Bringing Home the Bad Boy(8)

By: Jessica Lemmon

He scratched the scruff on his jaw. Defeated by a cartoon pig. He blew out a frustrated breath.

When grief took him in the wee hours, he had no problem unleashing his creative instincts on canvas. But when it came to work—keeping food on the table, a roof over their heads—bam! Roadblock.

Last summer, his agent, Gloria Shields, persuaded him to attend an immersion class with her other illustrator clients in Chicago. He had, leaving Lyon in the care of his oldest brother, Landon. Evan took the break and used it to focus on his art. Surprise, surprise, he’d tuned into a muse that didn’t solely lurk around in the dead of night.

He came back home and life started up again, with its monotonous schedule and repetitive requirements like trash day, dental appointments, and grocery shopping, and that fresh-faced muse grew bitchy, donned fangs, and became nocturnal once again.

If she showed up at all.

Then he got a visit from another muse entirely—a real one, by the name of Asher Knight.

Every year when he was a kid, his family vacationed in the same area of Evergreen Cove. A group of cabins lined the public beach, and though his parents hadn’t succeeded in getting the same cabin every year, they did manage to go the same week.

They weren’t the only ones.

The youngest in his family at age fourteen, Evan had been the rebel without a clue. Wasn’t any wonder he’d sought out trouble when he came here on vacation. His brother, Aiden, had been all about the girls; their sister, Angel, busy keeping her girlfriends away from Aiden; and Landon—well, hell, he was out of high school by then and didn’t associate with the “kids.”

But that summer in particular, Evan had met two guys who had been more bad news than good. Donovan Pate was one of them, Asher Knight was the other, and arguably, both were still more bad news than good.

Donovan was the scrappier of the two and enjoyed a good fistfight. The day Evan met the taller boy with ink-black hair and ghostly silver-blue eyes, Evan had stood his ground and earned the bump on his nose he still sported. They were still close. Go figure.

Asher was far less intense, leaning more toward mischief than meanness. Proof in the fact they’d sneaked out one night to the library and covered the brick walls in anatomically correct graffiti. He’d never forget the newspaper headline that weekend: PENIS BANDITS STRIKE! Or the combination of terror and joy he’d felt when he heard his mother gasp, followed by the laughter she and his dad hadn’t been able to repress.

Evan hadn’t seen much of Ash since Ash had made something of himself, but out of nowhere, a call came from fellow Penis Bandit turned “rock god”—Asher’s words—that his band, Knight Time, had an upcoming show nearby.

He hadn’t hesitated inviting his buddy over.

Within thirty seconds, they were back where they were years ago, recanting the past while Evan touched up a tattoo for him. When Evan mentioned his recent foray into illustration, Asher admitted he’d been entertaining the idea of writing a children’s book.

Evan’s response had been, “You?” He’d watched Ash on stage, screaming his lungs out, and the turnstile of women he’d been seen with since his rise to fame. “Kid-friendly” didn’t exactly describe his buddy. “The hell do you know about children’s books?”

“What the hell do you know about illustrating?” Asher had shot back, followed by the very valid point of, “You can’t write for shit. I write songs for a living.”

That’s when The Adventures of Mad Cow had started. Over the next two days, they conceptualized a story and Evan dug in on the concept. A badass bovine was born.

Mad Cow longed to break free from the farm before he became a double cheeseburger, and they’d matched him with a troupe of oddball, big-hearted animals who agreed to help.

When Gloria laid eyes on Mad Cow, his leather collar decked out with a row of cowbells, a ring through one nostril, gauged ears, tattoo of a weather vane on one bicep, she was sold.

Lucky for them, so was the publisher.

The book hit shelves in spring, surprising no one more than Evan by climbing the best-seller lists, which prompted the publisher to ask for a second book.

Asher was due to arrive in Evergreen Cove soon to help conceptualize the new book, which he’d explained to Evan was a revamped Batman and Robin situation. Mad Cow was getting a superhero sidekick.

Swine Flew.

But of course.

Unfortunately, Swine wasn’t coming together as easily as his counterpart. Evan groused down at the pile of papers, unsatisfied.

Like. At all.

Well. Hell. He’d have to hit it again later. His stomach was rumbling.

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