Page 24

Chapter Eighteen

“Call 911!” Ryder yelled at Jared. “I don’t think he’s breathing.”

“Are you sure?” Jared was already dialing his cell phone as he raced across the room to where Wyatt was passed out on the couch.

“No, I’m not sure! But it doesn’t look like it.” He laid his head on Wyatt’s chest, listened for the beating of his heart and the telltale movement of his torso that foretold breathing. But there was nothing there. Goddammit.

Not again. Wyatt was not doing this shit to him again.

But he was, and this time he wasn’t just unresponsive. He was dead.

No. Goddammit, no. Ryder wouldn’t accept that. He didn’t have a fucking clue how long his drummer had been like this, but he was not going to lose one of his best friends on the dirty floor of a dressing room in Houston. It wasn’t going to fucking happen.

Grabbing Wyatt by the shirt, Ryder pulled him onto the floor. Covered Wyatt’s mouth with his own and delivered two rescue breaths. As he did he was reviewing his very rusty knowledge of CPR in his head. “Ask them how to do CPR,” he said to Jared, who was frantically explaining the situation to a 911 operator. “I can’t remember how many compressions I’m supposed to do in a row.”

“Thirty.” Suddenly Jamison was there, falling to her knees beside him. “Right here,” she said, putting her hands in the center of his chest and beginning rapid compressions.

“Okay, breathe for him,” she said. He did, twice, then she started compressions again.

“The ambulance is about seven minutes out,” Jared said.

“Stay on the line with the dispatcher,” Jamison told him, a little breathless as she continued the compressions. “But call security, see if they have a defibrillator they can get in here. If we get a pulse, we can use it. Plus, there should be EMS on scene for the concert tonight—see if they’ve arrived yet. And give security a heads up about the ambulance. They should have someone waiting to bring the paramedics back here.

“Breathe,” she told Ryder and he did, a little awed at how competent she was. How fast she’d taken over when fear had been a raging nightmare inside of him.

She started CPR again. “Jared, there’s water running in the bathroom. Someone’s taking a shower. Go in and find out what time they went in there. We should try to have an estimate for the paramedics for how long Wyatt’s been down.”

“Right.” Jared sprang into action, all but flying across the large room. Then a bunch of things happened at once.

She got a pulse.

Wyatt’s body started to shake, then to convulse. The dressing room door burst open and two security guards ran in, followed by three paramedics with a gurney.

And Jared fell over, landing on his ass just outside the bathroom door. He was sheet white.

“Let us take over now, ma’am.” The paramedics eased in beside Jamison, helped her roll Wyatt onto his side so he wouldn’t hurt himself. Then one began firing off questions as the other started an IV.

Ryder answered the first couple of questions, torn between terror that Wyatt would die, rage that he’d done this to himself—and all of them—again, and concern for Jared, who hadn’t moved from his spot on the carpet. He looked almost as bad as Wyatt did.

Jamison crossed to him just as Victoria stumbled out of the bathroom, a small towel wrapped around her dripping body.

Seconds later, Micah followed her out.

He was also wet and wearing only a towel, and for a second Ryder felt like his head was going to explode. Had he somehow fallen through a wormhole into an alternate reality where everything was fucked up beyond all recognition?

Because this couldn’t be happening. Wyatt couldn’t have overdosed again, couldn’t have been lying there—dead—in front of him while Micah was in the bathroom screwing Jared’s fiancée. It couldn’t be real because not even rock and roll was this fucked up.

Except apparently it was. Because even the paramedics, while working on Wyatt, were watching the scene play out with the kind of bug-eyed fascination people had only for celebrities and disasters of epic proportion. How nice that Shaken Dirty could provide both tonight.

“Jared, I’m sorry,” Victoria sobbed, throwing herself onto the ground beside him. He just stared at her numbly as she tried to climb onto his lap.

And into the middle of all of that walked Quinn, carrying three pizza boxes and whistling the melody for one of the new songs he and Ryder were working on. He’d barely made it two steps before he froze, the pizza boxes sliding onto the ground with a sickening squish.

It was the last straw. Ryder sprang up and headed straight for Jared, who hadn’t said a word even as Victoria and Micah piled ridiculous justification on top of ridiculous justification. He wasn’t sure either one of them had even noticed the paramedics across the room where they continued to work on Wyatt.

Ryder grabbed Victoria, pulled her kicking and screaming off of Jared and carried her back inside the bathroom. “Put some clothes on before you come back out here,” he barked at her.

After closing the bathroom door on her mid-rant, he turned to Micah and shoved him roughly toward the door. “Get the fuck out of here.”

“I’m not going any—”

“Now!” he roared, grabbing the bass player by the back of his neckand marching him straight out the door—and into the crowd of backstage crew from the various bands who had just begun to gather outside of their dressing room. With one glance, he spotted a dozen cell phones, but Ryder couldn’t bring himself to care. Not when Wyatt was dying and the rest of the band was ripping itself apart at the seams.

He slammed the door in their faces and turned to Quinn. “Go after him. Find out if he knows what Wyatt took and how long ago he took it.”

He crossed to Jamison, who was trying to coax her brother to his feet. He reached down, hauled Jared up. And barely resisted the urge to go after Micah and throttle him. Jared was the best guy in the band. The nicest, friendliest, least fucked up by a mile. And everyone in Shaken Dirty knew how much he adored Victoria.

“Take him back to the hotel,” Ryder told Jamison. “To your room. Stay with him and if Micah or Victoria are stupid enough to show their faces, don’t let them fucking near him.” He pulled some money out of his pocket, pressed it into her hand. “Have security call a cab for you.”

She nodded. “What about Wyatt?”

“I’ve got him.”

