaze was so intense it was as though he were talking right to Paul. So naturally, Paul answered… and argued with him.
“Bonham, yeah, he’s more of a groove kind of guy, definitely ahead of his time. He kind of mixed it up with rock drumming and a little jazz, but Peart’s drumming evolved so much over time. It’s so intricate. You hear him so much more in music like ours.”
Paul switched his weight and dropped his arms, not wanting to seem intimidating. “But I always thought Peart influenced the prog rock guys more. What about guys like Vinnie Paul? Even bands like Soulfly or Machinehead, you know—”
“Yeah, but you look at a band like Avenged Sevenfold and the bands that have traveled down a similar path, including most of my contemporaries. A lot of us trace our roots back to punk more than classic rockers anyhow. But you hear more Peart, more of that progressive rhythm, than you do just that straight groove. John Dolmayan from System of a Down, and what about Metallica and the thrash bands? Definitely less Bonham.”
“I disagree about Metallica,” Paul said with a smirk. Damn, this was fun. He hadn’t had someone to spar with about music in so long. Bowie had always been more interested in learning about the classic bands from him than actually having a healthy debate. He missed this. “Lars had that power behind him, and you can’t look at an album like The Black Album and not hear the groove there.”
Brains opened his mouth and shut it. Then he frowned at Paul and turned his attention to the whole group. “Okay, let’s just test this theory. You’re all familiar with the difference between a groove and a fill, right? So we know some drummers are known for being great groove drummers. JP Gaster from Clutch, for example,” Brains said, and then he launched into the rhythm from the song “Earth Rocker.” “See how the beat just drives you to bob your head, rock out, whatever?
“Now,” he said adjusting his sticks, spinning them effortlessly in his long--so long—fingers. “Then you play a piece like,” he played the intro to “Chop Suey” by System of a Down, which Paul happened to know because he and Bowie had jammed like crazy to it for years, “and you hear that power, but that’s definitely a drummer who comes from a more prog place than a groove place. You see what I mean?”
The three boys sitting in front of Brains turned around and stared at Paul, waiting to see what he’d come up with next.
Oh, how he wanted to keep going.
“Plus you think about the size of the kits a lot of metal drummers use, you know. You look at Peart and then you look at like Mike Portnoy and then Lars—”
“Yeah, but now Lars has scaled way back.”
Again with the open-mouth-close-mouth thing. And then he smiled.
Beautiful. The young drummer was absolutely stunning. Paul had never really found makeup attractive on men—okay, maybe Paul Stanley. The man was sex incarnate—but Brains was changing his mind about all kinds of things.
He continued on, giving examples of the types of drummers, showing the kids some techniques, but his gaze landed on Paul in between as if he were waiting for Paul to challenge him. Paul, however, was too mesmerized to do more than observe and take in the whole Brains package.
Paul never considered whether he had a type. He wasn’t the kind to go for a certain type of person. He just didn’t… go. He hadn’t been intimate with anyone since--
Paul felt a nudge against his calf and looked down to find Bowie staring at him like he’d grown a second head.
“Shoot. Um. I gotta play soon. Guys, this is my manager, Jessica.”
A woman in black skinny jeans and Doc Martens and wearing a cropped In This Moment T-shirt waved to them and then spoke privately to Brains. He listened to her. Probably. But he kept sneaking looks at Paul, which Paul knew because he still could not stop staring back.
Brains turned to address the group. “Does anyone have any questions?”
The group was quiet for a split second, and then they applauded. Bowie climbed to his feet and stood shoulder to shoulder with Paul.
“Yeah, I got a question,” he said, softly enough that only Paul could hear. “What the hell was that?”
Brains gave the group a shy smile and a wave from behind his drum kit. Then his gaze traveled to Paul’s once more, and he raised an eyebrow.
Paul could have sworn there was some sort of connection. Brains had enjoyed that sparring match as much as he had.
Paul casually looked over his shoulder to make sure Brains’s smile was directed at him.
It most definitely was.
I hope you’ll check out the books and join me on tour with the metalcore darlings Hush. Book three will be out in 2021. Stay Tuned for more Rock ‘n’ Romance…
Summer of Hush - https://books2read.com/u/meeLQR
Brains and Brawn: Summer of Hush Book Two - https://books2read.com/u/bwdQaa
R.L. Merrill writes stories full of love, hope and rock ‘n’ roll. She can be found lurking in the following places:
Website and blog: www.rlmerrillauthor.com
Music Reviews: www.HorrorAddicts.net
Facebook, Twitter and Instagram @rlmerrillauthor
R.L. Merrill has a new MM rock and roll book out: "Brains and Brawn." And there's a giveaway!
