I shook my head again. “We’ve had a rough few days, we should probably take a break.”

It happened in the blink of an eye. He lunged across the gap and pushed me down onto the bed by my shoulders, his incredible weight on my body, hips crushing into my hips. He pinned my arms above my head. His face was inches from mine, lips curled angrily, wired eyes searching my wide ones.

“You say that so easily,” he growled near my lips. “A rough few days. Is that what you think this is? Just a rough few days?”

“N-no,” I stammered. I didn’t fear Sage. But I feared men when they had too much to drink.

“I thought you were different, Dawn. The only one on this tour left with a heart and soul.” His eyes flared with indignation.

“I am different,” I protested, so conscious of the proximity of his mouth to mine. I stopped squirming and let his hands hold my arms to the bed. If he wanted to feel powerful, I was going to let him. But I was going to get what I wanted too.

“You have no idea what I’ve been through,” he told me. His demeanor softened and his grip on my wrists loosened. He still kept his face as close as possible.

“I have some idea. But I’d like it if you could tell me the rest.”

“Are you here to make me feel? Is that part of the plan?” he sneered delicately.

I blinked at him. Feel? Feel what?

“I don’t know why I’m here, Sage,” I admitted, getting angry. “And that’s the god damn fucking truth. I’m here because Jacob wanted me here. Jacob wanted someone to cover your band going down in history. Well guess what, it is going down in history. For fuck’s sake, people are dying and losing their minds and I’m losing my own damn mind every day I’m here. And I know you keep telling me to leave, and maybe I’ll end up doing that. But while you’re questioning my motives, I’m wondering what the hell it is that you’re not telling me. Or any of us. Because none of this is normal, Sage. It’s not even close, and I know, I know, that you know a hell of a lot more about what’s going on than any of us. If there is a plan in all this fuckery, Sage Knightly is the one behind it.”

I was so angry, I almost spat in his face. He balked a bit at my rush of words, then frowned, thinking it through. He was still so close and I was just at that point where I was going to do something really stupid, like kiss him, just to get him to stop staring at me.

His gaze dropped to my lips. His own parted slightly, his lower lip full. I bet it was soft and easy to suck on. My breath became slower and labored, my body tense, not knowing what was going to happen next. The air was thick and buzzed around us, like it too was waiting for movement.

“Tell me what you know,” I whispered. The tip of his nose brushed against the tip of mine. I felt his very hard erection press firmly into my thigh.

He closed his eyes, his lashes long and black against his golden skin. I closed mine, inching my lips closer to his. They barely touched, just a hint of sensitive, wanting skin on skin. I was about to arch my back and press my lips firmly against his, invite his tongue to play with mine, when he suddenly got off me.

I sat up in surprise and watched him as he walked over to the window. He leaned against it, watching the sky fade from light gray to dark purple.

Did that all really happen? I put my fingers to my lips. I was so close to kissing him. I felt him, how large he was, how much he wanted me. Now he was across the room, miles of distance between us, his focus elsewhere.

I sat there for a minute, swallowed by awkwardness and the ugly bedspread. Then I brushed off the rejection and went to the fridge. Screw everything I had just said. I was getting drunk.

I cracked open a can of Pepsi and a mini bottle of rum and made myself a quick drink. I was just taking my first sip when Sage spoke.

“Have you wanted something so badly that you would have done anything to get it?” he mumbled, his muscly back still to me. “Like, the kind of want that leaves you on your knees and asking for someone, anyone, to answer your prayers?”

I took in a deep breath. “No.”

But the truth was, after my mother had died and my dad was waking up in vomit every morning and Eric was coming home with shiners, stuttering and crying his eyes out, I did fall to my knees and pray. It wasn’t even to God in particular. I was out in the field behind the barn, walking and wishing for something better than what we had. It was such a violent, desperate need that I was shaking as I asked for my mother to come back, for my father to stop drinking, for Eric to lose his Tourette’s. I wanted to be someone, someone important. I wanted to be revered, I wanted to be respected, I wanted to be loved. I wanted it all so much that I remember thinking I would do anything for it. I would give anything for it.

The next thing I remembered was waking up in the field just as the sun was coming up.

“Do you know the story of that song Crossroads?” Sage went on. His voice was flat.

“By the blues guy?”

“Robert Johnson.”

“I think so. He sold his soul to the devil in exchange for success. It happened at the crossroads.”

“Do you believe that?”

I put down the drink and gave Sage my full attention. “Well. No. It’s just a song.”

He let out a small laugh. “Of course it’s just a song. You know Robert Johnson was only twenty-seven when he died. He barely had any success.”

“Then the devil was a liar. I wouldn’t expect anything less.”

“His success came later.”

“Then he should have been more specific.”

“Some say he didn’t even sell his soul. He just made a deal. And it wasn’t with the devil himself.”