“I know.” She stood on tiptoes, started to kiss his cheek, but at the last second she backed away. He didn’t blame her. Jared was the band’s leader, the one who kept things running smoothly. Who figured out what needed to be done and then did it. But Ryder was the guy who checked in on everyone, who made sure that everyone in the band was doing all right. And he’d royally fucked that job up … again. He’d been so busy thinking about Jamison that he hadn’t seen just how bad Wyatt was getting—or how out of control Micah had become. He hadn’t had a clue and now this had happened.

He’d never felt like more of a failure.

“What about the concert?” Jared asked, his voice wobbly and unsure, as different from his normal breezy confidence as it could get and still come from the same vocal chords.

Ryder gestured at Wyatt, who was breathing on his own. But the paramedics were pumping him full of all kinds of shit as they prepared to transfer him to the nearest hospital. “I think it’s safe to say we aren’t going on tonight.”

“Yeah.” Jared ran a hand over his eyes, looking shattered and shell-shocked. “Call me as soon as you know what’s going on with him. I’ll come up to the hospital.”

“Of course.” Ryder didn’t have the heart to tell him the whole Micah/Victoria thing was probably going to break wide open in a matter of minutes, if it hadn’t already done so. Combined with Wyatt’s overdose, it was going to be big entertainment news. He’d get their manager, agent, and publicist on this mess as soon as possible, but Jared still might be better off hiding out for a couple of days rather than dealing with the paps in full attack mode.

Jamison hustled him toward the door just as Quinn burst through the crowd and back into the room. Ryder didn’t even have time to fill him in before Victoria came out of the bathroom, red-eyed and whimpering.

He ignored her as he tried to get his fury under control. Focused instead on Wyatt. “Did Micah say what he took?”

Quinn shook his head, disgusted. “He was too busy trying to defend himself. Said Victoria took off her clothes and climbed in the shower with him uninvited.”

“That’s not true!” Victoria said on a gasp.

Ryder pinned her with a look that had made even the most rabid photographers take a few steps back. “Do you actually think anyone here gives a shit what you have to say? Get the hell out of here. And leave Jared alone or I’ll make sure that even the worst gossip rags in the business won’t touch your story.”

“I love him.”

“Yeah. I think we all got that.” He turned to Quinn. “Get her in a cab, will you?”

“With pleasure.”

Ryder didn’t bother to watch and see if she went willingly. Instead he crossed to the paramedics and said, “Our best guess is still heroin.”

One of them nodded. “Yeah. He’s got the classic OD signs.”

Ryder’s stomach sunk as he wondered what the hell this was. Was it really just an accidental overdose—which would be bad enough—or was it something darker, something worse?

He said as much to the paramedics, who nodded as if unsurprised. The big one told him, “We’ll know more once we’re at the hospital.”

“Do you think he’s going to be okay?”

“Right now his vitals are holding steady. That’s something. But they’ll have to run a bunch of tests before anyone can give you a definitive answer.”

“Yeah. Of course.” He didn’t like the sound of that, but there was nothing he could do except wait. Nothing any of them could do.

“We’re ready to move him. You’re welcome to ride with us in the ambulance.”

Like he’d be anywhere else. Wyatt was his friend, his responsibility. He’d already fucked up with him twice. He wasn’t going to do it a third time.

Chapter Nineteen

Jamison was about to jump out of her skin. It seemed like she’d been waiting for her cell phone to ring for hours, but it hadn’t. Not once.

Ryder had called Jared a few hours ago, told him that Wyatt was stable. They weren’t yet sure of how much damage he’d done to himself this time, but he’d come around. Had carried on a short conversation with Ryder and while he’d seemed confused, it had appeared that all synapses were firing. Which hopefully was a sign that his brain hadn’t gone very long without oxygen before they’d found him.

Jesus, she couldn’t believe this, couldn’t imagine that she was thinking about brain damage and Wyatt in the same sentence. If the idiot made it through this okay, she was going to kill him.

That’s if Ryder didn’t do it first.

Ryder. She sighed heavily even as she worried over him—over what to do for him and about him.

She knew something was off between them, had known even when she’d stood in the little dressing room of horrors. It was why she’d backed off from comforting him. The last thing she wanted to do was to add more stress to him in the middle of an already terrible situation.

God knew, this whole thing with Wyatt had to be killing him. It was killing her and she wasn’t even in the band. Part of her wanted to be at the hospital with Ryder, supporting him as he dealt with management and PR and all the other shit she knew he had to be going through. But at the same time, there was Jared, who was an emotional wreck. She didn’t feel comfortable leaving him either. Which was why she was sitting here on her bed,

hip to hip with him and Quinn, both of whom were shoveling in ice cream and watching an old horror movie. Quinn had shown up about half an hour ago, after spending three hours at the hospital with Ryder as they waited to talk to Wyatt’s doctor.

Micah had texted all of them a few times. He was down the hall in Shaken Dirty’s suite while they all hung in her single occupancy room—the irony of that was not lost on her-—and he wanted to explain. But none of them were in the mood to listen, least of all Jared. Her brother hadn’t said much since they’d gotten back to the hotel, but she knew he was devastated. He loved Victoria, had been so looking forward to a break in the tour so they could plan their wedding.

Now she wasn’t sure what he was going to do. Wasn’t sure what any of the guys were going to do, especially now that the tour break seemed to be coming earlier than expected. Wyatt was in no shape to go back on the road, that was obvious. And she didn’t have a clue how Jared would be able to step foot on a stage with Micah. She was all for professionalism, and so was he, but for him making music was an intensely private thing, one he only did with people he liked and respected. Seeing as how he was probably one step away from wanting to kill Micah—a small step, likely—she had no clue how any of this was going to work out.