I shook my head and tried to step up on my tip-toes. We were too far behind the crowd and the stage was too low and small. “It’s okay though.”

He glanced beside him then patted at his round shoulders. “Want to come up here?”

“What, on your shoulders?”

He grinned and shrugged. “Yeah, why not? Everyone else is doing it.”

The idea of a 5’9” girl sitting on a 6’4” guy made me want to laugh. We’d be the brontosaurus of the festival. The acid trippers would see us and freak the hell out.

But Sage was asking me to sit on him. There was no way I would turn that down.

“Okay…sold,” I said, trying to fight the grin that threatened my face.

He crouched down on the grass, ready for me to climb on top. I bit my lip and went for it. I put both legs on either side of his head, totally conscious of him being engulfed by my bare skin and hot pants. He wobbled a bit and grabbed my legs with his arms.

“Are you ready?” he asked. By now the people in front of us were turning around and watching us with drunken interest.

“Go for it,” I told him, grabbing onto his head. His hair was so unbelievably soft, and I let my hands get lost in it, thankful that it was thick and I had lots to hold onto.

When I was eleven, my father took me to the Ellensburg Fair. They had camel rides and I begged him to let me go on one. You get on the camel when it’s lying on all fours on the ground and you hold onto the hump for dear life while the handler gets the camel to rise awkwardly to its feet. There’s a few terrifying moments where you’re certain you’re going to go flying head over beast, but then you’re rising up into the sky like a queen.

That’s what it was like when Sage straightened up. I yelped and held onto his head and hair for dear life, yanking it back more than he would have liked, certain I was going to come crashing down on the crowd around us, who were watching us in a daze. But I managed to stay on and when Sage was steady, I felt like James Cagney—“Made it! Top of the world, ma!” There were a few polite claps from around us and one guy said, “Right on!” so I wasn’t the only one impressed.

“Areymdojffhh,” Sage mumbled.

“What?” I asked, leaning down. I then realized my thighs were gripping the sides of his face so tight that he wasn’t able to speak properly. I loosened them and apologized.

“No problem,” he said, taking in a deep breath and tightening his hold on my calves. His hands were deliciously firm. “I asked if you were okay.”

“I’m great,” I said. For once, how could I not be? I was high in the air on the shoulders of Sage Knightly, watching over a hushed and attentive crowd while Tom Waits sung to the crowd. He was sitting down by his piano, an acoustic guitar in his arms, an interesting looking man that packed the same kind of beast-like heat as the man under me. His voice was emotive and raw.

“So goodbye, so long, the road calls me dear

And your tears cannot bind me anymore,

And farewell to the girl with the sun in her eyes

Can I kiss you, and then I'll be gone.”

I closed my eyes and let the words and music wash over me, feeling the taught shoulders beneath my legs and his soft hair that tickled my thighs. The night air was thick and humid, everything slowed down and sensual, yet my heart was ramming against my ribcage a million miles a minute.

“Though I held in my hand, the key to all joy

Honey my heart was not meant to be tamed.”

Sage shifted beneath me. I put one of my hands back into his thick hair and left it there, pretending I needed to hold him. It took all my willpower not to start playing with it.

“I guess you don’t do this very often,” I told him, my voice cracking slightly.

I couldn’t see his face but I could feel him smile. “No. Usually my head’s turned the other way around.”

My body flushed from the top of my cheeks right down to my loins. I was suddenly very aware of the pressure on my clit as the blood started to pool there and throb against his head. Sage had just put some incredibly erotic images in my head, and within seconds I was transformed into a hormonal mess. This wasn’t good at all. But my body had other ideas and it made my mind conjure up a fantasy of Sage lying me down in the tall grass, amongst the concertgoers, ripping off my shorts, and licking me from the inside out.

As if he sensed the lust permeating from me, he began to run one hand up and down my calf, very softly, very slowly, while still keeping me aloft.

We stood like that for the remainder of the show, his strong fingers stroking my skin, still hot from the sun, while I squirmed uncomfortably, fighting the urges that were building up inside me. Having a man’s head between your legs wasn’t the best time to start wondering what he looked like naked, if his cock was as large as it seemed to be when he was wearing tighter pants, if his ass and legs were just as sculpted as his upper body. I was never like this when I was with Ryan, but Ryan had never been a man and with him I’d never really been a woman. I wanted to feel like a woman now, and with the one man who could do it for me.

This was getting ridiculous. I attempted to bring up a neutral subject.

“So how did you learn of this Tom Waits fella?”

He tried to shrug. It was hard with me up there.

“He’s on the same label as us. They gave me a copy of the album, and after one listen I was hooked. Fucking hooked. I just…I wish I could do something like he does, you know? He doesn’t care. I’ve seen him so many times and he just doesn’t care what mold he fits into. He’s as honest and authentic as they get.”

It was weird to hear Sage wax poetic about someone else. Like he envied him.