Billy “Brains” Brennan has achieved rock stardom in not just one, but two chart-topping bands, but events from his past have him convinced he’s living on borrowed time. Brains and his brothers-in-Hush are ready to take the last cross-country Warped Tour by storm...until the actions of two drunk dudes with bad attitudes set off a chain of events that leave him incapacitated...and face-to-face with a handsome stranger who inexplicably feels like home—and not the home Brains fled at sixteen.
Chief Petty Officer Paul McNally has spent his 25-year career as a Navy Corpsman responding to emergencies and caring for wounded soldiers. When fate has him in the right place to provide aid to a fallen rock star, it sends his life spiraling on a trajectory he never planned for. Instead of concentrating on his impending retirement and a second career, he’s now playing nursemaid to a fascinating younger man…and falling in love—a fact he can’t seem to figure out how to explain to his adult son.
A health scare, band drama, and pain from both of their pasts threatens to end Brains and Paul’s fledgling relationship. Fate brought them together. It will take trust, honesty, and hope to keep them together.
R.L. is giving away a $25 Amazon gift card with this tour – enter via Rafflecopter for a chance to win:
Paul’s head whipped around when he heard the first scream. He watched in horror as the tent Bowie had just been standing in front of—Hush’s tent—collapsed and a crowd of people fell.
Without hesitation, he ran for the tent. Then he spotted Bowie standing over some big guy.
“You okay?” he yelled to him.
Bowie nodded, his big blue eyes wide as he looked back at the disaster.
Security began barricading the area around the tent and moving the screaming fans away from the scene. Adults attempted to pull the kids out of harm’s way.
That’s when Paul saw the tabletop on the ground and a pair of black-clad legs sticking out from underneath.
Guys in bright yellow security shirts lifted and pulled the rest of the tent out of the way. Paul rushed toward the broken table and sank to his knees next to Brains.
“Can you hear me? Are you with me?”
Brains locked gazes with him, and Paul felt pain in his right hand. He looked down to see Brains squeezing the life out of it.
“Please don’t leave….”
Medical staff approached in blue cargo pants and polos and swarmed the members of the band and their staff, several of whom were on the ground. Two women approached Brains with medical kits, and Paul started to move back, but Brains’s grip grew tighter.
“Please don’t leave me!” Brains said again, more insistently. He was panting, his face losing color, and Paul feared he was going into shock. He glanced at the table on his legs and at the staff who were preparing to lift it off him.
Paul worried perhaps the worst had occurred, but the fact that Brains was still squeezing the shit out of his hand was a good sign.
Brains coughed as he brought his other hand up to grasp Paul’s. “Please!” His appeals were growing in urgency.
Paul leaned a little closer to his face and pressed his free hand to Brains’s cheek. “I’m not going anywhere, okay? But they’re going to lift the table now. You ready? Try not to move.”
Brains nodded—another good sign—but Paul pressed a hand to his shoulder. “Stay still.”
The staff guys counted to three, and then they lifted the table.
Brains let out a guttural shout, and tears streamed down his face as he winced in agony.
Paul breathed a sigh of relief to not see any blood or rips in Brains’s pants. He half expected to see a bone shard sticking out. But they weren’t out of the woods.
“Brains, listen to me, okay?”
Paul frowned. “Billy?”
“My name is Billy. Please—”
“I’m not leaving you, but these medics here are going to look you over, and they’re probably going to poke and prod you a bit.” He nodded to the young women in Rock Medicine shirts who stood by, hesitating to approach. Paul heard sirens in the distance, which meant better-trained professionals were on their way, but Brains—Billy—needed to be assessed immediately.
“Sir, we need you to move—”
“He’s not going anywhere!” Brains shouted at them.
Paul addressed the one with the first-aid kit. “My name is Paul McNally. I’m a Navy corpsman, and I’m trained in triage and emergency medical treatment.” And I’m not leaving his side.
The young women looked to each other and then crouched down next to Billy. One of them placed a hand on Billy’s arm.
“I’m going to touch you, okay?”
“He’s staying with me, you got it? He’s staying.” Billy’s chin quivered as he spoke to the medics. The two women looked at each other with eyes wide.
Paul was losing circulation in his hand, but he wouldn’t have left Billy if the entire venue burst into flames. The way he was reacting… Paul had been through countless emergencies and could recognize when there was a psychological issue at work that needed attention.
