Why Can’t We Be – Chapter One

Lacey Stokes is the younger sister of Parker’s best friend.

That means she’s off-limits. Bro code and all that.

Something he failed to remember the night Lacey and Parker tumbled into bed together.

Now they’re on their way to LA to start their own band, having made a pact that it was only one night and from now on, it’s friends only.

Problem is, Parker wants more. And he’s pretty sure Lacey does too.

One more night can’t hurt, right?


Thank you Chasity Oleson and Lou Halroyd from the Sexy Bad Lounge for naming the bands in this book!

Chapter One

Just as Lacey Stokes was about to walk into the bar, the door came swinging toward her. Grimacing, she reached for the handle to keep the splintered wooden surface from connecting with her nose.

Her hand wrapped around the frigid metal, and she gasped. She was lucky she didn’t have sweaty palms or her hand would probably have stuck like that kid’s tongue in A Christmas Story. Of course, it was January, and even here in southern Missouri, it was freaking chilly.

“Hurry up,” Sabrina said, bumping into her when Lacey paused to pull open the heavy door. “It’s freezing out here.”

“Probably nothing to do with the fact that you aren’t wearing a coat. Or sleeves, for that matter,” Lacey quipped, letting her friend go first into the much warmer, dimly lit interior.

“Nothing at all,” Sabrina replied with a smirk and an extra flounce in her step.

This wasn’t the sort of place that had a coat check, so Lacey, who had opted for warm outerwear, had to keep it on or at least near her person for the duration of her stay. Hence the reason Sabrina had opted to potentially freeze to death while hurrying from the parking lot to the bar.

They paused long enough for the burly security guy to check their IDs and take their cash for the cover charge, then Lacey followed Sabrina as she wove her way through clusters of tables and chairs, all occupied, not to mention the groups of people standing together, drinking, chatting, laughing.

The place was packed. Good news for the bar and the band scheduled to play tonight, although in all honesty, Lacey was surprised by the number of people here. This band had been playing in small bars around town for years, and, frankly, they weren’t very good.

They actually were talented, but they had a lousy lead singer. Everybody knew it except the singer and his brother, the guitarist, who had formed the band and refused to accept the fact that his sibling’s voice sucked.

“Is every other bar in town closed tonight?” Lacey asked, knowing the answer, and still wondering how the hell PowerHouse, as the band had dubbed themselves, had managed to lure such a big crowd.

Even when Lacey’s brother sat in for their drummer when Brent sprained his wrist last summer, they hadn’t garnered this much attention. Of course, Sam had been incognito, so even with his dynamic skills on the skins, no one had known that he was the drummer for Panic Station—the hottest, most famous rock band on the circuit right now.

Lacey and Sabrina made their way closer to the stage, securing a spot next to the wall, snuggled between a couple wholly focused on checking out each other’s tonsils and a guy with his shoulders hunched, his back to them. He sounded like he was trying to have a phone conversation despite the music blaring through the speakers and people all around attempting to talk over it.

The stage was currently devoid of a band, although there were instruments set up: the drum set, a guitar and a bass resting on stands, the singer’s microphone. A vinyl sign hung on the wall, black with the band’s name in radioactive green.

“Stay here,” Sabrina ordered. “I’ll go grab us some drinks. You want your usual?”

Lacey was an equal opportunity drinker; she liked pretty much everything, but beer was and always would be the easiest and cheapest way to enjoy a beverage when hanging out in a hole-in-the-wall bar, getting ready to listen to a band she’d heard a hundred times before.

“Yep, thanks.” She tried to offer her friend a five spot, but Sabrina waved her off. Lacey needed to make sure to grab the next round. Keep things square.

To kill time and help ensure she didn’t feel quite so awkward standing alone in a bar, Lacey checked out the other occupants. Not nearly as many cowboy or baseball hat-wearing, flannel shirt-sporting guys as one would typically expect to see at this place on a random Saturday evening. Normally, the ratio was closer to ten guys for every girl, yet tonight, there were far more couples than singles.

PowerHouse had clearly found someone to do their marketing. Unfortunately, Lacey had to believe that someone hadn’t actually heard the band or they might not be so keen to promote them.

“Fucking pussy.”

Lacey turned toward the guy who was on the phone next to her, and her eyes widened.

Parker Henley.

Tall. Wide shoulders. Broad chest. Narrow waist. Silky, stick-straight black hair, and eyes framed by the thickest, longest lashes she’d ever seen in her life. Seriously, he could be an eyelash model if such a thing existed.

His skin was brownish, like he was mixed heritage. Native American somewhere in his lineage, if she had to guess. Probably on his dad’s side, since he knew next to nothing about the guy.

PowerHouse’s hot bassist extraordinaire.

The reason Lacey tolerated Preston’s shitty vocals weekend after weekend after weekend.

Because the bassist was so pleasurable to stare at while he jammed, thrumming that bass like she’d fantasized so, so many times he’d thrum parts of her body. One part in particular.