“Can’t you do the same?”

He laughed, quietly. “I’ve tried. That’s what Molten Universe was all about. One last attempt to do what I want.”

I raised my brow. “One last attempt?”

He cleared his throat. “I mean, it hasn’t gone over well with the band. Critics love it, but the fans are a bit iffy, I can tell. They don’t want us to play the new tracks live, they want the old tracks. They want what we are known for. If I branched out and did stuff on my own…oh, I doubt the fans would follow me.”

“I’d follow you,” I admitted.

Silence. Tom Waits went onto dulcet piano tones.

Finally he said, “Thank you, Dawn. I really should be happy for the support I do get…it’s the curse that comes with success, I suppose. At first you want anyone, just anyone, to listen to you. Then you get that anyone, you get mostly everybody, then you want the critics to pay attention to you. Then you get the critics, but it’s not good enough. You want more. You want to push the boundaries and damn if the world decides to not watch.”

You’d think I wouldn’t be able to relate to the gripes of a rock star, yet I could. Deep down inside it was about being validated. I needed my own validation as much as he did.

We elapsed into pensive thought and watched the remainder of the show. He never stopped stroking my leg.

CHAPTER FOURTEEN

After Tom Waits played to a quiet close, I reluctantly climbed off of Sage’s shoulders and onto the soft, dewy grass below.

“Thanks for that,” I said, suddenly feeling awkward in his presence. It probably had to do with the increasingly naughty thoughts I had during the concert, like my libido was being woken after a long hibernation. Or maybe for the first time ever. I could still feel his calloused hands on my calves.

He gave me a small smile, one that barely pulled on his lips, and nodded at the main stage. “Want to head back? See how everyone else is doing?”

“You don’t want to meet Mr. Tom Waits? I’m sure you can arrange that,” I pointed out.

He shook his head. “It’s dangerous to meet your idols. You’ll always be disappointed.”

I chewed on that as we made our way back to the main stage. It was getting late and the last act was going on to a packed crowd. We didn’t really notice anything was amiss until we saw the flashing lights coming from the trailers and a group of people at the security gates trying to see what was going on.

A terrible, sinking feeling dropped in my stomach. This wasn’t good. I knew it.

Sage and I exchanged a panicked look. He grabbed my hands, and in moments we were running through the crowd, trying to fight our way to the gate. The closer we got, the more chaotic the scene. There was an ambulance on the other side, parked outside of our trailer. Through the chain link gate I could see a bunch of people standing around it. Anguished cries filled the air. In the distance was the eerie sound of another emergency vehicle.

Once we managed to get past the onlookers and the head-up-his-ass security guard, we broke into a run straight for the Hybrid trailer. Musicians, big and small, famous and not, roadies and special access people were all huddled around, talking gravely to each other. I ignored them and we made our way to the open door where medics and first aid officers were milling about.

“What’s going on?” Sage asked a medic, the terror in his voice squeezing his vocal chords.

“Are you part of the band?” he asked, blocking the door.

I could tell Sage wanted to say, “I am the band!” but before he could Mickey’s voice rang out from inside.

“Sage! Let him in, he’s our guitarist.”

The medic looked chagrined as we pushed through. I could tell he wanted to stop me from going in but decided against it.

I wished he had stopped me.

I wished I could scrub clean my eyes from what I saw next.

In the middle of the floor was Emeritta. She was lying on her back, arms sprawled above her. Blood pooled beneath her nose. Her once alive and alert eyes were rolled back in her head. She was pale as death. She was death.

I put my hand to my mouth and felt everything go in slow motion. It wasn’t a sudden sense of loss or grief but a shocked unfeeling, like someone had applied a numbing agent to my heart. There was Emeritta, dead on the floor of Hybrid’s trailer and all I could do was blink. Finally I took a seat at the table beside Noelle who was watching everything with a dazed expression. I couldn’t tell if she was high or in the same boat as I was.

Mickey was in the corner of the trailer, his arm around Robbie who was crying. Seeing tears flowing from the bloodshot eyes of one of the more affable men around delivered a jab to my insides, causing my breath to hitch. I hated it when men cried. It reminded me too much of my father.

“What happened?” Sage cried out.

A first-aider pushed him back as he tried to get to Robbie.

“She overdosed,” the first-aider said.

“That’s a lie!” Robbie cried out. “She never touched the drug. I left her to use the bathroom. I was only gone a couple of minutes. She wouldn’t have used it. She was against drugs!”

He collapsed into a fit and Mickey had to calm him down again. Sage was absolutely bewildered as he looked between Robbie and the body on the floor. For all intents and purposes, it looked exactly like Emeritta had overdosed, but I too heard what she said to Robbie earlier, that she didn’t do hard drugs. Perhaps that was just a front and she was an addict deep inside. Maybe she wanted to do it to impress Robbie. There was no way of knowing.

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