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CHAPTER ONE

 

   LARGER THAN LIFE

   “No!” Grady leaned forward in his lounge chair and shook his head at his brothers. “There’s no way we’re offering Arabella York the job as our choreographer for the reunion concert.”

   Oliver, Jesse, and Jimmy all started protesting at once, but Grady took a casual drink of his cold beer and looked over at the swimming pool, refusing to listen. Simply saying Arabella’s name caused a hot wave of emotion and made Grady want to jump into the shimmering water to cool off.

   “Come on, Grady.” Jimmy, always the peacemaker, raised his palms upward. “I get where you’re coming from. I mean, what Arabella did to you was wrong.”

   Grady tilted his head at Jimmy and laughed without humor. “Ya think?”

   “Yeah.” Jimmy sighed. “But it was a long time ago.”

   “I don’t care.” Grady shook his head, refusing to budge. “We can get someone else.”

   “Maybe, but she already knows the dance routines. She created them!” Jimmy reached into the cooler for a beer and cracked it open. “Not to mention that she’s the best. And we’re doing the Heartbeat reunion in Mom’s honor. Why wouldn’t we go with the best?”

   Grady gave Jimmy a stony stare. “Uh, maybe because she walked out on me, refused to believe my innocence, and didn’t take my calls.” Grady snapped his fingers. “Just like that.”

   “We all get it, but that was thirteen years ago,” Jesse chimed in, nodding in agreement with his twin brother. “The benefit concert was your idea.” Jesse pointed at Grady. “You talked us into this to raise money for Mom’s foundation. And you know damned well that having Arabella York on board will give us additional publicity.”

   “Like I need more bullshit gossip in the tabloids.” Grady took a swig of his beer.

   “You brought some of that on yourself,” Jesse said.

   Grady remained silent because Jesse had a point.

   “You wanted to do this,” Oliver added. “We agreed. And hey, you might be the oldest, but you don’t get to make all the decisions. We’re all adults now. Well, except maybe Jesse.”

   Jesse shrugged. “I can be an adult when I want to.”

   “But unfortunately, you never want to,” Jimmy said.

   “Adulting is overrated,” Jesse said.

   “There is only one reason why I want to do this.” Grady put his beer can down on the concrete with a clank. “So we can raise a ton of money.” He couldn’t keep the emotion from his voice. “I’d do anything to help find a cure for lupus, including a cheesy boy-band reunion.”

   “We weren’t cheesy,” Oliver complained. As the youngest of the brothers, he’d been disappointed when Heartbeat ended when he’d just turned seventeen, thinking they still had a few more boy-band years left in them.

   Grady raised an eyebrow at Oliver. “Right, those wild-ass bright silk suits were super cool. Just like the blond tips in your spiky hair.”

   “Ha, at least my hair’s not gray like yours, old man.”

   “My hair isn’t gray,” Grady said, even though he’d spotted a few silver strands here and there recently. “And thirty-four isn’t exactly ancient,” he said, remembering a time when he used to think thirty was over the hill. “And you’ll be hitting the big three-oh in another year, little bro.”

   Jimmy groaned. “Please tell me we’re not going to wear those suits, are we?” Of the brothers, Jimmy was the least comfortable onstage and had been the hardest to convince to do the reunion. A successful songwriter, he preferred a quiet life out of the spotlight. Jesse and Jimmy were fraternal twins—they were opposites in personality and didn’t look a thing alike.

   Jesse laughed. “Mine sure wouldn’t fit.”

   “Because you’ve packed on a few pounds, huh, bro?” Grady asked.

   Jesse flexed his arm. “Um . . . no, because I’m so damned buff.” Tall and lanky, Jesse was athletic but not muscle-bound. He was also the only sandy blonde out of the brothers and still wore his hair in the same shaggy surfer style that the girls loved. He had an easy laugh and had never taken their fame seriously, even when Heartbeat was topping the charts and filling arenas with screaming fans.

   “Mine still fits,” Oliver boasted.

   Jesse leaned over and nudged Oliver’s knee. “You probably sleep in it.”

   “Shut the hell up or I’ll toss your ass in the pool.” Oliver shoved Jesse’s knee back.

   “Right, like you could do that. You’d go in first, trust me.”

   “Wanna find out?” Jesse challenged, and started to push up from his lounge chair.

   “Guys!” Grady interrupted. “Knock it off. I invited you here for a reason. We need to get down to business.”

   “Yeah,” Jimmy said quietly. “And hire Arabella. Put your personal issues aside, Grady.”

   Grady picked up his beer and drained it. “She probably won’t agree, anyway. I think she still lives in LA and has some sort of fitness studios or something,” he said, but he did know. Her business was called Hip, Hop, Health, and it was expanding, apparently because it was doing very well. “And I couldn’t see her wanting to come to a sleepy little town like Sea Breeze, Florida.” After they’d ended Heartbeat, the brothers had all moved back to their seaside hometown to be close to their mother when her health took a turn for the worse.

   “We can at least ask,” Oliver suggested. “I agree with Jimmy and Jesse that you need to put the past aside for this.”

   Grady wished that he could, but he knew it would be impossible. “We don’t need her. We already know all the dance moves and routines. We could do them in our sleep.”

 
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