He was also her brother Sam’s best friend, so naturally that made him off-limits. Or so Sam insisted whenever he was in town, the aftereffects of Lacey having confided in him years ago—like high school long ago—that she was crushing on his friend. She hadn’t said a thing since but that didn’t stop Sam from continuing to offer his warnings anyway.


Speaking of, hers wasn’t here and Parker was, and God, she wished she had the guts to actually hit on the guy, to let him know that she was more than happy to warm his bed tonight. Or tomorrow night. Or any night, really.

“Lacey,” he said, surprise in his voice, which was not a little frustrating. For crying out loud, she showed up at his shows any night she wasn’t working, so why the hell would it be surprising she’d be here tonight?

“Hey, Parker.” She cleared her throat. Twice. “Talking to my brother?”

He snorted and brushed his long, dark hair out of his eyes, and sweet Jesus, she wanted to do that for him. “Your brother’s not a pussy. No, that was Pres. Who, if you haven’t noticed, isn’t here.” He waved, encompassing the full-to-the-gills room they were standing in.

“Well, you’re the only bandmember I’ve seen so far, so I hadn’t really noticed.”

Parker pointed to at a table all the way on the other side of the stage. “There’s Brent and Calvin. And I’m here. But no Preston.”

Lacey took in the drummer with the bald head and a thick ring in his nose, wearing black from torso to toe; the guitarist with woeful eyes and blond hair sticking out from under a skull cap; and a woman with jet-black hair, creamy skin, burgundy lipstick, and a leather catsuit with a whole lot more cutouts than actual material covering her skin who was sitting with them, looking exceedingly bored.

“Who’s the hot chick?” Lacey asked.

Parker barely spared the woman a glance. “Preston’s girlfriend. The reason there are so fucking many people here tonight. And did I mention there’s no Pres?”

“Yeah, you keep saying that. So what’s up?”

He splayed his fingers, palm up, indicating the table where his fellow band mates sat. “She’s up. Bridgette. Pres went into Branson a couple days after Christmas, got high as a motherfucking kite, met her, and apparently, he has a magic tongue, because, according to him, after eating her out all night long, she offered to do “a little promo” for the band. Which turned into this.” He waved in an arch. “And no lead singer to carry us.”

“I wouldn’t say Preston ever carried you all,” Lacey said, and then slapped her hand over her mouth because, damn, she hadn’t meant to say that out loud.

Parker shook his head, a small smile tugging at his lips. “You noticed that, huh?”

“Kinda hard not to.”

“Yeah, well, now we don’t have any singer, and we’re supposed to go on in fifteen minutes. Wait a minute.”

Suddenly, he was staring at her in a way she’d been dreaming he’d look at her for years, only she was pretty sure he wasn’t about to ask her to go home with him tonight. The timing was off, plus, seriously, in the middle of this crisis, he’d suddenly figured out he wanted to sleep with her? Didn’t fit.

“Why are you looking at me like that?” she asked.

“Because you’re a singer.”

She was shaking her head before he even finished the sentence. “Nope, not in the way you are thinking. I don’t sing in bands. I sing in musicals, on stage, in theater productions.”

“This is a stage. It’s a smaller scale production than you’re probably used to. But it’s basically the same thing.”

“Not even close.”

“And I bet you know all our songs. You’ve seen us perform often enough.”

Oh Lord, he’d noticed!

“Plus, most of the stuff we do are covers, and I know for a fact you know all of them. Your dad’s been in the industry since before you were born, plus, I’ve jammed with your brother at your parents’ house enough times that anybody within earshot had no choice but to memorize those songs.”

“You don’t even know if I can sing,” she protested.

“Yes, I do. I’ve heard you plenty of times. I went to all of your plays when you were in high school.”

He had. Sam had dragged him along. Parker hadn’t exactly had a great home life, and as a result spent a hell of a lot of his time at the Stokes household or with them on various family outings. Not only had he attended most of her theater productions in high school, but he’d gone on vacations with them, too, and he and Sam went to New York to watch her perform a few years ago, the one time she’d snagged a bit part in an off-Broadway musical.

“Parker, you don’t know what you’re asking.” She flapped her hand at the empty stage. “This is so different from what I’m used to. Plus how do you even know my voice is right for the songs you perform?”

His eyes were on her but, he wasn’t looking at her. He was in his own head, nodding as he said, “Yeah, we’ll have to change up the set a bit, but it’s doable. We’ve been playing together so long, it’ll be seamless.” He grasped her forearms. “Come on, let’s go talk to the rest of the band, let them know the plan. I know they’ll go for it. There are too many people here not to play tonight.”

“Parker—” But he had ahold of her hand and was pulling her behind him as he pushed his way through the crowd.

They came upon Sabrina, who paused to stare at them, a beer in each hand. Lacey grabbed the one in her left hand and drank even as she stumbled along behind Parker.

She was going to need the liquid courage.

Because, God help her, she was actually considering Parker’s proposition.
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