He looked around for Bowie and saw him with Dimples, watching from a distance. Relieved that he hadn’t been hurt and seemed to be doing okay, Paul turned his full attention on Billy.
One of the women took Brains’s vitals, and the other ran her hands over his body, checking for injuries. She barely spoke to Brains, and Paul was perturbed at the way they were assessing him.
“Billy, can you wiggle your toes for me?” Paul asked.
Brains nodded, and then Paul looked at his Vans-clad feet. Thankfully, he saw movement on both.
Paul smiled down at Brains. “You’re doing great. You know what today is?”
“A fucked-up day? I had a bad feeling this morning….”
“Seems like it was warranted.”
Brains’s deep blue eyes fixed on Paul, and his breathing seemed to slow for just a moment. Paul hoped that meant he would maybe be able to relax--
“Sir, I’m going to need to put a collar on you.”
Brains flinched when the medic touched him. “I’m fine, just let me up—”
Paul placed a gentle hand on his shoulder, and it was enough to keep Brains from trying to sit up. “Billy? It’s important that you lie still and let them put a collar on you. With this sort of accident, they need to keep your spine aligned to avoid any further injury, okay?”
Brains began to pant and tugged Paul’s hand as though he wanted to try to pull up, but when he tried to move his legs, only the right one moved, and he screamed in pain.
“Look at me,” Paul said, getting closer to his face. He needed to distract him, to make Brains focus on him. “Brains, they need to take you to the hospital—”
“No. No, no, no, please,” he whispered. “I can’t go, please, Paul, please—”
“I’m not going to leave you. I won’t let them hurt you, okay? They need to take you in for X-rays to make sure nothing’s broken.”
Brains’s voice sounded like that of a frightened child. Something was seriously wrong. He pulled on their joined hands again, and the medic placed a hand on Brains’s chest to keep him from moving.
“Sir? You may have a spinal injury, so we have to place you on this backboard with a collar to protect you. If you won’t cooperate, we’re going to have to sedate you.”
“Can you give us a minute?” Paul asked the medics, irritation clear in his voice.
“We need to get him to the ambulance,” the medic closest to him said, and then was distracted by the band’s manager. She gave the medic Brains’s information and shot a worried look Paul’s direction. His full name was Billy Brennan.
Paul ground his teeth together and took a breath to calm himself. “I understand. Will you give me a moment to speak to Mr. Brennan? I’d like to avoid the use of sedatives.”
She nodded, and they stood and backed away a few feet to confer.
Paul squeezed Brains’s hand and placed the other on his forehead.
“Hey, man. The sedatives are a drag. This will all go better if you let them collar you and get you on the backboard. Hopefully everything is fine. The fact that you’re moving your toes and strangling my fingers leads me to think your spine is just fine, but it’s procedure. I swear I’m staying with you.”
Billy swallowed hard, his eyes wild. “I know I’m acting crazy. There’s a reason, I just… please.”
Paul smiled at him. “You haven’t seen crazy until you’ve got a wounded Marine pulling his pistol and pointing it at your face while you try to remove a sliver from his other hand.”
Brains’s eyes bugged out. “A sliver?”
Paul shrugged. “It was a four-inch piece of shrapnel, but I’d still call it a sliver.” He winked, and Brains barked out a laugh. Good, keep that smile. “You going to let them collar you and take you for a little ride?”
Brains’s smile faded. “Just please stay with me. Can you? Will you?”
If Paul hadn’t already been 100 percent in on this mission, he was now.
R.L. Merrill brings you stories of Hope, Love, and Rock 'n' Roll featuring quirky and relatable characters. Whether she’s writing about contemporary issues that affect us all or diving deep into the paranormal and supernatural to give readers a shiver, she loves creating compelling stories that will stay with readers long after.
Winner of the Kathryn Hayes “When Sparks Fly” Best Contemporary award for Hurricane Reese, Foreword INDIES finalist for Summer of Hush and RONE finalist for Typhoon Toby, Ro spends every spare moment improving her writing craft and striving to find that perfect balance between real-life and happily ever after.
She writes diverse and inclusive romance, contributes paranormal hilarity to Robyn Peterman’s Magic and Mayhem Universe, and works on various other writing and mentoring projects that tickle her fancy or benefit a worthy cause.
You can find her connecting with readers on social media, educating America’s youth, raising two brilliant teenagers, trying desperately to get that back piece finished in the tattoo chair, or headbanging at a rock show near her home in the San Francisco Bay Area! Stay Tuned for more Rock 'n' Romance.
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