“Either way, I’m sure it wasn’t a very sound deal.”

He shrugged.

“I’m turning twenty-eight next week,” he remarked, finally turning around to face me. His skin was ashen, eyes tired. “Joplin, Morrison, Hendrix, Johnson. They all died at twenty-seven.”

“Do you think they all made deals with the devil?” I asked. My next question was, “Did you make a deal with the devil,” but I didn’t ask it. I just let it sit there on my tongue. It was easier that way. Then it wouldn’t be real and no one would have to deal with answering it.

“And I said, 'Hello, Satan, I believe it's time to go,’” Sage sung softly by way of an answer. He scratched at his sideburns and reasoned, “I doubt Morrison would have made any deals.”

“Why not? He died rich and famous.”

“He died alone,” he argued. “The hopeful bargainer will always ask for love.”

“He had Pam.”

Sage smirked and flopped down on the bed, almost landing on his guitar.

He mumbled into his pillow, “Pam loved him. I don’t think he loved Pam. Finding someone you truly love is much harder than finding someone to love you.”

Spoken like a true rock star.

In a few minutes he was snoring away. I sighed and walked over to him. I took off his flip-flops, filled a glass of water beside him, placed a few Aspirin there too, then got myself ready for bed. I wondered if Pam ever felt like I did. Based on what Sage had just told me, I decided she did.

CHAPTER SEVENTEEN

“You guys are looking a little rough,” Jacob commented. He couldn’t disguise the childish glee in his voice.

Sage and I were sitting at the table as the bus headed to Nashville. I don’t know about Sage, but I was having a hell of a time trying to keep down the greasy eggs and bacon we had for breakfast.

“We’re fine,” Sage assured him, chugging back orange juice straight out of the carton. He had told me that a carton of OJ and three ibuprofen were enough to kick the hangover out. I settled for one pill and a glass of juice and so far it wasn’t helping. I certainly wasn’t built like a rock star.

I could feel Jacob’s gold-tinged eyes on my face. After Sage and I emerged from our rooms this morning, the others made no attempt to hide the fact that they thought we screwed around. To my surprise, even Graham looked happy at the prospect and none of them would believe me when I said Sage passed out at 9PM mumbling about Jim Morrison.

Mickey was on the bus with us, his eyes and mouth drawn into pensive lines of worry. Noelle was still under observation for another day but her parents had arrived and made it very clear that they didn’t want Mickey around. According to him, she was catatonic, not recognizing anyone, not even him. It was like she completely shut down. The doctors were still hopeful that time and being in a friendly, familiar place would bring her around. We were hopeful too, but I had this dreadful feeling that tugged in the recesses of my heart, like it was a hope in vain.

I wondered if Sage felt the same way. He didn’t show it. After opening up to me last night, after our almost intimate encounter, we were back to the friendly but distant rock star and journalist relationship. That was fine for the time being though. I needed to interview him over the next few days so I could get it over with and head home if I wanted to. It wasn’t an option at the moment but I wasn’t about to rule it out. A lot of what Bob had said ran around in my head like it was on spin cycle.

Nashville presented new problems in terms of having to play after all the recent negative attention the band had been receiving. Add in the fact that they had a new bassist to contend with, and the stakes went up. Yet, I was looking forward to it. Mainly, I was looking forward to hearing from Mel. I crossed my fingers beneath the table and hoped she could get a hold of me.

Nashville was as exciting as I had imagined. There was so much music and soul in the atmosphere that it was immediately addictive. It was like you could feel the presence of every musician who had passed through or honed their craft there hanging in the air like the thick humidity.

We all settled into The Hermitage Hotel just after noon, giving us a few hours before soundcheck. I had my own room once again and what a room it was. In fact, it was the nicest room I had ever been in. It had plush carpets, creamy walls, and expensive wood furnishings that gleamed. No semen-stained bed sheets for Dawn Emerson anymore!

I was only in my room about ten minutes, just enough time to take off my hot bell bottoms and put on a pair of denim cut-offs and a ratty Stones t-shirt, when the phone rang. I leaped off the bed and my heart followed suit. I snatched up the phone on the second ring.

“Hello?” I cried out breathlessly.

The dry voice of the operator came on. “Dawn Emerson? You have a call from Melanie Jones. Please go ahead.”

The line clicked and Mel came through. “Bitch!”

I nearly cried at the sound of her voice. “Mel!”

She laughed. “Aw, hey Dawn chicka, oh my god it’s so good to hear you.”

“I know! I was so afraid you didn’t get my letter.”

“Oh, I got it. Child, we have to talk. Robbie! What the fuck happened with Robbie Oliver!”

It felt kind of stupid rehashing what happened with Robbie. Not only did it feel ages ago but there was nothing exciting about it anymore, not when compared to what had been going on. But I didn’t really want to get into the heavy stuff with Mel. I knew she’d worry about me.

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